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This article will be divided into four sections: (I) Name and place of the Canon; (II) History of the Canon; (III) The text and rubrics of the Canon; (IV) Mystical interpretations.
Canon (Canon Missæ, Canon Actionis) is the name used in the Roman Missal for the fundamental part of the Mass that comes after the Offertory and before the Communion. The old distinction, in all liturgies, is between the Mass of the Catechumens (the litanies, lessons from the Bible, and collects) and the Mass of the Faithful (the Offertory of the gifts to be consecrated, Consecration prayer, Communion, and dismissal). Our Canon is the Consecration prayer, the great Eucharistic prayer in the Mass of the Faithful. The name Canon (kanon) means a norm or rule; and it is used for various objects, such as the Canon of Holy Scripture, canons of Councils, the official list of saints' names (whence "canonisation"), and the canon or list of clerks who serve a certain church, from which they themselves are called canons (canonici). Liturgically it occurs in three senses:
The rubrics of our present Missal leave no doubt as to the limits of the Canon in modern times. It begins at the "Te Igitur" and ends with the Amen before the Embolism of the Pater Noster (omnis honor et gloria, per omnia sæcula sæculorum, Amen). The Missal has the title "Canon Missæ" printed after the Sanctus, and the Rubrics say: "After the Preface the Canon of the Mass begins secretly" (Rubr. Gen., XII, 6). The ninth title of the "Ritus cel. Missam" is headed: "Of the Canon from the Consecration to the Lord's Prayer". The next title is: "Of the Lord's Prayer and the rest to the Communion." Neither of these limits, however, was always so fixed. The whole Canon is essentially one long prayer, the Eucharistic prayer that the Eastern rites call the Anaphora. And the Preface is part of this prayer. Introduced in Rome as everywhere by the little dialogue "Sursum corda" and so on, it begins with the words "Vere dignum et justum est". Interrupted for a moment by the people, who take up the angels' words: "Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus", etc., the priest goes on with the same prayer, obviously joining the next part to the beginning by the word igitur. It is not then surprising that we find in the oldest sacramentary that contains a Canon, the Gelasian, the heading "Incipit Canon Actionis" placed before the Sursum Corda; so that the preface was then still looked upon as part of the Canon. However, by the seventh century or so the Canon was considered as beginning with the secret prayers after the Sanctus (Ord. Rom. I: "When they have finished the Sanctus the pontiff rises alone and enters into the Canon", ed. Atchley, 138). The point at which it may be considered as ending was equally uncertain at one time. There has never been any sort of point or indication in the text of the Missal to close the period begun by the heading "Canon Missæ", so that from looking at the text we should conclude that the Canon goes on to the end of the Mass. Even as late as Benedict XIV there were "those who think that the Lord's Prayer makes up part of the Canon" (De SS. Miss Sacr., ed. cit., 228). On the other hand the "Ordo Rom. I" (ed. cit. infra, p. 138) implies that it ends before the Pater Noster. The two views are reconciled by the distinction between the "Canon Consecrationis" and the "Canon Communionis" that occurs constantly in the Middle Ages (Gihr, Das heilige Messopfer, 540). The "Canon Communionis" then would begin with the Pater Noster and go on to the end of the people's Communion. The Post-Communion to the Blessing, or now to the end of the last Gospel, forms the last division of the Mass, the thanksgiving and dismissal. It must then be added that in modern times by Canon we mean only the "Canon Consecrationis". The Canon, together with the rest of the "Ordo Missæ", is now printed in the middle of the Missal, between the propers for Holy Saturday and Easter Day. Till about the ninth century it stood towards the end of the sacramentary, among the "Missæ quotidianæ" and after the Proper Masses (so in the Gelasian book). Thence it moved to the very beginning. From the eleventh century it was constantly placed in the middle, where it is now, and since the use of complete Missals "according to the use of the Roman Curia" (from the thirteenth century) that has been its place invariably. It is the part of the book that is used far more than any other, so it is obviously convenient that it should occur where a book lies open best in the middle. No doubt a symbolic reason, the connection between the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the mysteries of Holy Week, helped to make this place seem the most suitable one. The same reason of practical use that gave it this place led to the common custom of printing the Canon on vellum, even when the rest of the Missal was on paper vellum stands wear much better than paper.
Since the seventh century our Canon has remained unchanged. It is to St. Gregory I (590-604) the great organiser of all the Roman Liturgy, that tradition ascribes its final revision and arrangement. His reign then makes the best division in its history.
St. Gregory certainly found the Canon that has been already discussed, arranged in the same order, and in possession for centuries. When was it put together? It is certainly not the work of one man, nor was it all composed at one time. Gregory himself thought that the Canon had been composed by "a certain Scholasticus (Epp., lib. VII, no. lxiv, or lib. IX, no. xii), and Benedict XIV discusses whether he meant some person so named or merely "a certain learned man" (De SS. Missæ sacr., 157). But our Canon represents rather the last stage of a development that had been going on gradually ever since the first days when the Roman Christians met together to obey Christ's command and celebrate the Eucharist in memory of Him. Here a distinction must be made between the prayers of the Canon itself and the order in which they are now found. The prayers, or at least some of them, can be traced back to a very early date from occasional references in letters of Fathers. From this it does not follow that they always stood in the same order as now. Their arrangement in our present Missal presents certain difficulties and has long been a much-disputed point. It is very possible that at some unknown period perhaps in the fifth century the Canon went through a complete alteration in its order and that its component prayers, without being changed in themselves, were turned round and re-arranged. This theory, as will be seen, would account for many difficulties. In difficulties.
In the first century, as known, the Church of Rome, like all other Christian Churches, celebrated the Holy Eucharist by obeying Christ's direction and doing as He had done the night before He died. There were the bread and wine brought up at the Offertory and consecrated by the words of Institution and by an invocation of the Holy Ghost; the bread was broken and Communion was given to the faithful. Undoubtedly, too, before the service lessons were read from the Bible, litanies and prayers were said. It is also known that this Mass was said in Greek. Hellenistic Greek was the common tongue of Christians, at any rate outside Palestine, and it was spoken by them in Rome as well as everywhere else, at the time when it was understood and used as a sort of international language throughout the empire. This is shown by the facts that the inscriptions in the catacombs are in Greek, and that Christian writers at Rome (I Ep. Clem., etc.) use that language (cf. de Rossi, Roma sott., II, 237). Of the liturgical formulas of this first period little is known. The First Epistle of St. Clement contains a prayer that is generally considered liturgical (lix-lxi), though it contains no reference to the Eucharist, also the statement that "the Lord commanded offerings and holy offices to be made carefully, not rashly nor without order, but at fixed times and hours". It says further: "The high-priest [i.e. bishop] has his duties, a special place is appointed to the priests, and the Levites have their ministry" (xi). From this it is evident that at Rome the liturgy was celebrated according to fixed rules and definite order. Chap. xxxiv tells us that the Romans "gathered together in concord, and as it were with one mouth", said the Sanctus from Isaiah 6:3, as we do. St. Justin Martyr (died c. 167) spent part of his life at Rome and died there. It is possible that his "First Apology" was written in that city (Bardenhewer, Altkirchl. Litt., I, 206), and that the liturgy he describes in it (lxv-lxvi) was that which he frequented at Rome. From this we learn that the Christians first prayed for themselves and for all manner of persons. Then follows the kiss of peace, and "he who presides over the brethren" is given bread and a cup of wine and water, having received which he gives thanks to God, celebrates the Eucharist, and all the people answer "Amen." The deacons then give out Holy Communion (loc. cit.). Here is found the outline of our liturgy: the Preface (giving thanks), to which may be added from I Clement the Sanctus, a celebration of the Eucharist, not described, but which contains the words of Institution (chapter 66, "by His prayer"), and which corresponds to our Canon, and the final Amen that still keeps its place at the end of the Eucharistic prayer. Perhaps a likeness may be seen between the Roman use and those of the Eastern Churches in the fact that when St. Polycarp came to Rome in 155, Pope Anicetus allowed him to celebrate, just like one of his own bishops (Eusebius, Church History V.24). The canons of Hippolytus of Rome (in the beginning of the third century, if they are genuine; cf. Bardenhewer, op. cit., I, 541-3) allude to a Eucharistic celebration that follows the order of St. Justin, and they add the universal introduction to the Preface, "Sursum corda", etc.
