Sunday, May 29, 2011

Do Women Have a Role in the Liturgy and in the Church?

Posted by Revd Fr Christopher Smith

"...There are thus two different sacred powers associated with two different sacraments which were instituted by Christ for the salvation of souls. But they both are intimately related to the sacrificial offering and priesthood of Christ, although in ways irreducible one to the other. These two distinct powers mark the difference between the ministerial priesthood of Christ the Head conferred by Ordination and the common priesthood of the members of Christ’s Body conferred by Baptism. Just as Christ’s Body and Head are distinct, but cannot live one without the other, so too the priesthood and the laity are distinct and cannot live one without the other.

Note that in none of this discussion has the difference between the two types of priesthood been described in terms of function. The difference is not functional, but sacramental. Furthermore the two are not parallel to each other as adversaries, but mutually complementary to such a degree as to be impossible one without the other. Thus we understand why Blessed John Henry Newman, when asked what he thought of the laity, responded, “We’d look foolish without them!” Just as a head would look foolish without a body.

If the Mass is the sacramental re-presentation of the self-offering of Jesus Christ to the Father, the sacramental distinction between ministerial and common priesthood is logical. But once we begin to see the Mass as a sacrifice of praise given by a community to God, it is hard not to transform our idea of the priesthood from a sacramental one to a functional one. Once the functional trumps the sacramental, the ministerial priest becomes one elected among the assembly of the faithful who presides over them by gathering them together and organizing their common prayer. The common priest is then one who participates in any way in such a common prayer. Then the question arises: if the priesthood (common or ministerial) is merely a question of function, Who decides who fulfills those functions?..."

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