On the basis of the fact that lay people are included in the People of God and that all Christ's
faithful are called to share in the life and mission of Christ, the laity does really have mission to
undertake in the Church. The Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity seeks to unfold the ministry
of the laity in the Church's mission in a clearer way. According to this decree there is a common
call to all Christ's faithful in the building up of the Body of Christ, the Church. There is a
diversity of ministries and the lay faithful have their mission to perform within the ecclesial
Every member of the Church whether he or she is cleric or lay is called to mutual and
collaborative ministry. The diversity of ministries in the Church is a witness to the unity of all
members in the Church.
Though the duties, activities and rights of the laity underwent many considerable changes during
the course of the history of the Church, the fact remains that the lay faithful have their ministry
in the Church. The mission of the Church is the concern of all the members of the Church, clerics
and lay persons alike. However, all the Christfideles do not perform the mission of the Church in
the same way; they undertake ministries in the Church, each according to his condition or gift(s)
received from God himself.
Cfr. Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity( Apostolicam Actuositatem), Pope John Paul II, November 18,
1965, AAS 58 (1966) 837-864.; John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Christifideles laici , 30
December 1988,.2; AAS, 81.
Cfr 1 Cor 12: 4-6.
B. The Source of Ministry in the Church
When reflecting on the source of mission of the Church, one cannot deny the fact that the Church
being the body of Christ has its mission from Christ. There is a strong Christological basis for the
work the Church carries out in the world. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whom the Father
sanctified and sent into the world to bring about the sanctification of the world through His
mission, started what has become the concern of the Church.
The mission of Christ is the will of the Father. It is the will of God, the Father that all humankind
receives salvation through Christ. Therefore, the goal of the mission of Christ is to reconcile men
and women to God so that they can receive salvation. Jesus, during His earthly ministry showed
Himself as the Good Shepherd, who has the ability to lead the flock of God back to God, the
Father and he lays down His life for the sheep.
By the act of calling men and women (clerics and laity) to become His disciples, Jesus
establishes the community of People of God to experience the love of God, the Father and be
encouraged by the power of the Holy Spirit to continue the mission He started here on earth. To
those whom Jesus called to be His followers, He entrusts the work of salvation to carry it out in
the world, so that all people in the world may benefit from His mission. All His disciples He
empowers by granting them a share in His munera so as to reach out to all the children of God.
Jesus Christ is the only source of the ministry of the Church. His mission He gave to the Church
to continue. Christ has a personal and immediate relationship with the Church which is His
mystical body. He loves His Church in such a way that one cannot imagine a separation between
the Church and Christ. Christ dwells in the midst of His Church and continues to identify
Himself with the Church as she continues His mission on earth.
The ministry of the Church whether, hierarchical or baptismal, remains the ministry of Christ.
Jesus by declaring that His Church would be built on Peter, manifested two aspects that pertain
Cfr. Jn. 10: 15 ff. (NJB)
to the Church- the fellowship of the twelve apostles and the origin of the hierarchical ministry.
The fact that the Church is hierarchically constituted does not mean that ministry comes from the
hierarchy. The hierarchy of the Church also shares in the ministry of Christ. There is a diversity
of ministry and a baptized, whether cleric or lay participates in the ministry of Christ according
to his or her condition. Participating in a kind of ministry does not make a member of the Church
a more disciple of Christ or holier than others.
It is worth mentioning here that since the source of ministry is Christological it should be
understood that by sharing in the munera of Christ, the baptized are in fact actually involved in
the ministry of Christ, which is also the ministry of the Church. The ministry of Christ continues
as the Church undertakes various ministries in the world. The work of Christ is geared towards
salvation and the cause of salvation is hic et nunc but all its effects are not yet produced. On the
other hand, the munera of Christ (kingly, priestly, prophetic offices) come into complete fruition
in the future.
Therefore, the participation of the Church in the tria munera Christi which is
bequeathed to the Church by Christ Himself makes the Church an instrument for realizing God's
will. By this three-fold office of Christ, the Church directly participates in the sacred powers of
Christ for the realization of the divine purpose that is the salvation of the world.
The term tria munera refers to the three-fold office of Christ as prophet, priest and king. It is an
ancient Patristic term which connotes the mission/function of Jesus Christ in the world. Already
at the time of Eusebius,
the term was used to ascribe to Christ with regard to His earthly
ministry. The first systematic use of the trilogy was a Christological one as introduced by
Eusebius. He gave explanation of the name of Christ by referring to the anointing of the high
priests, kings and prophets of the Old Testament. It was Chrysostom who first used the trilogy to
characterize the specificity of Christian existence, explaining that through anointing the baptized
person becomes prophet, priest and king.
However, Medieval Theology paid almost no attention
Cfr. Y Congar. Jalons pour une theologique du laicat, Unam Sanctam, Paris 1953, p. 66.
