NR. 2 – 2015

Rezumate Studii Teologice 2015.2

Pr. Pavel ROTARU Experiența comuniunii cu Dumnezeu în Rm 8, 1-17 (I)

Sebastian NAZÂRU Constantinopol, 786 – un sinod ecumenic care nu a avut loc

Summary: Constantinople, 786: An Ecumenical Synod That Never Took Place

On 14 September 775, emperor Constantine V (741-775), the fiercest iconoclast monarch, died and was succeeded by his son Leon IV (775-780). For nearly half a century, iconoclasm had been the „new Orthodoxy”, and the imperial heresy had even been sanctioned by the Church in 754. Over the last two decades in the long reign of Constantine V, destruction of icons had escalated and a bloody persecution had started against the iconophiles. Monks were mainly targeted by this repression, so that some researchers see these wild persecutions as a true anti-monastic campaign. Also, many monastic communities which opposed iconoclasm were dissolved, and some monasteries in the capital city were confiscated, destroyed or closed down. Persecutions were neither systematic, nor continuous, nor did they have constant force. The doctrinal unity of the Empire seemed to have been ensured by quenching any opposition to the imperal religious policy. However, this unity was only apparent. Leon IV ascended to the throne in September 775, as a mild iconoclast who lacked his father’s iconophobic fervor and brutality. The excesses of Constantine V were forsaken and persecutions came to an end; many iconophiles returned from exile and some of them were even promoted and appointed as bishops. However, the ban on the holy icons was maintained and the emperor imposed an iconoclast vow to the new patriarch, the Cyprus-born Paul IV (20 February 780 – 31 August 784). On 8 September 780, Leon IV died suddenly and was buried in the Holy Apostles Church, at the side of his father Constantine V. Since Constantine, the heir to the throne, was underage the power was wielded for a decade (780-790) by the dowager empress Irene, the widow of Leon IV. Born in Athens around 752, to the Sarandapechys (Sarantapechos) family of the local aristocracy, Irene disapproved of the religious policy pursued by the dynasty descending from Leon III.

Very cautiously and patiently, empress Irene prepared the ground to re-instate Orthodoxy, the major goal of her reign. A radical, immediate change in the official policy would have been very dangerous as the Empire was challenged both in the East and in the Balkans, which prompted the empress to act carefully and avoid rashness. The fact that between 780 and 784 she maintained a patriarch who had taken an iconoclast vow, certainly illustrates this cautious strategy adopted by the empress regent. Some historians tend to consider that the iconophile „propaganda” forged the image of the empress as a devout, steadfast iconophile, holding iconodule beliefs since young age; they suggest that her main motivation in restoring the veneration of icons could have laid primarily in her political and social agenda. Some researchers even claim that the empress dowager, aware of the iconodule convictions of an important part of the Byzantine society, found that restoring Orthodoxy could be the „revolution” she needed in order to secure her position which had been so precarious previously. However, it is most likely that until 780, the basilissa had to disismulate her convictions because her father-in-law (until 775) and her husband would not have tolerated any departure from the official iconoclast policy; but once she seized the power, her prompt involvement in this risky endeavor, and her determination in pursuing it, are arguments in favor of her true allegiance to iconodulism.

