Canon of the Liturgy

Canon Of The Liturgy

is that portion of the liturgy which contains the form of consecration, and which in the Roman and most other rites is fixed and invariable. It is also called Actio, and the title Infra Actionem (infra being used for intra) is not uncommonly placed over the prayer Communicantes, in ancient MSS. Pope Vigilius (Epist. ad Profuturum) and Gregory the Great (Epist. vii, 64) call the canon Precens, or Precem Canonicam, as being the prayer by pre-eminence. It is also called Secreta and Secretum Missce, from being said in a low voice. Tertullian appears to use the word Benedictio to designate that portion of the eucharistic service which included consecration.

1. Early Notices of this Portion of the Liturgy. — Justin Martyr gives an account of this portion of the service (Apol. i, c. 65). In Ireaneus are several passages which contain liturgical indications (Haeres. iv, 18, § 4, p. 251, etc.). Tertullian's works contain many eucharistic allusions, as do also those of Cyprian (Epist. 63, c. 17; 62, c. 5, etc.), Origen (Contra Celsum, lib. 8, p. 399), Cyril of Jerusalem (Catech. Mystag. v), Basil (De Spiritu Sanctu, c. 27), Chrysostom (on 2 Cor. Hom. 18, etc.), and Augustine (Ad Infant. de Sacramentis, p. 227).

2. The Canon in Existing Liturgies. — In the extant liturgies we find the canon existing in all cases of nearly the same elements, variously arranged.

We have, in nearly all canons, after the Sanctus, commemoration of the Lord's life and of the institution, oblation, prayer for living and dead, leading on to the Lord's Prayer, with Embolismus. In the eastern liturgies always, sometimes in the Gallican and Mozarabic masses, but not in the Roman or Ambrosian, we have an epiclesis, or prayer for the descent of the Holy Spirit on the elements. The canon is generally understood to exclude the Sanctus, while the Anaphora includes both the Sursum Corda and the Sanctus. The table on the next page shows the principal differences of arrangement. SEE LITURGY.

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