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EUCHARIST, BISHOP, CHURCH: THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH IN THE DIVINE EUCHARIST AND THE BISHOP DURING THE FIRST THREE CENTURIES

 

PART III

DEVELOPMENTS

The Development of the One Eucharist "Under the Leadership of the Bishop" into Many Eucharistic Assemblies led by Priests. The Emergence of the Parish and Its Relationship to the Unity of the Episcopal Diocese

 

Chapter One: THE EMERGENCE OF THE PARISH


From our research up to this point, we have established that the principle underlined by Irenaeus concerning one Eucharist and one Bishop in each Church corresponded to an historical reality. Thus, the original Eucharistic unity was manifested as strictly episcopocentric with corresponding implications for the formation of the Catholic Church about which we have spoken already in the previous chapter. But how long did this initial state of affairs last in the Church? Certainly not indefinitely. As the situation in the Church today testifies, the assembly of the "whole Church" in only one Eucharist "under the leadership of the Bishop" no longer exists. This is due to the appearance and establishment of the institution of parishes. The appearance of the parish marked the definitive break-up of the original unified, episcopocentric Eucharist into many presbyterocentric Eucharists.

But how was the way prepared for the parish, and when did it appear in history? To this question, so fundamental to the history of church unity,1 the answer has yet to be given. the existing handbooks of church history and worship, the origins of the parish appear highly obscure. The late V. Stephanidis gives as the first evidence concerning parishes the foundation of twenty-five parishes in Rome by Marcellus of Rome in the year 300.2 Certainly, however, it was not Marcellus who introduced the institution of parishes. Of the period before Marcellus, Stephanidis confines himself to saying that "as the Christian community grew, more church assemblies (parishes) were formed with their own presbyters and deacons, who were dependent on one and the same Bishop."3 But this general observation throws no light on the obscure historical origins of the parish.4 Thus the whole problem of the origin of the parish, which is of direct and essential concern to the object of our study, remains open.

In order to examine this problem, we shall concentrate on the following two questions:

a) How is the transition from the original unified, episcopocentric Eucharist to the many presbyterocentric parishes portrayed in the sources? In this way the whole problem will be posed not as we present it but as the sources present it; and

b) What historical factors prepared the way for the appearance of the parish, and what are the first indications in the sources concerning the appearance of parishes? This will lead to a determination, albeit approximate, of the time at which parishes first appeared.
 

1. The problem of the emergence of the parish as it appears from comparative study of the sources.

The transition from "one Eucharist under the leadership of the Bishop" to several parishes under presbyters is vividly depicted in the sources of the first four centuries. This is demonstrated chiefly by the change noted in the sources regarding the position and responsibility of the Bishop and the Presbyters within the Divine Eucharist. In order for this change to be understood, it is necessary to examine the position of the Bishop and the Presbyters in the Divine Eucharist first according to the most ancient of the existing sources, and then according to those later.

 

a) The position of the Bishop and the Presbyters in the Divine Eucharist according to the sources up to the middle of the third century.

We have already seen that the "whole Church," in the Apostle Paul's phrase, "being" or "sojourning" in a particular place, would "come together in the same place" mainly on the Lord's day to "break bread"5 in one single synaxis "under the leadership of the Bishop."6 At the center of this synaxis of the whole "church" or the "church of God" and behind the "one altar" stood the throne of the "one Bishop" who was seated "in the place of God" and was regarded as the living "icon of Christ"7 in which was expressed the unity of the "multitude" of the "Catholic Church" of God sojourning in that place.8 In a circle around this throne were seated "the Presbyters" or "the presbyterium" on their synthronon,9 while "the deacons" stood by the Bishop assisting him and thus connected with him10 in the celebration of the Eucharist. In front of all these and opposite them stood the "people of God,"11 that order in the Church established by the "one baptism," so that through their indispensable presence and participation in the Eucharist the full and perfect unity of the Church of Christ might become an historical reality.12

In the synaxis thus described along general lines, there were "orders" and spheres of responsibility strictly distinguished from one another.13 These spheres of responsibility, which no member of the Church was permitted to overstep,14 were necessarily accompanied by a corresponding "charism"15 which was bestowed by the Holy Spirit "who distributes charismata" at a particular moment always connected with the Eucharist.16 For the clergy who led the Eucharist, this moment was ordination; for the laity who responded and gave their affirmation, the moment was baptism and chrismation which formed the "ordination" for entry into the order of laity.

Of these spheres of responsibility, the supreme and highest belonged to the Bishop. He was called to offer the Eucharist to God in the name of the Church, thus offering up before the heavenly Throne the whole body of Christ, the One in whom "the many," "the whole Church," united, come to be "of God," given back to the Creator to whom they belonged thanks to their redemption from Satan by Christ who took them upon in Himself.17 In the same way, the Bishop formed the center through which the "whole Church" had to pass as one body at the supreme moment of her unity. Thus the Bishop's position and responsibility in the Eucharist, leading naturally to his position and responsibility in the rife and activity of the Church generally,18 was unique. No one else had such a responsibility in the Eucharist.

The uniqueness and exclusiveness of the position and responsibility of the Bishop in the Divine Eucharist is indicated by all the existing liturgical and canonical texts of the first three centuries. Apart from what St Ignatius and St Justin write on the subject,19 this fact is attested by two texts from the beginning of the third century which probably reflect an earlier situation and represent two different geographical areas, Rome and Syria. These are the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus and the Syriac Didascalia Apostolorum.

The Apostolic Tradition, the liturgical kernel of which probably goes back to a much earlier time than that of Hippolytus,20 and the authenticity of which is today coming to be accepted by all,21 is a most valuable text for the history of the ecclesial ministries. While this text includes the prayers for the ordination of almost all the ministers then existing, in only one ordination prayer does it include a reference to offering the Gifts of the Eucharist; this is that of the Bishop. According to this prayer, the Bishop was ordained generally to "shepherd the flock" of the Church under him, and more specifically to "offer to Thee [God] the gifts of Thy holy Church,22 i.e. to offer the Eucharist.23 No one else received this responsibility at his ordination according to this very ancient text.

In case this text might be regarded as reflecting only the church life of the West, coming as a confirmation and survival of the liturgy of Justin, who ascribes the right to offer the Eucharist only to the "president" of the Eucharistic synaxis,24 we see that the Syriac Didascalia Apostolorum, a text contemporary with the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus, bears witness to the same state of affairs in the East too, specifically in Syria where a similar view had earlier been expressed by Ignatius. This text is a translation of a lost Greek original made in Syria immediately after the composition of the Greek, i.e. at the beginning of the third century,25 and provides a full description of the Eucharistic synaxis in which the Bishop dominates, the Presbyters being consigned almost to oblivion.26 According to this text, the Eucharist is offered only through the Bishop who for this reason occupies the place of God in the Church.27

As a direct consequence of this unique position of the Bishop in the offering of the Divine Eucharist there was the remarkable fact that only the Bishop was originally called by the title hiereus or sacerdos. This title, like its synonym archiereus, was originally used of Jesus Christ in the sense of His offering of Himself to the Father on behalf of mankind,28 But precisely because this offering was perpetuated through the Divine Eucharist, in which, as we have seen, it was its "president," the Bishop who made the offering; it was not long before this title was transferred to the person of the Bishop. We see this in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus in which the Bishop is called "archiereus,"29 and we find it clearly in Cyprian. According to the latter, the Bishop is inter alia the sacerdos of the Church.30 This property belongs so exclusively to the Bishop that, according to the same Father, in his absence there is no sacerdos in the Church.31

But while this was the position and responsibility of the Bishop in the Divine Eucharist, what was the liturgical function of the Presbyters according to the texts of this period? This question which from a more general viewpoint concerns the relationship between the Presbyter's sphere of responsibility and that of the Bishop, is one of the most fundamental questions, to which the answer has not been given fully at least by Orthodox theology.32 This problem, which is organically bound up with the origin of the parish given that the leadership of the parish was entrusted to the Presbyter, concerns us here only as it relates specifically to the Divine Eucharist33 and to a particular period in history.34

