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Ministry in the First and Second Christian Millennia

Ministry in the First and Second Christian Millennia

A pneumatological and ecclesial conception of the ministry in the first ten centuries

From Ministry by Edward Schillebeeckx
Published by SCM Press, London, 1981. pp. 38 - 53

Published on our website with the necessary permission

1. The evidence of the Council of Chalcedon

If we are to put the ministry of the church as it was practised in the first ten centuries into clear focus, we would do well to begin with canon 6 of the Council of Chalcedon (451). This canon representS very well in legalistic form the view and practice of the early church in connection with the ministry. Patristic theology and the liturgies of the early church are a clear confirmation of this Chalcedonian conception of the ministry, which in the last resort seeks to canalize a loose form of practising the ministry which had earlier still been in process of change.

The canon does not condemn just any form of ‘absolute consecration’, in other words, a ‘consecration’ of a candidate without any connection with a particular community, but declares this to be invalid: ‘No one may be “ordained” priest or deacon in an absolute manner (apolelymenos) . . . unless a local community is clearly assigned to him, whether in the city or in the country, whether in a martyrdom (burial place where a martyr was venerated) or in a monastery’; then ‘the holy council resolves that their cheirotonia (ordinatio or appointment) is null and void . . . and that they may not therefore perform functions on any occasion’.(1) This text displays a clearly defined view of ministry in the church. Only someone who has been called by a particular community (the people and its leaders) to be its pastor and leader authentically receives ordinatio (I am deliberately not translating this term by ‘consecration’). Ordinatio is an appointment or’incorporation’ as minister to a community which calls a particular fellow-Christian and indicates him as its leader (or, above all in the earlier period, which accepts the actual charismatic emergence of one of its members and gives it official confirmation). An ‘absolute ordinatio’, i.e. one in which hands are laid on someone without his being asked by a particular community to be its leader, is null and void. Here we can see an essentially ecclesial view of the ministry.

In the Roman empire, ordinatio means entry into a particular ordo; it was the classical expression for the naming of imperial functionaries, above all the king or emperor himself.(2) Tertullian was the first to use the word in a Christian sense, in connection with the ministry of the church: ordo is a list of successive bishops (one might say, a list of succession). Cyprian systematized this concept. Ordinatio then means (a) the canonical appointment of a Christian to the college of office-bearers, (b) as grace from God - the two key concepts of the New Testament.

In the Roman empire, ordo also had the connotation of particular social classes differing in status. The senators formed the ‘higher order’, into which one would be ‘instituted’ (in-ordinari or ordinari). Under the Gracchi, an order of equites came into being between the ordo senatorum and the plebs, or the people (here ordinari then means becoming an eques); only later was the plebs itself also called an ordo. Thus finally people talked of ordo et plebs, i.e. the upper, leading class, and the ordinary people, a terminology which not only introduced influence from the Old Testament but also coloured the difference between clergy and people (laity): after the time of Constantine the church ordinatio or appointment to the ‘order of office-bearers’ clearly became more attractive because the clergy were seen as a more exalted class in the church in comparison with the more lowly ‘believers’.(3) The clericalization of the ministry had begun!

As such, then, the old church usage of ordinatio or cheirotonoia has nothing to do with the laying on of hands or cheirothesia, although the sending or calling of the church, and therefore the appointment of a Christian to the ranks of those holding office in the church, was in fact made by the laying on of hands (see further below). Therefore the essence, and indeed the force of the old concept of ordinatio comprises the calling, the mandate of the sending of someone by a particular Christian community (the people and its leaders). This is the essence of ordinatio, although (with a very few exceptions) in fact for several centuries, beginning even in the New Testament, this appointment was in fact made specifically by the bishop laying on hands with epiclesis or the prayer of the whole community. According to the canon of Chalcedon, even a correct liturgy of the laying on of hands is null and void without calling by a local church and to a local church. It is this particular context which determines the essentially ecclesial character of the ministry; the ecclesial dimension is the decisive element of ordinatio or appointment.

The community knows that it has the right, by grace, to leaders, consequently, always along with the leaders it has already been given, it takes the initiative here. Moreover, in the early church each local church is aware that it has everything necessary for building up the real life of a ‘community of Christ’ (at that time there were still no reservations from above). The local church calls its own ministers. The essential connection between community and ministry, expressed at the Council of Chalcedon in canonical form, shows that the difference between the power of ordination and the power of jurisdiction was not only unknown at that time, but even inconceivable in ecclesiological terms.4 Ministry is a concern of the local community. Cyprian demands this right as being of divine origin, i.e. as belonging to the nature of a ‘community of God’, even against Pope Stephen.(5) ‘No bishop is to be imposed on the people whom they do not want.’ (6) Leo the Great also puts the matter succinctly: ‘He who must preside over all must be chosen by all.’ (7) At the same time this all implies that the ministry is a public matter and that therefore no one can appropriate the ministry of his own accord. The mutual relationship between community and ministry also points in this direction. The ministry is defined essentially in ecclesial terms, and not as an ontological qualification of the person of the minister, apart from the determinative context of the church. The story of Paulinus of Nola is characteristic here. He says that he was in fact ordained in absolute form in Barcelona; he writes about this in an ironically pious way, to this effect: ‘There was I, orphaned, shamefaced, priest, as it were, only to our dear Lord, but without a community: in sacerdotium tantum Domini, non etiam in locum Ecclesiae dedicatus.8 Later, Isidore of Seville calls those who are ordained absolutely, men without heads: ‘neither man nor beast’.9 We know from the outsider Jerome that he reluctantly bowed to the pressure on him to be ordained presbyter, on condition that he did not have to perform any ministerial functions!l0 Neither flesh nor fish, said the early church.

