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Unread 08-05-2017, 04:39 PM   #1
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Article about what the (ordained) priesthood means in Orthodox Christianity

Hey folks,

I shared this on my journal, but I wanted to share it with the wider audience of Theology as well.

This article was written by Father Lawrence Farley, who is the pastor of my parish's 'mother church' (i.e. the church that planted mine), St. Herman of Alaska Orthodox Church in Langley, BC.

A handful of times, when I've spoken to Evangelicals of various stripes, they balk when I mention 'my priest, Fr. So-and-so'. The thought goes - Jesus is our High Priest, and we share in His priesthood as members of the priesthood of believers. This leads to a bunch more questions: don't y'all believe in the priesthood of believers? The short answer is of course we do.

The longer answer is this article. Though it does touch on a number of other points. In particular, Fr. Lawrence discusses a more nuanced and theologically astute understanding of the saying that I've heard in some Evangelical circles that 'Christianity is not a religion'. Fr. Lawrence concurs (ultimately concurs with another classic Orthodox author, Fr. Alexander Schmemmann, whom he cites).

Enjoy.

https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/nooth...istian-clergy/

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I believe, O Lord, and I confess, that You are truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief...
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The tree of Eden once caused bitterness,
But the Tree of the Cross made sweetness of life to blossom!
In tasting the first, Adam fell into to corruption,
But as we eat the Body of Christ we are given life and mystically deified,
Receiving God's eternal Kingdom.
Therefore we cry out in faith:
Glory to Your suffering, Lord!

- from the service of Wednesday Matins


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Unread 08-05-2017, 04:42 PM   #2
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I'm about to go to bed, but am eager to read this later!
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Unread 08-06-2017, 03:53 PM   #3
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I look forward to your (and anyone elses) thoughts.

As you can no doubt tell, our concept of what the presbyterate' and episcopate (the more accurate translation of 'priesthood') do is kind of inherently tied up in our sacramentology - to wit, what is actually happening upon the altar during the Divine Liturgy (or Mass, in the case of the Roman church, especially when it could still be called properly Orthodox). What is the nature of the anamnesis being celebrated? Does the presbyter stand as an icon of Christ in the Heavenly Tabernacle, re-presenting at once His finished death on Calvary and his heavenly intercessions before the Father, as is the Orthodox understanding? As Fr. Lawrence puts it, does the presbyter 'offer by anamnesis the one true sacrifice of Christ?

These are all things upon which Fr. Lawrence's article stands or falls. Obviously, you all know where I come down. I hope this article at least paints the conclusions we make and some of the vocabulary we use as reasonable given our assumptions, even if you happen to disagree with our assumptions (and if you do, then by all means, let's talk about that).
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I believe, O Lord, and I confess, that You are truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief...
~ Ryan Isaac
==========

The tree of Eden once caused bitterness,
But the Tree of the Cross made sweetness of life to blossom!
In tasting the first, Adam fell into to corruption,
But as we eat the Body of Christ we are given life and mystically deified,
Receiving God's eternal Kingdom.
Therefore we cry out in faith:
Glory to Your suffering, Lord!

- from the service of Wednesday Matins


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Unread 12-18-2017, 03:14 AM   #4
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I thought it would be worthwhile to resurrect this thread, as I've seen someone here recently make the argument that, basically, because classical Christianity refers to its ordained ministers as priests, that we don't believe in the Priesthood of Believers.

That argument is silly, for reasons described in the OP.
__________________
I believe, O Lord, and I confess, that You are truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief...
~ Ryan Isaac
==========

The tree of Eden once caused bitterness,
But the Tree of the Cross made sweetness of life to blossom!
In tasting the first, Adam fell into to corruption,
But as we eat the Body of Christ we are given life and mystically deified,
Receiving God's eternal Kingdom.
Therefore we cry out in faith:
Glory to Your suffering, Lord!

- from the service of Wednesday Matins


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Unread 12-18-2017, 06:34 AM   #5
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I'm not sure anyone was saying that you don't believe in the priesthood of all believers. I believe the issue is that some don't see a precedent for a special class of priest (for lack of a better term) that one sees in both Roman Catholicism and the Orthodox Church. Some of that is going to come down to different understandings as to what the Sacraments are and how they are to be utilized in the Church.
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Unread 12-18-2017, 01:19 PM   #6
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Cool. That's a pretty answerable quibble.

