Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Tag Archives: Holy Orders

The Blessing Deacon

Every once in a while, I am asked if a Deacon may administer a blessing.  The quick answer is yes.  The more correct answer is that while a Deacon may administer a blessing there are a number that are reserved to the second and third grades of Holy Orders i.e., Priest and Bishop respectfully.  To assist everyone just a little more, Deacons may administer the following blessings which are categorized by object from the The Roman Ritual: Book of Blessings:

Blessings Pertaining to Persons

  1. Order for the Blessing of a Family
  2. Order for the Annual Blessing of Families in Their Own Homes
  3. Order for the Blessing of a Married Couple outside Mass
  4. Order for the Blessing of Children
  5. Order for the Blessing of Sons and Daughters
  6. Order for the Blessing of an Engaged Couple
  7. Order for the Blessing of Parents before Childbirth
  8. Orders for the Blessing of a Mother before Childbirth and after
    Childbirth
  9. Order for the Blessing of Parents after a Miscarriage
  10. Order for the Blessing of Parents and an Adopted Child
  11. Order of Blessing on the Occasion of a Birthday
  12. Orders for the Blessing of Elderly People Confined to Their Homes
  13. Order for the Blessing of the Sick
  14. Order for the Blessing of a Person Suffering from Addiction or from
    Substance Abuse
  15. Order for the Blessing of a Victim of Crime or Oppression
  16. Order for the Blessing of Those Appointed as Catechists
  17. Order of Blessing for a Catechetical or Prayer Meeting
  18. Blessings of Catechumens
  19. Order for the Blessing of Students and Teachers
  20. Order for the Blessing of Ecumenical Groups
  21. Order for the Blessing of Organizations Concerned with Public Need
  22. Orders for the Blessing of Pilgrims
  23. Order for the Blessing of Travelers

Blessings Related to Buildings and to Various Forms of Human Activity

  1. Order for the Blessing of a New Building Site
  2. Order for the Blessing of a New Home
  3. Order for the Blessing of a New School or University
  4. Order for the Blessing of a New Library
  5. Order for the Blessing of a Parish Hall or Catechetical Center (by
    delegation from the pastor)
  6. Order for the Blessing of a New Hospital or Other Facility for the
    Care of the Sick
  7. Order for the Blessing of an Office, Shop, or Factory
  8. Order for the Blessing of Centers of Social Communication
  9. Order for the Blessing of a Gymnasium or a Field for Athletics
  10. Order for the Blessing of Various Means of Transportation
  11. Order for the Blessing of Boats and Fishing Gear
  12. Order for the Blessing of Technical Installations or Equipment
  13. Order for the Blessing of Tools or Other Equipment for Work
  14. Order for the Blessing of Animals
  15. Order for the Blessing of Fields and Flocks
  16. Order for the Blessing of Seeds at Planting Time
  17. Order for a Blessing on the Occasion of Thanksgiving for the Harvest
  18. Order for the Blessing of an Athletic Event
  19. Order for the Blessing Before and After Meals

Churches, either in the Liturgy or in Popular Devotions

  1. Order for the Blessing of a Repository for the Holy Oils
  2. Order for the Blessing of Articles for Liturgical Use (shorter rite outside Mass)
  3. Order for the Blessing of Holy Water outside Mass

Blessings of Articles Meant to Foster the Devotion of the Christian People

  1. Order for the Blessing of Religious Articles
  2. Order for the Blessing of Rosaries

Blessings Related to Feasts and Seasons

  1. Order for the Blessing of an Advent Wreath ( outside Mass)
  2. Order for the Blessing of a Christmas Manger or Nativity Scene (outside Mass)
  3. Order for the Blessing of a Christmas Tree
  4. Order for the Blessing of Homes during the Christmas and Easter Seasons
  5. Order for the Blessing of Throats on the Feast of Saint Blase
  6. Order for the Blessing and Distribution of Ashes
  7. Order for the Blessing of Saint Joseph’s Table (March 19)
  8. Order for the Blessing of Food for the First Meal of Easter
  9. Order for Visiting a Cemetery on All Souls Day, Memorial Day, or on the Anniversary of Death or Burial
  10. Order for the Blessing of Food for Thanksgiving Day
  11. Order for the Blessing of Food or Drink or Other Elements Connected with Devotion

Taking the Day Off

Sorry, today I am taking my Diaconate Comprehensive Exams.

