Rorate Caeli

“The Roman Canon: Pillar and Ground of the Roman Rite” — Full text of Dr. Kwasniewski’s lecture

Today, in honor of the feast of Pope St. Pius V, I am pleased to present to readers of Rorate Caeli the full text of my lecture on the Roman Canon, which in recent years has been delivered in a number of places in varying forms. The lecture had previously been translated into and published in Italian (“Pilastro e Fondamento del Rito Romano: il Canone Romano come Norma Dottrinale e Morale”) and German (“Im Herzen des katholischen Gottesdienstes: Zwölf Glaubenswahrheiten im römischen Kanon”).

The Roman Canon: Pillar and Ground of the Roman Rite

Dr. Peter Kwasniewski

Of all the prayers with which the Roman Catholic Church offers the sacrifice of praise to Almighty God, the one that stands out the most as a touchstone of divine faith, a foundation of immovable rock, a treasure of ages, is the Roman Canon—the unique anaphora or Eucharistic prayer that the Catholic Church prayed in all Western rites and uses, from the misty centuries before the time of Pope St. Gregory the Great (d. 604) until the fateful end of the 1960s. Fr. Guy Nicholls writes of this remarkable Canon:

There are very few human phenomena or institutions with a history stretching back something approaching two thousand years, that have not changed constantly, or at least frequently during most of that time. The Catholic Church, viewed within the dimension of history, is such an institution. She has changed in many ways, and frequently throughout the long course of her life. But within the human life of the Church is a divine heart. It is this heart which does not change, and the human aspect wishes to make that changelessness its own. The heart of the Church, her fons et culmen, is the Sacred Liturgy, in which terrenis caelestia, humana divinis iunguntur [earthly things are joined to heavenly, and human to divine]. There is, therefore, a deep instinct in the human members of the Church to find in the Sacred Liturgy the signs of that heavenly worship to which she aspires on earth, and in which she shares this pignus futurae gloriae [pledge of future glory]. Therefore, in the natural order of things, one would expect to find at the most sacred centre of the most holy meeting-place between Almighty God and redeemed man, a still point in a moving world. The Roman Canon of the Mass has exercised this symbolic role of stillness for virtually fifteen hundred years. This is a remarkable fact when you bear in mind that it is at the heart of something done, something acted many times a day in different circumstsances throughout the world. It is not like a megalith, or a pyramid, which remains virtually unchanged by virtue of being an artefact. The liturgy of the Mass, and especially the Roman Canon, ought, humanly speaking, to change as human speech changes, sometimes quickly, sometimes imperceptibly, but always inexorably, from one generation to the next.[1]

The Roman Canon was, and was always seen as, an apostolic heritage to be lovingly received, jealously guarded, and diligently handed on. We may imagine it as a kind of sacred “baton” passed from one generation to the next, to insure the continuity of the race we are running in the footsteps of the Apostles Peter and Paul, as we strive to attain the heavenly prize.

This was a baton with which the Protestant heretics wanted to have nothing to do. For them, the Roman Canon was the embodiment of all that was superstitious, corrupt, works-oriented, regressively pagan, popish, and medieval. Well aware of this contemptuous (and, one might add, historically and theologically untenable) attitude, the Council of Trent took special pains to praise the Roman Canon:

Since it is fitting that holy things be administered in a holy manner, and of all things this sacrifice is the most holy, the Catholic Church, to the end that it might be worthily and reverently offered and received, instituted many centuries ago the holy canon, which is so free from error that it contains nothing that does not in the highest degree savor of a certain holiness and piety and raise up to God the minds of those who offer. For it consists partly of the very words of the Lord, partly of the traditions of the Apostles, and also of pious regulations of holy pontiffs.[2]

In short, the Roman Canon is a monument and repository of all that is truest, holiest, most ancient, and most efficacious in the Church founded by Christ. It may with good reason be called the “pillar and ground” of the Roman Rite. A pillar can be a symbol of doctrine, since a pillar stands tall in supporting the vaults above it and points heavenward to the permanent truths of our Faith, while the ground can serve as an image of sound morals, on which the Christian life rests and without which it is so much hot air.

This lecture, then, will have two parts. The first and more substantial part focuses on twelve dogmatic truths transmitted by the Roman Canon—truths either totally absent from the neo-anaphoras of the Missal of Paul VI, or significantly muted in them.[3] This will demonstrate the extent to which the Canon is indeed a pillar of doctrine. The second part will consider some moral implications of having shifted the ground of Catholic worship by optionalizing the Roman Canon into a state of near oblivion.


For each of the twelve dogmatic truths, I will state the truth in question, quote the pertinent passage in the Canon, and then offer my commentary.

1. The Church’s unity and other perfections are gifts we pray to receive from God.

We humbly pray and beseech Thee, most merciful Father, through Jesus Christ Thy Son, Our Lord, to receive and to bless these gifts, these presents, these holy unspotted sacrifices, which we offer up to Thee, in the first place, for Thy holy Catholic Church, that it may please Thee to grant her peace, to guard, unite, and guide her, throughout the world... 

In the very opening of the Canon, we find a combination of profound humility and earnest pleading that the Father would receive this most solemn offering of the Church and would make it, by His almighty paternal command, the unspotted sacrifices of Christ. (Note the plural, a sign of this prayer’s great antiquity, for the early Christians when referring to the Mass spoke of “the mysteries,” “the sacrifices,” and “the sacraments,” the latter usage reappearing in the ablution prayers.)

The newly added Eucharistic Prayers in the Novus Ordo relegate the purpose of offering to after the consecration. Their authors thought that it was better to do the consecration first, and then say for whom we are offering it. But the Roman Canon prioritizes the purpose of offering by starting with a statement that this offering is of the Church and for the Church—and not in a hazy way, but with respect to its precise hierarchical structure. In this it reflects both Greek philosophical wisdom, which says that the final cause or purpose is the “cause of causes,” and Patristic theology, which always emphasizes the ecclesial setting of the liturgy. This is the sacrifice of the Mystical Body, for the Mystical Body, always in union with its Head, Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is at once high priest, victim, and altar.

The Canon says “Thy holy Catholic Church,” the one and only Bride of the Lord—and yet the priest pleads with the Father to unite her, to guard and guide her, and to grant her peace. That the Church is well-governed on earth is not something to be taken for granted; that she follows peacefully in the right path; that she remains safe from the evils of ignorance, error, and sin; even that she remains in visible unity, none of this can be taken for granted, as if saying that “the Church is indefectible” means that your soul, your local church, or your regional anything (such as episcopal conference) is indefectible.[4] Rather, these are gifts to be impetrated or begged from the Lord. And the Lord may, in His wisdom and justice, deprive the Church on earth of the enjoyment of these goods if the faithful or their rulers should be so unfortunate as to be lukewarm in performing the opus Dei,[5] or worldly in their attitudes, or cowardly in their preaching.[6] There is here an utter absence of presumption: the members of the Church on earth do not presume they are already the perfect, spotless Bride of Christ, but beg to have her qualities.

