Of God and His Creatures

Of the Distinction of Orders

SINCE the power of Order is principally directed to the consecration of the Body of Christ, and its administration to the faithful, and the cleansing of the faithful from sin, there must be some chief Order, the power of which extends chiefly to these objects; and that is the Order of Priesthood. There must be other Orders to serve the chief Order by one way or another preparing its matter; and these are the Orders of Ministers. The power of Priesthood extending to two objects, the consecration of the Body of Christ, and the rendering the faithful by absolution from sin fit to receive the Eucharist, the lower Orders must serve the Priesthood either in both or in one of these respects. The lower Orders serve the Priesthood only in preparing the people [for the Eucharist]. This the Doorkeepers do by shutting out unbelievers from the company of the faithful: the Lectors by instructing the catechumens in the rudiments of the faith, -- hence the Scripture of the Old Testament is committed to their reading: the Exorcists by cleansing those who are already instructed, if in any way they are hindered by the devil from the reception of the Sacraments.* The higher Orders serve the priestly Order both in the preparation of the people and in the consummation of the Sacrament. Thus the Acolytes have a ministry to exercise over the vessels, other than sacred, in which the matter of the Sacrament is prepared: hence the altar-cruets are delivered to them at their ordination. The Subdeacons have a ministry to exercise over the sacred vessels, and over the arrangement of the matter not yet consecrated. The Deacons have a further ministry over the matter already consecrated, as the deacon administers the Blood of Christ to the faithful. These three Orders of Priests, Deacons and Subdeacons, are called Sacred Orders, because they receive a ministry over sacred things.* The higher Orders also serve for the preparation of the people: for to Deacons is committed the publishing of the doctrine of the Gospel to the people: to Subdeacons that of the Apostles: while Acolytes render to both the attendance which conduces to solemnity of teaching, by carrying candles and otherwise serving.

4.74 : Of the Sacrament of Order
4.76 : Of the Episcopal Dignity, and that therein one Bishop is Supreme