Re-instating Orthodoxy was fraught with danger: the empress had to face the opposition of a state apparatus which was very reluctant to rally around a project that threatened the stability of the empire; of an army that had proved steadfastly loyal to her iconoclast predecessors; and of a Church hierarchy that had accepted iconoclasm as an „orthodox” doctrinal tenet. Shepherded by heretical hierarchs, the Byzantine Church obeyed the emperor’s will in 754, when in the Council of Hieria, the bishops yielded to imperial pressure and condemned the veneration and making of icons as blasphemy, idolatry and heresy. Of course, Byzantine episcopate did not exclusively include fervent iconoclasts, and we may assume that apart from a minority that sincerely endorsed iconoclasm, most hierarchs had reluctantly accepted the new religious policy. In the half century between the official proclamation of iconoclasm (January 730) and the death of Leon IV (780), the state apparatus had been drastically „reorganized”, and the iconophiles had been removed from administration. The Byzantine monarchs had introduced, among the high-ranking bureaucrats and the military officers, iconoclasts who were loyal supporters of the dynasty and its religious policy. There were a few zealot iconoclasts, but most likely many of these generals and high officials were simply paying lip service to iconoclasm. We may also safely assert that some of the high-ranking bureaucrats opposed the re-instatement of icons’ veneration for political reasons, fearing that rekindling a controversy seen as already settled, could have generated tensions able to cause uprisings and even a civil war. Consequently, it would have been risky to undertake a sudden and radical change in the Empire’s religious policy under these circumstances, where the state apparatus, the army and the episcopate were infiltrated with supporters of iconoclasm. However, a „silent” majority of the Byzantine society was against the iconoclast policy. The fact that the regent empress was able to steer ecclesiastical policy away from it so rapidly, and that there was only one attempt to prevent the re-instatement of Orthodoxy, are compelling arguments in support of this view.

In the following years, the regent shrewdly had iconophile bishops elected to fill the vacant sees, and most likely she forced several notorious iconoclast hierarchs to retire, thus undermining the influence of the iconophobic part of the episcopate. For instance, during the period preceding the Seventh Ecumenical Council, Ephtimios – one of the martyrs of second iconoclasm, was appointed as metropolitan of Sardes. Thus the regent succeeded in creating an iconophile party within the official Church which had adhered to iconoclasm. There is evidence that before 787, the regent empress encouraged the iconophile clergy to preach in favor of the re-instatement of the veneration of icons. For instance, the anonymous author of the Life of St John of Gothia states that the regent granted a safe-conduct to this hierarch, which allowed him to visit the «first among the cities», where he «openly talked to all about accepting the holy icons in the holy catholic Church». It seems that the army and administration were purged after a failed coup (October 780). Naturally, the basilissa strove to introduce loyal men, and even members of her family, into the state apparatus and at the same time to remove the high officials and the generals appointed by her predecessors – some of them notorious iconoclasts. On 31 August 784, patriarch Paul IV, who was very ill, withdrew at the monastery ton Phlorou, and became a schemamonk there. The dying patriarch repented for taking the thronos of a Church «schismatic and anathematized by the other holy sees». In articulo mortis, the patriarch understood that the iconoclast emperors had brought the Patriarchate of Constantinople to the state of a «schismatic Church», causing it to be anathematized by the other Patriarchal Sees. As he felt accountable for this situation, he regretted accepting the throne and intended to do penance for the rest of his life. The patriarch also warned that the schism could only be healed by convening an Ecumenical Council which would restore Church unity by condemning iconoclasm.

To fill the vacant see, the regent had Tarasios elected as patriarch (25 December 784 – †25 February 806); he had been head of the imperial chancellery (πρωτοασήκρητις) between 775 and 784. The empress even succeeded in convincing the former patriarch Paul to endorse the election of the imperial chief secretary. Her choice had been probably determined mainly by her certainty that the former official would remain a loyal collaborator and by her trust that he possessed all the qualities enabling a shepherd to restore peace in the Church, with discernment and moderation. A „zealot” patriarch would have proceeded to purge the bishops’ ranks, making the situation even tenser and most likely causing a schism within the Byzantine Church. Thus he empress looked for a skilled and distinguished diplomat, and found him in Tarasios, who as a patriarch had a cautious, sagacious conduct, which in the realm of canon law prompted him to endorse the principle of economy (οἰκονομία). Obviously, some of the clergy criticized this choice, and saw the new patriarch as an intruder from outside the Church, a servant of the Palace rather than the Church, an upstart acting as the empress’ puppet. Probably in agreement with her, Tarasios accepted the patriarchal throne only on condition that an Ecumenical Council would be summoned to condemn iconoclasm: if New Rome’s sovereigns convened an Ecumenical Council to restore Church unity, thus ending dissent and schism, then Tarasios could overcome his reluctance and accept this position, despite his unworthiness and his lay condition. Eventually, on 25 December 784, Tarasios was enthroned as patriarch of Constantinople, after he had hastily been ordained and climbed through the Church ranks. The new patriarch did not fail the empress and was her loyal collaborator in re-instating Orthodoxy. During the early years of his tenure, although the content of very few documents he issued is known today, clearly Tarasios strove to strengthen the iconophile group of bishops, as the episcopate probably still had an iconoclast majority.

