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St. Thomas Aquinas
Explanation of the Sacraments

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Holy Orders
 
The sixth Sacrament is Holy Orders. There are seven orders: priesthood, 
deaconate, subdeaconate, acolyte, exorcist, lector, and porter. Tonsure 
(clerk-ship, clericatus) is not an order, but a formal profession of giving 
one's life to the divine ministry. The episcopate is rather a dignity than 
an order.32 The matter of this Sacrament is that matter which is handed 
over to the candidate at the conferring of the order. Thus, priesthood is 
conferred by the handing over of the chalice, and so each order is 
conferred by the handing over of that matter which in a special way 
pertains to the ministry of that particular order. The form of this 
Sacrament is this: "Receive the power to offer sacrifice in the Church for 
the living and the dead." And similarly power is conferred in the other 
orders. The minister of this Sacrament is the bishop who confers the 
orders. The effect of this Sacrament is an increase of grace for the 
performance of the duties of a worthy minister of Christ.
 
Concerning this Sacrament was the error of Arius, who taught that the 
priesthood could not be distinguished from the episcopate.
 
 
 
 



32
. "That the number of ministers was wisely established, is proved by 
considering the various offices that are necessary for the celebration of 
the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the administration of the Blessed 
Sacrament. This is the chief scope of their institution. They are divided 
into major or sacred orders (priesthood, deaconship. subdeaconship) and 
minor orders. . . The bishops are placed over the various dioceses to 
govern, not only the other ministers of the Church, but also the faithful, 
and to promote their salvation with supreme care and diligence." Roman 
Catechism," "Holy Order," 26). It is the common opinion to-day that the 
episcopate is an order.





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