The first great turning point in the history of the Roman Canon is the exclusive use of the Latin language. Latin had been used side by side with Greek, apparently for some time. It occurs first as a Christian language, not in Rome, but in Africa. Pope Victor I (190-202), an African, seems to have been the first Roman bishop who used it (supposing that the Ps.-Cyprian, "De Aleatoribus", is by him; Harnack, "Der Ps.-Cypr. Tractat.de Aleatoribus", Leipzig. 1888). After this time it soon becomes the only language used by popes; Cornelius (251-53) and Stephen (254-57) write in Latin. Greek seems to have disappeared at Rome as a liturgical language in the second half of the third century (Kattenbusch, Symbolik, II, 331), though parts of the Liturgy were left in Greek. The Creed was sometimes said in Greek down to Byzantine times (Duchesne, Origines, 290). The "Ordo Rom. I" says that certain psalms were still said in Greek (Mabillon. Mus. Ital., II, 37-40); and of this liturgical use of Greek there are still remnants in our Kyrie Eleison and the "Agios o Theos.", etc., on Good Friday. Very soon after the acceptance of Latin as the only liturgical language we find allusions to parts of the Eucharistic prayer, that are the same as parts of our present Canon. In the time of Pope Damasus (366-84) a Roman writer who was guilty of the surprising error of identifying Melchisedech with the Holy Ghost writes, "The Holy Ghost being a bishop is called Priest of the most high God, but not high priest" (Sacerdos appellatus est excelsi Dei, non summus) "as our people presume to say in the Oblation" ("Quæstiones V et N. Test." in P.L. XXXV, 2329; Duchesne, op. cit., 169). These words evidently allude to the form "thy high priest Melchisedech" (summus sacerdos tuus Melchisedech) in the Canon. Pseudo-Ambrose in "De Sacramentis" (probably about 400 or later; cf. Bardenhewer, "Patrologie", 407) quotes the prayers said by the priest in the Canon:
Fac nos hanc oblationem adscriptam, ratam, rationabilem, acceptabilem, quod figura est coporis et sanguinis Iesu Christi. Qui pridie quam pateretur, in sanctis manibus suis accepit panem, respexit in cælum ad te, sancte Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus, gratias agens, benedixit, fregit fractumque apostolis suis et discipulis suis tradidit dicens: Accipite et edite ex hoc omnes: hoc est enim corpus meum quod pro multis confringetur. Similiter etiam calicem, postquam cænatum est, pridie quam pateretur accepit, respexit in cælum ad te, sancte Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus, gratias agens, benedixit, apostolis suis et discipulis suis tradidit dicens; Accipite et bibite ex hoc omnes: hic est enim sanguis meus.
"And the priest says", continues the author, "Ergo memores gloriosissimæ eius passionis et ab inferis resurrectionis et in cælum adscensionis, offerimus tibi hanc immaculatam hostiam, hanc panem sanctum et calicem vitæ æternæ et petimus et precamur, ut hanc oblationem suscipias in sublimi altari tuo per manus angelorum tuorum, sicut suscipere dignatus es munera pueri tui iusti Abel et sacrificium patriarchæ nostri Abrahæ et quod tibi obtulit summus sacerdos Melchisedech" (quoted by Duchesne, op. cit., 170; P.L. XVI, 443). It will be seen that the whole of this prayer, but for a few unimportant modifications, is that of our Canon. Pope Damasus has been considered one of the chief compilers of the Roman Liturgy. Probst thinks that he ordained the changes in the Mass that occur because of the calendar of seasons and feasts, and attributes to him the oldest part of the Leonine Sacramentary (Lit. des IV. Jahrhunderts und deren Reform, 455 sqq.). Funk in the "Tübinger Quartalschrift" (1894, 683) denies this. One liturgical change made by this pope is certain. He introduced the word Alleluia at Rome (Greg. I, Epp. IX, xii, in P.L., LXXVII, 956). Innocent I (401-17) refers to the Canon as being a matter he ought not to describe an apparent survival of the idea of the Disciplina arcani and says it is ended with the kiss of peace (Ep. ad Decentium in P.L., XX, 553): "After all the things that I may not reveal the Peace is given, by which it is shown that the people have consented to all that was done in the holy mysteries and was celebrated in the church". He also says that at Rome the names of persons for whom the celebrant prays are read in the Canon: "first the offertory should be made, and after that the names of the givers read out, so that they should be named during the holy mysteries, not during the parts that precede" (ib.). That is all that can be known for certain about our Canon before Gregory I. The earliest books that contain its text were written after his time and show it as approved by him.
A question that can only be answered by conjecture is that of the relation between the Roman Canon and any of the other ancient liturgical Anaphoras. There are undoubtedly very striking parallels between it and both of the original Eastern rites, those of Alexandria and Antioch. Mgr. Duchesne is inclined to connect the Roman use with that of Alexandria, and the other great Western liturgy, the Gallican Rite, with that of Antioch (Origines, 54). But the Roman Canon shows perhaps more likeness to that of Antioch in its formulæ. These parallel passages have been collected and printed side by side by Dr. Drews in his "Entstehungsgeschichte des Kanons in der römischen Messe", in order to prove a thesis which will be referred to later. Meanwhile, whatever may be thought of Drew's theory, the likeness of the prayers cannot be denied. For instance, the Intercession in the Syrian Liturgy of St. James begins with the prayer (Brightman, East. Lit., 89-90):
Wherefore we offer unto Thee, O Lord, this same fearful and unbloody sacrifice for the holy places . . . . and especially for holy Sion . . . . and for thy holy church which is in all the world . . . . Remember also, O Lord, our pious bishops . . . especially the fathers, our Patriarch Mar N. and our Bishop ["and all the bishops throughout the world who preach the word of thy truth in Orthodoxy", Greek Lit. of St. James].
The whole of this prayer suggests our "Imprimis quæ tibi offerimus", etc., and certain words exactly correspond to "toto orbe terrarum" and "orthodoxis", as does "especially" to "imprimis", and so on. Again the Syrian Anaphora continues:
Remember also, O Lord, those who have offered the offerings at thine holy altar and those for whom each has offered [cf. "pro quibus tibi offerimus vel qui tibi offerunt"]. . . . Remember, O Lord, all those whom we have mentioned and those whom we have not mentioned [ib., p. 92]. Again vouchsafe to remember those who stand with us and pray with us ["et omnium circumstantium", ib., 92]; Remembering. . . . especially our all-holy, unspotted, most glorious lady, Mother of God and ever Virgin, Mary, St. John the illustrious prophet, forerunner and baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, Andrew . . . . [the names of the Apostles follow] . . . . and of all thy Saints for ever . . . . that we may receive thy help ["ut in omnibus protectionis tuæ muniamur auxilio", Greek St. James, ib. 56-57].
The words of Institution occur in a form that is almost identical with our "Pridie quam pateretur" (ib., 86-87). The Anamnesis (p. 89) begins: "Commemorating therefore ["unde et memores"] O Lord, thy death and resurrection on the third day from the tomb and thy ascension into heaven . . . . we offer thee this dread and unbloody sacrifice ["offerimus . . . . hostiam puram," etc.].
It is true that these general ideas occur in all the old liturgies; but in this case a remarkable identity is found even in the words. Some allusions to what were probably older forms in our Canon make the similarity still more striking. Thus Optatus of Mileve says that Mass is offered "pro ecclesiâ, quæ una est et toto orbe terrarum diffusa" (Adv. Parm., III, xii). This represents exactly a Latin version of the "holy Church which is in all the world" that we have seen in the Syrian Anaphora above. The Syrian use adds a prayer for "our religious kings and queens" after that for the patriarch and bishop. So our Missal long contained the words "et pro rege nostro N."after "et Antistite nostro N." (see below). It has a prayer for the celebrant himself (Brightman, 90), where our Missal once contained just such a prayer (below). The treatise "De Sacramentis" gives the words on Institution for the Chalice as "Hic est sanguis meus", just as does the Syrian Liturgy. There are other striking resemblances that may be seen in Drews. But the other Eastern liturgy, the Alexandrine use, also shows very striking parallels. The prayer for the celebrant, of which the form was "Mihi quoque indignissimo famulo tuo propitius esse digneris, et ab omnibus me peccatorum offensionibus emundare" (Ebner, Miss. Rom., 401), is an exact translation of the corresponding Alexandrine text: "Remember me also, O Lord, thy humble and unworthy servant, and forgive my sins" (Brightman, 130). The author of "De Sacr." quotes the Roman Canon as saying "quod est figura corporis et sanguinis domini nostri Iesu Christi", and the Egyptian Prayer Book of Serapion uses exactly the same expression, "the figure of the body and blood" (Texte u. Unt., II, 3, p. 5). In the West the words "our God" are not often applied to Christ in liturgies. In the Gelasian Sacramentary they occur ("ut nobis corpus et sanguis fiat dilectissimi filii tui Domini Dei nostri Iesu Christi", ed. Wilson, 235), just where they come in the same context in St. Mark's Liturgy (Brightman, 126). Our Mass refers to the oblation as "thy gifts and favours" (de tuis donis ac datis); so does St. Mark (ib., 133). But the most striking parallel between Rome and Alexandria is in the order of the Canon. The Antiochene Liturgy puts the whole of the Intercession after the words of Institution and the Epiklesis; in Alexandria it comes before. And in our Canon the greater part of this intercession ("imprimis quæ tibi offerimus", "Commemoratio pro vivis", "Communicantes") also comes before the Consecration, leaving only as a curious anomaly the "Commemoratio pro defunctis" and the "Nobis quoque peccatoribus" to follow after the Anamnesis (Unde et momores).
