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Echoing the Word: The Bible and the Eucharist – Paula Gooder & Michael Perham

May 29, 2016

ETWI tend not to read anything by Gooder because she is flavour of the month among evangelicals. However, my prejudice sometimes gets challenged because her view of scripture is far more nuanced than many of her ilk. And I certainly rate Perham.

Cranmer’s liturgies were shot through with scripture. Part of his legacy continues in prayer book revisions –there is hardly a sentence in our current liturgy that does not echo the Scriptures.

The theological formation of many Christians takes place during their weekly celebration of the Eucharist. The language of the Eucharist has a deep impact on the way that people think about God and about themselves. The problem today is that fewer and fewer Christians have any idea about the content and significance of many of the allusions that can be found in the liturgical texts.

I’ve never heard the following prefaces which they mention: And now we give you thanks because you are the source of light and life; you made us in your image and called us to new life in him. And now we give you thanks because on the first day of the week he overcame death and the grave and opened to us the way of everlasting life. And now we give you thanks because by water and the Holy Spirit you have made us in him a new people to show forth your glory.

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, holy Father, almighty and eternal God. From sunrise to sunset this day is holy, for Christ has risen from the tomb and scattered the darkness of death with light that will not fade. This day the risen Lord walks with your gathered people, unfolds for us your word, and makes himself known in the breaking of bread. And though the night will overtake this day you summon us to live in endless light, the never-ceasing sabbath of the Lord.

About the rather twee, middle class Eucharistic prayer D, they note’ the most interesting fact is that the newer versions move us further away from the biblical text. The Gospels have ‘Passover meal, rather than ‘supper, and ‘the twelve’ or ‘the apostles, rather than ‘his friends’….. If contem­porary Eucharistic Prayers have a broad theological sweep from mention of Creation through to the gathering up of all thing, in Christ in the life of heaven, Eucharistic Prayer C keeps the focus on one world-changing event on a hill outside Jerusalem. If contemporary Eucharistic Prayers use words such a ‘celebrate:, `meal, ‘new creation’ and ‘friends’, Eucharistic Prayer C is mow interested in sacrifice and redemption. This is a prayer to a God who not so much looks with favour on his people as pardons their offences.’

Nor have I ever heard this post-communion: You have opened to us the Scriptures, O Christ, and you have made yourself known in the breaking of the bread. Abide with us, we pray, that, blessed by your royal presence, we may walk with you all the days of our life, and at its end behold you in the glory of the eternal Trinity, one God for ever and ever.

I’m dubious about their claim that the fatherhood of God was taken a step further by Jesus than it was in the Old Testament. This notion was invented by German scholar Jeremias out of ignorance or anti-Semitism.

They say that, about the offertory prayers ‘The significant change is from the language of offering to that of bread and wine that we ‘set before’ God.’ This is because evangelicals don’t believe in Eucharistic sacrifice. However there is no different – προσφέρω means both ‘set before’ and ‘offer’.

Nowhere do they explain the possible antiquity or innovation of Eucharistic Prayer H.


There must be very few Christians who do not acknowledge the importance of the Bible in worship. At the very least they will read the Scriptures, often under the discipline of a lectionary that ensures they read a wide and balanced selection. They may also sing the Scriptures in biblical canticles or in songs that stay very close to biblical texts. If they follow a set liturgy, as Anglicans among others do, they will be aware that their Morning and Evening Prayer is strongly biblical, for, as well as readings from the Scriptures, there are psalms, responsories and canticles lifted straight from the pages of the Bible.

The liturgy begins with a greeting between the president and the people; in this greeting the community is gathered and bound together, and relationships are formed and acknowledged. The president may invoke the persons of the Trinity, proclaiming the worship to be offered to be in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There follows either the ancient and simplest of exchanges.

