July 31, 2016
In the BCP 28 there was one Eucharistic Prayer, now there are at least four. Why?
When the liturgical reform movement of the 19th and 20th centuries got going, they had available to them tools and documents that were not available in earlier times. Printing was becoming increasingly less expensive. Troves of papyri had been discovered, translated, and analyzed demonstrating that there were many Eucharistic prayers in the classical church, not just one, or even one theological emphasis. Scholars and sacristy rats wanted more.
The Eucharistic Prayer, which was known so well in the BCP 28 followed a long running pattern which emphasized the sacrificial nature of Christ's life, and therefore, the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist, the congregations sacrifice of communion and their lives to God.
There are now six options in the BCP 79 and more if Enriching Our Worship is used with the permission of the Diocesan Bishop. Six options seem to me to be fairly comprehensive, if not always innovative. Each has a character that dominates the text: Prayer 1 (Rite 1) is about Christ's Sacrifice, Prayer 2 (Rite 1) focuses on the incarnation, Prayer A (Rite 2) is a summary of Prayer 1 in modern language, Prayer B (Rite 2) is a summary of Prayer 2 in modern language, Prayer C (Rite 2), the one we are currently using, has a special focus on creation and is based on prayers from the Eastern Orthodox Church, and Prayer D (Rite 2) is based on a prayer from St. Basil the Great (d. 379 AD) and is for especially celebratory days and calls on the Holy Spirit as no other that is included in the services.
I generally choose a prayer for a season, hopefully commensurate with the theology of the season, and to keep it around long enough for the words to seep into our spirits. Prayer A (sacrifice) for Lent, Prayer B (Incarnation) for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, Prayer C for after Pentecost in the long period without special days, and Prayer D for Baptism days, Pentecost, and Maundy Thursday, all big days for the Holy Spirit.
That is where we are for now. Stayed tuned for changes from on High, or from the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music.
The Rev. David Lucey