Jesus Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alelluia.
It’s nice to hear the word “alleluia” after Lent! There often seems to be a tie with the coming of Spring and the joys of Easter and hopefully, particularly with Easter being a bit later this year even us Wisconsinites will have the joys of the warmth of spring which corresponds to the warmth and joy that fills our heart on this great feast day. Along with Christmas, Easter forms the pillar of the Church’s liturgical year – these two great mysteries of the Incarnation and the Resurrection sum up so many aspects of our faith and reveal to us the depth of God’s love for us – that He would send His only Begotten Son to save us and that He loves us so much that He desires for us to conquer the grave and to be with Him in heaven for all eternity.
I thought on this joyous day to share with you words from St. Gregory of Nazianzus – St. Gregory lived from 329 AD – 390 AD. In an Easter homily, he once preached, he said:
“This Day has salvation come to the world, the visible and unseen world. Christ is risen from the dead. Rise with Him! Christ has returned to Himself; return likewise. Christ is delivered from the grave; free yourselves from the bonds of sin. The gates of hell are opened, death is defeated, the old Adam discarded, the new has come. If any man lives in Christ, he is a new being: be renewed!
This for us is the Feast of Feasts, the Festival of Festivals; as far above all the rest as the sun above the stars; not alone those related to the earth and to men, but even to those of Christ Himself, and celebrated in His honor…today we celebrate the Resurrection itself; not now as something to be hoped for, but as come to pass, and uniting in itself the whole world.
Let each one of us then, during this time, bring here and offer to God as our festival gift, some fruit of our lives, whether great or small: provided it is one of the spiritual gifts that are pleasing to God, which each of us has in his power to offer. For the gifts that are truly worthy of God not even the angels can offer: even these the first of all creatures, intelligent, pure beings, who see and proclaim His glory in heaven…”
Today is a day of rejoicing and of offering ourselves, as St. Gregory says, in joy back to the Lord – the Lord who has conquered sin and death – the Lord who has risen from the tomb.
On behalf of myself and the entire Parish Staff – Happy Easter!
In our last article we looked at how the sacramental character of Holy Orders conforms the priest to Christ, we are now going to examine three ways the priest resembles Christ, the Great High Priest. The first resemblance with Christ comes from the fact that the priest does not choose the priesthood for himself, it is not something that one can take on himself, it’s something which is given to him – he must be called to it. We hear Christ, in John’s Gospel say to His disciples: “you have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” (John 15.16). This is true for the priest himself, he has been chosen for it - it’s not something he takes for himself on his own initiative. In this we see a resemblance with Christ the Priest, because His own priesthood is a gift from His Father. For the priest this should be a constant reminder of the love that God has for him - that he has been chosen for so exalted a vocation.
The second resemblance we see between the priest and Christ the powers with which he is invested. The priesthood establishes an intermediary between God and the priest offers the gifts of human beings to God and the graces of God to human beings. The priest stands in the place of Christ and are clothed with His power. This power is something that comes from Christ Himself and entails the dispensing of the treasures and mercies of Christ Himself. We see this very clearly in the administration of the sacraments. If we look at the celebration of the Eucharist and the words of consecration, the priest says, “This is my Body, this is my Blood” – He speaks in the first person because he is acting in the person of Christ Himself. We see that too in the words of absolution on confession, “I absolve you” – once again speaking in the first person. This is a tremendous mystery and grace and in the words of Blessed Columba Marmion shows that that on earth there is nothing that can exceed the excellence of the priesthood.
The final resemblance we will look at is rooted in the hypostatic union – that Christ is One Person with Two Natures – human and divine. In a certain way the priest bears in himself a divine element and a human element. Christ’s divinity was hidden under the veil of His humanity and, so too does the priest, under the exterior of a man, conceal within himself the invisible grandeurs of the priesthood. Such supernatural powers in such fragile hands! In one moment, at the word of the priest, bread becomes the Body and Blood of Christ. In one moment, at the word of the priest, a sinner is freed from his past sin, pardoned and made new again in grace.
In our next article we will examine the call to sanctity which is an inherent part of the priesthood.
(This article is part of a series of articles on The Sacraments which will appear in the bulletin over the course of this year.)