Bishop of Caesaria in Palestine was a prominent figure in the Council of Nicae ( c 325 AD).
to the priestly, prophetic and royal quality of the believing community and used the trilogy
exclusively to describe the prerogatives of the ordained.
John Calvin, one of the figures of the Reformation rediscovered the original significance of tria
munera Christi. The original significance of the trilogy relates to the soteriological meaning of
the term, that is, Christ exercised the tria munera for the sake of salvation of humankind. Though
Calvin had soteriological meaning of the trilogy, his focus is not diverted from the
ecclesiological implications of the trilogy.
Despite the fact that Calvin rediscovered the original
meaning of the trilogy, the tria munera was not lacking completely in Catholic theology. The
century canonist Ferdinard Walter used it exclusively to ordained ministers and made them
appear as the only sharers of Christ's three-fold task.
century canonist George
Philips, tried to reconcile Calvin's formular of the trilogy with Johann Adam Mohler's
reflections on the Church as the organic body of Christ.
The rediscovery of the tria munera Christi is rooted in the New Testament in which the members
of the Christian community are encouraged to be teachers
and identified as a holy people
as people of royal priesthood.
In his encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, Pope Pius XII
explicitly mentioned the tria munera Christi and noted that the whole body of Christ has to
conform to Christ, but added that the three offices of Christ have been transferred to those
members of the Body of Christ who received the sacred powers through ordination.
Cfr. P. De Meye "The Bishop's participation in the Three-fold Munera: Comparing the Appeal to the
Pattern of the Tria Munera at Vatican II and in the Ecumenical Dialogues", The Jurist, 69 (2009) 31-58, p. 33.
Ibid, p. 34
Heb 6: 11.
Cfr. 1 Pet, 2: 5.
Cfr. P. De Meye , op. cit. p. 32.
Ibid., p. 34, Mystici Corporis Christi, n. 17
However, Vatican Council II makes the participation in the tria munera Christi that of the entire
people of God. In this regard, the lay faithful also have a share in the three-fold ministry of
The tria munera of Christ is no longer considered as a prerogative of the ordained
members of the People of God, though participation of the lay faithful in the tria munera has its
Vatican Council II Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity reinforces the import of the three-fold
office of Christ for the whole People of God. It seeks to develop a theological understanding of
the link between the ministry of Christ and the ministry of the laity (the role of the laity in the
All the members of the Church are called to share in the three-fold function of Christ in their
This means that the lay persons in the Church can participate in the tria munera of
Christ in their own way and the clerics also have their specific manner of participating in the
three-fold-function of Christ.
Based on the concept of the tria munera Christi, the mission of the Church is divided into three
categories, i.e. teaching office, sanctifying office and ruling office. (the prophetic, priestly and
kingly office of Christ). All the baptized and Eucharistic Christian believers "share a true
equality with regard to the dignity and to the activity common to all faithful for the building up
of the body of Christ"
and all are made sharers in the priestly, prophetic and kingly functions of
Cfr. LG 34-36.
Cfr. W. Abbot (ed) Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, Document of Vatican II, Guild Press, New
York, 1966, p. 49.
Cfr. c. 204.
Cfr. LG, 31; AA, 2.
Both lay and clerics have active part to play in the life and activities of the Church.
Christifideles are to work hard for the growth of the Church and its continuous sanctification.
Jesus Christ, who is the source of the functions/ministry of the Church, commissioned all His
disciples to the apostolate of the Church.
The Vatican Council II document, Lumen Gentium, no. 34 states that Jesus Christ who is the
Supreme and Eternal Priest (High Priest) wills to continue His witness and serve through the
laity too (not only the clergy) and He gives the lay faithful a share in His priestly function.
Jesus Christ, the great prophet also fulfills His prophetic office not only through the clerics, the
ordained or the hierarchy, who teach in His name and with His authority, but also through the
Christian vocation is given to all Christian believers without exception because it is given with
one's incorporation into the People of God. The source of this Christian vocation is the baptism
and confirmation and the Eucharist as its "nourisher". In this sense the call to share in the tria
munera of Christ is not therefore a delegated task given to the lay Christian believers by the
hierarchy of the Church.
The attempt to see the tria munera of Christ as pertaining to the whole mystical body of Christ,
and at the same time as specific hall-mark of the ordained breeds some theological problems.
However, Vatican Council II has extended the sharing of the tria munera of Christ to all persons
who are baptized, confirmed and Eucharistic Christians. Vatican Council II also indicates an
essential difference between the ordained and the laity with regard to participation in the tria
Cfr. AA, 10.
Cfr. AA, 2.
Cfr. LG, 33.
Cfr. LG, 34.
Cfr.. LG, 35.
Cfr. F. Klostermann, Chapter IV, Lumen Gentium, Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, Herder
and Herder, New York 1967, v. 1, p. 240.
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- Ignatius Ayivor (Author), 2017, The Source and Relation between Lay Ministry and Ordained Ministry, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/383644