living in an age when more and more laymen seem to be telling the priest his job, and far from discouraging such a procedure the Council and many Church dignitaries would seem to be actively encouraging it.
This is remarkable, for in few other professional circles is such a thing even tolerated -least of all, probably, in the medical profession. Once. when I ventured to tell my doctor what I thought was wrong with me. I received the caustic reply: "Oh ves; and who made the diagnosis?"
Our priests receive a longer training for their job than any medico. They have to study for a minimum period of six years in a major seminary. Many study much longer. They are, therefore, quite clearly the professionals, who must be presumed to know their lob.
They are chosen by the Church as her official ministers. and in ordaining them she recognises in them the presence of a divine vocation. Moreover, by their ordination Christ gives them special powers in the celebration of the liturgy. They act in Christ's name. They have the power to change the bread and wine at Mass into Christ's body and blood. They are given power and authority to forgive sins and to preach in Christ's name. All this makes them men apart, men who are quite distinct from the laity. But there is this big difference between the professional priest, and. say, the professional doctor:
be is a priest not in his own right, not because he passed an examina tion and received a diploma. but because he has been given a special share in the priesthood of Christ. the one High Priest of' the new dispensation.
He has a special share in Christ's priesthood. but the laity are also priests and really
priests — because they too are united to Christ the High Priest. They form part of Christ's mystical body and therefore share not
only his life but also his prerogatives. They are sons of God with Christ, co-heirs with Christ, kings and priests with Christ. They form a royal priesthood, a nation of priests in the service of God.
The official priesthood does not detract from the priestly dignity of the laity. It exists in order to make the exercise of the priesthood of the laity possible. When the priest offers Mass. he makes it possible for the laity to take their part in offering Mass with him and with Christ.
The Mass is not a "one man effort". It was never intended that the laity should sit back in church and let the professional priest get on with it. That would he to misunderstand their Christian vocation completely.
111 The liturgy is an exerci.tie of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. Christ always associates the whole Church—not just the priest--with himself in this great work wherein God is perfectly glorified and men are sanctified. The Church is his beloved Bride, who calls to her Lord and through him offers worship to the eternal Father (Liturgical Constitution, Article 7).
It is principally in the liturgy, therefore, that we exercise our priesthood. "A priest", says the bishop when he ordains, "must offer sacrifice", and we share Christ's priesthood by sharing in the offering of the same sacrifice as he offered: his body and blood for the life of the world.
This makes active participation in the liturgy not only compre
hensible. but vitally necessary the performance of a vital function.
a In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, the full and active participation of all the people is the aim to be considered before all else (Article 14), Liturgical services are not private functions, but are celebrations of the Church, which is "the sacrament of unity"—nameir the holy people united and ordered under their bishops (Article 26).
Moreover, as I hope to show in greater detail during the next few weeks, although the layman derives his priestly dignity from the liturgy. it is not merely in the liturgy that he exercises his priesthood. He is exercising it continually throughout his Christian life in the world.
'The priest must offer sacrifice" and the whole Christian life is a sacrifice offered to God. What a Christian does at Mass he lives throughout the day. He is at all times a priest in the world.
Do we realise this enough? Do we think of ourselves as priests? Has the word sacrifice any real meaning for us? It is only when we sacrifice ourselves for the good of others in the world that the Mass becomes fully effective.
The truly marvellous, redeeming effects of the Sacrifice take place not merely in church, but wherever through our Christian lives sorrow is changed into joy, despair into hope. hatred into love, enmity into the peace of Christ. There we see the Mass, and we, in union with Christ, are the priests of this sacrifice.
When therefore the layman is called upon by his bishop—as is fortunately happening more and more these days to make his own contribution to the Church's thinking and the Church's policy, he is not telling the priest his job. He is being invited to exercise his rights and responsibility as a i member of a priestly people n the service of God and the Church.