THE POSITION OF THE PRIESTS IN THE CHURCH

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

In the Orthodox understanding of the Church there is no contradistinction between clergy and laity. Clergy and laity are necessary, because both are members in the Church, which is One Body, the Body of Christ, the unique Head of which is Christ Himself. Both clergy and laity are members in the Church, because they have been incorporated in it by the grace of God. The Church was established neither by the clergy nor by the laity, but by Christ Himself.  His is the Church, His are also both the clergy and the laity, and therefore any opposition between them is an opposition to Christ Himself. The distinction between clergy and laity is a liturgical distinction of ministries within the One Body of the Church which was established by the Lord Himself. Unfortunately, many times oppositions emerge among some members of the Church (clergy and laity) who do not respect the founder of the Church and its sacred institutions and jeopardize their position in it and the position of many others, perhaps because of ignorance, or some misunderstanding of the nature of the Church, or certain wretchedness. They forget that, because Christ is a God-man, the Church is also a divine-human body, which is connected with the Great Mystery of Orthodoxy, the Incarnation of God which was accomplished with the birth of Christ and the work of salvation of humanity and the entire world. They forget that the Church is the Ark of our salvation, the Pillar and Foundation of the truth against which neither the Gates of Hell can prevail. They forget that the Church differs from any other kind of human institution that was created by human beings. It is not a business, nor an association, nor a private club. It is the Church of Christ which we accept, respect and believe in, as we believe in the One God in Trinity and in the Only-Begotten Son of God who became man for our salvation. We believe in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, as it is designated in the ecumenical Creed, within which our salvation and the salvation of the world are accomplished (because Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus = Outside the Church there is no salvation, St. Cyprian). In order to avoid, then, misunderstandings and self-destructive oppositions, we considered it necessary to place on the pages of THE FORERUNNER from now on topics that relate to Orthodox Ecclesiology. The article that follows refers to the position of the clergy within the Body of the Church, i.e. to the special priesthood, which is distinguished from the general priesthood of the laity which will be considered in the next issue of our magazine. It is taken from the accredited book A Tool of Orthodoxy of Fr. A, Alevizopoulos and published by the Apostolic Diaconate of the Church of Greece.

Protopresbyter George Dion. Dragas, PhD, DD, DTh.

 a) The Special Priesthood in the Old Testament

God chose Israel and separated it from all the other nations so that it might be a royal priesthood, a holy nation (Ex. 19:5-6, Deut. 14:2, 26:19). This, however, did not mean, that within the people of God there was no specific priestly order, which was entrusted with a particular ministry.

Aaron and his sons belonged to this priestly order and it was Moses who ordained them by pouring from the oil of Chrismation on their heads, having first washed them with water and vested them with priestly vestments (Ex. 28:1; 37-39; 29:9; 30, 40:11-13; Lev. 8:1-13).

In the Old Testament we also see the order of Levites to whom a special ministry was given (Numbers 8:5-26).

No one was allowed to violate the order in which God himself placed him. The punishment of Core (Korah) was a tragic lesson of such a violation.

Holy Scripture informs us, that Core belonged to the tribe of Levi. However, he was not satisfied with the great honor of offering sacred service in the Tabernacle of the Lord (Numbers 8:22). He wanted to misappropriate the priestly authority. He revolted against Moses and against Aaron:

“All are saints and the Lord is in them,” he said to Moses and Aaron, “why then do you exalt yourselves above the people of the Lord” (Numbers 16:3)?

In vain Moses tried to bring him to his senses, by pointing out that God himself chooses his priests (Numbers 16:5-11, and Lev. 8:1ff); and consequently, the conspiracy of Core was not directed against men but against God himself.

“Who is Aaron against whom you grumble” (Numbers 16:11)?  Is he not one whom God chose?

The punishment of the insurgents and usurpers of the priestly authority was exemplary: “The earth was torn apart under their feet, and the earth swallowed them and their families and all those who stood with Core, including their animals. All of them and those who stood on their side descended alive into Hades, and the earth covered them up and they were exterminated from the middle of the synagogue of the people” (Numbers 26:16-21, Cf. Paral. 13:9-10).

