Sunday, June 3, 2018

Liturgy of the Traditional Mass, Part 7: The Preface, Sanctus, and beginning of the Canon

Previous parts in this series:
Part 6: The Offertory

The secrets having been concluded, the priest continues at once to greet the people in the usual way. He does not turn toward them, as now that we have fully entered into the offering up of the sacrifice, he will not face them again until what is on the altar is no longer bread and wine, but our Lord.

Dóminus vobíscum.
Et cum spíritu tuo.
The Lord be with you.
And with thy spirit.

It is interesting to note that the chants of “Dominus vobiscum” and “Et cum spiritu tuo” appointed here are more musical than at other times during the Mass, when it is sung effectively monotone. Here, the priest and people are united in the priesthood that they share, just as they were united at the Orate fratres. The priest further calls them to this participation with an admonition, also sung musically, to lift up their hearts (“Sursum corda”), which now more than any other time need to be fixed firmly on God.

Sursum corda.
Habémus ad Dóminum.
Lift up your hearts.
We have lifted them up to the Lord.

While singing this, he raises and extends his hands, adopting the same posture as in the collects and secrets of a child crying out to his Father: an appropriate visual representation of the words he is singing. The choir responds in affirmation, “We have lifted them to the Lord!” We open the Anaphora by giving thanks to God for all he has given us, for thanksgiving is an essential part of the Mass (Psalm 49:14, Hebrews 13:15-16). This necessitates our hearts being lifted up to God. The Mass is our commemoration of the Lord's Passion, but it is also our way of making what little return we can for all he has done for us. In the Mass, we worship and adore God and obey his command to continue this act (Luke 22:19).

Grátias agámus Dómino, Deo nostro.
Dignum et iustum est.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right and just.

While singing this, the priest momentarily joins his hands and bows his head in adoration of God's benevolence. The people respond, "It is right and just." Of course, it is very right and just to give God thanks and praise; in fact, it would be wrong and unjust not to. This dialogue between the priest and the congregation was probably composed by the apostles.

The priest again extends his hands and continues singing praise and thanksgiving to God in the Preface, which is proper to the liturgical season or the type of feast being celebrated (e.g. a feast of an apostle or of our Lady). In all of them, he starts out by stating our intent to give thanks to God, not just in the Mass or even while praying, but always and everywhere, in our daily lives, for this is truly right, just, and fitting for our salvation.

On most Sundays of the year, the Preface of the Holy Trinity is sung. Thus, we laud the greatest mystery of our faith, one that no human can completely comprehend. This Preface is a beautiful description of the theology of the Trinity. The liturgy describes the faith in a most beautiful and concise way, such as can only come from over 1,500 years of Sacred Tradition, guided by the Holy Ghost.

Vere dignum et iustum est, æquum et salutáre, nos tibi semper et ubíque grátias ágere: Dómine sancte, Pater omnípotens, ætérne Deus: Qui cum unigénito Fílio tuo et Spíritu Sancto unus es Deus, unus es Dóminus: non in unius singularitáte persónæ, sed in uníus Trinitáte substántiæ. Quod enim de tua glória, revelánte te, crédimus, hoc de Fílio tuo, hoc de Spíritu Sancto sine differéntia discretiónis sentímus. Ut in confessióne veræ sempiternǽque Deitátis, et in persónis propríetas, et in esséntia únitas, et in maiestáte adorétur æquálitas. Quam laudant Angeli atque Archángeli, Chérubim quoque ac Séraphim: qui non cessant clamáre cotídie, una voce dicéntes:
It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God; who, together with thine only-begotten Son, and the Holy Ghost, art one God, one Lord: not in the oneness of a single person, but in the Trinity of one substance. For what we believe by thy revelation of Thy glory, the same do we believe of Thy Son, the same of the Holy Ghost, without difference or separation. So that in confessing the true and everlasting Godhead, distinction in persons, unity in essence, and equality in majesty may be adored. Which the Angels and Archangels, the Cherubim also and Seraphim do praise: who cease not daily to cry out, with one voice saying:

"It is right to give thanks to thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God," the priest sings, addressing the Father; then the other two members of the Trinity are added, who together are one God and Lord. This brings us back to the fact, first recalled at the very beginning of the Mass, that the Mass is a trinitarian prayer. We then unite ourselves to the Angels, Archangels, Seraphim, and Cheribum, the noblest of God's creatures who sing praise to God constantly forever (Apocalypse 7:11).

On weekdays for which no other Preface is appointed, the Common Preface is sung.

