Hierarchal limits: St Cyprian of Carthage

Continuing with the thoughts of the last post and that regarding the eucharist a couple of posts previously, here is a quote from St Cyprian that carries the same line of thought. A quote from St Ignatius of Antioch is included for comparison.

[A]nd they are the Church who are a people united to the priest, and the flock which adheres to its pastor. Whence you ought to know that the bishop is in the Church, and the Church in the bishop; and if any one be not with the bishop, that he is not in the Church, and that those flatter themselves in vain who creep in, not having peace with God’s priests, and think that they communicate secretly with some; while the Church, which is Catholic and one, is not cut nor divided, but is indeed connected and bound together by the cement of priests who cohere with one another. Wherefore, brother, if you consider God’s majesty who ordains priests, if you will for once have respect to Christ, who by His decree and word, and by His presence, both rules prelates themselves, and rules the Church by prelates;

And here is a quote from St Ignatius of Antioch saying the same thing:
“Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”

In both of these we see that Christ is present in the hierarchs and that our union with Christ is ascertained by our union with the hierarchy. The Church is not apart from the hierarchs and so we are not with Christ if we are apart from the hierarchs even if you have been baptised and partakers of the eucharist; if we depart from the hierarchs then we depart from the Church. When we speak of the Church deciding something we speak of the hierarchy deciding such a thing because it is through them that Christ rules the Church and directs her. The Church is not a separate thing that makes decisions, it is Christ who makes decisions through the prelates that is the hierarchy. The hierarchs do not act as intermediaries to Christ but make him directly present to rule in the Church. They do so though in synergy and not as robots, so they can make human errors and speak heresy, if they speak of their own mind and not that of Christ. Hence, they need to be obedient to Him who rules the hierarchs by decree and word and by His presence. St Cyprian is clear here that membership of the Church is through union with the priests of the Church, that is the hierarchy and in particular the bishop. Union with the hierarchy includes and requires participation in the mysteries that they minister, through which were are united with Christ. The mysteries though are for the hierarchy not the hierarchy for the mysteries. That is the role of the hierarchy transcends the ministration of any particular mystery rather than being confined by them. That is why I use the term hierarchy to include all the mysteries with the bishop, presbyters and deacons (including all the priestly orders). The bishop is the head and completion of the hierarchy but one should not think of him isolated from the complete hierarchy including all its mysteries in various rites. Neither are hierarchic relations that unite us to Christ restricted to the Church hierarchy but they also occur in monastic relations, family relations and civil relations, although apart from the Church hierarchy these relations cannot effect union with Christ of themselves.

Why have a posted this? Because it is an important key that solves a number of problems. Firstly, it removes a problem of eucharistic ecclesiologists of the parish eucharists and not one episcopal eucharist, which arose because they hold that the hierarchy is for the mystery and so the bishop only has meaning as head of the eucharistic assembly. They argue that there was a change in theology with the growth of parishes but the hierarchal ecclesiology presented here does not have such an problem. Multiple parish eucharists are as consistent as a single episcopal eucharist. Secondly, it refutes Protestantism because there is no room for independent salvation nor private opinion contrary to the hierarchy. Thirdly, because the bishop is the head and completion of each hierarchy there is no place for a bishop of bishops. Also, the purpose of the hierarchy is to make Christ fully present in every place not one place which undermines the papal doctrine of the vicar of Christ being in one place. Yet, it requires levels of primacy as a structure to unite the priesthood with each other yet without having a single head on earth since this would deny that the hierarchy is to present one Christ in many places and that the Head is not on earth but above. Fourthly, it allows for economy and it is not purely mechanical. Fifthly, it is points to person to person relationships rather than any mechanical reception of mysteries. It maintains the focus on master/disciple relationship and in this regard also maintains the Apostolic foundation both as leaders and disciples and that such relationships are the core of our spiritual life again undermining Protestant thinking and exposing it as heresy. Sixthly, it permits one to speak of the Church in terms of the local church with its bishop, the church in terms of its regional or national presence, the church in terms of its patriarchal presence, which should be transnational/trans-regional, and the universal church since each can correspond to a synodal layer and be defined in terms of this. Universal church does not conflict with local church and even though there is no single head, that is no head of a synod of patriarchs who may call such a synod or hear appeals from a patriarchal synod, there can still be an ecumenical patriarch/pope or two with limited powers, hearing appeals instead of another patriarch and writing pastoral letters to any other local/regional/patriarchal church, to reflect the universal church. Seventhly, it allows each church to be both part and whole, including each parish within the diocese. There is no room for either divided autocephalism that ignores each being part nor for centralist papism that ignores each being whole.

