The epiclesis (also spelled epiklesis; from Ancient Greek: ἐπίκλησις "invocation" or "calling down from on high") is the part of the Anaphora (Eucharistic Prayer) by which the priest invokes the Holy Spirit (or the power of His blessing) upon the Eucharistic bread and wine in some Christian churches.[1]

In most Eastern Christian traditions, the Epiclesis comes after the Anamnesis (remembrance of Jesus' words and deeds); in the Western Rite it usually precedes.

Eastern churches

While in the Roman Catholic Church, the Words of Institution are considered to be the moment of Transubstantiation (when, according to religious tradition, the eucharistic elements would change from bread and wine into the actual Body and Blood of Christ), the Eastern Orthodox Churches do not hold this belief. Instead, the Epiclesis is believed to be the moment at which this change[2] is completed.[3] However, the actual process of change is not considered to begin at this moment, but begins with the Liturgy of Preparation—it is merely completed at the Epiclesis. This is illustrated in one of the opening prayers of the Preparatory Service used in the Liturgy of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church:

How awful is this day and how marvellous this hour wherein the Holy Spirit will descend from heaven and overshadow and hallow this sacrifice.[4]

The Epiclesis is considered to be essential to the validity of the Sacred Mystery (sacrament), and in the 20th century, when Western Rite Orthodox parishes began to be established, it was necessary to add an Epiclesis to their Eucharistic rites, if one was not already there (for instance, those parishes which desired to use the Anglican Missal.)

East Syrian

In its pure form, the ancient anaphora of the Divine Liturgy of Addai and Mari does include an epiclesis. It does not use the Words of Institution, although they appear directly and indirectly in other parts of the rite (and is therefore considered to be implicit).

Priest: We too, my Lord, your feeble, unworthy, and miserable servants who are gathered in your name and stand before you at this hour, and have received by tradition the example which is from you, while rejoicing, glorifying, exalting, and commemorating, perform this great, fearful, holy, life-giving, and divine Mystery of the passion, death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
And may there come, O my Lord, your Holy Spirit, and may he rest upon this oblation of your servants. May he bless it and hallow it, and may it be for us, O my Lord, for the pardon of debts, the forgiveness of sins, the great hope of resurrection from the dead, and for new life in the kingdom of heaven with all who have been well-pleasing before you. And for all this great and marvelous dispensation towards us we will give thanks to you and praise you without ceasing in your church, which is saved by the precious blood of your Christ.

Liturgy of St. James

In the Liturgy of Saint James, according to the form in which it is celebrated on the island of Zakynthos, Greece, the anaphora is as follows:

Priest (aloud): Thy people and Thy Church entreat Thee. (thrice)
People: Have mercy on us, Lord God, the Father, the Almighty. (thrice)
The Priest, in a low voice: Have mercy on us, Lord God, the Father, the Almighty. Have mercy on us, God our Saviour. Have mercy on us, O God, in accordance with Thy great mercy, and send forth upon these holy gifts, here set forth, Thine all-holy Spirit, (bowing) the Lord and giver of life, enthroned with Thee, God and Father, and Thine only-begotten Son, co-reigning, consubstantial and co-eternal, who spoke by the Law and the Prophets and by Thy New Covenant, who came down in the form of a dove upon our Lord Jesus Christ in the river Jordan, and rested upon him, who came down upon Thy holy Apostles in the form of fiery tongues in the upper room of holy and glorious Sion on the day of Pentecost. (Standing up) Thy same all-holy Spirit, Lord, send down on us and on these gifts here set forth,
(aloud): that having come by his holy, good and glorious presence, He may sanctify this bread and make it the holy Body of Christ,
People: Amen.
Priest: and this Cup (chalice) the precious Blood of Christ,
People: Amen.
The Priest signs the holy Gifts and says in a low voice: that they may become for all those who partake of them for forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. For sanctification of souls and bodies. For a fruitful harvest of good works. For the strengthening of Thy holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, which Thou didst found on the rock of the faith, so that the gates of Hell might not prevail against it, delivering it from every heresy and from the scandals caused by those who work iniquity, and from the enemies who arise and attack it, until the consummation of the age.

Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom

In the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom an epiclesis is present (explicit); the priest says:

Priest: Again we offer to Thee this spiritual and bloodless worship; and we beg Thee, we ask Thee, we pray Thee: Send down Thy Holy Spirit upon us and upon these Gifts set forth.[5]
(Deacon [pointing with his orarion to the diskos]: Bless, Master, the Holy Bread.)[6]
Priest: Make this bread the Precious Body of Thy Christ,
(Deacon [pointing to the chalice]: Amen. Bless, Master, the Holy Cup.)
Priest: And that which is in this Cup, the Precious Blood of Thy Christ,
(Deacon [pointing to both]: Amen. Bless them both, Master.)
Priest: Changing by Thy Holy Spirit.
(Deacon: Amen, Amen, Amen.)

