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Living Icons of Christ ^ | may/Hyne 2010 |

Posted on 05/15/2010 11:44:38 AM PDT by Salvation

Living Icons of Christ

Priest's do more than just "say Mass." They become agents of transformation.

Living Icons of Christ

Called to mediate the presence of Christ in the world, priests are set apart to serve the church in every way: as reconciler, as healer, as teacher, and as friend. This is a demanding and often thankless calling. It is also a calling that would be impossible without the grace they receive from the Lord—especially the grace that comes from celebrating the Eucharist.

We believe that when a priest follows Jesus’ command to “do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:19), he is acting in the person of the Christ himself. And he is not only acting on his own behalf, as if the Eucharist were a private act of devotion between the priest and Christ. No, he is bringing with him to the altar all the people whom he serves, just as Jesus did. Just as Jesus did on the cross, even today the priest takes us, with all our sadness and pain and all of our joy and gladness, to the Father so that he can transform us by his grace and mercy. In this sense, the priest is a living icon of Christ.

So let’s take a look at what it means that the priest acts in the person of Christ when he celebrates the Eucharist. Let’s look at the close bond that exists between a priest’s ministry and Jesus, our great high priest.

Jesus, Our High Priest. In order to understand how the priest acts in the person of Christ, we first must identify what we mean when we say that Jesus is a high priest. More than any other book, the Letter to the Hebrews answers this question. Hebrews tells us that the high priest in Jerusalem entered the Temple’s sanctuary with sacrificial blood in order to set people free from sin. He acted as a mediator between God and his people. He brought the people’s needs to God and he ministered God’s grace and mercy to the people in return.

Like the high priest, Jesus became a mediator as well, bringing the people’s needs to God and pouring out redemption and salvation to the people in return. Like the high priest, Jesus also lives to make intercession for us, praying for us before the throne of God (Hebrews 7:25).

But as much as Jesus is like the high priests of Israel, his ministry also surpasses theirs (Hebrews 8:6). First, the high priests offered “the blood of goats and bulls” to make atonement for the people, but Jesus offered “his own blood”—blood that was filled with God’s own power and grace (9:12-13).

This divine blood of Christ is superior in a second way. The blood sacrifices of the high priests were meant to “sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed” (Hebrews 9:13). It was an act of atonement for the sins committed over the past year, and it gave the people a chance to start afresh. By contrast, Jesus’ blood sacrifice was “once for all” (10:10). It didn’t just atone for the sins of the past but for all sins committed for all time.

Called to Be Icons of Christ. When Jesus said “Do this in memory of me,” he set his apostles apart as priests in his image. It was as if he established a new order of priests who would be ministers of his new covenant. From that point on, we believe that through the Sacrament of Holy Orders priests receive a special anointing to continue Jesus’ priesthood on earth. They continue to represent Jesus to us, speaking his words to us and exercising his ministry in our midst.

We might say that priests are icons of Jesus, representing him in a special way. They freely choose to give up their independence so that they can find their identity in the Lord and not only in their accomplishments. As an icon of Christ, every priest, despite imperfection and weakness, is set apart for the Lord. It’s not a personal decision or a career choice. It’s a divine commission, a calling from God. This calling is the reason why he seeks ordination. It’s also at the root of why he is enabled to assume the authority of Jesus, acting in the person of Christ in our very midst.

A Mediator between God and His People. At the heart of the authority and responsibility that a priest has been entrusted with is the role of mediator—a role that the priest takes on in a special way at Mass. It’s there on the altar that a priest continues Jesus’ priestly ministry most fully. It’s there that he enters the sanctuary of God, offering a sacrifice of bread and wine to God. It’s there that he brings God’s grace and favor to the people who are gathered around him. It’s there that the miracle of Calvary is made present over and over again.

As mediator, a priest has the privilege of joining the human with the divine. He presents the calling and commands of God to the people—his desire that we partake in his body and blood, his invitation for us to receive his love, and his call that we follow him and his teachings. At the same time, he also presents our needs and requests to God—our praise, our petitions, and the sacrifices we make. Just as Jesus did, he acts as our go-between.

