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The integrity of the anaphora of Sarapion of Thmuis and liturgical methodology.

Following the publication of the prayers attributed to Sarapion of Thmuis in the eleventh-century manuscript (MS Lavra 149) by A. Dimitrievskij in 1894, and Georg Wobbermin in 1898, short and extended essays have periodically appeared questioning the original sequence of those prayers, their authorship and orthodoxy, and the integrity of the anaphora.(1) The publication of an article by Geoffrey Cuming in 1980 seems to have been something of a watershed, at least in terms of the sequence of the prayers and authorship.(2) Cuming argued that no great rearrangement was needed. The sequence of prayers is easily explained if the manuscript from which they were copied in the eleventh century contained two sides; the copyist took the title of the anaphora as a general title of the whole document, and so began copying from there. Cuming also showed how the arguments of Bernard Botte that the compiler was an Arian or Pneumatomachian are not convincing; indeed, on Botte's evidence, Athanasius himself could be convicted of similar errors!(3) It was premature, therefore, to speak of Tseudo-Sarapion'. Cuming's seminal article was only indirectly concerned with the anaphora. Apart from vindicating the orthodoxy of the compiler, noting the similarities to the Deir Balyzeh fragment which confirmed its conformity to the regional tradition, and the integrity of the Logos epiklesis, he did not deal with this particular prayer in detail. Since the publication of Cuming's article, however, renewed discussion of the integrity or otherwise of the anaphora has been pursued in studies by Enrico Mazza and Maxwell Johnson.(4)

Mazza was unaware of Cuming's study when his article was originally published, and chose not to refer to it in his revision of that article for his book. Although Mazza accepts the arguments advanced by p. Rodopoulos that the anaphora contains deliberate anti-Arian concepts, he nevertheless accepts Botte's contention that the author was a Pneumatomachian, and thus refers to the compiler as Tseudo-Sarapion'.(5) Mazza begins his discussion of the anaphora with the institution narrative, noting its use of `likeness' (homoioma) and a petition for the Church from Didache 9.4 which follows the words relating to the bread. He notes that the Deir Balyzeh papyrus also uses the Didache (9.2-4) but immediately prior to the institution narrative, as does an Ethiopian anaphora in its anamnesis. Entirely ignoring the late date of the Ethiopian anaphora, Mazza discusses the possible relationship implied, and concludes that it is best explained by a common use of another source.(6) Drawing on previous arguments earlier in his book, he sees a clear link between Sarapion, Deir Balyzeh, Apostolic Constitutions 7.25.3 and the Didache itself. Believing that Apostolic Constitutions 7.25 witnesses to a stage when the Eucharist consisted of separate blessings over the bread and wine, Mazza sees in Sarapion a link with an earlier eucharistic practice. Sarapion and Deir Balyzeh `draw from the same source but in an earlier stage of existence, that is, when the petition for the unity of the Church was still tied to the sacramental rite of the bread and this was still separated from the rite of the cup." Behind this section of Sarapion is some ancient `paleoanaphoric structure' of the eucharistic celebration.

Mazza next turns to the Logos epiklesis and intercessions. The position of the intercessions seems to be borrowed from the Syro-Byzantine anaphoral shape, but their context is that of the Alexandrine tradition. The epiklesis of the Logos is explained by following Botte, and regarding it as a mark of a PneuMatomachian. However, it is not a substitution for a tradition in which the Spirit was invoked, but an extension of that bipartite paleoanaphoric tradition akin to Apostolic Constitutions 7.25 which also suggested the institution narrative with Didache 9.4.(8)

Mazza then returns to the thanksgiving at the commencement of the anaphora. He suggests that the author was guided by his own precise doctrinal design. The Alexandrine tradition is concerned at this point with the creation by the Father in the only-begotten Son. Sarapion is concerned at this point with messianic gifts and manifestations, and the knowledge of God. But the two themes are woven together by Sarapion; the messianic goods are the direct fruit of the relationship between the uncreated Father and the only-begotten Son.(9)

