Monday, July 14, 2008

Liturgical and Historical Questions

St. Hippolytus the Anti-Pope (what a great name!) wrote Apostolic Traditions out of concern that certain ancient customs were being lost. The Traditions date to the early 3rd century. He includes some early liturgy, and here is the anaphora/Eucharistic Prayer:

We give thanks to you God, through your beloved son Jesus Christ, whom you sent to us in former times as Savior, Redeemer, and Messenger of your Will, who is your inseparable Word, through whom you made all, and in whom you were well-pleased, whom you sent from heaven into the womb of a virgin, who, being conceived within her, was made flesh, and appeared as your Son, born of the Holy Spirit and the virgin. It is he who, fulfilling your will and acquiring for you a holy people, extended his hands in suffering, in order to liberate from sufferings those who believe in you. Who, when he was delivered to voluntary suffering, in order to dissolve death, and break the chains of the devil, and tread down hell, and bring the just to the light, and set the limit, and manifest the resurrection, taking the bread, and giving thanks to you, said, "Take, eat, for this is my body which is broken for you." Likewise the chalice, saying, This is my blood which is shed for you. Whenever you do this, do this (in) memory of me. Therefore, remembering his death and resurrection, we offer to you the bread and the chalice, giving thanks to you, who has made us worthy to stand before you and to serve as your priests. And we pray that you would send your Holy Spirit to the oblation of your Holy Church. In their gathering together, give to all those who partake of your holy mysteries the fullness of the Holy Spirit, toward the strengthening of the faith in truth, that we may praise you and glorify you, through your son Jesus Christ, through whom to you be glory and honor, Father and Son, with the Holy Spirit, in your Holy Church, now and throughout the ages of the ages. Amen.
Note the "words of institution" (verba) included in the prayer directed to God, and the "offering" language. Note as well that Hippolytus' prayer does not indicate the celebrant offers to God the body and blood of Christ for appeasement, but that the elements are offered and the Holy Spirit is called upon the gifts (epiklesis).

For my Lutheran readers, these are big bugaboos, to say the least. Some of you know that while I am very interested in the Early Church and worship, I am by no means a scholar. And so I need your help.

In my Sunday Bible study on Church History I introduced this text and gave some exploratory thoughts on how this differs from the later Canon and Sacrificial language used in Medieval Roman Catholicism and that this is what the Lutherans were arguing against, a propitiatory sacrifice to God.

Please correct me if I'm wrong...and for my Orthodox readers, how does this jive with the Orthodox view?


PS...the labels on this post are like the Triple Crown of the LCMS Brute Squad :)


  1. orrologion said...

    What jumped out at me was the term 'propitiation'. Here is a discussion on the terms propitiation and expiation by a recent Orthodox convert:

    Anastasia Theodorides is also writing a series on 'Why Jesus Died' that gets at some of the same language surrounding sacrifice, and how that effects (or doesn't) or understanding of soteriology.

    Generally speaking, the Orthodox and the Greek Fathers (i.e., most of the Fathers in the Patristic Church, by geography, culture and number) don't focus the 'How' of salvation and sacrifice, but on the 'What' and 'Is'. Frustrating for we Westerners.

    I have often noted that 'sacrifice' doesn't of necessity need to mean that someone is being sacrificed to. If I take a bullet for a friend, I made a 'sacrifice', but not to the bullet, the shooter, not even to the one I 'saved'. I sacrificed what was mine, I gave it up when I didn't have to. Christ gave up 'merely' being the second Person of the Trinity when he became incarnate, and 'gave up' his deathlessness by willingly being put to death on the Cross, allowing Himself to be buried, etc. These weren't sacrifices to anyone, they were simply things He decided to 'give up', sacrifice.

    The OT sacrifices must (must!) be interpreted through the lens of Christ's 'sacrifice' and not vice versa. The Temple sacrifices were mere foreshadowings, types of the fullness of things to come.

    SVS Press has a critical edition of Apostolic Traditions by Hippolytus, which may be helpful, too.

  2. William Weedon said...

    You might want to note that a version of this prayer is included in the LCMS *Worship Supplement* - it's on pages 46 and 47. Further, it might be of interest to point out to your members that the wording of this prayer is what stands behind Common Preface #2 in Lutheran Service Book. As a darling of the 20th century liturgical movement, I believe that most of the Western jurisdictions offered it in some form or other. You can find it in LBW, Eucharistic Prayer IV, and in the Roman Missal it is Eucharist Prayer II.

  3. Anastasia Theodoridis said...

    This IS the Orthodox view. As you noted, the offering is not for punishment, just for offering.