2. The Sacrifice is offered for Catholics who hold the true faith, and they are its beneficiaries.

…as also for Thy servant N., our Pope, and N., our Bishop, and for all who are orthodox in belief and who profess the Catholic and apostolic faith.

Continuing the same petition, the priest states that he is offering up the sacrifice for the hierarchs of the Church, and, indeed, for all orthodox Catholics—an implicit prayer that we may always be and remain such. Noteworthy here is the emphasis on doctrinal orthodoxy, which, for the ancient Christians who first prayed this prayer, was incomparably the first and most important thing you had to know about someone: Does he adhere to the true faith? Not: Is he a nice person, does he pay his bills and volunteer to coach football and recycle his garbage, but: Does he profess the universal faith that comes to us from the Apostles?[7] Even the question of charity is secondary to this one, since true charity, the infused theological virtue, requires the infused virtue of faith as a foundation. Otherwise it is mere philanthropy, do-goodism, niceness, or pagan virtue, none of which inherits the kingdom of heaven.

Hence the Roman Canon refreshingly places emphasis on orthodoxy as the basic condition of Church membership, instead of the diffuse semi-moral quasi-virtues that are substituted for it today. This part of the Canon teaches that the Holy Sacrifice is offered not vaguely for a universal brotherhood of mankind or an ecumenical smorgasbord but for right-believing Catholics who profess the faith handed down to us. It challenges us to take dogmatic truth as seriously as all the saints have taken it, being willing to lay down our very lives rather than dissent from one jot or tittle of the depositum fidei. No sacrifice can be offered for our salvation, and we will not in fact be saved, if we are dissenters, heretics, schismatics, apostates, or infidels.[8]

3. Faith and devotion are prerequisites to participating in the Mass.

Be mindful, O Lord, of Thy servants, N. and N., and of all here present, whose faith and devotion are known to Thee, for whom we offer, or who offer up to Thee, this sacrifice of praise…

Here the Canon singles out two qualities that must be present in anyone who would assist at the Holy Sacrifice without sin, namely, faith and devotion. According to St. Thomas, the worst sin, simply speaking, is that of infidelity, the refusal to submit one’s mind to God’s Revelation.[9] Faith is the root of the entire Christian life: “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11:6). Note: it is not “difficult” or “harder” to please God without faith, but impossible. Salvation is not within reach of those who do not profess the Christian faith. As the opening line of the Athanasian Creed says: “Whoever wishes to be saved must, before all things, hold fast the Catholic faith. For unless a person keeps this faith whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall be lost forever.” So the Canon fittingly singles out this virtue in remembering the living, as it will do later in remembering the dead.

Moreover, the Canon mentions “devotion,” because, as St. Thomas explains, no one may worthily offer the Sacrifice of the Mass or receive Holy Communion without actual devotion. “Actual” here means a conscious attitude or mentality in the moment, rather than the mere possibility of it based on a habit. Here is how he explains the point in his commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard:

Since this sacrament perfects us by uniting us to the end [of all the sacraments, namely, Christ] … in order for it to have its own effect fully in the one who receives it, there must be actual devotion present. And since sometimes actual devotion can be impeded without mortal sin, since various distractions impede it, and venial sins destroy the act of the virtues, this sacrament’s effect can be impeded without mortal sin, such that someone [going to communion] does not receive an increase of grace; but neither would he have become guilty of mortal sin, but perhaps he would be guilty of venial sin, by the fact that he approaches the sacrament without proper preparation.[10]

Thus, it is at least a venial sin to offer or to receive in a totally distracted frame of mind, out of routine or convention, without explicit faith in the Real Presence accompanied by some act of adoration that wells up from our devotion to the mysteries. The Canon prompts us to think about how the liturgy itself should offer us the means to prepare ourselves properly for approaching so great a sacrament.

4. Mary is perpetually a Virgin, and Christ is true God.

Having communion with and venerating the memory, first, of the glorious Mary, ever a virgin, mother of Jesus Christ, our God and our Lord…

As befits its ancient provenance, the Canon calls to mind the dogma of the perpetual virginity of Our Lady, semper Virgo Maria—virgo ante partum, in partu, post partum, virgin before birth, virgin during birth, virgin after birtha feature missing from the new Eucharistic Prayers.[11]

However, more important still is the ringing testimony it gives to the divinity of Christ: “Jesus Christ, our God and our Lord.” While the phrases “Christ our Lord” or “Christ your Son our Lord” are still plentiful in modern prayers, in none of them is this classic anti-Arian expression preserved, a loss that matches the removal from the Novus Ordo of many prayers in the usus antiquior that directly address Christ as God.[12] Christ is not just our Redeemer, our Savior, our Teacher, our Brother: He is our God—God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, whom we worship with the adoration of latria that is reserved to God alone. As the great Suscipe, Sancta Trinitas of the old Offertory makes clear (and as the Novus Ordo fails to make clear), the sacrifice of the Eucharist is offered not simply to the Father, but to the Triune God, inseparably Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. In this way the venerable Roman rite again coincides with the Byzantine tradition: “It is You who offer and You who are offered; it is You who receive and You who are given, O Christ our God” (prayer spoken during the Cherubic Hymn at the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom).

SS. Felicity & Perpetua with Our Lady
5. We are protected by God owing to the merits of the saints.

…and of all Thy saints, for the sake of whose merits and prayers do Thou grant that in all things we may be defended by the help of Thy protection. … Into their company do Thou, we beseech Thee, admit us, not weighing our merits, but freely pardoning our offenses.

All of the approved anaphoras mention the communion and intercession of the saints, but only the Roman Canon specifies that it is their merits that obtain for us the Lord’s protection. This element counter­balances the element towards the end about “not weighing our merits,” with an implied contrast to those of the saints. Apart from a reference in Eucharistic Prayer II (“that…we may merit to be co-heirs to eternal life”[13]), the notion of merit is strangely lacking in postconciliar liturgical texts, most likely because it was in the interests of ecumenism to downplay one of the issues on which Catholics and Protestants most strongly disagree.[14]

Worthy of mention in this connection are the two extensive lists of saints in the Roman Canon. Given final form by St. Gregory the Great, these lists are tightly crafted in their numerology and in their mingling of saints of universal import and saints locally venerated in Rome, as if to accentuate the universality of the logos that draws to itself all men who are “intelligent and seeking God” (cf. Ps 13:2) as well as the “scandal of the particular.”[15] In the Roman Canon, 40 saints beloved to the ancient Church of Rome are recalled and called upon: 25 saints before the consecration (a number to which St. Joseph was added in 1962), and 15 afterwards. Apart from Our Lady, who stands in a class by herself, and St. Joseph, the list before the consecration includes two groups of twelve saints each. First, the apostles: Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude; then, the martyrs: Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian. This double list is a deliberate numerological schema in which we are to multiply 12 by 12 to yield 144, putting us in mind of the vast multitude of saints mentioned in the Book of Revelation, 144,000.[16] Here we are glimpsing the completeness, the totality, of all of the saints.

