Text and rubrics of the Roman Canon

Main article: Canon of the Mass

Before the 1970 revision of the Roman Missal, the Mass had, in the Roman Rite, only one Anaphora or Eucharistic Prayer, which was referred to as the Canon of the Mass. Since the revision, which made only minimal changes in the text, but somewhat more important changes in the rubrics, it is called Eucharistic Prayer I or the Roman Canon. In the Anglican Missal, it is called The Canon of the Roman Mass.

This article does not deal with the significance and history of this Eucharistic Prayer (see History of the Roman Canon), but only with the text and rubrics of the Canon from the Te Igitur to the final doxology, omitting consideration of the introductory dialogue, the preface and the Sanctus. These parts were not altered in 1970, except for the addition of further prefaces, generally taken from ancient sources.

Inaudible recitation of the Canon

In the Tridentine form of the Mass, the priest says this part of the Canon inaudibly,[1] with only two exceptions: he speaks the phrase "Nobis quoque peccatoribus" in a slightly audible voice, and says or sings aloud the final phrase of the doxology, "per omnia saecula saeculorum", so as to let the server or the choir know when to say or sing "Amen". This silence on the priest's part is associated with the fact that, in the Tridentine Mass, the priest says all parts of the Mass (except such responses as "Et cum spiritu tuo" and "Amen") himself, even if the choir sings them also. It became customary for the priest, having himself said the "Sanctus" quickly, not to wait for the choir to finish singing, but to continue immediately, necessarily not aloud, the rest of the Canon.

This was not always so. The older Roman ordines state that originally "the priest did not begin the Canon until the singing of the Sanctus was over" (Mabillon: In ord. Rom. comm., XXI). And, even in the Tridentine period, when an ordination Mass was almost the only case of concelebration left in the West, all the concelebrants said the Canon together aloud. However, mystic reasons were attributed to the silent prayers of the Canon, as purely sacerdotal, belonging only to the priest, with the silence increasing reverence at the most sacred moment of the Mass and removing the Consecration from ordinary vulgar use.

In the revised form of the Mass, the Canon is no longer said silently. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 147 states: "It is very appropriate that the priest sing those parts of the Eucharistic Prayer for which musical notation is provided." This brings the practice of the ordinary form of the Roman Rite closer to the rites of all the other ancient Christian Churches and to the practice of the Roman Rite itself before medieval times.

Te igitur

In the Tridentine form, the priest begins this prayer by raising his hands a little, joining them, looking briefly up to heaven, and then bowing deeply before the altar and resting his hands on it. He then says:

"Te igitur, clementissime Pater, per Iesum Christum Filium tuum Dominum nostrum, supplices rogamus, ac petimus"

Then he kisses the altar, joins his hands before his breast and continues:

"uti accepta habeas, et benedicas"

Next he makes the sign of the cross three times over the host and the chalice, while saying:

"hæc dona, hæc munera, hæc sancta sacrificia illibata"

He then opens his arms, not into the position of prayer represented in paintings in the Catacombs (the "Orantes" posture), but, as prescribed in the Ritus servandus in celebratione Missae, V, 1, keeping his hands before his breast, neither higher nor wider than his shoulders, with fingers joined and the palms facing each other, and he continues:

"in primis, quæ tibi offerimus pro Ecclesia tua sancta catholica: quam pacificare, custodire, adunare, et regere digneris toto orbe terrarum: una cum famulo tuo Papa nostro N. et Antistite nostro N. et omnibus orthodoxis atque catholicæ et apostolicæ fidei cultoribus."

In the Roman Missal as revised in 1970, the text remains exactly as before, but the rubrics have been simplified: the priest opens his arms immediately and, since he is not being obliged to keep them before his breast, may adopt the "Orantes" posture; he joins his hands at the same point as in the pre-1970 text, but makes only one sign of the cross (the only one in the whole course of the Canon) over host and chalice, and then opens his arms again.

This prayer is not, strictly speaking, a prayer for the Pope and the Bishop. It uses the expression "together with" (una cum) not "for". This "together with" may be linked either with the verbs "pacificare", etc. begging God's favour for the Church as a whole, or with the verb "offerimus", indicating that the priest is offering Mass in union with the Pope and the Bishop.

