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§ 97. The Celebration of the Eucharist.


Comp. the Liturgical Literature cited in the next section, especially the works of Daniel, Neale, and Freeman.


The celebration of the eucharistic sacrifice and of the communion was the centre and summit of the public worship of the Lord’s day, and all other parts of worship served as preparation and accompaniment. The old liturgies are essentially, and almost exclusively, eucharistic prayers and exercises; they contain nothing besides, except some baptismal formulas and prayers for the catechumens. The word liturgy (λειτουργία), which properly embraces all parts of the worship of God, denotes in the narrower sense a celebration of the eucharist or the mass.

Here lies a cardinal difference between the Catholic and Evangelical cultus: in the former the sacrifice of the mass, in the latter the sermon, is the centre.

With all variations in particulars, especially in the introductory portions, the old Catholic liturgies agree in the essential points, particularly in the prayers which immediately precede and follow the consecration of the elements. They all (excepting some Syriac copies of certain Nestorian and Monophysite formularies) repeat the solemn Words of Institution from the Gospels,10531053   Though in various forms. See below. understanding them not merely in a declaratory but in an operative sense; they all contain the acts of Consecration, Intercession, and Communion; all (except the Roman) invoke the Holy Ghost upon the elements to sanctify them, and make them actual vehicles of the body and blood of Christ; all conceive the Eucharist primarily as a sacrifice, and then, on the basis of the sacrifice, as a communion.

The eucharistic action in the narrower sense is called the Anaphora, or the canon missae, and begins after the close of the service of the catechumens (which consisted principally of reading and preaching, and extended to the Offertory, i.e., the preparation of the bread and wine, and the placing of it on the altar). It is introduced with the Ἄνω τὰς καρδίας, or Sursum corda, of the priest: the exhortation to the faithful to lift up their hearts in devotion, and take part in the prayers; to which the congregation answers: Habemus ad Dominum, “We lift them up unto the Lord.” Then follows the exhortation: “Let us give thanks to the Lord,” with the response: “It is meet and right.”10541054   Or, according to the Liturgia S. Jacobi: Ἄνω σχῶμεν τὸν νοῦν καὶ τὰς καρδίας, with the response: Ἄξιον καὶ δίκαιον. In the Lit. S. Clem.: Priest: Ἄνω τὸν νοῦν. All (πάντες): Ἔχομεν πρὸς τὸν Κύριον.—Εὐχαριστήσωμεν τῷ Κυρίῳ. Resp.:Ἄξιον καὶ δίκαιον. In the Lit. S. Chrys. (still in use in the orthodox Greek and Russian church):
   Ὁ ἱερεύς· Ἄνω σχῶμεν τὰς καρδίας.

   Ὁ χορός · Ἔχομεν πρὸ τὸν Κύριον.

   Ὁ ἱερεύς· Εὐχαριστήσωμεν τῷ Κυρίῳ.

   Ὁ χορός · Ἄξιον καὶ δίκαιον ἐστὶ προσκύνεῖν Πατέρα, Υἱόν, καὶ

   ἂγιον Πνεῦμα, Τριάδα ὁμοούσιον καὶ ἀχώριστον.

The first principal act of the Anaphora is the great prayer of thanksgiving, the εὐλογίαor εὐχαριστία, after the example of the Saviour in the institution of the Supper. In this prayer the priest thanks God for all the gifts of creation and of redemption, and the choir generally concludes the thanksgiving with the so-called Trisagion or Seraphic Hymn (Is. vi. 3), and the triumphal Hosanna (Matt. xx. 9): “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord of Sabaoth; heaven and earth are full of Thy glory. Hosanna in the highest: blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.”

Then follows the consecration and oblation of the elements, by the commemoration of the great facts in the life of Christ, by the rehearsing of the Words of Institution from the Gospels or from Paul, and by the invocation of the Holy Ghost, who brings to pass the mysterious change of the bread and wine into the sacramental body and blood of Christ.10551055   Hence it is said, for example, in the Syriac version of the Liturgy of St. James: “How dreadful is this hour, in which the Holy Ghost hastens to come down from the heights of heaven, and broods over the Eucharist, and sanctifies it. In holy silence and fear stand and pray.” This invocation of the Holy Ghost10561056   Ἐπίκλησις Πνεύματος ἁγίου, invocatio Spiritus Sancti. appears in all the Oriental liturgies, but is wanting in the Latin church, which ascribes the consecration exclusively to the virtue of Christ’s Words of Institution. The form of the Words of Institution is different in the different liturgies.10571057   They are collected by Neale, in his English edition of the Primitive Liturgies, pp. 175-215, from 67 ancient liturgies in alphabetical order. Freeman says, rather too strongly, l.c. p. 364: “No two churches in the world have even the same Words of Institution.” The elevation of the consecrated elements was introduced in the Latin church, though not till after the Berengarian controversies in the eleventh century, to give the people occasion to show, by the adoration of the host, their faith in the real presence of Christ in the sacrament.

