Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation

And More on the Color of Cassocks

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ROME, FEB. 23, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: I have a question about proper, or invariable, prefaces. During Lent, the Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation seem particularly appropriate. One popular liturgical planning guide even recommends using them. Sundays and weekdays of Lent, however, have proper prefaces. Are the two Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation therefore not allowed? — D.H., Addison, Illinois

A: The rubric which precedes the Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation in the new Latin Missal states that while this preface is normally invariable, it may be substituted by another one, provided that it contains the theme of reconciliation and forgiveness. The rubric then suggests the Lenten prefaces as a suitable example for such substitutions.

Therefore, it is possible to adopt the Lenten prefaces when using these Eucharistic Prayers. Indeed, it is sometimes done by the Pope when he celebrates the traditional Ash Wednesday station Mass in the Basilica of St. Sabina on Rome’s Aventine Hill.

The converse is also possible on most Lenten weekdays; that is, one may use the prayer of reconciliation with its proper preface during Lent. This option is not available on Sundays, which have specific prefaces, or during the fifth week of Lent and Holy Week where the prefaces of the Passion of the Lord are prescribed.

This possibility of substitution is not offered for the other Eucharistic Prayers with proper prefaces.

Eucharistic Prayer IV may never be separated from its preface, and so its use during Lent is limited to weekdays of the first four weeks. This Eucharistic Prayer may not be used whenever a “proper preface” is obligatory. Proper preface is usually interpreted as preface of the day and not of the season. Hence, the fourth anaphora can usually be used whenever the missal offers a choice of several seasonal prefaces, unless the rubric of the days logically excludes this possibility.

For example, the prayer may be used on Lenten weekdays 1-4 because any one of the Lenten seasonal prefaces may be used. On Sundays, however, either the preface is specific to the day or a Lenten preface is specifically mandated.

The Eucharistic Prayers for Masses for Various Needs are practically never used during Lent because their use is restricted to whenever one of these Masses is celebrated. Since such devotional Masses are excluded during the Lenten season, except for grave reasons and by mandate or consent of the bishop, the occasion to use them almost never arises.

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Follow-up: Colors of Cassocks and Altar Cloths

Related to our Feb. 9 comments on the proper dress for servers, a Virginia reader had asked: “My parish has long placed its altar boys in black cassocks and surplices. Recently, our pastor announced that it was not appropriate for boys to be wearing black cassocks, since these are symbolic of the vow of celibacy, and our altar boys are not necessarily destined for the priesthood. He has begun replacing their dress with red cassocks and surplices. It would seem that a switch from black to red cassocks is certainly well within the authority of the pastor to direct, but I’m just a little surprised at his reasoning. Is there a meaning to the colors for altar boys’ cassocks? What are the allowable colors? Is it correct that black is not appropriate for 12- to 18-year-old boys?”

While the pastor may determine this point, I would respectfully disagree with his reasoning. As far as I can ascertain, there is no rule that would exclude black cassocks for altar servers. It is somewhat curious that to avoid them looking like priests we dress them up as cardinals.

The norms for the extraordinary rite already foresaw that the server could wear a cassock even if not a cleric. When the cassock was used, however, a surplice was required. There were no stipulations regarding color, although black was the most common. In some countries, serving in lay dress was also an accepted custom.

Nor is it strictly true that seminarians and priests always wear black cassocks. Although their use is now quite rare, seminarians from various national colleges in Rome could be distinguished by either the color or special cut of their cassocks. Some colleges had blue or red cassocks, while others wore black with red buttons, etc.

In Mexico, seminarians wear either black or white cassocks with a blue sash. In India and many other tropical countries, seminarians and priests wear white cassocks.

Therefore, while the clerical cassock is a sign of a priest’s consecration and dedication, its use during the liturgy is not restricted to clerics.

In saying this, I would not wish to exclude the possibility that reserving the black cassock to priests and seminarians may not be a legitimate custom in some areas. It may also constitute an effective pastoral tool, especially in parishes where seminarians are frequently present together with lay altar servers.

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Readers may send questions to liturgy@zenit.org. Please put the word “Liturgy” in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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