    But also, as this prayer says, Christ's death on the Cross is not for punishment. At least that's not listed among the reasons given for His death. Instead, we have "Who, when he was delivered to voluntary suffering, in order to dissolve death, and break the chains of the devil, and tread down hell, and bring the just to the light, and set the limit, and manifest the resurrection..."

  4. Past Elder said...

    The anti-pope, huh?

    Well, after the Revolution, er, Vatican II, when Eucharistic Prayer II was being introduced -- it being, as Pastor noted, a version of Hippolytus' prayer -- he was referred to as "a Roman priest" (Roman in a Roman Catholic church context meaning from or in Rome, the Roman Catholic part of course assumed).

    As to his concern about the true practice dying out, he spent most of his priestly life on the outs with the church, opposing the bishop of Rome under whom he was ordained, Zephyrinus, and continuing through the next few "popes", Callistus, Urban and Pontian. This last and H were exiled by the Roman Emperor to Sardinia, where they both died and their bodies brought back to Rome by the next "pope", Fabian.

    The Calendar of 354, besides containing the earliest known reference to a feast of Christmas, calls him priest and martyr -- not bishop, though he was elected a rival bishop of Rome, and as to martyr, the stories about that bear a strange resemblance to the stories about the pagan Hippolytus, leading to his being the patron saint of horses.

    So, his status as a spokesman for pure antiquity and orthodoxy would seem to be, er, questionable at best.

    Nonetheless, his prayer here was a great hit in the liturgical reform movement, as Pastor notes, and his questionable orthodoxy let alone historicity just, well, never came up. "The early church" in some circles is pretty much a free pass to do whatever.

    If memory serves, EPII, probably because of its relative brevity, was intended for weekday Mass use, but in my experience it and EPIII were pretty much what one found on Sunday morning, or Saturday night.

    Oddly enough, as everyone was jumping on the Hippolytus bandwagon, our local Father Hippolytus dropped the name like a rock as soon as it was allowed -- the order for centuries bestowed on name on joining, but that became optional, both as in if you had one you could drop it and go back to your baptismal name and as in if you were new you didn't have to take a new name.

    Most dropped the old names, and few took a new one. Except one guy I knew, who has since been brought up on child molestation charges. Oh well. You guys that like to poke around in this Roman stuff really ought to see it one time as Martin and I did, from the inside out first. Then you would marvel not at supposed excesses in his language, but that he remained so relatively calm and even tempered in the face of it.

  5. Dixie said...

    Yes, when I think back to my Lutheran days I think the standard man-in-the-pew understanding of the Eucharist involves two sacrifice and no offering on our part--God does it all.

    I have read Lutheran views which speak to how sacrifice can properly understood from a Lutheran perspective--maybe from Pastor Weedon? But I don't recall any reading on offering the bread and wine...although it surely could be out there.

    The offering of the bread and wine naturally fits with the Orthodox understanding of synergia. We labor (always with God's help) to grow grain and grapes and convert them to bread and wine, offer these to God, and God fills them up with Himself and gives Himself to us. But I am guessing the notion of synergia might be a hard sell for you and your Bible study? :D

    So you are doing a study of Church history with your parishioners? That sounds very interesting. How are they liking it?

    I am currently listening to lectures on the history of the papacy. Facinating stuff. St. Hippolytus wasn't an impious guy...he just disagreed with the powers in charge. Familiar territory for the likes of other holy men, like St. Athanasius, as well. (And back then the notion of papal infallibility had not yet been fully formed.) St. Hippolytus is considered a saint in the East and GOArch has his feast day on August 10.

  6. Chris Jones said...

    Pr Hall,

    I'm no scholar either, but it seems to me that while there are differences between the Hippolytan canon and the classic Roman canon, the differences are not that great. It is how the canon is understood and taught, and how it figures in ordinary folks' piety -- more than the text itself -- that makes the difference.

    What is missing from the Hippolytan text is any mention of what the offering is for. Hippolytus simply says "we offer You the bread and the chalice, giving thanks to you," without any indication of the purpose of the offering nor of what, if anything, we hope to gain in return for it.

    The Roman canon, on the other hand, speaks extensively of what it is that we make the offering for: for the peace and unity of the Church; for the redemption of the souls of both the living and the dead; for our preservation from eternal damnation. But interestingly enough, whatever may have been taught and popularly believed in the pre-Reformation Church, the Canon itself never uses the specific language of "propitiation." It speaks generally of "for our redemption," but never specifically of the sacrifice as a propitiation for sins.

  7. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Bill, I'll have to compare the texts of that prayer a little closer, 'cuz while I use that prayer most, it didn't strike me as all that similar.

