Friday 24 June 2011

Antistes Noster

Una cum famulo tuo Papa nostro Benedicto et Antistite nostro "N."

These words in the Roman Canon signify the communion of the local Roman diocesan Church with its bishop and, in other dioceses and particular manifestations of the Church, the communion of the local diocese or particular Church with its head and, in turn, his communion with and under the Bishop of Rome as Pope - primate of the entire Church of the Latin rite and universal pastor serving the whole Church of Christ.

In the translation of the Canon we are about to use, this is translated as "together with your servant N. our Pope and N. our Bishop". A footnote adds "Mention may be made here of the Coadjutor Bishop, or Auxiliary Bishops, as noted in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 149."

An interesting question has kept arising at each of the receptions and ordinations in the Ordinariate. A great deal of effort has been put into establishing that the Ordinariates under the provisions  of Anglicanorum Coetibus are, like the non-territorial Military Ordinariates, not agencies of the local dioceses but a particular Churches in their own right. In England, North America and Australia this puts them on a par with the semi-non-territorial Eparchies and Exarchates that are the local particular churches for Christians belonging to Eastern Catholic Churches. They are also akin to territorial abbeys, not standing within a local Catholic diocese but on their own as "circumscriptions" of the Church in their own right, led by an Abbot nullius, that is an Abbot whose abbey and territory belongs to no one else. Normally, the Ordinariate will be led by a bishop, but not necessarily. A priest who cannot be ordained bishop on the grounds of his marriage may also be chosen by the Pope to lead an Ordinariate.

This is the case in England with Mgr Keith Newton. He needs to request bishops from the local dioceses to confer the sacrament of order in the Ordinariate. If he were a bishop he would not have needed to invite the diocesans and auxiliaries of many of the English Catholic dioceses in which his clergy live to ordain them. But as he is a priest, and especially as the Ordinariate needs to use the churches of the dioceses for the services of its embyonic parishes, and of their principal churches for ordinations, when you go to a Catholic service of the Ordinariate taking place in a diocesan church or Cathedral, who is commemorated after the Pope?

The Westminster, Southwark and East Anglia position has been clear - the ordinations take place in the local diocese whose own bishop has been asked to ordain clergy for the Ordinariate operating within his territory and who, in so far as they will be functioning in and working with the local diocesan clergy, will from time to time come under his jurisdiction - like, for instance, ordained members of religious institutes (such as monastic orders). But is this not to misunderstand the terms of Anglicanorum Coetibus, which indicate that wherever the Ordinariate functions within the territory of the Bishops' Conference to which it belongs then, like the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Exarchate, it is its own church, not a subset of the local diocese. For sure, these are uncharted ecclesiological waters, despite the theoretical provisions of Canon Law and Ad Gentes on which Anglicanorum Coetibus is predicated. And certainly the byword is mutual support, good relations and close future working in common. But are the ordinations of the Ordinariate's clergy taking place in the Ordinariate, or in the local diocese under the tutelage of its Bishop?

The approach in other dioceses has been different. At Brentwood Bishop McMahon and at Birmingham Archbishop Longley commemorated, as the pontifical directs, "me your unworthy servant", followed by "Keith our Ordinary". This seemed happily to locate the ordinations in the communion of the Ordinariate as the particular Church concerned in its own right, at the same time as locating the Ordinariate, as the Apostolic Constitution intended, in immediate communion with the territorial Catholic diocese in which it is manifested here and there. In other words, this signifies not the dependance of the Ordinariate on the local Catholic diocese but their mutual and full communion.

Whichever practice is followed, it has to be said that in most of the cases so far it is clear that the Ordinations are for and within the Ordinariate, that functioning in a Church of another diocese does not detract from this because of this perfect communion, and that the Bishop of the Diocese where Ordinariate groups have clergy ordained to serve them is ordaining them at the request of and on behalf of the Ordinary.

But how is this communion relationship and the ecclesial reality of the Ordinariate vis-à-vis the surrounding diocese to be expressed liturgically and ecclesiologically?

Part of the problem has arisen because we translate the term for the Heads of our local, particular church as "bishop". In nearly every instance this is uncontroversial. But antistes means, for most practical Catholic purposes, "bishop", but not exclusively. It is the native Latin word for the position that a bishop holds in the Church, episcopus being a loan-word from Greek, in which it means overseer and from which the word for bishop in most languages is derived. But antistes is already a sacral term, coming from the orders of priests in Roman and Etruscan cults of the gods to describe the chief priest who stands to the fore of the body in which he performs the primary religious functions. Indeed it means that one who "stands before" (ante, not anti ("against")). The classic Latin Roman rite never adopted the Greek term, but kept to the Latin term invested with a whole culture's religious significance. It means therefore "leading" priest, or high priest, or chief priest. Clearly this encompasses the meaning and role of the bishop, even though "bishop" does not completely correspond with the hinterland of meaning to antistes.

In an interesting quirk of history, in the Swiss reformed churches at Zurich and Basel the leaders eschewed episcopal polity and thus rejected the term episcopus for their leader, it being too closely linked with Catholicism and the Pope. From 1525 the church at Zurich used the term antistes as an honorary title for their leader, Huldrych Zwingli. Not long after this, antistes or Vorsteher became an elected position, that of head of churches with synodal governance. Thus the antistes was an ordained minister elected by the city government and assigned the pastorship of one of the main churches. He was the principal representative of the local church, presided at its synod, and decided on the ordination of new ministers through exercising the responsbility of conducting theological examination. The position did not enjoy independent authority and jurisdiction (which were vested in the synods),  but it could be used to exercise great influence nonetheless. In the nineteeenth century the office of antistes was replaced by the more contemporary and official-sounding "president".

But does the presence of antistes in the Roman Canon permit a commemoration of the leader of a particular Church, like the Ordinariates, who is not a bishop? Possibly; and there is precedent. At the Byzantine Exarchic Monastery of Basilian Monks at Grottaferrata near Rome, the abbot, or archimandrite, is Fr Emiliano Fabbricatore, who is not a bishop. (In fact he is described as Exarch-Ordinary.) During the anaphora of the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, he is commemorated thus (the monastery's own transliteration):
En pròtis mnìsthiti, Kyrie, tu panaghiotàtou Patròs imòn Benediktou Papa Romis, ke tou panosiotàtou Archimandrìtou imòn Emilianou ...
Among the first, remember, Lord, our most holy Father Benedict, Pope of Rome, and our most reverend archimandrite Emiliano

This is in place of the commemoration of the local bishop - because there isn't one. If, however, a bishop is present, he is indeed commemorated in the monastery out of honour (as sevasmiotàtou Episkòpou - honoured or venerable Bishop), prior (according to Church order) the priestly abbot.

Surely then, given that antistes does not need to be restricted to "bishop", which does not fully translate it, chosen as it was in preference to episcopus, it is possible to commemorate a priest who is not a bishop in the Latin eucharistic prayers with some weighty precedent from another tradition in the Church, and translate it interpretatively for practical purposes by saying in the Ordinariate and its liturgical functions, "Keith our Ordinary," just as we also render it in the dioceses as "John", or "David our Bishop".

1 comment:

  1. Thank you. I needed to understand the meaning and nuances of antistes, and I needed it quickly. You provided just what I was looking for.