Mazza does not discuss the sanctus-epiklesis unit since he has already done so in the previous chapter in relation to Strasbourg Papyrus Gr.254. Accepting that this latter is a complete anaphora, even though it has no sanctus, he argues that the first strophe was based upon the yoser Synagogue berakah. However, this yoser was the hypothetical reconstruction of Aptowitzer in an article of 1929. This yoser had a qedussah followed, not by Ezek. 3: 12, but by Ps. 72: 19, `Blessed be the Name of his glory for ever, and the entire world be full of his glory'. From this hypothetical yoser came the sanctus-epiklesis unit in the Egyptian anaphoral tradition, and it perhaps also stands behind the Catechetical Homilies of Theodore of Mopsuestia and the Mystagogical Catecheses of Cyril of Jerusalem." It is to be inferred that here Sarapion has used the established Egyptian usage.(11)

Maxwell Johnson examines the anaphora of Sarapion as the last main chapter of a study of the whole prayer collection which was based on the suggestion made by Geoffrey Cuming and others that the prayers are not all from the same hand, and can be grouped together in a number of strata, some on chronological grounds, and others on literary grounds. In order to avoid interpreting the other prayers in the light of the anaphora, Johnson chose to treat the anaphora last.

Johnson states his intention as being to show that Sarapion's anaphora represents preservation rather than `innovation', and that nothing within the anaphora suggests that it ought to be dated later than the middle of the fourth century.

In the opening thanksgiving of the anaphora he finds that the descriptions of the Father and the Son, taken with the alpha-privatives, yield a pattern AB-BA-BA. He detects some inconsistencies, and removes some of the alpha-privatives on the grounds that they are Sarapion's anti-Arian interpolations. Their removal then gives a chiastic: pattern A-B-A which Johnson judges to be more original.(12) The slight similarity with the Syro-Byzantine opening praise may be influence, or could be use of the common Formelgut.(13) However, after establishing that the use of the aorist for the offering terminology is an Egyptian hall-mark, and that homoioma is used with apparently two different but not inconsistent senses, Johnson reminds us that in the history of the development of the anaphora, certain items such as the institution narrative and sanctus are later features, and he is intrigued by the sense of the remaining material if such items are removed from the text. He suggests that we have seams indicating expansion from an earlier shape.(14)

Turning to the sanctus-epiklesis unit, Johnson is impressed by Kretschmar's and Taft's arguments that the exegesis of Isa. 6:3 which Origen learned from his Hebrew teacher has influenced the introduction and context of the Egyptian anaphoral sanctus.(15) For Johnson, the petition `May the Lord Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit speak in us and hymn you through us', together with the singular `Face' from Is. 6: 3 is sufficient to indicate that here is intended that the Son and Spirit are the two seraphim.(16)

Turning to the institution narrative with Didache 9.4, after considering previous commentators, Johnson confesses to being persuaded by the suggestion of Louis Bouyer, and developed by Enrico Mazza, namely that the whole of this section is based on some lost paleoanaphoric source:

In my opinion, therefore, the unit of bread words/Didache 9.4/cup words provides the structural remains of an earlier tradition of eucharistic celebration still reflected in Sarapion's prayer and so demonstrates one of the ways in which the institution narrative developed in eucharistic euchology.(17)

It is that same hypothesis that Mazza also used to explain the Logos epiklesis. It is somewhat inconsistent, therefore, that when commenting on that epiklesis Johnson can say of the very same hypothesis:

Given the lack of such a `source', however, this part of his argument should be dismissed as pure conjecture.(18) It is not at all clear by what logic and rules of scholarship Johnson can accept Mazza's hypothetical source at one point, and precisely because it is hypothetical, reject it at another.

Johnson argues that homoioma and prosenegkamen perform the same function in this anaphora as an anamnesis, and both words have ancient precedent. Following Cuming and Taft, Johnson argues for the integrity of the Logos epiklesis.(19) The intercessions have parallels with the language of Strasbourg Papyrus. Observing that we do not know enough about Egyptian Christianity to judge just how representative or typical this anaphora was, Johnson nevertheless cannot resist the temptation to offer a reconstruction of its `earlier form'.

Both these studies of the anaphora of Sarapion raise fundamental questions, not only about the integrity of the prayer as it stands in the manuscript, but also about liturgical methodology; both give cause for some unease.

