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This article will be divided into four sections: (I) Name and place of the Canon; (II) History of the Canon; (III) The text and rubrics of the Canon; (IV) Mystical interpretations.

I. NAME AND PLACE OF THE CANON

Canon ( Canon Missæ, Canon Actionis ) is the name used in the Roman Missal for the fundamental part of the Mass that comes after the Offertory and before the Communion. The old distinction, in all liturgies, is between the Mass of the Catechumens (the litanies, lessons from the Bible , and collects) and the Mass of the Faithful (the Offertory of the gifts to be consecrated, Consecration prayer, Communion, and dismissal). Our Canon is the Consecration prayer, the great Eucharistic prayer in the Mass of the Faithful. The name Canon ( kanon ) means a norm or rule; and it is used for various objects, such as the Canon of Holy Scripture , canons of Councils, the official list of saints' names (whence "canonisation"), and the canon or list of clerks who serve a certain church, from which they themselves are called canons ( canonici ). Liturgically it occurs in three senses:

  • The kanon in the Byzantine Rite is the arrangement of the nine odes according to the order in which they are to be sung ( Nilles, Kalendarium Manuale, 2nd ed., Innsbruck, 1896, I, LVIII).
  • Like the word Mass it has occasionally been used as a general name for the canonical Hours, or Divine Office ( St. Benedict's Rule, cap. xvii; Cassian, II, 13).
  • Chiefly, and now universally in the West, it is the name for the Eucharistic prayer in the Holy Liturgy. In this sense it occurs in the letters of St. Gregory I (Epp., Lib. VII, lxiv, Lib. XI, lix); the Gelasian Sacramentary puts the heading "Incipit Canon Actionis" before the Sursum Corda (ed. Wilson, 234), the word occurs several times in the first Roman Ordo ("quando inchoat canonem", "finito vero canone", ed. Atchley, 138, etc.); since the seventh century it has been the usual name for this part of the Mass.
One can only conjecture the original reason for its use. Walafrid Strabo says: "This action is called the Canon because it is the lawful and regular confection of the Sacrament " (De reb. eccl., xxii); Benedict XIV says: "Canon is the same word as rule, the Church uses this name to mean that the Canon of the Mass is the firm rule according to which the Sacrifice of the New Testament is to be celebrated" (De SS. Missæ Sacr., Lib. II, xii). It has been suggested that our present Canon was a compromise between the older Greek Anaphoras and variable Latin Eucharistic prayers formerly used in Rome, and that it was ordered in the fourth century, possibly by Pope Damasus (366-84). The name Canon would then mean a fixed standard to which all must henceforth conform, as opposed to the different and changeable prayers used before (E. Burbridge in Atchley, "Ordo Rom. Primus", 96). In any case it is noticeable that whereas the lessons, collects and Preface of the Mass constantly vary, the Canon is almost unchangeable in every Mass. Another name for the Canon is Actio . Agere , like the Greek dran , is often used as meaning to sacrifice. Leo I , in writing to Dioscurus of Alexandria , uses the expression "in qua [sc. basilica ] agitur", meaning "in which Mass is said". Other names are Legitimum, Prex, Agenda, Regula, Secretum Missæ .