As we begin worship, then, the president and the congregation wish for each other an experience of God’s generosity, compas­sion and wholeness that will underpin and inform everything else that is about to happen. … The first prayer of the Eucharist is probably the oldest prayer composed in England still in use in the liturgy. The prayer of preparation, often called the ‘Collect for Purity, is believed to be the work of Gregory, who was an abbot of Canterbury in the eighth century. Thomas Cranmer included it, to be said by the priest alone, in his First Prayer Book of 1549, and it has appeared in every English rite since, unaltered except for a change into contemporary language in ‘Series 3. From ‘Series 2’ onwards it has been optional and, when said, is now nearly always said by the congregation, rather than by the priest alone.

The two emphases of the prayer — on preparation and purity — combine in its major focus, which is that of calling down the Holy Spirit upon the celebration. In the earlier liturgies, where there was no explicit epiclesis in the Eucharistic Prayer, this prayer could be considered an epiclesis for the whole rite, so that the Holy Spirit could be seen as enabling both the prayers that were offered and the presence of Christ to be experienced.

The Gloria in excelsis began its life not in the Eucharist but in Morning Prayer. Its authorship is unknown but it appears to go back to the fourth century. It was used in both East and West in the morning and it retains that position as part of Morning Prayer in the Eastern churches. But around the beginning of the sixth century, Pope Symmachus (498-514) brought it into the text of the Eucharist, though initially only on Sundays and the feasts of martyrs, and then only when the bishop was presiding. Thus it established itself in the Roman order of the Mass, though its use was restricted. Until the twelfth century

Clearly the most significant texts within the Eucharist are the Eucharistic Prayers themselves. Until 1980 each eucharistic rite had only one Eucharistic Prayer; there was no element of choice. But from 1980 there was choice. In Rite A of ASB there were four prayers. In the main text of Common Worship Order One there are eight. This has introduced considerable textual variety. But except in two matters, one more significant than the other, there has been no equivalent variety of shape.

Are there suitable words that help prepare the worshipper for the great Eucharistic Prayer? The pre-Reformation Church thought so and provided prayers that spoke of offering. The Reformation swept these away and instead gave Bible sentences that focused on the giving of money, rather than the offering of bread and wine. There have been two objections to the pre-Reformation prayers. The first is that their use of the language of offering in the Eucharist detracts from the self-offering of Jesus on the cross. The second is that almost any words one might choose to use about the bread and wine at this moment might seem to anticipate and therefore to undermine the Eucharistic Prayer itself.

So Thomas Cranmer in 1549 provided instead 20 biblical texts, focusing on money and generous giving, including two from the Apocrypha (Tobit 4), and 1552 and 1662 left these unchanged. None of these is a prayer, and none of them applies to bread and wine.

`Series 1′ marked the first introduction of a text from 1 Chronicles 29.11-14 which, though a straight quotation from Scripture, is a prayer, offered by King David. In ‘Series 1’ it followed the placing of bread and wine upon the holy table. It disappeared, as did any text at this point, in ‘Series 2’. In `Series 3′ it returned in relation to the presentation of bread and wine. In ASB it was associated with ‘the offerings of the people, but it was unclear whether these offerings included bread and wine or simply described the offerings ‘collected’. In Common Worship the text remains, though the wording is in more contemporary English: Yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the splendour and the majesty; for everything in heaven and on earth is yours. All things come from you, and of your own do we give you.

Because it was the only text provided through the years of `Series 3′ and ASB, it has achieved the status of a norm, despite now being relegated to the supplementary material where it is only one of a variety of forms. It is a clever text to draw into the Eucharist, for it engages helpfully with the tension between the fact that we do bring our gifts to God — whether the bread and wine or the money that, in different ways, stand for human labour and daily life — and the fact that, to para­phrase a line from the old hymn ‘Rock of Ages, ‘nothing in our hands we bring’; we come simply holding out empty hands to receive from a gracious God. At a certain level we have nothing to offer.

