The Epiclesis /Part two: The Holy Spirit and the Epiclesis/Post date: 2018-11-29
Before His death, before sacrificing His body and blood on the cross, Jesus established this sacrifice of the cross to be offered to God for the remission of sins. The symbolic sin-offerings, when the blood and life of the sacrificial lambs was offered in the Jerusalem temple, lost their significance. Jesus is the true Lamb who took on Himself the sins of the world (Jn 1:29). Before the completion of His sacrifice of the cross, Jesus instituted a new sacrifice, which is also a new covenant (Mt 26:26) for the forgiveness of sins. At the Last Supper, He took bread and said, “This is My body, which is given for you.” Then He took the cup of wine and said, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed ... for the remission of sins.”
What about the Apostles? What did they think? They did not understand His words because His sacrifice had not yet been accomplished. During the Last Supper, Jesus also spoke a number of times about the Holy Spirit, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when the Spirit of truth has come, He will guide you into all truth.” (Jn 16:13) In another place, Jesus says, “…out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom they would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (Jn 7:38f) When did the Holy Spirit come? Only after Jesus accomplished His sacrifice on the cross, rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven on the fortieth day where He was glorified. Only then does He send the Holy Spirit in fullness on the Apostles, and the Holy Spirit enlightens their mind and strengthens their will. The Apostles, who fled out of fear and did not stand by the cross, now become heroes of faith who, one by one, shed their blood for Christ’s sake as martyrs. After the descent of the Holy Spirit they understood what Jesus had done at the Last Supper when He established the new covenant and gave His body and blood for the remission of sins. They understood that the Holy Spirit makes present this mystery through His words of Institution and through those whom Jesus chose, i.e. the Apostles and their successors.
The words of Institution and the Anamnesis are followed by the Epiclesis. Instituting the Eucharist, Jesus said, “This is (My body ... blood).” The Epiclesis contains three petitions or imperatives:
1) Send down the Holy Spirit
2) Make this bread the Body of Christ
3) Changing them by Your Holy Spirit
ad 1) Send down the Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts here present
By these words of the Epiclesis, both the priest and the people pray that the Holy Spirit would descend not only upon the gifts but also “upon us”, i.e. upon those who are present. God’s will is that we should receive Christ; that He should grow in us, that we should be transformed into Him, so that finally we can say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” We, people, are influenced by the system of the world and by the spirit of lies – the devil, and these do not want us to be saved. In addition, the source of evil within us gladly accepts the programme of the liar and murderer and mistakenly believes it to be for our good. On the other hand, it rejects God’s truth and eternal life.
The light and strength to become rooted in Christ and to be ready to suffer or even die with Him is given us by the Holy Spirit.
The Epiclesis is not only about making present Christ’s death, but it is also an ever-new outpouring of the Holy Spirit – an ever-new Pentecost.
ad 2) “Make this bread the precious Body of Your Christ”
The priest turns to God the Creator and prays for a miracle (“make”) that the bread, sanctified by the words of Institution, would become the Body of Christ. Analogously, the plea is also pronounced over the chalice.
ad 3) “Changing them by Your Holy Spirit”
This plea refers not only to the transformation of bread into the Body of Christ and the transformation of wine into the Blood of Christ, but also to the Mystical Body of Christ – the Church.
The mystery of God’s omnipotence, which by the power of the Holy Spirit causes the spiritual resurrection of the Church, is expressed in chapter 37 of the prophet Ezekiel.
The Prophecy of Ezekiel
In Babylonian captivity, God called Ezekiel to prepare the ground through a prophetic prayer first for spiritual resurrection and thereafter also physical deliverance.
Ezekiel testifies: “The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry.” (Ez 37:1-2) God asks the prophet, “‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’” (Ez 37:3) In other words, the prophet gives consent and says: You know, O Lord God, that by Your almighty power these bones can come to life.
Every time we stand before God in faith and ask Him for a miracle, whether small or great, we must have the faith that God is almighty, that He can work this miracle. When the prophet confessed the faith in God’s omnipotence, the Lord commanded him: “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones (people of Israel), hear the word of the Lord!’” Thus says the Lord God to you, people of God, who became spiritually dead – dry bones – owing to your unbelief. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: “Behold, I will send spirit into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and I will put spirit in you, and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.”
This was the prophetic word received by Ezekiel, who pronounced it over dry bones in faith and in the power of the Spirit. What was the reaction? In the course of prophesying to the bones, God’s Spirit worked in two stages. The reaction to the first prophesying – when the prophet referred to the nation as “dry bones” and revealed the reality of their spiritual death – was a rattling noise. This is the case even today: when one begins to proclaim true repentance, the old self and the system of lies in the world, which holds sway over the present-day Church, resists the truth and there is a noise – a motion. At the same time, however, the word causes the first signs of life to appear, namely the restoration of God’s order.
Ezekiel testifies: “So I prophesied as I was commanded.” (v.7) It is necessary to know that he did not add anything to it, nor did he take anything away from it. He acted in the obedience of faith, and the Holy Spirit caused movement. “And as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone.”
