Sep 23, 2006

The Roman Canon: Origin and Development IV

Meal Berakoth 1

Blessed be thou, JHWH, our God, King of the universe, who givest us this fruit of the vine. 2

Blessed be thou, JHWH, our God, King of the universe, who bringest forth bread from the earth. 3

L.: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
R.: Blessed be he whose generosity has given us food and whose kindness has given us life. 4

Blessed be thou, JHWH, our God, King of the universe, who feedest the world with goodness, with grace and mercy, who givest food to all flesh for thou nourishest and sustainest all beings and providest food for all thy creatures. Blessed be thou, JHWH, who givest food to all.

We thank thee, JHWH, our God, for a desirable, good and ample land which thou was pleased to give to our fathers, and for thy covenant which thou hast marked in our flesh, and for the Torah which thou hast given us, and for life, grace, mercy and food which thou hast lent us in every season. And for all this, JHWH, our God, we thank thee and bless thy name. Blessed be thy name upon us continually and for ever. Blessed be thou, JHWH, for the land and for the food.

Have mercy, JHWH, our God, upon thy people Israel, upon thy city Jerusalem, upon Zion, the abiding place of thy glory, upon the kingdom of the house of David thine annointed, and upon the great and holy house that was called by thy name. Feed us, nourish us, sustain us, provide for us, relieve us speedily from our anxieties, and let us not stand in need of the gifts of mortals, for their gifts are small and their reproach is great, for we have trusted in thy holy, great and fearful name. And may Elijah and the Messiah, the son of David come in our life-time, and let the kingdom of the house of David return to its place, and reign thou over us, thou alone, and save us for thy name’s sake, and bring us up in it and gladden us in it and comfort us in Zion thy city. Blessed be thou, JHWH, who rebuildest Jerusalem. 5

[SPECIAL FORM: Our God, and the God of our fathers, may the remembrance of ourselves and of our fathers and the remembrance of Jerusalem, thy city, and the remembrance of the Messiah, the son of David, thy servant, and the remembrance of thy people, the whole house of Israel, arise and come, come to pass, be seen and accepted and heard, be remembered and be mentioned before thee for deliverance, for good, for grace, for lovingkindness and for mercy on this such and such a day. Remember us, JHWH, our God, on it for good and visit us on it for blessing and save us on it unto life by a word of salvation and mercy, and spare, favour and show us mercy, for thou art a gracious and merciful God and King.] 6

1 “Neither the Mishnah nor the Tefillah give us a complete test, which is not to be found before the Seder Amram Gaon. But they multiply allusions to the content of the formulas from the earliest times, which act as a guarantee for us of the substantial conformity between the text still in use today and the ancient practice.”(Bouyer 82)

2 “The obligatory prelude of the meal was the ritual hand-washing with which the Jews also began their day. Then, in a ceremonial meal, each person upon arriving drank a first cup of wine, repeating for himself this” text. “This is the first cup mentioned by St. Luke in his account of the Last Supper”. (Bouyer 79)

3 “[The] meal did not officially begin until the father of the family or the presiding member of the community had broken the bread which was given to the participants, with this blessing.” “It was looked upon as a general blessing for the whole meal that was to follow, and no one who arrived later was allowed to partake.” “The courses and cups of wine then followed, and each person in turn pronounced a series of blessings. The Passover meal was distinguished simply by special foods, bitter herbs and the lamb, which were used together with the special corresponding prayers and the dialogued recitation of the haggadah, i.e. a kind of traditional homily on the origin and the ever fresh sense of the feast.” Bouyer thinks that the haggadah becomes central to the placement of the Instituion Narrative within the berakoth. (Bouyer 80, 157)

4 “In every case, however, the essentail ritual act came at the end of the meal.” On holy days celebrated on the eve a lamp was lit, which is the origin of the ancient Christian use of the lucernarium and has survived into our own day in the blessing of the paschal candle. Then incense was blessed and burned. Then a second general hand-washing takes place. The servant would bring an ewer to the master of the house or the one who presided, though when a servant was not available then the youngest at the table would do so. This is the origin of John the Beloved Disciple bringing the ewer to Jesus. Jesus then turns to Peter who is considered the most worthy after himself and washed not only his hands but his feet. “It is after these preliminaries that the presider, with the cup of wine mixed with water before him, solemnly invited those assisting to join in with his act of thanksgiving.” (Bouyer 80-81)

5 Bouyer 82-83.

6 The Seder Amram Gaon prescribes certain variations of the third berakah either for Sabbath or a high holy day. What is most remarkable about this text is the extensive use of the Hebrew word zikkaron (remembrance). This gives a context to the command of Jesus to “do this in remembrance of me”. The term also recalls the Temple sacrifices when we see the connection to the Abodah prayer. The idea of memorial is also prevalent there and this prayer arises from those that originally consecrated the Temple sacrifices. (Bouyer 84-85)

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