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orders, holy

holy orders [Lat. ordo,=rank], in Christianity, the traditional degrees of the clergy, conferred by the Sacrament of Holy Order. The episcopacy, priesthood or presbyterate, and diaconate were in general use in Christian churches in the 2d cent. In the Roman Catholic tradition a development, beginning in the 3d cent. and culminating in the Middle Ages, resulted in a division of major holy orders (episcopacy, priesthood, diaconate, and subdiaconate) and minor orders (acolyte, exorcist, lector, and doorkeeper), with a special rite of introduction into the clerical state called tonsure. From the late Middle Ages, the minor orders and the major orders of subdiaconate and diaconate were largely ceremonial, considered steps to priestly ordination, and were taken by those who intended to be ordained to the priesthood.

A considerable revision of that schema was undertaken under the direction of Pope Paul VI. In 1967 the diaconate was restored as an independent order with its own ministry (e.g., preaching, baptizing, distributing Holy Communion), and married men began to be received into this order. In 1972 tonsure, minor orders, and subdiaconate were abolished, and a rite of admission to candidacy to the diaconate and priesthood took their place. Thus the Roman Catholic Church, like the Church of England, has three orders—bishop, priest, deacon—and, like the Orthodox Eastern churches, it has permanent deacons who serve in local parishes and assist the priests. For various Protestant clerical systems, see ministry.

Traditionally in the West, the episcopacy has the plenitude of priestly power; bishops—archbishops, patriarchs, and the pope are bishops—alone have the power to ordain to major orders. In the Roman Catholic Church the ordination to the priesthood is considered a sacrament, conferring on the recipient the power to celebrate the eucharist and marking the priest with an indelible character. Like the sacraments of baptism and confirmation, ordination is never repeated. The rite entails the laying on of hands and the recitation of the prayer beginning "Receive the Holy Spirit." Priests are required to take an oath of obedience to the bishop or superior and a promise of celibacy (already taken at diaconate by those intending to be priests); they are also bound to recite the divine office, the traditional daily prayer of the priest. The diaconate was instituted in the primitive church for the distribution of alms and other material duties (Acts 6.1–6.)

The main administrative life of the Roman Catholic Church is conducted by bishops and their priests called secular clergy. Priests who are members of religious orders are called regular clergy (see monasticism). Monsignor and cardinal are honorary titles and are not identified with any particular office; they are not considered orders.

See also apostolic succession.

See D. N. Power, Ministers of Christ (1969); P. Bradshaw, The Anglican Ordinal (1971); C. R. Meyer, Man of God (1974).

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Orders

Orders. The various grades of Christian ministers. In the W. Church until 1972 these were bishop, priest, deacon, subdeacon, acolyte, exorcist, reader, and doorkeeper (though sometimes ‘bishop’ was not considered a distinct order from ‘priest’).

In 1972 the Roman Catholic orders of subdeacon, exorcist, and doorkeeper were suppressed; the other two minor orders which had formerly been nominal steps to the priesthood, were called ‘ministeria’ and allowed to be conferred on laymen. In most E. churches the major orders are bishop, priest, and deacon, and the minor orders subdeacon and reader. (Other titles like chorepiscopus and archpriest are not usually considered separate orders.)

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orders, holy

orders, holy In the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican Churches, the duties of the clergy, and the grades of hierarchical rank as outlined in the office of ordination. A person is ordained as a subdeacon, deacon, priest or bishop. These ranks are known as the major orders. The minor orders are those of porter, lector, exorcist, and acolyte.

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holy orders

holy orders: see orders, holy.

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