09 June 2013
The Roman Canon, Comfort, and the Communion of Saints
Of all the variations of liturgy that we hear today, the one that puzzles me the most is a habitual over-use of Eucharistic prayers that omit the Roman Canon. I always tend to notice this acutely when I'm in a spell of loneliness, as I was recently. There are many things the mind and spirit strive to do when one is craving company, and at the right moments, the reassurance of needed friends can be found in the persons of the imagination, only found in the fictions of stories. Thus, books can sometimes be a welcome antidote to loneliness, providing us with an invisible sustaining comfort. But often books cannot cure the problem. I recently found myself in a funk that would not be appeased by stories of any kind, their comforts more illusory than ever. Both the beauty and curse of books (and television) is that they cannot talk back.
But without fail, I was relieved (as always) when I went to Mass and heard:
"...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, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon, and Jude; Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian, and all your Saints..."
And if that wasn't enough:
"...graciously grant some share and fellowship with your holy Apostles and Martyrs; with John the Baptist, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas, Ignatius, Alexander, Macellinus, Peter, Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia, and all your Saints; admit us, we beseech you, into their company..."
And just like the crucial cheering party towards the end of a race, here is the roll call of the Church Triumphant, reminding me that I am far from alone. There are real stories-the most spectacular stories-of saints and martyrs, that we don't have to imagine. There is a certain virtue of the imagination that we need to practice faith and hope, but it is an in sufficient substitute. The written word can rightly act as a catalyst for true comfort, but in the end, the Word that became flesh gives us to most real reassurance.