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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

The Priesthood and Prayer

Christ is the Great High Priest—and because of His priesthood on our behalf, our prayers are raised to heaven and heard by the Father. The Risen Lord intercedes for us in the sanctuary not made by human hands, and He is at work in the world, fully present to our needs. This is what makes Christian prayer unique. By faith, the One who mediates the blessings of God the Father to us and who has won for us the forgiveness of our sins, also presents to the Father our sorrows and joys, hopes and fears in such a way that all of heaven becomes implicated in our plight. What is more, the priesthood of Christ is not remote from those who are baptized. But baptism, each of the Lord's disciples actually participate in His priesthood as members of his mystical body. He has given us everything, even allowing us to share in His intercession to the extend that we can pray for one another in His Name and by His Blood, have our prayers answered. Yes, we need to ask with faith for those things that are in accord with His will and we need to persevere believing that He will grant what is most needed when it is most needed. Yet, our priestly dignity comes from the fact that our existence is rooted in Him and in His priesthood. This fulfills something intrinsic to our humanity. Religion and spirituality is not accidental to our humanity—it is at its very heart. Yet this spiritual reality of our existence is thwarted by all kinds of sin and evil. Constantly, we compromise the original priestly role we were meant to have in creation by neglecting our worship of God and by rendering worship to things that are far beneath our dignity. If the Word did not become flesh, humanity's vocation to offer the visible things of time and space to God would be lost. Yet, the Word who orders all things to God has entered into our humanity and reordered us away from slavery to the merely material. When He rose from the dead and ascended to the Father, He opened up for us a pathway so that our capacity to worship in a manner that is right and just might be realized. Such is the greatness of our vocation—we are called into a communion of God and man to offer true worship, pleasing to God for the sake of all of creation. To help us realize this great vocation, Christ called from among the baptized those who would minister to the rest of us through a new sacred ministry: the ordained priesthood. The ordained priesthood, established by the sacrament of Holy Orders, is for the building up of the whole body. These men whom Christ has chosen and who have responded to His call, through the ministry of the Church, are raised into a special participation in Christ's saving work. Joined to Him in a unique way, they collect us together in the solidarity that the Lord has called us into so that we might worship in accord with His Will. These priests who are ordained to participate in Christ's Priesthood in a unique way empower the rest of the Mystical BodyThose who receive the sacrament of holy orders devote themselves to the study of God's Word so that we who are incorporated into the priesthood of Christ by baptism might ponder the truth of who we are and remember the great dignity to which we are called. They are empowered to perform sacred rites and confer sacraments—visible signs of God's grace—so that the rest of the Body might behold the wonders of the Lord and exercise our gifts in worship of the Father and in service to one another. In this way, the prayer of the priest empowers the prayer of the whole Church.

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