Orders, HOLY.—Order is the appropriate disposition of things equal and unequal, by giving each its proper place (St. August, “De civ. Del,” XIX, xiii). Order primarily means a relation. It is used to designate that on which the relation is founded and thus generally means rank (St. Thom., “Suppl.” Q. xxxiv, a. 2, ad 4um). In this sense it was applied to clergy and laity (St. Jer., “In Isaiam”, XIX, 18; St. Greg. the Great, “Moral.”, XXXII, xx). The meaning was restricted later to the hierarchy as a whole or to the various ranks of the clergy. Tertullian and some early writers had already used the word in that sense, but generally with a qualifying adjective (Tert., “De exhort. cast.”, vii, ordo sacerdotalis, ordo ecclesiasticus; St. Greg. of Tours, “Vit. patr.” X, i, ordo clericorum). Order is used to signify not only the particular rank or general status of the clergy, but also the outward action by which they are raised to that status, and thus stands for ordination. It also indicates what differentiates laity from clergy or the various ranks of the clergy, and thus means spiritual power. The Sacrament of Order is the sacrament by which grace and spiritual power for the discharge of ecclesiastical offices are conferred.
Christ founded His Church as a supernatural society, the Kingdom of God. In this society there must be the power of ruling; and also the principles by which the members are to attain their supernatural end, viz., supernatural truth, which is held by faith, and super-natural grace by which man is formally elevated to the supernatural order. Thus, besides the power of jurisdiction, the Church has the power of teaching (magisterium) and the power of conferring grace (power of order). This power of order was committed by our Lord to His Apostles, who were to continue His work and to be His earthly representatives. The Apostles received their power from Christ: “as the Father hath sent me, I also send you” (John, xx, 21). Christ possessed fullness of power in virtue of His priesthood—of His office as Redeemer and Mediator. He merited the grace which freed man from the bondage of sin, which grace is applied to man mediately by the Sacrifice of the Eucharist and immediately by the sacraments. He gave His Apostles the power to offer the Sacrifice (Luke, xxii, 19), and dispense the sacraments (Matt., xxviii, 18; John, xx, 22, 23); thus making them priests. It is true that every Christian receives sanctifying grace which confers on him a priesthood. Even as Israel under the Old dispensation was to God “a priestly kingdom” (Exod., xix, 4-6), thus under the New, all Christians are “a kingly priesthood” (I Pet., ii, 9); but now as then the special and sacramental priesthood strengthens and perfects the universal priesthood (cf. II Cor., iii, 3, 6; Rom., xv, 16).
SACRAMENT OF ORDER.—From Scripture we learn that the Apostles appointed others by an external rite (imposition of hands), conferring inward grace. The fact that grace is ascribed immediately to the external rite, shows that Christ must have thus ordained. The fact that cheirontonein, cheirotonia, which meant electing by show of hands, had acquired the technical meaning of ordination by imposition of hands before the middle of the third century, shows that appointment to the various orders was made by that external rite. We read of the deacons, how the Apostles “praying, imposed hands upon them” (Acts, vi, 6). In II Tim., i, 6 St. Paul reminds Timothy that he was made a bishop by the imposition of St. Paul’s hands (cf. I Tim., iv, 4), and Timothy is exhorted to appoint presbyters by the same rite (I Tim., v, 22; cf. Acts, xiii, 3; xiv, 22). In Clem., “Horn.” III, lxxii, we read of the appointment of Zachus as bishop by the imposition of Peter’s hands. The word is used in its technical meaning by Clement of Alexandria (“Strom.”, VI, xiii, cvi; cf. “Const. Apost.”, II, viii, 36). “A priest lays on hands, but does not ordain” (cheirophetei
Ou cheirotonei) “Didasc. Syr.”, IV; III, 10, 11, 20; Cornelius, “Ad Fabianum” in Euseb., “Hist. Eccl.”, VI, xliii.
