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Similarity #2: Both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches Share Common Apostolic Origins
Vivificat - From Contemplation to Action ^ | 31 August 2012 | Te骹ilo de Jes鷖

Posted on 08/31/2012 12:23:53 PM PDT by Te骹ilo

Brethren: Peace and Good to all of you.

I continue my exploration of the similarities between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches by studying a second claim they make in common: a common historic origin in the preaching of the Apostles of Jesus Christ.

Usually, experts who discuss this subject of the Church’s faithfulness to its apostolic origins emphasize the notion of apostolic succession, but I will discuss apostolic succession in the next post, focusing instead upon the apostles themselves, their preaching, and the process of founding churches in the Mediterranean world and beyond, apostolic origin and succession are linked closely, but I wish to separate them for the purpose of this brief essay. I’ll talk first the about apostolic origins of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches and the impact upon the Churches’ self-understanding and founding narratives.

Common Doctrinal Claims

First, let’s explore what the Orthodox and Catholic Churches hold in common regarding this note of “apostolicity” of the Church. The Catholic Church teaches:

857 The Church is apostolic because she is founded on the apostles, in three ways:

- she was and remains built on "the foundation of the Apostles," The witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself;

- with the help of the Spirit dwelling in her, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching, The "good deposit," the salutary words she has heard from the apostles;

- she continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by the apostles until Christ's return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of bishops, "assisted by priests, in union with the successor of Peter, the Church's supreme pastor"…

The Catechism of the Catholic Church mentions the word “apostle,” 32 times; “apostles,” 166; “apostolate,” 12; “apostolic,” 109; “apostolicity,” 1; and “apostoloi,” 1. It is a notion permeating the self-identity of the Catholic Church throughout her teaching. The Orthodox Church’s teaching is virtually identical:

[The Church is so-called] Apostolic because it traces it beginning back to the Apostles, holds the teachings of the Apostles entire and unadulterated, and is governed by the canonical successors of the Apostles whose successors have received Holy Orders from them in uninterrupted succession. (CD)

And also:

The Church has been sent into the world, to bring the world into communion with God. Just as the Son was sent by the Father, and the Spirit sent by the Son, the Church has been sent by the Holy Trinity into the world.

Fr. Thomas Hopko:

As Christ was sent from God, so Christ Himself chose and sent His apostles. “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you … receive ye the Holy Spirit,” the risen Christ says to His disciples. Thus, the apostles go out to the world, becoming the first foundation of the Christian Church. In this sense, then, the Church is called apostolic: first, as it is built upon Christ and the Holy Spirit sent from God and upon those apostles who were sent by Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit; and secondly, as the Church in its earthly members is itself sent by God to bear witness to His Kingdom, to keep His word and to do His will and His works in this world.

This sending was first effected with the apostles, thus apostolicity is not only the divine mission; it is also unity of the Church with the apostles who were sent out by Jesus Christ. Thus, there is an apostolic succession by which the pastors of the Church are able to trace their orders back to the infant Church founded by Jesus Christ in the first century. (OW)

This is how both Churches understand what St. Paul said to the Ephesians:

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. (Ephesians 2:19-21, NIV).

Both Churches profess a common belief in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church they enshrined in the Nicene Creed, and both understand that the “apostolic sending” is a responsibility of every member of the Church, each according to his state in life.

The Emergence and Fall of the Ancient Apostolic Sees

A common geography of faith: The Ancient Pentarchy of Apostolic Churches

Scripture itself (cf. Revelation 2-3) associates the local churches with their “angels” which some theologians understand as being the bishops (episkopoi; “overseers”) of those cities and speak to them and about them interchangeably. As explained in St. Paul’s so-called “Pastoral Epistles” to Timothy and to Titus, it appears that as the Apostles preached, established, formed, or re-formed local churches (ekklesias; “assemblies, congregations”) of believers, they left behind a hierarchical organization derived from the synagogue model: deacons (diakonoi; “ministers” or “levites”) who administered the local church’s patrimony, elders (presbyteroi; from which we get our words “presbyters” and “priests”) who conducted the Divine Liturgy and assisted the bishops (episkopoi; “overseers”) in the apostolic mission, pastoral service, and temporal administration of the church’s common goods.

Though some scholars argue that Scripture does not distinguish between presbyteroi and episkopoi, the distinction is an essential one, and not only one in form or degree: an “elder” is such because he has reached a certain age, it’s a state, something one is. On the other hand, “superintendent” or “overseer” is an office, a responsibility one is named, or assigned to. Whether there were more than one “overseer” in each local Church, it appears that by the time St. John wrote Revelation there was only one overseer per local church, in other words, the monarchic episcopate, the rule of a single bishop per civitas was well-established in the Christian world.

Christian revered their bishops as the principal teachers and preachers of the faith, and as the principal presiders during Liturgy because of this direct link to the Apostles who named them. The bishops sat a unique “cathedra” which means “chair” or “seat” – from which we also get our word “see” – to impart the Apostolic Tradition upon theirs hearers. In time, the temples housing the bishop’s teaching seat became known as “cathedrals” and each city in the Roman Empire had one: a single community of Christians presided by one bishop, assisted by priests and deacons.

