19 January 2011

The Roman Canon - the "heart and centre" of the Roman Rite

The Roman Canon  (11th c. missal)
Thanks again to a reader for forwarding this link to the second edition of a short pamphlet on the Roman Canon by Dom Placid Murray OSB, a monk of Glenstal Abbey, Ireland, published in 1961. It's not long and is worth a read. Some interesting quotes:

"Our Mass of the Roman rite is a mixed rite. Parts of it go back to the ancient local usage of Rome; other parts are relatively more recent and took their origin on this side of the Alps, and were transplanted thence back to Rome. There they grew into the complex rite which we use today.

The ancient Roman parts are the venerable old trees...  the Frankish uses are the newer trees and the brushwood, profusely added in medieval times and often pruned, but now inextricably mixed with the older growth. Among the ancient trees let us imagine one sacred tree towering above its fellows at the heart and centre of the whole plantation. This would be our Canon of the Mass. ...the Canon is not only the centre of our mixed rite of today, but also the core of the old unmixed rite..."

"A Byzantine school of theology–not primitive–attributed the effect of consecration to an invocation of the Holy Ghost which occurs...in their liturgies. Any attempt to find similar prayers in the Roman Canon...or similar ideas in Latin theology, is doomed to failure."

If you bought this pamphlet in 1961 you could have been forgiven not so many years later for thinking that someone had got something very wrong. It may not have been Dom Placid Murray who made the mistake.

Today, well, where is the "heart and centre" of our rite these fifty years on?


  1. The heart and center of the rite? Isn't that optional today? Or at least you can choose several different ones.

  2. Jack O'Malley20 January 2011 at 02:19

    I've been checking the NT for some proof text where an "epiklesis" is a required invocation after the Words of Institution. Non inveni. Perhaps our Divine Lord was distracted, what with all the commotion in the Cenacle about the treasurer on the take? Or maybe He was still trying to sort out the Double Procession conundrum? Then again, exegesis is not my strong suit.

    Epiklesis. Just say no.

    P.S. You've got a good blog here, Pimpernel. Age quod agis. Just please don't start posting translations or recipes or ornithological photos or pictures of your office or (Deus praecipue avertat) poses of yourself in sundry diaconal frocks (avec ou sans) lace.

  3. One scholar familiar with liturgical questions wrote, in private correspondence, that in 1965 he had "personally heard" Chicago Cardinal Albert Mayer explain that the Council had decided to permit some use of the vernacular in worship, but that "the Canon of the Mass will remain in Latin until the end of the world".

    — Jerry Pokorsky & Helen Hull Hitchcock, "The Mystery of the Swiss Synod Eucharistic Prayer", Adoremus:Online Edition - Vol. III, No. 2: April 1997.

  4. I'd like to see the Roman canon shelved altogether, or perhaps used for private masses.

    To be replaced by the Anaphora of St. James or St. Basil for Sundays and feasts. They're ideal for all eastern and western liturgies. Added to that, they possess the most complete eucharistic theology to be found anywhere in Christendom, complete with a history of salvation which at once sweeps us up into the full sweep of Christ's saving acts. They're both a prayer and a didactic tool in ways the Roman canon has never been and could only be after extensive revision.

  5. And so give up the Roman Rite's more ancient usage for a newer Byzantine one. No thank you. Only the Roman Canon for the Roman Rite. It's more ancient than St James or St. Basil and only Addai and Mari could claim more antiquity.