Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The sum of its parts

The other day a good question was raised about the eucharistic prayer: is it a bit repetitive? For example, in the NZPB, on p. 423, the paragraph beginning 'Therefore loving God' repeats (or appears to at first glance) much of pp. 421-422. The raising of that question is the background to a quick outline of the component parts of (most) Anglican eucharistic prayers. Most terms are traditional, and I follow Bosco Peters' terminology in his book Celebrating Eucharist. In what follows I am using the eucharistic prayer for the service which begins on p. 404 as the 'standard model'.

The Introductory Dialogue (The Lord is here etc)

The Preface (It is right indeed etc)

Sanctus and Benedictus (Holy, holy, holy ... Blessed is he ...)

Institution Narrative (... on the night before he died ...)

Memorial Acclamation (Glory to you Lord Christ etc)

Anamnesis (Therefore loving God, recalling etc)

Oblation (Accept our sacrifice of praise etc)

Epiclesis (Send your Holy Spirit etc)

Doxology (United in Christ etc)

So, yes, there is an element of repetition. For example there are repeated items of praise and adoration to God. The part raised by the questioner, the Anamnesis, is indeed repetitious in the sense that it is a 'recalling' or 'remembering' and acts as a summary of the grand narrative told through the Preface and the Institution Narrative. But none of this is burdensome, or should not be, since it all takes us closer to the heart of God!

Nevertheless, our prayer book varies the number of words assigned to each part through its several eucharistic prayers. If you have a few moments you might do a comparative exercise, noting how some prayers offer (say) the Anamnesis in about half the words used on p. 423!

A final point here: any eucharistic prayer, brief or long, is intended to be a unity. It is inappropriate to shorten a long eucharistic prayer by omitting one of its integral parts. Better to turn in the prayer book to one of the shorter forms ...

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