Later, King Ozias (Uzziah) tried to usurp the Priestly authority. His punishment was also exemplary, because leprosy immediately appeared on his forehead and he remained a leper until the day of his death (II Chron. 26:16-21); compare also I Chron. 13:9-10).

b) The eternal Priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek

The Apostle Paul refers to the verse from the Psalter: “The Lord vowed and will not change his mind. You are an eternal Priest according to the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 109:4). He explains that Melchizedek was a King of Salem and a Priest of the Most High God (Gen. 14:18). His name means king of righteousness and peace. It is said of him that he is “without father, without mother and without genealogy” and that “His days have no beginning, whilst his life has no end,” that “He is assimilated with the Son of God” and that “He remains a Priest forever” (Hebrews 7:3).

The Apostle also underlines, that although Abraham was a man of the promises of God, he refrains from blessing Melchizedek and is rather blessed by Him (Gen. 14:19), and offers him one tenth of the spoils which he had obtained (Gen. 14:20). This means that Abraham, although he was the patriarch of the priestly race, according to the order of Aaron, recognizes the uniqueness of the priesthood of Melchizedek (Deut. 14:22-23). “Indisputably, the lesser is blessed by the greater,” says the Apostle (Hebrews 7:7).

So, like Melchizedek, Christ too, was not a Priest according to the order of Aaron, since he was not a descendant from the tribe of Levi. “He belonged to another race, from which no one has served at the altar, because it is obvious that our Lord descended from the tribe of Judah, for which nothing was said by Moses concerning the Priesthood” (Hebrews 7:13-14). Consequently, he cannot be included among the Priests of the Old Testament. He is a Priest of another, “greater,” i.e. higher Covenant (Hebrews 7:22).

“Those among the Priests were many, because they could not remain priests on account of death; but Jesus who remains forever has a Priesthood which is “inviolable” (aparabaton=non-transferable). Therefore, He can save forever those who come to God through Him, because He lives forever in order to mediate for them. Such a High-Priest was truly needed, holy, guileless, spotless, separated from sinners and raised now above the heavens, who does not need, like the High-priests, to offer sacrifices every day, first for his own sins and then for the sins of the people. He did this once and for all, when He offered Himself. The Law ordains human High-priests, who have weaknesses. However, the words of the oath which was given after the Law, i.e. “a son has been perfected forever” (Psalm 109:4), ordain eternally the Son who is perfect” (Hebrews 7:23-28).

This perfect High-Priest entered “once for all” into the Holy of Holies and “through His own Blood,” secured an “eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12).

The Apostle delves deeper into the prophetic texts of the Old Testament and recalls the verse of the Psalter “You did not want a sacrifice and an offering, but You prepared for me a Body. You did not ask for holocausts and sacrifices for sins. Then, I said, as it is written in the scroll of the book, I came, oh my God, to do Your will” (Psalm 39:7-9).

The Apostle says that the Psalmist refers to the “offering of the Body of Jesus Christ, though which we are once and for all sanctified” (Hebrews 10:5-14).

“Having, then, brethren, boldness for the entrance of the holy ones through the Blood of Jesus –which recent and living way, He inaugurated for us through the veil, i.e. through His flesh –and a Great Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full confidence of faith, with hearts purified from evil conscience and the body washed with pure water… without neglecting to come to the church meetings, as it is the custom with some, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day to draw near” (Hebrews 10:19-25).

All these reveal that in the New Testament there is a unique High Priest: The Christ. He is always present in every Christian gathering (Matthew 28:20), even if this is constituted by two or three persons (Matthew 18:20).

He is the Shepherd of the one and unique Flock (John 10:16), the Shepherd and keeper of our souls (I Peter 2:25), “the great Shepherd of the sheep” (Hebrews 13:20), “the Arch-Pastor” (I Peter 5:4). He is, as we said, “the Great High-Priest” (Hebrews 4:14, “who entered once for all into the Holy of holies, and secured with his own Blood an eternal redemption… who offered Himself to God as a spotless sacrifice, and will cleanse your conscience from dead works, so that you may worship a living God” (Hebrews 9:12-14. Cf. Ezekiel 34:15-24, 37:24).