23 Responses to Hierarchal limits: St Cyprian of Carthage

  1. Fr Maximus,

    We are using the same Fathers to come to different conclusions; because I am also relying on the same sources. We seem to interpret them differently depending on our perspective and whom we take for priority in reading the others.

    I think that our positions are only subtly, but perhaps importantly, different. You take my thought farther than I think it allows in regards to freedom from the bishop and self-independance; a presbyter cannot act contrary to his bishop and if he is suspended or deposed, although he may appeal, he may not serve until the synod clears him. I accept the principle that the bishop is father and guide also, although I understand it in a less authoritative sense. The model would be father-son not master-slave, which is where I see your position heading. This phraseology can be used of primates and patriarchs by bishops in their synods, so I don’t think it is that essential in determining the matter. Also, I don’t see that my view leads to weakening the role of the bishop rather it prevents the undermining of the role of the presbyter, which can also happen. The bishop has a responsibility for the whole local church and the presbyters must act with his consent for this reason but this does not mean that they are merely his representatives. A primate has responsibility for the whole region but that does not make the bishops his representatives even though some have tended this way.

    As you know, in Russia presbyters do automatically have to right to hear confessions, which points in favour of the theory that I propose. The canon law is not specific and only speaks of permission not of being awarded an office. And it may only refer to those formally excommunicated not to regular confessions of the faithful.

    If a presbyter was liable to serve on each occasion at the whim of the bishop then there would be no such thing as suspension of service and certainly no appeal for it. It would merely be the bishop deciding as it pleases him to allow service or not. And deposition would only be setting in concrete would could otherwise be a constant choice not to permit the presbyter to serve to much the same effect. Nevertheless, I agree that one must not go to the other extreme and deny the bishop his authority. The system that I am putting forward does not allow a presbyter to serve while suspended and it does not necessarily mean a valid sacrament the right of ordination does not mean that action in unity is not needed for validity; unity is the reason to be for all the mysteries, they unite us with God through Christ in the Holy Spirit and a mystery served outside unity cannot fill its goal regardless whether the presbyter serves by right of ordination or as a representative of the bishop as extension of the bishop’s grace of ordination. As I said above, a presbyter has to submit to the bishop’s refusal to give consent to serve, even if it is unjust. Yet the priest can appeal to the synod to question the rightness of his suspension or refusal to serve, and the decision can be overturned by the synod, which in turn must act with consent of the primate and it is also subject to higher appeal.

    Yes, there is a difference in the relation of bishop to presbyter and primate to bishop and I am not arguing that it is the same but similar and that there are a number of parallels. Also, a presbyter, nor bishop has the right, to intrude into the home life of those in their parish/church. Each family has a right to rule itself yet they are under obedience to the presbyter/bishop. So, it is not inconsistent to say that a presbyter has right to rule his parish while still being in obedience to the bishop. Also, a deacon is properly in charge of minor clergy who are there to help him and so a presbyter should not command them to do something except through the deacon, if present, else the deacon’s role is undermined and there is confusion with one saying one thing and one another.

  2. Fr. Maximus says:

    Not to belabor the point, but I would also mention that while a bishop has the right to interfere in a parish in absolutely any way he wants (even against the explicit will of the priest), the president of the synod of bishops has no right at all to interfere in the diocese of bishop belonging to his synod. The accountability of a bishop to his synod is not paralleled by an accountability of a priest to other priests: the priest is subject to his bishop alone. It is true that the president of a synod may have many resources at his disposal to make the life of a bishop miserable, but he can not directly intervene in his diocese without recourse to the synod.

  3. Fr. Maximus says:

    Fr. Patrick,

    I agree with much of what you say but not all. I think the root of our disagreement lies in what a presbyter is. You refer to St. John Chrysostom (I know the passage you are referring to) to indicate that a presbyter is basically the same thing as a bishop, the difference being not much more than the difference between a bishop and the president of his synod. I think this is basically not the best view, and it serves to weaken the role of bishops in the Church. Of course, it is certainly a congenial view if priests have a problem with their bishops, because it allows them to sidestep them when they disagree with them.

