The Eucharistic Epiclesis as the Locum Tenens for the Work of the Holy Spirit

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The Rev. Dr. Larry C. Williams
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School of Theology Thesis 2024 , University of the South , School of Theology , Holy Spirit , eucharistic epiclesis
In the church's understanding of it eucharistic life, there has been a paucity regarding the work of the Holy Spirit, but there is one instance in which the work of the Spirit is given greater importance — the epiclesis. In the structural development of eucharistic prayers, trinitarian theology and pneumatology took on a greater role in the East. In the West, prior to Vatican Il, the Roman Canon always demonstrated a stronger affinity toward the words of institution or what can be referred to as the institution narrative. When we consider the consecration of objects or elements, in this case, bread and wine, the words of institution were understood to be consecratory. Such practice over time evolved into an understanding of transubstantiation which five hundred years ago became a lynchpin for the Protestant break from Catholicism. The Latin phrase, locum tenens, presents itself as a means by which to understand the pivotal role that the epiclesis plays in the offering of eucharistic prayer. Locum tenens is used to describe someone who has been given the power and authority to minister, yet without permanent appointment. After the events ofthe sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and debate well into the twentieth century, the epiclesis received further ecumenical recognition and permanent voice by way of consensus to bring forth power and authority as a consecratory agent in the eucharistic prayers in the West. In this thesis the attempt is made to establish not only the origin and nature of the eucharistic epiclesis, but also to disprove it as artifact or identifiable lacuna. We examine how the church in the apostolic and patristic ages approached the practice of praying to the Holy Spirit. Whereas in the beginning there was a distinction between praying to God and Jesus as Lord, our understanding of praying to the Holy Spirit evolves. Research demonstrates the consecratory nature of the eucharistic prayer is not an either/or, but rather a both/and, not institution narrative over and against epiclesis, but rather institution narrative as well as epiclesis. For one who presides, the epiclesis invites the 'release' or calling down of the Spirit upon the elements and the community of faith. The epiclesis as locum tenens becomes a gateway or a portal for that to occur.