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Eucharistic Canon: Anaphora

Now begins the part of the Divine Litur­gy called the eucharis­tic canon. It is also called the anapho­ra, which means the lift­ing-up or the ele­va­tion. At this time the gifts of bread and wine which have been offered on the altar are lift­ed up from the altar to God the Father, and receive divine sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion by the Holy Spir­it who comes to change them into the very Body and Blood of Christ.

The gen­er­al form of the eucharis­tic canon is that of the Old Tes­ta­men­tal Passover rit­u­al, now ful­filled and per­fect­ed in the new and ever­last­ing covenant of God with men in the per­son and work of Jesus Christ the Mes­si­ah, “our Paschal Lamb who has been sac­ri­ficed.” (I Corinthi­ans 4:7; See also Hebrews 5–10) Thus the eucharis­tic anapho­ra begins:

Let us stand aright! Let us stand with fear! Let us attend!

That we may offer the Holy Obla­tion in peace.

The peo­ple respond: A mer­cy of peace! A sac­ri­fice of praise!

The Holy Obla­tion is Christ, the Son of God who has become the Son of Man in order to offer him­self to his Father for the life of the world. In his own per­son Jesus is the per­fect peace offer­ing which alone brings God’s rec­on­cil­ing mer­cy. This is undoubt­ed­ly the mean­ing of the expres­sion a mer­cy of peace, which has been a source of con­fu­sion for peo­ple over the years in all litur­gi­cal lan­guages.

In addi­tion to being the per­fect peace offer­ing, Jesus is also the only ade­quate sac­ri­fice of praise which men can offer to God. There is noth­ing com­pa­ra­ble in men to the gra­cious­ness of God. There is noth­ing with which men can worthi­ly thank and praise the Cre­ator. This is so even if men would not be sin­ners. Thus God him­self pro­vides men with their own most per­fect sac­ri­fice of praise. The Son of God becomes gen­uine­ly human so that human per­sons could have one of their own nature suf­fi­cient­ly ade­quate to the holi­ness and gra­cious­ness of God. Again this is Christ, the sac­ri­fice of praise.

Thus, in Christ, all is ful­filled and accom­plished. In him the entire sac­ri­fi­cial sys­tem of the Old Tes­ta­ment, which is itself the image of the uni­ver­sal striv­ing of men to be wor­thy of God, is ful­filled. All pos­si­ble offer­ings are embod­ied and per­fect­ed in the offer­ing of Christ on the Cross. He is the offer­ing for peace and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and for­give­ness. He is the sac­ri­fice for sup­pli­ca­tion, thanks­giv­ing and praise. In him all of men’s sins and impu­ri­ties are for­giv­en. In him all of men’s pos­i­tive aspi­ra­tions are ful­filled. In him, and in him alone, are all of men’s ways to God, and God’s ways to men, brought into one Holy Com­mu­nion. Through him alone do men have access to the Father in one Holy Spir­it. (Eph­esians 2:18; Also John 14, IICorinthi­ans 5, Colos­sians 1)

The cel­e­brant now address­es the con­gre­ga­tion with the Trini­tar­i­an bless­ing of the Apos­tle Paul. (II Corinthi­ans 13:14) This is the more elab­o­rate Chris­t­ian salu­ta­tion than the sim­ple Peace (Shalom) of the Old Tes­ta­ment:

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father,

and the com­mu­nion of the Holy Spir­it be with all of you.

And the peo­ple respond: And with your spir­it.

The grace of Christ comes first. In this grace is con­tained the full­ness of the love of God and the com­mu­nion of the Holy Spir­it. The cel­e­brant offers this entire abun­dant ‘out­pour­ing of the inner life of the Holy Trin­i­ty to the Peo­ple of God. And they in turn respond with the prayer that this “full­ness of God” would be with his spir­it as well.

The eucharis­tic dia­logue con­tin­ues:

Let us lift up our hearts!

We lift them up unto the Lord!

Let us give thanks unto the Lord!

It is meet and right to wor­ship the Father and the Son and the Holy Spir­it; the Trin­i­ty one in essence and undi­vid­ed.

As men in Christ lift up the eucharis­tic gifts, they lift up their hearts as well. In the Bible the heart of man stands for his whole being and life. Thus in the anapho­ra, as the Apos­tle Paul has stat­ed, the whole man is tak­en up into that realm where Christ is now seat­ed at the right hand of God.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seat­ed at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. (Colos­sians 3:1–3)

The man­ner of lift­ing up one­self to God is through thanks­giv­ing. The word eucharist in Greek means thanks­giv­ing. The eucharis­tic Divine Litur­gy is pre­em­i­nent­ly the action of lift­ing up one’s heart and giv­ing thanks to God for all that he has done for man and the world in Christ and the Holy Spir­it: cre­ation, sal­va­tion and eter­nal glo­ri­fi­ca­tion.

The orig­i­nal sin of man, the ori­gin of all of his trou­ble, cor­rup­tion and ulti­mate death, is his fail­ure to give thanks to God. The restora­tion of com­mu­nion with God, and with all cre­ation in him, is through thanks­giv­ing in Christ. Jesus is the only man tru­ly grate­ful, hum­ble and obe­di­ent to God. In him, as the only Beloved Son of God and the only per­fect Adam, all men can lift up their hearts and give thanks to the Lord: “For there is…one medi­a­tor between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave him­self as a ran­som for all .…” (Tim­o­thy 2:5)

It should be not­ed here that the affir­ma­tion. It is meet and right is expand­ed into the longer form giv­en above only in the Slav­ic tra­di­tion of the Church. In oth­er church­es it remains in this sim­ple and more ancient form.

