The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy highlights the ways Christ is present today — especially in the church’s liturgical celebrations. “He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of his minister, ‘the same now offering through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross,’ but especially under the eucharistic elements. He is present in his word, . . .by his power he is present in the sacraments, . . .and he is present when the church prays and sings . . .” (SC 7).
We are very aware of Christ’s presence in the consecrated bread and wine, and we recognize his presence in the Scriptures proclaimed during the liturgy.
The first mode of Christ’s presence described in the Constitution is the priest celebrant who acts “in the person of Christ” to offer Christ’s sacrifice to the Father on our behalf.
Because of our baptism, we are all priestly people. Each Sunday we bring our lives, hopes, fears and love to God and join in offering these gifts with the gift of Jesus. And we ask that our gifts be transformed and made holy.
While we each participate in the liturgy according to our particular role, we are aware of the special role of the priest who has been ordained. It is his ministry to mediate the presence of Jesus and to preside at the Eucharist. He makes Christ present in the sacred mysteries and offers Christ’s sacrifice in the name of the church.
Priestly ministry is modeled on the servant leadership of Jesus. During the ordination ceremony, the man being ordained is offered the paten and chalice and hears, “accept from the holy people of God the gifts to be offered to him.” The assembly prays that the Holy Spirit will act in him as he preaches God’s word, offers the Eucharist, forgives in Jesus’ name, orders the gifts of the community and its ministries, and leads the liturgical assembly and calls them to prayer.
Like all the baptized, the priest is a member of the Body of Christ, but one who is especially gifted by the Spirit. The priest is able to act in the person of the church and in the person of Christ as an effective sign or sacrament of Christ’s presence.
This weekend, we will hear Christ’s invitation to pray and recall his words as the Scriptures are proclaimed. We will join in thanking God for his abiding love and great deeds on our behalf, through the ministry of the priest who recalls Christ’s death and resurrection and offers his sacrifice to the Father. After the institution narrative, as we pray for the living and the dead, it might be a good time to pray in gratitude for the gift of priesthood, especially for the priests who serve our parish and help us to worship well.
Sr. Rehrauer is the director of Evangelization and Worship for the Diocese of Green Bay.