At this point there are no gaps in the history of the Church. Where two or three are gathered together in His name (Matthew 18:20) for a Eucharistic meeting, there is present the Christ, the “Great” and unique “High-Priest.” The same happens when the Gospel is preached, when the believers are united in works of love and experience a brotherly bond in their lives. He is the “the one who offers and is offered,” he who works our “all in all” (Colossians 3:11, II Cor. 13:3)

c) The living Bread who has come down from heaven

“The Lord said to Moses: Behold I will reign for you loaves of bread from heaven. And the people will go out and all of them with gather them up throughout the whole day….” (Exodus 16:4). “You will strike the rock and water with gash out of it, so that the people will drink” (Exodus 17:6, Numbers 20:7-11).

It is to these two events from the life of Israel in the desert that the Apostle Paul refers. “Your fathers,” he says, “all of them ate from the same spiritual food and drank from the same spiritual drink. Because they drank from the spiritual rock which followed them and this rock was the Christ” (I Cor. 10:1-5).

Christ, then, is He who followed the people who were walking towards the Promised Land out of the desert. He offered the Manna for the people to be fed and the water to quench their thirst.

The Lord Himself, after His Incarnation, declares that these events of the Old Testament were pre-figuration and icon “of the bread of life,” i.e. of the divine Eucharist.

“Jesus said to them: Truly, truly I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true Bread which descends from heaven and gives life to the world.

They said to Him: “Lord, give us this Bread always.

And Jesus said to them: I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to me, will not experience hunger and he who believes in me will never thirst… I am the Bread of life. Your fathers ate the Manna in the desert and died. But this one is the Bread, which comes down from heaven so that man may eat from this one and never die. I am the living Bread, who came down from heaven. Anyone who eats from this Bread will live eternally. The Bread which I shall give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

The Jews quarreled among them and said:   How can he give us his flesh to eat?

Then, Jesus said to them: “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you. He who eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has life eternal and I will raise him on the last Day, because my Flesh is true food, and my Blood true drink. He who eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood abides in me and I abide in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live for the Father, in the same way he who eats me will live for me. This is the Bread which descends from heaven, not like the Manna which your Fathers ate and died. He who eats this Bread will live eternally.

This is what he said in the Synagogue, when he taught in Capernaum. Many of His disciples who heard this, said: This is a harsh word. Who can hear it?

Now Jesus, seeing that His disciples grumbled about this, said to them:

Does this shake you up? … The Spirit is that which gives life, the flesh does not profit at all. The words which I speak to you are spirit and life. And yet, there are some of you who do not believe” (John 6:32-64).

All these bear witness that Christ, the unique High-Priest, offered and continued to offer to the believers the true Bread of life, which is His own Body.

This is not a Body that is dead, i.e. mortified flesh. The disciples did not understand correctly the words of the Lord. This is why Christ tells them that the dead flesh, i.e. the flesh that does not have spirit in it is of no profit. Nevertheless, the Bread which Christ offers has the Spirit in it, who vivifies it and makes it a source of eternal life. It is not, in other words, the Lord’s Body in a mortified condition, but His risen and deified Body. The Bread is changed into this Body in the divine Eucharist, and not into a mortified Body, which is of no benefit.

d) The priesthood in the Church

In the New Testament it is said that the promise of God to Abraham “To your seed I shall give this land” (Gen. 12:7) refers to Christ (Gal. 3:16-17) and to “the sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus and holy Baptism“(Gal. 3:26-27; cf. 3:7-9). These are the true descendants of Abraham (Gen. 21:12, Rom. 9:6-8). Certainly, there are no differences within this new people of God. All are equally valuable members. All constitute “one man in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28, I Cor. 12:13, Col. 3:11).

Nevertheless, there is within this body a distinction with respect to ministry, i.e. with respect to the service that each member offers within this common body. This has to do with the distinction of charismas (gifts, skills), which further enforces the unity of the one body of the Church.

The Apostle Paul describes the distinction of ministries and at the same time the unity of the Body of Christ:

“Certainly, there are divisions of charismas, but the Spirit is the same; there are divisions of ministries, but the Lord is the same; and there are divisions of tasks, but the God who does all in all is the same. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (I Cor. 12:4-7).

