Holiness of the Priesthood
The Priest as the "Man of God"
I. How numerous the recommendations and precepts given to the priests of the Old Law for their sanctification!
"They are men set apart for their God, and must never bring reproach on his name; they burn incense to the Lord, offer their God his consecrated loaves, and shall they not be holy?" (Lev. 21:6)What precautions God orders Moses to take lest the people should approach Mount Sinai, the throne of God's Majesty! How many purifications were imposed, interior and exterior, even to remain at the foot of the mountain!
"He that has any blemish shall not be allowed to offer his God the consecrated loaves, nor to come forward and do him service."-(Lev. 21:17,18)
If we stop to compare priesthood with priesthood, ministry with ministry, holiness with holiness: that of Sinai with that of our Altars; perhaps in our dread and amazement we shall cry out with Manue, Samson's father: Morte moriemur, quia vidimus Dominum - "This is certain death, we have seen the Lord." (Judges 13:22)
II. If the soul of any just man is God's throne, how much the more must I, a priest, be God's temple pure and undefiled!
The first place of worship in a parish is not the parish church but the parish priest; his heart and lips are the Ark where one must find the divine Law; his body is the Tabernacle where the Body and Blood of Christ is reserved each day; and his consecrated hands are the altar-stone on which is offered every morning the only Victim pleasing to God.
If so chaste and pure had to be the womb where the Son of God took our flesh and dwelt for nine months, how pure must be the body and soul where He takes up His abode every day? If so holy the breasts that suckled the Infant-God, what must be the lips purpled each day with the Blood of the Lamb of God?
His sepulchre shall be glorious, says Isaias, prophesying of the stone sepulchre that enclosed the dead Body of Christ for two days. What then shall be demanded of my body wherein the eternally glorified Christ so frequently makes His dwelling? Will cleanliness be required only of lifeless matter? or will there be shifts and changes in God's love for holiness?
Will it be a matter of indifference to God whether He dwell in a heart that is holy or in a heart that is impure, simply because I am a priest?
III. The Crusades were the great enterprise of the Middle Ages.
For this. purpose God raised up or awakened great souls: Peter the Hermit, Godfrey, the flower of the nobility, men of valor. From every nation they flocked, as to a banquet, and left their bones on the hills and deserts of Asia. What treasures were spent! What heroism! What generous blood! And for the sole purpose of rescuing the empty Tomb of Christ, and of making it a place of prayer for all the Christian nations.
The enterprise most worthy, most noble and glorious for me, a priest, will be a life-time struggle against all seductions both from within and from without; routing in my soul all the hosts of the evil spirit, preserving pure this heart of mine, which is not an empty tomb, but a shrine elected by my Lord Jesus Christ for Himself.
I shall frequently repeat the Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum; and perhaps the continual sense of my unworthiness will be a fire purifying me from my faults and imperfections.
Adapted from The Priest at Prayer
by Fr. Eugenio Escribano, C.M. (© 1954)
Translated by B.T. Buckley, C.M.
Please pray for our priests and pray for vocations to the priesthood!