Palmer: Origines Liturgicae 25.
Vol. II: Antiq. of the English Rit., Ch. IVe, Sect XVI – Sect XIX.

Chapter IV cont’d.



It is probable that this hymn has been used in the Christian liturgy of the east and west since the age of the apostles. Certainly no liturgy can be traced in antiquity, in which the people did not unite with the invisible host of heaven in chanting these sublime praises of the most high God. From the testimony of Chrysostom and Cyril of Jerusalem, we find that the seraphic hymn was used in the liturgy of Antioch and Jerusalem in the fourth century1. The Apostolical Constitutions enable us to carry it back to the third century in the east2. In the same century with Cyril and Chrysostom, Gregory, bishop of Nyssa in Cappadocia, testified its use in the patriarchate or exarchate of Caesarea3; and Severianus of Gabala attested the same for the church of Constantinople4. Cyril, pope of Alexandria, and Origen, in the fifth and third centuries, allude to the seraphic hymn, as used in the patriarchate of Alexandria5. In Gaul it was mentioned by Hilary of Poictiers, Caesarius of Arles, the council of Vaison, and Gregory of Tours6; who inform us, that it was sung by all the people. Isidore of Seville speaks of its use in the Spanish liturgy7. In the liturgy of Milan it has been used from time immemorial, under the name of Trisagium; and in Africa we learn that it was customary in the second century from Tertullian8. Thus it appears that this hymn [127] was universally prevalent in the Christian liturgies from the very earliest period; and therefore it is most highly probable that the apostles themselves communicated it to all churches. I have not read that any allusion to this hymn has been found amongst the voluminous works of Augustine; but this may perhaps have been from some oversight on my part.

I may venture to observe, that, owing perhaps to a want of clear and definite rubrical direction, or from some mistake, it has been customary in many of our churches for the clerks and people to repeat, not only the seraphic hymn itself, but a portion of the preface also, beginning at "therefore with angels" &c. This never was the custom of the primitive church, and could not have been intended by those who revised our liturgy, nor is it warranted by the nature of the preface itself. It has perhaps arisen from the custom of printing the latter part of the preface in connexion with the hymn Tersanctus, and from the indistinctness of the rubric, which, in fact, gives no special direction for the people to join in repeating the hymn Tersanctus.

The seraphic hymn, as used by the church of England, contains little more than the words which Isaiah describes as being sung by the angels and six-winged seraphim. In this respect the practice of the English liturgy approximates to that of the ancient liturgies of the patriarchates of Antioch and Alexandria.


Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts, heaven and earth [128] are full of thy glory: Glory be to thee, O Lord most High. Amen.


Pas ho laos hama eipato Hagios, hagios, hagios Kurios Zabaôth, plêrês ho ouranos kai hê gê tês doxês aurou. eulogêtos eis tous aiônas. Amên.




Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth. Pleni sunt cœli et terra sanctitate gloriæ ejus10.

 In the liturgies of Constantinople, Cæsarea, and of Antioch, and Jerusalem at a later period, we find added to the seraphic hymn, the hymn used by the multitude who rejoiced when the blessed Redeemer entered Jerusalem. It was probably from these liturgies that the Roman and Italian churches adopted the same addition. The church of England has all along used the hymn Tersanctus: but at the period of the revision of our liturgy in the reign of Edward the Sixth, it was thought proper to omit this latter part, in accordance with the more ancient liturgies of the east and of Egypt.


Hagios, hagios, hagios, Kurios Zabaôth, plêrês ho ouranos kai hê gê tês doxês sou. hosanna en tois hupsistois. eologêmenos ho erchomenos en onomati Kurion. hosanna en tois hupsistois.



Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus es, Domine Deus fortis Sabaoth. Pleni sunt cœli et terra gloria et decore majestatis tuæ, Domine. Hosanna in excelsis. Benedictus qui venit et venturus est in nomine Domini. Hosanna in excelsis12.


Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth. Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua. Osanna in excelsis. Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini. Osanna in excelsis13.


The hymn of the seraphim is generally repeated in the, church by all the people, without singing; and this is the most ancient custom, as it may also be admitted to be the best. But in places where there are singers, it has often been customary to sing or chant it, which is not by any means to be blamed. Music is not inappropriate on so sublime and solemn an occasion. The Christians have sung or chanted hymns from the time of our Lord himself; and this is the most ancient, the most celebrated, and the most universal of Christian hymns.



