A new feast is celebrated for the first time on Thursday 24th May in England and Wales. It is a feast institutedto honour Jesus Christ, who serves humankind as High Priest, mediator of God’s saving graces.
It is also a day on which we celebrate the sacramental participation in Christ’s ministry by those ordained as bishops and presbyters (priests) in the Church for the service of God’s people.
The Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest, according to the order of Melchizedek. In him the Father has been well pleased from before all time.
As Mediator between God and human beings, fulfilling his Father’s will, he sacrificed himself once on the altar of the Cross as a saving Victim for the whole world.
Thus, instituting the pattern of an everlasting sacrifice, with a brother’s kindness he chose, from among the children of Adam, men to augment the priesthood, so that, from the sacrifice continually renewed in the Church, streams of divine power might flow, whereby a new heaven and a new earth might be made, and throughout the whole universe there would be perfected what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor has entered into the human heart.
The Collect for the Feast follows:
O God, who for the glory of your majesty
and the salvation of the human race,
made your Only Begotten Son the Eternal High Priest,
grant that, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit,
those whom he has chosen as ministers
and stewards of his mysteries
may be found faithful in carrying out the ministry
they have received.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
The second reading for the Office of Readings for the Feast reminds of how all the faithful are called to share in the priesthood of Christ, in their different states of life.
Christ is a Priest indeed; however, he is a Priest not for himself but for us, since, in the name of the whole human race, he brings our prayers and religious dispositions to the eternal Father; he is also a victim, but a victim for us, since he substitutes himself for sinners.
Now the exhortation of the Apostle, ‘Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,’ demands that all Christians should possess, as far as is humanly possible, the same dispositions as those which the divine Redeemer had when he offered himself in sacrifice: that is to say, they should with a humble attitude of mind, offer adoration, honour, praise and thanksgiving to the supreme majesty of God.
Moreover, it demands that they must assume in some way the condition of a victim, that they deny themselves as the Gospel commands, that freely and of their own accord they do penance and that each detests and makes satisfaction for his sins.
It demands, in a word, that we must all undergo with Christ a mystical death on the Cross so that we can apply to ourselves the words of St. Paul, ‘I have been crucified with Christ’ (Galatians 2:19).
A reading from the Encyclical Mediator Dei of Pope Pius XII
The feat is celebrated in the wake of the most recent clerical scandals to bring shame on the Church – the complicity of bishops and others in covering up incidents of sexual abuse. On this day, please pray for their victims, and for greater faithfulness in the Church on earth and her ministers.
For the full range of Liturgical texts go to the website of the Liturgy Office of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
Stained glass. Southwark Cathedral. (c) 2016, Allen Morris