In the opening praise section of the anaphora, Mazza seems to accept the integrity of this part of the anaphora, and credits the author (who for him is `Pseudo-Sarapion') with theological awareness and creativity. Johnson approaches the text with a hermeneutic of suspicion and the obsession of many liturgists that an earlier form must underlie the text. Having found a theological pattern AB-BA-BA, he insists on finding an earlier chiastic pattern A-B-A. However, he offers no evidence or argument as to why a chiastic pattern should be earlier than the present pattern. There is no liturgical law which says so, and ultimately this is nothing other than an aesthetic or literary prejudice. If we can confidently speak of Sarapion as author, there is no law or rule which precludes an anti-Arian praise section being authored as it now stands.

The sanctus-epiklesis unit in the Egyptian tradition continues to be an enigma, especially if the Strasbourg Papyrus is a complete anaphora. If it is, the sanctus is a late comer to the Egyptian anaphora. However, both Mazza and Johnson resort to speculation to explain its origin and meaning.

Mazza resorts to a hypothetical yoser with a totally speculative conclusion to explain its presence and form. To explain something that we have (the anaphoral text) by something we do not have (a hypothetical yoser) is not a particularly sound method. Furthermore, recent studies in Jewish liturgy give no support for Aptowitzer's hypothesis.(20) One hypothesis built on another hypothesis is not a solid foundation.

With Johnson we have once again the spectre of Origen's Hebrew teacher. Admittedly a defence for this has been made by Taft. More recently Rowan Williams has argued that parts of the Thalia could be understood to show that Arius took for granted the identification of Son and Spirit with the seraphim, and he too has urged that Sarapion's anaphora makes this identification.(21) As suggestive and plausible as that may seem, it remains a conjecture, and requires this exegesis to be read into the anaphoral text. Neither the anaphora of Sarapion, nor any other extant Egyptian anaphora explicitly makes the identification of the Son and Spirit with the seraphim. It seems glaringly inconsistent for Johnson to credit the author with having added anti-Arian language in the opening praise, but at the same time with apparently promoting or condoning subordination (and potential Arian ammunition) in his identification of the Son and Spirit with the seraphim. The petition `May the Lord Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit speak in us and hymn you through us' can be interpreted more naturally as simply reflecting the indwelling of the Son and Spirit found in passages such as John 14: 14, 23; 15: 4; 17: 23, Rom. 8:11, Gal. 7: 10, Eph. 5: 119, Col. 3: 16 and Rev. 8: 10-11. It reflects not Origen's Hebrew teacher, but Origen's remark in his In Lucam Hom.XXIII, `Duplex hic adest ecclesia, una hominum, altera angelorum'. We cannot join the heavenly worship unless Christ and the Holy Spirit make their dwelling in us. Johnson emphasized that his study was only a literary, liturgical and theological study, and was not concerned with questions `beyond the text'. This may prove to have been a mistake. The author of one of the Gregory Dix Award essays did look beyond the text, comparing the concerns of the prayers which are in the same stratum as the anaphora, with the theological and pastoral concerns of the Desert Fathers. Noting similar sentiments in other prayers in the collection she wrote:

The understanding is that the angels worship God, as portrayed by the Trishagion, and that this becomes possible for Christians, made spiritual in baptism. This is salvation for it places Christians in God's presence and may explain the frequent requests to be made `living' and the use of `life' and `living' in the collection; eternal life is worshipping God in his presence as do the angels.

This `angelic' worship is understood by these monks as particularly important. A story is told of a revelation to Anthony that he is equalled in virtue by a doctor who `every day sings the Trishagion with the angels', illustrating also that this state is accessible to lay people. Is it perhaps too fanciful to suggest that it was this understanding of Isa. 6: 3 which caused the sanctus to be used in Egypt?(22)

This is far less fanciful, one might reasonably conclude, than a hypothetical yoser or the continued hauntings of Origen's Hebrew teacher.

The explanation offered by Mazza to explain the institution narrative and the use of Didache 9.4 is endorsed by Johnson. The use of Didache 9.4 seems to have sparked a concern to posit some earlier paleoanaphoric text or usage. For Mazza this relates to earlier parts of this book where he seeks to trace a lineal descent from 1 Cor. 10: 16-17, Didache 9, and Apostolic Constitutions 7.25. He then adds Deir Balyzeh and Sarapion to the line, with a common but no longer extant text, a sort of `liturgical Q' being the missing link. Yet this seems needlessly complex.

