Why are Form & Matter separate in Holy Orders?


Reading the Pontificale Romanum (old) & 1967 (new) Ordinals, I see that the laying-of-hands has been done in silence for hundreds of years. The actual prayer of the consecration/ordination always comes after the laying-of-hands.

How can this be reconciled with 2 Timothy 1:6? The Gift to Timothy was conferred by the laying of Paul’s hands, yet the Church today passes on the Gift by the prayer of ordination which occurs after the laying on of hands.

The ancient Apostolic Constitutions do not separate the form from the matter, so why don’t we today? This cleft is not in any other sacrament. :confused:

First off, the matter of the sacrament of Holy Orders is not the laying on of hands, it is the ordinand upon whom the Holy Spirit is conferred.

Secondly, the laying on of hands is a symbol of the imparting of the Holy Spirit, and the prayer vocalizes the intention to call down the Holy Spirit. There is no separation or opposition between the two.


I seem to recall there being some historical confusion, or lack of clarity at least, about this issue. As a data point, the Council of Florence said:
The sixth is the sacrament of orders. Its matter is the object by whose handing over the order is conferred. So the priesthood is bestowed by the handing over of a chalice with wine and a paten with bread; the diaconate by the giving of the book of the gospels; the subdiaconate by the handing over of an empty chalice with an empty paten on it; and similarly for the other orders by allotting things connected with their ministry.

Some amount of confusion exists over whether the matter is the laying on of hands or whether it is the instruments handed over (i.e., chalice). In no way has it ever been suggested that the ordinand is the matter. He is the subject of the sacrament. See the Catechism of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Guess we’ll just have to call it a Mystery, then. :stuck_out_tongue:

Given that St Thomas appears to be wrong on the issue of the episcopate, perhaps that is not a good place to look…

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