Is the Eucharist episcopo-centric not presbytero-centric?

September 22, 2011

Is the Eucharist episcopo-centric not presbytero-centric? This is the view expressed by Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) as found in his article: “Ecclesiological Presuppositions of the Holy Eucharist” in The One and Many: Studies on God, Man, the Church and the World Today (Sebastian Press, 2010). He derives from this that a Presbyter serves in the name of the local bishop that the parish Eucharist is a problem because it does not have all the orders of the Church present because it does not include the bishop and so it must be seen as an extension of the bishop’s one Eucharist. This is in turn follows the logic that at the Eucharist there is the presence of the whole Church and a gathering of the faithful in one place with the bishop. The parish system is thus a distortion of the pure model of one congregation of the faithful in each place gathered around the bishop. Presbyters in this model seem to become vicars of the bishop, who is the required president of every Eucharist. Parishes are only parts of the community of people in one place but also part of the structure. So, is this correct?

The arguments for this view are quite strong and one can find support for them in the patristic literature. However, the results do not seem to properly reflect all the patristic evidence. For example St John Chrysostom describes the presbyter as a true president and teacher of his parish equal with the bishop in all but the power of ordination (Homily 11 on 1 Timothy). Also one can question the notion that a parish is somehow incomplete as a gathering of the Church without the physical presence of the bishops and that this must be somehow actualised. (If this is so on the grounds of all orders being present then the absence of each of a deacon, sub-deacon, reader, chanter, monk etc will also be a problem even if the bishop is present.)

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What Would Mr. Newman Do?

August 8, 2011

“Yesterday, the eighteenth of the month, which was holy Mid-Pentecost, the patriarch sent me a message, saying,: ‘What church do you belong to? Constantinople? Rome? Antioch? Alexandria? Jerusalem? Look here, all of them are united together with the provinces subject to them. If, therefore, you belong to the catholic church, be united, lest perhaps you devise a strange path by your way of life and you suffer what you don’t expect…’Listen, then,’ they said. ‘The master and the patriarch have decided, following an instruction from the pope of Rome, that you will be anathematised if you do not obey, and that you will be sentenced to the death they have determined.'”

The Letter of Maxmus to Anastasius, His Disciple (CPG 7701)


Athanasius contra Ecclesiam Anglicanae

January 8, 2011

When still an earnest Calvinist I saw the Anglican church as the proper heir of Swiss Reformed thought, or even Calvinism, for that matter. It was largely the accident of Knox having published in Geneva his First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women without Calvin’s consent or knowledge  – – or so Calvin claimed in a letter to Elizabeth’s secretary, William Cecil – -that had put Geneva on the outs with Elizabeth. Consequently, not Geneva, but Zurich became the primary court of appeal for the English Protestants in the first decades of Elizabeth’s reign, and the Zurichers were certainly not the Genevan junior varsity (though some Presbyterians still think so). But despite Knox’s indiscretion, Geneva never was destined to play much of an official role in English affairs, though unofficially its influence was vast. Zurich on the other hand, whose sensibilities were far more in keeping with the English affections to begin with (state run churches), assumed a near normative role. While vestments remained a thorn of contention among the English, Zurich considered such matters adiaphora, and saw the English church as possessed with the prerogative to impose them. One of Zurich’s leading theologians in the first years of Elizabeth’s reign, Peter Martyr Vermigli- – a Florentine by birth – – had actually argued, during Edward’s reign (he had been at Oxford then), with the precise Richard Hooper, bishop of Gloucester, for the decorous nature of vestments. Read the rest of this entry »