Sacred Orders

Sacred Order 

In the New Testament and in the writings of the Church Fathers, is shown the importance of the doctrine of divine order. There is order within the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In the Creation of the universe this order is reflected and mirrored. This divine order is especially to be seen in man created in the image and after the likeness of God.

In the redeeming work of God in the Old Testament the divine order is seen and proclaimed, as it is also and more particularly revealed in the New Testament, pre-eminently in Jesus Christ; Prophet, Priest and King. Because of this holy order, Christ only chose men to be apostles and the apostles only appointed men to succeed them.

When divine order in society and in the Church is rejected or set aside, then disorder, aggravated by sin, is the result. To be in a right relation of communion with the Father through the Son and with the Spirit, the Church must submit to divine order and exemplify it in faith, hope and love.

St. Paul, writing to the Church at Corinth (I Cor. 11: 2-16), describes the kingdom of God, of divine order in creation and redemption and of principles for Church guidance. Paul’s teaching here begins with the confession of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son, who is the Head not only of the Church but of mankind. Into this doctrine of Incarnation, Salvation and Headship there is integrated the doctrine of Creation (Gen. 1-3). In all the churches of God, Paul desires to see divine order manifested and upheld for the glory of God. “Let all things be done decently and in order” (I Cor. 14: 40).

With regard to ordination, traditional theology states that, the Church has no authority to change the tradition given by Christ’s example. Ordination is an effectual sacramental sign of grace and the ordained are an effectual sacramental sign of order. In such “order” there is both primacy and equality. Men are the natural sign of primacy given by God in creation, in the commandments of the law and in the gospel of salvation, according to Christ’s institution.

The Christian understanding of God given by his Word implies both equality and subordination among the Persons of the Trinity. Glory is given to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, and prayer is addressed to the Father, through his only-begotten Son, and with the Holy Spirit. There is communion and an order of relations among the Persons of the Trinity. The Trinitarian principles of monarchy, patriarchy and hierarchy require both order and equality.

The ordained are symbolic persons, somehow representing God, Christ and the natural order, as creatures related to one another and to God. Therefore, theological issues for the understanding of God are involved in whether ordination is reserved for men only. The Church, reading and interpreting the Holy Scripture in the light of the Patristic teaching of the Holy Trinity, is bound within the will of God to restrict ordination to men only. While the teaching of the sacrament of order is not the most important of Christian doctrines, it is, nevertheless, pivotal. To reject it is in fact to reject, in principle if not in practice, the primary doctrines concerning the Holy Trinity and the Person of Christ. To reject it is to open the window through which will blow the winds of secularist modernity. To set it aside is to ensure that apostasy will occur at sometime.

The Judeo-Christian doctrine of God as King and Father, who creates, rules and saves by his Word and Spirit, is seen as a basis for understanding the dignity of persons, made for participation in God and a destiny beyond the boundaries of nature, culture or history in the resurrection of the dead to eternal life.

“The head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband and the head of Christ [Incarnate Word and Son of the Father] is God [the Father]… but woman is the glory of man” (I Cor. 11: 3, 7). In Sacred Order, this biblical order is maintained, as part of the new creation and for the salvation, for the life, of the world.



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Augustine, St.: De Doctrina Christiana, OUP, 1999.

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Gregory of Nazianzus, St.: Five Theological Orations, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol.7, T. & T. Clark, 1994.

Meredith, A.: The Cappadocians, Chapter. 4: Gregory of Nazianzus, Chapman, 1995.

Pettersen, A.: Athanasius, Chapter 5: The Incarnation, Chapman, 1995.    

Prestige, G. L.: God in Patristic Thought, SPCK, 1956. 

Toon, P.: Yesterday, Today and Forever: Jesus Christ and The Holy Trinity in the Teaching of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, Preservation Press, 1996.


Canon Geoffrey Andow


Easter, 2015    



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