Sunday, 19 October 2008

Prefaces of the Roman Missal




That the celebration of the Eucharist is the very centre of the whole of Christian life both for the Church of God in its local and universal manifestions and for the individual believer is the constant tradition of Christian doctrine, and has been recently re-emphasised with urgency by the Second Vatican Council (SC 41, cf. IGMR 1). From that realisation flows the whole enterprise of the revision of the Roman Missal and its restoration according to the great monuments of the Latin liturgical tradition and in view of the complex pastoral needs of our times.

Among the many measures which in some way could be said to have anticipated and prepared in the course of this century for the more general liturgical reform decreed by the Council, were the various concessions by the Holy See of additional texts for the enrichment of the body of prefaces either for universal or local use. This was in recognition and promotion of the growing sense within the Church of Roman Rite of the pressing ecclesial, spiritual and pastoral need to redress the accidents of history and effect a restoration of the liturgy at its very heart in the Eucharistic Prayer.

This restoration has now been completed and in addition to the provision of three further anaphorae the Roman Missal has been endowed in our day with a variety and a quality of eucharistic preface unequalled in those centuries since the Mass of the Roman Rite received its classic form. The importance of this latter development for the great work of ecclesial renewal called for by the Council can hardly be overestimated. Not only do the texts furnished provide a rich quarry for catechetical instruction and spiritual nourishment, but even more their active use in the very moment of celebration of the great mystery of the Lord's death and resurrection means that with an efficacy without parallel the worshipping People of God is transformed according to the saving truths that the liturgical texts enunciate.

For reasons such as these, the Congregation for Divine Worship commissioned Dom Cuthbert Johnson and Father Anthony Ward to continue their work of making more widely known and available the sources of the revised Roman Missal by turning their attentions to the body of prefaces that are now one of its great treasures. A first edition of the material appeared as a special summer issue of the Congregation's journal Notitiae in 1987, and in order to meet continuing demand is now published as a independent study which requires little by way of additional commentary here. It is the fruit of careful research undertaken in the midst of other labours by two young scholars imbued with a sense of pastoral appropriateness. It reflects the experience of the dicasteries of the Holy See that have directed and supervised the post-conciliar renewal, and has had the benefit of their archival resources, while remaining a work under the authors' responsability. It will prove an invaluable resource to all who study, propound, translate, promote and celebrate the liturgy.

The aspiration and the destiny of all who are in Christ is so to live the mysteries of our redemption in him that we attain to a share before the throne of our eternal Father in the new and unceasing canticle of the Lamb, which is the gift of the Spirit. May the prefaces of the Roman Missal, as elucidated by this present work, drawn as they are from the teaching of the Fathers and the divine beauty of the Scriptures themselves, shaped and restored by men of learning and of prayer, and promulgated by authority of the successor of Peter, be for us an ever deeper schooling in thanksgiving and in praise.

Epiphany of the Lord
January 6, 1989

Titular Archbishop of Voncaria


Progress in the liturgical renewal

From the very beginning of the Liturgical Movement stress has been laid upon the importance of the study of the sources of the liturgy as a means to a deeper understanding of the way in which the Church celebrates the mysteries of salvation. It was such patient study that laid the firm foundations for the thorough-going renewal of the Roman Rite launched by the Second Vatican Council, and which has borne such great fruit. Yet the reinvigoration of the liturgy can never be a matter to be settled once and for all and then laid on a shelf, and a liturgical reform is dead just as soon as talk arises of its being concluded. The Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy is imbued with concern that there should be an organic growth as well as a notable and progressive deepening of a fully aware, active, and fruitful participation in liturgical celebration among all sections of God's faithful people.  It is in this perspective that we present these materials, in the hope that may aid all who in support of the conciliar reform push on with the task of refining, reviewing, invigorating and developing what has already been achieved.


In answer to a growing volume of requests for information on the sources of the Roman Missal, the Congregation for Divine Worship commissioned the present writers to begin compilation of material for publication. The aim was to meet an immediate need among students, pastors, and those entrusted with the daunting task of preparing and revising vernacular translations. The first installment of material was published in a double summer issue of the Congregation's journal Notitiae in the summer of 1986. Greatly encouraged by the response, but pressed by the tenor of further requests, the authors then felt obliged to modify their original strategy so as not to proceed as planned with another section of orations in the order of the Roman Missal, but instead with the whole corpus of Eucharistic Prefaces contained there. The enormous workload this entailed was acquitted in time for publication as a further special summer issue of Notitiae in the summer of 1987.

For technical reasons, and in order to meet the volume of requests, it has now been decided to publish as an independent work a revised edition of the treatment of the Eucharistic Prefaces. It has not been feasible to recast the earlier publication completely, and indeed public reactions seem in general to confirm the usefulness of its present form. Changes have accordingly been kept to a minimum, apart from some obvious technical corrections, a thorough revision of this general introduction, and a notable further enhancement of the accompanying instruments de travail.

In the pages that follow, the reader may hope to find materials that will help him to some appreciation of the sources of a given Preface in the Scriptures, in patristic tradition or recent conciliar teaching, and in the great monuments of the Latin liturgy. Clearly, this latter is a major preoccupation, and we have tried to provide as much information as possible about the precise literary source of any particular form of words in the Prefaces. Yet, while this study has taken into careful account the principal historical monuments, it is not directed to providing anything approaching a critical edition of any part of them.


No attempt will be made here to summarise scholarly findings on the history of the preface since this task has already been undertaken in the Introduction given by Dom Edmond Moeller, OSB to his work Corpus Praefationum. It is our pleasure, therefore, to refer our readers to this work,<1*> even while not forgetting other notable contributions on this subject, to which the author there refers. It may, however, be useful to the reader to have at hand at least in sketch form indications of a largely historical nature that will facilitate the use of this present study.

