New priest is but old presbyter writ large?

A recent conversation about when presbyters began to exercise liturgical functions (and I’m still none the wiser, though the significant point is that we should not assume that somebody called a presbyter in the first four centuries or so did so, unless there is evidence of other presbyters doing so in the same place at the same time), and in turn the point at which we should render “presbyter” as “priest” (with reference to M.R. James’ rendering of πρεσβῦτις as “priestess” in the Martyrium Matthaei) brought back memories of Fr Bown’s campaign against “priestesses” in the Church of England (I am showing my age), but also to the happier recollection of the delightful poem of Fr Forrest. Those unfamiliar with the name of Stanley Forrest will hopefully be encouraged to seek further.

I long to be a Presbyter,
A Presbyter or Priest,
And grow an elder’s whiskers,
Like the Esbyter or East,
A yard in length at lesbyter,
I mean, of course, at least.
I’m sure that they would operate
Like yesbyter or yeast,
And flocks would be incresbyter,
Tremendously increased,
At every major festival,
Each fesbyter or feast.
And though I’d look a besbyter,
I’d be a kindly besbyter,
A gentle and adorable
Apocalyptic Beast.
SJ Forrest, (1955)

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One response to “New priest is but old presbyter writ large?

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