Orders, Holy is an expression used to denote the sacred character or position peculiar to ministers of the Christian religion, and to which they are admitted at the time of their ordination. SEE ORDINATION. The following is the prelatical view of the subject: "It is evident unto all men diligently reading the Holy Scriptures and ancient authors that from the apostles' time there have been these orders of ministers in Christ's Church-bishops, priests, and deacons; which offices were evermore had in such reverend estimation that no man might presume to execute any of them except he were first called, tried, examined, and known to have such qualities as are requisite for the same; and also by public prayer, with imposition of hands, were approved and admitted thereunto by lawful authority" (Preface to the English Ordinal). In the ancient Church the (three) orders of ministry established by Christ and his apostles universally prevailed. But along with them there were gradually introduced into most of the churches other ecclesiastical persons of inferior rank, who were allowed to take part in the ministrations of religion. The three belong to the sacred, or major orders; the others to the petty, or minor orders, the number of which varies in the different churches, and even at times in the same Church. In the Romish Church there are seven orders, including, in addition to the three sacred orders, doorkeeper, exorcist, reader, and acolyth. All these the Council of Trent enjoins to be received and believed on pain of anathema. The priesthood is the principal order, and is supposed to impress an indelible character on those who receive it. The origin of the inferior orders is obscure, and they are not mentioned before the days of Cyprian and of Tertullian; and, indeed, although some modern Romanists count five (including subdeacons), and sometimes have assigned mystical reasons for so doing, the number varied in different periods. The reputed Ignatius (Ep. ad Antioch. 12) excludes acolyths, and yet, by adding singers and copiatae, swells the list to six; the constitutions bearing the name of Clemens Romanus (3:11) count but four-subdeacons, readers, singers, and doorkeepers. The Apostolical Canons, as they are called (69), name only the first three; and, in a word, the number five is perhaps less selected than any other by the majority of ancient Church writers, whether authentic or pseudonymous. Their use in early times was to form a nursery for the regular clergy, and to assist in the performance of certain lower and ordinary offices, to which laymen, if authorized by the bishop, were equally competent. More than one council, indeed, prohibited those who had once embarked even in this inferior ministry from returning to secular employments; nevertheless they were esteemed insacrati by the ancient canons. They did not receive any ordination at the altar, nor, for the most part, any imposition of hands. By the fifth canon of the fourth Council of Carthage, subdeacons, on their appointment, were to receive an empty cup from the hands of the bishop, and a ewer and towel from the archdeacon — a ceremony implying their duties, namely, the preparation of the sacred utensils for the service of the altar. But they were not allowed in any way to minister at the altar, to step within its rails, nor even to place the holy vessels upon it. So the duties of the acolyths were symbolized when the archdeacon presented them with a taper in a candlestick and an empty pitcher: they were to light the Candles in the church, and to supply wine for the Eucharist. Concerning the duty of the exorcists, from the obscurity attaching to the history of the energumens entrusted to their care, it is difficult to speak with certainty; it is thought that peculiar sanctity and especial reservation must have been required in persons who were to exercise so important a gift as the adjuration of evil spirits. Nevertheless, some of the occupations of the exorcists, as noticed by the ninetieth canon of the fifth Council of Carthage, belong rather to inferior keepers than to spiritual guardians of the doemoniacs. Thus, although at times in which the Church was not assembled they were enjoined to pray over their unhappy charges, they were also to take heed that they were busied in wholesome exercises, such as sweeping the church pavement, etc., by which idleness might be banished, and the tempter thereby be deprived of favorable opportunities for assault. They were also to look after the daily meals of their patients. The bishop, on their appointment, presented them with a book containing the forms of exorcising. The readers, as their name implies, read the Scriptures publicly, not, however, at the bema of the altar, but at the pulpitum in the body of the church; and the bishop's words, upon placing in their hands the Bible, by which he conferred the privilege, sufficiently denote their separation from the regular clergy: "Accipe, et esto lector verbi Dei, habiturus, si fideliter et utiliter impleveris officium, partem cum eis qui Verbum Dei ministraverunt" (IV Conc. Carth. c. viii). To the ostiarii the bishops delivered the keys of the church; and they appear to have had about as much claim to the spiritual gifts conferred by ordination on the regular ministry as is possessed by the beadle or pew-openers of a modern chapel. Besides them, at different periods of ecclesiastical history, we read of psalmistae, or singers, sometimes called ὑποβολεῖς ', because as precentors they prompted and suggested the musical parts of the service to the remainder of the congregation; of copiatae (κοπιᾶσθαι, to labor), or fossarii, who looked after funerals, and seem to have united in one the functions both of a sexton and an undertaker; and of parabolani, who undertook the dangerous work (παράβολον ἔργον) of attending the sick.