On the one hand you're still committing the same kind of fallacy as the original question: assuming that 'a special class of priest' is what we're talking about. Rather, what we're talking about is the Holy Presbyterate (in fact, a recently-ordained priest I am friends with said exactly that when he announced it on Facebook, "Today, I was ordained to the holy Presbyterate"). It's fairly clear to me from the New Testament that the Apostles set aside men for the offices of episkopos/presbyteros and diakonos (in the Church's early days, episkopoi and presbyteroi were somewhat interchangeable. As the Church grew larger the office of bishop became more distinct from the office of presbyter).

"and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also." (2 Tim 2:2)

Not all are called to the offices of preaching and teaching and administering the sacraments, but only those who have been entrusted with it.

"This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders (presbyteroi) in every town as I directed you—" (Titus 1:5)

Presbyteroi were to be appointed. This applies that they were appointed unto the duties of a presbyter, but others were not.

I don't really understand what the objection is here.
__________________
I believe, O Lord, and I confess, that You are truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief...
~ Ryan Isaac
==========

The tree of Eden once caused bitterness,
But the Tree of the Cross made sweetness of life to blossom!
In tasting the first, Adam fell into to corruption,
But as we eat the Body of Christ we are given life and mystically deified,
Receiving God's eternal Kingdom.
Therefore we cry out in faith:
Glory to Your suffering, Lord!

- from the service of Wednesday Matins


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Unread 12-18-2017, 01:30 PM   #7
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But if you really want to get into it, Exodus 19:6 says that the People of Israel, who had an explicitly-named priestly class (kohenim) were to be a 'a kingdom of priests and a holy nation'. What a lot of people miss is that St. Peter is actually quoting the Old Testament in 1 Peter 2:9 in order to reinforce the dignity of the Church as its role as the new Israel.

The Church's contention is that she is the new Israel, and the old Israel has passed away along with the Temple, obviating the need for repeated animal sacrifices because the blood of Christ now sprinkles the mercy seat. Christ is now our High Priest. But just like the people of Israel, who were themselves a nation of priests unto God, they had a class of men who were ordained (set aside with prayer - only in their case it was something you were born into, whereas with us it is not) to lead them in corporate worship and offer the sacrifices of the people on the altar, even though by virtue of making the offering themselves they were acting in a priestly fashion.

Essentially, under both Covenants, the People of God have always been a nation of priests and kings.
__________________
I believe, O Lord, and I confess, that You are truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief...
~ Ryan Isaac
==========

The tree of Eden once caused bitterness,
But the Tree of the Cross made sweetness of life to blossom!
In tasting the first, Adam fell into to corruption,
But as we eat the Body of Christ we are given life and mystically deified,
Receiving God's eternal Kingdom.
Therefore we cry out in faith:
Glory to Your suffering, Lord!

- from the service of Wednesday Matins



Last edited by IsaactheSyrian; 12-18-2017 at 08:29 PM.
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Unread 12-19-2017, 08:42 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IsaactheSyrian View Post
Cool. That's a pretty answerable quibble.

On the one hand you're still committing the same kind of fallacy as the original question: assuming that 'a special class of priest' is what we're talking about. Rather, what we're talking about is the Holy Presbyterate (in fact, a recently-ordained priest I am friends with said exactly that when he announced it on Facebook, "Today, I was ordained to the holy Presbyterate"). It's fairly clear to me from the New Testament that the Apostles set aside men for the offices of episkopos/presbyteros and diakonos (in the Church's early days, episkopoi and presbyteroi were somewhat interchangeable. As the Church grew larger the office of bishop became more distinct from the office of presbyter).

"and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also." (2 Tim 2:2)

Not all are called to the offices of preaching and teaching and administering the sacraments, but only those who have been entrusted with it.

"This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders (presbyteroi) in every town as I directed you—" (Titus 1:5)

Presbyteroi were to be appointed. This applies that they were appointed unto the duties of a presbyter, but others were not.

I don't really understand what the objection is here.
I have no objections with elders/bishops/overseers. I believe that is a biblical office. I know very little about the differences between what the Roman Catholics consider priests and how the Orthodox Church views them. I believe the terminology is what is causing confusion here. It sounds as if what you are calling priests I would call elders or pastors.

