The Audible Canon

A remarkable change since the Second Vatican Council is that the Canon of the Mass is recited audibly by the priest, rather than silently, as is the traditional practice. Again, this is not mentioned in the Council documents at all, and defies belief to how the practice actually came about.

The Canon of the Mass, also known as the Eucharistic Prayer, is the part of the Mass that lies between the Sanctus and Pater Noster. It forms the most important part of the Mass as it contains the words of consecration, presenting anew the Sacrifice of Calvary turning the bread and wine on the altar in the true and substantial Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ. The prayers contained within the Canon transcend time and space and allow the faithful present to adore Christ at the very foot of the cross itself.

Because of this transcendent nature, it was traditionally kept silent, apart from one phrase and the ringing of bells. During this silence, heaven and earth are brought close together in an act of worship and sacrifice, the sacrifice of the Son of God Himself to the Father. Only silence, it seems, can bridge the gap between the temporal and the eternal, the physical location of the church building to the bosom of God. What is important is not simply the words themselves, but the action that emanates from them; the senses are supressed so that the heart and soul of each person present can connect with that of Christ Himself in the offering to God the Father.

Now, with the introduction of the Novus Ordo Mass, the Canon of the Mass is said outloud. This suppresses the great symbolism of the silence of the Canon and turns it more into a communal prayer, a political speech or a dialogue with God, rather than the offering of the eternal sacrifice. The faithful hear the words, and respond to them during the Canon, thus the physical is emphasised to the detriment of the spiritual. The words are placed within the context of our own temporal existence, hearing them like any other set of words or prayers, and therefore loose their transcendent nature. The eternal nature of the Canon is lost, it becomes a train of words, leading to an event that is performed, and then we continue onto something else. The eternal once and for all sacrifice of Christ is seemingly confused, buried under a heap of vocal sounds and utterances. This, in my opinion, is a great loss.

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Last modified 17th March, 1997, by David Joyce.