12 May – Dom Gregory Dix


“May 12 honors Dom Gregory Dix, who made his transition on this day in 1952. Born George Eglinton Alston Dix, he chose the name Gregory upon taking monastic vows. He was received into the Anglican Benedictine community of Nashdom Abbey, Buckinghamshire, England, and became prior in 1948.

“Gregory Dix was a noted scholar whose work influenced liturgical reform in the Anglican Communion and beyond. He published a critical edition of the Apostolic Tradition in 1937. But his most influential work was The Shape of the Liturgy (1945). In the latter work, Dix declared that the Last Supper was not, as traditionally assumed, a Jewish Seder, or Passover meal; it was a Chaburah, or religious gathering of friends. Reflecting his assertion, the institution narrative in some modern versions of the Eucharistic Prayer now begin: ‘On the night before he died he [Jesus] had supper with his friends.’

“Dix also concluded from his research that the primitive Church did not have a single eucharistic rite, but the several rites in use shared a recognizable format, or ‘shape’:

“Offertory: the ‘taking’ of bread and wine
Consecration: eucharistic dialogue (‘The Lord be with you ….’) and institution narrative
Fraction: the breaking of the bread
Communion: receipt of the elements by the celebrant and congregation.

“That fourfold shape, according to Dix, was established before the epistles and gospels were written and before an intellectual understanding of the Eucharist emerged. Indeed, the intellectual understanding probably emerged from the worship experience. Dix’s ‘shape’ has acquired new relevance because of the proliferation of options in modern liturgies. If cohesion in Anglican worship exists at all, it must be found elsewhere than in language.

“Although the historical accuracy of some of his assertions have been challenged, Dom Gregory Dix’s influence remains substantial. The bishop of Oxford eulogized him as ‘the most brilliant man in the Church of England.’”

[Taken from “Christianity & Esotericism” on Facebook, which identifies the following as the primary source: John F. Nash, The Sacramental Church (2011)]

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