The canon (Latin for “rule” or “model”) of the Mass is a common Western term for the anaphora or eucharistic prayer. It has also been called the Canon actionis (Canon of action), Prex canonica (canonical Prayer), Praedicatio canonis (canonical foretelling), Prex (prayer), Prex mystica (mystical Prayer), and Praedicatio (foretelling).
Parts of the canon of the Roman rite are attested to as early as the De sacramentis of St Ambrose of Milan in the late fourth century. The author of the Roman canon is unknown, although Pope Gregory the Dialogist tells us that the author was a scholasticus, or “learned man.” The text of the canon has remained virtually unchanged since the papacy of the Dialogist. It likely dates from the first phase of the Latinization of the Roman liturgy. Enrico Mazza has argued that the Roman and Alexandrian anaphoras both developed from a common text.
The structure of the Roman canon is as follows:
- Praefatio (the variable preface)
- Sanctus ("Holy, holy, holy....")
- Te igitur (“Therefore, most gracious Father, ….”)
- Memento dei vivi (commemoration of the living)
- Communicantes (commemoration of the Saints)
- Hanc igitur (“Graciously accept….”)
- Quam oblationem (“O God, deign to bless….”)
- Qui pridie (the Institution narrative, beginning “Who, the day before he suffered….”)
- Unde et memores (“Mindful therefore….”)
- Supra quae (“Deign to regard….”)
- Supplices te rogamus (“Most humbly we implore you….”)
- Memento dei defunti (Commemoration of the departed)
- Nobis quoque pecatoribus (“To us sinners also”)
- Per quem haec omnia (“Through him….”)
- Enrico Mazza, The Origins of the Eucharistic Prayer (Pueblo, 1995). ISBN 978-0814661192.