THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY ORDERS
We speak of holy orders, because there is more than one order. Not all orders are equal as to dignity and importance. There are major and minor orders. They will be spoken of more in detail the text to follow.
Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate.
I. WHY IS THIS SACRAMENT CALLED "ORDERS"?
The word order in Roman antiquity designated an established civil body, especially a governing body.... so the liturgy speaks of the ordo episcoporum, the ordo presbyterorum, the ordo diaconorum. Other groups also receive this name of ordo: catechumens, virgins, spouses, widows.....Today the word "ordination" is reserved for the sacramental act which integrates a man into the order of bishops, presbyters, or deacons, and goes beyond a simple election, designation, delegation, or institution by the community, for it confers a gift of the Holy Spirit that permits the exercise of a "sacred power" (sacra potestas) which can come only from Christ himself through his Church.
II. THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY ORDERS IN THE ECONOMY OF SALVATION
The priesthood of the Old Covenant
The chosen people [were] constituted by God as "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." But within the people of Israel, God chose one of the twelve tribes, that of Levi, and set it apart for liturgical service; God himself [was] its inheritance.
The one priesthood of Christ
The Christian tradition considers Melchizedek, "priest of God Most High," as a prefiguration of the priesthood of Christ, the unique "high priest after the order of Melchizedek"; "holy, blameless, unstained," "by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified," that is, by the unique sacrifice of the cross.
Two participations in the one priesthood of Christ
Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church "a kingdom, priests for his God and Father." The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ's mission as priest, prophet, and king. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are "consecrated to be . . . a holy priesthood." .....While being "ordered one to another," they differ essentially..... While the common priesthood of the faithful is exercised by the unfolding of baptismal grace-a life of faith, hope, and charity,.....the ministerial priesthood is .....a means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads his Church. For this reason it is transmitted by its own sacrament, the sacrament of Holy Orders.
In the person of Christ the Head . . .
.....it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth. This is what the Church means by saying that the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in persona Christi Capitis: It is the same priest, Christ Jesus, whose sacred person his minister truly represents.
. . . "in the name of the whole Church"
The ministerial priesthood has the task not only of representing Christ - Head of the Church - before the assembly of the faithful, but also of acting in the name of the whole Church when presenting to God the prayer of the Church, and above all when offering the Eucharistic sacrifice.
III THE THREE DEGREES OF THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY ORDERS
.....Catholic doctrine teaches that the degrees of priestly participation (episcopate and presbyterate) and the degree of service (diaconate) are all three conferred by a sacramental act called "ordination," that is, by the sacrament of Holy Orders...
Episcopal ordination- fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders
.....those who, through their appointment to the dignity and responsibility of bishop, and in virtue consequently of the unbroken succession going back to the beginning, are regarded as transmitters of the apostolic line."
The ordination of priests - co-workers of the bishops
"Christ, whom the Father hallowed and sent into the world, has, through his apostles, made their successors, the bishops namely, sharers in his consecration and mission; and these, in their turn, duly entrusted in varying degrees various members of the Church with the office of their ministry.".....
"Because it is joined with the episcopal order the office of priests shares in the authority by which Christ himself builds up and sanctifies and rules his Body. Hence .....by the anointing of the Holy Spirit [priests] are signed with a special character and so are configured to Christ the priest in such a way that they are able to act in the person of Christ the head."
The ordination of deacons - "in order to serve"
"At a lower level of the hierarchy are to be found deacons, who receive the imposition of hands 'not unto the priesthood, but unto the ministry."' At an ordination to the diaconate only the bishop lays hands on the candidate, thus signifying the deacon's special attachment to the bishop in the tasks of his "diakonia."
Number of Orders
In the question of the matter and form of this sacrament we must distinguish between the three higher orders and the subdiaconate and minor orders.
