A Roman Catholic mass ordination
Question: "Why did our bishops declare the ordinations of a group of Western Rite clergy invalid because they were ordained in a single service? Why was this such a big deal?"
There are several reasons. To begin with, every clergyman in the Russian Church, before he is ordained, takes an oath before the Gospel and the Cross, saying that they will “…perform all liturgical services or prayers according to the rules of the Church….” This means that we cannot just make up services, or introduce innovations into the services, but must do the services as approved by the Church and in conformity with its Tradition. They also “promise to be obedient to the ecclesiastical authorities and act according to the Canons of the Holy Apostles, of the Ecumenical and Local Councils and the teachings of the Holy Fathers.” And so not even a Bishop may introduce liturgical innovations into the services of the Church that are contrary to Church Tradition, and not sanctioned by the Church that they belong to.
The argument in favor of doing a mass ordination in the Western Rite is that this was the practice in the pre-schism West. The problem with this argument is the assumption that anything that was done in the pre-schism West is therefore acceptable. In Orthodox Liturgics, we partake of only one loaf for communion… and so no matter how large the congregation, a loaf of sufficient size must be used to be consecrated for the Eucharist (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). In Western practice, the priest partakes of one wafer, but the people all partake of different wafers. In Orthodox Liturgics, a clergyman may only serve one liturgy in a day, and only one liturgy may be served on a given altar. In the west, a priest may celebrate as many Masses as he has the time and strength to perform, and he can do so on the same altar. Likewise, in the West, numerous priest, deacons, and bishops can be ordained at one time, but in Orthodox practice, only one Bishop, one Priest, and one Deacon can be ordained at the same liturgy, because each one represents the fullness and unity of that order. In all of these Western deviations, the idea that we all partake of one Eucharist is obscured by the admission of multiplicity. These deviations in the West were already the subject of controversy before the schism, and were criticized by the Eastern Fathers. In the West you also have the practice of a priest serving a private Mass, with no one beside the priest in attendance. In the Orthodox Church, this is forbidden. This is because the focus in the West was on the Mass as a individual act of private devotion, whereas in the Orthodox Church it is a corporate act of communion, which expresses our unity of Faith. What begins as a small deviation in course, over time leads to one getting very far off course from where they should be. And so while many things were done in the West before the schism, we have to look to the practice of the Church that did not depart into heresy and schism for guidance on these matters.
St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, commenting on Canon 68 of the Holy Apostles (which says that one person can only be ordained once to a given office, which means that if a clergyman is deposed for wrong doing, he cannot subsequently be ordained again), wrote:
“What can be the reason why only two of all the seven Mysteries cannot be performed twice, namely, that of baptism and that of ordination into holy orders? The scholastics, on the one hand, say that it is because these two leave an indelible imprint or stamp which according to them (in the fourth chapter of Theology, as it is to be found in the Catechism by Nicholas Boulgaris) is a real quality inherent in the soul and is a supernatural power. This opinion of the scholastics was followed by almost all our own modern theologians, and especially by Koressios. But to me, on the other hand, it seems that the sole reason why these two mysteries alone are incapable of being celebrated a second time in the life of one and the same individual as a recipient thereof, is because they are carried out in the type, or form, of the Lord’s death, which occurred but once and can never occur a second time. For those who are being baptized are baptized into the Lord’s death, according to St. Paul and Ap. c. XLVII. As for priests who have fallen out of holy orders, the reason why they cannot be ordained a second time is that they typify the first and great priest who came but once to the office of holiness, after finding everlasting redemption, according to St. Paul, and He remains perpetually incapable of fall from holy orders. This in my opinion is the real reason why a priest cannot be reordained. For holy orders in Christ are incapable of fall and cannot be forfeited. Hence His type ought always to stand in the purity demanded and required for holy orders, in order that the likeness may be well preserved, as between the high priest and the one typifying Him. Another reason, however, is also the fact that a priest consists mainly in the exercise of sacerdotal functions, or, more plainly speaking, in sacrificing the mystic sacrament, which is the bloodless sacrifice whereby the one death of the Lord is denounced, according to St. Paul. For it is a question whether there is any