On the Dignity of the Sacrament, and of the Priestly Office
CHRIST. Had you the purity of the Angels, and the holiness of Saint John the Baptist, you would still be unworthy to receive or touch this Sacrament. For it is not due to any merit of his own that a man is allowed to consecrate and handle the Sacrament of Christ, and receive the Bread of Angels (Ps.128:26) as his food. High the office, and great the dignity of a priest, to whom is granted what is not granted to Angels ; for only a rightly ordained priest has power to celebrate the Eucharist and to hallow the Body of Christ. The priest is the minister of God, using the words of God by His own command and appointment : but God Himself is the principal agent and unseen worker, to whose will all things are subject,(Wisd. 12:18) and whose command all creatures obey.
In all that relates to this sublime Sacrament, you should have regard to God's word, rather than your own senses or any visible sign. Therefore, when you approach the Altar, let it be with awe and reverence. Consider from whom thisministry proceeds, that has been delivered to you by the imposition of the Bishop's hands.(I Tim.4:14) You have been made a priest, and ordained to celebrate the Sacrament : see, then, that you offer this sacrifice to God faithfully, regularly, and devoutly, and that your life is blameless.(I Tim.3:2; 2 Pet. 3:14) Your obligations are now greater; you are bound to exercise stricter self-discipline, and to aim at a higher degree of holiness. A priest should be adorned with all virtues, and show an example of holy life to others.(Titus 2:7) His life should not be like that of worldly men, but like that of the Angels, (Phil.3:20) or of perfect men on earth.
A priest clothed in sacred vestments occupies the place of Christ, that he may humbly intercede with God for himself and for all men. (Heb.5:3; 7:27) He wears the sign of the Cross both before and behind him, that he may be ever mindful of His Lord's Passion. He wears the Cross before him on his chasuble, that he may diligently observe the footsteps of Christ, and earnestly study to follow them. (I Pet.2:21) His shoulders also are signed with the Cross, that he may in mercy and for the love of God bear every injury done him by others. He wears the Cross before him, that he may grieve for his own sins ; behind him, that he may compassionately lament the sins of others, ever mindful that he is appointed a mediator between God and the sinner, and that he may not cease from prayer and the Holy Sacrifice until he deserve to win grace and mercy. And when a priest celebrates the Eucharist, he honours God, and gives joy to the Angels; he edifies the Church, helps the living, obtains rest for the departed, and makes imself a sharer in all good things.
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