Communicantes

Communicantes – English
In communion with those whose memory we venerate, especially the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, and blessed Joseph, her Spouse, your blessed Apostles and Martyrs, Peter and Paul, Andrew, (James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude; Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian) and all your Saints; we ask that through their merits and prayers, in all things we may be defended by your protecting help. (Through Christ our Lord. Amen.)

Communicantes – Latin
Communicantes, et memoriam venerantes, in primis gloriosae semper Virginis Mariae, Genetricis Dei et Domini nostri Iesu Christi: sed et beati Ioseph, eiusdem Virginis Sponsi, et beatorum Apostolorum ac Martyrum tuorum, Petri et Pauli, Andreae (Iacobi, Ioannis, Thomae, Iacobi, Philippi, Bartholomaei, Matthaei, Simonis et Thaddaei: Lini, Cleti, Clementis, Xysti, Cornelii, Cypriani, Laurentii, Chrysogoni, Ioannis et Pauli, Cosmae et Damiani) et omnium Sanctorum tuorum; quorum meritis precibusque concedas, ut in omnibus protectionis tuae muniamur auxilio. (Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.)

Communicantes, Part 1

In communion with those whose memory we venerate, especially the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, and blessed Joseph, her Spouse, your blessed Apostles and Martyrs, Peter and Paul, Andrew, (James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude; Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian) and all your Saints; we ask that through their merits and prayers, in all things we may be defended by your protecting help. (Through Christ our Lord. Amen.)

The next section of the Roman Canon is the Communicantes which begins by reminding us that we are never alone at Holy Mass. The meeting of Heaven and Earth in the Sacred Liturgy is real, not metaphorical. This is true whether or not we realize it. The saints and the angels are in Heaven worshiping God, in His perfection. Here on Earth, we experience this Heavenly mystery through signs and symbols, as a foretaste. These outward signs and symbols show us the hidden reality.

The sanctuary of the church is where the altar is located. It is here in the sanctuary, through the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ that Heaven becomes present at Holy Mass. We receive a visual reminder of this in the ornate nature of the vestments, candlesticks, chalice, paten, ciboria, and so forth. Why do we not simply use a small wooden cup like Jesus would have likely used at the Last Supper? Why is the chalice often ornate and gold-plated? Practically speaking, it is, of course, going to hold the Precious Blood of Jesus. However, the ornate nature of the chalice and paten show us the glorified nature of these items. They are no mere cup and plate; they are elevated. The Mass is not a reenactment of the Last Supper, it is a living-out once again of the one-and-the-same Mystery of the suffering, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. So, the sacred vessels communicate the heavenly and transcendent reality of the Mass.

So far, in the Canon, we have prayed that the Father, through the Son, accept and bless the gifts we offer. These gifts are offered on behalf of the Church and the world, together with the Pope and our local bishop. We have asked God to remember the souls of those who are still living and in need of prayer and petition. The priest offers the Sacrifice of the Mass and we too, as members of the Body of Christ, offer this sacrifice for the redemption of our souls, for salvation, and to bless and glorify God. We approach closer and closer to the epiclesis and consecration. However, we are not finished invoking our friends in the battle of prayer, the saints.

The Holy Mass is offered by all the members of the Body of Christ, including the Church Triumphant, the souls in Heaven. Preeminently among the human persons in Heaven is the Blessed and Ever-virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, and blessed Joseph, her Spouse. The offering of the Holy Mass is the action of God, and so will necessarily include the Holy Family of the Christ. If we are members of the Body of Christ through Baptism, Mary can be called the neck of the Body of Christ. The power belongs to the Head but flows through the neck. And St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, is the true human father of Jesus through Jewish legal custom. He is thus called the Protector of the Universal Church. It is, thus, fitting that we begin to invoke the names of the Apostles and Martyrs by beginning with the two greatest human saints: Mary and Joseph.

Communicantes, Part 2

In communion with those whose memory we venerate, especially the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, and blessed Joseph, her Spouse, your blessed Apostles and Martyrs, Peter and Paul, Andrew, (James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude; Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian) and all your Saints; we ask that through their merits and prayers, in all things we may be defended by your protecting help. (Through Christ our Lord. Amen.)

In the next few phrases, we will explore the lives and impact of several apostles and martyrs. The first two to be listed are St. Peter and St. Paul.

