Eucharistic rites

A number of commentaries exist which give some idea of how the eucharistic liturgy grew; in fact, additions continued to have been made even in the nineteenth century. Significant commentaries are those of George of the Arabs, Moses bar Kepha, John of Dara, Jacob of Eddesa and Dionysius Bar Salibi.

The present rite (qurbono, offering) commences with prayers for the preparation of the priest and vesting, together with prothesis, or preparation of the elements of bread and wine. Varghese comments that what was a simple act of preparation of bread and wine has become a long ceremony which occupies at least a third of the eucharistic celebration (Varghese 1998). As the priest enters the sanctuary, the curtain is drawn closed and the entire preparation takes place behind the curtain. It consists of the First and Second Service, also called the services of Melchizedek and Aaron. The first includes an opening prayer, Psalm 51, entry into the sanctuary, kissing and going around the altars, arrangement of the bread and wine, and a service of penitence: promion-sedro, qolo, etro and hutomo (anthems, prayers of penitence, and thanksgiving). The second consists of prayer, washing of the hands, vesting, kneeling before the altar, commemorations, promion-sedro, censing of the paten and chalice, hutomo, with qaumo (trisagion, Lord's Prayer and Creed).

The Mass of the Catechumens begins with the Ma'nitho of Severus, trisagion, and the Old Testament lections, three being provided from the Law, Writings and Prophets. The trisagion is the non-Chalcedonian form, and is followed by the Epistle and Gospel. Then come a further promion, sedro and etro (incense). The Nicene Creed follows, with the washing of the hands, and a prayer of approach for worthiness. The celebrant ascends to the altar and offers the prayer of the peace, together with a prayer of approach and the prayer of the veil, which mentions this 'fearful and unbloody sacrifice'.

The Syrian Orthodox tradition has something in the region of eighty anaphoras which it either uses or once used. These vary considerably in date of composition, length and quality. Twelve Apostles and St James are fourth- or fifth-century in origin, though the former seems to be a sixth- or seventh-century translation. H. Fuchs attempted some broad classification, noting translations from Greek and original Syriac compositions, with dates ranging from the seventh to the fifteenth century, in the case of the anaphora of Ignatius Behnan (Fuchs 1926). One good example is the anaphora attributed to Severus of Antioch. There is no extant Greek anaphora like St James and Twelve Apostles. However, parallels do exist. Echoes of St James occur in Severus, and there are slight linguistic parallels at one point with the Greek Coptic rite of St Mark. Furthermore Severus' theology of theoria is also echoed in the anaphora. While it cannot be proved that Severus is the author, he certainly could have authored such a prayer in Greek (Spinks 2005). However, despite the diversity that has existed in the number of anaphoras, the structure remains that identified by scholars as Syro-Byzantine, with oratio theologica, sanctus and benedictus, oratio christologica, institution narrative, anamnesis, epiklesis and intercessions.

The Anaphora of St James is something of a classic, having a Trinitarian structure. It may be the result of an amalgamation of an older Jerusalem usage with elements from the anaphora of St Basil. It begins by proclaiming that God is worshipped by the very creation itself: sun, moon, stars, earth, sea and Jerusalem. After the sanctus and benedictus, the prayer rehearses the creation of humanity, the Fall, and the sending of Christ, leading into the words of institution. An anamnesis and offering leads into a lengthy epiklesis, telling of the work of the Holy Spirit and asking God to send forth the Spirit so that he (the grammatical gender in Syriac is she) may tabernacle in the bread and wine. Lengthy intercessions follow, and these differ somewhat in manuscripts and between the Syrian Orthodox, Indian Syrian Orthodox and Mar Thoma Churches.

After the anaphora, there is a further greeting of peace and a blessing, which form the beginning of the fraction and commixture, for which the curtain is drawn closed. The fraction has a prayer attributed to Bar Salibi, a hymn of Jacob of Sarug, and three prayers for the commixture. After the fraction and commixture, the curtain is drawn back, and the Lord's Prayer and sancta sanctis follow. After communion there is a thanksgiving and dismissal, though further dismissal rites take place in the sanctuary once more after the curtain is drawn.

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