In order to determine the exact position of the Presbyters in the Church during the years in question, it is essential to distinguish between the Presbyters as a group, as the "presby terium" according to the terminology of the sources, and the Presbyters as individuals, and look at each of these cases separately. Firstly, it should be stressed that as the "Presbyterium," i.e. collectively, the Presbyters are found from the beginning in a very close relationship with the Bishop. This extends to the point of partaking in the same title so that they are often referred to together with the Bishop as "Presbyters" or "co-Presbyters."35 This fact was not unrelated to the way the Presbyters were positioned at the Divine Eucharist. As has already been shown, at each Eucharistic gathering, the "Presbyterium" surrounded the Bishop as his "council" or synedrion, occupying the thrones around him, according to the evidence implied, as we have seen, in the Apocalypse of John,36 and clearly confirmed in texts even of the fourth century.37 This presence of the Presbyterium in the Divine Eucharist was directly related to the offering of the Gifts. First Clement (ch. 44) already speaks of the "Presbyters who offer the gifts of the episcope," obviously together with the Bishop, who is implied in the term "Presbyters" at this early period.38 Besides, Ignatius expresses the same connection of the Presbyters with the Bishop through the highly significant phrase "the Bishop with the Presbyterium and the deacons" which occurs in a text referring to the Eucharist.39 And even the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus, which, as we have seen, ascribes to the Bishop the function of offering the gifts by right of his ordination enjoins a certain sort of active participation by the Presbyters at the sacred moment of the blessing and offering of the Eucharist performed by the Bishop when it writes: "let the deacons bring the offering to him (= the Bishop), and let him, laying his hand on the offering together with the whole Presbyterium, say in thanksgiving..."40 This obscure passage, the significance of which for the recognition or otherwise of the Presbyters' right to concelebrate and join in the blessing with the Bishop has generated much discussion,41 implies the participation of the Presbyters either in reciting the Eucharistic prayer or in laying their hands on the gifts. Whichever it may be, this participation should not be understood as having the same significance as the action of the Bishop. When the same writer of this text enjoins a similar action on the part of the Presbyters at the ordination of a Presbyter, whereby they are called to place their hands on the ordinand together with the Bishop, he hastens to explain that this does not signify ordination "because the Presbyter has authority for one thing only, to receive; but he does not have authority to give ordination. Hence he does not ordain anyone into the clergy, but through the laying on of his hands at the ordination of a Presbyter he simply places a seal (sphragizei) while the Bishop ordains."42 In consequence, this has to do with an act of assent and approval of what is done by the Bishop. It does not have to do with the Bishop's blessing which is decisive for the changing and offering, a blessing which belonged exclusively to the Bishop by virtue of a special charism he acquired, as we have seen, at his ordination. This position taken by the Apostolic Tradition regarding the Bishop's responsibility for offering the Divine Eucharist is not essentially in conflict with the understanding of 1 Clement concerning "the Presbyters who offer the gifts of the episcope." The fact that 1 Clement calls the Eucharist "the gifts of the episcope" at a time when the terms "Presbyters" and "Bishops" were synonymous43 shows that the Eucharist belongs to that institution which would shortly give its name to a permanent designation for the "presiding Presbyter" who offered the Eucharist. Similarly, the offering of the Eucharist would remain the task of "the episcope" par excellence, while the Presbyters, since they were seated with the Bishop at the synaxis as a college, would be the closest of any order in the Church to the episcopal ministry of offering,44 but without yet having, therefore, received the right to offer the Gifts at the individual ordination of each man to the Presbyterate. This precisely leads us to an examination of the function of the Presbyters understood individually according to the sources of the first three centuries.

The prayer for the ordination of a Presbyter given by the Apostolic Tradition, in contrast with that for the ordination of a Bishop, knows nothing of the Presbyter's right to offer the Eucharist. Instead of such a function, the candidate being ordained to the rank of Presbyter receives the charism: (a) for governing the people of God with a pure heart, as continuing the work of the presbyters of the Old Testament chosen by Moses,45 and (b) for teaching and admonishing the people.46 Indeed, the Presbyters initially appear as administrative counsellors to the Bishop forming "the Bishop's council (synedrion)."47 This is how the Presbyters are described in the Syriac Didascalia, which perceives them as an advisory body whose purpose was to settle, together with the Bishop, differences arising between members of the Church so that those who repented and were reconciled could then receive forgiveness from the Bishop and thereafter participate in the Eucharist.48

As for the teaching ministry of the Presbyters, there is evidence that early on they were identified with the teachers. When the ministers of the Church are enumerated in the Shepherd of Hermas, in the place of the presbyters it has the term "teachers",49 which clearly replaces the term "Presbyters.50 Similar evidence is afforded by Tertullian,51 Origen,52 and Cyprian,53 and also by the practice of the Church during the time under discussion. Thus it is known that Origen, Clement etc. who were Presbyters54 taught the people in Alexandria at assemblies on Wednesdays and Fridays.55 Similar assemblies are provided for in Rome by the Apostolic Tradition, and again they were the responsibility of the Presbyters and deacons.56 These assemblies took place for teaching and prayer (on the pattern of the synagogue) but never to celebrate the Eucharist.57 Thus, the Presbyters function as teachers mainly outside the Eucharist preparing the catechumens and admonishing the faithful through Scripture reading and prayer while the Eucharistic sermon remained principally the task of the Bishop as Justin and Hippolytus testify.

From all this it is evident that the existing texts of the first three centuries know no authority of the Presbyter to lead his own Eucharistic synaxis individually given that he participated in it as part of a college as the "Presbyterium." Thus the leadership and offering of the Eucharist formed the principle work of the Bishop who alone received such a right at his ordination being appointed the sacerdos of God in the Church. But how different things appear in the fourth century sources! This amazing change in the existing texts will be demonstrated by comparing the sources already examined with corresponding sources from the fourth century. (See table on page 280).

 

b) The place of the Bishop and the Presbyters in the Divine Eucharist according to the fourth century sources

The most notable change in the texts, indicative of the development which had occurred in the meantime as to the Presbyter's relation to the Divine Eucharist, is to be observed in those texts of the fourth century which are reworkings or translations of the texts of the first three centuries which we have already looked at. Comparison of these texts will be presented later in the form of a diagram so as to make the differences clear once we have looked in detail at the information in these texts.

1. As we know,58 the Epistles of Ignatius appeared around the end of the fourth century under a new, pseudepigraphal form with the original text altered and six spurious letters added to the seven genuine ones. If the changes introduced in this spurious edition are studied carefully, they reveal that in the interim the Presbyters had come to be identified with the "priests" and are called by this term which Ignatius knows nothing of in reference to Presbyters.59 If we take into account the fact that nowhere in the sources of the first three centuries is the term "priest" used to denote the Presbyter,60 something that can be seen especially from the end of the fourth century on,61 it is clear that something changed during the fourth century regarding the position of the Presbyter in the Divine Eucharist. Indeed, we discover similar changes in another text contemporary with that of the spurious letters of Ignatius. Thus:

2. It is remarkable what changes the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus itself underwent during the fourth century. As we know,62 this text was the source of a large number of liturgical and canonical collections in the East. A close look at these versions as they relate to the ordination of the Presbyter reveals the developments which had clearly taken place during the fourth century. Thus the eighth book of the so-called "Apostolic Constitutions" and what is called the "Epitome" of it (or "Constitutions of Hippolytus"), put together in Syria around 380 as reworkings of the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus, change the original prayer for the ordination of a Presbyter taken from the Apostolic Tradition by adding the phrase: "and that he may perform the spotless sacred rites (heirourgiai) on behalf of Thy people...," which most likely implies the offering of the Eucharist.63 Hence, the use of the term "priest" to mean both Bishop and Presbyter occurs clearly for the first time in the text in question: "both the bishops and the presbyter priests."64

Equally remarkable changes are made in the Apostolic Tradition by the other version of it, the so-called "Canons of Hippolytus," written in about the year 500 in Syria. According to this text, when a priest is ordained everything is done as at the ordination of a Bishop except for the enthronement, and the prayer for the ordination of a Bishop is read with the exception of the name of bishop. To this is added the revealing explanation that the Presbyter is on a par with the Bishop in everything apart from the throne and the authority to ordain.65 This understanding of the relationship of the Presbyter to the Bishop is of especial importance for the history of the ecclesial ministries, since, as we shall see shortly, it appears widespread from the end of the fourth century onwards.

