23 March 2013

in persona christi | on priestly celibacy

[Christ] is seated  at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent which is set up not by man but by the Lord. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of he heavenly sanctuary.
Heb 8:1-5

In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
Mat 22:30

There seems to me a powerful link here between the reading from Hebrews in today's Office of Readings and Matthew 22 that speaks to priestly celibacy, and I offer a few off the cuff reflections.

Because the life and ministry of the priesthood must center around the Eucharist,1 priests must always be in relation to the True Altar, from the rising of the sun to its setting, so their hearts must always be in heaven where celibacy is a fact of state of existence. Their physical bodies are on earth, but their priestly office remains in heaven, for if it were a terrestrial office "he would not be a priest at all" according to the Word but rather a priest according to the Law (Heb 8:4). And under the Law, the yearly sacrifices are limited and can "never, by the same sacrifices which are continually offered [under the Law] year after year, make perfect those who draw near. ... For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins." (Heb 10:1 & 4)

As the priest acts in persona Christi at the altar, he too stands at the right hands of the throne...in heaven. Participating in/with Christ who said, "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25) it's not so much a commandment that priests shall not marry, but a state of being for "in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage."

1 every ministry of the Church and every work of the apostolate, are tied together with the Eucharist and are directed toward it. (Presbyterorum Ordinis 5)

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