By Larry Peterson
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.
Used every day for over 1300 years, it is rarely used today.
The Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I) was put in place by Pope St. Gregory the Great 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, Eucharistic Prayer I is rarely used. I do not know why this is, but it certainly has withstood the test of time. (In fact, it remains the standard in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass aka the Latin Mass).
(Canon is the word used that refers to the fundamental part of the Mass that occurs between the Offertory and before Communion).
In the Roman Canon, a mystical beauty is portrayed by the words written. These words create visuals that can carry us to a different place. 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 curtain and take a peek behind it. You might watch as the greatest love story ever told 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 canons are directed to God the Father.
The great Mystery of faith is shared with us by 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 captures 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 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, forever and ever. AMEN.
All the Eucharistic Prayers are beautiful, but I must admit, I do love #1 the most.
There is a crisis in our treasured church consisting of a majority of people claiming to be Catholic not believing in the Real Presence. Ironically, many of these people will attend Mass on Easter, and most will receive Holy Communion. It may be the only Sunday they attend Mass all year. This is not shocking since many do not understand what they are doing or why they are even at Mass. Do they have any understanding of what the Mass is? I think not. Is it their fault? Again, I think not.
Is it time for the “old” Baltimore Catechism
There might be a simple solution. Has anyone ever thought of bringing back the “old” Baltimore Catechism? This little book has the core teachings of the Catholic faith written in terms for all to see and understand, from first graders on up. For example; from the St. Joseph First Communion Catechism; copyright 1963:
Lesson 1, First question: “Who made you?” answer ; “God made me.”
Lesson 2, First question: “Where is God?” answer; “God is everywhere.”
Lesson 3, First question: “Is there only one God?” answer “Yes, there is only one God.”
Second question: “How many Persons are there in God.?
Answer: “In God, there are three Persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”
Those simple phrases sum up the existence of God and the Blessed Trinity. Simplified explanations follow these questions. Parents could have these little paperbacks at home. Teachers could have them in the classroom. Even high school and college students could do ‘refreshers’ with these little books.
The First Communion Catechism finishes with lessons covering the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Mass. Remember, the lessons used here are for first and second graders. They can also be for adults, it does not matter.
Lesson 11: First question: “What is the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist?”
Answer: “The Holy Eucharist is the sacrament of the body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
From there, simple explanations are used to explain what this means. These are followed by a beautiful description of the Mass and how it is Jesus’ Act of Love for us.
Maybe it is time to reconsider using the ‘old” catechism or parts of it.
HAPPY EASTER everyone
Copyright©Larry Peterson 2022