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Author Topic: Priests, Shepherds, Elders and Bishops  (Read 2318 times) Average Rating: 0
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truthstalker
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« on: March 31, 2009, 10:44:11 PM »

Hi,

I've been reading some of the on-line material on Orthodoxy.  I find much of it deeply moving and profound, and seems to make some connections that need to be made.  I really like some of what I have read.  I come here with some exposure to Catholic apologetics (that exposure being a reason for rejecting their position, for numerous and irrelevant reasons) and exposure to argumentation that Catholics use that seems to make more of a case for Orthodoxy than for Catholicism.  Heh, you now say, sounds like the guy is about to cross the Bosphorus. Tiber? Danube? Dunno what river you guys use, if any.

Not so fast. I am one of those wild-eyed, fire-breathing evangelical types possessed with a consonant emotional constitution.  I live and breathe Sola Scriptura and eternal security for starters, and my antennae go up when un-evangelical statements are made.  So I grit my teeth when I read things and say to myself, "wait a minute - what if they are right?" I am allergic to priests, icons, and Mary. Hey, you now say, sounds like the guy is from another planet.  Or ready to convert. Or whatever.

Hopefully this babbling is irenic enough that you don't think I am here to attack.  My opening question is simple, and that is that I look at priests, shepherds, elders and bishops in the Bible and I find a mismatch with Orthodoxy.  I concede that while elders=bishops in the NT, they quickly became differentiated. I concede that elders=bishops=shepherds (although there can be some subordinate lay shepherding). But I find no connection between hiereus and presbyter.  Priest in the NT either refers to the Jewish priests or to Jesus as High Priest, whose sacrifice is done.  The disciples, natally Jews not of the Levitical line, would I think have hesitated to be called priests.  The NT describes a priesthood of all believers and that we would be a kingdom of priests.  So please explain to me how it is that the Orthodox elders are called priests.  Do they, like the Catholic priests, offer sacrifice as a main function? How did hiereus become synonymous with presbyter? 
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« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2009, 11:25:21 PM »

Hi,

I've been reading some of the on-line material on Orthodoxy.  I find much of it deeply moving and profound, and seems to make some connections that need to be made.  I really like some of what I have read.  I come here with some exposure to Catholic apologetics (that exposure being a reason for rejecting their position, for numerous and irrelevant reasons) and exposure to argumentation that Catholics use that seems to make more of a case for Orthodoxy than for Catholicism.  Heh, you now say, sounds like the guy is about to cross the Bosphorus. Tiber? Danube? Dunno what river you guys use, if any.

Not so fast. I am one of those wild-eyed, fire-breathing evangelical types possessed with a consonant emotional constitution.  I live and breathe Sola Scriptura and eternal security for starters, and my antennae go up when un-evangelical statements are made.  So I grit my teeth when I read things and say to myself, "wait a minute - what if they are right?" I am allergic to priests, icons, and Mary. Hey, you now say, sounds like the guy is from another planet.  Or ready to convert. Or whatever.

Hopefully this babbling is irenic enough that you don't think I am here to attack.  My opening question is simple, and that is that I look at priests, shepherds, elders and bishops in the Bible and I find a mismatch with Orthodoxy.  I concede that while elders=bishops in the NT, they quickly became differentiated. I concede that elders=bishops=shepherds (although there can be some subordinate lay shepherding). But I find no connection between hiereus and presbyter.  Priest in the NT either refers to the Jewish priests or to Jesus as High Priest, whose sacrifice is done.  The disciples, natally Jews not of the Levitical line, would I think have hesitated to be called priests.  The NT describes a priesthood of all believers and that we would be a kingdom of priests.  So please explain to me how it is that the Orthodox elders are called priests.  Do they, like the Catholic priests, offer sacrifice as a main function? How did hiereus become synonymous with presbyter? 

In a way, it didn't.

The problem is that English has one word, priest, which doesn't distinguish between a Christian priest or any other one (actually a sign of the success Christianity had in obliterating the others).  In Greek the word for "priest" as in the one celebrating Divine Liturgy is "presbyteros." "Hierus" only is a technical term used sometimes in rubrics in Greek.  In Aramaic Syriac, the terms are "qishiish" and "kohen" "elder/bishop" (the same term is used, see below) and "priest."  Arabic "abuunaa" and "kaahin."  "Our father," "soothsayer."  In Romanian "preot" is the Christian, "iereu" the Hebrew, "sacerdoţiu" everyone else.