We have already mentioned that Christ is “the Shepherd of the sheep.” Also, that He is the unique “teacher;” and in this sense no one can be called a “teacher” (Matthew 23:8); just as no one can be called a “father” in the sense that we call God our Father (Matthew 23:9).

Nevertheless, among the charismas, which God Himself distributes, there is the office of “shepherd” or “pastor,” “for the edification of the saints, for the task of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12, I Cor. 12:27-29).

The Apostles themselves characterize themselves as spiritual fathers of those who were regenerated by the grace of God through their preaching (I Cor. 4:15, II Cor. 6:13, 12:14, Gal. 4:19, Philemon 10, III John 4; cf. IV Kings 2:12, 6:21, 13:14), and they order honor and obedience to these spiritual workers (I Cor. 16:16, Philip. 2:29-30 I Thess. 5:12-13. Hebr. 13:17).

The same applies to the unique sacrifice which the one and only, the unique High-Priest offered “once for all” for the people of God (Hebr. 7:27). In other words, the Lord assured His disciples that the bread and the wine, which He blessed at the Mystical Supper, were changed into His own Body and Blood (Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20). He also made man’s participation in eternal life dependent upon man’s communicating in the sacrament of eating His Body and drinking His Blood (John 6:48-69). This is why he ordered His disciples to celebrate this saving Sacrament (Luke 22:19, I Cor. 11:24-25).

Certainly, the celebration of this holy Sacrament constitutes a remembrance (anamnesis) and declaration of the unique sacrifice of the Lord (Luke 22:19, I Cor. 11:26). Nevertheless, its meaning is not entirely exhausted in this term of remembrance, as some heterodox believe. In the celebration of the holy Sacrament a real change of the Bread and the Wine into the Body and Blood of Christ takes place. On this matter, there was no doubt whatsoever in the mind of the Apostles and in the primitive Christian community:

“The Chalice of Blessing which we bless, is it not a partaking (communion) of the Blood of Christ? The Bread which we break, is it not a partaking of the Body of Christ? Because there is one Bread, we, who are many, are one Body, because we all partake of one Bread” (I Cor. 10: 16-17).

This is why the Apostle Paul orders the Christians of Corinth to regard the Apostles as “servants of Christ and stewards of the sacraments of God” (I Cor. 4:1).

Apart from the authority to celebrate the Divine Eucharist, the Lord gave His disciples the power to forgive or not to forgive (to loose or to bind) the sins of human beings (Matthew 18:18. John 20:21-23); which right, in the perception of the Scribes, belongs only to God, but which we have no difficulty to accept. The Scribes did not believe in the Godhead of the Lord and this is why they held that Christ blasphemed, when He made His own this right (Matthew 9:3 and Mark 2:7).

All these do not mean that Christ ceded His own unique Priesthood to anyone. He alone “remains a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 109:4 and Hebrews 7:21).

However, just as every Christian becomes a member of the unique Body of Christ through the holy Baptism, and just as with his participation in the life of the Body of the Church every Christian partakes of the holiness of Christ and is personally sanctified, likewise the priesthood of human beings is a participation in the priesthood of Christ.

In this way, the Apostles and their successors become the visible icons of the presence of Christ within the Church and secure the unity of the body of Christ.

Thus, the apostolic authority is not a partial authority given to those who are called by Christ to become instruments of His grace, but a ministerial (liturgical) authority which is internally related to the Church, which is “the whole Christ,” the Head and the members.

That this authority refers to the relation of Christ with the entire Church is clearly pointed out in the Holy Bible.  “As the Father sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21), says Christ to His disciples; and He adds, “that whoever accepts you and listens to your words, accepts and listens to me” (Matthew 10:40, cf. Luke 10:16, John 13:20).

The disciples had no doubt that the Lord is “He who operates all in all” (I Cor. 12:6). As the Apostle John characteristically states, “If we confess our sins, He (the Christ) is trustworthy and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every injustice” (I John 1:9, cf. Prov. 28:13).

