“…thou art an holy nation, and a royal priesthood,”
“Thou art a priest forever.”
When the Christian priesthood comes to mind, so do these verses for me, aside from the other quotes, such as the institution of the Priesthood itself at the Last Supper, for example, and how that ties so closely in to the Mass.
I started this thread because recently I have been reading more about the hierarchy of the Church, and how the Church works in practice. I am beginning to believe that a lot of the confusion around the Church stems very nearly to the nature of the Christian Priesthood, which is, I have been told, a singular sharing in Christ’s own. As we know, Christ is :
i) The High Priest,
ii) The King of Kings, and
iii) The Prophet*
*promised by Moses especially, as the Holy Father has demonstrated succinctly in his book, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Thesis : Catholic Priests share in the tri-fold office of Christ’s Priesthood (not only his priestly one) : in His Priesthood, His Kingship, and His Prophetic Office as well. These offices can also be described by their functions - in practice :
i) The Offering of Sacrifice,
ii) Governing, and
iii) Teaching (or Instructing, and also Admonishing).
Furthermore, the Church instituted by Christ is a Family, even His Family, hence brethren, brother, sister, mother, father, etc., for example :
“Woman, behold thy son,”
“Behold thy mother.”
(From my memory). Most of this, I think, is known or obvious, but I am starting to feel that both the royal and prophetic character of the Priesthood is being forgotten or diminished, especially the royal aspect. When’s the last time someone referred to a Bishop, for example, as a Prince of the Church ?
The “royal” character of the Priesthood has extremely important implications ; for example, a prince is always a prince - he can have his dominions taken away, behave like a libertine and act like a commoner, etc., but he is and always will be a prince - you can (rightfully, at times) deprive him of his material patrimony and deprive him of all authority, but he is still a prince, and still needs to be treated like one. The “princely” character of the Priesthood is one very logical reason Catholics have always honored and esteemed their Priests, and desired them to enjoy vestments fitting for their office : if the prince or president of your country dressed like a slob, you would be ashamed ; if he was so poor because his people did not afford him anything, we’d be embarassed. Why ? Because princes - like presidents - by virtue of their office, symbolize the people, their sovereignty, their integrity, etc.
Why am I bringing all this up, you might ask ?
Well, at many parishes I have seen a watering down of the clergy, where they dress in the most bland, simple outfits during Mass - whether they be religious brothers or sisters, deacons or priests. Frankly, the deacons are often made to look like temple virgins, wearing a thin white cloth and a rope around their waste, while the religious sisters I have seen dress as common folks, totally indistinguishable from anyone else. The priest’s vestments appear so simple and plain that it almost - when all is taken together - seems like we are putting on a puppet show - not celebrating the Holy Mass and Mystery of Faith.
The second reason is the RCIA programs, which are largely run by the laity, with guest appearances from father - frankly, as a convert, I wanted to know whom it was I was going to be calling, “father,” and also what he believed. It seemed more naturally that he would be the one to teach me / us - this is not a stab at the great people who do a wonderful job and go to great efforts to catechize. Many, I’m sure, may do a better job than some priests who might not be strong in the “teaching” department ; regardless, that ought to be the exception to the rule, rather than the rule ; furthermore, I understand completely that there are a shortage of priests, and most of these men are busy enough as it is ; nonetheless, I think contact and instruction from holy men can but only beget and inspire more holy men (and women, too, of course!).
The Priesthood enjoys the governing, teaching and offering prerogatives of the Church ; naturally, they can delegate such authority, but are still responsible for it, like anyone. I know the Bishops are personally, for the most part, the ones who in each diocese carry the responsibility to accomplish all these things, and his sons, the priests, are there to help him. Still, it is these men, called by God, who are first and foremost expected to perform these tasks : just like a father can delegate his children to schools, tutors, doctors, etc., nonetheless, at the end of the day, it is absolutely his responsibility - and duty - to ensure the safety, upbringing, and care of his child.