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'The Representation of Christ, Ecclesiastical Office, and Presiding at the Eucharist'' by Professor Dr. Anne Jensen

“The Representation of Christ, Ecclesiastical Office, and Presiding at the Eucharist ”

by Professor Dr. Anne Jensen

Freiburger Zeitschrift für Philosophie und Theologie 40 (1993) pp. 282-297.

Translated from the German by Mary Dittrich, Canterbury, June 1999, and here for the first time made available on the Internet in English, with permission from the author and the magazine.

On the current re-reading of an early Christian tradition

For a long time the question of ecclesiastical ministries split Christianity. Indeed it still does. Despite all the theological documents on convergence and consensus, many of the Christian confessions have still not set up a common Eucharistic community. Granted after over nine centuries the reciprocal excommunications of 1054 AD between Rome and Constantinople have been lifted, but no “in-communication” followed. So we live in a kind of Eucharistic “No-man’s land” — theologically a pretty questionable matter!

1.  The current concept of ordination

In the ecumenical agreement on ecclesiastical offices, the theology of the Orthodox Church has been able to mediate between the Catholic doctrine of ordained priesthood and the Protestant “dogma” of the common priesthood of all the faithful, so that gradually a functional theology of office, closer to actual Church praxis than to doctrine has gained the upper hand. The notion of the priest functioning in Christ’s place (in persona Christi) receded. Already in the Decrees of Vatican II an important part was played by the so-called “eucharistic ecclesiology” which goes back to the Russian Orthodox theologian Nikolai Afanasier. In this, the bishop celebrating with the community represents especially the community assembled in the Holy Spirit for the Eucharist, and is so the guarantor of unity and unanimity in the church, of the “koinonia”,"communio", - a theology since then widely received in ecumenical circles.

This theology was also the background to the so-called Lima Document, so far the most important convergence paper of “Faith and Order” in whose elaboration Catholic theologians took part too.(Note 1) In it one finds only a watered-down allusion to the idea of representation: “It is Christ who invites to the meal and presides over it..... In most churches this presiding is demonstrated by an ordained bearer of office... The servant (minister)(Note 2) of the Eucharist is the missioner who represents the divine initiative and expresses the association of the local community with the other local communities in the universal Church” (BEM/E 29).

Though in German-speaking regions we still usually speak of the “priest” and “priestly ordination”, in substance what Edward Schillebeeckx so appropriately called the “sacerdotalising of the religious function” (Note 3) has been largely overcome. That is the almost exclusive orientation of priesthood towards the Eucharistic celebration, more precisely towards the “offering of the sacrifice of the Mass” and the elevation of clerics above the so-called laity - a term which should be avoided in theology, because all Christians are “lay-people”, i.e. members of the “People of God”, of the “laos theou”! Certainly, male and female holders of a church office should be regarded differently from male and female Christians who hold no office, but a distinction cannot be made by means of an inclusive conception. This, apart from the confusion arising from the “worldly” understanding of the “lay person” as a non-expert, the Protestant understanding of the lay-person as a non-theologian, and the equivalence in the (German) mind of religious and clerics as “non-lay persons”.

So priestly consecration has lost its sacred aura and has to a considerable extent been replaced by the sober concept of ordination: even when priestly consecration is noted, it is understood in the sense of the early Church’s laying on of hands. And Gisbert Grehake, a theologian who holds fast to the classical language of priestly existence for office-bearers, explains the “essential” distinction between clerics and laity no longer as an ontological difference, but as sacramental sign-bearing. Though he avails himself very freely indeed of the “representation of Christ” category, he nevertheless expressly declares it to be one-sided and “in need of following up.” (Note 4)

In spite of the developments outlined, oddly enough “in persona Christi” has recently again achieved unexpected prominence in the theology of office. In the draft (influenced by Rome) of the planned “Pastoral Letter to Women” in the USA it was stated that only a man could represent Christ at the Eucharistic celebration, an argument taken from the 1976 document of the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith on the question of admitting women to the priesthood (Inter Insigniores).(Note 5) In this the argument is based on the necessary “natural similarity”, so as to legitimise existing Church law, which postulates male gender as a condition of valid ordination. This doctrine makes appeal to scholastic theology, according to which “the sacramental signs represent, by means of a natural similarity, what they stand for.”(Note 6) Leaving aside the question of whether the ‘natural similarity’ with Christ is to be taken biologically, we have here an extremely problematic extension of the sacramental concept if, rather than the ecclesial act of ordination, the person ordained is held to be sacrament; however, this is not the place to go into the complicated history of the concept of ‘Holy Orders’ which can mean both the status of clerics and the rite of ordination.

