Thursday, March 10, 2011
9:45 PM | Posted by Jnorm | | Edit Post
"In Augustine’s mind, therefore, the Donatists were within the apostolic succession. Their bishops had been consecrated by bishops who had been validly consecrated, and because the sacrament confers an indelible grace, they retain valid orders. Further, the Donatist bishops retained the ability to pass on valid orders to those they ordained. A subtle shift has taken place in the concept of apostolic succession. In the earlier patristic view the Church itself, the eucharistic community, was the bearer of the succession. The individual bishop participated in and carried the succession because of his office as head of the apostolic community. For Augustine, each individual bishop carries within himself the indelible mark of apostolic succession and is able in and of himself to pass it on, whether or not he has remained in communion with the Catholic Church. Thus, apostolic succession becomes a matter of episcopal “pedigree,” of who ordained whom, rather than of integration into a community which is itself apostolic. Continuity was disconnected from community. If the validity of the apostolic succession resides in the individual bishop, whether or not he is connected to the community, some means needed to be developed to determine whether or not a particular bishop is within the succession. In the Western Church four criteria were developed to determine the validity of a consecration. Three are exoteric (exterior) criteria. The fourth is esoteric (interior).
(1) Form: The consecration must be done in the context of the eucharistic liturgy to be valid. This emphasizes the connection of the ordination with the community. A consecration done secretly in the bishop’s study, for example, would not be a valid consecration.
(2) Matter: There must be an actual laying on of hands by a bishop during the liturgy. Prayer is not sufficient in and of itself.
(3) Minister: The one who performs the consecration must himself be a validly consecrated bishop within the apostolic succession.
(4) Intention: The intent of the laying on of hands and the prayer within the liturgy must be to ordain or consecrate the person to holy orders. One could conceivably lay hands on someone during the liturgy for prayer for healing, for blessing, or for some other worthy purpose, without intent to ordain. This criterion removes the possibility of someone claiming to be a bishop or priest simply because he had received the “laying on of hands” in the liturgy. The intent must be to ordain.
In modern Western Christian thinking, if these criteria were met in a consecration, a bishop is within the apostolic succession and may ordain others who are within the succession, whether or not he remains in communion with the Church. This has led to the proliferation of numerous groups, usually small, who claim to be in the apostolic succession but are in communion with no one. These bishops are called episcopi vagantes, wandering bishops. The Orthodox Church, following the earlier patristic tradition, holds that apostolic succession is carried by the community. To be within the succession, a bishop must be properly elected by the diocese he is to administrate, be approved by the legitimate governing synod to which he will be accountable, be consecrated by bishops within the Orthodox Church, and remain faithfully in communion with the Orthodox Church. Once a bishop leaves the Church in schism, the Church is not obligated to recognize any consecrations or ordinations he performs. Thus, for the Orthodox, the episcopi vagantes are not within the succession. Nor are the Anglicans or the Roman Catholics necessarily seen as fully in the succession, although in practice the Church has received Catholic priests without requiring them to be ordained in the Orthodox Church. For the Orthodox, to be a part of the eucharistic community of the unbroken One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is to be in the apostolic succession. To separate from it is to be outside the succession, no matter by whom one was ordained."
Fr. Gregory Rogers, Apostolic Succession, pages 32-34.
Labels: Church Fathers, Church History, Ecclesiology, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Sacraments, Schismatics
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