In 1970 Pope Paul VI promulgated the editio typica of the Missale Romanum. This edition contained 81 prefaces, and in the intervening years we have grown accustomed to such ample selections.  It is perhaps well to recall, however, that formerly the number of prefaces for use in the Latin liturgy has been the subject of some opposing tendencies.  While the Veronense's libelli testify to an ample reservoir of texts (267 survive there),<2*> the Gelasianum Vetus (with 54 texts) and the Hadrianum (with a mere 14, of which 8 were for the temporal cycle) there is the suggestion that as codification advanced the inclination in Rome was towards a somewhat severe restriction.

In Frankish lands, where the Gallican liturgy was being pushed out by the introduction of the Roman, the demise of an ample choice of prefaces seems to have been the object of particular regret. The result was that for a period the tendency was towards remedying the perceived defect with new importations. The Supplement to the Hadrianum introduced 333 texts. Among the "Gallican" sacramentaries the Missal of Bobbio has 73 prefaces, the Missale Gothicum (under the titles immolatio missae and contestatio) has 85 prefaces. The so-called VIIIth Century Gelasian sacramentaries, of which two notable representatives are the Gellone and the Angoulême, move towards a figure of some 200 prefaces. In the tenth century we find the Sacramentary of Fulda with no less than 320. In view of the sheer mass of texts in production, it is not surprising that a reaction occurred. Its instrument was Burkhard of Worms (965-1025), who with the help of the forged decretals of Pelagius II (579-590), provided juridical support for a severe reduction that settled on the number 9 as the total (with the Common Preface in addition, since in effect it had no distinctive content), though the strength of Marian piety saw to it that the preface of the Blessed Virgin Mary which emerged about this same time was to round the figure up to 10, a position reaffirmed by St. Pius V.<3*>

During centuries the lacunae were all too evident, and all the more so after the appearance of critical editions of the ancient manuscripts made the profusion of ancient texts apparent.  Especially keenly felt was the lack of a preface for ordinary Sundays (the use of the Trinity Preface to fill this gap, while intermittent from the 13th century, was prescribed only in 1759). In recent centuries the diocesan liturgies of France made more or less happy attempts to supplement the number, a phenomenon that at least provided a certain agitation for approval of additional prefaces by the Holy See in times nearer our own.<4*> The mood was in some degree established when the prefaces for the Dead (1919), Saint Joseph (1919), Christ the King (1925), and the Sacred Heart (1928) were introduced into the Roman Missal, the revised Ordo for Holy Week (1955) revived a further one for the Mass of Chrism. By the eve of the Council prefaces for Advent, the Dedication of a Church, the Blessed Sacrament, and All Saints were also in widespread use. During the Council's Fourth Session, use was made in the conciliar celebrations of two prefaces of the Holy Spirit, and the Mass promulgated for the extraordinary jubilee of 1965 likewise had its preface.<5*> After the Council, eight new prefaces were promulgated for general use on 23rd May, 1968, all of which found their way into the editio typica of the conciliar Missal.<6*>


In furtherance of the initial impetus given by the Council, a number of quite precise principles were developed to govern the revision of the euchological texts in general. An exposition of these has given by our esteemed friend Dom Antoine Dumas,<*7> and we take up some of these principles for discussion here only in so far as they necessarily influence our approach.

Enlarging the euchological corpus

Consistent with the vagaries of the history of the preface, the general policy of enlarging the euchological corpus finds proportionally speaking nowhere more dramatic implementation in the revised Missal. The total rose to 81 in the 1970 editio typica and 84 in the editio typica altera of 1975.<8*>
Pastoral considerations, especially with the prospect of a vernacular liturgy, urged an amplification of the corpus. It was decided to increase the number of texts, while respecting in general terms a certain restriction, which for a millenium and a half had in fact been distinctive of the liturgy of Rome, when set, for example, against that of Milan.
It should be said that with the prefaces the aim of the conciliar reform was not simply a general one of providing wider variety, but was focused upon the qualitative enrichment of the eucharistic celebration of the Roman Rite at its very heart, the eucharistic prayer. Just as a major innovation was undertaken in the Roman tradition by the introduction of a further three eucharistic prayers, the eucharistic prayer as such was enhanced by the provision of a significantly increased treasury of alternatives in the preface itself.

Furnishing additional texts

One obvious procedure for supplementing the corpus of texts was simply to draw upon the full riches of Latin euchology, in first place as found in the ancient sacramentaries which represented the major contributors to the development of the liturgy of Pius V. Indeed, the ancient manuscripts offered a very notable bulk of material, as we have seen. One particular consideration which intervened, however, was that these prefaces did not always easily lend themselves to direct adoption. This was especially the case for rites with more distant relation to the Roman tradition, such as the Hispanic and the Gallican liturgies.

Restoration of authentic functions

It was above all in the case of the preface that the revisers came to grips with the important operating principle of the liturgical reform which required it to undertake a very attentive restoration of texts to their original function and the restitution of an internal structure appropriate to it. Advances in liturgical history, in biblical studies and in liturgical theology pointed to the need for a reorientation of the preface and a serious re-examination of existing texts for the suitability and completeness of their content.

In order to help define the literary genre of preface and explain our approach in the work that follows, we may note that the preface has a five-part structure:<9*>

1. The introductory dialogue
2. The protocol
3. The embolism
4. The eschatocol
5. The acclamation: Sanctus

The conciliar reform made no change in the introductory dialogue, nor in the acclamation, though both the protocol and the eschatocol were the object of some attention.  We do give some brief elements of treatment on these in a separate section annexed to the main study,<10*> though our main concentration is upon the embolism.

