Taking a closer look at the re-translated Roman Canon

| Father John Paul Erickson | September 28, 2011 | 0 Comments

CrucifixThe following is the next in a series of articles regarding the new Roman Missal, which will be used in the United States beginning Nov. 27, the first Sunday of Advent.

In the last article, we introduced Eucharistic Prayer No. 1, otherwise known as the Roman Canon. It is a beautiful and ancient prayer, well worth our time and consideration as we prepare to receive the revised translation of the Mass. Like most of the eucharistic liturgy, this prayer has been re-translated, and the version we will hear on Nov. 27 will be quite different than the one we currently use.

Following the preface dialogue and Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy), the prayer begins:

“To you, therefore, most merciful Father,
we make humble prayer and petition
through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord”

Right from the very beginning of the prayer, we are reminded of the interior direction of the Mass — we are praying to the Father. However, this turning toward the Father is always accomplished through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life — no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6). This is always the case, but it takes on special significance in the liturgy.

In the liturgical life of the church, and especially in the Mass, Jesus Christ continues to call out to the Father, “Thy will be done.”

The whole paschal mystery, that is, the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, made present in the Mass, is a mystery that finds its source and meaning in loving sacrifice — Jesus Christ holds nothing back from the Father; he refuses to say “no” to the will of the Father. Indeed, Christ’s whole life and ministry is a “yes,” a fiat upon which the words of his mother, Mary, are based.

By means of our baptism, we are all joined to Jesus Christ, the one who said, and continues to say “yes” to the Father. The call to be holy is the call to make our lives resonate with this yes; to make our lives bear witness to our loving obedience to the commands of love of God and love of neighbor. To be a saint means to say “yes” to the Father in all things, as Jesus does.

And so at the Mass, as we hear the “yes” of Jesus in the raising up of his body and blood, we must make our own lives ring with this response. We join our struggles, our triumphs, our dreams and our fears to the offering of Christ so that we might be holy. It is through the prayer of Christ, through the loving “yes” of Christ, that we are made to ring and resonate with the beauty of sanctity.

The prayer continues:

“that you accept
and bless these gifts, these offerings,
these holy and unblemished sacrifices,”

While the words spoken here by the priest celebrant refer to the bread and wine, which will soon become the actual body and blood of Christ, it is also a reminder of the sacrifice that every single Christian is called upon to offer on the altar at Mass.

We are all called, priest and laity alike, to offer up our own “yes;” we are all called to offer up the sacrifice of loving obedience to the commands of love. These are the acceptable gifts and offerings that the presentation of the bread and wine represent. And it is only when we offer these gifts willingly to the Father, through Jesus, that they can be raised up and made to be something extraordinary —the life of Christ in the world.

The prayer continues:

which we offer you firstly
for your holy catholic Church.
Be pleased to grant her peace,
to guard, unite and govern her
throughout the whole world,
together with your servant Benedict our Pope
and John our Bishop
and all those who, holding to the truth,
hand on the catholic and apostolic faith.

Remember that the Eucharistic Prayer is just that — a prayer. And prayer is oftentimes a petition.

Sometimes, petitionary prayer gets a bit of a bad rap.  Sometimes, even very good people can start to feel guilty that they are asking God for all sorts of things, rather than limiting their prayer to praise and adoration.

But Christ himself, the master and teacher of prayer, commands us to “ask for our daily bread.”  Prayers of petition are most certainly not less worthy than other forms of prayer. In fact, petitionary prayer should form the foundation of our spiritual lives, for it is always an admittance of dependency and our need for God. This cannot but be good.

Shepherds need our prayers

And so we offer the prayer of the Mass for the church and her shepherds. The shepherds of the church, starting with the Holy Father right down to the bishop of the smallest diocese in the Catholic world, desperately need our prayers. They have been called by God to an immensely difficult vocation, and they rely upon the prayerful support of all God’s people to stand fast in the faith despite the buffeting winds and frightening waves of the world and their own weaknesses.

It is our duty as Catholics to pray for them, and we do just this when we offer the Mass.

Father John Paul Erickson is director of the archdiocesan Office of Worship. 

Questions about the new missal?

In November, The Catholic Spirit’s series on the Roman Missal will try to answer questions about the new texts and their use. If you have a question that has not been addressed in the series, you may send it:

  • By postal mail to: “Roman Missal,” c/o The Catholic Spirit, 244 Dayton Ave., St. Paul, MN 55102. Please include your name, parish and daytime telephone number.

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Category: New Roman Missal