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This article forms part of the series on the
Divine Liturgy
Liturgy of the Preparation
Liturgical objects
Liturgy of the Word
Great Litany
Little Entrance
Thrice-Holy Hymn
Litany of Fervent Supplication
Litany for the Departed
Litany of the Catechumens
Liturgy of the Eucharist
Cherubic Hymn
Great Entrance
Litany of the Completion
Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed
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The central prayer of the Eucharist is the anaphora (Greek ἀναφορά for "offering up"), although in the West it is also called the "Eucharistic Prayer," the "Canon of the Mass" (or "eucharistic canon"), or the "Great Thanksgiving."

The Structure of the Anaphora

Despite some variety in the structure of early anaphoras, the “Antiochene” or “West Syrian” pattern that is found in the liturgies of St John Chrysostom, St Basil, and St James, took shape by 400 CE. It contains the following eleven elements in the order given, exemplified with the corresponding text of the anaphora of St John Chrysostom.

1. The opening dialogue between the presider and the assembly, beginning “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, ….”

2. The preface, which is invariable in the Eastern liturgies, sets forth the governing idea of the anaphora – thanksgiving. “It is meet and right ….”

3. The pre-Sanctus is the transition from the preface to the Sanctus.

4. Sanctus (Latin for “Holy”) refers to the thrice-Holy hymn of victory: “Holy! Holy! Holy! ….” (Isaiah 6: 1-5)

5. The post-Sanctus continues the thanksgiving of the preface, but with particular focus on the Incarnation: “With these blessed powers….”

6. The institution narrative recounts Christ’s institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper: “… who, when he had come and fulfilled all the dispensation for us, in the night in which he was given up….” The narrative includes his words over he bread and wine – “This is my body…” and “This is my blood….”

7. The anamnesis is the recalling before God of the saving acts of Christ: “Remembering this saving commandment and all those things which have come to pass for us: the Cross, the Tomb, the Resurrection on the third day, the Ascension into heaven, the Sitting at the right hand, and the second and glorious Coming.”

8. The offering of the sacrifice to God: “Thine own of Thine own we offer unto Thee, on behalf of all and for all.”

9. The epiclesis is the calling down of the Holy Spirit on the Gifts to transform them into the Body and Blood of Christ.

10. The intercessions begin with the commemoration of the saints, including the singing of the Megalynarion, followed by intercessions for the living and those who have fallen asleep in the Lord.

11. The doxology is the concluding praise of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit that precedes the Amen of the people.


  • R.C.D. Jasper and G.J. Cuming, Prayers of the Eucharist: Early and Reformed, third ed. Liturgical Press, 1987. ISBN 0814660851
  • Casimir Kucharek, The Byzantine-Slav Liturgy of St John Chrysostom: Its Origin and Evolution. Alleluia Press, 1971. ISBN 9780911726060