Although, then, it is impossible to establish any sort of mutual dependence, it is evident that the Roman Canon contains likenesses to the two Eastern rites too exact to be accidental; in its forms it most resembles the Antiochene Anaphora, but in its arrangement it follows, or guides, Alexandria. Before coming to the final definition of the Canon at about the time of St. Gregory, it will be convenient here to consider what is a very important question, namely that of the order of the different prayers. It has been seen that the prayers themselves can be traced back a very long way. Is their arrangement among themselves as old as they are, or is our present Canon a re-arrangement of parts that once stood in another order? Every one who has studied its text has noticed certain grave difficulties in this arrangement. The division of the Intercession, to which reference has been made, is unique among liturgies and is difficult to account for. Again, one little word, the second word in the Canon, has caused much questioning; and many not very successful attempts have been made to account for it. The Canon begins "Te igitur". To what does that "igitur" refer? From the sense of the whole passage it should follow some reference to the sacrifice. One would expect some prayer that God may accept our offering, perhaps some reference such as is found in the Eastern liturgies to the sacrifices of Abraham, Melchisedech, etc. It should then be natural to continue: "And therefore we humbly pray thee, most merciful Father", etc. But there is no hint of such an allusion in what goes before. No preface has any word to which the "igitur" could naturally refer. Probst suggests that some such clause may have dropped out of the Preface (Lit. der drei ersten Jahrhunderten, 349). At any rate they is no trace of it, either in our preface or in any of the other rites. Thalhofer (Kath. Liturgik, II, 199) tries to explain the "igitur" by a very forced connection of ideas with the Sanctus. Gihr (Das heilige Messopfer, 550) hardly considers the difficulty, and is content with a vague allusion to the close connextion between Preface and Canon. Other difficulties are the reduplications between the ideas of the "Hanc igitur" and the "Nobis quoque peccatoribus". Various allusions to older forms of the Canon increase the number of these difficulties. Dr. Drews has suggested as the solution the following theory. He thinks that the Canon, while consisting of much the same prayers, was originally arranged in a different order, namely, in the same way as the Syrian Anaphora which it so closely resembles, and that in the fifth century, shortly before it became stereotyped in the time of St. Gregory the Great, its order was partly reversed, so as to make it correspond more to the Alexandrine Rite (Zur Entstehungsgeschichte des Kanons in der römischen Messe). The original order suggested by him is this:
The first half of the "Hanc igitur" must now be accounted for down to "placatus accipias". This first half is a reduplication of the prayer "Quam oblationem". Both contain exactly the same idea that God may graciously accept our offering. "Hanc oblationem" and "Quam oblationem" differ only in the relative construction of the second form. We know that the relative construction is not the original one. In the "De Sacramentis", to which reference has several times been made, the "Quam oblationem" occurs as an absolute sentence: "Fac nobis hanc oblationem adscriptam, rationabilem acceptabilemque, quod est figura corporis et sanguinis Domini nostri Iesu Christi" (IV, v). We also know that the "Igitur" in "Hanc igitur" is not original. The parallel passages in Serapion and St. Mark's Liturgy have simply tauter ten thysian (Drews, 16). Moreover, the place and object of this prayer have varied very much. It has been applied to all sorts of purposes, and it is significant that it occurs specially often in connection with the dead (Ebner, Miss. Rom., 412). This would be a natural result, if we suppose it to be a compilation of two separate parts, both of which have lost their natural place in the Canon. Drews then proposes to supply the first words of the "Quam oblationem" that we have put in the first place of his reconstructed Canon (see above), by the first half of the "Hanc igitur", so that (leaving out the igitur) the Canon would once have begun: "Hanc oblationem servitutis nostræ, sed et cunctæ familiæ tuæ, quæsumus Domine, ut placatus accipias ut in omnibus benedictam, adscriptam, ratam, rationabilemque facere digneris, ut nobis corpus et sanguis fiat dilectissimi filii tui Domini nostri Iesu Christi" (Drews, 30), and so on, according to the order suggested above. One word, "ut", has been added to this compilation, to connect our "Hanc igitur" with the continuation of "Quam oblationem". This word is vouched for by the Greek version, which has ina here (Swainson, 197). Drews further notes that such a change in the arrangement of the Canon is not inconceivable. Popes have modified its order on other occasions. Joannes Diaconus, the biographer of St. Gregory I, tells us that he re-arranged a few parts of the Canon ("pauca convertens", Vita Greg., II, xvii).
When then may this change be supposed to have been made? It was not made in the time of Innocent I (401-417); it had already occurred when the Gelasian Sacramentary was written (seventh century); it may be taken for certain that in the time of St. Gregory I (590-604) the Canon already stood as it does now. The reason for believing that Innocent I still knew only the old arrangement is that in his letter to Decentius of Eugubium (P.L., XX, 553-554) he implies that the Intercession comes after the Consecration. He says that the people for whom we pray "should be named in the middle of the holy mysteries, not during the things that go before, that by the very mysteries we should open the way for the prayers that follow". If the diptychs are read after the way has been opened by the holy mysteries, the Roman Canon must follow the same order as the Church of Antioch, and at any rate place the "Commemoratio vivorum" after the Consecration. Supposing, then, that this re-arrangement really did take place, it must have been made in the course of the fifth century. Drews thinks that we can go farther and ascribe the change to Pope Gelasius I (492-96). A very old tradition connects his name with at any rate, some important work about the Canon. The second oldest Roman sacramentary known, although it is really later than St. Gregory, has been called the "Sacramentarium Gelasianum" since the ninth century (Duchesne, Origines, 120). Gennadius says that he composed a sacramentary (De. vir. ill., c. xciv). Moreover, the "Liber Pontificalis" refers to his liturgical work (Origines, 122) and the Stowe Missal (seventh century) puts at the head of our Canon the title: "Canon dominicus Papæ Gelasi" (ed. Warren, 234). Baumer has collected all the evidences for Gelasius's authorship of some important sacramentary (Histor. Jahrb., 1893, 244 sqq.). It is known that Gelasius did not compose the text of the Canon. Its component parts have been traced back to a far earlier date. But would not so vital a change in its arrangement best explain the tradition that persistently connects our present Canon with the name of Gelasius? There is even a further suggestion that Drews has noticed. Why was the reversal of the order made? Evidently to bring the Intercession before the Consecration. This means to change from the same order as Antioch to that of Alexandria. Is it too much to suppose that we have here a case of Alexandrine influence at Rome? Now it is noticeable that Gelasius personally had a great reverence for the venerable "second See" founded by St. Mark, and that since 482 Bishop John Talaia of Alexandria, being expelled from his own Church by the Monophysites, sought and found refuge in Rome. He would have celebrated his own liturgy in the pope's city, and was certainly greatly honoured as a confessor and exile for the Faith. May we then even go so far as to suggest that we owe the present certainly unusual order of our Canon to Gelasius and the influence of John Talaia? So far Drews (p.38). His theory has not been unopposed. An argument against it may be found in the very treatise "De Sacramentis" from which he gathers some of his arguments. For this treatise says: "In all other things that are said praise is given to God, prayers are said for the people, for kings, for others, but when he comes to consecrate the holy Sacrament the priest no longer uses his own words, but takes those of Christ" (IV, iv). According to this author, then, the Intercession comes before the Consecration. On the other hand it will be noticed that the treatise is late. That it is not by St. Ambrose himself has long been admitted by every one. It is apparently an imitation of his work "De Mysteriis", and may have been composed in the fifth or sixth century (Bardenhewer, Patrologie, 407). Dom G. Morin thinks that Nicetas, Bishop of Romatiana in Dacia (d. 485), wrote it (Rev. Benéd., 1890, 151-59). In any case it may be urged that whatever reasons there are for ascribing it to an early date, they show equally conclusively that, in spite of its claim to describe "the form of the Roman Church" (III, 1) it is Milanese. The very assurance is a proof that it was not composed at Rome, since in that case such a declaration would have been superfluous. An allusion occurring in a Milanese work is but a very doubtful guide for the Roman use. And its late date makes it worthless as a witness for our point. When it was written probably the change had already been made at Rome; so we are not much concerned by the question of how far it describes Roman or Milanese offices. So far the theory proposed by Drews, which seems in any case to deserve attention.
