Could someone please explain the exact definitions of/ differences among these actions, Epiclesis, Transubstantiation, and Consecration? I’m kinda confused as to how they are different…Thanks!

The Epiclesis is that part of the Eucharistic prayer in which the priest calls upon the Holy Spirit to bless the offerings, praying that they may become the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Consecration is that part of the Eucharistic prayer in which the priest recites the words of institution of the Eucharist. ("…this is my body…, …this is my blood…") over the elements of bread and wine.

Transubstantiation is the word used to describe the fact that the substance of the elements of bread and wine is changed into the substance of Christ’s body and blood.

(The Eastern Churches believe that it is actually the epiclesis that effects the transubstantiation, whereas the Western churches believe that it is the Consecration which effects the change.)


The gesture that accompanies the Epiclesis is the priest extending both hands together, palms down over the bread and wine. If the second Eucharistic prayer is being used, then the Epiclesis happens soon after the Sanctus.

Thanks! That was very helpful!

Hey, while we’re on the subject… are we supposed to have our heads bowed at this point or are we supposed to be observing the priest(s)… I had always kept my head bowed and eyes closed through the whole thing, but recently I started to observe the process and felt like I’ve cheated myself of the splendor and magnificence all this time. But I’d like to know which is proper…

You mean bowing our heads during the consecration? I don’t know that there is any particular standard. I remember that the nuns in the old days would bow their heads during the words of consecration, and then look up at the host or chalice during the elevation. But that’s not a common practice anymore.


I’m not sure about any standard, but I always make it a point to gaze upon my Lord. In fact, during the Mass we are commanded to–“Behold! This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” Behold is a command to look. I do, however, make a reverential bow of the head when the priest genuflects before the altar.

All Sacraments have an Epiclesis in one form or another.

Great answers but a bit off on this last one…

Actually in the East we perfer to say that it is a Mystery but that it is the whole Eucharistic Prayer that effects transubstantiation (a Western word and idea that is not used in Eastern Theology) but when pressed we would say that the time of this change is at the Epiclesis as it is after the words of Institution and, as you said, actually calls upon the Holy Spirit to, not only, bless the offerings but to change them.

Here is the actual Epiclesis from the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, this follows directly after the Words of Institution.

PRIEST: Remembering, therefore, this precept of salvation and everything that was done for our sake: the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the enthronement at the right hand, the second and glorious coming again. We offer You your own, from what is your own, in all and for the sake of all.
PEOPLE: We praise You. We bless You. We give thanks to You, O our God.
PRIEST: Moreover, we offer You this spiritual and unbloodly worship, and we ask, pray and entreat: sand down your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts offered.
DEACON: Bless the holy bread, Master.
PRIEST: +And make this bread the precious Body of your Christ.
DEACON: Amen. Bless the holy chalice, Master.
PRIEST: +And that which is in this chalice the precious Blood of your Christ.
DEACON: Amen. Bless them both, Master.
PRIEST: +Changing them + by your Holy Spirit.
DEACON: Amen. Amen. Amen.

Thanks Friar David for the intervention.

All the Eastern Churches have the Epiclesis prayer, prayed sometime after the narration of the Institution Narrative (IN). In the most ancient Anaphora of Addai and Mari (AM), the Epiclesis Prayer is at the very end of the Anaphora. In the original AM, there is no explicit Words of Institution.The Easterners believe that Jesus the Christ is present, Body, Soul and Divinity throughout the Anaphora. It is the Holy Spirit, who resurrects the Body of the Son and make it a Glorified and Immortal body. Many Fathers of the Church, especially Theodore of Mopsuestia is quite clear on this teaching. We find in the two Anaphoras of Theodore and Nestorius as well (both are approved Catholic Anaphoras), the Epiclesis right at the end and is prayed quite explicitly to make the offerings into the Body and Blood. The Holy Spirit also sanctifies the offerers (the faithful and the priest) as well.

The theory of “exact moment of Transubstantiation”, is a development in the Western Church from 12th century. The Epiclesis prayer in the Latin mass, as we see it today, was added in 1968. The Latin Church too teaches that it is the Holy Spirit which make this changing of the substance. (see CCC 1105, 1127). There has been much conflict between the West and East, about the comparative importance of Epiclesis viz-a-viz the “Words of Institution, as spoken by the priest”.This difference of opinion seems to be much narrower these days.

Mar Walah! (Jn 20:28)

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