In the second list, following the consecration, John the Baptist is mentioned first and should be taken as the head of this second choir of saints, on account of his unique relationship to the Church in Rome, as patron of the pope’s Lateran cathedral. Two groups follow: seven men (Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas, Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter) and seven women (Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes,[17] Cecilia, Anastasia). The number 7, like 12, signifies perfection, fullness. This schema, 7 x 7 = 49, again reminds us of the entire company of saints, who are made holy by the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (49 + 1, where the ‘1’ points to God, who sanctifies the saints and is magnified in them).

The Canon thus places twice before our eyes the entire communion of saints, those whose names we know and whose feasts we celebrate, those who are mentioned only in the Martyrology, and the host whose names are known to God alone. Every time the traditional Mass is offered, 46 saints are named: the 41 already mentioned, plus St. Abel, St. Abraham, St. Melchisedek, St. Isaiah, and St. Michael the Archangel.[18] These saints of the New Testament, the Old Testament, and the angelic order stand in for the vast multitude of every tribe and tongue and people and nation who sing the high praises of God in the kingdom of heaven. The apparent “arbitrariness” of these 46 saints, when so many others could have been chosen, reinforces one of the fundamental lessons of divine revelation: “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.”[19] God calls us by name, He does not redeem us in generalities. The ancient Greeks called a slave aprosopos, the one without a face. Jesus Christ, God’s human face, restores to us our faces, our names, our dignity, in the midst of our brothers and sisters. The neo-anaphoras, in contrast, obliterate these lists of saints—the pia memoria of the Church of Rome—and, apart from obligatory mentions of Our Lady and St. Joseph,[20] reflect industrial modernity’s nameless masses by omitting the dignified names of individual persons.

6. God the Father is the Paterfamilias of the Church, His family; the priest is His head servant.

Wherefore, we beseech Thee, O Lord, graciously to receive this oblation which we, Thy servants, and with us Thy whole family, offer up to Thee…

The antiquity and Romanitas of the Roman Canon can be seen in many features, of which the Hanc igitur is a vivid example. Here, God is the Paterfamilias, the one on whose Word (with a capital W) hangs the life and death of all members of the family. If He speaks the word of command, the sacrifice will occur; if He deigns to receive it, it will be efficacious. This is why the Roman Canon has no epiclesis.[21] Predating the Macedonian controversy over the divinity of the Holy Spirit, it reflects a Patricentric theology in which the Father’s good pleasure with the Son, together with His omnipo­tence, furnishes a sufficient explanation of why the prayer of the Church prevails and the Body and Blood of Christ come to be present on the altar.[22]

The Church is comfortingly styled “God’s family.”[23] The priest asks the Father to be pleased with hanc oblationem servitutis nostrae, literally, this offering of our servitude, that is, a work done by servants of the household because they are bidden to carry it out. The priest at the altar, then, is the master’s head servant or steward, an architriclinus who acts on His behalf for the benefit of all the members of the family.[24] The Canon’s language unites hierarchy of authority with family intimacy, the special exalted place of the priest and his status as a servant of the community—companion truths that are often pitted against each other in theory and in practice in the impoverished ecclesiologies of today.

7. The default destiny of mankind is hell; the elect are predestined by God to eternal life.

…dispose our days in Thy peace; command that we be rescued from eternal damnation and numbered among the flock of Thine elect.

The second part of the Hanc igitur enshrines the truth about human salvation taught by the Fathers, Doctors, and premodern Popes of the Church, and thereby excludes the universalist mentality of our age, which assumes that all men will be saved—that salvation is the default position—unless they conscientiously and egregiously reject God. The consensus of Catholic theologians from ancient times until the early twentieth century was, on the contrary, that man, due to his inheritance of original sin, cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven unless he dies and rises with Christ in baptism,[25] and that, accordingly, mankind is a massa damnata from whom individuals are rescued by the application to their souls of the fruits of His redemption. The sole path to eternal life is to be clothed with Christ,[26] to be incorporated into His Mystical Body, and to die in a state of sanctifying grace.[27]

Moreover, in opposition to Pelagianism, the Church teaches that God, not man, takes the first step in the renewal of our life; that all our sufficiency is from Him (2 Cor 3:5); that no man comes to Jesus unless the Father draws him (Jn 6:44); that we become adopted sons of God by His predestinating purpose (Eph 1:5); that we persevere by His gift, not by our own efforts. In short, God must number us in the flock of His chosen ones; He knowingly and lovingly chooses us to be the “rational sheep” of His flock.[28] He does not, as it were, happen to find us there in the sheepfold; He brings us there and keeps us there.[29] The Roman Canon lucidly transmits this truth in words as simple as they are sobering, reminding us that the Catholic Church, like her Common Doctor St. Thomas, has always taught and still teaches the doctrine of predestination.

The doctrine of predestination, rightly understood (and not, for example, Calvin’s distortion of it) has as its positive spiritual effects an attitude of thanksgiving for the Lord’s mercies without number, since He died for us while we were yet His enemies, that we might become His friends; a profound humility at having been chosen by God for no beauty of our own but solely that He might make us beautiful in His sight; a sober watchful­ness, lest our names be erased from the Book of Life; and, most of all, a constant recourse to prayer, that we will be established more and more in Christ, and not in ourselves, for it is by “being made conformable to the image of His Son” (Rom 8:29), and in no other way, that our predestination is actually accomplished. It is therefore of immense importance for nourishing the right faith of the people that this doctrine, transmitted pure and entire in the Roman Canon, be present to priests in their offering of the Mass and to the people in their participation in it.

