Friday, February 10, 2017

The Epiclesis in the Anglican Mass

The absence and/or presence of the epiclesis in the Canon of the Mass, and its necessity, is a contested subject amongst Anglo-Catholics: some orthodox Anglicans maintain that only the Very Words of Christ, the Words of Institution, are necessary for a valid consecration and that the epiclesis is unnecessary. Others maintain that the epiclesis is indispensable. Different parties over the course of our Anglican history have held different views, but all of them have been allowed to maintain their views and all views on the subject have been tolerated as surely within the ambit of the Church. The division of opinion goes back to the earliest centuries and to the divide between West and East.

In the First Millennium Undivided Church, it was generally held that the entire Eucharistic Prayer consecrated the elements: there was no ‘moment’ or ‘spot’ of consecration. What was merely bread and wine at the beginning of the Prex Mystica was transformed and changed into the Precious Body and Blood of Christ by the end of the Canon. There was no universal agreement in the ancient Church, even within the East, on the controverted question of a moment of consecration. Individual Fathers disagreed with one other, and thus the First Millennium consensus turned to the entire Canon of the Mass as the locus for consecration. The Holy Eucharist is divine Mystery, Our Lord in mysterio made present mystically by the Prayer of the Church. In the early Church, the faithful were simply not preoccupied with finding an exact point in which the reality of the Sacrament was accomplished. The Church saw the Eucharistic Prayer as a single organic unit. In the Canon, the Words of Institution were usually always included. The Church did not generally enquire into an exact moment in which the Change occurs. It was held that all features of the Prex united together to comprise one act, a moral and spiritual unity, which achieved consecration. It was only with the advent of scholasticism in the Middle Ages did theologians begin to explore the need for a minimal form necessary for the essence of the Sacrament.

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, who offers a splendid example of early catechesis, plainly affirms: ‘Since then he himself declared and said of the bread, This is my Body, who shall dare to doubt any longer? And since he has himself affirmed and said, This is my Blood, who shall ever hesitate, saying, that it is not his blood? Consider therefore the Bread and the Wine not as bare elements, for they are, according to the Lord's declaration, the Body and Blood of Christ; for even though sense suggests this to you, yet let faith establish you. Judge not the matter from the taste, but from faith be fully assured without misgiving, that the Body and Blood of Christ have been vouchsafed to you. Having learned these things, and been fully assured that the seeming bread is not bread, though sensible to taste, but the Body of Christ; and that the seeming wine is not wine, though the taste will have it so, but the Blood of Christ.’ A precise moment of consecration is not specifically or unequivocally identified, just the fact of the Real Objective Presence and the Eucharistic Change. This line of defence and instruction is the usual approach for most of the early Fathers, who almost always hold the Prayer of Consecration to be one seamless entity containing both the Words of Christ and an epiclesis.

Whereas some Latin Saints such as Saint Ambrose and Saint Augustine teach that the Verba Christi alone consecrate the elements, some Eastern Saints such as Saint Basil and Saint Gregory Nazianzus profess an opposing view - that the epiclesis is consecratory. Interestingly, Saint John Chrysostom preached a sermon in which he states that the Words of Christ alone suffice for consecration: 'The saying, 'This is my body', once uttered, from that time to the present day, and even until Christ's coming, makes the sacrifice complete at every Altar in the Churches.'

There is no doubt today that all liturgies of the Primitive Church possessed some form of a Eucharistic epiclesis, but the location of the epiclesis within the Anaphora and its role or meaning varied widely from rite to rite. The fifth-century Canon of the Roman Mass contained some kind of epiclesis after the Words of Institution, as we are informed by Pope Gelasius. The Ambrosian-Augustinian teaching on the centrality of the Verba led to a neglect and eventual removal of this epiclesis from the Roman Canon in later centuries.

The sixteenth century Church of England inherited the contemporary Latin view that the Words alone effect the consecration, and because of this inheritance, the 1549, 1552, 1559, 1604, and 1662 English Prayer Books all present the Words of Institution as effecting consecration. The 1549 has an explicit epiclesis before the consecratory Words of Institution; the other English Books have no explicit epiclesis at all. In this way, the English BCP tradition, as opposed to the Scottish and American, possesses the same theology and practice of consecration as the medieval Latin Rite and its Gregorian-Roman Canon. 

