Thursday, March 20, 2008

"Standing" in "Service"

While Benedict XVI hasn't continued his predecessor's tradition of a separate Holy Thursday letter to the world's priests, Papa Ratzi mixed a favorite vestment-set of John Paul II with his own lace alb and new-old pastorale at this morning's Chrism Mass, where the homily doubles as his global message to the clergy:
The "temptation of humanity", since the time of Adam, "has always been that of wanting to be completely autonomous, to follow only our own will and to maintain that only in this way will we be free", but in this way "we pit ourselves against the truth". This is also true for priests: "we do not invent the Church as we would like it to be, but we proclaim the Word of Christ properly only in communion"....

Being a priest of Jesus Christ" has, in the words of Benedict XVI, a twofold meaning. The first, expressed in "standing before the Lord", points to "the Eucharist as the center of priestly life", and at the same time to the fact that "the priest must be someone who watches. He must remain on guard before the relentless powers of evil. He must keep the world awake to God. He must be someone who remains upright amid the tides of the moment. Upright in the truth. Upright in his commitment to goodness. Standing before the Lord must always be, in its inmost depths, also a lifting up of men to the Lord, who, in turn, lifts up all of us to the Father. And it must be a lifting up of Him, of Christ, of his word, of his truth, of his love. The priest must be upright, unwavering and ready even to suffer outrage for the sake of the Lord".
The second word that describes the priest is "service". This "involves many dimensions. Certainly first among these is the proper celebration of the liturgy and of the sacraments in general, carried out with interior participation. We must learn to understand more and more the sacred liturgy in all of its essence, to develop a lively familiarity with it, so that it becomes the soul of our daily life. It is then that we celebrate properly, it is then that there emerges on its own account the ars celebrandi, the art of celebrating. There must be nothing artificial in this art. It must become one and the same thing as the art of living correctly".

Also part of serving are "two more aspects. No one is as close to his master as the servant, who has access to the most private dimension of his life. In this sense, 'serving' means closeness, it requires familiarity. This familiarity also brings a danger: that our constant contact with the sacred might make it become routine for us".
"Serving means closeness, but above all it means obedience. The servant is under orders: 'Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done' (Luke 22:42)". "We have true freedom only if enter into what constitutes the measure of freedom, if we enter into the will of God. This fundamental obedience that is part of the human being becomes even more concrete in the priest: we do not proclaim ourselves, but rather Him and his Word, which we could not have imagined on our own. We do not invent the Church as we would like to be, but we proclaim the word of Christ properly only in the communion of his Body. Our obedience is believing together with the Church, thinking and speaking together with the Church, serving together with it. This always involves what Jesus predicted to Peter: 'someone else will . . . lead you where you do not want to go'. This being led where we do not want to go is an essential dimension of our service, and it is precisely this that makes us free. By being led in this way, which can be contrary to our own ideas and plans, we experience something new - the riches of the love of God".
PHOTOS: AFP/Getty(1,3); Reuters(2)