8. The sacrifice we offer is rational; our faith is reasonable.

Which oblation do Thou, O God, vouchsafe in all respects to make blessed, registered, ratified, rational, and acceptable, that it may become for us the Body and Blood of Thy most beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The legal language used here, also very Roman, conveys a strong sense of objectivity: we are asking the Father to grant that everything be properly done and noted as such, as if to imply that salvation is not a matter of impressions, feelings, subjective states, wishful thinking, amorphous longings, but a concrete, definite, known access to God by means of a “visible sacrifice such as the nature of man requires.”[30]

In this way the Roman Canon highlights the rationality of the Christian faith. The Logos became flesh in order to restore man’s logos, his reason. We are given the privilege of a rational worship that, on the one hand, still contains the full reality of sacrifice (without which there is no religion, no adoration, no forgiveness of sins), and, on the other hand, is unbloody and spiritual, leading us from the sensible or earthly realm to the intelligible or celestial realm. Protestantism attacked Catholicism as a recrudescence of paganism or a Judaizing cult; modernity attacked Catholicism as irrational superstition and pre-scientific prejudice; postmodernity attacks Catholicism as an avaritious, chauvinistic, omniphobic, intolerant structure of self-serving power; but the Roman Canon serenely bears witness to the luminous rationality of the Faith, the majesty of its God, the excellence of its rites, the lofty aim of its rule of life.[31]

9. The hands of Christ are holy and venerable—and so are the priest’s.

Who the day before He suffered, took bread into His holy and venerable hands, and having lifted up His eyes to heaven, to Thee, God, His almighty Father… In like manner, after He had supped, taking also into His holy and venerable hands this goodly chalice…

One of the most beautiful Catholic customs is that of kissing the hands of a newly-ordained priest, to express one’s reverence for the Lord’s minister and especially for these anointed instruments by which the sacraments—above all, the precious Body of the Lord—are conferred upon the people.

The dignity of Christ the High Priest, His inherent holiness, and the way in which the minister shares in this dignity and holiness are beautifully emphasized in the Roman Canon, when the priest, at the moment he picks up the host, says: “He took bread into His holy and venerable hands,” and then uses the same words in reference to the chalice. The hands of the priest: why do so many Catholics no longer reverence them, no longer see them as uniquely suited to handling the Bread of Life? Surely it is because of a massive loss of faith in the Real Presence, which reduces this immortal gift to mere wafers to be distributed in the most convenient manner. Having lost sight of the One with “holy and venerable hands,” the One “who lifts up His eyes to heaven,” we have also lost sight of the distinctiveness of His minister, the responsibilities that belong to him as alter Christus, and the essentially sacred character of liturgical worship, by which we are to lift our eyes to heaven, not keep them fixed on the things of earth (Col 3:2)—or fixed upon each other in a “closed circle,”[32] as occurs whenever the Mass is celebrated towards the people rather than eastwards in a common orientation to Christ our God, who, as Scripture tells us, will come in judgment from the East.

Allow me to illustrate the power of these words by means of a true story that was reported to me. There was a certain priest who never used the Roman Canon, but only the neo-anaphoras. It happened that a friend asked him to celebrate Mass for a special occasion, and requested that he pray this Canon. The day arrived, and when the priest came to speak the words “He took bread into His holy and venerable hands,” he paused and started crying—because for the first time in his life he was aware that these words also referred to his own hands, as a representative of Jesus Christ at the altar. The priest took a moment to calm down and continued until he came to: “taking into His holy and venerable hands this goodly chalice,” and began to cry again. May this story rekindle our wonder at the tremendousness of the Holy Sacrifice, especially the consecration, and the role the priest takes in it! Let us never forget that what the priest accomplishes at the consecration, with God’s power, is not equaled by anything done by the natural power of any angel of the heavenly hosts, even St. Michael the Archangel.[33]

10. All Masses are mystically the same as the one Sacrifice of Calvary.

…taking also into His holy and venerable hands this excellent chalice, and giving Thee thanks, He blessed it and gave it to His disciples, saying: Take and drink ye all of this…

The striking phrase hunc praeclarum calicem forcefully asserts the unity of the present Mass with the one all-sufficient Sacrifice of Calvary, which the Lord anticipated in symbols on the night He was betrayed. The first Mass on Maundy Thursday, the bloody oblation on Good Friday, and every one of the countless Masses celebrated since then, is one and the same sacrifice of the innocent Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. That is why the priest can say, with simultaneous poetic license and metaphysical exactitude, that Jesus took “THIS excellent chalice,” blessed it, and gave it to His disciples.[34]

Moreover, the word praeclarus deserves attention. It means “splendid, bright, excellent, famous, illustrious, noble, distinguished.” This word has both a causative and an explanatory force. On the one hand, it is because of what the Lord does to the wine that the vessel in which it is contained acquires nobility. This chalice becomes illustrious because the Lord’s very Blood (together with His Body, Soul, and Divinity) come to be present within it. On the other hand, because Christ’s followers subsequently know what is to become of the wine in the chalice, they strive through the ages to make the most beautiful, noble, splendid chalices that human art can contrive, so that they will be worthy—or at least less unworthy—of their sacred content. Thus, it is entirely fitting that a priest should bow his head over (for example) an elaborate gold chalice studded with jewels and say hunc praeclarum calicem; the very vessel he handles, so obviously different from secular cups, becomes an external sign of the internal reality that no mortal eye can see: “the chalice of eternal salvation.” By challenging the Church to make her outward appearance point to inward realities, the Roman Canon raises the bar of ecclesiastical art to the highest possible level.

11. The Christians who offer this sacrifice are the true children of Abraham.

Vouchsafe to look upon them with a gracious and tranquil countenance, and to accept them, even as Thou wast pleased to accept the offerings of Thy just servant Abel, and the sacrifice of Abraham, our patriarch, and that which Melchisedech, Thy high priest, offered up to Thee, a holy sacrifice, a victim without blemish.

The Roman Canon speaks of the sacrifice of Christ as the culmination of a long history of holy sacrifices that foreshadowed it, with three being singled out: Abel’s offering of “the firstlings of his flock and of their fat” (Gen 4); Abraham’s offering of his beloved son, Isaac (Gen 22); and Melchisedek’s offering of bread and wine (Gen 14). Abraham, tellingly, is called “our patriarch.”[35]

Not by descent of blood but by imitation of faith, Abraham is our patriarch, the patriarch of orthodox Christians. As St. Paul teaches in Galatians: “it is men of faith who are the sons of Abraham” (Gal 3:7); “the promises were made to Abraham and to his seed,” that is, Christ (Gal 3:16), and so, to all who belong to Christ in faith: “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:29). And in Romans: “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants” (Rom 9:6). Abraham is the patriarch of all who have faith in Christ—of the Hebrews, like himself, who longed for the Messiah and who were delivered by Him from the limbo of the fathers, as well as of the Jews and Gentiles from the time of Christ down to the present who have been baptized into Christ and thus become “the Israel of God” (Gal 6:16), the Catholic Church. The Jewish people as an ethnic and/or religious group is no longer the chosen People of God after their infidelity to their Messiah (cf. Deut 18:18–19).