Hence, the Apostles did not speak their own word, but they preached the word of Christ. In other words, they were “the mouth of Christ” (cf. Matthew 10:40 and 28:20) and spoke those things “which the Holy Spirit taught them” (I Cor. 2:13, cf. Acts 15:28). Their authority was not theirs but Christ’s (I John 1:9), and this is why they did everything in the name of Christ (Col. 3:17).

“We have the mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:16), says the Apostle Paul in a characteristic manner.

Thus, the Priesthood of the Apostles constitutes a participation in the Priesthood of Christ and so the presence of the Apostles constitutes a guarantee of the presence of Christ and of the operation of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12:3) inside the Church. It was the great sacrament of this presence.

f) The place of the Bishops in the Church

The place which is accorded to the Apostles in the Holy Bible was given to the Bishops of the Church in the post-Apostolic era.

Clement of Rome, writes at the end of the first century, that the Apostles preached “the kingdom of God,” baptized those who believed in their preaching and proceeded to the organization of the Church by ordaining “bishops and deacons.” “This was not something new,” he continues, “because the case of ordaining bishops and deacons had been written many years earlier: I will ordain their bishops in righteousness and their deacons in faith” (Isaiah 60:17f). The verse, which Clement mentions is found in the prophet Isaiah. The prophet speaks about the glory of the New Jerusalem, the Church, which will become “an eternal joy, a happy celebration of generations to generations” (Isaiah 60:15)

This witness is not the only one in the early Church. A few years later, Ignatius of Antioch writes, that the Bishops will stand in “place of God” (εις τόπον Θεού) and will be escorted by the presbyters, who are called “the council of God” (συνέδριον Θεού) and stand “in the place of the council of the Apostles.” And so he admonishes:

“Listen to the Bishop and to the presbyters and deacons… become imitators of Christ as He was of His Father.”

These prove that in the primitive Church the authority of the Bishop was the authority of Christ and of the Church, and not just an individual’s authority. As the Apostles had “the mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:16) and the decisions they made on church matters were not theirs but of the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28), likewise the Bishops had, as St. Ignatius underlines, to present “Christ’s will” and not to impose their own.

“Take care, then, to be fastened on the teaching of the Lord and the Apostles, so all that you do might be crowned with success,” says Ignatius.  For the same reason, Isaiah prophesies that the officers of the Church will guide with peace and judge with justice (Isaiah 60:17; cf. Psalm 81-1-7).

Within the body of the Church the Bishop does not only express the will of Christ, but also the presence of the invisible and unique Bishop, the Lord Jesus Christ, and constitutes the guarantee of this presence. Consequently, the Bishop guarantees the presence of the Lord in the sacraments of the Church and the charismatic operation of the Holy Spirit in it. For this reason Patriarch Dositheos of Jerusalem says in his Confession of Faith, that “without the Episcopal authority one cannot speak of the Church or even of any Christian.”

For the same reason St. Ignatius of Antioch says, that “wherever the Bishop appears, there should the multitude be, just as where Christ is there is also the Catholic Church.” This is especially the case with the Divine Eucharist, which is guaranteed and celebrated by the Bishop, or by a priest (presbyter) who has been appointed by the Bishop and who belongs to the “council of presbyters” (πρεσβυτέριον) which St. Ignatius calls “the fitly wreathed spiritual crown” (αξιόπλοκον πνευματικόν στέφανον) of the Bishop and the Church.

However, whatever the privileges of the Bishop may be, he is not placed above the Church, but within the people of God, who together with Christ constitute the whole Church. As a contemporary Orthodox theologian puts it, the authority of the Bishop is the authority of the Church. The Bishop and the people constitute an organic unity, which cannot be torn apart. “Without the Bishop there are no Orthodox believers; but the reverse is also the case, without the people there can be no Bishop.”

“The Bishop is in the Church and the Church is in the Bishop,” says St. Cyprian, who also writes to the clergy of his Church, that he does not attempt to do anything without seeking their advice, and also the advice of the laity.

This reminds us of that beautiful phrase in the Acts of the Apostles, which refers to the early Church, in which “the heart and the soul of the multitude of the believers was one” (Acts 4:32).

So then, according to the words of these fathers of the Church the Bishop is always understood in relation to the Body of the Church and, especially, in relation to its Head, the Lord Jesus Christ: “According to the will of Jesus Christ” (St. Ignatius, cf. also I Cor. 2:16 and Acts 15:28).