    Now, I know of a lot of priests who hold to something like the “episcopal drone theory,” that bishops are there to make more priests, and otherwise they should stay as far away as possible; but I think this is really an anti-ecclesiastical mindset (I am not accusing you of this.) The bishop should not only be the president of the council of presyters: he should be their father and guide as well.

    Obviously under normal circumstances a priest does not have to get a blessing every time he wants to serve the Liturgy, but a bishop could tell him that if he wanted to. Likewise, in the Greek church at least, the priest does not automatically have the right to hear confessions upon ordination, but must be awarded the office of confessor by the bishop. If a priest is suspended by his bishop and serves anyway, is the sacrament valid? I think not, but on your theory it would seem so, and your line of thought would seem to tend toward the idea that the sacrament is “valid but illicit” or some such Latin terminology. However, the president of a synod of bishops does not have the right to suspend a bishop under him from serving: that can only be done by the whole synod. So I do not think that the parallel of presbyter/bishop = bishop/synod president holds true.

    I realize that to prove my point rigorously I would have to provide copious references to the Fathers, and unfortuately I do not have the time to do that on this forum. I think, however, that material in support of what I am saying can be found at least in the epistles of St. Ignatius and St. Cyprian and the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy of St. Dionysios, as well as a few other Fathers; pace St. John Chrysostom.

  4. Fr Maximus,

    I think that we are speaking past each other slightly because when a presbyter cannot act apart from the bishop this means not acting without his authority. However, I believe that the presbyter is the same as the bishop barring ordination. He is a president and teacher in the Church, according to St John Chrysostom, by his ordination and not as a representative of the bishop. The bishop is necessary for the local Church as a centre of unity, this is the constant theme of St Ignatius, and this is not merely administrative. He is has the sacramental power of ordination, consecration of churches and blessing of myron that the presbyter does not have but in other matters they have the same grace of priesthood according to St John Chrysostom and in line with the OT relationship of Moses and the elders. These powers of the bishop are necessary to insure unity by having one source from which the other mysteries are performed. Mysteries in particular that involve coming into union with the Church seem to need the bishop’s permission so that it is done in unity, such as baptism, return of an excommunicant and the eucharist. However, a priest is president of his parish and the bishop should recognise and uphold the role of the presbyter’s leadership unless that presbyter goes contrary to the Tradition; this is consistent with the freedom of each believer to reign with Christ, as free not as slaves. This is also seen in that a presbyter can appeal to the regional synod if the bishop acts maliciously or deprives him of service without just cause. Such an appeal would be impossible if the presbyter was simply serving at the whim of the bishop with no intrinsic freedom of authority. The bishop should not ordain another presbyter without the consent of the presbyters. They are his council and rule with him not under him. Neither have I known that a presbyter needs to obtain permission for each act of the eucharist rather once he is installed in a parish he serves it unless he is deposed or suspended with due reason. The presbyter is given the parish to manage its day to day affairs and the bishop only needs to be involved in major matters. Just as the Apostles were given personal authority and grace by Christ to bind and to loose so too the presbyters in the place of the apostles in the local church. Just as the bishops act in apostolic succession so too do the presbyters. The presbyter just like a bishop becomes the presence of Christ in the eucharist as its president. He is no more a representative of the bishop than the bishop is a representative of Christ. The bishop has the seat of St Peter. Just as the other apostles were not representatives of St Peter nor his subjects, neither are the presbyters in relation to the bishop. The bishop is also required to act in unity with his synod’s primate, who alone can ordain a bishop with consent of the other bishops, and although his authority in his local church cannot be infringed it can be held accountable. The synod has authority to depose him should he infringe the Tradition, allowing appropriate exercise of economy. A similar relationship exists between bishop and presbyters.