The fact that these versions introduce changes which had not yet become general, and consequently represent a crucial point in time for the developments that were taking place, is shown by the existence of other versions of the Apostolic Tradition which appeared at the same period but in more conservative circles, and keep more closely to the original text of the Tradition. Thus, the Ethiopian translation of the Tradition characteristically includes a special prayer for the ordination of a Presbyter which differs from that for the ordination of a Bishop only in the section referring to the functions peculiar to each of these degrees. Specifically, in the prayer for the ordination of a Presbyter, the prayer for the ordination of a Bishop is repeated without the section referring to the offering of the Eucharist in place of which it has the phrase: "to share in succouring (synantilamvanesthai) in purity of heart and to govern Thy people,"66 faithfully preserving the content of the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus. A similar remnant of the ancient view of Presbyters is another version of the Apostolic Tradition known by the name of "The Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ" and belonging to the beginning of the fifth century. This text too, faithful to its source, teaches that the Bishop is ordained "diligently and with all fear to offer to Thee the gifts of Thy holy Church," whereas the Presbyter is ordained "to share in succouring and to govern Thy people."67 It should be noted that "recent investigations have shown that (this text) reproduces Hippolytus more reliably than anyone else."68 These cases in the Coptic version and the "Testament," contrasting as they do with those in the eighth book of the Apostolic Constitutions and the Canons of Hippolytus, bear witness that even in the fourth century the promotion of the Presbyter individually to become the "priest" who leads the Eucharist had not spread everywhere. In certain circles, however - and indeed the widest and most significant of them, as shown by the example of the very widely distributed Constitutions - this promotion had taken place without having become fully established by the end of the fourth century.

3. Similar conclusions follow from the fate of the other very ancient and basic text, the (Syriac) Didascalia of the Apostles. Around the end of the fourth century, this text appears under the form of the first six books of the "Constitutions" which we have already discussed. At about the same period, there also appears the surviving Ethiopian version of the Didascalia which seems to draw on a lost Greek

original.69 Comparison of these versions with the original core of the Didascalia reveals that whenever there is something in these versions about the presbyter offering up the Divine Eucharist, it is an addition to the original third century text.70

4. All the above changes to the original texts at the points referring to the Presbyter's relation to the Eucharist coincide chronologically with the appearance of the view that the Bishop differs from the Presbyter only in the right to ordain.

Thus, Jerome asks, "in what do the Bishops differ from the Presbyters except in the power to ordain?"71 while St John Chrysostom stresses: "only in ordination do [Bishops] surpass Presbyters, and in this alone do they seem to have superiority over them."72 Similar examples abound during the time of these Fathers.73

It is evident that in the time of these Fathers the practice, which in history always precedes the theory, had already rendered the view of presbyters in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus so outdated that not even a memory of it was preserved in regard to the relation between Presbyter and Eucharist. The Presbyters had already become leaders of their own Eucharistic assemblies and "priests,"74 striving indeed in some cases ~ unsuccessfully - to take the next step towards equality with Bishops, i.e. the right to ordain as was attempted several times during the fourth century.75 The parish was now an historical reality both in fact and in theory.

But what came between the original situation handed down by Ignatius, Justin, Hippolytus and the author of the Didascalia and that familiar to those who revised and translated them around the end of the fourth century? Here we have the problem of the parish as our comparative study of the sources presents it. The historian is called to fill in the gap opened before him by this comparison of texts.76 This is one of the most impenetrable blanks in the whole course of history. For while the change from one to several Eucharistic assemblies was one of the most important events in the Church's life, the way it came about was so silent that it left no trace of disturbance in the unfolding of history. What is the reason for this? We shall now examine the factors which prepared the way for the appearance and establishment of the parish.
 

2. The historical preparation and the first appearance of the parish

In order for the Presbyter to be connected permanently and individually with a particular ecclesial community-parish in such a way as to be recognized as its "priest," meaning the one who offers the Divine Eucharist in its name, a long period of preparation was necessary covering almost the whole period of the first three centuries. This preparation, which led so silently to the break-up of the original one Eucharist through the parish, consisted in the appearance and presence of the following historical preconditions:

1. The possibility of replacing the Bishop in his ministry of leading the Eucharist had already been recognized by the beginning of the second century. This is attested by the writer who above any other stresses the Eucharist "under the leadership of the Bishop," St Ignatius, when he adds to his exhortation: "Let that be deemed an assured Eucharist which is under the leadership of the Bishop" the phrase "or one to whom he has entrusted it."77 From this, it is evident that there existed a recognized possibility of someone else taking the Bishop's place in the leadership of the Eucharist obviously when he himself was prevented from being present at it. Although Ignatius does not write or hint anything about this substitute for the Bishop, he would certainly have come from the Presbyterium.78 This was natural since the Presbyterium was regarded as connected with the Bishop as closely as "strings to a lute"79 and took an active part in the celebration of the Mystery.80 It was precisely because of this possibility for the Presbyters to take the place of the "presiding Presbyter" in the leadership of the Eucharist when he was prevented from leading it that 1 Clement could write of "the Presbyters" in general as those "who offer the gifts of the episcopd."81 We find this possibility for the Presbyter to take the Bishop's place in the task of offering the Eucharist being put into practice both in the middle of the third century and at the beginning of the fourth.82

This sort of substitution, however, was still a long way from the one Eucharist being broken up and the Presbyter becoming the one to offer the Eucharist on a permanent basis. For as we have seen, at least up to the time of Hippolytus, the Presbyter did not receive this right by virtue of his ordination.83 We should in consequence regard this substitution as taking place ad hoc during this period and not as a ministry belong to the nature of the Presbyter. Besides, the possibility of such a substitution, as Ignatius testifies, does not fragment the "one Eucharist" on which he continues to insist in his letters.

But while the possibility of the Presbyter taking the Bishop's place when the latter was absent from the Eucharist did not signal either the break up of the "one" Eucharist or the promotion of the Presbyter to become its permanent leader. It cannot have failed to assist greatly in the silent transition from one Eucharist to many parishes. For this possibility, put into practice repeatedly and over a long period of time, must have contributed much to the lack of reaction when, with the appearance and establishment of the parish, the permanent leadership of the Eucharistic assembly was assigned to the Presbyter.

2. It is also likely that some contribution was made to the historical preparation for the parish by the existence of assemblies for prayer and teaching "without the celebration of the Mysteries." This custom already appears in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus, as we have seen, as a permanent and regular institution.84 These assemblies, the leadership of which was assigned to the Presbyters with the help of the Deacons85 and which usually took place on Wednesdays and Fridays, were the chief field for the ecclesial activity of the Presbyters, who, besides, received at their ordination the charism of educating the people.86 When these assemblies became a permanent feature during the first three centuries, that created a sort of presbyterocentric unity. Even though giving this unit a Eucharistic character was, as we have seen, studiously avoided, is not impossible that this unit was used as a basis for the formation of the parish, being given a Eucharistic character when the number of Christians increased greatly. This forms a seemingly plausible hypothesis which, however, should not be accepted without reservations. For, as we have seen,87 these assemblies for Scripture reading and prayer under the leadership of Presbyters and without the

Eucharist continued even in the fifth century by which time the parish was already well established.

3. But is it possible that what served as the first form of the parish were the groups of Christians of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds which existed in Rome in large numbers from the middle of the second century? The existence of such groups was first maintained by G. La Piana88 and seems beyond dispute. But the attempt of that writer and others89 to conclude from this that each of these groups formed a Eucharistic assembly under Presbyters is not well founded. First of all, this theory runs counter to the information provided by Justin that the Christians in Rome, not only from the city but also from the surrounding villages, came together in one Eucharistic assembly under the leadership of the "president" (Bishop).90 Curiously, this important piece of information from Justin is not taken into account by La Piana even though it carries historical weight. La Piana bases his view mainly on one passage of Irenaeus referring to the paschal controversy. In this passage, Irenaeus refers to the practice of the Bishops Anicetus, Pius, Hygeinus, Telesphorus and Xystus of Rome to send the Eucharist to those who did not observe the same manner of celebrating Easter.91 But nothing in this text implies that the Eucharist was "sent" to groups of Christians in Rome, or indeed under the leadership of Presbyters.92 The view that the Bishops of Rome in the second century "sent the Eucharist to the Presbyters from Asia, just as they did for all the other groups in the community,"93 cannot be supported from this passage. The sending of the Eucharist referred to in this passage may mean (a) the practice of the Fermentum which will be discussed below; but more probably either (b) the sending of the Eucharist to individuals who had not taken part in the episcopal synaxis in accordance with Justin's information on the subject,94 or (c) the "concession" by the Bishop of Rome of his place as offering Bishop to the Bishops from Asia Minor who were visiting Rome as Eusebius informs us;95 or even (d) the practice of "exchanging the Eucharist among the Bishops at the feast of Easter under the name of blessings."96 Anyway, no definitive conclusion about the existence of parishes in Rome during the second century can be based on this passage of Irenaeus. The most likely meaning of which is probably that the Eucharist was "sent" "by the deacons" "to those who were not present," in accordance with what Justin tells us, even though these people came from Asia Minor and did not observe the same manner of celebrating Easter as the Romans. Thus, the second century must be ruled out as a probable time for the parish to have appeared.