Liturgy of St. Basil the Great

In the Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great according to the Greek recention of the prayers, the liturgical actions described above for the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom are the same. The formula is as follows:

Priest: Therefore, O Most-holy Master we sinners and Thine unworthy servants also, having been vouchsafed to minister at Thy holy Altar, not because of our righteousness, for we have not done that which is good on the earth, but because of Thy mercies and Thy compassions, which Thou hast poured out richly upon us, dare to draw nigh unto Thy holy Altar; and having presented the sacred emblems of the Body and Blood of Thy Christ, we pray Thee, and we call upon Thee: O Holy of Holies, through the favour of Thy goodness send Thy Holy Spirit down upon us, and upon these Gifts presented here, and bless them, sanctify, and manifest them.[5]
(Deacon [pointing with his orarion to the diskos]: Bless, Master, the Holy Bread.)[7]
Priest: And make this Bread itself the precious Body of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ,
(Deacon [pointing to the chalice: Amen. Bless, Master, the Holy Cup.)
Priest: And that which is in this Cup, the precious Blood itself of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ,
(Deacon [pointing to both]: Amen. Bless them both, Master.)
Priest: Which was shed for the life of the world, and for its salvation.
(Deacon: Amen, Amen, Amen.)

Roman Rite

Implicit epiclesis

It is sometimes said that, in the Roman Rite of Mass, the prayer Quam oblationem of the Roman Canon represents an implicit epiclesis:

Be pleased, O God, we pray,
to bless, acknowledge,
and approve this offering in every respect;
make it spiritual and acceptable,
so that it may become for us
the Body and Blood of your most beloved Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Roman Canon mentions the Holy Spirit explicitly only once, in the final doxology: "Through him [Christ], and with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, for ever and ever."

The Catechism of the Catholic Church considers an at least implicit epiclesis to be a vital part of the sacrament: "At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ's Body and Blood."[8]

Nicholas Cabasilas was of the opinion that the functional epiclesis in the Roman Rite is instead the prayer Supplices te rogamus, which, like the explicit epicleses in the Byzantine Rite, is placed after the anamnesis and oblation:

In humble prayer we ask you, almighty God:
command that these gifts be borne
by the hands of your holy Angel
to your altar on high
in the sight of your divine majesty,
so that all of us, who through this participation at the altar
receive the most holy Body and Blood of your Son,
may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing.
(Through Christ our Lord. Amen.)

Some groups of Traditionalist Catholics who joined a canonical Orthodox jurisdiction with permission to celebrate the Tridentine liturgy have been required to interpolate the epiclesis of the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom into the Tridentine Mass in order to correct the perceived defect of an insufficiently strong epiclesis (see Western Rite Orthodoxy).

Explicit epicleses

The additional Eucharistic Prayers (EP) introduced into the Roman Rite in the 1969 revision have both a pre-consecration and a post-consecration epiclesis.


EP II: Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray
by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall,
so that they may become for us
the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
EP III: Therefore, O Lord, we humbly implore you
by the same Spirit graciously make holy
these gifts we have brought to you for consecration,
that they may become the Body and Blood
of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ,
at whose command we celebrate these mysteries.
EP IV: Therefore, O Lord, we pray:
may this same Holy Spirit
graciously sanctify these offerings,
that they may become
the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ
for the celebration of this great mystery
which he himself left us
as an eternal covenant.


EP II: Humbly we pray,
that, partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ
we may be gathered into one by the Holy Spirit.
EP III: Look, we pray, upon the oblation of your Church
and, recognising the sacrificial Victim by whose death
you willed to reconcile us to yourself,
grant that we, who are nourished
by the Body and Blood of your Son
and filled with his Holy Spirit,
may become one body, one spirit in Christ.
EP IV: Look, O Lord, upon the Sacrifice
which you yourself have provided for your Church,
and grant in your loving kindness
to all who partake of this one Bread and one Chalice
that, gathered into one body by the Holy Spirit,
they may truly become a living sacrifice in Christ
to the praise of your glory.

Use in other sacraments

A similar invocation of the Holy Spirit by the priest in some other sacraments is also called an epiclesis. The Eastern Orthodox Church holds that such an epiclesis is necessary for the validity of the Holy Mystery (sacrament) of marriage; the Roman Catholic Church holds that it is not, since for them the bride and groom are the ministers of that sacrament.

An epiclesis also appears in the Orthodox rite of Baptism. Baptism in the Roman Rite includes an epiclesis as part of the blessing of the baptismal water:

"We ask you, Father, with your Son to send the Holy Spirit upon the water of this font. May all who are buried with Christ in the death of baptism rise also with him to newness of life. We ask this through Christ our Lord."[9]

In the Roman Rite sacrament of Confirmation, the bishop invokes the Holy Spirit upon those being confirmed:

"Send your Holy Spirit upon them to be their Helper and Guide."[10]

Other epicleses include that in the Eastern Orthodox Great Blessing of Waters on the feast of the Theophany.