Sarapion has maintained or reflects the Alexandrine pattern of the anaphora where after initial praise the anaphora quickly switches to intercession. In Sarapion this commences with the petition `We pray, make us living men'. Everything thereafter, including the sanctus and institution narrative, is in an intercessory context--thus the petition for the Lord Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit to hymn God through the worshippers prior to the sanctus, and the epiklesis following the sanctus. The institution narrative too is intercessory. Given that in Egypt right up to the time of Didymus the Blind the Didache was regarded as canonical Scripture, there is no reason why a Bishop or any other Egyptian composer of an anaphora should not have made appropriate use of the prayers found in his canonical Scripture. In one sense allusion to, but not word for word quotation of, Didache 9.4 is no more remarkable than allusion to, but not word for word quotation of, the institution narrative itself. The actual use of the petition for the Church after the bread-saying may simply reflect creative application of this `scriptural material' to the ecclesiologicaleucharistic link found in John 117 and I Cor. 10: 16-17. There is no reason why the use of the Didache must automatically be related to its one time use as a living liturgical rite. A fourth-century compiler of an anaphora probably knew his Scripture rather better than his ancient liturgical texts. Deir Balyzeh, where the use of Didache 9 is a little greater, but all before the institution narrative as part of the first epiklesis, would suggest an Egyptian tradition of such a usage. Such an explanation has the advantage of allowing us to dispense with the `liturgical Q'.

As regards the Logos epiklesis, here Johnson is on firm ground, and Mazza seems to have been led astray by Botte. If Logos and Spirit were interchangeable for Athanasius, then what was good enough for Athanasius must be good enough for Sarapion.

Given that the mid-fourth century saw the emergence of the classical anaphoras, then the anaphora of Sarapion is rightly interpreted as belonging to that emergence. However, attempts to find earlier forms too frequently betray unfounded assumptions of what an earlier anaphora may or may not have looked like. Our evidence is too sparse for such conjectures. Where two anaphoras show an obvious common link, such as the versions of St. Basil, or St. John Chrysostom with Twelve Apostles, or Addai and Mari with Maronite Sharar, then there is a certain objective control factor. With Sarapion, though, we have no such parallel to yield a similar control, and to reconstruct some earlier pattern based on assumptions about Strasbourg Papyrus, is an exceedingly subjective exercise. One such assumption is that Strasbourg is typical of all anaphoras of that era in Egypt, which is pure conjecture. Thus Johnson's reconstruction robs a fourth-century Bishop of his integrity in terms of his ability to author an anaphora himself rather than just to tinker with something he inherited.(23) What we do know is that in comparison with the Alexandrine tradition as represented by St Mark and the related fragments, Sarapion has followed the Egyptian tradition of a short section of praise followed by a lengthier intercessory section. He has also followed that tradition in using a sanctus-epiklesis unit, and a second epiklesis which, given that Logos and Spirit are interchangeable in the thought of Athanasius, also reflects that tradition. He has apparently been conscious of the need to reflect an anti-Arian theology in the opening praise. He also seems to have used themes which were important to the Desert Fathers. His section of opening praise echoes the oratio theologica of some Syro-Byzantine anaphoras, as does his use of Col. 1:16 and his position of intercessions after the second epiklesis. Since Syro-Byzantine anaphoras--St. Basil and St. Gregory--were used in Egypt, he may have been familiar with their pattern and amalgamated the two. But we may also have to entertain the idea that Sarapion represents not a hybrid form at all, but another quite genuine indigenous anaphoral pattern. What is more, if this can with confidence be attributed to Sarapion, then it must date between c-339-60. As such it becomes one of our earliest datable anaphoras, and far from being open to hypothetical reconstruction or explained by derivation from hypothetical lost sources, becomes an important text from which other later anaphoras may be assessed. For example, we can deduce that the sanctus-epiklesis unit was established by this time in the Egyptian tradition, and that perhaps the non-use of the Didache in the Alexandrine anaphora might suggest a time or place when it was no longer accepted as canonical Scripture. Of course, given the paucity of evidence, much liturgical study of this period must take the form of hypothesis, and Paul Bradshaw has reminded us that many ancient liturgical texts tell us more by what they deny than what they promote.(24) But a hermeneutic of suspicion needs to be applied as much to the a priori assumptions of the liturgical scholar as to the liturgical text. The integrity of the text of the anaphora of Sarapion is considerably greater than the methodologies of Mazza and Johnson allow.