A prayer that Pope Leo XIII wrote for the consecration he made of the human race to the Sacred Heart in the Holy Year 1900, which Pope St. Pius X ordered to be made annually, and which Pope Pius XI specified should be made each year on the Feast of the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ, bears witness to the truth of supersessionism: “Turn Your eyes of mercy toward the children of that race, once Your chosen people. Of old they called down upon themselves the Blood of the Savior; may It now descend upon them as a laver of redemption and of life.” Obviously, supersessionism does not touch on how Jews ought to be treated in everyday life. There is no reason to treat them differently from the manner in which we ought to treat every neighbor, namely, with a charity that wishes for them life in Christ and the beatific vision. Indeed, they are a people deserving of special respect owing to the election of their ancestors and the weight of their prophecies of the Messiah, to which they continue to bear independent witness (as St. Augustine argues[36]). But in the supernatural order they are no longer the “Chosen People” or “the people of the covenant.” To say otherwise is to reject “the unicity and salvific universality of Jesus Christ and the Church,”[37] that is to say, to reject Christ and His Church, period.[38]

12. The Mass is an earthly sacrifice united to, and uniting us with, the eternal liturgy in heaven.

We humbly beseech Thee, almighty God, to command that these our offerings be borne by the hands of Thy holy angel to Thine altar on high, in the presence of Thy divine Majesty; that as many of us as shall, by partaking from this altar [priest kisses altar], receive the most sacred Body and Blood of Thy Son, may be filled with every heavenly blessing and grace [priest signs himself with the cross].

In this sublime prayer, recited by the priest bowing towards the altar, we scent the mingling of two fragrances—that of Hebrew mysticism, as glimpsed in the elaborate dedication rites of Solomon’s temple,[39] and that of Neoplatonic mysticism, which sees this visible realm as a dim reflection of or shadowy participation in the realm of true being, the realm of unchanging divine reality.

The priest asks God to command that the earthly offerings be carried up to a heavenly altar, into God’s presence, by a holy angel who mediates between earth and heaven (this is why some commentators see this “holy angel” as Christ Himself, “the angel of the great counsel” [Is 9:6], “the one Mediator between God and man” [1 Tim 2:5][40]). We are praying that our particular time-bound sacrifice here below may be one with the eternal liturgy of the celestial fatherland; that our altar may become a channel through which to access the immortal food and drink of paradise, the fruit of the tree of life. The all-holy Victim on the altar is put forward as both the condition for obtaining every blessing and grace given to the human race (this is why the sweet-smelling oblation must be borne on high, in the sight of God, who is pleased by it), and as the ultimate content of every blessing and grace we receive.

The use a second time of the word praeclarusofferimus praeclarae majestati tuae—connects this prayer with the words leading into the consecration of the chalice: hunc praeclarum calicem, as if to say: what is about to be within this chalice is at one with, and worthy of, the One to whom it is raised up.  The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass collapses the distance between Creator and creation while emphatically affirming the infinite abyss bridged by Christ alone, in His very Person. The Roman Canon is, therefore, as radically Christocentric as it is Patricentric: we receive no blessing and grace without the Son, without desire for communion with Him—a truth also underlined by the significant repetition of “Per Christum Dominum nostrum,” which punctuates the Canon five times, in honor of the Five Wounds.[41]

The twelve truths I have summarized are clearly found in the Roman Canon, but are absent from, or barely present in, the ten neo-anaphoras included in the missal of Paul VI—that is, Eucharistic Prayers II through IV, the two “for reconciliation,” and the four variations of the EP “for various needs.”[42] Nor was this an inexplicable oversight. In his candid and detailed account of nearly every aspect of the liturgical reform, Annibale Bugnini tells us outright that the reformers, in the name of “the principle of variety,” sought to compose prayers as different as possible from the Roman Canon. Here he is speaking of what we call Eucharistic Prayers II, III, and IV, prior to the addition of still others:

It seems proper that while respecting the laws that every anaphora must obey, the new anaphoras should also have their own spiritual, pastoral, and stylistic characteristics that would distinguish them both from one another and from the Roman Canon. This kind of variety seems needed if the Roman liturgy is to have the greater spiritual and pastoral riches that cannot find full expression in a single type of text. As far as possible, therefore, concepts, words, and phrases from the Roman Canon have been avoided in the three new anaphoras [E.P. II–IV], and things found in one of the three have not been repeated in the other two… Only by having three [more] did it seem possible to introduce into the [sic; maybe this?] part of the Roman liturgy the spiritual and pastoral riches required today.[43]

So, not only are the aforementioned twelve dogmatic truths largely or indeed nearly totally absent from all the new anaphoras, but this was by design. Since the Mass is at the heart of the worship of the Catholic Church, and the Canon is at the heart of the Mass, the fact that the lex orandi has been so heavily altered amounts to a betrayal of Tradition in the strict sense of the word and a cause of corruption in the lex credendi, with inevitable results in the lex vivendi.


An objection might be raised: “Is not the Roman Canon still part of the new missal, and thus the new missal is the same as the old—at least in this respect?”

It is not quite accurate to say that “the Roman Canon” as it existed until the mid-1960s is found in the 1969 Missal of Paul VI. First and most troublingly, the phrase mysterium fidei—a phrase whose placement in the consecratory formula of the wine was attributed to apostolic tradition and even to Christ Himself by all the great commentators on the Mass, including the Church’s greatest theologian, St. Thomas—was removed from its historic location and made into an invitation for a popular “memorial acclamation” that has no basis whatsoever in the Latin tradition, and introduces a phenomenological tension between the sacramental real presence and the anticipated bodily presence of Christ the Judge at the end of time. Second, the lists of saints and the structural and symbolic recurrences of “Per Christum Dominum nostrum” are bracketed as optional, which is a subliminal directive to omit them. Third, many of the priest’s ceremonial actions, especially the signs of the cross and genuflections, have been stripped away (this was already done in the mid-1960s and carried over into the Novus Ordo). Since the Church’s lex orandi finds expression not only in words but also in gestures, this ritual overhaul is by no means negligible. Fr. Hunwicke movingly describes the gesture at the start of the Canon:

The priest introduces the Eucharistic Prayer by saying “Let us give thanks unto the Lord our God”… The celebrant thus calls upon us to join him in making the one all-availing thank-offering to YHWH of his Son’s Body and Blood. In the Tridentine Rite the priest, at these words, joins his hands together, the liturgical sign of total self-humbling (as a captive or slave might offer his wrists to be bound). And he raises his eyes to heaven and then bows his head. What a shame it is that modern rites discard this wonderful reverencing of YHWH our creator God, the God of our forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God to whom once we offered a twice-daily Tamid sacrifice of a lamb in His Temple and to whom now we offer the Immaculate Lamb.[44]

Fourth, in the missal of 1969, the entire doxology is to be said or sung aloud, even though this had not been done for very many centuries. In these ways, the Roman Canon as it appears in this missal is not identical with the Roman Canon as received in the Latin liturgical tradition prior to the reform.