But priests offer their own lives as well. By making this very personal offering, they reaffirm their calling and their dedication to God. They present themselves to their heavenly Father as a sacrifice for the sake of the church and its people. United with the perfect sacrifice of Christ, the priest’s imperfect sacrifice of his life brings him closer to the Lord and gives him continued grace for his ministry.

Furthermore, when the priest offers the Eucharist, he is not only joining his life with the sacrifice of bread and wine. He is offering our lives to the Lord as well. All our sins, all our fears and failings, all our hopes and dreams—they are all gathered in the bread and brought before our heavenly Father, who accepts us warmly and holds us close to his heart.

A Divine Exchange in His Memory. Jesus once said: “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39). During the Offertory, we give our lives to the Lord—represented by the gifts we place on the altar. Then, when we approach the same altar at communion, we receive Jesus’ own divine, risen life into our bodies and into our hearts. At this divine exchange, something very powerful happens. Not only do we give ourselves to Jesus and receive his life: We receive our own lives back from him—the very lives that we gave to the Lord during the Offertory. In effect by “losing ourselves” in Jesus, we “find ourselves” in him. But the life we find in him is now transformed; it is no longer the same life we offered up to him.

Jesus was put to death, and he was raised to life three days later. A similar human-divine exchange occurs every time we celebrate the Mass. At communion, we can experience what it is like to be brought closer to Jesus, to be lifted up with him. We know it in our hearts by the reverence we feel at communion. We know it because we can feel his presence in our bodies. We know we have been transformed!

This is why Jesus ordained priests on the night before he died—so that we might continue to “do this” in his memory, so that we might continually offer our lives to him, share in his gifts to us, and receive back from him lives that are transformed and lifted up to his divine presence.

A Year for Priests. Brothers and sisters, as we continue in this Year for Priests, let’s try to look on each priest as an icon of Christ, especially when he is celebrating Mass. It can be easy to reduce priests to the status of “good men” dedicated to a noble cause. But God wants to lift our vision so that we can see Jesus at work through his servant, through an imperfect man who has been set apart by him and for him.

In a larger sense, this is a special year for each one of us. Jesus, our great high priest, has offered his life for us—a life like ours in all things but sin. And our priests have offered their lives for us as well—lives like ours in every way, including sin. As we unite ourselves to their offering, we too can lay our lives down at the altar. As one body, united with the Lord, each one of us can be transformed at each and every Mass, growing closer and closer to Jesus.

TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; catholiclist; yearofthepriest

Did you know that . . .

  • There are approximately 410,000 Catholic priests in the world, serving nearly 1.2 billion Catholics.
  • In the United States, there are more than 40,000 Catholic priests serving more than 65 million Catholics.
  • The number of Catholics in the Western Hemisphere continues to grow while the number of priests continues to shrink.
  • The median age of priests in the United States is over 60.

1 posted on 05/15/2010 11:44:38 AM PDT by Salvation
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To: nickcarraway; Lady In Blue; NYer; ELS; Pyro7480; livius; Catholicguy; RobbyS; markomalley; ...

**The median age of priests in the United States is over 60.**

Hopefully with an increase in younger ordinations, this median age will change.

Catholic Ping.

2 posted on 05/15/2010 11:46:04 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: All

“Alter Christus”

3 posted on 05/15/2010 11:46:49 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

Was at the festival for Our Lady of Fatima in Biloxi last night and got to meet the Bishop near the German food stand. We have no German restaurants down here at all, so I was sore tempted, but all they were serving was bratwurst.

4 posted on 05/15/2010 11:50:46 AM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet (Don't care if he was born in a manger on July 4th! A "Natural Born" citizen requires two US parents!)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

NO German restaurants?

They don’t know what they’re missing.

I’m trying to remember the name of the Bishop there. Can you help me out?

5 posted on 05/15/2010 11:53:21 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

Bishop Roger P. Morin.

6 posted on 05/15/2010 12:06:49 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet (Don't care if he was born in a manger on July 4th! A "Natural Born" citizen requires two US parents!)
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To: Salvation


7 posted on 05/15/2010 12:30:31 PM PDT by GOP Poet (Obama is an OLYMPIC failure.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet


8 posted on 05/15/2010 12:33:34 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

???????????????? does young age make one a better Priest than older age??????????????