4. If we go now to the beginning of the third century to look for historical factors in the preparation for and appearance of the parish, the situation we shall encounter is as follows. The very valuable text of the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus which belongs to this period and testifies to one episcopocentric Eucharist on Sunday includes the following noteworthy detail: it enjoins that the Bishop should give the divine Eucharist to all the people with his own hands if possible.97 What significance can this conditional clause have for history? ]. Colson sees in it the existence of parishes in Rome during Hippolytus' time.98 This conclusion, however, is entirely arbitrary. For the above text does not imply that if the Bishop could not give the Eucharist to everyone, then there should be separate Eucharistic assemblies (parishes). Precisely what it does mean is immediately made clear by the text: if the Bishop is unable to distribute the Divine Eucharist to everyone on his own, then he should be helped by the Presbyters.99 Consequently, this has to do with the distribution of the Divine Eucharist in the same assembly and not with its celebration in separate assemblies (parishes). Although this conditional clause in the text ("if possible") in no way implies the existence of parishes in Rome, it is, however, indicative of the increase in the number of Christians to the point where it had perhaps begun to be difficult for all the faithful to gather for one Eucharist. Do we perhaps have here precisely the key to understanding the historical preconditions for the parish?

The historical conditions of the period when the Apostolic Tradition was written favor this hypothesis. At precisely that time, the Church was experiencing one of her most prolonged periods of peace and freedom owing to the policies of the emperors between the death of Septimius Severus in 211 and Deccius' ascent to the throne in 249. As a result of this peace, the Christians increased significantly in number not only in the country areas but mainly within the large cities such as Rome.100 This fact began to make it difficult for all the members of the local Church to gather at one Divine Eucharist. From this we are justified in supposing that in writing the Apostolic Tradition and using more ancient liturgical texts as its core and basis, Hippolytus, with the conservatism characteristic both of him and of Rome, wanted not to alter the original liturgical core which provided for distribution of the Eucharist by the Bishop alone, and yet to adapt it to the conditions created in the meanwhile by the increase in the numbers of Christians. This is why he added "if possible." This hypothesis of ours is not groundless when it is taken into account that Hippolytus seems to have adapted the Apostolic Tradition to the situation of his time in other points mainly matters of doctrine.101 All this shows (a) that in the first half of the third century, the increase in the number of Christians within the cities started to create problems for the Eucharistic assemblies, and (b) that the solution of these problems, in Rome at least, was approached with great conservatism as regards maintaining the ancient tradition according to which the whole of the local Church was united around one Eucharist under one Bishop who alone was ordained to lead it. Did this approach to the problem, conservative though it was, lead gradually to the Eucharist becoming the permanent responsibility of Presbyters in parishes? We know nothing of this for certain from the sources of the first half of the third century.

5. Right in the middle of the third century, however, new historical conditions arise to make the problem of maintaining one Eucharistic assembly for the whole city still more difficult and pressing. This is why the texts of this period show an increase in the Presbyters' sphere of liturgical responsibility in the Eucharist; the significance of which needs to be investigated.

The new historical conditions consisted in a change in the policy of the Roman emperors which began under Deccius and was intensified by Valerian. The policy of tolerance towards the Christians implemented by the Syrian imperial dynasty was now judged harmful and dangerous to the state at a time when its security was seriously threatened especially from the East. To address this new situation, the emperors Decius and Valerian attached particular importance to the internal state of the empire, and tried to restore the strict obedience which had prevailed in earlier times.102 Hence, the legislation of Deccius which required every citizen to make a public act of confession of his dedication to the official state religion and imposed the severest penalties on any who refused to comply. Despite the fact that many imperial officials showed remarkable elasticity in implementing this legislation by exhausting every means of extracting a voluntary confession and often ignoring the legislation completely, the new situation had very serious consequences for the Christians. It is, however, characteristic of this period that it was mainly the Bishops of the Churches who suffered the consequences of the new legislation.103 As a result, many Churches were long deprived of their liturgical leadership, whether because of the death of their Bishop at the hands of the executioner, or because of his exile or flight, or even because of his apostasy. Thus, the Church of Carthage had not seen her Bishop Cyprian for fifteen whole months. For the same reason and at the same period, the Church of Alexandria was for a long time deprived of the presence of her Bishop Dionysius. Similarly, the diocese of Rome remained vacant for about two years after the martyrdom of Pope Xystus II.104 The problem consequently arose in acute form: who would lead the Divine Eucharist in the absence of the Bishop?

A solution to this problem could not be sought apart from strengthening the liturgical function proper to the Presbyters. Thus, it is to be observed at this period that episcopal duties are quite broadly and explicitly assigned to Presbyters. When Cyprian was away from his Church, he entrusted his duties to the Presbyters and Deacons.105 Among these duties was included the celebration of the Divine Eucharist.106 It seems that the Presbyters and Deacons of Rome likewise concentrated in their hands the whole leadership of the Church of Rome after the death of Fabian (250).107 As for Egypt, we learn from a letter of Dionysius of Alexandria that the regular Eucharistic assemblies in Alexandria went on during the time when Dionysius was absent.108 These cases from Africa, Rome and Alexandria suffice to show the extension of the Presbyters' functions for practical reasons. As was natural, this led to the connection of the Presbyters in practice with the function of offering the Gifts; and in combination with the rapid rise in the number of Christians in the first half of the third century, as already noted, it contributed to making the middle of the third century the time when the parish first appeared in practice.

6. Thus in two texts indicative of conditions in the middle of the third century, we have been able to find the first indications of the existence of a form of parishes. These texts, and the elements in them which give an indication concerning parishes, are as follows:

(a) In one of Cyprian's letters to the clergy of Carthage, mention is made of a Presbyter of Didda(?), Gaius by name, who was excluded from ecclesial communion with his deacon because he had communicated with the lapsed and offered their Eucharist.109 Who was this Presbyter and what degree of independence did he have from the Bishop so as to be called the Presbyter of a particular community, and to have his own deacon? We do not know. It is however evident that the Presbyter in question had a more permanent connection than usual with a particular community which, it appears, was at a distance from Carthage and unable to unite with the city's Eucharistic assembly; and there was a deacon attached to him who assisted him in the celebration of the Divine Eucharist. Thus, we notice straight away two elements which were both irreconcilable in theory with the notion of Presbyters prevailing in the third century, and had not in practice appeared anywhere earlier: (a) a Presbyter connected individually with a certain community, and (b) a deacon attached to a Presbyter,110

  1. In a text going back to the second half of the third century or beginning of the fourth,111 known as the Acta disputationis S. Achelat cum Manete haeresiarcha,112 it is mentioned that the heresiarch Manes visited a village outside the city of Carcharai (?) in Mesopotamia which was called Diodorus, and its priest was likewise called Diodorus.113 Of course, this text does not tell us what exactly were the functions of this Presbyter. It is characteristic, however, that he is called "presbyter of that place" ("presbyter loci illius"), and this is indicative of the surprising connection between the name of a Presbyter and that of his own community. The fact that the original Syriac text and the Greek derived from it"114 are not preserved can in no way affect the fact that the name of this Presbyter is connected with a certain community.

Such a connection is clear evidence that from the middle of the third century, as a result of the practice over a long period, Presbyters had already begun to be regarded as having their own communities. We should place in this context the phenomenon which appeared at the same period of Presbyters being linked with country communities which did not have their own Bishops (chorepiscopi), but depended on the Bishop of the city. Dionysius of Alexandria witnesses to this when he writes: "When he was in Arsenoe... he gathered together the Presbyters and teachers of the brethren in the villages...,"115 which implies a permanent connection of the Presbyters with the communities in the countryside. What was the function of these Presbyters there, we do not know. But the very fact that they were permanently connected with communities of their own is a clear indication of the earliest form of the parish especially when it is connected with the other pieces of information from the same period which we have already discussed.