Good Shepherd Sunday Vespers Homily

The following is the homily of Bishop-elect Joseph Bambera.  Bishop-elect Bambera will be the Tenth Bishop of Scranton and ordained at St Peter’s Cathedral, Scranton PA, today.  His homily is a beautiful testament to his family but most of all, a fantastic meditation for Good Shepherd Sunday.  He touches on the responsibilities of the Shepherd and the sheep.  Sobering words that we all need to hear.  Listen and enjoy…

Bishop-elect Joseph Bambera: Ordination Eve Homily from Rocco Palmo on Vimeo.

Archbishop Slattery’s Homily at the Pontifical Mass

Thanks to Fr. Z and his blog What Does the Prayer Really Say for the transcription of the Archbishop Slattery’s homily.  Why two posts two…my patronal feast day (St. Mark) even though it is suppressed.  Here it is…

We have much to discuss – you and I …

… much to speak of on this glorious occasion when we gather together in the glare of the world’s scrutiny to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the ascension of Joseph Ratzinger to the throne of Peter.

We must come to understand how it is that suffering can reveal the mercy of God and make manifest among us the consoling presence of Jesus Christ, crucified and now risen from the dead.

We must speak of this mystery today, first of all because it is one of the great mysteries of revelation, spoken of in the New Testament and attested to by every saint in the Church’s long history, by the martyrs with their blood, by the confessors with their constancy, by the virgins with their purity and by the lay faithful of Christ’s body by their resolute courage under fire.

But we must also speak clearly of this mystery because of the enormous suffering which is all around us and which does so much to determine the culture of our modern age .

From the enormous suffering of His Holiness these past months to the suffering of the Church’s most recent martyrs in India and Africa, welling up from the suffering of the poor and the dispossessed and the undocumented, and gathering tears from the victims of abuse and neglect, from women who have been deceived into believing that abortion was a simple medical procedure and thus have lost part of their soul to the greed of the abortionist, and now flowing with the heartache of those who suffer from cancer, diabetes, AIDS, or the emotional diseases of our age, it is the sufferings of our people that defines the culture of our modern secular age.

This enormous suffering which can take on so many varied physical, mental, and emotional forms will reduce us to fear and trembling – if we do not remember that Christ – our Pasch – has been raised from the dead. Our pain and anguish could dehumanize us, for it has the power to close us in upon ourselves such that we would live always in chaos and confusion – if we do not remember that Christ – our hope – has been raised for our sakes. Jesus is our Pasch, our hope and our light.

He makes himself most present in the suffering of his people and this is the mystery of which we must speak today , for when we speak of His saving presence and proclaim His infinite love in the midst of our suffering, when we seek His light and refuse to surrender to the darkness, we receive that light which is the life of men; that light which, as Saint John reminds us in the prologue to his Gospel, can never be overcome by the darkness, no matter how thick, no matter how choking.

Our suffering is thus transformed by His presence. It no longer has the power to alienate or isolate us. Neither can it dehumanize us nor destroy us. Suffering, however long and terrible it may be, has only the power to reveal Christ among us, and He is the mercy and the forgiveness of God.

The mystery then, of which we speak, is the light that shines in the darkness, Christ Our Lord, Who reveals Himself most wondrously to those who suffer so that suffering and death can do nothing more than bring us to the mercy of the Father.

But the point which we must clarify is that Christ reveals Himself to those who suffer in Christ, to those who humbly accept their pain as a personal sharing in His Passion and who are thus obedient to Christ’s command that we take up our cross and follow Him. Suffering by itself is simply the promise that death will claim these mortal bodies of ours, but suffering in Christ is the promise that we will be raised with Christ, when our mortality will be remade in his immortality and all that in our lives which is broken because it is perishable and finite will be made imperishable and incorrupt.

This is the meaning of Peter’s claim that he is a witness to the sufferings of Christ and thus one who has a share in the glory yet to be revealed. Once Peter grasped the overwhelming truth of this mystery, his life was changed. The world held nothing for Peter. For him, there was only Christ.