That part of the liturgy which followed the hymn Tersanctus, and preceded the beginning of the consecration, varied much in the ancient liturgies as to substance. In Antioch, Cæsarea, and Constantinople, this intervening part consisted of a continuation of thanksgiving, including more especially a commemoration of the principal events of our Saviour’s life and ministry, which gradually was brought on to a commemoration of his words and deeds at the last supper, with which consecration began. The liturgies of Gaul and Spain followed the same order. On the other hand, in the Roman and Italian liturgies there was nothing of the kind in this part of the liturgy; but as soon as the seraphic hymn was concluded, the priest proceeded to commend the oblations of the people to the acceptance of God, and to offer the solemn prayers for the church, &c. All the solemn prayers for the living occurred here in the Roman and Italian liturgies, while in those [130] oriental liturgies already alluded to, they took place after consecration. In the ancient liturgy of Alexandria, again, this part appears to vanish entirely, for though there are a few words in that liturgy as used in the fifth century14, imploring the benediction of God on the elements, &c.; yet there is reason to think that this petition was not used in the time of Athanasius, A.D. 330, when the Æthiopians derived their liturgy from the Alexandrian; for the Æthiopian liturgy does not contain this petition15.

The intermediate part of the English liturgy, which intervenes between the end of the seraphic hymn and the beginning of consecration, may be considered to include not only the prayer which is the subject of the present section, but a portion of the next also. The part of the prayer of consecration which may be considered as forming part of the intermediate portion of the liturgy, is the introduction, which terminates with these words, "until his coming again." I shall endeavour to compare the part of our liturgy included in the prayer after Tersanctus, and the preface of the prayer of consecration, with the corresponding part of ancient liturgies, which intervenes between the seraphic hymn and the beginning of consecration. I shall follow the order of our liturgy, and only comment on the former prayer at present, reserving for the next section any remarks which may occur on the preface.

The humble deprecation of this prayer is perhaps best paralleled by the liturgy of Cæsarea or of [131] Basil. In this liturgy, that part which follows Tersanctus begins with an acknowledgment of our unworthiness and sin. "With these blessed powers, O merciful Lord, we sinners also cry and say16," &c. After which it proceeds to commemorate the dispensations of God, and the principal actions of Christ’s life and ministry. This may be regarded as affording a parallel to our liturgy, where, first, in the prayer after Tersanctus, we in like manner acknowledge our sins; and, secondly, in the preface of the prayer of consecration, we commemorate the dispensation of God in giving Christ to die for us, and the actions of Christ, in offering himself as a sacrifice for us, and commanding us to continue a memorial of his precious death. In a subsequent part of the liturgy of Cæarea, (before, however, the consecration is completed,) we find the slight hint which occurred at the commencement of the intervening part cited above, enlarged and developed, so as to bear a marked resemblance to the first part of the prayer after Tersanctus in the English liturgy.

We do not presume to come, to this thy table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table. But thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy.

Dia touto, despota panagie, kai hêmeis hoi hamartôloi kai anaxioi douloi sou, hoi kataxiôthentes leitorgein tô hagiô sou thusiastêtiô, ou dia tas dikaiosunas hêmôn, ou gar epiêsamen ti agathon epi tês gês, alla dia ta eleê sou, kai tous oiktirmous sou, hous execheas plousiôs eph’ hêmas, proseggizomen tô hagiô sou thusiastêriô.



 Let us now consider the latter part of our prayer, and compare it with a passage which occurs in the liturgy of Cæsarea before communion, and we shall perceive that the whole prayer, which is the subject of the present section, is accordant in substance and spirit with one of the most famous and venerable liturgies of primitive times.

Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

Zu ho Theos hêmôn, ho prosdexamenos ta dôra tauta, katharison hêmas apo pantos polusmou sarkos kai pneumatos, kai didaxon hagiôsunên epitelein en phobô tô marturiô tês suneidêseôs hêmôn hupodechomenoi tên merida tôn hagiasmatôn sou, henôthômen tô hagiô sômati kai haimati tou Christou sou, kai hupodexamenoi auta axiôs, schômen ton Christon katoikounta en tais kardiais hêmôn, kai genômetha naos tou hagiou pneumatos.




It has been observed in the last section, that in the liturgies of Antioch, Caesarea, and Constantinople, the part of the service which intervened between the seraphic hymn and the beginning of consecration, consisted chiefly of a commemoration of God’s benefits to the human race in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the actions of our Saviour’s life and ministry on earth. It has been shewn that the English liturgy, as far as relates to the first part of its corresponding portion, is supported by the liturgy of Cæsarea. I now come to [133] the second part of this intervening portion, and shall endeavour to shew, that (as I have already observed) it is similarly supported. I proceed to cite those portions of both the English and Caesarean liturgies which immediately precede the beginning of consecration.

Almighty God. our heavenly Father, who of thy tender mercy didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world; and did institute, and in his holy Gospel command us to continue a perpetual memory of that his precious death, until his coming, again.

