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Did you Know? July 27

Posted on Jul 25 , 2014 in Did You Know

 When did the role of Priest begin in the Church?

 The term Priest in the Christian communities actually comes from the Greek word presbyteros, which means “elder”. The term is not a continuation of the Old Testament Levitical Priesthood. Jesus is considered the High Priest or intermediary and none other is needed so there is no need for the continuation of the Levitical Priesthood.

 A priesthood developed gradually in the early Christian church as first bishops and then elders, or “presbyters,” began to exercise certain liturgical functions, mainly in connection with celebration of the Eucharist. By the end of the 2nd century, the church’s bishops were called priests (Latin: sacerdos). Although the priestly office was vested primarily in the bishop, a presbyter shared in his priestly functions and, in his absence, could exercise certain of them as his delegates. With the spread of Christianity and the establishment of parish churches, the presbyter, or parish priest, adopted more of the bishop’s functions and became the principal celebrant of the Eucharist. In this capacity, as well as by hearing confession and granting absolution, the priest eventually assumed the role of the congregations chief “elder”. The development of eucharistic theology resulted in a further emphasis of the priest’s role as defender of the faith in partnership with the Bishop. During the period of the reformation in the 16th century congregations that broke away from the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church changed the name of the chief “elder” from Priest to minister to distinguish themselves. The Anglican Church retained the term Priest in the Book of Common Prayer to distinguish the role from that of a deacon but in public usually referred to the Priest as a clergyman to indicate its separation from the Roman Catholic hierarchy. In the last century the term priest has become more widely accepted. It is interesting to note that in Matthew 23:9 when it says to call no one “father” the term used there could also be translated as presbyter, pastor, or elder. The concept is that you do not look for anyone other than Jesus to be your intermediary “high Priest” between you and God. That is not the role of the Bishop or Priest or Pastor or anyone.

 

PS: This may be my last Sunday service at Saint Cuthbert but my role as Priest does not end until August 31. So this is not my last did you know. That will not happen until August 31.

 

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