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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July 9, 2010

Over at the PCUSA General Assembly  recently, an ample demonstration of genuine Orthodox ecumenism was given.

I’m watching the PCUSA General Assembly this evening, and my jaw dropped when I heard a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, bringing ecumenical greetings, taking the Assembly to task for its actions regarding homosexuality, which he said looked to him to be at attempt at creating a new religion, “a modern form of paganism.” (He also indicated his disappointment that the assembly worship that used the Nicene Creed included the filioque.) I tuned in too late to hear who the gentlemen was (though he did refer to being from Belarus), but I can’t say enough about his forthrightness in bearding the lion in its own den.

The Priest in question seems to be the Very Reverend Siarhei Hardun from the Orthodox Church of Belarus.

Thank Heaven for Little Girls?

October 2, 2009

A while ago, I was reading the Papal encyclical, Allatae Sunt, by Pope Benedict 14th in 1755. The encyclical has much to say regarding Rome’s relations to the East and so it is a worthwhile read, though I don’t think it is always accurate. That is just to say that I am not Catholic. But then I ran across a series of statements that I desired to get clear on regarding women servers at the altar.

Pope Gelasius in his ninth letter (chap. 26) to the bishops of Lucania condemned the evil practice which had been introduced of women serving the priest at the celebration of Mass. Since this abuse had spread to the Greeks, Innocent IV strictly forbade it in his letter to the bishop of Tusculum: “Women should not dare to serve at the altar; they should be altogether refused this ministry.” We too have forbidden this practice in the same words in Our oft-repeated constitution Etsi Pastoralis, sect. 6, no. 21.

Allatae Sunt, sec. 29.

Now I am not clear on a few points and so I wish to invite informed Catholics to help get clear on them. What is the standing of this statement? Is it revisable or has it been revised? Is this a moral issue or a prudential one? And if the latter, how are we to understand the Pope’s terms of “evil practice?” How does this statement relate to the current practice in the Catholic Church of permitting female altar servers and lay eucharistic ministers? What does Vatican II have to say on the matter or is there some other sourece in the code of canon law that explains the history and reasoning behind the apparent moral revision here?

To be clear, I do not wish to make a claim or argument regarding current practice. I only wish to get clear on what exactly is going on here in relation to contemporary Catholic practice.

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