Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Priests to the World?

But what of the world and being a priest? If ordination to the priesthood is grounded in baptism, then surely priesthood is directed out to the world just as baptism is? In my previous post in this series I spoke of how priests refract back to the people of God who we are because of our common baptism. So too, priests show the world our common source in God and our common destiny as creatures. This is the call of all the baptised, and in a particular way, the priest. We are to be that iconic display of the dying and rising Christ, or in the language I have been using, the great dignity of being human. Not exactly in the way the world would ordinarily think of that dignity, but instead as a human dignity grounded in our emptiness and openness oriented to God through Jesus Christ. We do this in all sorts of ways, in every part of our life. No different to what all the baptised should be doing, but as priests we are related to all the baptised in this mission in such a way that we are particular examples of this death and resurrection, emptiness and fullness, weakness and power made perfect.

In this sense we become priests to the world trying to make the connections to enable faith in the crucified-risen Lord. However, the goal is not, ultimately, for everyone to become Christian. It is much bigger than that. The goal of creation is for all of creation to be united with God in Christ. In this sense, hypostatic union is the destiny of everything. The whole creation is groaning in its weakness and imperfection as it awaits redemption through union with God. We are priests of this destiny for all creation. Not priests in the sense of mediating this salvation – that is the role of Christ the High Priest. No, we are priests in the same sense of refracting back to creation what it is, and what its destiny is. And again, what we refract back is our weakness and incompleteness – shared by all creation – which is, at the same time, the great dignity of creation waiting to be filled by God. As priests sharing in and reflecting back to the rest of creation our mutual weakness and hollowness as the point of God’s grace and fulfilment.

Thinking theologically: Creation can bear God in the most intimate manner, and the particular word of importance here is union. And so it fits together if we think of creation as an openness waiting to be filled by God, Jesus as fully human (made from stardust), baptism of those professing faith in Christ (receiving the Spirit in faith and discipleship of Jesus), and the use of sacraments as the outward sign of an inner grace. Ordination stands on these four foundational insights and is consistent with, and folds into, them. And for any priests reading this post, remember, the ‘stuff’ of the sacrament of ordination is you.

To read:

1Cor 15:20-28

Colossians 1:15-22 & Ephesians 1:3-14

Romans 8:18-25

  1. Priests, how connected do you feel to your baptism and the vows you made (confirmed)?
  2. Could you have the courage, and the humility, to be a priest living in grace and weakness?
  3. Do you have eyes to see the coming unification of all things in the crucified-risen Christ in the world now? How could you live that ministry of unity through your ordination?

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