The Priesthood

“Call no man ‘Father’.”  These are the words we often hear from many Protestants regarding the priesthood.

Z13

So, does this mean we must not call our priest ‘Father’?  No.  At first glance it might seem that way, but context shows it does not.  Logically, if we followed Matthew 23 literally, then we would not be allowed to call our biological father ‘father’, ‘dad’, ‘daddy’ or any of the sort.  It does say after all, “Call none your father upon earth” and “one is your father, who is in heaven” (v. 9).  It also says, “Be not you called Rabbi [meaning ‘teacher’]” (v. 8).  So maybe we should stop calling our teachers ‘teacher’.  Many theologians have noted that Jesus forbade the Pharisees from being entitled ‘fathers’ because they refused to accept Jesus as the Messiah and refused to preach His mercy to the Israelites in favor of teaching observance of the Law to them, thus they did not deserve the title.  Even Saint Stephen addressed the Pharisees as ‘fathers’, and later said the Lord is “the God of your fathers” Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

It is pretty interesting to see the connection of priest and father in Scriptures.  The word ‘priest’ comes from the Greek term ‘presbyteros’ which is repeated in the Bible, even in the New Testament and means ‘elder’.  Our father is our elder; our priest is our elder and thus our spiritual father.  We see for example in Titus 1:5 Saint Paul says to Saint Titus, bishop of Crete, that he should appointed elders (presbyters or priests) to every town.  We thus see an early example of a bishop having jurisdiction over a particular Church or now called dioceses and appointing priests under him to every town.  We know these are spiritual elders and not biological elders per se (they may be old at least in most cases, but not necessarily the biological father of a large group of people).  A man can become our spiritual father even if not our biological father Saint Paul said those who believe thus have Abraham as their father (rf. Romans 4:11).

So what about a ministerial priesthood as apposed to a priesthood of all believers?  Saint Paul frequently uses priestly language to describe his ministry like “the oblation of my service” (cf. Romans 15:31), “the oblation of the Gentiles” being “acceptable and sanctified in the Holy Ghost” (v. 16), or “ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God” (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:1).  Tradition has taught that these “mysteries of God” can mean two things: the Sacraments and the doctrines of God, in Eastern Christian theology the term mystery either refers to a Sacrament or a doctrine.  As priests they are dispensers of God’s grace, which are contained in the Sacraments, and teach us the doctrines of the faith.  With a priesthood there is implied sacrifice.  So, what sacrifice do they offer?  The one Sacrifice of Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood.  Over the ages, the term developed was the priest acts ‘in persona Christi’ (in the person of Christ) to explain how a priest can offer the Sacrifice if the High Priest offered it once and for all.  We see this in Saint Paul’s words: “I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you” (1 Corinthians 11:23).  Saint Ignatius states this Sacrifice or Eucharist may not be given without the bishop or a priest when he says, “Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it“, then “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church” (To the Smyrnaeans 8:1-2).

So now we should see why the Church needs more priests.  Only priests can offer the Holy Sacrifice or the Eucharist by consecrating the bread and wine to become the Body and Blood of Christ.  Every town should have priests (rf. Titus 1:5), so that the Sacraments can be conferred and administered.  Hence we need more priests to confer and administer the Sacraments to the faithful.  If you feel like your called to the priesthood, contact your local diocese; if you are not, at least give it a though and bring it up other men.  In our modern Western society more men do not want to get married; though this can be problematic it can also offer a lot more opportunities to recruit men into the priesthood.

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