Certainly when St. Gregory became pope our Canon was already fixed in its present order. There are scarcely any changes to note in its history since then. "No pope has added to or changed the Canon since St. Gregory" says Benedict XIV (De SS. Missæ Sacr., 162). We learn from Joannes Diaconus that St. Gregory "collected the Sacramentary of Gelasius in one book, leaving out much, changing little adding something for the exposition of the Gospels" (II, xvii). These modifications seem to concern chiefly the parts of the Mass outside the Canon. We are told that Gregory added to the "Hanc igitur" the continuation "diesque nostros in tuâ pace disponas" etc. (ib.). We have already noticed that this second part was originally a fragment of a prayer for the dead. St. Gregory's addition may then very well mean, not that he composed it, but that he joined it to the "Hanc igitur", having removed it from its original place. From the time of Gregory the most important event in the history of the Roman Canon is, not any sort of change in it, but the rapid way in which it spread all over the West, displacing the Gallican Liturgy. Charlemagne (768-814) applied to Pope Adrian I (772-95) for a copy of the Roman Liturgy, that he might introduce it throughout the Frankish Kingdom. The text sent by the pope is the basis of what is called the "Sacramentarium Gregorianum", which therefore represents the Roman Rite at the end of the eighth century. But it is practically unchanged since St. Gregory's time. The Gelasian book, which is earlier than the so-called Gregorian one, is itself later than St. Gregory. It contains the same Canon (except that there are a few more saints' names in the "Communicantes") and has the continuation "diesque nostros in tuâ, pace disponas", etc., joined to the "Hanc igitur", just as in our present Missal. The Stowe Missal, now in Dublin (a sixth or early seventh century manuscript), is no longer a sacramentary, but contains already the complete text of a "Missa quotidiana", with collects for three other Masses, thus forming what we call a Missal. From this time convenience led more and more to writing out the whole text of the Mass in one book. By the tenth century the Missal, containing whole Masses and including Epistles and Gospels, takes the place of the separate books ("Sacramentarium" for the celebrant, "Lectionarium" for the deacon and subdeacon, and "Antiphonarium Missæ" for the choir). After the ninth century the Roman Mass, now quite fixed in all its essential parts (though the Proper Masses for various feasts constantly change), quickly became the universal use throughout the Western patriarchate. Except for three small exceptions, the Ambrosian Rite at Milan, the Mozarabic Rite at Toledo, and the Byzantine Rite among the Italo-Greeks in Calabria and Sicily, this has been the case ever since. The local medieval rites of which we hear, such as those of Lyons, Paris, Rouen, Salisbury, York, etc., are in no sense different liturgies. They are all simply the Roman use with slight local variations variations, moreover, that hardly ever affect the Canon. The Sarum Rite, for instance, which Anglicans have sometimes tried to set up as a sort of rival to the Roman Rite, does not contain in its Canon a single word that differs from the parent-rite as still used by us. But some changes were made in medieval times, changes that have since been removed by the conservative tendency of Roman legislation.
From the tenth century people took all manner of liberties with the text of the Missal. It was the time of farced Kyries and Glorias, of dramatic and even theatrical ritual, of endlessly varying and lengthy prefaces, into which interminable accounts of stories from Bible history and lives of saints were introduced. This tendency did not even spare the Canon; although the specially sacred character of this part tended to prevent people from tampering with it as recklessly as they did with other parts of the Missal. There were, however, additions made to the "Communicantes" so as to introduce special allusions on certain feasts; the two lists of saints, in the "Communicantes" and "Nobis quoque peccatoribus", were enlarged so as to include various local people, and even the "Hanc igitur" and the "Qui pridie" were modified on certain days. The Council of Trent (1545-63) restrained this tendency and ordered that "the holy Canon composed many centuries ago" should be kept pure and unchanged; it also condemned those who say that the "Canon of the Mass contains errors and should be abolished" (Sess. XXII., cap. iv. can. vi; Denzinger, 819, 830). Pope Pius V (1566-72) published an authentic edition of the Roman Missal in 1570, and accompanied it with a Bull forbidding anyone to either add, or in any way change any part of it. This Missal is to be the only one used in the West and everyone is to conform to it, except that local uses which can be proved to have existed for more than 200 years are to be kept. This exception saved the Ambrosian, Mozarabic, and Byzantine Rites, as well as a few ancient modified forms of the Roman Rite, such as the Dominican, Carmelite, and Carthusian Missals. The differences in these Missals, however, hardly affect the Canon, except in one or two unimportant rubrics. Since Pius V our Canon, then, has been brought back to its original simplicity and remains unchanged throughout the year, except that on a few of the very greatest feasts slight additions are made to the "Communicantes" and the "Hanc igitur", and on one day to the "Qui pridie quam pateretur" (see below). Clement VIII (1592-1605), Urban VIII (1623-44), and Leo XIII (1878-1903) have, each in his own time, re-edited the Missal, and a great number of additional Masses for new feasts or for local calendars have been added to it. But none of these changes have affected the part now under consideration. The Canon that we say is always the one finally restored by Pius V, that remains as it was in the days of Gregory I, and that goes back far behind his time till its origin is lost in the mists that hang over the first centuries when the Roman Christians met together to "do the things the Lord commanded at appointed times" (Epistle of Clement 40). Through all the modifications and additions that, in recent years especially, have caused our Missal to grow in size, among all the later collects, lessons and antiphons, the Canon stands out firm and unchanging in the midst of an ever-developing rite, the centre and nucleus of the whole liturgy, stretching back with its strange and archaic formulæ through all the centuries of church history, to the days when the great Roman Cæsar was lord of the world and the little community of Christians stood around their bishop while they "sang a hymn to Christ as to a God before day-break" (Pliny, Epp., X, xcvii). Then the bishop lifted up his hands over the bread and wine, "gave thanks and glory to the Father of all through his Son and the Holy Ghost, and made the Eucharist" (Just., Apol., III, lxv). So that of all liturgical prayers in the Christian world no one is more ancient nor more venerable than the Canon of the Roman Mass.
Following the order of our present text, some remarks will be added about its expression and the ceremonies that accompany it. The whole Canon is now said silently. The priest should just hear his own voice (this is especially important in the case of the words of Consecration, since the form of every sacrament must be sensible), but should not be heard by the bystanders. This law began with the reduplication of the parts of the celebrant and choir. For many centuries the celebrant has not waited till the choir have finished their part, but goes on at once with his prayers except in the cases of the Gloria and Creed, where he has to sing aloud as soon as they have done. Mabillon quotes from the older Roman ordines that originally "the priest did not begin the Canon until the singing of the Sanctus was over" (In ord. Rom. comm., XXI). The singing of the Sanctus and Benedictus then made it necessary for the priest at the altar to speak the Canon in a low voice. How little this was ever considered really essential is shown by the fact that at an ordination, almost the only case of concelebration left in the West, all the concelebrants say the Canon together aloud. There are also mystic reasons for the silent prayers of the Canon. They are thus shown to be purely sacerdotal, belonging only to the priest, the silence increases our reverence at the most sacred moment of the Mass, removes the Consecration from ordinary vulgar use, and is a symbol of our Lord's silent prayer in the Garden and silence during his Passion (Suarez, disp. lxxxiii, I, 25). The celebrant lifts up his hands, joins them, also lifting up his eyes, and then bows deeply before the altar, resting his joined hands on it. This ceremony should come before the "Te igitur", so that he does not begin the prayer till he is bowing before the altar. It is an obvious gesture, a sort of mute invocation as the beginning of the Consecration prayer. The first three prayers are always noted as belonging together and making three parts of one prayer ("Te igitur", "Memento Domine", "Communicantes"), which is closed for itself by the "Per Christum Dominum nostrum, Amen". It is now a law that a picture of the Crucifixion should be placed at the beginning of the Canon. Innocent III (1198-1216) notes that in his time this was already the custom. The crucifix grew out of the adornment of the letter T with which the Canon begins. Innocent thinks that the presence of the T at that place is a special work of Divine Providence (Inn. III, De Sacro altaris myst., I, 3, c. ii, P.L., CCXVII).
We have already considered the "igitur". Unless some such theory as that of Drews be admitted, its presence will always be a difficulty. Gihr (Messopfer, 550), as we have said, thinks that it implies merely a general connection with the Preface: "Because we have praised Thee and glorified Thee, therefore we now pray Thee to accept these gifts". The kiss of the altar after "petimus" is not mentioned by the earlier writers. It is noted by Sicardus (d. 1215, Mitrale, III, 6, P.L., CCXIII). At one time the celebrant kissed both the altar and the crucifix in the Missal at the beginning of the Canon (Ordo Rom. XIV, 53, fourteenth century). After kissing the altar the celebrant makes three signs of the cross over the bread and wine. It is the first of the many blessings of the gifts in the Canon and is joined to the kiss as one ceremony. He then stands erect and lifts up his hands, as at the collects (now they may not be lifted above the shoulders, Ritus cel., V, 1). This is the traditional attitude of prayer that may be seen in the pictures of Orantes in the catacombs. It is observed throughout the Canon. The priest prays first for the Church, then for the pope and diocesan ordinary by name. Antistes, from antisto (proistemi), is one of the many older words for "bishop". At the pope's name a slight inclination is made. When the Roman See is vacant, the mention of the pope is left out. In Rome the bishop's name is left out; the pope is local bishop there. The bishop must be canonically appointed and confirmed, otherwise he is not mentioned. But he need not yet be consecrated. It is always the ordinary of the diocese, even in the case of regulars who are exempt. A diocesan bishop in saying Mass changes the form "et Antistite nostro N." into "et me indigno servo tuo". The pope naturally uses these words instead of "una cum famulo tuo Papa nostro N.", and omits the clause about the bishop. The mention of the pope always occurs at this place. Otherwise in the Middle Ages there was a great variety in the names. A very old custom was to name the sovereign after the bishop ("et pro rege nostro N." or "Imperatore nostro N."). Pope Celestine I (422-32) refers to it in a letter to Theodosius II. Boniface I (418-22) writes to Emperor Honorius: "Behold in the very mysteries, among the prayers which the bishop offers for your Empire . . ." (Drews, Entstehungsgesch., 7). So also the "De Sacramentis" says: "Prayer is offered for the people, for the king, for the others" (IV, iv). Throughout the Middle Ages the sovereign was always named. Pius V removed the clause from the Missal. In the case of Catholic princes a privilege is given by which they are put in. In Austria the clause "et pro Imperatore nostro Francisco Josepho" is always added by the celebrant, and in Hungary it becomes of course "pro rege nostro". At one time the priest went on to pray for himself at this place (Bona, Rerum liturg., II, 11). Ebner quotes as the commonest form: "Mihi quoque indignissimo famulo tuo propitius esse digneris et ab omnibus me peccatorum offensionibus emundare" (Miss. Rom., 401). We have already noted this as being almost exactly a version of the Alexandrine form. The word "orthodoxi" that follows is very rare in the West. It is a link between our Canon and the Antiochene Anaphora.
