The first time I celebrated the EF Mass as a priest, on September 14, 2007, I was more nervous about it than my First Mass (apart from priestly ordination) as a priest on June 8, 1980. What made me the most uncomfortable, though, was the very low voice or silently prayed Roman Canon. I felt self-conscience and feared those behind me might think I had forgotten what to do, or worse yet, it wasn’t important for them to hear this prayer as they offered it with me. Of course the latter fear is a mentality foisted upon priest and laity by ideologues of the “spirit of Vatican” and the dismantling of the contemplative aspect of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass experienced in the Grand Silence of adoration during the Roman Canon.
I had forgotten that it was prayed silently, although the Mass changed in my parish around 1966 when I was 13 years old. I think the 1965 Roman Missal allowed for a more audible Roman Canon. I don’t recall, but I do recall hearing it in Latin once the priest faced the congregation and there was a microphone on the altar.
As the years have passed, I have come to appreciate the Grand Silence of the Roman Canon. It enables communal actual participation in the adoration of the Triune God. When the priest and congregation realize that the Roman Canon is the most intimate priestly prayer of the Mass, the silent Canon is like going to your Heavenly Father and praying to Him in private, as though in a closet, because your Heavenly Father hears what no one else hears.
There is no need for the laity to follow verbatim the Roman Canon in a vernacular participation aid. All that is needed is a knowledge of the structure of the Roman Canon. But eyes should be wide open watching this intimacy between the High Priest and His Father (sacramentalized by the human priest whose face is unseen in his ad orientem posture before the laity).
The movements of the priest and the Grand Silence, is the window of actual participation of the priestly people called the laity. The bows, kisses of the altar, the multiple signs of the Cross, it is all eloquent “sign language” understood by all as prayer, praise, contemplation and worship (sacrifice).
The Grand Silence of the Roman Canon is the Western’s Rite’s iconostasis of the Eastern Rite. Far from distancing the laity from the Sacred Intimacy of the Mass, it draws them into the most intimate, personal experience any person can have with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and His Church.
When the Roman Canon or any of the way too many Eucharistic Prayers are prayed in a loud “proclamation” voice and toward the laity, the priest looses the sense of communicating to God and pretends to be communicating to the congregation in voice and gestures. This is not prayer or adoration. It is a reenactment of the Last Supper under the pretense that the words of institution are directed to everyone not exclusively the apostles, the first ordained priests. It is not a reenactment of the Last Supper, but a “memorial” of what constitutes worship (sacrifice) in offering the Victim to the Heavenly Father for His acceptance of that Sacrifice. Not only is God accepting that One Sacrifice, He returns His Son, Priest and Victim to us, which both the ordained Priest and baptized and forgiven Congregation receive during the Rite of Holy Communion. It is appropriate only during the “Ecce Agnus Dei” for the priest to gesture to the congregation with the Host and Chalice as the Forgiven in Christ, are called to “eat and drink” the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ after declaring their unworthiness and plea for healing forgiveness from the Risen Lord.