The Holy Orders is the Sacrament through which men receive the power and Grace to perform the duties of the priesthood. the distinction between clergy and laity is of divine origin, for:
Christ chose the 12 Apostles from among His disciples and in a special way deputed and consecrated them for the exercise of spiritual ministrations. The Apostles administered the Sacraments of the Holy Orders by consecrating bishops and by ordaining priests and deacons.
Who are priests ?
The name priest first appears in the Bible in Genesis 14:1-20. Malchizadech, priest of the Most High offered sacrifice with bread and wine. In the name of God, he blessed Abraham and in the place of Abraham he, praised God.
Priest of the Old Testament (Ex.28:1)n were separated as the priest of God and they ministered between man and God. they offered sacrifice as the representative of the worshipers and blessed them in the name of God. In the New Testament, the Christian priest ministered as Ambassadors of Christ and representatives of the faithful.
In Old Testament Levite priesthood, there were three divisions namely. High Priests, Priests and Levites. The duties were marked. (Lev.16:1,7; Num.3:4, 10; 13:3,6,8,37; Num.3;7-9)
In the New Testament, our Lord has established an organised ministry in His Church.
In Apostolic times,The Elders and Bishops (Overseer) were sometimes termed Elders, (Acts 20:17,28; Tit. 1:7-9; 1Tim. 3:1-7; 5:17,20) Thus during the time of the Apostles, we see three orders - Deacons, Priests and Bishops.
The manner of ordination was laying of hands, with prayers. Perfect obedience to the Priest by the laity was commanded by the Apostles. (Heb. 13:17, 1 Thes. 5: 12,13) St.Paul teaches the laity that it is their duty to provide a living wage for their maintenance (1 Cor.9: 1-14) He also asks the clergy to "take heed to the ministry that thou hast received, that thou fulfill it."
The Offices of the Priest
The Holy Church teaches that the Apostles were made Deacons when our Lord sent them two by two, and Priests when He breathed on them and said "receive Ye the Holy Ghost" and Bishops when He lifted His hands and blessed them at the time of Ascension.
The Bishop ordains - the priests (Tit.1:5 ; 1Tim.5:22) -rebukes and judges them (1Tim.5:19) gives orders (1Tim. 3:1-13) lays hands upon (1Tim. 5:22) We see also authority over Bishops - for ex. Paul commands Timothy (1Tim. 6:14; 5:21)
The Priest, Elder , Kasiso - Apostles ordained Priests in the Church. (Acts 14:23) and asked bishops to ordain priests in each town (Tit. 1:5) They are also to fulfil their duties pertaining to their office as cited above.
The deacons Beginning (Act. 6:1-6) St. Paul list the qualification of the candidate. (1Tim 3:2)
Through valid Sacraments we receive Grace and as said earlier, the validity of the Sacraments rests upon the validity of the priesthood through valid ordination by a Bishop who has receive power through Apostolic succession.
It is therefore imperative that there should be a valid Episcopate - in the absence of which there is no valid Body and Blood of Christ, no remission of sins, no Grace. Where there are no valid Bishops there is no Church.
As successors of the Apostles, the Bishops are the spiritual rulers of the Church, divinely appointed and as such, subordination and loyalty from the clergy and laity are due. Rebellion against lawful Ecclesiastical Authorities is rebellion against Christ Himself and separation from them involves separation from On, Holy, Catholic Church.
In the Holy Church every Bishop, rightly consecrated can trace his spiritual lineage back to St. Peter, the head of the Apostles. At every period of the Church, the greatest care taken was that there should be no missing link in the chain of succession.
Rebellion and separation, voluntary or by excommunication, breaks the chain. Sacraments administered by such 'priest', according to the teachings of the Church is invalid.
The Excellence of Priesthood
Far greater than Kingship (see 2 Cor. 26: 19 -21) For, kingship is an authority only on earth, whereas priesthood has authority on earth and in Heaven.
He is given the authority to be the representative of Christ and the one between God and Man.
He is authorised to give perfection and the seal of regeneration and to grant remission of sins and above all to take the Son of God in his hands. Even the angels are not endowed with these prerogatives.
That is why mar Jacob of Sarung sings - "If among the heavenly, the passion of envy, there exists, the Cherubims will envy those sons of men."
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