Anaphora (liturgy)

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The Anaphora is the most solemn part of the Divine Liturgy, or the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, a thanksgiving prayer by virtue of which the offerings of bread and wine are thought to be consecrated as the body and blood of Christ. This is the usual name for this part of the Liturgy in Greek-speaking Eastern Christianity. In the Eastern Syriac tradition Qudaša is its equivalent. The corrresponding part in western Christian liturgy is nowadays most often called the Eucharistic Prayer. The Roman Rite from the 4th century until after Vatican II had a single such prayer, called the Canon of the Mass.

"Anaphora" is a Greek word (ἀναφορά) meaning a "carrying up" (as distinguished from the use of the same word, then meaning a "carrying back", in rhetoric and linguistics), and so an "offering"[1] (hence its use in reference to the offering of sacrifice to God). In the sacrificial language of the Greek version of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint, προσφέρειν (prospherein) is used of the offerer's bringing the victim to the altar, and ἀναφέρειν (anapherein) is used of the priest's offering up the selected portion upon the altar (see, for instance, Leviticus 2:14, 2:16, 3:1, 3:5).


To describe the structure of the Anaphoras as it became standardized from the 4th century, we can look at the structure of the anaphoras in the Antiochene family of liturgies (West Syriac Rite and Byzantine Rite) [2]: 6  which display an order and logic that finds no equal elsewhere.[3]: 121  This structure is still valid, with some significant variations typical of each rite, for the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Churches and Oriental Orthodox Church, while it was modified, both in the pattern and in the underlying theology, during the Protestant Reformation. Beginning with the Oxford Movement of the 1840s and after the Liturgical Reform Movement of the 1950s, a systematic examination of historic anaphoras began and this in turn has caused the reform of many Eucharistic prayers within mainline Protestant denominations.

The structure of the standardized 4th century Antiochene anaphora, which is placed after the offertory and the Creed and comes before the Lord's Prayer, the Elevation and the Communion rites, can be summarized as follows:[2]: 6 

  • Sursum Corda or Opening Dialogue: it is the introductory dialogue that opens with a liturgical greeting by the priest (for instance, "The Lord be with you" in the Roman Rite, or "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all" in the Byzantine Rite) and the response of the congregation or choir. Classic call and response ties together the response of the priest and congregation to the Glory of God. Then the priest exhorts those participating in the liturgy to lift up their hearts. When they express their agreement ("We lift them up to the Lord"), he then introduces the great theme of thanksgiving, in Greek εὐχαριστία (eucharistia), saying: "Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.";
  • Preface: is the great prayer of thanksgiving for the work of Salvation or for some special aspect of it;[4]
  • Sanctus: is a hymn of praise adapted from Isaiah 6:3 beginning Holy, Holy, Holy immediately followed by the Benedictus taken from Matthew 21:9. This hymn is usually introduced by the expression of the desire of the community to unite itself with the heavenly Angelic liturgy; it also follows the words of Christ, taken from Mt 23:39: "For I say to you, you shall not see me henceforth till you say: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord", itself being a quotation of Psalm 118:26.
  • Post-Sanctus: is a prayer that links the Sanctus with the following part. It can be very short or resume the great theme of thanksgiving, giving ground for the following requests.
  • Institution narrative: is an account of the Last Supper, in which are pronounced the Words of Institution spoken by Jesus Christ, changing the bread and wine into his Body and Blood.
  • Anamnesis: is the statement in which the Church refers to the memorial character of the Eucharist itself and/or to the Passion, Resurrection and Ascension of Christ.
  • Oblation: is the offering to the Lord of the sacrifice of the Eucharistic bread and wine and of the prayers and thanksgiving of faithfuls.
  • Epiclesis: is the "invocation" or "calling down from on high" by which the priest invokes the Holy Spirit (or the power of His blessing or Christ in some early texts) upon the Eucharistic bread and wine;
  • Intercessions: is the prayer, sometimes long, in which the Church asks God to help all her members, living and dead, and all the humanity because of the grace given by the Eucharist. In this section there is usually the request to God to grant to the believers the same glory given to Mary and to the saints. The list of the living people who are commemorated (diptychs) includes generally the name of the current pope, patriarch, bishop recognized by the community;
  • Doxology: is a solemn hymn of praises to the Trinity.