This is, as you know, quite a dramatic shift for the man who three times denied Our Lord, the man to whom Jesus said, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Christ’s declaration to Peter that he would be the rock, the impregnable foundation, the mountain of Zion upon which the new Jerusalem would be constructed, follows in Matthew’s Gospel Saint Peter’s dramatic profession of faith, when the Lord asks the Twelve, “Who do people say that I am?” and Peter, impulsive as always, responds “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Only later – much later – would Peter come to understand the full implication of this first Profession of Faith. Peter would still have to learn that to follow Christ, to truly be His disciple, one must let go of everything which the world considers valuable and necessary, and become powerless. This is the mystery which confounds independent Peter. It is the mystery which still confounds us: to follow Christ, one must surrender everything and become obedient with the obedience of Christ, for no one gains access to the Kingdom of the Father, unless he enter through the humility and the obedience of Jesus.

Peter had no idea that eventually he would find himself fully accepting this obedience, joyfully accepting his share in the Passion and Death of Christ. But Peter loved Our Lord and love was the way by which Peter learned how to obey. “Lord, you know that I love thee,” Peter affirms three times with tears; and three times Christ commands him to tend to the flock that gathers at the foot of Calvary – and that is where we are now.

Peter knew that Jesus was the true Shepherd, the one Master and the only teacher; the rest of us are learners and the lesson we must learn is obedience, obedience unto death. Nothing less than this, for only when we are willing to be obedient with the very obedience of Christ will we come to recognize Christ’s presence among us.

Obedience is thus the heart of the life of the disciple and the key to suffering in Christ and with Christ. This obedience, is must be said, is quite different from obedience the way it is spoken of and dismissed in the world.

For those in the world, obedience is a burden and an imposition. It is the way by which the powerful force the powerless to do obeisance. Simply juridical and always external, obedience is the bending that breaks, but a breaking which is still less painful than the punishment meted out for disobedience. Thus for those in the world obedience is a punishment which must be avoided; but for Christians, obedience is always personal, because it is centered on Christ. It is a surrender to Jesus Whom we love.

For those whose lives are centered in Christ, obedience is that movement which the heart makes when it leaps in joy having once discovered the truth.

Let us consider, then, that Christ has given us both the image of his obedience and the action by which we are made obedient.

The image of Christ’s obedience is His Sacred Heart. That Heart, exposed and wounded must give us pause, for man’s heart it generally hidden and secret. In the silence of his own heart, each of us discovers the truth of who we are, the truth of why we are silent when we should speak, or bothersome and quarrelsome when we should be silent. In our hidden recesses of the heart, we come to know the impulses behind our deeds and the reasons why we act so often as cowards and fools.

But while man’s heart is generally silent and secret, the Heart of the God-Man is fully visible and accessible. It too reveals the motives behind our Lord’s self-surrender. It was obedience to the Father’s will that mankind be reconciled and our many sins forgiven us. “Son though he was,” the Apostle reminds us, “Jesus learned obedience through what He sufferered.” Obedient unto death, death on a cross, Jesus asks his Father to forgive us that God might reveal the full depth of his mercy and love. “Father, forgive them,” he prayed, “for they know not what they do.”

Christ’s Sacred Heart is the image of the obedience which Christ showed by his sacrificial love on Calvary. The Sacrifice of Calvary is also for us the means by which we are made obedient and this is a point which you must never forget: at Mass, we offer ourselves to the Father in union with Christ, who offers Himself in perfect obedience to the Father. We make this offering in obedience to Christ who commanded us to “Do this in memory of me” and our obediential offering is perfected in the love with which the Father receives the gift of His Son.

Do not be surprised then that here at Mass, our bloodless offering of the bloody sacrifice of Calvary is a triple act of obedience. First, Christ is obedient to the Father, and offers Himself as a sacrifice of reconciliation. Secondly, we are obedient to Christ and offer ourselves to the Father with Jesus the Son; and thirdly, in sharing Christ’s obedience to the Father, we are made obedient to a new order of reality, in which love is supreme and life reigns eternal, in which suffering and death have been defeated by becoming for us the means by which Christ’s final victory, his future coming, is made manifest and real today.

Suffering then, yours, mine, the Pontiffs, is at the heart of personal holiness, because it is our sharing in the obedience of Jesus which reveals his glory. It is the means by which we are made witnesses of his suffering and sharers in the glory to come.

Do not be dismayed that there many in the Church have not yet grasped this point, and fewer still in the world will even consider it. You know this to be true and ten men who whisper the truth speak louder than a hundred million who lie.

