Until the Middle Ages, the presbyters (now commonly called "priests") played second fiddle to the bishop. But during the Middle Ages there was a shift. The presbyters began to represent the priesthood while the bishops were occupied with political duties." The parish (local) priests became more central to the life of the church than the bishop." The priest now stood in God's place and controlled the sacraments.
As Latin became the common language in the mid-fourth century, the priest would invoke the words hoc est corpus meum. These Latin words mean "This is my body."
With these words, the priest became the overseer of the mysterious happenings that were believed to have occurred during the Catholic Mass. Ambrose of Milan can be credited for the idea that the
Hanson, Christian Priesthood Examined, 54. - Ibid., 58. In both the Didache and 1 Clement, the Eucharist is referred to as a "sacrifice and an "offering' ■ performed by the bishops
(von Campenhausen, Tradition and Life in the Church, 220). Lt The word sacrifice as used in a liturgical sense first appears in the Didache (von Campenhausen, Tradition and Life in the Church, 220).
The idea that the priest offers the sacrifice of Christ through the Eucharist is sacerdotalism. On this score, Richard Hanson poignantly remarks, "This sacerdotal concept of priesthood appears to obscure, if not actually abolish, the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. It drains believers' priesthood all away into the priesthood of the clergy" (Hanson, Christian Priesthood Examined, 98). Ibid., 79.
In the third century, each priest chose a bishop to oversee and coordinate his functioning. In the fourth century, things got more complex. Bishops needed supervision. Hence were born archbishops and metropolitans who governed the churches of a province (Durant, Age of Faith, 45, 756-760).
mere utterance of hoc est corpus meum supernaturally converted bread and wine into the Lord's physical body and blood." (Some scholars say that the stage-magic phrase hocuspocus comes from hoc est corpus meum.) According to Ambrose, the priest was endowed with special powers to call God down out of heaven into bread.
Because of this sacramental function, the word presbyteros came to mean "sacerdos" (priest). Consequently, when the Latin word presbyter was taken into English, it had the meaning of "priest" rather than "elder."" Thus in the Roman Catholic church, priest was the widely used term to refer to the local presbyter.
Was this article helpful?