Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Prelature of Opus Dei: Radical Equality in the Church – All (Lay Faithful –Ministerial Priests) Ipse Christus, Loving the World Passionately (Secular Work) Opus Dei as Leaven of Communio Within the Church

From “Opus Dei in the Church” by Rodriguez, Ocariz and Illanes, Scepter (2003) 46-51.

"(…) Thus, to say that ordination, the orientation of the priest to the faithful, is essentially diakonia or service is equivalent to saying that the "ontology" of Church structure indicates the substantial priority of the "Christian condition" (the common priesthood). "With you I am a Christian; for you I am the bishop," said Augustine of Hippo. With respect to the common priesthood, the "priestly ministry" element has a relative character, theologically subordinate: "Christ instituted the hierarchical priesthood for the benefit of the common priesthood."

This priority is "substantial", which does not mean that the ministerial priesthood is derived from the common priesthood (a position formally at odds with Catholic faith [basically Protestant]). Both forms of priesthood are "basic and aboriginal", as we have sufficiently seen, and "essentially" distinct.

Having skirted [the Protestant] error, we nonetheless ought to affirm this substantial priority. To understand and affirm it with all its consequences pertains to the essence of the Catholic conception of the Church. Given the common priesthood's priority, we can clearly see why the ministerial priesthood's power to represent Christ does not mean that clerics are more Christian than others or that they contribute more to the Church's mission, as if the faithful could be reduced to mere recipients of clerical ministrations.

[[Cardinal Ratzinger in two interviews clarifies that the etymology of the word “Hierarchy” is not “Holy Rule,” but “Holy Origin:” “I would certainly dispute the well-known translation that gives ‘sacred lordship’ as the meaning of ‘hierarchy.’ I am persuaded that the word means ‘sacred origin.’ It means that the Church does not spring from any decisions of ours, but only ever anew from the Lord himself, from the sacrament. Seen in that light, the priesthood looks quite different. We are not talking here about a ruling class that enforces strict discipline in the Church. The priesthood is, on the contrary, what connects the Church with the Lord. It is the way in which the Church transcends herself, not taking her origin from meetings, decisions, learning, or the power of organization, but always and only ever owing it to Christ. In that sense, priesthood is also beyond anyone’s control. Accordingly, if there are no more vocations to the priesthood, then we have to ask the Lord for them and cannot simply force them ourselves” (J. Ratzinger, “God and the World” Ignatius [2002] 386.) [Notice that Benedict on the day of his inauguration as Pope stated on April 24, 2005 that, “My real programme of governance is not to do my own will, not to pursue my own ideas, but to listen, together with the whole Church, to the word and the will of the Lord, to be guided by Him, so that He himself will lead the Church at this hour of our history.”  In his “Salt of the Earth”Ignatius [1997] 191-193, Ratzinger expatiates on “hierarchy” as connecting the Church to the Christ as “origin:” “No one can forgive sins on his own initiative; no one can communicate the Holy Spirit on his own initiative; no one can transform bread into the presence of Christ or keep him present on his own initiative. In this sense, one has to perform a service in which the Church doesn’t become a self-governing business but draws her life again and again anew from her origin…. Perhaps there really is too much decision making and administration in the Church at the present time. In reality, office by nature ought to be a service to ensure that the sacraments are celebrated, that Christ can come in and that the Word of God is proclaimed. Everything else is only ordered to that. It ought not to be a standing governing function but have a bond of obedience to the origin and a bond to the life lived in this origin. The office holder ought to accept responsibility for the fact that he does not proclaim and produce things himself but is a conduit for the Other and thereby ought to step back himself… In this sense, he should be in the very first place one who obeys, who does not say, ‘I would like to say this now,’ but asks what Christ says and what our faith is and submits to that. And in the second place he ought to be one who serves, who is available to the people and who, in following Christ, keeps himself ready to wash their feet…. Saint Augustine… was constantly busy with trivial affairs, with footwashing, and that he was ready to spend his great life for the little things, if you will, but in the knowledge that he wasn’t squandering it by doing so. That should, then, be the true image of the priesthood. When it is lived correctly, it cannot mean finally getting one’s hands on the levers of power but, rather, renouncing one’s own life project: in order to give oneself over to service.”]]

We here witness one of the greatest developments brought about by Vatican II's theology of the Church, one that paradoxically reveals something most ancient and primordial in its structure. It shows that it is all God's priestly People, organice exstructus, that bears the message of salvation to the world, and that what really matters and abides forever is the substantive condition of "christifideles", of "being a Christian". Consequently, ministry is something structurally relative—relative to Christ and to the "congregation of Christians". The cleric relates to Christ insofar as his service to the Lord consists in being a sign and instrument of Christ's saving gift to the community. And he relates to the congregation insofar as, through his priestly ministry, he enriches the congregatio fidelium with godly gifts. Thus the latter are spurred to practise their priesthood (the "priestly soul" Blessed Josemaría refers to) by living the substance of that faith and by their in-worldly worship of God, the charity that Christ himself, not his ministers, has granted them in the Spirit. This smacks of Scripture, even of Old Testament Scripture: "The role of the kohanim (hiereis) is essentially that of keeping the people aware of their priestly character and spurring them to live in such a way as to glorify God by everything they do."

