"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Friday, January 21, 2011

Eucharistic Praying East and West

One of the great achievements of the twentieth-century ecumenical movement was the recovery of the very ancient eucharistic ecclesiology which understood that the Eucharist makes the Church. This movement has gone hand-in-hand in many ways with the movement, in the West especially, of liturgical reform. Scholars continue to ponder the meaning and implications of all this.

Recently a group of scholarly essays has been gathered together in a new collection edited by Maxwell Johnson of Notre Dame and just published by Liturgical Press:

Issues in Eucharistic Praying in East and West: Essays in Liturgical and Theological Analysis (Lit. Press, 2011), xvi+395pp.

Johnson, who has written the introduction and the eighth chapter ("Recent Research on the Anaphoral Sanctus: An Update and Hypothesis")  has gathered together an impressive collection of twelve other scholars. What is very much a pleasant surprise is that, unlike similar collections in which one almost invariably finds that "East and West" means 90% of the chapters concern the West, and 10% the East, at least half of the chapters in the present volume are in fact devoted to Eastern questions in particular.

Johnson's introduction, which you may read here,  tells us that this current book is in someways a successor picking up where Paul Bradshaw's Essays on Early Eastern Eucharistic Prayers (Liturgical Press, 1997) left off.  The great Robert Taft, on the back cover of this book, acknowledges the continuity between the volumes and notes:
the topical importance of this anthology. And Johnson’s excellent introduction provides a careful guide to its riches, which no theological library can henceforth be without. For Johnson’s summary of his book’s purpose (p. xv) is perfectly fulfilled:    ‘ . . . one of the primary goals of this volume has been to offer an update on the state of the question on various Eucharistic prayers today and, as such, it is hoped that these essays will become required reading for students of liturgy.’ Amen to that!
 The publisher provides the following description:
This collection provides several "state of the question" essays on current research in a variety of Eucharistic prayers in the Churches of East and West, including attention to other issues of Eucharistic praying and theology. In addition to essays by already recognized scholars in the field, this collection also introduces readers to a new generation of liturgiologists who are emerging within the academy as notable contributors to the field of liturgical studies.
For students and teachers of liturgy, indeed, for all who seek solid and up-to-date scholarship on Eucharistic liturgy and theology, this volume offers an ecumenical guide from New Testament texts through Addai and Mari, the so-called Apostolic Tradition, and Roman Canon, through the diversity of Eastern and Oriental Orthodox anaphoras, up to and including the sources for the prefaces of the Missal of Paul VI. Close attention is also given to questions such as the origins of the Sanctus, Eucharistic consecration, as well as other historical and theological questions from within Eucharistic praying.
 Some of the Eastern contributors include:
  • Nicholas Russo, “The Validity of the Anaphora of Addai and Mari: Critique of the Critiques”
  • Bryan Spinks, "The Mystery of the Holy Leaven (Malka) in the East Syrian Tradition" 
  • John Paul Abdelsayed, "Liturgical Exodus in Reverse: a Re-evaluation of the Egyptian Elements in the Jerusalem Liturgy"
  • Hans-Jürgen Feulner, "The Armenian Anaphora of St. Athanasius"
  • Anne Vorhes McGowan, "The Basilian Anaphroras: Rethinking the Question"
  • Michael Zheltov, "The Moment of Eucharistic Consecration in Byzantine Thought"
Of these articles, I think Russo's especially important, along with Zheltov. In the former, we read a thorough response to Latin critics of the decision by Rome in 2001 to recognize as legitimate and valid (because indisputably ancient) the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, for which decision Robert Taft provided much of the scholarship. A few Latins got their lace surplices in a twist over that decision and tried (foolishly) to take on Taft's impeccable scholarship. Russo takes up the debate from where Taft left off and demolishes the Latin criticisms.

Zheltov's article is fascinating and important, especially for those Orthodox who fetishize the "epiclesis" even to the point of artificially shoe-horning one into the Roman canon (whose lack of an "epiclesis," at least in a recognizably "Byzantine" form, is simply proof of the canon's very great antiquity: it antedates the Christological and pneumatological controversies) in those Orthodox churches that use the "Western rite" in some variation or other. Byzantine views of the epiclesis are not at all what many Orthodox polemicists, apologists, and liturgists today would have us believe, and the history is neither so neat nor so straightforward as is fondly imagined by those who--in Taft's memorable phrase--do not have their views encumbered by anything so bothersome as facts. The burden of Zheltov's article is to "demonstrate...that, while the Byzantines undoubtedly were very concerned about the epiclesis recited during their Eucharistic liturgy, its mere existence did not always signify the importance it is ascribed in late- and post-Byzantine theological literature. For the Byzantines often pointed to some other elements of the rite as 'consecratory' and were in nowise strangers to the idea of a Eucharistic consecration independent of an epiclesis" (263). Zheltov goes on to show that neither the East nor the West was, especially between the fourth and eighth centuries, univocal in its views on the precise "moment" of the consecration. Is it the words of institution? epiclesis? the elevation of the gifts during the ekphonesis? some or all of these? Zheltov goes to show that most scholars (save for Taft) have overlooked how often the elevation at the ekphonesis ("Ta agia tois agiois") is thought to be the key moment especially in the post-Iconoclastic period. In the end, Zheltov concludes that there has been a diversity of practices and beliefs in the Byzantine world, and that more often than not, what matters is not so much the words--whether epicletic or institutional--so much as the manual priestly acts accompanying them.

In addition to these, at least two other chapters treat in part Eastern traditions:
  • Walter Ray, "Rome and Alexandria: Two Cities, One Anaphoral Tradition"
  • Albertus G.A. Horsting, "Transfiguration of Flesh: Literary and Theological Connections between Martyrdom Accounts and Eucharistic Prayers"
Issues in Eucharistic Praying in East and West: Essays in Liturgical and Theological Analysis will be reviewed at length later this year in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies. 

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