Hote de êlthe to plêrôma tôn kairôn, elalêsas hêmin en autô tô huiô sou, di’ hou kai tous aiônas epoiêsas—epeidan gar di’ anthrôpou hê hamartia eisêthen eis ton kosmon, kai dia tês hamartias ho thanatos, eudokêsen ho monogenês sou huios—katakrinai tên hamartian en tê sarki autou, hina hoi en tô Adam apothnêskontes zôopoiêthôsin en autô tô Christô—edôken heauton antallagma tô thanatô en hô kateichometha pepramenoi hupo tên hamartian—katelipe de’ hêmin hupomnêmata tou sôtêriou autou pathous, tauta ha protetheikamen kata tas autou entolas.


The intermediate part of the liturgy of Constantinople, between the seraphic hymn and the beginning of consecration, is even shorter than our own, and contains fewer allusions to the events of our Saviour’s ministry. It is as follows: "With these blessed powers, O Lord, thou lover of mankind, we cry aloud and say: Holy art thou, yea most holy, thou and thine only-begotten Son, and thy Holy Spirit; Holy art thou, yea most holy, and thy glory is magnificent, who didst so love the world, that thou gavest thine only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting [134] life. He came into the world, and fulfilled all the dispensation for our sakes20." And then it proceeds to an account of the last supper and consecration. In the liturgy of Antioch, the commemoration of the events of our Saviour’s ministry is longer than in that of Constantinople, and resembles more the corresponding part of the liturgy of Cæsarea, which has been cited above21.

It appears, then, that the portion of our liturgy between the hymn Tersanctus, and the actual commencement of consecration, is in order and substance conformable to, or supported by, the ancient oriental liturgies of Antioch, Caesarea, and Constantinople; although it does not bear the most remote resemblance to the corresponding portion of the liturgies of Milan and Rome. So that we may refer to the practice of the greatest and most ancient churches in the world, fifteen or sixteen hundred years ago, in confirmation of this portion of our liturgy.



The immediate or proper prayer of consecration follows the preface, which I have considered in the last section, and begins with the words, "Hear us, O merciful Father." This prayer may be divided into two particulars: first, the prayer itself, or epiklêsis in the language of the primitive church and, secondly, the commemoration of our Lord’s deeds and words at the last supper. For the sake [135] of convenience, the subject will be treated of under these two heads.


In all the ancient liturgies, and indeed in all the writings of the Fathers, we find memorials and traces of some prayer at the time of consecration, in which God was requested to confer on his people then assembled, the benefit which the sacrament was peculiarly intended to exhibit. In other words, we find in all, some petition that in partaking of the elements of bread and wine the faithful might be partakers of the body and blood of Christ.

The forms of this prayer varied much in different churches. In some, the request was addressed to God in more direct, pointed, definite terms; elsewhere, in less. In the east and much of the west, the church supplicated God to send down from on high his holy Spirit upon the bread and wine, and make them the body and the blood of our Lord and Saviour. In Rome and Italy they implored God to bless the sacrifice of bread and wine, that to them it might be Christ’s body and blood. In order that we may more fully appreciate and compare the ancient forms of prayer on this subject, let us present the two forms as used in the ancient liturgies of Constantinople and of Rome. The extract of the Roman liturgy I transcribe as it was before the time of Gregory the Great, A.D. 590.

CONSTANTINOPLE. Parakaloumen kai deometha kai hiketeuomen, katepempson to pneuma sou to hagion eph’ hêmas kai epi ta prokeimena dôra tauta. poison ton men arton touton timion sôma tou Christou sou, to de en potêriô toutô timion haima tou Christou sou, metabalôn tô pneumati sou tô hagiô. 22

ROME. Hanc igitur oblationem servitutis nostræ, sed et cunctæ familiæ tuæ, quæsumus Domine, ut placatus accipias per Christum Dominum nostrum; quam oblationem tu Domine in omnibus, quæsumus, benedictam, ratam, rationabilem, acceptabilemque facere digneris, ut nobis corpus, et sanguis fiat dilectissimi Filii tui Domini Dei nostri Jesu Christi23.

It may be said that all the oriental liturgies agree with that of Constantinople in substance, and almost in words. In the churches of Cæsarea, Antioch, and Alexandria, a direct invocation of God to send his holy Spirit, and make the bread Christ’s body, and the wine his blood, prevailed24. The African churches also used the invocation of the Holy Ghost, as did the churches of Spain25; and there can be no doubt, from the general texture of the Gallican liturgy, that the same form was always used in it in primitive times. A form supported by such a cloud of witnesses in the primitive church, is, it must be confessed, of great weight and value; and no one can pretend to deny that it is perfectly orthodox, and highly laudable. But I must contend that it is not essential and this I do on two grounds: first, because the form was never used in the churches of Italy, and the apostolic church of Rome; secondly [137] because it is not necessary in prayer to God to mention the means by which he is to accomplish the end which is prayed for.

