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Saturday, December 09, 2006

A Priest for the Church: To be with Jesus

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As many readers here know, I am quickly approaching the end of my PhD studies. Of course I still have two chapters to write and a considerable amount of time this summer doing some re-writing, editing, etc. Alongside my PhD work, I am also in my formative period for the priesthood in the Church of England that is to begin 1 July 2007. One of the things I am trying to do during this time is to read some books on the priesthood and to prepare myself spiritually for my return to parish ministry after three years away in post-graduate studies. Presently, I am reading Fr. John J. Hughes' book, Man for Others: Reflection on Christian Priesthood. In his chapter, 'A Man for God,' Hughes writes,
To be with Jesus is the frist reason, then, for the call of the twelve. Like their master they are chosen, not for themselves, but for others; and first of all for him. The priest too is the man for others. And he is first of all the man for God. But isn't this true of every christian? Of course it is. And this can remind us again that before a man is a priest he is a baptized and confirmed believer, a member of the laity, the laos tou theou, the people of God, whose whole life in centred on God. As we remarked in chapter two above, ordination does not remove a man from the people of God, the body of believers. It merely gives him a special function within that body: the function of service. If a priest wears a uniform in the official liturgical assembly of this people (and it is fitting that he should to remind himself and others that he is not there in his personal but in his official capacity), then this is the livery of the servant whose task it is to pass round the dishes and to see that all are fed from the two tables of God's word and sacraments.

This means that ministerial priesthood is something purely relative. A man is a priest only in relation to the people he is ordained to serve. By himself the priest is simply a christian, sharing in the priesthood of all members of God's 'chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation,' who are called collectively and individually 'to declare the wonderful deeds of him who called [them] out of his darkness and into his marvellous light' (1 Pet. 2.9)...St Augustine applies this principle to the priesthood as well: 'When I tremble at what I am for you, I am consoled by what I am with you. For you I am a bishop, but with you I am a christian. I am a bishop in virtue of my office, a christian through grace. The former is a source of danger, the latter of salvation.'

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    O God, most glorious, most bountiful, accept, we humbly beseech thee, our praises and thanksgivings for thy holy Catholic Church, the mother of us all who bear the name of Christ; for the faith which it hath conveyed in safety to our time, and the mercies by which it hath enlarged and comforted the souls of men; for the virtues which it hath established upon earth, and the holy lives by which it glorifieth both the world and thee; to whom, O blessed Trinity (+), be ascribed all honour, might, majesty and dominion, now and for ever. Amen.
    --Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

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