Reflections on Lumen Gentium, Part 21

21. In the bishops, therefore, for whom priests are assistants, Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Supreme High Priest, is present in the midst of those who believe. For sitting at the right hand of God the Father, He is not absent from the gathering of His high priests,(17*) but above all through their excellent service He is preaching the word of God to all nations, and constantly administering the sacraments of faith to those who believe, by their paternal functioning.(150) He incorporates new members in His Body by a heavenly regeneration, and finally by their wisdom and prudence He directs and guides the People of the New Testament in their pilgrimage toward eternal happiness. These pastors, chosen to shepherd the Lord’s flock of the elect, are servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God,(151) to whom has been assigned the bearing of witness to the Gospel of the grace of God,(152) and the ministration of the Spirit and of justice in glory.(153)

For the discharging of such great duties, the apostles were enriched by Christ with a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit coming upon them,(154) and they passed on this spiritual gift to their helpers by the imposition of hands,(155) and it has been transmitted down to us in Episcopal consecration.(18*) And the Sacred Council teaches that by Episcopal consecration the fullness of the sacrament of Orders is conferred, that fullness of power, namely, which both in the Church’s liturgical practice and in the language of the Fathers of the Church is called the high priesthood, the supreme power of the sacred ministry.(19*) But Episcopal consecration, together with the office of sanctifying, also confers the office of teaching and of governing, which, however, of its very nature, can be exercised only in hierarchical communion with the head and the members of the college. For from the tradition, which is expressed especially in liturgical rites and in the practice of both the Church of the East and of the West, it is clear that, by means of the imposition of hands and the words of consecration, the grace of the Holy Spirit is so conferred,(20*) and the sacred character so impressed,(21*) that bishops in an eminent and visible way sustain the roles of Christ Himself as Teacher, Shepherd and High Priest, and that they act in His person.(22*) Therefore it pertains to the bishops to admit newly elected members into the Episcopal body by means of the sacrament of Orders.

150 Cf. 1 Cor. 4:15.

151 Cf. 1 Cor. 4:1.

152 Cf. Rom. 15:16; Acts 20:24.

153 Cf. 2 Cor. 3:8-9.

154 Cf Acts 1:8, 2:4, Jn. 20:22-23.

155 Cf 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6-7.

(17) S. Leo M., Serm. 5, 3: PL 54, 154.

(18) Conc. Trid., Sess. 23, cap. 3, citat verba 2 Tim. 1, 6-7, ut demonstret Ordinem esse verum sacramentum: Denz. 959 (1766).

(19) In Trad. Apost. 3, ed. Botte, Sources Chr., pp. 27-30, Episcopo tribuitur primatus sacerdotii. Cfr. Sacramentarium Leonianum, ed. C. Mohlberg, Sacramentarium Veronense, Romae, 195S, p. 119: ad summi sacerdotii ministerium… Comple in sacerdotibus tuis mysterii tui summam…. Idem, Liber Sacramentorum Romanae Ecclesiae Romae, 1960, pp. 121-122: Tribuas eis, Domine, cathedram episcopalem ad regendam Ecclesiam tuam et plebem universam.. Cfr. PL 78, 224.

(20) Trad. Apost. 2, ed. Botte, p. 27.

(21) Conc. Trid., Sess. 23, cap. 4, docet Ordinis sacramentum imprimere characterem indelebilem: Denz. 960 (1767) . Cfr. Ioannes XXIII, Alloc. Iubilate Deo, 8 maii 1960: AAS S2 (1960) p. 466. Pall1us VI, Homelia in Bas, Vaticana, 20 oct. 1963: AAS 55 (1963) p. 1014.

(22) S. Cyprianus, Epist. 63, 14: PL 4, 386; Hartel, III B, p. 713: Saccrdos vice Christi vere fungitur .. S. Io. Chrysostomus, In 2 Tim. Hom. 2, 4: PG 62, 612: Saccrdos est symbolon . Christi. S. Ambrosius, In Ps. 38, 25-26: PL 14, 105 1-52: CSEL 64, 203- 204. Ambrosiascr In I Tim. S 19: PL 17, 479 C ct in Eph. 4, 1;-12: col. 387. C. Theodorus Mops., from. Catech. XV, 21 ct 24: ed. Tonneau, pp. 497 et 503. Hesychiu Hieros., In Lcv. L. 2, 9, 23: PG 93, 894 B.

 

The role of the bishop in his diocese is to be Christ to the People of God in that diocese. The bishop is alter christus, another Christ, to the people. The Council Fathers could not be more clear: in the bishops is Jesus Christ present to believers.

St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, was arrested and convicted of being a Christian and taken from Antioch to Rome to be executed. En route, he wrote letters to seven churches, encouraging and instructing them in the faith. Here is what he wrote to the Church in Smyrna regarding the role of the bishop:

“See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. … Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. … Whatsoever [the bishop] shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.” (St. Ignatius: Letter to the Smyrnaeans; Ch 8)

“Let all things therefore be done by you with good order in Christ. Let the laity be subject to the deacons; the deacons to the presbyters; the presbyters to the bishop; the bishop to Christ, even as He is to the Father.” (St. Ignatius: Letter to the Smyrnaeans; Ch 9)

The bishop is under the authority of Christ. In the person of the bishop, Christ teaches, governs, and sanctifies (Teacher, Shepherd, and High Priest) His people in that particular diocese.

The bishop receives, through his Episcopal consecration, the fullness of priesthood. He then extends his ministry through the priests and deacons who serve the Church through the bishop. The purpose of all of this is to extend the ministry of Christ to all: to teach the revelation of God in Christ for the sake of our salvation, to shepherd Christ’s people in faithfulness to God, and to sanctify His people in holiness in preparation for admittance to the kingdom. All of this under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

We see, then, how Christ has organized His Church to bring the message of the Gospel and the sacraments of salvation to all people.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

 

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