Last week, I wrote about the anaphora; this week I’d like to talk about the epiclesis - literally from the Greek “invocation.” The epiclesis is the part of the Divine Liturgy where God’s Holy Spirit is called to come down “upon us and upon these gifts” (the wine and the prosphora) and make them “truly the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Our Orthodox belief is that the Holy Spirit is “everywhere present and fillest all things” and the invocation at this part in the Divine Liturgy is an affirmation that every good and perfect work is accomplished by God. The prayer itself is as follows:
“Again we offer unto Thee this rational and bloodless service, and we ask of Thee, and we pray Thee, and we entreat Thee: Send down Thy Holy Spirit upon us and upon these Gifts set forth.” The priest, rising, signs the Holy Bread saying: “And make this Bread + the precious Body of Thy Christ. Amen.” The priest, blessing the Holy Chalice, says: “And that which is in this Cup + the precious Blood of Thy Christ. Amen.” The priest, blessing both the Holy Things, says: “Changing them + by Thy Holy Spirit. Amen. Amen. Amen.”
(Quietly) That to them that shall partake thereof, They may be unto sobriety of soul, unto the remission of sins, unto the communion of Thy Holy Spirit, unto the fullness of the kingdom of heaven, unto boldness toward Thee, not unto judgment or condemnation.
So here’s where the dispute comes in between the Orthodox viewpoint and the Western (both Roman and protestant, i.e., Anglican and Lutheran, come in). The Western perspective, based in scholasticism, insisted that it was absolutely necessary to know exactly how the change takes place and at what exact moment it takes place. Our Eastern Orthodox perspective is that it is a Holy Mystery that is nonetheless a reality, and our human intellect is too simple to adequately comprehend it. In other words, there isn’t a single moment of consecration, but rather it takes place within a group of prayers that are themselves indivisible and comprise a whole.
One sort of neat addition that we have in the Slavic practice is the inclusion of the Prayer of the 3rd Hour, in which we ask the Lord to send His Holy Spirit to us as He did “at the third hour” to the Apostles and Disciples on Pentecost. It’s inserted right after the “again we offer…” and before the signing over the bread, and reads as follows:
(1) O Lord, Who didst send down Thy most Holy Spirit at the third hour upon Thine apostles: Take Him not from us, O Good One, but rather renew Him in us who pray unto Thee. (+ and bow) Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (2) O Lord, Who didst send down Thy most Holy Spirit at the third hour upon Thine apostles: Take Him not from us, O Good One, but rather renew Him in us who pray unto Thee. (+ and bow) Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. (3) O Lord, Who didst send down Thy most Holy Spirit at the third hour upon Thine apostles: Take Him not from us, O Good One, but rather renew Him in us who pray unto Thee. (+ and bow)
Something you won’t find in the Greek or Antiochian practices, but a beautiful prayer and well-worthy of inclusion, in my humble opinion.