Back to sacraments, not all in Christendom have the same understanding of those either. One would have to define the term and decide if there is a difference in what some call sacraments and others call ordinances.

The faith group I belong to recognizes both immersion and the Lord's Supper as biblically mandated ordinances but we don't consider them sacraments as I understand the term.
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Unread 01-12-2018, 06:34 AM   #9
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Hi Lee, I hope you've had a good Christmas and Epiphany season!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Leboman
I have no objections with elders/bishops/overseers. I believe that is a biblical office. I know very little about the differences between what the Roman Catholics consider priests and how the Orthodox Church views them. I believe the terminology is what is causing confusion here. It sounds as if what you are calling priests I would call elders or pastors.
The main difference, I would say, between the RCC and us is that we don't consider an 'ontological change' to have taken place in the man being ordained as a priest. The Roman church maintains that a man who is ordained a priest is still a priest even if he is laicized (i.e. returned to the status of a layman). So that, in extremis, a laicized priest could hear a confession, for example, of a dying person.

We take a different tack. There is no ontological change. Rather, the priesthood, or presbyterate if you prefer - is simply those men who have the blessing and delegated authority of the Bishop to carry out the functions that properly belong to him - to teach, to administer the sacraments, and to lead the congregation in Divine worship. If a man loses the blessing of his bishop to continue in the priesthood, say for misconduct or occasionally at his own request - formally we call this being laicized (returned to lay status, as above) - he simply is no longer a priest.

In the (very) early church there was a bit of a loose distinction between the office of episkopoi and of presbyteroi. As the Church grew larger it came to be that a single episkopos would be in charge of a city and presbyters charged with his authority would minister in the smaller congregations or the countryside. This was in place as early as the first decade of the second century - very early indeed!

St. Ignatius of Antioch, writing in his Epistle to the Smyrnaens around the year 107 (Ignatius would likely have known one or more of the Apostles personally), writes on the authority of the Bishop:

Quote:
See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.

Moreover, it is in accordance with reason that we should return to soberness [of conduct], and, while yet we have opportunity, exercise repentance towards God. It is well to reverence both God and the bishop. He who honours the bishop has been honoured by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does [in reality] serve the devil. Let all things, then, abound to you through grace, for you are worthy. You have refreshed me in all things, and Jesus Christ [shall refresh] you. You have loved me when absent as well as when present. May God recompense you, for whose sake, while you endure all things, you shall attain unto Him.
A sacrament is any physical means that makes God manifest to us. Fr. Alexander Schmemmann (of blessed memory!) - whose book For the Life of the World - Sacraments and Orthodoxy I highly recommend reading, has a lengthy discussion in the final appendix trying to sort out what exactly constitutes a sacrament to the Orthodox mindset. The short answer is there is no easy answer and any attempt to come up with an easy answer or even to say how many sacraments there are, is kind of a bit foreign to the mindset of the Eastern Church, and comes from the influence of the West.

The rub, from Schmemmann, I think is that in a real sense, everything is a sacrament. If that sounds insane, well, welcome to Orthodox theology. According to Schmemmann, to the mindset of the Fathers there isn't a difference between 'symbol' and 'reality' that exists in the mindset of the scientific rationalism of the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment. The symbol is the reality. Thus, the sacramental reality in which we immerse a person in water and they come out of it clean, with all their dirt (both physical and, in the case of baptism, spiritual) removed, shows the symbol of water to have a deeper spiritual reality - shows water to be what it truly is - that which makes us clean, the sacrament of our life. Similarly with the Eucharist: the sacramental action performed in the Divine Liturgy shows ordinary bread to be what it truly is - by offering it to God in thanksgiving and praise as our First Parents ought to have done with their food, God offers it back to us suffused with Himself, and in so doing we are blessed and made partakers of the life of God.