After thorough preparations and having secured the approval of this envisaged Ecumenical Council from the part of the bishop of Rome and of the other patriarchs in the East, the sovereigns Irene and Constantine invited the Byzantine bishops to the council. In July 786, two pontifical legates, two representatives of the Eastern Patriarchates, and the Byzantine bishops arrived at Constantinople to take part in the council. Thus the empress ensured the presence of the Patriarchates of the Pentarchy, a prerequisite for the Council’s ecumenicity to be acknowledged. The opening of the council was probably delayed for a few days, as the sovereigns were making an incursion into Thracia, but their absence from the capital city offered the iconoclast bishops the opportunity to organize themselves. According to an anonymous account of the events in the summer of 786, «most of the bishops» invited to the council, in their «wretched complacency with the heresy of Christians’ accusers», were conspiring with «many laypeople» – most likely high officials – in order to hinder the council and prevent any change in the Empire’s religious policy. They had concocted «numerous plots» and whispered against the patriarch in «wicked assemblies». Learning of these meetings, Tarasios warned the hierarchs that by assembling in Constantinople without the approval of the local bishop, they were liable to be defrocked. The warning succeeded temporarily in stopping the plotting of iconoclast bishops who were intimidated and behaved much more cautiously during the following days.

On the day before the council’s opening (31 July 786?), in the afternoon or the evening, the Imperial Guard soldiers, «boiling with fury and breathing madness», entered the atrium of the Holy Apostles Church and shouted in unison that they would not let the council unfold. The patriarch informed the sovereigns about the day’s turmoil, but they were adamant in their decision to open the Council the next day. The regent believed she could manage the situation and that the threat was not so severe as to delay the council, but she had underestimated the reaction of the iconoclast party. On 1 August 786, «the calendae of August», the Council’s opening session held in the Holy Apostles Church in the capital city was interrupted: «a great crowd of soldiers» surrounded the church. They were instigated by their officers and by some of the iconoclast bishops, causing a stir in front of the church doors. According to the chronicle of Theophanes the Confessor and to the Life of Saint Tarasios, the threat against Council participants was very real; Theophanes writes that the imperial guard regiments entered the sanctuary with drawn swords, ready to kill both «the archbishop and the Orthodox bishops and elders». According to Ignatios the Deacon, the author of the Life of Patriarch Tarasios, the guard units approached the sanctuary and warned that they would not allow «the teachings [of Constantine V] to be annuled and a doctrine in favor of idols to be proclaimed». Should anyone dare to do so, and should the council summoned by Constantine V be condemned, then the soldiers threatened to «turn the soil red with the blood of priests». Things could become worse, and according to the anonymous account on the events of 786, the basilissa was forced to dissolve the council in the hope of calming down the people. Consequently, the participants were urged to leave Constantinople at once, to enable the sovereigns annihilate the «rebellion» of the army.

However, the victory of the iconoclast faction was short-lived. Theophanes’ chronicle describes the „skillful stratagem by which Irene paralysed military opposition” (J.B. Bury), and other sources reveal the manner in which the patriarch succeeded in countering the opposition of the bishops. Under the pretext of preparing an expedition against the Arab caliphate, the regent removed the guard regiments from the capital city. When these units reached Malagina, in Bithynia, the empress ordered that the soldiers be disarmed and discharged, and the themes of Asia which were then stationed in Thracia, were brought to Constantinople as tagmata. The families of the soldiers who rebelled in 786 were put on ships and accompanied them in their exile. According to the anonymous hagiographer who authored the Life of St John of Gothia, around 6,000 persons were then exiled, which enables us to calculate the number of about 1,500 discharged soldiers.

