THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS
on the role of the Laity

INSTRUCTION on Certain Questions regarding the Collaboration of the Non-ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest

Fifth Installment: THEOLOGICAL PRINCIPLES - part one
The Common Priesthood of the Faithful and the Ministerial Priesthood

     Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest, wished that his one and indivisible priesthood be transmitted to his Church. This Church is the people of the New Covenant who, "through Baptism and the anointing of the Holy Spirit are reborn and consecrated as a spiritual temple and a holy priesthood. By living the Christian life, they offer up spiritual sacrifices and proclaim the prodigious deeds of Him who called them from darkness into his own wonderful light (cf. 1 Pt 2, 4-10)".(19) "There is but one chosen People of God: 'one Lord, one faith, one Baptism' (Eph 4, 5): there is a common dignity of members deriving from their rebirth in Christ, a common grace of filial adoption, a common vocation to perfection".(20) There exists "a true equality between all with regard to the dignity and to the activity which is common to all the faithful in the building up of the Body of Christ". By the will of Christ some are constituted "teachers, dispensers of the mysteries and pastors".(21) The common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood "though they differ essentially and not only in degree... are none the less ordered one to another; (since) each in its own proper way shares in the one priesthood of Christ".(22) Between both there is an effective unity since the Holy Spirit makes the Church one in communion, in service and in the outpouring of the diverse hierarchical and charismatic gifts.(23)

      Thus the essential difference between the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood is not found in the priesthood of Christ, which remains forever one and indivisible, nor in the sanctity to which all of the faithful are called: "Indeed the ministerial priesthood does not of itself signify a greater degree of holiness with regard to the common priesthood of the faithful; through it, Christ gives to priests, in the Spirit, a particular gift so that they can help the People of God to exercise faithfully and fully the common priesthood which it has received".(24)

For the building up of the Church, the Body of Christ, there is a diversity of members and functions but only one Spirit who, for the good of the Church, distributes his various gifts with munificence proportionate to his riches and the needs of service, (cf. 1 Cor 12, 1-11).(25)

      This diversity exists at the mode of participation in the priesthood of Christ and is essential in the sense that "while the common priesthood of the faithful is exercised by the unfolding of baptismal grace, - a life of faith, hope and charity, a life according to the Spirit - the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood... and directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians".(26)

Consequently, the ministerial priesthood "differs in essence from the common priesthood of the faithful because it confers a sacred power for the service of the faithful"(27). For this reason the priest is exhorted "...to grow in awareness of the deep communion uniting him to the People of God" in order to "awaken and deepen co-responsibility in the one common mission of salvation, with a prompt and heartfelt esteem for all the charisms and tasks which the Spirit gives believers for the building up of the Church".(28)

NEXT ISSUE: Theological Principles -part two


DAILY CATHOLIC      Vicar of Christ Speaks     volume 8, no. 36


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