25 June 2009

To whom do we pray?

Classically, to the Father through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit. Eucharistic Prayers are thus worded; and the collects in the old Sacramentaries usually do this. Antiphons and hymns, and 'private' prayers such as Veni, Suscipe and Placeat, however, can address the Son, the Spirit, the Trinity, the Saints.

Quite early, however, some confusion arose about which person of the blessed Trinity is being invited to "come" in some of the more 'immediate' Advent collects ("Stir up thy power and come ..."). In the Middle ages and later collects were composed addressing the Son; the most celebrated example of which is the one which was (probably) composed by S Thomas for Corpus Christi. Amusingly, the 1980 Anglican Alternative Service Book primly reconstructed this prayer so that it addressed the Father! But are there collects addressed to the Holy Trinity?

Since 1549, there has been at least one in the Church of England: look at the Trinity Sunday collect as offered by Cranmer. Since 1980, we have had another prayer addressed to the Trinity - now labelled as a postcommunion - which originated in the church of South India. And Cranmer went even further: the Preface for that Sunday was so modified by him that it, too, addresses the Trinity. So here we have (part of) a Eucharistic Prayer addressing not the Father but the Trinity. The latest Church of Ireland Prayer Book goes even further; it has one which addresses the Father in the Preface, the Son in the Institution narrative, the Spirit in the epicletic paragraph, and the Trinity in the Doxology! I have wondered whether such a prayer can even be a valid Form, and have declined to use it.

But I think I have read somewhere that in, for example, the Ethiopian Church, there are Eucharistic Prayers which address the Son and even ... Our Lady!!

Can anyone put me right on this?


Chris said...

The Corpus Christi collect, of course, while clearly addressed to the Son, begins "Deus qui nobis", a feature which neither ICEL nor CW reproduces ("Lord Jesus Christ, you gave us the Eucharist", "Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you/thee that in this wonderful sacrament"). This seems to me disturbingly close to suggesting that it is incorrect to address Christ as God - although I trust that isn't actually the intention in either case! Does anybody know whether the new RC translation is an improvement on this point?

Chris said...

And the reference to an Ethiopian Eucharistic Prayer addressed (partly) to Our Lady is in The Shape of the Liturgy (page 530, footnote).

Joshua said...

I have before me "Prex Eucharistica", published in Fribourg in 1968, which gives a great number of Eucharistic Prayers, in Latin, or Latin translation (and the Greek if original) - it contains this Anaphora addressed partly to Our Lady:

Anaphora Mariae Virginis Filiae Dei
(composed by Abba Heriacus, Bp of Bahnasa)

The long Preface, and immensely long Post-Sanctus, is addressed to the Virgin (and in one sentence to the Saints), albeit with a lengthy diversion about the Trinity, concluding with the whole Nicene Creed, and then an apology for getting off track! Eventually comes a farced Trisagion addressed to the Son, another paragraph addressed to His Mother, another address to Him, then finally some transition about Our Lord's life, segueing into the Institution Narrative, addressed to God the Father, but then reverting to an address to the Son for what passes for the Epiclesis.

It seems a very odd and ill-composed prayer.

Steve said...

A couple of questions:

(1) Who has authority to decide what Eucharistic Prayers are
(a) permitted, or
(b) forbidden,
(i) the Church of Rome,
(ii) the Church of Ireland,
(iii) the Church of England?

(2) Do any of the authorities in the answers to question (1) have such authority in any other Church?

I'm tempted to say "Answers on a postcard to Fr Hunwicke", but then I wouldn't get the benefit of them!

Joshua said...

I should add - having read on further - that there is yet another Ethiopian Anaphora addressed to Our Lady, called by its opening words (cited in French!) "Agréable parfum de sainteté", and composed by one Abba George; its Preface and Post-Sanctus are one fulsome praise of the Mother of God, which goes on to praise her Son in the third person, to relate his institution of the Eucharist, and (changing address apparently to the Father) then a curious Anamnesis and Epiclesis.

This form has such extraordinary expressions - decently veiled by the Latin translation - as "O Mariam, salvatrix Adam, susceptrix sacrificii Abel, navis sapientiae Henoch, qui per te transiit a morte ad vitam... O Maria, filia Annae et Joachim, redemptrix [vel liberatrix] totius mundi..."