From all this, we conclude that the first indications concerning the appearance of the parish should be placed around the middle of the third century. The parish appeared at that time as a result of necessity. The rapid rise in the number of Christians in the cities and perhaps also in the rural interior, and the lengthy absence of the Bishops from their Churches which followed obliged the Church to entrust the leadership of the Eucharist to the Presbyters on a more permanent than usual basis and to break up the one Eucharist under the leadership of the Bishop into several assemblies centered on Presbyters. So at this period, for the first time, Presbyters appeared attached individually and permanently to communities of their own. This was the original form of the parish. Between this point and the full and unreserved recognition of the Presbyters' right to offer the Eucharist which we observe in the fourth century, a few intervening generations cover the time, necessary in any historical development, between the establishment of a reality in practice and its establishment in theory. The changes in the liturgical texts which we have already discussed at length come as the theoretical validation of the parish once it was established in practice. In this way, we are able to fill in the gap between the original form of these texts and their reworking or translation that being the problem of the origin of the parish as it is posed by the sources.

This development was not revolutionary but natural.116 The close connection from the beginning between the "Presbyterium" and the Bishop who offered the Eucharist, and the possibility of a substitute taking the Bishop's place at the Eucharist, had prepared the Church's consciousness to accept the new situation. But this smoothness in transition from the one state of affairs to the other could not diminish the significance of the fact that the original one Eucharist under the Bishop, through and in which each Church was manifested in history as the whole, catholic and unified body of Christ, no longer existed. Do we not then encounter such a problem in the consciousness of the Church at this period? How did the Church's consciousness construe the emergence of the parish in relation to the unity of the Church in the Eucharist and the Bishop? This is the problem to which we must now turn our attention.

 

NOTES


1. Cf. above, p. 44f.

2. V. Stephanidis, op. tit. p. 87. We do not know where he took this information from since he cites no reference. (Perhaps he takes it from Harnack, Mission, II4, pp. 836, 841f., where a similar view is expressed.) As a result, we have been obliged to search for probable sources for this information and have finally located them to the Liber Pontificalis. The unreliability of this source is shown by the confusion and contradictions into which it falls. Thus, according to this same Liber, a) parishes appeared at Rome under Evarestus (beginning of the second century) {"Hic titulos in urbe Roma dividit presbyteris" ["he divided the parishes among presbyters in the city of Rome"] - ed. Duchesne, I, p. 55); b) Marcellus (308/9) "titulos in (urbe) Roma constituit quasi diocesis propter baptismum et penitentiam et sepulcuras martyrum" ["set up parishes like dioceses in [the city of] Rome to provide baptism and penance and burial for the martyrs"] (Ibid. p. 75); c) Urban I (223-230) "ministeria sacrata argentea constituit et patenas argenleas posuit" ["instituted sacred vessels of silver and gave as an offering patens of silver"] Ibid. p. 63); and d) Cletus (76-88) "ex praecepto beati Petri presbyteros ordinavit in urbe Roma" - ["at the direction of the blessed Peter, ordained presbyters in the city of Rome"] (Ibid. p. 53). [Translation adapted from The Book of the Popes, I, ET L.R. Loomis, New York 1916.] It is thus admittedly hard to know which to choose!

3. op. cit. p. 87. Cf. also G. Konidaris, G.C.H., p. 243f.

4. The whole problem of the origin of the parish appears very confused in the work of the late professor and indeed presents contradictions. Thus, starting from the assumption that the rank and importance of the Bishop were enhanced as a result of the Church's struggle "against dissenters within... and enemies without, it follows that with time the number and significance of Bishops increased. Christian communities in cities which had not hitherto had Bishops saw to acquiring them" (p. 86). But while this assumes that the Bishops were originally few and presided over large communities only, while smaller communities did not have Bishops, further he writes that "initially... the Bishop presided over a Christian community which formed a church assembly (parish)...," and that with the increase in the number of Christians the one parish (of the Bishop) was extended into several parishes under the same Bishop (p. 87). But if the Bishop did indeed "initially preside over one Christian community - parish," how can it be said that there were Christian communities which initially did not have Bishops? Whom did those parishes come under? Another Bishop? But in that case, how is it true that each Bishop initially presided over one church assembly only, if there were other communities which did not have Bishops of their own but came under another Bishop? The confusion and contradiction stem from the erroneous assumption that initially there were some communities without Bishops which in turn presupposes the unfounded view that the importance of the episcopal rank increased with time on account of heresies and persecutions. This view has been imposed by recent historiography, especially Protestant historiography. If one rids oneself of these assumptions and connects the unity of the church assembly with the Eucharist and the Bishop, as we do here, it then becomes quite clear that from the beginning an ecclesial (= Eucharistic) assembly was unthinkable without a Bishop, and that regardless of heresies and persecutions the significance of the Bishop was so fundamental that at its inception each Christian community would have its own Bishop. Contrary to the prevailing view that the number of Bishops increased with time, the evidence of history is that proportionate to the constantly increasing number of Christians, the number of Bishops actually fell over time, thus inevitably entailing the ever greater extension of the Bishop's administrative jurisdiction (fewer Bishops=larger dioceses=increase in administrative rights and responsibilities). Cf. above p. 110, n. 61.

5. See above, Part I, Ch. 1.

6. See above. Part II, Ch. 1.

7. See above, Part I, Ch. 2, especially p. 66f. On this cf. also the study of O. Perler, "L'Eveque Representant du Christ...," in L'Episcopat et lEglise Universelle, pp. 31-36.

8. See above. Part II, Ch. 2.

9. See above, p. 66f.

10. The original connection of the deacons directly and exclusively with the Bishop is clearly attested by texts such as Apostolic Tradition 9.2, the Syriac Didascalia etc. This is due to the fact that, as we have seen, the Bishop continued to be the leader of the Eucharist to which the ministry of the deacons was principally connected. Cf. above p. 82, n. 139.

11. See above, p. 67.

12. See above, p. 79, n. 111.

13. See above, p. 62.

14. See Clement 40:3 -41:4.

15. See above, p. 61 f.

16. See above, pp. 61f. and 193, n. 346.

17. See above, p. 54f.

18. See above, Part II, Ch. 2.

19. Ignatius Smyrn. 8.1 and Justin 1 Apot. 65 and 67. Cf. above p. 102, n. 32.

20. See A. Harnack in Theologische Literaturzeitung (1920), 225.

21. The first person to write about the authenticity of this work was E. Schwartz, Uber die pseudoapostolischen Kirchenordnungen (Schriften der wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft in Strassburg 6), 1910, who simply expressed the opinion that the Latin text of the so-called Egyptian Tradition represents the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus which was thought lost. This view of Schwartz' was first proved right through serious arguments by R. H. Connolly, The So-called Egyptian Church Order and Derived Documents (Texts and Studies, 8,4), 1916, and received still further support from H. Elfers, Die Kirchenordnung Hippolytus von Rom, 1938. The text circulated more widely through the anonymous work Die Apostolische Uberlieferung des hi. Hippolytus, 1932, but the best critical edition hitherto remains that of G. Dix, The Treatise on the Apostolic Tradition of Saint Hippolytus of Rome, 1937, to which has been added those of B. Botte, Hippolyte de Rome: La Tradition Apostolique {Sources Chretiennes, No. 11), 1946, and more recently Eiusdem: La Tradition Apostolique de Saint Hippolyte (Liturgiewissenschaftliche Quellen und Forschungen, Heft 39), 1963.

22. Apostolic Tradition 3 (ed. B. Botte in Liturgtewissen. Quellen, p.7): "Da, cordis cognitor Pater, super hunc seruum tuum, quem elegisti ad episcopate[m], pascere gregem sanctam tuam, et primatum sacerdotii tibi exhibere sine repraehensione, seruientem noctu et die, incessanter repropitiari vultum tuum et offere dona sancta[e] ecclesiae tuae, Sp[irit]u[um] primatus sacerdotii habere potestatem dimittere peccata secundum mandatum tuum..." "O Father who knowest the heart, bestow on this Thy servant whom Thou hast chosen to the episcopate to shepherd Thy holy flock and to fulfil the high-priestly office without reproach, serving night and day; unceasingly to make supplication before Thy face; and to offer the gifts of Thy holy Church, and in the spirit of the high-priesthood to have the power to remit sins according to Thy command..."