First. There is no trace of any prayer for the Holy Ghost to bless and consecrate the elements in the ancient liturgies of Milan, Italy, and Rome. The only proofs that have ever been brought to shew that the Roman liturgy possessed such a form of prayer are perfectly insufficient. It is alleged that the liturgy of the Apostolical Constitutions professes to be the liturgy of Clement, bishop of Rome; and this liturgy contains the form of invocation in question. But it is well known that the Apostolical Constitutions are the composition of some author who lived in the third or fourth century; and therefore the name of Clement affixed to the liturgy contained therein proves nothing. And besides, that liturgy is evidently the same as the oriental liturgy, and differs as much as possible from the liturgy which, in the fifth century, had been established from time immemorial at Rome. It is also alleged that Gelasius, patriarch of Rome in the fifth century, ascribed the sanctification of the elements to the power of the Holy Ghost26. It is very true that he did so, but that is no proof that he ever expressly prayed for the Holy Ghost to perform this sanctification. If then there has never been any direct prayer for the Holy Ghost to sanctify the elements, used in the churches of Italy and Rome, the question as to the necessity of that prayer to a valid consecration is decided, because the whole [138] catholic church held communion with the churches of Italy and Rome during the primitive ages; and had there been any essential defect in the form of consecration in those churches, it must have been noticed and objected to by the rest of the world. Now no such objection was ever made against the Roman and Italian liturgies during the first six or eight centuries, and therefore the forms were valid according to the judgment of the primitive church.

I argue, secondly, that it is not essential to pray expressly for the Holy Ghost to sanctify the elements; because it is not essential in prayer to mention to God the means by which he is to accomplish the end which we pray for. God is all-wise. He knows all the methods by which any thing can be accomplished. If we mention them to him, it is chiefly to testify our knowledge of and faith in any revelation which he has been pleased to make of those methods that he employs. God needs not that we should mention the way by which certain objects are to be accomplished, even though he may require us to pray for those objects. If, for instance, we prayed to him for the Christian virtues of humility and charity through Jesus Christ, such a prayer would be as valid, as if we also testified our knowledge, by praying that the Holy Ghost might be the means of communicating to us that charity and humility; because God knows that the influence of the Holy Ghost is essential to the existence and growth of these Christian virtues, and in praying for them, we pray in effect for the Holy Ghost. It is the same in any prayer for consecrating the elements into Christ’s mystical body and blood. However true it be that God effects this consecration [139] by means of the Holy Ghost, it is unnecessary to pray expressly for the Holy Ghost to consecrate the elements of bread and wine, because God knows perfectly all the means and methods of consecration, and because any prayer for consecration is in fact a prayer that it may be accomplished by all the means which are known to INFINITE WISDOM.

These remarks will tend to illustrate and confirm the English prayer for consecration, which I now proceed to examine. It is as follows : "Hear us, O merciful Father, we most humbly beseech thee; and grant that we, receiving these thy creatures of bread and wine, according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ’s holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed body and blood." The petition of this prayer, that we "may be partakers of Christ’s most blessed body and blood," in "receiving these God’s creatures of bread and wine," although it be not in itself necessarily referred to the sacramental participation of Christ’s body and blood, yet is made to refer directly to this sacramental participation, by the words of limitation which accompany the passage. It is not merely a request, that in receiving the creatures of bread and wine we may partake of Christ’s body and blood, which would not necessarily infer that we hoped to receive it in a sacramental manner; but it is a request that we may be partakers of Christ’s body and blood, by receiving the bread and wine, according to Christ’s "holy institution," in "remembrance of his death and passion." These expressions define precisely the sort of participation of Christ’s body and blood which we pray for, namely, that which is peculiar [140] to the sacrament of the eucharist. This prayer for the participation of Christ’s body and blood in the sacramental manner, may be reduced to the following short formula, by divesting it of the introduction and the limitations: "Grant that we, receiving these thy creatures of bread and wine, may be partakers of Christ’s body and blood." Although this prayer does not expressly mention the consecration of the elements, it is nevertheless in effect a prayer for that consecration. For it is necessary that consecration should take place before the bread and wine are the communion of Christ’s body and blood. If then we pray that we may partake of Christ’s body and blood in a sacramental manner, by receiving the bread and wine, we in effect pray that the elements may first be consecrated. If we pray for the end, we pray for all the means which are to accomplish it. And it is unnecessary to mention expressly those means to a God of infinite wisdom.

In fact, the omission of a direct prayer for consecration, in this prayer of the English liturgy, is analogous to the omission of the direct prayer for the Holy Ghost to consecrate the elements, in the ancient Roman and Italian liturgies. And if it be granted that the Roman form is a valid prayer for consecration, though it does not speak of the means of consecration; it must also he granted, that the English form is a valid prayer for the partaking of Christ’s body and blood in a sacramental manner, and therefore for the consecration, which alone renders this possible, although the consecration itself is not spoken of.