This ecclesiological twist produced by Vatican II is found in its definition of the particular Church: no longer is it a territory or jurisdiction, but rather a portion of God's People. The above-quoted conciliar text succinctly puts forth the theology of the interaction of twofold participation in Christ's priesthood. In defining the Church, the substantive element is the community, the portio, the ensemble of Christian faithful, which is the focus of the dual ministerial element that composes it and structures it as Church—the bishop, "visible source and foundation of unity" and the priests, "prudent cooperators of the episcopal college and its support and mouthpiece". By the ministerial action of the bishop with the clergy (exercising the "ministerial priesthood": preaching and sacraments, above all the eucharist), the particular Church, the portion, is and lives as Church: there the Church of Christ as such inest et operatur. But having said that much, we are already pointing to the "functional" [not “substantial”] priority of the sacred ministry.

c) How the common priesthood relates to the ministerial: the latter's "functional" priority.  It is now time we looked from the other side at the mystery of participation in Christ's priesthood in the Church, both in its communion and in its structure. To affirm the substantive priority of the "Christian condition" with respect to the ministry only fully makes sense when admitting the latter's functional priority. This priority stems from the ordinatio the faithful have to the ministry of the clergy. Christifideles and ministry are ordered to one another (ad invicem ordinantur). In the light of what we have seen, their mutual relations should be easy to grasp.

Christian "substance" (what Augustine calls nomen gratiae) is radically found in the faithful: all baptized persons in the Church are on the way to salvation and holiness by reason of their status as Christians. [i.e. the sacramental assumption into being “Ipse Christus”]. But the congregatio fidelium does not bestow this substantive condition on itself; rather it is a fruit of the Spirit, whom Christ sends in the word and the sacraments. So, the specific service rendered the community by the ministers of the word and the sacraments is no mere "option"; it is indispensable to Christian life. In the economy of salvation established by Christ, availing themselves of this ministry is essential if the "congregation of the faithful" are to develop as Christians. In this sense ministers, because they represent Christ the head, enjoy functional priority within the Church structure; this testifies to Christ's being the head and saviour of his Body.
From this can be seen the common priesthood's special ordinatio to the ministerial. While the relationship of ministerial to common priesthood is that of service, not so the relationship of common to ministerial. If anything, it is a relationship expressing the need to be served. The faithful need the sacramental, prophetic and pastoral services of ministers in order to be and live as Christians. They require the ministerial priesthood's specific actions if they are to exercise those pertaining to the common priesthood. Without the "help" of the priestly ministry, they could not be what they are, in the words of John Paul II, who bases himself on Vatican II: "Beloved brothers, the sacrament of Order, specific to us, fruit of the grace particular to our vocation and basis for our identity, by virtue of its very nature and everything it produces in our life and activity—all this helps the faithful to be aware of their common priesthood and to actualize it (cf. Eph 4: 11ff). It reminds them that they are God's People and equips them to 'offer spiritual sacrifices'(cf. 1 Pet 2: 5) through which Christ himself makes us an everlasting gift to the Father (cf. 1 Pet 3: 18).This happens, above all, when the priest, 'by the sacred power he has . . . effects the eucharistic sacrifice and offers it to God in the name of all the people' (Lumen gentium, 10)."

This functional priority of the sacred ministry has led some theologians to speak of it as the "structuring" ministry of the community. Indeed, if the Church's fundamental structure arises from Christ's convoking the congregation through word and sacraments, thereby giving himself to the faithful, the role belonging to ministers is that of instruments which Christ the head uses to maintain the Church as Church, that is, endowed with the fundamental structure that enables it to perform its mission. That is the reason why ministers, despite being essentially servants, ought to be loved and honoured by the Christian community, as St Paul asked the Thessalonians: "But we beseech you, brethren, to respect those who labour among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work" (1 Thess 5: 12-13). The reason for their dignity is "structural", to do with the "work" they carry out; it is not something "personal".

4. The foundational dynamics of the Church's structure

We have just considered the "faithful/ministers" binomial, with their mutual relations (substantive priority of the former, functional-structuring priority of the latter). That helps us to appreciate better the unity-totality of the Church's basic structure, which, through both elements, is configured in its most primary dimensions. Here on earth, the Church, "organically structured" (organice extructa), is not just the faithful, or just the ministers; rather it is the priestly community consecrated by the Spirit, whom Christ sends from the Father, a community endowed with a structure wherein the common and ministerial priesthoods operate ineffably to make the Church Christ's Body.

This structure is basic and aboriginal inasmuch as its two component elements represent the most radical structural positions, though not the only ones, found in the Church. From this perspective we can understand theologically the historical entities in which this structure expresses itself, both at the universal as well as at the particular level. And this essential articulation, in turn, distinguishes those entities from other forms of Christian community where only one of the elements comes into theological play. 

To sum up: the structure of the Church, as disclosed by divine revelation, is this: priestly ministers, by dedication to their ministry, serve their brethren (the "faithful"), so as to enable the latter, exercising their existential priesthood, to serve God and the world. The priestly ministry exists for "the growth of the Christian community to the point where it is enabled to radiate faith and love in civil society". The dynamics of this twofold, stepped, service are eschatological [i.e. Christ Himself is present Now in history]—the mission, the building up of Christ's Body. In this context the Pope's title of "Servant of the Servants of God" acquires its full strength and meaning. By divine institution he presides and unites all the ecclesiastical "ministry". This title synthesizes all the theology of the ministerial priesthood and, with it, the true sense of the twin priority—substantive and functional—we have examined.

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