Zizioulas begins chapter six of Being as Communion by noting how scholastic theology has distorted our understandings of ordination and ministry. It did this, firstly, by viewing them as autonomous subjects apart from Christology or Trinitarian theology. And, secondly, by viewing Christology as an autonomous subject, unrelated to Trinitarian theology and to ecclesiology, something that has led to Christomonistic tendencies not only in relation to the person of Christ, but also in relation to His ministry which has become abstracted from the concrete ecclesial community. Such perspectives are incompatible with the vision of the Greek Fathers, whose vision Zizioulas outlines as follows:

(a) “There is no ministry in the Church other than Christ’s ministry,” so much so that the Church’s ministry is identified with that of Christ. (210)

(b) This identity is only possible if we allow our Christology to be conditioned pneumatologically.

What, therefore, the Spirit does through the ministry is to constitute the Body of Christ here and now by realizing Christ’s ministry as the Church’s ministry.

The implications of this include the following: (i) the ministry of the Church does not represent an “interim” period in the stages of Heilsgeschichte, but it exists as an expression of the totality of the Economy. We cannot, therefore, understand the nature of the ministry by seeing it simply in terms of a past (Christ’s ministry in Palestine) or a present (ministry as service to the needs of today) but of the future as well, namely as sustaining from creation the hope of the eschata, of sharing God’s very life, by offering a taste of that here and now; (ii) the identification of the Church’s ministry with that of Christ is to be seen in existential soteriological terms which have profound anthropological and cosmological implications. If soteriology means, as it was the case in the patristic period, not so much a juridical reality by means of which forgiveness is granted for an act of disobedience, but rather a realization of theosis, as communion of man – and through him of creation – in the very life of the Trinity, then this identification acquires existential importance: the Church’s ministry realizes here and now the very saving work of Christ, which involves the very personal life of the one who saves. (211-212)

(c) This makes the Holy Spirit constitutive of the very relation between Christ and ministry, something with important implications for theology, for it underlines the interdependence between ministry and the concrete community of the Church.

If we bear this in mind, we can understand better certain liturgical and practical elements in ordination, which theologians tend to bypass in constructing their views on the ministry. Thus, according to the ancient tradition common to both East and West, (i) all ordinations must be related to a concrete community, and (ii) all ordinations must take place within the context of the eucharistic assembly. … It is the eucharist, understood properly as a community and not as a “thing,” that Christ is present here and now as the one who realizes God’s self-communication to creation as communion with His life, and in the existential form of a concrete community created by the Spirit. Thus the eucharistic assembly becomes, theologically speaking, the natural milieu for the birth of ministry understood in this broader soteriological perspective. (213-214)

Advertisements