Skip to comments.The Indispensable Priesthood -- Holy Thursday, [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
Posted on 04/05/2007 10:29:47 AM PDT by Salvation
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|The Indispensable Priesthood|
Today, Holy Thursday, we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist and the establishment of the priesthood. Many people today question the necessity of the Catholic priesthood. They may deny that it was established by Christ and claim that it is an innovation of the 2nd or 3rd or 4th century. Or they may recognize its antiquity, but assert that it belongs to a less-enlightened age than ours.
But the priesthood is an absolute necessity. For one thing, the priesthood is necessary to the existence of the Catholic Church. Wherever the priesthood has been abandoned, wherever apostolic succession has been broken, the Catholic Church has ceased to exist. The Church is not something we make. The sacraments make the Church, especially the Eucharist, and there is a very straightforward formulation of this that is a favorite saying of Father Corapi. Easy to remember and as simple as one plus one: NO PRIEST -- NO EUCHARIST.
NO PRIEST -- NO EUCHARIST.
Now we do believe in the universal priesthood of the faithful, "the priesthood of all believers" as Protestants like to call it, and we believe that all the baptized are part of that universal priesthood. But it is no substitute for the sacrament of holy orders. It isn't clericalism to say that it is realism. Clericalism assigns to priest something other than what they possess as though they were more holy than other Catholics, or wiser, or more intelligent. From the standpoint of the priest, clericalism is an attitude that is the exact opposite of the servanthood to which priests are called. It is clericalism for priests or bishops to act as though they are not accountable to the people of God, or to act as though the priesthood is a chummy club that exists for their own convenience or worse, for their own veniality.
But it is realism for both priests and the faithful to recognize what priests do possess and to reverence it. A priest is ontologically different from a lay person, just as a baptized person is ontologically different from an unbaptized person. A priest is changed in his being and given powers by God. The priest receives the power of offering the sacrifice of the Mass and the power to forgive sins.
The power to offer the sacrifice of the Mass includes the power of transubstantiation. The power of transubstantiation changes the substances of bread and wine into the Living Christ. No one else in the world no matter how brilliant or holy has that power. This is what Jesus Christ did at the Last Supper. As St. Augustine explained, He changed the bread and wine into Himself in such a way that the moment He pronounced the words of consecration, Jesus was holding Himself in His own hands. Not even the mother of God was ordained by her Son to possess and transmit the power that He demonstrated and gave to His apostles at the Last Supper. So if you want proof that lay people can be holier and wiser than priests, just look at Our Lady.
The other power that priests, and only priests, have received from Christ is the power of forgiving sins in His name. Why did Christ become Incarnate? Why was He crucified? In order to merit the graces that could cleanse our sinful world, our sinful selves, from sin. The priest does not merely declare the mercy of Christ to the sinner. We could all do that. We could all tell a person, "trust in the mercy of God. He is loving; He will forgive you." That would be declaring the mercy of God and we should do that, all of us. But we should also encourage, exhort, one another to the Sacrament of Confession in order to actually receive the mercy of God. Because when the priest absolves you of sin, Christ absolves you.
We should treasure the priesthood. It was Jesus' parting gift to the world and it is the way He has chosen to care for us until His return. If we find our head is full of ideas about how things could have been done better, we need to stop and drop and roll, before we really fan the flames of hell. Disdain for the priesthood can rob us of the grace we need to get to heaven. It is as simple as that.
All the grace that is flowing into the world is flowing from heaven to Catholic altars and from there out into the world. Because of Christ and because of his priests.
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My mom is a Fr. Corapi fan. Have a solemn Holy Week. Tonight I will be at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, tomorrow I do Good Friday with the Orthodox (better service). I am on enough ping lists.