Friday, June 17, 2016

Paleo-Orthodoxy: An Early Christian Episcopal Consecration

The following is based on the record of the Church Fathers and Apostolic Constitutions. As always I present this as a possible service for use in more formal congregations who wish to reflect more closely early Christian practices.
The whole congregation are to choose who is to preside over them as a bishop. When he is chosen, all the presbyters and other bishops gather together with the congregation. The presiding bishop will be the principle consecrator. They gather on the Lord's Day.

Consecrator: (To all presbyters, deacons, deaconesses and congregants.) Is ___________ the person you desire to serve as your bishop?

All: He is.

Consecrator: Does he possess a good testimony from all as to his worthiness for so great and glorious an authority?

All: He does.

Consecrator: Are all things related to his piety and relationship with Almighty God in order?

All: They are.

Consecrator: Has he demonstrated justice and righteousness toward all?

All: He has.

Consecrator: Have the affairs of his family been orderly and Godly?

All: They have.

Consecrator: Has he conducted himself blamelessly in life, being an example of our Lord?

All: He has.

Consecrator: Do all of you according to truth, and not according to prejudice, witness that he is such a one? I ask for your witness before God the Judge, and Christ, the Holy Spirit being also present, as well as all the holy angelswhether he be truly worthy of this ministry, that so in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

All: He is worthy.

The Consecrator, along with other bishops who may be present, and the presbyters escort the bishop-elect to the altar, where he kneels. A deacon holds the Gospels open and places them on the head of the bishop-elect.

Consecrator: O Lord God Almighty, who alone are unbegotten, and ruled over by none; who always is, and was before the world, and always will be; who stands in need of nothing, and are above all cause and beginning; who alone is true, who alone is wise; who alone is the Most High; whose knowledge is without beginning; who alone is good, and beyond compare; who knows all things before they are; who is acquainted with the most secret things; who is without a superior; God the Father of the Only Begotten Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; the Creator of the whole world by Him; whose providence provides for and takes the care of all; the Father of mercies, and God of all consolation; who dwells in the highest heavens, and yet looks down on things below: You who appointed the teachings of the Church, by the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; of which the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, is the witness; who has fore-ordained presbyters from the beginning for the government of Your people— Abel in the first place, Seth and Enos, and Enoch and Noah, and Melchizedek and Job; You who appointed Abraham, and the rest of the Patriarchs, with Your faithful servants Moses and Aaron, and Eleazar and Phineas; who chose from among them rulers and priests in the tabernacle of Your testimony; who chose Samuel for a priest and a prophet; who did not leave Your sanctuary without ministers; who delighted in those whom You chose to be glorified in. Pour down the guidance of Your Holy Spirit, through the mediation of Jesus Christ; which He bestowed according to Your will on the holy apostles. Grant by Your name, Lord God, who searches our hearts, that this Your servant, whom You have chosen to serve Your church as a bishop, may feed Your holy flock, and discharge the office of bishop to You, and minister to You, blamelessly night and day; that he may please You, and spread Your Gospel, and may offer to You the gifts and praise of Your holy Church. Grant to him, O Lord Almighty, through Jesus Christ, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, that so he may have authority to declare the forgiveness of sins according to our Savior's command; to feed Your sheep according to our Savior's command; to loose every bond, according to the power which You gave the apostles; that he may please You in meekness and a pure heart, with a steadfast, blameless, and holy mind; to offer a pure Eucharist, which You have appointed as the mystery of the New Covenant, for a sweet savor, through Your Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, through whom glory, honor, and worship be to You in the Holy Spirit, now and always, and for all ages.

Presbyters and Congregation: Amen.

The Consecrator then anoints the new bishop's head with holy oil. Each of the presbyters lays hands on the new bishop's head, offering prayers as the Holy Spirit moves them. Each presbyter, deacon and bishop offers the new bishop the Kiss of Peace.

The next morning, the new bishop is permitted to occupy the episcopal chair near the altar. And after a reading from the Law and the Prophets, an Epistle, Acts, and one of the Gospels, the new bishop blesses the congregation, saying:

Bishop: The grace and love of God Almighty, our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.

Presbyters and Congregation: And with Your spirit.

A sermon should be delivered by the new bishop.

Prayer for the Catechumens

Deacon: You catechumens, pray. All you faithful, pray for the catechumens, that the Lord would have mercy on them; that He that is good, the Lover of humanity, will mercifully hear their prayers and supplications, that He would help them, give them the desires of their hearts that are  in accord with His will, reveal to them the Gospel of Jesus Christ, illuminate their understanding, instruct them in His wisdom, teach them His commands and ordinances, foster in them a saving fear, strengthen them in piety, unite them with His flock, regenerate them, and allow them to put on incorruption-which is true life. May God deliver them from all ungodliness, and give no place to the adversary against them; May God deliver them from all ungodliness, and give no place to the adversary against them; and cleanse them from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and dwell in them, and walk in them, by His Christ; bless their goings out and their comings in, and order their affairs for their good. Let us earnestly pray for them, that they may obtain the forgiveness of their sins by their admission, and so may be worthy of the holy mysteries, and of constant communion with the saints. Stand up, you catechumens, beg for yourselves the peace of God through His Christ, a peaceable day, and to be free from sin, for the whole time of your life; He is a compassionate and merciful God; and is faithful to forgive your sins as you turn to His waysDedicate yourselves to the only true God, through His Christ. Bow down your heads, and receive the blessing.

The bishop then reads the names of each catechumen aloud. The congregation saying after each name:

All: Lord, have mercy upon him/her.

