Holy orders

Celibate Image of God's Love

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For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. ....And one does not take the honor upon himself, but he is called by God, just as Aaron was.

Hebrews 5:1&4

The Sacrament of Holy Orders, is the sacrament by which Jesus conforms the life of a man to be a Deacon, Priest, or Bishop.

The life of Christ is one of Priest and Victim. When a man become a priest, Jesus consecrates the man in a particular way to His priesthood (offering sacrifice for salvation) and to His victimhood (being the sacrifice offered for the salvation of the world).

The priest is above all, ordained to be a man for others, "I have come to serve, not to be served, and to offer my life as a ransom for others."

No man takes this honor upon himself, but only accepts the gift when offered by God.

Watch the San Diego Diocese Vocation Video about the Priesthood

Sacrament of HOly Orders

The Basics

Through ordination, God raises up fathers for His earthly family, the Church. Holy orders is the sacrament by which men receive the power and grace to perform the sacred duties of bishops, priests, and other ministers of the Church. Jesus instituted the sacrament at the Last Supper when He gave His Apostles the power and the duty to say Mass, to “Do this in remembrance of Me.” After His resurrection, He breathed on them and gave them the power to forgive sins. By His command, He enabled them to heal in His name (Mt 10:8).

Throughout the Bible, priests appear as spiritual fathers. In the Book of Genesis, priestly paternity is explicit. In the beginning, there is no separate priestly caste. Family and church are one. Houses are domestic sanctuaries, meals are sacrifices, areas in front of a fire, are altars – all because fathers are empowered as priests by nature. Each father passes on his priesthood to his firstborn son.

This practice continues until Israel sins grievously by worshipping the golden calf. At that point, God confines the priesthood to the Levites, the only tribe that remained faithful to Him. Yet, even then, the people of Israel looked to their priests as fathers. In the Book of Judges, when a Levite appeared at Micah’s door, Micah pleads, “Stay with me, and be to me a father and a priest” (Jg 17:10). A chapter later, Micah’s plea is echoed, almost verbatim, by the Danites as they invite the Levite to be priest for their entire tribe: “Come with us, and be to us a father and a priest” (Jg 18:19).

In the fullness of time, God the Father sent Jesus as a faithful firstborn son* and a priest**—not only to restore the natural priesthood, but also to establish a supernatural priesthood within the divine family, the Church.

*See Hebrews 1:6
**See Hebrews 10:21

That is the priesthood exercised by Christ through the apostles. In turn, the apostles ordained priests, bishops, and deacons to succeed them (Acts 14:23, 20:17; Phil 1:1; Tit 1:5-9). We see it today as bishops lay hands upon priests and pronounce the words of consecration – the essential rite of ordination. Only a bishop can validly ordain a man as priest.

How does a priest “father” the family of the Church? Think of the ways an ordinary dad fathers his natural children. Fathers give life. They nurture life. As breadwinners, they care for it. They instruct. They raise that life to maturity. In an analogous way, priests [as supernatural fathers] give [supernatural] life through baptism; they nourish their spiritual offspring through the Eucharist; they discipline through penance; [they heal through reconciliation]; they instruct through their preaching; they raise their congregations to full Christian maturity as contributing members of God’s family. (From Scott Hahn's Book, Swear to God)

Questions about Holy Orders?