I've been dealing with this on some other threads, but have been busy elsewhere, for instance:
& Is there a biblical record of it?

Hebrews 3:1; Acts 1; 20; II Timothy 1:6, I Timothy 4;12-16, Titus 1:5-9, Act 14:23.

The priest, in the sense of parish priest grew out of the chorbishop, the "country bishop" who were sent as presybeters to the countryside, and as auxiliaries in the cities, to the main bishop.

Do read St. Ignatius' letters, and first Clement.  Both knew the Apostles, and what they meant.

And they show how the Apostles understood the "reasonable and bloodless sacrifice" (Divine Liturgy).

And those whom those that the Apostles ordained in turn entrusted the Church (e.g. St. Iranaeus):
Quote
Those who have become acquainted with the secondary (i.e., under Christ) constitutions of the apostles, are aware that the Lord instituted a new oblation in the new covenant, according to [the declaration of] Malachi the prophet. For, “from the rising of the sun even to the setting my name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure sacrifice;”

Hence God speaks by the mouth of Malachi, one of the twelve [prophets], as I said before, about the sacrifices at that time presented by you: ‘I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord; and I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands: for, from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, My name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to My name, and a pure offering: for My name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord: but ye profane it.' [So] He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us, who in every place offer sacrifices to Him, i.e., the bread of the Eucharist, and also the cup of the Eucharist, affirming both that we glorify His name, and that you profane [it].  The command of circumcision, again, bidding [them] always circumcise the children on the eighth day, was a type of the true circumcision, by which we are circumcised from deceit and iniquity through Him who rose from the dead on the first day after the Sabbath, [namely through] our Lord Jesus Christ. For the first day after the Sabbath, remaining the first, of all the days, is called, however, the eighth, according to the number of all the days of the cycle, and [yet] remains the first.
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.iv.xli.html
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.iv.cxvii.html
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« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2009, 12:52:47 AM »

Welcome to the Forum, Truthstalker.   Smiley

I'd just like to add a little to what Ialmisry said.

The Orthodox view is that there is of course now really only one priesthood, that of Christ.  There is no question of a continuation of the  levitical priesthood: it has run its course. All baptised Orthodox believers share in this one priesthood of Christ.  Presbyters are "priests" only inasmuch as they function as the president of the assembly and are chosen from among the people of God to have special responsibility for the Holy Gifts offered at the Divine Liturgy (though on behalf of and in concert with the entire assembly) and for spiritual care of the laos.  Even here, we acknowledge that it is really only Christ who offers the Gifts at the Divine Liturgy.  (This paradox is emphasised in a priest's prayer which is recited while the people sing the Cherubic Hymn: "...for You are the offerer and the offered, the receiver and the received, O Christ our God, and to You we send up glory...")  You are absolutely right:  Christ's sacrifice happened once, and once only.  He is not sacrificed again and again at every liturgy through some kind of mystical "power" given to the priest.  Rather, we Orthodox believe that Christ's  one sacrifice (and his resurrection!) becomes genuinely present again at every Divine Liturgy because of our remembrance of it and Jesus' freely offered response.   

The presbyters are chosen from among the people, and although they are set apart for a special role, they are never divorced from the people.  They remain a member of the laos they serve.  (The same thing can be said of bishops and deacons, of course.) 

As you no doubt are aware, over time the bishops of communities began to share their role as president of the assembly more and more with presbyters during liturgical services, because they found it harder and harder to preside in person at liturgy with all of the parishes that they had to administer. Even today, it is understood that when a priest preaches, he is doing so only on behalf of the bishop.  It is clearly  understood that no priest may preside at a liturgy unless he has explicit permission from the bishop to do so.  This explicit permission takes the form of a special altar cloth (the antimension) with relics sewed into it which is signed by the bishop.  Without the antimension, a priest has no right to preside at the Divine Liturgy. 
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« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2009, 01:37:26 AM »

I am allergic to priests, icons, and Mary. Hey, you now say, sounds like the guy is from another planet.  Or ready to convert. Or whatever.