The revision accepted that the authentic function of the preface as a whole was to give expression to the precise motives of praise and thanksgiving in a particular eucharistic celebration.<11*>  Just as the liturgical year unfolds step by step the mystery of God's saving work in Christ so too does the corpus of prefaces. The preface underlines a particular aspect of the `mirabilia Dei' in the heart of the Church's prayer, the Great Thanksgiving, the Eucharistic Prayer. The preface has not only a didactic function but is also proclamatory and evocative. In the moment when the personal-communal encounter with Christ takes place, the preface expresses and proclaims the faith of the Church, evoking the historical event which is actualized in mystery through the celebration, and this in an eschatological perspective, `donec veniat'.

The ramifications of such an approach for the work of revision were considerable, since very early in the manuscript tradition there are indications that texts deviated from such clear lines and became embroiled in a prayer of petition,<12*> and one often marked by abjection.  As an illustration of how the internal structure became deformed on occasion, consider the structural similarity between the following two texts, one a collect and the other a preface:

Had 124 : Item ad missam (C):
[= Pad 104 : Hypapanti (C)]

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus,
maiestatem tuam supplices exoramus,
ut sicut Unigenitus tuus hodierna die
cum nostrae carnis substantia in templo praesentatus est,
ita nos facias purificatis tibi mentibus praesentari.
Per Dominum nostrum.

Sup 1575 : Dominica IIII infra Quadragesimam (Pr):
VD aeterne Deus.
Maiestatem tuam propensius implorantes,
ut quanto magis dies salutiferae festivitatis accedit,
tanto devotius ad eius digne celebrandum
proficiamus paschale mysterium.
Per Christum.

Other texts took advantage of the freer scope of the genre to present a somewhat technical repudiation of unhealthy doctrine, or a quasi-homilectic catechesis or apologia for the celebration, or a miniature hagiography of a saint, or a steering of the celebration towards a moralizing interpretation. The need to correct these deviations and to return wholeheartedly to a truly biblical and patristic tone accounts for the fact that few texts were adopted by the revision as they stood, no matter the source from which they came.

A major role in the shaping of principles for the revision of the prefaces fell to Dom Placide Bruylants, who happily published a summary of his reflections on the subject.<13*>  The reader could not do better than turn to this for further elucidation. It should be said, however, that in few cases in the liturgical revision did the view of one scholar entirely prevail and that some of Dom Bruylants' suggestions were only accepted after radical modification. It is in a similar vein that we have tried in this compilation to follow indications of current research, but without espousing or attempting to document arguments for any particular hypotheses. A further authoritative comment on the prefaces as they finally emerged from the revision is found under the pen of Dom Antoine Dumas.<14*>

Highlighting distinctive physiognomies

The conciliar revision opted to return to the best textual witnesses so as to restore the original vigour of a text. It is well known that in the course of centuries some prayers were used many times in different celebrations in the course of a year, with the result that while acceptable in themselves, they were unable to make a distinctive contribution to any particular celebration. Similarly, phrases which had appealed to liturgical compilers of the past had been centonized and were overworked by being used in a whole range of liturgical texts. In general, the revisers corrected these tendencies by reducing the exaggerated duplications. Yet in the case of the Prefaces, as we have seen, the nature of the Roman Rite required restriction, and the aim was at a balance.

Shaping liturgical vocabulary

The Latin text has aimed at shaping a distinctive thematic vocabulary for liturgical seasons, particular sacramental liturgies, particular genres of oration, and so forth. Thus, in some instances anomalous vocabulary was replaced by more usual or clearer and less ambiguous words. Terms which in other instances were too restrictive in scope or which risked a theological flavour at odds with the spirit of the Council were also delicately replaced. Similarly, the revisers displayed great concern to prepare the way for vernacular translation by eliminating or modifying phrases which would involve the translator in impossible struggles, and by taking great care not to reintroduce difficulties when they created new texts. The spirit of the work was once again the conciliar preoccupation with meeting pastoral needs.

The ring of truth

The Pauline Missal pursued its concern for truth by discarding references to legendary events and also by re-examining whatever was predicated of human emotion. The result is decidedly more genuine in its feel that many former texts of the Missal. It should be noted, though, that a deliberate choice was made to maintain certain terms, such as those relating to joy at the Resurrection, which may seem hyperbolic as an expression of the emotion of individual participants, but are more profoundly the vehicle for the conviction of the Church at the level of faith.

New compositions

When other resources failed, resort was had to new compositions. Of this category of new texts, there are relatively few that do not centre on some core source. This may be one or more phrases from existing, usually ancient, liturgical texts; or a more or less direct use of a biblical expression; or a morsel from an appropriate patristic author, especially the great Doctors Leo, Augustine, and Gregory. Again, as a truly conciliar reform, it is not unnatural that the revision turned to the very texts of the Council for material, finding it either in the precise phrasing offered or in inspiration afforded by the freshness of its pastorally sensitive theological creativity. This latter case arose especially where the celebration had neither a direct ancient precedent nor a sufficiently pithy biblical locus.


Since one of the aims of this present volume and the wider project of which it forms a part is to aid translators, we take some space here to point out that the principles which governed the revision of the Latin texts need to be borne in mind in any work of translation, and this in a double sense. Firstly, the translation needs to respect the deliberate policy choices made in preparing the Latin euchology. And secondly, the texts of translations themselves need to be carefully scrutinized in the light of the self-same principles. Hence, while it is not our intention in what follows below to enumerate failures in translation, nor to presume to castigate by implication any honest efforts, we aim to emphasise the rigour called for in the translators' work.

As regards the greater profusion and enormously richer variety of texts introduced by the new Missal, and the efforts invested in giving each what we have called a distinctive physiognomy, there is an ever present risk that in the process of translation this variety be undermined through a tendency of individual texts to lose their distinctiveness. It is obvious that the Missal contains different forms of words to express a more or less identical idea. These verbal differences should, however, be maintained and not standardized one against another to the banalization of the text. Like the scribes and printers who in transmitting the ancient texts introduced errors, translators have a certain tendency on occasion in tackling a difficult expression to go for a lectio facilior in rendering the original, thus robbing a text of its force and originality to the detriment of real impact.

