THE EUCHARISTIC PRAYER. PART
The Liturgy is
not only a memorial of the Last Supper, but of the whole of our
redemption, and so, after we have recalled our Lord’s command to
‘Take eat’ and to ‘Drink from this’, and his solemn declaration that
this bread and wine are his Body and Blood, the Prayer continues by
recalling the other events which accomplish our salvation. It is
important to grasp the structure of this part of the Prayer. In
order to bring this out, here is a slightly paraphrased translation,
‘And so, as we remember this command of our Saviour and
everything that has been done for us: the Cross, the Tomb, the
Resurrection on the third day, the Ascension into heaven, the
Sitting at the right hand, the second and glorious Coming again;
and as we offer you what is yours from what is already yours, in
all things and for all things we praise you, we bless you, we
give thanks to you, O Lord. And we pray to you our God’.
The Second and Glorious Coming Again
this is all one sentence, but in the Liturgy the priest only says
the words as far as ‘in all things and for all things’. It is the
people who sing, ‘We praise you, we bless you’. The main verb of the
sentence, as Professor Trembelas pointed out many years ago, is
given to the people, just as earlier the priest introduces the
people’s hymn, ‘Holy, holy, holy’ with the words ‘singing, crying,
shouting the triumphal hymn and saying’. The people’s words ‘We
praise you, we bless you…’ are not meant to be a pious meditation,
sung to a long, drawn out melody to ‘cover’ the solemn invocation of
the Holy Spirit, but rather they are a joyful affirmation of praise
and thanksgiving to God for ‘all that has been done for us’.
‘Offering You Your own from Your own’
reasons the structure of this part of the Liturgy has been
misunderstood in many places, so much so that in some churches in
the United States the people’s hymn is now sung after the Invocation
(Epiclesis) of the Holy Spirit! One reason the true structure has
been misunderstood is that most modern Greek texts of the Liturgy do
not say ‘Offering you’, but ‘We offer you your own from your own in
all things and for all things’ full stop. In this way the people’s
response becomes a ‘stand alone’ hymn, and no longer part of a
dialogue with the celebrant. Another reason is that some translators
and commentators understand the Greek panta as masculine and give
the meaning as ‘on behalf of all’ or ‘for all’. In fact the Greek is
neuter plural and so, in English, the word ‘things’ must be added to
make the meaning clear.
Offering you your own from your own’
All this may seem
very fussy and complicated, but in fact it has practical
implications for the actual celebration of the Liturgy. The priest
when he sings the words ‘in all things and for all things’ must do
so in such a way that the people can at once give their response. He
must not chant them so that his words form a self-contained whole.
Musical settings for the people’s response should be simple, not
elaborate and drawn out. As Professor Trembelas the next words of
the priest, which introduce the Invocation of the Spirit, follow on
naturally from the people’s response.
We praise you, we bless you, we give thanks to you, O Lord, and we pray
to you, our God.
Priest: Also we
offer you this spiritual worship, without shedding of blood, and we
ask, pray and implore you: send down your Holy Spirit upon us, and
upon these gifts here set forth.
Once again it is
most important to stress that the Liturgy is an action by both
priest and people; it is not a spectator sport, with the clergy and
servers as the players and the congregation as the supporters in the
stands. The words which introduce the Invocation make this point.
They do not ask God to send the Holy Spirit only upon the gifts,
but, and it comes first, ‘upon us’, that is the priest and people.
Here again it is
important to understand the structure of the prayer, and so we give
a translation following the grammar of the Greek, without all the
later interventions of the deacon.
send down your Holy Spirit upon us, and upon these gifts here set forth,
and make this bread the precious Body of
your Christ, and what is in this Cup the precious Blood of your
Christ, changing them by your Holy Spirit, so that those who
partake of them may obtain vigilance of soul, forgiveness of
sins, communion of your Holy Spirit, fullness of the Kingdom of
heaven, freedom to speak in your presence, not judgment or
‘Changing them by your Holy Spirit’
The Liturgy is
the Mystical Supper of the Lord and the reason for the consecration
is ‘so that’ we may take part in that Supper by receiving the Body
and Blood of Christ, not simply to have Christ present among us in
the consecrated bread and wine. Communion is an integral part of the
divine Liturgy, not simply an optional extra for the especially
Page created: 7-7-2011.