Icons
So I take it you have no pictures of anyone in your house? No pictures of yourself, your parents, kids (if you have any), ancestors, cousins, friends, various trips you have taken? Heaven forbid you have pictures of the ones you hold dear! Tongue

In all seriousness that's what icons are. They are pictures of individuals and events that we hold dear in our spiritual lives. Those who see us bow before icons and kiss them think we are worshiping them, yet they would hold the same reverence for pictures of their own loved ones.

They also say that such reverence is due only to God, yet we are granting that reverence to God by honouring the Saints of His Church.

Mary
A Saint of the Church and the Mother of Our Lord. She bent herself perfectly to the Will of God, which is what we are all called to do....I don't see what the problem is with that...
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« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2009, 02:11:52 AM »

I am allergic to priests, icons, and Mary. Hey, you now say, sounds like the guy is from another planet.  Or ready to convert. Or whatever.

Icons
So I take it you have no pictures of anyone in your house? No pictures of yourself, your parents, kids (if you have any), ancestors, cousins, friends, various trips you have taken? Heaven forbid you have pictures of the ones you hold dear! Tongue

In all seriousness that's what icons are. They are pictures of individuals and events that we hold dear in our spiritual lives. Those who see us bow before icons and kiss them think we are worshiping them, yet they would hold the same reverence for pictures of their own loved ones.

They also say that such reverence is due only to God, yet we are granting that reverence to God by honouring the Saints of His Church.

Mary
A Saint of the Church and the Mother of Our Lord. She bent herself perfectly to the Will of God, which is what we are all called to do....I don't see what the problem is with that...

If she is good enough for Jesus, good enough for you.
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« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2009, 08:20:37 AM »

Welcome to Convert Issues Forum, Truthstalker.

Often to American portestants, the kissing of an icon is a strange issue because kissing (except for sexual love) is basically a  no-no for many males. For example, I recall my father stating that he was not kissed by his father once in his entire life (gladly my father broke the mold and kissed his children and we knew we were loved) and when I come to think of it I never saw him kiss my grandmother in public nor did he kiss any of his grandchildren.  While this may be a rather extreme example, I am sure many of you have had a same or similar experience with some of your older relatives. It was just not part of that protestant ethic in the US.  Now Europe and the Middle esat is another  situation, kissing and demonstartions of love to family members are in the culture and actions of most of their cultures , so much that kissing  is a formal greeting protocol in European governments.

It is from that cultural background, where grandmothers and grandfathers have been known to kiss the photos of loved ones alive and deceased who are not  personally available to be kissed. I remember my mother (who was from a family that men did kiss their children) would take down the picture ofmy deaceased father and kiss him good night every night and kiss his picture in the morning when she got up.

Such is the way that Orthodox look upon the faces of those represented in icons.  We see them as loved ones, family, and our love for that person be it, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ or a Saint whose example inspires us, brings the emotion of love and gratitude to such a level that we cross ourselves and kiss the icon as a way of  showing our love and appreciation for them in our lives.

This is probably a simple explanation for why we kiss icons but it is one that explains a little of why you may feel odd in the beginning  but come to love the practice as you grow in the faith.

Thomas
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« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2009, 11:48:55 AM »

Hi truthstalker, nineteen years ago I was also from a fire-breathing evangelical sola scriptura background and started with the same basic issues you've listed.

3 points (2 of which are really just supplementing ialmisry)
1) Yes we are all priests with one High Priest. However, Christ is quite clear that we are all called to be servants as well. But in Acts we see the Apostles, under the guidance of the Spirit, realizing that there is a need to call specific men to a distinct office labelled 'Servant' (i.e., Deacon). The presence of Deacons in the Church doesn't obviate the role the rest of us as have as servants, it just means that those men are called to be servants in a specific, formal, public way that is distinguishable (but not truly separate) from the calling of servant which all of us possess. The exact same argument is applicaple to the 'priests' within the Body--they have been called/set aside to perform the priestly function in a specific, formal, public way that is distinguishable but not antithetical to the priesthood of all believers.