The canon of Chalcedon was known not only in the East but also in the West, and here too it was valid for church lawyers and theologians until the twelfth century. Pope Leo, lawyers like Burchard of Worms, Ivo of Chartres, the Decretum Gratiani, and various western synods and theologians down to the twelfth century, refer to the declaration of the invalidity of absolute ordinations made at Chalcedon. (11)

However, in the ancient church the link between the community and its leader was so strong that to begin with it was impossible for the leader to be moved to another community although exceptions to the rule were made, justified by the principle of oikonomia, (12) i.e. on compassionate grounds. Another fundamental consequence of the canon of Chalcedon was that a minister who for any personal reason ceased to be the president of a community ipso facto returned to being a layman in the full sense of the word. (l3) The distinction between jurisdiction, i.e. specific charge over a community, and ordo the power of ordination in itself, did not exist at that time. So át that time the departure of a minister had quite a different significance from the present-day laicization of a priest. In other words, according to this view it is not the case that someone who has the power bestowed by ordination may preside over the community and therefore also at the community’s eucharist. The minister appointed by the community already receives, by virtue of his appointment, all the powers which are necessary for the leadership of a Christian community; he receives them from the Holy Spirit via the community. This is because, since the community understood itself as the community of God - the temple of the Holy Spirit- people began to give this appointment of a minister a liturgical framework of its own in which God’s charisma was called down on him. There was as yet nothing ‘sacral’ here because this was a sacramentalism of faith! This means that the modern situation in which a community might not be able to celebrate the eucharist because no priest is present is theologically inconceivable in the early church; the community chooses a president for itself and has hands laid on him so that they can also be a community which celebrates the eucharist, i.e. a ‘community of God’. In that case the vitality of the community in terms of the gospel is the deciding factor, not the availability of a boy of priestly manpower, crammed full of education in one place or another.

2. The evidence of the liturgy

This view of the ministry held by the early church, officially documented in canon 6 of Chalcedon is also expressed in the earliest liturgy for the laying on of hánds known to us from the first half of the third century, the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus (and in the whole of the liturgical tradition which is influenced by it, above all the Apostolic Constitutions and the Testamentum Domini). It can also be found in the writings of the theologians of this time.(14) In the liturgical tradition, (15) the ordinatio (i.e. cheirotonia or appointment’) of a bishop, presbyter or deacon comprises a variety of aspects.

First of all the institution of a bishop in a local church community: (l6)

1. All the local community with its clergy chooses its own bishop, and the person who is called must in principle accept the choice of his own free will. We know from other documents that the one who was called was really expected to obey this call from the community, even against his own will. This happened, for example, to Ambrose and Augustine. (l7) At all events, ministry is a necessary function for the community and therefore the community has the right to ministers. Furthermore, the local church tests the apostolic faith of the candidate and bears witness to it. (18) This is an expression of the ancient conviction that primarily the community itself is apostolic; but because in turn the bishop takes on a specific responsibility for the community and thus for its apostolicity,(19) the community which receives him first examines the apostolic foundation of his faith.

2. Episcopal laying on of hands with epiclesis, or the prayer of the whole community to the Spirit: Although the local church chooses an episcopal minister of its own, it does not autonomously provide itself with a minister. Because he has been chosen by a ‘community of Christ’, his choice is experienced as a gift of the Holy Spirit. In the early church, as in the New Testament, the minister, the new bishop, was seen as a gift of the Spirit of Jesus. This was expressed sacramentally in the liturgy by the laying on of hands by bishops (later, according to the Council of Nicaea, at least three bishops), from neighbouring churches. This is an expression of the communion of all the Christian communities with one another. No local church has the monopoly of the gospel or of the apostolicity which derives from the gospel; it, too, is subject to criticism from the other apostolic churches. The presence of the leaders of other churches in the liturgy is primarily a witness which confirms the identity of the faith of this community with that of the others. There is therefore no local introversion; in this way there is a creative expression of the collegiality among the local churches. The (three) bishops lay their hands on the candidate, silently assisted by the whole of the council of presbyters, while the whole congregation prays in silence to God (as the president asks out loud), for the power of the pneuma hêgemonikon and the pneuma archieratikon: the power of the spirit of leadership as pastor and leader, and the spirit of high priesthood. Before this it is said that God ‘gave leaders (archontes) and priests (hiereis) to the generation of the righteous, the descendants of Abraham, i.e. the church’: Moses and Aaron (in the Old Testament, the embodiments of theocratic secular and religious authority Ezra 8.69; Neh. 12.12; Jer. 10.3; 31.7; Amos 1.15). It is said of the ‘spiritual power of leadership’ that God gave it to his Son (at his baptism in the Jordan), while he in turn gave it to the apostles, the founders of the churches, as a gift at Pentecost. Now this same ‘spirit of leadership’ (spiritus principalis, according to the Vulgate translation of Ps. 50.14), is called down upon the new candidate. In the strength of this charisma of leadership he will ‘feed the flock’ (a messianic term: Isa. 40.11; see Acts 20.28; I Peter 5.2). The minister (bishop) receives the prophetic mission to proclaim ‘the word of grace’ (a reference to Luke 4.22, Acts 14.3; 20.32), i.e. the good news of Jesus, which has been handed down by the apostles. In addition, ‘the power of the high priestly charisma of the spirit’ (to pneuma to archieratikon; spiritum primatus sacerdotii) is called down upon the candidate. God also gave this charisma of the Spirit to his Son, who gave it to the apostles: now the community asks God to pour out the same spirit of priesthood upon the new candidate. As the priestly leader of the community, the minister must (a) constantly speak for his community to the best of his ability before God (cf. Heb. 7.25; 9.24), above all asking for the for giveness of sin; (b) the episcopal leader must also be a sacerdos in the sense of being president at the eucharist (propherein ta dora); (c) in the strength of the priestly charisma of the spirit he has authority to forgive sins (cf. Matt. 9.ó; John 20.23); (d) he apportions and co-ordinates the kleroi (i.e. the duties of the ministers; specifically those of the presbyterate and diaconate); (e) he exercises the power to bind and to loose (see Matt. 18.18: . impose a ban or lift a ban). He is to do all this ‘humbly and with a pure heart’ (see Matt. 5.5, 8; II Tim. 2.25). As earlier, in I Clement 42.1-4, here in the Apostolic Tradition there is a clear emphasis on one and the same power of the Spirit which goes from the Father to the Son, from the Son to the apostles, and which within the community built up on the apostles, together with its leaders, is now called down upon the one whom the community has chosen here and now to be its leader. The ordinatio is liturgically a matter of course because church lead ership was experienced as a gift of the Spirit: participation in the prophetic and priestly (20) spiritual charisma of Jesus himself.