This is the reason for which the Bishop is called to become a man of love, a servant of all according to the prototype of Christ (Matthew 20:26-28, 23:11, Mark 9:35, 10:43-44 and Luke 22:27).

“Take care of the flock of God which is your midst not by constraint by willingly according to God’s will, not in a manner of for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock; and when the Arch-Shepherd appears you will obtain the unfading crown of glory” (II Peter, 5:2-4; cf. Ezek. 34:1-31). At the consecration of a Bishop, the celebrant prays to Christ… “You, o Christ, make this new steward of the Hierarchical grace an imitator of the true Shepherd, who laid down His soul for his sheep; a guide to the blind, a light to those in darkness, a protector of the orphans, a teacher of the young, a luminary in the world… For Yours it is to have mercy and to save us, o God…”

“And you, Son of Man, I have given you as a guardian of the house of Israel, so that you may hear a word from my mouth,” God says to the prophet Ezekiel (Ezek. 33:7).

g) The Apostolic succession

If the Bishop constitutes the guarantee for the presence of Christ in the Church, then episcopacy is not a temporary but a permanent position, because Christ remains with us “until the close of the present world” (Matthew 28:20).

However, what is the criterion, which secured the continuation of the Episcopal office, so that adulteration of it might be excluded from it? This is the so-called apostolic succession, i.e. the descent of the present day bishops from the Apostles on the basis of their ordination. One might say that this is the bone-structure of the church, whilst at its peak there is always Christ as its Head.

This apostolic succession is the instrument which secures the identity and the unity of the living body of the Church throughout the ages.

Let us follow this basic matter of the apostolic succession in the New Testament, in order to ascertain that it is not a later invention, but the will of Christ and the Apostles.

In the New Testament we see the Apostles preaching in various places, baptizing those who believed in their preaching and organizing the life of the Churches which they establish. They choose an able person among the believers and ordain him as the head of a local Church. Then, they give him the command to elect other able believers to ordain them in each city as “presbyters and deacons.”

In this way, the Apostle Paul, for example, chooses and ordains Titus in the Church of Crete and writes to him, that “This is why I left you in Crete, that you might put right what was defective, and appoint presbyters in every city, as I commanded you” (Titus 1:5).

Then further on in the same epistle he mentions the presuppositions which every presbyter should have.

In a similar way he left Timothy at Ephesus and reminds him that “he should rekindle the charisma of God, which is in him through the laying on of his hands” (II Tim. 1:6; cf. also I Tim. 4:14).

From the above, we see that the Apostles ordained responsible persons in the particular Churches and entrusted to them as shepherds the care of the faithful. They ordained them by laying on their hands, through which they received the “charisma of God,” with the obligation to transmit it to others, as they were instructed by the Apostles (“as I commanded you,” Titus 1:5).

That ordination was not just a simple ceremony, but was vested with a charismatic and sacramental character is revealed in the Apostle’s exhortation to Timothy: “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands” (I Tim. 5:22; cf. Acts 14:23, 20:28).

This, then, is the apostolic succession: The transmission of the “charisma of God” from the Apostles to the leaders of the Churches and from them to others, according to an unbroken succession throughout the ages, till this day.

In this way, the priesthood of the contemporary bishops of the Orthodox Church and of the rest of the clergy is traced to the Apostles and through them to Christ himself.

In this way too, the identity of the Church is saved, as it takes visible characteristics, so that we can be certain for its continuation and we might not be led astray by the presence of heresies.

By virtue of the apostolic succession the Bishop is a particular person and his authenticity can be easily verified, just as one can verify his unity with the Church throughout the ages.

Consequently, we are able to recognize who is the Bishop, i.e. the person who expresses the presence of Christ and the unity of the Church throughout the ages. Once we recognize who the Bishop is, we can also recognize where the holy sacraments of the Church exist and the true Church can be found.

As Christ had the Apostles with him, in the same manner the Bishop, this visible icon of Christ, is encircled by the presbyters and the deacons. United with them in an indissoluble unity are also the entire people of God. All of them constitute the Church, whose Head is the Lord Jesus Christ.