My running commentary on the Divine Liturgy has reached, as I have shared in the last several issue, an important part of our worship, namely the Anaphora. I believe that it is important to remember, when we are talking about what transpires in the Anaphora of our Divine Liturgy that we realize that our Triune God is the one who brings about the change we believe happens to the bread and wine. So, it is essential that we don’t think that the words of Jesus that we repeat are the sole source of the transformation. In the Eastern Church we don’t make any attempt to establish when exactly the transformation of the gifts take place. We offer a prayer to the Father, we recall the words of the Son and then we invoke the Holy Spirit to make the transformation happen.
Many, influenced by the Western Church’s approach to the Liturgy, think that the gifts are changed after we repeat the words of Jesus. In fact the Jesus words that we repeat are often called, in the Western Church, the “Words of Institution.” This is not the approach of the Eastern Church. It is more important, our Church feels, that we don’t attempt to define the moment when the transformation of the gifts take place but, rather, believe that God fulfills His promise to be with us always through His presence in the Eucharist when we ask our Triune God to bless us with His presence. I believe that for the sake of our spiritual growth we don’t attempt to take the “mystery” out of the “Mystery”. Attempts at defining when God acts eliminates the need for Faith. God does not respond to a formula but, rather, to the sincere desire of His people to have Him among us.
So our Church sees the Epiclesis, that series of short prayers addressed to the Holy Spirit, as essential for the transformation of the gifts. But again, even though we say a prayer to the Father, repeat the words of the Son and call upon the Holy Spirit to transform the gifts that we offer – true symbols of human life – we don’t dare to pretend that we know when the transformation takes place. We just stand in faith and awe in the presence of our God and believe that He makes it happen. When is not important! That it happens is important so that they may be for the purification of our souls, the remission of our sins, the communion with the Holy Sprit, fullness of the Heavenly Kingdom and for confidence in God.