Eucharistic rites

Thus, for the eucharistic liturgy there were three rites, existing in Greek and Coptic: St Basil, St Gregory of Nazianzus and St Mark (in Coptic entitled St Cyril). In the older tradition, St Basil was the rite used for ordinary days of the year, St Gregory for seven major feasts, and St Cyril (St. Mark) was used in the month of Kiyahk and during Lent. In modern practice the liturgy of St Basil is used, and parts of the anaphora of Gregory are added-on solemnities. St Cyril is rarely used because of its length and little-known melodies.

The prothesis, as in all eastern liturgies, is a later addition, though its length in the Coptic rite it is more akin to the Syrian. In Arabic the title is hamal, lamb. It includes prayers for worthiness for the celebrant, and short formulae while the bread is arranged. The prayer said secretly over the bread and wine contains an epiklesis; it has been suggested that it is the remnant of an ancient eucharistic anaphora. It includes the petition:

O lover of humanity, make your face to shine upon this bread, and upon this cup, which we have set on this your priestly table. Bless them, sanctify them, hallow them, and change them, that this bread may become indeed your holy body, and the mixture in this cup, your precious blood.

Given the relatively late date of the prothesis, this may be simply an instance of anticipating the later rite, which seems to be a characteristic of many later medieval developments. After the prothesis comes the prayer of incense and the lection, with trisagion between a reading from Acts and the Gospel. The lections are interspersed with formulae recited by priest and deacon. The liturgy of the faithful begins with the prayer of the veil, and litanic intercessions. This is followed by the Creed and the kiss of peace. The anaphora of St Basil is regarded as an early form of the anaphora, pre-dating the Byzantine recension, which is almost certainly an expansion by Basil himself. The problem is explaining how or why the earlier recension found in Egypt should be named after Basil. It is suggested that it was the Anaphora of Cappadocia that Basil brought with him in his extended visit to Egypt.

As with Basil, the Anaphora of Gregory is of the West Syrian pattern. This is a lengthy anaphora addressed throughout to the Son. Jose Sanchez Caro has argued that the 'I-thou' style of this anaphora has much in common with the homilies and poems of St Gregory of Nazianzus, and could have been written or expanded by him (Sanchez Caro 1983). Others have pointed out the use of 'for my sake' for the work of the Son, which again is characteristic of Gregory's style. According to Albert Gerhards, it was an anti-Arian Cappadocian prayer, expanded to become anti-Nestorian, and then 'Eygptianized' (Gerhards 1984).

The Anaphora of St Cyril (St Mark) has its own distinctive Egyptian structure. Fragments of comparable Egyptian anaphoras exist, including the so-called 'Strasbourg Papyrus' Gr.234, which is regarded as being an earlier version of St Cyril. It begins with an opening praise of God for creation, in words paralleled in Nehemiah 9, and then, with reference to 'reasonable sacrifice and this unbloody service', uses Malachai 1: 11.

The reference to sacrifice becomes a springboard for extremely lengthy intercessions before a return to the theme of praise, and the sanctus. A feature of the Egyptian tradition is that the benedictus is not used after sanctus. This seems to be partly because the Egyptian eucharistic prayers (Serapion, St Cyril, and the various fragments) use the wording of the sanctus to develop the first epiklesis or calling on God to send his power/ Spirit to bless the elements. This leads into the institution narrative, second epiklesis and final doxology. The benedictus would interrupt this flow.

The anaphora is followed by the consignation, fraction and Lord's Prayer. Communion includes a 'confession' which has to do with the Theotokos and unity of the divinity and humanity in Christ. The rite ends with a thanksgiving, inclination, and lengthy prayer of dismissal.

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