The Sacrament of Holy Orders

 

“Do not neglect the gift you have, which was conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands of the presbyterate.”

1 Timothy 4:14

 

Lying prostrate on the floor before the altar, arms outstretched in the image of the cross, face down on the ground in a gesture of humble submission, the ordinands offer their entire lives to Christ and his Church. The sacrament they are about to receive is one of service. In profound imitation of Jesus, who “came not to be served but to serve” (Mt 20:28), these men are consecrated through Holy Orders to teach, to lead worship and to govern the People of God (cf. CCC #1592). When the ordaining bishop has laid his hands upon them and offered the consecratory prayer, these baptized believers enter into one of the sacred orders: deacon, priest, or bishop. Only through the grace of the sacrament do they now possess the “sacred power which is none other than that of Christ” (CCC #1551). Unlike other sacraments, Holy Orders is only received by those who have a call from God, which is mutually discerned by the candidate and the Church. Thus, no one has a right to become a priest (cf. CCC #1578). Rather, they are divinely elected to share in this ministry. Through this sharing in the priesthood of Christ, the priests of his Church stand “in the person of Christ” in order to give the faithful the tremendous gift of receiving the other sacraments.

“They who inhabit the earth, they who make their abode among men, are entrusted with the dispensation of the things of heaven!”

St. John Chrysostom