Similarly, subtle Scriptural allusions should not be converted into extensive and unnecessarily explicit repetition of the exact Scriptural wording in a way which is foreign to the style of the Roman liturgy and inimical to the character of the Preface as a prayer. The Lord speaks to the Church in the Scriptures that are proclaimed in the liturgy, but the Church must be allowed to assimilate the word of God and as Tradition to have her own voice in the dialogue.<*15>

As regards the revisers' intention to effect a restoration of the  authentic functions of text, and in particular of Prefaces, it can only be said that while the writers have not come across instances of a clear steering of the translated text towards petition, the effect of some translations has been to distort the text in other ways. Some
have become flabby and prolix, or show a certain moralizing tendency or have forgotten the need for a true lyricism. In some instances a policy seems to have been adopted of presenting a list of points without a sustained grammatical link between component phrases, with a resultant staccato or atomising effect. In others there is the hint (or more) of a type of historicizing that ignores the import of the powerful word `Hodie' in the ancient texts - the preface not being a commemorative plaque to past events viewed solely under the aspect of human history, but an entry into the reactualization of salvific events in a mode that brings the Church across the threshold of God's eternal now.

There is a need to evolve in vernacular liturgies structures that respond not only to characteristic modes of expression of the language, but to the very precise theological realities that should be conveyed. Edmund Bishop's famous characterization of the sobriety of the Roman euchology<*16> might serve as a corrective to some vernacular translations.

In the preparation of translations there is a need to follow the lead of the revisers of the Latin missal in shaping a distinctive thematic vocabulary for different categories of liturgical celebration.  While the particular character of each vernacular language must clearly be respected, its full resources must be drawn upon so as to avoid a devaluing or banalization of vocabulary on the one hand and a fragmentation or dilution on the other.  That is to say, if too restricted or bland a vocabulary is adopted, the texts will not serve as an effective vehicle for bringing a distinctive tone to the particular celebration of a liturgical season, sacramental liturgy, and the like.  Yet it must be said, too, that if on the contrary an exaggerated and artificial attempt is made to avoid repetition of terms, there is a risk that the sum of vocabulary chosen be no longer capable of evoking a certain thematic continuity in living celebration. 
Finally, as a corollary to what was said above concerning genuineness of statement, great sensitivity and care is needed when devising translations to avoid forcing the worshipping community to distance itself from the prayer of the Church by the importation of exaggerated statements of emotion or moralizing sentiment, and by watchfulness against leaving any foothold for credulous or superstitious interpretations of the prayer.

Despite all the foresight and care of the revisers to prepare the way for translation by eliminating or modifying phrases which would involve the translator in impossible struggles, there will be occasionally be instances when the genius of a particular language quite simply balks at the provision of a neat and consonant vernacular rendering of a particular Latin expression or idea. Few translation projects have followed the example of the Missal revisers in matter of composition, by having recourse to in such instances to a contained Scriptural locus or to classic Christian literature of their own cultural ambit. A very pleasing exception, by way of illustration, would be the wording of Eucharistic Prayer I, `oblationem ... benedictam, adscriptam, ratam, rationabilem, acceptabilemque', which an authorized English translation renders with a phrase from Jn 4:23 : `an offering in spirit and in truth'.


Resources consulted

The material conserved in the Congregation's archive documenting any particular text is uneven, depending on the work methods of a particular group (coetus) of revisers, the opportunities to meet in person offered by distance and commitments, and so on. It should not be forgotten that all those involved were in some way experts in their field, many having worked for the best part of a lifetime with the texts in question. Accordingly, there was often no need to prepare extensive written explanations, but simply to operate selections and revisions of texts, the rationale of the details being more or less obvious to fellow specialists once broad policies had been defined. Let all users of this work be therefore assured that personal access to the official archival materials would reveal no further information, except of the most incidental variety. Of what is available, the fullest use has been made. We have been fortunate to have the possibility of supplementing the official sources from the private papers of the late Dom Henry Ashworth, and have had constantly at hand the earlier publications of Dom Antoine Dumas.

All other information is drawn from published sources. The standard editions referred to by abbreviations have been indicated in full, but since we are compiling a working instrument and not a textbook or bibliographical compendium, we have not been able to cite each and every relevant publication.

Resources incorporated

We have borne in mind the practical needs both of students and of those in search of material for pastoral animation. Liturgical editions for whatever reasons tend to be expensive and often rare. Moreover even in many libraries it is not possible to borrow all the relevant editions at any one moment, a circumstance that makes even minor research cumbersome and time-consuming.  Scientific editions in particular are designed to present in precise and unambiguous fashion the significant variants of particular manuscripts or families of manuscripts, a goal not always compatible with easy consultation for other purposes. Among the many difficulties is eccentric orthography, which alone suffices to hinder quite considerably ready visual comparisons, especially for those whose Latin is a secondary acquisition.

The same point could be made, mutatis mutandis, of patristic editions. Where practicable here we have preferred to give references to the editions of Migne, as being still the most readily available in theological libraries and houses of studies. We have often been liberal rather than mean in the extent of quotation, knowing well that even Migne is well beyond the practical reach of many who will be interested in the matters presented here.

When it comes to biblical quotations, it must be said that it is not nearly so difficult to acquire a copy of an edition of the Vulgate for personal use. Nevertheless, it requires considerable powers of perseverance to pick out on the basis of bare references precise biblical phrasing in a mass of print. Hence here too a certain liberality of quotation.

Whatever may be the other merits of these policies and of this work as a whole, we are sure it will allow ready and useful access to material which for any single preface would often require the near-simultaneous consultation of some twenty volumes, and in this way that the features of the prefaces we are presenting can emerge with greater clarity than would otherwise be the case. If this leaves us open to the accusation from the mean-minded of having given a rather generous fare, then so be it.


