By Father Edward McNamara, LC
ROME, 27 August 2013 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: I am music director at my parish. I see no information guiding me to the appropriate choice from responses A, B and C for the "Mystery of faith" portion of Mass. Is there a directive for appropriate seasonal/feast/common time use of a specifically recommended response from the three? — R.H., Stockholm, New Jersey
A: There does not seem to be any particular preference in any Church document. The General Introduction of the Roman Missal, No. 151, states: "After the consecration when the priest has said, 'The Mystery of Faith,' the people pronounce the acclamation, using one of the prescribed formulae."
This basically leaves things up to the celebrant and his collaborators.
It is true that in Italy and most Spanish-speaking countries the first formula has become for all practical purposes the default option. This is probably due to its being the easiest text to learn from both the literary and musical point of view.
It is not surprising that the various acclamations have no preference, seasonal or otherwise, as they all express a very similar idea.
All of the acclamations in some way refer to the celebration of the paschal mystery taken as a whole. It is the mystery of Christ who has died and risen, a mystery that can be perceived only within the context of faith and made present and efficacious through the Church's celebration of the Eucharistic memorial instituted by Christ himself.
The mystery of the transformation of the bread and wine into Christ's body and blood is implied in all three acclamations, as this transformation grounds the memorial of the other mysteries. However, only the second formula actually mentions the bread and wine.
A mention of the second coming is also included as the crowning moment of salvation history.
The first acclamation, "We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again," comes from 1 Corinthians 11:26. It is already found in this form in some ancient Eastern liturgies such as that of St. James.
The second text, "When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your Death, O Lord, until you come again," also comes from 1 Corinthians 11:26 but includes a mention of the bread and wine.
The third text is a new composition and is based upon texts taken from Revelation 5:9 and 1 Peter 1:18.
Some authors have complained that these texts betray the ancient liturgical tradition of always and only addressing the Father in the Eucharistic Prayer.
To this objection it may be first observed that the acclamation is not, strictly speaking, a part of the Eucharistic Prayer. Indeed, if a priest celebrates alone or concelebrates with only priests present, both the invitation "Mystery of faith" and the acclamation are omitted.
Second, the passage from the Father to the Son is relatively common in prayers and hymns that correspond to the entire assembly such as the "Kyrie-Christe eleison," the Gloria, and the “Lord, I am not worthy.” Outside of the Mass, the Te Deum also contains such a passage.
With respect to their use I would say that the priest, together with the musical director, could choose which text is more suitable for a given celebration because of the particular theological nuances noted above.
As a suggestion, although there is no official preference, I would say that the second formula appears most suitable for feasts that underline the Eucharist such as Corpus Christi. The first or second formulas which mention the second coming would seem best for a feast such as the Ascension. The third formula with its appeal for salvation could be more efficacious for Masses stressing penitential themes.