An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Great Thanksgiving

Title used by the BCP for the eucharistic prayer, the central prayer of the Eucharist. It is also known as the prayer of consecration. It begins with the dialogue called Sursum corda and continues through the Great Amen at the end of its doxology. It gives thanks for creation, redemption, and sanctification. The bread and wine are consecrated in the context of giving thanks over them in the eucharistic prayer. The institution narrative, oblation (anamnesis), invocation of the Holy Spirit (epiclesis), intercessions, and the angelic hymn Sanctus are included in the eucharistic prayers of Rite 1 and Rite 2.

Eucharistia is Greek for “thanksgiving,” and the Great Thanksgiving distinguishes the thanksgiving over the bread and wine from other thanksgivings, such as that over the baptismal font or the chrism. This ancient title was restored in Prayer Book Studies 19 and succeeding trial rites leading up to the 1979 BCP. The Greeks call this prayer anaphora (offering), and the traditional Latin title is Prex (Prayer). Canon is not a generic name for the eucharistic prayer, but the proper name of the canon Romanus, also called the canon missae, or canon actionis, the present Eucharistic Prayer 1 of the Roman Sacramentary. It was so called because, unlike the eucharistic prayers of other rites, it was always the same, an inflexible rule, or canon. The eucharistic prayer had no title in the 1549 BCP. The Scottish Prayer Book of 1637 introduced the title “Prayer of Consecration,” which was used through the 1967 Liturgy of the Lord's Supper. This focuses on the consecration of the bread and wine but neglects the wider eucharistic aspects of the prayer.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.