Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Eucharistic Prayer D: The PETA Prayer

Every now and then something gets stuck in my craw, and I just can't seem to get it down. This Easter, we started using "Eucharistic Prayer D" from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. To those unfamiliar with the history of the revolutionary changes inside the 1979 BCP, I direct you to the pages of the Prayer Book Society, or the late Peter Toon's little book, "Episcopal Innovations 1960-2004."

We usually refer to "Eucharistic Prayer C" as the "Star Trek Eucharist" because of the following line,
"At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.

By your will they were created and have their being."

Eucharistic Prayer D, on the other hand, does not have a moniker as far as I know, at least not until now! I have a couple of ideas, but first let's look at the problematic area which starts after the Sanctus {p. 374},
"Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

We acclaim you, holy Lord, glorious in power. Your mighty works reveal your wisdom and love. You formed us in your own image, giving the whole world into our care, so that, in obedience to you, our Creator, we might rule and serve all your creatures. When our disobedience took us far from you, you did not abandon us to the power of death. In your mercy you came to our help, so that in seeking you we might find you. Again and again you called us into covenant with you, and through the prophets you taught us to hope for salvation.

Father, you loved the world so much that in the fullness of time you sent your only Son to be our Savior. Incarnate by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, he lived as one of us, yet without sin. To the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation; to prisoners, freedom; to the sorrowful, joy. To fulfill your purpose he gave himself up to death; and, rising from the grave, destroyed death, and made the whole creation new.

And, that we might live no longer for ourselves, but for him who died and rose for us, he sent the Holy Spirit, his own first gift for those who believe, to complete his work in the world, and to bring to fulfillment the sanctification of all."

Did anybody catch the first sticking point? It was that bit about ruling and serving all your creatures. Yes, I know, I would have capitalized "Your" too, but serving God's creatures does tend to diminish a certain command out of Genesis 1 that was the bane of eco-pastors of the 60's.
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." (Genesis 1:27-28 KJV)

In my house it is true that I serve God's animals.

I allow them to rule my schedule, my dog food budget, and I clean up every time the cat thinks outside the box.

So far, I have two votes for the moniker "The PETA Prayer."

But don't forget that man was first given permission to "serve" animals in Genesis 9,
"And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.
And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.
Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things." (Genesis 9:1-3)

The cat had better run and hide, my Lenten fast is over.

Genesis 9 has us serving animals all right, for lunch! Maybe that's what Eucharistic Prayer D means to say, but I doubt it. I think the intent is to diminish the dominion of man, and to shield us from those words from Genesis that caused so many priests of the day so much grief back during the beginning of the environmental awareness revolution that followed the popularization of Rachel Carson's 1962 book, "Silent Spring."

I did a web search for commentary on Prayer D, but came up a little short. I did find the following from Grace Church Charleston,

"Eucharistic Prayer D (page 372) is adapted from the Liturgy of Saint Basil (d. 379) and is the most widely authorized Eucharistic prayer among Christians. It is included in the Coptic, Greek and Slavic Orthodox Churches, in the Roman Catholic Church, the United Methodist Church, and other parts of the Anglican Communion. It incorporates the theology of the other three prayers, and is suited for Maundy Thursday, and some Sundays in Eastertide. Kirtley+ 10/7/2007" (The Rev'd Dr. Kirtley Yearwood Vicar)

I could not for the life of me imagine St. Basil writing anything like this, so another web search turned up his liturgy and what he had to say about the animals, (p.27)
"...for it is you who have given us the authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy."

That is way too violent for Episcopalians to hear on a Sunday.

I have some other problems with Eucharistic Prayer D. Compare the above words from the 1979 BCP with the words of the 1928 BCP that follow the Sanctus,
"All glory be to thee, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for that thou, of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world; and did institute, and in his holy Gospel command us to continue, a perpetual memory of that his precious death and sacrifice, until his coming again:"

I think that is a pretty good summation of the theology of the Eucharist. Compare that with the last paragraph of the 1979 prayer D that I quoted above,
"And, that we might live no longer for ourselves, but for him who died and rose for us, he sent the Holy Spirit, his own first gift for those who believe, to complete his work in the world, and to bring to fulfillment the sanctification of all."

I find the "to complete his work in the world" part troublesome. I am afraid that this can lead to a diminution of the redemption we receive from Jesus, and contains a hint of "works righteousness," a hint of a mankind that has been made right (history proves otherwise) and needs only a little help from the Holy Spirit for man to establish God's Kingdom, and a hint of the progressive notion of the the continuous improvement of humanity.