Past variations of this prayer included the once universal mention of the civil ruler (emperor or king), which Pope Pius V removed in his 1570 revision of the Missal, but which continued in use in the Holy Roman Empire until 1806 and later in the Austrian Empire until 1918. The prayer also included, at one time, a special mention of the priest himself, though not by name.

The "Ritus servandus in celebratione Missae" section of the Tridentine Missal laid down that, in the prayer for the Pope, the priest should bow his head at the Pope's name.[2] The Missal as revised in 1970 requires such a bow only "when the three Divine Persons are named together and at the names of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saint in whose honour Mass is being celebrated" (General Instruction", 275).

Even in the Tridentine Missal, which envisages Mass celebrated by one priest only, verbs such as "offerimus" are in the plural form (we offer). Some interpret this as a relic of the time before concelebration ceased (until after the Second Vatican Council) to be used in the West.

Commemoration for the living

The priest next prays:

"Memento, Domine, famulorum, famularumque tuarum N. et N. et omnium circumstantium, quorum tibi fides cognita est, et nota devotio, pro quibus tibi offerimus: vel qui tibi offerunt hoc sacrificium laudis, pro se, suisque omnibus: pro redemptione animarum suarum, pro spe salutis et incolumitatis suæ: tibique reddunt vota sua aeterno Deo, vivo et vero"

"Sacrifice of praise" is a phrase taken from Book of Psalms 49/50:23. The word "salus" can refer either to bodily health or to spiritual salvation.

At the point where the names of those being prayed for may be mentioned, the priest joins his hands and prays briefly for them.

Parts of this prayer were added at a relatively late date and are not found in early sacramentaries.

In a concelebrated Mass, this prayer and the following one are spoken by individual concelebrants.

First Intercession

In the Missal, the next prayer is preceded by the rubric "Infra Actionem" (Within the Action), which was originally a heading over variations of this prayer, placed among other prayers for certain feasts, to indicate that they were to be inserted in the Canon. The feasts at which these variations are still used are Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost, and throughout their octaves. Since 1970, only Christmas and Easter have octaves.

The prayer is as follows:

Communicantes, et memoriam venerantes, in primis gloriosæ semper Virginis Mariæ, Genetricis Dei et Domini nostri Iesu Christi: sed et beati Ioseph, eiusdem Virginis Sponsi, et beatorum Apostolorum ac Martyrum tuorum, Petri et Pauli, Andreæ, (Iacobi, Ioannis, Thomæ, Iacobi, Philippi, Bartholomæi, Matthæi, Simonis et Thaddæi: Lini, Cleti, Clementis, Xysti, Cornelii, Cypriani, Laurentii, Chrysogoni, Ioannis et Pauli, Cosmæ et Damiani) et omnium Sanctorum tuorum; quorum meritis precibusque concedas, ut in omnibus protectionis tuæ muniamur auxilio. (Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.)

Since 1970, the parts in brackets may be omitted, and the rubric has been removed that required the priest, if he pronounces the conclusion "Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen", to join his hands and open his arms again at the start of the following prayer. At all other points of the Canon in which "Per Christum Dominum nostrum" may or must be used, the post-1962 Missal directs that the priest should join his hands.

In his revision of the Missal, Pope Pius V removed some saints' names and other clauses that were then included, though some survived locally. The words "beati Joseph, eiusdem Virginis Sponsi" were added by Pope John XXIII.

Hanc Igitur

This prayer, like the preceding, has variations at a very few celebrations. Such occasions were once much more numerous: the Gelasian Sacramentary has as many as 38 special forms to be intercalated for all kinds of special intentions, including requiem and wedding Masses.

The normal text is:

"Hanc igitur oblationem servitutis nostræ, sed et cunctæ familiæ tuæ, quæsumus, Domine, ut placatus accipias: diesque nostros in tua pace disponas, atque ab æterna damnatione nos eripi, et in electorum tuorum iubeas grege numerari. (Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.)"

In a concelebrated Mass, this prayer is said by the principal celebrant.