The rubrics of our present Missal leave no doubt as to the limits of the Canon in modern times. It begins at the "Te Igitur" and ends with the Amen before the Embolism of the Pater Noster (omnis honor et gloria, per omnia sæcula sæculorum, Amen ). The Missal has the title "Canon Missæ" printed after the Sanctus, and the Rubrics say: "After the Preface the Canon of the Mass begins secretly" (Rubr. Gen., XII, 6). The ninth title of the "Ritus cel. Missam" is headed: "Of the Canon from the Consecration to the Lord's Prayer". The next title is: "Of the Lord's Prayer and the rest to the Communion." Neither of these limits, however, was always so fixed. The whole Canon is essentially one long prayer, the Eucharistic prayer that the Eastern rites call the Anaphora. And the Preface is part of this prayer. Introduced in Rome as everywhere by the little dialogue "Sursum corda" and so on, it begins with the words "Vere dignum et justum est". Interrupted for a moment by the people, who take up the angels' words: "Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus", etc., the priest goes on with the same prayer, obviously joining the next part to the beginning by the word igitur . It is not then surprising that we find in the oldest sacramentary that contains a Canon, the Gelasian, the heading "Incipit Canon Actionis" placed before the Sursum Corda; so that the preface was then still looked upon as part of the Canon. However, by the seventh century or so the Canon was considered as beginning with the secret prayers after the Sanctus (Ord. Rom. I: "When they have finished the Sanctus the pontiff rises alone and enters into the Canon", ed. Atchley, 138). The point at which it may be considered as ending was equally uncertain at one time. There has never been any sort of point or indication in the text of the Missal to close the period begun by the heading "Canon Missæ", so that from looking at the text we should conclude that the Canon goes on to the end of the Mass. Even as late as Benedict XIV there were "those who think that the Lord's Prayer makes up part of the Canon" (De SS. Miss Sacr., ed. cit., 228). On the other hand the "Ordo Rom. I" (ed. cit. infra, p. 138) implies that it ends before the Pater Noster. The two views are reconciled by the distinction between the "Canon Consecrationis" and the "Canon Communionis" that occurs constantly in the Middle Ages (Gihr, Das heilige Messopfer, 540). The "Canon Communionis" then would begin with the Pater Noster and go on to the end of the people's Communion. The Post-Communion to the Blessing, or now to the end of the last Gospel, forms the last division of the Mass, the thanksgiving and dismissal. It must then be added that in modern times by Canon we mean only the "Canon Consecrationis". The Canon, together with the rest of the "Ordo Missæ", is now printed in the middle of the Missal, between the propers for Holy Saturday and Easter Day. Till about the ninth century it stood towards the end of the sacramentary, among the "Missæ quotidianæ" and after the Proper Masses (so in the Gelasian book). Thence it moved to the very beginning. From the eleventh century it was constantly placed in the middle, where it is now, and since the use of complete Missals "according to the use of the Roman Curia " (from the thirteenth century) that has been its place invariably. It is the part of the book that is used far more than any other, so it is obviously convenient that it should occur where a book lies open best -- in the middle. No doubt a symbolic reason, the connection between the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the mysteries of Holy Week, helped to make this place seem the most suitable one. The same reason of practical use that gave it this place led to the common custom of printing the Canon on vellum, even when the rest of the Missal was on paper -- vellum stands wear much better than paper.

II. HISTORY OF THE CANON

Since the seventh century our Canon has remained unchanged. It is to St. Gregory I (590-604) the great organiser of all the Roman Liturgy, that tradition ascribes its final revision and arrangement. His reign then makes the best division in its history.

Before St. Gregory I (to 590)

St. Gregory certainly found the Canon that has been already discussed, arranged in the same order, and in possession for centuries. When was it put together? It is certainly not the work of one man, nor was it all composed at one time. Gregory himself thought that the Canon had been composed by "a certain Scholasticus (Epp., lib. VII, no. lxiv, or lib. IX, no. xii), and Benedict XIV discusses whether he meant some person so named or merely "a certain learned man " (De SS. Missæ sacr., 157). But our Canon represents rather the last stage of a development that had been going on gradually ever since the first days when the Roman Christians met together to obey Christ's command and celebrate the Eucharist in memory of Him. Here a distinction must be made between the prayers of the Canon itself and the order in which they are now found. The prayers, or at least some of them, can be traced back to a very early date from occasional references in letters of Fathers. From this it does not follow that they always stood in the same order as now. Their arrangement in our present Missal presents certain difficulties and has long been a much-disputed point. It is very possible that at some unknown period -- perhaps in the fifth century -- the Canon went through a complete alteration in its order and that its component prayers, without being changed in themselves, were turned round and re-arranged. This theory, as will be seen, would account for many difficulties. In difficulties.

In the first century, as known, the Church of Rome, like all other Christian Churches, celebrated the Holy Eucharist by obeying Christ's direction and doing as He had done the night before He died. There were the bread and wine brought up at the Offertory and consecrated by the words of Institution and by an invocation of the Holy Ghost ; the bread was broken and Communion was given to the faithful. Undoubtedly, too, before the service lessons were read from the Bible , litanies and prayers were said. It is also known that this Mass was said in Greek. Hellenistic Greek was the common tongue of Christians, at any rate outside Palestine, and it was spoken by them in Rome as well as everywhere else, at the time when it was understood and used as a sort of international language throughout the empire. This is shown by the facts that the inscriptions in the catacombs are in Greek, and that Christian writers at Rome (I Ep. Clem., etc.) use that language (cf. de Rossi, Roma sott., II, 237). Of the liturgical formulas of this first period little is known. The First Epistle of St. Clement contains a prayer that is generally considered liturgical (lix-lxi), though it contains no reference to the Eucharist, also the statement that "the Lord commanded offerings and holy offices to be made carefully, not rashly nor without order, but at fixed times and hours". It says further: "The high-priest [i.e. bishop ] has his duties, a special place is appointed to the priests, and the Levites have their ministry" (xi). From this it is evident that at Rome the liturgy was celebrated according to fixed rules and definite order. Chap. xxxiv tells us that the Romans "gathered together in concord, and as it were with one mouth", said the Sanctus from Is., vi, 3, as we do. St. Justin Martyr (died c. 167) spent part of his life at Rome and died there. It is possible that his "First Apology" was written in that city (Bardenhewer, Altkirchl. Litt., I, 206), and that the liturgy he describes in it (lxv-lxvi) was that which he frequented at Rome. From this we learn that the Christians first prayed for themselves and for all manner of persons. Then follows the kiss of peace, and "he who presides over the brethren" is given bread and a cup of wine and water, having received which he gives thanks to God, celebrates the Eucharist, and all the people answer "Amen." The deacons then give out Holy Communion (loc. cit.). Here is found the outline of our liturgy : the Preface (giving thanks), to which may be added from I Clem. the Sanctus, a celebration of the Eucharist, not described, but which contains the words of Institution (c. lxvi, "by His prayer "), and which corresponds to our Canon, and the final Amen that still keeps its place at the end of the Eucharistic prayer. Perhaps a likeness may be seen between the Roman use and those of the Eastern Churches in the fact that when St. Polycarp came to Rome in 155, Pope Anicetus allowed him to celebrate, just like one of his own bishops ( Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., V, xxiv). The canons of Hippolytus of Rome (in the beginning of the third century, if they are genuine; cf. Bardenhewer, op. cit., I, 541-3) allude to a Eucharistic celebration that follows the order of St. Justin, and they add the universal introduction to the Preface, "Sursum corda", etc.