The English Book of Common Prayer endorsed the then-common Western view that the consecration was effected by the Words of Institution, and there is undoubtedly strong patristic support for this perspective.

In his De Sacramentis, Saint Ambrose of Milan unambiguously attributes the consecration to the Words of Institution: 'Thus the Word of Christ consecrates this sacrament.' - ‘If the blessing of a human being had power even to change nature, what do we say of God’s action in the consecration itself, in which the very words of the Lord and Saviour are effective? If the words of Elijah had power even to bring down fire from heaven, will not the words of Christ have power to change the natures of the elements? You have read that the words of Christ have power to change the natures of the elements. You have read that in the creation of the whole world, he spoke and they came to be; he commanded and they were created. If Christ could by speaking create out of nothing what did not yet exist, can we say that his words are unable to change existing things into something they previously were not? It is no lesser feat to create new natures for things than to change their existing natures. The Lord Jesus himself declares: ‘This is my body.’ Before the blessing contained in these words, a different thing is named; after the consecration a body is indicated. He himself speaks of his blood. Before the consecration something else is spoken of; after the consecration blood is designated. And you say: ‘Amen,’ that is: ‘It is true.’ What the mouth utters, let the mind within acknowledge; what the word says, let the heart ratify.’

Saint Augustine of Hippo taught, 'If the word be joined to the element, it becomes a sacrament.' For Augustine, the Eucharist, like other sacraments, is a 'visible word' or 'word made visible.' The Word added to the matter becomes the Body and Blood of Christ in the Mass. This view is taken up and utilised by the entire Latin Church by the fifth or sixth century.  

The introduction into post-reformation Anglicanism of the doctrine that the epiclesis is necessary for Eucharistic consecration transpired via the emphases and liturgical renewal of the Non-Jurors in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Scotland and England. These Non-Juring patristic theologians and historians, who dubbed themselves the 'British Catholic Church' or the 'Catholic Remnant of Britain,' felt that the Eastern sequence of Institution, Oblation, and Invocation was the most authentic and primitive, and thus restored this structure to their Anglican Eucharistic rites. From henceforth there is a divide between the English Prayer Book tradition and the Scottish-American. It was the position of the Usager Non-Jurors, from whom we received the Scottish Rite of 1764 adapted to be the American Canon of 1789, that the epiclesis was absolutely necessary for a valid consecration. Bishop Samuel Seabury, the first American bishop and himself a Usager in the tradition of the Non-Jurors, maintained that the 1662 English Canon was inadequate and he refused to employ it. The default theological position of the 1928 American Canon requires the Institution, Oblation, and Invocation for a proper consecration of the Body and Blood of Christ – according to rubric.

Historically, the entire Anglican Communion agreed that at a minimum, a validly ordained priest always validly celebrates the Eucharist so long as he employs the Words of Institution from Our Lord and real wheaten bread and fermented grape wine in the consecration, with the intention of doing what Christ instituted. It was maintained that this is all that the New Testament and the universal Tradition require.

The aforementioned agreement of Anglicanism is demonstrated by the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, which document, accepted by the Lambeth Conferences of 1888 and 1920, affirms on behalf of the whole Anglican Communion that Baptism and the Supper of the Lord must be 'ministered with unfailing use of Christ's words of institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.'  

What presents us with a challenge today is that the Scottish and American Churches ultimately adopted the order for the Prayer of Consecration as used in the Eastern Churches. The 1928 American Mass follows the Scottish Order with the Invocation (epiclesis) after the Words of Institution and the Oblation (anamnesis). The 1928 English Deposited Book and the 1929 Scottish Prayer Book have also accepted the Eastern liturgical praxis.

It must be noted that the Eastern tradition does not agree within itself on precisely how the epiclesis consecrates in relation to the Words of Christ: one school of thought professes that the epiclesis alone consecrates the elements without reference to the Words. Another party holds that both the Words of Institution and the epiclesis together must be employed in the Eucharistic Prayer. The Synod of Jerusalem 1672 declares, ‘The Holy Eucharist is instituted by the essential Word and sanctified by the invocation of the Holy Ghost.’ Saint Mark of Ephesus writes, ‘Not only by the sound of the Lord's words are the divine gifts sanctified, but also by the prayer after these words, and by the consecration of the priest in the strength of the Holy Ghost.’