Presentation of the Pauline Missal

Some explanation is in order concerning the manner of presentation of the material we have compiled. The individual Prefaces are treated separately. Each Preface has been assigned a distinctive number, so as to allow for easy reference and in particular so as to facilitate the construction of the ample tables and concordance that conclude the volume. The number is schematically reproduced in the accompanying table and appear at the head of the material treating each text. There follows the liturgical title in the form in which it is to be found in the body of the Missal. This is significant, since every text has a liturgical context and all the prefaces are intended for a particular range of celebrations or in some cases for a single celebration or type of celebration. The text of the preface is given exactly as printed in the Missal, and respecting the same line-divisions, so as to throw its function and structure into relief.

The choice of the editio typica altera for our base text is a considered one and is related to our principal aim of providing an insight into the liturgy as it is celebrated by the Church today. From this it follows that the Roman Missal is not treated as though it were one among other historical curiosities, but accorded a quite distinctive status. Moreover, from a practical point of view, the second edition contains the more ample collection of Prefaces.  In order to be complete, but without endlessly multiplying categories, we have cited the editio typica of 1970 among the liturgical antecedents and noted carefully any divergences.

We give the full text of the preface minus the opening dialogue and the acclamation, but with the protocols, since without these the embolisms do not even make grammatical sense, and because too it is instructive to have the particular forms of the protocol before one to facilitate comparison with the antecedent texts. For the embolism we have assigned a letter in small-case italics to each line of print in order to allow for ease of reference, and for the protocols we have given the code number for our treatment of them in the annexed section.

After the text itself we note the page number of appearance in the editio typica altera of 1975. Our policy for the orations was to refer under the heading of liturgical antecedent to Père Bruylants' Les Oraisons du Missel Romain, but since the scope of that work did not extend to prefaces, we have made reference to the only considerable presentation of texts, Dom Edmond Moeller's Corpus Praefationum, citing the numbering of texts employed there. Finally, reference is made to texts of the current Ambrosian Missal that in some degree resemble the Roman Preface under consideration.

Thereafter we reproduce germane material under sections dedicated to antecedent texts, to the biblical context, and to patristic witnesses. Given that the preface is generally a somewhat more expansive genre, and that the revisers made considerable use of material selected from all three headings, it is only natural that quotations under each should be particularly numerous here.

Note that as a rule material is not given for the protocols and eschatocols, since these tend to be used in a variety of cases. Any relevant references are given in our Excursus.

Liturgical antecedents

At the time when the revised Missal appeared, the natural starting point for any examination was the Missal thitherto in force, and comparisons were often made with respect to that rather than to the historical sources upon which it had in turn drawn. Moreover, the need for brevity and speed, and the existence of such an invaluable aid as Père Bruylants' Les Oraisons du Missel Romain made it convenient to gear references to the existing Missal's configuration of texts and schemes.

Since that time, however, given the authoritative promulgation of these texts and their acceptance by the community of the Church as a living liturgy, there has been a notable change of perspective. Henceforth the point of departure must be the liturgy of Paul VI and his successors. The liturgical books as they emerged from the practice of the Roman Curia of the later Middle Ages and from the reforming zeal of the Council of Trent have taken their dignified place as faithful links in the chain of liturgical tradition, but are relatively rarely original innovators within it. Accordingly, while treatment of sources here will have occasion to refer to the pre-conciliar Missal (which we cite according to its presentation in Dom Bruylants' work), there will be a reorientation towards the earliest textual witnesses to be found in the tradition they represent, concentrating in particular on the works generally known as the Leonine or Veronense, the Gelasian (Gelasianum Vetus), and the Gregorian (Hadrianum, Paduense and Supplementum) sacramentaries. Of course, there would have been an interest in presenting other witnesses documenting developments in Gaul and through the Middle Ages, as also illustrating parallels in the Ambrosian, Celtic and Hispanic traditions. We have cited these only in particularly significant cases.

To facilitate comparisons, clear historical antecedents are taken from the relevant critical editions, but the orthography is in so far as possible standardised upon the policies of the Pauline missal and the text presented in such a way as to follow as closely as possible the latter's line-divisions. The intention is to allow a student or translator to appreciate easily the extent to which the modern text draws upon antecedents, and especially in circumstances where reference to noted critical editions is a lengthy labour or simply not possible. The student of redactional history will turn to the critical editions themselves. The relative position of ancient texts follows for the most part scholarly consensus without intending to make any particular assertions.  For practical reasons, however, we have chosen to facilitate reference to Dom Deshusses' monumental edition of the Gregorian by following for the Gregorian sacramentaries the order of his edition.

Antecedents are given in more or less extensive quotation, except where minor orthographical variations are involved, or inversions of words through regard for cursus. The details of the sigla employed are listed on p. 35 below. In general it may be said that texts with minor inversions are not reproduced in extenso except when the inversion is such as to impede research on the history of the text in the standard concordances by masking otherwise similar texts. Note, too, that there is no question here of a specific interest in the technical establishment of historical versions of the text, or anything remotely approximating to a critical edition, and so we have presented ancient texts and those of the pre-conciliar Missal in a form as close as possible to the current ones, to facilitate comparison.

The conciliar liturgical reform was realised within a context of progressive amelioration in the Roman liturgical books at least during the greater part of the preceding sixty years. This itself evidenced various stages, and these included the issuing of some prefaces for the use of the Council, a further one for the universal jubilee that concluded it, still others in a supplement of 1968 published in advance of the editio typica, others again in the revised ordines of the ritual and the pontifical, the promulgation of the editio typica itself, the concession of liturgical texts for the jubilee of 1974-75, and the promulgation of the editio typica altera in 1975. It did not seem necessary to reproduce all these recent redactions in extenso, except when variants occurred. On these latter the reader will consult Appendices I and II.

