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REFLECTIONS ON PRIESHOOD

I think a good deal more study has to be done about what it
means to be a priestly community in “the bishop and shepherd of our
souls”. Obviously, I should think, this must include what priesthood
meant to the first Christians. Influenced by the Reformation, we’ve
tended to believe that as Christ is a new type of priest, that the
function of priesthood became something unlike the Jewish Priesthood.

But it seems to me in stressing the differences – to counter Medieval
sacerdotalism – the proverbial baby was thrown out. Yes, the Sacrifice
was ‘once offered”, but the recapitulation of that once offered surely
remains what priesthood means, eucharistically and in the resulting
effect of eucharist in community. So primarily the whole Church exists
as the priestly people to ‘apply’ the one Sacrifice in the communities
in which the Church is incarnate. It is for this reason that I don’t
entirely go along with the definition of ‘lay ministry’ as something
outside the Church. It is that, in evangelism and care for for those
in need, but the outside aspect is vivified by the ‘inside’ centered
in the Eucharistic offering.

In this respect we’ve made a great deal of progress in the past four
hundred years in restoring ‘Real Presence’ but we’ve been shy of what
we once termed ‘the Eucharistic Sacrifice” without which Real Presence
becomes a sort of spiritualized reception by the laos, rather than
their participation in the eternal offering. It is that continued
offering, I think, in which the Church discovers its priestly mission
in standing for the world to God and God to the world in the
realization and activation of the Atonement/Resurrection.

Unless we get this right, the true meaning of the Church’s Priesthood,
both lay and ordained becomes obscured, and the Eucharist becomes
merely therapeutic for those who ‘attend church’. Our problems in
getting clergy and laity to embrace their communities stem from this
lacuna in teaching.

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