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Anaphora of Adai and Mari

Addai and Mari

We were recently talking about the East Syrian tradition of the Holy Qurbana (the Eucharist) of Addai and Mari (spelling varies, Addai, or Adai). The anaphora (Eucharistic Prayer) of this rite is one of the oldest we have. It is notable for lacking the Last Supper story. This is particularly of interest because, especially in much of the Western tradition, it is the Last Supper story (and particularly the words in it, “this is my body”, “this is my blood”) that consecrates the bread and wine. So here is a consecration that lacks these words completely.

What is particularly of note is that on 17 January 2001 the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recognised the validity of the Eucharist celebrated with this Anaphora of Addai and Mari. If you don’t immediately sit up in surprise to that statement, I remind you that the Roman Catholic position is usually that it is the words, “this is my body” and “this is my blood” which consecrate – and these are missing from this eucharistic prayer.

Many Anglicans hold a similar understanding of what consecrates. The Book of Common Prayer 1662 (unwisely in my opinion) added “the Prayer of Consecration” as a title in the middle of Cranmer’s consecrating prayer, just prior to the Last Supper story. This, for many, gives the impression that it is the Last Supper story is what consecrates. Just recently I was speaking to an Anglican priest who told me about someone “reading the Eucharistic Prayer from the Bible” (he meant the Last Supper account in Paul). I too have experienced Anglican priests solely reading that story and nothing more, and passing around bread and wine/grapejuice after that.

Reinforcing the impression that these are the words that consecrate, remember one of the four points in the Lambeth Quadrilateral is

The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself — Baptism and the Supper of the Lord — ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s Words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him. [My emphasis]

Am I being terribly un-Anglican that, while I would discourage people from producing new Eucharistic Prayers without the Last Supper story, I agree with the Vatican that Adai and Mari, without the Lord’s Supper story, is a valid Eucharist?

This reinforces the understanding that we bless and consecrate by giving thanks (a particularly pertinent point when our General Synod Te Hinota Whanui has just forbidden “blessing” but allowing “recognition”).

Here is a translation of the Anaphora of Adai and Mari.

The Opening Dialogue is followed by The Preface (or first Gehanta):
Worthy of praise from every mouth and of confession from every tongue is the adorable and glorious name of the Father and Son and Holy Ghost, who didst create the world by thy grace and its inhabiters by thy mercifulness and didst save mankind by thy compassion and give great grace unto mortals.

The Pre-Sanctus:
Thy majesty, o my Lord, thousand thousands of those on high bow down and worship and ten thousand times ten thousand holy angels and hosts of spiritual beings, ministers of fire and spirit, praise thy name with holy cherubin and seraphin shouting and praising without ceasing and crying one to another and saying:

The Sanctus:
Holy holy holy Lord God of hosts heaven and earth are full of his praises

The Post-Sanctus (or second Gehanta):
And with these heavenly hosts we give thanks to thee, o my Lord, even we thy servants weak and frail and miserable, for that thou hast given us great grace past recompense in that thou didst put on our manhood that thou mightest quicken it by thy godhead, and hast exalted our low estate and restored our fall and raised our mortality and forgiven our trespasses and justified our sinfulness and enlightened our knowledge and, o our Lord and our God, hast condemned our enemies and granted victory to the weakness of our frail nature in the overflowing mercies of thy grace.

The Oblation (or third Gehanta):
Do thou, o my Lord, in thy many and unspeakable mercies make a good and acceptable memorial for all the just and righteous fathers who have been well-pleasing in thy sight, in the commemoration of the body and blood of thy Christ which we offer unto thee on thy pure and holy altar as thou hast taught us, and grant us thy tranquillity and thy peace all the days of the world.

Yea, o our Lord and our God, grant us thy tranquillity and thy peace all the days of the world that all the inhabitants of the earth may know thee that thou art the only true God the Father and that thou hast sent our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son and thy beloved. And he our Lord and our God came and in his lifegiving gospel taught us all the purity and holiness of the prophets and the apostles and the martyrs and the confessors and the bishops and the doctors and the presbyters and the deacons and all the children of the holy catholic church, even them that have been signed with the living sign of holy baptism.

The Anamnesis:
And we also, o my Lord, thy weak and frail and miserable servants who are gathered together in thy name, both stand before thee at this time and have received the example which is from thee delivered unto us, rejoicing and praising and exalting and commemorating and celebrating this great and fearful and holy and lifegiving and divine mystery of the passion and the death and the burial and the resurrection of our Lord our Saviour Jesus Christ.