Let us imagine heaps of bones on a large area. The bones are scattered all over the place. And now, every bone starts to look for where it belongs. These bones are in motion; they strike at each other, join together and suddenly there is an army of skeletons. This is the first sign of a certain order, though without life. The second stage begins: The prophet continues to speak to these skeletons. And what is the reaction? “As I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no spirit in them.” (v.8)
Let us imagine a hospital and a completely paralyzed person in this hospital. He cannot move, and although he can breathe he is in fact a living corpse. Several doctors and nurses have to care for him to keep him alive. This was the picture not only of the captives in Babylon, but it is also the picture of the current captives in the spiritual Babylon under the sway of heresy and apostasy with the spirit of antichrist.
That is why there is the third stage when the prophet is no longer to prophesy to the paralyzed organism but is to turn directly to God’s Spirit. Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the spirit, prophesy, son of man, and say to the spirit, ‘Thus says the Lord God: Come, O spirit, from the four winds, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.’”
The prophet prophesies in the obedience of faith and gives a command to the Spirit of God by God’s authority. This is actually a triple command. Firstly, that the Spirit of God should come, secondly, that He should breathe on these slain, and thirdly, that the Spirit of God should bring the dead to life. The prophet turns to the four cardinal points and asks the Holy Spirit to come from these directions. Such prophesying, when the Spirit comes from four directions, creates a large enclosed space under the power of the Spirit of God. The prophet gives commands in four directions that the Holy Spirit should breathe in power on these slain, that they may live.
What was the fruit of his prophecy? He confesses: “And as I prophesied as I was commanded, the Spirit came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.” (v.10) This is the picture of the spiritual resurrection of the spiritually dead Catholic Church today.
The Holy Spirit and the Church
The Holy Scripture points out the work of the Third Divine Person, the Holy Spirit. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit and through the obedience of faith of the Holy Virgin from Nazareth, assumes human nature and thus becomes also the Son of Man. Jesus received the baptism of repentance, though He did not need it, to give us an example. Heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit appeared over Christ in the likeness of a dove. That was when the Spirit of God anointed Him. Soon afterwards, Jesus read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach deliverance to the captives...”
During the Last Supper, Jesus spoke about the Holy Spirit several times. On the third day, too, when He appeared risen to the Apostles after His death, He said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit ...” On the day of His ascension He promises: “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:5) “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Then, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles. The Church was born. In the power of the Spirit, the Apostles proclaimed the Gospel, witnessed to Jesus, and God accompanied their preaching by many miracles. Without the Holy Spirit, the Church is like a lifeless body – dead. The conversion of every Christian is the work of the Holy Spirit. Many have received the baptism with the Holy Spirit, but this is not enough; one has to walk in the Holy Spirit and be guided by Him on the path of following Christ. This is the transformation which John the Baptist speaks about: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn 3:30)
Peter testified in the power of the Spirit in the house of a pagan centurion Cornelius about the death of Christ and His resurrection. The Spirit of God descended on Cornelius and all who were present, and caused them to speak in unknown languages (Acts 10). In Ephesus, the Apostle Paul met with some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They replied, “We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” St Paul then taught them, they were baptized, and as soon as he laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. Altogether there were twelve men. (Acts 19:1-7)
The work of the Holy Spirit is described in 1Cor 14, Rom 8 and in many other places in the Holy Scripture.
The prophetic vision given to Ezekiel in Babylonian captivity is extremely topical even for our times. The Holy Spirit works especially in the Epiclesis, which is the essence of the Divine Liturgy. On our part, we need to have biblical faith. Such faith is seen with the prophets, and above all with the Most Holy Mother of God. She believed in God’s omnipotence when the Archangel Gabriel told her that there was nothing impossible for God. Elizabeth said about her, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (Lk 1:45) Mary expressed her obedience of faith when she said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38) Some saints, such as St Louis Grignion de Montfort, recommended living the Divine Liturgy with the Virgin Mary, supported by her faith. Let us try to imagine the faith of the Virgin Mary experiencing the Divine Liturgy celebrated by the Apostle John! He pronounced the words of Institution, and then invoked the Holy Spirit. The Mother of Jesus and a narrow circle of believers were united with his intense prayer to the Holy Spirit for making present the mystery of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Mary, out of all people, lived in the most intimate unity with the Holy Spirit. She was full of grace – kecharitomene (Lk 1:28), full of the Holy Spirit, both at the moment of the Incarnation of the Son of God and at Pentecost. And in the same Spirit she also lived this mystery of the Divine Liturgy.
The prophetic vision of the resurrection of dry bones refers to the paralyzed or spiritually dead Church which has expelled the Spirit of God. There has only remained a dead structure with heresies instead of the apostolic teachings and anti-morality instead of God’s commandments. This is the state of the present-day Catholic Church. That is why there is an urgent need in this helplessness and occupation by the spiritual Babylon to pray intensely to the Holy Spirit for the spiritual resurrection of this dead organism, of these dry bones.
The words of Institution are followed by the Anamnesis. Sometimes the priest calls to mind aloud the truths of our salvation, such as the cross, the tomb, the resurrection ... with short pauses so that he and the believers may realize these truths associated with Christ’s redemptive sacrifice. After the exclamation “Your own of Your own...”, the Epiclesis begins with the prayer: “Again we offer to You this spiritual and unbloody sacrifice, and we implore and pray, and entreat You, send down Your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts here present.”