This structure can have variations in liturgical families different from the Antiochene one: in the East Syriac Rites the Epiclesis is just before the final doxology and in Addai and Mari the Institution narrative is missing;[5] the Intercessions can be found after the Preface in the Alexandrian Rite[2]: 6  and even before the Sursum Corda in the Mozarabic Rite. An Epiclesis can be found before the Institution narrative in the Alexandrian Rite, and this place of the Epiclesis is the standard in the Roman Canon and in the Latin rites.

The anaphoras are addressed by the Church to the Father, even if in antiquity there were cases of Eucharistic prayers addressed to Christ, as the anaphora of Gregory Nazianzen or partially the Third Anaphora of St. Peter (Sharar).[6] Also, the Ethiopian Orthodox Täwaḥədo Church unusually has an Anaphora of the Virgin Mary.[7] Most parts of the anaphora, as the Preface, the Institution narrative, the Epiclesis, are always reserved to the celebrant, a bishop or a priest, while the faithfuls usually sung the Sanctus and some acclamations, which can be more or less frequent and length according to the specific rite. Sometime, particularly in the past, in both East and West the main celebrant said a part of his prayers inaudibly or covered by the choir.

The Eastern Rites know many anaphoras, but each of them is almost completely invariable. On the contrary the Western Church had for centuries only one anaphora, the Roman Canon, but it has variable parts according to the liturgical year, mainly the Preface. In other Latin rites, as in the Mozarabic Rite or the Gallican rite also the post-sanctus and the prayer after the Institution narrative till the doxology are completely variable.[2]: 147 

Early texts[edit]

Many ancient texts of anaphorae have survived, and even if no more in use, they are useful to trace the history of the anaphorae, and in general the history of the Eucharist during the centuries. Most of these texts became parts of anaphorae still in use.

The earlier liturgical texts related to the celebration of the Eucharist are the chapters 9 and 10 of the Didache, even though there is no consensus among scholars if these texts are meant to be a Eucharist or not.[8] We have next the Anaphora of the Apostolic Tradition, called also the anaphora of Hippolytus, the Liturgy of the seventh book of the Apostolic Constitutions and the Liturgy of the eighth book of the Apostolic Constitutions that developed in the famous Byzantine Anaphora now part of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, through the lost Greek version of the Anaphora of the Twelve Apostles (of which we have a later Syrian version).

The more ancient text of the Basilean family of anaphoras was found in 1960 in a Sahidic Coptic version,[9] possibly a text written by St. Basil himself, and recent scholars believes that this text, united with the anaphora described in The Catechisms of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, has been the base for the Anaphora of St. James included in the Liturgy of St James.[10] The present Byzantine text of the Anaphora included in the Liturgy of Saint Basil is the final development of this anaphoric family.

In the East the more ancient text is probably the ancient form of the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, followed by the East Syriac Rite Churches. The third Anaphora (Anaphora of Nestorius) is also in use. Another important source is the anaphora described in the Mystagogical Cathecheses of Theodore of Mopsuestia.[11]

In Egypt we have the Anaphora of Barcellona (and its related Louvain Coptic Papyrus), the Prayer into the Euchologion of Serapion, the Deir Balyzeh Papyrus, the Strasbourg papyrus and the ancient Anaphora of Saint Mark[12] in Greek, which developed in the Coptic Liturgy of Saint Cyril.

Scholars find structural similarities in between the Roman and Egyptian anaphoral traditions:[3]: 141  for instance the Barcelona Papyrus, as well as Deir Balyzeh Papyrus, include an epiclesis before the Words of Institution as in the Roman Canon. The earliest text similar to the Roman Canon is the quoted in De Sacramentis of Ambrose which include prayers close to the Canon's prayers such as Quam Oblationem, Qui pridie, Unde et Memores, Supra quae - Suplices te.[3]: 140  The Roman Canon's prayers Communicantes, Hanc igitur, and the post-consecration Memento etiam and Nobis quoque were added in the 5th century,[13] and it achieved practically its present form when modified by Gregory the Great (590-604)[14] (see History of the Roman Canon).

Eucharistic Prayer in Western Christianity[edit]

When referring to the Western Christian uses, the term "Eucharistic Prayer" is more used than "anaphora", and sometime it refers only to the portion of the anaphora starting after the Sanctus because the Preface in the Latin rites is variable and follows the liturgical year.

Roman Rite of the Catholic Church[edit]

Between the Council of Trent and the reform of the Catholic Mass (liturgy), undertaken in 1969 (see Mass of Paul VI), the only anaphora used in the Roman Rite was the Roman Canon (or Canon of the Mass). For the history of the "Roman Canon" see also articles Canon of the Mass, Pre-Tridentine Mass and Tridentine Mass.

