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What Is A Bishop, Priest, Deacon

Word Magazine  October
1962  Page 11-12




Michael J. Buben

St. George —
Lawrence, Mass.




Having an
indispensable meaning in the life of the Church, the Sacrament of Holy Orders
has a foundation from God. “And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he
that is called of God, as was Aaron.” (Her.
5:4). The first pastors of the Orthodox Church, the Holy Apostles,
did not of themselves obtain the right to teach, to serve the Mysteries and
Sacramentals, and to administer the Holy Church; but were inspired and granted
this right by Our Lord Jesus Christ. “And when it was day, He called unto Him
his disciples: and of them He chose twelve, whom also He named apostles.” (St.
Luke 6, l3).


From the
numerous disciples and followers, Christ chose only twelve of them to be pastors
of His Church. Why? That they
might constantly be at His side learning His teaching, and to witness miracles
and be thoroughly convinced that He is the Son of God who was incarnate for our
salvation, And being convinced they might teach others. (St.
Mark 3, 14-15).


With this
purpose, Our Lord instructed the Apostles collectively and individually. “What
I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear,
that preach ye upon the housetops.” (St.
Matthew 10, 27). Our Lord
lived among the Apostles for 40 days after His Resurrection and spoke to them
about the Kingdom of God. He revealed to the Apostles mysteries which were not
revealed to others: “it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom
of heaven, but to them it is not given.”


beside the twelve apostles Christ chose seventy disciples and told all of them:
“Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye
should go and bring forth fruit (St. John
15, 16). “As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. And when
He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy
Ghost: Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever
sins ye retain, they are retained. (St. John 20, 21-23).


of Pastors


His Ascension, Our Lord came to His Apostles and said: “All power is given
unto Me in heaven and in earth. 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. Amen.” (St. Matthew 28,


these words, Christ gave the Apostles the following powers in the Church: 1) to
teach the truths of the Faith to all nations on earth. That’s why Orthodoxy is
for all people. 2) to perform the Sacraments —
Baptism, Communion, etc. “Do this in remembrance of Me!” (Holy
Eucharist) (St. Luke 22,
19), or “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, stewards
of the mysteries of God.” (I Cor. 4,1), says the Apostle about himself and
other pastors of the Church: 3) to administer the Church, i.e. to govern the
faithful in the paths of Christian living. (Matt.
28, 20).


granting this power to the Apostles, we must notice that He promised them a
Comforter—Spirit of truth who would be with them even until the end of the
World. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit did come upon them in the form of
fiery tongues and they went forth and began the work of the Church, and
thousands were baptised even in one day. Now, since Christ offered to be with
them until the end of the world, and they as mortal men were prone to death, it
follows that Our Lord had instructed the Apostles to ordain successors to
inherit apostolic powers even until the end of the world. The Apostles did this
everywhere they established churches by the laying on of hands. This power of
ordination is called—apostolic succession and can be traced to our day in an
unbroken line of succession in the Orthodox Church. This apostolic succession
will continue until the end of the world and in this light the words of Christ
become clear: “Lo, I am with you, even unto the end of the world. Amen”.
Apostolic Succession carries the living Church from generation to generation.


Priests, Bishops


In the
beginning the Apostles only needed assistants to perform minor duties. They
chose seven deacons. Seven persons of strong faith were ordained. The apostles
through prayer and by placing their hands on the seven persons transferred
graces of the Holy Spirit to a minor degree. (Acts
6, 6).


Later the
apostles established PRESBYTERS (Greek word meaning priest in English).
Presbyters or priests had more duties to perform than did the deacons. Finally
the Apostles ordained BISHOPS for the Church. As examples there was
ordained a bishop for the town of the Ephesians called Timothy (1 Tim.
1,3), and another at Crete called Titus. (Titus
1,5) . Only BISHOPS
received the full graces and became replacements of the Apostles. Only Bishops
could ordain Deacons, Priests, and other Bishops as the need arose. “For this
cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are
wanting, and ordain presbyters in every city, as I had appointed thee,” wrote
St. Paul to Bishop Titus (Titus 1,5).


In our
day, every priest is but an extension of his bishop. Every local parish priest
performs his duties and receives his authority only from his bishop. In larger
parishes, deacons are needed to perform lesser sacred duties than the priest by
authority of the priest.


the power to ordain, bishops also received power from the apostles to judge
deacons, priests: “Against a presbyter
receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.” (1 Tim.
5,19) ; to rebuke
sinners: “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” (1
Tim. 5, 20); to honour the
worthy: “Let the presbyters that rule well be counted worthy of double honour,
especially they who labor in the word and doctrine.” (1 Tim.
5, 17); reject heretics: “A man that is an heretic after the first and
second admonition reject.” (Tit. 3, 10);


Apostles gave Bishops and priests the right to teach in the Church: “Preach
the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all
longsuffering and doctrine.” (2 Tim.
4, 2). From the Apostles the Bishops and priests received the power
and grace to perform the Sacraments, sacramentals and all other services: “Is
any sick among you let him call for the presbyters of the Church; and let them
pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” (James 5, 14) or “I exhort therefore, that, first
of all, supplications, prayers,
intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings and
for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in
all godliness and honesty . . . For
this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” (1 Tim.
2, 1-3).


apostles also gave Bishops and priests the right to administer and govern the
Holy Orthodox Church: “The presbyters among you I exhort, who am also a
presbyter, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the
glory that shall be revealed; 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 Peter 5,


No pastor
can be a shepherd who follows the sheep. The sheep must follow the pastor and
know his voice, and listen to it. Those falling from the truth must be lifted,
and those following ungodly ways must be rebuked. The pastor himself must
constantly be a good example to his flock: “These things speak and exhort, and
rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.” (Tit. 2, 15).




establishing the hierarchal structure of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the
Apostles commanded of the faithful obedience to the teaching and respect for the
office of the deacons, priests, and bishops. The individual shortcomings of any
pastor do not lessen the effects of any Sacraments performed by him. “Obey
them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your
souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not
with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” (Heb.
13, 17). Or as St. Paul writes: “And we beseech you brethren, to
know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;
and to esteem them very highly in love for their works sake. And be at peace
among yourselves.” (1 The. 5,
12-13). For those who constantly find fault with pastors let this text wake them
from their sleep: “Verily, verily I say unto you, he that receiveth whomsoever
I send receiveth Me” (John 13,
20), or “He that heareth you heareth Me; and he that despiseth you despiseth
Me; and he that despiseth Me despiseth
Him that sent Me.” (Luke 10,


And so
deacons, priests, and bishops shall continue to be ordained and receive the
graces of Pentecost in an unbroken line from the Apostles even unto the end of
the world and wherever they are now or tomorrow, Christ will be there among