If then someone asks of what we spoke today, tell them we spoke of the truth. If someone asks why it is you came to this Mass, say that it was so that you could be obedient with Christ. If someone asks about the homily, tell them it was about a mystery and if someone asks what I said of the present situation, tell them only that we must – all of us – become saints through what we suffer.

The Opposite of Eternal Beauty

Okay, there is little I can say but watch, weep and be scared.  Upside?  Archbishop Gomez will be the next Archbishop and Metropolitan of Los Angeles and he is promising solution to assist in the cleanup.

Maybe this is will provide a better perspective with a little thanksgiving at the end:

Reclining at Table

Several biblical translations of Mark 14:18 say, “They reclined at table” but that is not the image that comes to mind for most of us.  To be honest, most of us picture Leonardo da Vinci’s verion.  As we consider his Last Supper, we see a more formal table seating.  Historically, it is more likely that our Lord reclined on floor cushions during meals.  Leonardo’s painting is likely the most famous of all the images of the Last Supper which was painted in 1495 on the wall of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan.  Historical note: the convent was virtually destroyed in World War II but the wall that the painting was untouched.[1]

The painting depicts the various emotional responses and shock that the Apostles experienced when Jesus said he was to be betrayed. Until the 19th century, only Peter, John, Judas and Jesus could be positively identified.  The discovery of, The Notebooks Leonardo Da Vinci, shared with the world the remaining names and positions (pg. 232).  From left to right:

  • Bartholomew, James, son of Alphaeus and Andrew form a group of three and all seem to be bewildered at what they have just heard.
  • Judas Iscariot, Peter and John form another group of three. Judas is wearing green and blue and is in shadow, he looks surprised that our Lord knows his plan.  He holds the money bag in his hand – maybe the thirty-pieces of silver or just that he was the treasurer.  Either interpretation allows us to see what was important to him.  Notice also his elbow on the table (the only person), bad table manners!  Peter is clearly perturbed and has a knife hidden behind him – possibly a foreshadowing of the violence he will unleash upon poor Malchus.  looking rather withdrawn and taken aback by the sudden revelation of his plan. John, the youngest of the group appears to faint with fright.
  • Jesus at the center seems calm and happy.  Perhaps the joy is impending consummation of love for His bride the Church upon the cross.
  • Apostle Thomas, James the Greater and Philip are the next group of three. Thomas is clearly upset; James the Greater looks stunned, with his arms in the air. Meanwhile, Philip appears to be requesting some explanation.
  • Matthew, Jude Thaddeus and Simon the Zealot are the final group. Both Jude Thaddeus and Matthew are turned toward Simon, perhaps to find out if he has any answer to their initial questions.

This is how Leonardo pictured the Last Supper.  In your mind’s eye, how do you see this scene in our Lord’s life?


[1] Kenneth Clark.Leonardo da Vinci, Penguin Books 1939, 1993, p144.

Holy Orders: Another Sacrament of Marriage? Part II

Goods of Marriage

According to St. Augustine of Hippo (Augustine), the goods of marriage consist in the bonum fidei, bonum sacramenti, and the bonum prolis.[1] Unlike many of his modern day critics, Augustine believed that the Sacrament of Marriage was very good.[2] On closer inspection, these three marital goods may be found as intrinsic properties to the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

The bonum fidei in Holy Orders is evident in the incardination of a priest.  The culmination of this imagery is in the incardination of a Bishop to his diocese or to a lesser degree, that of a parochial[3] to his parish.  “Cardinal Gantin… during an interview with the Italian magazine 30 Giorni… put it this way:

‘When he is appointed, the bishop must be a father and a pastor before God and to the people. And when one is a father, one is so forever. Therefore, in principle, once appointed to a particular see, the bishop should remain there forever. This must be clear. The relation between a bishop and his diocese is akin to matrimony and, according to the evangelical spirit, indissoluble.”[4]

Traditionally, however, we normally think of the parochial as a representative and extension of the Bishop.  The parochial though has an innate stability of his own:

“The role of the pastor of a parish is detailed in Section 30 of Christus Dominus. There we learn some important things about the role of pastors. First of all, the pastor is the true shepherd of his parish, the true pastor of that portion of the flock entrusted to him by Christ through his bishop. Christus Dominus says this: ‘Pastors, however, are cooperators of the bishop in a very special way, for as pastors in their own name they are entrusted with the care of souls ….’  The pastor is a pastor in his own name.  He is a cooperator in a very special way, and he is so precisely because he represents Christ in his own name and not simply as an extension of the bishop. Even though he exercises his pastoral care under the authority of the bishop and as a cooperator with the bishop, nonetheless, he does not simply represent the bishop in his pastoral office but Christ himself.”[5]

As fidelity is ordered to Marriage, likewise, stability is ordered to Holy Orders.  How can a diocese or parish learn to trust their Bishop or Parochial if they change from year to year?  Marriage is about intimacy which begins through coming to know one another which can only happen over time – and time requires fidelity and stability.

The bonum sacramenti does not refer to the sacramental marriage in a strict theological sense.  Augustine understood it as the indissolvability of the matrimonial bond.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church §1582 has already shown us, the indelible mark of Holy Orders is permanent, transcending even death.  In order for the relationship between a priest and his parish or a bishop to his diocese to exist, a bond – one might even suggest a matrimonial bond, must be present.  Without it, neither the bridegroom nor the bride can avail themselves of the rights and privileges of the relationship.  In particular, the bridegroom lacks the power to give himself to his bride, forgive her, sanctify her, etc.

Finally, the bonum prolis – children, are the expression of the self-giving love between bridegroom and his bride.  That self-giving is fully expressed by the priest in the confection of the Holy Eucharist.  As previously stated, the priest acts as an alter Christus when he prays those words of consecration.  While standing in persona Christi, the priest “…always lives for His bride; he cherishes and protects her as his own self; he nourishes her with the strength of his word, above all with his body and blood in the Eucharist.  Since he gives her his body and blood, he becomes really one body with her.”[6] [7]

After the priest has really participated in sacrificing himself by offering the Eucharistic prayer and consuming the precious body and blood, he gives himself through Jesus to his bride in communion by his own hand.  Pregnant with His very presence, His bride goes forth and labors to bring the gospel to the world.  For the priest, childbirth comes in the womb of the baptismal font.[8] This culminates in the work of the bride preparing the Father’s children to die to self only to be birthed anew into Christ.  Finally, children must also be nourished and taught by their mother and nurtured and protected by their father.  The responsibility for educating belongs both to the bride/mother (Church) and the bridegroom/father (priest).  This has been continuously demonstrated through the Magisterium of the Church and the priest’s catechetical teaching – albeit often debated by critics internally and external to the family of God.

Threats to the Bridegroom/Bride Imagery?

At this point, it would be appropriate to address my perceived threats to the Bridegroom/Bride imagery in the Church today.  While not being the only challenges, in my opinion, they are significant.  One challenge is internal to the Sacrament of Holy Orders, namely, stability as defined by canon §522[9] of priests and bishops and secondarily, the external challenge of the disruption of sacred symbolism through the introduction of female servers.

In the article quoted previously, Pastors and Stability of Office, Fr. Mark A. Pilon addresses the current trend of some bishops and pastors maneuvering themselves in Rome and in various dioceses for more prestigious appointments.  He speaks of the necessity of pastors and bishops fulfilling their roles as true husbands who need to be present to their brides in order to know them better and develop a sense of trust.  The old adage, “You love what you know and you know what you love” comes to mind.

This also raises the question of eschatological fidelity.  John Paul II demonstrated in his Theology of the Body that the celibate is the visible sign of the eternal marriage in heaven.  During a time when spouses are easily tossed aside, the question should be asked, “What is the Church communicating by transferring pastors and bishops so easily and often?”  Many of the laity have experienced conversations with pastors who are very frank when they share that they “Cannot take the parish any longer and have been asked to be moved.”  And yet, does not the Church encourage and even mandate fidelity when witnessing the Sacrament of Matrimony?  How are spouses in challenging marriages suppose to react as they see pastors themselves jump from marriage to marriage when the going gets tough?  Does this issue of stability indirectly challenge the eschatological sign of fidelity that the bishop-diocese/pastor-parish is meant to incarnate?  There is no easy answer to this since many transfers are out of need.  That being said, the symbolism of this fidelity should be considered before transfers are made.

