This is Part 2 of Eucharistic Prayers in Common. I encourage you to read Part 1 first.
Some people will think that what stands in the way of an ecumenical Eucharistic Prayer is disagreement around transubstantiation. Ecumenical agreements on the Eucharist would not concur. Transubstantiation, if taken literally, comes from an Aristotelian metaphysics that can be used as a model for the mystery – it is not the mystery Itself. Transubstantiation is not the ‘object of faith’, but an instrument to understand the object of faith, which is the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
I think a significant difference between Anglican and Roman Catholic Eucharistic Prayers is the way they tell the Last Supper story. Anglicans tend to tell the story as the body and blood given in the present tense. Roman Catholics tell the story as if the body and blood will be given – in the future tense:
This is my body which is given for you (Anglican)
This is my body, which will be given for you (RC)
In other words – in Roman Catholic Eucharistic Prayers, it is as if you are present at the Last Supper and Christ has not yet given his body and his blood. His body will be given. His blood will be shed. This, of course, flows on into understanding of priesthood as being In persona Christi (in the person of Christ). The Anglican present tense is open to such interpretation, but does not require it.
Interestingly, Catholic editions of Protestant/Ecumenical Bible translations do not change the translation in the story of the Last Supper:
Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24 “my blood… which is poured out”
“This is my body which is given for you” Luke 22:19 [RSV and NRSV – stays the same in the Catholic Edition of these].
But, when a Bible is a Roman Catholic translation from the ground up, the words get put into the future tense:
eg The Jerusalem Bible – Matthew 26:28 Mark 14:24
“for this is my blood … which is to be poured out”
“This is my body which will be given for you” Luke 22:19
“blood which will be poured out” Luke 22:20
“This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, to be poured out” Matthew in The New American Bible
In the Greek,
τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν τὸ αἷμά μου τὸ τῆς καινῆς διαθήκης τὸ περὶ πολλῶν ἐκχυνόμενον εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν
ἐκχυνόμενον (ekchumomenon) is the present passive participle of ἐκχέω (ekcheo). In other words: is being shed. Someone on a higher Koine Greek pay grade than I will maybe add in a comment below that there’s some idiomatic usage of the present passive participle ἐκχυνόμενον that means it can be understood as being future tense?! Or are RC Bible translations just wrong at this point?
All RC Eucharistic Prayers have the epiclesis, asking the Holy Spirit to transform the bread and wine, before narrating the Last Supper story. Anglican Eucharistic Prayers often have it following (following Orthodoxy). This affects (or should affect?) ritual – some Anglicans do (continue to) elevate, genuflect, bow, and have bells and incense at the “This is my body/blood” when a few moments later they refer to it as bread and wine and ask the Holy Spirit to transform it! All NZ Anglican Eucharistic Prayers are of the Last-Supper-Epiclesis order.
One catholic-minded parish I know reorders the NZ Eucharistic Prayer to the Epiclesis-Last-Supper order. Bishops seem quite happy, when presiding there, to use this altered order – and with the recent change to our Church’s Constitution, allowing bishops to bypass the previous complex authorisation process, one might argue that such a rearrangement is thereby authorised in the diocese. Theologically, liturgists will generally insist that it is the whole Eucharistic Prayer that consecrates – a mountain range with various peaks and valleys. I would refine further – it is God who consecrates in response to the community praying the Eucharistic Prayer proclaimed/led by a priest or bishop.
In conclusion, I remind readers that the Third Eucharistic Prayer of An Anglican Prayer Book (1989 Church of the Province of Southern Africa) is word-for-word identical with the RC Eucharistic Prayer II – complete with future tense: “…which will be given up for you…will be shed for you…” (That the English RC translation has changed since then is another story!) This prayer, of course, is allowed to be used by NZ Anglicans.
During this Southern Hemisphere summer holiday period posts will be less frequent, and there will be no invitation to add comments.
Image: Orans on a Roman Mural