I suppose you could say, then, that according to at least one well-respected Orthodox understanding, a sacrament is any thing which is received with thanksgiving and praise to God and which is returned to us by God, from which we receive grace for our salvation. With that understanding, it makes sense to number all seven sacraments that the Roman Catholics have (baptism, chrismation/confirmation, eucharist, confession/repentance, holy orders, marriage, annointing). But even this isn't sufficient. Because a meal - even if not the Eucharistic meal - received with thanksgiving and praise - could have a sacramental character under this understanding.
Actually, I was just thinking about Schmemmann's book - in the context of this thread, and thinking about how he says that without the laity - the Kingdom of Priests that are the Christian people writ large - the ordained presbyterate couldn't do anything at all in the altar.

Consider the epiklesis of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom:

Quote:
Priest: Again we offer unto Thee this reasonable and bloodless worship, and we ask Thee, and pray Thee, and supplicate Thee: Send down Thy Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts here offered.

And make this bread the precious Body of Thy Christ.

People: Amen!


And that which is in this cup, the precious Blood of Thy Christ.
People: Amen!
Making the change by Thy Holy Spirit.

People: Amen! Amen! Amen!

That these gifts may be to those who partake for the purification of soul, for remission of sins, for the communion of the Holy Spirit, for the fulfillment of the Kingdom of Heaven; for boldness towards Thee, and not for judgment or condemnation.


Schmemmann's point is well-illustrated here - namely, that the presbyter calls on the Holy Spirit to effect the change - it is nothing in and of himself that does it. The people of God there assembled who give their "Amen!" - their "Let it be so!" assist him in calling on God to do this work. This is why, unlike the Roman church, wenever have the Divine Liturgy - what the Latins would call the Mass - 'in private'. There must always be someone else there with the priest to say "Amen". Else the fullness of the Church, the priesthood properly belonging to the laity, is not reflected.

(There are exceptions to this, but they almost always involve extenuating circumstances such as hermitages or else something like a lone priest in prison celebrating the Liturgy in his cell, as often happened with the blessed martyrs under the various European Communist regimes)

In this way, we see that the priesthood/presbyterate is essentially a role of leadership of the people of God in which they lead the people in communal prayers - but, their role is not complete without the laity there to offer their 'Amen!'. In this way, the priesthood of believers is upheld.

I'd encourage you to read Schmemmann's book. At the very least, read his second appendix in which he discusses the question I devoted a couple paragraphs to above, of what exactly is a sacrament? The second appendix is from pp. 135-150.

Here's a link to it from my dropbox. I certify it virus-free

https://www.dropbox.com/s/vcli6bra9g...emann.pdf?dl=0
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I believe, O Lord, and I confess, that You are truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief...
~ Ryan Isaac
==========

The tree of Eden once caused bitterness,
But the Tree of the Cross made sweetness of life to blossom!
In tasting the first, Adam fell into to corruption,
But as we eat the Body of Christ we are given life and mystically deified,
Receiving God's eternal Kingdom.
Therefore we cry out in faith:
Glory to Your suffering, Lord!

- from the service of Wednesday Matins


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Unread 01-12-2018, 03:11 PM   #10
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Also, because I feel like it fits and because my pastor once describe the Divine Liturgy as a 'wormhole' connecting Calvary, the present, and the Wedding Supper of the Lamb together in a single moment.

And because Doctor Who is amazing.

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I believe, O Lord, and I confess, that You are truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief...
~ Ryan Isaac
==========

The tree of Eden once caused bitterness,
But the Tree of the Cross made sweetness of life to blossom!
In tasting the first, Adam fell into to corruption,
But as we eat the Body of Christ we are given life and mystically deified,
Receiving God's eternal Kingdom.
Therefore we cry out in faith:
Glory to Your suffering, Lord!

- from the service of Wednesday Matins


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Unread 08-10-2018, 03:04 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IsaactheSyrian View Post
I suppose you could say, then, that according to at least one well-respected Orthodox understanding, a sacrament is any thing which is received with thanksgiving and praise to God and which is returned to us by God, from which we receive grace for our salvation. With that understanding, it makes sense to number all seven sacraments that the Roman Catholics have (baptism, chrismation/confirmation, eucharist, confession/repentance, holy orders, marriage, annointing). But even this isn't sufficient. Because a meal - even if not the Eucharistic meal - received with thanksgiving and praise - could have a sacramental character under this understanding.
One of the best theological rumbles I've seen has been about the specific numbering of the Mysteries.

I guess a good way to look at it is that these are the regular means of grace tied to the more or less daily praxis of the Church's binding and loosing authority.
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