    There is a distinction between permission to accept and mode to accept. One is a person by person pastoral decision and the other is a form set by the Fathers, which the bishop is obliged to follow. No rule can be given regarding permitting a person to enter, particularly when, other than perhaps in case of near death else it is his pastoral decision, notwithstanding guidelines for baptising in certain seasons. However, a bishop cannot receive by feeding the convert a donut instead of baptism by water. So, there must be a distinction. Since the permission of when to receive is a decision of the bishop as the centre of unity and not a rule of the Fathers the presbyter needs to obey this. However, since how to receive is a rule of the Fathers, that is of Christ, then the presbyter is bound to follow this as obeying Christ first and this obedience, I believe, goes before that to a bishop commanding contrary to the canon, so not as Christ. Nevertheless, as I said before, it is better to send the convert to a jurisdiction that baptises and avoid acting contrary to the bishop and secret baptisms as far as possible. Because so much theological confusion has been thrown around regarding this matter, particularly trying to reintegrate western positions with eastern positions, I couldn’t blame a presbyter for acting either way.

  5. Canadian,

    If the first is true as a catechumen then it makes sense to say that he would be considered a Christian after chrismation regardless of other factors. However, for the first to be true requires the doctrine of baptism of desire to be true and not all hold that it is so; it is certainly not an officially recognised Orthodox teaching. (Leaving aside any means available for salvation anyone physically apart from the Church while in their earthly life, if such is possible.)

    Also, when one speaks of someone being a Christian it can be used in two senses: one implying being part of the Church through the mysteries; and the other in terms of belief and opinions. A catechumen can be considered a Christian in the latter manner but not in the former.

  6. Canadian says:

    Is not a catechumen considered Christian if he dies before his baptism? Why then would a convert, who follows his bishop by entering the church through chrismation, not be considered Christian even though his desire for unity with Christ and his church is the same as the catechumen?

  7. Fr. Maximus says:

    I realize that there is a counter argument to my first point above, which is that if the priest is nothing but the representative of the bishop, why can’t the bishop give permission to anyone (even a layman) to serve the eucharist? I think the answer has to be something in the middle, namely, that priests do what they do by the authority of the bishop and not on their own authority, but that the ordination to the priesthood does in fact confer real a grace which enables the priest to fulfill as many priestly duties as the bishop allows him. In other words, ordination creates the potentiality of performing the sacraments, episcopal blessing enables the actuality of their performance.

  8. Fr. Maximus says:

    Fr. Patrick,

    If you take the line that the presbyters perform the sacraments of their own authority and not the bishop’s, you run into a number of problems. First, you make the bishop the center of the church only in an administrative sense and not in a sacramental sense. The bishop becomes more of an accident of the church, the “bene esse” rather than the “esse” if you will. The church has had various administrative arrangements during Her existence, but the bishop is at the top in all of them.I don’t think that is simply convention: the bishop has to have a real meaning, and that means a sacramental meaning.
    Secondly, you violate the tenor at least of the writings of a fair number of Fathers, including the one’s you are quoting here like Cyprian and Ignatius. They state that no one can do something apart from the bishop.
    Thirdly, you are making a distinction which really doen’t exist by trying to distinguish between the bishop’s permission to accept a convert and the mode of acceptance. Does the bishop himself make such a distinction? In no way. How then can the priest do so? The result of this logic is simply to encourage disobedience of priests to their bishops. And when that starts, everything starts to unravel.

    I don’t think you can make the problem go away so easily. If, as you say, a person who is not baptized correctly cannot be saved, and yet the bishop will not allow a baptism, and the priests shouldn’t do it secretly because that creates a schismatic mentality, and if they openly defy their bishop they will get deposed, then there is truly a great problem here.

  9. Fr Maximus,

    I agree it is a serious problem. As far as I see it the mysteries aren’t performed by a presbyter on behalf of the bishop, presbyters are not deacons but fellow elders and overseers with the bishop, rather the priest administers them by grace of his own ordination and rank. However, he must not act apart from the bishop that all may be in unity. Now this permission of the bishop could be understood as permission to bring the convert into the Church rather then the exact mode of bringing them in. Thus, to bring them in and to unite them with the Christ requires unity with the bishop as the centre of unity in the local Church but the mode is prescribed by the canons and the bishop is as bound to these as is the priest, so a bishop is not within his rights to order a priest not to follow the canons on this matter. The command not to baptise cannot be that of Christ else He would be contradicting Himself. Thus, if the priest has consent to receive the convert then he must use the correct manner to do so. I doubt if anyone is going to consider such a baptism invalid, and what, repeat it? The only one who is liable for any problem is the presbyter who may get deposed. It is also best for the presbyter to avoid doing anything in secret because this may lead to a schismatic attitude and habit. I think that it is better to send the convert to a jurisdiction that baptises freely and then commune them when they return. Sadly the bishops in most US jurisdictions are imposing a Roman Catholic understanding of baptism on the Church and forbidding presbyters to follow the Orthodox understanding. How can one conform to the mind of the eastern churches that maintained orthodoxy in the face of western innovations if the bishops in communion with these eastern churches now teach in accord with the western position and forbid that of those eastern churches? Surely, at least they could provide room for economy in this matter rather than being strict and perhaps depriving some of salvation by turning them to schismatic groups.

