THE POSITION OF THE BISHOP IN THE ORTHODOX CHURCH

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

THE POSITION OF THE BISHOP IN THE CHURCH
ACCORDING TO SAINT SYMEON OF THESSALONIKI

Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki, in his Letter to Bishops, refers to the high position that a Bishop of a province holds in the Church. Certain aspects of this letter are significant.

At one point Saint Symeon, bearing in mind that the Bishops are successors to the Apostles, writes that there is no difference at all in respect of the grace of the Office of Bishop between contemporary Bishops and the Apostles Peter and Paul. They differ ONLY IN THEIR VIRTUE. Saint Symeon writes: "Peter and Paul were extraordinary in their virtue and their labors, and worthy of great crowns… In respect of the grace of priesthood, however, THIS IS NOT SO. Paul is not greater than Saint John Chrysostom, nor is the latter, as a Bishop, superior to any of the apparently inferior Bishops, except with regard to the excellence of his virtue." The grace of priesthood through which the holy sacraments are performed is the same for the Apostles as for Bishops, ONLY THE VIRTUE POSSESSED BY EACH PERSON VARIES. The sacraments celebrated by the early Fathers had the same energy as those celebrated by our contemporaries. "The sacraments celebrated by our great father Basil, or even by Peter, Andrew and James, have no more power than those performed now by Orthodox priests." The priesthood possessed by Bishops is the Priesthood of Christ, NOT a product of human virtue. "With regard to the power of the priesthood, Peter, Paul, and John are the same as many of the present Bishops, as the priesthood is Christ’s and NOT THE WORK OF HUMAN VIRTUE." The proof of this is that Saint Anthony the Great, Saint Sisoes, Saint Paul of Thebes, Saint Paul the Simple and all the Saints performed many miracles, "but they could not perform any of the actions proper to the priesthood, as they had not received ordination as priests."

With this in mind, Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki concludes: "Therefore the Bishop is the foundation and source of Christianity." This is because everything is performed through the bishop: "priestly ordinations and the sanctification that we receive from the priests; the consecration of church buildings in which prayers and the celebration of the Sacraments are performed. From the Bishops, who possess the spiritual ministry, comes the power to loose and to bind, and through them, confession and remission of sins are given, and communion with Christ, and propitiation through the prayer of divine unction, and when we die our souls are delivered up to God through them."

Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki urges the Clergy, monks, and laypeople to honor the Bishop. He writes, "All you priests, laypeople, and monks, respect your Bishop and be in awe of him as the true instrument of God, as the servant of God, as someone who has the power of God and sits on Christ’s throne, as the one appointed to be the leader of our souls after God and shown to be the foundation of our salvation and our faith after Christ, as the giver of present and future good things through the grace of Christ."

It is significant that the Bishop is regarded AS SYMBOL OF CHRIST and in His place, and priests, the laity, and monks ought to regard him as the author of salvation. That is why the Bishop is set above spiritual fathers. In the light of this Orthodox teaching, we can see the heretical ideas that are hatched and nurtured when certain Abbots, who are renowned for their humility and ecclesiastical mentality, are placed above Bishops in the way they exercise spiritual fatherhood.

Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki exhorts the Clergy and monks to obey the Bishops on account of the grace of priesthood that they possess, and not for their personal virtue. In particular, these priests and monks should encourage the laity to be obedient. "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves. Priests and monks, be subject to your bishop and obey him before others in what he advises you to do, and vigorously exhort and stir up the Christ-loving laity to do the same, setting the initial example of obedience yourselves."

By contrast, when the priests and laity reproach those holy orders, especially Bishops, and make false accusations against them, this is a sign that the accusers are evil and malicious men and God will surely punish them in various ways. Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki writes, "…it is characteristic of evil and wicked men to spread slander and concoct insults and abuse from their Christ-hating, slanderous and iniquitous souls. It is therefore obvious and false insults and grave slanders were often made against saintly people, and God showed signs to the glory of His servants, and inflicted various calamities and plagues on the false accusers."

"…The Bishop is the visible head of the Church, of the Body of Christ. He is the one who will speak the word of truth and be the criterion of truth. The sacred Canons, therefore, regard the Bishop as the eye of the Church. The Bishop is obliged to lead and teach his flock, including the monks, on the basis of the ecclesiastical tradition, so that they may walk in the way of salvation. (Source: Orthodox Monasticism as the Way of Life of Prophets, Apostles, and Martyrs by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos).

_____________________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: