Mass and the Liturgy

Some Thoughts on the Epiclesis in the Divine Liturgy

The epiclesis (also spelled epiklesis, and typically capitalized) is the prayer discovered in most if not all of the conventional Japanese Liturgies by which the priest-celebrant calls the Holy Ghost down upon the presents. The Latin equal to this Greek word is invocatio, and its which means is “invocation,” or “calling down.”

There are totally different angles from which one may contemplate this difficulty of the epiclesis: polemical, liturgical-theological, and mystical. Right here, I want to focus principally on the latter two meanings.

Simply what are we speaking about and why is it “an issue”?

As the epiclesis is a serious function in the totally different Rites of the Christian East (Alexandrine, Antiochene, Byzantine, Armenian, and so forth.), allow us to reproduce one instance, to make it concrete. Because the mostly provided type of the Divine Liturgy is the venerable ceremony of Saint John Chrysostom, I choose it. Right here is the epiclesis as it appears in this Ruthenian (Catholic) utilization of the Divine Liturgy:

Priest: Moreover we provide to You this religious and unbloody sacrifice, and we implore, and pray, and entreat You, ship down Your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these Presents right here set forth.

The deacon lays the ripidion (or the veil) apart and comes near the priest. They both bow 3 times earlier than the Holy Table. The deacon then bows his head and pointing together with his orarion to the Holy Bread says in a low voice:

Deacon: Grasp, bless the Holy Bread.

The priest bends over the Presents and makes the sign of the Cross over the Holy Bread, saying:

Priest: And make this bread the valuable Body of Your Christ.

Deacon: Amen.

And the deacon again:

Deacon: Grasp, bless the holy chalice.

The priest blessing it, says:

Priest: And that which is in this chalice, the valuable Blood of Your Christ.

Deacon: Amen.

The deacon once more, pointing to each Holy Presents, says:

Deacon: Grasp, bless both.

The priest blessing each Holy Presents, saying:

Priest: Altering them by Your Holy Spirit.

(An Orthodox edition of the similar liturgy could also be discovered right here for comparability.)

Catholics consider that the consecration of the Blessed Sacrament takes place at the “words of institution” (i.e.,“This is my Body… This is my blood…”) uttered by the celebrant at Mass. This is the dogmatic educating of the Church since the Council of Florence, and confirmed by the Council of Trent. The separated Christians of the East consider that the epiclesis itself is consecratory either as an important complement to the words of institution (as some maintain), or even alone without the words of establishment altogether (as others hold). Since the fifteenth (and especially since the seventeenth) century, this challenge is a serious bone of rivalry between Catholics and the Orthodox.

It’s crucial to notice that the epiclesis takes place in the Divine Liturgy after the words of institution have been uttered by the celebrant. This leads many Latin rite Catholics who attend a Byzantine (Maronite, Coptic, Ethiopian, and so forth.) Divine Liturgy to marvel how it is that after the consecration the sacred species are spoken of as if yet unconsecrated. For our separated brethren of the East, this isn’t a problem, since they do not consider the words of institution are consecratory, a minimum of not alone and without the epiclesis.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Eternal High Priest. It is He, the Man-God, who’s the priest that confects every sacrament and presents the one Sacrifice of the New Regulation, the divine Eucharistic Sacrifice. The alter-Christus standing at the altar of sacrifice this aspect of Heaven is a man in Holy Orders who’s ordained as a ministerial (servant) priest to supply sacrifice and confect sacraments in persona Christi — in the individual of Christ. “Let a man so account of us,” Saint Paul says, describing his own priesthood, “as of the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1). It’s Christ who acts via His ordained servant. The priest standing at the altar really provides the sacrifice — not by a mere legal fiction or dramatic conceit — but he does so in radical metaphysical dependence on the priesthood of Christ; for, if he isn’t appearing in persona Christi, he’s nothing however an eccentric man dressed in antiquated vesture going about unconventional actions at an altar.

It subsequently stands to cause that it is the phrases of Christ that effect the double consecration, whereby each the bread and wine are transubstantiated, yielding up their substances to be replaced by the true Physique and Blood of Jesus Christ (united to his human soul and divinity), while yet retaining the accidents of bread and wine.

Polemically, there are arguments that the Catholic aspect can and does draw forth — notably from historical Japanese sources — to prove the consecratory efficacy of the words of institution. For this piece, nevertheless, I am not concerned with those proofs. Moderately, taking the epeclesis as a given in the venerable oriental liturgies which anyone with a Catholic spirit must regard as holy, I want to respect the fact, beauty, and goodness of the liturgical action of the priest in calling down (invoking) the Holy Ghost upon the Presents at this level, and not earlier in the Divine Liturgy.

