Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Other Variants of the Ambrosian Canon

Apart from the two lists of Saints in the Communicantes and in the Nobis quoque, most of the divergences between the Roman Canon and the Ambrosian are fairly slight, involving no more than a small omission, a small addition, or a difference in the order of the words. A few of the changes, however are more significant.

The first page of the Canon from an Ambrosian Missal ca. 1100 A.D.

In the Te igitur, the Holy Roman Emperor, the king or the duke may be named in addition to the Pope and the Archbishop; this variant was present in most medieval uses of the Roman Rite, and is still found in the Dominican Missal. At the beginning of Quam oblationem, the words “quam pietati tuae offerimus - which we offer to Thy holiness” are added immediately after “oblationem.”

The Institution Narrative, beginning with Qui pridie, varies in several regards from the text of the Roman Rite: (additions noted in bold.)

Qui pridie quam pro nostra omniumque salute pateretur, accipiens panem, elevavit oculos ad caelos ad Te, Deum Patrem suum omnipotentem, tibi gratias agens, benedixit, fregit, deditque discipulis suis, dicens ad eos:

Simili modo postquam cenatum est, accipiens Calicem, elevavit oculos ad caelos, ad Te, Deum Patrem suum omnipotentem, item tibi gratias agens, benedixit, tradiditque discipulis suis, dicens ad eos:

* * *

Who on the day before He suffered for our salvation and for that of all men, taking bread He raised up His eyes to the heavens, to Thee, God, His Almighty Father, and giving Thee thanks He blessed it, broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying to them:

In like manner, after the supper, taking the Chalice, He raised up His eyes to the heavens, to Thee, God, His Almighty Father, and again giving Thee thanks, He blessed it and handed it to His disciples, saying to them:

The words “pro nostra omniumque salute” are used in the Roman Rite only at the Mass of Holy Thursday. The descriptive terms which the Roman Canon adds to speak of the Lord’s hands, similar to those of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, (into His Holy and Venerable hands), and of the Chalice (this excellent Chalice) are omitted. Furthermore, the two parts of the Narrative are assimilated to each other by the repetition of the words “He lifted up His eyes to the Heavens, to Thee, His Almighty Father” before the consecration of the Chalice.

In both cases, the actual words of Institution (Hoc est… Hic est…) are identical to those of the Roman Rite, including “mysterium fidei.” However, the words after the consecration of the Chalice appear in a much more elaborate form in the Ambrosian Rite, one of its most beautiful features:

Mandans quoque et dicens ad eos: Haec quotiescumque feceritis, in mei memoriam facietis, mortem meam annuntiabitis, resurrectionem meam praedicabitis, adventum meum sperabitis, donec iterum de caelis veniam ad vos.

* * *

Commanding also and saying to them: However so often you shall do these things, you shall do them in remembrance of Me, you shall announce My death, you shall proclaim my Resurrection, you shall hope for my coming, until I come to you again from the Heavens.

The Unde et memores omits the word “beatae - blessed” in reference to the Lord’s Passion, but adds “mirabilis – wonderful” before the Resurrection, and calls the Ascension “most glorious.” The final words of the Nobis quoque, “et praestas nobis”, are expanded to “et nobis famulis tuis largiter praestas ad augmentum fidei, et remissionem omnium peccatorum nostrorum. – and grantest to us Thy servants bountifully unto the increase of our faith, and the forgiveness of all our sins.”

The Doxology of the Canon is also notably different from the Roman version.

Et est tibi Deo Patri omnipotenti, ex ipso, et per ipsum, et in ipso, omnis honor, virtus, laus et gloria, imperium, perpetuitas et potestas, in unitate Spiritus Sancti, per infinita saecula saeculorum. Amen.

* * *

And to Thee, o God, Father Almighty, from Him, and through Him, and in Him, belong all honor, virtue, praise and glory, rule, eternity and power, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, through the infinite ages of ages. Amen.

The ritual that accompanies the Doxology is also different. Three crosses are made with the Host over the Chalice at the words “ex ipso, et per ipsum, et in ipso.” However, the two further crosses made with the Host in the Roman Rite are not made in the Ambrosian. Instead, the priest holds the Host over the Chalice with the fingers of his left hand; he then takes the paten in his right hand, and at the words “imperium, perpetuitas et potestas” makes three crosses with it over the Host and Chalice together, before singing the final words out loud.

The frontispiece of the a printed Ambrosian Missal of 1594.

The rituals which accompany the recitation of the Ambrosian Canon are for the most identical to those which are found in the Roman Rite, but again, with a few interesting differences. On the two occasions on which the priest kisses the altar, at the beginning of the Te igitur, and again at the Supplices, he makes the sign of the cross on the altar first, and then kisses it. There is no Lavabo during the Offertory; instead, immediately before the Institution Narrative, the priest goes to the Epistle side, and washes his fingers without saying anything. After the elevation of the Chalice and the last genuflexion, he stretches out his hands “in the manner of a cross”, as the rubrics say, a custom also common to many Uses of the Roman Rite. 

The Unde et memores in an Ambrosian Mass; this was not a Requiem, but a ferial Mass of Lent, which in the tradition of Milan is celebrated with black vestments. I wish to add my thanks to Mr. Nicola de' Grandi, the NLM's real Ambrosian expert, who is shown here serving the Mass. Over the years, he has taught me a great deal about the beautiful and ancient liturgical traditions of the Rite of his native city.

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