The identification of the cities with their bishoprics happened very quickly after the conversion of the Empire, so that an arc starting in northern Africa through Egypt, the Holy Land and the Levant, through Anatolia (Turkey) and into Europe via Macedonia down to Italy, was festooned with “apostolic sees,” Christian communities founded by the Apostles and/or their immediate disciples, spread out throughout the classical world. Principal among them were the See of Rome – probably founded by Jewish Christians but “re-constituted” by Sts. Peter and Paul; Alexandria – in Egypt, founded by John Mark, a helper of both Sts. Peter and Paul; Jerusalem – the Mother Church, presided by the Apostle James; and Antioch – where believers were first called “Christian” and which St. Peter himself may have presided for a time. Much later, when the town of Byzantium became the capital city of the Roman Empire, “Constantinople” became a recognized Holy See, having claimed the Apostle Andrew, “the First Called” and St. Peter’s brother, as its ancient founding Apostle.

Now, let’s separate or subordinate in our imaginations the apostles or bishops to the concept of the civitas or “city” and we will have hit upon a very Christian concept that scholars seldom analyze: the Christianized city as a “holy, apostolic see.” For Christians, “civilization” became synonymous with “Christianization”; and the church with the city: Ecclesia est civitatem. Christians could point out to the string of “holy sees” around the Mediterranean with pride of accomplishment, as milestones in the ascension of an obscure Jewish sect to be the religion of the Empire that once sought to crush it. The cities/sees were signposts of apostolic accomplishment and a mark of the worldwide church or ekumene. The “geographical consciousness” of apostolicity centering in the major holy sees of antiquity is unique to the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, one not shared by Protestant bodies today.

The Islamic Invasions that started in the 6th century obliterated most of these holy sees; there are no modern dioceses, for example, in any of the particular Churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation and the “big holy sees” of Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Constantinople, although ravaged, continue to exist, operating under severe strictures. Other “apostolic sees” do survive to this day and operate freely in highly Orthodox Greece, such as Corinth and Thessalonica, but without claiming higher status for that reason.

As for the Roman See, the Church therein suffered from Saracen raids, starting with their sack of Rome in 846, under the pontificate of Pope Sergius II. During this raid, the Saracens violated the basilicas of Sts. Peter and Paul, an event that may have resulted in the removal of the bones of St. Peter from the ground to a niche on the wall of its “Trophy” or funerary monument underneath the old Constantinian church, as suggested by John Evangelist Walsh in his book The Bones of St. Peter. Of the ancient Pentarchy of Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch, Constantinople, and Rome, only the Roman See operates with complete juridical independence from external political powers today.Bones of St. Peter

Apostolicity after the fall of the civitas

The obliteration of almost every apostolic see in the Mediterranean basin by the Muslims shocked the Christian world, and the people clung with more tenacity to the principal churches, now called “patriarchates” as their apostolic sees, all looking in varied ways to the leadership to the Church “that presides in charity” as the focus of the Christian world: Rome. The claim of “apostolicity” and civitas became focused and concentrated on these remaining holy sees, from which subordinate or sufraganean sees now derived their existence and constitutions and very often, their bishops.

Catholic and Orthodox Christians reflexively point to their apostolic sees as a sign of continuity: those cities witnessed in the past the people and events tied to our salvation and the persistence of these cities represent a living link to our Christian post. In a certain sense, the Churches’ apostolicity, their apostolic character, is as much tied to Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch, Constantinople, and Rome as to their resident bishops. To be “apostolic”, for Catholics and Orthodox, means to be in canonical communion with at least one of these ancient Holy Sees. Catholics and Orthodox Christians can speak of a “spiritual geography of apostolicity” in their self- understanding and self-identity. Rescuing this common geographical self-understanding shared by our Churches should be strong enough to impel our current quest for communion and reconciliation.

In the next entry of this series, I will discuss the common understanding the Catholic and Orthodox churches share about apostolic succession, the continuing transmission of the powers to lead and feed, the Churches from one generation of Christians to the next, by means of preaching, teaching, and the administration of the sacraments in an unbroken chain linking today’s believers, priests, and bishops, to the Apostles of Jesus Christ.

TOPICS: Catholic; Ecumenism; Orthodox Christian; Theology
Second post in the series. As always: blunders, typos, mine. I'll fix those on the original post on the blog. Comments welcome.
1 posted on 08/31/2012 12:23:57 PM PDT by Te骹ilo
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To: Te贸filo

ALL Christian Churches share common Apostolic Roots. More importantly, they all share CHRIST.

2 posted on 08/31/2012 12:56:33 PM PDT by aMorePerfectUnion (Sorry, gone rogue, gone Galt, gone international. Gone.)
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To: Te贸filo
As do the Nestorian and Non-Chalcaedonian churches. Yet I notice that didn't prevent them from drifting off into "heresy."

I guess apostolicity of origin doesn't assure apostolicity of doctrine after all.

