About the Church
donate Books CDs HOME updates search contact

The Holy Mass - Part XI

Mass of the Faithful:
From the Roman Canon to the Consecration

Dr. Remi Amelunxen
With the Preface concluded and the bell of the Sanctus sounded, the Canon commences.

The Sacred Roman Canon comprises the group of prayers from the end of the Sanctus to the Pater Noster. The words of Consecration are its infinitely precious jewel.

The Canon Missae means the Rule of the Mass because this portion is what essentially constitutes the Mass. The Holy Church uses this word precisely to signify that the Canon is the unchangeable Rule by which the Sacrifice of the New Law is offered. It is, with the exception of a few additions, of apostolic origin.

Illuminated manuscript depicting the 'T' of the te igiitur as a cross with Christ

An elaborate 'T' marking the Te Igitur from a medieval manuscript

Our Latin Canon represents the last stage of a development that had been going on since the time of the early Christians. In the 7th century, St. Gregory the Great (604) made a simplification and more orderly arrangement of the existing rite with a definitive arrangement of the Roman Canon. What a consolation it should be for us to realize that today we recite the same perennial form of prayer that has been in use in Holy Church for about 15 centuries.

The priest recites the prayers of the Canon in a low voice. In most Missals a picture of the Crucifix is placed at the beginning of the Canon. This Cross stands for the first letter T of the Canon [Te igitur] and serves to vividly remind the priest of the horrific Passion of Our Lord. This is the symbolic importance of this one letter, which commences the heart of the Mass, the Canon.

Bending low, the priest kisses the altar and asks God, through Jesus Christ to accept the offerings as cited in the first five lines of the Te igitur, below. He then rises, rejoins his hands and makes the Sign of the Cross three times over the Host and Chalice to show that it is through the Redeemer that we obtain the blessings of Three Persons of the Holy Trinity. The remainder of the Canon is said with hands extended.

Te igitur

Memento of the living

Next, the Memento of the Living comes. The priest slowly raises and joins his hands and the names of all those for whom he intends to pray.

memento of the living

The priest then disjoins his hands and lowers them. He has the power to offer to God the intentions, petitions and sorrows for specific souls, enabling them to receive graces not otherwise attained. He also prays for all those present at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, because their presence and devotion earn them graces for attending the Holy Sacrifice. Here we see how good it is to go to Mass as often as possible, and how important it is for the priests to make the Holy Mass available to the people.

The Communicantes

Having remembered the needs of the Church Militant, the priest now prays for the Church Triumphant with which we are united in the Communicantes.

communicantes

First of all (in primis) the prayers of the Holy Catholic Church and the faithful are strengthened by the intercession of the Holy Mother of God. She brought forth the Divine Savior who will soon be present on the altar through the Transubstantiation. She was beside Jesus at His bloody Sacrifice of the Cross and she offered herself up with Him for us. Thus, her right to special mention apart from all the other Saints in Heaven.

Illuminated manuscript depicting the 'T' of the te igiitur as a cross with Christ

Again, a Crucifix marking the Te Igitur that begins the Canon

The priest, then, mentions by name the 11 faithful Apostles with Our Lord at the Last Supper as well as The Apostle Paul (Matthias, who replaced Judas, will be named in another list after the Consecration). To the Apostles are united 12 illustrious Martyrs who watered the foundation of the Church with their blood: Linus, Cletus and Clement labored with St. Peter and became his successors, as were Xystus and Cornelius, who were both martyred. Laurence was Deacon to Pope Xystus; Chrysogonus was an illustrious Roman martyred by the Emperor Diocletian; John and Paul were brothers who suffered a cruel martyrdom by Emperor Julian. Cosmas and Damian were dedicated physicians.

During the Holy Mass, it is a great blessing to be among the glorious communion in the Communicantes. There are five Proper Communicantes: for Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost.

Pope Benedict XIV considered these three solemn prayers - the Te igitur, the Memento of the Living and the Communicantes - as but one prayer since there is only one conclusion: namely, Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen (Through the same Christ our Lord).

The Hanc igitur

We now reach two prayers preparing for the Consecration. The first is the Hanc igitur. The priest spreads his hands over the oblation covered by the Pall. This gesture has importance, states Dom Gueranger, (1) because it was used in the Old Law for a victim presented in the Temple to be offered in sacrifice.

Thus, by this rite the victim was set apart forever from any profane use and devoted to the service and honor of God alone. So now, under the rule of the New Law, the Church repeats this ritual, offering the bread and wine soon to be the Body and Blood of Christ in the Holy Sacrifice re-enacted daily on her altars.

hanc igitur

The bell is rung to announce the coming of Christ on the altar.

The first petition in the Hanc igitur is that God may accept the oblation of our service. This reminds us that, as creatures our first duty to God is the service of adoration, praise, thanksgiving and homage. Our second petition is that God may dispose our days in peace amid the battles to be fought against the seductions of the world and the cunning snares of Satan.

To be delivered from eternal damnation is a third petition. This grace we must obtain at all costs; in Hell there is no hope. Finally, we beg for God's mercy to grant us life everlasting and be counted among the elect in Heaven.

It is interesting to note that the words diesque nostros in tua pace disponas (to dispose our days in peace) were introduced by Pope St. Gregory the Great when Rome was being besieged by the Lombards and under the greatest peril. The words, inspired by that holy Pope, were not removed even after the peril had passed.

Quam oblationem

At the conclusion of the Hanc igitur, the priest rejoins his hand saying the third prayer of the Canon, the Quam oblationem, the great prayer that continues up to the Memento of the Dead and includes the Mystery of the Transubstantiation.

Quam oblationem

The host and chalice are signed five times with the Sign of the Cross. These five signings signify the Five Sacred Wounds on the Body of Our Lord and the intimate link of the offerings to the Passion and Death of Christ. Thus it is acceptable (acceptabilem) or well-pleasing to Almighty God in a way infinitely superior to the offerings made in the Old Law.

With this prayer, preparation for the Consecration is completed.

Continued

  1. Dom Prosper Guéranger, Explanation of the Holy Mass, 1st ed. 1885, rep. Loreto Publications, 2007, pp. 123-124.
Posted November 17, 2017