The bishop then blesses the catechumens.

Bishop: God Almighty, who alone is the true God, the God and Father of Jesus Christ, Your only begotten Son; the God of the Comforter, and Lord of the whole world; who by Jesus appointed disciples to be teachers for the teaching of piety; look down upon Your servants, who are receiving instruction in the Gospel, and give them a new heart, and renew a right spirit in their inward parts, that they may both know and do Your will with full purpose of heart, and with a willing soulVouchsafe them an holy admission, and unite them to Your holy Church, and make them partakers of Your divine mysteries, through Christ, who is our hope, and who died for them; by whom glory and worship be given to You in the Holy Spirit for ever. Amen

Deacon: The catechumens may depart in peace.

Prayer for the Afflicted:

Deacon: Those who are afflicted with unclean spiritspray, and let us all earnestly pray for them, that God, the lover of humanitywill by Christ rebuke the unclean and wicked spirits, and deliver His supplicants from the dominion of the adversary. May He that rebuked the legion of demons, and the devil, the prince of wickednesseven now rebuke these apostates from piety, and deliver His own workmanship from his power, and cleanse those creatures which He has made with great wisdom. Let us still pray earnestly for them. Save them, O God, and raise them up by Your power. Bow down your heads, you afflicted, and receive the blessings.

Bishop: You, who has bound the strong man, and spoiled all that was in his house, who has given us power over serpents and scorpions to tread upon them, and upon all the power of the enemy; who has delivered the serpent, that murderer of men, bound to us, as a sparrow to children, whom all things dread, and tremble before the face of Your power; who has cast him down as lightning from heaven to earth, from honor to dishonor, on account of his voluntary evil disposition; You, whose look dries the abysses, and threatening melts the mountains, and whose truth remains for ever; whom the infants praise, and sucking babes bless; whom angels sing hymns to, and adore; who looks upon the earth, and makes it tremble; who touches the mountains, and they smoke; who speaks to the sea, and driest it up, and makes all its rivers as desert, and the clouds are the dust of His feet; who walks upon the sea as upon the firm ground; You only begotten Godthe Son of the Almighty Father, rebuke these wicked spirits, and deliver the works of Your hands from the power of the adverse spirit. For to You is due gloryhonor, and worship, and by You to Your Father, in the Holy Spirit, for ever. Amen

Deacon: Depart, in peace. 

Prayer for the Soon to be Baptized

Deacon: You that are to be baptized, pray. Let all us, the faithful, earnestly pray for them, that the Lord will vouchsafe that, being initiated into the death of Christ, they may rise with Him, and become partakers of His kingdom, and may be admitted to the communion of His mysteries; unite them to, number them among, those that are saved in His holy Church. You who are to be baptized, bow your heads to receive a blessing.

Bishop: Lord God, You said by Your holy prophets to those to be baptized, Wash and become clean,and have appointed spiritual regeneration by Christ, look down upon these that are to be baptized, and bless them, and sanctify them, and prepare them that they may become worthy of Your spiritual gift, and of the true adoption of Your spiritual mysteries, of being gathered together with those that are saved through Christ our Savior; by whom gloryhonor, and worship be to You, in the Holy Spirit, for ever. Amen

Deacon: Depart, you that are preparing for baptism. 

Prayers for those Repenting 

Deacon: Let us all earnestly pray for our brethren who need to repent, that God, the lover of compassion, will show them the way of repentance, and accept their return and their confession, and bruise Satan under their feet suddenly, and redeem them from the snare of the devil, and the attacks of the demons, and free them from every unlawful word, and every absurd practice and wicked thought; forgive them all their offenses, both voluntary and involuntary, and blot out that handwriting which is against them,and write them in the book of life; cleanse them from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and restore and unite them to His holy flock. For He knows our condition. For who can claim that he has a clean heart? And who can boldly say, that he is pure from sinFor we are all among the blameworthy. Let us still pray for them more earnestly, for there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repentsthat, being converted from every evil work, they may be joined to all good practice; that God, the lover of humanitywill accept their petitionswill restore to them the joy of His salvation, and strengthen them with His Holy Spiritthat they may not be any more shaken, but be admitted to the communion of His most holy things, and become partakers of His divine mysteries, that appearing worthy of His adoption, they may obtain eternal life. Let us all still earnestly say on their account: 

All: Lord, have mercy upon them. Save them, O God, and raise them up by Your mercy. 

Deacon (to those Repenting): Stand, and bow your heads to God through His Christ, and receive the blessings

BishopAlmighty, Eternal GodLord of the whole world, the Creator and Governor of all things, who has exhibited man as the ornament of the world through Christ, and gave him a law both naturally implanted and written, that he might live according to law, as a rational creature; and when he had sinned, You gave him Your goodness to his receive his repentance: Look down upon these persons who have surrendered their soul and body to You; for You desire not the death of a sinner, but his repentance, that they turn from their wicked way, and live. You who accepted the repentance of the Ninevites, who wills that all men be saved, and come to the acknowledgment of the truthwho accepts back the son who had consumed his inheritance in riotous living, with the heart of a father, on account of his repentance; accept now the repentance of Your supplicants: for there is no man that will not sin; for if You, O Lord, mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? For with You there is propitiation. And restore them to Your holy Church, into their former dignity and honor, through Christ our God and Savior, by whom glory and adoration be to You, in the Holy Spirit, for ever. Amen

Deacon: Depart in peace, you who have truly repented.

Deacon: Let none of those who should not be here remain. Let all the faithful bend our knee: let us earnestly beseech God through Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Eucharist is then celebrated.

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