good and sufficient reason why these mysteries cannot be celebrated a second time in the nature of the imprint or stamp invented or imagined by the scholastics, because second chrismation is permissible, notwithstanding that the chrism is called a seal, and really does imprint a seal and stamp upon the soul of the one receiving it. For John the Evangelist says: “And the chrism which ye have received from him abideth in you” (I John 2:27). And St. Paul says: “Who hath also sealed us, and hath given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (II Cor. 1:22). Moreover, one must remember that David even called Saul “anointed of the Lord,” not only after his disregard of God, but also after his death (II Sam. 1:14). Hence and for this reason, namely, the Lord’s unique death, only a single deacon, and only a single presbyter, and only a single bishop or other prelate ought to be ordained at any one liturgy, and not two, or several, according to Symeon of Thessalonica (Reply 39), and also according to Job in the Syntagmation of Chrysanthus. As for those who are not uniquely ordained—i.e., who are not ordained once for all—what they are I know not, says the same Symeon, seeing that they have not been ordained in accordance with the tradition of the Church. In spite of the fact that several anagnosts and sub-deacons are ordained at one and the same liturgy; on the theory that they are more imperfect members of the holy orders, and that they are outside owing to their being in a minor service (commonly called “minor orders” in English), according to the same Job (ibid.). For this reason, that is to say, because of the fact that the unique death of Christ cannot occur a second time, the local synod held in the time of Heraclius against Isidorus in A.D. 613 ordained that two liturgies should not be celebrated on one and the same day and on one and the same table, saying: “It is not lawful on one table in the same day for two liturgies to be said, nor on the same table on which the bishop officiated in a liturgy, for any presbyter to officiate in a liturgy in the same day”: which rule the Papists (i.e., the so-called Roman Catholics) transgress. But then the fact is that even our own priests who celebrate liturgy twice in the same day, under the misconception that this conduces to outspoken emphasis and greater impressiveness, are gravely sinning. Accordingly, let them henceforth cease committing this absurd impropriety." The Rudder, p. 120, note 2.
Archbishop Chrysostomos (Alexopoulos) wrote: “By the same token, the tradition which forbids the Ordination of more than one Deacon, Presbyter, or Bishop at the same Liturgy is not simply a matter of adherence to legalistic formulæ. The Priesthood is given once and forever, despite the fact that informed “experts” have quite wrongly attributed this characterization of the Priesthood to “Latin” influence. In order to emphasize this sacerdotal singularity and, again, the unique, singular, life-giving death of Christ, a single Deacon, Presbyter, or Bishop is ordained at any one Liturgy. St. Symeon of Thessaloniki, a Father with true expertise in issues theological and liturgical, thus clearly states that only one Deacon, Presbyter, or Bishop can be ordained at a single Liturgy, and that those who “overturn” this rule are innovators who do not “follow the Church” (“Answer XXXV,” Answers to Various Questions, in St. Symeon of Thessaloniki, Τὰ Ἅπαντα [Thessaloniki: Bas. Regopoulos, n.d. (fourth edition)], pp. 366–367). Also, see the Πηδάλιον, op. cit., p. 90, n. 1, in which St. Nicodemos comments in a similar vein on this issue, making reference to St. Symeon, citing as his thirty-ninth “Answer” that which is cited as “Answer XXXV” in my edition of Symeon’s work). See, finally, Patriarch Chrysanthos of Jerusalem (1663–1731) and his Συνταγμάτιον Περὶ τῶν Ὀφφικίων, Κληρικάτων καὶ Ἀρχοντικίων τῆς τοῦ Χριστοῦ Ἁγίας Ἐκκλησίας, καὶ τῆς Σημασίας Αὐτῶν (Târgovis,te, 1715), in which he points out that only a single Deacon, Presbyter, or Bishop can be Ordained in a single Liturgy. This he calls an “ancient tradition.” Hence, he, too, affirms that, without violating Holy Tradition and acting “outside the Church,” one cannot accept mass Ordinations.”
Every bishop who serves a diocese for a significant length of time no doubt finds some occasions in which ordaining two or more priests or two or more deacons would be more convenient than doing two or more separate Liturgies, and yet the fact is that for century after century this Tradition has been of sufficient strength and universality that this has not been done.
Even if one were to argue that these saints were simply narrow minded easterners that did not understand the Western traditions, those who would wish to introduce such practices into the life of the Orthodox Church today would need to first seek and obtain the sanction of the Church prior to putting them into practice, and in this case, this was most certainly not done.
No clergyman has inherent “magical” powers to perform sacraments. The power comes from their ordination, and their serving with the authority of the Church, and that authority is to do the services in the manner that the Church has authorized them to be done… not as they might personally wish them to be done.
To see the decision of the Bishops, click here.