"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).

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Where's the Bird?

Oftentimes in that rarefied and fanciful hothouse of Western-Rite Orthodoxy, one sometimes finds, amidst much liturgical bricolage, an "epiclesis" jerry-rigged onto some Western eucharistic anaphora or other. This is usually based on the ironically Western concern with certain formula that must be uttered for a sacrament to be validly "confected." Eastern Christians who have been misled into believing that an anaphora is not "valid" if it lacks an epiclesis thus feel the need to tack one on to Western prayers they have appropriated unto themselves. More amusingly still, some of them claim that the West once had an epiclesis until it "dropped out," much like those towering theological giants at Charlemagne's court insisted, with no evidence whatsoever, that the filioque was in the original draft of the creed from Nicaea until it, too, somehow mysteriously "dropped out." (The always witty and erudite Fr. John Hunwicke has discussed these silly ideas over the years.)

The concept and role of an epiclesis comes up for renewed study in a recent book: Anne McGowan, Eucharistic Epicleses, Ancient and Modern (Liturgical Press, 2014), 312pp. About this book the publisher tells us:
The past several decades have witnessed a shift in the approach to the Spirit. Since the mid 1960s, scholarly attention has been focused on the role of the Holy Spirit in the modern — and now increasingly postmodern and ‘post-Christian’ — world:  first, there has been a resurgence of interest in the pneumatology of past eras; second, studies of the Spirit from a Pentecostal and Charismatic perspective have entered the mainstream of contemporary theological discussion and scholarship;  third, interest in the Spirit has intersected with feminist, liberationist, ecological, global and interfaith concerns, among others, to produce a multitude of new constructive theological proposals in which the Spirit plays a prominent part.
Now it is time to give attention to the liturgical role of the Spirit and the study of worship as a site of the Spirit’s presence and work — an approach that is thoroughly and expertly discussed in Eucharistic Epicleses.

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