The ordinatio of a presbyter(2l) was performed through the laying on of hands by the bishop, but in this case fellow presbyters also lay their hands on the candidate who has been put forward by the community. The variation in the spiritual charisma is clear from the epiclesis: ‘. . . give him the spirit of grace and counsel of the college of presbyters, so that he can help your people and lead them with a pure heart’. (22) Presbyters are compared with ‘the elders whom Moses had chosen’ (Num. 11.1725). In the pre-Nicene church, presbyters as such might not preside at the eucharist; therefore nothing is said about a charisma for this in the liturgical ordinatio according to the Traditio of Hippolytus. However, with the bishop’s permission the presbyter might also replace the sacerdos, i.e. the bishop, here (without a supplementary ‘ordination’ being thought necessary). At that time there were still no ‘perishes’; there were only dioceses consisting of towns. As the church spread, in smaller communities presbyters in fact took over the episcopal ‘leadership and priesthood’ within their communities. From that stage on - differing from one area to another - presbyters too gradually come to be called sacerdotes. (23) As a result, sacramentally, the difference between bishop and priest really became problematical; a pastor is in fact as it were bishop of a parish, just as many bishops in ltaly now do what in Holland is assigned to a rural dean. Such historical differences demonstrate that the direct relationship to the community determines the concept sacerdos. The ordinatio of a chosen deacon was performed in roughly the same way, with the difference that the college of presbyters was not involved, because at that time a deacon was exclusively at the disposal of the bishop and not of the presbyters. So he does not receive the spiritual charisma in which the council of presbyters shares because he is not a member of it.24 His charisma remains ‘open’; he receives his spiritual charisma ‘on the authority of the bishop’: thus he can and may do all that the bishop specifically requires him to do.

In these three instances of ordinatio Hippolytus does not set out to prescribe invariable formulae. Rather, his Traditio is meant as an aid towards the improvisation of presidents: ‘provided that the prayer be orthodox.’ (25) At that time no liturgical appointment or ordinatio was necessary for other church ministries, e.g. those of rectors and subdeacons. (26)

This evidence from the Apostolic Tradition and the Apostolic Constitutions is also important because it is a recognizable parallel to the later canon 6 of Chalcedon. As in Chalcedon, there is a clear expression of the ecclesial and pneumatological conception of the ministry in the early church: ministry comes from below, but this is experienced as a ‘gift of the Spirit’ and therefore ‘from above’. The charismata imparted derive from the fullness of the Spirit with which Jesus himself was filled and with which he fills the church. After Vatican II, in 1969, this tradition from Hippolytus was taken up in the new Pontificale Romanum, which explicitly seeks once again to bring presentday tradition into line with the early church - by no means a small achievement (above all thanks to B. Botte, who edited the Hippolytus text).

In this liturgy the decisive element is the gift of the power of the Spirit (no distinction is made between ‘grace’ and ‘character’: in this respect it is a charisma of the Spirit.) This is further underlined by what the Traditio says about the confessores-martyres, Christians who have been arrested and have suffered for the cause of Christ, but who for fortuitous reasons have not been put to death. Because of their suffering as a witness to the faith, any person of this kind has the charisma of the Spirit. Whenever a community subsequently chooses him as a minister (deacon or priest, at any rate), no hands need to be laid upon him (this is, however, necessary if he is to be made a bishop). (27) He already has the necessary power of the Spirit. It is important that for these candidates, too, there was nevertheless a liturgical appointment to a particular community (leaving out the laying on of hands). Here we can clearly see the twofold dimension of the old ordinatio: on the one hand appointment bv the church (its ecclesial aspect in the context of church order) and on the other hand the charisma of the Spirit (the pneumatological and christological aspect). It must be said that what was later called the power of ordination and its character is simply the appointment of a minister to a particular community along with the gift of the Spirit (whether institutional, or spontaneous and charismatic), differentiated in accordance with different ministerial duties. The recognition of someone as a minister by the church (people and leaders) is decisive.

Thus the actual structures of official ministry in the ancient church consisted of leaders within a specialized team. In addition to this, of course, there are all kinds.of other ministries in the church, like those of ‘teachers’ and lectors, but according to the Traditio of Hippolytus these need no liturgical or ecclesial appointment. Such people have adequate spiritual resources for these tasks as a result of their membership of the priestly people of God. (28) Of course questions of prestige also played a role in the church’s ministry (above all between presbyters and deacons); in the last resort, however, given the main outlines of everyone’s task, the boundaries are nevertheless very fluid. The chief difference from the New Testament is that in principle the tasks which in the New Testament period were differentiated are now brought together in one ministry, that of the bishop. Later this would lead some theologians to the theory that there is really only one ministry, i.e. that of the bishop, and all other ministries are only participating functions of this. This seems to me to be a possible and legitimate theological interpretation, but not a necessary one. I disagree with Karl Rahner, who has been foremost in proposing it as the only possible theory; it seems to me to be a speculative possibility rather than to have a historical foundation in the facts presented by the New Testament. For all its pluriformity the ministry in the church is essentially collegiality, i.e. solidarity of Christians equipped with different charismata of ministry.

3. Appointment to an order and the liturgical framework of the laying on of hands

Because of its complicated history, I feel that I should give a further analysis of the relationship between ordinatio and the specific laying on of hands (with epiclesis)

In the Latin church, the term ‘laying on of hands’ (impositio manuum) renders both the Greek cheirotonia and cheirothesia. Cheirotonia really means ‘appointment’ (signifying with the hand); cheirothesia, however, means laying on of hands. Now in the texts of the Eastern churches, above all before the eighth century, cheirotonia and cheirothesia are used interchangeably without any deliberate theological difference. (29) Only after the Second Council of Nicaea (787) does the difference between the two terms become sharper, and from the twelfth century onwards in the Eastern churches cheirothesia is used exclusively for the institution or ordinatio of bishops, presbyters and deacons, whereas cheirotonia is reserved for appointment to other church ministries. Even then, however no special theological value seems to be attached to this distinction.