With introduction in 1969 of the Mass of Paul VI, it was allowed to have multiple choices of Eucharistic Prayer, however the authorization of new Eucharistic Prayers is reserved to the Holy See.[15][16][17] All the new Eucharistic Prayers follow the Antiochene structure with the noticeable difference that the Epiclesis is placed, according to the uses of the Roman tradition, before the Words of Institution and not after. The first approved Eucharistic Prayers are four:

  • Eucharistic Prayer n. 1: it is the ancient Roman Canon with minimal variations. This ancient text is especially appropriate for Sundays, unless for pastoral considerations Eucharistic Prayer III is preferred.[18]
  • Eucharistic Prayer n. 2: it is based on the ancient Anaphora of the Apostolic Tradition with some adaptations[19]: 90  to bring it in line with the other prayers. It is quite short, so it is appropriate for weekday use. It has its own Preface, based on the Anaphora of the Apostolic Tradition, but it can be substituted by the proper Preface of the Mass of the day;
  • Eucharistic Prayer n. 3: it is a new composition that uses the Antiochene structure filled with Alexandrine and Roman themes.[19]: 123–5  Its use is preferred on Sundays and feast days[18] and it is to be used with the proper Preface of the day;
  • Eucharistic Prayer n. 4: it is a new composition with a strong sacrificial wording and a fuller summary of salvation history. It has its own integral Preface which cannot be substituted.[18] It is based on Eastern anaphoras; especially that of St. Basil the Great.[19]

In the years after the reform of Pope Paul VI other Eucharistic Prayers were authorized:

  • four Eucharistic Prayers for Various Needs and Occasions proposed by the Swiss Synod (these are sometimes called the "Swiss Synod Eucharistic Prayers") were approved by the Holy See on August 8, 1974. These four prayers, built as a single prayer with four thematic variations,[20] have been allowed to be used in France since 1978, in Italy since 1980, and the English version was approved in 1995.
  • two Eucharistic Prayers for Masses of Reconciliation were approved provisionally (ad experimentum) in 1975;
  • three Eucharistic Prayers for Masses with Children were also approved provisionally in 1975.

Other Latin rites in the Catholic Church[edit]

A typical characteristic of the Latin rites different from the Roman Rite is the great variability of portions of the Roman Canon which change according to the liturgical year and the Mass. The Mozarabic Rite has as variable texts the Illatio (i.e. the Preface), the Post-Sanctus and the Post-Pridie, that is the prayer said between the Institution narrative and the doxology in place of the Intercessions which are placed before the Sursum Corda. In the Gallican Rite the Preface is named Contestatio or Immolatio and the Institution narrative is named Secreta or Mysterium[2]: 148 

The Ambrosian Rite during the centuries has lost its ancient variety, even if it maintains a richness of choices for the Preface and its first Eucharistic Prayer is slightly different form the Roman one mainly in the Words of Institution. Recently[when?] two typical additional ancient Eucharistic Prayers have been restored, to be used mainly on Easter and Holy Thursday.

Methodist Rite[edit]

The United Methodist Church has twenty-two Eucharistic Prayers that are modeled on the pattern of the Antiochene pattern; these are contained in the Book of Worship.[21] The "notion of a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving", dating back to Irenaeus, is emphasized in the United Methodist Church's "anamnesis and offering: 'And so in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ, we offer ourselves as a holy and living sacrifice, in union with Christ's offering for us, as we proclaim the mystery of faith: Christ has died...'"[21] The Methodist Rite, as with the Presbyterian liturgy, places the Memorial Acclamation "after the anamnesis and offering".[21][22] In both the Methodist Church of Great Britain and The United Methodist Church, the "post-Sanctus transitioned almost immediately to the Institution Narrative".[23] In addition, the "offering was our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, and ourselves," reflecting the theology of Thomas Cranmer and Methodism's Anglican patrimony in general.[23]

Antiochene Rites[edit]

This important liturgical family includes many well studied historical anaphoras, as the Anaphora of the Apostolic Tradition, the Liturgy of the seventh book of the Apostolic Constitutions and the Liturgy of the eighth book of the Apostolic Constitutions. The main currently used anaphoras belonging to this family are the following, divided by rite:

Byzantine Rite[edit]

Anaphora in the Byzantine Rite

The Byzantine Rite uses three anaphoras, which are the core part of the Divine Liturgies which take the same name:

The anaphora is introduced with the Opening Dialogue between priest and choir/congregation:[24]

The priest chants: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all."
The choir/congregation respond: "And with thy spirit."
Priest: "Let us lift up our hearts."
Choir/Congregation: "We lift them up unto the Lord."
Priest: "Let us give thanks unto the Lord."
Choir/Congregation: "It is right and just to worship Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Trinity one in essence and undivided."

While the above response is sung, the priest begins to pray the first part of the anaphora quietly, although in some places this is said aloud. This section, corresponding to the Preface in the Roman Rite, gives thanks to God for the mysteries of creation, redemption, and sanctification. It is followed by the choir and congregation singing the Sanctus.

After the Sanctus follows a recapitulation of salvation history, especially the Incarnation, and leads into the words of Jesus over the bread and wine at the Mystical Supper, as Eastern Christians often refer to the Last Supper: "Take, eat, this is my body, which is broken for you, for the forgiveness of sins." and "Drink ye all of this; this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins." The priest always says these words aloud, and the congregation and choir respond: "Amen."

The priest continues with the Anamnesis in that it references Jesus' command, at least implicitly, to "do this in memory of me" and states that the gifts of bread and wine are offered to God in memory of Jesus' life, death, resurrection, and second coming. It culminates with the Oblation in which the bread and wine is lifted up while the priest exclaims: "Thine own of thine own we offer unto thee on behalf of all and for all."

While the people sing a hymn of thanksgiving and supplication, the priest prays the epiclesis. God the Father is invoked to send down the Holy Spirit in order to, according to the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, "...make this bread the precious Body of thy Christ... And that which is in this cup the precious Blood of thy Christ... Changing them by thy Holy Spirit." This is the most solemn point of the anaphora, as it is from that point on the bread and wine are considered to be the literal body and blood of Christ and not from the Words of Institution as in some other traditions.

The rest of the anaphora consists of a lengthy set of intercessions for the Church, its bishops and other clergy, the leaders of nations, the faithful departed, and the Church as a whole, as well as commemorations of the Saints, especially the Blessed Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, the saint being commemorated that day, and "Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, and for every righteous spirit in faith made perfect." In the Byzantine Rite the anaphora, whether that of St. John Chrysostom or St. Basil, ends with the following doxology sung by the priest: "And grant us with one mouth and one heart to glorify and hymn thine all-honorable and magnificent name, of the Father, and of the Son, and of Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages." The congregation and choir respond: "Amen."

Syro-Antiochene Rite[edit]

The anaphoras currently used by the Syro-Antiochene Rite (or West Syriac Rite) are numerous and the main are:[25]

The Antiochene Maronite Church is one of the richest in the number of anaphorae contained in its Liturgy, most of them belong to the tradition of the Antiochene rites. There are at least seventy-two Maronite Anaphorae.

Armenian Rite[edit]

The Armenian Rite, used mainly by the Armenian Apostolic Church, uses currently the Anaphora of St. Athanasius.


Alexandrian Rite[edit]

The main currently used anaphora of the Alexandrian Rite is the Liturgy of Saint Cyril the Great, which is a revision of the first Alexandrian Liturgy composed by Saint Mark. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church makes use of no less than 14 official anaphoras. Some Ethiopian monasteries use additional Anaphoras as a local practice.

Edessan Rite[edit]

The most important and currently used anaphorae (Qudashe) of the Edessan Rite (Babylonian Rite or East Syriac Rite) are the following:[26]

See also[edit]

In some languages, the Anaphora is not distinguished from the Eucharistic Prayer, namely:


  1. ^ Liddell, Henry George & Scott, Robert. (1940). A Greek-English Lexicon (revised ed.). Retrieved July 9, 2005.
  2. ^ a b c d e Jasper, Ronald Claud Dudley; Cuming, G. J. (1990). Prayers of the Eucharist: early and reformed. Liturgical Press. ISBN 978-0-8146-6085-0.
  3. ^ a b c Senn, Frank C (1997). Christian Liturgy, Catholic and Evangelical. Augsburg Fortress. ISBN 0-8006-2726-1.
  4. ^ United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (2002). "General Instruction of the Roman Missal, par 79". United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Archived from the original on 27 September 2010. Retrieved 2 October 2010.
  5. ^ "Guidelines for Admission to the Eucharist between the Chaldean Church and the Assyrian Church Of the East". Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Archived from the original on 2021-12-04. Retrieved 4 December 2021.
  6. ^ Varghese, Baby (2004). West Syrian liturgical theology. Ashgate Publishing. pp. 62–63. ISBN 978-0-7546-0619-2.
  7. ^ Glenday, David K. "Mary in the Liturgy: An Ethiopian Anaphora." (1959): 222-226.
  8. ^ Bradshaw, Paul (2004). Eucharistic origins. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press. p. 25. ISBN 0-19-522221-0.
  9. ^ J.Doresse and E. Lanne, Un témoin archaique de la liturgie copte de S.Basile, Louvain, 1960
  10. ^ Witvliet, John (1997). "The Anaphora of St. James". In Bradshaw, Paul F. (ed.). Essays on early Eastern eucharistic prayers. Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press. p. 153. ISBN 0-8146-6153-X.
  11. ^ Tonneau and Devréesse, Les homélies catéchétiques de Theodore de Mopsueste, 1949
  12. ^ Codex Vat gr. 1970
  13. ^ Josef Andreas Jungmann, S.J., Missarum Sollemnia - Eine genetische Erklärung der römischen Messe (Herder, Vienna 1949), volume I, pages 70-71; cf. Hermannus A. P. Schmidt, Introductio in Liturgiam Occidentalem (Herder, Rome-Freiburg-Barcelona 1960), page 352
  14. ^ "Canon of the Mass" in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church 2005
  16. ^ The Mystery of the Swiss Synod Eucharistic Prayer
  17. ^ From One Eucharistic Prayer to Many: How it Happened and Why
  18. ^ a b c United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (2002). "General Instruction of the Roman Missal, par 365". United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Retrieved 1 October 2010.
  19. ^ a b c Mazza, Enrico (1986). The Eucharistic Prayers of the Roman Rite. Liturgical Press. ISBN 978-0-8146-6078-2. Retrieved 1 October 2010.
  20. ^ Father Cassian Folsom, O.S.B. (1996). "From One Eucharistic Prayer to Many". Adoremus Bulletin Vol. II, Nos. 4 - 6 : September - November 1996. Archived from the original on 17 September 2010. Retrieved 28 August 2010.
  21. ^ a b c Bradshaw, Paul F. (2013). New SCM Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship. Hymns Ancient and Modern Ltd. p. 198. ISBN 9780334049326.
  22. ^ Stuhlman, Byron D. (1 January 2000). A Good and Joyful Thing: The Evolution of the Eucharistic Prayer. Church Publishing, Inc. p. 150. ISBN 9780898697230. The virtue of the way in which the United Methodist prayers are formulated is that the cue phrases which lead into the Sanctus and the Sanctus and the acclamation are standard in all the prayers, so that it is not necessary for congregations to have the full printed text of the prayers to know when to respond. The memorial acclamation is also placed, as in the Presbyterian prayers, after the anamnesis. The United Methodist Hymnal also provides a rite in traditional language; here the eucharistic prayer is a slight adaptation of the Scottish rite of 1637 (which places the epiclesis before the institution narrative).
  23. ^ a b Spinks, Bryan D. (29 November 2013). Do this in Remembrance of Me: The Eucharist from the Early Church to the Present Day. SCM Press. p. 395. ISBN 9780334043768. Finally, two Methodist Eucharistic Prayers may be mentioned. The British Methodist Church published a new eucharistic liturgy in 1975. It contained only a single Eucharistic Prayer, without Proper Prefaces. The post-Sanctus transitioned almost immediately to the Institution Narrative. The offering was our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, and ourselves (very Cranmerian), and the petition for the Spirit was indirect: 'Grant that by the power of the Holy Spirit we who receive your gifts of bread and wine may share in the body and blood of Christ.' The United Methodist Church, USA, published We Gather Together (I980). The Eucharistic Prayer in the alternative rite, like its British counterpart, swiftly transitioned to the Institution Narrative.
  24. ^ The Priest's Service Book. (2003). (Archbishop Dmitri, trans.). Dallas: Diocese of the South, Orthodox Church in America.
  25. ^ Syriac Orthodox Resources (1997). "Anaphoras". Syrian Orthodox Dioceses of North America and Canada. Retrieved 2 October 2010.
  26. ^ Dr. Mar Aprem Metropolitan. "Assyrian Church of the East in India". Trichur, Kerala, India: Archived from the original on 15 May 2011. Retrieved 2 October 2010.

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