In the second subsection of the sixth chapter of Being as Communion, Zizioulas notes that discussions on ministry are often termed in terms of its origination and transmission, in terms of the bestowal of grace as something that can be possessed and transmitted. Such discussions are thus tied up with notions of causality. In contemporary discussions this has led to a choice between a view in which ministry finds its origin in a linear historical line of apostolic succession, and a view in which it emerges from the community who delegate authority to the ordained person. The first view is generally seen as “catholic” and the second as the Protestant concept of “the priesthood of all believers.” However, critical approaches to the New Testament and its lack of references to the “bishop” have inclined some Catholic theologians to the second option.

But the sources give answers only to questions we put to them, and this makes it imperative to check whether the dilemma we impose on these sources is as inevitable as traditionally theology has made us believe. (215)

Zizioulas argues that both of these approaches work within the notion of causality and he proposes to instead step back and ask how ministry comes about. He makes the following points.

(a) There is no such thing as “non-ordained” persons in the Church. Baptism and confirmation / chrismation lead to the Eucharist and

The theological significance of this lies in the fact that it reveals the nature of baptism and confirmation as being essentially an ordination, while it helps to understand better what ordination itself means. As we can see already in Hippolytus’ Apostolic Tradition, the immediate and inevitable result of baptism and confirmation was that the newly baptized would take his particular “place” in the eucharistic assembly, i.e. that he would become a layman. That this implies ordination is clear from the fact that the baptized person does not simply become a “Christian,” as we tend to think, but he becomes a member of a particular “ordo” in the eucharistic community. Once this is forgotten, it is easy to speak of the laity as “non-ordained” and thus arrive at the possibility – witnessed to by the history of the Church in a dramatic way – of either making the layman an unnecessary element in the eucharistic community (hence the “private mass” and the entire issue of clericalism) or of making him the basis of all “orders,” as if he were not himself a specifically defined order but a generic source or principle (hence the prevailing view of the “priesthood of all believers” in all its variations). (216)

Thus instead of ordination coming from a pre-existing community, it is rather an act that constitutes the community.

(b) This helps to explain the apparently “one-sided” and “monophysitic” views that we find, for example in Dionysius the Areopagite, that the bishop ordains “not by his own movement (gesture) but by the divine movement …”. (217) This is typical of the epicletic approach of the Greek Fathers in which God is the subject of the verb “ordain” and in which the eucharistic assembly is required to sing “Kyrie eleison” thus showing that the ordination is dependent on prayer and not simply on an objective transmission of grace.

It is in this context also that we should view the election by the people and their acclamation of approval during the ordination. While the former could be dispensed with, the latter could not for it took place within the eucharistic assembly. Thus

The “axios,” as another form of the liturgical “amen” of the congregation, signified the participation of the entire community in ordination, just like the singing of the “Kyrie eleison” to which we have already referred. (218)

Zizioulas claims that it is this immediacy of divine action in ordination that safeguards the charismatic nature of ministry and which also expresses the identification of the Church’s ministry with that of Christ.

The organic link of ordination with this community is thus a key for all theology of the ministry: it points to divine action, fully incarnating itself in creation yet without depending ontologically on it. Without the community, or rather the eucharistic community, creaturely being (be it man or nature or even community of men) tends to become a condition for divine grace. In the eucharistic community, creaturely being achieves its full affiliation, not by becoming a condition for God’s grace but by being deified in giving itself up to God’s love. It is this that makes the ministry belong to the new, and not to the old, creation, i.e. to a creaturely being which affirms itself not by becoming a condition for God’s love (this is the “old” sinful being) but by ceasing to be such a condition. And this is what makes the Church differ essentially from a human “democracy.” (219)

Thus ministry comes to be seen not so much in terms of what it gives to the ordained by rather in terms of the relationships that it establishes.

To be continued…

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