If we refer to primitive liturgies and the writings of the Fathers, we shall find that a commemoration of our Saviour’s words and deeds at the last supper was used throughout the whole Christian church in the course of the benediction of the bread and wine, and was esteemed to have great efficacy in the sacrament; so that no consecration of the bread and cup could be effected without their repetition27. However, a considerable variety of expression is observable in the ancient liturgies at this place. Some described the whole action in concise terms, others in a more expanded and minute manner. Some liturgies did not enter into all the particulars which scripture has recorded, and others added circumstances which are not directly contained in scripture. Still all agreed in reciting the words which our Saviour made use of at the delivery of the elements. It will appear from the following extracts, that the English form of commemoration resembles the form of the ancient Spanish, and probably Gallican churches, in that part which relates to the bread; and the liturgies of Caesarea, Constantinople, and Alexandria, in what relates to the cup. The variety of these, forms will shew sufficiently [142] that it is quite unnecessary to the validity of this commemoration to follow the particular form of the church of Rome, or of any other church. The Roman form resembles much that of Milan, which is cited below.

ENGLAND. Who, in the same night that he was betrayed, took Bread; and, when he had given thanks, he brake it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, Take, eat, this is my Body, which is given for you: Do this in remembrance of me. Likewise after supper he took the Cup; and, when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saving, Drink ye all of this; for this is my Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins: Do this, as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of me.

CÆSAREA. Tê nukti hê paredidou heauton huper tês tou kosmou zôês, labôn arton epi ten hagiôn autou achrantôn cheirôn, anadeixas soi tô Theô kai patri, eucharistêsas, eulogêsas, hagiasas, klasas, edôke tois hagiois autou mathêtais kai apostolois, eipôn, Labete, phagete, touto mou esti to sôma, to huper humôn klômenon eis aphesin hamartiôn. Homoiôs de to potêrion ek tou gennêmatos tês ampelou labôn, kerasas, eucharistêsas, [143] eulogêsas, hagiasas, edôke tois hagiois autou mathêtais kai apostolois eipôn, Piete ex autou pantes. toto esti to haima mou to tês kainês diathêkês, to huper humôn kai pollôn echkunomenon eis aphesin hamartiôn, touto poieite eis tên emên anamnêsin. hosakis gar an esthitêne ton arton touton, kai to potêrion touto pinête, ton emon thanaton kataggelete, tên emên anastasin homologeite. 28

MILAN. Qui pridie quam pro nostra et omnium salute pateretur, discumbens in medio discipulorum suorum, accipiens panem, elevavit oculos ad cœlum, ad te Deum Patrem suum omnipotentem, tibi gratias agens, benedixit, fregit, deditque discipulis suis, dicens ad eos: Accipite et manducate ex hoc omnes. Hoc est enim corpus meum. Simili modo postquam cœnatum est, accipiens calicem, elevavit oculos ad cœlos ad te Deum Patrem suum omnipotentem, item tibi gratias agens, benedixit, tradidit discipulis suis, dicens ad eos: Accipite, et bibite ex eo omnes. Hic est enim calix sanguinis mei, novi et aeterni Testamenti, Mysterium fidei, quod pro vobis et [144] pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum. Mandans quoque et dicens ad eos: Hæc quotiescumque feceritis, Mortem meam praedicabitis, Resurrectionem meam annuntiabitis, Adventum meum sperabitis, donec iterum de cœlis veniam ad vos29.

SPAIN AND GAUL. In qua nocte tradebatur accepit panem, et gratias agens, benedixit ac fregit, deditque discipulis suis, dicens: Accipite, et manducate. Hoc est corpus meum quod pro vobis tradetur. Quotiescunque manducaveritis, hoc facite in meam commemorationem. Similiter et calicem, postquam cœnavit, dicens: Hic est calix Novi Testamenti in meo sanguine, qui pro vobis et pro multis, effundetur in remissionem peccatorum. Quotiescunque biberitis, hoc facite in meam commemorationem30.

ALEXANDRIA. Ea ipsa nocte in qua traditus est, accepit panem in manus suas sanctas, beatas, et immaculatas, aspexit in cœlum, ad te Patrem suum, gratias egit, benedixit, sanctificavit, et dedit discipulis suis dicens: Accipite, manducate ex eo vos omnes: Hic panis est corpus meum, quod pro vobis frangitur in remissionem peccatorum. Similiter calicem eucharistias benedixit et sanctificavit, et dixit illis: Hic est calix sanguinis mei, qui pro vobis effundetur, pro redemtione multorum. Et quotiescumque id feceritis memoriam mei facietis.31