9 posted on 05/15/2010 1:21:57 PM PDT by cubreporter
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To: cubreporter

The younger priests know Latin and are more willing to say a Latin Mass.

One priest ordained in our archdiocese last year was ordained in the Latin Rite AND the Maronite Rite.

10 posted on 05/15/2010 2:18:13 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: All
Living Icons of Christ

Bishops must rediscover their role as fathers, declares Benedict XVI from Fatima
Discourse No. 4.1 Pope Entrusts and Consecrates Priests to Our Lady of Fatima
On the Priest's Mission to Sanctify -- Pope Benedict "Be Conscious ofthe Great Gift That Priests Are for the Church"
Registration Extended for Close of Priests' Year
Men of the Same Cloth?: Old Priests vs. New Priests
The Conclusion of the Year for Priests [Catholic Caucus]
Pope Benedict XVI's Rookie Year as a Priest
Benedict XVI Urges Priests to Come to Rome
On the Priest's Mission as Teacher
Holy Week and the Priesthood

THE PRIEST IN THE COMMUNION RITES - Liturgy Prepares for Reception of the Eucharist
An Hermeneutic of Priestly Continuity [Pope Benedict to Congregation for Clergy] Catholic Caucus
Revitalizing Your Priesthood (The Grace of Ars -- about St. John Vianney)
Pope's "Lectio Divina" to Roman Priests (Part 2)
Pope's "Lectio Divina" to Roman Priests (Part 1)
The Seminary as Nazareth: Formation in a School of Prayer [Year of the Priest feature]
The Ministry of Jesus through the Office of the Bishop
Renewed... and Reconciled
100 Prayers For Priests (Catholic Caucus)
Priest Offers 'Ten Things That Promote Vocations' In Honor Of National Vocation Awareness Week

A Time to Praise our Fathers (National Vocation Awareness Week) [Catholic Caucus]
On Praying for Priests (Thoughts from St. Thérèse of Lisieux)
The Priesthood and the Mass
Vatican Aide: Priest Vocations Up in 20 Countries (England and Wales among them)
The Experience of ‘The Call’ (Discerning a Call to the Priesthood or Religious Life)
Priesthood Sunday - October 25, 2009
Health Care Council Letter to Priests, "A Priest at the Bedside of a Sick Person Represents Christ"
A Vocation to Be a Priest?
Do You Appreciate Your Priest? (with a touch of humor)
In India, Holy Orders

A priest’s chalice
Christ for Us: The Year for Priests [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
On Mary, Mother of Priests
Bishop Olmsted on the Devil and John Vianney
Catholic Caucus: Prayer for Our Priests (Year of the Priest)
Benedict reflects on Mary and the priesthood [Catholic Caucus]
The Priesthood — A Priceless Gift
Forming Those Who Form Priests: The Gift of Purity of Heart
Spiritual Mothers of Priests: Your Questions [Year of the Priest]
Eucharistic Season in the Year of the Priesthood

Pope's Address at Audience With New Archbishops: "Carry Deeply in Your Hearts Your Priests"
No Matter What, He Always "Acts Like a Priest" [Ecumenical]
On Priestly Identity
What Can I Do For the Year of the Priest?
The Rosary for the Year of the Priest [Catholic Caucus]
Pope Notes His Goal for Year for Priests
On the Year for Priests
Curé d'Ars: Model Priest [Year of the Priest]
ZENIT Launches Column on Priesthood

[Justin] Cardinal Rigali on the Year for Priests
Church Being Given Chance to Rediscover Priesthood [Year of the Priest]
Celebrating the Year of the Priesthood
St. John Vianney's Pastoral Plan
Year of the Priest Letter (Media immediately scrutinize its contents for controversy)
Year of the Priest [Catholic Caucus]
The Year for Priests [Catholic Caucus]
Year of the Priest Begins Friday
U.S. bishops launch website for Year for Priests

11 posted on 05/15/2010 2:18:51 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

I have to say the older Priests may not say it but...they ALL know Latin. They WOULD be the ones that would know Latin. I don’t care their age...jsut get up on Sunday, say the Mass the way it should be said and move on. No politics. No PC in the church.

12 posted on 05/15/2010 3:41:58 PM PDT by cubreporter
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