Being a continuation of points made in the fourth and last subsection of the fourth chapter of Being as Communion.
Fourthly, the question arises as to how we are to reconcile such a view of catholicity with the fact that the eucharistic community is itself divided into orders, i.e. categories and classes of people. In this Zizioulas is addressing problems of clericalism and anti-clericalism which he sees as more of a problem in the West than in the East. The East has traditionally been spared such problems due to its eucharistic ecclesiology, but in some places it is now threatened by them due to the replacement of this vision by later ecclesiological ideas.
Metropolitan Zizioulas argues that it is of fundamental importance that ordination occurs within the eucharistic liturgy, thus identifying all ministry as identical with that of Christ and not simply as parallel to it.
It is not an accident that the early Church applied to Christ all forms of ministries that existed. He was the apostle, the prophet, the priest, the bishop, the deacon, etc. A Christologically understood ministry transcends all categories of priority and separation that may be created by the act of ordination and “setting apart.” (163)
In such a perspective, it is impossible to understand any ministry outside the community. This does not mean that the ordained represent the community for this could still place them outside it. Moreover, it overcomes the dilemma of whether to view ministry in functional or ontological terms, for its terms of reference are basically existential.
There is no charisma that can be possessed individually and yet there is no charisma which can be conceived or operated but by individuals. (164)
However, the distinction between the individual and the community finds its proper solution in the category of personal existence.
… the paradox of the incorporation of the “many” into the “one” on which the eucharistic community, as we have seen, and perhaps the entire mystery of the Church are based can only be understood and explained in the categories of personal existence. The individual represents a category that presupposes separation and division. “Individuality makes its appearance by its differentiation from other individualities.” [Buber] The person represents a category that presupposes unity with other persons. The eucharistic community, and the Church in general, as a communion (koinonia) can only be understood in the categories of personal existence. (164-165)
This means that the “seal of the Holy Spirit” given at ordination can only exist in the context of the receiver’s existential relationship with the community. It is a “bond of love” and outside of the community it is destined to die.
It is in this light, also, that we must see the exclusive right of the bishop to ordain:
His exclusive right to ordain, in fact his whole existence as a bishop, makes no sense apart from his role as the one through whom all divisions, including those of orders, are transcended. His primary function is always to make the catholicity of the Church reveal itself in a certain place. For this he must himself be existentially related to a community. There is no ministry in the catholic Church that can exist in absoluto. (165-166)
Fifthly, this has implications for our understanding of apostolic succession which must necessarily be seen as involving not only a succession of bishops but also of their communities. The early Church not only insisted episcopal ordination occur within the eucharistic context, but also that it should state the place to which the bishop would be attached.
Moreover, the development of lists of bishops, and exclusively of bishops, in order to trace apostolic succession, together with the emergence of councils as an episcopal phenomenon, suggests
… that the idea behind them was grounded on a reality broader than the concern for proving the survival of orthodoxy, or to put it in other terms, that the concern for the survival of orthodoxy was not isolated from the broader reality of the Church’s life as a community headed by the bishop. The bishops as successors of the apostles were not perpetuators of ideas like the heads of philosophical schools, nor teacher in the same sense that presbyters were, but heads of communities whose entire life and thought they were supposed by their office to express. Their apostolic succession, therefore, should be viewed neither as a chain of individual acts of ordination nor as a transmission of truths but as a sign and an expression of the continuity of the Church’s historical life in its entirety, as was realized in each community. (167-168)
Apostolic succession therefore represents a sign of the historical dimension of the Church’s catholicity in which the charismatic and the historical are combined to transcend the divisions caused by time.
Thus the Church is revealed to be in time what she is eschatologically, namely a catholic Church which stands in history as a transcendence of all divisions into the unity of all in Christ through the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father. (169)