The Council of Trent (Sess. 23, can. 3) defined that, besides the priesthood, there are in the Church other orders, both major and minor (q.v.). Though nothing has been defined with regard to the number of orders it is often given as seven: priests, deacons, subdeacons, acolytes, exorcists, readers, and doorkeepers. The priesthood is thus counted as including bishops; if the latter be numbered separately we have eight; and if we add first tonsure, which was at one time regarded as an order, we have nine. We meet with different numberings in different Churches, and it would seem that mystical reasons influenced them to some extent (Martène, "De antiq. eccl. rit.", I, viii, l, 1; Denzinger, "Rit. orient.", II, 155).
The "Statuta ecclesiæ antiqua" enumerate nine orders, adding psalmists and counting bishops and priests separately. Others enumerate eight orders, thus, e.g. the author of "De divin. offic.", 33, and St. Dunstan's and the Jumièges pontificals (Martène I, viii, 11), the latter not counting bishops, and adding cantor. Innocent III, ("De sacro alt. minister.", I, i), counts six orders, as do also the Irish canons, where acolytes were unknown. Besides the psalmista or cantor, several other functionaries seem to have been recognized as holding orders, e.g., fossarii (fossores) grave diggers, hermeneutoe(interpreters), custodes martyrum etc. Some consider them to have been real orders (Morin, "Comm. de sacris eccl. ordin.", III, Ex. 11, 7); but it is more probable that they were merely offices, generally committed to clerics (Benedict XIV, "De syn, dioc.", VIII, ix, 7, 8).
In the East there is considerable variety of tradition regarding the number of orders. The Greek Church acknowledges five, bishops, priests, deacons, subdeacons, and readers. The same number is found in St. John Damascene (Dial. contra manichæos, iii); in the ancient Greek Church acolytes, exorcists, and doorkeepers were probably considered only as offices (cf. Denzinger, "Rit. orient.", I, 116).
In the Latin Church a distinction is made between major and minor orders (q.v.). In the East the subdiaconate is regarded as a minor order, and it includes three of the other minor orders (porter, exorcist, acolyte). In the Latin Church the priesthood, diaconate, and subdiaconate (q.v.) are the major, or sacred, orders, so-called because they have immediate reference to what is consecrated (St. Thom., "Suppl.", Q. 37, a. 3). The hierarchical orders strictly so-called are of divine origin (Conc. Trid., Sess. 23, can. 6).
We have seen that our Lord instituted a ministry in the persons of His Apostles, who received fullness of authority and power. One of the first exercises of this Apostolic power was the appointment of others to help succeed them. We cannot argue from the difference of names to the difference of official position, because the names are to some extent interchangeable (Acts 20: 17, 28; Titus 1: 6, 7). The New Testament does not clearly show the distinction between presbyters and bishops, and we must examine its evidence in the light of later times. Toward the end of the second century there is a universal and unquestioned tradition, that bishops and their superior authority date from Apostolic times. It throws much light on the New-Testament evidence and we find that what appears distinctly at the time of Ignatius can be traced through the pastoral epistles of St. Paul, to the very beginning of the history of the Mother Church at Jerusalem, where St. James, the brother of the Lord, appears to occupy the position of bishop (Acts 12: 17; 15:13; 21:18; Gal.2: 9); Timothy and Titus possess full episcopal authority, and were ever thus recognized in tradition (Titus 1:5; I Tim. 5:19, 22).
All agree that there is but one Sacrament of Order, i.e., the totality of the power conferred by the sacrament is contained in the supreme order, whilst the others contain only part thereof (St. Thomas, "Supplem.", Q. xxxvii, a. i, ad 2um). The sacramental character of the priesthood has never been denied by anyone who admitted the Sacrament of Order, and, though not explicitly defined, it follows immediately from the statements of the Council of Trent. Thus (Sess. XXIII, can. 2), "If any one saith that besides the priesthood there are not in the Catholic Church other orders, both major and minor, by which as by certain steps, advance is made to the priesthood, let him be anathema." In the fourth chapter of the same session, after declaring that the Sacrament of Order imprints a character "which can neither be effaced nor taken away; the holy synod with reason condemns the opinion of those who assert that priests of the New Testament have only a temporary power". The priesthood is therefore a sacrament.
