Gemma Animae (44-46): On the Canon as Representation of Christ’s Passion

Ch. 44

The Fifth Office and Christ’s Battle

Moses and Amalech
Moses with His Arms Supported by Aaron and Hur, Thomas Brigstocke (Source)

The fifth office is veiled by the wings of the Cherubim. It represents the sacrifice of the Supreme Pontiff and the battle of the King of glory. Moses prefigured this, when he prayed in the mount with his hands extended, while Josue, who is Jesus, fought with Amalech, and having defeated him laid waste to his kingdom and brought the people back in the joy of victory (Exod. XVII). Thus Christ prayed upon the mount of the Cross, extending his hands for a non-believing and gainsaying people. A living prince, he fought with Amalech, that is with the devil, under the standard of the holy cross. Having defeating him, he laid waste to his kingdom: the Lord plundered hell after having overcome the evil one. He rescued the people from darkness and called them back to the heavens with the glory of victory [1].

[1] The Roman Church has always gloried in the application of martial metaphors, so familiar to the Roman spirit, when describing the Christian life. So too the Pontificale Romanum makes use of these metaphors when it instructs candidates for ordination in the virtues proper to their lofty vocations. E.g., the bishop’s prayer over the subdeacons-to-be:

Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, aeterne Deus, bene + dicere dignare hos famulos tuos, quos ad Subdiaconatus officium eligere dignatus es; ut eos in sacrario tuo sancto strenuos sollicitosque coelestis militiae instituas excubitores,

…and the preface for the ordination of the deacon:

Cujus corpus, Ecclesiam videlicet tuam, caelestium gratiarum varietate distinctam, suorumque connexam distinctione membrorum, per legem mirabilem totius compaginis unitam, in augmento templi tui crescere, dilatarique largiris; sacri muneris servitutem trinis gradibus ministrorum nomini tuo militare constituens, electis ab initio Levi filiis, qui in mysticis operationibus domus tuae fidelibus excubiis permanentes, haereditatem benedictionis aeternae sorte perpetua possiderent.

Dominican Elevation

Ch. 45

The Mystery

The bishop is an image of all this and tries to express it as if in tragic costume. For he manifests Christ nailed to the cross, when with hands spread apart he recites the Canon, as if fighting against Amalech (Exod. 17), and when he represents Christ’s Passion against the devil with the signs of the cross. The ministers in turn are arrayed like ranks of warriors on each side, when the deacons are placed behind the bishop and the subdeacons behind the altar. The army returns in triumph, for once communion is taken, it turns homeward with joy.

Dominican Rite 1
The Dominican Rite (Source)

Ch. 46

On Christ’s Passion

In this office, the Passion of Christ on the Cross of the chrism is enacted. The altar is the Cross in which the corporal is spread in the form of the body of Christ. The corporal is made of pure linen of the earth, and with much labor it is made white, and Christ’s body is born from a pure Virgin, and through many sufferings attains the whiteness of resurrection. When the corporal is folded neither its beginning nor its end is visible, because Christ’s divinity has no beginning and has no end. The oblation is placed upon it, because the flesh taken on by the divinity is affixed on the cross. The chalice with wine and the water are placed on the right, because blood and water are said to have flowed from Christ’s side. When the priest says Hanc igitur oblationem, he bends down to the altar, because there he begins his Passion, who, in obedience to the Father bent over the altar of the cross for us (Phillip. II). Then the oblation, or the chalice is raised in the hand of the priest, because Christ is raised on the Cross for our salvation, and his blood is sacrificed for our redemption. Meanwhile the deacons standing behind the bishop cut the figure of the Apostles, who all fled during the Lord’s Passion and abandoned him. The subdeacons standing behind the altar across from the bishop refer to the women and noblemen who saw his Passion while standing far away. The priest bows before the altar when he says Supplices te rogamus, because there the Passion of Christ ends, and bowing his head Christ gave up his spirit. During the Canon the deacon washes his hands, because Pilate washed his hands during the Lord’s Passion, thus proclaiming that he was clean of his blood, as one who washes his hands from filth. The priest raises his voice at Nobis quoque peccatoribus, showing that the Church sprang from Christ’s side, when she cried through the voice of the centurion: “Vere Filius Dei erat iste” (Matt. 27).


Ambrosian Rite 1
The Ambrosian Rite (Source)
Dominican Rite 3
The Dominican Rite celebrated at Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini (Source)

5 thoughts on “Gemma Animae (44-46): On the Canon as Representation of Christ’s Passion

    1. Thanks, Br. Gregory. It is actually part of the ancient papal rite:

      Tune finito offertorio, episcopi stant post pontificem, primus in medio, deinde per ordinem; et archidiaconus a dextris episcoporum, secundus diaconus a sinistris, et ceteri per ordinem disposita acie. Et subdiaconi regionarii, finito offertorio, vadunt retro altare aspicientes ad pontificem, ut quando dixerit Per omnia saecula aut Dominus vobiscum, aut Sursum corda aut Gratias ipsi sint ad
      respondendum stantes erecti usque dum incipiunt dicere hymnum angelicum, id est Sanctus.

      The offertory being finished, the bishops stand behind the pontiff, the senior in the midst, and the rest in their order ; the archdeacon standing on the right of the bishops, the second deacon on their left, and the rest in order arranged in a line. And the district-subdeacons go behind the altar at the end of the offertory and face
      the pontiff, so that when he says, For ever and ever, or, The Lord be with you, or, Lift up your hearts or, Let us give thanks they may be there to answer, standing upright, until the time when the choir begin to sing the angelical hymn.

      Liked by 1 person

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