The celebrant does not now name anyone aloud at the "N et N." After "tuarum" he joins his hands and prays silently for anyone he likes. This is the place where the diptychs for the living were read. A diptych (diptychos, from dis and ptysso, twice-folded) was a table folding in two like a book, on which names were written and then read out. Some authorities admit and some deny that the priest in his silent prayer may name people who are outside the Church. As this prayer is a private one (as shown by the folding of the hands) there is no law to forbid him from so doing. He goes on to mention the bystanders, who are thus always specially prayed for at Mass. "Pro quibus tibi offerimus, vel qui tibi offerunt" is a reduplication. The first half ("pro quibus tibi offerimus") is missing in all early sacramentaries, also in the Greek version (Swainson, 196). It occurs, however, in the parallel text of the Syrian Liturgy. Both parts refer to the same persons, for whom the priests and his assistants offer the Sacrifice and who themselves also join in the offering by their presence. "Sacrifice of praise" (Ps. xlix, 23), "For the forgiveness of their sins" and "For the hope of their safety and health", are three expressions connoting the threefold character of the Mass as praise, atonement, and petition.
This prayer is headed by the rubric "Infra Actionem". Why is it put here? The "Communicantes" has a small addition on the five chief days of the year, Christmas, the Epiphany, Easter, Ascension Day, and Whitsunday, referring to the feast. The beginning of the text with these additions is placed among the prefaces, after the corresponding proper preface for each feast. Placed there, the rubric that heads it is obvious. For each feast there is the special preface and, moreover, "Infra Actionem", that is, "Within the Canon", a further change is made. From its place among the prefaces as a natural heading to the "Communicantes" this rubric has found its way into the Canon, when people had begun to look upon it as the title of that prayer. The Gelasian Sacramentary has it, when the "Communicantes" occurs with an addition among the Propers (e.g. Wilson, 80), but it has not yet found its way into the Ordinary (ib., 234). These five additions to the "Communicantes", all of them very beautiful and very ancient (they are all, with slight variations, in the Gelasian book), are the only ones left by Pius V, where at one time many more feasts had sometimes long references. "Communicantes" means simply "in union with". The participles here have given rise to much discussion; no finite verb follows, nor does any go before to which they can suitably refer. It is simply a case of late Latin that is not strictly grammatical. It must be understood as standing for a finite verb, as if it were "Communicamus cum eis et memoriam veneramus eorum". There are parallel examples in the Vulgate of a participle standing for a finite verb (e.g. Romans 9:6 sqq., where the Greek has the same anomaly). In the lists of saints that follows, Our Lady of course always holds the first place. She is here named very solemnly with her title of "Mother of God", as in the corresponding Eastern Anaphoras. It is strange that St. John the Baptist, who should come next, has been left out here. He is named in both the Eastern liturgies at this place (Brightman, 93 and 169), and finds his right place at the head of our other list (in the "Nobis quoque"). After Our Lady follow twelve Apostles and twelve martyrs. The Apostles are not arranged in quite the same order as in any of the Gospels. St. Paul at the head, with St. Peter, makes up the number for Judas. St. Matthias is not named here, but in the "Nobis quoque". The twelve martyrs are evidently arranged to balance the Apostles. First come five popes, then a bishop (St. Cyprian), and a deacon (St. Lawrence), then five laymen. All these saints, except St. Cyprian, are local Roman saints, as is natural in what was originally the local Roman Liturgy. It is noticeable that St. Cyprian (d. 258), who had a serious misunderstanding with a Roman pope, is the only foreigner honoured by the Roman Church by being named among her own martyrs. The fact has been quoted to show how completely his disagreement with Pope Stephen was forgotten, and how Stephen's successors remembered him only as one of the chief and most glorious martyrs of the West. The cult of saints was at first the cult of martyrs; all those in both lists in the Canon died for the Faith. Gregory III (731-41) added to the Vatican basilica a chapel containing a great number of relics and dedicated to All Saints. He ordered the monks who served this chapel to add to the "Communicantes" after the words "et omnium Sanctorum tuorum" the further clause: "quorum solemnitas hodie in conspectu tuo celebratur, Domine Deus noster, in toto orbe terrarum". The text is found in some medieval Missals. A certain number of Missals also contained additions about special patrons to be used on their feasts (Benedict XIV, De SS. Missæ sacr., 162). All these clauses disappeared at Pius V's reform, except that in some French churches the names of St. Hilary and St. Martin are still added to the list (Duchesne, Origines, 172). This first complex of prayers forms the chief part of the great Intercession that occurs in all liturgies. We notice again the strange fact that at Rome it is divided in two by the Consecration.
This prayer has already been considered, the most remarkable of all in the Canon. Here it need only be added that the "Hanc igitur" receives an addition (after the words "familiæ tuæ) on four occasions only, on Maundy Thursday, Easter, Whitsunday, and in the Mass at a bishop's consecration. The additions will be found on the feasts in the Missal, and in the Consecration service in the Pontifical. On Maundy Thursday an allusion is made to "the day on which our Lord Jesus gave the mysteries of his Body and Blood to his disciples to be consecrated"; Easter and Whitsunday have an identical form (a prayer for the newly baptised), and the Consecration Mass has a clause "which we offer to Thee also for this Thy servant [the new bishop says: "for me Thy servant] whom Thou hast deigned to promote to the order of Episcopacy". The Gelasian Sacramentary has as many as thirty-eight special forms to be intercalated at this place, in which allusions are made to all kinds of special intentions. For instance, in a requiem Mass, "which we offer to Thee for the repose of the soul of thy servant N." (Wilson, 307); for a wedding, "This oblation of thy servants N. and N., which they offer to Thee for thy handmaid N., we beg Thee mercifully to accept, that as Thou hast allowed her to come to the fitting age for marriage, so Thou mayest allow her, being joined to her husband by thy grace, to rejoice in the offspring she desires and mayest mercifully bring her with her spouse to the desired length of years; and dispose our days in thy peace", etc. (ib., 265). During the "Hanc igitur" the priest, who has joined his hands at the preceding "Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen", spreads them over the offerings. This is a late ceremony. It occurs first in the fifteenth century. Formerly the celebrant lifted up his hands as before, but made a profound inclination (Durandus, VI, 39). This older rite is still used by the Dominicans and Carmelites. The imposition of hands seems to have been introduced merely as a way of practically touching the sacrifice at this point, at which it is so definitely named in the prayer. At the "Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen" following, the priest again (as always at these words) folds his hands. The "Hanc igitur", with the two following prayers, may be considered as forming a second member of the Canon, threefold like the first.
This prayer has been noticed, as well as its echo of "Hanc oblationem". The offering is accompanied by five epithets. The "De Sacramentis" has only three, "adscriptam, rationabilem, acceptabilemque" (IV, v). The word "rationabilis" occurs in Rom., xii, 1. "In omnibus" means "thoroughly". There follows naturally a petition that the offering may "become to us the Body and Blood of thy beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ". "De Sacramentis" has: "which is a figure of the Body and Blood", as in Serapion's Prayer and in Tertullian, "Adv. Marc.", III, xix and IV, xl. During this prayer the sign of the cross is made five times over the offering a further blessing of the bread and wine about to be consecrated.
Such a form is in all liturgies the connecting link between an allusion to Christ that has gone before and the words of Institution that follow immediately (Brightman, Antioch, 51, Alexandria, 132). The short form, "Who, the day before he died, took bread", is in other rites sometimes expanded into a longer account of the Passion (ib., 20, 87, 176, etc.).
