The Mass of the Holy Catholic Church
Saint Wenceslas and Saint Ludmila during the Mass (Frantisek Tkadlik)
Dear Reader from a Priest: Someone brought up that in the Canon of the Mass again there are the words: Hold acceptable and bless + these gifts, these + offerings, these + holy and unspotted oblations which, in the first place, we offer Thee for Thy Holy Catholic Church.
And that these words must refer to the bread and wine that the priest is making the Sign of the Cross over. One should be commended for observing and reading the words the priest says. It was not until the last century that missals allowing the faithful to follow the Mass were universally available in the common language. It was providential because when the Modernists changed the Mass, the laity were able to point to the discrepancies and resist being Protestantized. At the same time, what the priest is saying during Holy Mass must be understood in its proper Catholic sense. As Sacred Scripture is to be understood in the Catholic sense or one is open to an infinity of misunderstandings, so too must the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass—which is the heart of the Catholic Faith. As a treasure we possess as Catholics, we should guard it not simply for its value, but for its beauty—a beauty revealed only to those who know and understand it and for the graces received from it. Therefore Catholics should know why the Church uses these words in the Te igitur of the Canon of the Mass.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, published by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (1940), instructs: 1. For convenience' sake we shall refer to each part of the Canon as a "prayer." However, it must be kept in mind that each of these parts is only a division of the one great prayer. 2. Another noteworthy feature of the Canon is the tracing of the outline of the cross over the elements, which is done repeatedly both before and after the Consecration. Count the number of times the cross is thus made in the Canon. Saint Thomas says that the priest in celebrating Mass uses the sign of the cross to express the Passion of Christ, which terminated on the cross. The Angelic Doctor says also that the crosses traced over the Sacred Elements after the Consecration are not for the purpose of blessing or consecrating, but only to commemorate the virtue of the cross and the manner of Christ's Passion. 3. A third, and outstanding, characteristic of the Canon is the deep silence which prevails immediately after the introductory Preface. The Silence of the Host now rules our hearts. Many reasons are given for the silent recitation of this part of the Mass: (a) From the earliest days it has been the custom to conduct the Consecration and the opening and closing prayers of the Canon in silence. The Church, scrupulous in her guardianship of this most venerable prayer, has therefore· preserved the custom. (b) The silence indicates that the Consecration and sacrificial act is a priestly function, which only the consecrated priest, and not the people, can accomplish. In the other portions of the Mass, the priest and the people commune, but now the priest has entered into the Holy of Holies, where he converses with God alone. (c) The silence is in harmony with the mystery of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Our senses do not reveal to us the accomplishment of the mystery; our mind does not understand it. There are miracles in the Host as numerous as stars, but we see not one external trace of them. This silence recalls to us the hidden nature and the sublime depth of the Mysteries of the Altar, which we accept by faith alone. (d) The silence prompts us to honor, adore and offer the Sublime Sacrifice with the priest. Silence in this case is like a clear voice urging us to enter into our own hearts, there to adore and meditate. "The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him" (Habacuc 2:20). (e) In the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, some of Our Lord's prayers were audible and some silent. So it is proper that both secret and audible prayers be used at the altar, where the priest, the visible representative of Christ, is renewing Christ's sacrifice. (f) This solemn silence has liturgical precedent. On the Day of Atonement, while the Jewish highpriest offered incense to God on the golden altar, a deep silence hung over the entire temple, and all the people said their prayers in secret.
One sees that one’s mind is always focused on the sacrifice of Christ’s Body and Blood, and even though the words of consecration have not yet been pronounced, that which is in front of the priest is considered to be the Body and Blood of Christ which is about to be Sacrificed in an unbloody manner just as Christ offered His Body and Blood to be sacrificed at the Last Supper. Adrian Fortescue sets it as follows: The first half (to "sacrificia illibata") asks God to accept and bless the offering; the second abruptly begins the Intercession. The terms "haec dona, haec munera, haec sancta sacrificia illibata" suppose the Consecration; but this might well be merely another dramatic anticipation, as "immaculata hostia" at the offertory, or rather evidence that the whole consecration-prayer is one thing and should be considered ideally as one act, one moment. The signs of the cross, naturally following the words, are in MSS. (Manuscripts) of the Gelasian book. (Fortescue, 329) Nicholas Gihr also provides this commentary: Prayer forms the liturgical accompaniment of the sacrifice. The Canon contains those prayers which most closely relate to the Eucharistic sacrifice. They are oblation prayers, which refer to the Consecration; for they contain in part petitions for the blessing and consecration of the sacrificial elements, in part an offering of the sacrificial body and blood of Christ, and in part supplications to obtain and to apply the fruits of the sacrifice. As to their contents, they harmonize with the foregoing prayers of the Offertory, and we behold in them a copy of the prayers of our divine Saviour. During His life and at His death He prayed continually. The longest and most solemn, fervent, and touching prayer of the Lord is the one which He uttered when He was about to accomplish His sacrifice on the cross; His prayer as high priest. [At the Last Supper] In it He makes known to whom, for whom, and for what purpose He would offer His sacrificial death; He supplicates for His disciples and for all who would believe in Him: for the entire Church militant. He besought the Father to fill all the faithful in time and in eternity with His saving gifts: to preserve them here below in unity, keep them in truth, and sanctify them by grace, that hereafter they might be transformed in beatitude and behold His glory. Does not this prayer of the high priest resound throughout the Canon of the Mass, wherein the Church expresses what gifts of grace she would draw for herself and for all her children from the Holy Sacrifice? How powerful and effective do these petitions and intercessions of the Church become, as they ascend to the throne of mercy in union with the voice of the blood of Christ, which more loudly and more strongly cries to heaven than did the blood of Abel! The Canon ushers in the holiest and most sacred moments of the sacrificial celebration; this part of the Mass, still more than any of the other portions, claims attention, devotion, and reverence. The heart should be occupied only with the divine function and be to all extraneous thoughts and cares as "a garden enclosed" and "a fountain sealed up" (Cant. 4: 12). Above all, the passion and death of Christ should be devoutly meditated upon. We are exhorted to this by the image of the Crucified, which is placed before the Canon in order that the painful and bloody death of Christ may be presented to our view in a striking manner. (Gihr, 625-627)
Today, more than ever an understanding of what is taking place in Holy Mass must be sought because we all saw Vatican II change Mass into a Protestant service in which the Bible receives the same or more reverence than the “bread” which is handed out indiscriminately, dropped and stepped on and swept up to be thrown in the garbage or stuck in the pocket—but only because the people are told that the priest is offering bread and wine in the Novus Ordo service as indicated by the words they say and the hymns they sing. As always, enjoy the readings provided for your benefit.—The Editor Father Courtney Krier is the Pastor of St. Joseph's Church in Las Vegas, NV.
Catholic Tradition Newsletter Vol 13 Issue 19 Editor: Rev. Fr. Courtney Edward Krier May 9, 2020 Saint Gregory Nazianzen, opn! A weekly presentation of News, Information, Readings and Commentary for traditional Roman Catholics and Catholic Families remaining faithful to the teaching Magisterium as held by all faithful Catholics through the centuries.