Anglicanism and Lutheranism

Anglicans in the USA and American Lutheran Eucharistic prayers and newer Old Catholic anaphoras, tend to follow the Eastern practice of treating the Words of Institution as a warrant for the action, with the Epiclesis following the anamnesis/oblation. For example, after the Words of Institution, the epiclesis in Eucharistic Prayer B in the American Book of Common Prayer (which is found in the Canadian Book of Alternative Service and several other Anglican liturgies) reads:

"And we offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to you, O Lord of All,
presenting to you, from your creation, this bread and this wine.
We pray you, gracious God, to send your Holy Spirit upon these gifts
that they may be + the Sacrament of the Body of Christ and his Blood of the new Covenant.
Unite us to your Son in his sacrifice, that we may be acceptable through him,
being + sanctified by the Holy Spirit."

After the Words of Institution in the Lutheran Book of Worship, for example, the epiclesis in Eucharistic Prayer III reads:

"And we implore you
mercifully to accept our praise and thanksgiving
and, with your Word and Holy Spirit,
to bless us, your servants,
and these your own gifts of bread and wine;
that we and all who share in the + body and blood of your Son
may be filled with Heavenly peace and joy
and, receiving the forgiveness of sin,
may be + sanctified in soul and body,
and have our portion with all your saints."

Lutheran and Anglican divines have also argued that in earlier liturgies of theirs in which an Epiclesis and unity with the one sacrifice of Christ may not have seemed explicit, it was stated as the point of the consecration in other parts of the rite, notably in required exhortations.


According to a 2003 report of the British Methodist Church, His Presence Makes The Feast: Holy Communion in the Methodist Church: "The one Spirit by whom we are all baptised into the one body (1 Corinthians 12:13) is the same Spirit who unites us in and with the body of Christ in Holy Communion. The Holy Spirit at work in the Church of the Acts of the Apostles brings into effect a witnessing and preaching community in which there is apostolic teaching, fellowship, prayer and the breaking of the bread (Acts 2:42)."[11] The epiclesis of the Methodist liturgy draws from both the Anglican tradition, such as the 1549 Prayer Book, and the liturgical renewal movement of the 20th century that focused upon liturgies of the ancient church, such as the early rite of Hippolytus.[11] From these traditions, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, inherited the notion that the Holy Spirit was to be invoked to make real and true all that God had promised to bestow on the faithful through Holy Communion.[11] This theology of epiclesis is evidenced in several Methodist hymns written by Charles Wesley, the brother of John Wesley.[11]

The epiclesis used in The United Methodist Church is as follows:

"Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here,
and on these gifts of bread and wine.
Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ,
that we may be for the world the body of Christ,
redeemed by his blood.
By your Spirit make us one with Christ,
one with each other,..." (UMH; pages 10, 14).[12]

The traditional rite of Holy Communion used before the publication of the 1989 hymnal did not include an explicit epiclesis. The traditional text, with slight revisions, is Word and Table IV, and it contains a 16 word, two line epiclesis, as follows:

"bless and sanctify with thy Word and Holy Spirit
these thy gifts of bread and wine" (UMH, page 29.)

Another epiclesis used in the Methodist Church in Great Britain is as follows:

"Send down your Holy Spirit
that these gifts of bread and wine
may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Unite us with him for ever
and bring us with the whole creation
to your eternal kingdom."[11]


  1. "Epiklesis". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2007-02-18.
  2. Among the Orthodox the term "change" (in Greek: μεταβολή) is preferable to "Transubsantiation". The term Metousiosis (μετουσίωσις) is also used.
  3. Pomazansky, Protopresbyter Michael; Rose, Seraphim, tr. (1984), Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, Platina CA: Saint Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, p. 279, LOC # 84-051294
  4. Daoud, Marcos, tr. (1954), The Liturgy of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Stationary Manufacturers Ltd. (Jamaica, West Indies), p. 18
  5. 1 2 In the Slavic practice, at this point the priest and deacon make three metanias (bows) as they say, each time: "O God, cleanse me a sinner, and have mercy upon me." They then raise their hands and the priest says the following troparion three times: "O Lord, Who didst send down Thy Most-holy Spirit at the third hour upon Thine apostles: Take Him not from us, O Good One, but renew Him in us who pray unto Thee." They both then make a metania. After the first recitation and its bow, the deacon stands aright and says the following words from Psalm 50: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." After the second recitation and bow, he says, "Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me."
  6. When a deacon is not serving, the words in parentheses are omitted. The priest's words make a complete sentence: "Make this bread the Precious Body of Thy Christ, and that which is in this cup, the Precious Blood of Thy Christ, changing them by Thy Holy Spirit."
  7. When a deacon is not serving, the words in parentheses are omitted. The priest's words make a complete sentence: "And make this Bread itself the precious Body of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, and that which is in this Cup, the precious Blood itself of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, which was shed for the life of the world, changing them by Thy Holy Spirit."
  8. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1333
  9. Rite of Baptism for Children. Catholic Book Publishing Co. July 1, 1983. p. #91. ISBN 978-0899421360.
  10. Rite of Confirmation, 25
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 "Holy Communion in the Methodist Church". The Methodist Church. Retrieved 2007-01-06.
  12. "This Holy Mystery". The United Methodist Church. Retrieved 2007-01-06., also The United Methodist Hymnal, (Nashville, Tennessee: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989)

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