The center and high point of the entire celebration of Mass is the Eucharistic prayer. In the Roman Rite (let’s remember that the Catholic Communion includes 32 rites) the most important Eucharistic prayers is the Roman Canon or Eucharistic Prayer I. For ten centuries it was the only Eucharistic prayer of the Roman Rite. Here is what we need to know about it:
It was written down when the Roman liturgy was changing from Greek into Latin. It was probably written down by a request of Pope Damasus (+384 A. D) who had commissioned St. Jerome the Latin translation of the Bible, called the Vulgate.
Being like the Eucharistic prayer from Milan that was edited after the original Greek. It presupposes an early Greek version.
Since it was written down, it was modified only twice. First, by Pope Leo the Great (+461 A. D) who added the expression “a holy sacrifice, a spotless victim.” And secondly, by Pope Gregory the Great (+604 A. D), who added “order our days in your peace, and command that we be delivered from eternal damnation and counted among the flock of those you have chosen.” And it has been constantly prayed, unchanged, until our days.
It is a written version of the Orthodox icons of the Deesis (a prayer of the communion of saints). It reminds us that the prayer of the Church is the prayer of all the saints. The Roman Canon contains two lists of saints. One at each side of the institution narrative who is Jesus himself. On one side, we have the first list including Our Lady, 12 apostles, and 12 martyrs. After the words of institution, another list of saints follows enlisting St. John the Baptist and 14 Roman martyrs (7 women and 7 men).
Here is an example of the Russian Icon of a Deesis from the XVI century:
With the Roman Canon, we discover that the communion of saints includes the communion in prayer. The Eucharist is the highest form of prayer. Every time you hear the Roman Canon just feel that the whole church is interceding for you and with you before the Lord.
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