FEAST OF JESUS CHRIST,
THE ETERNAL AND HIGH PRIEST (1st Thursday after Pentecost).
The Lord has sworn an oath and he will not retract: you are a priest for ever, in the line of Melchisedech
This is a Roman Catholic moveable liturgical feast celebrated annually on the first Thursday after Pentecost. Approval for this feast was first granted by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 1987.
It is observed by the Confraternity of Christ the Priest in Australia and all the Roman Catholic dioceses of Spain. Since 2013, it has been observed in Poland (Decree, 3 April 2013) in the Netherlands the following year, since 2015 in Czech Republic. Since 2018, the feast is observed in England and Wales.
The whole Church participates in the mission of Christ the Priest. Through the sacraments of Christian initiation the lay faithful participate in Christ’s priesthood and are rendered capable of sanctifying the world through secular affairs. Priests, in a way that is different in essence and not just in degree, also participate in Christ’s priesthood and are constituted as mediators between God and man, especially through the Sacrifice of the Mass, which they realize in persona Christi. Today is a day when we ought to pray for all priests in a special way.
Today’s feast focuses on Jesus’ Priestly Office (Latin: Munus sacerdotale). Jesus is considered the model for believers, and for the clergy in particular, with priests acting in persona Christi (“In the person of Christ”). The laity are thus urged to pray that priests would be more like Christ, the compassionate and trustworthy high priest (Hebrews 2:17), ever-living to intercede for humanity before The Father (Heb 7:25). As we pray in the today’s Preface:
For by the anointing of the Holy Spirit you made your Only Begotten Son High Priest of the new and eternal covenant, and by your wondrous design were pleased to decree that his one Priesthood should continue in the Church. For Christ not only adorns with a royal priesthood the people he has made his own, but with a brother’s kindness he also chooses men to become sharers in his sacred ministry through the laying on of hands. They are to renew in his name the sacrifice of human redemption, to set before your children the paschal banquet, to lead your holy people in charity, to nourish them with the word and strengthen them with the Sacraments. As they give up their lives for you and for the salvation of their brothers and sisters, they strive to be conformed to the image of Christ himself and offer you a constant witness of faith and love.
Let as thank Our Lord Jesus Christ for being the Mediator before the Father, the Victim, and the Eternal priest, all at the same time, for our salvation. May we also imitate Him in His sacrifice and self-giving, for we are called to be co-redeemers of His plan of salvation.
A reading from the Encyclical Mediator Dei of Pope Pius XII (AAS 39 , 552-553)
Christ, Priest and Victim
Christ is a Priest indeed; however, he is a Priest not for himself but for us, since, in the name of the whole human race, he brings our prayers and religious dispositions to the eternal Father; he is also a victim, but a victim for us, since he substitutes himself for sinners.
Now the exhortation of the Apostle, ‘Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,’ demands that all Christians should possess, as far as is humanly possible, the same dispositions as those which the divine Redeemer had when he offered himself in sacrifice: that is to say, they should with a humble attitude of mind, offer adoration, honour, praise and thanksgiving to the supreme majesty of God.
Moreover, it demands that they must assume in some way the condition of a victim, that they deny themselves as the Gospel commands, that freely and of their own accord they do penance and that each detests and makes satisfaction for his sins.
It demands, in a word, that we must all undergo with Christ a mystical death on the Cross so that we can apply to ourselves the words of St. Paul, ‘I have been crucified with Christ’ (Galatians 2:19).
The priest, an instrument of unity
“Saint John Chrysostom, very conscious of the dignity and responsibility of the priesthood, at first resisted the idea of being ordained, and justified his behaviour as follows: if the captain of a great ship, with a big crew full of oarsmen and laden with precious merchandise, ordered me to take the tiller and cross the Aegean or the Tyrrhenian Sea, my first reaction would be to resist. And if I were asked why, I would immediately reply: because I don’t want the vessel to sink (St John Chrysostom, On priesthood, 3, 7). But, as the saint appreciated well, Christ is always close to the priest, close to the ship. Moreover, it is his Will that priests would continually feel supported by the esteem and the prayer of all the Church’s faithful. They should treat them with filial love as being their fathers and pastors, says the Second Vatican Council. They should also share their priests’ anxieties and help them as far as possible by prayer and active work so that they may be better able to overcome difficulties and carry out their duties with greater success (Second Vatican Council, Presbyterorum ordinis, 9). What the faithful require of their priests is that they be always exemplary and base their efficacy on prayer, that they celebrate the Holy Mass lovingly and that they care for God’s holy things with the consideration and respect they deserve, that they visit the sick and attach great importance to catechesis, that they always retain the joy which is born of self-surrender and which is so helpful even to those who are separated from God.
One thing we can ask God for today is that his priests be always available and open to everybody, and detached from themselves, because the priest does not belong to himself as he does not belong to his relatives and friends, nor even to a particular country: the charity he has to breathe must be universal. His very thoughts, his desires, his sentiments, are not his own: they belong to Christ, who is his life (Pius XII, Posthumous address, quoted by John XXIII in Sacerdotii Nostri primordia, 4 August 1959).
The priest is an instrument of unity. It is the will of God ut omnes unum sint, that they may all be one (John 17:21). Our Lord has said that every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste, and that no city or household can survive if unity is lost. Priests ought to be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit (Eph 4:3), this exhortation of Saint Paul is directed especially to those raised to sacred Orders so that the mission of Christ may be continued (Second Vatican Council, Unitatis redintegratio, 7). It is principally the priest’s responsibility to work for peace and harmony among his brothers, and to ensure that the unity of the faith is proof against differences of outlook in accidental and earthly affairs (cf F. Suarez, On priesthood, Madrid, 1969); with his word and example he has to safeguard the conviction that nothing in this world war rants destroying the marvellous reality of the cor unum et anima una, one heart and soul (Acts 4:32), which animated the first Christians and which must be the same for us. He will manage to fulfil his mission of unity more easily if he is open to all, if he is held in high regard by his brothers and sisters. Pray for the priests of today, and for those who are to come, that they may really love their fellow men, every day more and without distinction, and that they may know also how to make themselves loved by them (St. Josemaria Escrivá, The Forge, 964).
Pope John Paul II, addressing all the priests of the world, exhorted them in these words: As we celebrate the Eucharist at so many altars throughout the world, let us give thanks to the Eternal Priest for the gift which he has bestowed on us in the Sacrament of the Priesthood. And in this thanksgiving may there be heard the words which the Evangelist puts on Mary’s lips on the occasion of her visit to her cousin Elizabeth: ‘the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name’ (Luke 1:49). Let us also give thanks to Mary for the indescribable gift of the Priesthood, whereby we are able to serve in the Church every human being. May gratitude also awaken our zeal!…
Let us unceasingly give thanks for this. Let us give thanks with the whole of our lives. Let us give thanks with allow strength Let us give thanks together with Mary, the Mother of Priests. ‘How can I repay the Lord for his goodness to me? The cup of salvation I will raise; I will call on the Lord’s name’ (Ps 116:12-13)? (John Paul II, Letter to priests, 25 March 1988, 8).
-Excerpt from F. Fenandez-Carvajal, In Conversation with God, vol 6, 38.
Let us pray.
O God, who for the glory of your majesty and the salvation of the human race, made your Only Begotten Son the Eternal High Priest, grant that, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, those whom he has chosen as ministers and stewards of his mysteries may be found faithful in carrying out the ministry they have received.
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