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Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari

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The Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari belongs to the East Syrian liturgical family (see Syriac Christianity) and is in regular use in the Assyrian Church of the East, the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and the Chaldean Catholic Church. Saint Addai (disciple of Saint Thomas the Apostle) and Saint Mari (a disciple of Saint Addai) are credited with having written it. The Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari is one of the oldest Eucharistic prayers in the Christian Church, possibly dating back to 3rd-century Edessa.[1]

The Eucharistic Liturgy has three forms: the most solemn form known as the Raza, the solemn and the simple form.

One of the special features of the Eucharist Prayer is the presence of four long prayers known as the Gehantha, which are, according to many Eucharistic scholars, the closest forms of prayer to the Jewish Prayers over the meals.

Church of the East's Practice

The anaphora of Addai and Mari has been in continuous use in the Church of the East since at least the 7th century without the words of institution.[1] The rite seems to have derived from Edessa,[1] and the outline of the current form can be traced as far back as the time of the Patriarch Mar Isho-yab III in the seventh century. It is disputed whether the words of institution had been in the original version, cut out, perhaps, by Isho'yab III.[1] In the course of the anaphora, prayers of praise known as "Ghanatha" (from the verb "ghan", bow) are said in a low voice by the celebrant. Hymns by Saint Ephrem and others are often sung during the communion. A piece of dough from the eucharistic bread is saved from week to week, not as reserve sacrament but as leaven for the next week's bread.

Current Catholic Position

In its pure form, this anaphora does not include the Words of Institution, a matter that raised ecumenical concerns, because, since the time of Peter Lombard, the prevailing theology in the West considered the Words of Institution to be essential to the validity of the sacred mystery. Nevertheless, the Holy See[2] declared on 20 July 2001 that the Anaphora of Addai and Mari can be considered valid. Three reasons were given for this judgment. First, the Anaphora of Addai and Mari dates back to the early Church. Secondly, the Church of the East has otherwise preserved the orthodox faith in regard to the Eucharist and Holy Orders. And finally, though the Words of Institution are not spoken expressly, their meaning is present: "The words of Eucharistic Institution are indeed present in the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, not in a coherent narrative way and ad litteram, but rather in a dispersed euchological way, that is, integrated in successive prayers of thanksgiving, praise and intercession".[3] The anaphora contains, for instance, the declaration: "The body of Christ and his precious blood are on the holy altar." This has been compared to the Eastern Orthodox Church declaratory formula for absolution: "The servant of God N. is absolved", in contrast to the Western "I absolve thee". A similar contrast is found in the Eastern and Western formulas for baptism.

Though this decision by the Catholic Church is arguably not irreformable, it is of undoubted ecumenical importance.

Chaldean Catholics, who also use this anaphora, have traditionally inserted the Words of Institution into it; they are now beginning to cease adding this interpolation.

Traditionalist Catholic reaction

Some Traditionalist Catholic groups have denounced this decision as heretical. They argue that it completely overthrows the sacramental theology ratified by the Council of Trent:[4] according to their understanding, of the three elements necessary for a sacrament - the matter, the form, and the intention of the priest to do what the Church does - the form, which in this case is the words of institution, "For this is my Body" recited over the bread, and "For this is the cup of my Blood" over the wine, is wanting. They reject the statement by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity that the words of the institution of the Eucharist are in fact present in a euchological and disseminated manner.

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