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C. J. McNaspyApril 26, 2022

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the May 27, 1967 issue of America.

Our American bishops’ petition to have the Canon of the Mass said in English is now granted. If this becomes common practice, many liturgists foresee a new problem. While the Our Father can be said meaningfully every day, it may be questioned whether one Roman Canon will prove equally functional if used day after day. Sunday after Sunday, hardly; but day after day?

Those of us who have championed the vernacular cause over the years were never so naive (and we said so in print) as to believe that translation would put an end to all problems. In fact, it creates new ones. For as long as the Mass was recited in a relatively unfamiliar tongue, monotony was bearable, indeed expected; one’s thoughts could drift piously into variegated meditation while the prescribed words went on more or less mechanically. Once everything is said in one’s own language, however, a new style of attention becomes both possible and imperative.

Those of us who have championed the vernacular cause over the years were never so naive (and we said so in print) as to believe that translation would put an end to all problems.

Some provision ought therefore to be made in anticipation of what can become a serious problem. Otherwise, it may be years before the vacuum is decently filled. With this need in mind, a number of new canons are being composed, unofficially, in line with ancient tradition but using images and phrases that correspond to the modern imagination. These may give us some hint of what is to come. If a hundred or so—differing in style, length, theological sophistication—were to be available, our liturgical commission, when the moment came, could make a choice based on real experience and not simply worked out in an abstract context.

(It is no secret that a great number of new Mass canons are being used in Holland. Some estimates go as high, in fact, as 100. Of these, severa! are the compositions of a distinguished liturgist, Huub Oosterhuis, of the Bishops’ Liturgical Commission. The so-called “Dutch Canon,” which is weil known in this country, is one of the Oosterhuis canons.)

We have secured the permission of two distinguished young theologian-writers (for the combination seems unfortunately rare) to publish canons that they have composed. Both texts are copyrighted.

The first is by Fr. John L’Heureux. S.J. (Quick as Dandelions and Rubrics for a Revolution), and the second, by Fr. Donald Gelpi, S. J. (Life and Light: A Guide to the Theology of Karl Rahner and Functional Asceticism). They demonstrate two types of canons, different in flavor yet both profoundly traditional, that may open the way to further exploration. Theologians with a gift of words, and poets who know liturgical theology, please take notice. -C.J. McNaspy, S.J.

Theologians with a gift of words, and poets who know liturgical theology, please take notice.

Canon by John L’Heureux

We give you praise and thanks, Almighty Father, that you are God, creator and father of all men. You know us and so we live. You love us and so we are your people.
Blessed are you, Father, that you have given us this day and this hour. Blessed are you, Father, in all the things you have made: in plants and in animals and in men, the wonders of your hand. Blessed are you, Father, for the food we eat; for bread and for wine and for laughter in your presence. Blessed are you, Father, that you have given us eyes to see your goodness in the things you have made, ears to hear your word, hands that we may touch and bless and understand.
We give you thanks that, having made all things, you keep them and love them. And so, with all your creation, we praise you through our Lord Jesus Christ, saying:
Holy, holy, holy. Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are filled with your glory. Hosannah in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
And so we offer you, most merciful Father, through your Son Jesus Christ, this sacrifice of praise.
You have chosen us to be your children, you have called us to a life of joy and love; you have given us your beloved Son.
We wish to offer you ourselves in this, your Son's most holy sacrifice. We pray for the welfare of your Church, for our Bishop __________, for our Pope __________, for all believers and for all unbelievers everywhere.
We remember with love the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ; we remember his holy apostles, his martyrs, and his saints.
We ask for peace everywhere on earth, peace among all men who still do not know that we are brothers. We ask that, loving one another in the bonds of peace, we may love you as your Son has loved you.
Through him we praise you. Father, through your Son Jesus Christ. He has revealed your love to us. He is the image and the incarnation of your presence. He has become man for us.
You sent him from heaven to a virgin's womb. He took flesh in that womb and was born of the virgin and of the Holy Spirit. He did all things that were pleasing to you: he grew and he obeyed and he loved you even to his death for us on the cross.
Before he was handed over to undergo the suffering he accepted for us, thereby to free us from death and selfishness and sin, to bring light to a darkened world, to make a new covenant of love and mercy, he took bread into his hands, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to his friends, saying: TAKE THIS AND EAT. THIS IS MY BODY, WHICH IS TO BE BROKEN FOR YOU.
In the same way, he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it to his friends, saying: TAKE THIS AND DRINK. THIS IS THE CUP OF MY BLOOD, OF THE NEW AND EVERLASTING COVENANT, THE MYSTERY OF FAITH, WHICH SHALL BE SHED FOR YOU AND FOR ALL OTHERS UNTO THE REMISSION OF SINS. Whenever you do these things, you will be commemorating me.
And so. Lord God, we commemorate now that he suffered and died for us, and that he is the first-born of all creation, that he has triumphed over death and lives forever glorious in his resurrection, that he sits at your right hand and speaks on our behalf, and that he will come to do justice to the living and the dead on the day you shall appoint.
We pray that this perfect sacrifice of your Son, which we offer you in humility and love, may be the sign of our surrender to you.
We pray that before the eyes of all men we may live your gospel and be the sacrament of Christ's presence, that we may support one another in love, that our hearts may be open to the poor, the sick, the unwanted, to all who are in need. We pray that thus we may truly be the Church of Jesus Christ, serving one another out of love for you.
And so. Lord God, we eat of this body and drink of this blood of your Son Jesus Christ as the sign of our faith and as the food of our life in Christ.
Through him and with him and in him you are blessed and praised. Almighty God our Father, together with the Holy Spirit, now and forever. AMEN