Interpreting the antecedents

While not wishing here to encroach upon a true liturgical hermeneutic, we make a few brief observations in order to alert the reader to certain features of the prefaces as revealed in the antecedent texts we have cited.

The work of revision adopted a conscious policy of forming new texts out of a mosaic of phrases from the liturgical tradition. Thus it is often the case that every single phrase in a text is drawn from some antecedent liturgical source. At first sight an examination of the texts offered for a given preface may excite some exasperation or even arouse disbelief that such an array of texts were consciously drawn upon, however a careful study will in our experience soon allay such doubts. It is almost possible on occasion to trace the building up of the new text step by step as the revisers settled on a basic model and then began to retouch and enrich it according to the principles devised. Not rarely a second text pressed into service contained an additional idea which merited retention, thought the form of words was unsatisfactory. The result was the search for a third text able to yield a more suitable, characteristic or striking phrasing for that idea, and so on. The result could perhaps be compared to an `identikit' portrait, where different abstracted features are combined to produce a living resemblance.

The antecedent material thus involved is often of a somewhat different nature from that we have evidenced in the case of orations. There it was largely a question of variant forms of what nevertheless remained recognisably a single identifiable prayer or pair of prayers. Here often the interest is not in texts which maintain a characteristic identity of their own, but of extracted phrases without an independent existence. Accordingly when the current Missal employs a text which is subtantially to be identified with one found in the major liturgical monuments, we have, as in the case of orations, tried to give some indication of the representativeness of a modern text and the range of variants. When, however, the current preface is more radical compilation from multiple sources, we have aimed perforce rather at demonstrating a more generic dependence of the text as a whole upon the liturgical tradition.  This is especially so since the building up of the revised text was clearly not a mechanical exercise, but a creative process made possible both by the revisers' grasp of the principles adopted, by their theological instincts and by a very extensive familiarity with the ancient texts.  To go beyond what we have done in chasing up every expression would have occupied vastly more space and obscured the contribution of this modest work. The reader can have recourse to published concordances.

It should be said that a study of extant drafts of the work of revision suggests that, as was indeed only natural, a particular member of the coetus not rarely came across a text in one or other of a multiplicity of manuscripts or editions, saw its interest, and traced it back to a surer or more ancient text. It was the latter that then became the text of reference for discussion and further adaptation, unless special considerations intervened. Someone who had concerned himself in particular fashion with the `Gregorian' family, would know a text in the form it appeared there, while someone grappling with eight century Gelasian manuscripts would be struck by a text as he found it there. The evidence is too fragmentary and the enterprise too distant from our purpose for us to pursue such questions. There are three partial exceptions, however. These concern some of the more obvious potential sources for quarrying by the revisers: the texts of the Supplements to the Gregorian sacramentary, those of the Ambrosian Missal, and those of the French diocesan liturgies of the 17th - 19th centuries, chiefly the Paris Missal of 1738.

With the Supplements, we have followed our established practice and any notable parallels are treated among the antecedents, even if the same text is found in earlier monuments of Roman type. As to Ambrosian texts, we have already emphasised that our interest here is with the Roman Rite and not with the ensemble of ancient liturgies and their complex inter-relations, and not even directly with the other Latin liturgies of the West. However, given the close relations that have existed in several respects between the Roman Rite and that of Milan, it seemed that to omit any reference to the Ambrosian texts was almost tantamount to a conspiracy of silence. Accordingly at the end of the section `liturgical antecedents' we give where applicable a very summary reference to two basic editions of Ambrosian material, the Sacramentarium Bergomense of Paredi, and the Missale Duplex of Ceriani, Ratti and Righetti. This is without prejudice to the question of the direction of any historical dependence between the two Rites, and  -  let it be again emphasised  -  is simply to help the user formulate an answer to the question, `Did the recent revisers take over an existing preface that they found readily at hand in the major monuments of the Ambrosian tradition ?'

In the case of the French diocesan Missals, we have restricted ourselves largely to the 1738 Paris Missal, except where others deserved some particular notice, especially through their contribution to the French national Proper prior to the Council.<17*>

The reader should note, finally, our intention in including some antecedents which from a rapid comparison with the current text reveal little or nothing in the way of close verbal parallels.  The reason for these inclusions is that a study of the ensemble of antecedent texts involved reveals that the revisers tended if at all possible to retain elements discarded in one situation and to re-employ them elsewhere. Hence, a phrase or even a structure that had to be omitted in adapting a source text to the modern composition was used elsewhere and can be identified with reasonably certainty, even if the verbal parallels are not pronounced. Often, too, one text serves as a prompt to take up another and is then itself set aside. The bridge-text would often pass unnoticed were it not for the process that emerges as obvious from a broader study of the sum of texts involved. 

Abbreviations employed for liturgical monuments

Where possible the enumeration of the received editions has been given, with an abbreviated form of the title of the liturgical celebration as noted there. In order to achieve greater visual clarity, we have omitted without specific sigla any reference to dates and to stational churches, but we have occasionally added in square brackets extracts from titles found earlier in the work itself, in order to make identification more readily possible. Again, we cannot absolve the serious student from the necessity of studying the particular terminology of the witness in question. We have, however, added a bracketed code after each title to indicate (where it is possible to say with any certainty) whether the prayer can in current terminology be classified as `collecta', `oratio super oblata', `oratio post communionem', `prefatio' or whatever. While this process may fudge some details of liturgical history, it does highlight the instances where a text has been restored to its proper function after misapplication.

