The commemoration of a bishop by a priest in the liturgy is the liturgical expression of their canonical communion. It is at the same time the affirmation of the right granted to the priest by his bishop to exercise priestly authority.
These principles are reflected in canons 13, 14 and 15 of the Protodeftera Council held in Constantinople (861). With regard to presbyters and deacons, canon 13 states: "Presbyters or deacons, who, on the alleged grounds that their own bishop has been condemned for certain crimes, should dare to secede from his communion, shall be deposed." Understood in this canon is that presbyters and deacons commemorate only the local bishop who has granted them the right to exercise priestly authority.
Keeping in mind the metropolitan system of Church administration at the time, canon 14 of the same council reflects similar principles regarding bishops and their metropolitan. It states: "If any bishop, on the allegation that the charges of crime lie against his own metropolitan, shall secede or apostasize from him, he shall be deposed." The metropolitan system refers to an eparchy in which the bishop of its capital, the metropolitan, presides over an eparchial synod of local bishops.
Canon 15 makes reference to the same principles as they relate to a presbyter, bishop or metropolitan and his patriarch: "A bishop, presbyter, or metropolitan who dares to secede or apostasize from the communion of his own patriarch, shall be deposed."
Each of these canons addresses the significance of not commemorating one’s ecclesiastical superior: a presbyter his bishop; a bishop his metropolitan; and a bishop, presbyter, or metropolitan his patriarch. It is the breaking of communion with one’s ecclesiastical superior as an act of defiance contesting his authority. The consequence of this act is the imposition of canonical sanctions upon those engaged in such arbitrary activity. It is not the individual who determines the causal factor of the breach of communion, but the synod of bishops. Therefore, the canons foresee austere reaction to any violation of this principle.
Relative to the contemporary Church, the commemoration of a bishop is the act of acknowledging whose episcopal authority is exercised in a particular region. Ecclesiologically, it refers basically to the local bishop under whose episcopal authority a presbyter exercises his priestly ministry.
The rule of commemoration in the Archdiocese of America has been as follows: Its first two charters – that of 1923 and of 1927 – addressed the needs of an Archdiocese headed by an Archbishop and three Bishops constituting its synod. Article IX of both charters stipulates that "in the mysteries and services, priests and deacons shall commemorate their canonical bishop, the Bishops shall commemorate the Archbishop and the Archbishop the Ecumenical Patriarch."
The Charter of 1927 was replaced by a third charter – that of 1931. Exceptional circumstances having contributed to the cessation of the synod, the Archdiocese was then headed exclusively by the Archbishop to whom an auxiliary bishop could be appointed. This being the case, there is no article addressing the matter of commemoration. It may therefore be assumed that priests (and the auxiliary bishop) commemorate the Archbishop, and the Archbishop the Ecumenical Patriarch.
With the termination of the Charter of 1931 and its replacement by the Charter of 1977, a synod of bishops headed by the Archbishop was restored. Article IX of the new charter states the following regarding commemoration: "During sacraments and ceremonies, priests and deacons commemorate the Archbishop and their Bishop, the Bishops commemorate the Archbishop, and the Archbishop commemorates the Ecumenical Patriarch."
That which is especially noted in the Charter of 1977 is mention of the Archbishop commemorated together with the local Bishop by priests and deacons. According to the administrative model reflected in the Charter of 1977, the Archbishop, as presiding bishop of the synod of bishops, is the first ranking bishop of the Archdiocese (primate) sharing authority with the diocesan bishops.
The Archbishop commemorates his ecclesiastical superior, the Ecumenical Patriarch, and the Bishops – with only modified authority in their dioceses – commemorate the Archbishop. The dual commemoration by priests and deacons of the Archbishop and their Bishop, which is an innovation, is indicative of the new reality of an Archbishop (primate) and Bishops with modified authority.
The current Charter of 2003 introduced a significantly different model of administration. Whereas the Archbishop continues to be the presiding bishop of the eparchial synod (and primate, however not in the sense of primate of an autocephalous church), the diocesan bishops are elevated to metropolitans and granted full episcopal authority in their respective metropolises.
Article 8 of the Charter of 2003 addresses the order of commemoration as follows: "During divine worship, the sacraments and the sacred services, priests and deacons commemorate their canonical hierarch. The Archbishop and the Metropolitans commemorate the name of the Ecumenical Patriarch at the liturgical exclamation of the "en protois mnestheti…" ("first of all remember Lord…"). The Auxiliary Bishops commemorate the name of their respective Hierarch. At the great entrance of the divine liturgy, after the commemoration of their Archbishop and Patriarch, the Metropolitans also commemorate their Archbishop in America."
The return to a canonical model of ecclesiastical administration consistent with our ecclesiology restored the original single commemoration of the local bishop by his presbyters and deacons, and of the Ecumenical Patriarch by the Archbishop and Bishops (now Metropolitans). That which causes confusion in the minds of the faithful, however, is reference to the metropolitan as archbishop in his commemoration. This gives the impression of correlation of metropolitan and presiding bishop of the eparchial synod (archbishop).
It would be imprudent to cite the dual commemoration introduced by the Charter of 1977 as a precedent for justifying a return to this practice. Although it was indicative of the new reality at that time of an Archbishop (primate) and Bishops with modified authority, it was an innovation and therefore uncanonical. It must also be kept in mind that Bishops then comprising the synod of bishops did not have full episcopal authority in their dioceses.
Administrative Model of the Archdiocese
As reflected in the Charter of 2003, the administrative model of the Archdiocese resembles that of an eparchy of the Early Church. Resident bishops with full episcopal authority – the Metropolitans, understood in the manner in which the office of metropolitan evolved in later centuries – comprise an eparchial synod. The eparchial synod is headed by a chief hierarch – the Archbishop, understood as presiding hierarch and therefore, the primate, in this sense.
As indicated above (on page 5 of this Statement), "That which causes confusion in the minds of the faithful, however, is reference to the metropolitan as archbishop in his commemoration. This gives the impression of correlation of metropolitan and presiding bishop of the eparchial synod (archbishop)." It would seem, therefore, that by referring to the metropolitan as "metropolitan," not as "archbishop," when commemorated, a misperception of roles would be prevented. As stated in Article 3 (paragraph a.) of the Charter of 2003, "The Archdiocese, being the Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne in the United States of America, is one indivisible entity in its entirety. It is composed of the New York based Direct Archdiocesan District ("Archdiocesan District"), and Metropolises ……".