3 posted on 08/31/2012 2:55:10 PM PDT by Zionist Conspirator (Ki-hagoy vehamamlakhah 'asher lo'-ya`avdukh yove'du; vehagoyim charov yecheravu!)
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To: aMorePerfectUnion

Your first clause is not true, the second one is.


4 posted on 08/31/2012 2:57:58 PM PDT by Te骹ilo (Visit Vivificat! - - A Catholic Blog of News, Commentary and Opinion)
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To: Zionist Conspirator

I will cover invalid apostolic (Protestant and Nestorian) on the next post. The non-Chalcedonians are a special case. In fact, theological talks aimed at mutual understanding with them are more advanced and in fact, have reached more common ground compared with other such dialogues.


5 posted on 08/31/2012 3:03:56 PM PDT by Te骹ilo (Visit Vivificat! - - A Catholic Blog of News, Commentary and Opinion)
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To: Te贸filo

I understand you hold a different view. No problem. God knows.

6 posted on 08/31/2012 5:16:33 PM PDT by aMorePerfectUnion (Sorry, gone rogue, gone Galt, gone international. Gone.)
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To: YellowRoseofTx; Rashputin; StayoutdaBushesWay; OldNewYork; MotherRedDog; sayuncledave; ...


7 posted on 09/01/2012 7:20:17 AM PDT by Te骹ilo (Visit Vivificat! - - A Catholic Blog of News, Commentary and Opinion)
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To: Te贸filo
I will cover invalid apostolic (Protestant and Nestorian) on the next post.

But, will you distinguish between the missional regions reached by the Orthodox and those by the Roman Catholic and those overlapped?

8 posted on 09/01/2012 7:31:06 AM PDT by xzins (Retired Army Chaplain and Proud of It! True supporters of our troops pray for their victory!)
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To: Te贸filo
some scholars argue that Scripture does not distinguish between presbyteroi and episkopoi

The simple reason for that is that in a small, geographically isolated congregation the bishop alone is sufficient, as he is also a priest. The growth of the number of priests who are not bishops, the vast majority today, is a result of the spread of Christianity, by definition did not obtain in the Early Church, and therefore is not reflected in the Holy Scripture.

Note to a casual reader:

A bishop (episkopos, patriarch) is a priest who can teach and ordain priests. He himself is consecrated by another bishop, in a genealogy of consecrations starting with one of the Holy Apostles. A Pope is a bishop of Rome. Other distinctions that you hear about, especially the cardinals are administrative roles, not clerical faculties. Caridnals are bishops (typically) who form the papal "cabinet". All bishops are celibate men.

A priest (presbyter) is the fundamental sacramental concept in the Church; his function is to offer the Sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist. Only priests can consecrate the Communion bread and wine, which then become for us the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, which we eat in a memorial of Him (Luke 22:19). Only priest can absolve sins (John 20:23), or offer last rites to the dead, gravely sick or dying (James 5:14). The authority to teach is secondary in a priest, as a teacher, the priest acts as a transmitter of the ideas set forth by the bishop; a priest may, in turn, ask a deacon to preach. Priests have a faculty to serve in a particular Chruch, so there are Roman Catholic Priests, Eastern Catholic priests for several Eastern Catholic Churches, and Orthodox priests. All priests have a restriction on remarriage if they become priests as married men, and married Roman Catholic priests are only exceptions form the general rule of celibacy.

Deacons, finally, are servers to the priest who work on his behalf in the congregation and assist during liturgy.

Monks and nuns, commonly known as "religious orders" are people with a vow to serve Christ by personal example of good works and chastity (Titus 3:14, 1 Cor. 7:7) or live consecrated live for the benefit of their own salvation (Luke 18:22). The exact discipline varies from order to order; the common among the vows are obedience to the superior (abbot, or abbess), celibacy, and poverty. Some live as hermits, others in monasteries, yet others preach publicly. They have internal administrative hierarchies. Priests and eventually bishops often, but not always, come from monks; if that is the case, a priest has his monastic obligations combined with the priestly obligations.

9 posted on 09/01/2012 10:39:15 AM PDT by annalex (fear them not)
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To: xzins

Wow, probably not. Mine is a top level view. Getting precise data for what you suggest would be too time-consuming and beyond the scope of a blog post. A formal paper on that would be a more deserving treatment.


10 posted on 09/01/2012 4:01:00 PM PDT by Te骹ilo (Visit Vivificat! - - A Catholic Blog of News, Commentary and Opinion)
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To: Te贸filo; Reaganite Republican; Clintons Are White Trash; HerrBlucher; mgist; raptor22; ...

Freep-mail me to get on or off my pro-life and Catholic List:

Add me / Remove me

Please ping me to note-worthy Pro-Life or Catholic threads, or other threads of general interest.

11 posted on 01/06/2013 6:04:01 PM PST by narses
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To: Te贸filo; Reaganite Republican; Clintons Are White Trash; HerrBlucher; mgist; raptor22; ...

Freep-mail me to get on or off my pro-life and Catholic List:

Add me / Remove me

Please ping me to note-worthy Pro-Life or Catholic threads, or other threads of general interest.

12 posted on 01/06/2013 6:04:31 PM PST by narses
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