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CHURCH QUARTERLY REVIEW.
NO. CXCIII.-OCTOBER 1923.
ART. I.—THE EPICLESIS IN THE SERVICE OF 1.—
1. No. 533. Proposals for the Revision of the Book of Common
Prayer as approved by the Convocation of Canterbury,
1920. (London: S.P.C.K.) 2. N.A. 60. National Assembly of the Church of England.
Second Report of the Prayer Book Revision Committee with Schedule of Proposed Alterations, 1922. (London: National Assembly, Church House, Westminster;
S.P.C.K.) 3. N.A. 84. National Assembly. Revised Prayer Book
. (Permissive Use) Measure, 1923. (London : National
Assembly and S.P.C.K.) 4. The Scottish Communion Office, 1764. By JOHN
DOWDEN, D.D., sometime Bishop of Edinburgh.
WHEN our Lord told His disciples that it was ' expedient for them that He should go away,' and so leave them deprived of that form of personal presence which they had hitherto enjoyed, He made it clear that they would not be losers but that His presence would be restored, though in another form— I will not leave you orphans, I am coming to you.'
VOL. XCVII.--NO. CXCIII.
Our Lord further intimated that this renewed presence was to be ministered through the agency of the Holy Ghost, that 'other Paraclete' whom He would send to them from the Father. Accordingly it was not till after Pentecost that the Apostles 'went everywhere preaching the word, the Lord working with them. They were to 'tarry in Jerusalem ' until they received ' the promise of the Father,' and were endued with that power for service which the Presence of their Master would ensure.
Thus when our Lord promised the restoration of His presence it was to be, as Mary Magdalene had to learn at the sepulchre, in a different form, personal and intimate, but only to be realized after the Ascension-Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father.'
The adoption of an Epiclesis or Invocation of the Holy Spirit at the consecration of the sacred elements at the Eucharist was the expression of this truth. It was an application of our Lord's promise to the unique service of Holy Communion, in which our Lord vouchsafes His Presence under special conditions. However widely we may differ in our estimate of what that Service means, few will deny that it is by the operation of the Holy Spirit that we eat the flesh of Christ and drink His blood' in that holy Sacrament. It is therefore natural to expect that some Invocation, expressed or implied, would find a place in the Communion Offices of the Church. The history of all the earlier Liturgies shews that this is so.
The enjoyment of our Lord's Presence in our Eucharistic devotions depends on two things—(i) the inward qualification of the recipient; (ii) that the Sacrament itself be rightly and duly administered. Very varied opinions have been held as to what are the necessary liturgical conditions of celebrating the Holy Communion. And one of the chief points of difference, which have so unhappily separated the Eastern and Western Churches, has been that in the Liturgies of the Eastern Church there is an explicit Invocation of the Holy Spirit, while in the Western Liturgies such an Invocation is not expressed, but only implied.
Our main object in fulfilling our Lord's command must be to do as far as we can, mutatis mutandis, what our Lord Himself did at the Last Supper. The details of that solemn scene, as given in the Synoptic Gospels and by St. Paul (1 Cor. xi), are few and simple. Consequently the earliest accounts of this service do not appear in any stereotyped form, and a large amount of freedom was allowed to the celebrant. Gradually the ritual took a more definite shape, and the early Liturgies were developed in forms partly moulded by the peculiar circumstances of individual Churches.
With very rare exceptions the Words of Institution have invariably formed a central part of the service. Yet there is no mention of them in the Eucharistic formulae of the Didache, where the Act of Thanksgiving over the bread and wine predominates, and there are several of the Eastern Liturgies in which the Words of Institution do not occur.2 This, however, is unusual, and we may regard the use of those sacred words as practically common to all Eucharistic services. In primitive times we may be sure that the Celebration, so far as the actual details are concerned, was in a fluid state. Justin Martyr tells us that prayers were offered by the Presiding Minister according to his ability (őon dúvajis aŭtộ). Indeed St. Gregory the Great names a tradition that the elements were consecrated by the repetition of the Lord's Prayer. He seems to have moved that prayer to the end of the Canon as 'the more fitting place. But undoubtedly the most constant factor in all types of Liturgy has been the recital of our Lord's own Words of Institution.
