Q. How does the priest choose which Eucharistic prayer he uses at Mass?
A. The Eucharistic prayer is the central part of the Mass where Jesus, working through the priest, uses His very words supernaturally and miraculously – to change bread and wine into His very Body and Blood.
The Gospel of John, chapter six, tells us that Jesus meant this literally, not figuratively or metaphorically. Thus, what an incredibly sacred unfathomable mystery and gift is set before us in the Eucharist.
There are basically four Eucharistic prayers that are used frequently at Mass: Eucharistic Prayer One (the Roman Canon), and Eucharistic Prayers Two, Three and Four.
Now to your question: the choice is pretty much left up to the priest.
There are, however, some guidelines that help the priest, in No. 365 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, (the Roman Missal being the book on the altar that guides the priest as he celebrates Mass) to decide which Eucharistic prayer might be most appropriate — with respect, at least, to the four basic options. They are:
The Eucharistic Prayer 1 (the Roman Canon) is especially appropriate on major feasts and seasons, for example the octave (eight days following) Christmas and Easter. Eucharistic Prayer One, since it provides references to that feast to be included in the prayer itself, is also suitable on feast days of those saints who are mentioned by name in that prayer.
Eucharistic Prayer 2 is the briefest of the four options and the most ancient of Eucharistic prayers.
Eucharistic Prayer 3 is “preferred on Sundays and festive days.”
Eucharistic Prayer 4, which is the lengthiest of the four, “gives a fuller summary of salvation history.” Eucharistic prayer four also has an invariable preface (the preface is the prayer just before the Eucharistic prayer), thus, it may be used when a Mass has no preface of its own and on Sundays and ordinary time.
This question was answered by a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln. Write to Ask the Register using our online form, or write to 3700 Sheridan Blvd., Suite 10, Lincoln NE 68506-6100. All questions are subject to editing. Editors decide which questions to publish. Personal questions cannot be answered. People with such questions are urged to take them to their nearest Catholic priest.