… being a continuation of the second subsection of the sixth chapter of Being as Communion.
In insisting on the relational character of ministry, Zizioulas points out that this is not something abstract and logical, but has a deeply ontological and soteriological meaning. This means both that the act of dividing the community into ministries actually unites it and also that it is
an act by which the Church and, through her, mankind and creation are brought into the reconciling and saving relationship with God which has been realized in Christ. (220)
Thus the ministry renders the Church a relational reality. However, because this reality is realised within fallen existence and the presence of evil,
this relational nature of the Church is constantly revealed by way of a double movement: (i) as a baptismal movement which renders the Church a community existentially “dead to the world” and separated from it, and (ii) as a eucharistic movement which relates the world to God by “referring” it to God as anaphora and by bringing to it the blessings of God’s life and the taste of the Kingdom to come. It is this double movement of the Church’s relational nature that makes the ministry realize its relational character as a movement of the Church both ad intra and ad extra. (221)
Nevertheless it is the Church’s ministries ad intra that received priority and came to be seen as decisive very early on in the Church’s history and Zizioulas argues that we should view this development as positive rather than negative. However,
The tragedy with regard to this development lies in the fact that theology soon lost the proper perspective which is suggested by the organic like of these ministries [of laity, deacons, presbyters and bishop] within the structure of the eucharistic assembly, and thus, given other historical and theological factors, the view of these orders as relational realities making sense only in their interdependence in the community was replaced by an approach to them as individual offices, with all the well-known consequences for the history of the Church and of theology. (221-222)
If the relational character of these orders is recaptured, then this will affect two areas of theology:
(a) The distinctiveness and indispensability of each of the orders will become apparent.
The laity will thus become the laos who is gathered from the world to realize in the community of the Church the eschatological unity and salvation of the world in Christ. The deacons, whose existence causes so much embarrassment to the theology of the ministry precisely because their eucharistic role has been lost, will regain their profound significance as bearers of the world (in the form of the gifts and petitions of the faithful) to the head of the eucharistic community in order to bring them back again to the world (in the form of the Holy Communion) as a sign of the new creation which is realized in the communion with God’s life. The presbyters will become again the synedrion of the community portraying in liturgical as well as in actual terms the important and lost dimension of judgment with which the Church relates both ad intra and with the world. Finally, the bishop will cease to be everything and become the head of the community that unites it in itself and with other communities in time and space – a prerogative important enough to give him the place of the unique ordainer and all the high honor it implies, yet always and only because of his relation to the community and in interdependence with the rest of the orders. (222-223)
(b) Such a relational view of ministry makes any resistance to an “institution” pointless.
Authority being tied up with a ministry understood as an objectified office and as potestas naturally becomes oppressive and provokes revolutionary reactions. On the other hand, in a relational view of the ministry, authority establishes itself as a demand of the relationship itself. Thus the Church becomes hierarchical in the sense in which the Holy Trinity is itself hierarchical: by reason of the specificity of relationship. (223)
Zizioulas then proceeds to consider the Church’s ministry ad extra. This existentially conditions the Church’s ontology and means that:
(a) There cannot be a separation between Church and world in the sense of a dichotomy, for
As it is revealed in the eucharistic nature of the Church, the world is assumed by the community and referred back to the Creator. In a eucharistic approach it is by being assumed that the world is judged, and not otherwise. (224)
(b) The only acceptable method of mission is an incarnational one in which the Church is existentially involved in the world.
The nature of mission is not to be found in the Church’s addressing the world but in its being fully in com-passion with it. (224)
(c) This ministry must be an organic part of a concrete local community and not vague ideas about mission, for
no form of such a ministry can exist without being organically related to the concrete eucharistic community. (225)
(d) The Church must always have a variety of ministries ad extra which correspond to the needs of time and place in which she exists, and for this reason they cannot become permanent ministries, unlike the ministries ad intra.