The Anaphora of Saint John Chrysostom

The anaphora is the central prayer of the Divine Liturgy or Eucharist, a thanksgiving sacrifice in which bread and wine are offered to God, and these gifts are transformed into the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, to be shared in Holy Communion.  In the Byzantine Rite, two forms of the anaphora are commonly used. This article describes the Anaphora of Saint John Chrysostom.

The introduction to the Anaphora

The anaphora follows the Great Entrance,  the Kiss of Peace, and the Symbol of Faith (Creed).  The gifts of bread and wine have been brought to the holy table;  the clergy and faithful have affirmed their love for one another, and their acceptance of Christ's teaching as it has been passed down through the Church.

The dialog that introduces the Anaphora is extremely ancient. The deacon announces what is about to happen:

Let us stand aright; let us stand in awe; let us be attentive to offer the holy Anaphora in peace.

and the faithful sing a response to show that they understand what is being offered and received:

Mercy, peace, the sacrifice of praise.

Then the priest (who will offer the sacrifice) turns to bless the faithful, saying:

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

and the people respond, "And with your spirit."  Then the priest turns to the holy table, lifts his hands, and exclaims:

Let us lift up our hearts.

And the faithful give their assent:

We lift them up to the Lord.

The priest then summons the faithful to thanksgiving before God - the central theme and message of the Eucharist:

Let us give thanks to the Lord.

And the faithful acknowledge that it is completely appropriate to do so:

It is proper and just.

At one time, the next section of the prayer was said silently by the priest, and the people extended their response, adding to it: "It is proper and just to worship the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, one in substance and undivided." But now that the priest's prayer is chanted aloud for all to hear, the response has been returned to its original, short form: "It is proper and just."

The reasons for thanksgiving

In the first part of the anaphora, the priest states our reasons for giving thanks to God:

It is proper and just to sing to you, to bless you, to praise you, to thank you, to worship you in every place of your dominion. For you are God ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, ever existing, yet ever the same, you, and your only-begotten Son, and your Holy Spirit.  You brought us out of nonexistence into being, and again raised us up when we had fallen, and left nothing undone until you brought us to heaven and gave us your kingdom to come.  For all this we thank you, and your only-begotten Son, and your Holy Spirit, for all that we know and that we do not know, for the manifest and hidden benefits bestowed on us. 

Then, just as in the Great Entrance, he mentions the holy angels:

We also thank you for this liturgy which you are pleased to accept from our hands, even though there stand before you thousands of archangels, tens of thousands of angels, cherubim and seraphim, six-winged, many-eyed, soaring aloft on their wings, singing, shouting, crying aloud, and saying the triumphal hymn:

And then the faithful sing the triumphal hymn of the angels: first the part heard by Isaiah in his vision ("Holy, holy, holy..."), and then the words of the Psalmist announcing the coming of Christ. (The word "hosanna" means, roughly, "praise God.")

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts.  Heaven and earth are filled with your glory; hosanna in the highest. 
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.

The priest concludes by once more praising God:

We also cry out with these blessed powers, O loving and kind Master, and say:  Holy are you and all-holy, you and your only-begotten Son and your Holy Spirit.  Holy are you and all-holy and magnificent is your glory.

The anamnesis: recalling God's works on our behalf

Now the priest moves from praise to a remembrance of God's saving work in Jesus Christ.  In Greek, this is called "remembering", or anamnesis.

You so loved your world that you gave your only-begotten Son so that everyone who believes in him should not perish, but have life everlasting. He came and fulfilled the whole divine plan in our behalf.  On the night he was betrayed, or rather, when he surrendered himself for the life of the world, he took bread into his holy and all-pure and immaculate hands, gave thanks and blessed, sanctified, broke, and 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.

And the faithful respond, "Amen", while the clergy make a profound bow.

Likewise, he took the chalice after supper, saying:

Drink of this all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins.

And the faithful respond, "Amen", while the clergy make a profound bow.

Remembering, therefore, this saving command and all that has come to pass in our behalf:  the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the sitting at the right hand, and the second coming in glory, offering you, your own, from your own, always and everywhere:

And the faithful sing:

We praise you, we bless you, we thank you, O Lord, and we pray to you, our God.

This hymn is sometimes called the "anamnesis acclamation," which simply means "what we shout out at the end of the remembrance of God's works."

The epiclesis: Asking for the descent of the Holy Spirit

Now that the clergy and faithful have praised, remembered, and thanked God, the priest asks Him to send his Holy Spirit upon the gifts of bread and wine. In Greek, this is called the "sending down", or epiclesis.

Moreover, we offer to you this spiritual and unbloody sacrifice; and we implore, pray, and entreat you:  send down your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts lying before us, And make this bread the precious body of your Christ, and that which is in this chalice the precious blood of your Christ, changing them by your Holy Spirit, that for those who partake of them they may bring about a spirit of vigilance, the remission of sins, the communion of your Holy Spirit, the fullness of the heavenly kingdom, and confidence in you, not judgment or condemnation.

Prayers for those who have died

Now, in the presence of the bread and wine which have become the Body and Blood of Christ, the priest remembers and prays for the saints in heaven:

Moreover, we offer you this spiritual sacrifice for those departed in faith:  the forefathers, fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, ascetics, and for every just spirit brought to perfection in faith, especially for our most holy, most pure, most blessed and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary.

And the people interrupt him to sing a hymn of praise in honor of the Mother of God:

It is truly proper to glorify you, O Theotokos, the ever-blessed, immaculate, and the mother of our God. More honorable than the cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim; who, a virgin, gave birth to God the Word, you, truly the Theotokos, we magnify.

As they sing this hymn, the clergy pray silently for those who have died.

Prayers for the living

The clergy continue to pray silently for the needs of the Church, concluding with a prayer for its leaders:

Among the first, O Lord, remember our holy father (Name), Pope of Rome, our most reverend Metropolitan (Name), our God-loving Bishop (Name).  Preserve them for your holy churches in peace, safety, honor, and health for many years as they faithfully impart the word of your truth.

And the faithful add their prayers in turn for one another:

And remember all your people.

The priest continues the prayers for the living:

Remember, O Lord, this city in which we dwell, and every city and community, and the faithful living in them.  Remember, O Lord, those who travel by sea, air, and land, the sick, the suffering, the captive, and grant them salvation.  Remember, O Lord, those who bring offerings and perform good deeds in your holy churches, and those who remember the poor, and upon all of us send down your mercies.

And grant that with one voice and one heart we may glorify and praise your most honored and magnificent name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever.

And the faithful seal this prayer by saying:

Amen.

The anaphora is concluded, and we begin the preparation for Holy Communion.

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