21 September 2017

Whose hands?

Here's a Medieval oddity which I don't think anybody has noticed.

In the Statuta Antiqua, when a bishop is consecrated, "two bishops place and hold a book of the Gospels over his neck, and as the Ordainer pours the Blessing over him, the bishops who are present touch his head with their hands".

Now to the Spanish, Mozarabic, rite for the ordination of a presbyter. "The presbyters lay hands on him, and he is blessed by the bishop as follows ...".

Spot it? Well, in neither of these very different sources does the rubric actually say that the Ordainer himself lays hands on the ordinand.

I know what you're going to say. The imposition of hands by the ordainer is taken-for-granted. The rubrician doesn't bother to specify the blindingly obvious. And you might very well be right. But I'm not totally sure.

In each of these cases, I am convinced that what we have is a collegial act. The new bishop is being incorporated into the world-wide (and, as E L Mascall would insist, time-wide) college of bishops. The new presbyter is being incorporated by the corporate, collegiate presbyterium, into the priesthood of the local church (and since the local church is the manifestation of the Church Universal, this simultaneously incorporates him into the whole priestly body of Christ's whole Church).

I am quite certain that those presbyters could not so incorporate a new member if they acted on their own without the presidency of their head, the bishop. An attempt to do so would be, in the still appropriate language of the old manuals, 'invalid'. But with him they truly can do what they could not do without him. Just like the coconsecrators in the episcopal rite, they truly confer the sacrament.

And I feel pretty sure that in the Mozarabic rite, it was thought appropriate for the form to be uttered by the Bishop, the matter supplied by his presbyterium. See I Timothy 4:14.


Belfry Bat said...

Well, the ordainer himself must be a bishop (in one sense, that is what bishops are for), and therefore he is one of the bishops (and a fortiori one of the presbyters, as well... ) present.

PM said...

That fine historian Jane Sayers, in a paper on papal privileges for St Albans, recounts how a fifteenth-century abbot reasoned that, as he has the right to wear a mitre, wear a ring, carry a staff and confer minor orders,thought he might as well ask the pope for the right to confer major orders as well. The pope refused, as one would expect.

This incident does, however, bear on a debate about whether episcopal consecration is a sacrament or merely confers extra jurisdiction on a priest; in fairness to our self-important abbot, this view was widespread in the middle ages. Vatican II (although often written off as a 'pastoral' council)did make a definition on this point, in favour of the sacramental character of episcopal consecration.

The Bones said...

PM, The "Investiture Crisis", was obviously not simply about episcopal ornaments, especially in an age where many considered ordination consisted in the actual "investing", and Episcopal Consecration in the 'unbinding' of full authority received in priestly ordination. Hence the uncrossing or crossing (and binding with the cincture) of the priest's stole post VII becomes a statement of the Council's, {new to the West) theology of ordination. But as you say VII was a pastoral Council, which would suggest that those who like their theological waters muddier and Western are still free to cross and bind their stoles and hold to the older theology of order.

I have always found it interesting the East whilst being precise about ordination, unlike the West, is imprecise about Eucharistic consecration, unlike the West.

Nathaniel said...

How would one reconcile this with the universal absence of the laying on of hands by the presbyters in the Eastern rites? One could make the argument that the bishop may delegate any of his prerogatives to any of his presbyters (and thus the presbyters provide the matter), but this is clearly not the case if priests can illicitly but validly effect the Eucharistic change. If priests possess the potestas to confer the sacrament of ordination, even if in part, then they may confer at least this part illicitly. But this reasoning is universally rejected in the East.

There also follows the problem of Augustinian sacramental partialism. Namely, only what is defective or absent is repeated. If presbyters validly convey the matter, then it would follow in such cases of a "presbyterian ordination" that only the bishop's form need to be added to complete the sacrament. Yet, no where is this practiced. Instead, the entirety of the rite is repeated.

I'm not trying to argue a particular point here, but it seems to me that understanding the presbyters to supply the matter raises a lot more problems than it solves. I think it much more reasonable to simply assume that the laying on of hands by presbyters is an ancient liturgical outlier (abuse?) that arose in a single rite. I am open to correction and education on this point.