With regard to the episcopate the Council of Trent defines that bishops belong to the divinely instituted hierarchy, that they are superior to priests, and that they have the power of confirming and ordaining which is proper to them (Sess. XXIII, c. iv, can. 6, 7). The superiority of bishops is abundantly attested in Tradition, and we have seen above that the distinction between priests and bishops is of Apostolic origin.
IV. THE CELEBRATION OF THIS SACRAMENT
.....It should take place preferably on Sunday, in the cathedral, with solemnity appropriate to the occasion...... Their proper place is within the Eucharistic liturgy.
The essential rite of the sacrament of Holy Orders for all three degrees consists in the bishop's imposition of hands on the head of the ordinand and in the bishop's specific consecratory prayer asking God for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and his gifts proper to the ministry to which the candidate is being ordained.
V. WHO CAN CONFER THIS SACRAMENT?
....those who are in the line of apostolic succession, validly confer the three degrees of the sacrament of Holy Orders.
VI. WHO CAN RECEIVE THIS SACRAMENT?
Before a candidate may receive any order, he must be made a cleric by the reception of the first tonsure. The sacred rite by which orders are conferred is called ordination.
Every baptized male can validly receive ordination, but no-one has the right. Though in former times there were several semi-clerical ranks of women in the Church (Deaconesses), they were not admitted to orders properly so called and had no spiritual power. The first requisite for lawful ordination is a Divine vocation; by which is understood the action of God, whereby He selects some to be His special ministers, endowing them with the spiritual, mental, moral, and physical qualities required for the fitting discharge of their order and inspiring them with a sincere desire to enter the ecclesiastical state for God's honor and their own sanctification. The reality of this Divine call is manifested in general by sanctity of life, right faith, knowledge corresponding to the proper exercise of the order to which one is raised, absence of physical defects, the age required by the canons.
"Only a baptized man(vir) validly receives sacred ordination." The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry...... The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.
No one has a right to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. Indeed no one claims this office for himself; he is called to it by God. Anyone who thinks he recognizes the signs of God's call to the ordained ministry must humbly submit his desire to the authority of the Church, who has the responsibility and right to call someone to receive orders. Like every grace this sacrament can be received only as an unmerited gift.
All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons, are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a celibate life and who intend to remain celibate "for the sake of the kingdom of heaven."
In the Eastern Churches a different discipline has been in force for many centuries: while bishops are chosen solely from among celibates, married men can be ordained as deacons and priests.......In the East as in the West a man who has already received the sacrament of Holy Orders can no longer marry.
VII. THE EFFECTS OF THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY ORDERS
The first effect of the sacrament is an increase of sanctifying grace. With this, there is the sacramental grace which makes the recipient a fit and holy minister in the discharge of his office. As the duties of God's ministers are manifold and onerous, it is in perfect accord with the rulings of God's Providence to confer a special grace on His ministers. The dispensation of sacraments requires grace, and the rightful discharge of sacred offices presupposes a special degree of spiritual excellence. The external sacramental sign or the power of the order can be received and may exist without this grace. Grace is required for the worthy, not the valid, exercise of the power, which is immediately and inseparably connected with the priestly character.
The indelible character
As in the case of Baptism and Confirmation this share in Christ's office is granted once for all. The sacrament of Holy Orders, like the other two, confers an indelible spiritual character and cannot be repeated or conferred temporarily.
Since it is ultimately Christ who acts and effects salvation through the ordained minister, the unworthiness of the latter does not prevent Christ from acting. St. Augustine states this forcefully: "As for the proud minister, he is to be ranked with the devil. Christ's gift is not thereby profaned: what flows through him keeps its purity, and what passes through him remains dear and reaches the fertile earth...." The spiritual power of the sacrament is indeed comparable to light: those to be enlightened receive it in its purity, and if it should pass through defiled beings, it is not itself defiled.
The grace of the Holy Spirit
The grace of the Holy Spirit proper to this sacrament is configuration to Christ as Priest, Teacher, and Pastor, of whom the ordained is made a minister.