To add an example: The prayer of consecration and oblation in one of the oldest and most important of the liturgies, that of St. James, runs thus: After the Words of Institution the priest proceeds:


“Priest: We sinners, remembering His life-giving passion, His saving cross, His death, and His resurrection from the dead on the third day, His ascension to heaven, and His sitting at the right hand of Thee His God and Father, and His glorious and terrible second appearing, when He shall come in glory to judge the quick and the dead, and to render to every man according to his works,—offer to Thee, O Lord, this awful and unbloody sacrifice;10581058   Προσφέρομέν σοι, Δέσποτα, τὴν φοβερὰν ταύτην καὶ ἀναίμακτον θυσίαν. The term φοβεράdenotes holy awe, and is previously applied also to the second coming of Christ: Τῆς δευτέρας ἐνδόξου καὶ φοβερᾶς αὐτοῦ παρουσίας, sc. μεμνημένοι. The Liturgy of St. Chrysostomhas instead:Προσφέρομέν σοι τὴν λοφικὴν ταύτην καὶ ἀναίμακτον λατρείαν(doubtless with reference to theλογικὴ λατρεία in Rom. xii 1). beseeching Thee that Thou wouldst deal with us not after our sins nor reward us according to our iniquities, but according to Thy goodness and unspeakable love to men wouldst blot out the handwriting which is against us Thy suppliants, and wouldst vouchsafe to us Thy heavenly and eternal gifts, which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man what Thou, O God, hast prepared for them that love Thee. And reject not Thy people, O loving Lord, for my sake and on account of my sins.

He repeats thrice: For Thy people and Thy Church prayeth to Thee.

People: Have mercy upon us, O Lord God, almighty Father!

Priest: Have mercy upon us, almighty God!

Have mercy upon us, O God, our Redeemer I

Have mercy upon us, O God, according to Thy great mercy, and send upon us, and upon these gifts here present, Thy most holy Spirit, Lord, Giver of life, who with Thee the God and Father, and with Thine only begotten Son, sitteth and reigneth upon one throne, and is of the same essence and co-eternal,10591059   Ἐξαπόστειλον ἐφ ̓ ἡμᾶς καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ προκείμενα δῶρα ταῦτα τὸ Πνεῦμά σου τὸ πανάγιον, [εἶτα κλίνας τὸν αὐχένα λέγει·] τὸ κύριον καὶ ζωοποιὸν, τὸ σύνθρονον σοὶ τῷ Θεῷ καὶ Πατρὶ, καὶ τῷ μονογενεῖ σου Υίῷ, τὸ συμβασιλεῦον, τὸ ὁμοούσιόν τε καὶ συναίδιον. The ὁμοούσιον, as well as the Nicene Creed in the preceding part of the Liturgy of St. James, indicates clearly a post-Nicene origin. who spoke in the law and in the prophets, and in Thy new covenant, who descended in the form of a dove upon our Lord Jesus Christ in the river Jordan, and rested upon Him, who came down upon Thy holy apostles in the form of tongues of fire in the upper room of Thy holy and glorious Zion on the day of Pentecost: send down, O Lord, the same Holy Ghost upon us and upon these holy gifts here present, that with His holy and good and glorious presence He may sanctify this bread and make it the holy body of Thy Christ.10601060   ἽΙνα ... ̔αγιάσῃ καὶ ποιήσῃ τὸν μὲν ἂρτον τοῦτον σῶμα ἂγιον τοῦ Χριστοῦ σου.

People: Amen.

Priest: And this cup the dear blood of Thy Christ.

People: Amen.

Priest (in a low voice): That they may avail to those who receive them, for the forgiveness of sins and for eternal life, for the sanctification of soul and body, for the bringing forth of good works, for the strengthening of Thy holy Catholic church which Thou hast built upon the rock of faith, that the gates of hell may not prevail against her; delivering her from all error and all scandal, and from the ungodly, and preserving her unto the consummation of all things.”