No early attempt therefore seems to have been made either to formulate the exact form of words necessary, or to determine the exact moment of consecration. This came later, and we owe much of our sad divisions to the increasing importance given to these questions. They largely arose out of the emphasis laid by the Eastern Church upon a definite prayer for the sanctification of both communicants and Elements by the Holy Spirit, and upon the position assigned to that prayer.
1 The Teaching of the Apostles, ix, x. 1
· Dr. S. A. B. Mercer in The Ethiopic Liturgy, p. 254, says : • All Eastern Liturgies have the Invocation, and all but four have the Words of Institution-Dionysius Bar Salibi, St. Peter the Second, St. Xystus, and the East Syrian Liturgy of Addai and Mari-but even these have them in amended forms following the Invocation.'
Thus at the Council of Florence in A.D. 1438 it was urged that 'to pray after the Words of Institution that the Elements may become the Body and Blood of our Lord, is to deny any transmuting efficacy in our Lord's own words.' 1 In reply the Greeks protested that they' valued as highly as the Western Church the Words of Institution. A tract was written by Mark of Ephesus shewing that the validity of the Eucharist depended on the Words of Invocation as much as on the Words of Institution. Thus the question as one of crucial importance is of comparatively late date.
It is not the purpose of this article to give any detailed account of the early genesis and growth of the Epiclesis beyond drawing attention very briefly to a few main points in its history.
Originally it seems to have been a development of the prayer for the sanctifying of our common food (1 Tim. iv 4, 5). In the Epiclesis this is raised to a higher power. In its fuller form it contained two elements---(1) A prayer for the sanctifying of the elements to a holy use, and (2) a mention of the ultimate blessing to be conferred thereby on the faithful communicants. The typical form of the Epiclesis as found in the Liturgies of the East is a prayer for the descent of the Holy Spirit ' upon us and upon these holy gifts.' 2
Thus the purpose of the prayer was not that the bread and wine might become the Body and Blood of our Lord absolutely, but with a distinct relation to the congregation
1 Mercer, op. cit. p. 252. Hammond, Liturgies East and West, Introd. p. xxxvii, says : Is it not that as it is in heaven, so when here a sacred mystery is being enacted, the element of time must be considered to be eliminated ?'
: Liturgies of St. James, St. Basil, and St. Chrysostom.
who were to receive them. To this correspond the words used in the Greek Liturgies after consecration : ‘The holy things to the holy’ (τα άγια τους αγίοις).
In later times this became obscured. Thus in the socalled Liturgy of St. Clement1 the actual Epiclesis seems to pray for an absolute change : ' Send down upon this sacrifice Thy Holy Spirit, the Witness of the sufferings of the Lord Jesus, that He may declare (or pronouncemàtoonvị) this bread to be the Body of Thy Christ, and this cup to be the Blood of Thy Christ.' Yet even here the words that follow declare the purpose of the change prayed for-that they who partake thereof may be strengthened in godliness
may be filled with the Holy Ghost,' which seems identical in purpose with the words 'upon us ' in the form given above, and with the 'ut nobis Corpus et Sanguis fiat' of the Western rite.
Words similar to this Western phrase occur in the Nestorian Liturgy of Addai and Mari : May Thy Holy Spirit, O my Lord, come and rest upon this Oblation of Thy Servants, and may He bless it, and hallow it, and may it be to us for the pardon of debts. ... And again in the Monophysite Liturgy of the Coptic Jacobites we find : 'Send (Thine Holy Spirit) down upon us Thy servants, and upon these Thy precious gifts . . . that He may make this bread the holy Body of Christ, and this cup also His precious Blood . . . that they may be unto us who shall receive of them unto faith. . i
On turning to the Latin Liturgies of the Western Churches we find no explicit Epiclesis even in the Gallican rite, which contains some Eastern features. In the interesting Liturgy of Spain, the Mozarabic (still used in Toledo), we find, however, this distinct Invocation of the Holy Spirit-In cujus nomine etiam tibi Domine hec sacra libamus : orantes : ut que offerimus libens suscipias : et Spiritus tui Sancti infusione benedicas.
In the Latin Canon Missae there is no explicit Epiclesis. Yet virtually the prayer is there in its twofold form, that is to say, we find not only a prayer that the elements may be
Apostolical Constitutions, bk. viii.