4 June 2009

Zap, the moment

Recently I have been reflecting upon the moment at which I will, praise God, be ordained a priest. In a sholastic sort of musing, I wonder, when is the moment at which I am a priest? At what point during the rite of ordination is it effective?

The Code of Canon Law says holy orders "are conferred by the imposition of hands and the consecratory prayer which the liturgical books prescribe for the individual grades", in other words it's during that sacred moment after the bishop has laid hands upon my head, followed by the rest of the presbyterate present and then he (the bishop) says the prayer of consecration.

There is a moment during the prayer, when the bishop will say "Almighty Father, grant to this servant of yours the dignity of the priesthood." Is this the actual moment? Some would say yes. It's the invoking of the Holy Spirit. This is when both matter and form are present for the valid ordination.

The compendium of the catechism asks the question; What is the effect of ordination to the priesthood? Then replies; The anointing of the Spirit seals the priest with an indelible, spiritual character that configures him to Christ the priest and enables him to act in the name of Christ the Head.

When the Holy Spirit is called down upon me by the bishop, then I am sealed with the gift of the same spirit and then I am able to say I am configured to Christ the priest. Then I can act in persona Christi Capitis. It's beginning to make sense, or at least it's beginning to dawn on me the full stature of what I am about to undertake. I get why the bishop might say, during the Eucharistic Prayer, "and me your unworthy servant."

Who is ever worthy to be ordained?

Yet, this is precisely what the Rector of the seminary will be asked: Do you judge him to be worthy? The rector will reply, hopefully, After enquiry among the people of Christ and upon recommendation of those concerned with his training, I testify that he has been found worthy. Is he being untruthful?

Whilst it valid to say I am biased, I rather suspect he can make that judgment and I cannot. I cannot testify that I am worthy, because I am not. He can testify that I am worthy because he has a disinterested opinion, save to say his job is to select men suitable for ordination and the Bishop, by the nature of his office, is able to confirm the calling of God.

Wow, it's heavy stuff. These are just a few of the thoughts rumbling around in my head. Some of the reasons why it is not easy to sleep thinking about the tasks and duties ahead of me. I do sleep comfortably, though, because it isn't me who has this responsibility. Rather it is God. Work as though all depends upon you, pray as though all depends upon God. On this note - I'm off to pray. Well, someone has to get this thing sorted! How will he comfort me if I'm not talking to him? Obvious, really. Worry not about when he will act, rather seek first to hear his voice.


  1. Our Lady is always by your side too,tangibly.I hide close to her often,for courage and strength when my unworthiness starts taunting me.
    She will be near you,looking at you during your ordination,reassuring you,her son.

  2. My prayers are with you also, Paul.

    Your initial question reminds me of a discussion on the Telegraph blogs a while back about what exact point the consecration brings about Transubstantiation. Any ideas?

  3. Thanks, Shadowlands. Athanasius, I'm not sure it's possible, or even that helpful, to pin point an EXACT point at which transubstantiation takes place. I didn't read the discussion on Damian's blog, but my initial thoughts would include:

    When there's a meeting of the supernatural and the natural, the natural is always subservient. Therefore, surely, time doesn't come into the equation. A bit like the question, when Christ became incarnate was he still at the Father's side?

    It's more helpful to think of the Eucharist as a mystery and we are unlikely to plumb the depths this side of heaven.

    We need to avoid a ranking of the words of consecration since the whole action and words of the priest are important, whilst being mindful that there are validity points at stake here.

    When the priest says This is my body, then it is the body of Christ, and likewise with the blood. Then we can confidently say before us in the Eucharist is Christ.

    Finally, the Catechism says: In the institution narrative, the power of the words and the action of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, make sacramentally present under the species of bread and wine Christ's body and blood, his sacrifice offered on the cross once for all. Thus, it suggests it's the entire liturgical action that is important.

    Does that help? Just some initial rambling thoughts.



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