  10. Fr. Maximus says:

    Basically, we find ourselves on the horns of a dialectical problem here: we must obey the bishop, but if the bishop tells us to do something contrary to tradition, what do we do? Do we defy the bishop? If the sacraments are performed by the priests on behalf of the bishop, is a sacrament valid if the priest performs it against the explicit injunction of the bishop? What I mean is that in most Orthodox jurisdictions the bishops forbid priests from (re)baptizing improperly baptized converts, but many traditionalist priests do so secretly, because they know their bishop is wrong in defying the tradition of the Church. Is the sacrament valid? Are the priests acting correctly?

    There is a serious problem of conscience here.

  11. While I like your new phrasing better, I just simply don’t think that your thesis really accomplishes the seven tasks you set out to accomplish. Or put more forwardly, I think those tasks are accomplished with the traditional phrasing and that thus your new phrasing is not needed. Call me traditionalist if you wish, but I think the traditional phrasing is safer, more apostolic, and accomplishes everything you wish to rebut.

    One specific goal does bear reflecting on, and that is #3: the rejection of a bishop of bishops. Your thesis that we maintain union with Christ through the bishop is entirely unrelated to your rejection of a bishop of bishops. Never mind the fact that “bishop of bishops” is a straw man argument anyway (as you deploy it, not as Cyprian does). Whether or not you obtain union with Christ through union with the bishops or we are merely separated from Christ through separation from the bishops has no bearing whatsoever on the proper articulation of primacy. And even if it did, the effect would be the opposite of what you intend; namely, you end up with a notion that union with Christ comes through union with the papacy, an idea Catholics are keen to defend.

    In short while I understand that you see your thesis as being of immense help, I see it as merely muddying the theological waters and in general being of no effect.

    Further, your thesis is entirely predicated on a logical fallacy. Cyprian’s assertion is that “if you are separated from the bishop you are separated from Christ.” You then rephrase it as “our union with Christ is ascertained by our union with the hierarchy” or, if I may paraphrase you, “if you are not separated from the bishop than you are not separated from Christ.” This is not a logically true statement, the second does not follow from the first in either my phrasing or yours.

    While their may be a way around this problem, the base fact remains that you are choosing to use language that the fathers don’t use in order to solve problems already solved by their formulations. Why? I pray that such is not a desire for novelty which can only rot the soul. We must not be cavalier with the words of such great men and must learn to understand what they say as they in turn learned the language of the scriptures and the fathers before them. If we wish not to be separated from the bishops than we must learn not to put our own thoughts and ideas in their mouths. For to attribute our own confused ramblings to the minds and hearts of the saints is to dishonor and malign them. No interpreter is without fault in these matters, myself included, which is why we must allow iron to sharpen iron.

  12. David,

    I agree with you that these questions need to be asked. Firstly, I hope that all these people are saved but there are grounds to raise some serious concerns over whether this is so and I cannot in peace of conscience simply agree that it is the right decision.

    Why should all those millions baptised in the name of Jesus only all go to hell if that is what their pastor hold them to do? This type of argument does not help unless you are suggesting a gospel of salvation that consists of right living and doing what your leader tells you.

    Also, are you judging Tradition by determining what is important and what is not? The question is are we required to baptise with triple immersion and the answer is yes. Triple immersion is not in the Scripture but part of the Tradition of the Church, St Basil the Great makes this clear, it is something that we must follow on the same authority as if it was in Scripture. It is also well attested in canon law.

    Is there any evidence of a decision regarding receiving those baptised with a single immersion? Yes. The primary canon regarding how to receive those coming into the Church mentions that a particular group used a single immersion and that this baptism was to be put aside and the convert baptised by the Church. That this issue was specifically mentioned implies that it is sufficient reason in itself for requiring (re)baptism. This group was grouped with those who were known to corrupt the formula in baptism so putting corruption of the number of immersions in the same category as corruption of the formula. Both cases required baptism.