Other sources show how the patriarch was able to determine some of the iconoclast bishops to abjure their convictions. As suggests Ignatius the Deacon, the patriarch assured them that canonical norms would not be applied indiscriminately, but the principle of oikonomia would be applied in the case of those hierarchs who had been ordained by iconoclast bishops, as well as those iconoclasts who accepted the decrees of the envisaged council. As the patriarch and the empress were adamant in their decision to convene the council, most iconoclasts yielded and reluctantly did penance for their heretical views. It seems there were also a number of hierarchs who rejected the patriarch’s offer, and were deposed and exiled as a result. The Life of St John of Gothia mentions that alongside the soldiers of the tagmata and their families, «a few heretical bishops» were exiled, too. By deposing and expelling some notorious iconoclast bishops, and by promising the hesitant iconoclasts that they would be treated leniently if they repented, the patriarch destabilised the iconoclast party. The iconophobic hierarchs who kept their sees were discouraged by the determination of the basilissa, intimidated by the threat of deposition, and also tempted to forsake iconoclasm by the patriarch’s promise to maintain them in their positions. As the situation was completely remedied and the opposition had been neutralized, in May 787 the Byzantine hierarchs were again convened for an Ecumenical Council to be held at Nicaea, the metropolis of Bithynia. Suspended in August 786, under dramatic circumstances, the Council’s proceedings began on 24 September 787. The regent’s perseverance and the patriarch’s astuteness had paid off.

Eugen MAFTEI Meletienii și eusebienii – oponenți mai puțin cunoscuți ai Sf. Atanasie cel Mare

Summary: Meletians and Eusebians: Less Known Opponents of St. Athanasius the Great

This study brings to the forefront the history of two religious groups which, together with the Arian one – with whom they shared common sympathies and interests – had a particular influence on the events that took place in the Church of Alexandria at the beginning of the 4th century, where the Alexandrian bishop at that time, Athanasius was involved. They are the Meletians and the Eusebians. The Meletians were named after their leader, Meletios, the bishop of Lycopolis (†328), who became known after the dispute over the apostates during the persecution of Diocletian (284-305). Advocating a rigorous policy against the Lapsi, he came into conflict with Bishop Peter of Alexandria (†311). Taking advantage of the absence of Peter and other imprisoned bishops, Meletios began to ordain priests in other eparchies. Though a local council of 307 exiled Meletios, his followers did not return to the Church but gathered around him, forming a large schismatic movement that had representatives in many cities of Egypt, and which, in the wake of Arianism, appeared as a true parallel hierarchy. Although the dogmas did not form the basis of this dissenting movement, the Meletians joined the Arians in their attempt to challenge the authority of a hierarchy that did not recognize their legitimacy.

The Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council (325), understanding the gravity of this phenomenon, tried to put an end to the schism, imposing a series of measures aimed at integrating the Meletians into the Church. Meletios was asked to present to St Alexander a record of his clergy, which showed that the Meletians had representatives in 35 bishoprics, meaning more than half of the episcopal churches in Egypt and Thebaida. The Meletians were reintegrated by laying on a „more spiritual” hand under the ban on the ordination of new bishops, and subject to submission to the Orthodox bishop. In spite of this decision, after the death of St Alexander (328), the Meletians expressed their willingness to participate in the election of the new bishop. They challenged, together with the Arians, St Athanasius’ right to occupy the see of Alexandria. Finally elected as the successor of St Alexander on June 8, 328, St Athanasius still had an opponent of his church politics in the Meletians led by John Arcaph. If at first their actions discrediting the new bishop were quite limited, they became truly powerful after they came into contact with another religious group: the Eusebians. Led by Eusebius of Nicomedia (†341), a student of Lucian of Antioch and a friend of Arius, the Eusebians became a true court party that won the Emperor’s trust and greatly influenced his decisions. John Arcaph led the first Meletian delegation to the palace, where they were not received by the Emperor, and managed to get in touch with Eusebius of Nicomedia, who was a close collaborator of St Constantine the Great. The Meletian-Eusebian coalition yielded results, and a few years after its inauguration St Athanasius already faced a heavy dossier that forced him to defend himself in a Council held in Tyre in 335.