For all their variety, the Eucharistic Prayers of Common Worship have some common texts and share these with the eucharistic rites of other provinces and churches. These are an opening dialogue, a song usually called by its Latin name, Sanctus, nearly always joined to a further text, Benedictus, and a set of four ‘memorial acclamations’.

The dialogue is important because, right at the start of the prayer, it sets up a relationship between people and president, and makes clear that they offer the prayer together. While the president is the spokesperson, everyone present declares that they agree not only that they will lift up their hearts and give thanks, but that it is right to do this. In this set-piece con­versation, the people urge the president on as he or she begins to pray this most important prayer. Although they fall silent for a while after this dialogue, they join in again with an ‘Amen’ when the prayer ends. By doing so they are agreeing with every­thing the president has said up to that point and reminding themselves again that the president was articulating their prayers.

ln the twentieth centary, there was an attempt to commend a paraphrase, thought to bring out more clearly the meaning of the original. ‘Series 3’ substituted for the traditional text the words ‘The Lord is here, with its response: ‘His Spirit is with us.’ The reason for this is that, in the original Latin, there is no verb (so it reads literally, The Lord with you’). As a result, this could be as easily a statement as a greeting. The alternative then is exactly that, a statement, not a greeting, with the particular aim of making the reference to the Holy Spirit explicit. The problem is that it confuses even more who the Lord is. In the alternative, ‘the Lord’ is not the Holy Spirit, because otherwise it would be impossible to declare that his Spirit is with us. So `the Lord, here, must be God the Father or God the Son.

The ‘proper preface’ is the variable part of the Eucharistic Prayer before the Sanctus. Such prefaces are unknown in the Eastern churches, where each Eucharistic Prayer has its own invariable preface. That is also the case in Common Worship in relation to Prayers D, F, G and H, reflecting Eastern practice. But the norm in the West has been to use variable prefaces that highlight the particular season, saint or mystery being celebrated on a particular day.

The narrative of the institution of the Eucharist at the ‘last supper’ has always been seen as a crucial part of eucharistic liturgy. There is only one known exception and that is the third-century Syrian liturgy of Addai and Mari which, in a Eucharistic Prayer addressed to Jesus, rather than to the Father, does not employ the words of Jesus at the last supper.

Eucharistic Prayer A, although now one of the eight prayers in Common Worship Order One, was in earlier versions the only alternative to a prayer derived from the 1662 rite. In its first version as the Eucharistic Prayer in ‘Series 2’, it drew considerably on the liturgy of the Church of South India. A number of textual changes as well as a move into contemporary language saw it emerge as the Eucharistic Prayer of ‘Series 3’. ASB included it in two versions. The First Eucharistic Prayer of Rite A was the direct descendant of the ‘Series 3’ prayer, with very little textual change. The Second Eucharistic Prayer of Rite A provided a contemporary version of the ‘Series 2’ prayer, without the ‘Series 3’ changes but with some new material. The First and Second Eucharistic Prayers were thus quite similar (indeed the preface was identical), and it was perhaps not surprising that those revising the rite for Common Worship chose to conflate the two, bringing into the First Eucharistic Prayer some elements of the Second. Eucharistic Prayer A of Common Worship is that conflation.

Although only part of Anglican liturgy since 1980, Eucharistic Prayer B has the deepest historical roots, being based on the Eucharistic Prayer in the third-century liturgy of St Hippolytus of Rome. Hippolytus himself speaks of his prayer as a received tradition, though that may refer more to shape and principle than text, and much of the actual wording may be the creative work of Hippolytus. The text, unused through most of Christian history, was revived through the work of Dom Bernard Botte, who incorporated many of its phrases into the current Roman Catholic Order of the Mass as its second Eucharistic Prayer. In the Church of England, in the preparation for ASB, Brian Brindley and Roger Beckwith worked with the text from Hippolytus and with the Roman prayer to produce an Anglican version. It is very little changed in Common Worship.