The word Thanksgiving (Eucharist) always occurs here. Benedict XIV notices that we do not read in the Gospels that Christ lifted up his eyes at the Last Supper, and he says it is a tradition that Christ did so, as He did at the miracle of the loaves and fishes (De SS. Missæ sacr., 160). The words of Institution for the bread are the same in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19) and in 1 Corinthians 11:23. The Church has added to this form (Hoc est corpus meum) the word enim, and she leaves out the continuation "which is given for you", that occurs in St. Luke and First Corinthians. The "enim" seems to have found its way here through analogy with the consecration of the chalice, where it occurs in St. Matthew. This prayer admits of one addition in the year; on Maundy Thursday the form is used: "Who the day before He suffered for our salvation and for that of all men, that is today, He took bread", etc. At the beginning of the "Qui pridie" the celebrant takes the bread (only the host that he himself will receive in Communion) between the forefingers and thumbs of both hands. These fingers are then not separated again, unless when he touches the Blessed Sacrament, till they have been washed at the last ablutions (Rit. cel., VIII, 5). The reason of this is, of course, lest any crumb may have remained between them. He lifts up his eyes at the words "elevatis oculis", and makes a sign of the cross over the host at the word "benedixit". If other hosts are to be consecrated they stay on the corporal. The ciborium (if there is one) is opened before the words: "Qui pridie". The words of Institution are said "secretly, plainly, and attentively" over the host and over all, if several are to be consecrated. The Catholic Church has always believed that the words of Institution are those that consecrate. Immediately therefore follows the ceremony of the Elevation. The priest genuflects on one knee, still holding the Blessed Sacrament, rises, lifts it up above his head to show it to the people, replaces it on the corporal and genuflects again. An adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at this point is an old rite. The first Roman Ordo, which does not give the words of Consecration, says that during the Canon "the bishops, deacons, subdeacons, and priests stay in the presbytery bowing down" ("inclinati", ed. Atchley, 138). On account of the heresy of Berengarius (1088), the Elevation was introduced in France in the twelfth, and then throughout the West in the thirteenth, century. Gregory X (1271-76) ordered it to be used throughout the West in his Ceremonial (Ordo Rom. XIII). At first only the Host, not the Chalice, was elevated. The priest's genuflexions were not introduced till later. In the fourteenth century he still only bowed his head (Ordo Rom. XIV, 53). Meanwhile the assistants kneel and bow low. Durandus says "they prostrate themselves reverently on the ground", so also the XIII Roman Ordo. However, since the only object of the Elevation is to show the Blessed Sacrament to the people, this does not mean that they should not look up at it. At each genuflexion, and between them at the elevation, the bell is rung. This ceremony also begins in the fourteenth century. Durandus notices it (IV, 41). The bell should be sounded three times at each elevation, or continuously from the first to the second genuflexion (Rit. cel., VIII, 6). This is the first sounding of the bell ordered by the rubrics after the Sanctus. The common practice of ringing at the "Hanc igitur" has no authority. The server also lifts up the chasuble with his left hand at the elevation, not at the genuflexion (Rubr. gen., VIII, 6). This is to keep back the vestment (which the rubrics always suppose to cover the arms) while the priest elevates. With a modern Roman-shaped chasuble it is a mere form, and a memory of better days. As soon as the celebrant rises from the second genuflexion he continues the Consecration prayer.
So all liturgies (hosautos at Antioch, Brightman, 52, and at Alexandria, ib., 133). "Postquam coenatum est"; the Canon supposes that the cup our Lord consecrated was the last of the Hillelcups. "Hunc præclarum calicem", a dramatic identification of the Mass with the Last Supper. The Consecration-form for the chalice is put together from the four accounts of the Last Supper quoted above. It is mainly from St. Matthew (26:26); "Calix Sanguinis mei" is adapted from St. Luke and St. Paul, "pro vobis" from St. Luke, "pro multis" from St. Matthew; and the last clause, "Hæc quotiescumque feceritis", etc., is again slightly modified from St. Paul. Moreover, two additions have been made to it that are not in the New Testament at all, "et æterni" and "mysterium fidei". This last clause especially has been much discussed (Gihr, 599). It seems that it was originally a warning spoken by the deacon. The catechumens have been sent away before the Offertory; at the Consecration he again warns the people that it is not for catechumens, it is a "mystery of Faith", that is a mystery for the faithful (the baptised) only. The ceremonies at this Consecration are the same as those for the preceding one, except that the deacon (at low Mass here, as always, the celebrant must supply the deacon's part himself) takes the pall from the chalice before the words of Consecration and replaces it as soon as the chalice is put down after its Elevation. The words "Haec quotiescumque", etc., are now generally said during the first genuflexion. In the Middle Ages they were often said after the Elevation (Ordo Rom. XIV, 53). At high Mass a certain amount of very natural ritual has been added to both elevations. At least two torches are lit or brought in by the acolytes, which are removed after the elevation (on fast days and for requiem Masses they stay till the end of the Communion). The thurifer puts incense into his thurible, and incenses the Blessed Sacrament thrice at each elevation (Ritus cel., VIII, 8).
A solemn memory of Christ's life, death and resurrection (the Anamnesis), naturally following the words "as often as you shall do these things, do them in memory of me", comes immediately after the words of Institution in all liturgies (Apost. Const. Brightman, 20, St. James, ib., 52, St Mark, 133). The five signs of the cross made over the Blessed Sacrament during this prayer have often been discussed. Before the Consecration such signs are obviously blessings of the offering. How can blessings be given to what is now consecrated and has become the Real Presence? St. Thomas says the blessings refer to the "terminus a quo", the bread and wine, not to the "terminus ad quem", the Body and Blood of Christ (III:83:5 ad 3). People have seen in them symbols representing our offering to God, memories of the Crucifixion, blessings for the future communicants (Bossuet, Médit. sur l'Evang., I, 63), or merely a way of pointing to the Blessed Sacrament. It seems that really here again is one more case of what is very common in all our rites, namely, a dramatic representation that does not consider at what moment the effect of a Sacrament is really produced. Such effects must really all happen at one instant, the moment the matter and form are complete. But the Church cannot with words express everything in one instant; moreover before scholastic days people did not ask very closely about the actual moment. So we continually have such dramatic divisions of one simple act, and continually in her prayers the Church goes on asking for something that really must already have been granted. So in our baptism service the devil is driven out before, and the white robe and candle given after the actual baptism. The truth of these symbols presumably occurs at one instant. Our ordination service is a still more striking instance. Long after the subject is ordained priest, after he has concelebrated, the bishop gives him the power of forgiving sins which is certainly involved in the priesthood he has already received. So these blessings after the Consecration need be only such dramatic forms as our expression, "Receive . . . this spotless Host", said at the Offertory long before. The question is important because of the Epiklesis.
This prayer, too, with its memory of sacrifices in the Old Testament (Abel, Abraham, Melchisedech), is common to other liturgies. St. Mark's Rite mentions the offerings of Abel, Abraham, Zachary's incense, the alms of Cornelius and the widow's mite (Brightman, 129; cf. the Coptic form, 171). The words sanctum sacrificium immaculatam Hostiam are said to have been added by St. Leo I (440-61; Ben. XIV, "De SS. Missæ Sacr., II, xii, p. 161). They do not occur in the text as given in "De Sacramentis". Grammatically they must refer to Melchisedech's sacrifice.
This prayer is commonly believed to be the remnant of the Roman Epiklesis (Duchesne joins the preceding "Supra quæ" to it as making up the Invocation, "Origines", 173). It seems certain that our liturgy, like all the others, once had an Epiklesis, and this would be its natural place. Even as late as the time of Pope Gelasius I (492-96) there seems to have still been one. He writes: "How shall the Heavenly Spirit, when He is invoked to consecrate the divine mystery, come, if the priest and he who prays Him to come is guilty of bad actions?" (Ep., vii; Thiel, Ep. Rom. Pont., I, 486: "si sacerdos, et qui eum adesse deprecatur". By striking out the "et" we have a much plainer sentence: "If the priest who prays Him to come".) Watterich (Konsekrationsmoment, 166), and Drews (Entstehungsgesch., 28) think that several of the Secrets in the Leonine Sacramentary (which does not contain the Canon) are really Epikleses, For instance: "Send, we pray Thee O Lord, thy Holy Spirit, who shall make these our present gifts into thy Sacrament for us", etc. (ed. Feltoe, p. 74; XXX Mass for July). The chief reason for considering our prayer "Supplices te rogamus" as the fragment of an Epiklesis is its place in the Canon, which corresponds exactly to that of the Epiklesis (following the Anamnesis) in the Syrian Rite (Brightman, 54). But its form is hardly that of an Epiklesis. The first words of the preceding prayer, "Supra quæ propitio ac sereno vultu respicere digneris", suggest the beginning of the Alexandrine Epiklesis: "Look down upon us and upon this bread and this wine" (Brightman, 134), and the last part (Sacrosanctum Filii tui Corpus et Sanguinem) have perhaps a vague resemblance; but certainly the chief thing, the Invocation of the Holy Ghost to change this bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is wanting. Moreover there is a prayer in the Alexandrine Liturgy which corresponds singularly to these two prayers ("Supra quæ" and "Supplices"): "the Sacrifices . . . of them that offer honour and glory to thy holy name receive upon thy reasonable altar in heaven . . . through the ministry of thy holy angels and archangels; like as Thou didst accept the gifts of righteous Abel and the sacrifice of our father Abraham", etc. (Brightman, I, 170, 171; the Greek form, 129). And this is not an Epiklesis but an Offertory prayer, coming in the middle of the Intercession that with them fills up what we should call the Preface. On the other hand the end of the "Supplices te rogamus" (from "ut quotquot") corresponds very closely to the end of both Eastern Epikleses. Antioch has here: "that it may become to all who partake of it" (quotquot ex hac Altaris participatione) "for a forgiveness of sins and for life everlasting" etc. (Brightman, 54); and at Alexandria the form is: "that it may become to all of us who partake of it (a source of) Faith", etc. (ib., 134). It seems, then, that this prayer in our Canon is a combination of the second part of an Invocation (with the essential clause left out) and an old Offertory prayer. It has been suggested that the angel mentioned here is the Holy Ghost an attempt to bring it more into line with the proper form of an Invocation. There is however no foundation for this assertion. We have seen that the Alexandrine form has the plural "thy holy angels"; so has the Latin form in "De Sacramentis"; "per manus angelorum tuorum" (IV, v). The reference is simply to an angel or to angels who assist at the throne of God and carry our prayers to Him (Tobit 12:12, etc.). We have already seen that the order and arrangement of our Canon presents difficulties; this is a further case in point. As for the vanished Invocation itself, it will probably always remain a mystery what has become of it. Watterich (op. cit., p. 142) thinks that it was Gelasius himself who removed it from this place and put it before the words of Institution. And indeed the prayer "Quam oblationem" has a curious suggestion of an Invocation in its terms. On the other hand an Epiklesis before the words of Institution would be an anomaly unparalleled in any rite in the world. To come back to the rubrics, the celebrant has resumed the normal attitude of standing with uplifted hands after the "Unde et memores", except that now the forefingers and thumbs remain joined; at the "Supplices te rogamus" he bows deeply over the altar a ceremony obviously in accordance with the nature of its first words resting his joined hands on it; and he stays so to the words" ex hac altaris participatione" at which he kisses the altar, rises, joins his hands, and makes the sign of the cross over the Host at "Corpus", over the chalice at "Sanguinem", and on himself at "omni benedictione" (while he crosses himself, the left hand is, as always in this case, laid on the breast). He joins his hands for "Per eumdem", etc., and lifts them up for the next prayer. The next two prayers complete the Intercession, of which we have the greater part before the Consecration.