When a theologumenon which seemed to relate to times past is suddenly revived and used as a central argument, one suspects ideological bias. This suspicion grows when one sees that suddenly orthodox theologians too, who otherwise criticise us for our “Christomonism” adopt “in persona Christi” when dealing with the question of ordaining women.(Note 7) How little this angle corresponds with Orthodox tradition can be illustrated by a known medieval controversy between Rome and Byzantium.

2. In persona Christi? An old bone of contention between East and West

During the centuries after 1056 AD- the year of the reciprocal excommunications - the Greeks and Latins at first went on talking and arguing in the hope of reaching agreement. But the fall of Byzantium in 1453 AD meant that for a long time it was impossible to pursue the negotiations towards union as conducted at the Council of Florence-Ferrata in 1439. In the medieval controversies one of the points at issue was the Eastern and Western forms of the Eucharistic celebration. Nikolaus Kabasilas, a well-known 14th century Greek theologian, records this on his “Explanation of the Divine Liturgy” (Note 8). This document is not in itself controversial in nature, but a catechetically edifying commentary for Orthodox Christians. In a kind of digression it says: “Many Latins attack us. They say that according to the Lord’s words ‘Take and eat’ no prayer is needed to sanctify the gifts. For that has already happened through the Lord’s word. Those, they continue, who after Christ’s words again name the bread and wine and ask for them to be sanctified, as if that had not already taken place, are not only lacking in faith but doing something completely empty and superfluous” (29,1)

The attack is on the Epiclesis, the calling down of the Spirit, which in the rites of the Eastern Church is the climax of the Eucharistic ceremony. First in the solemn Canon they commemorate doxologically the salvation story from the Creation to the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus: included in this “Anamnesis” is the “reminder” of what lies ahead, the expected return of the Lord, and the consummation of the world. There follows in the liturgy this call to the Father.

“Send down thy Spirit on us and on these gifts here, and make of this bread the precious Body of Thy Christ, and of what is in this chalice the precious Blood of your Christ, transforming them through Thy Holy Spirit”.

The celebrant, in praying thus, is evidently speaking not in the name of Jesus but in the name of the community or “in persona ecclesiae”. Behind Kabasilas’ reported polemical criticism by the Latins of Byzantine prayers, lies the contrary opinion held by Latin Scholastics, according to which when celebrating the sacraments the priest acts and speaks “in persona Christi”. He was perceived as “the counterpart” as “dispenser” of grace, whereas the community or its individual members were correspondingly the “recipients”. Medieval attempts to develop a systematic sacramental theory based on Aristotelian categories started at the rites of the Eucharistic celebration, in the piety of those days simply “the Blessed Sacrament”. These rites were particularly easy to divide into hule/matter and morphe/form: into a “material” sign (bread and wine) and an expounding formula characterised as “effective” (the account of the Last Supper understood as “words of transubstantiation”).

It is, of course, very difficult to press the rest of the seven liturgical observances defined as “sacraments” into this mould, because for one thing “material” is not always employed, and for another there is not always a symbolic act. In baptism, say, the water no longer has the same function as bread and wine, as it is not “transubstantiated”.(Note 10) Because of this schematising into “forma” and “materia”, controversy ensued about just where to place the sacramental occurrence. Thus, in about 1439 AD, at the Council of Florence, not the laying-on of hands, which is generally regarded nowadays as the “visible sign” of sacramental ordinations, was defined as the “materia” of priestly ordination but the handing over of the chalice and paten.(Note 11)

