August 28, 2023

Homilies on the Commonwealth of the Church - The Bishop (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

The Commonwealth of the Church

The Bishop

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

With today's Sunday we begin the Sunday sermons of July and August in all the Sacred Temples of our Metropolis, as has been done in the twenty-six years of my Episcopal ministry.

This year these short eucharistic sermons will refer to the ecclesiastical commonwealth and will identify who are members of this ecclesiastical commonwealth, so that we may know "how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15).

I will start with the Bishop, who is the basis of the ecclesiastical commonwealth, as the successor of the holy Apostles.

The Church is the Body of Christ and Christ is the Head of the Church, according to the teaching of the Apostle Paul, which is found in his epistles. Thus, the Bishop is not the representative or the agent of Christ on earth, as if Christ had left His Church and lived in the heavens, and therefore left the administration of the Church to the Bishops; the Bishop is not Christ's vicar, but he is the sacramental presence of Christ in the Church. This means that Christ, the Head of the Church, directs the Church through the Bishops.

Christ Himself said to His holy Apostles: "He who hears you hears Me, and he who disobeys Me rejects Me; and he who disobeys Me rejects the One who sent Me" (Luke 10:16). This also applies to the Bishops, who are the successors of the holy Apostles. This means that the Bishop must consider that he is a minister of Christ and that he must express all the teachings of Christ, live in the Church as a successor of the holy Apostles, having the apostolic tradition, as life and teaching, and the apostolic succession as successor of the Apostles with a series of ordinations and the gift of orthodox teaching.

This is the reason for which in every Divine Liturgy the Presbyters remember their Bishop immediately after the transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ: "First of all, Lord, remember our Archbishop (he mentions the name) who you granted your holy churches, in peace, safety, honor, and health, unto length of days, rightly dividing the word of Your truth." In other words, he prays to God to preserve His Bishop with physical health, to live long and to correctly divide the word of Christ's truth.

The word "bishop" in ancient times was attributed to the observer and inspector, since it comes from the verb "episkopos" which is interpreted as he who is on an observation post, in a higher position and watching. In the language of the New Testament, the Cleric is the one who is placed in a high position to observe, to teach, to guide a specific rational flock, according to the teaching of Christ and the life of the Church.

The first Bishops who are known in the Church are Timothy and Titus, whom the Apostle Paul placed in Ephesus and Crete respectively to shepherd the specific local Churches. The pastoral Epistles of the Apostle Paul to Timothy and Titus are well known, in which all the conditions of his ecclesiastical rank and their duties towards God and Christians are presented.

The Apostolic Father Saint Ignatius of Antioch, speaking about Saint Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, calls him "a Bishop worthy by God", and in another of his Epistles he writes that the Bishop is "a type of the Father" and a leader in the Church "in the type of God". In the Apocalypse of John the Evangelist, the Bishops are called Angels of God, because they do the work of angels, that is, they glorify God, preach the word of God and minister to Christians.

Over time, in order for there to be unity between the Bishops and the Churches, the Fathers of the Church in the Local and Ecumenical Synods determined the way of administration of the Church. Thus, the First Ecumenical Synod introduced the Metropolitan system of administration, so the Bishops of the seat of the Metropolis were called Metropolitans, and then the following Ecumenical Synods defined the exarchal and patriarchal system of administration, so the specific Bishops were called Exarchs and Patriarchs. Thus, there is the so-called synodical and hierarchical system of administration of the Church, which was secured by the Ecumenical Synods through the sacred canons and for this reason we must respect it, just as we also respect the conditions established by the Ecumenical Synods.

The sacred canons of the Church defined the manner of election and ordination of Bishops, Metropolitans and Patriarchs, as well as the manner in which they will operate and administer their Provinces. This is concretized in two basic theological principles, namely the "right of ordinations" and the "right of judgments". This indicates the manner in which Bishops are elected and ordained and the manner in which they are judged for doctrinal and canonical misdeeds. Thus, those who elect-ordain, they too judge the ordained.

A basic ecclesiastical canon is that in each Diocese there is one Bishop, in each Metropolis one Metropolitan and in each Autocephalous Church there is one Primate. This is because, as we said above, there is one head of each local Church, Christ, since each local Church is the entire Church in miniature.

Apart from the above, it appears that the Bishop has duties towards Christ and the Christians, but Christians must also accept and honor their Bishop. If there are disharmonies between the Bishop and the Christians, they are resolved by the Sacred Synod.

Of course, it is understood that each Bishop is not "self-ruling", but is a Bishop of the Church, which is governed synodically, therefore he owes obedience to the Synodal institution of the Church, the Sacred Synod, whose President is the Archbishop or the Patriarch. Thus, as a Presbyter, when officiating, commemorates his Bishop, the Bishop, when officiating, commemorates his Sacred Synod or its President. The Church is a Church of order and not disorder.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Become a Patreon or Paypal Supporter:

Recurring Gifts

Contact Form


Email *

Message *