Guide Patrologia Graeca #44: St. Gregory of Nyssa

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I understand the philosophic reasons for your desire to hold such a position. When that question arises we are then pointed to Roman AS—an historical claim.


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If you lose this historical claim your philosophical argument becomes much less effective, and your principled means to determine orthodoxy is ahistorical—the very thing that Andrew has said would undermine Catholicism. What is very much in question is whether the RCC claims are plausible. It depends on how you define plausible.


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It is equally as plausible that Paul could have been a bishop in Rome, but it is also equally as unlikely. The issue really boils down to the historical question: Was Peter established as an infallible bishop to reign in the city of Rome? So why the hubbub? I am not sure I understand what you are accepting or denying. Do you believe that through the physical motions of the laying on of hands that there is a gift of unique power that passes on from the ordainer and the ordinand?

For instance, when St. Paul says to St. The evidence is fragmentary in every direction. I think that your question actually applies more forcefully to the Roman position. Let me turn your question on you:. Andrew, in his post above, is using the term to refer not only to that practice, but also to what those who engaged in this practice understood themselves to be doing in ordination, and not merely the fact that ordinarily only ordained men ordained others. So now, when using the term, we will all be more conscious of the particular sense in which it is being used.

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And in my opinion, that is very important. The theology according to which ordination imparts a grace and authority, is part of the historical evidence we find in the writings of the Church Fathers. And this theology-within-history is much more than merely the fact that only ordained men ordain. What the history and consensus of the Fathers teach regarding the mere fact that only ordain men ordain, is something compatible with both the Reformed and Catholic doctrines concerning apostolic succession.

If you disagree, and think that what the history and consensus of the Fathers teach regarding the mere practice is incompatible with the Catholic doctrine concerning apostolic succession, then please cite that evidence. But what the consensus of the Fathers teach regarding the doctrine of apostolic succession is compatible with and preserved within the Catholic tradition and practice, but is incompatible with the Reformed doctrine.

Patrologia Graeca #44: St. Gregory of Nyssa

The Catholic can affirm what the Church Fathers taught on apostolic succession, but the Reformed must in order to remain Reformed claim that though the Fathers retained the apostolic practice that only ordained men ordain they got the theology of succession all wrong, by treating it as though it imparts a grace and an authority from the Apostles, when in actuality it is merely a symbolic rite that imparts nothing beyond what has been given in baptism, except permission to minister. For if the Apostles had known hidden mysteries which they taught to the elite secretly and apart from the rest, they would have handed them down especially to those very ones to whom they were committing the self-same Churches.

For surely they wished all those and their successors to be perfect and without reproach, to whom they handed on their authority Against Heresies 3. It is necessary to obey those who are the presbyters in the Church, those who, as we have shown, have succession from the Apostles; those who have received, with the succession of the episcopate, the sure charism of truth according to the good pleasure of the Father. But the rest, who have no part in the primitive succession and assemble wheresoever they will, must be held in suspicion ibid 4.

Why, in the liturgy of ordination in St. Hippolytus in the third century, is ordination even a prayer? If ordination is fundamentally granting permission by the elders, to the ordinand, it should be spoken to the ordinand, not to God. The ordination is in its essence the prayer with the laying on of hands, as St.

Chrysostom points out. Homily 14 on the Acts of the Apostles. As I pointed out previously, the form of the practice i. The bread again is at first common bread, but when the sacramental action consecrates it, it is called, and becomes, the Body of Christ. So with the sacramental oil; so with the wine: though before the benediction they are of little value, each of them, after the sanctification bestowed by the Spirit, has its several operations.

The same power of the word, again, also makes the priest venerable and honourable, separated, by the new blessing bestowed upon him, from his community with the mass of men. While but yesterday he was one of the mass, one of the people, he is suddenly rendered a guide, a president, a teacher of righteousness, an instructor in hidden mysteries; and this he does without being at all changed in body or in form; but, while continuing to be in all appearance the man he was before, being, by some unseen power and grace, transformed in respect of his unseen soul to the higher condition.

See how even among the seven one was preeminent, and won the first prize. For though the ordination was common to him and them, yet he drew upon himself greater grace. And observe, how he wrought no signs and wonders before this time, but only when he became publicly known; to show that grace alone is not sufficient, but there must be ordination also; so that there was a further access of the Spirit. For if they were full of the Spirit, it was of that which is from the Laver of Baptism. Homily 15 on the Acts of the Apostles — on Acts In like manner as if there take place an ordination of clergy in order to form a congregation of people, although the congregation of people follow not, yet there remains in the ordained persons the Sacrament of Ordination; and if, for any fault, any be removed from his office, he will not be without the Sacrament of the Lord once for all set upon him, albeit continuing unto condemnation.

Bishop Gregory of Nyssa 180313

On the Good of Marriage, If ordination were merely permission, it could be rescinded by the elders. But if ordination imparts an indelible character by the finger of God, then that cannot be removed by men. And there are many other examples in the Church Fathers showing that they believed that ordination was not merely a symbolic rite, but conferred a grace beyond what was given in baptism, and that only those who had received authority in succession from the Apostles could give this authority to others by ordination.

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So the idea that history leaves us with nothing but the mere fact of succession stripped bare of a theology of succession, is just not true. I know you want to go into a discussion of the papacy, but again, in my opinion, as I mentioned above, there is a more fundamental point of disagreement between us regarding what apostolic succession is , and that point of disagreement has nothing to do with the papacy.

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The mere fact that, from Irenaeus onward, the prevalent ecclesiology is clearly committed to monepiscopal AS shows that, from that time onward, such evidence as they had was interpreted as supporting monepiscopal AS in all the recognized churches. Thank you for the thorough comment.

I do appreciate the work that you have done to demonstrate the difference of opinion with regard to ordination, however, I still believe that we need to press the question back earlier. That in the late 2nd and early third centuries a developed mono-episcopate existed is impossible to dispute. All of your citations are from after this time period, however, and do not answer the important claim of Roman Catholicism—the Jesus founded Peter as the head of the Church, which was eventually located in Rome.

This occurred c. The reason I want to discuss the papacy is because that is the form of AS you are advocating. It is is not tangential. Your doctrine of ordination flows directly out of your understanding of the mono-episcopate established by Peter. We disagree about what AS is because we disagree about the history. We disagree about ordination because we disagree about the history. If we cannot discuss the historical basis for your theological claims then we are unable to move forward as far as I can tell.

If you find the evidence that Peter founded a perpetual Petrine office in Rome convincing then I cannot stop you. We really are left in a conundrum because your principled way to distinguish human opinion from divine revelation is connected to AS. Unfortunately, this historical claim is, by your own argument, at best plausible and when conducted with historic rigor, highly unlikely.

It seems that every Pope must be able to assert this to help establish continuity-in-identity. So you must mean something more substantive than that. That helps me understand where you are coming from. You apparently think that since the Catholic Church believes that Christ gave the keys to St. Peter in AD 33 or so, and thereby gave to him the unique charism of papal authority perpetuated in the succession of bishops of Rome, therefore a the Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession and ordination must follow from or depend logically upon that theological doctrine, and b that the evidential value of all patristic evidence for a sacramental conception of apostolic succession such as Andrew describes in his post and I have been describing in my comments above hangs on whether or not the Catholic doctrine of the papacy is true.

And my response to that is that each of those two conclusions is both false and a non sequitur. While the papacy is important for identifying the college of bishops, especially in the event of schism at the episcopal level, the Catholic doctrine of ordination does not logically depend upon the Catholic doctrine concerning the unique gift Christ gave to St.