by Celes A. Gianan, DD, PhD

ALTER CHRISTUS is properly translated as OTHER CHRIST, not ANOTHER CHRIST which is ALIUS CHRISTUS in Latin. Though ALIUS in Latin is taken to mean sometimes as OTHER. But, ALTER CHRISTUS is Christologically phrased as such to mean OTHER CHRIST. When one is ALTER CHRISTUS, one gets the character of Christ by virtue of Baptism insofar as when one is baptized,  one is baptized in Christ. Romans 6:3-5  qualifies this Baptism as “that which unites us to Christ; we are all baptized and plunged into His death, were buried with Christ and, as Christ was raised from among the dead by the glory of the Father, so we begin walking in a new life. If we have been joined to Him by dying a death like His so we shall be by a resurrection like His”. The effect of Baptism in our life’s entire journey is we become ALTER CHRISTUS, meaning, we go through life’s journey of dying, being buried, rising and, thus, living a new life in Christ. Being baptized is entering into Christ to share the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice and accepting a complete change of life so as to come to terms with the very life of Christ, our Lord.

Yes, we become ALTER CHRISTUS, OTHER CHRIST, indeed. When the Apostle Paul speaks of Baptism, he speaks of it as taking life’s entire journey through conversion – Conversion unto Christ. This mark of ALTER CHRISTUS is strenghtened by the Sacrament of Confirmation by the power of the Spirit of God in Christ, nourished and sustained by the Holy Eucharist who is Christ Himself.

In advancing one’s life in Christ, this character of Christ is further magnified and dignified by the Sacrament of Holy Orders conferred upon him by the laying of hands and by virtue of which one shares in the Ministerial Priesthood of Christ. This is not something one can lay claim as one’s own or gained by one’s own human efforts but by the grace of God. However, to say that one is ANOTHER CHRIST is to say that aside from Jesus Christ comes another person claiming to be Christ. THIS IS NOT THE CASE with ALTER CHRISTUS in the truest and deepest sense of the word.

IN PERSONA CHRISTI CAPITIS is rightly and referrentially  translated as ACTING IN THE PERSON OF CHRIST THE HEAD. As baptized in Christ, one is not only marked by His character but is also tasked to do His works. If much is expected from a baptized person, much more is expected from an ordained or consecrated person as well. So, any action a baptized, ordained, and consecrated person does, one does it IN THE PERSON OF CHRIST THE HEAD or IN PERSONA CHRISTI CAPITIS. The word CAPITIS is very essential to this phrase because this provides THE REASON for acting IN PERSONA CHRISTI, that is, we act in the person of Christ because He is our Head, Head of the Church, His Body. (Trans.Caput, capitis means Head, of the Head).

ALTER CHRISTUS and IN PERSONA CHRISTI CAPITIS are not just simple words in our Christian vocabulary but are indispensable marks of each and every baptized person and of each and every ordained and/or consecrated person. These marks are coupled with tasks. These tasks may differ in roles or functions. ALTER CHRISTUS without IN PERSONA CHRISTI CAPITIS remains a mere  character; acting IN PERSONA CHRISTI CAPITIS  driven by ALTER CHRISTUS constitutes the TRUTH of CHRISTIAN LIFE, the LIFE OF A BELIEVER.


Why acting IN PERSONA CHRISTI CAPITIS? How important it is for Christians to act IN PERSONA CHRISTI CAPITIS?

Christians are to act IN PERSONA CHRISTI CAPITIS for the very simple reason that they are ALTER CHRISTUS or OTHER CHRIST by virtue of their Baptism and/or Holy Orders. IN PERSONA CHRISTI CAPITIS is integral to ALTER CHRISTUS, a MARK indispensable to a Christian.

Most often, when we speak of ALTER CHRISTUS, we always attribute it to a PRIEST. Our minds have been accustomed or set to this thinking. But rarely we attribute it to each and every baptized person as if ALTER CHRISTUS is a mark EXCLUSIVE only of a PRIEST and not of each and every baptized PERSON. I believe it is high time for ALL CHRISTIANS, may they be lay or ordained or consecrated, to have this AWARENESS, that is, that they are all ALTER CHRISTUS and, as such, they are to act IN PERSONA CHRISTI CAPITIS.

Days after the RESURRECTION of CHRIST, He kept appearing to His disciples providing them great occasions TO KNOW HIM as He had SPOKEN His words to them and BROKE bread with them. And, He continues even until now providing occasions for us people of God TO KNOW HIM in the Liturgy of the HOLY MASS, that is, during the Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist. God’s purpose for this is for ALL of us God’s people to come TO KNOW HIM more so we can be more of an ALTER CHRISTUS and, thus, have much power to act IN PERSONA CHRISTI CAPITIS.

What a wonderful Christian world we will have when all of us Christians, lay and/or ordained, stand for who WE REALLY ARE, that is, ALTER CHRISTUS, and DO THINGS in this world IN PERSONA CHRISTI CAPITIS. What a dynamic and zealous BODY OF CHRIST, His CHURCH, shall we become when ALL BAPTIZED, lay or ordained, are faithful and true to their BEING BAPTIZED IN CHRIST – a sacred text inscribed and capsulated in Galatians 3: 27, which says, “All of you who were given to Christ through BAPTISM, have put on CHRIST.

God loves us all.


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