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The Composition of the Second Eucharistic Prayer

Daniel J. Castellano (2007)

Currently, the ordinary liturgy of the Catholic Church in the Latin Rite permits the use of four different canons or "Eucharistic prayers". The First Eucharistic Prayer is a modern edition of the traditional Roman Canon, the form of which was defined by Pope St. Gregory the Great in the sixth century, codifying an existing Roman liturgy probably dating back to at least c. 400 AD. The Second Eucharistic Prayer is based in part on the third-century liturgy of St. Hippolytus of Rome, the canon of which can be found in his Constitutions.

St. Hippolytus has the odd distinction of being the only antipope who is recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church. He was invalidly elected pope in 218 in reaction to the supposed heresy of Pope St. Callistus, but eighteen years later, he made peace with the Church, and shared martyrdom with the lawful Pope, St. Pontian. St. Hippolytus was in schism at the time his Constitutions were written, but his orthodoxy was never in doubt. In his introduction to the canon, he claims that this liturgical form was a received tradition, not his invention. Nonetheless, at that time, there was little attempt to fix the precise wording of the liturgy, so many of this canon's phrases were probably personally chosen by St. Hippolytus, who advises the reader that it is not necessary to recite the canon in his exact words.

Our Second Eucharistic Prayer is partially based on the liturgical scholar Dom Botte's reconstruction of the Canon of St. Hippolytus. In some places the text has been deliberately rearranged to match the ordering of the traditional Roman Canon, and several phrases from the Roman Canon have been added in order to complete the liturgy. The Second Eucharistic Prayer, therefore, is largely a composite of the Canon of St. Hippolytus and the Roman Canon of St. Gregory the Great, with few original additions.

The easiest way to analyze the composition of the second Eucharistic prayer is by viewing it synoptically with the canon of St. Hippolytus. The Preface Dialogue, which is undoubtedly of immense antiquity, is identical in the Canon of St. Hippolytus and in the Roman Canon, and it is still used with all Eucharistic prayers in the Latin Rite. It is shown below in its elegant Latin simplicity. From the preface onward, there are substantial differences between the Canon of St. Hippolytus and the Second Eucharistic Prayer, which we illustrate by the use of a color scheme. For each section, phrases in common between the Second Eucharistic Prayer and the Canon of St. Hippolytus are colored in blue, while those parts of the Second Eucharistic Prayer which come from the Roman Canon are colored in green. The words of Consecration are in bold.

Preface Dialogue

P: Dominus vobiscum.
S: Et cum spiritu tuo.
P: Sursum corda.
S: Habemus ad Dominum.
P: Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro.
S: Dignum et justum est.

Canon of St. HippolytusSecond Eucharistic Prayer
Preface We render thanks to you, O God, through Thy beloved Son Jesus Christ, whom in the last times Thou sent to us as a savior and redeemer and angel of Thy will; who is Thine inseparable Word, through whom Thou madest all things; and in whom Thou were well pleased; whom Thou sent from heaven into a virgin’s womb; and who, being conceived in the womb, was made flesh and was manifested as Thy Son, being born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin; who, fulfilling your will and gaining for Thee a holy people, stretched out His hands when He should suffer; that He might release from suffering those who have believed in Thee; [Other prefaces optional] Father, it is our duty and salvation, always and everywhere to give You thanks through Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ. He is the Word through whom You made the universe, the Savior You sent to redeem us. By the power of the Holy Spirit He took flesh and was born of the Virgin Mary. For our sake He opened his arms on the Cross; He put an end to death and revealed the resurrection. In this He fulfilled Your will and won for You a holy people. And so we join the angels and saints in proclaiming your glory: [Sanctus]
Epiclesis Lord, You are holy indeed, the fountain of all holiness. Let Your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Institution Narrative ...who, when He was betrayed to voluntary suffering that He might destroy death, and break the bonds of the devil, and tread down hell, and shine upon the righteous, and fix a term, and manifest the resurrection, took bread and gave thanks to Thee, saying, “Take, eat; this is My Body, which shall be broken for you;” who also [took] the cup, saying, “This is My Blood, which is shed for you; when you do this, you make My remembrance.” Before He was given up to death, a death He freely accepted, He took bread and gave you thanks, He broke the bread, gave it to His disciples, and said: Take this, all of you, and eat it; this is My Body which will be given up for you. When the supper was ended, He took the cup. Again He gave you thanks and praise, gave the cup to His disciples, and said: Take this, all of you, and drink from it; this is the cup of My Blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of Me.
Memorial Acclamation P: Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.
[Other acclamations optional:]
All: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
Offering, and
Remembering therefore His death and resurrection, we offer to Thee the Bread and the Chalice, giving Thee thanks because Thou hast held us worthy to stand before Thee and minister to Thee. And we ask that Thou wouldst send Thy Holy Spirit upon the offering of Thy holy Church; that, gathering her into one, Thou wouldst grant to all who receive the holy things [to receive] for the fullness of the Holy Spirit for the strengthening of faith in truth; that we may praise and glorify Thee through Thy Son Jesus Christ; In memory of His death and resurrection, we offer you, Father, this life-giving Bread, this saving Cup. We thank you for counting us worthy to stand in Your presence and serve You. May all of us who share in the Body and Blood of Christ be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit. Lord, remember Your Church throughout the world; make us grow in love, together with N. our Pope, N. our bishop, and all the clergy. Remember our brothers and sisters who have gone to their rest in the hope of rising again; bring them and all the departed into the light of Your Presence. Have mercy on us all; make us worthy to share eternal life with Mary, the virgin Mother of God, with the Apostles, and with all the saints who have done Your will throughout the ages. May we praise You in union with them, and give You glory through Your Son, Jesus Christ.
Doxology ...through whom be glory and honor to Thee, to the Father and the Son, with the Holy Spirit, in Thy holy Church, both now and to the ages of ages. Through Him, with Him, and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.


