Sunday, May 31, 2015
THE SILENT CANON AND THE SENSE OF MYSTERY AND THE SACRED; THE PROCLAIMED CANON AND THE LOSS OF THE SENSE OF MYSTERY AND THE SACRED
As some of you know, in the 1962 Missal of the one Roman Rite, the Roman Canon is prayed silently or quietly. I have to admit that when I started to celebrate the 1962 Missal eight years ago, the silence of this Mass, especially the Roman Canon, was quite disconcerting to me. I had forgotten that the Canon way prayed silently and I felt very self-conscious praying it silently before a congregation. It was not a part of my liturgical spirituality and I did not have a good explanation for its purpose so indoctrinated had I become to the idea that the Canon is a proclamation to both the assembly and to God. Sounds haughty, doesn't it! Yes, humility was the first thing to go in the revision of the sacraments.
But as I watch the EF Celebration of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (AWESOME) a couple of posts below, I focused on the canon from the laity's point of view.
This is where there is a collision between old and new, new and improved or simply changed for the sake of change. And one must ask is there a flaw in the hermeneutic of rupture which some have the audacity to call renewal, that has led to the loss of the sense of mystery and awe and reverence in the new and improved Mass of the one Roman Rite?
The apologetic that so many liturgists, bishops, priests and religious used in promoting so much of the rupture in the revisions to the sacraments after Vatican II was a literalism that defies common sense.
For example, the ideology that standing to receive Holy Communion and on the hand rather than on the tongue is to be seen symbolically as "being raised up with Christ and more adult!" Yet, even when receiving Holy Communion kneeling, or for that matter, flat on one's back for viaticum, is not that person still "raised up in Christ?" Literalism run a muck is the apologetic for receiving Holy Communion standing and in the hand!
The apologetic given for the "spoken" canon is that it is a proclamation that must be heard. But who needs to hear it? If it is prayer, the essential One to hear it is God the Father, through Christ His Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. Even if the sacramental priest representing the Eternal High Priest at the altar prays the canon silently, does not God still hear it? Is it not still a proclamation of prayer? The volume of it has nothing to do with it. The silence though has everything to do with the sense of awe, mystery and reverence for the congregation and the sacramental priest!
In effect the flawed apologetic of a proclaimed Canon in the revised Mass and with the sacramental priest facing the congregation is that the congregation needs to hear the canon and have their ears tickled by it. It thus places the Canon in the same category as the proclamation of Scripture, an exercise in catechesis and instruction. The Canon is neither! It is prayer to God pure and simply--the prayer of the Church on earth, in purgatory and in heaven! It is heard by God even when the voice is mute! Silence is Golden.
What are the requirements of Catholic spirituality when participating at Mass with a silent canon?
1. Clergy and laity must understand that the silence is a symbol of being in the presence of God and barefoot. It is an entering into the "Holy of Holies." Awe, wonder, hushed silence comprise the attitude of the soul.
2. Catholic laity need not follow the words of the canon in their own missal word by word, but they do need to be familiar with the Roman Canon having read and studied it regularly, especially its structure. But at Mass, understanding the reason for the silent canon as enhancing the sense of mystery, awe and wonder, they watch the priest and make the prayer of the Church which the priest prays to God silently a part of their own spirituality and offering. Simply let the gestures of the priest be a sacred sign language and the bells to keep one focused on the progress the priest has made in praying the canon with the occasional loud voice to begin a sentence.
3. During the silent Canon, Catholics must recover a sense that this is the most SACRED part of the Mass, where the offering of bread and wine takes place and then is consecrated and then the sacrificial offering of the consecrated Bread and Wine, the Risen Lord in an unbloody way in remembrance of Calvary takes place. The congregation also needs to have an awareness of the prayers of petition for the living and dead that the priest prays during the Canon--thus rendering the Universal Prayer after the Credo in the Ordinary Form redundant and simply more words spoken aloud to make the Mass more wordy and banal, a carnival of babble.
If the priest and the laity at an EF Mass don't understand the spirituality and theology of silence during Mass and especially during the Canon they will find it a distraction. But go and watch an EF Mass with a silent canon and approach it as I have highlighted it above and one will appreciate it and rediscover a profound reverence, mystery and hermeneutic of piety!