23. To these, there are of course added in the prayer all the other powers of the Bishop such as that of remission of sins, baptism, chrismation etc., which likewise originally belonged exclusively to the Bishop, and do not occur in the prayer for the ordination of a Presbyter in this text either.

24. 1 Apol. 67: "And the president similarly offers up prayers and thanksgivings, according his ability, and the people gives assent saying the Amen, and there is a distribution and partaking by each of the things for which thanks has been given..."

25. See J. Quasten, Patrology II, 1953, p. 147f. Cf. P. Galtier, "La Date de la Didascalie des Apotres," in Revue d'Histoire Ecdesiastique 42 (1947), 315-351.

26. Cf. P. Trembelas, "Contributions to the History of Christian Worship," p. 88.

27. Syriac Didascalia 9 (Tr. R.H. Connolly, Didascalia Apostolorum: The Syriac Version Translated and Accompanied by the Verona Fragment, 1929, p. 86f.): "This man (=the Bishop) is your chief and your leader and he is your mighty king. He rules in place of the Almighty; but let him be honored by you as God, for the Bishop sits for you in the place of God the Almighty." Again, Ibid. p. 94: "... the Bishops, who have loosed you from your sins, who by the water regenerated you, who filled you with the Holy Spirit, who reared you with the word as with milk, who bred you up with doctrine, who confirmed you with admonition, and made you partake of the Holy Eucharist of God, and made you partakers and joint heirs of the promise of God."

28. See Heb. 2:17; 3:1; 4:14-15; 5:1, 6,10; 6:20; 7:17, 26; 8:1; 10:21 etc., and 1 Clement.

29. Apostolic Tradition 3.5 and 9.1.

30. Cyprian Epist. 3 (65) to Bishop Rogatianus (Hartel, 729): "Graviter et dolenter commoti summus... lectis litteris tuis, quibus de diacono tuo conquestus es quod immemor sacerdotalis loci tui et officii ac ministerii sui... sacerdotali potentate fecisses... cum... Chore, Datham et Abiron qui sacerdoti praepositi se adequare.Jque consumpti sunt... ut probaretur sacerdotis Dei ab eo qui sacerdotes facit vindicari..."

"We were deeply and sorely distressed... on reading your letter, in which you complained about your deacon that [he had been] heedless of your priestly position and of his own office and ministry... You might do by your priestly power... Korah, Dathan and Abiram dared to make themselves equal with the priests set over them, and they were devoured... that it might be proved that God's priests are avenged by Him who makes priests..."

Cf. Epist. 66 (69); 55 (52); 58 (56) (Hartel pp. 731, 733, 629, 630, 672).

31. Epist. 66 (69). 5 (Hartel, 730), where the situation when the Bishop is absent from the Church is described thus: "ecce iam sex annis nec fraternitas habuerit episcopum, nec plebs praepositum, nec grex pastorem, nec ecclesia gubernatorem, nec Christus antistitem, nec Deus sacerdotem.""For six years now the brotherhood has not had a bishop, nor the people a chief, nor the flock a shepherd, nor the Church a helmsman, nor Christ a representative, nor God a priest."

32. See I. Evtaxias, Stipulations Concerning Priestly Authority in the Canon Law of the Orthodox Eastern Church, 1,1872, p. 19: "determining the scope of the priestly authority of the Presbyter, especially in relation to that of the Bishop, is a very difficult question." Evtaxias then goes to the heart of the problem when he asks (p. 120): "In the exercise of his priestly authority, should the Presbyter be seen as the proxy or representative of the Bishop? If he is thus regarded, then what properly constitutes the rank of Presbyter, what is its distinguishing feature? If he cannot be regarded as the Bishop's representative but as exercising an authority which he possesses of himself, in what then does his own authority consist, and how does it differ from that of the Bishop?"

33. On the content of the office of Presbyter more generally, see G. Dix, "Ministry," and J. Colson, Les Functions Ecclesiales aux Deux Premiers Siecles, 1956, where there is also an extensive bibliography; and on priesthood more generally in G. Bardy, "Le Sacerdoce Chretien du 1" aux V s.," in Pretres d'Hier et d'Aujourd'hui (Unam Sanctam 28), 1954.

34. I. Evtaxias again acknowledges that there is a problem from an historical viewpoint and poses it sharply without of course at tempting to solve it when he writes that the canon law prevailing today as regards the priestly authority of the Presbyter "did not prevail from the beginning in the Church." (op. cit. p. 20). 35. See G. Konidaris, On the Supposed Difference, p. 55. It should be added that the term "co-Presbyter" continues to be used even at the end of the second century to include the Bishop (see Apology of the Bishop of Hierapolis in Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. V.16.5) and in the third (see Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. Vn.5.6. Cf. VII.ll .3 and VII.20).

36. See above, p. 67.

37. Eusebius hints at this in his panegyric on the dedication of the Church in Tyre (Eccl. Hist. X 4.46), but it is more clearly described by Egeria in the chronicle of her visit to Jerusalem (ed. Petre, Etheriae peregrinatio, 1948, p. 192): "Ecce et commonetur episcopus et sedet susum nec non etiam et Presbyteri sedenl iocis suis." ["Then they send for the Bishop, who enters and sits in the chief seat. The Presbyters also come and sit in their places." ET J. Wilkinson, Egeria's Travels, London, 1971, 24.4] The architecture of the ancient Christian churches also testifies to this synthronon. See G. Soteriou, Christian and Byzantine Archaeology, 1,1942, p. 185f.

38. See above, n. 35.

39. Philad. 4: "Have one Eucharist; for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ and one cup for the union of His blood; one altar, as also one Bishop together with the Presbyterium and the deacons." On the significance of hama ("together with") here, see G. Konidaris, On the Supposed Difference, p. 52. The interpretation of the sources as a whole, on which Prof. Konidaris rightly insists, requires looking at 1 Clement along with Ignatius so as to find out what each of these sources contributes. Thus the passages: 1 Clem.42.5; 44; 54; 55, and from Ignatius Philad. 7.1,4.1; Magn. 7.1-2; 6.2; 7.2; Eph. 3.2,4.1; Tral 7.2 etc. coincide in recognizing the basic position of the Presbyters in the Eucharist in which they too, like the Bishop, "were seated" (kathistanto, the term is indicative of this position that they occupied). This makes it natural that with the appearance of parishes they should have been assigned a eucharistic function, as we shall see below.

40. Apostolic Tradition 4.2 (Botte in Liturgieivissen. Quellen, p. 10): "Illi (= to the Bishop) vero offerant diacones oblationes, quique imponens manus in eam cum omni praesbyterio dicat gratia[n]s agens: D(omi)n(u)s vobiscum."

41. Between the Roman Catholic B. Botte (Hippolyte, Tradition Apostolique, p. 30), upholding the view that we have here a "true concelebration" implying the offering of the Eucharist by the Presbyters, and the Orthodox N. Afanassieff (Trapeza Gospodnja, 1952, p. 3), who maintains that the Presbyters here are not concelebrating and joining in the offering of the Eucharist, but simply showing their assent to the offering performed by the Bishop.

42. Apostolic Tradition 9 (Botte in Sources Chritiennes, p. 40): "Praesbyter enim solius habet potestatem ut accipiat, dare autem non habet potestatem. Quapropter clerum non ordinat; super praesbyteri vero ordinatione consignat (= sphragizei, Coptic ed.) episcopo ordinante."

43. See above, n. 35.

44. It should not be forgotten, besides, that the whole Church offered herself as the body of Christ through the Bishop; hence the prayer of the anaphora was said by the Bishop, but always in the first person plural. Just as this in no way removed the particular and exclusive character of the episcopal ministry, the same applies to the participation of the Presbyters noted above.

45. The prayer for the ordination of a Presbyter in the Apostolic Tradition 8 (Botte, Sources Chretiennes, p. 56-8) goes as follows: "Deus et pater domini nostri Jesu Christi respice super seruum tuum istum et inpartire spiritum gratiae et consilii praesbyteris ut adiubet et gubernet plebam tuam in corde mundo sicuti respexisti super populum electionis tuae et praecepisti Moisi ut elegeret praesbyteros quos replesti de spiritu tuo quod tu donasti famulo tuo. Et nunc, domine, praesta indeficienier conservari in nobis spiritum gratiae tuae et dignos effice ut credentes tibi ministremus in simplicitate cordis laudantes te per puerum tuum Christum Jesum per quern tibi gloria et virtus patri et cum Spiritu sancto in sancta ecclesia et nunc et in saecula saeculorum. Amen." [ God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, look down upon this Thy servant and impart the spirit of grace and counsel of the presbyterate, that he may succour and govern Thy people with a pure heart, as Thou didst look upon Thy chosen people and didst command Moses to choose presbyters whom Thou didst fill with Thy Spirit which Thou gavest to Thy servant. Now also, Lord, grant that the spirit of grace may be preserved in us continuously, and make us worthy that in faith we may minister to Thee in simplicity of heart, praising Thee through Thy Child (or "servant") Jesus Christ, through whom to Thee be glory and power, to the Father and the Son with the Holy Spirit in the holy Church, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen."]