    Is there any evidence of economy of single immersion? Yes. Historically, the western churches did permit single immersion baptism as an economy to counter heretics. However, this was not widely accepted and around the time of the schism, a number of eastern churchmen were re(baptising) westerners because they only had a single immersion.

    If you wish to discuss this matter further here, it would be best to ask the bishop(s) to provide you with a formal letter explaining the reasons why they made this decision to accept single immersion baptisms and then we can discuss these reasons.

    So, the decision has been made by the Fathers as seen in the canons and we are to obey. If we will not obey the canons then we why would obey any other authority? We become a law to ourselves and no longer ruled by Christ.

  13. David Lindblom says:

    Fr Patrick,
    I don’t disagree per se w/ what you are saying but who decides? I mean, it’s not like we’re dealing w/ hierarchs telling us to worship Buddha. Nothing obvious like that but whether or not a single dunk as opposed to a triple dunk is going to send us to hell or not. Who decides whether or not I listen to a single monk or the hierarchs from 3 jurisdictions w/in an entire country? Again, I’m not saying your definitely wrong but, to me, in the history of the Church this seems like quite a small thing. Let’s face it, scripture gives no hint whatsoever concerning how many times someone is to be immersed. It doesn’t oppose it but simply says nothing. Are you really at peace w/ believing that all the thousands of people who have followed the direction of the Holy Spirit into the Orthodox Faith, who were baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit will most like go to hell irregardless of the life they lived because they were immersed only once instead of three times, that were received into the Church in the way they were told by every jurisdiction in America??

    I know I probably sound rather shrill but I think these questions need to be asked. I’m struggling w/ not seeing this as “straining at a gnat”.

  14. David,

    The hierarchs are capable of speaking of their own opinion rather than with the mind of Christ, which is why there can be and have been false councils and false decisions by hierarchs. Yes, we should in general follow the decisions of the hierarchy and they can legitimately decide different exercise of economy in different areas at different time. However, these decisions need to be consistent with the Tradition of the Church and the canons of the Fathers and within certain limits of variation. All the western churches became separated from the eastern churches largely due to refusing to change decisions to conform to these things as received in the east. The number of churches doesn’t matter it is the reason for the decision. The fact that some canons are not followed does not mean that they should not be followed whatever the reason nor does it justify not do so for any particular occasion.

  15. David Lindblom says:

    This may be off topic somewhat but you said:

    “When we speak of the Church deciding something we speak of the hierarchy deciding such a thing because it is through them that Christ rules the Church and directs her. The Church is not a separate thing that makes decisions, it is Christ who makes decisions through the prelates that is the hierarchy.”

    With this statement in mind, why would we not follow the hierachy’s decision concerning not re-baptizing converts who had previously received a Trinitarian baptism? Antiochian, OCA and Greek jurisdictions all have the same stand of not re-baptizing. And considering that there are plenty of canons that we do not follow and w/ good reason.

  16. Apophatically,

    “The priesthood can be opposed to Christ…” You didn’t explicitly qualify “priesthood” so it was not explicit the you did not mean ‘all’ the priesthood or the institution rather than its members. However, this is being pedantic, so apologies for any offence.


    Thanks for the comments. I have modified the post a little in light of them. This does not affect the two issues that I am trying to emphasise which are: one the focus on the hierarchy in determining membership in the Church and not on the mysteries in themselves; and two the presence of Christ in the hierarchy ruling the Church.

    Let us consider that the bishop is an icon in whom Christ is made present by the Holy Spirit. Union with the bishop as a bishop, that is as a priest of Christ rather than as a man, passes on to union with Christ just as veneration of an icon passes on to the person who is the subject of the icon. We venerate saints through the icon but this does not mean that we venerate the icon itself nor that the icon causes the veneration to go to Christ. Thus, we are united to Christ through the bishop. This does not cause the union nor does it mean that we unite with the bishop as an end in himself. Just as we see and connect with the icon first and then lift our mind to the prototype, so too we see and connect with the hierarchy first and are brought to union with the prototype, Christ, as our goal.

