The Canon of the Mass: The Anaphora of St. Mark

The form and structure of liturgies is something that churches which employ these in worship either take for granted or argue over intensely. But very few people understand how a) these came into being or b) how they should be revised or replaced in times of liturgical change. What kind of theology is embodied in a liturgy? What attention to the rhythm and metre is given? How will a liturgy work in a language other than one the one it’s written in? How well does a liturgy communicate its message, in addition to being the setting for the “sacred pledge” of the Eucharist? All of these important questions frequently get the short shrift, either by defenders of an existing liturgy of by proposers of a new one?

Liturgical change is the time when these questions do get asked the most. Probably the most important liturgical transition of the last one hundred years took place when the Roman Catholic Church promulgated the Novus Ordo Missae, which was instituted in 1970. That mass was the result of both theological and liturgical forces that had been going on in the Church for most of the preceding century.

Many of those changes—and probably some of the process that led to the NOM—were set forth in Cipriano Vagaggini’s book The Canon of the Mass and Liturgical Reform. Published in 1967, it is a careful and thorough treatment of the subject, and probably represents the thinking of those in charge of the liturgical reform initiated by Vatican II.

The focus of his work is the anaphora, which is, by Vagaggini’s definition, “the liturgical text which accompanies and expresses the offering of the Church’s sacrifice to the Father.” The RCC had used the Roman Canon for nearly fourteen centuries and, while Vagaggini is careful to underline the importance of the Roman Canon to the life of the Church, he is also clear that it has its defects as well.

In this series (which starts here,) we will reproduce the various historical anaphorae he sets forth, plus two Projects “B” and “C” which are his proposals (or perhaps those at the Vatican in the process of formulating the then really “new” NOM) for new anaphorae to be used in the church. Vagaggini also has extensive explanations for all of this; consult the book for these.

I will reproduce the English translations of these anaphorae only. Serious liturgists would do well to consult his original Latin, as the translations look like they were taken from the Italian without consideration of the original Latin text. I have tried to winnow out errors in the OCR process but, if you find some, please bring them to my attention.

A general overview of this topic can be found here.

(Here ends the fixed portion of the introduction; the variable portion follows.)

This is the “Anaphora of St. Mark,” which, like St. Basil’s comes from Alexandria, is nevertheless more in the Egyptian tradition.

…Holy, holy, holy Lord of all! Heaven and earth are full of your glory.

Fill us too with your glory, and deign to send your Holy Spirit upon these offerings which you have created, and make this bread the body of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and this cup the blood of the new covenant of our same et Lord, God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. And as this bread scattered on the mountains and hills has been gathered to become one body… just as this wine from David’s holy branch and this water from the spotless lamb have been mixed so as to become a single sacrament: so gather together the catholic Church of Jesus Christ.

For our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night in which he gave himself up … (Beginning and last part of the prayer which follows the anamnesis)…your death we announce; your resurrection we proclaim.. . and we pray. .. grant us your servants the power of the Holy Spirit that our faith may grow to the hope of the eternal life that is to come.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom glory is given to you Father with the Holy Spirit forever. Amen.


The Lord be with you all.

And with you.

Let us lift up our hearts.

We have raised them up to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord.

That is right and fitting.


It is indeed right and fitting, holy and just, and most wholesome for our souls, to praise you who are the Master and Lord, God the almighty Father, and to thank and rejoice in you, to speak and to sing of you, in the day and in the night, our lips never quiet and our hearts never silent. For it is you who made the heavens and all they contain, the earth and all that is in it, the sea, the torrents, the rivers, the lakes and all that is in them. It is you who made man in your own image and likeness and bestowed on him the delights of paradise; when he had sinned you did not scorn and abandon him, but in your loving kindness called him again through your law and instructed him by your prophets. At last, you restored and renewed him by this most wonderful, heavenly and life-giving sacrament. All this you accomplished through him who is your wisdom, the true light, your only Son, our Lord, God, and Saviour, Jesus Christ.


It is through him that we offer to you, as also to him and to the Holy Spirit, this spiritual and unbloody sacrifice which all the nations offer you Lord, from the East to the West, from the North to the South. Because great is your renown among all the nations, and in every place a sacrifice of incense is offered to your name, a pure sacrifice, a fragrant offering.


We ask and prav vou Lord that you who are the true lover of mankind may be mindful of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, which stretches from one end of the earth to the other; remember, Lord, all your peoples and all your flocks.

Fill all our hearts with that peace which comes from heaven, and give us peace in this life.

(A long series of prayers of intercession are inserted here for various intentions. For the most part they are rather wordy and without much order, with repetitions which show that the text is certainly later than that of the Strasbourg papyrus. So we give here in the footnote, the Latin translation of this passage of the papyrus.)

