By Larry Peterson
I attended Christmas Day Mass at 8 a.m. in my church; Sacred Heart in Pinellas Park, FL. We have a Mercedarian priest, Father Mike Donovan, who has been with us for several months and he was the celebrant. Father used the Roman Canon in this Mass. (Canon is the word used that refers to the fundamental part of the Mass that occurs between the Offertory and before Communion).
Before 1970, the only canon used during the Mass was the Roman Canon. Today’s standard missalettes carry six Canons; Eucharistic Prayers I thru IV and two Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation. The altar missal used by the priest has nine; (the ones mentioned and there are three for children’s Masses). It seems the one most commonly used today is Eucharistic Prayer II.
The Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I) was put in place by Pope St. Gregory I in the seventh century. It remains virtually unchanged to this day. However, since the new versions of the Eucharistic Prayers were included in the Novus Ordo Mass, it seems that Eucharistic Prayer I is rarely used. I do not know why this is, but it certainly has withstood the test of time.
In the Roman Canon, there is a rare beauty captured by the words written, and these words create visuals that can carry us to a different place. If you focus, listen, and read quietly along with the priest, you may actually get a tiny glimpse into heaven itself. Just let yourself feel the words grab you, and transport you to a different realm.
When you “arrive” you may be able to peel back the veil and take a peek behind it. You might watch as the greatest love story ever told or imagined is taking place. It is the story of the perfect LOVE that exists within God and among the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit Who is God. This is about the most profound mystery of our faith and how this perfect LOVE is about to be shared with us. It is the greatest of gifts imaginable, and all of us who choose to accept it are about to receive it. But how does the Canon of the Mass take us there?
I have before me a copy of the Breaking Bread Missalette for 2018. I also have a copy of the St. Joseph Daily Missal from 1956. One is post-Vatican II; the other is pre-Vatican II. The Roman Canon is the same in both. So let me share just one of the visuals I have mentioned. First we should all be aware that all of the canons are directed to God the Father.
We believe that through the consecrated hands of the ordained priest, Jesus is going to sacrifice Himself to His Father for us. The Father will accept this Gift of His Son’s human life and return His Risen Son back to us in Holy Communion. This is the Great Mystery of our Faith.
I will only mention a few words from this magnificent, 7th-century document that I believe capture it all. After the words of consecration are said, and the Body and Blood of Jesus are on the altar, we all recite the mystery of faith. Then the priest continues with:
Therefore, O Lord (referring to the Father) as we celebrate the memorial of the blessed Passion, and the glorious Ascension into heaven of Christ, your Son, our Lord, WE, your servants and your holy people, offer to your glorious majesty from the gifts that you have given us, this pure victim, this holy victim, this spotless victim, the holy Bread of eternal life and the Chalice of everlasting salvation.
We move down and read of Abel the just, the sacrifice of Abraham, and the offering of the priest, Melchizedek. So try to picture what happens next when God the Father hears our prayer:
In humble prayer we ask you, Almighty God; Command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high in the sight of your divine majesty, so that all of us, who through this participation at the altar, receive the most holy Body and Blood of your Son, and may be filled with every grace and blessing
(Through Christ our Lord. Amen).
As we watch the angel take our gifts up to heaven and then return them to us from our Father, we finish with the following words (how many of us really think about them) before the Communion Rite begins:
Through Him , and with Him, and in Him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, for ever and ever. AMEN.
All the Eucharistic Prayers are beautiful but I must admit, I do love #1 the most.
©Larry Peterson 2018