Aaron Sanders said...

Though baptism does not induct its recipient into a distinct college within the Church, the ministers who confer it nonetheless welcome the recipient into their ranks of the baptized, and the application of matter and form *cannot* be accomplished collegially in that case. As a condition of validity, the same minister must speak the sacramental form and immerse/pour/sprinkle.

RichardT said...

Don't forget that England was at one point given permission for a single bishop to consecrate another bishop.

That suggests that the co-consecrating bishops do not perform an essential part of the sacrament, otherwise they could not be dispensed with.

(I do not have a source to hand, but think it's in Bede; I was always surprised that it was not mentioned in support of the Anglican "Dutch Touch" consecrations).

F Marsden said...

Mere sprinkling is invalid. The water must be poured.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

I did my best, but apparently unsuccessfully, to make clear that my speculation is that the presbyters may collegially do, with their bishop, something which, on their own, they could do neither licitly nor illicitly. The Old Pontifical, in the Consecration of the Chrism, provides another example of this.

In the ancient Roman rites of Baptism, a presbyter asked the candidate a question ("Do you believe ...") and then dipped him into the water saying nothing. I wonder whether some people might question the validity of this. My point is that it is best to derive one's criteria of validity from what the Chuch does or has done, rather than from a priori ideas.

A number of medieval abbots were given papal dispensations to ordain to the diaconate, and a smaller number, to the presbyterate. One of these was the Abbot of S Osyth, in Essex. The faculty was withdrawn fairly quickly.

During the recusant period, Rome permitted the consecration in England of Vicars Apostolic by just one bishop, the other two bishops being replaced by two presbyters.

Nathaniel said...

What is the historical record of baptism without formula in the ancient rite? I don't see any reference to it in Ferguson's Baptism in the Early Church. Maybe I missed it?

This formula was long established in the East and they regarded any derivation of it as heresy invalidating baptism even in the third century. See, for example, the Conybeare Fragment of St. Dionysius of Alexandria and St. Basil's On the Holy Spirit. Both of them affirm that not even the pope can rule this to be optional because it is established by Christ himself (Matthew 28:19).

Fr John Hunwicke said...

The so-called Gelasian Sacramentary. See also the book which used to be regarded as the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus; and, before that, was called The Egyptian Church Order.

Marko Ivančičević said...

It would seem that the invocation of the Trinity over the one to be illuminated was the oldest practice. It is attested of course by the Gospel, and also by the Acts, although indirectly. First the faith was and then the person was baptised, which would imply that there was no necessity for confessing the faith in the moment of baptism.
Also, st. Justin Martyr, in the 61st chapter of his 1st Apology says thus: "As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true (...) they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water.(...) there is pronounced over him who chooses to be born again, and has repented of his sins, the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe; (...) And in the name of Jesus Christ, (...) and in the name of the Holy Ghost, he who is illuminated is washed.".

Didache, also mentions the baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
The Didascalia Apostolorum, XVI. (III., 12.) has: "But let a man pronounce over them the invocation of the divine Names in the water."

Later, but fairly early it seems (maybe end of the 3rd century), came the baptism with the inquisitive confession, of which the Apostolic Tradition, Testamentum Domini and the Gelasian sacramentary are witnesses. And then later again, the Church reverted to the older form of pronouncing the Divine Names over the one to be baptized.

This seems to me to be the case.

Nathaniel said...

Ah, you mean the triple interrogation. I don't think anyone should regard that as problematic.

Neither should single-bishop ordinations don't bother anyone. It is clear that this happened in antiquity on multiple occasions. And the purpose of the triple episcopal requirement was obviously to maintain a practical demonstration of catholicity before the rise of the metropolitanate. But no one should dare to think that bishops were invalidly consecrated by a single apostle, from whom, in succession, the bishops later receive their power of ordination.

However, presbyters as ordinands, even collegially with the bishop, still strikes me as strange to the ancient mind. But I'm still open to correction! I take the presbyterial laying on of hands to be roughly analogous to the clerical "Axios!" in the Byzantine tradition. It confers a certain solidarity. But it does not strike me as a sort of secondary cause of ordination.