Eucharistic Prayer C draws the Church of England back to the Reformation era and to Thomas Cranmer. Influenced by the continental reformers, the Second English Prayer Book of 1552 departed significantly from Catholic theology and liturgical practice, not least in the order of the prayers of the Eucharist. The flow of the Eucharistic Prayer was interrupted after the Sanctus by a devotional prayer (‘the prayer of humble access’) and after the words of institution by the reception of Communion, leaving the final part of the prayer, with its sense of self-offering and its doxology, until after the distribution. The central part of the prayer, with the narrative of the institution, but without any epiclesis, came to be called the ‘prayer of consecration’. The 1662 wording, although it made some changes to the text and rubrics, did not challenge this arrangement, which became normative for the 300 years following.

It is in the book of Hebrews (7.27; 9.12; 10.2, 10) that the word translated ‘once for all’ — in Greek the word is ‘ephapax and means ‘once affecting all time’ — is .used to differentiate Jesus’ sacrifice from the sacrifices enacted 77 the priests in the Temple. In a number of places the author of Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus’ offering of himself has now rendered all other future sacrifice redundant. Although -21e word is also used elsewhere in the New Testament (e.g. Romans 6.10; 1 Peter 3.18), it is not there linked with sacrifice. This emphasis illustrates quite how important debate was in the Reformation era about whether the ‘Mass’ could in fact be a sacrifice.

Eucharistic Prayer D is something different, in every way far removed from Prayer C. It was specially written for Common Worship, drafted by Bishop James Jones of Liverpool in consultation with his children, though worked on and developed within the Liturgical Commission. With its strong narrative style, its vibrant concrete images, its easy rhythms, its responsive acclamations and its comparative brevity, it was intended to appeal to congregations that included families and children.

Eucharistic Prayer E is another new prayer created for Common Worship, initially the work of Canon Jeremy Haselock. The intention was to produce a classic ‘Western’ Eucharistic Prayer, in the sense of one that has the epiclesis before the narrative of the institution, that has all that such a prayer ought to have, but with a lighter touch in terms of the complexity of language. So there is both brevity and simplicity, yet nothing is missing.

Prayer F is probably the richest prayer in terms of its theology and strong memorable images. Its origins lie in the fourth-century Eucharistic Prayer of St Basil, still in occasional use in the Eastern churches. In the West it has been experienced, in a very modified form, as Eucharistic Prayer 4 of the Roman rite – but there remodelled to fit the traditional Western shape – and as Eucharistic Prayer D of the 1977 Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church of the USA, both of which stay closer to the original text than does Prayer F of Common Worship. In terms of the text, the interest lies particularly in the preface and indeed in all the words before the institution narrative.

The phrase ‘he gave up himself, which reflects both the Liturgy of St Basil and the Roman rite, is a striking variant on `in which he was betrayed’. This emphasis reflects a leaning towards Johannine theology.

Eucharistic Prayer G has had a difficult history. It was first created within the Roman Catholic International Commission for English in the Liturgy and published in 1984. It received attention from Bishop Kenneth Stevenson, who worked on it to produce one of the four Eucharistic Prayers included in Patterns for Worship, a report by the Liturgical Commission in 1989. There were significant departures from the Roman original, not least in bringing the two invocations of the Spirit together and rephrasing the language of offering and sacrifice. ‘But,’ the Introduction to Patterns for Worship explained, ‘the vivid use of paradox which is one of the features of the original has been retained and is the explanation for such phrases as “silent music” and “these gifts which we bring before you from your own creation”.’ In addition the prayer included a series of ‘triplets’ – three two-line insertions for seasons and themes to draw out the particular emphasis of that day’s celebration.

One of the main objections to this prayer was that some of the more poetic turns of phrase, such as ‘silent music’, if taken too literally appear to make little sense. In fact the above phrase is drawn from a passage by St John of the Cross in which he expresses his love of Creation, a use that is echoed directly here.

Eucharistic Prayer H, when authorized in Common Worship, had no precedent in English Anglican provision. One would search in vain in every rite between 1549 and 1980 for anything like it. Its two most significant features are the part it assigns to the whole congregation and the position of the Sanctus.