This extremely restrictive demarcation of “materia” and “forma” was linked to the concern of making sure of the efficacy of the sacraments, a need for a “guarantee of grace” as is clearly shown in Kabasilas’ text - the Latins are insinuating that the Greeks lack confidence in the power of the words of consecration, and so are tagging on another prayer, just to make sure. This need for certainty led in Medieval Western theology to a distinct codification of liturgical functions. That is most evident in the “forma” of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where the priest acts as a judge who imposes a punishment on the guilty person, and finally grants him an amnesty. (Note 12)

It is just here that the lack of consistency in the idea of acting “in persona Christi” is shown up. In the Latin formulas of absolution, “Ego te absolvo” (I absolve you) in the first person, which was specifically defined in Florence as “forma” (Denz 1323), no words or deeds of the historical Jesus are repeated, instead the priest is himself the grammatical subject who grants absolution in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. However, in the Roman Canon of the Mass the celebrant prays to God in the plural “we” form - just as in the Greek Anaphora - and commemorates also the Last Supper during which he cites the words of Jesus. In scholastic theology these words of Jesus are isolated from the prayer to which they belong, and treated as if they were a matter of a ritual formula spoken in the first person. This attempt to get old liturgical texts to serve dogmatic interests of a very different complexion is, of course, highly questionable, and cannot be accepted as a legitimate application of the principle, in itself healthy, of ‘lex orandi’(the norm of prayer) as ‘lex credendi’ (the norm of believing), i.e. having recourse to the liturgy as a source of theological perception.

And in any case, the matter is historically incorrect. For the Greek-language Eucharistic prayer, very probably set down by Hippolytus of Rome in the first half of the third century, one of the most ancient of the early Christian liturgical texts to come down to us, ends not with the account of the Last Supper, but with the solemn Epiclesis directly following it. (Note 13)

So the Epiclesis should not be seen as a unique property of the Greeks, but as a common inheritance from early Christian times. And the sacramental formulae in the indicative rather than the deprecative form are definitely a Western innovation. Remarkably, Kabasilas does not invert the polemics in his text. Certainly, he rejects the Latin criticism of the Epiclesis, but without thereby disparaging the customary Roman ‘lex orandi’. Instead he demonstrates that the Roman Mass canon itself embodies numerous epicletic elements, which is a fact, and he argues theologically correctly in stressing that the form of the supplication does not impair sacramental efficacy.

The female and male Christians in Rome did not in fact develop their own Latin-language liturgical tradition so as to distance themselves from their Greek female and male fellow-believers. But here two different kinds of spirituality and thinking found their expression. The West, with its greater affinity with historical recollection, placed the accent on the person of Jesus, or on the now exalted Christ, so as to illustrate continuity with the origin. The liturgical celebration is seen as the ‘imitatio Christi’ as an imitation and “bringing back” of what happened in the past. In the East, on the contrary, continuity was held rather to be guaranteed by the operation of the Spirit, who calls together the community. And the eschatological dimension was more preponderant: the celestial future is anticipated in the Eucharist - “heaven on earth” as in the proverbial cry of the Russian Grand Duke Vladimir after a liturgy he had attended in Byzantium. This stress placed in the East on the super temporal dimension of the ‘mysterium’ and of the related overview of the salvific events allows, with regard to church structures, more space for a charismatic-spiritual authority, whereas the greater fixation in the West on the chronological sequence has led to emphasis on the formal historical succession, thanks to which power in the church was legitimised.

This discussion regarding the Epiclesis, mentioned by Kabasilas, shows, as said, that the concept of priestly function ‘in persona Christi’ is alien to orthodox theology. But what about the concept of representation of Christ in early Christian tradition?

3. The representation of Christ and living witness

One thing should be noted: ‘Inter Insigniores’ when considering the ordination of women is relating to the “simple priest”, who normally celebrates the Eucharist in a community and “administers” or presides over" the other sacraments as the traditional terminology has it. However, in theological debate in centuries past the concept of the representation of Christ played a decisive part in legitimising power, as expressed in the sharpening of the theological formula “in persona Christi capitis” - the representation of Christ as head of the Church. But here not the priests/presbyters were the focal points, but the bishops, and finally the Pope with his claim to be ‘vicarius Christi’. So here much more was involved than merely presiding over the Eucharistic celebration. In this way an inversion had already taken place. It is one thing to say: ‘When an individual (male or female) presides over the Eucharistic celebration, he or she represents Christ at the Last Supper’. quite another thing is to hold that only the bishops (and the presbyters/priests as their delegates) can represent Christ and that this is the reason why only they may preside over the Eucharist. Finally, in the third place, should be added the contention that the representation of Christ in this episcopal-presbyterial office presupposes the male gender.