Grace was attached to this external sign and conferred by it. “I admonish thee, that thou stir up the grace of God which is in thee, through (dia) the inposition of my hands” (II Tim., i, 6). The context clearly shows that there is question here of a grace which enables Timothy to rightly discharge the office imposed upon him, for St. Paul continues “God hath not given us the spirit of fear: but of power, and of love, and of sobriety.” This grace is something permanent, as appears from the words “that thou stir up the grace which is in thee”; we reach the same conclusion from I Tim., iv, 14, where St. Paul says, “Neglect not the grace that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with (meta) imposition of hands of the priesthood.” This text shows that when St. Paul ordained Timothy, the presbyters also laid their hands upon him, even as now the presbyters who assist at ordination lay their hands on the candidate. St. Paul here exhorts Timothy to teach and command, to be an example to all. To neglect this would be to neglect the grace which is in him. This grace therefore enables him to teach and command, to discharge his office rightly. The grace then is not a charismatic gift, but a gift of the Holy Spirit for the rightful discharge of official duties. The Sacrament of Order has ever been recognized in the Church as such. This is attested by the belief in a special priesthood (cf. St. John Chrys., “De sacerdotio”; St. Greg. of Nyss., “Oratio in baptism. Christi”), which requires a special ordination. St. Augustine, speaking about baptism and order, says, “Each is a sacrament, and each is given by a certain consecration… If both are sacraments, which no one doubts, how is the one not lost (by defection from the Church) and the other lost?” (Contra. Epist. Parmen., ii, 28-30). The Council of Trent says, “Whereas, by the testimony of Scripture, by Apostolic tradition, and by the unanimous consent of the Fathers, it is clear that grace is conferred by sacred ordination, which is performed by words and outward signs, no one ought to doubt that Order is truly and properly one of the Seven Sacraments of Holy Church‘ (Sess. XXIII, c. iii, can. 3).
NUMBER OF ORDERS.—The Council of Trent (Seas. XXIII, can. 2) defined that, besides the priesthood, there are in the Church other orders, both major and Minor (q.v.). Though nothing has been defined with regard to the number of orders it is usually given as seven: priests, deacons, subdeacons, acolytes, exorcists, readers, and doorkeepers. The priesthood is thus counted as including bishops; if the latter be numbered separately we have eight; and if we add first tonsure, which was at one time regarded as an order, we have nine. We meet with different numberings in different Churches, and it would seem that mystical reasons influenced them to some extent (Martene, “De antiq. eccl. nit.”, I, viii, 1, 1; Denzinger, “Rit. orient.”, II, 155). The “Statuta ecclesia antiqua” enumerate nine orders, adding psalmists and counting bishops and priests separately. Others enumerate eight orders, thus, e.g. the author of “De divin. offic.”, 33, and St. Dunstan’s and the Jumieges pontificals (Martene I, viii, 11), the latter not counting bishops, and adding cantor. Innocent III, “De sacro alt. minister.”, I, i, counts six orders, as do also the Irish canons, where acolytes were unknown. Besides the psalmista or cantor, several other functionaries seem to have been recognized as holding orders, e.g., fossarii (fossores) grave-diggers, hermeneutae (interpreters), custodes martyrum etc. Some consider them to have been real orders (Morin, “Comm. de sacris eccl. ordin.”, III, Ex. 11, 7); but it is more probable that they were merely offices, generally committed to clerics (Benedict XIV, “De syn. dioc.”, VIII, ix, 7, 8). In the East there is considerable variety of tradition regarding the number of orders. The Greek Church acknowledges five, bishops, priests, deacons, subdeacons, and readers. The same number is found in St. John Damascene (Dial. contra manichaos, iii); in the ancient Greek Church acolytes, exorcists, and doorkeepers were probably considered only as offices. (cf. Denzinger, “Rit. orient.”, I, 116).
In the Latin Church a distinction is made between major and minor (q.v.). In the East the sub-diaconate is regarded as a minor order, and it includes three of the other minor orders (porter, exorcist, acolyte). In the Latin Church the priesthood, diaconate, and subdiaconate (q.v.) are the major, or sacred, orders, so-called because they have immediate reference to what is consecrated (St. Thom., “Suppl.”, Q. xxxvii, a. 3). The hierarchical orders strictly so-called are of divine origin (Conc. Trid., Sess. XXIII, can. 6). We have seen that our Lord instituted a ministry in the persons of His Apostles, who received fullness of authority and power. One of the first exercises of this Apostolic power was the appointment of others to help and succeed them. The Apostles did not confine their labors to any particular Church, but, following the Divine command to make disciples of all men, they were the missionaries of the first generation. Others also are mentioned in Holy Scripture as exercising an itinerant ministry, such as those who are in a wider sense called Apostles (Rom., xvi, 7), or prophets, teachers, and evangelists (Eph., iv, 11). Side by side with this itinerant ministry provision is made for the ordinary ministrations by the appointment of local ministers, to whom the duties of the ministry passed entirely when the itinerant ministers disappeared (see Deacons).