Monsignor Joseph Pohle, in his Volume II on the Sacraments, provides us two totally different explanations of the epiclesis, which he then synthesizes into one:

The primary considers the Epiklesis to be a mere declaration of the undeniable fact that the conversion has taken place, or that in the conversion a vital part is to be attributed to the Holy Spirit as co-Consecrator, just as in the mystery of the Incarnation. In line with this principle the Epiklesis possesses only a declarative value, dramatically recalling an historic event to the creativeness, but however refers to the Consecration as such. The priest, at the second of the Consecration, can’t truly categorical all the ideas that transfer the coronary heart of the Church. Subsequently, lest the necessary a part of the Holy Ghost in the act of the Consecration be handed over in silence, he goes again in imagination to the valuable second and speaks and acts as if the Consecration have been just about to occur. Thus in the Epiklesis liturgical art conspires with psychology to attract out, because it have been, the temporary however pregnant moment of the Consecration into a collection of vivid dramatic acts. The Epiklesis, subsequently, bears the similar relation to the Consecration as the periphery of a circle to its centre. An identical purely retrospective switch is met with in other portions of the [Roman, Latin] liturgy, as in the Mass for the lifeless, when the Church prays for the departed [in the Offertory prayer] as if they have been still capable of being rescued from the gates of hell.

A second rationalization refers the Epiklesis, to not the enacted Consecration, however to the approaching Communion, inasmuch as the latter, being the means of uniting us extra intently in the organized physique of the Church, makes us members of the mystical Christ. The invocation of the Holy Spirit has for its object, not to produce the sacramental Christ by Transubstantiation, however by a type of religious transformation wrought in holy Communion, to fructify the Physique and Blood of Christ for the advantage of priest and other people, as we read in the Roman Canon of the Mass: “Ut nobis corpus et sanguis fiat dilectissimi Filii tui Domini nostri lesu Christi” [“that it may become for us the Body and the Blood of Thy most beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord”: words in the Roman rite instantly previous the consecration. Monsignor Pohle is laying emphasis on the subjective implications right here: for us.]. It was in this purely mystical manner that the Greeks themselves defined the which means of the Epiklesis at the Council of Florence.

Since, nevertheless, far more is contained in the plain phrases of the Epiklesis than this mysticism, it is fascinating to mix each explanations into one.

Each liturgically and in level of time the Epiklesis stands as a big connecting link between the Consecration and Communion. In its relation to the Consecration, it is an try and convey time to a standstill, as it have been, to repair the valuable second in the imagination, and to emphasize the part taken by the Holy Spirit as co-Consecrator. In its relation to Communion, it’s a petition to the Holy Ghost to obtain the realization of the true presence of the Body and Blood of Christ by their fruitful results in the souls of priest and other people. Here we now have the mystical, there the actual Christ; these are the two underlying ideas of the Epiklesis, which may subsequently be outlined as “the ritual development of the content of the Holy Eucharist, both in respect of faith and grace, with particular reference to the Holy Spirit, for the purpose of glorifying Him as co-Consecrator and Dispenser of all graces, and for the spiritual benefit of priest and people.”

In all their actions in creation, the three Persons of the Trinity act collectively. The consecrated phrase of scholastic theology is “all of the acts of the Blessed Trinity ad extra [in creation] are acts of all three Persons.” We solely distinguish the exercise of the Persons by their inner relations inside the Trinity. When either the Father, Son, or Holy Ghost act in creation, neither acts alone, however all three act. Subsequently, by the power of the Holy Ghost, the transubstantiation is effected, just as it is by the power of the Father and of the Son.

But there’s a specific aptness to calling down the Third Individual, to whom we applicable works of sanctification. Internally, that’s, inside the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Ghost is the terminus of the Trinitarian processions. Externally, and by what we applicable to Him based mostly on this everlasting reality, He “finishes” and “perfects” Christ’s work (e.g., “…he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you” (John 14:26). Subsequently, we will say that His activity, in good complementarity with Christ the High Priest, makes this divine Sacrifice efficacious for us. The Paraclete, the “sweet guest of the soul,” comes into us to make this Communion efficacious for us, and for the entire Church.

Come Holy Ghost! Make us Love Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament increasingly!

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