In the Western church, as well as ordinatio we find simply the term impositio manuum as a translation of both cheirotonia and cheirothesia. It appears from Jerome (30) that the bishops are always chosen from the college of presbyters, without a new laying on of hands being given; the choice of the bishop by the presbyteral college (always with the approval of the people) was enough (the analogy with the choice of a Roman consul is striking), although this was in no way a general custom. On the other hand, in the earliest Latin ritual of consecration (Ordo 34 Andrieu), from the eighth century, at the ordinatio of ministérs of the church there is no mention of a laying on of hands, though Andrieu (in contrast to C. Vogel) presupposes this. At the beginning of the fifteenth century Macarius of Ancyra can still write that the choice of a community makes someone a bishop here the laying on of hands is secondary. (31) Thus although thé laying on of hands at ordinatio is a clear fact of the tradition, it is not regarded as the most important thing; what is essential is the church’s mandate or the church’s sending of the minister, not the specific form in which the calling and sending takes shape. For this reason, too, the liturgical laying on of hands at the ordinatio of ministers does not have any effect in heterodox churches. In the hrst millennium, both in the East and in the West, the necessity for the laying on of hands at the ordinatio of ministers was strongly relativized: (32) recognition and sending by the church is the really decisive element. This sending is essentially an act of the sacramental church; because it is self-evident it is therefore also given specific form in a particular liturgical act consisting in the laying on of hands. The history of the first millennium therefore leaves completely open the question whether the rite of consecration is absolutely necessary. Above all, the Eastern practice of the oikonomia in connection with the laying on of hands in heterodox churches is a clear indication that the all-decisive element is not the liturgical rite as such, but the sending by the church, though in practice (with one or two exceptions), the sending was always carried out in and through the specific liturgy of the laying on of hands.

Thus it emerges from an analysis of ordinatio, cheirotonia and cheirothesia that the basic principle is that the minister of the church is one who is recognized as such by the whole of the church community (the people and its leaders), and is sent out to a particular community. As Pope Leo I put it: if the candidate is chosen by the clergy and wanted by the people; (33) in Leo’s time this recognition, which was essential, was implemented by the laying on of hands by the candidate’s own bishop with the assent of the metropolitan (loc. cit.). Outside this ecclesial context the liturgical laying on of hands is voided of all meaning. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries a new theology of the ministry, moving in another direction, would alter the perspective completely, at least in the West.

We can again conclude: the essential nucleus of ordinatio is being recognized as a minister through the church and in this way being chosen for a particular church community (through its leaders with the explicit approval of the believing community, or více versa). Normally this is given specific form in a liturgical laying on of hands, but that is not primary or all decisive.

4. The first ‘sacerdotalizing’ of the church’s ministry

(a) Sacerdos (bishop; priest) and eucharist

It emerges above all from the pre-Nicene literature that the ancient church had difficulty in calling the church leaders ‘priestly’. According to the New Testament, Christ and the Christian community alone were priestly; the leaders were at the service of Christ and the priestly people of God, but are themselves never said to be priestly. However, Cyprian was one of the first to have a clear predilection for the Old Testament priestly sacrificial terminology, to which he compared the Christian eucharist. In this way the sacerdotalizing of the vocabulary of the church’s ministry in fact developed gradually,34 though this was at first in an allegorical sense. Furthermore, Cyprian is also the first who says of the sacerdos, i.e. at that time the bishop who presides over the community and therefore at the eucharist, that he does this uice Christi, in Jesus’ place. (35) By contrast, Augustine continues to refuse to call bishops and presbyters priests in the real sense, in the sense of being mediators between Christ and the community. (36) In his Traditio, Hippolytus is in a transitional period. In his epiclesis there is outright mention of ‘the Spirit of high priesthood’ which falls to the part of the bishop who presides, but on the other hand Hippolytus repeatedly says that the bishop is like a high priest (Traditio 3 and 34); the Old Testament allegorical usage is still played on. However, these comparisons are not made in the case of presbvters, who thus are clearly non-priestly (not a sacerdos or leader), although as time goes on (varying according to different local communities) they increasingly replace the bishop as presidents at the eucharist (without needing a new ‘consecration’ for this). In the pre-Nicene period it is therefore hard to speak of priests in connection with both bishops and presbyters. For the early church sacerdos (as an Old Testament name for the Jewish priest) was applied allegorically, and to begin with only to the bishop, (37) who was then the figure with whom the local community really identified and in whom it found its unity. Because in the long run presbyters also normally presided at the eucharist (because they in fact were the local leaders of smaller communities), they too were finally called priests (sacerdotes), albeit secundi merit) i.e. subordinate to the episcopal president. 38 Thus a first sacérdotalizing, at least of the vocabulary connected with ministers, came into being.

The development which I have just outlined seems to suggest a link in the early church between ‘priesthood’ and the eucharist. However, this is not the case, or at least it is not the whole truth. In the early church there was really an essential link between the community and its leader, and- therefore between the community leader and the community celebrating the eucharist. This nuance is important. It was essentially a matter of who presided over the community (as an individual or in a team): ‘We do not receive the sacrament of the eucharist. . .from anyone other than the president of the community’, says Tertullian.39 In fact at that time the bishop was the real leader of the community. In that case no eucharist could be celebrated against the will of the bishop.(40) The purpose of this rule (for both ‘Ignatius’ and Cyprian) was that of preserving the unity of the community. The figure who gives unity to the community also presides in ‘the sacrament of church unity’,(41) the eucharist. Although the problem of the ministry is involved here, the prime factor is the apostolicity and the unity of the church: ‘outside the church community there is no eucharist’.(42) In the first instance this means that a ‘heretical community’ has no right to the eucharist; the question of the ministry in connection with the president at the eucharist is subordinate to this.(43)

Furthermore, in the ancient church the whole of the believing community concelebrated, albeit under the leadership of the one who presided over the community. A later, but still early Liber Pontificalis writes: tota aetas concelebrat, (44) the whole of the community, young and old, concelebrates. Some readers may already be asking whether ‘concelebrate’ then had the precise meaning which it has acquired now that it has become a twentieth-century technical term. The critical question to ask in reply is, on what grounds can one give a kind of theological priority to a narrowed-down technical meaning? This can just as much be a narrowing of perspective. In the early church, presiding at the eucharist was simply the liturgical dimension of the many-sided ministerial pattern of presiding in the Christian community. The one who is recognized by the church as leader of the community also presides at the eucharist.

