The Anaphora is the most solemn part of the Divine liturgy, Mass, or other Christian Communion rite where the offerings of bread and wine are consecrated as the body and blood of Christ. This is the usual name for this part of the Liturgy in Eastern Christianity, but it is more often called the Eucharistic Prayer. When the Roman Rite had a single Eucharistic Prayer or Anaphora, it was called the Canon of the Mass.
"Anaphora" is a Greek word (ἀναφορά) meaning a "carrying back" (hence its meaning in rhetoric and linguistics) or a "carrying up", and so an "offering" (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 is used of the offerer bringing the victim to the altar, and ἀναφέρειν is used of the priest offering up the selected portion upon the altar (see, for instance, , 2:16, 3:1, 3:5).
Elements of an anaphora
The oldest, complete, extant anaphora is usually agreed to be the Anaphora of Hippolytus from the third century. If this is used as a norm, there are 5 major sections that comprise an anaphora: Sursum Corda, Anamnesis, Oblation, Verba or Words of Institution and the Epiclesis. Scholars typically add a sixth section, the Sanctus Benedictus, though the Sanctus is not included in the Anaphora of Hippolytus. Beginning with the Oxford Movement of the 1840s and after the Liturgical Reform Movement of the 1950s, a systematic examination of historic anaphorae began and this in turn has caused the reform of many Eucharistic prayers within mainline denominations.
The introductory dialogue that generally begins an anaphora 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." This is the classic Sursum Corda but can take a variety of forms.
Next comes an expression of thanksgiving to God which in some rites is variable, changing according to the liturgical season called the Proper Preface. It concludes with a hymn of praise adapted from beginning Holy, Holy, Holy which is known as the Sanctus Benedictus.
Other parts of an anaphora include (not always in the same order) the priest's pronouncing, within the framework of a short account of the Last Supper, the words of Jesus Christ who changed the bread and wine into his body and blood (the "Words of Institution"); the Anamnesis, a remembrance of Christ of the mysteries of his death, resurrection and ascension; the Oblation, an expression of offering of the sacrifice of Christ, usually tied with the offerings of the congregation; the Epiclesis, asking God the Father to send the Holy Spirit for the consecration of the bread and wine and for the sanctification of those who will receive them; the Intercessions or Diptychs, praying for the living and the dead, and also expressing communion with the chief pastors of the Church on earth and the saints in heaven; and a concluding doxology and Amen.
The Anaphora or Eucharistic Prayer of the Roman Rite
The Anaphora of the Byzantine Rite
The anaphora is where the most significant differences are found between the two Divine Liturgies most commonly celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox Church, those of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great; but within each Liturgy the text of the anaphora is invariant, with the exception of the hymn to the Theotokos near its close. Alternative prefaces and so forth that change with the liturgical season are not used.
The anaphora is introduced with a threefold dialogue between priest and choir/congregation:
- 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 meet and right 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, the "hymn of victory".
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 or oblation 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 in the priest or deacon elevating the bread and wine 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."
Among the Oriental Orthodox and Oriental Catholic churches, there are a great variety of Anaphoras. The Armenian Apostolic Church uses the Anaphora of St. Athanasius. The Coptic Orthodox Church makes use of three Anaphoras: St. Basil, St. Mark, and St. Gregory. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church makes use of no less than 14 official anaphoras. Some Ethiopian monasteries use additional Anaphoras as a local practice. The Antiochene Maronite Catholic Church is one of the richest if not the richest in the number of anaphoras contained in its Liturgy. There are at least seventy-two Maronite Anphorae.
Many ancient texts of anaphoras have survived, and even if no more in use, they are useful to trace the history of the anaphoras, and in general the history of the Eucharist during the centuries. Most of these texts became parts of anaphoras still in use.
The more ancient text is chapter 9 and 10 of the Didache. We have next 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 , 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. 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 Maronite Third Anaphora of St. Peter (said also Sharar) and by the Anaphora of Mar Theodore. Another important source is the anaphora described in the Mystagogical Cathecheses of Theodore of Mopsuestia .
In the North Africa area we have the Strasbourg papyrus, the so-called British Museum Tablet, the Prayer into the Euchologion of Serapion, the Deir Balyzeh Papyrus, the Louvain Coptic Papyrus and the ancient St. Mark's Liturgy .
Very important for the History of the Roman Canon is the Anaphora of Barcellona  that includes an epiclesis before the Words of Institution. The earlier form of the Roman Canon is found in the fourth book of the De sacramentis of Ambrose of Milan before the 397 AD.
- Liddell, Henry George & Scott, Robert. (1940). A Greek-English Lexicon (revised ed.). Retrieved July 9, 2005.
- Dom Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy, 1945
- The Priest's Service Book. (2003). (Archbishop Dmitri, trans.). Dallas: Diocese of the South, Orthodox Church in America.
- J.Doresse and E. Lanne, Un témoin archaique de la liturgie copte de S.Basile, Louvain, 1960
- John Witvliet The Anaphora of St. James in ed. Paul F. Bradshaw Essays on Early Eastern Eucharistic Prayers, 1997
- Tonneau and Devréesse, Les homélies catéchétiques de Theodore de Mopsueste, 1949
- Codex Vat gr. 1970
- R.Roca-Puig, Anafora de Barcellona, pages 10-14
- Ethiopian Liturgy Discusses the 14 official Anaphoras
- Historical Evolution of Ethiopian Anaphoras
- Syriac Anaphoras
- Explanation of the Maronite Divine Liturgy and its Traditions
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