13 August 2015

St. Hippolytus of Rome, priest, martyr


Today is the feast of St. Hippolytus of Rome, who has the dubious distinction of being the first Anti-Pope, but so beloved by both factions that he was quickly raised to the altars after his death as a martyr. His memorial is optional on the Roman calendar, which is a shame, because, first, there is value in celebrating the holiness of a man who divided the Church and then repented to be reconciled with Her, but also because St Hippolytus is attributed with writing what has become probably the most commonly used Eucharistic canon, Eucharistic Prayer II.

 The Anaphora of Hippolytus, which became the basis for the prayer, is found in Chapter IV of The Apostolic Tradition, a work attributed to Hippolytus. The Apostolic Tradition's purpose is a guide to recently ordained bishops, and the prayer is included as a guiding example to these bishops, who were expected to compose their Eucharistic prayers extempore. However, even in its own time, the prayer must have been recognized for its quality, for it became the backbone of most of the major Western Eucharistic prayers, including the Roman Canon which is Hippolytus' Anaphora with centuries of accretions and revisions.

 Just prior to the Second Vatican Council, the Anaphora of Hippolytus had been rediscovered, its significance quickly established, and the text itself praised. As the Council Fathers revised the Mass for the Norvus Ordo and decided to include alternative Eucharistic prayers, the Anaphora of Hippolytus was immediately put forth for inclusion and was subsequently the only text that received unanimous approval. The Anaphora was revised to fit the pattern the Fathers declared proper to the Eucharistic prayer for the Roman Mass. Most notably  §  V of the text (below) which contains the Epiclesis, the prayer for the Holy Spirit's consecration of the gifts, was moved before the Institution Narrative. The Epiclesis was embellished with phrases from the 7th/8th century Gothic Missal; "sending down your Spirit like the dewfall" comes from this source. And the Words of Consecration themselves were revised, in keeping with the idea that the words should be identical across all the Eucharistic Prayers.

 Eucharistic Prayer II is probably frequently used for its brevity (it seems especially popular at Daily Masses), flexibility—with no prescribed Preface, unlike E.IV—and ease of use for the Celebrant because it does have its own Preface (reflected in § I. of Hippolytus' Anaphora) printed with the prayer in the Missal, which means less flipping of pages. But the prayer also has a simplicity and directness that encapsulates the meaning of the Eucharistic Prayer as thanksgiving, sacrifice, and the hopes we hang upon its infinite graces and power. If the Roman Canon represents the full glory and beauty of God's Church, Eucharistic Prayer III the Universal offering of Salvation to Mankind, and IV the full history of salvation, then II is a Eucharistic prayer of humility; stripped of all our posturing and bombast, it is the language God's children--simple fishermen, sinning tax collectors, adulterers and harlots--before the Lord giving thanks that his sacrifice has made us worthy to stand before him and minister to him.

And that's who Hippolytus was, a saint who knew he was a sinner, who longed to serve his God and rose to that occasional when called by some to be Christ's Vicar, stepping down humbly when the Church declared his election an error, who lived a faithful life and died a martyr's death.

Heavenly Father, may your servant remain our protector and guide, worthy of imitation and one who left us with poetry of faith worthy to give you worship, through Christ our Lord. Amen



The Anaphora of Hippolytus of Rome
     All should give the kiss of peace to whoever has become a bishop, honouring the dignity he has received. The deacons should give him the offering, and as he and all the priests extend their hands over it, he offers thanks, saying:
I
                    The Lord be with you.
     All replyAnd with you.

                    Lift up your hearts.
                    We have raised them up to the Lord.

                    Let us give thanks to the Lord.
                    It is right and fitting.

     He continues:
II
                    We give you thanks, O God, through your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, whom in these days you have sent to save and redeem us, and to show us your will. He is your Word, inseparable from you, through whom everything was made. In your goodness, you sent him from heaven to be a virgin’s son. Conceived in her womb, he took flesh and was revealed as your Son, born of the virgin and the Holy Spirit.

III
                    In carrying out your will, and forming for you a holy people, he stretched out his hands as he suffered, to free from suffering those who had faith in you. When be allowed himself to be given up to suffer, so that he could conquer death and break the bonds of sin in crushing the power of bell, and so lead the just to the light, make a covenant with them and manifest the resurrection, he took bread, and giving thanks to you, said: Take, eat, this is my body, which is broken for you. He did the same with the cup, saying: This is my blood which is poured out for vou. When you do this, do it in memory of me.

IV
Remembering therefore his death and resurrection, we offer you this bread and cup, thanking you for holding us worthy to stand in your presence and to serve you as priests.

V
We ask you to send your Holy Spirit down upon the offerings of your holy Church. Gathering together all those who receive these mysteries, grant that they may be filled with the Holy Spirit, and their faith may thus be strengthened in your truth.

VI
So may we praise and glorify you, through your Son Jesus Christ. Through him be honour and glory to you, the Father, Son, with the Holy Spirit, in the holy Church, now and always. Amen.