Zizioulas continues the third subsection of the fifth chapter of  Being as Communion by noting that the idea of continuity through apostolic ministry has suffered from a lack of synthesis between the historical and eschatological aspects. We see this today in the disjunction between the “institutional” and the “charismatic”. Zizioulas makes the following points:

a) Ordination into the ministry, far from being non- or even anti-charismatic, is the most charismatic of all acts.

It is not enough to think of ordination as an historical transmission of apostolicity. Ordination must also be a movement coming from the side of the eschatological finality, from the convoked and not just from the dispersed people of God. Hence all ordinations would have to take place in an epicletic context and, more than that, in the context of the community of the Church gathered e0pi\ to\ au)to, with the apostles not as individual originators of ministry but as a presiding college. (192-193)

Thus the “institutional” does not constitute a self-defined norm but is dependent on the epiclesis of the Spirit.

Moreover, this means that all the orders of the Church are partakers of the apostolic continuity:

Whereas the historical scheme of continuity can lead to a sacramentalism in ordination by limiting apostolic continuity to the so-called ordained ministry, the eschatological approach leads to the conclusion that, for apostolic continuity to take place, the order of the baptized layman is indispensable. The Church, therefore, relates to the apostles not only through ordination but also through baptism. (193)

b) While the bishop has been singled out in the historical approach as an individual possessing the plenitude of apostolicity which he transmits to others, for the early Church (e.g. Eusebius) it was important to trace the bishop’s lineage not simply to an apostle, but to James, the brother of the Lord.

In spite of the obscurity which surrounds the origins and early development of the episcopal office, it seems possible to discern two different ways of understanding the bishop’s function at that time. On the one hand he was understood as a “co-presbyter,” i.e. as one – presumably the first one – of the college of the presbyterium. On the other hand he was looked upon as the type of James the brother of Christ, i.e. as the image of Christ – an idea found in Ignatius and other documents of that time. This resulted naturally in the double image we encounter for the first time clearly in Hippolytus: the bishop as alter Christus and alter apostolus. (195)

For Hippolytus the bishop is simultaneously the image of Christ and the image of the apostles. Moreover, he is surrounded by the college of the presbyterium this also presupposed the convocation of the entire community as the context for the continuation of apostolic ministry.

Apostolic succession through episcopacy is essentially a succession of Church structure. The concrete implications of this are clear: in adhering to episcopal succession the Church does not isolate episcopacy from the rest of the Church orders (including the laity) but, on the contrary, she makes it absolutely dependent on them, just as they are absolutely dependent on it. It is a false idea to break down the independence of orders, for without the complete structure of the community the eschatological perspective, i.e. the convocation of the dispersed people of God, disappears entirely. (197)

Episcopal succession therefore means essentially a succession of communities and this is the reason why it was the bishop who was chosen as the instrument of apostolic succession.

To be continued…