It may be helpful to the reader to note here that our intention as regards the critical editions in particular has been to follow established practice for the abbreviations used to refer to them. In some cases practice varies and we have had to opt for some form or other. This is so for the Veronese `sacramentary', to which Mohlberg attempted to give a less tendentious title than the erroneous `Leonine'. His praiseworthy lead has not always been followed, especially since the abbreviation `L' is convenient and distinctive. He made a similar attempt to establish a neutral title for the so-called Gelasian, and with even less success (naming his edition Liber Sacramentorum Romanae Aecclesiae ordinis anni circuli). We have followed him in so far as we have used the abbreviation `Ver' for the `Veronense' and given serious attention to the possible employment of something similarly neutral for the `Gelasianum Vetus' with a view to encouraging student-readers to move away from the psychological trap of the supposed authorships of the great Roman liturgical monuments. The alternatives encountered are, however, no improvement either in their clarity, implied support for dubious hypotheses, or practicality and so with some hesitation and reluctance we have maintained our earlier choice (GeV).

Scriptural context

Generally speaking, there follow next the dominant biblical loci. We have not been shy here of a certain repetition of biblical texts in some instances, in tune with our aim of facilitating immediate consultation without the need to look up lengthy lists of biblical references. Such repetition could hardly be excluded since the allusions tend to be to a traditionally compact sub-set of the scriptures, as appropriate to the season, with liturgical practice limiting the range even more closely. The indications given can in almost every instance be amplified by recourse to the appropriate sections of the current liturgical Scripture lectionaries, as to the choice of antiphons in the missal and liturgy of the hours.

Because the intention is to have a particular eye to facilitation of translations, and since a biblical reference is often one of those most easily picked up with fidelity in translation, a special effort will be made to highlight biblical citations, possible reminiscences and allusions, even where the text is of ancient composition. Note that for both biblical and non-biblical textual sources, we confine ourselves to Latin texts. Considerations of which precise Latin text of the Bible might be involved have occasionally been touched upon, put for the most part have had to be left to technical literature. One further point needs to be made here. It is that the biblical allusions in ancient texts, as in patristic literature in general, are often to be seen not in terms of a studied literary citation but of an assimilated biblical culture where the biblical terms have become part of the language of an individual or a community. Rarely do euchological texts tarry long over an allusion, but touch lightly upon it in the context of liturgical celebration. This fact leaves scope for opinion as to the precise biblical loci referred to.

In the interests of clarity, we have where possible highlighted by italic print the phrasing in the scriptures which runs parallel to the current text.

Patristic witness

We have tried to follow indications of current research, but without espousing any particular hypotheses, in the selection of passages from the Fathers which are of relevance to an understanding of the preface.

In regard to patristic material, however, two rather different cases should be considered. For prayers actually created in the post-conciliar revision, the precise patristic sources has often been noted and is clearly a true source  -  the prayer indubitably drew upon or took its inspiration from the patristic text. For ancient texts, we face a lack of eye-witness information on their composition and are heavily reliant upon the research of specialists. Henry Ashworth, a notable contributor on this whole question over many years, in one of his less technical articles put the problem thus:

`If [the missal prayers] are to be understood, they must be approached in their proper historical environment, and with the thought-forms of the age which produced them. What is far less obvious is the extent to which one of the sources influenced the other. Did, for instance, St Leo, when preaching to his flock, cite existing liturgical texts, or can one conclude from literary parallels to common authorship ?'<*18>

To go into such questions here was beyond our scope, and we must defer with respect to the magisterial investigations of Ashworth, Benz, Brou, Callewaert, Capelle, Chavasse, Coebergh, Dekkers, Lang, Olivar, and others, and leave the reader to pursue his studies with their aid. May he be encouraged to take up the baton.

In some cases research indicates that a section of one author's work was adapted by another as the core of a preface.  Such questions were beyond our scope here, and we must defer to the investigations of standard authors, leaving the reader to pursue his studies with their aid.

The revisers aimed at respecting, restoring, and even enhancing the native character of the Roman liturgy, which is rooted above all in biblical and patristic culture. This explains why even in the case of prayers of relatively recent composition we have sometimes supplied patristic quotations, precisely because the recent revisers aimed at respecting the liturgy's tone, vocabulary and thought-world. In a certain sense the context of thought of even a product of recent centuries is patristic rather than contemporary. Note that this decision differs consciously from the wise provision of post-patristic non-biblical texts in the revision of the Liturgy of the Hours.

We would wish to echo our earlier reminder that our interest here is broader than documenting hypotheses of authorship or parallels with particular authors in terms of grammar, idiom, or vocabulary. We are intent upon presenting an illustrative patristic context or witness to the theology of the prayer, which is necessarily inseparable at some points from its modes of expression. Research has concentrated largely on certain authors of acknowledged stature such as Leo or Gregory, the very ones that appear to have been heavily involved in the penning of liturgical texts. They were the major point of reference for the revisers, too. We feel it necessary to underline this latter point, since we have in the course of our researches been repeatedly surprised at the extent to which the writings of Leo and Gregory were foremost in the minds of those members of Coetus XVIIIbis commissioned to contribute to the composition of new prefaces. Hence it is far from accidental that these authors predominate in considerable degree here.

Conciliar teaching

In some instances, we have added a section for texts of the Second Vatican Council which seem to have served to shape the ideas behind the current preface. Unless otherwise stated, there is no intention to suggest that the conciliar texts were a direct literary source.

A cumulative pointing to Tradition and magisterium

In sum, it can be said that our aim has been to relate -- in however summary and abbreviated a fashion -- the texts of the current Roman Missal to the tradition, as represented especially in the scriptures and in the writings of the Fathers, and the liturgical collections of past ages. Accordingly, the elements of text cited in no way pretend to completeness. Indeed we are well aware that it would be easy to extend references given with the aid of standard references works. However, some starting points are provided here and a witness in brief is offered to the great stream of tradition. The reader should above all find some help in resisting a banalized perception of what the texts actually say.

