The invoking of the name of God upon a person or thing. Although in the baptismal liturgy the Holy Trinity is invoked upon the baptized person, and in the rites of confirmation and ordination the invocation is of the Holy Spirit, this article is limited to the liturgy of the Holy Eucharist. In the liturgy, the priest petitions the Father to send in the first epiclesis the Logos and in the second epiclesis the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine to make them the Body and Blood of Christ. However, in the Coptic liturgies it is also extended to invoke the Holy Spirit upon the people and to sanctify them through the Holy Eucharist.
Whether the full consecration is accomplished through the epiclesis of the Word or the Holy Spirit or the words of institution is a point of controversy between the Oriental Orthodox and the Roman Catholic churches. The Coptic Orthodox church, being of the Oriental Orthodox family, believes that the eucharistic liturgy is one inseparable unity and that the full consecration is a process that requires all the elements of the Divine Liturgy: the ANAMNESIS, the words of consecration, and the epiclesis. The Roman Catholic church believes the words of institution are the only requirement despite the fact that reference to the epiclesis of the Holy Spirit, or rather the Logos, has been traced in its early canons of the mass. However, some prayers included there are interpreted as being forms of epiclesis.
According to the Coptic Liturgy of Saint Serapion (d. after 360), which is not in recent use, the epiclesis takes place before the words of institution, though with the invocation of the Logos (the holy word), probably to present the divine nature of the Lord Jesus Christ at the time of the Arian heresy.
The three usual Coptic divine liturgies—Saint Basil, Saint Gregory, and Saint Mark—contain explicitly a double epiclesis before and after the words of institution. The first epiclesis is inaudibly prayed by the priest and is petitioned to the Holy Logos, being the spotless Lamb, as a request for His presence on the altar and is in concurrence with the Old Testament paschal figure:
O Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, the Co-Partner, the Logos of the undefiled Father, the Consubstantial with the Holy Spirit; Thou art the life-giving bread that came down from heaven; Thou hast made of Thyself a spotless lamb for the life of the world. We beseech and implore Thy goodness, Thou lover of mankind [pointing with his finger to the bread], to reveal Thy divine visage unto this bread [and pointing to the chalice] and this chalice; [and pointing to the Altar he says] both of them are placed on the priestly table which is Thine. [He then crosses the bread and wine thrice, saying] Bless them, sanctify them, purify, and transform them. [He then points to the bread in particular saying] So that this bread will be Thine Holy Body; [and to the wine saying] and the mixture in this chalice will be Thine Honorable Blood. [He then continues saying] May they be for us all a source of exaltation, a balsam, a redemption for our souls, our bodies and our spirits too. . . .
The second epiclesis comes right after the words of institution, when the officiating priest petitions for the invocation of the Holy Spirit not only on the bread and wine but also on the congregation:
We beg Thee, O Lord, our God, we are Thy sinful and unworthy servants, to permit us through the pleasure of Thy Goodness to worship Thee; And that Thine Holy Spirit may descend upon us and upon these oblations; purify, transform, and manifest them in sanctity unto Thine holy people. [The priest then crosses the holy bread thrice saying] and this bread is made into His Holy Body. [Then bowing with stretched arms he says] Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, this is given for the remission of sins; whoever partakes of it is granted eternal life. [He does the same with the chalice and says] And this chalice too hath His Honored Blood of the new covenant that is His. [Then he says while kneeling] Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, this is given for the remission of sins; whoever partakes of it is granted eternal life.
According to the Coptic Divine Liturgies this does not mean that the mystery is at this time also made complete After the prayer of the fraction, which follows, the priest offers the inaudible prayer that explicitly indicates the completion of the mystery.
- Atchley, E. C. On the Epiclesis of the Eucharistic Liturgy and on the Consecration of the Font. Oxford, 1935.
- Deiss, L. Springtime of the Liturgy: Liturgical Texts of the First Four Centuries, trans. Matthew J. O’Connell. Collegeville, Minn., 1979.
- Jasper, R. C. D., and G. J. Cuming. Prayers of the Eucharist, Early and Reformed. New York, 1980.
- Lee, R. D. Epiclesis and Ecumenical Dialogue. Diakonia 9. Bronx, N.Y., 1974.