The first great turning point in the history of the Roman Canon is the exclusive use of the Latin language. Latin had been used side by side with Greek, apparently for some time. It occurs first as a Christian language, not in Rome, but in Africa. Pope Victor I (190-202), an African, seems to have been the first Roman bishop who used it (supposing that the Ps.-Cyprian, "De Aleatoribus", is by him; Harnack, "Der Ps.-Cypr. Tractat. de Aleatoribus", Leipzig. 1888). After this time it soon becomes the only language used by popes ; Cornelius (251-53) and Stephen (254-57) write in Latin. Greek seems to have disappeared at Rome as a liturgical language in the second half of the third century (Kattenbusch, Symbolik, II, 331), though parts of the Liturgy were left in Greek. The Creed was sometimes said in Greek down to Byzantine times (Duchesne, Origines, 290). The "Ordo Rom. I" says that certain psalms were still said in Greek (Mabillon. Mus. Ital., II, 37-40); and of this liturgical use of Greek there are still remnants in our Kyrie Eleison and the "Agios o Theos.", etc., on Good Friday . Very soon after the acceptance of Latin as the only liturgical language we find allusions to parts of the Eucharistic prayer, that are the same as parts of our present Canon. In the time of Pope Damasus (366-84) a Roman writer who was guilty of the surprising error of identifying Melchisedech with the Holy Ghost writes, "The Holy Ghost being a bishop is called Priest of the most high God, but not high priest " (Sacerdos appellatus est excelsi Dei, non summus) "as our people presume to say in the Oblation" ("Quæstiones V et N. Test." in P.L. XXXV, 2329; Duchesne, op. cit., 169). These words evidently allude to the form "thy high priest Melchisedech " (summus sacerdos tuus Melchisedech ) in the Canon. Pseudo-Ambrose in "De Sacramentis" (probably about 400 or later; cf. Bardenhewer, "Patrologie", 407) quotes the prayers said by the priest in the Canon:

Fac nos hanc oblationem adscriptam, ratam, rationabilem, acceptabilem, quod figura est coporis et sanguinis Iesu Christi. Qui pridie quam pateretur, in sanctis manibus suis accepit panem, respexit in cælum ad te, sancte Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus, gratias agens, benedixit, fregit fractumque apostolis suis et discipulis suis tradidit dicens: Accipite et edite ex hoc omnes: hoc est enim corpus meum quod pro multis confringetur. Similiter etiam calicem, postquam cænatum est, pridie quam pateretur accepit, respexit in cælum ad te, sancte Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus, gratias agens, benedixit, apostolis suis et discipulis suis tradidit dicens; Accipite et bibite ex hoc omnes: hic est enim sanguis meus.