But let us acknowledge, for the sake of argument, that the Roman Canon was largely retained in the new missal. There remains a much bigger problem, one that I would argue pertains to multiple moral virtues under the general heading of religion. The very fact that the Roman Canon is now an option contradicts its inner nature as a canon, that is, a fixed rule or measure of the Church’s worship.[45] We speak, for example, of the “canon of Scripture,” and by this we mean a fixed set of books received by the Church as divinely inspired, inerrant, and incapable of being added to or substituted by anything else. While the Canon of the Mass is not divinely inspired in the same way, we know that it developed in the bosom of the Church over the first several centuries under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, until it was given its finishing touches by St. Gregory, and that, from this point onwards, it was humbly received as a repository of apostolic faith and piety—something to be venerated with religious awe, which no one would dare to “edit” or “improve.” It was already, and was destined to be seen more and more as, a true canon, a rule or measure placed upon us like the “easy yoke” and “light burden” of the law of Christ.

It seems to me that the loss of a fixed rule of public worship is one of several points of departure for the fifty-year descent into Amoris Laetitia, with its undermining of exceptionless moral norms. In divine worship, the Catholic priest was once required to submit to a law that strictly governed all his words and actions. The ground on which he stood was holy ground, like Moses before the burning bush. Without the protective clothing of traditional forms of prayer, the priest would far too easily incur the guilt of irreverence, impertinence, subjectivism, or arbitrariness. (Here I am reminded of the striking verse of Psalm 2: Apprehendite disciplinam, nequando irascatur Dominus, et pereatis de via justa: “Take hold of discipline, lest at any time the Lord be angry, and you perish from the just way.”) The crisis concerning natural law and divine law with which we are dealing in this pontificate did not come out of nowhere. It is the ultimate expression of the same hubris that was first displayed in the violence done to the very core of our Western lex orandi in the inherited Eucharistic liturgy. If we can bring ourselves to do violence to this most sacred thing, is there anything we will not subsequently violate, manipulate, adulterate, and corrupt? The rejection of an immobile center leads to the destabilization and centrifugal disintegration of everything else.

Cardinal Burke has spoken of antinomianism, that is, a dismissive or hostile attitude towards law and law-abidingness, as one of the great temptations and errors of our times.[46] Allowing a priest to choose ad libitum from various Eucharistic Prayers when celebrating Mass is a ritualized antinomianism.

Since, moreover, the liturgy is the ultimate icon of Christ and His saints, and the Roman Canon is the central panel of this great ritual iconostasis—or perhaps we might compare it to the Pantocrator in the apse—it follows that the assault on a fixed canon was also a primordial act of iconoclasm, after which all other whitewashings, demolitions, and modernizations were mere afterthoughts.

With half a century of chaos behind us, we are uniquely positioned to appreciate the astonishingly frank observation of the liturgist Bernard Botte, who wrote in 1953:

We should be grateful to the people of the Middle Ages for having preserved the canon in its purity, and not having allowed their personal effusions or theological ideas to pass into it. One can imagine the complete sham we would have today if each generation had been permitted to remake the canon to the measure of their theological controversies or novel forms of piety. We can only hope for a continuing imitation of the good sense of these people, who had their own theological ideas but who understood that the canon was not their playground. To their eyes, it was the expression of a venerable tradition, and they felt that it could not be touched without opening the door to every sort of abuse.[47]

To this perceptive and resoundingly true judgment, Catholics of the Latin rite today might reply in the melancholy words of the Psalmist: Salvum me fac, Domine, quoniam defecit sanctus, quoniam diminutae sunt veritates a filiis hominum. “Save me, O Lord, for there is now no saint: truths are decayed from among the children of men” (Ps 11:2).

Lovers of the classical Roman liturgy have the grave responsibility, joyful privilege, and truly evangelistic task of preserving the great Roman Canon in the public worship of the Catholic Church. In the face of freedom gone astray and authority abused, traditionalists hold that the only way forward to a liturgy that is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, like the Church herself, is the recovery of our traditional rites, which are not only the canon or measure of the orthodox faith, but also our spiritual fatherland and our foretaste of the world to come. By our clear-sighted love of the Latin liturgical tradition and our use of it in more and more places, we are demonstrating the continuity of the past, the present, and the future of Catholicism at a time when its internal coherence is threatened like never before.