2) I came to Orthodoxy via a Greek Orthodox parish with a large number of 1st and 2nd generation immigrants. One thing I noticed early on was that in the minds of these people, for whom Greek religious terminology was more natural, the parish priest's real title was 'presbyter'. They only called him 'priest' because that is what native English-speakers had told them was the word they should use. That is, in English, we have developed a religious terminology in which the officiant of a liturgical High Church (like Roman Catholics or Episcopalians) is a 'priest' and the parish leader of a Low Church is a number of things (pastor, preacher, elder, presbyter) but definitely not a priest. That development in religious terminology occurred when there was basically no interaction between English speakers and Orthodoxy. So, in the last few centuries, as Orthodoxy has begun to penetrate the English-speaking world, Orthodox have taken the existing usage--our presbyters certainly are far closer to Roman Catholic 'priests' in form and function than they are to Presbyterian 'presbyters' or Congregationalist 'elders'. So I would say that 'priest' is not inaccurate (see point 1 above), but in thinking about it you should be aware that the vast majority of Orthodox, who use languages where the religious terminology developed in tune with Orthodoxy rather than Orthodoxy seeking to borrow existing Protestant/Roman Catholic language, do not call that position 'priest'. They use the Biblical term 'presbyter' (i.e., 'one who presides' at the services) or a direct equivalent.

3) I cannot back ialmisry's recommendation of St. Ignatius's letter strongly enough. In the first place this was a man writing in the first decade of the second century, an old man who had served in the Church of Antioch for decades. That is a man who in his youth was present as the Apostles travelled back and forth through the very first churches of Asia Minor and the Near East establishing and organizing them. He's not (like you and I) someone reading St. Paul's personal letters to Timothy and Titus and trying to figure out what those words about picking presbyters and establishing overseers mean in the unrecorded context of what Paul had told them personally before he even sent them out. He's a man who was present as the Apostles gave those in person instructions on how to run the local congregations. In the second place, he was a man writing while on his way to his death. As an evangelical, my perception of the 'rise of the monarchial episcopate' was that after the Apostles had passed on, power-hungry men started grabbing personal power. And in that context, I might have dismissed St. Ignatius, as bishop writing about the authority of bishops, as a man writing from self-interest. Except that he had nothing to gain. He had been a bishop for years, but wasn't writing his letters in that context. He was writing them while he was being taken off to Rome to be executed. He had nothing to gain from what he wrote--and knew he would be answering for it in very short order. Which makes him a very powerful witness as to how the Church of the Apostles was organized.
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« Reply #7 on: April 01, 2009, 01:43:25 PM »

3) I cannot back ialmisry's recommendation of St. Ignatius's letter strongly enough. In the first place this was a man writing in the first decade of the second century, an old man who had served in the Church of Antioch for decades. That is a man who in his youth was present as the Apostles travelled back and forth through the very first churches of Asia Minor and the Near East establishing and organizing them. He's not (like you and I) someone reading St. Paul's personal letters to Timothy and Titus and trying to figure out what those words about picking presbyters and establishing overseers mean in the unrecorded context of what Paul had told them personally before he even sent them out. He's a man who was present as the Apostles gave those in person instructions on how to run the local congregations. In the second place, he was a man writing while on his way to his death. As an evangelical, my perception of the 'rise of the monarchial episcopate' was that after the Apostles had passed on, power-hungry men started grabbing personal power. And in that context, I might have dismissed St. Ignatius, as bishop writing about the authority of bishops, as a man writing from self-interest. Except that he had nothing to gain. He had been a bishop for years, but wasn't writing his letters in that context. He was writing them while he was being taken off to Rome to be executed. He had nothing to gain from what he wrote--and knew he would be answering for it in very short order. Which makes him a very powerful witness as to how the Church of the Apostles was organized.
I cannot back your summary of the context of the letters and their import strongly enough.
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« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2009, 07:49:56 PM »

Ah.  Ignatius.   Very Presbyterian.

I suppose what that means depends on what one means by the word Presbyterian.

You, for example, are fine presbyterians.  You have presbyters.  Therefore you must be presbyterian. You have the Gospel. Therefore you must be evangelical presbyterians.   Grin  Or Orthodox Presbyterians, being both.  Now I babble.

Now I am done babbling.

I have pondered Ignatius before and his beautiful epistles.  He, God's wheat. He, I think, is the one who said the apostles hand-picked their successors (Please explain to me how those hand-picked successors so fouled things up that the Church never has recovered, as some Protestants are forced to claim by their logic.  I think, though, that you may subscribe to a more logical position). But Ignatius can be read with Catholic, or Orthodox, or Presbyterian eyes.  I read him as describing the bishop as the pastor of the church and the elders being the presbytery.  I am not sure the church in his day was big enough to have biishops that were not resident in their own congregation. It was a long, long time ago and the world has changed much.