"We pray that this perfect sacrifice of your Son, which we offer you in humility and love, may be the sign of our surrender to you."

Canon by Donald Gelpi

We praise you and we bless you, eternal Father, that in the fullness of time you have spoken to us your saving words of graciousness and of love. For by the message of your Son you have called us to be your children and your friends. And by the light of your word we are warmed and strengthened in our darkness and loneliness.
We bless the power of your creative word, which first drew out from the waters of chaos the rich, firm land where we now live and work, the word that sustains the heavens and the stars, and the measureless immensity of space.
We bless the kindness of your words of forgiveness and of promise that you spoke to our first parents in their shame.
We bless your word of hope that long ago summoned Abraham from the darkness and ignorance of unbelief and called him to be our true father in the faith.
We bless your summoning word that raised up Moses and the prophets to bear witness against the infidelity and injustice of mankind and to cleave our hearts with the two-edged sword of righteousness and of truth.
But most of all we bless you for your Son. For he is your first and final Word of love, and all-encompassing Wisdom, who proceeds from your lips, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. By him we are created anew. In him we find redemption and forgiveness of sins. Through him we are summoned to confess the power of your love and are sent forth to proclaim the good news of our salvation in humility and in truth. With him we die and are born to a new life.
We recall the immensity of his love for us, which led him to stretch out his arms to embrace the cross, that your fidelity to him and to a sinful world might be revealed. For the night before he suffered, with great longing he gathered together his friends for a final meal; and knowing full well all that was still to come, he looked upon them with love. Then he took the bread that lay before them; he praised you, his eternal Father, for your faithfulness; and he broke the bread and gave it to his friends with the words: TAKE THIS. EAT IT. FOR THIS IS MY BODY. IT IS BEING GIVEN FOR YOU. And in the same way he took the cup and gave it to them with the words: TAKE THIS. SHARE IT AMONG YOU. FOR THIS IS THE CUP OF MY BLOOD, THE BLOOD OF A NEW AND EVERLASTING COVENANT, THE MYSTERY OF FIDELITY, WHICH WILL BE SHED FOR YOU AND FOR ALL MEN FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS. AS FOR YOU, WHEN YOU DO THESE THINGS, DO THEM IN MEMORY OF ME.
We recall these words in gratitude and love; and in obedience we ponder this mystery of the lifting up of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in hope and expectation of the great day when he shall appear again before the eyes of all men in majesty and in might. And in the everlasting power of his command, we place before you here this sign of our belief and of our trust.

We ask you to renew in us now the Spirit of your Son, that we may learn from him and from his memory the true meaning of love and that we may find in him an unquenchable thirst for justice and for peace.
We pray for one another and we ask you to bless us. Be favorable to our Pope __________ and to our Bishop __________, and to all the pastors of your Church throughout the world. Preserve in them a concern for the unity of your flock, that they may guide it in meekness and in truth. Grant to us, your people, the courage to live our lives in the image of your Son.
Increase in us a concern for those whom you love, for the lonely, for the poor, for the homeless, for the defenseless, that we may labor in your name to restore to them their rightful dignity as your adopted sons and daughters. Please bless our President and our land, and keep us blameless in your sight.
So, our Father, may you always be pleased with us, even as you were ever pleased to look upon the face of your Son and servant, our Lord, Jesus Christ. For through him, and with him, and in him, you are blessed and praised, God our Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, today and all days until eternity. AMEN

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