Last night I attended the Mass of the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception at my parish. It was my first Mass where the Roman Canon was used with the new translation of the Roman Missal. In case you don’t know, the Roman Canon is the Eucharistic prayer in which the priest mentions many of the Saints and Martyrs:
the glorious ever-Virgin Mary,
Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ,
and blessed Joseph, her Spouse,
your blessed Apostles and Martyrs,
Peter and Paul, Andrew,
Thomas, James, Philip,
Simon and Jude;
Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus,
John and Paul,
Cosmas and Damian
John the Baptist, Stephen,
Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia
I am often struck by this recitation or mentioning of so many Saints because it reminds me that so many people have been willing to live their lives, and give their lives, for Christ. They stand before us as examples of the Faith, and they are in Heaven to intercede for us before the Lord. They, with the other Saints, many of whom are not formally canonized, make up the “Great Cloud of Witnesses” that we read about in Hebrews, the Communion of Saints.
In the new translation, I was struck by this other part of the prayer:
Remember, Lord, your servants
and all gathered here,
whose faith and devotion are known to you.
For them, we offer you this sacrifice of praise
or they offer it for themselves
and all who are dear to them:
for the redemption of their souls,
in hope of health and well-being,
and paying their homage to you,
the eternal God, living and true.
(Emphasis added) It is easy to think of the prayer that the priest makes at Mass as just that– the prayer the priest makes. This part of the Canon, although directed to God, reminds us that the priest makes this prayer on our behalf, that in participating in the Mass, we are making an offering, not just the priest. And participation doesn’t mean that we have to be cantors or lectors or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. Participation is what we do by being present, listening, learning, praying, and worshipping God. We offer the sacrifice for ourselves and our dear ones, it is not just the priest who offers the sacrifice.
Roman Canon excerpts from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website, http://old.usccb.org/romanmissal/