The Epiclesis:
And may there come, o my Lord, thine Holy Spirit and rest upon this offering of thy servants and bless it and hallow it that it be to us, o my Lord, for the pardon of offences and the remission of sins and for the great hope of resurrection from the dead and for new life in the kingdom of heaven with all those who have been wellpleasing in thy sight.

The Doxology:
And for all this great and marvellous dispensation towards us we will give thee thanks and praise thee without ceasing in thy Church redeemed by the precious blood of thy Christ, with unclosed mouths and open faces lifting up praise and honour and confession and worship to thy living and holy and lifegiving name now and ever and world without end. (adapted from this source; see also Liturgies, Eastern and Western)

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23 Responses to Anaphora of Adai and Mari

  1. I guess if you are going to be wrong, Bosco, then you may as well be wrong with good company. Of course Anglicans think the Vatican wrong on a few other matters as well as on this liturgy.

    I see, examining, the liturgy closely, that it is wrong from the perspective of justice, finding room to mention righteous fathers but not holy mothers!

    But its most egregious error is offering up the body and blood of Christ. To do this it must have already been consecrated elsewhere and by another prayer!

    I suppose one could rescue the prayer by suggesting it as an alternative prayer for use with the reserved sacrament!

    • Thanks, Peter. Not sure I get your point of the third paragraph. This is the prayer that consecrates. That was my point.

      As I said, I would not encourage new prayers to use this as a model. Addressing the eucharistic prayer to Jesus, although also relatively common (surprisingly to me, often in feminist circles) is another thing I would not advocate in new eucharistic prayers.


  2. It is interesting to note that in the illustration you use there is a plated fish in the centre of the table. Is that purely symbolic do you think – the fish having possibly been the earliest symbol of Christianity?

  3. I am surprised (more like shocked) that the RCC would deem this a valid eucharistic prayer, yet I agree wholeheartedly. I hold that it is the intention of the gathered community that consecrates and not the words and not the priestly hand waving. The celebrant is called to embody and give voice to the intention of the gathered community and it is the the community’s thankfulness and prayerfulness, their desire and faith in Christ’s presence, which is the consecrating act.

    • Yes, certainly, Jon, I agree it is not the priestly hand waving that consecrates – and I have written regularly against arcane complex clericalist hand waving. God consecrates in response to the thanksgiving prayer of the gathered community led by the proclamation of the priest. Blessings.

  4. I also agree with the Vatican, and recall Marion Hatchett commenting to me in about 1984, that it was possible that the General Thanksgiving in the Office may well have been a Eucharistic Prayer along the lines as the anaphora of Adai and Mari composed during the Commonwealth and suitable for clandestine use. He went on to point out that they include an anamnesis of Thanksgivings for creation, the incarnation and atonement, and epiclesis over the holy gifts, and an eschatological prolepsis. It certainly has made sense to me over the past 30 years considering the profound liturgical scholarship that took place in the 17th century Church. I have often wondered if anyone has researched this possibility. Marion’s interest turned to shaped note hymnody about that time.

  5. This was before the formal statement of the Trinity and the two natures of Christ. This can be recognized as a valid prayer, authorized by the Church, from a different time and place. To do otherwise would be to say that these people were not part of the Church.

    We are in a different place today, further down the Way. We have come to develop our understanding of a Eucharistic Prayer to include the Words of Institution and Epiclesis. Anything new today not to acknowledge that would be to deny the faith handed down to us by our Forebearers.

    When saying it was a valid Eucharistic Prayer, I don’t think this was authorized for regular use, correct? It would be an extraordinary form. The rule of prayer being the rule of faith is not destroyed this way.

    • My understanding, Bob, is that this prayer is in regular use in the Assyrian Church of the East and Ancient Church of the East. It has been said with authority that “this decision [of its validity] is the most important ecumenical decision since the Second Vatican Council, because it touches the very heart of the Eucharist and is therefore of fundamental significance for the concept of pluriformity within unity.” Blessings.

  6. Yes, certainly, Jon, I agree it is not the priestly hand waving that consecrates – and I have written regularly against arcane complex clericalist hand waving. God consecrates in response to the thanksgiving prayer of the gathered community led by the proclamation of the priest. Blessings.

    I can only celebrate your comment above, Bosco, and your post.
    In some of the comments above there is the frequent priestly claim that we are the one and our way is the only right way.If we are not the centre nothing counts. Surely it is the priest/minister in communion, not priest alone.

  7. Every East Syriac priest or bishop I have worked with has wondered what all the fuss is about. Put succinctly, their response has always been that Jesus said ‘do this in remembrance of me’ and not ‘say this…’. To this, they normally add ‘Do we not invoke the Holy Spirit?’