The best known case of diversion orchestrated by the Meletians against St Athanasius is that related to the so-called commission of Mareotis. The Meletians accused Saint Athanasius that, during an inspection organized by his priest, Makarios, he had broken the chalice and overturned the altar where Ishiras served. The latter was a priest ordained by a Meletian bishop. Although St Athanasius proved that all these allegations were false, having even the support of many of the Meletians that returned to the Church, Eusebius of Nicomedia succeeded in persuading the Emperor that the intransigent bishop of Alexandria could not ensure cohesion of the Church in Egypt, which would endanger the unity of the empire. As a result, St Athanasius was exiled to Gallia, to Trier, in 335. Thus began for Saint Athanasius the odyssey of his five exiles, which would keep him away from his believers until the end of his life. St Athanasius understood that his true adversaries were no longer the Meletians, but the Eusebians, who, by their position, had the ability to influence the emperor. In fact, in an encyclical letter of 339, he dissociated the Eusebians, speaking of them as a religious faction, whose tendency was to turn its predominantly political character into a doctrinal one.

The injustice against St Athanasius elicited a reaction of sympathy and solidarity from the believers in Alexandria, and not only, who demanded his return to the throne. Even some of the Meletian schismatics sided with St Athanasius, while others radicalized, creating more tension and ending up exiled, as was the case with the group led by John Arcaph. The alliance between the Meletians and the Eusebians was strengthened after the death of Emperor Constantine the Great (337), since in their endeavors they found a perfect ally in the person of Constantius (337-361), the new emperor of the Eastern Empire. St Athanasius, returned from exile after the death of St Constantine, sought to strengthen his rather shaky position in the East dominated by heresy and schism, through visits to the diocese and monastic communities. Aware of the power that the Meletian-Eusebian coalition had due to its influence on an Arian sympathizer like Constantius, he turned towards the West, Pope Julius, and Constans (337-350), the emperor of the Western Roman Empire, a supporter of the Nicene faith. The Eusebians reacted, challenging the re-occupation of the episcopal seat by St Athanasius and imposing the Arian Pistos, with the support of Constantius. St Athanasius, although sending a delegation to the West, requesting the pope’s support, had to leave Alexandria and flee to Rome (339).

Eusebius of Nicomedia and his followers were all-powerful in the East, where they were able to impose their decisions in all Councils. Chaired by Eusebius, now bishop of Constantinople, the Synod of „the Sanctification of the Great Church” in Antioch (341) renewed the condemnation of St Athanasius, and made up four confessions of faith, of which the second, known as of Lucian of Antioch, gained prominence and would broadly represent the later creed of the homoiousians. St Athanasius, backed by the West, started counter-offensive. Together with his friend, Osius of Cordoba, he convinced Emperor Constans to convene a Synod in Sardica (343), in which bishops from both the West and the East participated. The Eusebians were the ones who caused the dissolution of the synod, the two delegations separating and excommunicating each other. The Westerners who remained in Sardica rehabilitated St Athanasius and reaffirmed the Orthodoxy of Nicene teaching. The return of St Athanasius to the episcopal seat of Alexandria in the autumn of 346 marked the official end of the Meletian schism. They were admitted to the Church, headed by Arsenios of Hypselis, but they did not disappear altogether, some of them retreating into some monastic communities and continuing until mid-eighth century. After the death of Eusebius of Nicomedia, the offensive against St Athanasius continued under the leadership of Akakios of Caesarea (†366), the future representative of the homoians. Akakios, the disciple of Eusebius of Caesarea, participated in the Eusebian Synod of Antioch (341) and the one in Philipopolis (343), where St Athanasius and the teaching of Nicaea were condemned. The homoians, constituting themselves as a left-center Arian group, in-between radical anomoeans and semi-Arian homoiousians, took the initiative of religious policy into the court, trying to settle the disagreements between different religious factions through compromise. From the doctrinal point of view, they said that the Son is «like the Father in all, according to the Scriptures», an expression that excluded the homoousious term.

