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East meets West

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In certain eucharistic prayers, the epiclesis follows the words of institution. In these circumstances, is it still appropriate to follow the words of institution with the elevation?

In short, yes, because the prayer of consecration is a whole, whose effect is the change in the elements of bread and wine, a grace that is asked for throughout the entire prayer. Bear in mind that it takes time to say the eucharistic prayer, while the change is effected in a moment. That moment is not of necessity the moment when the prayer ends; so whichever rite we use, and in whatever order the epiclesis and words of institution are arranged, we are at some stage going to be asking for something that has already been granted.

Furthermore, for as long as the Prayer Book (which has no explicit epiclesis) remains a standard in the C of E, it must be that the words of institution remain the focus of the prayer. This would also keep us in line with the rest of Western Christendom, where the elevations tend now to be called “ostensions” or showings, and, in places where they are used, are the moments when the ringing of sanctuary bells and censing with the thurible are prescribed.
(The Revd) Robert Wilkinson
London N22

Neither 1662 nor the Tridentine rite has an epiclesis. It was introduced into modern rites in ecumenical response to Orthodox spirituality, which emphasises the epiclesis as the moment when the bread and wine become Christ’s body and blood. In the West, the repetition of the words of institution makes this event.

There are two forms of epiclesis, for the Church and for the elements. When it is for the Church, as in Common Worship Prayers B and D, there is no problem. When it is for the elements, it may be before the words of institution, as in Prayer C and E, or after, as in F, G and H. Perhaps the prayer that the elements “may be to us the body and blood” is in reality a prayer for the Church: that the eyes of the congregation may be opened (1 Corinthians 11.29). Be this as it may, the problem envisaged by the question arises only in the last three cases.

In the Divine Liturgy of John Chrysostom: [After the words of institution:] the deacon crosses his hands and elevates the chalice and paten. [After this the priest prays:] “Send down your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts here set forth.” Then the deacon, pointing to the Holy Bread . . .: “Master, bless the holy Bread.” Priest . . .: “and make the Bread the precious Body of your Christ.” [Repeated for the chalice.]

After further prayers, there is a second elevation of the paten alone, but the chalice is not elevated again.

Thus the sequence in Prayers F, G and H is close to Orthodox tradi-tion. Even in that tradition, the elevation occurs after the words of institution and before the epiclesis. The Common Worship rubrics say nothing of elevation.
Christopher Haffner (Reader)
East Molesey, Surrey

Email answers and questions to Out of the Question

Correction: the name of the Reader referred to by the Revd Peter Ridley (Answers, 4 February) was Mary Oakeley, and not as printed.

 

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