The opening of the Preface of the Second Eucharistic Prayer follows the traditional Roman Canon rather than St. Hippolytus. The expression "put an end to death and revealed the resurrection" comes from the Institution Narrative of St. Hippolytus. That narrative's reference to the devil and hell is omitted altogether. The Sanctus is sung right after the Preface, as has been done in the traditional Roman Canon, so reference is made to the angels and saints.

Note that the Epiklesis in the Second Eucharistic Prayer comes before the Institution, in agreement with the Latin Church's faith that the Institution completes the Consecration. The wording of the Epiclesis comes in part from the last clause of the Roman Canon before the Institution Narrative:

O God, deign to bless what we offer, and make it approved, effective, right, and wholly pleasing in every way, that it may become for our good, the Body and Blood of Your dearly beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

In the Roman Canon, this invocation is addressed to the Father, but in the Second Eucharistic Prayer it is addressed to the Holy Spirit, so that it becomes a true Epiklesis. In the Roman Canon, there really was not any Epiclesis, though the subsequent prayer after the Institution "that your angel may take this sacrifice to your altar in heaven" has been recognized by the Greeks as an Epiklesis. The Second Eucharistic Prayer lacks this invocation, so it was necessary to construct a new Epiklesis from an earlier part of the Roman Canon.

The Institution Narrative in the Second Eucharistic Prayer follows the Roman Canon instead of St. Hippolytus, by clearly indicating that the Bread was broken at the beginning of the supper, and the Chalice was taken after the supper was ended. The verbal form of the consecration also follows that of the Roman Canon, with the exception that the words "mysterium fidei" have been moved to the new "Memorial Acclamation" that immediately follows.

The Anamnesis of St. Hippolytus' canon includes an Epiklesis, serving as an early witness to the use of an Epiklesis at Rome. Since the Second Eucharistic Prayer has constructed a new Epiklesis from an earlier part of the Roman Canon, there is no need for a repeat of the invocation here. Instead, the priest prays that those who partake of the Body and Blood may be brought together "in the unity of the Holy Spirit." This is a loose paraphrase of the Hippolytus canon's prayer, "that, gathering her into one, Thou wouldst grant to all who receive the holy things...", except that in St. Hippolytus' canon, the primary object of the prayer is not unity, but "the fullness of the Holy Spirit for the strengthening of faith in truth." The Second Eucharist Prayer adds reference to the Blessed Virgin, the Apostles and the Saints. Most of the Anamnesis is composed of scattered elements of the Roman Canon, though with significantly different wording.

The Doxology, or Minor Elevation, of the Second Eucharistic Prayer comes from the Roman Canon. The Consecration and Minor Elevation are the focal points of veneration in the Latin rite, so these are preserved in their traditional form regardless of which Eucharistic prayer is used.

In summary, we find that the Second Eucharistic Prayer is almost entirely a composite of the Canon of St. Hippolytus and the Roman Canon, with scant original material. The order of St. Hippolytus' canon is preserved, with the exceptions of moving the Epiklesis to before the Consecration, and mentioning Christ's conquest of death and manifestation of His Resurrection in the Preface rather than in the Institution Narrative. The Consecration and Doxology follow the Roman Canon practically verbatim, while the Amamnesis is loosely based on the Roman Canon.

We should note that when the standard preface of the Second Eucharistic Prayer is omitted in favor of an optional preface, the prayer as a whole bears little resemblance to the Canon of St. Hippolytus, and what remains is mostly a paraphrase of the Roman Canon.

© 2007 Daniel J. Castellano. All rights reserved. http://www.arcaneknowledge.org

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