    Union with Christ is the goal and He is the sole mediator as Man. The hierarchy is what enables Him to continue to mediate as Man in multiple locations rather than one location which would be the case if he had not ascended. “Now a mediator ought to have communion with both parties, between whom he is to mediate. For this is the property of a mediator, to be in close communion with each of those whose mediator he is. For he would be no longer a mediator, if he were connected with one but separated from the other.” The hierarchy allows Christ to connect with us in a manner akin to us.

  17. Well not much I can add to what Nathaniel has written. What I meant about taking passages out of context is that such eisegesis does violence to the original and intended meaning of the text.

    Fr Patrick I agree with you, I don’t think *all* of the priesthood can be opposed to Christ, that really is an absurdity, and I am not sure how you came to conclude that.

  18. To be clear, I don’t think the passages are out of context. But I do think that you are reading in your phraseology to the text. It is basic eisegesis. This is why I point out that you have a logical fallacy in inverting the assertion that “separation from the bishops is separation from Christ” to the assertion “union with the bishops is union with Christ.” The logic of this is that you cannot determine the truth value of the inverse of a syllogism. You also demonstrate a composition fallacy (“union with the bishop” is “union with Christ”) and a cum hoc fallacy (“union with the bishop” correlates to union with Christ, but does not cause it).

  19. “In both of these we see that Christ is present in the hierarchs and it is through union with them that we are united to Christ. … the mysteries are the means that we unite with the hierarchs and in so doing unite ourselves with God.”

    No where does Cyprian in this passage say that we are united to Christ through the hierarchs. It does say that to fight against them separates ourselves from the Church. But to read the second as the first is a fallacy. Ignatius’ is more direct: union to the hierarch is an icon of union to Christ.

    Everyone related to this conversation, including St Augustine, St Athanasius, and all the illustrious apostles (St Paul (ie 1 Cor), St John (ie 1 John) and St Peter (1 Peter)), believes that there is no union to Christ outside the Church. However, they all also believe that union to Christ does not boil down to *merely* union with the bishops. Therefore, communion with the bishops is a pre-requisite for and an icon of union with Christ, but not the thing itself. You have confused have confused the thing with its outward appearance. This is the core of my objection to your insistence that union with Christ is achieved through the bishops. We are not united through the bishops, but our union to Christ demands episcopal obedience, peace, and harmony.

    I understand precisely what you mean, but this phrase is heretical: “through union with [the bishops] that we are united to Christ.” Am I being a terminological pedant? Maybe. But if I am, than so is 1 John and 1 Peter and 1 Corinthians and Hebrews and Athanasius and Augustine. The proper articulation is that we are saved by union to the one true mediator, Jesus Christ and that by this union we live at peace with all, but especially the Church. Thus to separate ourselves from the Church is to separate ourselves from Christ. However, Jesus Christ, not the Church, is an ontological mediator to the divine life.

    Ignatius’ terminology is the best one: “wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” To fight against the bishops is of course to separate one from Christ. But the bishop is not himself the presence of Christ. Our epiclesis alone demands this key distinction.

  20. Apophatically,

    That individual priests, even in large numbers, have been opposed to Christ and His people is quite a different matter from the priesthood as a whole and as an institution established by God being so opposed. To claim the first is historically well evidenced but the second is an ecclesiological and theological statement and potentially a blasphemy against the Spirit who establishes the priesthood and dwells within it.

    Thank you for the warning regarding the dangers of proof-texting. It will be helpful to explain why and how these particular texts may be, or have been, taken out of context and lead to the justification that you suggest. The quotes are posted and, I believe, sufficient both to show how the thoughts expressed in the previous posts are also expressed in the writings of St Cyprian and St Ignatius, especially when read with St Cyprian. Comments are on for a reasoned discussion about whether these texts are out of context and whether they mean what I am interpreting them to say.

  21. Hi Fr. Patrick,

    The priesthood can be opposed to Christ and His people, it wouldn’t be the first time, no?

    I meant to warn against prooftexting and taking such passages as these out of their context and making them a justification to uncritically accept ecclesial hierarchies and their fruit.

  22. Apophatic,

    What do you mean by clericalism? Are you implying that the priesthood is opposed to Christ and that it is unnecessary for the Church? Why is it delicious if ordained? Are you implying that being united to Christ via the hierarchy is not delicious to the laity?

  23. A ready recipe for clericalism! Delicious if ordained.

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