Wednesday Liturgy: Follow-up: "Midnight Mass" at 9 p.m.
Pursuant to our comments on Christmas Midnight Mass (see Dec. 23), an Eastern Catholic priest who is bi-ritual in the Roman rite asked the following question:
"On Christmas Day, as I was celebrating Mass in a Roman-rite parish, I wanted to use Eucharistic Prayer 4 because it lays out so majestically the whole plan of salvation vis-à-vis the Anaphora of St. Basil the Great in the Eastern Churches. However, I was not aware that it had its own Preface until I turned to it. Since I had already prayed the Christmas Preface, I decided I should not use Prayer 4. Would I have been wrong to have done so?"
Father was correct in refraining from using Eucharistic Prayer 4 and precisely because it has an invariable preface that forms a unity with the rest of the anaphora.
This beautiful prayer is theologically and structurally modeled on Eastern anaphoras, such as that of St. Basil. But it is stylistically and literarily more akin to traditional Latin prayer formulas although with a clear biblical background.
Because of its special structure and invariable preface it may not be used on feasts which have an obligatory preface of their own, such as Christmas and other solemnities, Sundays of the major liturgical seasons, and the fifth week of Lent.
It may be used when an assigned preface is not obligatory, such as on weekdays and Sundays of ordinary time; whenever a seasonal preface (rather than a preface of the day) is to be used; or for votive Masses. For example, Eucharistic Prayer 4 may not be used on Pentecost or the feast of Corpus Christi, but it may be used for a votive Mass of the Holy Spirit or of the Holy Eucharist even though the rubrics indicate the use of proper prefaces. In the case of votive Masses the use of the proper preface is not obligatory.
The most suitable Eucharistic Prayer to use on Christmas Day is the Roman Canon (No. 1). This ancient prayer has a traditional specific formula for this day that may be used every day of the Christmas octave.
While some bishops' conferences have composed special Christmas formulas for Eucharistic Prayers 2 and 3, they do not quite match the beauty of the traditional insertion.