For the bishop, this is first of all a grace of strength ("the governing spirit": Prayer of Episcopal Consecration in the Latin rite): the grace to guide and defend his Church with strength and prudence as a father and pastor, with gratuitous love for all and a preferential love for the poor, the sick, and the needy. This grace impels him to proclaim the Gospel to all, to be the model for his flock, to go before it on the way of sanctification by identifying himself in the Eucharist with Christ the priest and victim, not fearing to give his life for his sheep....
Before the grandeur of the priestly grace and office, the holy doctors felt an urgent call to conversion in order to conform their whole lives to him whose sacrament had made them ministers. Thus St. Gregory of Nazianzus, as a very young priest, exclaimed: "We must begin by purifying ourselves before purifying others; we must be instructed to be able to instruct, become light to illuminate, draw close to God to bring him close to others, be sanctified to sanctify, lead by the hand and counsel prudently. I know whose ministers we are, where we find ourselves and to where we strive. I know God's greatness and man's weakness, but also his potential. [Who then is the priest? He is] the defender of truth, who stands with angels, gives glory with archangels, causes sacrifices to rise to the altar on high, shares Christ's priesthood, refashions creation, restores it in God's image, recreates it for the world on high and, even greater, is divinized and divinizes."
Concerning the Priesthood
St. John Chrysostom
with an Introduction by Graham Neville
John is a moralist - not a theologian; ..."among the finest and most delicate pearls of ancient Christian literature"...; gigantic spiritual stature; written approx. 381-386 A.D.; alienated the Empress Eudoxia with a deliberately challenging public sermon - which, although right, led to the schism in the Church of Constantinople, the subjugation of the Church to the State, and the beginning of the decline of the "second see"; like our age it was an age of people thronging to churches to be "entertained", and every man thought himdelf to be a theologian, fit to define the hidden things of God;
I. John's Deceit - an unwillingness to accept ecclesiastical office and deception of "Basil" to do so
II. Basil's Reproaches - ...."what do I say when they accuse you of pursuing worldly honours - is our friendship a sham?" Proverbs 18:19
III. John's Reply - a causuistical argument that the ends justify the means; Generals in war; Doctors with placebos; St. Paul and Timothy (Acts 16:3 and 21:20); Abraham and his son (Genesis 27)
IV. The Difficulty of Pastoral Care - He must be as far above the sheep as a shepherd; the Battle is not just for the sheep (Ephesians 6:12) - but himself as well (Gal. 5:19-21 and 2 Cor. 12:20)
V. Love - The Chief Thing - When a careful scrutiny has determined an adequate character, and it is supported by much good testimony, then you must see the abundant fruit of Love; (John 15:13 and 1 Cor. 13:3)
VI. John Continues His Apologia - claimed to never have tasted hard work; pursued vanity as a young man, and felt that if he accepted the priesthood he would have justly been accused of vainglory and conceit
VII. The Glory of the Priesthood - ...the priest stands [at the altar] bringing down....the Holy Spirit... [offering] prayers at great length....that grace may fall on the sacrifice through that prayer [and] set alight [all] souls...; representing the ministry of angels...; his work concerns no less than the salvation of souls (Matt. 18:18)
VIII. The Difficulty of the Priesthood - "More billows toss the priest's soul than the gales which trouble the sea." the dreadful rocks of vainglory, anger, dejection, envy, strife, slanders, accusations, lying, hypocrisy, intrigue, love of praise, greed for preferment, teaching meant to please, slavish wheedling, ignoble flattery, contempt for the poor, fawning on the rich, absurd honours, harmful favours, failure to scrutinize and rebuke - or doing so beyond reason, much pretended but no real humility, and many more
IX. The Character and Temptations of the Bishop - Matthew 5: 11-12; a priest must be sober and clearsighted and possess a thousand eyes looking in every direction, for he lives, not for himself alone, but for a great multitude; [he must be able to] bear insult and abuse and vulgar language and taunts from inferiors, spoken casually or deliberately, and complaints made at random from the rulers and the ruled [without anger, or he is] threatened with hell and hell fire (Matthew 5:22); solitude is a cloak the priest cannot wear; sins of ordinary men are committed in the dark, but the misdeeds of a priest inflict a common injury on all since everyone measures sin, not on the size of the offense, but by the standing of the sinner.