Besides deacons others were appointed to the ministry, who are called presbuteroi and episkopoi. There is no record of their institution, but the names occur casually. Though some have explained the appointment of the seventy-two disciples in Luke x, as the institution of the presbyterate, it is generally agreed that they had only a temporary appointment. We find presbyters in the Mother Church at Jerusalem, receiving the gifts of the brethren of Antioch. They appear in close connection with the Apostles, and the Apostles and presbyters sent forth the decree which freed the gentile converts from the burden of the Mosaic law (Acts, xv, 23). In St. James (v, 14, 15) they appear as performing ritual actions, and from St. Peter we learn that they are shepherds of the flock (I Pet. v, 2). The bishops hold a position of authority (Phil., i; I Tim., iii, 2; Tit., i, 7;) and have been appointed shepherds by the Holy Ghost (Acts, xx, 28). That the ministry of both was local appears from Acts, xiv, 23, where we read that Paul and Barnabas appointed presbyters in the various Churches which they founded during their first missionary journey. It is shown also by the fact that they had to shepherd the flock, wherein they have been appointed, the presbyters have to shepherd the flock, that is amongst them (I Pet., v, 2). Titus is left in Crete that he might appoint presbyters in every city (Kara. 716X‚Äò p, Tit., i, 5; cf. Chrys., “Ad Tit., homil.”, II, i).
We cannot argue from the difference of names to the difference of official position, because the names are to some extent interchangeable (Acts, xx, 17, 28; Tit., i, 6, 7). The New Testament does not clearly show the distinction between presbyters and bishops, and we must examine its evidence in the light of later times. Towards the end of the second century, there is a universal and unquestioned tradition, that bishops and their superior authority date from Apostolic times (see Hierarchy of the Early Church). It throws much light on the New Testament evidence and we find that what appears distinctly at the time of Ignatius can be traced through the pastoral epistles of St. Paul, to the very beginning of the history of the Mother Church at Jerusalem, where St. James, the brother of the Lord, appears to occupy the position of bishop (Acts, xii, 17; xv, 13; xxi, 18; Gal., ii, 9); Timothy and Titus possess full episcopal authority, and were ever thus recognized in tradition (cf. Tit., i, 5; I Tim., v, 19 and 22). No doubt there is much obscurity in the New Testament, but this is accounted for by many reasons. The monuments of tradition never give us the life of the Church in all its fullness and we cannot expect this fullness, with regard to the internal organization of the Church existing in Apostolic times, from the cursory references in the occasional writings of the New Testament. The position of bishops would necessarily be much less prominent than in later times. The supreme authority of the Apostles, the great number of charismatically gifted persons, the fact that various Churches were ruled by Apostolic delegates who exercised episcopal authority under Apostolic direction, would prevent that special prominence. The union between bishops and presbyters was close, and the names remained interchangeable long after the distinction between presbyters and bishops was commonly recognized, e.g., in Iren., “Adv. hares.”, IV, xxvi, 2. Hence it would seem that already, in the New Testament, we find, obscurely no doubt, the same ministry which appeared so distinctly afterwards.
Which of the Orders are Sacramental?— All agree that there is but one Sacrament of Order, i.e., the totality of the power conferred by the sacrament is contained in the supreme order, whilst the others contain only part thereof (St. Thomas, “Supplem.”, Q. xxxvii, a. i, ad 2um). The sacramental character of the priesthood has never been denied by anyone who admitted the Sacrament of Order, and, though not explicitly defined, it follows immediately from the statements of the Council of Trent. Thus (Sess. XXIII, can. 2), “If any one saith that besides the priesthood there are not in the Catholic Church other orders, both major and minor, by which as by certain steps, advance is made to the priesthood, let him be anathema.” In the fourth chapter of the same session, after declaring that the Sacrament of Order imprints a character “which can neither be effaced nor taken away; the holy synod with reason condemns the opinion of those who assert that priests of the New Testament have only a temporary power”. The priesthood is therefore a sacrament.