The place of this prayer has often been changed (Ebner. Miss. Rom., 420). If we accept Drews' theory that an original memory of the faithful departed was once joined to what is now the second half of the "Hanc igitur", it would follow that this prayer must be a later one, introduced after the "Hanc igitur" had changed its meaning. This is confirmed by the fact that it is absent from the Canon in the Gelasian Sacramentary (ed. Wilson, 235). Why "Memento etiam"? This would seem to refer to a commemoration of some one else, that should come just before. If we arrange the Canon as above, this prayer comes naturally just after the Commemoration of the Living and the "Communicantes" (we have seen that such is the order of the Eastern liturgies), and then this "etiam" refers quite naturally to the parallel commemoration of the living. In any case it must always be a mystery that these two last prayers, obviously forming the conclusion of the Intercession, should stand out here by themselves. Gihr finds a mystic reason for this, because the living offer with the priest, but the dead do not (Messopfer, 626). The ritual is the same as for the other Memento. The celebrant may not now say any names at the place marked "N. et N."; passing on, he reads "Famularumque tuarum, qui nos præcesserunt", etc., and after "in somno pacis", folding his hands, he silently prays for anyone he likes. The diptychs of the dead of course once were read here. Now no names are ever read out at either Commemoration. Benedict XIV quotes a case in which names were read out at the "N. et N." in the sixteenth century (De SS. Missæ Sacr., 220). At the final clause "Per eumdem", etc., the priest not only folds his hands but bows the head a unique case in the Roman Rite, for which there has not been found any satisfactory explanation. Benedict XIV quotes from Cavalieri a mystic reason because Christ bowed His head when He died, and we here think of the dead (p. 219). The rubric occurs in Pius V's Missal.
A prayer for ourselves that naturally follows that for the faithful departed, although the Commemoration for the Living has gone before. So the Eastern liturgies (St. James, Brightman, 57; St. Mark, ib., 129). The parallel between this prayer and the latter half of the "Hanc igitur" has already been noticed. It is a petition that we too may find a good death and be admitted to the glorious company of the saints. The names of saints that follow are arranged rhythmically, as in "Communicantes". Like the others they are all martyrs. First comes St. John the Baptist, as Our Lady before, then seven men and seven women. After the first martyr, St. Stephen, St. Matthias finds here the place he has not been given among the Apostles in the other list. The Peter here is a Roman exorcist martyred at Silva Candida (now part of the Diocese of Porto, near Rome). His feast with St. Marcellinus is on 2 June. The female saints are all well known. Benedict XIV quotes from Adalbert, "De Virginitate", that St. Gregory I, having noticed that no female saints occur in the Canon, added these seven here (p. 162). This list of saints, like the other one, was subject to local additions in the Middle Ages (ib., 223). The celebrant strikes his breast and slightly raises his voice at the words: "Nobis quoque peccatoribus". This rite (the only case of part of the Canon being spoken aloud, if we except the "Per omnia sæcula sæculorum" that closes it) is a reminder to the assistants that he has come to the prayer for all of those now present, in which prayer they may join. There is no Amen after the "Per Christum Dominum nostrum", since now the following words, "Per quem", follow it at once Nevertheless after it comes a noticeable break in the Canon.
Again, a difficult text. It has no connection with what goes before; the words "hæc omnia" refer to nothing in the former prayer. Moreover, the prayer itself is not easily explained. God is said to "sanctify, enliven, bless and give to us these good things". What good things? Such a form as applied to what is already the Blessed Sacrament is very strange. Duchesne notes that at this point fruits of the earth and various kinds of foods were brought up and blessed by the celebrant; thus the milk and honey once given to the newly baptised at Easter and Whitsunday, beans on Ascension day, grapes on the feast of St. Sixtus (6 August). And even yet at this point the Holy Oils are blessed on Maundy Thursday (Origines, 174-75). He sees in this prayer, then, an old blessing of such fruits; the "hæc omnia bona" were once the good things of the earth. Now the form must be taken as again a dramatic representation like the sign of the cross after the Consecration. Finally this prayer and the whole Canon ends with a stately doxology. The "Per omnis sæcula sæculorum" is said aloud, or sung at high Mass. The answer, "Amen", of the people, closes the Canon. Signs of the cross are made at the three words: "Sanctificas, vivificas, benedicis", and the doxology has a special ritual. The celebrant uncovers the chalice and genuflects, makes three signs of the cross with the Host over the chalice at the three forms: "per ipsum et cum ipso et in ipso", two more signs over the altar in front of the chalice at "Patri omnipotenti" and "Spiritus Sancti", and finally at "omnis honor and gloria" he slightly elevates the chalice with the left hand, holding the Host above it with the right. He then replaces both, covers the chalice (at high Mass the deacon always uncovers and covers the chalice), genuflects and with joined hands says: "Per omnia sæcula sæculorum". So he goes on to the Embolism of the Our Father. This ceremony went through slight changes in the Middle Ages [St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) notices it, II, Q. lxxxiii, a. 5, ad 3]; the essence of it is the Elevation, made to show the people the Blessed Sacrament. The reason why these crosses are formed with the Host is that it is just about to be elevated. The priest has already taken it up to elevate it (Gihr, 650, n. 2). This corresponds more or less to the point at which the Eastern Churches elevate (Antioch, Brightman, 61; Alexandria, 138). It is the original Elevation of the Roman use, and till the heresy of Berengarius it was the only one. We note finally that at and after the Consecration the Host, chalice, ciborium, and all other Hosts that may be consecrated, must always be placed on the altarstone, if it is a movable altar, and on the corporal. Also the celebrant, whenever he lays his hand on the altar before the Consecration, does so outside the corporal; after the Consecration he lays it on the corporal.
