The Seminary of Saint Catherine was founded to promote co-operation and shared understanding among the various denominations of the Christian church. This site is for anyone to use – newcomers, those studying, ‘old hands’ – but above all, Old Catholic Apostolic Church seminarians.
There is a directory of each church, what each denomination believes and does, and why. What is the difference between the Methodist Church and the Roman Catholic Church? How did each come about? Find out here. This is a tool for you to use whenever you need to clarify a point of detail about the OCAC or indeed other churches.
Primarily however, this official website is where our seminarians and ordinands will find the Syllabus relevant to their education and training, which all are required to undertake, prior or in the course of their journey through receiving Holy Orders. Speaking of which…
… Understanding Apostolic Succession
To understand Apostolic Succession, we need to roll back in time, to the Ascension of Jesus to Heaven, having promised his disciples they would receive the Power of the Holy Spirit. A promise by Our Lord Jesus Christ delivered to His Disciples, quite literally the briefest moment, just before His departure from Earth towards the skies, it is a defining episode in the life of the Early Church, because it echoes across History, right to the present day. Let’s recall that all-important moment in Church History:
“Jesus replied, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. ‘But you will receive Power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After He had said this, they watched as He was taken up, and a cloud hid Him from their sight…”
Op. Cit. Study Bible, Acts, Chapter I, vs. 7 – 9
We know from the accounts in Acts the Disciples received the Power of the Holy Spirit at the Feast of Weeks in Jerusalem, an event known as Pentecost, only a few days after Jesus’s Ascension to Heaven:
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.”
Op. Cit. NIV Bible, Acts, Chapter 2, vs. 1 – 31
The Power of the Holy Spirit did not just translate into linguistic marvels, but it effected a whole new and extraordinary “Divine Energy” to literally everything the Apostles and Disciples undertook to carry out, including the laying of hands as an adopted method of transmitting the Holy Spirit in the administration of the Sacraments. Holy Orders, notwithstanding the differences that separate us from Early Church days, has thus been administered to new Ordinands in-keeping with this tradition.
This is relevant to the discussion of Apostolic Succession, but it is almost impossible to talk “Apostolic Succession”, without it being instantly a point of adored argumentation and – it gets better! – frantic possessiveness, or claims to one’s Apostolic Succession being the one and only truly genuine and relevant and – of course! – exclusive. The result, depending on one’s sense of humour, is either a hilarious spectacle of impassioned fury, or more often, perhaps a sad show of unhappy people laying Byzantine claims against one another. Our Good Lord’s Second Coming To-Do-List might provide some interesting reading indeed…
The Power received at Pentecost and passed on through the Apostles and Disciples to the Christian communities they founded during their Apostolic journeys, found by the Grace of God, Its way into very many lines of Apostolic Succession. Thus, Apostolic Succession is God’s Grace, it belongs to no one but was God’s gift to all. It lived initially in all those early communities, passed on to the first epískopos (επίσκοπος) consecrated in the early Churches, which these then passed on to their successors and to the new Bishops in the ever expanding new communities of Christendom.
Unsurprisingly, there are many Lines of Apostolic Succession today. All are perfectly legitimate and valid, and no one Church may lay exclusive claim to the Lines of Apostolic Succession it inherited, as the only legitimate ones. The Lines of Apostolic Succession started by St Peter and St Paul are as legitimate as the Lines of Apostolic Succession started by St. Bartholomew in Punjab – India, or St James in the Iberian Peninsula, or even the lines started by St Paul in locations prior to his Apostolic Mission in Rome.
Indeed, most if not all those Lines of Apostolic Succession are alive and very well today, 2020 years later, in the Churches where they started and in the Churches where they migrated to, as new communities established themselves around the World. However, as an effect of natural expansion and proliferation, each Church today has more than one Line of Apostolic Succession, within a complex and intricate web of Lines and connection points.
God’s gift to the Churches of Jesus Christ on Earth, Apostolic Succession is a highly prized Treasure; and all Churches take great care in its preservation and management. The OCAC – Old Catholic Apostolic Church is no different, keeping today a Line of Apostolic Succession inherited from nine separate lines:
The Chaldean Catholic Church;
The Syrian-Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch;
The Coptic Orthodox Succession;
The Russian Orthodox Church;
The Melkite-Greek Patriarchate of Antioch & All East;
Roman Catholic Succession, Line of Dom Duarte Costa;
Anglican Communion Succession;
Liberal Catholic Church Succession;
Ancient Catholic Church Succession.