"And the priest says", continues the author, "Ergo memores gloriosissimæ eius passionis et ab inferis resurrectionis et in cælum adscensionis, offerimus tibi hanc immaculatam hostiam, hanc panem sanctum et calicem vitæ æternæ et petimus et precamur, ut hanc oblationem suscipias in sublimi altari tuo per manus angelorum tuorum, sicut suscipere dignatus es munera pueri tui iusti Abel et sacrificium patriarchæ nostri Abrahæ et quod tibi obtulit summus sacerdos Melchisedech " (quoted by Duchesne, op. cit., 170; P.L. XVI, 443). It will be seen that the whole of this prayer, but for a few unimportant modifications, is that of our Canon. Pope Damasus has been considered one of the chief compilers of the Roman Liturgy. Probst thinks that he ordained the changes in the Mass that occur because of the calendar of seasons and feasts, and attributes to him the oldest part of the Leonine Sacramentary (Lit. des IV. Jahrhunderts und deren Reform, 455 sqq.). Funk in the "Tübinger Quartalschrift" (1894, 683) denies this. One liturgical change made by this pope is certain. He introduced the word Alleluia at Rome (Greg. I, Epp. IX, xii, in P.L., LXXVII, 956). Innocent I (401-17) refers to the Canon as being a matter he ought not to describe -- an apparent survival of the idea of the Disciplina arcani -- and says it is ended with the kiss of peace (Ep. ad Decentium in P.L., XX, 553): "After all the things that I may not reveal the Peace is given, by which it is shown that the people have consented to all that was done in the holy mysteries and was celebrated in the church". He also says that at Rome the names of persons for whom the celebrant prays are read in the Canon: "first the offertory should be made, and after that the names of the givers read out, so that they should be named during the holy mysteries, not during the parts that precede" (ib.). That is all that can be known for certain about our Canon before Gregory I. The earliest books that contain its text were written after his time and show it as approved by him.

A question that can only be answered by conjecture is that of the relation between the Roman Canon and any of the other ancient liturgical Anaphoras. There are undoubtedly very striking parallels between it and both of the original Eastern rites, those of Alexandria and Antioch. Mgr. Duchesne is inclined to connect the Roman use with that of Alexandria, and the other great Western liturgy, the Gallican Rite, with that of Antioch (Origines, 54). But the Roman Canon shows perhaps more likeness to that of Antioch in its formulæ. These parallel passages have been collected and printed side by side by Dr. Drews in his "Entstehungsgeschichte des Kanons in der römischen Messe", in order to prove a thesis which will be referred to later. Meanwhile, whatever may be thought of Drew's theory, the likeness of the prayers cannot be denied. For instance, the Intercession in the Syrian Liturgy of St. James begins with the prayer (Brightman, East. Lit., 89-90):

Wherefore we offer unto Thee, O Lord, this same fearful and unbloody sacrifice for the holy places . . . . and especially for holy Sion . . . . and for thy holy church which is in all the world . . . . Remember also, O Lord, our pious bishops. . . especially the fathers, our Patriarch Mar N. and our Bishop ["and all the bishops throughout the world who preach the word of thy truth in Orthodoxy", Greek Lit. of St. James].

The whole of this prayer suggests our "Imprimis quæ tibi offerimus", etc., and certain words exactly correspond to "toto orbe terrarum" and "orthodoxis", as does "especially" to "imprimis", and so on. Again the Syrian Anaphora continues:

Remember also, O Lord, those who have offered the offerings at thine holy altar and those for whom each has offered [cf. "pro quibus tibi offerimus vel qui tibi offerunt"]. . . . Remember, O Lord, all those whom we have mentioned and those whom we have not mentioned [ib., p. 92]. Again vouchsafe to remember those who stand with us and pray with us ["et omnium circumstantium", ib., 92]; Remembering. . . . especially our all-holy, unspotted, most glorious lady, Mother of God and ever Virgin, Mary, St. John the illustrious prophet, forerunner and baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, Andrew . . . . [the names of the Apostles follow] . . . . and of all thy Saints for ever . . . . that we may receive thy help ["ut in omnibus protectionis tuæ muniamur auxilio", Greek St. James, ib. 56-57].

The words of Institution occur in a form that is almost identical with our "Pridie quam pateretur" (ib., 86-87). The Anamnesis (p. 89) begins: "Commemorating therefore ["unde et memores"] O Lord, thy death and resurrection on the third day from the tomb and thy ascension into heaven. . . . we offer thee this dread and unbloody sacrifice ["offerimus . . . . hostiam puram," etc.].