The first martyr to be listed is St. Peter, whose name was once Simon. He was the son of a fisherman and was called to be an Apostle of Jesus along with his brother Andrew and his friend Philip. St. Peter was with Jesus all throughout His public ministry. St. Peter did not always say and do the right things. However, he was zealous, faithful, firm in his faith, and loved the Lord. He also speaks on behalf of the other Apostles at times when the Lord asks them a question.

Jesus changed the name of Simon to Peter (Aramaic: Cephas meaning “Rock) and says that he is the Rock on which Jesus would found His Church. He becomes the first Pope. He is the chief among the Apostles. He is given the keys to the kingdom of heaven by our Lord and given the authority: “… whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Mt 16:19b).” Before the Passion, in weakness, Peter denied Jesus three times. Yet, after the Resurrection, he was given special commission to feed and defend Jesus’ flock after he three times declared his love for the Master.

Son of a Roman citizen, St. Paul was a Pharisee and persecutor of the early Christian, even putting St. Stephen to death. He had a powerful conversion upon encountering the Risen Christ. Jesus called out to Paul asking him why he was persecuting Him. Paul converted and became the Apostle to the Gentiles, traveling extensively. He even went to Jerusalem to see St. Peter. Over 12 years, St. Paul went on three great expeditions, each leaving from Antioch, to spread the Gospel.

Both St. Peter and St. Paul were martyred in Rome. From the Early Church, these two saints have been linked by their contributions to the shaping of the Christian Faith, faithful to Jesus Christ. They did not always see eye to eye, but both men literally gave their lives for love of Christ and His People. They also share a feast day: June 29.

Communicantes, Part 3

In communion with those whose memory we venerate, especially the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, and blessed Joseph, her Spouse, your blessed Apostles and Martyrs, Peter and Paul, Andrew, (James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude; Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian) and all your Saints; we ask that through their merits and prayers, in all things we may be defended by your protecting help. (Through Christ our Lord. Amen.)

In this next section, we will look at the Apostles as a whole. Of course, Judas Iscariot is not listed among these Apostles, because he betrayed the Lord and hung himself in despair.

St. Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter and was a follower of St. John the Baptist. After the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven, he went to Asia Minor to preach the Gospel. He was crucified in Greece on a transverse cross that looked like the letter “X.”

St. James the Greater is the brother of St. John. Both men were called to be Apostles by Jesus. St. James the Greater and St. John were both present with St. Peter on Mount Tabor for the Transfiguration of the Lord. St. John was author of the Gospel of St. John, as well as the Letters of John, and the Book of Revelation. He was also the only Apostle to not be martyred. His brother, James, however, was executed by Herod Agrippa in Jerusalem by the sword. Catholic tradition claims that St. James is buried in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The “Way of St. James” is a popular pilgrimage in Spain which terminates at the resting place of St. James.

St. Thomas evangelized in Persia and India, but he is most well-known as “Doubting Thomas.” This unfortunate moniker was gained when Thomas refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until he could put his fingers in His side and in the nail marks. When he did believe, he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God.”

St. James the Lesser is called this because he is younger than St. James the Greater. He is also the cousin of two other Apostles, St. Jude and St. Simon. These three Apostles are cousins of the Lord Jesus. St. James the Lesser served as the first bishop of Jerusalem. It is traditionally held that St. James the Lesser was martyred by being thrown from the roof of the Temple. Once tossed off the roof, he was beaten to death with a fuller’s club.

St. Jude wrote one of the letters of the New Testament and was eventually executed by a long-handled axe in Persia. St. Simon is also known as Simon the Zealot. He preached with St. Jude in Egypt and Persia. Simon met his death by being sawed into pieces.

St. Philip preached the Gospel in Phrygia and suffered martyrdom. He was a Galilean who told his friend Nathanael that he had found the Christ. Scripture scholars maintain that Nathanael, mentioned in St. John’s Gospel is St. Bartholomew. St. Bartholomew was recognized by Jesus for his innocence and simplicity. St. Bartholomew preached in Armenia and there was martyred by being flayed alive by a knife.

St. Matthew wrote on of the four Gospels. He was a tax collector who left his wealth to follow Jesus. He preached in Ethiopia and was martyred in Asia by being beheaded.

