The form and structure of liturgies is something that churches which employ these in worship either take for granted or argue over intensely. But very few people understand how a) these came into being or b) how they should be revised or replaced in times of liturgical change. What kind of theology is embodied in a liturgy? What attention to the rhythm and metre is given? How will a liturgy work in a language other than one the one it’s written in? How well does a liturgy communicate its message, in addition to being the setting for the “sacred pledge” of the Eucharist? All of these important questions frequently get the short shrift, either by defenders of an existing liturgy of by proposers of a new one?
Liturgical change is the time when these questions do get asked the most. Probably the most important liturgical transition of the last one hundred years took place when the Roman Catholic Church promulgated the Novus Ordo Missae, which was instituted in 1970. That mass was the result of both theological and liturgical forces that had been going on in the Church for most of the preceding century.
Many of those changes—and probably some of the process that led to the NOM—were set forth in Cipriano Vagaggini’s book The Canon of the Mass and Liturgical Reform. Published in 1967, it is a careful and thorough treatment of the subject, and probably represents the thinking of those in charge of the liturgical reform initiated by Vatican II.
The focus of his work is the anaphora, which is, by Vagaggini’s definition, “the liturgical text which accompanies and expresses the offering of the Church’s sacrifice to the Father.” The RCC had used the Roman Canon for nearly fourteen centuries and, while Vagaggini is careful to underline the importance of the Roman Canon to the life of the Church, he is also clear that it has its defects as well.
In this series (which starts here,) we will reproduce the various historical anaphorae he sets forth, plus two Projects “B” and “C” which are his proposals (or perhaps those at the Vatican in the process of formulating the then really “new” NOM) for new anaphorae to be used in the church. Vagaggini also has extensive explanations for all of this; consult the book for these.
I will reproduce the English translations of these anaphorae only. Serious liturgists would do well to consult his original Latin, as the translations look like they were taken from the Italian without consideration of the original Latin text. I have tried to winnow out errors in the OCR process but, if you find some, please bring them to my attention.
(Here ends the fixed portion of the introduction; the variable portion follows.)
Today’s anaphora is from the “Early Roman Canon.” “Early” represents a “composite” liturgy that was celebrated in Rome between 370 and 416. St. Jerome lived in Rome during part of that time.
The Lord be with you.
And with you.
Let us lift up our hearts.
We have raised them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right and fitting.
It is right and fitting, good and just, that we should always give thanks to you for all things.
Lord, holy Father, almighty eternal God, who in your incomparable goodness were pleased to make light shine in darkness when you sent Jesus Christ to us as protector of our souls. For our salvation he humbled himself, and subjected himself to death, so as to restore to us that immortality which Adam had lost, and to make us God’s heirs and sons.
For such goodness and generosity we can never praise and thank you sufficiently, and so we ask you in your great love and compassion to accept this sacrifice which we offer you in the presence of your divine goodness, through Jesus Christ our Lord and God.
Through him we humbly ask and pray you, almighty Father, to accept and to bless these gifts, these pure offerings. We offer them to you, first of all,for your holy catholic Church: be pleased to give peace to her, spread over all the earth (We offer them to you at the same time, for our blessed bishop, N., and for all the bishops faithful to the true doctrine, who are the guardians of the apostolic faith).
Remember also, Lord, your servants who address their prayers to you, the living and true God, in honour of your saints, N.N., for the forgiveness of their sins.
(Send, Lord, your Holy Spirit from heaven) and mercifully bless and accept this offering which is the image and likeness of the body and blood of Jesus Christ your Son, our redeemer.
For on the day before he suffered, he took bread into his holy and blessed hands, looked up to heaven, to you, holy Father, almighty eternal God, and giving thanks, blessed and broke it and gave it to his apostles and disciples, saying “Take and eat this, all of you, for this is my body that will be broken for you.”
In the same way, on the day before he suffered, after he had eaten, he took the cup into his holy and blessed hands, looked up to heaven, to you, holy Father, almighty eternal God, and giving thanks, blessed and gave it to his apostles and disciples, saying “Take and drink of this, all of you, for this is my blood which shall be poured out for you and for everyone to take away all sins. Each time that you do this, you will do it in memory of me until I return.”
That is why, mindful of his most glorious passion and of his resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven, we offer you this spotless victim, this unbloody victim, this holy bread and cup of eternal life.
And we ask and pray you to accept this offering carried by your angels to your heavenly altar, as you wished also to accept the gifts of your just servant Abel, the sacrifice of Abraham, father of our race, and the offering of your high priest Melchisedech.
(We ask you that through the grace of the Holy Spirit the gift of your love may be confirmed in us, and that we may possess in eternal glory what we already receive from your goodness.)
Through our Lord, Jesus Christ, in whom and with whom honour, glory, might, and power are yours with the Holy Spirit, from the beginning, now and always, for ever and ever. Amen.