The second challenge is external to the Sacrament of Holy Orders but associated with it.  The admission of women serving the altar, specifically altar servers, which was promulgated “by the Congregation for Diving Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments in its letter dated March 15, 1994: the admission of women to service at the altar”[10] has perhaps added to the liturgical confusion of our times.  Fr. Harrison in his article, “Altar Girls”: Feminist Ideology and the Roman Liturgy, provides a summary of church history and establishes that the tradition is more than discipline itself but relates to the Bridegroom/Bride imagery which is crucial to the inner-logic of the liturgy.[11] He also establishes that the Bridegroom/Bride imagery has been a constant theme of the church’s liturgical theology for two millennia.  This is not the first time in church history this issue has been raised.  Pope St. Gelasius in 494 is quoted as saying:

“We have heard with sorrow of the great contempt [mépris] with which the sacred mysteries have been treated. It has reached the point where women have been encouraged to serve at the altar, and to carry out roles that are not suited to their sex, having been assigned exclusively to those of masculine gender.”[12]

Even our terms, albeit not in English, for altar server(s) sheds light on this point:

In Spanish, for example, an altar boy is called a monaguillo, which etymologically means “a little monk”. And in Italian the word for altar boy is chierichetto a “little cleric”, which means that the term coined by the Italians for female altar servers is in itself an affront to Catholic doctrine: they are called donne chierichetto, “little female clerics”. But, of course, it is Catholic doctrine that females cannot become clerics (that is, in the post-conciliar sacramental disposition, bishops, priests or deacons).[13]

How does this affect the symbolism of the Bridegroom/Bride imagery?  It is not hard to see that this provides for a Bride/Bride relationship.  To apply the terms of Theology of the Body, it is a homosexualization of the liturgical symbols that are meant to point us to the wedding feast of the lamb.

The challenges that this liturgical indult has initiated cannot be underestimated in the discussion of liturgical symbolism.  It is true that the Church has not caused a breach in its sacramental understanding of Holy Orders or invalidated the liturgy – far from it.  The questions must be asked though, “Is this sacred symbolism consistent with the perennial teaching of Sacred Scripture and the Church that marriage is a sacred relationship between a man and a woman?”  And, “Is it prudent to disrupt the sacred symbolism during a period of liturgical unrest to provide additional assistance during a liturgy?”  The diocesan Church continues to wrestle with these questions.  For now, the laity must contend with a form of sacred schizophrenia.

Conclusion

I would submit that this relation between the Sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony are more alike than different.  By adopting John Paul II’s language of the body, the Church, and especially her clergy, can penetrate the deeper mystery of their relationship with each other.  Even with the current challenges in sacred symbolism and liturgy, Theology of the Body can serve to be an invaluable hermeneutic tool in decisions that serve to protect the integrity of both sacraments.  Finally, an appeal to the Theology of the Body in discussing the inner-relationship of Holy Orders and Matrimony can only deepen our ecclesiology and, perhaps, with future academic study, settle some of the discord stemming from a bride who has no idea who she is and a priest-bridegroom who is afraid to become what God configured him to be.

Hope you enjoyed the reflection.  What is your view on this?  Does it make sense? Looking for your thoughts…


[1] Ronald Lawler, Joseph Boyle Jr., William May, Catholic Sexual Ethics: A Summary, Explanation, & Defense (Huntington, IN: OSV Publishing Division 1998) 52-55.  The most popular English translation of the three terms are good of fidelity, good of the sacrament, and the good of children respectively.

[2] It is true that St. Augustine early on adopted a Manichean outlook towards the marital gift.  Later in his life he reformed his views and provided the foundation for the two goods of the marital gift – procreative and unitive goods.

[3] Parochial is the canonical term for the more common American term of Pastor.

[4] Rev. Mark A. Pilon, “Pastors and Stability of Office”, www.ignatius.com/Magazines/hprweb/pilon.htm. 4/20/09.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Michael Schmaus, Dogma 4: The Church, It’s Origin and Structure, (New York, NY: Sheed and Ward 1972) 57.

[7] This can even be seen in the liturgical vessels.  Our Savior pours himself out into the chalice and through the prayer of oblation makes that self-giving fruitful.  In fact, many have suggested the chalice veil is akin to that of a bridal veil.

