Dix, Gregory. The Shape of the Liturgy. 2nd ed. London:Continuum International Publishing Group, 2005 (republished from 1945 original edition).
Chapter 8, “Behind the Local Traditions.” pp 208-237
Dix reiterates the apparent similarity of structure and diversity of phrasing of the eucharistic prayer in different locations. His opinion is that as time went on in the fifth and sixth centuries there were more revisions and borrowings resulting in more uniformity even in phrasing (Dix 2006, 208). Finding the early evidence is a challenge. “The pre-Nicene church was a secret society, which deliberately intended to seclude knowledge of its liturgy from all but its own tested members” (Ibid., 209). Scholarship has concentrated on finding an overriding outline and has recently focused on Apostolic Constitutions Bk. VIII and on Hippolytus (Ibid., 210). Dix moves on to a brief survey of some of the scholarship, much of which he considers to be unfortunately opaque. The question, upon further investigation, is what the pre-Nicene church was intending by the eucharist, as well as how that is expressed in different times and places (Ibid., 214). Dix concludes that our answer is found not in the words but in the actions (Ibid., 215). The central theme of thanksgiving is reflected and follows the same pattern as the prayer in the Jewish grace(Ibid., 21). Dix continues with an analysis of the late 4th century thanksgiving from Alexandria, the liturgy of S. Mark (Ibid., 218). His conclusion when considering this as well is that the first half of the eucharistic prayers is very consistent, while the second half has more divergence (Ibid., 220). “It is possible to conceive of a primitive type of eucharistic prayer which consisted simply of a ‘Naming’ of God, followed by a series of ‘Thanksgivings’ for the New Covenant and concluding with a ‘glorifying of the Name’?”” (Ibid., 220). Dix sees this as consistent with the Jewish berekah. Dix traces this pattern in the different rites, showing it is a distinct possibility. Dix then asks if there is a clear start to the “second half” of the prayer (Ibid., 225). He cannot locate it at a precise point. Yet he does see an overall theme of purpose, “to define the meaning of what the church does at the eucharist and relate it to what was done at the last supper” (Ibid., 227). This observation leaves Dix with a view that the prayer is simply a tool to express the entire action of the eucharist in words. If this view is correct, Dix considers it to harmonize the entire ceremony and explain all the developments without bringing in other theories based on developments about which we know nothing.