“Holy Orders” is the sacrament through which the clergy are ordained to celebrate the various church services.
Some Protestants say that Christ did not distinguish anyone in His church, and that all the members are the same, and that there is no need for separating special persons as ministers. This is utterly wrong, because of the following reasons:
(1) Christ set apart special persons as Apostles, and spent a whole night before choosing them. “And it came to pass in those days that He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day He called unto Him His disciples: and of them He chose twelve whom also He named Apostles.” (Luke 6:12, 13)
(2) He gave them special privileges which were not given to others e. g. He said to them “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt, 18:18)
(3) When sending them before His ascension He promised them to be with them “even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20) This promise is of course taken to be valid for their successors also.
(4) When Judas dropped out of the number of the Apostles, they me together, spent some time in discussion and prayer, and chose another to fill this vacancy. (Acts 1:15-26). Had it not been necessary that there should be certain persons set apart for God’s service, they would not have taken the trouble of appointing another one instead of Judas.
(5) were all Christians of the same degree, they could perform the same services in the church. But a careful study of the Bible specially the “Acts”, shows that the clergy had their own duties which the laity could not dare to perform, and that every category of the clergy had its own duties which could not be performed by another category. For instance when Philip preached in Samaria, he, being a deacon, had not the right to lay on his hands for granting the gift of the Holy Ghost. For this reason the Church of Jerusalem “sent unto them Peter and John, who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost. Then laid they the hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. (Acts 8-17)
(6) The Bible appointed certain conditions which should be observed when choosing the bishops, and other conditions when choosing the deacons. (1 Tim. 3; Tit. 1)
(7) And the Bible also appointed certain procedures for the ordination of the clergy; e.g. the laying on of hands. (1 Tim. 4. 14)
(8) All historians agree that there have been certain ministers in the church since the first century. All the churches that were instituted at the first century keep lists of their bishops since their beginning.
II. Institution of the Sacrament.
(1) This sacrament was instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
It was he who appointed the twelve Apostles and the seventy disciples.
It was He who sent the Apostles in to the world before His ascension. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matt. 28: 19, 20)
St Paul says that it was Christ Himself who appointed some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers (Eph. 4: 11)
And when giving advice to the ministers of the Church of Ephesus he said to them, “Take heed therefore, unto yourselves and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers” (Acts 20: 38)
(2) And according to the power given to them by the Lord those Apostles appointed bishops, priests and deacons in the churches which they established as will be seen afterwards.
III. The Visible Sign.
There are two visible sings:
(1) The laying on of hands. The Bible stated that this was performed in the case of bishops (1 Tim. 4: 14; 2 Tim. 1: 6), and priests (1 Tim. 5: 22) and deacons (Acts 6: 6)
(2) The prayers of consecration. (Acts 6: 6; 14:23)
IV. The invisible Grace.
The ordained minister is given a divine gift appropriate to the service to which he is called. “Neglect not the gift that in thee; which was given thee by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.” (1 Tim. 4: 14) “Therefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.” (2 Tim. 1: 6) This gift is given by the Holy Ghost who alone can help the minister to perform his duties.
V. Degrees of the Holy Orders.
The Bible mentions three degrees; the bishop, the priest and the deacon,
(1) The Bishop.
This is the highest degree. In 1 Tim. 3: Tit 1 and other places the Bible gives detailed instructions for the choice of bishops.
The bishop is given the following rights:-
1. Ordination of the clergy. It was the Apostles who consecrated bishops (2 Tim. 1:6), and ordained priests (Acts 14: 23) and deacons (Acts 6: 3,6) And the bishops, whom the Apostles consecrated, were given that right of ordination. St. Paul, writing to Titus, said: “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are waiting, and ordain elders (priests) in every city, as I had appointed thee.” (Tit. 1:5)
And, when writing to Timothy, he said; “Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins.” (1 Tim. 5: 22)
2. Trial of the clergy and rebuking them. “Against an elder (priest) receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” (1 Tim. 5: 19, 20)