From the doctrinal point of view, they said that the Son is «like the Father in all, according to the Scriptures», an expression that excluded the homoousious unscriptural term. The homoians, under the leadership of Akakios, convinced Emperor Constantius, the sole ruler of the Empire, of the importance of preserving the unity of the Church. He summoned a series of synods, such as Sirmium (351), Rimini, and Seleucia (359), and finally, Constantinople (360), where the confession of the homoians faith, known as the Fourth Symbol from Sirmium, was defined. After the death of their supporter, Constantius, on November 3, 361, the influence of the homoians decreased, and they lost their identity after many attempts to approach the Anomoeans or Niceans. In 366 Akakios died, and only a year before, the Synod of Lampsakos condemned the resolutions of the homoian Synod of Constantinople of 360. His death also ended the history of the homoians, most of them being assimilated by the radical Arians. The Meletians and the Eusebians, two interconnected but distinct structures, were, as we have seen, alongside the Arians, the main opponents of the Alexandrian official hierarchy, supportive of the Nicaean Creed. Their paths met in their common attempt at removing the legitimate representative of this hierarchy: St Athanasius the Great. Although some scholars put forth the idea that for St Athanasius, any enemy was described as a heretic, the documents of the time prove that he had a correct understanding of the realities of the time. If he called the Meletians enemies of the Church, he did so not by virtue of their assimilation with the Arians, but by the struggle which they, as schismatics, led, along with heretics, against the official hierarchy. As for the Eusebians, labeled as heretics, their actions gradually overtook the sphere of politics, and acquired a doctrinal character, up to the point that from mere sympathizers they became allies or protectors of the Arians, sharing their views.

Mihail QARAMAH „«Rugăciunea punerii-înainte» din rânduiala proscomidiei bizantine”

Summary: The Prayer of the Prothesis in the Typikon of the Byzantine Proskomedia

The Prayer of Prothesis is the main element of the Byzantine Proskomedia, and the authentic expression of the primordial meaning of this rite. Its origins can be placed between the end of the first half of the 7th century and second half of the 8th century, when we find it in the oldest surviving Byzantine Euhologion, the Barberini Codex Graecus 336. For the Liturgy of St Basil the Great, this manuscript has the Constantinopolitan prayer that had been used so far in the Orthodox Church: «O God, our God, Who didst send the Heavenly Bread…». With some differences, the prayer is also found in the oldest manuscript of the Greek Liturgy of St Jacob, Vaticanus Graecus 2282 (9th century), following the Great Entrance. Most likely, the prayer was transferred from the Liturgy of St Basil the Great at this time of the Liturgy of St Jacob, since there was no rite of the Prothesis at the beginning of it. For the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, the same codex offers a special text, with a profoundly epikletical sense: «Lord, our God, the One who You put Yourself forth like a blameless lamb». The existence of many variants of this prayer in the liturgical manuscripts in Egypt suggests that it appeared there. The fact that this prayer is found in the folios of the Slavonic Euhologion of Sinai (10th century) in which it is ascribed to St Basil the Great is further evidence of the Egyptian origin of the prayer and its connection with the Alexandrian Liturgy of St Basil the Great. However, the version preserved in the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom appears to be the oldest.

Because of its epikletical sense, some scholars believe that the Italian-Greek Prayer of the Prothesis is the old Christological epiklesis of the Liturgy of Saint Mark, but others believe that the prayer was from the beginning part of the Prothesis ritual, from which it was later moved to the Eucharistic Prayer (Anaphora). However, because of the many textual variants and the differentiated position in the liturgical testimonies, neither the original text nor the original place of prayer can be accurately determined. With the liturgical reform of the post-iconoclastic period, the Prayer of Prothesis from the Liturgy of St Basil the Great appears in the liturgical form of the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, coexisting awhile with an older prayer of Egyptian origin that was gradually forgotten. However, it remained popular in Italy and Greece, probably due to its epikletic character, and was incorporated into the Liturgy of St Peter. We also find it, in an adapted version, in the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts in the codices Ambrosianus 276 (13th century) and München Gr. 540 (anno 1416). Currently, only the prayer preserved in the Liturgy of St Basil the Great for both Byzantine Liturgies is used in the Orthodox Church. At first, the Prayer of Prothesis was uttered by the priest in skeuophilakion, when he placed the bread on the diskos, being a prayer that only referred to the offering of the artos. The very text of the prayer makes no reference to the chalice, but only to the bread that already symbolizes Christ – the heavenly Bread (Jn 6, 51). Canon 12 of the Canonical Writings (10th-11th centuries), attributed to Saint Nikephoros I, patriarch of Constantinople (806-815), prohibits sealing the chalice when the Prayer of Prothesis is uttered, which underlines what has been already said.