X. Particular Duties and Problems - Promotions, Widows (notoriously voluble and querulous!), the Sick, Virgins, Arbitrations, Visiting and Excommunications
XI. The Penalty for Failure - ..."unquenchable fire, the worm that never dies, gnashing of teeth, outer darkness, being cut asunder, and being numbered with the hypocrites..."; James 3:1
XII. The Ministry of the Word - Two great qualities were indifference to praise, and a grasp of theological orthodoxy to be able to minister to a soul sick with false doctrines; 1 Peter 3:15 - the ready answer; ..."there is not so much as a trace of the power [of miracles] left, and still many persistent enemies abound..."; the word of Christ must dwell in us richly if we mean to win the battle; "...if I demand the polish of Isocrates, the grandeur of Demosthenes, the dignity of Thucydides and the sublimity of Plato, confront me with the testimony of Paul, ....let a man's diction be beggarly, his verbal composition simple and artless - but do not let him be inexpert in the knowledge and careful statement of doctrine." Colossians 3:16
XIII. The Temptations of the Teacher -
XIV. The Need for Purity
XV. The Contrast between Bishop and Monk
XVI. The Conclusion of John's Apologia
The Holy Bible
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
St. John Chrysostom's Concerning the Priesthood
For Further Study:
Ad Catholici Sacerdotii -- Encyclical on the Catholic Priesthood from Pope Pius XI on December 20, 1935 addressed to Catholic Priests and Seminarians - http://www.truecatholic.org/ordencyclical.htm - size 10K
DECREE ON THE MINISTRY AND LIFE OF PRIESTS - PRESBYTERORUM ORDINIS PROMULGATED BY HIS HOLINESS, POPE PAUL VI ON DECEMBER 7, 1965.
Final Document of the Congress on Vocations to the Priesthood - Feb 13, 1998
PONTIFICAL WORK FOR ECCLESIASTICAL VOCATIONS.
General Directory for Catechesis - April 17, 1998
CONGREGATION FOR CATHOLIC EDUCATION CONGREGATION FOR THE CLERGY. BASIC NORMS FOR THE FORMATION OF PERMANENT DEACONS. March 31, 1998
DIRECTORY ON THE MINISTRY AND LIFE OF PRIESTS - November 31, 1994
ON CERTAIN QUESTIONS REGARDING THE COLLABORATION OF THE NON-ORDAINED FAITHFUL IN THE SACRED MINISTRY OF PRIEST. - August 15, 1997
POST-SYNODAL APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION CHRISTIFIDELES LAICI OF HIS HOLINESS JOHN PAUL II ON THE VOCATION AND THE MISSION OF THE LAY FAITHFUL IN THE CHURCH. - December 30, 1988
SACERDOTALIS CAELIBATUS. ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PAUL VI ON. THE CELIBACY OF THE PRIEST. JUNE 24, 1967.
DIRECTIVES ON FORMATION IN RELIGIOUS INSTITUTES February 2, 1990
DOGMATIC CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH - LUMEN GENTIUM November 21, 1964
DECREE ON THE MINISTRY AND LIFE OF PRIESTS PRESBYTERORUM ORDINIS PROMULGATED BY HIS
HOLINESS,POPE PAUL VI ON DECEMBER 7, 1965.
POST-SYNODAL APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION PASTORES DABO VOBIS TO THE BISHOPS,CLERGY AND FAITHFUL ON THE FORMATION OF PRIESTS IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE PRESENT. - March 25, 1992
PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE FAMILY. VADEMECUM FOR CONFESSORS CONCERNING SOME ASPECTS OF THE MORALITY OF CONJUGAL LIFE - February 12, 1997
LETTER OF THE HOLY FATHER POPE JOHN PAUL II TO PRIESTS FOR HOLY THURSDAY April 8, 1993
1. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever"...