Revisionists love the new Eucharistic prayers because these prayers free them from the perceived fetters of scripture and remove a lot of that old talk about sin that is supposed to turn people off. Because they are sanctioned by the church, the prayers are assumed to be theologically correct. I think the late Peter Toon+ would agree with me when I ask, "What is wrong with the old version?"
"BUT chiefly are we bound to praise thee for the
glorious Resurrection of thy Son Jesus Christ our
Lord: for he is the very Paschal Lamb, which was offered
for us, and hath taken away the sin of the world;
who by his death hath destroyed death, and by his rising
to life again hath restored to us everlasting life."
(Upon Easter Day, and seven days after. BCP 1928)


  1. Eucharistic Prayer D is based upon a number of Eastern Orthodox Eucharistic Prayers.

    As far as man's dominion over the earth, we have to take into consideration the whole counsel of God and not just a few passages from Scripture. This means that we must put this "dominion" into perspective. One thing that the Bible clearly tells us is that God has sovranty over man and any dominion that we may exercise over God's creatures is subject to God's dominion over us. Our dominion is rather limited in authority. We are not lords of the earth. God is its sovran Lord. The earth is his and all therein. We do not have absolute ownership of the earth. God does. So we need to take care that we do not let this idea of God-given dominion go to our heads.

    Genesis 2:15 tells us, "Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it." This was God's original purpose for humankind--not to swagger around as lords of the earth but to serve as humble care-takers of God's property--gardners.

    A steward is "one employed in a large household or estate to manage domestic concerns (as the supervision of servants, collection of rents, and keeping of accounts." It is derived from the Old English stiweard, from sti, or stig, hall, sty + weard, keeper. A steward might keep his master's hall. He might just be in charge of his master's pig sty! Old English is so humbling. A care-taker is "one that takes care of the house or land of an owner who may be absent." In other words, a steward.

    How did the serpent tempt Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden? Remember Adam was sitting next to Eve when the serpent tempted her and he overheard the whole conversation. Sorry Adam, you cannot put the blame on Eve. Even God didn't buy it!

    Why the serpent told Eve, "For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:5 NKJV). Not humble pig sty keepers but like God himself!

    Did you know the serpent still tempts us the same way to this day? "After all, God gave you dominion over the earth. You are the lords of creation. You are gods!"

    While God kicked Adam and Eve out of the garden of Eden, their ejection did not release them from fulfilling God's original purpose for man, tending and caring for what God has entrusted to him.

    Genesis 2:18-20 suggests animals were originally created to be man's helper:

    "And the LORD God said, 'It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.' Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him."

    Exodus 23:5 sets ou the principle that we should show kindness to the animals of even our enemies:

    "If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it."

    In the Gospels we read how Jesus reminded the Pharisees that even they taught that it was ok to rescue an animal that fell into a well on the Sabbath. This was a reference to Proverbs 12:10:

    "A righteous man regards the life of his animal, But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel."

    Cont'd below.

  2. The New Testament tells us that all creation will be redeemed, not just man (Romans 8:18-25). The prophet Isaiah looked forward to a day of the "peacable kingdom":

    "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

    And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

    And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den.

    They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea." (Isaiah 11:6-9 KJV)

    Revelation 22:1-5 hints there may be no pork chops in the New Jerusalem:

    "And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever."

    Back to man's original diet:

    "And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil... And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, 'Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.'" (Genesis 2:9,16-17 NKJV)

    So enjoy your pork chops while you can.

  3. Kelso6:30 PM

    ***Proud to have jumped ship 31 years ago when the 1979 BCP was adopted. Only good poetry for me!"

  4. I think that you are over-reacting to the EPD. Both the quoted portions are from the Roman sacramentary, not Basil's liturgy. Also, are not we God's creatures, and are we not called to serve one another? EPD may not be everyone's favorite, but it is, as Hatchett points out in the Prayer Book Commentary, the most universally prayed liturgy in Anglicania.

  5. Anonymous5:01 PM

    When I attended an Episcopal church many years ago, our congregation -- clergy and laity -- called this the Star Wars Prayer. Only the most left-wing of our local sister churches used it.

    Our church never used it, not once. We were theological centrists, but we had respect for traditional, biblically-based liturgy.

    Thanks, Pewster, for your reflections -- another excellent post!

    From across the pond

  6. TLDR readers' digest version of Robin's above: "these thy gifts and creatures of bread and whine."