The supreme task which Christ had to fulfill was his priestly work
of atonement which he completed as mediator between God and man. By
the union in himself of humanity and divinity Christ is by nature
the mediator. As a man from among men, Christ is our mediator with
the Father; yet he is also capable of offering a worthy sacrifice to
God because, by virtue of the union of his human nature with the
Second Person of the Godhead, his human actions have in infinite
value. In this fullest sense, the priesthood belongs to Christ
But if Christ wished to live on and continue his work in the Church,
the first thing he had to do was to provide for the continuance of
his sacerdotal and mediatory function. Above all, if Christ wished
to renew the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the ages and all over
the world as the sacrifice of the New Law in the Holy Mass, he had
to allow others to share in his priesthood. For if there is to be a
true sacrifice, there must be a priesthood ordained and authorized
by God from whose hands God will accept the sacrifice.
The priesthood is ordained in the first place for the offering of
sacrifice and therefore for the solemnization of the Church's formal
worship. The arrangements for these celebrations demand also a
corresponding ministry and thus graded ministers to the altar. This
grading of the ministry goes in part back to direct institution by
Christ, but in part was introduced by the Church.
The degrees of order - the four minor and three major orders with
the highest of all, that of Bishop - signify an order of rank in the
mediation of grace. It must be distinguished from the other order of
rank which concerns jurisdiction, magisterium and pastorate. The
latter are not essentially linked with the powers of mediation of
grace, but in the concrete order established by God there are close
relationships between the two kinds of power. For example, the fact
that the power of forgiving sins exists in the Church does not, in
itself, say anything about who has this power. But in the divine
order, only a priest can have it.
Besides the conflict about the fact of the sacrament of order, its
institution by Christ and its hierarchical structure, it has always
been a principal concern of the Church to raise the priesthood to
the high moral level suitable to its sublime duties.
The Evangelical Catholic Church believes that Orders is a true
sacrament instituted by Christ who ordained the Apostles at the Last
Supper. It is administered by the laying on of hands and the key
phrases of the ordination preface. Only a Bishop can validly ordain.
Order is a purely ecclesiastical concern. The effect of the
sacrament of order is to impart the Holy Spirit and to impress an
indelible character, which permanently distinguishes those in orders
from the laity. The laity also has a part in Christ's priesthood,
but in another manner. The office of Bishop is above the priesthood
(which in turn is above the diaconate) and gives special powers of
consecration. To the priesthood belong the celebration of Holy Mass
and the power of forgiving sins.
Conditions for the valid reception of order within the Evangelical
Catholic Church is baptism.
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