CONSTANTINOPLE. Tê nukti hê paredidoto, mallon de heauton paredidou huper tês tou kosmou zôês, labôn arton en tais hagiais autou kai achrantois kai amômêtois chersin, eucharistêsas kai eulogêsas, hagiasas, klasas, edôke tois hagiois autou mathêtais kai apostolois, eipôn, Labete, phagete, touto mou esti to sôma, to huper humôn klômenon eis aphesin hamartiôn. Homoiôs de to potêrion meta to deipnêsai legôn, Piete ex autou pantes, touto esti to haima mou to tês kainês diathêkês, to huper humôn kai pollôn ekcheomenon eis aphesin hamartiôn. 32


We read in the holy scriptures, that after our Saviour had given thanks, and blessed the bread, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples33. The immediate reason for this breaking was doubtless to divide the bread into small portions, that each of the disciples might take a part. But it has been always thought, that there is likewise a typical allusion in this act to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, which seems to be derivable from our Saviour’s own words: for after breaking the bread, he delivered it to them, saying, "This is my body which is broken for you."

It was probably to represent in a still more lively manner the analogy between the breaking of the bread and the sacrifice of Christ’s body on the cross, that some churches, in addition to the breaking or division which took place after the consecration, used also a form of breaking the bread while the words of our Saviour, or his acts at the last supper were recited. I am not aware that this latter form was ever used in the liturgies of Rome or Milan, nor in those of Constantinople and Cæsarea. [145] It does not now occur in any of them. In the Alexandrian liturgy however, as used by the Coptic Monophysites, the bread is broken when it is said, "he brake it." But it is again united together, in order to be completely broken and divided into small fragments immediately before distribution34. I am not aware that any other liturgy, except the English, prescribes a breaking of bread during the benediction. But all liturgies, including the Alexandrian just alluded to, appoint the bread to be broken after the benediction is completed35. It would appear that the same custom was used in the church of Corinth in the days of St. Paul, as prevails there at present. The apostle says to the Corinthian brethren, "The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" ton arton hon klômen, ouchi koinônia tou sômatos tou Christou estin; 1 Cor. x. 16. The bread, according to St. Paul, was the communion of Christ’s body when it was broken: now it could not have been the communion of Christ’s body until after it was blessed; and therefore it was then blessed before it was broken, even as it has been in all after-ages in all the countries where St. Paul had especially the care of the churches36. It [146] appears to me that the church of England did not mean to exclude or prevent the ancient division of the bread after the benediction, by directing a "breaking" to take place while the institution was recited. This is to represent more vividly and forcibly the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. But it would be inconvenient at the middle of this solemn description of the last supper, to divide the bread into a number of small portions for the convenience of distribution, which was certainly the original and primary intention of this act, both in our Saviour’s liturgy and in all subsequent liturgies.

It may be well here to notice a custom which has extensively prevailed in the Christian church. After the consecration was finished, and the bread broken, some of it was put into the cup. This ceremony was commonly known by the name of the union of the two kinds, and in many places was performed with appropriate prayers37. The custom is certainly not of primitive antiquity, since we find no mention of it in scripture, nor the early Fathers. This rite, doubtless, arose from the custom of communicating the laity with the sacrament of the body dipped in the cup. This most probably began in the east, where it has remained in use to the present day, and it also prevailed formerly in the west38. It was introduced to prevent the inconveniences [147] which were imagined to arise from the reception of both kinds separately by the laity. The consecrated bread dipped in the cup was then given in a spoon to the laity, and to accomplish this more conveniently, when the bread was broken, some of it was put into the cup, from which the clergy took out with a spoon small particles tinged with the wine; and thus communicated the laity. This account of the origin of the union of the two kinds, serves also to explain why all the bread was not put into the cup39. The clergy were still permitted to receive the communion in both kinds separately, because they were too well instructed to permit the sacrament to fall on the ground, or experience any irreverence, and accordingly a portion of bread was reserved for their use which, was not put into the cup.

According to the rite of the primitive church; in the oriental and English churches, the words of institution are repeated aloud to the present day. Assemani very properly admits that this has been the ancient custom of the eastern churches, which was enforced by the decree or injunction of the emperor Justinian in the sixth century40.

