A message from Father Nick 13

From the catacombs of St Priscilla

Before there were missals …

In 1873 a small Greek manuscript was discovered in Constantinople, contained in an 11th century “codex”, or book. It was rather like the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Didache, as it was called, or the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, was known to have existed in antiquity but had long been lost. It forms a tiny compendium of earliest Christian practice and it gives us an idea of the meal setting from which our own Eucharist emerged. In this ancient text we see a clear influence of Jewish table grace at mealtimes and a strong anticipation of the messianic banquet in God’s Kingdom to come.

St Paul reminds the Corinthians in his first letter to them that their gathering has a very special significance. The presence of Jesus suffuses everything, but for us perhaps the Eucharistic imagery is less familiar.

Below is a translation of the text from the DIDACHE:

At the Eucharist, offer the Eucharistic prayer in this way. Begin with the chalice: “We give thanks to thee, our Father, for the holy vine of thy servant David, which thou hast made known to us through thy servant, Jesus.”

‘Glory be to thee, world without end.’

Then over the broken bread: ‘We give thanks to thee, our Father, for the holy Vine of thy servant David, which thou hast made known to us through thy servant Jesus.’

            ‘Glory be to thee, world without end.’

As this broken bread, once dispersed over the hills, was brought together and became one loaf, so may thy Church be brought together from the ends of the earth into thy kingdom.’

            ‘Thine is the glory and the power, through Jesus Christ, for ever and ever.’

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When all have partaken sufficiently, give thanks in these words:

Thanks be to thee, holy Father, for thy sacred Name which thou hast caused to dwell in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality which thou hast revealed to us through thy servant Jesus,’

‘Glory be to thee for ever and ever.’

Thou, O Almighty Lord, hast created all things for thine own name’s sake: to all men thou hast given meat and drink to enjoy, that they may give thanks to thee, but to us thou hast graciously given spiritual meat and drink, together with life eternal, through thy servant. Especially and above all do we give thanks to thee for the mightiness of thy power.’       

‘Glory be to thee for ever and ever.’

‘Be mindful of thy Church, O Lord; deliver it from all evil, perfect it in thy love, sanctify it, and gather it from the four winds into thy kingdom which thou hast prepared for it.’

Thine is the power and the glory for ever and ever.’

‘Let Grace come, and this present world pass away.’

‘Hosanna to the God of David.’

‘Whosoever is holy, let him approach. Whoso is not, let him repent.’

‘Maranatha. Amen.’                                                     

(Penguin Books translation)