With regard to the episcopate the Council of Trent defines that bishops belong to the divinely instituted hierarchy, that they are superior to priests, and that they have the power of confirming and ordaining which is proper to them (Sess. XXIII, c. iv, can. 6, 7). The superiority of bishops is abundantly attested in Tradition, and we have seen above that the distinction between priests and bishops is of Apostolic origin. Most of the older scholastics were of opinion that the episcopate is not a sacrament; this opinion finds able defenders even now (e.g., Billot, “De sacramentis”, II), though the majority of theologians hold it is certain that a bishop’s ordination is a sacrament. With regard to the sacramental character of the other orders see Deacons; Minor Orders; Subdeacon
Matter and Form. In the question of the matter and form of this sacrament we must distinguish between the three higher orders and the subdiaconate and minor orders. The Church having instituted the latter, also determines their matter and form. With regard to the former, the received opinion maintains that the imposition of hands is the sole matter. This has been undoubtedly used from the beginning; to it, exclusively and directly, the conferring of grace is ascribed by St. Paul and many Fathers and councils. The Latin Church used it exclusively for nine or ten centuries, and the Greek Church to this day knows no other matter. Many scholastic theologians have held that the tradition of the instruments was the sole matter even for the strictly hierarchical orders, but this position has long been universally abandoned. Other scholastics held that both imposition of hands and the tradition of the instruments constitute the matter of the sacrament; this opinion still finds defenders. Appeal is made to the Decree of Eugene IV to the Armenians, but the pope spoke “of the integrating and accessory matter and form, which he wished Armenians to add to the imposition of hands, long since in use amongst them, that they might thus conform to the usage of the Latin Church, and more firmly adhere to it, by uniformity of rites” (Bened., XIV, “De syn. dioc.”, VIII, x, 8). The real foundation of the latter opinion is the power of the Church with regard to the sacrament. Christ, it is argued, instituted the Sacrament of Order by instituting that in the Church there should be an external rite, which would of its own nature signify and confer the priestly power and corresponding grace. As Christ did not ordain His Apostles by imposition of hands, it would seem that He left to the Church the power of determining by which particular rite the power and grace should be conferred. The Church‘s determination of the particular rite would be the fulfilling of a condition required in order that the Divine institution should take effect. The Church determined the simple imposition of hands for the East and added, in the course of time, the tradition of the instruments for the West changing its symbolical language according as circumstances of place or time required.
The question of the form of the sacrament naturally depends on that of the matter. If the tradition of the instruments be taken as the total or partial matter, the words which accompany it will be taken as the form. If the simple imposition of hands be considered the sole matter, the words which belong to it are the form. The form which accompanies the imposition of hands contains the words “Accipe spiritum sanctum”, which in the ordination of priests, however, are found with the second imposition of hands, towards the end of the Mass, but these words are not found in the old rituals nor in the Greek Euchology. Thus the form is not contained in these words, but in the longer prayers accompanying the former imposition of hands, substantially the same from the beginning. All that we have said about the matter and form is speculative; in practice, whatever has been prescribed by the Church must be followed, and the Church in this, as in other sacraments, insists that anything omitted should be supplied.
Effect of the Sacrament. The first effect of the sacrament is an increase of sanctifying grace. With this, there is the sacramental grace which makes the recipient a fit and holy minister in the discharge of his office. As the duties of God‘s ministers are manifold and onerous, it is in perfect accord with the rulings of God‘s Providence to confer a special grace on His ministers. The dispensation of sacraments requires grace, and the rightful discharge of sacred offices presupposes a special degree of spiritual excellence. The external sacramental sign or the power of the order can be received and may exist without this grace. Grace is required for the worthy, not the valid, exercise of the power, which is immediately and inseparably connected with the priestly character. The principal effect of the sacrament is the Character (q.v.), a spiritual and indelible mark impressed upon the soul, by which the recipient is distinguished from others, designated as a minister of Christ, and deputed and empowered to perform certain offices of Divine worship (Summa, III, Q. lxiii, a. 2). The sacramental character of order distinguishes the ordained from the laity. It gives the recipient in the diaconate, e.g., the power to minister officially, in the priesthood, the power to offer the Sacrifice and dispense the sacraments, in the episcopate the power to ordain new priests and to confirm the faithful. The Council of Trent defined the existence of a character (Sess. VII, can. 9). Its existence is shown especially by the fact that ordination like baptism, if ever valid, can never be repeated. Though there have been controversies with regard to the conditions of the validity of ordination, and different views were held at different times in reference to them, “it has always been admitted that a valid ordination cannot be repeated. Reordinations do not suppose the negation of the inamissible character of Order—they presuppose an anterior ordination which was null. There can be no doubt that mistakes were made regarding the nullity of the first ordination, but this error of fact leaves the doctrine of the initerability of ordination untouched” (Saltet, “Les Reordinations“, 392).
