23 September 2009

On the Canon and Such

A post over on Gottesdienst Blog led to a discussion of the Canon, and it led me to remember the way that the King John III Red Book of Sweden had sought to offer a Lutheran version of the same as the Prayer of the Church. But it also led me to wonder about another way of approaching the same matter. What would you folks think of the pastor offering the following petitions as the congregation and choir were singing the Sanctus?

Silently (during the Sanctus):
Almighty eternal God, You have promised the Spirit of grace and prayer. We beseech You to grant Him to us, that we according to Your commandment and promise may call upon You in spirit and in truth: let Your Holy Spirit rule our hearts, for without Him we cannot be pleasing to You.

You, therefore, O most merciful Father, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, do we supplicants beg and entreat to regard our prayers as acceptable and that You would deign to hear them, in particular those which we offer on behalf of Your holy catholic Church: that may You deign to reconcile, protect, unite and guide her throughout the world: together with all government, of whatever dignity and name, and all the orthodox in belief and the cultivators of the catholic and apostolic faith.

O Lord God, You will that Your Son’s holy and most worthy Supper should be to us a pledge and assurance of Your mercy: awaken our heart, that we who celebrate His Supper may have a salutary remembrance of Your benefits, and humbly render true and due thanks, glory, honor, and praise for evermore. 

Help us Your servants and Your people that we may hereby remember the holy, pure, immaculate, and blessed offering of Your Son, which He made upon the cross for us, and worthily celebrate the mystery of His new testament and eternal covenant. 

Bless and sanctify with the power of Your Holy Spirit that which is prepared and set apart for this holy use, bread and wine, that rightly used it may be unto us the Body and Blood of Your Son, the food and drink of eternal life, which we may desire and seek with greatest longing. All this grant through the same Your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and forever. Amen.

(Aloud): Our Father...


Tim said...

Hmmm... but we've done it like that before! :)
Seriously though, I don't see a problem with it. I just don't understand what it means to "pray silently" in the context of the Divine Service. Does that mean whisper?

Past Elder said...

Totally opposed. If the people aren't going to hear it, might as well go back to the silent canon.

William Weedon said...

ROTFLOL. I almost wrote the comment for you, Terry! I KNEW you'd say that.

The offering of prayers while parts of the liturgy sung, though, is not uncommon. I was thinking of the Agnus. I never sing it. As it is being sung I break the host and prepare to commune with the pre-communion prayers and then a thanksgiving after having received the Blessed Sacrament. The whole corresponds rather exactly to the time the congregation is singing Agnus. When they're done, I'm ready to commune the assistants and then we begin communing the people. The people never hear these prayers I offer, though if they look toward the altar they might well guess that I am praying.

William Weedon said...


Pray silently means pray quietly in a voice that does not interfere with the song the people are singing at that point.

Past Elder said...

Well, I would submit that there is a difference between whatever the pastor does by way of a haec commixtio (which really is supposed to be before the Agnus Dei) and a rootin tootin rag dog doodle canon missae.

And that a silent canon with choral accompaniment is still a silent canon.

In terms of your own definition of pray silently, how can the canon, if it be important enough to include at all, still be not so important as to interfere with the Agnus Dei?

Dan Pharr said...

I think you are going to need a longer Sanctus.

Tim said...

Whoops! I meant to say "but we haven't done it like that before". My bad.

Anonymous said...

The idea of silent prayer by the celebrant (as part of the liturgy, not personal prayer) implies that there are “mysteries” in which the parishioners need not participate. I do not believe this reflects a Lutheran understanding of worship. But I am more distressed by the content of the prayer, and the fact that nobody else has found it objectionable. So as not to violate the guidelines of “Comment Moderation” I simply pass on the following quotation:


Church of the Norway Bishop`s Conference 1985
Endorsed by the Church of Norway General Synod 1985

4.3.3 We have mentioned that we have an appreciation for the document's strong emphasis on the work of the Spirit in the sacrament such as this finds expression through the epiklesis. On the other hand, however, we, in our tradition, have difficulty accepting an understanding of the epiklesis which turns it into the consecration factor in the eucharistic liturgy. Our church has maintained that the Words of Institution are the decisive words of promise which constitute the eucharist as sacrament, and we have emphasized further that the entire meal be held together as one unit and that the eucharistic act not be divided up into separate elements which in a special way can be attached to the Holy Spirit, e.g., through an epiklesis prayer. We can therefore not see that a formal epiklesis prayer is a necessary condition for Christ to be present in the eucharist. Against this background, we find the statement in § 14 to be somewhat unclear, which says: "The Spirit makes the crucified and risen Christ really present to us in the eucharistic meal ... " According to our understanding, Christ 's actual presence depends, in and with the elements, on God's word of promise and Christ 's Words of Institution. It is here we find the genuine basis for the sacramental reality and efficaciousness of the eucharist.

I hope that nobody will be caught up in the technicality that the prayer under consideration may not be an epiklesis, or that the Church of Norway is responding to doctrinal statement with which we do not agree to begin with. My concern is with the substance of what Scripture tells us about the Eucharist.

Peace and Joy. George A. Marquart

William Weedon said...


FWIW, the prayer was from a Swedish Service Book of the 16th century. The prayer for the Spirit is rather striking in it (having no real precedence in the Roman canon), but as long as it falls prior to the actual consecration, it does not strike me as problematic per se. Should it fall after the consecration then it contradicts our faith that it is the Words of Jesus Himself that bring about what they promise in the Sacrament. There are those who object to confessing the Holy Spirit has any role in the consecration; but I think Dr. Luther was quite wise on this when he wrote:

"For as soon as Christ says: 'This is my body,' his body is present *through the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit.*" AE 36:341