Now the answers we get from old texts depend to quite an extent on the questions we ask them. Thus Othmar Perter reaches this conclusion. “The bishop is in the eyes of the early Church the prolongation of Christ throughout the centuries. He participates in the kingship and priesthood of the Messiah in another sense than the baptised or even the simple priests.”(Note 14) This is a false conclusion according to the testimony of the sources which he himself quotes, especially regarding the second part of the statement according to which the representation of Christ by a bishop differs in quality from other representations of Christ. If one asks “Is Christ represented by the bishop?”, texts can indeed be produced which allow the question to be answered with a clear affirmative. But if one then asks the same texts “Who represents Christ?”, one comes, as we shall see, to the conclusion that it is by no means only the bishop.

Already a preliminary finding is surprising. The texts which really mention representation are not all numerous;(Note 15) far more often, the bishops’ authority is credited to their being the successors of the Apostles. To quote an example. The letter of Clement states that God sent Christ and Christ, the Apostles. These “appointed their first-born bishops and deacons for the future believers” (42,4). The author of the letter is concerned with something quite precise: so as to avoid power struggles like those which had happened in Corinth, ecclesiastical office-bearers should be non-disposable, and he bases that, inter alia, on the simple conviction known to us from the Letter to the Romans: authority whether in State or Church, comes from God (Rom.XIII). Elsewhere the “bishops and deacons” are held equivalent with the “presbyters”. Quite correctly, Joseph A.Fischer’s commentary states that  “....from the text of the letter no clue indicating a monarchical episcopate can be drawn.” (Note 16) Anyone wishing to base a special representative status of the bishop on such a text is setting out from a certain preconceived idea of episcopacy and reading it into the text. (Note 17)

However, the idea that the bishop represents Christ,  or even directly God, is indeed to be found, and in powerful words, in the letters of Ignatius of Antioch (early 2nd cent.) and in the Didascatia (early 3rd cent.). For example, in the letter to the Ephesians (V,1) to quote only one of the numerous sources, we find “So we must really look upon the bishop as the Lord himself”. But then, too, “Similarly, all must revere the deacons as (if they were) Jesus Christ.....” (To the Trallians, V.1 (Note 18) ). The martyr bishop is rightly seen as the early great champion of “monarchical episcopate”, rightly in that he wishes the running of the community to be headed by a single person as a guarantee of unity. But what in all this gets cheerfully overlooked is that Ignatius’s concept was that two collegiate bodies should relate to this person: the presbyterium and the diaconate, which relativises the “monarchical” character of this episcopacy at least to some extent. It is also significant that a distinction is drawn in the representation of Christ between the episcopal and the diaconate function. It is the latter which represents the “service” of Jesus. However, in Ignatius we are dealing with an extreme exaltation of all the functionaries, not merely of the bishop.

Nevertheless, when judging this text one thing should be borne in mind. Ignatius is writing in a spirit of extreme enthusiasm for martyrdom, and his language is generally exalted. And it is precisely the beseeching tone of his letters that shows that in the communities real life looked different, so that his voice should not simply be confused with the views of office held by Christians on the threshold of the second century. Here one may point to the contrasting text from early Christianity, the Didache (early 2nd c) in which the prophets enjoy the highest regard, whereas bishops and deacons are mentioned only once (and probably that was a later addition). (Note 19).

