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3. Administration of the Rite

Antiquities of the Christian Church
CHAPTER VIII. Of Ordination

3. Administration of the Rite

The duty of administering the rite devolved, ex officio, upon the bishop alone. This is abundantly implied in the canons of councils, and often expressly asserted by ecclesiastical writers. Ordination by a presbyter is frequently declared to be null and void. The office of the presbyter in the rites of ordination was to assist the bishop in ordaining a fellow presbyter. 

The ordination was solemnized in the church and in the presence of the assembly. Private ordinations were severely censured. 

During the first four centuries, the ordination was had at any season of the year, as occasion required, and on any day of the week. It afterwards became a rule of the church that the ordination should be performed only on the sabbath, sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the evening, but usually in connection with the celebration of the Lord's supper. 

Candidates for ordination were accustomed uniformly to observe a season of fasting and prayer preparatory to this ordinance, and to receive the sacrament.

The first and most significant act in the rite of ordination was the imposition of hands. This has been, from the beginning, an uniform and expressive rite in the consecration of one to the service of the sacred ministry; and in this, accompanied with prayer, the act of ordination essentially consisted. By many this is supposed to differ from the common imposition of hands at baptism, confirmation, and absolution. The manner of performing the ceremony has differed at different times.

About the ninth century it became customary, in the Romish church, to anoint the candidate for holy orders.

The investiture – the custom of delivering the sacred vessels, ornaments and vestments – was introduced in the seventh century. But some mention is made of it at an earlier date. The badges and insignia varied with different persons according to the nature of their office.

In the ordination of a bishop, an open Bible was laid upon his head – sometimes delivered into his hands, to indicate that he was continually to consult this for direction in duty. A ring was put upon his finger as a token of his espousal to the church, and a staff in his hand as the shepherd of the flock. The mitre was added in the tenth century, and the glove was also introduced, but at what time does not appear.

The presbyter received the sacramental cup and plate, in token of his service in administering the sacrament.

Upon the deacon, the bishop laid his right hand and delivered to him a copy of the gospels, to indicate that he was to act as the agent and organ of the bishop.

The subdeacon received an empty patin and cup, with an ewer and napkin; the reader received a copy of the Scriptures; the acolyth, a candlestick with a taper; and the ostiarii, the keys of the church.

The party ordained was signed with the sign of the cross, and, after his ordination, received the kiss of charity from the ordaining minister and his assistants. 

The following is the prayer which is prescribed by the Apostolical Constitutions, to be used in the ordination of a bishop.

"O eternal and almighty Lord God, the only unbegotten and supreme, who art from eternity, before all time and all things; thou who hast need of nothing, and art exalted far above all circumstances and events; thou who art the only true, the only wise, the highest over all; whose nature is inscrutable, and whose knowledge is without beginning; thou who alone art good, and with whom no one may compare; thou who knowest all things, before they come to pass; thou from whom no secrets are hid, whom no one can approach unto, whom no one can command; O thou God and Father of thine only-begotten Son, our Lord and Saviour; thou who through time hast created all things, and who upholdest all; thou father of mercy, and God of all consolation; thou who dwellest in the highest, and regardest the things that are below; thou who hast given to the church its bounds by the incarnation of thy Christ, with the testimony of the Comforter, by thine apostles, and by the bishops here present by thy grace; thou who from the beginning, amongst the first men, didst for the good of thy people appoint priests, even Abel, Seth, Enos, Enoch, Noah, Melchizedek, and Job; – thou who didst choose thy faithful servants Abraham and the other patriarchs, Moses, Aaron, Eleazar, and Phineas, and didst appoint from among them princes and priests for the service of the covenant; who didst make Samuel both priest and prophet, who didst not leave thy sanctuary without ministers and attendance, and didst show favor unto those whom thou didst cause to minister to thy glory; – we beseech thee to pour out now through us, by the mediation of thy Christ, the power of thine almighty spirit, which is given through thy beloved Son Jesus Christ, and which he imparted to thine holy apostles, according to thy will, O eternal God. Grant, O thou searcher of the heart, that this thy servant, whom thou hast chosen to the office of a bishop, may feed thy holy flock in thy name, and may serve thee unblameably as thine high priest, day and night; and that he, propitiating thy countenance, may gather unto thee the number of those who shall be called, and may present the offerings of thy holy church. Grant unto him, O Lord Almighty, by thy Christ and the communication of the Holy Spirit, that he may have power to remit sins according to thy commandment, to confer orders* according to thy appointment, and to loose every bond* according to the power which thou didst grant unto thine apostles. Grant that he may please thee by meekness, purity of heart, constancy, sincerity, and a blameless conversation; that so he may offer unto thee the pure and unbloody sacrifice which thou hast appointed by Christ in the sacrament of the new covenant, and as the offering of a sweet-smelling savor, through thy dear Son Jesus Christ, our God and Saviour, through whom be unto thee glory, honor, and adoration, in the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen."

Cone. Nie. c. 19: Antioch, e. 9: Chalcedon, c. 2: Carthag. iii. c. 45: iv. c. 3.

Chrysost. Horn, in 1 Ep. ad Tim.: H#m. 1 in Ep. ad Phil.: Hieron. Ep. 85. ad Evagr.: Epiphanius, Haeres. 85. n. 4: Cone. Sardic. c. 19: Hispal. ii. c. 5: Athanas. Apol. c. Ar.

Gregor. Naz. Carm. De Vita sua: Socrates, h. e. lib. iv. c. 29.

Leo, M. Ep. 81. ad Dioscur. c. 1: Geias. Ep. ix. e. 11.

Cone. Laodic. c. 5: Theodoret. h. e. c. 13.

Martene, part ii. p. 329: Cone. Barcinon. c. 3.

Const. Apost. lib. viii. c. 5: Dionys. Areop. De Hier. Eccl. c. 5.

Presbyter cum ordinatur, episcopo eum benedicente et manum super caput ejus tenente, etiam omnes presbyteri qui praesentes sunt, manus suas juxla manum episcopi super caput illius teneant ; Cone. Carth. W. c. 4.– Presbyteros quoque et diaconos sola nianuum impositione ordinabant; sed Buos presbyteros quisque episcopus cum presbyterorum collegio ordinabat. Quanquam autem idem agebant omnes, quia tamen praeibat episcopus et quasi ejus auspiciis res gerebatur, ideo ipsius dicebatur ordinatio. Unde veteres hoc saepe habent, non difFerre alia re ab episcopo presbyterum, nisi quia ordinandi potestatem non habeat. Calvin, Jnstit. Rel. Chr. lib. iy. c.4, § 15.

(* denotes Greek text in Rev. Lyman Coleman's translation.)

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