Questions Answered

Question: It is my impression that when we celebrate the Eucharist in my diocese at community Mass, Eucharistic Prayer 2 predominates. What might underlie this preference? What merit is there to criticisms about the historicity, and theological insufficiencies, of Eucharistic Prayer 2?

Answer: You are right that Eucharistic Prayer 2 is commonly used most of the time in many parish settings today. In fact, there was an incident when I was giving a parish mission a few years ago, and I used Eucharistic Prayer 1, or the Roman Canon, on Sunday, and after Mass, a parishioner accused me of making up the Eucharistic Prayer. He said he had never heard of the version that I used.

The Roman Canon was used exclusively in the Roman Rite as the one Eucharistic prayer for at least 1600 years. Yet, because some other rites had multiple Eucharistic prayers, when the reform initiated by Vatican II got into full swing, many liturgists believed that this was inappropriate for various reasons. Some have said that about many things which develop in history, the Roman Canon was a hodgepodge of accretions, without a central unifying point, much as people add rooms onto their house, and often do not respect the original style. This seems to me to be a gross exaggeration, but it was a consideration. There was also concern that there was not an evident epiclesis (invocation of the Holy Spirit on the gifts). It was also maintained that when the Eucharistic Prayer began to be said out loud in the vernacular, the defects would be plain, and it would be too long for ordinary usage.

Compounding this development, a number of bishop’s conferences after Vatican II began to experiment by approving as many as 20 to 30 Eucharistic prayers, without the reception, or approval, of the Holy See. Paul VI, and even the liberal liturgists, like Annibale Bugnini, who was the head of the commission which produced the Missal of Paul VI, were quite concerned over this development.

The history which produced Eucharistic Prayer 2 is long and complex, and I cannot go into it all here. Suffice it to say that the solution to the above problems by the commission was to have about four main prayers, of varying length, which were suitable for different types of celebrations. Eucharist Prayer 2 would be the shortest, and suitable for daily celebration when there was no saint.

Liturgical historians were doing a lot of research at this time into past rites, and one of the earliest was the so-called “Canon of Hippolytus.” Hippolytus (mid-Third Century) was actually an anti-pope in the early Church, who was excommunicated, but died a martyr’s death in the salt mines of Sardinia, with the real pope. He compiled a number of early Church sources, including what modern scholars believed is the earliest Eucharistic Prayer in the Roman Church, although whether this was ever used at Mass is greatly disputed now. Nevertheless, at the time of the composition of the Revised Roman Missal in the late 60s, this text was considered an example of an early Roman Mass. It was very short, without Sanctus or epiclesis, but basically consisted of the words of institution of Christ. It was, therefore, used as a model for Eucharistic Prayer 2 with many adaptations. The final version of this prayer was composed in one evening.

Louis Bouyer, who was a member of the commission to produce the reformed liturgy, had a lot to do with this process, and he relates the following in his just-published memoirs: “Dom Botte and I were commissioned to patch up its text (Hippolytus’ Eucharistic Prayer) with a view to inserting these elements (Sanctus and intercessions)—by the next morning! […] Still, I cannot reread the improbable composition without recalling the Trastevere café terrace, where we had to put the finishing touches to our assignment in order to show up with it at the Bronze Gate by the time our masters had set!” (Louis Bouyer, The Memoirs of Louis Bouyer, 2014, 221-222)

The fact that this Eucharistic Prayer is based on a questionable source, and basically had the critical elements resolved by two people in one evening in a restaurant, demonstrates, perhaps, why those who know something of this history have some problems with its fittingness. The additional fact that this may be the most commonly used prayer, makes this more difficult. As to why people use this prayer so much, my personal opinion is just because it is so short. There are so many extra things added to the usual parish Sunday Mass, not to mention some quite lengthy homilies. This is perhaps what leads many priests to take the path of least resistance, and commonly choose the shortest Eucharistic prayer.



Question: Should the pitcher, and the little wine that remains in it if you fill the chalices at the offertory, be considered part of the Precious Blood after the consecration, and the pitcher be purified? Also, may the vessel ever be made of glass under any circumstances?

Answer: This question should be addressed by an examination of the intention of the celebrant. I assume that the wine is poured from the pitcher into the chalices, and then they are placed on the corporal, which is the square cloth which is placed under the paten and the chalices. This has two purposes: it establishes the sacred space, much like the tent of meeting, or the Holy of Holies in the temple, and it catches whatever particles fall from the consecrated Host, and also any drops falling from the chalice containing the Precious Blood.

The pastoral norms, which are given to most priests, entail placing those elements to be consecrated on the corporal precisely so the intention of the celebrant may be very specific. When I was a young priest, I was told to just always intend to consecrate ONLY what is on the corporal, as even just touching it would cause there to be no question about the consecration of other elements which are not on, or touching, the corporal, even if they were on or near the altar.

Normally, whatever wine remains in the pitcher would, therefore, not be consecrated. Therefore, the vessel would not need to be purified after communion. There are places though, where contrary to mandated Vatican practice, the pitcher is consecrated, and the person intends to do this. The chalices are then filled after the Agnus Dei. In this case, whatever might be left in the pitcher, must be consumed, as it is the Precious Blood, and the pitcher purified.