The other unusual feature of the prayer is that it ends with the Sanctus. To end with the Sanctus is novel in Anglican liturgy. There is some evidence that it was acceptable in the early centuries and some instances of it occur at the Reformation. It ensures that the prayer ends caught up in the life of heaven, but the omission of a doxology and even more so of the ‘Amen’ will continue to leave some feeling this is a less than satisfac­tory prayer.

The most traditional of the acclamations, and perhaps the most satisfactory, is the second. It is found in Palestinian and Egyptian liturgies. But the first one to be introduced into the Church of England was ‘Christ has died . . .’ and, because of its priority, it is the most established. There is an interesting element to its introduction in the General Synod, where the Liturgical Commission originally provided as the third line, `In Christ shall all be made alive’, but under pressure this was later conformed to the Roman text. Also, at a later date, came the cue line ‘Great is the mystery of faith, over which people have sometimes puzzled. The traditional Roman rite included the words ‘this is the cup of my blood, of the new and eternal covenant, the mystery of faith, which will be shed for you’ Removing the phrase ‘the mystery of faith’ from the text of the institution narrative, the Roman revisers turned it into an introduction to the acclamations — changing the meaning, in so doing, to include the whole work of redemption.

The breaking of the bread is the third of the four actions of Jesus at the last supper: taking, giving thanks, breaking, giving. At a certain level it is a purely utilitarian action: bread needs to be broken if it is to be shared. But the ‘fraction’, as it is often called, is also significant theologically, both in asserting something about the unity and diversity of the Church, the body of Christ, but also about its brokenness, which reflects the truth that it was the broken body of the crucified Christ that redeems.

As well as its biblical allusions, the prayer clearly owes some­thing to George Herbert’s poem, ‘Love bade me welcome. The inclusion of the idea of the insistent welcome offered by Love significantly changes the tone of the prayer. Although in many respects its theology is similar to the older prayer to which it is an alternative, the framing of the unworthiness of the supplicant by the insistent love of God changes the feel of the whole. The whole point of the Herbert poem was that while Love welcomed him in, it was his own sense of guilt and shame that prevented him from accepting. As a result, the emphasis of this prayer is now on the importance of laying down our feelings of unworthiness in order to accept the gracious invita­tion of God to share with him in the feast of the messianic wedding banquet, referred to in places like Matthew 22.

Jesus Christ is holy, Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
This was not a good translation. The most accurate translation of the Greek would be ‘The holy things for the holy people’ The word ‘gifts’ was substituted for ‘holy things’ because that phrase seems unconvincing, but in doing so the relationship between the first line and the people’s response has been lost. The invitation focuses the mind on what is holy: the things are holy and God’s people are holy because God declares them to be so. But the congregational response notes that Jesus is the only one who is truly holy. Common Worship has rectified this.
God’s holy gifts for God’s holy people.
Jesus Christ is holy, Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

There are two sets of words to consider at the time of the distribution: first, those spoken by the president to invite people to Communion; second, those spoken by those distributing the consecrated bread and wine to each communicant in turn, although there is a significant overlap between the two.

The Church gives thanks before sharing in the consecrated bread and wine. Indeed it is by giving thanks that the Church consecrates. So in a sense there is not much more to be said once Holy Communion has been shared, and it seems as if, in the early centuries, there were no further prayers. But as the liturgy became more formalized, prayers after Communion emerged, partly to recapitulate on the theme of the celebration, partly to express thanks for the gifts received and partly to pray that the sacramental grace received would make a difference in life beyond the liturgy.

Although it may be argued that, after the blessing experienced in receiving the consecrated bread and wine of the Eucharist, no extra words of blessing at the conclusion of the service can add much to the service, a blessing by the president at the end of the liturgy had established itself before the eighth century. Thomas Cranmer did not challenge the convention and included in 1549 the text that has remained standard ever since.

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