EUCHARISTIC PRAYER IV - intro....
Eucharistic Prayer I is the “Roman Canon”, used in Rome from the earliest known days of Christianity. This FlockNote series started with this prayer. Of course it was modified to accommodate new martyrs and saints.
Eucharistic Prayer III, which we finished yesterday, was the “Ambrosian Rite” - the ritual of St. Ambrose. Ambrose is the great bishop of Milan who baptized St. Augustine.
We now start Eucharistic Prayer IV which was written by Saints Cyril and Methodius. When they sent their prayer to Rome for approval — what can I say — they stirred up a lot of muck! The “traditionalists” claimed that the mass could only be prayed in Latin. Those who knew the real Tradition, however, understood that God became man. That is, Jesus — the eternal Son of the eternal Father — became man speaking the language of the locals. Jesus did not ordinarily pray in Latin — but prayed in whatever language people would understand. The Maronite Ritual — to our own day — includes the words for consecrating the Eucharist in the sounds Jesus pronounced at the Last Supper. Most other rituals of the Apostles used the common Greek most people could understand. As the earliest popes started to translate the mass into Latin, some people were most upset. That’s not how WE do it.... The Church knew Jesus, and told those “some people” to not be afraid. Later, as Cyril and Methodius ( C&M ) wrote Eucharistic Prayer IV, many people claimed that for centuries Latin had been the official language of the Church — and that C&M could not legitimately change the language. Of course, C&M did more than change the words of the mass to the language of the Slovakians they served. They had come to understand the Slovakian people — and decided that the true Catholic Faith would best be relayed to the people with very different words and phrases. That’s why this prayer provides us today with such a great richness — and Ambrose of Milan, much nearer to Rome, had done the same centuries earlier. His Eucharistic Prayer III was quite different from the Roman’s Eucharistic Prayer I. Fortunately, the pope of C&M’s day knew the true history, and allowed C&M to introduce a fitting “new” prayer in a “new” language!
Personally, I’ve never heard of anyone who grew up learning as a first language Latin, the “simple”/“Koine” Greek of the first century, or the Slovakian spoke by Cyril and Methodius. All “living”/used languages change constantly. For example, in old English “faggot” meant a stick of 3/4 to 1 1/4 inch diameter used to fuel a hot fire. In the 1960’s Agatha Christie’s book “Cat Among the Pigeons” uses the word “fag” to describe a boarding school’s underclassman assigned to help an upperclassman with menial tasks. Of course, the upperclassman would, in return for this service, teach the younger student practical ways to get by. Would you recognize these meanings?
When language changes so radically, how can we hope to understand the past? Well, using the best of several different past cultures is a big help — and that’s why we move tomorrow to Eucharistic Prayer IV. Over the next 25 days or so we will step through Eucharist Prayer IV, and the preface that must be used at its start.
Fr Jim Dubrouillet
on Monday, January 25 at 6:00AM