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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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)
- Cana miracle hymn
- Eucharistic Prayers in Common (Part 2)
- This is my body
- Improving Great Thanksgiving Prayers 6
- 1637 Scottish BCP