On some other threads, some other times, we can discuss icons and Mary and other things. Let me say that I notice in myself a tendency to be allergic to things that are good for me.  I never look forward to the dental chair, but I see my dentist anyway.  I hate the idea of dying, but there is this thing called the cross I am called to carry.  I may be allergic to some things, but the cross will kill me. Mary is really admirable.  I think I should have been more precise in discussing her, or not have dragged her into this.  I am allergic to some of the theology surrounding her, especially to the insistence some have of placing her always between the believer and Christ.

I appreciate your thoughtful and courteous replies.

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« Reply #9 on: April 01, 2009, 07:52:06 PM »

3) I cannot back ialmisry's recommendation of St. Ignatius's letter strongly enough. In the first place this was a man writing in the first decade of the second century, an old man who had served in the Church of Antioch for decades. That is a man who in his youth was present as the Apostles travelled back and forth through the very first churches of Asia Minor and the Near East establishing and organizing them. He's not (like you and I) someone reading St. Paul's personal letters to Timothy and Titus and trying to figure out what those words about picking presbyters and establishing overseers mean in the unrecorded context of what Paul had told them personally before he even sent them out. He's a man who was present as the Apostles gave those in person instructions on how to run the local congregations. In the second place, he was a man writing while on his way to his death. As an evangelical, my perception of the 'rise of the monarchial episcopate' was that after the Apostles had passed on, power-hungry men started grabbing personal power. And in that context, I might have dismissed St. Ignatius, as bishop writing about the authority of bishops, as a man writing from self-interest. Except that he had nothing to gain. He had been a bishop for years, but wasn't writing his letters in that context. He was writing them while he was being taken off to Rome to be executed. He had nothing to gain from what he wrote--and knew he would be answering for it in very short order. Which makes him a very powerful witness as to how the Church of the Apostles was organized.
I cannot back your summary of the context of the letters and their import strongly enough.

I anticipate someone will jump in here and say something along the lines of: context will show you that, while it can be read out of context as Presbyterian or Catholic or Lutheran or Orthodox, context will eliminate all but the Orthodox reading.
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« Reply #10 on: April 01, 2009, 10:46:46 PM »

3) I cannot back ialmisry's recommendation of St. Ignatius's letter strongly enough. In the first place this was a man writing in the first decade of the second century, an old man who had served in the Church of Antioch for decades. That is a man who in his youth was present as the Apostles travelled back and forth through the very first churches of Asia Minor and the Near East establishing and organizing them. He's not (like you and I) someone reading St. Paul's personal letters to Timothy and Titus and trying to figure out what those words about picking presbyters and establishing overseers mean in the unrecorded context of what Paul had told them personally before he even sent them out. He's a man who was present as the Apostles gave those in person instructions on how to run the local congregations. In the second place, he was a man writing while on his way to his death. As an evangelical, my perception of the 'rise of the monarchial episcopate' was that after the Apostles had passed on, power-hungry men started grabbing personal power. And in that context, I might have dismissed St. Ignatius, as bishop writing about the authority of bishops, as a man writing from self-interest. Except that he had nothing to gain. He had been a bishop for years, but wasn't writing his letters in that context. He was writing them while he was being taken off to Rome to be executed. He had nothing to gain from what he wrote--and knew he would be answering for it in very short order. Which makes him a very powerful witness as to how the Church of the Apostles was organized.
I cannot back your summary of the context of the letters and their import strongly enough.

I anticipate someone will jump in here and say something along the lines of: context will show you that, while it can be read out of context as Presbyterian or Catholic or Lutheran or Orthodox, context will eliminate all but the Orthodox reading.

Precisely.
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« Reply #11 on: April 02, 2009, 12:16:39 AM »

Agreed with Ukiemeister!
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« Reply #12 on: April 02, 2009, 10:23:13 AM »

Welcome to Convert Issues Forum, Truthstalker.

Often to American portestants, the kissing of an icon is a strange issue because kissing (except for sexual love) is basically a  no-no for many males. For example, I recall my father stating that he was not kissed by his father once in his entire life (gladly my father broke the mold and kissed his children and we knew we were loved) and when I come to think of it I never saw him kiss my grandmother in public nor did he kiss any of his grandchildren.  While this may be a rather extreme example, I am sure many of you have had a same or similar experience with some of your older relatives. It was just not part of that protestant ethic in the US.  Now Europe and the Middle esat is another  situation, kissing and demonstartions of love to family members are in the culture and actions of most of their cultures , so much that kissing  is a formal greeting protocol in European governments.