Vere dignum et iustum est, æquum et salutáre, nos tibi semper et ubíque grátias agere: Dómine sancte, Pater omnípotens, ætérne Deus: per Christum, Dóminum nostrum. Per quem maiestátem tuam laudant Angeli, adórant Dominatiónes, tremunt Potestátes. Coeli coelorúmque Virtútes ac beáta Séraphim sócia exsultatióne concélebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces ut admitti iubeas, deprecámur, súpplici confessione dicéntes:
It is truly meet and just, and profitable unto salvation, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks to thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, eternal God, through Christ, our Lord. Though whom the angels praise thy majesty, the dominions adore it, the powers are in awe. Which the heavens and the hosts of heaven together with the blessed seraphim joyfully do magnify. And do thou command that it be permitted to us join with them in confessing thee, while we say with lowly praise:

After singing “Vere dignum et justum est,” and so on, addressed to the Father, the priest adds "through Christ our Lord." Of course, all our praise and thanksgiving is directed through Christ, the only mediator between God and man. Furthermore, the Holy Sacrifice is the Son being offered to the Father, so it makes sense to address both of them. And now, in our efforts to be like them, we join ourselves with the angels. The priest names several of the choirs of angels, concluding with the "blessed Seraphim," the highest order of angels, and then most humbly joins them himself along with the whole congregation.

Other prefaces are appointed for the Nativity, the Epiphany, Lent, the Holy Cross, Easter, the Ascension, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, our Lord Jesus Christ the King, the Holy Spirit, the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, the apostles, and Masses for the Dead. They always conclude by uniting ourselves to the angels and mentioning a few of the choirs of angels. In this way, the Mass can be more tailored to the specific occasion for which it is being offered up. Interestingly, which of the choirs of angels are mentioned depends on the Preface.

Having united ourselves with the angels at the end of the preface, we join them in singing praise to God in the hymn that the holy angels sing perpetually in adoration of God, as recorded in the prophecy of Isaiah (6:3) and later in the Apocalypse of St. John (4:8).

Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus Dóminus, Deus Sábaoth. Pleni sunt coeli et terra glória tua. Hosánna in excélsis. Benedíctus, qui venit in nómine Dómini. Hosánna in excélsis.
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts! Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory! Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!

The Sanctus is sung by the choir while the priest, deacon, and subdeacon say it to themselves, just like the Gloria and Credo. The bells are rung, sounding our joy. "Holy" is repeated thrice, expressing that God is the holiest thing possible and also referencing the Trinity. He is described as the God of Hosts in the same manner as he is described as “Agios ischyros” ("Holy mighty") in Eastern liturgies. God is strong and omnipotent, like an army vanquishing every hindrance and foe it encounters. Thus, holiness and power are ascribed to God in the highest degrees. To this is added the cry of the multitudes as Jesus rode into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:9). Just like the Jews did, we sing, “Hosanna,” a Hebrew and Aramaic word meaning "save," used in Psalm 117:25 as a cry for help but now as a cheer of jubilation to our Savior.

Having finished saying the Sanctus, the priest continues with the Anaphora known as the Canon of the Mass, the long prayer in which the sacrifice is finally truly offered. If the Sanctus is being sung polyphonically, it is paused after the first “Hosanna in excelsis” and continued after the consecrations, so that there is silence during the consecrations. At the beginning of the Sanctus, two, four, or six servers come and kneel before the altar holding lit torches, which represent the light of Christ. They will further illuminate our Lord as he is made present in the Canon.

The Canon is the most important part of the Mass and is said by the priest alone almost completely silently. The text has remained unchanged since the time of St. Gregory the Great at the end of the sixth century. Many of the prayers originate from the second or third centuries. The priest begins by raising his eyes to heaven and extending and joining his hands, calling out for God's help and protection, before immediately lowering his eyes and bowing down.

Te igitur, clementíssime Pater, per Iesum Christum, Fílium tuum, Dóminum nostrum, súpplices rogámus, ac pétimus, uti accepta habeas et benedícas, hæc ☩ dona, hæc ☩ múnera, hæc ☩ sancta sacrifícia illibáta, in primis, quæ tibi offérimus pro Ecclésia tua sancta cathólica: quam pacificáre, custodíre, adunáre et régere dignéris toto orbe terrárum: una cum fámulo tuo Papa nostro Francisco et Antístite nostro __ et ómnibus orthodóxis, atque cathólicæ et apostólicae fídei cultóribus.
We therefore humbly pray and beseech thee, most merciful Father, through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, that thou wouldst vouchsafe to accept and bless these ☩ gifts, these ☩ presents, these ☩ holy unspotted sacrifices, which in the first place we offer thee for thy holy Catholic Church to which vouchsafe to grant peace, as also to preserve, unite, and govern her throughout the world, together with thy servant Francis our Pope, and __ our Bishop, and all orthodox believers and professors of the catholic and apostolic faith.

