The Holy Anaphora as an Icon of Salvation
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:55 AM [+]
Of course we recognize that the Eucharist isn't merely an act of symbolism, but by the same token Icons are more than symbols as well. With this in mind, I have been contemplating the following.
The Greek word Anaphora literally means "offering up" OR (interestingly) "carrying back." The Holy Anaphora is of course, as most of you know, that portion of the service when we offer up the gifts of Bread and Wine and God receives them and returns them to us as His Body and Blood in the Cup of Salvation.
Naturally a prominent theme is giving Thanks and the initial prayer relates the fact that God is the author of all that is, including our salvation. Without Him and His reaching out to save us we would have and be nothing and we would not have a Eucharist to Celebrate:
It is meet and right to hymn Thee, to bless Thee, to praise Thee, to give thanks to Thee, and to worship Thee in every place of Thy dominion. for Thou art God ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, ever-existing and eternally the same, Thou and Thine only-begotten Son and Thy Holy Spirit. Thou it was who brought us from nonexistence into being, and when we had fallen away didst raise us up again, and didst not cease to do all things until Thou hadst brought us up to heaven, and hadst endowed us with Thy Kingdom which is to come. For all these things we give thanks to Thee, and to Thine only-begotten Son, and to Thy Holy Spirit, for all things of which we know and of which we know not, whether manifest or unseen, and we thank Thee for this Liturgy which Thou hast deigned to accept at our hands...
And of course we note the timelessness of the accomplished and yet ongoing work:
Remembering this saving commandment and all those things which have come to pass for us: the Cross, the Tomb, the Resurrection on the third day, the Ascension into heaven, the Sitting at the right hand, and the second and glorious Coming....
It is always fascinating to hear the second coming referred to in the past tense. Is it any wonder we struggle to say without further explanation in order to please our Protestant friends or family that "we are saved." Salvation, not being a legal contract, is ongoing. It is perhaps very much like a future event referred to in the past tense, maybe that would comfort our family who worry for our potentially lost souls.
Anyway, though all of this is the work of God who is the progenitor of all things, WE are the ones who bring the gifts to the Altar and WE are the one's who offer them up to Him and without this bit of "synergia" there would also be no Eucharist. It is as God wishes that we should come to Him with our humble gifts, even though they are not our own. We choose to give them, even in the context of the gifts being His to begin with:
Thine own of Thine own we offer unto Thee, on behalf of all and for all... And the people respond: ...We praise Thee. We bless Thee. We give thanks unto Thee, O Lord. And we pray unto Thee. O our God.... And finally: ...Again we offer unto Thee this reasonable and bloodless worship, and ask Thee, and pray Thee, and supplicate Thee. Send down Thy Holy Spirit upon us and upon these Gifts here offered.
You will notice that the gifts are offered "on behalf of all and for all", illustrating the communal nature of salvation. We are not "saved" alone, we are riding together in this ark, and NOT just with those now, but also those with whom we see mystically present in the Icons around us. The Church.
Again we offer unto Thee this reasonable worship for those who have fallen asleep in the faith: ancestors, fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, ascetics, and every righteous spirit made perfect in faith. Especially for our most holy, most pure, most blessed and glorious Lady Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary...again we offer unto Thee this reasonable worship...for the whole world
In all of this (and certainly you could include the entire Liturgy), I do see an image of salvation in terms of our interaction with God. In salvation, do we not in a sense offer up ourselves and generally say "Thine own of thine own"? In the Anaphora we do not only ask God to send down His Holy Spirit onto the gifts, but also upon US as well. It mirrors the fact that salvation means we seek to be able to say: "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me."
Our lives are a sacrifice to God, being "crucified with Christ." But like the Eucharist, the Bread and the Wine become the Body and Blood because we offer them to Him. We are engaged, we are participants, we are reaching up with confidence knowing that He, who loves mankind, will reach down.
Anyway, there you have it...a few random thoughts on the Anaphora.