Of course, for the early church the community itself is the active subject of the offerimus panem et calicem.(45) We may not define the specific function of the sacerdos who presides at the eucharist in terms of the later interpolations into liturgical books (such as e.g. accipe potestatem offerre sacrificium and sacerdos oportet offerre, which already presupposes a later potestas sacra in the priest isolated from the church community and thus absolute). In thé solemn eucharistia (which to begin with, of course, was improvised), the prayer of praise and thanksgiving, or anaphora, spoken by the president, he speaks primarily as the prophetic leader of the community with pastoral responsibility, who proclaims the history of salvation, and therefore praises, lauds and thanks God, and thus proclaims the presence of salvation for the assembled community in the eucharist. The active subject of the eucharist was the community. It was for this reason that the president accepted the offertory from the whole of the community, gifts which through the spirit were transformed into the gift of Jesus’ body and blood. Y. Congar, D. Droste, R. Schultze, K. J. Becker, R. Berger and many others have shown quite clearly how in the early church the ecclesia itself is the integral subject of liturgical, including eucharistic, action. The ‘I’ of the president never solely, or predominantly, indicated the subject of the celebrant of the eucharist.(46) So at that time concelebration was not limited to a common celebration of the eucharist by concelebrating priests, but was the term for the concelebration of the whole of the believing people who were present.(47) The people celebrates, and the priest presides simply as the servant of all. Even where the reference is expressly made to concelebrating priests, there was only one president; the others concelebrate ‘silently’. There is no question of a recitatio communis of the canon (said to be necessary for a valid ‘concelebration’) in the early church.(48) So in the early church the eucharist could always take place when the community met together.

(b) Could a layman preside at the eucharist?

The question whether a layman could preside at the eucharist is a modern one. The early church would have found it perverse. First of all, we see that in the early church the bishop, who at that time was the real leader of the community, albeit in a collegial association with his presbyters, presided by himself at the eucharist, even at a concelebration. He was the figure symbolizing the unity of the church. Gradually (with the growth of communities - originally cities - into what we should now call church provinces) his presbyteral helpers or presbyters received permission to preside at the eucharist in his absence (although at that time they were in no way consecrated for this) because in such a situation they are in fact the actual community leaders (sacerdotes). I Clement already assumes that it is normal for the episkopos presbyter to preside at the eucharist, but he adds: ‘or other eminent members, with the approval of the whole church’, since ‘everything must be done in order’.(49) Thus the decisive element is the acceptance of a president by the church. Ignatius, who calls the bishop, as the figure with whom the community identifies, the real president in the eucharist, also recognizes instances in which he can and may be replaced.(50) Here he does not once explicitly name presbyters or deacons as potential substitutes.

Nevertheless, in the early church we have only one explicit piece of evidence that if need be a layman, too, could preside at the eucharist. Tertullian, who nevertheless makes a sharp distinction between ordo (appointment to the ministry) and plebs, the believing people or the laity, writes that in normal circumstances, presiding at the eucharist is by definition a role for the leader of the community; for him this is specifically the bishop with his council of presbyters. However, he says, ‘But where no college of ministers has been appointed, you, the laity, must celebrate the eucharist and baptize; in that case you are your own priests, for where two or three are gathered together, there is the church, even if these three are lay people.’(5l) The fact that the church community is itself a priestly people of God had a fundamental significance, above all in the pre-Nicene church, although the name ‘priest’ was not applied to individual Christians but to the Christian community as a collective whole.(52) On this basis, in exceptional circumstances the community itself chose its president ad hoc. Although Augustine was opposed to the sacerdotalizing of the ministers of the church, in the sense that bishop or presbyter might become mediators between God and the people, in contrast he explicitly denied the ‘laity’ any right to preside at the eucharist even in situations of emergency. (53) Nevertheless, what Tertullian says is in no way inspired by the Montanists; he accuses the Montanists precisely of allowing laity to celebrate at the eucharist without there being extreme need, and says that in so doing they deny the specific character of the ministry.(54) Tertullian’s vision is not so isolated in the early church as one might think, though the imprecise terminology clearly plays a part here. Anyone who in such circumstances was required by the community to preside over the community (and thus at the eucharist) ipso facto became a minister by the acceptance of the church: he was instituted, i.e. became the authorized leader of the community. That is precisely what Augustine had in mind, so that despite the terminological difference there was a real consensus here. The specific character of the ministry was defended by all, but not a sacral power of consecration or a specific way in which institution to the ministry takes place.

In contrast to these conceptions of the ministry, in the second millennium a primarily juridical view of the ministry comes into being, almost exclusively concentrated on the ministry and less concentrated on the church, in which ‘sacrament’ and ‘law’ are detached from each other.


1.PG 104, 558; commentary PG 104, 975-1218; 137, 406-10. See the editions by: P. P. Joannou, Discipline generate antique, I—1, Les canons des conciles oecumeniques, Grottaferrata 1962, 74f. Latin translations: E. Schwartz, Acts Conciliorum Oecumenicorum: Concilium generate Chalcedonense II, 2, 2, Berlin and Leipzig 1936. Explanatory literature: V. Fuchs, Die Ordinationstitel von seiner Enstehung bis auf lnnocenz III, Bonn 1930; Cyrille Vogel, 'Vacua manus impositio: L'inconsistance de la chirotonie en Occident', in Melanges Liturgiques, offerts au R. P. Dom B. Botte, Louvain 1972, 511-24; J. Martin, Die Genese des Amtspriestertums in der frühen Kirche, Quaestiones disputatae 48, Freiburg 1972; A. Lemaire, Les Ministires dans I'Eglise, Paris 1974, and Les Ministres aux origines de I'Eglise, Paris 1971.

