Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Church

The Holy Mystery of Orders

by Fr. Roman Bobesiuk
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The Holy Mystery of Orders is the continuation of Christ’s priesthood, which He bestowed upon His Apostles. There are three levels to this sacrament of ordination: the episcopate, the priesthood, and the diaconate.

The Ordination of Bishops

There is only one Mystery of Holy Orders, but there are three levels to the mystery. The first is that which Christ Himself bestowed upon His Apostles: the episcopate. A bishop is a man who is ordained to the episcopate by another bishop (in practice, usually by several bishops). He stands in a direct, unbroken line from the Apostles, a condition known as “apostolic succession.”
Ordination as a bishop confers the grace to sanctify others, as well as the authority to teach the faithful and to bind their consciences. Because of the grave nature of this responsibility, all episcopal ordinations must be approved by the Pope. And also each one is blessed by the Spirit with certain gifts and talents. The anointing also reminds us that our bodies are valuable and are involved in the process of salvation.

The Ordination of Priests

The second level of the Mystery of Holy Orders is the priesthood. No bishop can minister to all of the faithful in his Eparchy, so priests act, in the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as “co-workers of the bishops.” They exercise their powers lawfully only in communion with their bishop, and so they promise obedience to their bishop at the time of their ordination.
The chief duties of the priesthood are the preaching of the Gospel and the offering of the Eucharist.

The Ordination of Deacons

The third level of the Mystery of Holy Orders is the diaconate. Deacons assist priests and bishops, but beyond the preaching of the Gospel, they are granted no special charism or spiritual gift.
In the Eastern Churches, both Catholic and Orthodox, the permanent diaconate has been a constant feature. In the West, however, the office of deacon was for many centuries reserved to men who intended to be ordained to the priesthood. The permanent diaconate was restored in the West by the Second Vatican Council. Married men are allowed to become permanent deacons, but once a married man has accepted ordination, he cannot remarry if his wife dies.

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