In the Tridentine Missal, the priest spreads his hands over the offerings during this prayer. This gesture was a late ceremony, occurring first in the fifteenth century, and was not adopted by the Dominicans and Carmelites. In the 1970 Roman Missal, it is during the next part of the Canon that the priest celebrating Mass, together with any concelebrating priests, performs this gesture, as at the pre-Consecration epiclesis of other Eucharistic Prayers.

Pre-consecration epiclesis

There follows the prayer:

"Quam oblationem tu, Deus, in omnibus, quæsumus, benedictam, adscriptam, ratam, rationabilem, acceptabilemque facere digneris: ut nobis Corpus et Sanguis fiat dilectissimi Filii tui, Domini nostri Iesu Christi."

Although this prayer does not mention the Holy Spirit, it is otherwise similar to an epiclesis, in which, usually, the Holy Spirit is invoked to effect the change of the bread and the wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. Accordingly, the 1970 edition of the Roman Missal directs the priest to extend his hands over the offerings while reciting it. In the Tridentine form of the Mass, the priest says the prayer with hands joined, except while making the five signs of the cross prescribed in that form of the rite.

From this pre-consecration epiclesis to the post-consecration epiclesis, inclusive, the words are spoken or sung by all the concelebrants together.

Consecration of the bread

Next comes the first part of the account of the Last Supper:

"Qui, pridie quam pateretur, accepit panem in sanctas ac venerabiles manus suas, et elevatis oculis in cælum ad te Deum Patrem suum omnipotentem, tibi gratias agens benedixit, fregit, deditque discipulis suis, dicens: Accipite et manducate ex hoc omnes: hoc est enim Corpus meum, quod pro vobis tradetur."

The actions and words attributed to Jesus in this account are not exactly the same as in the account of the Last Supper in any one of the Gospels. The raising of Jesus' eyes to heaven is not mentioned in the account of the Last Supper in any of the Gospels, though this action (of course, without "to you, God, his almighty Father") is mentioned in the accounts of the first of the two multiplications of the loaves. The word "enim" (for) has also been added to the words of consecration, apparently through analogy with the consecration of the chalice.

This prayer admits of one addition in the year: on Holy Thursday the prayer begins: "Qui pridie, quam pro nostra omniumque salute pateretur, hoc est, hodie, accepit . . ." etc.

The rubrics direct the priest to accompany the words about taking and looking up with similar actions, but the bread is not broken or distributed at this point. The priest also bows slightly while speaking the words of Jesus. He then shows the consecrated host to the people, replaces it on the paten (1970 form) or on the corporal (Tridentine form), and genuflects in adoration.

The Tridentine Missal requires the priest also to bow his head at the words "tibi gratias agens", to make the sign of the cross at the word "benedixit", and to genuflect before as well as after showing the host to the people.

Before as well as after 1970, the rubric in the Missal has the phrase "shows it (the consecrated host) to the people" (Latin: "ostendit populo") not, as some imagine, "elevates it". If the people are behind the priest, the traditional way of showing the consecrated host is by raising it above the level of the priest's head. This showing of the host was introduced in France in the twelfth century and became general in the Roman Rite in the thirteenth. However, earlier texts speak of a gesture of adoration ("the bishops, deacons, subdeacons, and priests stay in the presbytery bowing down") at the consecration itself. The genuflection, in place of the previous bow of the head, was introduced only in the fourteenth century.

The General Instruction, 150 directs: "A little before the consecration, when appropriate, a server rings a bell as a signal to the faithful. According to local custom, the server also rings the bell as the priest shows the host and then the chalice." The Tridentine Missal does not mention the first ringing, but, since 1604, states that the bell should be rung either three times or continuously while the host and the chalice are being shown (Ritus servandus in celebratione Missae, VIII, 6).

