Epiclesis

Regarding the Epiclesis,

From my reading its seems that the West did have an Epiclesis but about the Fifth Century it was moved, and perhaps split up, to before the Words of Institution, in line with the Western emphasis.

“Veni, Sanctificator omnipotens aeterne Deus. et bene dic hoc sacrificum tuo sancto nomini praeparatum.”

“Come, O Sanctifier, Almighty and Eternal God, and bless, + this sacrifice prepared for the glory of Your holy Name.”

“Quam oblationem tu, Deus, in omnibus, quaesumus, benedictam, adscriptam, ratam, rationabilem, acceptabilemque facere digneris,. ut nobis Corpus, et Sanguis fiatdilectissimi Filii tui Domini nostri Jesu Christi.”

“O God, deign to bless + what we offer, and make it approved, + effective, + right, + and wholly pleasing in every way, that it may become for our good, the Body + and Blood + of Your dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.”

There is no sense that the Spirit’s blessing of the Gifts is not still required in the Roman rite but only it is not directly invoked at particular point after the Words of Institution, as it is in Liturgy of St John Chrysostom. Also, in the West the Liturgical action, according to Nicholas Cabasilas, was not complete until after the prayer:

“Supplices te rogamus, omnipotens Deus, jube haec perferri per manus sancti Angeli tui in sublime altare tuum, in conspectu dininae majertatis tuae: ut quoquot ex hac altaris participatione, sacrocanctum Filii tui Corpus, et Sanguinem sumpserimus, omni benedictione coelesti et gratia repleamur. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.”

“Most humbly we implore You, Almighty God, bid these offerings to be brought by the hands of Your Holy Angel to Your altar above, before the face of Your Divine Majesty. And may those of us who by sharing in the Sacrifice of this altar shall receive the Most Sacred + Body and + Blood of Your Son, be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing, Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

He considered this to be the “Epiclesis” and from it that the Latins were incorrect to consider the change complete before this time, otherwise there would not be an imploring for God to accept the offerings to be brought to the Altar, which would be tantamount to blasphemy because they would already be so, being the Body and Blood of the Lord already accepted. This prayer is in contrast to a similar prayer in the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom that presupposes the change of the Gifts before the prayer:

“Ὑπὲρ τῶν προσκομισθέντων καὶ ἁγιασθέντων τιμίων Δώρων, τοῦ Κυρίου δεηθῶμεν.

Ὅπως ὁ φιλάνθρωπος Θεὸς ἡμῶν, ὁ προσδεξάμενος αὐτὰ εἰς τὸ ἅγιον καὶ ὑπερουράνιον καὶ νοερὸν αὐτοῦ θυσιαστήριον, εἰς ὀσμὴν εὐωδίας πνευματικῆς, ἀντικαταπέμψῃ ἡμῖν τὴν θείαν χάριν καὶ τὴν δωρεὰν τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος, δεηθῶμεν.”

“For the precious Gifts, which have been spread forth and sanctified, let us pray to the Lord.

That our God, who loveth mankind, receiving them upon His holy, most heavenly, and noetic Altar as a savour of spiritual sweetness, will send down upon us in return His divine grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit, let us pray.”

This prayer is reflected earlier in the service for the preparation of the Gifts:

‘Αὐτὸς εὐλόγησον τὴν Πρόθεσιν ταύτην καὶ πρόσδεξαι αὐτὴν εἰς τὸ ὑπερουράνιόν σου θυσιαστήριον.”

“…Do Thou Thyself bless this oblation, and receive it upon Thy most heavenly Altar…”

which is much in line with the prayers in the Roman rite.

Thus, the two rites are very similar and the anaphora properly concludes with a prayer after the Words of Institution. The Roman rite in this is not different from that of Constantinople and the issue is not so much the words of the rite but the interpretation.

Note: I am opposed to any artificial inclusion of an Epiclesis in the Roman rite as used in Western Rite Orthodox Churches, because of the above.


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7 Responses to Epiclesis

  1. Fr. Michael says:

    As an hieromonk of the Russian Church, I was charged with the responsibility of working on the Western Rite liturgies as authorised by the Holy Synod of Russia. The emphasis here has to be on those last eight words.
    We looked at the whole problem of epiclesis and eventually decided that the Gothic Missal’s Collect for the Throne of Peter was of sufficiently like age and provenance as to make it suitable for adaption, since we were required to have a specific epiclesis.
    I would submit that once the Western Liturgy is authorised for adaption by a competent Orthodox authority, it becomes legitimate to add an epiclesis regardless of Saint Nicolas Cabasilas’ arguments. I would also submit that once such adaption has been made either in accordance with existing authority or is separately competently authorised, that it becomes an entirely Orthodox Liturgy – and no longer an adaption.
    I would go on to suggest that because such a Liturgy is the linear descendent of a thousand years of Orthodox development in the west, that there is no room for objection – not that I am accusing you of such objection – but others certainly do so object.
    My major regret is the attempt at “Orthodox Tridentine liturgics” carried out by some and the resultant dissonance in the Orthodox approach to this valuable means of rendering Orthodoxy culturally accessible to those to whom it might otherwise remain culturally inaccessible.

  2. My post is to show that the same liturgical understanding was present in both the liturgies of Rome and of the East, as well as other genuine Catholic/Orthodox liturgies when they were formed. The quotes I provided were to show that the Roman Rite has a functional equivalent to an epiclesis, even if not positioned in the same place or with the same words.