The Apostolic Tradition of Saint Hippolytus of Rome (AD 215) shows us that the use of an epiclesis after the Words of Institution was a very ancient Roman Rite sequence. It was the intention of Hippolytus to preserve and conserve a more ancient expression of the Eucharistic liturgy of the Church of Rome, one which was in the third century falling into desuetude and being replaced by other forms. In his effort to maintain this old rite, Hippolytus would establish himself as an antipope in opposition to the official hierarchy….

A comparison of the Eucharistic Canon of the 1928 American Book with the Anaphora of the primitive Roman Rite as given by Saint Hippolytus reveals that the parallels are remarkable. Both Anaphoras are offered to God the Father through God the Son, both are introduced with a thanksgiving for redemption, then move to the Institution Narrative, immediately followed by the Oblation and the Invocation (epiclesis), and conclude with a doxology.

We give thanks to you God,
through your beloved son Jesus Christ,
whom you sent to us in former times
as Saviour, Redeemer, and Messenger of your Will,

who is your inseparable Word,
through whom you made all,
and in whom you were well-pleased,
whom you sent from heaven into the womb of a Virgin,
who, being conceived within her, was made flesh,
and appeared as your Son,
born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin.
It is he who, fulfilling your will
and acquiring for you a holy people, 
extended his hands in suffering,
in order to liberate from sufferings
those who believe in you.
Who, when he was delivered to voluntary suffering,
in order to dissolve death,
and break the chains of the devil,
and tread down hell,
and bring the just to the light,
and set the limit,
and manifest the resurrection,
taking the bread, and giving thanks to you, said,
Take, eat, for this is my body which is broken for you.
Likewise the chalice, saying,
This is my blood which is shed for you.
Whenever you do this, do this in memory of me. 

Therefore, remembering his death and resurrection, 
we offer to you the bread and the chalice, 
giving thanks to you, who has made us worthy 
to stand before you and to serve as your priests.
And we pray that you would send your Holy Spirit 
to the oblation of your Holy Church. 
In their gathering together, 
give to all those who partake of your holy mysteries the fullness of the Holy Spirit, 
toward the strengthening of the faith in truth, 
that we may praise you and glorify you,
through your Son Jesus Christ,
through whom to you be glory and honour,
Father and Son, 
with the Holy Spirit,
in your Holy Church,
now and throughout the ages of ages.

The Anaphora of Saint Hippolytus is much briefer than the Canon of the American Rite. Neither Eucharistic Prayer contains an explicit intercession for the living or the faithful departed because the Prayer for the Church or the general intercession occurs earlier in the Mass. Saint Hippolytus, although Bishop of Rome, was Greek-speaking and cultivates an early Eastern liturgical tradition in his ministry and writing. The original text of the Apostolic Tradition was in Greek, and reflects an Eastern origin.

Bishop Walter H. Frere, CR, Bishop of Truro, a staunch defender of the Eucharistic Canon of the 1928 Deposited Prayer Book of the Church of England, desired a restoration of the Eucharistic Anaphora based on Eastern theological and structural lines. It is fascinating to know that Bishop Frere was one of the very, very few English Anglo-Catholics who supported the 1928 Proposed Book and especially its Canon: most Anglo-Catholics in England in the early twentieth century despised the epiclesis in the new liturgy (holding to the English BCP/ Latin view that the Very Words of Christ alone consecrate) and forged an alliance with the Evangelical party to see the Deposited Book defeated. Walterus Truron loved the Eastern tradition and rightly saw the Ecclesia Anglicana as the western expression of that orthodoxy so magnificently manifested in the Eastern rite. 

Based on the preceding evidence, we may say that particularly for the American Church, so long as the Mass is celebrated according to text, ceremonial, and customary of the 1928 Book and the authorised Missals, one is free to prefer any number of opinions regarding any specific 'moment of consecration.' Every priest is bound to use those liturgical rites authorised by one’s ecclesiastical authority, that is, the Bishop Ordinary and the Canons. The later Scottish-American Rite, it can be argued, may be superior in terms of reference to the most ancient liturgies, and, one may assert, is even more authentic, but the original English Rite, most recently revised in 1662, is the mother liturgy of Anglicanism and remains authoritative for many orthodox Anglicans throughout the world. All classical Prayer Book liturgies are valid for the effect of Eucharistic consecration, but may not always equally achieve the fullness of theological and doxological expression. 