It begins with the letter T, sharing form with the Hebrew and Greek letter Tau, resembling the Cross. This resemblance was forshadowed in the prophecy of Ezekiel (9:4-6). To this effect, almost all altar missals now have an illustration of the Crucifixion on the page opposite the beginning of the Canon. In the prayer that continues, the priest first appeals to our most merciful Father in heaven and then invokes the necessary mediation of his Son. The priest kisses the altar, invoking also the intercession of the saints whose relics are there.

He then prays for God's acceptance and blessing of "these gifts, these offerings, these holy unspotted sacrifices." The Canon of the Mass has very rich linguistic beauty, seen here and constantly throughout. While saying these words, the priest makes the first three of a total of twenty-five Signs of the Cross over the host and chalice during the Canon. This represents first of all the unity between the Cross and the Mass. In addition, the Sign of the Cross is used for blessing things, and the Blessed Sacrament is the most blessed and holy thing that exists on earth.

Our first and foremost intention for which we offer the sacrifice is Holy Mother Church, the Lord's spouse. The priest prays with arms extended for peace and for God's divine providence in the well-being of the Church, who has Christ as her head. The Pope is prayed for by name, who is Christ's vicar on earth and carries immense burdens in governing the Church. He is always in need of our prayers. Also mentioned by name is the bishop with jurisdiction over that priest. Bishops have the fullness of the Holy Orders and, as the true successors of the Apostles, are responsible for local governance of God's Church. A bishop offering the Mass instead says, “together with thy servant Francis, our Pope, and me, thy unworthy servant.” When the Pope celebrates the Mass, he says, "together with me, thy unworthy servant, whom thou hast been pleased to preside over thy flock."

Of course, the priest also prays for the whole Church. Emphasis is placed on these people being orthodox believers and followers of the Catholic and Apostolic faith, so as to exclude heretics and anyone who denies the infallible teachings of the Church. It is interesting to note here what tremendous importance the Mass has to the Church and the Church must have to her members. If the true Mass were to be taken away, society would crumble. Many empires have tried to attack the Catholic Church by attacking the Holy Mass. They have all failed. This first prayer of the Canon has no conclusion.

Meménto, Dómine, famulórum famularúmque tuarum __ et __ et ómnium circumstántium, quorum tibi fides cógnita est et nota devótio, pro quibus tibi offérimus: vel qui tibi ófferunt hoc sacrifícium laudis, pro se suísque ómnibus: pro redemptióne animárum suárum, pro spe salútis et incolumitátis suæ: tibíque reddunt vota sua ætérno Deo, vivo et vero.
Be mindful, O Lord, of thy servants and handmaidens, __ and __, and of all here present, whose faith and devotion are known unto thee, for whom we offer, or who offer up to thee, this sacrifice of praise for themselves, their families and friends, for the redemption of their souls, for the health and salvation they hope for; and who now pay their vows to thee, the everlasting, living and true God.

Then follows the commemoration of the living. After the words, “Memento, Domine, famulorum famularumque tuarum,” the priest joins his hands and pauses for a moment. Having already prayed for the Church and her leaders, the priest now prays for any living people he wishes to remember. The deacon, who stands by the priest, steps back so as to not hear the names being mentioned. The Sarum Missal, a peculiar rite of the Mass used in England before the Council of Trent, directs the priest to pray for himself, his parents and family, his special friends and parishoners, the congregation, and for all living Christians. No such instruction is present in the Roman Missal.

Having said these names, he continues to pray for the present congregation, “whose faith and devotion are known to thee.” Thus is the grace attained by devout participation in the Mass, even if one does not receive Communion: prayers and sacrifice are offered up for their benefit. Also, the prayer says, “for whom we offer, or who offer up to thee, this sacrifice of praise for themselves, their families and friends,” acknowledging once again that the people are assisting in offering up the sacrifice and have their own intentions to pray for. At the end of the prayer is stated the desired result of salvation for us and adoration for God.

New terms
  • Preface – The prayer of praise and thanksgiving sung by the priest before the Canon.
  • Sanctus – The angels' hymn of adoration to God that is sung by the choir after the Preface while the priest begins the Canon.
  • Canon of the Mass – The long prayer or anaphora in the traditional Roman form of the Mass in which the sacrifice occurs.

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