Consecration of the wine

"Simili modo, postquam cenatum est, accipiens et hunc præclarum calicem in sanctas ac venerabiles manus suas, item tibi gratias agens benedixit, deditque discipulis suis, dicens: Accipite et bibite ex eo omnes: hic est enim calix Sanguinis mei novi et æterni testamenti, qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum. Hoc facite in meam commemorationem"

The Tridentine text varies from this in two points. One is the insertion of the words "mysterium fidei" (the mystery of faith) immediately after the word "testamenti". The other is that, in place of the final words, "Hoc facite in meam commemorationem", which Jesus used at the Last Supper (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25), it has the words "Hæc quotiescumque feceritis, in mei memoriam facietis" (As often as you shall have done these things, you will do [them] in my memory), a conflation of Jesus' words with a comment by Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:26.

The words of the consecration of the wine come mainly from Matthew 26:16; "calix Sanguinis mei" is adapted from Luke and 1 Corinthians; "pro vobis" come from Luke, and "pro multis" from Matthew. The phrase "et æterni" is found in no New Testament passage [though cf. Heb 13:20].

It has been suggested that the phrase "mysterium fidei" was originally a warning by the deacon to the people, but no evidence has been found to support this supposition. The priest now speaks the phrase after showing the chalice to the people and genuflecting. It serves as an introduction to a Memorial Acclamation by the people, which was never present in the Tridentine Missal.

The Missal gives three forms of this acclamation, the first two of which are closely based on 1 Corinthians 11:26, while making explicit the reference to the resurrection of Christ, which is only implicit in that text:


In the Eucharistic Prayers of all liturgies, the Words of Institution of the sacrament, concluding with "Do this in memory of me", are, quite naturally, followed by a solemn recalling of Christ's death and resurrection. The term used to refer to this explicit recalling is Anamnesis. The anamnesis then turns seamlessly into a prayer of offering.

The text in the Canon is:

"Unde et memores, Domine, nos servi tui, sed et plebs tua sancta, eiusdem Christi, Filii tui, Domini nostri, tam beatæ passionis, necnon et ab inferis resurrectionis, sed et in cælos gloriosæ ascensionis: offerimus præclaræ maiestati tuæ de tuis donis ac datis hostiam puram, hostiam sanctam, hostiam immaculatam, Panem sanctum vitæ æternæ et Calicem salutis perpetuæ."

During this prayer, the Tridentine form of the Canon prescribes that the priest make five signs of the cross over the consecrated bread and wine, the first of a total of fifteen to be made after the consecration. All fifteen are omitted in the post-1962 form.

Supra quae

The Canon continues with a prayer that God may accept the sacrifice the Church now offers as he accepted the sacrifices of three outstanding Old Testament figures. In other words, it asks that the devotion of the Church may be like theirs.

The text is as follows:

"Supra quæ propitio ac sereno vultu respicere digneris: et accepta habere, sicuti accepta habere dignatus es munera pueri tui iusti Abel, et sacrificium Patriarchæ nostri Abrahæ, et quod tibi obtulit summus sacerdos tuus Melchisedech, sanctum sacrificium, immaculatam hostiam.

Post-consecration epiclesis

The following prayer is believed to have once been a regular epiclesis, in which the Holy Spirit is invoked upon those who are to receive the Body and Blood of Christ so as to sanctify them. It still ends with a prayer that all who will receive the sacred Body and Blood of Christ will be filled with every heavenly blessing and grace. A phrase of Pope Gelasius I (492-496) has been interpreted as indicating that in his time the Roman Canon still had an express mention of the Holy Spirit, such as there is in all other ancient liturgies. He wrote: "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) - "and he" corresponds here to the single word "et" in Latin, which may be a scribal error. It has also been suggested that the angel mentioned here is the Holy Ghost - an attempt to bring the prayer more into line with the proper form of an epiclesis, but the evidence rather tells against this interpretation.

The prayer is as follows:

"Supplices te rogamus, omnipotens Deus, iube hæc perferri per manus sancti Angeli tui in sublime altare tuum, in conspectu divinæ maiestatis tuæ; ut quotquot ex hac altaris participatione sacrosanctum Filii tui Corpus et Sanguinem sumpserimus, omni benedictione cælesti et gratia repleamur. (Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.)"

