The Canon of the Mass: Canon “B”

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.)

Here we veer away from the ancient liturgies and look at Vagaggni’s own “Canon B, “ “with a movable preface to be used ad libitum in the Masses with a proper preface.”


It is good and fitting. ..

Holy. . . Hosanna in the heights of heaven.


1 You are indeed holy, Lord,

2 and it is right that your creation

3 gives you unending praise

4 with a voice proclaiming forever

5 that the heavens and earth are filled with the wonders of your glory;

6 for through your Son, Jesus Cnrist, our Lord,

7 and through the life of the Spirit within us

8 vou make all things -live. all things holy.


9 We ask, therefore, most merciful Lord,

10 be pleased to bless these gifts, and make them holy,

11 gifts which we offer for you to sanctify.

12 We pray you, bid your Spirit in his strength, to enter them

13 by the power of your Anointed, our Lord,

14 so that they become, for us, his body and his blood,

15 a sacrifice pleasing to you

16 such as he demanded we offer you.


17 For he, the day before his passion,

18-19 gave us in trust this great mystery of the new covenant,

20 an everlasting memorial of his marvellous works:

21-22 in his mercy he ordained before he offered himself on the cross that we too, his humble servants

23 should constantly offer this sacrifice

24 in the mystery of his body and his blood.

25 So, when he was about to give himself to die,

26 he took bread in his holy and blessed hands,

27 looking up to heaven, to you, God, his all-powerful Father,

28 he gave thanks, blessed and broke it: and gave to his disciples saying:

29 take and eat, all of you:

30 this is my body which shall be given for you.

31 Do this in memory of me.

32 In the same way when they had eaten,

33 he took wine and water in a cup,

34 gave thanks, blessed and gave it to his disciples saying:

35 take and drink, all of you:

36 this is the cup of the new covenant in my blood

37 which shall be poured out for you and for everyone

38 to take away all sins.

39 Do this in memory of me.


40-42 Therefore, Lord, we your servants, and your holy people, remember the glorious passion of your Son,

43 his wonderful resurrection and ascension into heaven;

44 thus, while we await his second coming,

45 we confidently approach the throne of your loving mercy;

46 we thank you, we offer you this gift which you yourself have given us,

47 this bloodless sacrifice:

48 the pure Victim,

49-50 the holy, blameless Victim,

the Victim given that the world might live.


51 We beg you, eternal Lord,

52-57 receive this Victim, for you desired our salvation through his intercession. Look with kindness on the offering of your Church, an offering made holy by the work of your Spirit. Accept it, we pray; grant, in your goodness, that as many of us as receive the body and blood of your Son, may be filled with this Holy Spirit;

58 may we become in him one body, one spirit.

59 May he make us an eternal offering to you,

60 that we may come to the lasting inheritance the saints enjoy;


61 above all in company with the blessed, glorious, and ever-virgin Mary,

62 mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ;

63 with blessed Joseph and John the Baptist,

64 your holy apostles Peter and Paul,

65 saint N. (patron of the diocese), saint N. (saint of the day), and all your saints; [in Masses which are not de sanctis the individual priest—or community—may here insert a saint’s name of his own choice]

66 we trust that through their merits and prayers we shall receive your help, as they plead on our behalf.


67 Remember, Lord, your holy Church throughout the entire world,

68 for which we offer this saving Victim.

69 Be pleased to gather your people from every place on earth and protect them,

70 with your servant our Pope N., and all the bishops of the world,

71 our own Bishop N., and the holy people you have redeemed.


72-73 We pray, Lord, accept the petitions and prayers of those who have made this offering and all those here present,

74 who offer this sacrifice of praise to make amends.

75 Wipe away their sins through these holy mysteries,

76 and, in your kindness, cleanse them

77 that they may receive forever the gifts of your faithful love.


78-79 Look on us, ministers at your altar, with mercy, Lord, for we too are sinners.

80 Accept our service kindly,

81 grant that our lives may be true to the mystery we celebrate.


82-84 Remember also, Lord, those men and women, your servants, who have died, marked with the sign of faith, and rest in the peace of Christ.

85 Let them enter, we pray, that place of eternal joy and light,

86 where we hope one day to enjoy with them the everlasting vision of your glory.


87 Through Christ, our Lord,

88 through whom you give all gifts to the world,

[when food is blessed here, there is said: . . . through whom you ever create all things, and they are good, you make them holy, you endow them with life, you bless them, and you offer them to us.]

89 through him,

90 with him,

91 and in him

92 be all honour and glory,

93 to you, God the almighty Father,

94 one with the Holy Spirit,

95 for ever and ever.


3 Replies to “The Canon of the Mass: Canon “B””

  1. My understanding is that this is an ancestor of Eucharistic Prayer III in the contemporary Roman Rite, which is referred to in official RC documents as a reworking of EP I, the Roman Canon. This is obviously even more related to the latter (and, like EP III, corrects the Roman Canon’s more obvious defects). For comparison, EP III (and the other three currently official RC Latin EP’s) can be found at the link below:

    EP I is the old Roman Canon; EP III is inspired by the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus; EP III is as above; EP IV is loosely based on Byzantine St. Basil and St. James.

    For those who read Latin: EP III and “B” (as above) are placed side by side in Latin in the following link:


  2. I think you’re right. One reason why I posted all of these is because I wanted to give people a feel as to how the NOM came into existence. Perhaps it will illuminate other liturgical changes in the wind (esp. in the Anglican world.)

    And thanks for the heads-up on the “moderation;” it actually threw it into spam.


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