Two points must be made about this, however. The most recent Church documents—Redemptionis Sacramentum and Ecclesia de Eucharistia—are clear that this latter practice of pouring from one vessel to another of the Precious Blood is not to be done. The USCCB implemented these documents in this way:

On March 22, 2002, the USCCB approved Norms which provided for the pouring of the Precious Blood during the singing of the Lamb of God into chalices for distribution to the faithful. These norms were confirmed by the Holy See on March 22, 2002. On March 25, 2004, the Congregation published an instruction under the title, Redemptionis Sacramentum [RS], which prescribed that “the pouring of the Blood of Christ after the consecration from one vessel to another is completely to be avoided, lest anything should happen that would be to the detriment of so great a mystery. Never to be used for containing the Blood of the Lord are flagons, bowls, or other vessels that are not fully in accord with the established norms” (RS, no. 106). On April 27, 2004 Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I., Chairman of the USCCB Committee on the Liturgy, wrote to Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation, noting the discrepancy between Redemptionis Sacramentum and the USCCB Norms in regard to pouring the Precious Blood and the use of flagons. Cardinal Arinze responded on May 6, 2004 (Prot n. 660/04/L) with a letter modifying the Congregation’s “original confirmation in regard to numbers 36 and 37 of these Norms” and including an emended text of the USCCB Norms which eliminates both the pouring of the Precious Blood and the use of flagons.

This was issued by the bishops in their newsletter of July, 2004. Flagons for the wine may be used to convey the gifts to the altar in the offertory, but not for the consecration.

As to the material, the same norm applies. Chalices are the only vessels appropriate for the Precious Blood. As Redemptionis Sacramentum clearly states:

Sacred vessels for containing the Body and Blood of the Lord must be made in strict conformity with the norms of tradition, and of the liturgical books. The Bishops’ Conferences have the faculty to decide whether it is appropriate, once their decisions have been given the recognitio by the Apostolic See, for sacred vessels to be made of other solid materials, as well. It is strictly required, however, that such materials be truly noble in the common estimation within a given region, so that honor will be given to the Lord by their use, and all risk of diminishing the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species in the eyes of the faithful will be avoided. Reprobated, therefore, is any practice of using, for the celebration of Mass, common vessels, or others lacking in quality, or devoid of all artistic merit, or which are mere containers, as also other vessels made from glass, earthenware, clay, or other materials that break easily. This norm is to be applied even as regards metals and other materials that easily rust or deteriorate. (n. 117)

Of course, a flagon used merely for an offertory procession may be glass.

Fr. Brian Mullady, OP About Fr. Brian Mullady, OP

Fr. Brian T. Mullady, OP, entered the Dominican Order in 1966 and was ordained in 1972. He has been a parish priest, high school teacher, retreat master, mission preacher, and university professor. He has had seven series on EWTN and is the author of two books and numerous articles, including his regular column in HPR, "Questions Answered".

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Fr. Brian T. Mullady, O.P.
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  1. Avatar Gina Nakagawa says:

    Dear Father
    You are the reason that I subscribe to this publication. Your answers to questions and concerns are very grounded in the Traditions of the Roman Catholic Church and are expressed in such a way as to be accessible to even a person as uninformed as I. Thank you for helping your readers to grow in understanding and appreciation of the Faith

  2. Avatar Fr. Stephen says:

    With regard to the prevalence of EP2, it is worth noting that the GIRM has some guidelines for when to use which prayer:

    365. The choice between the Eucharistic Prayers found in the Order of Mass is suitably guided by the following norms:
    a) Eucharistic Prayer I, or the Roman Canon, which may always be used, is especially suited for use on days to which a proper text for the Communicantes (In communion with those whose memory we venerate) is assigned or in Masses endowed with a proper form of the Hanc igitur (Therefore, Lord, we pray) and also in the celebrations of the Apostles and of the Saints mentioned in the Prayer itself; likewise it is especially suited for use on Sundays, unless for pastoral reasons Eucharistic Prayer III is preferred.
    b) Eucharistic Prayer II, on account of its particular features, is more appropriately used on weekdays or in special circumstances. Although it is provided with its own Preface, it may also be used with other Prefaces, especially those that sum up the mystery of salvation, for example, the Common Prefaces. When Mass is celebrated for a particular deceased person, the special formula given may be used at the proper point, namely, before the part Remember also our brothers and sisters.
    c) Eucharistic Prayer III may be said with any Preface. Its use should be preferred on Sundays and festive days. If, however, this Eucharistic Prayer is used in Masses for the Dead, the special formula for a deceased person may be used, to be included at the proper place, namely after the words: in your compassion, O merciful Father, gather to yourself all your children scattered throughout the world.
    d) Eucharistic Prayer IV has an invariable Preface and gives a fuller summary of salvation history. It may be used when a Mass has no Preface of its own and on Sundays in Ordinary Time. On account of its structure, no special formula for a deceased person may be inserted into this prayer.