It is true that these general ideas occur in all the old liturgies ; but in this case a remarkable identity is found even in the words. Some allusions to what were probably older forms in our Canon make the similarity still more striking. Thus Optatus of Mileve says that Mass is offered "pro ecclesiâ, quæ una est et toto orbe terrarum diffusa" (Adv. Parm., III, xii). This represents exactly a Latin version of the "holy Church which is in all the world" that we have seen in the Syrian Anaphora above. The Syrian use adds a prayer for "our religious kings and queens" after that for the patriarch and bishop. So our Missal long contained the words "et pro rege nostro N."after "et Antistite nostro N." (see below). It has a prayer for the celebrant himself (Brightman, 90), where our Missal once contained just such a prayer (below). The treatise "De Sacramentis" gives the words on Institution for the Chalice as "Hic est sanguis meus", just as does the Syrian Liturgy. There are other striking resemblances that may be seen in Drews. But the other Eastern liturgy, the Alexandrine use, also shows very striking parallels. The prayer for the celebrant, of which the form was "Mihi quoque indignissimo famulo tuo propitius esse digneris, et ab omnibus me peccatorum offensionibus emundare" (Ebner, Miss. Rom., 401), is an exact translation of the corresponding Alexandrine text: "Remember me also, O Lord, thy humble and unworthy servant, and forgive my sins " (Brightman, 130). The author of "De Sacr." quotes the Roman Canon as saying "quod est figura corporis et sanguinis domini nostri Iesu Christi", and the Egyptian Prayer Book of Serapion uses exactly the same expression, "the figure of the body and blood" (Texte u. Unt., II, 3, p. 5). In the West the words "our God " are not often applied to Christ in liturgies. In the Gelasian Sacramentary they occur ("ut nobis corpus et sanguis fiat dilectissimi filii tui Domini Dei nostri Iesu Christi", ed. Wilson, 235), just where they come in the same context in St. Mark's Liturgy (Brightman, 126). Our Mass refers to the oblation as "thy gifts and favours" (de tuis donis ac datis); so does St. Mark (ib., 133). But the most striking parallel between Rome and Alexandria is in the order of the Canon. The Antiochene Liturgy puts the whole of the Intercession after the words of Institution and the Epiklesis ; in Alexandria it comes before. And in our Canon the greater part of this intercession ("imprimis quæ tibi offerimus", "Commemoratio pro vivis", "Communicantes") also comes before the Consecration, leaving only as a curious anomaly the "Commemoratio pro defunctis" and the "Nobis quoque peccatoribus" to follow after the Anamnesis (Unde et momores).

Although, then, it is impossible to establish any sort of mutual dependence, it is evident that the Roman Canon contains likenesses to the two Eastern rites too exact to be accidental; in its forms it most resembles the Antiochene Anaphora, but in its arrangement it follows, or guides, Alexandria. Before coming to the final definition of the Canon at about the time of St. Gregory , it will be convenient here to consider what is a very important question, namely that of the order of the different prayers. It has been seen that the prayers themselves can be traced back a very long way. Is their arrangement among themselves as old as they are, or is our present Canon a re-arrangement of parts that once stood in another order? Every one who has studied its text has noticed certain grave difficulties in this arrangement. The division of the Intercession, to which reference has been made, is unique among liturgies and is difficult to account for. Again, one little word, the second word in the Canon, has caused much questioning; and many not very successful attempts have been made to account for it. The Canon begins "Te igitur". To what does that "igitur" refer? From the sense of the whole passage it should follow some reference to the sacrifice. One would expect some prayer that God may accept our offering, perhaps some reference such as is found in the Eastern liturgies to the sacrifices of Abraham, Melchisedech, etc. It should then be natural to continue: "And therefore we humbly pray thee, most merciful Father", etc. But there is no hint of such an allusion in what goes before. No preface has any word to which the "igitur" could naturally refer. Probst suggests that some such clause may have dropped out of the Preface (Lit. der drei ersten Jahrhunderten, 349). At any rate they is no trace of it, either in our preface or in any of the other rites. Thalhofer (Kath. Liturgik, II, 199) tries to explain the "igitur" by a very forced connection of ideas with the Sanctus. Gihr (Das heilige Messopfer, 550) hardly considers the difficulty, and is content with a vague allusion to the close connextion between Preface and Canon. Other difficulties are the reduplications between the ideas of the "Hanc igitur" and the "Nobis quoque peccatoribus". Various allusions to older forms of the Canon increase the number of these difficulties. Dr. Drews has suggested as the solution the following theory. He thinks that the Canon, while consisting of much the same prayers, was originally arranged in a different order, namely, in the same way as the Syrian Anaphora which it so closely resembles, and that in the fifth century, shortly before it became stereotyped in the time of St. Gregory the Great, its order was partly reversed, so as to make it correspond more to the Alexandrine Rite (Zur Entstehungsgeschichte des Kanons in der römischen Messe). The original order suggested by him is this:

  • "Quam oblationem . . . .";
  • "Qui pridie quam pateretur . . . .";
  • "Unde et memores" (Anamnesis);
  • "Supplices te rogamus" ( Epiklesis );
  • "Te igitur";
  • "Commemoratio Defunctorum", the last three forming the Intercession.
  • The reasons for this suggestion are, first that in this way the logical connection is much clearer; as well as the resemblance to the Syrian Anaphora. As in Syria, the great prayer of Intercession, with the diptychs for living and dead and the memory of the saints, would all come together after the Consecration. Moreover, the igitur would then refer naturally to the ideas of the "Supplices te rogamus" just before it. The "Quam oblationem" would form the short link between the Sanctus and the words of Institution, as in both Eastern rites, and would fill the place occupied by an exactly similar prayer in Serapion's prayer Book (13). Moreover, the Greek translation of the Roman Canon called the "Liturgy of St. Peter", edited by William de Linden, Bishop of Ghent, in 1589 from a Rossano manuscript (and published by Swainson in "The Greek Liturgies ", Cambridge, 1884, 191-203) contains some variations that point in this direction. For instance, it gives a version of our "Supplices te rogamus", and then goes on: "Aloud. First remember, O Lord, the Archbishop. He then commemorates the living. And to us sinners ", etc. This puts the Intercession after the "Supplices" prayer, and exactly corresponds to the order suggested above. Lastly, in 1557 Matthias Flacius published an "Ordo Missæ" (printed in Martène, "De antiquis eccl. ritibus", 1763, I, 176 sqq.) in which there are still traces of the old order of the prayers. It begins with the "Unde et memores" and the " Epiklesis ; then come the "Te igitur", prayer for the pope, "Memento Domine famulorum famularumque tuarum", and eventually "Nobis quoque peccatoribus", in short, the whole Intercession after the Consecration. But this reconstruction would not leave the text entirely unchanged. The prayer "Hanc igitur" has some difficulties. The Greek version (Swainson, 197) adds a rubric before it: "Here he names the dead". What can the "Hanc igitur" have to do with the dead? Yet the Antiochene Liturgy, in which several parallel passages to our Canon have already been noticed, has a parallel to the second half of this prayer too, and that parallel occurs in its commemoration of the dead. There, following a prayer that the dead may rest "in the land of the living, in thy kingdom . . . in the bosom of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob ", etc., is found this continuation: "And keep for us in peace, O Lord, a Christian, well-pleasing and sinless end to our lives, gathering us under the feet of thy Elect, when Thou willest and as Thou willest, only without shame and offence; through thy only begotten Son our Lord and God and Saviour, Jesus Christ." (Brightman, 57.) We notice here the reference to the elect (in electorum tuorum grege), the prayer that we may be kept "in peace" (in tuâ pace disponas], the allusion to the "end of our lives" (diesque nostros) and the unusual "Per Christum Dominum nostrum", making a break in the middle of the Eucharistic prayer. The Syrian form with its plain reference to death ("the end of our lives") seems more clearly to be a continuation of a prayer for the faithful departed. But in the Roman from too is found such a reference in the words about hell (ab æterna damnatione) and heaven (in electorum tuorum grege). Drews then proposes to divide the "Hanc igitur" into two separate parts. The second half, beginning at the words "diesque nostros", would have originally been the end of the Commemoration of the Dead and would form a reduplication of the "Nobis quoque peccatoribus", where the same idea occurs ("partem aliquam et societatem donare digneris cum tuis sanctis Apostolis er Martyribus" being an echo of "in electorum tuorum iubeas grege numerari"). This second half, then, would belong to the Intercession after the Consecration, and would originally fall together with the "Nobis quoque". In any case, even in the present arrangement of the Canon the "Nobis quoque" following the "Commemoratio pro defunctis" shows that at Rome as in other liturgies the idea of adding a prayer for ourselves, that we too may find a peaceful and blessed death followed by a share in the company of the saints, after our prayer for the faithful departed was accepted as natural.

    The first half of the "Hanc igitur" must now be accounted for down to "placatus accipias". This first half is a reduplication of the prayer "Quam oblationem". Both contain exactly the same idea that God may graciously accept our offering. "Hanc oblationem" and "Quam oblationem" differ only in the relative construction of the second form. We know that the relative construction is not the original one. In the "De Sacramentis", to which reference has several times been made, the "Quam oblationem" occurs as an absolute sentence : "Fac nobis hanc oblationem adscriptam, rationabilem acceptabilemque, quod est figura corporis et sanguinis Domini nostri Iesu Christi" (IV, v). We also know that the "Igitur" in "Hanc igitur" is not original. The parallel passages in Serapion and St. Mark's Liturgy have simply tauter ten thysian (Drews, 16). Moreover, the place and object of this prayer have varied very much. It has been applied to all sorts of purposes, and it is significant that it occurs specially often in connection with the dead (Ebner, Miss. Rom., 412). This would be a natural result, if we suppose it to be a compilation of two separate parts, both of which have lost their natural place in the Canon. Drews then proposes to supply the first words of the "Quam oblationem" that we have put in the first place of his reconstructed Canon (see above), by the first half of the "Hanc igitur", so that (leaving out the igitur ) the Canon would once have begun: "Hanc oblationem servitutis nostræ, sed et cunctæ familiæ tuæ, quæsumus Domine, ut placatus accipias ut in omnibus benedictam, adscriptam, ratam, rationabilemque facere digneris, ut nobis corpus et sanguis fiat dilectissimi filii tui Domini nostri Iesu Christi" (Drews, 30), and so on, according to the order suggested above. One word, "ut", has been added to this compilation, to connect our "Hanc igitur" with the continuation of "Quam oblationem". This word is vouched for by the Greek version, which has ina here (Swainson, 197). Drews fruther notes that such a change in the arrangement of the Canon is not inconceivable. Popes have modified its order on other occasions. Joannes Diaconus, the biographer of St. Gregory I, tells us that he re-arranged a few parts of the Canon ("pauca convertens", Vita Greg., II, xvii).