Minister. The ordinary minister of the sacrament is the bishop, who alone has this power in virtue of his ordination. Holy Scripture attributed the power to the Apostles and their successors (Acts, vi, 6; xvi, 22; I Tim., v, 22; II Tim., i, 6; Tit., i, 5), and the Fathers and councils ascribe the power to the bishop exclusively. Con. Nic. I, can. 4, Apost. Const. VIII, 28 “A bishop lays on hands, ordains a presbyter lays on hands, but does not ordain.” A council held at Alexandria (340) declared the orders conferred by Caluthus, a presbyter, null and void (Athanas., “Apol. contra Arianos”, ii). For the custom said to have existed in the Church of Alexandria see Egypt. Nor can objection be raised from the fact that chorepiscopi are known to have ordained priests, as there can be no doubt that some chorepiscopi were in bishops’ orders (Gillman, “Das Institut der Chorbischofe im Orient,” Munich, 1903; Hefele-Leclercq, “Conciles”, II, 1197-1237). No one but a bishop can give any orders now without a delegation from the pope, but a simple priest may be thus authorized to confer minor orders and the subdiaconate. It is generally denied that priests can confer priests’ orders, and history, certainly, records no instance of the exercise of such extraordinary ministry. The diaconate cannot be conferred by a simple priest, according to the majority of theologians. This is sometimes questioned, as Innocent VIII is said to have granted the privilege to Cistercian abbots (1489), but the genuineness of the concession is very doubtful. For lawful ordination the bishop must be a Catholic, in communion with the Holy See, free from censures, and must observe the laws prescribed for ordination. He cannot lawfully ordain any except his own subjects without authorization (see below).
Subject. Every baptized male can validly receive ordination. Though in former times there were several semiclerical ranks of women in the Church (see Deaconesses), they were not admitted to orders properly so called and had no spiritual power. The first requisite for lawful ordination is a Divine vocation; by which is understood the action of God, whereby He selects some to be His special ministers, endowing them with the spiritual, mental, moral, and physical qualities required for the fitting discharge of their order and inspiring them with a sincere desire to enter the ecclesiastical state for God‘s honor and their own sanctification. The reality of this Divine call is manifested in general by sanctity of life, right faith, knowledge corresponding to the proper exercise of the order to which one is raised, absence of physical defects, the age required by the canons (see Irregularity). Sometimes this call was manifested in an extraordinary manner (Acts, i, 15; xiii, 2); in general, however, the “calling” was made according to the laws of the Church founded on the example of the Apostles. Though clergy and laity had a voice in the election of the candidates, the ultimate and definite determination rested with the bishops. The election of the candidates by clergy and laity was in the nature of a testimony of fitness, the bishop had to personally ascertain the candidates’ qualifications. A public inquiry was held regarding their faith and moral character and the electors were consulted. Only such as were personally known to the electing congregation, i.e., members of the same Church were chosen.
A specified age was required, and, though there was some diversity in different places, in general, for deacons the age was twenty-five or thirty, for priests thirty or thirty-five, for bishops thirty-five or forty or even fifty (Apost. Const., II, I). Nor was physical age deemed sufficient, but there were prescribed specified periods of time, during which the ordained should remain in a particular degree. The different degrees were considered not merely as steps preparatory to the priesthood, but as real church offices. In the beginning no such periods, called interstices, were appointed, though the tendency to orderly promotion is attested already in the pastoral Epistles (I Tim., iii, 3, 16). The first rules were apparently made in the fourth century. They seem to have been enforced by Siricius (385) and somewhat modified by Zosimus (418), who decreed that the office of reader or exorcist should last till the candidate was twenty, or for five years in case of those baptized as adults; four years were to be spent as acolyte or subdeacon, five years as deacon. This was modified by Pope Gelasius (492), according to whom a layman who had been a monk might be ordained priest after one year, thus allowing three months to elapse between each ordination, and a layman who had not been a monk might be ordained priest after eighteen months. At present the minor orders are generally conferred together on one day.