3. Consecration of the Holy Oil used for the sacrament of confirmation.
4. Consecration of the altar and the Holy vessels in the case of building a new church, or getting new vessels.
5. They also have the right to celebrate all the church sacraments and rites if they like.
6. Management of the general affairs of the church.
(2) The Priest:
Priests are mentioned in many places of the Bible. “They ordained them elders (priests) in every church.” (Acts 14: f23)
“Let the elders (priests) that rule well be counted worthy of double honour.” (1 Tim. 5: 17) “For this cause left I thee in Crete that thou shouldest set in order the things that are waiting, and ordain elders priests in every city, as I had appointed thee. (Tit. 1: 5) “Is any sick man among you: let him call for the elders (priests) of the church, and let them pray over him. Anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. (James 5:14) The priest has the right to celebrate the six sacraments mentioned above, and all church rights. He has also the right to teach and preach.
(3) The Deacon:
Deacons are mentioned in the Bible in Acts 6: 3-6 Phil. 1: 1, 1 Tim. 3
A deacon has not the right to celebrate any of the church sacraments, but only to help the priest and the bishop in celebrating them, keep good order in the church, read the various portions of the Bible in the church, teach, preach and perform any service which the bishop or the priest may ask him to do.
It was said in the “Orders of the Apostles” that “the deacon is the bishop’s eyes and ears”.
In the former times there was a degree of “deaconess.” Her function was to serve the women in the Church, keep good order in the place allowed for them in the church and anoint the bodies of women at the sacrament of confirmation after being anointed by the priest only on their forheads. (Didaskalia 34)
“No woman is allowed to come to the bishop to ask for anything unless she is accompanied by a deaconess.” (Didaskalia 6)
“If there is any need for the bishop to send anyone to the women’s houses, he should send a deaconess, because it is not lit to send a deacon.” (Didaskalia 34) It seems that this degree existed in the church at the Apostolic time, St. Paul, writing to the Romans, said “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant for “deaconess” as in other copies and other versions) of the church which is at Canchrea”. (Romans 16: 1) And when writing to Timothy he said, “Let not a widow be taken into the number (into the list) under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man.” (1 Tim. 5: 9) some think that the Apostle mans here the list of those who were deaconesses in the church.
VI. Ordination of the Clergy
(1) A bishop is consecrated by the laying on of the hands of at least three bishops, because one bishop alone cannot consecrate a bishop.
(2) A priest or a deacon is ordained by the laying on of hands of only one bishop.
(3) Ordination can never be repeated for the same degree if the bishop, priest or deacon was previously ordained in a legal way.
In the Apostolic Canons (68) it is stated that “if any bishop, priest or deacon is re ordained for the same degree, he will become worthy of excommunication together with him who ordained him.”
(4) No money should be paid at all for the ordination of any one of the three degrees. When Simon offered money for the sake of obtaining one of God’s gifts. St. Peter rebuked him saying “thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.” (Acts 8: 18-20) The church teachers that every ordination performed against any payments is illegal, and that the bishop who accepts any money should be excommunicated.
VII. Obligations of the Clergy
(1) Before ordination.
Those who are chosen for the holy orders must be:
1. Sure that the call came to them from God. “No man taketh this honour of the holy orders) unto himself but he that is called of God as was Aaron.” (Heb. 5: 4)
2. Blameless, in order to be good examples to the congregation. ST. Paul wrote to Timothy saying : “Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (1 Tim. 4: 12)
In 1 Tim. 3, and Tit. 1, St. Paul mentioned many conditions which should be taken into consideration when choosing bishops and deacons.
3. Well acquainted with the Bible and church teachings.
(2) After ordination.
1. They should serve not as hired men who work merely to get their wages. “Feed the flock of God which is among you taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.” (1 Pet. 5:2)
“He that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.” (John 10:12)
2. But they should be good shepherds, full of deep feeling that the sheep are theirs, and that they are responsible for keeping them from beasts and for feeding them. They should also know that the good shepherd must be ready to offer any sacrifice that may be needed for the sake of the sheep. “The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
More about the sacrament of Priesthood
The Orthodox Church Sacraments
Rev. Marcus Daoud
Tinsae Zagubae Printing Press