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7. Ministers of the Lord's Supper

Antiquities of the Christian Church
XVI. Of the Lord's Supper

7. Ministers of the Lord's Supper. 

As in baptism, so in the administration of this ordinance, a deviation from the general rule in cases of necessity was authorized by common consent. The following remarks must be regarded as exhibiting only the prevailing principles and usages in relation to this subject, without regard to the occasional exceptions and minor points of controversy.

Nothing is said in the New Testament respecting the person whose prerogative it is to administer this sacrament. Our Lord himself administered it at the time of its institution; and the probability is that the apostles, afterwards, performed the same office, Acts 20:7, 2:42, 46, 1 Cor. 10:14 seq. 11:23 seq.

According to the earliest documents of the second and third centuries, it was the appropriate office of the bishop or president of the assembly to administer the eucharist. Justin Martyr's account of this rite is, that the president, *, pronounced the form of prayer and praise over the elements, and the deacons distributed them among the communicants who were present, and conveyed them to such as were absent. According to Ignatius, the ordinance could not be administered without the presence of the bishop. In the Apostolical Constitutions, the administration of this ordinance is ascribed, at one time, to the chief priest, * at another, to the bishop,*. He is directed to stand before the altar with the presbyters and deacons, and to perform the office of consecration. The same is required by Cyril of Jerusalem, and by Dionysius. 

It was a rule, of long continuance, that a presbyter should not consecrate the elements in the presence of the bishop. In the presence of several bishops this service devolved upon the senior officer, or upon some one specially designated for this purpose.

It was also the duty of the bishop during the seventh and eighth centuries. But in the middle ages the bishops seldom officiated at this service. Their neglect of this duty is ascribable, perhaps, to their increasing cares and duties, and the extent of their dioceses; but especially to the pride of office; which did not comport with the discharge of the ordinary duties of religion, an opinion that presents a striking contrast to the pious zeal of the bishops of the first centuries, in presiding and officiating at the table of the Lord. 

In general it was a rule of the primitive church that the bishop consecrated the elements, assisted sometimes by the presbyter The presbyter distributed the bread, and the deacon presented the cup. In the absence of the bishop, the service of the consecration was performed by the presbyter, and both elements were distributed by the deacons. In the performance of this service the deacons acted simply as the assistants of the bishop or presbyter. They not unfrequently assumed the prerogative of consecrating the elements; but this practice was expressly forbidden by repeated acts of ecclesiastical councils. 

It early became a custom, in the primitive church, for the minister to prepare himself for his solemn office at the table of the Lord by appropriate religious duties. Confession and private prayer were afterwards required. Fasting and abstinence from sensual indulgences were likewise enjoined.  It was also an ancient custom for the clergy to wash their hands before administering the elements. 

Hugonis Gi'otii, De administratione S. Coenae, ubi pastores non sunt, et an semper cominunicanduni sit per symbola? 1638: S. H. Grotii, Opp. theol. torn. iv. p. 505 seq.: Dionys. Petavii, Diatribe de potestate consecrandi et sacrificandi sacerdotibiis a Deo concessa. Paris. 1640. S. de Theol. dogmat. torn. iv. ed. Clerici p. 206 seq.: Jo. Harduini, Dissert, de potestate consecrandi. S. Opp. sel. p. 300 seq.: Henr. Dodwelli, De jure Laicorurn sacerdotali, etc. Lond. 1685. 4: Jo. Ge. Waicb, De S. Coena a Laicis admiuistranda. Jen. 1747. 4.

Apol. i. c. 65. p. 220.

Ep. ad Smyrn.

Lib. viii. c. 13.

Catech. Mystag. cat. 5: Pseudo Dionys. Areop. De Hier. Eccl. c. 8.

Gregor. M. Ep. lib. viii. ep. 35: Surii Vit. SS. a. d. 26. Mart. c. 33.

Diatr. De synod, epist. synod. Iliyr. S.: Petr. De Maria Dissertat. Sel. torn. iv. p. 336. 4. ed. Bamberg.

Conslitut. Apost. lib. viii. 13: Cone. Tolet. i. c. 14: Ambrosius, De offic. lib. i. c. 41: Hieron. Ad Evagr. ep. 85.

Cone. Arelat. c. 15: Cone. Nic. c. 18: Hieron. Dialog, contr. Lucif. Epist. 85: Augustin. Quaest. v. et N. T. c. 46.

Liturgia S. Baselii by Renaiidot: Liturg. Orient, torn. i. P. 1. p. 26: torn. ii. p. 1,47: Gavanti Thesaur. torn. i. p. 136: Augustin. Ep. 118. Ad Januar. c. vi: Socrat. b. e. lib. v. c. 21.
(No tag #10 appears in Rev. Lyman Coleman's translation.)

Duranti. De rit. cath. lib. ii. c. 28: Cyrill. Catech. Mystag. v. § 2. Const. Apost. lib. viii. c. 11.

Sacerdos Syrus earn noctem, quae liturgiani praecedet, vigilando in ecclesia, aut secretario ducit insomnem, orationibus et sacrae lectioni vacans, ne per somnium ludibrio aliquo conlaminetur. Si uxorem habet, abstinere abilla debet per dies aliquot; jejunasse etiam praecedente vespera,et saltern vino et omni liquove, quo caput tentari, potest abstinuisse. Similem consuetudinem in ecclesia per noctandi antequam lilurgia celebritur vigere apud Nestorianos. Mesipotamanos testati sunt, qui Bagdado saepe hue venerunt sacerdotes. – Reicaudot. Lit. Orient. T. p. 49.

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


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