[1] Guy Nicholls, “The History of the Prayers of the Roman Canon,” in Theological and Historical Aspects of the Roman Missal, Proceedings of the Fifth International Colloquium of Historical, Canonical, and Theological Studies on the Roman Catholic Liturgy (Kingston & Surbiton: CIEL UK, 2000), 29–52; here, 29–30.
[2] Council of Trent, Session XXII, ch. 4. There is a footnote in the text to C. 6, X, De celebr. miss., III, 41.
[3] Given time, still further examples could be adduced. The paragraphs that follow shall, of necessity, be brief, but any one of them could be expanded into a separate treatment of its theme as we find it throughout the usus antiquior liturgical books and as we fail to find it in like manner in those of the usus recentior. Translations of the Roman Canon are taken from the Campion Missal and the Baronius Missal.
[4] “Our Lord gave us a Church which, because it is His, is indefectible. Indefectibility doesn’t mean that it will remain prominent and influential. It only guarantees that it will remain until He returns in glory” (Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, “Meanwhile, I received this lovely note from a reader…,” Fr. Z’s Blog, May 28, 2019).
[5] That is, the liturgical worship of God.
[6] The same sort of prayer recurs in the “Domine, Jesu Christe” after the Agnus Dei: “look not upon my sins, but upon the faith of Thy Church, and vouchsafe to grant her peace and unity according to Thy will.”
[7] The Byzantine Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom expresses exactly the same thing: “Again we pray for the people here present who await Your great and bountiful mercies, for those who have been kind to us, and for all orthodox Christians.” And later: “May the Lord God remember you and all orthodox Christians in His Kingdom, now and ever and unto ages of ages.” Again: “We implore You, remember, O Lord, every orthodox bishop who rightly teaches the Word of Your truth.”
[8] The omission, in the neo-anaphoras, of any reference to the “orthodox, Catholic, and apostolic” Faith is therefore quite telling: the most basic feature of Modernism is its denial that there even is such a thing as a determinate, time-transcending “orthodox, Catholic, apostolic” Faith.
[9] See Summa theologiae II-II, q. 10, a. 3; although Thomas also argues that, in various ways, despair, hatred of God, and schism are all worse than unbelief (cf. II-II, q. 20, a. 3; q. 34, a. 2, ad 2; q. 39, a. 2, ad 3).
[10] In IV Sent., d. 12, q. 2, a. 1, qa. 3.
[11] Fortunately still found in the neo-Confiteor.
[12] For a more detailed analysis, see chapter 7 of Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis.
[13] This had been omitted from the original ICEL imposture.
[14] With a lex orandi like this, is not Pope Francis’s absurd statement that “Catholics and Lutherans agree about justification” more understandable and a lot less likely to be spewed forth as poison?
[15] Cf. Cardinal Journet, Theology of the Church, for the relationship of Incarnation-Eucharist-Papacy. By “scandal of the particular,” I mean that we are saved not by abstractions or formulas but by a flesh-and-blood Savior named Jesus of Nazareth, who lived at a certain place and time, and whom we encounter today in highly defined rituals that have been handed down from generation to generation. A lovely example of the “local feeling” we have in the Roman Canon is in the phrase that describes heaven in the memento for the dead: “locum refrigerii, lucis, et pacis,” a place of coolness, light, and peace. Coolness, because this prayer originated in the hot climate of the Mediterranean, where everyone was seeking relief; indeed, the maniple was first worn as a handkerchief for wiping sweat off the brow. Light, because in a pre-industrial world, the most valuable of all things is the daylight by which men can live and work. Peace, because the world of the late Roman Empire was volatile, full of warfare and brigandage, and anything but peaceful.
[16] In Scripture, twelve is the number of the tribes of Israel, the fullness of God’s people. When the number is squared, its fullness is, so to speak, solidified. Multiplied by a thousand points to the unimaginable greatness of the citizens of the heavenly city.
[17] Another lovely “irregularity” in the classical Roman Rite is the presence of two feasts of St. Agnes: her primary feast of January 21, and her “second commemoration” on the octave day of January 28, an arrangement unique among the saints. In the 1866 edition of Rev. Alban Butler’s The Lives of the Saints, we read: “A second commemoration of St. Agnes occurs on this day in the ancient Sacramentaries of Pope Gelasius and St. Gregory the Great; as also in the true Martyrology of Bede. It was perhaps, the day of her burial, or of a translation of her relics, or of some remarkable favour obtained through her intercession soon after her death.” A legend grew, saying that on this day Agnes, surrounded by virgins resplendent with light, appeared to her parents praying at her tomb, which accounts for the choice of the Introit of the Mass, Vultum tuum.
[18] One might also say that the saints appealed to in various prayers by reference to their relics in or around the altar are also being invoked directly, albeit not with proper names. For commentary on all of the saints mentioned in the traditional Mass, see Most Rev. Amleto Cicognani, The Saints Who Pray with Us in the Mass (Kansas City, MO: Romanitas Press, 2017); Neil J. Roy, “The Roman Canon: Deësis in Euchological Form,” in Benedict XVI and the Sacred Liturgy, ed. idem and Janet E. Rutherford (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2010), 181–99.
[19] Ex 33:19; cf. Rom 9:15–18.
[20] Itself a novelty for which we are beholden to Pope John XXIII.
[21] As discussed frequently by Fr. John Hunwicke, e.g. in this post: ““For the Roman Canon, Consecration means that we offer bread and wine to the Omnipotent Father so that he, by accepting them, makes them the Body and Blood of His Son in accordance with the words uttered by the Incarbnate Word. In Byzantium, the Priest, bidden by the Deacon, invokes the Holy Ghost to descend upon the elements so that by His Transformation, they may be the Lord's Body and Blood. Each tradition is entitled to its own integrity.” See Gregory DiPippo, “Reforming the Canon of the Mass: Some Considerations from Fr Hunwicke,” New Liturgical Movement, April 25, 2015; Peter Kwasniewski, “East-West Disagreements about the Epiclesis and Transubstantiation,” New Liturgical Movement, May 4, 2020; Brother André Marie, “Some Thoughts on the Epiclesis in the Divine Liturgy,”, July 10, 2019.
[22] In this respect, I must signify a friendly disagreement with a statement made by Martin Mosebach in the Foreword he kindly contributed to my book Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness. He says that the “Veni Sanctificator” in the Offertory is the epiclesis of the Roman Mass. I do not agree with this. See the preceding note.
[23] This expression is confined to the Roman Canon and to Eucharistic Prayer III. In the latter, however, it seems out of place, having lost its original Roman context, which has been replaced by the somewhat sentimental-sounding image of a father asked to “gather … all [his] children scattered throughout the world.”
[24] As Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary explains: “αρχιτρικλινος , generally translated steward, signifies rather the master or superintendent of the feast; ‘one,’ says Gaudentius, ‘who is the husband's friend, and commissioned to conduct the order and economy of the feast.’ He gave directions to the servants, superintended every thing, commanded the tables to be covered, or to be cleared of the dishes, as he thought proper: whence his name, as regulator of the triclinium, or festive board. He also tasted the wine, and distributed it to the guests.” From, accessed February 10, 2018.
[25] Here I include baptism of desire and baptism of blood, as well as sacramental baptism with water. See St. Thomas, Summa theologiae III, q. 66, aa. 11–12.
[26] Cf. Rom 13:14, Gal 3:27; cf. Mt 22:12; Acts 4:12.
[27] Cf. Jn 9:39; cf. Jn 3:16–21, 5:24–29; Lk 12:51. This is why the Roman Martyrology carefully records not only the names of each martyr, but the names of their persecutors as well.
[28] As the Byzantine Akathist hymn says.
[29] If anyone doubts that the Catholic Church teaches the doctrine of predestination—obviously, not the various erroneous Protestant notions of it, but the true notion—he would do well to start with the Catechism of the Catholic Church nn. 257, 600, 1007, 2012, 2782, and 2823, and then move on to St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, I, q. 23. The Secret for the Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost expresses the doctrine of the Church to perfection: “May this sacrifice of praise that we offer to Thee, O Lord, be for an increase of our servitude [i.e., our service to Thee]: that what Thou hast begun without our merits Thou mayest mercifully bring to completion” [ut, quod immeritis contulisti, propitius exsequaris].