    The Anaphora of Addai and Mari (I’ve never seen the spelling ‘Adai’ anywhere!) is indeed ancient, but is not the only anaphora of the East Syriac tradition.

    Many in the tradition continue to use the ‘Hmalka’ (literally ‘king’) in preparing the sacramental bread. The belief is that St Thomas baked the bread for the Last Supper, and it was leavened bread. As with sourdoughs, some of St Thomas’ batch was carried with him and given to the new churches he created as he preached the gospel. Every new preparation of sacramental bread adds new ingredients to those saved from the last preparation, the ‘malka’, in a believed unbroken continuity with the Last Supper. Users of ‘malka’ thus claim that their eucharist is with the bread that Jesus broke, which makes Western quibbles about which words are said over it look a little feeble.

    • Thanks, Gareth. I’m totally in agreement with the point in your first paragraph – part of the “doing”, of course, is to give thanks. The spelling of “Adai” returns about 52,000 results in Google, “Addai” only 10,000. See for example here or here. Blessings.

      • Ah, so now I’ve seen it spelt ‘Adai’! Syriac spelling of geminiate consonants is ambiguous (i.e. not marked) and many speakers simplify them to single consonants (or, in India, pre-nasalise them: ‘dd’ → ‘nd’ in certain contexts). The name ‘Addai’ classically has a geminate ‘dd’.

  8. A few years ago, Fr. John Hunwicke helpfully reproduced on his blog part of an unpublished letter of Dom Gregory Dix (written in 1948) on the subject of what was necessary for a valid Eucharist:

    “What are the minimum requirements for [Eucharistic] validity? I suppose: (1) a priest; (2) bread and wine; (3) the Words of Institution. (I personally would reduce this last to any plain indication that the rite now being performed with bread and wine by the priest is intended as a deliberate fulfilment of the command at the Last Supper, touto poieite eis ten anamnesin mou. A repetition of the Words of Institution is the most compendious and unambiguous and best authorised way of doing this.)”

    (From here: http://liturgicalnotes.blogspot.ca/2009/01/addai-and-mari.html)

    I have not read the CDF explanation of its decision, but they must have adopted a similar rationale. (It is likely that Dix had Addai and Mari in mind when he wrote this, though that anaphora is not mentioned explicitly in his letter.)

    Of course, I could push the boat out and suggest that what is really essential is an unambiguous intent to do what the Lord commanded. I get the feeling from many of my fathers and mothers in God that we’re really doing what Jesus *ought* to have commanded…

  9. As with most of the others I really like this prayer.
    I can see how the prayer itself, in conjunction with the intention of the congregation and the priest could be a consecration in itself.
    I wonder though, if we do away with the need for the traditional liturgy and anamnesis of the Last Supper – Do we do away with the need for a Holy Table?
    Is that necessarily a good thing?

    • I’m sorry, Chris, I do not follow your logic at all. No one is “doing away” with anything. Adai and Mari is a “traditional liturgy” – one of the most traditional. Blessings.

  10. I was thinking all the array of liturgies that are modelled on our picture of The Last Supper. Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist + others.

  11. Hi Fr Bosco,

    I recently attended Qurbana Kadeesha, Holy Eucharist, at St Hurmizd’s Assyrian Church of the East Cathedral here in Sydney – one of my friends is in the cathedral choir. The Anaphora of Addai and Mari was used in the Eucharist. The cathedral seats around a thousand people and was more or less full. I asked my friend if it were a special feast day, only to be told that around a thousand people is usual and if it had been a big day there would be up to twice that number there. Qurbana was said by the archbishop in Assyrian, and there are 5 or 6 other parishes here where it is said in Arabic or English. The most obvious difference from an Anglican Eucharist was that the chancel was crammed with deacons (maybe a dozen) and that the sermon was late in the order, almost immediately before the communion of the people itself. At the offertory two deacons took a thurible each for the congregation seated on the aisles to ‘wash’ their hands in the smoke. As everyone went to receive the Eucharist, they also ‘washed’ their hands in the smoke. Afterwards my friend’s elderly dad embraced me and, kissing both cheeks, said some thing to me in Assyrian to me. George said it was the normal post-Eucharistic greeting, ‘I am so happy because I have received the Eucharist’. O that we Anglicans were even half so ardent. You can see a photo of St Hurmizd’s at http://screencentral.com.au/st-hurmizds-cathedral-greenfield-park-fairfield/3702/

  12. Robert’s contribution reveals much about the significance of good liturgy. The ‘washing’ through the smoke is very common in the East, and in other Faiths – regular too in some contemplative Western communities. It is part of my Vespers.

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