    When then may this change be supposed to have been made? It was not made in the time of Innocent I (401-417); it had already occurred when the Gelasian Sacramentary was written (seventh century); it may be taken for certain that in the time of St. Gregory I (590-604) the Canon already stood as it does now. The reason for believing that Innocent I still knew only the old arrangement is that in his letter to Decentius of Eugubium (P. L., XX, 553-554) he implies that the Intercession comes after the Consecration. He says that the people for whom we pray "should be named in the middle of the holy mysteries, not during the things that go before, that by the very mysteries we should open the way for the prayers that follow". If the diptychs are read after the way has been opened by the holy mysteries, the Roman Canon must follow the same order as the Church of Antioch, and at any rate place the "Commemoratio vivorum" after the Consecration. Supposing, then, that this re-arrangement really did take place, it must have been made in the course of the fifth century. Drews thinks that we can go farther and ascribe the change to Pope Gelasius I (492-96). A very old tradition connects his name with at any rate, some important work about the Canon. The second oldest Roman sacramentary known, although it is really later than St. Gregory , has been called the "Sacramentarium Gelasianum" since the ninth century (Duchesne, Origines, 120). Gennadius says that he composed a sacramentary (De. vir. ill., c. xciv). Moreover, the "Liber Pontificalis" refers to his liturgical work (Origines, 122) and the Stowe Missal (seventh century) puts at the head of our Canon the title: "Canon dominicus Papæ Gelasi" (ed. Warren, 234). Baumer has collected all the evidences for Gelasius's authorship of some important sacramentary (Histor. Jahrb., 1893, 244 sqq.). It is known that Gelasius did not compose the text of the Canon. Its component parts have been traced back to a far earlier date. But would not so vital a change in its arrangement best explain the tradition that persistently connects our present Canon with the name of Gelasius ? There is even a further suggestion that Drews has noticed. Why was the reversal of the order made? Evidently to bring the Intercession before the Consecration. This means to change from the same order as Antioch to that of Alexandria. Is it too much to suppose that we have here a case of Alexandrine influence at Rome ? Now it is noticeable that Gelasius personally had a great reverence for the venerable "second See" founded by St. Mark, and that since 482 Bishop John Talaia of Alexandria, being expelled from his own Church by the Monophysites, sought and found refuge in Rome. He would have celebrated his own liturgy in the pope's city, and was certainly greatly honoured as a confessor and exile for the Faith. May we then even go so far as to suggest that we owe the present certainly unusual order of our Canon to Gelasius and the influence of John Talaia ? So far Drews (p.38). His theory has not been unopposed. An argument against it may be found in the very treatise "De Sacramentis" from which he gathers some of his arguments. For this treatise says: "In all other things that are said praise is given to God, prayers are said for the people, for kings, for others, but when he comes to consecrate the holy Sacrament the priest no longer uses his own words, but takes those of Christ" (IV, iv). According to this author, then, the Intercession comes before the Consecration. On the other hand it will be noticed that the treatise is late. That it is not by St. Ambrose himself has long been admitted by every one. It is apparently an imitation of his work "De Mysteriis", and may have been composed in the fifth or sixth century (Bardenhewer, Patrologie, 407). Dom G. Morin thinks that Nicetas, Bishop of Romatiana in Dacia (d. 485), wrote it (Rev. Benéd., 1890, 151-59). In any case it may be urged that whatever reasons there are for ascribing it to an early date, they show equally conclusively that, in spite of its claim to describe "the form of the Roman Church " (III, 1) it is Milanese. The very assurance is a proof that it was not composed at Rome, since in that case such a declaration would have been superfluous. An allusion occurring in a Milanese work is but a very doubtful guide for the Roman use. And its late date makes it worthless as a witness for our point. When it was written probably the change had already been made at Rome ; so we are not much concerned by the question of how far it describes Roman or Milanese offices. So far the theory proposed by Drews, which seems in any case to deserve attention.

