The season of Epiphany ends and Great Lent quietly knocks at our door. Before we approach this magnificent season, we remember those who have gone before us.
The concept of journey is central to the Maronite view of death. On the three Sundays before Lent we remember the departed, beginning with the priests. Bishops and priests are our companions on our journey to God. Chorbishop Seely Beggani gives a wonderful explanation of the priesthood. The Mystery of the Priesthood was instituted by Christ, the High Priest, at the last supper. It has been handed through the apostles and their successors, the bishops, continuing the priesthood of the Old Testament tradition.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit – bishops, priests and deacons preach the Gospel and worship and serve the Mysteries to God’s people. They are the earthly image of the unending heavenly priesthood of Christ. They serve the altar and the Mysteries to build up the people of God. In the Maronite Church, the ordination of the deacon, priest and bishop take place within the Qorbono after the bishop and priests have received Communion and before its distribution to the congregation. Chorbishop Seely Beggani explains the ordination ceremony further:
“The bishop, standing in front of the altar with the sacred Mysteries placed near the front as well, and then imposes his left hand on the Eucharist and his right hand on the candidate’s head while invoking the Holy Spirit. This Maronite Ordination ritual, with its timing unique to the Maronite tradition, reveals a profound link between the Eucharist and the priesthood. For the same Holy Spirit, who overshadowed the Mysteries now overshadows the candidate through the imposition of the bishops hands.
For a priestly ordination, the bishop after vesting the newly ordained minister and anointing his hands with Myron presents him with 3 symbols while he is lead by two brother priests around the church. First, while incensing the community the priest is reminded of his ministry to forgive sins through Reconciliation and to lead the congregation in worship. Second, while carrying the Gospel Book, the priest is reminded of his prophetic ministry of proclaiming the good news. And third and perhaps the most compelling symbol, is the placement of the chalice, containing the Eucharist, upon the priest’s head as a reminder to dispense the Mysteries on the life-journey for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
The Mystery of Orders, like the Mystery of crowning, celebrates the divine calling and
divinises and strengthens those who commit themselves to these Mysteries. The origin identity and destiny of every human being is Divine; for we are made by God, in His image and likeness.”
Throughout history Christ has provided priests to serve his altar sometimes in large numbers and sometimes fewer. Worldwide 1.2 billion Catholics are being served by only 412,236 priests. (2,900 per priest). The harvest is plenty, but the labourers are few.
So much is expected of out priests and this Sunday’s Epistle and Gospel does not make it easier. Priests are instructed:
“set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhorting, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders.
Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.” Timothy 4:6-16.
Priests are also warned:
“That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” Luke 12:42-48
This is a grim warning and because of the dangers and temptations that the bishop and priest face, we must pray for them, both the living and the deceased so that they may enter into the house of the Lord and reap the rewards of the faithful servant.
This photo shows his Excellency Antoine Charbel Tarabay, Bishop of Australia at