(1) A. Dmitrievskij, Ein Euchologium aus dem 4. Jahrhundert, verfasst von Sarapion, Bischoff von Thmuis (Kiev, 1894); G. Wobbermin, Altchristliche liturgische Stucke aus der Kirche Aegyptens nebst einem dogmatischen Brief des Bischofs Serapion von Thmuis (Leipzig and Berlin, 1898).

(2) G. J. Cuming, `Thmuis Revisited: Another Look at the Prayers of Bishop Sarapion', Theological Studies, 41 (1980), 568-75.

(3) B. Botte, `L'Eucologe de Serapion est-il authentique?', Oriens Christianus 48 (1964), 50-56.

(4) E. Mazza, The Origins of the Eucharistic Prayer (Collegeville, 1995), ch. 6. The chapter was originally published as `L'anafora di Serapione: una ipostesi de interpretazione', Ephemerides Liturgicae 95 (1981), 510-28. Maxwell Johnson, The Prayers of Sarapion of Thmuis, OCA 249 (Rome, 1995).

(5) P. Rodopoulas, an M. Litt. Thesis for Oxford University, published in a series in Theologia 28 (1957) pp. 252-75, 420-39, 578-91; 29 (1958) pp. 45-54, 208-17.

(6) He does suggest that the Ethiopian anaphora may have used Deir Balyzeh. The Origins, P. 223.

(7) Ibid., p. 224.

(8) Ibid., pp. 231-32.

(9) Ibid., p. 234.

(10) Ibid., pp. 194-218

(11) Ibid., pp. 194-218. V. Aptowitzer, `La Kedouscha', Revue des etudes juives 87 (1929), 23-34.

(12) Johnson, op. cit., p. 201.

(13) Ibid., pp. 216-17.

(14) Ibid., p. 205.

(15) G. Kretschmar, Studien zum fruhchristlichen Trinitatstheologie (Tubingen 1956); R. F. Taft, `The Interpolation of the Sanctus into the Anaphora: When and Where? A Review of the Dossier', Part I, Orientalia Christiana Periodica 57 (1991), pp. 281-308; Part II, 58 (1992), pp. 83-121. For another view, Bryan D. Spinks, The Sanctus in the Eucharistic Prayer, (Cambridge, 1991).

(16) Johnson, op. Cit., pp. 210 ff.

(17) Ibid., p. 226.

(18) Ibid., p. 236.

(19) Cuming, art.cit; R. F. Taft, `From Logos to Spirit: On the early History of the Epiclesis', in Andreas Heinz and Heinrich Rennings (eds.), Gratias Agamus. Studien zum eucharistischen Hochgebet. Far Balthasar Fischer (Freiburg, 1992), pp. 489-502.

(20) Stefan Reif, Judaism and Hebrew Prayer (Cambridge, 1993) cautions against any certainty about Jewish liturgy before the first century of the common era. For what can be said about yoser, see Spinks, op. cit.

(21) Rowan Williams, `Angels unawares: Heavenly Liturgy and Earthly Theology in Alexandria' Studia Patristica xxx (Leuven, 1997) pp. 350-63.

(22) E. Maxine West `The Sacramentary of Serapion: Worthless Heresy or Precious Resource?' 1995. Typescript p. 25.

(23) The reductio ad absurdum of such an exercise is surely illustrated by the fact that a similar exercise could be performed on a modern anaphora, removing sanctus, institution narrative, and epiklesis to reveal the `original core' which a committee has expanded!

(24) Paul F. Bradshaw, The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship (London, 1992), pp. 56-79.
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Author:Spinks, Bryan D.
Publication:The Journal of Theological Studies
Date:Apr 1, 1998
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