After the act of consecration come the intercessions, sometimes very long, for the church, for all classes, for the living, and for the dead from righteous Abel to Mary, the apostles, the martyrs, and the saints in Paradise; and finally the Lord’s Prayer. To the several intercessions, and the Lord’s Prayer, the people or the choir responds Amen. With this closes the act of eucharistic sacrifice.

Now follows the communion, or the participation of the consecrated elements. It is introduced with the words: “Holy things for holy persons,”10611061   Τὰ ἅγια τοῖς ἁγίοις, Sancta Sanctis. It is a warning to the unworthy not to approach the table of the Lord. and the Kyrie eleison, or (as in the Clementine liturgy) the Gloria in Excelsis: “Glory be to God on high, peace on earth, and good will to men.10621062   According to the usual reading ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκία. But the older and better attested reading is εὐδοκίας, which alters the sense and makes the angelic hymn bimembris: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men of His good pleasure (i.e., the chosen people of God).” Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: God is the Lord, and he hath appeared among us.” The bishop and the clergy communicate first, and then the people. The formula of distribution in the Clementine liturgy is simply: “The body of Christ;” “The blood of Christ, the cup of life,”10631063   Σῶμα ΧριστοῦΑἷμα Χριστοῦ, ποτήριον ζωῆς. to which the receiver answers “Amen.” In other liturgies it is longer.10641064   In the Liturgy of St. Mark::Σῶμα ἅγιονΑἷμα τίμιον τοῦ Κυρίου καὶ Θεοῦ καὶΣωτῆρος ἡμῶν. In the Mozarabic Liturgy the communicating priest prays: “Corpus et sanguis Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat corpus et animam meam (tuam) in vitam aeternam.” Resp.: ”Amen.” So in the Roman Liturgy, from which it passed into the Anglican.

The holy act closes with prayers of thanksgiving, psalms, and the benediction.

The Eucharist was celebrated daily, or at least every Sunday. The people were exhorted to frequent communion, especially on the high festivals. In North Africa some communed every day, others every Sunday, others still less frequently.10651065   Augustine, Epist. 118 ad Janua c. 2: “Alii quotidie communicant corpori et sanguini Dominico; alii certis diebus accipiunt; alibi nullus dies intermittitur quo non offeratur; alii sabbato tantum et dominico; alibi tantum dominico.” Augustine leaves this to the needs of every believer, but says in one place: “The Eucharist is our daily bread.” The daily communion was connected with the current mystical interpretation of the fourth petition in the Lord’s Prayer. Basil communed four times in the week. Gennadius of Massilia commends at least weekly communion. In the East it seems to have been the custom, after the fourth century, to commune only once a year, or on great occasions. Chrysostom often complains of the indifference of those who come to church only to hear the sermon, or who attend the eucharistic sacrifice, but do not commune. One of his allusions to this neglect we have already quoted. Some later councils threatened all laymen with excommunication, who did not commune at least on Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost.

In the Oriental and North African churches prevailed the incongruous custom of infant communion, which seemed to follow from infant baptism, and was advocated by Augustine and Innocent I. on the authority of John vi. 53. In the Greek church this custom continues to this day, but in the Latin, after the ninth century, it was disputed or forbidden, because the apostle (1 Cor. xi. 28, 29) requires self-examination as the condition of worthy participation.10661066   Comp. P. Zorn: Historia eucharistiae infantum, Berl. 1736; and the article by Kling in Herzog’s Encykl. vii. 549 ff.

With this custom appear the first instances, and they exceptional, of a communio sub una specie; after a little girl in Carthage in the time of Cyprian had been made drunk by receiving the wine. But the withholding of the cup from the laity, which transgresses the express command of the Lord: “Drink ye all of it,” and is associated with a superstitious horror of profaning the blood of the Lord by spilling, and with the development of the power of the priesthood, dates only from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and was then justified by the scholastic doctrine of concomitance.

In the Greek church it was customary to dip the bread in the wine, and deliver both elements in a spoon.

The customs of house-communion and after-communion for the sick and for prisoners, of distributing the unconsecrated remainder of the bread among the non-communicants, and of sending the consecrated elements, or their substitutes,10671067   These substitutes for the consecrated elements were called ἀντίδωρα (i.e., ἀντὶ τῶν δώρων εὐχαριστικῶν), and eulogiae (from the benediction at the close of the service). to distant bishops or churches at Easter as a token of fellowship, are very old.

The Greek church used leavened bread, the Latin, unleavened. This difference ultimately led to intricate controversies.

The mixing of the wine with water was considered essential, and was explained in various mystical ways; chiefly by reference to the blood and water which flowed from the side of Jesus on the cross.



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