But at the same time, the prohibition of sealing the chalice can suggest that the preparation was delayed for another moment in the Liturgy, namely before the Great Entrance. The reason could be that, in some regions, hot water is poured into the chalice before sanctification. The delay in „mixing” the cup would have had the purpose of preventing its cooling. A proof of this practice is found in the epistle addressed by a parish priest to Metropolitan Elias II of Crete (about 1120). However, since St Germanos, patriarch of Constantinople, all Byzantine liturgical commentators have placed both the preparation of bread and of the chalice at the beginning of Divine Liturgy. In what regards the position of the Prayer of Prothesis, it retained, until recently, as in the old manuscripts, its place as the first prayer of the liturgy form. It was attributed to the priest who uttered it above the bread in skeuophilakion. But as we can see in the Johannisberg version of the Liturgy of St Basil the Great (11th century) and in the codex Pyromalus (10th-11th centuries), it was a custom in Constantinople that the patriarch, before entering the Liturgy, would stop in skeuophilakion where he would leave his own loaf and utter the Prayer of Prothesis, while Enarxis was being performed in the church. The superposition of the two rites preceding the Liturgy (Enarxis and Prothesis) is explained by the mysthagogic vision on them. Both Enarxis and Prothesis had come, to the 10th-11th centuries, to symbolize the Incarnation of the Savior, and the entrance of the bishop, which perfected both rites, was a symbol of the first parousia in the world with the body of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In later references, the priest is the one who utters the Prayer of Prothesis when the Holy Liturgy is being performed. Thus, according to the patriarchal diataxis preserved in the codex British Museum Add. 34060 (12th-13th centuries), the Liturgy begins with the Patriarch’s entrance, the Prothesis and Enarxis being obviously reserved to the priest. In the Archieratikon written by deacon Demetrios Gemistos (about 1380), the ritual of the Offering was entirely accomplished by the priest at the beginning of the liturgy, and after St Simeon of Thessalonica, describing a 15th-century Liturgy officiated by a bishop, the Prothesis is performed by the second priest together with a deacon before the Enarxis. Another point of interest for this study is the diaconal invitation to prayer, which today has the form «Ἐπὶ τῇ προθέσει τῶν τιμίων δώρων, τοῦ Κυρίου δεηθῶμεν». «Κύριε, ἐλέησον» (For the precious gifts offered, let us pray to the Lord. Lord have mercy). The oldest Byzantine Euhologion, Barberini Gr. 336, does not contain such a diaconal invitation. However, there are manuscripts that have the introductory form as a classic one: «Ἐν εἰρήνη τοῦ Κυρίου δεηθῶμεν» (In peace let us pray to the Lord) or the simple «Τοῦ Κυρίου δεηθῶμεν» (Let us pray to the Lord). The first testimony of the diaconal invitation today is in the codex Vaticanus Gr. 2005 (about 1197-1211). Most likely the phrase: «Ἐπὶ τῇ προθέσει τῶν τιμίων δώρων» is only the typical section preceding prayer and then the very simple diaconal invitation («Τοῦ Κυρίου δεηθῶμεν»), as can be seen in Philoteos’ Diataxis (the first half of the 14th century). This hypothesis seems to be confirmed by the first edition of the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom of 1526, in which the column: «Ὁ διάκονος ἐπὶ τῇ προθέσει τῶν τιμίων δώρων» (The deacon, for the offering of the precious gifts) is written in red and the invitation to prayer: «Τοῦ Κυρίου δεηθῶμεν» (Let us pray to the Lord) is written in black.

