Being a continuation of the third section of chapter three of Being as Communion.
The third implication of the synthesis between Christology and Pneumatology for ecclesiology is seen at the local level in the relationship between the Bishop and the community. Here too communion is ontologically constitutive and the correct relationship between the “one” and the “many” must be maintained. It is a fundamental principle of Orthodox ecclesiology that the bishop cannot exist without the community and the community cannot exist without the bishop.
This principle is expressed in various ways. There is no ordination to the episcopate outside the community which makes the community constitutive of the Church. Likewise, there is no episcopacy without a community attached to it.
Here a detail must be stressed because it points to a peculiarity of Orthodoxy compared with Roman Catholic theology: the mention of the name of the community takes place in the prayer of ordination of a bishop. Since in the Orthodox Church there is no missio canonica or a distinction between potestas ordinis and potestas iurisdictionis, the fact that the community is mentioned in the prayer of ordination means that the community forms part of the ontology of episcopacy: there is no bishop, not even for a moment or theoretically, who is not conditioned by some community. The “many” condition ontologically the “one”. (137)
However, the opposite is also true, namely, that the “many” cannot exist without the “one”. This means that there is no baptism or ordination of any kind without the bishop, for “the bishop is the condition for the existence of the community and its charismatic life.” (137)
This mutual independence between the “one” and the “many” are dependent on the Eucharist, and the fourth implication of the synthesis is therefore the “iconic” character of the ecclesial institutions. Here communion is placed within the context of eschatology.
The eucharist, in the Orthodox understanding at least, is an eschatological event. In it, not only the “one” and the “many” co-exist and condition each other, but something more is indicated: the ecclesial institutions are reflections of the Kingdom … all ecclesial institutions must have some justification by reference to something ultimate and not simply to historical expedience. (138)
While there are ministries arising out of concrete historical situations, “History is never a sufficient justification for the existence of a certain ecclesial institution”, for
The Holy Spirit points beyond history – not, of course, against it, though it can and must often point against history as it actually is, through a prophetic function of the ministry. The ecclesial institutions by being eschatologically conditioned become sacramental in the sense of being placed in the dialectic between history and eschatology, between the already and the not yet. They lose therefore their self-sufficiency, their individualistic ontology, and exist epicletically, i.e. they depend for their efficacy constantly on prayer, the prayer of the community. It is not in history that the ecclesial institutions find their certainty (their validity) but in constant dependence on the Holy Spirit. This is what makes them “sacramental,” which in the language of Orthodox theology may be called “iconic.” (138)