    Past Elder, while Hippolytus is suspect because of his rebellion, one thing we need to remember: he staked his schism on maintaining the old traditions. If in fact they were not old traditions but relatively new or otherwise strange, he would have instantly been recognized as a fraud!

  8. William Weedon said...


    You probably are remembering these citations from two of the great Lutheran dogmaticians:


    In the celebration of the Eucharist ‘we proclaim the Lord’s death’ (1 Cor. 11:26) and pray that God would be merciful to us on account of that holy and immaculate sacrifice completed on the cross and on account of that holy Victim which is certainly present in the Eucharist…. That he would in kindness receive and grant a place to the rational and spiritual oblation of our prayer. (Confessio Catholica, vol II, par II, arti xiv, cap. I, ekthesis 6, 1200-1201)
    It is clear that the sacrifice takes place in heaven, not on earth, inasmuch as the death and passion of God’s beloved Son is offered to God the Father by way of commemoration… In the Christian sacrifice there is no victim except the real and substantial body of Christ, and in the same way there is no true priest except Christ Himself. Hence, this sacrifice once offered on the cross takes place continually in an unseen fashion in heaven by way of commemoration, when Christ offers to His Father on our behalf His sufferings of the past, especially when we are applying ourselves to the sacred mysteries, and this is the ‘unbloody sacrifice’ which is carried out in heaven. (1204)


    If we view the matter from the material standpoint, the sacrifice in the Eucharist is numerically the same as the sacrifice that took place on the cross; put otherwise, one can say that the things itself and the substance is the same in each case, the victim or oblation is the same. If we view the matter formally, from the standpoint of the act of sacrifice, then even though the victim is numerically the same, the action is not; that is, the immolation in the Eucharist is different from the immolation carried out on the cross. For on the cross an offering was made by means of the passion and death of an immolated living thing, without which there can be no sacrifice in the narrow sense, but in the Eucharist the oblation takes place through the prayers and through the commemoration of the death or sacrifice offered on the cross. (Examen theologicum acroamaticum, II, 620)

    Prayer from Hollaz:

    Almighty Lord Jesus Christ, as often as I shall come to Your holy table to refresh my spirit, I pray You to make me, unworthy as I am, worthy through Your grace; impure as I am, to make me clean; naked as I am to clothe me, so that Your Body, so full of divine power, and Your most precious Blood may not become for me, Your servant, the occasion for judgment or punishment, but a memorial of the death You underwent for me, a strengthening of my faith, a proof of the taking away of my sins, a bond of closer union with You, an increase of holiness, the basis of a glad resurrection, and a pledge of everlasting life. Amen.

    Christopher (ack, Pr. Hall - too many Christophers running around here!),

    Note especially the confession that he is creator (cf. through whom you made all things); took on human flesh and was born of the Virgin Mary (cf. he was made flesh and was manifested as your Son, being born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin); to put an end to death (cf. that he might destroy death) fulfilling Your will and gaining for You a holy people (cf. fulfilling your will and gaining for you a holy people).

  9. Past Elder said...

    Chris Jones gets at something quite significant.

    There is a recognisable difference between the classic Roman Canon and Hippolytus, either the original or EPII of the novus ordo.

    This, more than language, is why traditional Catholics reject the four EPs of the novus ordo, including the edited Roman Canon that is EPIII.

    In Catholic thinking, three things myst be present for a sacrament to be valid: matter, form and intent. The genius of the Roman Canon, as the Roman Church once believed and traditionalists still do, is that it guarantees that whatever the mindset of the place or priest, if he "says the black" the intent of the church will be expressed. Traditional studies of the four novus ordo EPs, including the revised Roman Canon, demonstrate this not to be so with them. It is not that intent cannot be present, but rather that one cannot depend on it from the texts.

    Re Hippolytus selbst, how "old" can a tradition be when you die about 236? He may not have been "instantly recognised as a fraud", but he was considered a heretic and schismatic through most of his career by his own church. His return to the fold is inferred, not demonstrated, in the exile with Pontian while living and the return of both bodies after death, and his official status as martyr and priest. And for centuries after, he was not particularly remembered in the church, existing in semi-mythological tales, until the liturgical reform crowd championed him a few decades ago. I would still maintain as a source for authentic orthodox early apostolic Christianity he is shaky at best.

  10. Rev. Benjamin Harju said...

    I make use of the LCMS Worship Supplement 1969's rendition of this Eucharistic prayer once a year: Good Friday. If I remember right, the liturgies of Holy Week (and some of the customs of Lent) hearken back to ancient days and ancient practice. It seemed logical to me to put it there. It also seemed to fit best there over and above any other occasion.