    From the time of St. Gregory I (590-604)

    Certainly when St. Gregory became pope our Canon was already fixed in its present order. There are scarcely any changes to note in its history since then. "No pope has added to or changed the Canon since St. Gregory " says Benedict XIV (De SS. Missæ Sacr., 162). We learn from Joannes Diaconus that St. Gregory "collected the Sacramentary of Gelasius in one book, leaving out much, changing little adding something for the exposition of the Gospels " (II, xvii). These modifications seem to concern chiefly the parts of the Mass outside the Canon. We are told that Gregory added to the "Hanc igitur" the continuation "diesque nostros in tuâ pace disponas" etc. (ib.). We have already noticed that this second part was originally a fragment of a prayer for the dead . St. Gregory's addition may then very well mean, not that he composed it, but that he joined it to the "Hanc igitur", having removed it from its original place. From the time of Gregory the most important event in the history of the Roman Canon is, not any sort of change in it, but the rapid way in which it spread all over the West, displacing the Gallican Liturgy. Charlemagne (768-814) applied to Pope Adrian I (772-95) for a copy of the Roman Liturgy, that he might introduce it throughout the Frankish Kingdom. The text sent by the pope is the basis of what is called the "Sacramentarium Gregorianum", which therefore represents the Roman Rite at the end of the eighth century. But it is practically unchanged since St. Gregory's time. The Gelasian book, which is earlier than the so-called Gregorian one, is itself later than St. Gregory. It contains the same Canon (except that there are a few more saints' names in the "Communicantes") and has the continuation "diesque nostros in tuâ, pace disponas", etc., joined to the "Hanc igitur", just as in our present Missal. The Stowe Missal, now in Dublin (a sixth or early seventh century manuscript ), is no longer a sacramentary, but contains already the complete text of a "Missa quotidiana", with collects for three other Masses, thus forming what we call a Missal. From this time convenience led more and more to writing out the whole text of the Mass in one book. By the tenth century the Missal, containing whole Masses and including Epistles and Gospels, takes the place of the separate books ("Sacramentarium" for the celebrant, "Lectionarium" for the deacon and subdeacon, and "Antiphonarium Missæ" for the choir). After the ninth century the Roman Mass, now quite fixed in all its essential parts (though the Proper Masses for various feasts constantly change), quickly became the universal use throughout the Western patriarchate. Except for three small exceptions, the Ambrosian Rite at Milan, the Mozarabic Rite at Toledo, and the Byzantine Rite among the Italo-Greeks in Calabria and Sicily, this has been the case ever since. The local medieval rites of which we hear, such as those of Lyons, Paris, Rouen, Salisbury, York, etc., are in no sense different liturgies. They are all simply the Roman use with slight local variations -- variations, moreover, that hardly ever affect the Canon. The Sarum Rite, for instance, which Anglicans have sometimes tried to set up as a sort of rival to the Roman Rite, does not contain in its Canon a single word that differs from the parent-rite as still used by us. But some changes were made in medieval times, changes that have since been removed by the conservative tendency of Roman legislation.

    From the tenth century people took all manner of liberties with the text of the Missal. It was the time of farced Kyries and Glorias, of dramatic and even theatrical ritual, of endlessly varying and lengthy prefaces, into which interminable accounts of stories from Bible history and lives of saints were introduced. This tendency did not even spare the Canon; although the specially sacred character of this part tended to prevent people from tampering with it as recklessly as they did with other parts of the Missal. There were, however, additions made to the "Communicantes" so as to introduce special allusions on certain feasts ; the two lists of saints, in the "Communicantes" and "Nobis quoque peccatoribus", were enlarged so as to include various local people, and even the "Hanc igitur" and the "Qui pridie" were modified on certain days. The Council of Trent (1545-63) restrained this tendency and ordered that "the holy Canon composed many centuries ago" should be kept pure and unchanged; it also condemned those who say that the "Canon of the Mass contains errors and should be abolished" (Sess. XXII., cap. iv. can. vi; Denzinger, 819, 830). Pope Pius V (1566-72) published an authentic edition of the Roman Missal in 1570, and accompanied it with a Bull forbidding anyone to either add, or in any way change any part of it. This Missal is to be the only one used in the West and everyone is to conform to it, except that local uses which can be proved to have existed for more than 200 years are to be kept. This exception saved the Ambrosian, Mozarabic, and Byzantine Rites, as well as a few ancient modified forms of the Roman Rite, such as the Dominican, Carmelite, and Carthusian Missals. The differences in these Missa


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