It is from that cultural background, where grandmothers and grandfathers have been known to kiss the photos of loved ones alive and deceased who are not  personally available to be kissed. I remember my mother (who was from a family that men did kiss their children) would take down the picture ofmy deaceased father and kiss him good night every night and kiss his picture in the morning when she got up.

Such is the way that Orthodox look upon the faces of those represented in icons.  We see them as loved ones, family, and our love for that person be it, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ or a Saint whose example inspires us, brings the emotion of love and gratitude to such a level that we cross ourselves and kiss the icon as a way of  showing our love and appreciation for them in our lives.

This is probably a simple explanation for why we kiss icons but it is one that explains a little of why you may feel odd in the beginning  but come to love the practice as you grow in the faith.

Thomas

It's been a while when I've read the last time something so vivid, so beautiful and so informative at the same time.

I'm touched.

My grandmother, an astonishing woman, used to hold grandfather's photography on the wall, bellow the icon of St. Dimitry (patron Saint) and kiss it every evening and morning, too, for 41 years she's been widowed.
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« Reply #13 on: April 02, 2009, 04:15:02 PM »

Silly me.

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« Reply #14 on: April 02, 2009, 08:30:38 PM »

One Communion gained some historical noteriety for the, uh- un-Christian behavior of some of its bishops and priests.  They argue that the act of ordination itself causes ordination to happen, or something like that, and that it is valid as long as there is intent to do the thing.  To me it sounds like they turn the crank and sacerdos ex machina.  OTOH we the Reformed emphasis that there must be faith, as God both gives and responds to faith, and that without there cannot be a valid ordination, and that the validity of the ordination is not so much in the individual but in the Lord.  So the Communion I am not naming (as I do not want it to be the subject of the thread) emphasizes process and office, and what I am familiar with emphasizes God, faith, and His Word. I tend to think these are two poles and this gives rise to some questions.

Is every Orthodox ordination, in and of itself, valid?
Where on the spectrum I described is Orthodoxy?
Does ordination cause a permanent change in the character of the ordained?
Can an ordinand lose his ordination, or he a priest forever? Likewise a bishop?
Does Orthodoxy emphasis a strong division between the laity and the clergy, where the role of the one is principally to be obedient to the second?
Where does authentic authority in Orthodoxy lie? Who can call an ecumenical council, and have there been any since the 7th Ecumenical Council?
If an Orthodox lay person reads in his Bible that sheep are blue, and the Church teaches that they are actually yellow, must he at the peril of his salvation admit that they are indeed yellow, and that his perception must be wrong?

I realize I am getting into authority issues here.  Some of this may be too much for one thread. If so, please split it off and leave a note on this thread that you are doing so.
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« Reply #15 on: April 02, 2009, 09:45:11 PM »

Quote
Is every Orthodox ordination, in and of itself, valid?

yes

Quote
Where on the spectrum I described is Orthodoxy?

uh, both. "the act of ordination itself causes ordination to happen" and "the validity of the ordination is not so much in the individual but in the Lord" are both correct statements (though I'd make the second stronger by removing the qualifier: "the validity of the ordination is not in the individual but in the Lord").

Quote
Does ordination cause a permanent change in the character of the ordained?

No. The ordination, like any other sacrament, makes certain Grace available to the ordained (from the actual service: 'Divine grace, which heals every infirmity and supplies every deficiency, elevates' X to the presbytry/episcopate). It does not remove his free will and thus his ability to reject that Grace's activity on his own soul.

Quote
Can an ordinand lose his ordination, or he a priest forever? Likewise a bishop?

Yes. What the Church bestows it can remove. A priest or bishop can be deposed (returned to the laity) by a canonical judgment for immoral/uncanonical behavior.

Quote
Does Orthodoxy emphasis a strong division between the laity and the clergy, where the role of the one is principally to be obedient to the second?

Not sure you can get an objective response, but my subjective perspective would be no.

Quote
Where does authentic authority in Orthodoxy lie? Who can call an ecumenical council, and have there been any since the 7th Ecumenical Council?

