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blessed, but that they may become to the recipients the source of heavenly food (ut nobis Corpus et Sanguis fiat). And again: Ut quotquot ex hac altaris participatione sacrosanctum Filii Tui corpus et sanguinem sumpserimus omni benedictione coelesti et gratia repleamur. The agency of the Holy Spirit is not expressly named, but it is surely implied, for our spiritual blessings of every kind are in this dispensation conveyed to us through His operation.
It is accordingly held by some that an express Epiclesis formed part of the early Roman Liturgy, but that it became obscured from the stress laid on the Words of Institution as constituting the act, and determining the time, of consecration. It is sufficient, however, for our present purpose to realize that in the Western Canon we have the virtual essence of that prayer though not the specific form.
We come now to the Services of the Anglican Church. In the first Reformed Prayer Book of 1549 Archbishop Cranmer introduced a full and explicit Epiclesis for the first time into the Communion Office of the Western Church. The form of words then employed strongly suggests that he realized the virtual presence of such a prayer in the Latin Canon. For he combined the ut nobis Corpus et Sanguis fiat (of the Quam Oblationem) with the insertion. from the Greek Liturgies of an express Invocation of the Holy Spirit:
'Heare us (O mercifull father) we besech thee and with thy holy spirite and worde vouchsafe to bltesse and sancttifie these thy gyftes, and creatures of bread and wyne, that they maye be unto us the bodye and bloud of thy moste derely beloued sonne Jesus Christe.'
There are two other points of interest in this form:
(1) The Epiclesis occurs before the Words of Institution, not after them, as in almost all the Eastern Liturgies. This may have arisen from the fact that the words taken from
1 Dr. Neale, in Earnest Plea, p. 10, says: 'It is not certain that the Petrine Liturgy ever had this (prayer): neither is the contrary certain.' See Bishop Dowden, Scottish Communion Office, pp. 157
the Latin Canon came before the Words of Institution in
the Qui Pridie.1
(2) The association of the Word' with 'the Holy Spirit,' as found in the Liturgy of Serapion and other Egyptian Offices. This addition was followed in the Scottish and American forms of Epiclesis, but omitted in the last recension of the Scottish Office in A.D. 1911 (see below).
In the Second Prayer Book of 1552 Cranmer omitted the explicit form of Invocation, and altered the phrase may be to us' into what is clearly intended to be an equivalent in meaning.
I Hear us, O merciful Father, we beseech thee, and grant that we, receiving these thy creatures of bread and wine, according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ's holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood.' (1552, 1559, 1662.)
It should be noted that these words constitute the only express prayer in our 'Prayer of Consecration,' and that it immediately precedes the Words of Institution, as the Epiclesis does in the Service of 1549.
Why, then, was this change made in 1552? It doubtless formed a part of the notable revision of the Reformed Service made at that date. But the omission of the explicit Epiclesis was not because Cranmer had changed his mind on its fitness and value. In his controversy with Bishop Gardiner he tells us plainly why the changes were made. There had been mistakers' of certain things in the First Book, which were presumed by Bishop Gardiner to concede a doctrine of the Eucharist hardly to be distinguished from that which the Reformed Service was intended to reject. It was resolved therefore to leave no room for the glosses which had been placed upon it.
Thus when Gardiner put a strained interpretation on the passage containing the Epiclesis, and immediately preceding the Words of Institution, Cranmer defends the whole passage and says: In the book of the Holy Communion
1 The position is important as affecting any proposal to reinsert the Epiclesis in our Service.
we do not pray absolutely that the bread and wine may be made the body and blood of Christ, but that unto us in that holy mystery they may be so.'
Omission therefore cannot in this case have meant condemnation, and we are justified in believing that in the new formula of 1552 (given above) there was implied, though not expressed as before, a prayer for the gift of the Holy Ghost, as the divine agent by whom alone we can become partakers of His most blessed Body and Blood.'
These words have remained unaltered in all subsequent revisions of the Book of Common Prayer as authorized in the Church of England. But in A.D. 1637 the Scottish Prayer Book, of unhappy issue, was put forth for the Church of Scotland. It was mainly the work of Wren and Laud and contained an Epiclesis which curiously combined Cranmer's two forms, namely, that of 1549 with the modified form of 1552.
