The Evergetinos

The Evergetinos (Ancient Greek: εὐεργετινός “Of the Benefactress”, from Εὐεργέτις evergetis “Benefactress”) is a vast collection of materials from a number of other collections of sayings of monastics and others, ranging from the well-known works of St. John Cassian and Palladius, to the anonymously produced Apophthegmata collections, but including materials also from hagiographies, menologia, and other, unspecified and now-lost sources. The collection was compiled in the eleventh century by Hieromonk Paul Evergetinos (i.e., Paul of the monastery of the Benefactress). In the eighteenth century, Macarios of Corinth and Nicodemos the Hagiorite were responsible for putting together a manuscript for publication based upon a number of manuscripts scattered among the libraries of the Holy Mountain. The first printed edition was produced in 1783 and the work has seen many subsequent editions.

YouTube player

Ordinandi… (ii)

Secunda die infra Octavam Dormitionis B.M.V.
[Septa die infra Octavam S. Laurentii]


Ember Days

Ordinands… in my first post I touched on the process of formation, particularly in my own jurisdiction but primarily on the practical academic aspect. As we approach the retreat taking place during September’s Embertide, my thoughts have turned towards the “Scrutinies” which traditionally take place on the Ember Wednesday.

“In promotion to orders a scrutiny or examination of the candidate is to be made according to the warning of the Apostle: “Impose not hands lightly upon any man” (1 Timothy 5:22). That the practice is ancient is testified to by St. Cyprian (who died in 258) in his thirty-eighth epistle. The ninth canon of the Council of Nicæa (325) supposes the scrutiny of candidates to be already in use. Many later synods enforced and defined more exactly this scrutiny of those who aspired to orders. The present discipline is laid down by the Council of Trent (Sess. XXIII, Cap. v, de ref.), though its observance in every detail has not been reduced to practice in all countries. A three-fold scrutiny is ordered: first, through the inquiry into the qualities of the candidates by the parish priest and teachers and by public proclamation in the Church. The information thus obtained is to be embodied in a testimonial letter to the bishop. Secondly, shortly before ordination through the bishop himself and ecclesiastical persons appointed to examine into the morals, faith, and doctrine of the candidates. Thirdly, through the ceremonial form prescribed by the Pontificale Romanum for the ordination of a deacon or priest.” [The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13]

During the Ordination after the chanting of the Litany of the Saints, the Bishop asks the Archdeacon “Scis illo esse dignos?” (Do you know them to be worthy) and in order for that question to be satisfied intelligently and honestly, the Bishop needs to determine the result of the discernment and formation that each candidate has been through. Of course, there isn’t the time to do that during the Ordination service, so the Scrutinies which traditionally take place during the prior week are the opportunity for the Bishop to examine the candidates and himself, make a final determination. By this time he has received the personal, professional and academic references, now with the candidate in person, he establishes the faith, doctrine and morals of the ordinand for himself. Afterall, and this is something regrettably many fail to appreciate the import of, he will answer to God for the men he ordains!

All of this is necessary of course, to establish that each ordinand has both a Divine and Ecclesiastical vocation, i.e. that both God and the Church have called him. The former of course begins the whole process, sometimes with a little coercion from others, but generally an ordinand senses his vocation from God. The latter is the affirmation by the Church of that vocation from God, it involves however a dialogue with the Church, a trying (testing) of vocation through mutual discernment, the Church both encourages the individual to test for himself, as well as for her own purposes too, as it is she who has the care of souls to consider and weigh the suitability of someone who is called. “For many are called, but few are chosen.” [Matt 22:14] Throughout his formation a candidate will have undergone all sorts of “testing” and this will have been observed and directed by various people on behalf of the Bishop – the Rector of Formation, the academic tutors, the retreat chaplains, spiritual directors, pastoral placements, personal references and examining chaplains etc. By the time of the Scrutinies, the Bishop will have heard from all quarters the “sentire cum Ecclesia” (the thoughts and feelings of the Church) and as the person of the Church, deduce the “sensus fidelium” (sense of the faithful) about the ordinand before him; have the majority reached the same conclusion, that he is called to be ordained?