The Church of England declines admitting orders as a sacrament, for the reasons stated in her twenty-fifth article: "For that they have not like nature of sacraments with baptism and the Lord's Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God." The doctrine of the Church of Rome on the subject of orders is thus given:
"Canon I. If only one shall say that there is not in the New Testament a visible and external priesthood or that there is not any power of consecrating and offering the the body and blood of the Lord, and of remitting and retaining sins, but only an office and bare ministry of preaching the Gospel; or that those who do not preach are not priests at all: let him be anathema. Canon II. If any one shall say that, besides the priesthood, there are not in the Catholic Church other orders, both greater and lesser, by which, as by certain steps, advance is made into the priesthood: let him be anathema. Canon III. If any one shall say that orders or sacred ordination is not truly and properly a sacrament instituted by Christ the Lord; or that it is a certaint human figurment devised by men unskilled in ecclesiastical matters; or that it is only a certain kind for choosing ministers of the Word of God and of the sacraments: let him be anathenma. Canon IV. If any one shall say that by sacred ordination the Holy Ghost is not given: and that the bishops do therefore vainly say, receive ye the Holy Ghost; or that a character is not thereby imprinted; or that he who has once been a priest can again become a layman: let him be anathema." In all episcopal churches, including under that general description the Church of England, the Protestant Episcopal, Methodist Episcopal, and Romish churches, three ranks of clergy are recognized: the bishop (q.v.), the priest or presbyter or pastor (q.v.), and the deacon (q.v.). The various higher officials in the episcopal churches — archbishop, primate, metropolitan, etc. — all belong to the order of bishop; and the lower officials curate, rector, parson, etc. — all belong to the order of priests or presbyters. The non-episcopal churches, i.e. the Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, some Lutherans, and others, recognize only one order, the presbyterate, no other officers being considered ministers, although lay elders and deacons are sometimes set apart by the imposition of hands. In no Reformed Church are there more than three orders — bishops, priests, and deacons. In the primitive Church the word ordo simply denoted the distinction between the clergy and the laity, the former being the ordo ecclesiasticus. SEE ORDO.
Different opinions prevail as to the source whence the authority of Holy Orders is derived. Some, who hold there is in Holy Orders a sacramental virtue which is indispensable for all the Christian ordinances and means of grace, maintain also that this virtue is inherent indefeasibly in each individual, who (according to this system) has derived it in no degree from any particular community, but solely from the bishop whose hands were laid on him; who derived his power to administer this sacrament altogether from consecration by another bishop, not necessarily a member of the same particular Church, but obtaining his power again from another; and so on, up to the apostolic times; a system, this, it will be seen, which makes the Church a sort of appendage to the priesthood, not the ministry to the Church. The opponents of this system consider that it is an error to make the authority of a Church emanate from that of its ministers; and place the title of the latter on the secure basis of a clear sanction given, once for all, to every regularly appointed minister of any Christian community constituted on Gospel principles, instead of being made to depend on a long chain, the soundness of many of whose links cannot be ascertained. — Farrar, Eccles. Dict. s.v.; Eadie, Eccles. Cyclop. s.v.; Eden, Ch. Dict. s.v.; Watson, Bible Dict . s. v; Hook, Ch. Dict. s.v.; Buck, Ch. Dict. s.v. See also Bergier, Dict. de Theologie, s.v.; Watson, Institutes, 2:572-575; Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctrines; Siegel, Christliche Alterthumer; M'Elhinney, Doct. of the Ch. p. 192-194, 201; Palmer, Orig. Lit. 2:49, 257, 258; Walcott, Sacred Archaeol. s.v.; Burnet, Articles of the Ch. of
England; Coleman, Ancient Christianity, p. 102; and his Ritualism and Prelacy, p. 153; Willett, Synop. Pap. s.v.; Proctor, Commentary on the Book of Common Prayer; Calvin, Institutes; Princet. Rev. 15:314; and the literature in Malcom, Theol. Index, s.v., SEE OFFICE; SEE ORDINATION; SEE PRELACY.