It becomes clear that the ideal picture painted by Ignatius does not match reality when one examines the role of the female and male martyrs in the 2nd and 3rd centuries where these appear in conflict with the episcopate. And if one takes only the martyred bishops, for instance in the report on the trial and eventual massacre of Christians in Lyons and Vienne in AD 177, only two quotes concerning the elderly Bishop Pothimus stand out: “In him Christ triumphed” and “the masses raged against him ‘as if he were Christ’ ” (V,1,29 on) But such are typical statements about male and female martyrs, independent of their function, as can easily be confirmed by the dossiers on martyrdom. So they cannot be seized upon to illustrate a specific representation of Christ by the bishop. Indeed, in the report about the Lyons massacre it is noticeable that the nonagenarian bishop merits only a very brief mention. The central figure here is however the slave Blandina, who is described, as none other in the arena of Lyons, as she in whom her fellow tortured experienced the presence of the resurrected Saviour. Here is merely the most important citation:

“Blandina was hung from a stake so as to be the prey of the beasts let loose. She gave the combatants, who saw her hanging in the form of a cross and heard her unceasing prayers, great courage, for seeing their sister in this struggle they saw with their own eyes him who was crucified for them, -- so that she gave to those who believe in him the certainty that all who suffer for the honour of Christ are eternally united with the living God.” (V,1,41)

The declaration about Blandina, who conveys to her fellow Christians, the certainty of the Resurrection, is so astounding that from time to time it is wrongly related to Christ by the translators.(Note 22) If one is seeking only references to bishops, such texts, as already said, are completely disregarded. Through coupling “martyr” and “bishop”, the authority of the early Christian martyrs or confessors simply transferred to the bishop, thus veiling a possible conflict between the two authorities. But if we are to deal properly with the testimony on the representational function of the bishop, recognising this conflict, well documented in the correspondence of Cyprian of Carthage (et al), is important.

As to the terminology: we are used to differing between martyrs and confessors; the first have given their lives for the faith, the others not so. But in the era of persecutions, these terms were interchangeable and were used for people who had acknowledged their belief, to a court of justice, at risk to their lives. This was so even if they survived the persecution. They were held in the highest esteem in their community. On the other hand, there were in the community the “lapsi”, who had denied their faith under persecution. Argument raged about whether they might be readmitted to communion. So here the still extant martyrs, male and female, were called upon. They might well intercede for the repentant backsliders or, rather, they themselves undertook the forgiveness, usually by writing so-called ‘peace letters’. In Cyprian’s correspondence this is frequently mentioned, and one of these letters is textually known.

“All confessors greet Father Cyprian. We inform you that we have granted peace to all those who must answer to you for their behaviour after their offence, and we wish that through you this attestation be made known to the other bishops too. We wish you to be at peace with the holy martyrs. Lucianus has written this in the presence of two clerics, an exorcist and a lector.” (Note 23)

Another letter shows that such attestations were also signed by female martyrs. (Note 22) The interesting thing is that whereas Cyprian grumbles about this procedure, he does not in principle deprive the female and male martyrs of the right to reinstate the apostates by virtue of his episcopal authority, but merely because he considers it unfitting to forgive them so quickly.

In another place Cyprian apologises to the community for having bestowed church functions on confessors without the usual prior consultation and communal resolution - this he writes, was unnecessary because God, himself, had favoured them with the grace of confessorship.(38.1) The important point of this is that the authority of the female and male martyrs in the church, similarly to that of the female and male prophets, is of an exclusively charismatic nature, as distinct from the other clerics, male and female, whose charisms required additional legitimacy as conferred by ecclesiastical ordination or appointment.(Note 23)

Once one knows these facts, which indicate a clear rivalry between episcopal and confessor-grounded authority, the rules in the Apostolic Tradition as also the expositions on martyrdom and the instructions regarding the bishop in the Didascalaia (Note 24) appear in a rather different light than if read independently from this conflict. Hippolytus holds that the confessors (no mention of female ones) need not be ordained to the function of the diaconate or presbyterate, because “through their confessorship they already rank as presbyters.”(Note 9) Only if they are to be a bishop must they be ordained. At first glance this seems to betoken a particular position of honour for the confessors. Not so, it precludes them from any possible competition with the episcopal office, because they are deemed equal not with that, but only with the presbyters.(Note 15)

There is a similar phenomenon in the Didascalia which, together with Ignatius, is the chief source of statements on the bishop as God’s representative. Indeed, here can be found plenty of utterances such as “ He reigns in place of the Almighty, yea, he should be revered by you like God” (chap 9). But again this is said of Martyrs too:

“He is to be seen by you as an angel of God or God on earth, he who in a spiritual sense is clothed with the Holy Spirit of God. For as he has become worthy of the imperishable crown and has again renewed the martyrdom of suffering, you see through him the Lord Our Saviour.” (Chap.19)

However, the author of the Didascalia fails to draw any consequences for “canonical law” from this remarkably powerful assertion, and avoids addressing the relationship between episcopal and confessor-based authority. But the general tone of this devotional text leaves no doubt that the position of the bishop was to be strengthened rather than the status of the martyrs. All the odder then, that precisely in this thoroughly hierarchically-tending document which inter alia, uses the strongest polemics to restrict the activities of church widows, we find a representational model for the baptismal liturgy unique in early Christian literature:

“The bishop presides in the place of God: the deacon stands in the place of Christ and must be loved by you. But the deaconess must be revered by you in the place of the Holy Spirit.” (Chap 9)

The presbyters and the widows and orphans are also named. The first-named represent the Apostles, the latter the altar. So here the whole liturgical scenario is expounded in various forms of representation. And there is another important point if one wants to quote the Didascalia on representation: the assertions granting the bishop so much authority stand in a particular context. It concerns the question of those who ‘gave in’ under persecution. The bishop should initially exercise severity in their regard and exclude them from the Church, but then, most of all, represent divine clemency and take them back. Evidently, the function of forgiveness, which had been a bone of contention between martyrs and bishops, should here be reserved to the latter without this being expressly stated.


At the outset of this examination a suspicion was voiced: that the reassessment of the theologumenon of liturgical action ‘in persona Christi’ might conceal ideological bias. Examination of the sources indeed demonstrate that early Christian views on ‘representation’ do not fit in with the assertions of ‘Inter Insigniores’. If one is to integrate the concept of representation into a contemporary theology of the ministries, one would at least have to bear in mind the multi-stratification of the early Christian tradition. On the other hand, one should also refrain from seeking legitimacy for today’s “progressive” bias in facts from the past, i.e. to claim ordination for women just with the help of the concept of representation. That would be the same faulty level of argument. In the age of representative democracy, in which of course men “represent” women and women men, that argument is in any case open to all sorts of misunderstandings, and so seems out of place.

Nor is it a matter of idealising the ancient “Church of the Martyrs” (male and female) and setting it off against today. Even less should martyrdom as such be glorified, especially in the context of voluntary, possibly enthusiastic fatal victimhood as the term means for us today. Therefore the word “martyrdom” has here  been replaced by “living witness”. In every century of church history, true witnesses, male and female have been few in number. The moans of many a bishop about the arrogance of confessors and ascetics were surely not always unjustified. For it is not a matter of ranking prophecy always above the institution. Church and community leadership is no less of a “charisma” than inspired speech -- and many a prophet is inclined to claim infallibility.

If we female and male theologians hold ideological criticism to be an important part of our task in handing on Christian convictions, the investigation of the exact historical findings is important so that the entire tradition should always be visible — Ignatius and the Didache for example— without starting from the choice of one text as a norm for assessing another one. If an attested custom is to be held to be binding tradition, convincing reasons for it must concurrently be produced. Here, Cyprian has set the standard: “A custom (consuetudo) without truth (veritas) is merely an ancient error!” (Note 26)

One dimension of the early Christian concept of a ‘representatio Christo’ we should, though, not lose from sight: the qualitative criterium. Nobody “represents” Jesus better than those who resemble him in their way of life. Nobody may lay claim to a “natural” similarity.


1.   ‘Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry’ (abbreviated to BEM) in: Growth in Agreement Reports and Agreed Statements of Ecumenical Conversations on a World Level, ed. H.Meyer/L.Vischer (Faith and Order Paper 108), Geneva 1984.

2.   An example of the difficulty in finding a uniform translation of the helpful English word “ministry”. The documents of the World Council of Churches are therefore better read in the original English, as the alternative translation of “office” or “service” in German leads to theological ‘nuances’ that can make a real difference.

3.   E.Schillebeeckx: ‘Das Kirchliche Amt’, Düsseldorf 1981 (and the revised version ‘Christliche Identitat und Kirchliches Amt. Pladoyer fur den Menschen in der Kirche’, Düsseldorf 1985).