    I understand that the consecration of the Gifts is not so much a result of a the reading of a particular phrase of words in of themselves but a process that when properly completed means that the Gifts have been transformed. The particular words or the particular order of words is not essential but that the general themes of the prayers have been properly represented as well as those words from Apostolic Tradition, such as the Words of Institution. (However, this does not mean that an order to the prayers is irrelevant.) Also, the ritual context of the prayers is important, i.e. the whole package is required and not just a particular prayer, whether it be solely the Words of Institution or the Epiclesis.

    From both Liturgies, it seems that the main aim of the prayers is for the Gifts to be accepted on the Heavenly Altar, thus signifying the liturgical union with Christ and the participation in His Sacrifice and at His Table, receiving His Body and Blood. This aim does not seem to be completed in the Roman rite until after the Supplices te rogamus, (the prayer of the angel taking the Gifts to the Altar). Both Rites seem to cumulate in “Amen” at the end of the Anaphora where the people confirm with the Priestly offering and the action is complete as that of the Church in Christ; the Body united to the Head.

    Regarding evidence of an epiclesis prayer being in the same form in the Roman Rite as in the eastern rites, I think the evidence is clear that at least from the Fifth Century, such a form cannot be found in the Roman Rite. There is also no evidence of it being removed at the time of the Schism or in a fairly wide space of time preceding or following this. The Fifth Century is too early to talk of a split between East and West, although roots of the eventual split can be traced back to these times. I do not believe, was an issue until very much later and is an issue of interpretation rather than the words of the Rite themselves. So, the omission of the form cannot be taken to reflect a different theology. I find it difficult to accept that the Roman Rite, also other western rites, would not have been written in a manner reflecting the understanding of the Epiclesis, which is so common in eastern rites, even if not explicitly stated. Doing so, I believe, would strike deeply at a unified Apostolic Tradition to the determent of both Roman Catholics and Orthodox because there would be different theologies of the Liturgy that is the heart of Christian life when both acclaim a united Catholic Church, West and East. So, interpreting the prayers of the Roman Rite as incorporating the epiclesis in effect, even if worded differently, is my bias and I disagree with saying: “there is no epiclesis in the Roman Rite.”

    So, I agree that there was no need to “restore” the epiclesis to the Roman Rite, although perhaps helpful to make such a prayer more explicit, although I prefer to avoid modifying well-established rites and rather to develop better interpretations and explanations of the rites.

  3. Fr. Michael says:

    I don’t think that we have much area of disagreement here (if any). I certainly would object to anyone asserting a want of Orthodoxy or validity in the first millennium Gallican and Roman rites because of a perceived lack of epiclesis. Having said that, I think that the addition of an epiclesis – especially an explicit one from a traditional western source text, as we have done, adds to the expository nature of the Liturgy. The trouble with developing a better interpretation of the “ascending epiclesis” is that to ordinary, non-academic laity it seems like drawing a rather long bow. Surely for parish/mission use, it is more valuable for the new-to-Orthodoxy congregation to have an explicit epiclesis.

  4. Hieromonk Ambrose says:

    Post Mysterium of the Celtic Orthodox Christian Church:

    (the Post Mysterium of the Feast of the Throne of St. Peter at Rome is the closest to the Byzantine Epiklesis.)

    We who serve, offer these prescribed Holy Gifts of our Salvation, that Thou may be pleased to send Thy Holy Spirit upon this Sacrifice so that it may be changed into a true Eucharist for us in the Name of Thee, Thy Son and the Holy Spirit, in the transformation of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ; and may it be unto us who eat and drink, Life eternal and the eternal Kingdom. Through Christ Himselfour Lord Who reigneth with Thee and the Holy Spirit throughout all ages of ages.
    Amen.

    His Serenity Bishop Maelruain of the independent Celtic Orthodox Christian Church has these comments:

    The prayer we have chosen to use at every celebration of the Eucharist is the Post Mysterium of the Feast of the Throne of Saint Peter, The Post Mysterium is a variable proper to the feast day. Some feasts have none and the P.M.s for those that do may or may not make reference to the Bread and Wine becoming the Body and Blood.

    The primary reason we made this alteration in practice is that one member of our synod felt strongly that the Byzantines needed it to recognize the Eucharist as properly confected. Personally, I feel that there are plenty of prayers throughout the Liturgy which serve the same purpose, so I would not consider the Liturgy lacking without the added specific epiklesis any more than I would consider the Chrysostom Liturgy lacking because it lacks those other prayers.

    Some have tried to force me to use the Byzantine prayer, but I see no value in doing so.

  5. marlo says:

    wow, you have done it, this is the explanation i was looking for.

  6. Lvka says:

    The Roman-Catholic prayer that you and Cabasilas mention is obviously not the equivalent of the Epiclesis, but of another prayer, said at quite some time after the Epiclesis. So the Epiclesis is indeed missing.

    • Lvka,

      Could you please go into more detail about which prayers you are comparing and also if you think that there is a problem if there is not Epiclesis in the Ancient Canon of the Roman Rite used to offer the Gifts so that they were partaken as the Body and Blood of Christ by those in the west pre-schism? If it is a problem then do you think that it was removed or that those in the West never partook of the Body and Blood of Christ?

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