On the Heads of the Church

The Great High Priest by Damascene Gallery

The Eastern Patriarchs to the English Non-Jurors 1721

[O]ur Lord Jesus Christ is the only Head of the Church both in earth and heaven, militant and triumphant; but since He has set over His own creatures Apostles and High-priests, Heads and Governors, Heads not original but derivative and secondary; containing and giving life to the whole earthly body of the Faithful, through the first and universal Head, in whom we live and move and have our being, to be mediators between God and men in performing the ministrations our Lord has commanded them; namely, in teaching and baptizing and administering all the Divine Mysteries; giving them as is confessed, the power of binding and loosing; therefore every one of our Bishops both is, and is esteemed, a particular head of the churches of each city, subject to the first and universal Head. Upon this account, the 34th Canon of the Holy Apostles calls the Primus among the Bishops, a Head, saying, “The Bishops of every nation ought to know their Primus, and esteem him as their Head”. For the Holy Spirit has placed the Bishops and Priests for Shepherds to the Church of God, administering the word of Life to the perfecting of the Saints. We don’t therefore improperly call them Heads and fountains of Sanctity among us: and we believe that from the Bishops we receive the sacred Mysteries and charismata of the Spirit, as from Christ our Supreme Head. And as the Angels, taking upon them the form and person of God, as when it is said, “I am the Lord thy God, (for, ‘the Law of God was delivered by Angels’,) did not thereby assume to themselves the nature of the Deity ; so the genuine Governors of the Church, being called Heads, derive that appellation from the real Head, and perform His part, and refer all their ministrations to Him as the immediate Head, and not unto themselves; as Moses also was by God constituted a God unto Pharaoh, without any injury to the Divine Majesty; and the Apostles as well as the Lord, were said to be the Light of the World. For, though Christ be the Foundation of the Faith, yet the Prophets and Apostles both are, and are said to be so in Scripture. (The Answers of the Orthodox of the East to the Proposals sent from Britain for and Union and Agreement with the Oriental Church: Answer to Proposal Eight)

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