The bishops, who are the ministers of the sacrament ex officio, must inquire about the birth, person, age, title, faith, and moral character of the candidate. They must examine whether he is born of Catholic parents, and is spiritually, intellectually, morally, and physically fit for the exercise of the ministry. The age required by the canons is for subdeacons twenty-one, for deacons twenty-two, and for priests twenty-four years completed. The pope may dispense from any irregularity and the bishops generally receive some power of dispensation also with regard to age, not usually for subdeacons and deacons, but for priests. Bishops can generally dispense for one year, whilst the pope gives dispensation for over a year; a dispensation for more than eighteen months is but very rarely granted. For admission to minor orders, the testimony from the parish priest or from the master of the school where the candidate was educated generally, therefore, the superior of the seminary is required. For major orders further inquiries must be made. The names of the candidate must be published in the place of his birth and of his domicile and the result of such inquiries are to be forwarded to the bishop. No bishop may ordain those not belonging to his diocese by reason of birth, domicile, benefice, or familiaritas, without dimissorial letters from the candidate’s bishop. Testimonial letters are also required from all the bishops in whose dioceses the candidate has resided for over six months, after the age of seven. Transgression of this rule is punished by suspension latae sententue against the ordaining bishop. In recent years several decisions insist on the strict interpretation of these rules. Subdeacons and deacons should pass one full year in these orders and they may then proceed to receive the priesthood. This is laid down by the Council of Trent (Seas. XXIII, c. xi.), which did not prescribe the time for minor orders. The bishop generally has the power to dispense from these interstices, but it is absolutely forbidden, unless a special indult be obtained, to receive two major orders or the minor orders and the subdiaconate in one day.
For the subdiaconate and the higher orders there is, moreover, required a title, i.e., the right to receive maintenance from a determined source. Again, the candidate must observe the interstices, or times required to elapse between the reception of various orders; he must also have received confirmation and the lower orders preceding the one to which he is raised. This last requirement does not affect the validity of the order conferred, as every order gives a distinct and independent power. One exception is made by the majority of theologians and canonists, who are of opinion that episcopal consecration requires the previous reception of priest’s orders for its validity. Others, however, maintain that episcopal power includes full priestly power, which is thus conferred by episcopal consecration. They appeal to history and bring forward cases of bishops who were consecrated without having previously received priest’s orders, and though most of the cases are somewhat doubtful and can be explained on other grounds, it seems impossible to reject them all. It is further to be remembered that scholastic theologians mostly required the previous reception of priest’s orders for valid episcopal consecration, because they did not consider episcopacy an order, a view which is now generally abandoned.
Ceremonies of Ordination. From the beginning the diaconate, priesthood, and episcopate were conferred with special rites and ceremonies. Though in the course of time there was considerable development and diversity in different parts of the Church, the imposition of hands and prayer were always and universally employed and date from Apostolic times (Acts, vi, 6;)(iii, 3; I Tim., iv, 14; II Tim., i, 6). In the early Roman Church these sacred orders were conferred amid a great concourse of clergy and people at a solemn station. The candidates, who had been previously presented to the people, were summoned by name at the beginning of the solemn Mass. They were placed in a conspicuous position, and anyone objecting to a candidate was called upon to state his objections without fear. Silence was regarded as approval. Shortly before the Gospel, after the candidates were presented to the pope, the entire congregation was invited to prayer. All prostrating, the litanies were recited, the pope then imposed his hands upon the head of each candidate and recited the Collect with a prayer of consecration corresponding to the order conferred. The Gallican Rite was somewhat more elaborate. Besides the ceremonies used in the Roman Church, the people approving the candidates by acclamation, the hands of the deacon and the head and hands of priests and bishops were anointed with the sign of the Cross. After the seventh century the tradition of the instruments of office was added, alb and stole to the deacon, stole and planeta to the priest, ring and staff to the bishop. In the Eastern Church, after the presentation of the candidate to the congregation and their shout of approval, “He is worthy”, the bishop imposed his hands upon the candidate and said the consecrating prayer.
We now give a short description of the ordination rite for priests as found in the present Roman Pontifical. All the candidates should present themselves in the church with tonsure and in clerical dress, carrying the vestments of the order to which they are to be raised, and lighted candles. They are all summoned by name, each candidate answering “Adsum”. When a general ordination takes place the tonsure is given after the Introit or Kyrie, the minor orders after the Gloria, subdiaconate after the Collect, the diaconate after the Epistle, priesthood after Alleluia and Tract. After the Tract of the Mass the archdeacon summons all who are to receive the priesthood. The candidates, vested in amice, alb, girdle, stole, and maniple, with folded chasuble on left arm and a candle in their right hand, go forward and kneel around the bishop. The latter inquires of the archdeacon, who is here the representative of the Church as it were, whether the candidates are worthy to be admitted to the priesthood. The archdeacon answers in the affirmative and his testimony represents the testimony of fitness given in ancient times by the clergy and people. The bishop, then charging the congregation and insisting upon the reasons why “the Fathers decreed that the people also should be consulted”, asks that, if anyone has anything to say to the prejudice of the candidates, he should come forward and state it.