The answer of the diaconal invitation, «Κύριε, ἐλέησον» (Lord have mercy), assigned today to the deacon, was reserved for the hypodeacon, as can be seen in Vaticanus Gr. 1811 (1147 AD). In fact, this is also the logical solution, since it is inappropriate for the deacon to answer his own call to prayer. However, probably in the absence of a subdeacon, in ms. Sinai. 986 (a diataxis of Proskomedia, 15th century), the priest is the one who utters the invitation to prayer, the deacon answering «Lord have mercy». The prayer of the Offering is the essence to which the whole rite of the Prothesis can be reduced. It is the decisive point of the process of ritualizing the preparation of the Eucharistic gifts in skeuophilakion, as well as the central sacramental moment of Prothesis, through which the offerings of believers become gifts dedicated to God. This prayer is in fact a prayer of the offertorium type and an anticipation of the Anaphora, implying the act of bringing the sacrifice of the latter. The fact that the Prayer of Prothesis is a „mirroring” of the Eucharistic Prayer shows the Liturgy as a move from the proclamation, preparation and worship of God to the fulfillment of the sacrifice for which these gifts are used. The prayer of the Prothesis has the appearance of a mini-Anaphora following moments from the Great Eucharistic Prayer. Both the Prayer of Prothesis and the Anaphora are addressed to God the Father. The incipit of the prayer of the Prothesis corresponds to the anaphoric post-sanctus, containing a brief summary of the Divine Economy in Christ, the heavenly Bread, the Savior, the Redeemer and our Benefactor, who sanctifies and blesses us. The second part of the prayer corresponds to the epiklesis, God the Father being asked to bless (εὐλόγησον) and receive (πρόσδεξαι) the ritual gifts. The third section of prayer corresponds to the Intercessio part of the Anaphora, when the priest prays to God, saying, «Remember, Lord, of those who brought you these gifts, and from and by whom and for whom they were brought (Μνήσθητι, Κύριε, τῶν τὰ δῶρα σοι ταῡτα προσκομισάντων καὶ ὑπὲρ ὧν καὶ δι’ ὧν καὶ ἐφ’ οἷς αὐτὰ προσεκό­μισαν)». The fourth and final part of prayer is appropriate to the final Trinitarian doxology of the Anaphora, which centers on the greatness of the Name of God.

The prayer of the Prothesis will be understood as a prayer of „consecration” of the bread and wine as Sacred Gifts that will be brought to be sanctified at the time of the Eucharistic Prayer (Anaphora). In very few codices, contrary to the 12th Canon of St Nikephoros, the blessing by hand of the gifts at the time of prayer will be indicated (this being probably an influence of the obligatory blessing by hand of the gifts at the epiklesis), but most of the manuscripts will remain faithful to the canonical ban. An exception we encounter in the codex Admont 125 (second half of the 12th century), in which, at the prayer of the Prothesis, above the words of the Ipse benedic (bless Thyself), the sign of the Cross appears, which would suggest the blessing of bread and wine at this moment. There are also manuscripts like Barberini 316 (12th century), Vaticanus Gr. 1554 (12th century) or Sinai 986 (15th century), which recommends to the priest to loosen the phelonion over his hands before the prayer of the Prothesis, so that the blessing of gifts by hand would have been unlikely. Few exceptions confirm the rule – bread and wine are not blessed when the Prayer of Prothesis is uttered, as this is not a prayer of sanctification but of worship / presentation of gifts to God. The current Romanian Liturgy, following the 1937 edition, as well as those from 1974, indicates to the priest the blessing with the hand of the gifts, bread and wine, at the Proskomedia, when he utters the words: «Do Thou Thyself bless this offering Bless Yourself this offering…». However, this indication is missing from the Greek Hieratikon, as well as from the Slavonic Slujebnik. The most suitable solution is perhaps that given by Pidalion of Neamt (1844), who says that priests should not be blessing by hand the offering, but merely pointing to it.

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