Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Saints Named in the Canon of the Mass

In the Canon of every Mass over three dozen saints are invoked by the priest before and after the Consecration – the Consecration, that sublime act whereby the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ become present under the appearance of bread and wine. Who were these great saints? Why are they entreated at the pinnacle of the Mass? And why were these particular saints chosen?

When the days of the old covenant between Almighty God and His chosen people had been fulfilled, Christ defeated sin and death and so made it possible for men to enter Heaven through union with His mystical body, the Catholic Church. Those who are united with the soul of Christ’s Church share in the Communion of Saints, a locution describing:
* The faithful on earth (the Church Militant) who are fighting the temporal crusade for the Kingdom of God,
* The souls in Purgatory (the Church Suffering) who are making atonement in the place of purification, and
* The blessed in Heaven (the Church Triumphant) who are rejoicing in their eternal reward. 

With our Lord as its head, this unity forms the Mystical Body of Christ, and benefits from a plenary exchange of grace and vitality between its members. Thus, through charity and obedience the members of the Church Militant participate in the same faith, sacraments, worship, and government, and aid one another through holy examples, constant prayers, and satisfactory works. These faithful also assist the suffering souls in Purgatory by prayers and sacrifices. The saints in Heaven, meanwhile, intercede with God on behalf of those who have not yet attained the Beatific Vision. The whole is vivified by life-giving activity of the Holy Ghost. 

In recognition of this, and to compensate for the defects in the prayers and works of the Church Militant, during the sacrifice of the Mass the priest invokes the intercession of the saints in Heaven. In calling to mind the examples of the members of the Church Triumphant the priest also provides instruction to the faithful on earth by illuminating the continuity of Catholic life and teaching. Further, loving attention to the saints encourages a spirit of adoration for what is holy and good, without which the battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil becomes a grim campaign. In venerating the saints, Catholics also honor what God Himself honors. 

The saints petitioned in the Mass are those who were venerated since the earliest days of the Church of Rome. Pope St. Gregory the Great (590–604 AD) set the number of these saints at 40, and thus the count remained until Pope John XXIII added St. Joseph to the Canon in 1962. 

Twin invocations fittingly unite the full Mystical Body at the Consecration.
(1) In the Communicantes preceding the Consecration, two ensembles of saints – the 12 apostles and 12 martyrs – are named under the mantle of the Queen of Saints in union with St. Joseph her most chaste spouse.
(2) In the Nobis quoque peccatoribus following the Consecration and the Memento for the holy souls, fourteen martyrs are invoked alongside St. John the Baptist. 

The Saints of the Communicantes
In expectation of the Consecration the faithful unite themselves with the saints of the Communicantes as they await the arrival of their Divine Master, who is about to appear in Person on the sacred altar.
The Holy Family, the saints of the Incarnation:
* Mary, the Mother of God
* Joseph, the Head of the Holy Family 

The Apostles are next named in the Canon:
* Peter
* Paul
* Andrew
* James the Greater
* John
* Thomas
* James the Less
* Philip
* Bartholomew
* Matthew
* Simon the Zealot
* Jude Thaddeus 

After the Apostles, 12 saints are named. The first seven are clerics; the last five are laymen whose martyrdoms sanctified their professions.
* Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, and Cornelius: Popes
* Cyprian: Bishop
* Lawrence: Deacon
* Chrysogonus: Teacher
* John and Paul: Civil Servants, brothers
* Cosmas and Damian: Physicians, brothers
 
The Saints of the Nobis quoque peccatoribus
After the Consecration the martyrs are again invoked in the prayer Nobis quoque peccatoribus, often called “The Great Intercession.” This list of saints is a choir of seven men and seven women headed by St. John the Baptist.

The men are named first, and represent the several orders and states in the Church.
* John the Baptist: Prophets
* Stephen: Deacons
* Matthias: Apostles
* Barnabas: Levites
* Ignatius of Antioch: Bishops
* Alexander: Popes
* Marcellinus: Priests
* Peter: Exorcists, Clerks
 
The canon next calls our attention to holy women who died for the Faith of Jesus Christ. All of them were added to the Canon by St. Gregory. They represent both the married and unmarried states, and hail from the important centers of early Western Christianity.
* Felicitas and Perpetua: married, Carthage
* Agatha: virgin, Sicily
* Lucy: virgin, Sicily
* Agnes: virgin, Rome
* Cecilia: married but continent, Rome
* Anastasia: widowed, the Orient