The bishop then instructs and admonishes the candidates as to the duties of their new office. He kneels down in front of the altar; the ordinandi lay themselves prostrate on the carpet, and the Litany of the Saints is chanted or recited. On the conclusion of the Litany, all arise, the candidates come forward, and kneel in pairs before the bishop while he lays both hands on the head of each candidate in silence. The same is done by all priests who are present. Whilst bishop and priests keep their right hands extended, the former alone recites a prayer, inviting all to pray to God for a blessing on the candidates. After this follows the Collect and then the bishop says the Preface, towards the end of which occurs the prayer, “Grant, we beseech Thee etc.” The bishop then with appropriate formulae crosses the stole over the breast of each one and vests him with the chasuble. This is arranged to hang down in front but is folded behind. Though there is no mention of the stole in many of the most ancient Pontificals, there can be no doubt of its antiquity. The vesting with the chasuble is also very ancient and found already in Mabillon “Ord. VIII and IX.” Afterwards the bishop recites a prayer calling down God‘s blessing on the newly-ordained. He then intones the “Veni Creator”, and whilst it is being sung by the choir he anoints the hands of each with the oil of catechumens.
In England the head also was anointed in ancient times. The anointing of the hands, which in ancient times was done with chrism, or oil and chrism, was not used by the Roman Church, said Nicholas I (A.D. 864), though it is generally found in all ancient ordinals. It probably became a general practice in the ninth century and seems to have been derived from the British Church (Haddan and Stubbs, “Councils and Eccl. Documents”, I, 141). The bishop then hands to each the chalice, containing wine and water, with a paten and a host upon it. This rite, with its corresponding formula, which as Hugo of St. Victor says (“Sacr.”, III, xii), signifies the power which has already been received, is not found in the oldest rituals and probably dates back not earlier than the ninth or tenth century. When the bishop has finished the Offertory of the Mass, he seats himself before the middle of the altar and each of those ordained make an offering to him of a lighted candle. The newly-ordained priests then repeat the Mass with him, all saying the words of consecration simultaneously. Before the Communion the bishop gives the kiss of peace to one of the newly-ordained. After the Communion the priests again approach the bishop and say the Apostles’ Creed. The bishop laying his hands upon each says: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” This imposition of hands was introduced in the thirteenth century. The chasuble is then folded, the newly-ordained make a promise of obedience and having received the kiss of peace, return to their place.
Time and Place. During the first centuries ordination took place whenever demanded by the needs of the Church. The Roman pontiffs generally ordained in December (Amalarius, “De offic.”, II, i). Pope Gelasius (494) decreed that the ordination of priests and deacons should be held at fixed times and days, viz., on the fasts of the fourth, seventh, and tenth months, also on the fasts of the beginning and midweek (Passion Sunday) of Lent and on (holy) Saturday about sunset (Epist. ad ep. Luc., xi). This but confirmed what Leo the Great laid down, for he seems to speak of ordination on Ember Saturdays as an Apostolic tradition (Serm. 2, de jejun. Pentec.) The ordination may take place either after sunset on the Saturday or early on Sunday morning. The ordination to major orders took place before the Gospel.
Minor orders might be given at any day or hour. They were generally given after holy communion. At present minor orders may be given on Sundays and days of obligation (suppressed included) in the morning. For the sacred orders, a privilege to ordain on other days than those appointed by the canons, provided the ordination takes place on Sunday or day of obligation (suppressed days included), is very commonly given. Though it was always the rule that ordinations should take place in public, in time of persecution they were sometimes held in private buildings. The place of ordinations is the church. Minor orders may be conferred in any place, but it is understood that they are given in the church. The Pontifical directs that ordinations to sacred orders must be held publicly in the cathedral church in presence of the cathedral chapter, or if they be held in some other place, the clergy should be present and the principal church, as far as possible, must be made use of (cf. Conc. Trid., Sess. XXIII, c. vii). (See Subdeacon. Deacons. Hierarchy. Minor Orders. Alimentation).