ENCYCLICAL EPISTLE SLAVORUM APOSTOLI OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF JOHN PAUL II TO THE BISHOPS, PRIESTS AND RELIGIOUS FAMILIES AND TO ALL THE CHRISTIAN FAITHFUL. - June 2, 1985
Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. GUIDE FOR CATECHISTS. Document of vocational, formative and promotional orientation of the priesthood December 3, 1997
Chrism Mass HOMILY. Holy Thursday, April 9, 1998. 1. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me" (Lk 4:18).
THE CONGREGATION FOR INSTITUTES OF CONSECRATED LIFE AND SOCIETIES OF APOSTOLIC LIFE. Founded by Pope Sixtus V on May 27, 1586
MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE JOHN PAUL II FOR THE XXXIII WORLD DAY OF PRAYER FOR VOCATIONS ON AUGUST 15, 1995. Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, Dear Brothers and Sisters....
DECREE ON PRIESTLY TRAINING OPTATAM TOTIUS PROCLAIMED BY HIS HOLINESS POPE PAUL VI ON OCTOBER 28, 1965. Animated by the spirit of Christ, this sacred...
BILLOT; PESCH, De Sacr., pars II (Freiburg, 1909);
TANQUEREY; HURTER; WILHELM AND SCANNELL, A Manual of Catholic Theology, II (London, 1908), 494-509;
EINIG; TEPL; TOURNELY; SASSE; PALMIERI, De Romano Pontifice;
PETAVIUS, De Ecclesia;
HIBRARCH in Dogm., III;
DE AUGUSTINIS, HALTZCLAU in Wirceburgenses.
LEHMKUHL; NOLDIN, De Sacr. (Innsbruck, 1906);
BALLERINI-PALMIERI; LAURENTIUS; DEVOTI; CRAISSON; LOMBARDI; EINIG in Kirchenlex., s.v. Ordo;
FUNK in KRAUS, Real-Encyklopädie, s.v. Ordo;
HATCH in Dictionary of Christian antiquities, s.v. Orders, Holy.
Special: HALLIER, De Sacris Electionibus et Ordinationibus (Paris, 1636),
MIGNE, Theol. Cursus, XXIV;
MORIN, Comment. historico-dogmaticus de sacris ecclesioe ordinationibus (Paris, 1655);
MARTENE, De Antiquis Ecclesioe Ritibus (Venice, 1733);
BENEDICT XIV, De Synod. Diocoesana (Louvain, 1763);
WITASSE, De Sacramento Ordinis (Paris, 1717);
DENZINGER, Ritus Orientalium (Würzburg, 1863);
GASPARRI, Tractatus Canonicus de Sacra Ordinatione (Paris, 1894);
BRUDERS, Die Verfassung der Kirche (Mainz, 1904), 365;
WORDSWORTH, The Ministry of Grace (London, 1901);
IDEM, Ordination Problems (London, 1909) and Priesthood and Sacrifice, a Report (London, 1900);
WHITHAM, Holy Orders in Oxford Library of Practical Theology (London, 1903);
MOBERLEY, Ministerial Priesthood (London, 1897);
SANDAY, Conception of Priesthood (London, 1898);
HARNACK, tr. OWEN, Sources of the Apostolic Canons (London, 1895);
SEMERIA, Dogma, Gerarchia e Culto (Rome, 1902);
DUCHESNE, Christian Worship (London, 1903);
SALTET, Les Réordinations (Paris, 1907);
MERTENS, Hierarchie in de eerste seuwen des Christendoms (Amsterdam, 1908);
GORE, Orders and Unity (London, 1909).
For St. Jerome's opinions see SANDERS, Etudes sur St. Jérome (Brussels, 1903), and his
bibliography on Hierarchy, ibid., pp. 335-44).
The Permanent Diaconate Office - http://www.mmcom.com/pdiaconate/