Dix, Gregory. The Shape of the Liturgy. 2nd ed. London:Continuum International Publishing Group, 2005 (republished from 1945 original edition).
Chapter 7, “The Eucharistic Prayer” pp. 156-207.
Dix pauses at the start of this chapter to review that the eucharist was viewed as an action, with the meaning of the action described in the eucharistic prayer. The content of the prayer was not nearly as predictable as the other elements, which remained remarkably alike across time and place. In this chapter Dix will show the major variants in the eucharistic prayer, often laying out the texts in full.
When considering the pre-Nicene prayers, though the Church was functioning in many areas, we have only three texts from prior to the council of Nicea. These are from Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch, the three most important metropolitan churches of the time. Dix thinks if we had texts of other pre-Nicene eucharistic prayers the differences would be very slight in meaning but significant in details. This is what he finds among Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch (Dix 2005, 157).
Dix begins with the Roman tradition from Hippolytus (Ibid., 157). After giving the text of the prayer, Dix reduces it to a conceptual outline then makes comments on some specifics, finding parallels in Justin Martyr, a generation or two earlier than Hippolytus (Ibid., 159). Significant in Dix’s understanding is that Hippolytus considered the eucharist to be a means by which Christ abolished death (Ibid., 160). Chief issues in the Roman prayer are the “institution as the authority for what the church does in the eucharist” (Ibid., 162), the act being offering and receiving the bread and cup, and the anamnesis, or “recollection” feature of the rite.
Next, Dix treats the Egyptian tradition. There is no clear text, but there is an 11th century document with a prayer attributed to Serapion around 339-360. Dix considers it reliably ancient and Egyptian but thinks it may have undergone some editorial changes (Ibid., 162). Dix observes that the outline is basically the same but the prayer, though longer, is less precise and specific (Ibid., 164). The prayer adds intercession for individuals and remembrance of those who have died. In general the structure is the same but the composition is much looser (Ibid., 172).
Syria was never as cohesive as Egypt. However, Antioch emerged as the leader in Syrian Christianity fairly early (Ibid., 173). Despite many different customs, the Liturgy of St. James, adopted in Antioch in the 5th century and composed certainly earlier, stands as an example of the eucharistic prayer (Ibid., 176). The liturgy is especially important due to its Semitic roots (Ibid., 178). Dix examines two Syrian prayers, those of SS Addai and Mari and that of S. James. The prayer of SS. Addai and Mari is very significant in not mentioning the eucharist at all, as well as having a very allusive style (Ibid., 186). Dix then moves on to S. James, which exists in three distinct texts (Ibid., 187). After presenting the texts Dix makes a comparison of the various prayers, tracing common elements and later developments. Again he finds the overall structure similar but with wide variety in details.