Before we proceed to the next section, it will be proper to consider the substance of the primitive liturgies which intervened between the completion of [148] consecration, and the distribution of the elements to the clergy and people. In the liturgies of Antioch, Cæsarea, and Constantinople, the consecration was followed by the general prayers for all men and all things, the Lord’s Prayer, and the breaking of bread. In the Roman liturgy the consecration was followed by an oblation of the elements as they were bread and wine, a petition for the departed faithful, a prayer for communion with them, the breaking of bread, and the Lord's prayer. It is probable from the ancient MS. of the liturgy of Milan, published by Muratori41, that the Roman liturgy did not originally contain any more at this place than the Alexandrian, which we proceed to consider. After consecration, the Alexandrian liturgy preferred a request, that they who were about to communicate might be partakers of various spiritual benefits. Then the bread was broken, and the Lord's Prayer repeated. All these liturgies terminated before the Lord’s Prayer and breaking of the bread with a doxology ascribing glory to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to which all the faithful responded with a loud Amen. This is the Amen of which the apostle Paul speaks in the Epistle to the Corinthians, and to which we find various allusions in the writings of the primitive Fathers. The English canon terminates with the consecration, and it may perhaps be thought too abruptly: but this is merely a matter of taste. However, the people answer at the end of the benediction with that Amen which has been handed down from the Apostles themselves. The only point [149] which seems to merit serious consideration with regard to this part of the liturgy, is the omission of the Lord's Prayer. So very general has been the use of the Lord’s Prayer between the consecration and communion, that it might appear almost essential to the office; and Gregory the first, patriarch of Rome, has been understood to affirm that the apostles consecrated the elements with no other form42. But it appears plainly that the Lord’s Prayer was not universally used at this place in primitive times. The liturgy of the Apostolical Constitutions, though it does not appear to have been used in any particular church, is nevertheless, beyond all doubt, the same liturgy as that of the church of Antioch. It is evidently derived from the same stock. We do not find the Lord’s Prayer used after consecration by the liturgy of the Apostolic Constitutions43, although we certainly know that this Prayer was used in the liturgy both at Antioch and Jerusalem in the fourth century44. Now to suppose that the author of the Apostolical Constitutions would have omitted the Lord’s Prayer in this place, if it had been used from time immemorial, is altogether improbable. What conceivable reason could there be for omitting it under such circumstances? Does not the fact then of his omitting it prove that either it had not been introduced when he wrote, or that it was then known to have been introduced at a period subsequent to the apostolic [150] age? Either supposition is, I think, enough to shew that the Lord’s Prayer was not used in this part of the liturgy of Antioch during the first ages. I cannot forbear to make a similar remark with regard to the liturgy of Alexandria. In the Ethiopian liturgy, which was derived from the primitive liturgy of Alexandria, the Lord’s Prayer does not occur between the consecration and communion45. It may be said in this case as in the last, that no conceivable reason can be assigned for the omission of the Lord’s Prayer in this place, if it had been used for any great length of time in the Alexandrian liturgy.

Whether it might have been the Ethiopian or some other church to which Augustine referred, it is certain that he alludes to churches where the Lord’s Prayer was not repeated between consecration and communion in the fifth century46. In saying that almost every church used this prayer in that interval of the liturgy, he evidently implies that there were churches which did not follow the same custom.

However anciently therefore, the Lord’s Prayer has been used in some churches, and however certainly in the fifth century, it was used in almost all; no one can justly say that it is necessary to have it in this place. I am not however contending against the propriety of its use here. No liturgy in existence, except those I have mentioned, is without the Lord’s Prayer shortly before communion; and certainly it is a very appropriate place, since [151] the, petition, "Give us this day our daily bread," may be mystically understood as a prayer for the bread of the soul then shortly to be received, even as the fathers and doctors of the church have expounded it47.

1 Vol. i. p. 32, 35.

2 Ibid. p. 39.

3 Ibid. p. 69.

4 Ibid. p. 78.

5 Ibid. p. 102.

6 Ibid. p. 161.

7 Ibid. p. 174.

8 Ibid. p. 137.

9 Apost. Const. lib. viii. c. 12. p. 402. ed. Clerici.

10 Liturg. Aethiop. Renaud. Liturg. Oriental. tom. i. p. 516. Liturg. Cyrilli et Marci, ibid.

11 Liturgia Basilii Goar Rituale Græc. p. 166. Chrysostomi, ibid. p. 76. Jacobi Graec. Assemani, Codex Liturg. tom. v. p. 34.

12 Liturgia Jacobi Syr. Renaudot, tom. ii. p. 31.

13 Menard. Sacram. Gregorii, p. 1.

14 Liturgia Cyrilli Copt. Renaudot, tom. i. p. 46. Marci, p. 154, 155.

15 Liturgia Æthiopum Renaudot, tom. i. p 517. See section iv. of Dissertation on primitive Liturgies, vol. i. p. 89, &c. for remarks on the Æthiopian liturgy.

16 Meta toutôn tôn makariôn dunameôn, despota philanthrôpe, kaiêmeis hoi hamartôloi boômen kai legomen, k. t. l. Liturg. Basilii, Goar, p. 166.