2. Gregory VII, Reg. IX, 3 and 18. See G. Fransen, in Etudes sur le sacrament de I'Ordre, Paris 1957, 259f.; P. M. Gy, ibid., 125f.; P. van Beneden, Aux origines d'une terminologie sacramentelle ordo, ordinare, ordinatio dans la litterature latine avant 313, Louvain 1974; M. Bevenot' 'Tertullian's Thoughts about the Christian Priesthood', in Corona Gratiarum, Miscellanea E. Dekkers, Vol. 1, Bruges 1975, 125-37; P. Fran- sen, s.v. 'Ordo', LTK2 VII, 1212-20: B. Kiibler, 'Ordo', in PWK XVIII 1, Stuttgart 1939, 330-934.

3. T. Klauser, Der Ursprung der bischoflichen Insignien und Ehrenrecht, Krefeld 21953. This leads later to an ordo clericalis and an ordo laicalis, Decretum Gratiani IV, q.l, c.2: Friedberg 537). In Victorine theology ord'o becomes the sacramentum ordinis (Hugo of St Victor, De Sacramentis II 2, 5: PL 176, 419).

4. Leo the Great, Ad Anast.: PL 54, 634. See L. Nortari, Consecrazidne episcopale e collegialità, Florence 1969; H. Dombois, Das Recht der Gnade, Witten 1961; R. Kottje, 'The Selection of Church Officials', Concilium 7, 1971, no. 3, 117-126; H. M. Legrand, 'Theology and the Election of Bishops in the Early Church', Concilium 8, 1972, no. 7, 31-42.

5. Cyprian, Epist. 67.4; 61.3; 73.7.

6.Cyprian, Epist. 4.5; PL 50, 434. See F. Nikolasch, Bischofswahl durch aller konkrete Vorschlage, Graz-Cologne 1973; K. Ganzer, Papsttum und Bistumbesetzungen in der Zeit von Gregor IX bis Bonifaz VIII, Cologne 1968, which shows the historical circumstances which led to a break with the old church order.

7. Leo the Great, Ad Anast.: PL 54, 634. This also says that 'No one may consecrate a man bishop against the wish of the Christians and unless they have explicitly asked for this.'

8.Paulinus, Epist. I ad Severum, ch. 10: CSEL 29, 9.

9.Isidore, De ecclesiasticis officiis II, 3: PL 83, 779.

10.Vita Hieronymi, XII, 3: PL 22, 41.

11. Leo, Epist. 167: PL 54, 1203; Burchard of Worms, Decretum: PL 140, 626; Ivo of Chartres, Decretum VI, 26: PL 161, 451: Decretum Gratiani I, d. 70, ch.l; ed. Friedberg I, 254; Council of Pavia (850), in Mansi, Cone. XIV, 936; Council of Piacenza (1095), in Mansi, Cone. XX, 806; Hugo of St Victor, De sacramentis II, p. 3, ch. 2: PL 176, 421.

12. There was some discussion over the legitimacy of the 'chorepis- copi'. To begin with, bishops lived only in cities: at that time 'chorepiscopi', or country bishops, had a territory or a local community that was difficult to define; hence the uncertainty. At all events this points overwhelmingly to the ecclesial conception of the office. See A. Bergere, Etudes historiques sur les choreveques, Paris 1925; T. Gottlob, Der Abendlandische Chorepiskopat, Amsterdam 1963; G. Fahrnberger, Bischofsamt und Priestertum in den Diskussionen des Konzils van Trient, Vienna 1970.

13.A cogent historical demonstration of this seems to me to have been given by Cyrille Vogel, 'Laica communione contentus: Le retour du presbytre au rangs des laics', RSR 47, 1973, 56-122.

14.La Tradition apostolique de saint Hippolyte (Liturgiewissenschaft- liche Quellen und Forschungen 39), ed. B." Botte, Munster 1963 (= Sources chretiennes 11 bis), 113-26; B. Botte, 'L'ordination de l'eveque', La Maison-Dieu 98, Paris 1969, 113-26; id., 'La formule d'ordination "la grace divine" dans les rites orientaux', L'Orient Syrien 2, 1957, 285-96; id., 'L'ordre d'apres les prieres d'ordination', in Etudes sur le sacrament de I'ordre, Paris 1957, 13-35; A. Rose, 'La priere de consecration par 1'ordination episcopale', La Maison-Dieu 98, Paris 1969, 127-42; C. Vogel, 'L'imposition des mains dans les rites d'ordination en Orient et en Occident', La Maison-Dieu 102, Paris 1970, 57-72; id., Le ministere charismatique de I'eucharistie, Studia Anselmiana 61, Rome 1973, 181— 209; ]. Lecuyer, 'Episcopat et presbyterat dans les ecrits d'Hippolyte de Rome', RSR 41, 1953, 30-50; H. J. Schulz, 'Das liturgisch sakramental iibertragene Hirtenamt in seiner eucharistischen Selbstverwirklichung nach dem Zeugnis der liturgische Ueberlieferung', P. Bläser et al., Amt und Eucharistie, Paderborn 1973, 208-55; id., 'Die Grundstruktur des kirchlichen Amtes im Spiegel der Eucharistiefeier und der Ordinationsliturgie des romischen und des byzantischen Ritus', Catholica 29, 1975, 325-40; H. M. Legrand, 'Theology and the Election of Bishops in the Early Church', Concilium 8, 1972, no. 7, 31-42; ]. H. Hanssens, 'Les oraisons sacramentelles des ordinations orientales', OCP 18, 1952, 297-318; U. Brockhaus, Charisma und Amt, Wuppertal 1962, 674-6; V. Fuchs, Der Ordinationstitel von seiner Enstehung bis auf lnnocenz 111, Bonn 1930; G. Pinto de Oliviera, 'Signification sacerdotale du ministere de l'eveque dans la Tradition Apostolique d'Hippolyte de Rome', Freiburger Zeitschrift fur Theologie und Philosophie 25, 1978, 398-427.

