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Catholic Dictionary




In both the Old and New Testaments a significant symbolic action denoting various meanings. Examples: Israel giving his parental blessing to Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48:18); Moses passing his authority to his successor (Numbers 27:18); Joshua receiving the spirit of wisdom to lead his people (Deuteronomy 34:9); Aaron preparing the ram for sacrifice (Exodus 29:10). In the New Testament its symbolism took on a further and deeper meaning: Jesus blessing the children (Matthew 19:15); Jesus bringing the official's daughter back to life (Matthew 9:18); Peter and John calling down the Holy Spirit on the Samaritans (Acts 8:17). After Pentecost the laying on of hands especially denoted the conferral of the powers and authority of the episcopacy, which Christ had given to the Apostles. In the Catholic Church the sacrament of orders: the diaconate, priesthood, and episcopate are administered by a bishop through the laying on of hands.