46. "Being filled with the word of teaching in meekness to educate Thy people" (in the Coptic edition). The Latin, which is the basic text, omits this phrase. This should however be attributed not to its absence from the original text but to its loss later, as G. Dix has established through comparative study of the manuscripts (The Treatise on the Apostolic Tradition, p. 13).

47. Ignatius, Magn. 6.1 and Tral. 3.1.

48. Syriac Didascalia 9 (Connolly, p. 80f.). Cf. P. Trembelas, "Contributions," p. 87f.

49. Shepherd of Hermits, Vision iii.4: "apostles and bishops and teachers and deacons."

50. This is supported by careful examination of the entire passage. After "apostles and bishops and teachers and deacons," we read "those who have exercised the office of bishop (episcopesantes) and taught and served as deacons (diakonesantes)." This implies that the writer had in mind the actual ranks of the three ministers, including the Presbyter. Similar conclusions clearly follow from a careful reading of the passages Simil. ix.25,2; ix.26,2, and ix.27,2, where the functions of the three ranks are indicated as follows: Simil. ix.25,2 = "apostles and teachers, those who have preached and taught" " ix.26,2 = "deacons... those who have served as deacon" " ix.27, 2 = "bishops, who have sheltered deprived peoples... ministers to the Lord."

51. De Praescr. 3: "Quid ergo? si episcopus, si diaconus, si vidua, si doctor, si etiam martyr lapsus a regula fuerit, idea haereses veritatem videbuntur obtinere?" ("What then? If a bishop, or a deacon, or a widow, or a teacher (doctor) or even a martyr should depart from the rule (of faith), will heresies therefore appear to have acquired truth?"

52. Horn, on Ezek. 2.2 (PG 13:682C).

53. Epist. 29 (Hartel, p. 548): "cum presbyteris doctoribus lectores diligenter probaremus, Optatum inter lectores doctorum audientium constituimus..."! "We carefully tested readers with the teacher-presbyters, and appointed Optatus among the readers of the teachers of the hearers."!

54. Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. VL6 and 8,4-6. Cf. also VL19.12-14.

55. See Ch. Papadopoulos, History of the Church of Alexandria (in Greek), p. 494.

56. Apostolic Tradition 39 (Botte, in Liturgiewiss. Quellen, p. 86): "Diaconi autem et presbyteri congregentur quotidie in locum quem episcopus praecipiet eis. Et diaconi quidem ne negligant congregari in tempore omni, nisi infirmitas impediat eos. Cum congregati sunt omnes, doceant illos qui sunt in ecclesia, et hoc modo cum oraverint, unusquisque eat ad opera quae competunt ei." ["But let the deacons and the presbyters congregate daily in the place where the bishop has instructed them to meet. And let the deacons not neglect to come together at all times unless prevented by infirmity. When everyone has congregated, let them instruct those who are in the church, and when they have prayed in this way, let each go about his own business."]

57. This is shown clearly in the passage quoted above. The non-Eucharistic assembly under the leadership of the Presbyters continues even up to the fifth century as an "ancient custom," as the church historian Socrates attests (Eccl. Hist. V.22, PG 67:636): "Again in Alexandria, on the fourth day (Wednesday) and the day called the preparation Scriptures are read, and the teachers interpret them, and everything proper to the synaxis takes place apart from the celebration of the mysteries. This is an ancient custom in Alexandria. For it appears that Origen did most of his teaching in the church on these days."

58. See D. Balanos, Patroiogia, 1930, p. 46. Cf. J. Quasten, Pahvlogy, I, p. 74.

59. Thus in the longer form of the Epistle to the Philadelphians, and specifically in Ch. 4 which concerns the one Eucharist which is under the Bishop, there is added inter alia: "Let the rulers be obedient to Caesar; the soldiers, to the rulers; the deacons, to the presbyters, the high priests. The presbyters, the deacons and the rest of the clergy, with all the people and the soldiers and the rulers and Caesar, to the bishop." (VEPADII, 308; W. Cureton, Corpus Ignatianum, London, 1849, pp. 93-5). Also notable is the alteration in Ch. 9 of the same Epistle. In the original, genuine text, we read: "The priests too are good, but the high priest is better," which is a reference to the Jewish priesthood. The author of the spurious version transfers this to the three degrees of priesthood with the purpose of identifying "priests" (hiereis) with the presbyters: "The priests and deacons are good, but the high priest is better..." (VEPAD II, 311; Cureton p. 99).

60. See above, p. 201.

61. See e.g. the works of so-called Ambrosiaster, Liber Questionum Veteris et Novi Testamenti 101,5 (Souter, p. 196), and Comm. in I Tim. 3.10 (PL 17:496), where the term sacerdos is already used for the Presbyters. Cf. T.G. Jalland, "The Doctrine of the Parity of Ministers," in Kirk (ed.), Apostolic Ministry, p. 320f-, and below.

62. See J. Quasten, Patrology , p. 183f. and D. Moraitis, History of Christian Worship (in Greek), p. 127.

63. Apostolic Constitutions VHI.16.3-5 (ed. Funk, I, 522): "... do Thou Thyself now look upon this Thy servant who is put into the Presbyterium by the vote and determination of the whole clergy, and fill him with the spirit of grace and counsel to succour and govern Thy people in purity of heart... and... that being filled with works of healing and the word of teaching, he may instruct the people in meekness and... perform the spotless sacred rites on behalf of Thy people..." Likewise in the Epitome, 6 (Funk, p. 79f.) The "sacred rites" may of course refer not to the Eucharist but to other ministries. (Already in the Catholic Epistle of James 5:14, the "Presbyters" perform the anointing of the sick.) The function of offering, which belongs to the Bishop, is not clearly ascribed to the Presbyter by this text, while that of "blessing" is: "the Bishop blesses, he does not receive the blessing; he lays on hands, ordains, offers... The Presbyter blesses, he does not receive the blessing, he receives blessings from a Bishop and a fellow-Presbyter, and likewise gives it to a fellow-Presbyter; he lays on hands, he does not ordain, he does not deprive, but he does separate those who are under him if they are liable to such punishment." (Apostolic Constitutions VHI.28,2-3. Funk I, p. 530.) What is the difference between "blessing" and "offering"? If the first does not refer to the Eucharist, then the Presbyter does not yet offer this. This is rendered doubtful, however, by the comparison of the Presbyter with the deacon a little further on: "for it is not lawful for the deacon to offer the sacrifice or to baptize or to perform either the little or the great blessing, nor may a Presbyter perform ordinations" (Ibid. 46.11). Why does it not say here that the Presbyter does not offer, but locates the difference in ordaining? Clearly, we have a situation which is not yet fully developed, in which it is a fact that the Presbyter has become the "offerer" of the Eucharist, but this reality has not yet become fully established in theory. The interest of this from an historical point of view scarcely needs to be stressed.

64. Apostolic Constitutions VIII.8.1 (Funk, I, 466): "oi te episkopoi kai oi presbyteroi heireis." Cf. also VIII.46.10: "we distributed to the Bishops the functions of the highpriesthood, and to the Presbyters those of the priesthood..."

65. H. Achelis, Die aeltesten Quellen des orientalischen Kirchenrechts. Die Canones Hippolyti (Texte und Untersuchungen 6, 4), 1891, p.42f.

