Patrick Archbold is co-founder of Creative Minority Report, a Catholic website that puts a refreshing spin on the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. When not writing, Patrick is director of information technology at a large international logistics company in New York.
Since the Council, the reformers of the Church have promised all kinds of things that were to improve upon the old, stale, and dusty Church. The dustiest place of all was seen to be the liturgy. It is not my intent here to rehash the last 40+ years of the liturgy wars. Rather, I want to focus on one narrow point to contrast the promises of the reformers and what was delivered.
Even though the Second Vatican Council in its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium did not call for the multiplication of the Eucharistic prayers, for the reformers of the liturgy, this was a key objective.
Before the reform of the liturgy, we had one Eucharistic prayer essentially unchanged for 1600 years, the beautiful Roman Canon. The reformers wanted us to have more options. The thinking went that with just one Eucharistic prayer, the Roman Canon, the richness of the liturgy was limited. Variety was needed, said Archbishop Bugnini, "if the Roman liturgy is to have the greater spiritual and pastoral riches that cannot find full expression in a single type of text.”
So the reformers added three additional core Eucharistic prayers to the reformed liturgy. Wow! A 300% increase in richness and variety, who could possibly oppose that?
With all that richness available, why are we so poor? What happened?
In reality, the venerable, ancient, and beautiful Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I) is hardly ever used in a parish setting, even on Sundays. For that matter, Eucharistic Prayers III & IV appear at mass less often than Easter and Christmas Catholics.
The reality is that in most parishes, 98.75% of the time, Eucharistic Prayer II is used at mass. In his own words, Archbishop Bugnini said Eucharistic Prayer II was composed "to produce an anaphora that is short and very simple in its ideas.”
So instead of rich and varied, we got short and simple. We got the runt of the liturgy.
We traded in a Cadillac for a Kia and called it an upgrade.
While the reformers promised us varied riches, we got the de-facto replacement of the venerable and ancient Roman Canon with short and simple.
But where are the reformers today? Why don't we hear today's reformers screaming about this? Why don't we see a movement to use all the Eucharistic Prayers including EP I? But we don't, do we? We hear crickets.
It’s almost like these reformers are perfectly happy that the rich, beautiful, and traditional Roman Canon was replaced by the McNugget of Eucharistic prayers. A person more cynical than I might be forgiven for suspecting that this simple supplanting was the real intention all along.