An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Institution Narrative

Narration in a eucharistic prayer of Jesus' institution of the eucharist at the Last Supper, based on 1 Cor 11:23-26 (see Mt 26:26-29; Mk 14:22-25; Lk 22:14-20). The wording of the institution narrative varies slightly in different eucharistic prayers. The institution narrative states that Jesus gave thanks to God, broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said the words of institution concerning the bread, "Take eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me" (BCP, p. 362). The institution narrative likewise states that after supper Jesus took the cup of wine, gave thanks, shared the cup with his disciples, and said the words of institution concerning the wine, "Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me" (BCP, p. 363). Jesus' words of institution identify the eucharistic bread and wine with his body and blood, and direct his followers to continue this sharing in remembrance of him. Jesus' words thus "instituted" the eucharist, and the eucharistic narration of this event is the institution narrative.

The words of institution are the same in all Rite 2 eucharistic prayers, and appear in a somewhat different form in Rite 1. The BCP directs that the celebrant is to hold the bread, or lay a hand upon it, at the words concerning the bread. At the words concerning the cup, the celebrant is to hold the cup, or place a hand on it, and any other vessel containing wine to be consecrated (BCP, p. 362). Institution narratives also include brief statements of context concerning the institution of the eucharist at the Last Supper. Prayer A states that the Last Supper was on the night Jesus was handed over to suffering and death (BCP, p. 362); Prayer B states that it was on the night before he died for us (BCP, p. 368); Prayer C and the Rite 1 prayers state that it was on the night he was betrayed (BCP, pp. 334, 342, 371); and Prayer D states that when the hour had come for Jesus to be glorified by God the Father, Jesus loved his own who were in the world, and loved them to the end (BCP, p. 374).

An institution narrative was included in the third-century eucharistic prayer of Hippolytus's Apostolic Tradition. Institution narratives were regularly included in eucharistic prayers after the fourth century. The medieval church came to understand the words of institution as the "moment of consecration" of the eucharist, instead of the warrant or basis for the entire eucharistic rite. This emphasis on the words of institution came to be expressed through dramatic elevations of the elements and the ringing of bells. Sacramental theology has once again emphasized the consecration in terms of the entire prayer of eucharistic thanksgiving. However, a vestige of the medieval emphasis on the words of institution can be found in a form for consecrating additional bread or wine at the eucharist. This form combines a brief invocation of the Holy Spirit and a short version of the appropriate words of institution (BCP, p. 408). See Eucharist.

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.