66. See the text in P. Trembelas, Mikron Euchologion, p. 250.

67. See text, Ibid., p. 248.

68. J. Quasten, Patrology, II, p. 185.

69. Ibid., p. 151.

70. Thus in Apostolic Constitutions III.20.2, the work of the Presbyter is presented as different from that described in the Didascalia through the addition of "offering up" (= the sacrifice): "neither the Presbyter nor the deacon is to ordain clergy from among the laity, but it is only for the Presbyter to teach, offer up, baptize and bless the people, and for the deacon to assist the Bishop and the Presbyters..." Cf. also H.27.3: "for they (the Bishops) are your high priests; your priests are the Presbyters, and your levites are those who are now deacons." The same can be observed in the Ethiopian Didascalia, where it is laid down that: "Presbyters and deacons do not ordain; the Presbyter teaches, baptizes, blesses the people, censes and offers up the sacrifice" (Ethiopian Didascalia 17 - tr. J.M. Harden, The Ethiopic Didascalia Translated, 1920, p. 98).

71. Epist. CXLVI, 1 (PL 22:1194): "Quid enim facit excerpta ordinatione Episcopus, quod Presbyter non facit?"

72. On l Tim. 11 (PG 62:553).

73. Cf. above, n. 61.

74. Canon 18 of the First Ecumenical Council already calls the Presbyters "offerers." Cf. also Canon 1 of Ancyra and Canons 9 and 13 of Neocaesarea (ed. H. Alivizatos, pp. 32,167f., 157). Curiously, the Council of Aries (Canons 15/16) also calls the deacons "offerers": "De diaconibus quos cognovimus multis locis offerre. Placuit minime fieri debere." [ "Of deacons, whom we know to be offering in many places. It has been resolved that this should not happen."]

75. We see this in the case of Aerius, of whom Epiphanius tells us (Adv. Haer. 75.3.3, PG 42:505BC) that he "abandoned the poor-house and led astray a large following of men and women... his speech was raving more than the human condition; and he said, 'What is a Bishop compared with a Presbyter? The one is in no way different from the other. For there is one order and one honor, and one rank. The Bishop lays on hands, but so does the Presbyter. The Bishop gives the ablution, and the Presbyter likewise. The Bishop performs the dispensation of worship, and the Presbyter likewise. The Bishop sits upon the throne, and the Presbyter also sits In this way he deceived many, and they held him as their leader." For similar examples from Alexandria at the same period, see Dix, The Treatise on the Apostolic Tradition, p. lxxx.

76. The attached table makes this gap clear and indisputable.

77. Smyrn. 8.1.

78. Cf. P. Trembelas, Dogmatics, III, p. 166f. for supporting arguments.

79. Ignatius, Eph. 4.1.

80. See above, p. 202.

81. See above, p. 202.

82. See Eusebius, Eccl Hist. VI.44.3-4; Cyprian, Epist. 5 and Egeria's Travels, Ch. 4 (Petre, p. 112). Cf. also below.

83. See above, p. 203f.

84. See above, p. 204.

85. Ibid.

86. See above, p. 222f.

87. See above, n. 57.

88. "The Roman Church at the end of the Second Century," in The Harvard Theological Review (1925), 201-77.

89. See e.g. G. Dix, A Detection of Aumbries, 1942, p. 17f. and J. Colson, Les Functions, p. 70.

90. See above, p. 93.

91. Irenaeus' letter to Victor (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. V.24.15): "But the presbyters before you who did not observe it themselves sent the Eucharist to those from the paroikies who did observe it."

92. The phrase "to those from the paroikies" cannot mean "parishes" because the term paroikia in Eusebius, as we have seen, has the sense of the diocese, i.e. the complete episcopal community. See above, p. 118.

93. G. La Piana, Ibid. p. 218.

94. Justin, I Apol. 67.5: "there is a distribution to each and participation in the things for which thanks has been given, and it is sent to those who are not present by the deacons."

95. As Nautin thinks, not without reason (Lettres et Ucrivains, p.81). In this case epempon ("sent") should be interpreted as parepempon?) ("let pass"), according to Nautin.

96. As Prof. D. Moraitis thinks, History of Christian Worship (in Greek), p. 189f.

97. Apostolic Tradition 24.1 (ed. Dix, p. 43): "si potest."

98. Les Fonctions, p. 330.

99. Apostolic Tradition 24. 2 (ed. Dix, p. 44).

100. On the basis of the information in Eusebius (Eccl. Hist. VI.43), Hamack (Mission..., II4, pp. 836f. and 851f.) puts the number of members of the Church of Rome around the middle of the third century at about 30,000. Certainly not all of them took part in the Eucharistic assemblies every time.

101. See examples in H. Elfers, op. cit. pp. 50-54 and R. H. Connolly, "The Eucharistic Prayer of Hippolytus," in Journal of Theological Studies 39 (1938), 350-369.

102. M.H. Baynes, "The Great Persecution," in Cambridge Ancient History , p. 656f.

103. Cf. Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. VI.28.1. This must have taken place no earlier than the year 235. For the relevant dates see M. Besnier, L'Empire Romain de lAvenement des Siveres au Concile de Nicee, 1927, p. 107.

104. See the characteristic description of this state of affairs in the fourth century Catalogus Liberianus, as restored by Duchesne, Liber Pontificate, 1,1886, p. 7.

105. Epist. 5 (4). 1: "Quoniam mihi interesse nunc non permittit loci condicio, peto vos pro fide et religione vestra, fungamini illic et vestris partibus et meis, ut nihil vel ad disciplinam vel ad diligentiam desit." ["Since the condition of the place does not permit me to be with you now, I beg you for the sake of your faith and religion to perform there both your own duties and mine, that nothing may be lacking as to either discipline or diligence."] Cf. Epist. 14 (5). 2.

106. pist. 16(9). 2: "offertur nomineeorum (lapsorum) et... Eucharistia iliis datur, cum scriptum sit: Qui ederit panem aut biberit calicem Domini indigne, reus erit corporis et sanguinis Domini." ["The offering is made in their name (of the lapsed) and... the Eucharist is given them, although it is written: He who eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily, is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord."] Cf. Epist. 15 (10). 1 and 17 (11). 2.

107. Epist. 8(1).

108. Letter Against Germ. 6 (PG 10:1324): "But I also gathered together those in the city more zealously, as if I were with them; absent in body, as I have said, but present in spirit." The same Father likewise relates (see Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. VI.44.2) that during his long absence from Alexandria on account of the persecution a certain Presbyter sent the Eucharist with a child to an old man on his deathbed who had lapsed and repented. This incident does not refer clearly to the offering of the Eucharist by the Presbyter in the assembly, but more likely to sending a piece of the Eucharist from what was kept at home for private communion in accordance with ancient custom (see Tertullian, De Orat. 19 and Ad uxor. 11.5, PL 1:1183 and 2:12%). Nevertheless, it is yet another indication of the situation created by the long absence of the Bishop.

109. Epist. 34(27). 1: "Integre et cum disciplinafecistis.fratres carissimi, quod ex consilio collegarum meorum qui praesentes aderant, Gab Didensi presbytero et diacono eius censuistis non communicandum, qui communicando cum lapsis et offerendo oblationes eorum in pravis erroribus suis frequenter deprehensi..." ["You acted rightly and with discipline, dearest brothers, in that on the advice of my colleagues who were present, you decided not to communicate with Gaius of Didda and his deacon, who, by communicating with the lapsed and offering their oblations, have frequently been taken in their wicked errors..."]

110. The deacons had from the beginning been attached to the Bishop and not to the presbyters because their principal task was to serve in the offering of the Divine Eucharist as we have seen already (see above, p. 83, n. 51).

111. It cannot be later because Cyril of Jerusalem know and uses it (Cathech. 6.20f.).

112. This work is attributed to a certain Hegemonius, about whom we know nothing, and is preserved only in Latin. It was published first by L.A. Zacagni in 1698 and later by Migne (PG 10:1405-1528), M.J. Routh, Reliquae Sacrae, 1848, and in a critical edition by C.H.Beeson, Hegemonius, Ada Achelai {Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller, 16), 1906.

113. PG 10:1492A: "In the course of his flight, Manes came to a certain village at a distance from the city which was called Diodorus. And there was a presbyter of that place who was him self called Diodorus (erat autem presbyter loci itiius nomine et ipse Diodorus), a quiet and mild man, a man of faith and of very good repute..."

114. According to Jerome, De viris illust. 72. J. Quasten (Patrology , 358) takes the Greek to be the original.

115. Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. VII.24.6. Firmilian of Caesarea in Cappadocia, similarly, refers in a letter to Cyprian to "rural Presbyters" ("unum de Presbyteris rusticum") in Cappadocia around the year 235. See Cyprian, Epist. 75,10,4.

116. See above.

 

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Article published in English on: 5-5-2008.

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