Review of the Eucharistic Section
(Wednesday, October 11, 2006; St. Peter Cathedral, El Cajon, California)
General remark: The Eucharist of the Church is an implementation of the command of the Lord in the Last Supper: “Do this in memory of me.” The basic outline of the founding Eucharist of Last Supper, as narrated in Paul’s Letter (1 Cor, 11:23-26 ), in the Synoptic gospels (Luke 22:14-20, Mt 26:26-29, Mr 14:22-25), as well as in Luke’s description of the acts of Jesus at the banquet in Emmaus, is summarized by Luke as follows: “When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them.”(Lk 24:30). Thus the four sections of the Eucharistic Rite of the Church follow the four acts in this narrative: He took, blessed,broke and gave.
The Church of the East has developed its Eucharistic ritual in fulfillment of that command of the Lord and according to that very pattern as delivered by the Apostolic tradition of Addai and Mari. Like the other Apostolic Churches, the Mesopotamian Church formulated a liturgical context fitting the celebration, both in its totality as well as in its individual sections, by way of introduction or conclusion, accompaniments or insertions, considering these compositions and formulas as an organic development of the basic Apostolic structure.
As it results from the documentation of early Christianity, the Eucharist of Apostolic time was celebrated in houses of the faithful with simplicity and minimal ceremony. Established hymns or fixed prayers were not yet composed or commonly approved. Evidently, the Lord’s Prayer made an exception as well as the Psalter for the Judeo-Christians. For the Mesopotamian Church, the Eucharistic tradition of Addai & Mari was the point of reference in liturgical practice. But, how do we know that the People’s response: ‘Towards you…’ belongs to the earliest Christian era? Because it reflects the Judeo-Christian character of the congregation, as were the first communities of converts in Mesopotamia.
The following are tables that illustrate the principal phases of development of the Eucharistic celebration in the Church of the East:
1st & 2nd century (in-house Eucharist or in a primitive church building)
* Offertory:- Deacon: Peace be with us. – The Gifts are brought to the Celebrant.
* Anaphora:- Deacon: Lift up your minds. – People: Towards you God of Abraham…etc.
– Deacon: The oblation is being offered to God the Lord of all.
– Celebrant: The Quddasha of Addai & Mari in its primitive form.
* Breaking and Signation: – The Qsaya & Rushma,
* Communion:- The Lord’s Prayer – Communion.
3rd & 4th centuryIn-church celebration
Since the mid second century, at the time of Tatian and Bardaisan, we begin to have an organized Christianity in Mesopotamia and farther East. Pagan converts were joining the new Faith, and churches were built to formalize the Christian worship and allow the shaping of its ceremonial. Liturgical compositions started to be composed by the spiritual Fathers to fit the needs of liturgy. In regard to the formulation of Eucharistic Prayer, the Epiclesis made its appearance inside the Anaphora, west and east of Euphrates; so did the IsaianQaddysh which had been added to the first Gehanta of Addai & Mari.
Prelude: – Dismissal of the Catechumens
*Offertory– Deacon: Peace be with us- The Gifts are brought to the altar – ‘Onytha d-Raze.
Anaphora – Deacon: Peace be with us. Lift up your minds.- People: Towards you …etc.
– Deacon: The oblation is being offered to God the Lord of all.
– Celebrant: The Quddasha of Addai & Mari with the insertion of Qaddysh & the Epiclesis.
Breaking and Signation:– Qsaya & Rushma, with their ceremonial approach,
Communion:- Marya Hassa Hta-he.- Priestly Prayer.- The Lord’s Prayer
-Communion with its thanksgiving prayers.- Final blessing
With Mar Issac (Synod A.D. 410 and after)
Since A.D. 313, when Constantine won his battle under the banners of the cross and Christianity enjoyed its freedom in the West, Christians of the East became the scapegoats of the military misfortunes of the Persian Empire, and had to curtail all contacts with their brothers in the West. One century after, the atmosphere was much more relaxed and Mar Marutha, as delegate of the “Western Fathers”, came to the East to restore relations and update ecclesial communion.
By the year 410, when the Synod of Mar Isaac decreed its canons, the anaphora of the Apostolic Tradition had been long ago formulated, the Apostolic Constitutions with their ideal-anaphora were edited, and the Liturgy of St. James was composed and became the model Eucharistic prayer for Jerusalem and Antioch. Consequently, the liturgical updating effected also the Eucharistic anaphora in Mesopotamia, as stated in the text quoted above: “Also, the western liturgy which Isaac and Marutha the bishops taught us, and all of us saw them celebrating here in the church of Seleucia, henceforth we shall celebrate ourselves in like manner.”
Development of the Eucharistic Section between the 5th and 7th century
With Mar Abba the Great: The political honey-moon between East and West was of short duration, and soon after, that is during the time of Mar Dadysho’ and his Synod of A.D. 428, relations were severed with the West. The situation worsened with the Christological controversy, and official contacts were not resumed until the patriarchate of ‘Ysho’yahb I (AD 586).
In between, The Church of the East sent privately around A.D. 530 two highly educated scholars, Mar Abba and Mar Toma, to become acquainted with the liturgical, theological, and ecclesiastic life of the Western Church. One of them died in Constantinople, the other became a Patriarch. All the manuscript rituals attribute to Mar Abba the 2nd and 3rd anaphoras. To him is attributed also the arrangement of the Psalter, the prayers between the psalms and the Giyyore. He is also recognized as the author of the Chaldean text of the Trisagion Qaddysha Alaha and its insertion in the liturgy. The addition of the Creed to the structure of the Eucharist belongs to the same period, and probably as well as other elements of Greek characteristics like the Book of the Living and the Dead, and the acclamation “The Holy is fit to the holy ones.”
The Breaking and Signing: Many indications point to the original practice of “Breaking and Signing” facing west, i.e. facing the clergy and people, otherwise the traditional text, found basically as it is in all manuscripts, would not make sense. The indications are:
a) The repetition three times of Bless me Sir, in every approach, being directed to the clergy that are around the altar and supposes a continuous movement in their vicinity.
b) If the celebrant is in front of the altar and the Breaking would be at the same spot, there would be no meaningto make a ceremonial approach. c) The breaking of the consecrated Host and the fashion of its placing in the paten in the actual Missal is quite awkward and hardly genuine, because the celebrant must twist his left hand to place it facing the chalice.
d) The literary style of the formulas of Breaking and Signing is not invocative in the fashion of prayer, but carefully composed to be descriptive, being meant to be performed before the congregation. That is, it is not a prayer addressed to God, and so it is appropriately said facing the people. e) Indeed, the Body “is to be broken for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”