15.Hippolytus is a Christian author writing from Rome, leader (presbyter?, bishop?, even anti-pope?) of a Christian community which had a controversy with Pope Pontianus (231-235). At this time the liturgies had not yet been fixed; people improvised on canvases which were in one sense established. Hippolytus gives specific models which more than probably reflect the Roman liturgy of the beginning of the third century. This'model is the earliest Christian liturgy known to us; it also circulated in the patriarchates of Alexandria and Antioch. At that time Greek was still the official language in Rome; only individual fragments of the Greek have been preserved, but in addition we have the complete, very slavish Latin text (which suggests the individual Greek even down to details), and also a number of other ancient translations.

16. Traditio 2: Botte (1963 ed.), 4-11. From Ps. Dionysius onwards the prayer to the Holy Spirit at the ordinatio was called epiklesis (De Eccl. Hierarchia 5, 2: PG 3, 509).

17. Y. Congar,'Ordinations "invitus", "coactus", de 1'Eglise antique au canon 214', RSPT 50, 1966, 169-97. The consequences of this pres­sure are analysed in a detailed study, above all when from the end of the fourth century the senior clergy in the West were obliged to be completely celibate: P. H. Lafontaine, Les conditions positives de Vaccession aux ordres dans la première législation ecclésiastique (300-492), Publications sèrièes de l'Universite d'Ottawa 71, Ottawa 1963, esp. 71-100. Moreover it emerges from this study that even at this time the com­munity still always chose its presbyters itself (until often fights broke out when the wishes of the believers were not honoured).

18.Constitutiones Apostolorum 8 (F. X. Furk, Didascalia et Constitutiones Apostolorum 1, Paderborn 1905).

19. 'Apostolicity'in the sense of ch. 1.

20. Nevertheless,it should be remembered that even in the third century there was considerable caution about sacerdotalizing, in what­ever form, of the ministry: only Christ and the people of God are priestly. Hippolytus himself therefore repeatedly says: the bishop (= sacerdos) is like a high priest (Traditio 3 and 34). The presbyters are still not priests (sacerdotes), although they may preside at the eucharist with the bishop's permission (at least in many church provinces). This practice increases as time goes on. In the ancient church, to begin with sacerdos was applied to the bishop purely in Old Testament and alle­gorical terms. After that it gradually came to be used in a real sense. Generally speaking, down to the fifth century sacerdos usually means the bishop. (See P. M. Gy, 'La thèologie des prières anciennes pour 1'ordination des eveques et des prêtres', RSPT 58, 1974, 599-617; Schillebeeckx, s.v. 'Priesterschap', in Theologisch Woordenboek 3, esp. 3974f.). In the West, sacerdotes secundi ordinis is common from the fourth and fifth centuries onwards (see B. Botte, 'Secundi meriti munus', in Questions Liturgicjues et Paroissales 21, 1936, 84-8); at the end of the fourth century and the beginning of the fifth bishops were also called archiereis and presbyters hiereis in the East. The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus is still in a tradition which calls only the bishop 'priest'. In other words, before the time of Nicaea the term 'presbyter' may not in any instance be translated as 'priest'.

21. For the Jewishbackground to ordinatio see the literature in Ch. I, n. 14.

22. Traditio 7: Botte, ed. 1963, 20f. (See B. Botte, 'Presbyterium et ordo episcoporum', Irenikon 29, 1956, 3-27).

23.Gy, 'La théologie des prières anciennes'.

24.Traditio 8: Botte, op. cit., 22-7.

25.Traditio 9; ibid., 28f.

26.Traditio, 11 and 13; ibid., 30 and 32. In the Constitutions Apostolorum 8, 21, 2 and 8, 22, 2 (Funk I, 525), the sub-deacons and lectors also receive the laying on of hands (about the end of the fourth cen­tury). See also K. Rahner and H. Vorgrimler (eds.), Diaconia in Christo, Quaestiones disputatae 15/16, Freiburg im Breisgau 1962, 57-75.

27.'Non imponetur manus super eum ad diaconatum vel presbyteratum. Habet enim honorem presbyteratus per suam confessionem. Sin autem insti- tuitur episcopus, imponetur ei manus' (Traditio: Botte, ed. 1963, 29f.). Botte denies that the suffering confessio (martyrium) takes the place of an ordination (however, a distinction should be made here: it is certainly liturgical institution but without the laying on of hands); C. Vogel, 'L'imposition des mains dans les rites d'ordination en Orient et en Occident', La Maisoti-Dieu 102, 1970, 57-72, takes the same line as Botte. We do not find adequate explicit references outside the Traditio, but in antiquity what seems to Western men who grew up with later scholastic presuppositions to be liturgically impossible may itself have been taken for granted! In the ministry, the early church was primarily concerned with the gift of the charisma of the spirit, which to begin with was itself purely charismatic, though here too (as also in the New Testament), the receptio ecclesiae was always a factor. Tertullian says, 'Christus in martyre est' (De pudicitia 22, 6; cf. Cyprian, Epist. 40). See M. Lods, Confesseurs et Martyrs, successeurs des prophètes dans I'Eglise des trois premieres siècles, Paris-Neuchatel 1950; D. van Damme, 'Martus. Christianos. Uberlegungen zur urspriinglichen Martyrentitel', Freiburger Zeitschrift fur Philosophie und Theologie 23, 1976, 286-303. The laying on of hands is certainly necessary for the episcopacy of confessors (Traditio 9; Botte, op. cit., 28f.).

28. It is of interest in this respect that the doctores or teachers in Hippolytus' Traditio, 15 and 19 (Botte, ed. 1963, 32 and 40) - he is referring to the leaders of the catechumenate - could be either clergy or laity (above all Traditio 19), and that at the end of the religious instruction both the lay teacher and any ordained teacher there could lay hands on the catechumens. Thus the didaskaloi are not ordained per

29. Cyrille Vogel, 'Chirotonie et Chirothesie', Irenikon 45, 1972, 207- 35, and, 'Unite de l'Eglise et pluralite des formes historiques d'or- ganisation ecclesiastique du Ille au Ve siècle', in Episcopat et I'eglise universelle, Unam Sanctam 39, Paris 1964, 591-636.