'Hear us, O merciful Father, we most humbly beseech thee, and of thy almighty goodness vouchsafe so to bless and sanctify with thy word and holy Spirit these thy gifts and creatures of bread and wine, that they may be unto us the body and blood of thy most dearly beloved Son; so that we receiving them according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ's holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of the same his most precious body and blood.'
Then follow the Words of Institution.
The combination of the two forms of 1549 and 1552 is obvious, but, as it involved a measure of tautology, in subsequent revisions the later part (1552) was omitted. Unfortunately the words 'unto us' (as in the Latin Canonut nobis fiat) were also omitted in all subsequent editions. It is also to be noticed that the position of this Epiclesis, as in 1549, was before the Words of Institution.
An excellent account of these revisions is given by that scholarly and devout Bishop, Dr. Dowden, in his Scottish Communion Office, recently edited by the Rev. H. A. Wilson. 1
1 Clarendon Press. 1922.
In 1764 a revised edition of the Scottish Office was issued, which until the present century was the recognized Office of the Episcopal Church of Scotland. The Epiclesis was now moved to its earlier position after the Words of Institution, and was changed to the following form:
'We most humbly beseech thee, O merciful Father, to hear us, and of thy almighty goodness vouchsafe to bless and sanctify, with thy word and Holy Spirit, these thy gifts and creatures of bread and wine, that they may become the body and blood of thy most dearly beloved Son.'
The change in position was of advantage, as it brought the service into line with the Eastern Liturgies, whereas the position of the Epiclesis in 1549 and 1637, before the Words of Consecration, raised a serious difficulty.
But it cannot but be regretted that the Revisers of 1764 not only failed to restore the ancient form upon us and upon these holy gifts,' but that, by changing the words 'may be unto us' into 'may become,' they departed from the significant Latin phrase ut nobis fiat, and that they also omitted altogether all mention of the purpose of the change, which was a marked feature of the earlier book.
It is beyond a doubt that the Epiclesis thus expressed created a serious prejudice against the Scottish Liturgy. Bishop Dowden points out that the omission of the purpose of the change prayed for intensifies the difficulty caused by the omission of the relative words unto us.' He says: 'The corresponding formula is in no single instance presented with such startling abruptness. It is introduced abruptly; it is passed from abruptly.' 'In truth the formula of Invocation in the Scottish Office, as it now stands, is without precedent or parallel.' 1
Happily further revision resulted in the authorization of The Scottish Liturgy of 1911, in which the Epiclesis has been modified as follows:
'We thine unworthy servants beseech thee, most merciful Father, to hear us, and to send thy Holy Spirit upon us and upon these thy gifts and creatures of bread and wine, that, being
1 Dowden, Scottish Communion Office, pp. 11, 12.
blessed and hallowed by his life-giving power, they may become the body and blood of thy most dearly beloved Son, to the end that all who shall receive the same may be sanctified both in body and soul, and preserved unto everlasting life.'
The abruptness' regretted by Bishop Dowden has disappeared, and one is inclined to miss the simple terseness of some earlier forms, but the changes have certainly tended to restore the original idea of the Epiclesis. Thus (1) the descent prayed for is upon us and upon these thy gifts'; (2) the ultimate purpose is fully described to the end that all who shall receive, etc.' We have seen that these are marked features of the early forms of Epiclesis. One may however regret that the Latin ut nobis fiat was not also restored by the insertion of unto us' as in 1549 and 1637. The position of the prayer still conformed to its earlier place after the Words of Institution.
When the Church in America appealed in vain to the English Bishops to consecrate a Bishop for that Church, and when the Church of Scotland welcomed the opportunity of doing so by the consecration of Bishop Seabury in 1784, it was only natural that the Communion Service in the American Liturgy should be modelled upon the Scottish use rather than upon the English. One result has been that the Epiclesis has found a settled home in at least two branches of English-speaking Churchmen.
The American form is based, as in 1637, upon a combination of the words of 1549 and 1552. It stands, as in the Scottish Office, in its traditional position, after the Words of Institution, and is as follows:
'Vouchsafe to bless and sanctify, with thy Word and Holy Spirit, these thy gifts and creatures of bread and wine; that we, receiving them according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ's holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood.'
The question naturally arises, would it not be well in the interests of reunion to assimilate our English Office to that of the Scottish and American Churches, and so to that of the Orthodox Eastern Church, in the matter of the Epiciesis?