It is obvious that in the great days of mystic theology so venerable and sacred a text as the Canon of the Mass should have received elaborate mystical explanations. Indeed, after the Bible it was chiefly to the Canon that these pious writers turned their attention. Equally obvious is it that such interpretations never have any sort of regard to the historical development of the text. By the time they began the Canon had reigned unquestioned and unchanged for centuries, as the expression of the most sacred rite of the Church. The interpreters simply took this holy text as it stood, and conceived mystic and allegorical reasons for its divisions, expressions, rites, even as has been seen for the letter T, with which in their time it began. No one who is accustomed to the subtle conceptions of medieval mysticism will be surprised to see that these interpretations all disagree among themselves and contradict each other in every point. The system leads to such contradictions inevitably. You divide the Canon where you like, trying, of course, as far as possible to divide by a holy number three, or seven, or twelve and you then try somehow to show that each of these divisions corresponds to some epoch of our Lord's life, or to one of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost, or if you can make eight divisions somewhere to one of the Beatitudes. The arrangements are extremely ingenious. Indeed, perhaps the strongest impression one receives from such mystical divisions and explanations is how extraordinarily well their inventors do it. Nor does the utterly artificial nature of the whole proceeding prevent many of the interpretations from being quite edifying, often very poetic and beautiful. To give even a slight account of the endless varieties of these mystic commentaries would take up very much space. Various examples will be found in the books quoted below. William Durandus (Duranti) the Elder, Bishop of Mende (d. 1296), in his "Rationale divinorum officiorum", set the classic example of these interpretations. His work is important chiefly because incidentally we get from it a very exact account of the prayers and ceremonies of the thirteenth century. Very many theologians followed in his footsteps. Perhaps Benedict XIV and Cardinal Bona are the most important. Gihr has collected all the chief mystical explanations in his book on the Mass. One or two of the more interesting or curious examples may be added here. A favourite idea is that the Ordinary to the Sanctus, with its lessons, represents Christ's public life and teaching; the Canon is a type of the Passion and death hence it is said in silence. Christ taught plainly, but did not open his mouth when he was accused and suffered. From Durandus comes the idea of dividing the Mass according to the four kinds of prayer mentioned in 1 Timothy 2:1. It is an Obsecratio (supplication) to the Secret, an Oratio (prayer) to the Pater Noster, a Postulatio (intercession) to the Communion, and a Gratiarum Actio (thanksgiving) to the end. Benedict XIV and many others divide the Canon into four sets of threefold prayers:
I. TEXTS. MURATORI, "Liturgia vetus tria sacramentaria complectens" (2 vols. in fol., Venice, 1748), contains the texts of the Leonine, Gelasian and Gregorian Sacramentaries. The Gregorian Sacramentary is edited in PAMELIUS, "op. cit. infra", 178-387 in "P.L.",LXXVIII, 25, sqq. The Leonine Book was first edited by BIANCHINI, "Anastasius Bibliothecarius" (1735), IV, xii-lvii; also in ASSEMANI, "Codex liturgicus ecclesiæ universæ", VI, 1-180; and among ST. LEO'S works in "P.L.", LV, 21-156. FELTOE, "Sacramentarium Leonianum" (Cambridge, 1896). First edition of the Gelasian book, THOMASIUS, "Codices Sacramentorum" (Rome, 1680); also ASSEMANI, "op. cit.", IV. 1-126; "P.L.", LXXIV, 1055 sqq. WILSON, "The Gelasian Sacramentary" (Oxford, 1894), and SWAINSON, "The Greek Liturgies," (Cambridge, 1884), 191-203, contain the Greek version of the Roman Mass referred to above. PAMELIUS, "Liturgica Latinorum" (2 vols., Cologne, 1571 and 1675); GAVANTI, "Thesaurus sacrorum rituum" (Rome, 1630); MABILLON, "Museum italicum," (2 vols., 2nd ed., Paris, 1724); Vol. II, reprinted in "P.L.", LXXVIII, contains eleven of the Roman "Ordines". DUCHESNE, "Origines du culte chretien" (2nd. ed., Paris, 1898), App.I, pp. 440-63, and App.II, pp. 464-68, gives the text of two more "ordines," that of the "Saint -Amand MS". (c. 800), and a fragment from Einsiedeln of about the same date. ATCHLEY, "Ordo Romanus primus" (London, 1905) in "Library of Liturgiology and Ecclesiology for English Readers", VI, contains dissertations on the first Ordo; the text in Latin from Mabillon with a translation and a version of the "Saint -Amand Ordo" from DUCHESNE are given in the appendix. For editions of the greater number of medieval local Missals see the excellent little book of CABROL, "Introduction aux etudes liturgiques" (Paris, 1907), and the "British Museum Catalogue", XLV, "Latin Rite, Hours, Missals"; also the index to the "Liturgical Catalogue" (3 vols. London, 1899). WILSON, "A classified Index to the Leonine, Gelasian and Gregorian Sacramentaries" (Cambridge, 1892); WEALE, "Bibliographia Liturgica; Catalogus Missalium ritus Latini" (London, 1886).
II.- MEDIEVAL COMMENTARIES ON THE CANON. ST. ISIDORE OF SEVILLE (d. 636), "De ecclesiæ officiis", II in "P.L." LXXXIII, 738, sqq.; AMALARIUS OF METZ (d. c. 850) "De ecclesiæ officiis", IV in "P.L." CV, 986, sqq.; WALAFRID STRABO (d. 879), "De exordiis et incrementis rerum eccl." in "P.L. "CXIV, 919, sqq.; BERNO OF REICHENAU (11th cent.), "Libellus de quibusdam rebus ad missæ officium pertinentibus" in "P.L.", CXLII, 1055, sqq.; MICROLOGUS, "De ecclesiasticis observationibus" in "P.L.", CLI, 974, sqq. [probably written by BERNOLD OF CONSTANCE (eleventh century)]; BELETHUS, "Rationale divinorum officiorum" in "P.L.", CCII, 14 sqq.; HILDEBERT OF TOURS (d. 1134), "Expositio Missæ "in "P.L.", CLXXI. 1158 sqq.; IONNES ABRINCENSIS, "Liber de officiis ecclesiasticis" in "P.L.", CXLVII, 15 sqq.; ROBERTUS PULLUS (d. 1153), "De Cærimoniis, sacramentis et officiis eccl." in "P.L"., CLXXVII, 381, sqq.; SICARDUS OF CREMONA, "Mitrale sive de officiis ecclesiasticis summa" in "P.L". CCXIII, 13 sqq.; INNOCENT III (d. 1216), "De Sacrificio Missæ" in " P.L"., CCXVII, 763, sqq.; DURANDUS, "Rationale divinorum Officiorum" (Lyons, 1561; Naples, 1859), VIII; ALBERTUS MAGNUS, "Summa de officio Missæ".
III. LATER WRITERS. HITTORPIUS, "De divinis Cathol. Eccl. officiis" (Cologne, 1568; Rome 1591), a collection of medieval interpreters: HUGO, "Expositio Missæ" (Nuremberg, 1507); BECHOFFEN, "Quadruplex Missalis expositio" (Basle, 1515); DURANTI, "De ritibus ecclesiæ" (Cologne, 1592), III; BALDASSARI, "La sacra liturgia" (Venice, 1715); BENEDICT XIV (d. 1758), "De Sacrosancto Sacrificio Missæ", Latin version by GIACOMELLI, ed. SCHNEIDER (Mainz, 1879), lib. III; BONA, "Rerum Liturgicarum" (Turin, 1763), lib. II; IDEM, "De Sacrificio Missæ" (Paris, 1846); MURATORI, "De rebus liturgicis dissertatio": QUARTI, "Rubricæ Missalis Romani commentariis illustratæ" (Venice, 1727).
IV. MODERN WORKS. PROBST. "Liturgie der drei ersten christl. Jahrhunderten" (Tübingen, 1870); IDEM, "Liturgie des IV. Jahrhunderts und deren Reform" (Munster, 1893); IDEM, "Die abendl, Messe vom V. bis zum VIII, Jahrhdt" (Munster, 1896); DUCHESNE, "Origines" (Paris, 1898); MAGANI, "L'antica liturgia romana" (3 vols., Milan, 1897); CABROL, "Origines liturgiques" (Paris, 1906); IDEM, "Le livre de la priere antique" (Paris, 1900), introduction; EBNER, "Quellen und Forschungen zur Gesch, und Kunstgesch des Missale Romanum im Mittelalter" (Freiburg im Br., 1896); EISENRING, "Das heilige Messopfer" (Einsiedeln, 1880); KNEIP, "Erklarung des heiligen Messopfers" (Ratisbon, 1876); SAUTER, "Das heilige Messopfer "(Paderborn, 1894); WALTER, "Die heilige Messe" (Brixen, 1881); WEICKUM, "Das heilige Messopfer" (Schaffhausen, 1865); LAMPRECHT, "De SS. Missæ Sacrificio" (Louvain, 1875); LEBRUN, "Explication . . . des prieres et des ceremonies de la Messe" (Lyons, 1860); COCHEM, "Erklarung des heiligen Messopfers" (Cologne, 1870); GIHR, "Das heilige Messopfer, dogmatisch liturgisch und ascetisch erklart" (6th ed., Freiburg im Br., 1897); KOSSING, "Liturgische Erklarung der heiligen Messe" (Ratisbon, 1869); VAN DER BURG, "Brevis elucidatio totius Missæ" (Tournai, 1860); HAZE, "De sensu cærimoniarum Missæ brevis expositio" (Brussels, 1869); BOURBON, "Introduction aux ceremonies Romaines" (Luçon, 1864); NOEL, "Instructions sur la Liturgie" (5 vols., Paris 1861); PATRONI, "Lezioni di s. Liturgia" (Naples, 1881); FLUCK, "Katholische Liturgik" (Ratisbon, 1853); DE HERDT, "Sacræ Liturgiæ Praxis "(7th ed., 3 vols., Louvain, 1883); DREWS, "Zur Entstehungsgesch. des Kanons in der rumischen Messe" (Tübingen and Leipzig, 1902); DRURY, "Elevation in the Eucharist": its History and Rationale" (Cambridge, 1907), of no great value; BERNARD, "Cours de liturgie romaine" (Paris, 1884).
APA citation. (1908). Canon of the Mass. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03255c.htm
MLA citation. "Canon of the Mass." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03255c.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Tony de Melo.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
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