The earliest appearance of an epiclesis in liturgical documents is in the Anaphora of Addai and Mari H¤nggi – Pahl, Prex Eucharistica, 380 and in the Apostolic Tradition ibid., 81. In both texts the invocation is directed to the coming of the Holy Spirit on this your servants’ oblation Addai and Mari or in oblationem sanctae Ecclesiae Apost. Trad., so that the assembly may profit spiritually by receiving it. There is no mention of a transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ as a result of the epiclesis. It is in the mystagogical Catecheses of Cyril or John of Jerusalem that the role of the Holy Spirit in the transformation of the eucharistic species into Christ’s body and blood is clearly indicated: Then we, being sanctified through these spiritual hymns, invoke the merciful God that he may send his Holy Spirit on these offerings, so that he may make the bread Christ’s body and the wine Christ’s blood; what the Holy Spirit touches is sanctified and transformed Cat. Myst. V, 7: H¤nggi – Pahl, Prex Eucharistica, 208. From the time of the Council of Constantinople 381, which defined the divinity and consubstantiality of the three Persons of the Trinity, this statement appears as a liturgical application of the conciliar doctrine. At Rome, whose eucharistic epiclesis is primitive in that it does not mention the role of the Holy Spirit in the transformation of the species, Pope Gelasius writes: Ad divini mysterii consecrationem coelestis Spiritus invocatus adveniat Frag. 7, Ep. ad Elp.. It should be noted that Gelasius could not have deduced the consecratory role of the epiclesis just from the Roman canon: it is probable that he had applied the Council of 381 liturgically to the Roman canon or that he was under the theological influence of the East.
The consecratory nature of the epiclesis is affirmed by many Fathers after the Council of Constantinople. Gregory of Nyssa writes: Though things of little value before the blessing, after the sanctification that comes from the Spirit, both these things work in an excellent way In bapt. Christi: PG 46, 581. Theophilus of Alexandria echoes this doctrine when he says: Dicit Origenes Spiritum sanctum non operari ea quae inanima sunt nec ad irrationabilia pervenire. Quod asserens non recogitat aquas in baptismate mysticas adventu sancti Spiritus consecrari, panemque dominicum, quo Salvatoris corpus ostenditur et quem frangimus in sanctificationem nostri; et sacrum calicem quae in mensa Ecclesiae collocantur et utique inanimae sunt per invocationem et adventum sancti Spiritus sanctificari Epist. paschalis an. 402, 13; Jerome’s Lat. tr.: PL 20, 801. John Chrysostom gives a similar testimony: The priest is there not to draw down fire but the Holy Spirit: and he makes long supplications, not for a flame kindled on high to consume the offerings, but for grace, descending on the sacrifice, to kindle through it the hearts of all De Sacer. III, 4: PG 48, 642. In the West, Gaudentius of Brescia affirms the same doctrine: Ne commune et terrenum existimes sacramentum, sed ut per ignem divini Spiritus id effectum quod annuntiatum est, credas quia quod accipis corpus est illius panis caelestis, et sanguis est illius sacrae vitis Serm. II de Exodi lectione: PL 20, 858-859. Augustine, who follows Ambrose on the consecratory power of Christ’s words, also speaks of the consecratory aspect of the epiclesis: Sacramentum corporis et sanguinis Christi non sanctificatur, ut sit tam magnum sacramentum, nisi operante invisibiliter Spiritu Dei cum haec omnia quae per corporales motus in illo opere fiunt, Deus operetur De Trin. III, 4, 10: PL 42, 874. Isidore of Seville writes: Oblatio, quae Deo offertur, sanctificata per Spiritum sanctum, Christi corpori et sanguini conformatur De eccl. off., L 15: PL 83, 753.