4.   G.Greshake: ‘Priestersein. Zur Theologie und Spiritualität des priesterlichen Amtes’, Freiburg 1982, 73ff.

5.   ‘Inter Insigiores’: Declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the question of the admission of women to the priesthood (Publications of the Holy See 3, issued by the German Bishops’ Conference) 1976; Latin: Acta Apostolicae Sedis 69, 1977, 98-116.

6.   ‘Inter Insigniores’: 5, with verbatim quotation from Thomas.

7.   With one variation, which at first sight shows the argument to be one from the Eastern Church: the celebrant at the Eucharist is regarded not as “sacrament” but as an “icon” of Christ. Cf. the final report of the Inter-Orthodox Theological Commission on the status of women in the Orthodox Church and the matter of ordaining women, Rhodes 1988, published in Una Sancta 44 (1989) 252-260.

8.   ‘L’explication de la Divine Liturgie’ SC 4bis (unfortunately there is no German translation but there is an English one). It should be remembered that in the Eastern church “theia leitourgia” means the Eucharistic celebration not the liturgy in general.

9.   Text of the Epiclesis in the John Chrysostom Liturgy.

10.  In the Orthodox rituals, the baptismal water, too, is “made holy” by a solemn epiklesis. During the Easter night, the baptismal water is consecrated in a similar way in the West, but this consecration does not carry the same weight as the consecration of the Eucharistic gifts.

11.  Denzinger 1326 (Ed.P.Hünermann, 37th. ed 1991) .

12.  In the Orthodox rite, on the other hand, the confessor bears the image of a man familiar with souls, a healing doctor.

13.  Hippolyte de Rome, La Tradition Apostolique, (ed. Bernard Botte) SC 11bis (Fifth improved edition in ‘Liturgiewissenschaffliche Quellen und Forschungen’ 39); Apostolische Uberlieferung (published by W.Geerlings), FC.1. It should be remembered that prior to the Council only one eucharistic prayer was used, the one Kabasilas speaks about, which the Council of Trent made obligatory, and therefore known as the ‘tridentine Canon’. After Vatican II, three more forms of Canons were introduced (for the time being) , one being an adaptation of the above-mentioned ancient Roman rite taken from the ‘Traditio Apostolica’ according to Hippolytus.

14.  O.Perler, ‘L’évèque, représentant du Christ selon les documents des premiers siècles’, in L’Episcopat et L’Eglise universelle, ed. Yves Congar, Unam Sanctam 39, Paris 1964, p. 64.

15.  The crucial texts are to be found in the letters of Ignatius of Antioch and in the Syrian Didascalia.

16.  ‘Die Apostischen Vater’, published by J.A.Fischer, Farmstadt 1986, 10.

17.  O.Perler (see note 14).

18.  In the same place the Bishop is compared with the Father, but the priests with the Apostles.

19.  Didache 10,7; 11.3 - 13,7; 15,1 f. For the early Christian prophets and prophetesses, see A.Jensen Gottes Selbstbewüsste Töchter. Frauenemanzipation im frühen Christentum?, Freiburg 1992, pp. 254-362.

20. See also my investigation “Martyrium und Christus-Repräsentation ”, ibid. (note 19) pp. 232-252.

21.  Eusebius, Church History V,1-5

22.  Cf. A Jensen, po.cit., pp. 198 and 250ff.

23.  As for ordained female clerics, see A.Jensen op.cit pp. 74 ff (‘Widow’); 141ff (‘Deaconess’) etc.

24.  Both texts date from the same time as Cyprian’s correspondence (1st half 3rd C.).

25.  The effect of such a strategy can be seen in the graphic description of the hierarchy of office in Wilhelm Geerlings’ commentary. There the confessors are placed, not on a level with the presbyters, but below the deacons ! (FC I,176)

26.  Cyprian. Letter 74.a. “Truth” here has the meaning “based on rationality” (ratio). See letters 71,3 and 73,13.

Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars' declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.

Visit also our websites:Women Deacons, The Body is Sacred and Mystery and Beyond.

You are welcome to use our material. However: maintaining this site costs money. We are a Charity and work mainly with volunteers, but we find it difficult to pay our overheads.

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