(Deacon: Let those who are seated rise)

Free the prisoners, come to the aid of those who are in need, nourish those who are hungry, omfort the anguished, convert those who are in error; enlighten those who are seated in darkness, lift up those who have fallen, give courage to those who hesitate, heal the sick; lead all in the way of salvation and gather them all into your sheepfold; cleanse us from our sins, you who in all things are our protector and guardian.


(Deacon: Look towards the East)

You are above all kingdoms, powers, empires and dominations, and above every name that can be named, not only in this world but in the world to come. You have around you thousand upon thousand of holy angels and all the armies of archangels. You have before you those most noble beings: the cherubim with the innumerable eyes, and the six-winged seraphim, who use two wings to cover their faces, two to cover their feet, and two to fly. They cry one to another, never ceasing to speak and to utter your sacred praises, singing that triumphal and thrice holy hymn, proclaiming, glorifying and exalting the splendour of your glory:

Holy! holy! holy! Lord God of all! Heaven and earth are full of your glory.

(He raises his voice): All things glorify you at all times, but grant that together with all those who glorify you, you may also receive the praise we offer to you, our Lord and Master, we who praise you with them and say:

(People): Holy! holy! holy! Lord, God of all! Heaven and earth are full of your glory.


Truly, heaven and earth are full of your glory through the coming of our Lord, God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Fill, O God, this sacrifice with that blessing which comes from you by the coming of your most Holy Spirit.


Our Lord and God and sovereign king Jesus Christ, on the night in which he gave himself for our sins and suffered death in his flesh for all men, when he was eating with his apostles and disciples, took bread into his holy and spotless hands, lifted his eyes to you, his Father, our God and the God of all, gave thanks, blessed, sanctified, broke it and gave it to his holy and blessed apostles and disciples saying:

(in a loud voice)

Take and eat.

(Deacon: Stretch out your hands)

(in a loud voice)

This is my body, which is broken for you and is shared among you for the forgiveness of sins.

(People: Amen)

Likewise, when he had finished the meal, he took the cup, filled it with wine and water, lifted his eyes to you, his Father, our God and the God of all, gave thanks, blessed, sanctified, filled it witb the Holy Spirit and gave it to his holy and blessed apostles and disciples saying:

(in a loud voice)

Drink some of this all of you.

(Deacon: Stretch out your hand again)

This is my blood, the blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for you and for aU men for the forgiveness of sins. (People: Amen) Do this in memory of me. In fact, whenever you eat this bread or drink this cup, you will proclaim my death and my resurrection and announce my ascension, until the time when I return.


That is why, Master and all powerful Lord, King of heaven, in proclaiming the death of your only Son, our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ; in acknowledging his blessed resurrection from the dead on the third day, his ascension into heaven and his sitting at the right hand of you, Gad, his Father; and in waiting for his glorious and terrible second coming, when he will come to judge the living and the dead with justice and will give to each man according to his works,

-spare us, Lord our God

we place before you these gifts which come from you.


We ask and pray you, you who are the true lover of mankind, to send from your heavenly sanctuary, from your celestial dwelling and unutterable dwelling place, the Paraclete himself, the Holy Spirit of truth, who is Lord and giver of life, who has spoken through the law, through the prophets, and through the apostles. He is present everywhere and fills all things, and he brings about by his own power and not as a minister, the sanctification of those whom he chooses of his own free will. He is simple in essence, but has many different operations; he is the source of divine gifts and consubstantial with you; he proceeds from you and sits with you on the throne of your kingdom, which is also the kingdom of your only Son, our Lord, God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Look on us and send upon these loaves and cups your Holy Spirit, that, being God almighty, he may sanctify and consecrate them,

(in a loud voice)

and make of this bread the body

(People: Amen)

(in a loud voice)

and of this cup the blood of the new covenant of our Lord, God, Saviour, and sovereign King, Jesus Christ. (Deacon: Deacons, come down.) May we who participate in it find there faith, soberness, healing, wisdom, holiness, renewal of our souls, bodies and spirits, a share in happiness, eternal life and immortality, the glorifying of your holy name and the remission of sins.


And in this time as in all times, may your most holy, venerable and glorious name be glorified and praised with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

(People: As it was, is, [and shall be from generation to generation and for ever and ever. Amen]).

4 Replies to “The Canon of the Mass: The Anaphora of St. Mark”

  1. Vagaggini’s comment on Serapion is as follows: “It has been shown that the present text of Serapion is not in the least typical, containing as it does ideas of doubtful orthodoxy.”

    Thanks much for your comments on these, Fr. Greg. They have been most illuminating and have added to their presentation, the problems with the Thrice-Holy Hymn notwithstanding.


  2. You’re welcome. He is right. Serapion is not typical, which makes it interesting. I’m wondering, however, what he finds of “doubtful orthodoxy” there. Not saying that it’s not present, just that nothing obviously heretical has jumps out at me.


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