Our dilemma is part of the good Anglican muddle, not the false 'comprehensiveness' of the Elizabethan Settlement failure. Our complexity comes from the fact that we are a genuinely Catholic and hybrid Church, a hybrid of East and West, with a liturgy which quite ingeniously incorporates both Eastern and Western features in the format of the Church's official worship. The disagreement over the role of the Eucharistic epiclesis has existed in Anglicanism since the seventeenth century and is likely to continue well into the future. Patience and tolerance are called for on all sides of the debate. Those who hold to the solum Verbis Christi position have a long history behind them - especially in the Western Church of late antiquity, in the Middle Ages, and in the Church of England during and after the reformation. Those who hold to the necessity of the epiclesis have the entire Eastern Church and many examples from the most original and primitive liturgies behind them. The good news is that regardless of one's view, traditional Anglicans continually receive the greatest gift ever bestowed upon mankind, the True Body and True Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the form of bread and wine in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

'Continual growth in thy love and service...'

In the 1928 American Prayer Book Eucharist, the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ's Church contains this phrase of intercession for the Dead, which petition is absolutely unique to the revised American liturgy: 'And we also bless thy holy Name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear; beseeching thee to grant them continual growth in thy love and service, and to give us grace so to follow their good examples, that with them we may be partakers of thy heavenly kingdom.'

From whence does this unique prayer for the Holy Souls come?

The answer: Saint Gregory of Nyssa teaches we shall eternally grow and develop into the life of God in the land of light and joy in the fellowship of the Saints, as we go from strength to strength and glory to glory, for God is infinite and we are finite beings graced to enter into communion with an infinite Communion of Persons. 

Prayers for the faithful departed were reintroduced into the American Liturgy in the 1928 edition and all possess this characteristic reference to the doctrine of Saint Gregory, that souls in Christ may continue to grow in God's love and service in Paradise. These prayers all view the state of the soul, and the life of service, in the realm of the Intermediate State as one of growth and increase in the love and knowledge of God (Prayer Book pages 42, 74-75, 268, 332, 334, 598).

For Saint Gregory, the soul divinised by grace will never cease to grow in love and service, will never cease to seek to conform itself to the infinite God, Who is love. 

Saint Gregory instructs us that in the life of the world to come, the soul in Jesus Christ seeks to be entirely conformed to the divine nature, which is love. Love will alone remain as the soul's truest desire and orientation. The soul wishes to attach itself to the highest reality, the Good, to God, Who alone is the One and Only truly to be desired and loved. Being the image of God, the soul attaches itself to God by the attraction and action of love. It wills to be conformed to the One who is forever sought and acquired. The soul continually becomes the image and likeness of the God in Whom it participates and lives in communion. For all eternity, we shall love God and be caught up into the God who loves us.

The Nature of God eternally lives, thrives, and operates as love, being love, without limit. The Holy Trinity is infinite, limitless love Himself, and therefore, for all eternity the souls of the faithful will experience a limitless ascent to God, a never-ending growth into God's love. 

So when the soul which has become simple and uniform and an accurate image of God finds that truly simple and immaterial good, the one thing which is really lovable and desirable, it attaches itself to it and combines with it through the impulse and operation of love. It conforms itself to that which is always being grasped and found, and becomes through its likeness to the good that which the nature is in which it participates (On the Soul and the Resurrection)

This truly is the vision of God: never to be satisfied in the desire to see him. But one must always, by looking at what he can see, rekindle his desire to see more. Thus, no limit would interrupt the growth in the ascent to God, since no limit to the Good can be found nor is the increasing of the desire for the Good brought to an end because it is satisfied (The Life of Moses)

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Interview on Quad Cities Anglican Radio

Please listen to today's 1st February 2017 radio interview with me about Liturgy found on Quad Cities Anglican Radio - thank you Father Don and Father Thomas for hosting this wonderful experience!