[8] In the John XXIII rite of the Roman Liturgy, the Easter Vigil liturgy includes a ritual that deepens our understanding of this mystery.  During the liturgy, the Easter candle is plunged into the baptismal font three times – deeper each time, with the words being uttered fructem, fructem, fructem (Be fruitful, be fruitful, be fruitful).  The Christ candle, a true symbol of Christ, makes fruitful the womb of His bride who, during this liturgy, will open her womb and pour forth the saving waters of baptism thus birthing new children by grace into the family of God.

[9] See The Code of Canon Law: A text and Commentary, James Corriden et. al., Paulist Press, 1st

Ed.,1985, P. 23, Col. 1., “It is necessary that a parish priest have the benefit of stability.”

[10] Brian W. Harrison, “Altar Girls” Feminist Ideology and the Roman Liturgy, Living Tradition Organ of the Roman Theological Forum, no.88 (July 2000) : 3.

[11] All theologians will admit that there are necessary exceptions that must be observed; say for instance, an abbey or congregation of cloistered nuns.  No one objects to the isolated exception where the imagery is intact and respected but by reason of the stability of the rule of the particular order or congregation, no one but the priest may enter to celebrate the sacred mysteries.  Additionally, one can also make the argument that cloisters, (recognizing that all orders presently are but a microcosm of the greater church and many struggle with liturgical symbols) within particular orders (for our discussion are defined as faithful to the teaching of the Church), understand and dynamically live the imagery while the “hoi polloi” need the symbolism respected in order to be properly catechized.  For most of the laity, while the liturgy is primarily a celebration of the Sacraments of the Eucharist, it is secondarily, an important tool for catechesis.

[12] Brian W. Harrison, “Altar Girls” Feminist Ideology and the Roman Liturgy, Living Tradition Organ of the Roman Theological Forum, no.88 (July 2000) : 4.

[13] Ibid.

Holy Orders: Another Sacrament of Marriage? Part I

Did you ever wonder about the relationship between the Sacraments of Marriage and Holy Orders.  Over the next few blogs, I thought we could reflect on it together.  I need your input to understand if my thinking is sound (in this short amount of space).  Also, I have hyper-linked a few words directing you to references for those who want a deeper study.  Concerning words that are unfamiliar, I would encourage you to look them up (Can’t hyper-link them, sorry!) at Catholic Reference.net.  This also will assist in providing a common lexicon for our discussion.

Introduction

It is clear that Pope John Paul II has provided us a gift through his Theology of the Body, which offers the Church an opportunity to further reflect on her understanding of theology and how that theology shapes and forms her children.  Among those theological disciplines is Sacramental Theology.  This short reflection attempts to illustrate that the Sacrament of Holy Orders is another type of Marriage in the order of grace.  Specifically, this author would like to look at the goods of marriage (don’t fret, I will define) in relation to Holy Orders to draw a comparison between the two and using the lens of TOB, illustrate that the clergy – in particular the priesthood, could gain a deeper appreciation of their vocation by adopting a bridegroom mentality towards their parishes.

In audience 101:7, Pope John Paul II speaks of marriage, “As the primordial sacrament and at the same time as the sacrament born in the mystery of the redemption of the body from the spousal love of Christ and the Church…”[1] Later in his teaching corpus, John Paul II builds a case in audiences 96 – 98 that marriage is the “prototype”[2] to reveal the spousal love of Christ and the Church as illustrated by St. Paul in Ephesians 5:22-33 (He also explains that this Scripture is the summary form of Genesis 2-3, Song of Songs and the Book of Tobit).  At the center of his argument is that the Sacrament of Marriage not only provides a tangible “form” for the mystery of the Christ’s spousal love for the Church but also receives its identity from that same mystery.

I would propose that one can make the same argument for the Sacrament of Holy Orders.  As John Paul II continues his teaching, the Church comes to understand that the Sacrament of Marriage is a visible signpost directing us to understand our final goal – the wedding feast of the Lamb.  At which time, there will be no giving or taking in marriage and the elect will experience a mystical marriage through participation in the eternal exchange of persons which is the life of the Most Holy Trinity.  John Paul II also teaches that the intermediary sign between marriage and the beatific vision is the eschatological sign of continence for the kingdom, the celibates.[3] If marriage is ordered to the visible and natural order[4] (vivified by grace in the sacramental economy of the new dispensation) could one not make the argument that Holy Orders bridges the gap between “the now and the not yet?”