30. Jerome, Epist. 146 ad presbyterum Evangelium, CSEL 56, 310. Here we must remember that at least Jerome did not estimate the laving on of hands all that highly (Comm. in lsaiam 16.58, 10: PL 24, 569)'.

31. C. Vogel,'Chirotonie', 20f.

32. An authoritative historian like C. Vogel can happily write: 'C'est la preuve, a n'en pas douter, que l'essentiel n'est pas le rite d'ordi­nation, la chirotonie, mais le fait que l'Eglise reconnait, meme sans imposition des mains, comme presbytres ceux qu'elie veut bien ac- cuellir: c'est la "reconnaissance" comme ministre de l'Eglise, le mandat que fait le clerc, non la chirotonie' (Vogel, op. cit., 21).

33.Leo I, Ep. ad Rusticum: PL 54, 1203.

34. See V. Saxer,Vie liturgique et cjuotidienne a Carthage vers le milieu du Hie siecle, Rome 1969, 19^202; A. Janssen, Kultur und Sprache. Zur Geschichte der alten Kirche im Spiegel der Sprachentwicklung von Tertullian bis Cyprian, Nijmegen 1938.

35. 'Saeerdos vice Christi vere fungitur' (Cyprian, Lift. 63: PL 4,386). See B. D. Marliangeas, Cles pour une theologie du ministere, Paris 1979, 47.

36.Augustine, Contra Ep. Parmeniani II, 8, 15 and 16: CSEL 51, 1908 (PL 43, 49-50).

37. See P. M. Gy, 'La theologie des prieres anciennes pour l'ordi- nation des eveques et des pretres', RSPT 58, 1974, 599-617.

38. B. Botte,'Secundi meriti munus', in Questions Liturgiques et Paroissales 21, 1936, 84-8.

39.Tertullian, De Corona 3. See also Justin, Apology I, 65, 3 and 67, 5; A. Quacquarelli, 'L'epiteto sacerdote (hiereis) ai crestiani in Giustino martire, Dial. 116, 3', in Vetera Christianorum 7, 1971, 5-19. See C. Vogel, 'Le ministere charismatique de l'eucharistie', in Ministeres et celebration de I'eucharistie, 198-204; M. Bevenoi, 'Tertullian's Thoughts about the Christian Priesthood', in Corona Gratiarum I, Bruges 1975.

40.See Ignatius, Smyrn. 8.If.; M. Jourgon, 'La presidence de l'eucharistie chez Ignace d'Antioche', Lumiere et Vie 16, 1967, 26-32; R. Padberg, 'Das Amtsverstandnis der Ignatiusbriefe', Theologie und Glaube 62, 1972, 47-54; H. Legrand, 'La presidence de l'eucharistie selon la tradition ancienne', Spiritus 18, 1977, 409-31. See ch. I, n. 16.

41.Cyprian, Epist. 45.

42.Cyprian, Litt. 69.9.3; 72.2.1; De unitate Ecclesiae 17.

43.This is a tradition which applied until the Middle Ages in both East and West. See e.g. Jerome, Epist. 15.2; Innocent I, Epist. 24.3; Leo, Epist. 80.2; Pelagius I, Epist. 24.14; Aphraates, Dem. 12 de Paschate 9; Deer. Gratiani II, c. 1, q. 1, chs. 73 and 78; Peter Lombard, Sent. IV, d. 13.

44.To be found in Vita Zephyrini 2 (ed. L. Duchesne I, 139f.).

45.See D. Droste, Celebrare in der Romischen Liturgiesprache, Munich 1963, above all 73-80; R. Schultze, Die Messe als Opfer der Kirche, Miins- ter 1959; R. Raes, 'La concelebration eucharistique dans les rites or- ientaux', La Maison-Dieu 35, 1953, 24—47; R. Berger, Die Wendung offerre pro in der romischen Liturgie, Munster 1965; Y. Congar, 'L'Ecclesia ou communaute chretienne sujet integral de Taction liturgique', in La liturgie d'apres Vatican 11, Paris 1967, 241-82; E. Dekkers, 'La concélébration, tradition ou nouveauté?', in Melanges Liturgiques, Louvain 1972, 99-120; B. Botte, 'Note historique sur la concelebration dans l'Eglise ancienné, La Maison-Dieu 35, 1953, 9-23.

46.For an apparent exception see the Gelasianum, Droste, op. cit., 80.

47. Even at the end of the eleventh century, Guerricus of Igny writes: 'The priest does not consecrate by himself, he does not offer by himself, but the whole assembly of believers consecrates and offers along with him' (Sermo 5; PL 185.57).

48. See above all E. Dekkers, op. cit., n. 45, 110-12; R. Berger, op. cit., 246; R. Schultze, op. cit., 188.

49. I Clement 44.4-6. See M. Jourgon, 'Remarques sur le vocabulaire sacerdotal de la Prima dementis', in Epektasis (In honour of Cardinal J. Danielou), Paris 1972, 109; J. Blond, in L'eucharistie des premiers chrétiens, Paris 1948, 38f.

50. See Ch. II, n. 40.

51. Tertullian, De Exhort. Cast. 7.3; cf. De Praescriptione 41, 5-8. G. Otranto, 'Nonne et laid sacerdotes sumus?' (Exhort. Cast. 7.3), in Vetera Christianorum 8, 1971, 27-47.

52.See G. Otranto, 'II sacerdozio commune del fideli nei reflessi della I Petr. 3,9', in Vetera Christianorum 7,1970, 225-46. See J. Delorme, 'Sacerdoce du Christ et ministere (a propos de Jean 17)', RSR 62, 1974, 199-219; J. H. Elliott, The Elect and the Holy. An Exegetical Examination of 1 Peter 2.4-10, Leiden 1966 (the term 'priestly people of God' does not have any cultic significance; this expression indicates the election of the Christian community).

53.Augustine, Litt. 3.8: CSEL 34, 655.

54.See Ch. II n. 51.

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