Holy Orders

 

Jesus sent out disciples to preach, heal and drive out demons as they continued to learn from his preaching and ministry (Luke 10:1-23).  The Great Commission in Mathew 28: 18-20 is a definitive action of Jesus in sending forth disciples to carry on His work after the Ascension.

Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

 

Within the first century there were clearly overseers or bishops, presbyters or priests and deacons. See 1 Timothy Chapter 3 and Titus Chapter 1. That triple hierarchy is reflected in the ordinations for deacons, priests and bishops today.  Jesus sent disciples forth with promises to accompany them.  As early as the replacement of Judas, the apostles practiced the expansion of the original group through the guidance of the Spirit.

 

Church practice in choosing of believers to serve in an order of ministers is not only ancient it is Biblical.

The choice and laying on of hands to commission deacons occurs very early, reported in Acts of the Apostles 6: 3-6

Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” he proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them.

In the Acts of apostles we also find Paul and Barnabas appointing presbyters in each Christian community:

They appointed presbyters for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith. Acts 14:23.

Paul again references the existence and ministry of bishops in his farewell speech at Miletus. The reference to overseers or episcopoi (bishops) is natural, when Pail is preparing to leave. He needed to be sure his ministry was in good hands.

Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the church of God that he acquired with his own blood. (Acts 20:28.)

Virtually all Christian churches have some form of selection, commission and sending forth often called ordination. The person is often said to be in orders and to have received Holy Orders. The issues between churches are the nature of the ministry and powers of the ordained and whether it is a sacrament or merely a temporary designation or commission.

Given its biblical roots, the words of sending and the action of laying on hands, the Catholic Church recognizes Orders as a sacrament, accompanied by God clear promise of grace.

 

The Catholic Catechism is a guide to the Church’s self-understanding as it has developed over the centuries under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which we believe continues in the Church to this very day.   From the Catholic Catechism found at http://www.usccb.org/catechism/text/

 

The Catholic Catechism deals with Holy Orders in # 1536 to 1600. It summary section follows below.

1590 St. Paul said to his disciple Timothy: “I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Tim 1:6), and “If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task.” (1 Tim 3:1) To Titus he said: “This is why I left you in Crete, that you amend what was defective, and appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you” (Titus 1:5).

 

1591 The whole Church is a priestly people. Through Baptism all the faithful share in the priesthood of Christ. This participation is called the “common priesthood of the faithful.” Based on this common priesthood and ordered to its service, there exists another participation in the mission of Christ: the ministry conferred by the sacrament of Holy Orders, where the task is to serve in the name and in the person of Christ the Head in the midst of the community.

 

1592 The ministerial priesthood differs in essence from the common priesthood of the faithful because it confers a sacred power for the service of the faithful. The ordained ministers exercise their service for the People of God by teaching (munus docendi), divine worship (munus liturgicum) and pastoral governance (munus regendi).

 

1593 Since the beginning, the ordained ministry has been conferred and exercised in three degrees: that of bishops, that of presbyters, and that of deacons. The ministries conferred by ordination are irreplaceable for the organic structure of the Church: without the bishop, presbyters, and deacons, one cannot speak of the Church (cf. St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Trall. 3,1).

 

1594 The bishop receives the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders, which integrates him into the episcopal college and makes him the visible head of the particular Church entrusted to him. As successors of the apostles and members of the college, the bishops share in the apostolic responsibility and mission of the whole Church under the authority of the Pope, successor of St. Peter.

 

1595 Priests are united with the bishops in sacerdotal dignity and at the same time depend on them in the exercise of their pastoral functions; they are called to be the bishops’ prudent co-workers. They form around their bishop the presbyterium which bears responsibility with him for the particular Church. They receive from the bishop the charge of a parish community or a determinate ecclesial office.

 

1596 Deacons are ministers ordained for tasks of service of the Church; they do not receive the ministerial priesthood, but ordination confers on them important functions in the ministry of the word, divine worship, pastoral governance, and the service of charity, tasks which they must carry out under the pastoral authority of their bishop.

 

1597 The sacrament of Holy Orders is conferred by the laying on of hands followed by a solemn prayer of consecration asking God to grant the ordinand the graces of the Holy Spirit required for his ministry. Ordination imprints an indelible sacramental character.

 

1598 The Church confers the sacrament of Holy Orders only on baptized men (viri), whose suitability for the exercise of the ministry has been duly recognized. Church authority alone has the responsibility and right to call someone to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders.

 

1599 In the Latin Church the sacrament of Holy Orders for the presbyterate is normally conferred only on candidates who are ready to embrace celibacy freely and who publicly manifest their intention of staying celibate for the love of God’s kingdom and the service of men.

1600 It is bishops who confer the sacrament of Holy Orders in the three degrees.