Scripture: Uncovering the Evidence

To begin to ponder this question, we should ground the terms “Bride” and “Bridegroom” in the understanding of Scripture and the Church.  Typologies for the Bride of Christ are well established in the Old Testament.  Many of the prophets used spousal imagery and themes to preach and even prophetically demonstrate (poor Hosea) how Israel’s sins were an affront to God (cf. Hos. 1-3; Is. 54; Is. 62, Jer. 2-3; Jer. 31; Ez. 16; Ez. 23; Mal. 2:13-17).  We also have the great example of Ruth, who with Tobit, bears witness to the tenderness of spouses and the importance of marriage and fidelity.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states that, “Tradition has always seen in the Song of Solomon a unique expression of human love, insofar as it is a reflection of God’s love…”[5]

The New Testament likewise reveals our Lord’s own thoughts of how He would relate to the People of God.  In Mark 2:19, Christ refers to Himself as Bridegroom.  “St. Paul speaks of the whole Church and individual members of Christ’s Body as bride ‘betrothed’ to Christ so as to become one with Him” (cf. Mt. 22:1-14; 15:1-13; 1 Cor. 6:15-17; 2 Cor. 11:2).[6]

Bringing the spousal references together, we see in the Genesis 2 imagery of “Two in one flesh” indicates distinctiveness and the mutuality of two persons.  Lumen Gentium 7 illustrates the sacrificial quality and context of this spousal agape love, “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her.”[7] Even without touring through the Patristic writings, we can safely rely on the evidence within Scripture and the Magisterium that Christ is the Bridegroom and the Church His Bride.  That being said, how does the priest act as the Bridegroom?

In order for the imagery to work, two important elements must be established.  The first is that the priest must represent Christ and second, the language of the body demands that the alter Christus must be male.  The teaching of the Church firmly establishes that the reception of Holy Orders “configures the recipient to Christ”[8]; and that it “confers an indelible spiritual character and cannot be repeated or conferred temporarily”[9].  To secure the second element and proper matter for the sacrament, the Church teaches that “Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination.”[10] [11] The Magisterium continues that when a priest is performing those duties specific to the ministerial priesthood, he stands in persona Christi capitis.  “If the Church is to be the bride of Christ, the priest within the Church represents Christ the Bridegroom, and in order to complete the symbolism in this respect, the priest must be a man.”[12]

While it is true that the Oriental Churches have married priests – and there are exceptions in the Western Church, “The bridal imagery of the celibate priest indicates that, representing Christ, he is ‘wedded’ to the Church, and this is expressed in the symbolism of the Episcopal ring.”[13] Additionally,

“The ecclesiological dimension of this mystery is that celibacy enables the man endowed with the sacerdotal dignity to symbolize a bridegroom totally entrusted to the Church which is the eternally dedicated bride of Christ.  Priestly celibacy also reflects an eschatological dimension prefiguring the state of the kingdom of heaven, where ‘at the resurrection men and women do not marry’ (Mt. 22:30).[14]

Understanding that the priest stands as the Bridegroom in his sacerdotal duties, briefly comparing the Sacraments of Marriage and Holy Orders should assist in showing the strength of the image.  Naturally, we see that both include a bride and bridegroom.  The question I am posing is, “Does Holy Orders really share in the imagery of the Bridegroom by sharing in the ‘goods’ of the Sacrament of Marriage?”

To be continued tomorrow…thoughts so far?  Are you with me still?


[1] John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, (Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media 2006) 100:7

[2] Ibid., 98:2

[3] Ibid. 76:4

[4] Ibid. 87

[5] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd (Citta del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1997), §1611

[6] Rev. Paul F. deLadurantaye, Images of the Church, Ecclesiology lecture, October 27, 2007.

[7] Cf. Ephesisans 5:25-26, 29; Dogmatic Constitution: Lumen Gentium 7

[8] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd (Citta del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1997), §1581

[9] Ibid. §1582

[10] Ibid., §1577

[11] Cf. John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem 26-27; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), declaration, Inter Inisniores: AAS 69 (1977) 98-116.

[12] Rev. Paul Haffner, The Sacramental Mystery, (Leominster, Herefordshire Great Britain: Gracewing 2008) 224

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.