[30] Trent, sess. XXII, ch. 1. On this Fr. John Hunwicke comments: “The key to a balanced understanding here is the assumption integral to the Pentateuch, that the Sacrifices of Israel needed to be done exactly as the inspired texts directed. And that itself goes back to the very meaning of Covenant. This, quite simply, links the Faithfulness of our Covenant God (what we Latins call his pietas) with our obedience to His Law (what we Latins call our pietas). As Christine Mohrmann established, the legalistic character of Liturgical Latin goes back way beyond the Fourth century Latin which we find in the early Roman Sacramentaries. She discussed ‘the almost juridical precision’ of the Canon in terms of the surviving fragments of preChristian, preclassical Roman prayer texts used in agriculture as much as in warfare. She was not afraid to talk about ‘this monumental verbosity coupled with juridical precision, which is so well suited to the gravitas Romana but which also betrays a certain scrupulosity with regard to higher powers.’ ‘A sacral style has been created which links up with the old Roman prayer of the official Roman cult…’”
[31] Again, we see how the Roman Canon parallels the language of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom: “ During the Cherubic Hymn: “You were appointed our High Priest, and as Master of all, handed down to us the priestly ministry of this liturgical sacrifice without the shedding of blood.” At the Epiclesis: “We offer You this rational worship without the shedding of blood...”
[32] Joseph Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, trans. John Saward (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000), 81.
[33] At the consecration a miracle takes place. This miracle is to be found not so much in the change of the whole substance of the bread into the Body of Christ (and of the wine into His Precious Blood), but in the manner in which that is accomplished, viz. with the accidents of bread and wine, by the power of God, continuing to be on the corporal and in the chalice, without any subject in which to inhere. (There is no bread or wine of which they are the accidents, nor are they the accidents of the Body or Blood of Christ.) Now the priest, in uttering the words of consecration, is the instrumental cause, under God, of the Transubstantiation itself and of the miraculous persistence of the accidents without a subject. But angels by their natural power cannot work a miracle in the strict sense, i.e., cannot produce an effect that lies outside the order of the whole of created nature (cf. 1a q. 110, a. 4). They can, of course, by the dazzling powers of their own nature, produce effects that surprise men (ad 2), and they can act as the servants of God when He works a miracle by His omnipotence, e.g. gathering the dust at the resurrection (ad 1).
[34] In both the ICEL 1973 translation and the one proposed in 1998, the phrase accípiens hunc præclárum cálicem in sanctas ac venerábiles manus suas was “translated” as “he took the cup”—that’s it. The 2011 translation at least had the courtesy to translate what the Latin actually says. The faithful who attend vernacular Masses where the Roman Canon is used are only just starting to recover a sense of everything mentioned in this point and in the last.
[35] The 2011 English retranslation of the Novus Ordo, more accurate in most respects than the abysmal 1973 version, continues to avoid the word “patriarch” for reasons of political correctness, thereby obscuring part of the theological message of the text. It uses instead the limp circumlocution “our father in faith.”
[36] An excellent summary with ample quotations may be found in Thomas McDonald’s “Unwilling Witnesses: St. Augustine and the Witness Doctrine.”
[37] To use the language of the subtitle of the Declaration Dominus Iesus (August 6, 2000) of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
[38] The common teaching of Christianity is well exhibited in the superb commentary on the Psalms compiled by J. M. Neale, who writes, concerning the verse filii alieni mentiti sunt et claudicaverunt a semitis suis: “The strange children. That is, the Jews: children indeed, as descended from faithful Abraham; but strange by rejecting Him whose day Abraham desired to see. It is thus that almost all the Fathers interpret the passage … And they not only dissembled themselves, but were the cause of deceit in others … S. Augustine, in expounding that passage, ‘Many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out,’ says with reference to this text: ‘Children, not my own, but strange children, as it is written, “Ye are of your father, the devil”’” (A Commentary on the Psalms from Primitive and Mediaeval Writers and from the Various Office-books and Hymns, 3rd ed. [London: Joseph Masters, 1874], 1:254).
[39] See 1 Kgs 8; 2 Chron 5–7.
[40] See Nicholas Gihr, The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, 696–703, who rejects this opinion in favor of taking “angel” to mean a created spirit. However, St. Thomas offers this as a possible interpretation: Summa theologiae III, q. 83, a. 4, ad 9; cf. Gihr, 699, n. 50.
[41] These “Per Christum” conclusions are sometimes written off as medieval accretions at odds with the literary and theological structure of ancient anaphoras. But this is to fail altogether to see their structural and symbolic functions, which even Jungmann indicates (cf. The Mass of the Roman Rite, 2:178–79, et passim).
[42] One can almost hear the very timbre of the 1970s in the titles given to these four rarely-used prayers: “The Church on the Path of Unity,” “God Guides His Church along the Way of Salvation,” “Jesus, the Way to the Father,” and “Jesus, Who Went About Doing Good.” There are also three Eucharistic Prayers for Masses for Children (!) that have received ample and well-deserved mockery.
[43] Annibale Bugnini, The Reform of the Liturgy 1948–1975, trans. Matthew J. O’Connell (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1990), 452, referring to the following Coetus X documentation: “Ceterum libertas tria (vel quattuor) nova schemata proponendi admisit, immo suadebat diversitatem quoad singula, ita ut non idem in omnibus repeteretur, sed varietas quaedam adesset in dispositione, stilo, termnologia, et expressionibus” (Schema 218 [De Missali 34], 19 March 1967, p. 46). Cipriano Vagaggini, one of the members of Coetus X, at least had the common sense in his book The Canon of the Mass and Liturgical Reform (Geoffrey Chapman, 1967 [Italian version = 1966]), exactly contemporaneous with the writing of EPs II–IV,  to state that to revise the Canon would “inevitably lead to an awful mess” (122). Given that his three suggestions in the book—retaining the Canon (albeit with with “minor modifications”), providing an originally-composed canon with variable preface for ad lib use, and providing another canon with a fixed preface giving an exposition of salvation history (cf. 122–23)—are similar to what eventually transpired in the reform, I suspect that he more than anyone else was the driving force behind much of the work the Coetus carried out on the new EPs.
[45] Prof. Andrea Grillo of Sant’Anselmo in Rome complains bitterly about the “individualism” unleashed by Summorum Pontificum, because a priest may now choose which form of the Roman Rite to use. However, he oddly fails to explain why it is bad to choose a form in which everything is fixed, but good to choose a form in which the priest is given the option to choose between radically different anaphoras (along with many other internal options). How is the use of a predetermined traditional rite individualistic but a “do-it-yourself” liturgy is not?
[46] See Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, “Liturgical Law in the Mission of the Church,” in Sacred Liturgy: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church, ed. Alcuin Reid (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2014), 389–415, esp. 393–94.
[47] Bernard Botte, “Histoire des prières de l’ordinare de la messe,” in Bernard Botte and Christine Mohrmann, L’Ordinaire de la messe. Texte critique, traduction et ètudes, Études liturgiques 2 (Paris: Cerf, 1953), 27. Translated by Zachary Thomas. And yet, having understood such a fundamental point, Botte went on to be a member of the Consilium and to draft, with Louis Bouyer, the pseudo-Hippolytan second Eucharistic Prayer, the current favorite of all the pseudo-anaphoras of the neo-Roman rite, and the one most obviously tainted by bad modern scholarship and driven by modern rationalistic preferences. Such a lapse as Botte’s demonstrates the rapidity and completeness with which ideology can poison the human intellect and twist the will. For more on Botte’s involvement in the manufacture of the new Eucharistic Prayers, see Louis Bouyer, Memoirs, trans. John Pepino (Kettering, OH: Angelico Press, 2015), 218–22.