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Dear Father Angelo,

Can you show me the Scripture passages where it is written that only priests can consecrate? I had a discussion with an evangelical who claims that in the Scripture it is written that any Christian can break bread…

Thank you, I ask for prayers

Answer of the priest

Dear friend,

1. First of all it must be said that divine revelation does not consist only in the Sacred Scriptures, but also in the Sacred Tradition.

It is from the Tradition that we have the Scriptures. In no passage of the Scriptures is there a catalog of books to be considered inspired.

Protestants too have received the Scriptures from Tradition, which is expressed in the three criteria indicated by the holy Fathers: what has been believed always, by all, everywhere (quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est).

2. Now it is only to the Apostles that Jesus Christ said: “Do this in memory of me ” (Lk 22:19).

The Church has always been so convinced of this that she sees in these words the institution of the Holy Orders, a sacrament evidently denied by Protestants.

While the Orthodox Church is a witness to this interpretation of the Scriptures that has always been given, by all and everywhere.

It is no coincidence that St. Paul calls the Apostles “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor 4: 1).

According to the letter to the Hebrews, not all are priests in the ministry, but only those who are called by God to this office (Heb 5:1-3; 8:1-3).

3. This conviction is testified by the Holy Fathers who are the ancient Christian authors, considered by all to be eminent for holiness and doctrine.

The Didache, which is a writing from the second half of the first century, contemporary and antecedent to several books of the New Testament, immediately after speaking of the celebration of the Eucharist, gives the following warning: “Appoint, therefore, for yourselves, bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord” (15, 1).

This testimony of the Didache is infinitely superior to all the arguments of the Protestants. It is the attestation of the conscience of the first Christian community on who presided over the Eucharist.

One has to ask: is it possible that they were wrong immediately, from the beginning and everywhere and that Luther was needed 1500 years later?

Would Christ who said “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” have immediately abandoned his Church?

4. If it had been such a serious error from the very beginning, would the apostles – who were still alive, especially St. John who died at the beginning of the second century and who in the Apocalypse reproaches for various mistakes – not have reacted energetically?

In fact we know that St. John himself, very old, was brought by the disciples to preside at the Eucharist.

5. Another testimony is the Letter of Pope St. Clement, the third successor of St. Peter, who lived at the end of the first century and who died before St. John.

He compares bishops and deacons to the priests and Levites of the Old Testament. He recognizes that they have their own official functions (“leiturghiai”) and prescribes that they be exercised in an orderly manner and within the established times (Letter to the Corinthians 41-42).

St. Ignatius, who died in 107 and therefore is coeval with St. John, is very clear: “Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. (…) It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 8,1-2).

Only the priest has received this authority from the bishop because the deacon is only he who distributes (Letters to the communities of Tralles, 2,3 and of Philadelphia, 4).

According to St. Justin (of the first half of the second century) the “president of the brethren” consecrates and the “deacons” distribute the divine food (Apologies, I, 65).

St. Cyprian, who lived in the third century, will only take up this doctrine: “If Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, is Himself the chief priest of God the Father (…), has commanded this to be done in commemoration of Himself, certainly that priest truly discharges the office of Christ, who imitates that which Christ did” (Epistle 62,14). Deacons, on the other hand, must pass out the chalice to those present (De lapsis, 25).

Other testimonies, such as those of Origen, St. Jerome and Chrysostom (which I omit for the sake of brevity) are clear and without any shadow.

6. The Council of Trent reaffirmed the Church’s doctrine against Protestants with the following dogma: “If anyone says that by these words: «Do this in memory of me», Christ did not make the Apostles priests, or did not ordain that they and other priests might offer His own body and blood: let him be anathema [i. e. excommunicated]” (session 22, can. 2, DS 1752 and 1740).

7. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds that “the Lord (…) knowing that the hour had come to leave this world and return to the Father, in the course of a meal washed their feet and gave them the commandment of love. In order to leave them a pledge of this love, in order never to depart from his own and to make them sharers in his Passover, he instituted the Eucharist as the memorial of his death and Resurrection, and commanded his apostles to celebrate it until his return; «thereby he constituted them priests of the New Testament» (DS 1740)” (CCC 1337).

So you have good evidence for going to Mass, sure that this is the way of doing that Christ wanted.

I thank you for the question, I remind you to the Lord and I bless you.

Father Angelo