The rubrics as revised in 1970 direct the priest to bow while saying this prayer and to stand erect and make the sign of the cross on himself when saying the final phrase, "omni … gratia repleamur" (may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing). In the Tridentine form the priest places his joined hands on the edge of the altar while making the bow, kisses the altar at the words "hac altaris participatione" (this participation at the altar), and makes a sign of the cross over the consecrated host at the word "Corpus" (Body) and over the chalice with the consecrated wine at the word "Sanguinem" (Blood).

Commemoration for the dead

"Memento etiam, Domine, famulorum famularumque tuarum N. et N., qui nos præcesserunt cum signo fidei et dormiunt in somno pacis. Ipsis, Domine, et omnibus in Christo quiescentibus, locum refrigerii, lucis et pacis, ut indulgeas, deprecamur. (Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.)"

The rubrics direct that, after the words "dormiunt in somno pacis" (rest in the sleep of peace), the priest joins his hands and prays briefly for them.

The Tridentine Missal has at the end of this prayer a rubric unparallelled in the rest of the book: normally the priest bows his head at the conclusion of a prayer only if it includes the name of Jesus, but here the rubric tells him to bow his head at the final clause, "Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen", obligatory in that form of the Mass. The only explanation proposed is a mystic one: after the prayer for the dead, the priest bows his head as Christ did when he died.

In a concelebrated Mass, this prayer and the following are said by individual concelebrants.

Second Intercession

"Nobis quoque peccatoribus, famulis tuis, de multitudine miserationum tuarum sperantibus, partem aliquam et societatem donare digneris, cum tuis sanctis Apostolis et Martyribus: cum Ioanne, Stephano, Matthia, Barnaba, (Ignatio, Alexandro, Marcellino, Petro, Felicitate, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucia, Agnete, Cæcilia, Anastasia) et omnibus Sanctis tuis: intra quorum nos consortium, non æstimator meriti, sed veniae, quæsumus, largitor admitte. Per Christum Dominum nostrum."

The saints of this Second Intercession are headed by John the Baptist, who is accompanied by seven male and seven female saints, all of them martyrs.

The opening words, "Nobis quoque peccatoribus", are the only ones of the Canon, apart from the "Per omnia sæcula sæculorum" that concludes the Canon, that, in the Tridentine form of the Roman Missal, are spoken aloud after the Sanctus. They are to be said in a rather low voice, since the rubric speaks of the priest "raising his voice a little."

At the same words, both before and after 1970, the priest strikes his breast, as do all the priests, if the Mass is concelebrated.

Per quem

The "Per Christum Dominum nostrum" at the end of the Second Intercession is not followed by the usual "Amen." What follows instead is this short prayer, which is reserved to the principal celebrant in a concelebrated Mass:

"Per quem hæc omnia, Domine, semper bona creas, santificas, vivificas, benedicis, et præstas nobis."

It is unclear what is referred to by the phrase "all these good things". One theory is that the phrase refers to fruits of the earth and prepared food brought up to be blessed at this point of the Canon, which is when the bishop blesses the oil of the sick with a special formula at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday.

The Tridentine Missal requires the priest to make three signs of the cross over the host and chalice together during this prayer.

Doxology with elevation

The priest ends the Canon with the following doxology:

"Per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso, est tibi Deo Patri omnipotenti, in unitate Spiritus Sancti, omnis honor et gloria per omnia sæcula sæculorum."

To this the response is: "Amen."

While pronouncing the doxology, the priest, or the priest and the deacon, if there is one, elevate the paten containing the consecrated host and the chalice containing the consecrated wine.

The Tridentine Missal has a more complicated ritual: the priest uncovers the chalice, genuflects, takes the host between right thumb and forefinger and, holding the chalice in his left hand, makes the sign of the cross three times from lip to lip of the chalice, while saying: "Per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso"; he then with the host makes the sign of the cross twice in the space between him and the chalice, saying: "est tibi Deo Patri omnipotenti, in unitate Spiritus Sancti"; next he elevates chalice and host slightly, while saying: "omnis honor et gloria"; and finally he replaces the host on the corporal, covers the chalice with the pall, genuflects, stands up, and says or sings aloud: "Per omnia sæcula sæculorum."

See also


  1. In Latin, "secreto" (Ritus servandus in celebratione Missae, VIII, 1)
  2. V - De Oratione, 2

External links

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