“Vocation to the clerical state is… an act of Divine Providence whereby God selects some above others for His priesthood and prepares them with suitable gifts for the worthy exercise of priestly duties. For this reason, and because this sacrament has been instituted not so much for the recipient as for the common good of the faithful, one who is conscious of a lack of vocation or who has made insufficient inquiry or who is in serious doubt about his vocation is liable to grave sin in approaching the reception of Holy Orders.”

Halligan, The Administration of the Sacraments [1962], 376

Sancta Dei Genitrix, Matrem Sacerdotii, ora pro nobis!


Secunda die infra Octavam Dormitionis B.M.V.
[Septa die infra Octavam S. Laurentii]



Ordinands… My recent posts have been born from my own personal reflections whilst on retreat recently and although they do have a particular audience in mind, they are not meant as “sermons” though they may indeed have that “preachy air” about them!

As I stated in my first post about having been on retreat, my thoughts were and are much occupied with the upcoming ordinations at Michaelmas, especially during this holy season of Assumptiontide and the recalling of Our Lord’s love for Mary, His mother and thus the mother of all priests. So recent content has primarily been with the ordinands in mind concerning the nature of priesthood particularly, and where suitable tying in references form the liturgical year as it passes. Certainly my thinking developed in the writing of them, but being also conscious of an audience not necessarily experienced in theological discipline, I felt a need to explain some points in slightly more detail than I might otherwise have done. This of course, though perhaps making the pieces longer, certainly helped somewhat to train my thoughts in what could be an expansive area!

Some future postings will continue in a similar vein, as I have promised to explore the “spiritual reason why” to explain various rubrical actions in the liturgy i.e. why the priest “does what he does” and what his thoughts and accompanying intentions should be. Of course, much of this sort of thing would be delivered in a conventional seminary formation course such as I experienced. But being a small jurisdiction with a wide geographical remit and only limited resources, a conventional seminary formation isn’t practicable. Our candidates this year are coming from Croatia, Greece as well as the UK and are self-supporting and their time taken up with work, family and academic courses. Neither is it always possible to have that other mode of tutoring, the “training incumbent” as often our clergy are church “planters” or “start-ups” i.e. they will be the parish priest from “go”! So the hope is that my postings will compliment their academic courses and “fill in” the gaps as it were with what academia doesn’t cover… like “how to say Mass” and why!

It’s worth remembering that such a system and circumstance of clerical formation is not unlike that which existed before the Council of Trent, before there were seminaries. In those days priests were taught almost by apprenticeship, some were fortunate to attend the then great Universities and centres of learning, the majority of course were not. Whilst those who attended University certainly received a better and more concentrated theological education, the “priestly craft” was still learnt by apprenticeship, whether by an ordained professor or mentor, or if a religious by a priest of the Order, or like most others, “on the job” in a curacy after graduation.

The nearest experience in those days to what became a seminary formation was found only in monasteries, the enclosed Orders particularly. There in the densely religious atmosphere of the monastery, students for the priesthood had access to some of the best theological libraries and the routine and discipline of the daily hours of prayer of the community, as well as the wisdom of older monks in spiritual learning and insight. Unfortunately, being monasteries, these educated and disciplined clergy were ordained for the particular monastery they lived in and would serve only such faithful as came to the monastery church or went to the churches the monks served sacramentally. Before the Trent reforms, the vast majority of priests were ill-educated academically and only able to offer such services as their apprenticeship and experience had taught them. Saving those from rich enough backgrounds to have enjoyed a University education, but even these were often at the expense of spiritual sciences. Reform was needed!

I have tried both in my time previously as Vicar General and now as Metropolitan to ensure as far as is practically possible to provide what candidates for the priesthood ought to know in order to make them what a priest ought to be within the limit of our resources. Compared to those able to enjoy the benefits of a conventional seminary formation, this often requires an even greater level of commitment, one might even suggest of sacrifice on the part of the candidates. Balancing work and home commitments, family and “a life” on top of discernment, part-time theological studies, spiritual exercises and retreats… it’s a huge demand on a man’s resources both material and spiritual. For a younger candidate the situation isn’t a lot better, often burdened by student debt or a limited earning potential, holding down a job, a place to live and finding the resources to complete discernment, part-time theological studies, spiritual exercises and attend retreats… By comparison “conventional” seminarians have got it made with tuition, board and lodging all thrown in! But I can’t help but wonder if the rarefied environment of such seminaries does produce by comparison the “best” priests?

I’m not trying to suggest that our candidates for the Sacred Ministry are indeed better than those being formed through a conventional seminary process. But considering all that they have to go through I think it certainly proves a man’s resolve and even character. Though the process is less than what might be ultimately desirable, candidates that pass through it are, I would opine, more worldly-wise, more in touch with what passes for “normal” life experienced by most ordinary people and thus able to relate the mysteries of the Faith to the realities of what most people have to contend with trying to be disciples of Christ in the 21st Century.


As far as possible within the limitations of cost and time, they receive an academic theological formation comparable to that received by any seminarian, often earning degrees awarded by the same accredited institutes of Higher Education/Universities as the seminaries themselves. At the very least I expect our candidates to attain the same level of academic formation that Roman Catholic permanent deacons receive, attending the very same courses. Though it is necessary of course to supplement with other courses for sciences that would ideally be in a formation programme but are lacking in most University theological programmes of study.

Hence the need too for retreats in order to provide particularly the spiritual sciences and practical elements of priestly formation, as well as the opportunity for candidates to receive spiritual direction and cultivate the discipline of the Breviary, which I don’t think it can be denied, is always best instilled through a communal rather than private experience of recitation. It’s also an opportunity too to take the candidates away from their normal busy lives and spend sometime in discernment and “being”.

The pre-ordination retreats (for there are two this year running simultaneously) will soon be upon us and naturally, though the candidates have progressed far or have already qualified ref their theological studies, these last couple of months provide the last opportunity to consolidate their knowledge before the final scrutinies and examen prior to ordination. Forgive me then if posts are slightly more biased towards this end than of a more personal nature to me, though I hope to comment on my own experiences too as we go along, when appropriate. Afterall it is an “Episcopal Journal” and it is the office of the bishop to teach, I hope to fulfil some of that sacred obligation through this medium. I hope what I write might still of be interest to a wider audience and certainly I beg your prayers for those to be ordained this coming Michaelmas.

Sancta Dei Genitrix, Matrem Sacerdotii, ora pro nobis!

Sacrificium… (ii)

Quarta die infra Octavam S. Laurentii
Commemoratio: Ss. Hippoliti et Cassiani Martyrum


Yesterday’s reflection ended with the conclusion that the ministerial priesthood of the New Covenant replaces that of the Old Covenant, not to offer ritualistic sacrifices but to offer “the” ultimate atoning Sacrifice of Calvary through the high priesthood of Christ to receive here in our contemporary time, the fruits of His redeeming sacrifice, the Eucharist. It is important to emphasise and remember here that the Church has never suggested that the Mass is a repetition of Calvary – it is not, it is a witnessing again, irrespective of time and place of that same, single, “once only once and once for all” Sacrifice of Calvary. It is a re-presentation, a renewal of the effects, the benefits, the merits, the fruit, of that “one and the same” historical event i.e. the atonement for sin, the restoration of creation and the confection of the Eucharist, the means of eternal life.

The difference between Calvary and the Mass are the external accidentals, i.e. the manner of the oblation of the one and the other “sola offerendi ratione diversa” [Council of Trent]. On the Cross, Christ offered His incarnated physical self, there His blood flowed from His crucified body; on the Altar He offers His death already suffered, but now in an unbloody manner, Christ does not die again on the Altar. Thus the Mass represents this past event i.e. Calvary: but it is one with the sacrifice of the Cross as the victim and the priest are the same i.e Christ, but it is not literally the Crucifixion. The late Bishop Michael Evans wrote, “The word “memorial” is very important in Eucharistic theology, and means far more than simply a recalling or remembering. For the Jews, celebrating a memorial involves evoking the past and reliving it in such a way that a past event is made effective and fruitful here and now.” [Is Jesus really present in the Eucharist?] We needs must be careful with such notions however, to make clear that the efficacy of the Mass itself is not diminished by our concept of “memorial”. The Mass itself is a sacrifice, by which the infinite merits of Christ’s death, gained on the Cross, are applied to souls here-and-now.


The Mass is a literal visible sacrifice, which represents and ‘applies the merits’ of the literal, once-for-all sacrifice of the Cross. In other words, the Mass is itself a sacrificial offering of worship i.e. of adoration, thanksgiving, prayer and expiation by the created to the Creator in fulfilment of the Law “to love God” [Deut. 6:4-5; Levit. 19:18; Matt 22:35–40; Mark 12:28–34; Luke 10:25-28], joined to the commemoration or “showing forth” [1 Cor. 11:26] of the Sacrifice of Christ upon Calvary – the purest offering of adoration, thanksgiving, prayer and atonement by and at the behest of the great high priest who instituted and commanded His Apostles so to do “in mei memóriam faciétis” [Luke 22: 19].  The twofold consecration of the bread and then the wine, “show forth” the physical death of Christ by the separation of His body from His blood shed upon the Cross. Uniting the worship of God to the commemoration of the Cross, manifests the ultimate act of offering to God by humanity [Heb 2:17] as God made-man [Matt. 1:22-23], by God made-man in Christ’s voluntary offering and outpouring of love toward God [Heb 9:12] and neighbour [John 15:13 ditto references to the Greatest Commandment above]. In this way it may be said that the “fulfilment of the Law and of the Prophets” [Matt 5:17] is fulfilled in Christ, by His saving sacrificial act of love (kenosis – self-emptying) on the Cross.

As the Council of Trent defined in its 22nd Session, Canon III: “If any one saith, that the sacrifice of the mass is only a sacrifice of praise and of thanksgiving; or, that it is a bare commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross, but not a propitiatory sacrifice; or, that it profits him only who receives; and that it ought not to be offered for the living and the dead for sins, pains, satisfactions, and other necessities; let him be anathema.” 

As noted above, the “ends of the Mass” i.e. the purposes for which it is offered, are to adore God – adoration, to give Him thanks – thanksgiving, to make satisfaction for sin – atonement and to ask for new graces – petition, the ends for which Christ died upon the Cross. Worship, or adoration of course, is a sign of our dependence upon our Creator and His absolute dominion over us, His creatures. It was the effect of Original Sin that repudiated this reliance and subjection of humanity to God; all this has been restored by Christ on the Cross in His ultimate act of adoration and thanksgiving. We experience this restoration of humanity with God through our Baptism and actualise it through our individual receipt of the Eucharist. But of these four purposes of the Mass only two are directly beneficial to the whole Church; the satisfaction for sin and the petition of new graces; it is these that are usually meant as “the fruit” of the Mass.

As an old Manual of Devotion says; Without God’s holy grace we cannot perform one supernatural act, nor conceive one good thought, nor advance one step on the road that leads to life everlasting. “Without me,” says Christ, “you can do nothing.” [John 15:5] And St. Paul adds: “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.” [2 Cor 3:5]

Our wants, temporal and eternal, are countless: graces to repent of our many sins; graces to sin no more; graces to live to love and die in His friendship; the grace for final perseverance. In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass Jesus obtains all for us. On our Altars, where His death and passion are represented and renewed, Jesus obtains of His father all graces and blessings we need for soul and body. Jesus is the “beloved Son, in whom the Father is well pleased” [Matt 3:17] and “is heard on account of his own reverence.” [Heb. 5:7] In the Holy Mass, Jesus Himself is our advocate as well as our high priest. He presents our wants and petitions to His Father, and with the petitions His Precious Blood as a price to obtain them. The Church ends every prayer, and asks everything, “through our Lord Jesus Christ,” because of Jesus we have everything. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” [Rom. 8:32] St. Jerome says: “Assuredly the Lord grants all the favours for which we petition Him in the Mass, provided they be suitable to us; and, what is far more admirable, He very often grants us that for which we do not petition Him, provided we place no obstacle to His holy designs.”

So these graces are called the fruit of the Mass and are applied generally in a threefold division:

The General Fruit – that is the benefit for the whole Church – Militant (on earth), Expectant (waiting judgement) and even Triumphant (the blessed saints). This fruit is in union with Our Lord’s self-oblation for all mankind and the celebrant obviously cannot alter or direct it.

The Special Fruit – also called the “ministerial fruit”, that the benefit to those who in any way cooperate in offering the particular Mass; this it is which, in the application of the priest’s intention, is primarily and mainly operative (i.e. for another person).

The Most Special Fruit – that is the personal share of the celebrating priest as being Christ the offerer of the Sacrifice. Though this fruit, being personal to the celebrant, cannot be alienated and applied to others he may apply it for the acquisition of some grace of which he himself stands in need.

Oremus pro invicem!


Tertia die infra Octavam S. Laurentii
Commemoratio: S. Clarae Virginis


Saint Lawrence being ordained deacon by Pope Saint Sixtus II (Blessed Fra Angelico)
Saint Lawrence being ordained (sub)deacon by Pope Saint Sixtus II (Blessed Fra Angelico)

Sacrifice… St Lawrence, whom we celebrate this week with an Octave, gives us another insight ref the incarnational aspect of the priesthood and indeed of the Apostolic sharing of the “bitter cup”.

St Ambrose of Milan says that Lawrence met His Holiness Sixtus II on his way to his execution. “Where are you going, my dear father, without your son? Where are you hurrying off to, holy priest, without your deacon? Before you never mounted the altar of sacrifice without your servant, and now you wish to do it without me?” Of course, Pope Sixtus was not on his way to offer Mass, Lawrence was referring to his execution… Lawrence was expressing the sharing by Sixtus in that “bitter cup” the “cup of salvation”, the “cup of trembling” and the “cup of wrath” [as discussed previously here], the Pope was about to “taste death” literally sharing in the sacrifice of Christ, for Christ by his martyrdom. Depicted in Fra Angelico’s painting is the presentation at Lawrence’s subdiaconal ordination of Pope Sixtus presenting “the cup”, a chalice and paten, signifying the invitation to share through major Orders, the Apostolic ministry and thereby the mystery of Christ’s high priesthood upon the Cross.

So now finally(!) we come to something of a conclusion ref our recent reflections. We’ve discussed something of the nature and character of the priesthood – the first obligation of the priest to be a Christian at prayer, walking daily with God pursuing personal holiness and sanctification, interceding through prayer on behalf of God’s people, most especially the Church through the recitation of the Divine Office. We’ve reflected on the true nature of humanity in the created order, that we are “body, soul and spirit” and that God works through His creation salvifically and that human beings have the potential to “spiritualise the material and materialise the spiritual”, hence the establishment by God and Christ of a ministerial priesthood. Now we come to the purpose of the New Testament ministerial priesthood; the realisation of the fruit of Christ’s redemption, the Eucharist.

It is sometimes suggested that “there is no need for a priesthood” echoing some erroneously believe the sentiments of the author of Hebrews concerning the efficacy of the high priesthood of Christ, “For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.” [Heb 7:26-27] For whilst indeed, the sacrifice of Christ upon the Cross of Calvary does indeed negate the need for regular expiatory sacrifices common under the Old Covenant, even so the ministerial priesthood of the New Covenant exists for another purpose.

The ministerial priesthood of the New Covenant exists to confect and present to us the means by which we receive eternal life. Primarily, it exists to share in and offer the Eucharist, the holy sacrifice of the Mass, by participating in the high priesthood of Christ and making manifest the “flesh and blood of the Son of Man”. [John 6:53-54] “He who hears you, hears me” [Luke 10:16] Our Lord said to the Apostles, the new ministerial priesthood. For Christ makes plain that it is only in the reception of the Eucharist that the promise of eternal life and the redemption of humanity is realised, “Truly, truly, I say to you… He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” By instituting the Apostolic ministry, Christ established the means by which His body and blood would be made available to the faithful. He who became one of us to save us, continues to present Himself in bread and wine through those chosen [John 6:70; John 15:16; John 13:18], consecrated [Acts 1:15-26; Acts 6:6; Acts 13:3] and set apart [Romans 15:16; 2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Cor. 5:20] to cooperate with Him in fulfilling the promises He made when He walked among us.

images (1)

So it is that we understand the ministerial priesthood of the New Covenant to be the physical, material means by which the high priesthood of Christ is effected as in like fashion, it is in the consecrated species of bread and wine that we receive His Body and Blood and thus the fruit of our redemption, the Eucharist. As St John Chrysostom wrote, “We priests are simply the instruments and ministers of the veritable sacrifice. The Lord Himself is He who sanctifies the material gifts offered for the sacrifice, and who makes them a source of sanctification for us.” “When, therefore,” he adds, “you see the sacred minister lifting up to heaven the holy offering, think not that he whom you behold is the real priest; but rising above visible objects, consider the hand of Jesus Christ stretched out invisibly. Through Him everything is done.” [Hom. 60 ad Pop. Antioch] Similarly and more plainly here St John Chrysostom explains the relationship of the contemporary priest and that sharing in the Apostles’ ministry discussed before, “I wish to add something that is plainly awe-inspiring, but do not be astonished or upset. This Sacrifice, no matter who offers it, be it Peter or Paul, is always the same as that which Christ gave His disciples and which priests now offer: The offering of today is in no way inferior to that which Christ offered, because it is not men who sanctify the offering of today; it is the same Christ who sanctified His own. For just as the words which God spoke are the very same as those which the priest now speaks, so too the oblation is the very same.” [“Homilies on the Second Epistle to Timothy,” 2,4, c. 397 A.D.]

So then, the ministerial priesthood exists to make manifest the high priesthood of Christ. “The priest who imitates that which Christ did, truly takes the place of Christ, and offers there in the Church a true and perfect sacrifice to God the Father.” [St. Cyprian wrote to the Ephesians circa 258 A.D.] The earthly and mortal priest becomes the means by which Christ Himself offers Himself as food for the faithful. It is Christ Himself who stands before the Altar, who offers Himself in the person of the priest to God, His father as the perfect victim for the propitiation of sin; Who breathes eternal life into the species of bread and wine at the words of consecration, transforming them “This is MY Body”, “This is MY Blood”; that same “logos”, that same “ruach” that breathed life into creation [Gen 1:2; John 1:1], that breathed life into man [Isa 42:5; Ezek 37:5 Job 33:4].

Thus, as St Ambrose says, “Jesus Christ is your inheritance, O ye ministers of the Lord. Jesus Christ is your sole domain. His Name is your wealth. His Name your income. His Name constitutes your stipend, a stipend not of money but of grace. Your heritage is not dried up by heat, nor devastated by storms. The sun shall not burn thee by day, neither the moon by night. Keep then the portion which you have chosen, for it is the good portion, which the possessions of the world cannot equal.”

Sancti Laurentii, ora pro nobis!