Principal vocabulary

For the benefit of the student we have added a brief section under each preface in order to present in the dictionary form the vocabulary employed in the embolism in the order in which words occur.  Terms occurring more than once in a preface have been printed only for the first occurrence.

It was not necessary for our intended purpose to reproduce words which take no inflexion. Hence in addition to the words listed at the head of Index V, the following were omitted:

absque, ac, ante, apud, autem, coram, demum, denuo, donec, dum, enim, ergo, etiam, etsi, hic, iam, idem,  ideo, igitur, illic, immo, inde,  inter, ita, nam, ne, nec, non, nondum, nunc, post, potius, potissimum,  prae, pro, propter, quoniam, quoque, sed, seipsum, semetipsum, semper, sic, sicut, sine, super, tam, tamen, ubi, ubique, unde, usque, vel, vere.

Similarly a number of familiar and much repeated terms of various groupings were left out, including certain divine names: Christus, Deus, Dominus, Iesus,  Spiritus; the proper names:  Maria, Ioannes, Ioseph, Lazarus; the protocol terms concedo, dignor, largior, tribuo, volo, as predicated of God; and the constantly recurring adjectives beatus, omnis, sanctus.
All the terms listed above together with those actually found under each preface are arranged in alphabetical order in Index VI. We hope that these features may help to highlight the consistency of vocabulary employed and provide a readier access to its riches.


In recognition (as already discussed above) of the interest of this compilation for the issue of translation and translation revision, the material on each prayer concludes with the presentation of approved liturgical translations in six major vernaculars: English (as confirmed on 4 Feb 1974 for England and Wales by Prot. 1868/73 and for the United States of America by Prot. 1762/73); French (as confirmed by decrees between 1969 and 1974, Prot. 1130/69, 3089/70, 562/71, 964/71, 1598/71, 1633/71, 1570/72, 1707/73); Italian (Prot. CD 1045/83 of 29 June 1983); Castilian (as confirmed for Spain by Prot. CD 301/77 of 18 May 1977 and 1725/85 of 14 June 1985); Portuguese (as confirmed for Brazil by decrees in 1971 and 1972, Prot. 304/71, 331/71, 909/72, 946/71, 947/71, 1065/71, 1188/71, 1559/72); German (as confirmed by Prot. 2330/74 of 10 December 1974). 

Overall structure

In summary, then, there emerges the following broad structure:

- Liturgical antecedents
- Biblical context
- Patristic witness
- (Conciliar Teaching)
- Principal Vocabulary
- Translations


The Excursus is equipped with its own introduction which fully explains its scope. Suffice it to say here that our intention was both to relieve the treatment of individual prefaces of unnecessary repetition and side-tracking, and from the point of view of the features other than the embolism, to ensure that they received at least something of the focus they deserve.


Bibliographical indications

We have restricted ourselves to works which are of immediate concern to the section of material presented here.


Five distinct appendices group details on the variants evinced in the recent printings of the Preface texts, and where these are to be found. A sixth appendix gives details of some private drafts made public before the promulgation of the official texts.


For this revised edition of our work, we have considered it appropriate to substitute for the original word index a concordance. While of standard design and the simplest of forms, it provides a working instrument of greatly enhanced usefulness. For ease of use and economy of space we have not included texts antecedent to the Pauline Missal. For these the indexing provided in the scientific editions, in Père Bruylants' work, and in the concordances and tables of Fathers Deshusses and Darragon should be consulted.<19*>

Index of Texts

One of the problems a student faces in looking up material on the euchological texts of the current Missal and its antecedents in the standard reference works, is that the incipits in particular vary a good deal. We give in alphabetical order the incipits of all the euchological texts cited, along with some elements of the conclusion, omitting the concluding formula proper. In each instance we provide the numbering of the editions we have used, together with the number of the Preface of the present Missal under which they appear.

Index of Headings

In order to give users an impression of the extent to which the current Missal draws upon or comes close to the ancient witnesses, we reproduce for each of the latter the continuous numbering of texts plus the headings of celebrations in the form and order in which they appear in the standard editions. The same limitations and expansions of these headings apply as have already been explained above.

Index of Ambrosian Headings

Although this publication is not directly concerned with the past or present of the Ambrosian Rite, for reasons already explained we have considered it appropriate to include certain references to Ambrosian texts. For the convenience of the reader we give a list of the title-headings of the prefaces of the current Ambrosian Missal to which we have referred.

Vocabulary list

As explained in the appropriate place, this list is a collation of the words which feature under each Preface, in the section `Principal vocabulary' and aims at supplying the reader with a handy listing under the form in which words are entered in the standard dictionaries.

Alphabetical Latin Index to Prefaces

We are well aware of the general decline in the study of Latin, and while regretting it, in practice are obliged to accept it as a fact of life. This little index rings the changes on the Latin titles of the Prefaces in such a way as to provide an entry point by almost any of the terms used. An originally unintended but nevertheless real benefit is that by its groupings it does give a psychologically accessible impression of the rich provision of the present Missal for the different types of celebration.

In the conclusion of the Hucusque foreword to the Supplementum, which has ever since served as a prompt to the provision of a wider variety of Eucharistic Prefaces for the Roman Rite, the author remarks:

Praefationes porro quas in fine huius posuimus codicis, flagittamus ut ab his quibus placent cum caritate suspiciantur et canantur. Ab his ergo qui eas intellegunt nec tamen delectantur, necnon et ab his qui eas volunt nec tamen intelligunt poscimus ut nec assumantur nec canantur.<*20>

May the same delightful spirit reign in regard to our present study, placed like a modest footnote in calcem Praefationum. With those who can and do make willing use of what we have laboured upon, we gladly make common cause in the Lord.

Anthony WARD, S.M.                           Cuthbert JOHNSON, O.S.B. 

No comments: