Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Saints of the Roman Canon - Part 2: The Nobis Quoque

Apologia: I would never have thought it would take over two years to finally get back to this second part. Here was part one, written August 19, 2009.

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We have already considered the saints of the Roman Canon who were invoked in the Communicantes and we now turn to the second great invocation which follows in the Nobis Quoque. However, before we do that, some mention surely must be made of the Supra Quae since our concern is also more generally with the various figures mentioned within the Canon:

"Deign to look with propitious and serene countenance on them, and to accept them, as you deigned to consider acceptable the gifts of your just servant Abel, and the sacrifice of our Patriarch Abraham, and what your high priest Melchizedek offered you, a holy sacrifice, a spotless victim.

Here we see three figures of the Old Testament mentioned: Abel, Abraham and Melchizedek. Each of these offered to God sacrifices which were pleasing to Him (Abel: Genesis 4:4, Melchizedek, Genesis 14:18-20, Abraham: Genesis 22), and the same is asked of the sacrifice made present within the Mass.

That briefly noted, let us turn our attention back to our main point of focus, the Nobis Quoque.

To us sinners, also, your servants, who hope in your many mercies, deign to grant some share and fellowship with your holy Apostles and Martyrs: John, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas, Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter, Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia, and all your Saints.

John here comes in reference to St. John the Baptist (though as Archdale King notes, while that "seems certain" there is some vagueness about this point):
It seems certain that the reference is to the Baptist rather than to the Evangelist, and a decree of the Congregation of Rites to that effect was issued in 1824. This was rescinded, for some unknown reason, in 1898, so that we are permitted to take our choice as to which John is commemorated, although it would seem unlikely that a name would be duplicated in the lists of the canon.

-- Liturgy of the Roman Church, p. 338

However, V.L. Kennedy in The Saints of the Canon of the Mass (Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana, Roma: 1963) rather plainly attributes the reference as being to St. John the Baptist:

The practice of commemorating St. John the Baptist and St. Stephen, the first martyr, in the prayer for the dead was very common in the East. [NLM: note that the saints commemorated in the nobis quoque immediately follow the memento of the dead] The fact that we find this practice, and along with it the phrase... which is the equivalent of the Latin, partem aliquam et societatem donare digneris cum tuis sanctis, in use in the church of Alexandria and in the rites that have their origin at that city, leads one to suspect that the composer of the Nobis quoque borrowed directly from Alexandria. (p. 152)

Kennedy further comments that "The remembrance of the dead is accompanied by a mention of the Blessed Virgin, St. John the Baptist and St. Stephen in the following Eastern liturgies: Coptic Jacobite, Abyssinian Jacobite..." (p. 45)

Next we have mention of St. Stephen, deacon and protomartyr, whose martyrdom we read of in the book of Acts, chapters 6 and 7. This is followed by St. Matthias, the apostle who replaced Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:15-26) and St. Barnabas, the companion of St. Paul, who is often thought of as a kind of apostle -- or as the Catholic Encyclopedia notes it, "styled an Apostle... and, like St. Paul, ranked by the Church with the Twelve, though not one of them." As Kennedy himself suggests, the inclusion of Matthias and Barnabas then would seem to be a completion of the list of the apostles found in the Communicantes.

The next four saints we shall look at only briefly. Ignatius comes in reference to St. Ignatius of Antioch, a bishop who was martyred in the reign of Trajan (ca. A.D. 98-117). With regard to the mention of Alexander, Kennedy notes the difficulty in ascertaining which St. Alexander this might have come in reference to, though he seems to leans toward "St. Alexander martyr, buried in the Cemetery of the Jordani... one of the group of seven whose names are found on July 10th in the Depositio Martyrum of 354 in the Hieronymian Martyrology and Leonine Sacramentary." This is followed next by mention of Ss. Marcellinus and Peter, two martyrs, attributed by some ancient sources as a priest and exorcist respectively.

We finally conclude the saints mentioned in the Roman Canon with seven female saints: "Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia." These women saints are all rather well and popularly known, so suffice it to simply point out the following, which is of some interest:

+ Ss. Felicity and Perpetua were martyrs from Africa (though Kennedy wishes to make a case that the Felicity here mentioned might instead be St. Felicity of Rome);
+ Ss. Agatha and Lucy were both martyred in Sicily;
+ Ss. Agnes and Cecilia, martyrs in Rome;
+ St. Anastasia, also a martyr in what is today Croatia.

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At this point it strikes me that having gone through the list of these saints in these two parts -- with the quite simple purpose of bringing them to greater attention, and in some instances, heightening our awareness of who they are -- there might yet be some further interest in going a bit deeper into some of the patterns which might be discovered. This might be accomplished simply by a more lengthy quotation from Kennedy, but I shall save that for a third part.

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