17 Liturg. Basilii, Goar, p. 169.

18 Liturgia Basilii, Goar, p. 173.

19 Liturgia Basilii, Goar, p. 167, 168.

20 Liturgia Chrysost. Goar, p. 76.

21 Liturgia Jacobi Syr. Renaudot, tom. ii. p. 31, 32. Apost. Const. lib. viii. Ch. 12. p. 402. ed. Clerici.

22 Liturg. Chrysostomi, Goar, Rituale Graec. p. 77.

23 Gregory introduced that passage, "diesque nostros" &c. according to Bede. See vol. i. p. 113. note 3.

24 Liturgia Basilii, Goar, p. 169.

25 Optatus Milevitan. mentions the invocation of the Holy Ghost; see vol. i. p. 138. note 21. Isidore Hispalensis, describing the prayers of the liturgy, says, "Porro sexta exhinc succedit confirmatio sacramenti, ut oblatio quæ Deo offertur, sanctificata per Spiritum Sanctum, corporis et sanguinis (sacramentum) confirmetur." Isid. Hisp. de Officiis, lib. i. c. 15.

26 In tractatu contra Nestorium et Eutychem. "In hanc, scilicet in Divinam transeunt, Spiritu Sancto perficiente, substantiam, permanente tamen in sua proprietate natura."

27 The orthodox Fathers, though they attributed great efficacy to the words of institution, yet did not by any means consider prayer for the consecration of the bread and wine to be unnecessary. See Bingham’s Antiquities, book xv. chap. 3. §. 11; and the portion of Albertinus de Eucharistia, there referred to. See also Le Brun, Explication de la Messe, &c. tome v. p. 242, &c., who concurs with the most learned men in representing the necessity of the prayer of invocation, as well as of the words of our Redeemer.

28 Liturgia Basilii, Goar, p. 168.

29 Miss. Ambros. antiq. canon. Muratori, Liturg. Rom. tom. i. p. 134. See Pamel. Liturg. tom. i p. 302.

30 Mabillon de Liturgia Gallicana, p. 448.

31 Liturgia Æthiop. Renaudot, tom. i. p. 517. See also Liturg.Cyril. ibid. p. 46. Marci, 155.

32 Liturgia Chrysost. Goar, p. 76.

33 Matt. xxvi. 26.

34 Renaudot, Liturg. Oriental. tom. i. p. 259.

35 Liturgia Jacobi Syr. Renaud. tom. ii. p. 41, 111, 112. Lit. Jac. Græc. Assemani Codex Lit. tom. v. p. 54, 55. Lit. Chrysostomi, Goar, p. 81; the ceremonies of which are observed in the liturgy of Basil. Liturgia Basil. Copt. p. 19. Renaudot, tom. i. Cyrilli, p. 49. Marci, p. 162. Missale Roman. canon missae. Missale Ambros. ibid. Bingham, Antiquities, &c. book xv. ch. 3. §. 34. Mabillon de Liturgia Gallicana, lib. i. c. 5. No. 21. Bona, Rer. Liturg. lib. ii. c. 15. No. 4. p. 463. Martene de Antiq. Eccl. Rit. lib. i. c. 4. art. 9.

36 In the liturgy of Constantinople, which is used all through Greece, the bread is broken after the blessing and consecration is finished. Vide Liturg. Chrysost. Liturg. Basilii. The same rite prevails through the whole eastern and western church.

37 Liturg. Jacobi Syr. Renaudot, tom. ii. p. 41. 108, 109; Jacobi Græc. Assemani Cod. Lit. p. 54. tom. v. Chrysostomi Goar, p. 82. Basilii Copt. Renaud. tom. i. p. 19. 261, &c.

38 Bingham, Antiquities, book xv. ch. 5. §. 2. Bona, Rer. Liturg. lib. ii. c. 18. art. 3. It would appear that this custom is older in the east than the councils of Chalcedon 451, and Ephesus 431, since the Eutychians and the Nestorians, as well as the orthodox of the east, have used it all along. See Renaudot, Liturg. Oriental. tom. i. p. 261.

39 A portion is reserved by the Monophysites of Antioch, Renaudot, tom. ii. p. 112. See also almost all the liturgies and places referred to for the breaking of the bread and the "union" of the two kinds.

40 Assemani, tom. v. cod. Lit. Præf. p. liv. Menard, Sacramentar. Gregorii, p. 389.

41 Muratori Liturg. Rom. tom, i. p. 134.

42 "Orationem Dominicam idcirco mox post precem dicimus, quia mos apostolorum fuit, ut ad ipsam solummodo orationem oblationis hostiam consecrarent." Greg. Magni Epist. 64. lib. vii.

43 Apost. Const. lib. viii. c. 12. p. 404. ed. Clerici.

44 Cyril and Chrysostom mention it: see vol. i. p. 33. 36.

45 Liturgia Ethiopum Renaudot, tom. i. p. 518.

46 See vol. i. p. 138. note u. "Quam totam petitionem fere omnis ecclesia Dominica oratione concludit."

47 Cyprian de Orat. Dominica. Cyril, Hierosolym. Cat. Mystatg. v.

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