Authority rests only in the Church as a whole. Even a general council is only recognized as ecumenical when it is received by the Church. Second part there's no real answer--all the historical councils were called by the emperor but that had more to do with him having the logistical/practical ability to gather that many bishops than anything else. Should today's bishops ever overcome all the logistical hurdles to hold the much-discussed General council and said council's decisions are in accord with the received Tradition then it may be recognized in retrospect as an authentic ecumenical council. Or to put it another way, in one sense, no one has authority to call an ecumenical council--such councils are only truly recognized in retrospect by the consensus of the Church (see, for example, the 2nd Ecumenical Council).

And in that sense, yes, the second Photian council (the one that reinstated St. Photius and affirmed his teaching) and the hesychast councils which affirmed St. Gregory Palamas teachings on Grace are often considered Ecumenical Councils--although, frankly, Orthodoxy doesn't get too tied up in the terminology. What's important is not if we count them as 8, 9, etc but that we recognize them as authoritative statements of the Church's teaching

Quote
If an Orthodox lay person reads in his Bible that sheep are blue, and the Church teaches that they are actually yellow, must he at the peril of his salvation admit that they are indeed yellow, and that his perception must be wrong?

Impossible to answer. Since if the Bible says that sheep are blue then the Church says that sheep are blue. On the other hand, if he thinks the Bible says such a thing, and the Church points out that it does not, in fact, say any such thing, he would be foolish (and prideful) to hold to his interpretation over that of the consensus of the Fathers.

On the other hand, the Church actually has a relatively small number of things on which it has spoken that you *must* believe this (those would be the decisions of the councils). In general, you can be wrong and it not imperil your salvation. To take two real examples (as opposed to blue sheep):

1) If a person reads about Joshua and the sun standing still and therefore insists that the Sun revolves around the earth, he is wrong. The Church would say that he is misinterpreting Scripture and try to explain the difference between literal and figurative, narrative and authorial perspective vs. objective reality, etc. But it doesn't inherently imperil his soul. He may be a fool, but he's still Orthodox.
2) The Church clearly teaches the assumption of the Virgin's body into heaven after her death. We have a whole feast dedicated to it, canonical icons of the event, and the hymns and prayers we all sing on that day are clear on what happened. But Orthodoxy doesn't say you *have* to believe it. The disposition of the Theotokos's earthly body isn't particularly relevent to your personal salvation so you are free to believe what you want, it won't 'imperil your soul' (although in many cases, the pride which causes you to set your own judgment over that of the Fathers is probably imperilling your soul--but the belief itself is not the problem).

« Last Edit: April 02, 2009, 09:45:51 PM by witega » Logged

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« Reply #16 on: April 02, 2009, 10:52:08 PM »

Welcome to Convert Issues Forum, Truthstalker.

Often to American portestants, the kissing of an icon is a strange issue because kissing (except for sexual love) is basically a  no-no for many males. For example, I recall my father stating that he was not kissed by his father once in his entire life (gladly my father broke the mold and kissed his children and we knew we were loved) and when I come to think of it I never saw him kiss my grandmother in public nor did he kiss any of his grandchildren.  While this may be a rather extreme example, I am sure many of you have had a same or similar experience with some of your older relatives. It was just not part of that protestant ethic in the US.  Now Europe and the Middle esat is another  situation, kissing and demonstartions of love to family members are in the culture and actions of most of their cultures , so much that kissing  is a formal greeting protocol in European governments.

It is from that cultural background, where grandmothers and grandfathers have been known to kiss the photos of loved ones alive and deceased who are not  personally available to be kissed. I remember my mother (who was from a family that men did kiss their children) would take down the picture ofmy deaceased father and kiss him good night every night and kiss his picture in the morning when she got up.

Such is the way that Orthodox look upon the faces of those represented in icons.  We see them as loved ones, family, and our love for that person be it, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ or a Saint whose example inspires us, brings the emotion of love and gratitude to such a level that we cross ourselves and kiss the icon as a way of  showing our love and appreciation for them in our lives.

This is probably a simple explanation for why we kiss icons but it is one that explains a little of why you may feel odd in the beginning  but come to love the practice as you grow in the faith.

Thomas

It's been a while when I've read the last time something so vivid, so beautiful and so informative at the same time.

I'm touched.

My grandmother, an astonishing woman, used to hold grandfather's photography on the wall, bellow the icon of St. Dimitry (patron Saint) and kiss it every evening and morning, too, for 41 years she's been widowed.
Now there's an Orthodox marriage.
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