Communicantes, Part 4

In communion with those whose memory we venerate, especially the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, and blessed Joseph, her Spouse, your blessed Apostles and Martyrs, Peter and Paul, Andrew, (James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude; Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian) and all your Saints; we ask that through their merits and prayers, in all things we may be defended by your protecting help. (Through Christ our Lord. Amen.)

After twelve Apostles are mentioned, there are twelve more names mentioned. The first five of these names are successors of St. Peter, the popes. St. Linus, St. Cletus, and St. Clement are the first three successors of St. Peter. Sixtus can also be spelled Xystus. There were two popes in the early Church with this name. St. Sixtus II is likely the Sixtus mentioned in the Canon who was martyred by the Roman Emperor Valerian.

St. Cornelius was the pope just before St. Sixtus II and was also martyred. St. Cyprian was not a pope but he was a bishop. He was beheaded in Carthage in the mid-Third Century. St. Lawrence was one of the seven deacons of Rome and was martyred the day after St. Sixtus II. He was in charge of the treasury of the Church and famously brought the poor of Rome before the Emperor’s representative as the true treasure of the Church. St. Chrysogonus and Ss. John and Paul were each martyrs as well in the early Church under the Diocletian persecutions and the persecution under Julian the Apostate, respectively. St. Cosmas and St. Damian traditionally are identified as physicians. They were martyred in Syria in the late Third Century under the Diocletian persecutions.

Then, finally, all of the saints of God are invoked. Each Solemnity of All Saints (November 1), we celebrate not only the many named saints, but also the unnamed saints. The Catholic Church has always acclaimed that the saints are very much alive in God. A saint is one who is in Heaven with God. The Church has thousands of canonized saints, which means that they are officially named and recognized as being in Heaven.

Our Lord Jesus Himself says, “And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living (Mt. 22:31-32).” We also see Moses and Elijah alive and with Jesus during the Transfiguration, even though they died many years earlier (cf. Mt. 17:1-8).

There is one mediator between God and man, Christ Jesus. It is by His grace that the saints are able to hear our prayers and intercede on our behalf. When we ask for the prayers of our brothers and sisters in Heaven, we are going “directly to Jesus.” We are simply acknowledging that God has asked us in multiple places, especially through the writings of St. Paul, to intercede for one another. If the saints in Heaven are alive, then this role does not end with bodily death.

Communicantes, Part 5

In communion with those whose memory we venerate, especially the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, and blessed Joseph, her Spouse, your blessed Apostles and Martyrs, Peter and Paul, Andrew, (James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude; Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian) and all your Saints; we ask that through their merits and prayers, in all things we may be defended by your protecting help. (Through Christ our Lord. Amen.)

Since it has been established by the Church that we have recourse to the saints, to the glory of God, then we ought to exercise it. We have previously discussed the one perfect Sacrifice of Jesus Christ. On the Cross, Jesus Christ earned superabundant merit. His perfect, eternal Sacrifice was sufficient to redeem all of mankind. But God has given us the ability to unite our own actions with His perfect Action.

The merits of those who have come before us, the saints, are united to the Cross of Jesus Christ. Their cooperation with God’s grace is what allowed them to accept the invitation to eternal life. No human action is done in isolation. Our actions have consequences, and they affect other people. Therefore, our good actions, our good works, create a ripple effect that positively affect the souls of others. When applied to the Cross of Jesus Christ, these good works share in the superabundant merit of Jesus Christ. This is the essence of what Catholics mean when they say, “offer it up.”

It is not only the past merits and prayers of saints that have efficacious power in God’s grace. The saints, alive in Heaven, pray for the good of those still below on Earth. The Church investigates alleged miracles, wrought by God’s grace through the intercession of a specific person. If the miracle is found to be legitimate, then it confirms that the person is in Heaven. This is part of the official canonization process of the Church.

By the merits and prayers of the saints, we are defended from temptation and evil. The genius of the saints is found in their fidelity to and love of God. The example of their lives and the fervor of their preaching is a testament to God’s goodness and an acclamation of His glory. Even in the midst of suffering, we can claim the joy of Jesus Christ.

Even if we feel utterly alone, we know that we are never alone. As the author of Hebrews writes: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:1).”

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