With hearts lift­ed up to the Lord, and thanks­giv­ing ren­dered to God, the prayer of the eucharis­tic canon con­tin­ues:

It is meet and right to sing of Thee, to bless Thee, to praise Thee, to give thanks to Thee and to wor­ship Thee in every place of Thy domin­ion. For Thou art God inef­fa­ble, incon­ceiv­able, invis­i­ble, incom­pre­hen­si­ble, ever-exist­ing and eter­nal­ly the same, Thou and Thine only-begot­ten Son and Thy Holy Spir­it. Thou it was who brought us from non-exis­tence into being, and when we had fall­en away, didst raise us up again, and didst not cease to do all things until Thou hadst brought us up to heav­en and hadst endowed us with ‘Thy King­dom which is to come. For all these things we give thanks to Thee, and to Thine only-begot­ten Son and to Thy Holy Spir­it; for all things of which we know and of which we know not, whether man­i­fest or unseen; and we thank Thee for this litur­gy which Thou hast found wor­thy to accept at our hands, though there stand by Thee thou­sands of archangels and hosts of angels, the Cheru­bim and the Seraphim, six-winged, many eyed, who soar aloft, borne on their pin­ions, singing the tri­umphant hymn, shout­ing, pro­claim­ing and say­ing:

Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord of Sabaoth! Heav­en and earth are full of Thy glo­ry! Hosan­na in the high­est! Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord! Hosan­na in the high­est!

At this point in the Divine Litur­gy man’s thanks­giv­ing to God the Father for all that he has done in Christ and the Spir­it is brought to its cli­max. The man in God remem­bers all things and is grate­ful to God. His remem­brance and his thanks­giv­ing take him in to the very Pres­ence of the King­dom to the Throne of the Father to sing the Thrice-Holy Hymn with the angel­ic choirs. (Isa­iah 6: 1–5)

Through Christ and the Holy Spir­it, the man of faith is trans­port­ed in spir­it to be with his Lord. The lim­i­ta­tions of this age are left behind through grate­ful remem­brance of Christ and his accom­plish­ment of sal­va­tion. Thus the eucharis­tic prayer con­tin­ues With the whole focus of atten­tion brought to that One Man and that one night in which the Divine Son gave him­self as food for the faith­ful, offer­ing him­self in sac­ri­fice for the life of the world.

With these blessed pow­ers, O Mas­ter, who lovest mankind, we also cry aloud and say: Holy art Thou and all-holy, Thou and Thine only-begot­ten Son and Thy Holy Spir­it! Holy art Thou and all-holy, and mag­nif­i­cent is Thy glo­ry! Who hast so loved Thy world as to give Thine only-begot­ten Son, that who­ev­er believes in him should not per­ish but have ever­last­ing life. Who when he had come and had ful­filled all the dis­pen­sa­tion for us. in the night in which he was giv­en up-or rather gave him­self up for the life of the world-he took bread in his holy, pure and blame­less hands; and when he had giv­en thanks and blessed it, and hal­lowed it and bro­ken it, he gave it to his holy dis­ci­ples and apos­tles say­ing:

Take! Eat! This is my Body which is bro­ken for you for the remis­sion of sins. Amen.

And like­wise after sup­per, he took the cup say­ing: Drink of it all of you! This is my Blood of the New Tes­ta­ment, which is shed for you and for many for the remis­sion of sins! Amen.

Remem­ber­ing this sav­ing com­mand­ment and all those things which have come to pass for us: the cross, the tomb, the res­ur­rec­tion on the third day, the ascen­sion into heav­en, the sit­ting at the right hand of God the Father, the sec­ond and glo­ri­ous com­ing.

Thine own of Thine own we Offer unto Thee, in behalf of all and for all!

As the cel­e­brant intones these last words which pro­claim that all that is offered to the Father is already his-for every crea­ture and all of cre­ation are his, togeth­er with the Beloved Son and the Holy Spir­it who are uncre­at­ed and divine-the eucharis­tic gifts are lift­ed up and ele­vat­ed towards the heav­ens. It is the sign that the faith­ful Chris­tians have been exalt­ed togeth­er with their Lord into the King­dom of God.

For Christ has entered, not into a sanc­tu­ary made with hands… but into heav­en itself now to appear in the pres­ence of God on our behalf… we have been sanc­ti­fied through the offer­ing of the body of Jesus Christ once for all… for when Christ had offered for all time a sin­gle sac­ri­fice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God… for by a sin­gle offer­ing he has per­fect­ed for all time those who are sanc­ti­fied. (Hebrews 9:24, 10:10–14)

Heav­en and earth are now blend­ed into one, filled with the glo­ry of God. The ages past and the ages still to come are brought into uni­ty. The night, the sup­per, the cross, the tomb, the res­ur­rec­tion, the ascen­sion, the king­dom to come… all merge togeth­er in the eucharis­tic moment of the Divine Litur­gy. Man is with God in a holy com­mu­nion which is “not of this world.” All bound­aries of time and of space are utter­ly bro­ken. All walls of divi­sion are total­ly destroyed. Man’s sins are for­giv­en in Christ, his impu­ri­ties are cleansed, his cor­rup­tion is healed. His mor­tal nature is restored to immor­tal­i­ty with God. His cre­at­ed human­i­ty is filled with the Uncre­at­ed Divin­i­ty of the All-Holy Trin­i­ty. it only remains now to seal this action by the invo­ca­tion of the Spir­it of God.