The Priesthood: Hallowed be Thy Name

seven sacramentsLast week we considered how “Our Father, who art in heaven” is a reminder of our Baptismal dignity. Baptism makes us children of the heavenly father. But Baptism, like childhood, is only potential, looking forward with promise.

That promise looks forward, above all, to praise. We are given divine birth so that we can know the divine. We become “sons in the Son” so that, like the Son, we can become eternal praise of the Father.

Every newborn baby has a father, but does not yet know his name. The promise of earthly birth is, above all, the possibility of relationship, of knowing others in the world, above all our family, by name. The promise of our heavenly birth is that we can know the name of the holy one, know the holiness of his name, hallow his name. “Our Father, who art in heaven” bears fruit in “hallowed be thy name.”

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We can enter more deeply into this next line of the prayer by picturing a priest at the altar. He lifts up his hands in praise, he hallows God’s name. Indeed, Baptism is the door into the Church – so that we can attend the perfect praise of the Mass. We dip our fingers in baptismal water at the door, and go up to the altar; our Baptism gives us access to the place of the Priest; calling God our Father opens up the possibility of hallowing his name.

Now, in Catholic theology there are two kinds of priesthood. Baptism itself makes us priests: “Having been drawn to Him, a living Stone, indeed rejected by men, but elect, precious with God; you also as living stones are bulit up a spiritual house, a holy priesthod, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. . . . You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for possession, so that you might speak of the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Peter 2:4-5, 9). We are all stones building up the Church, all priests, all people of praise.

And so the proper name for what we typically call the sacramental priesthood is really Holy Orders. Orders means hierarchy, leadership. It is not that the sacramental priests are the only priests – it is that they lead the priestly people in the priestly service of worship.

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If we are a priestly people, why do we need priestly “orders”? Imagining the ordained priest when we pray “Hallowed be thy name” can help us understand.

Yes, my life is called to be praise. I am called to hallow God’s name. But I need an image of that hallowing. I can think of myself at Mass best by drawing to mind the one who leads me in worship.

The sacramental order is all about making things vivid – giving us, fleshly people, clear images of the truths of our faith. We are not left to understand vaguely that we have been born again to a new Father – we see it happen, in Baptism. We understand that all of life is praise when we have special moments of praise, with special leaders in praise.

The ordained priest is, first of all, a sacramental image of our praise. He manifests in his body this truth of our faith.

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He is also a sacramental image that praise is a gift. I do not make myself a Son of God, I receive it – it is poured onto me in Baptism through the ministry of the Church, the Body of Christ. I do not rise up to God in praise by my own strength, but that too is a gift. The ordained priesthood is a gift to us, something that we cannot make ourselves. We cannot ordain priests except through the hand of the ordained, reaching back to Jesus and the Apostles. And we cannot offer perfect praise except through that sacramentally ordained ministry.

The point is not that priests are better Christians. The point is that the priesthood itself – all of our priestly service – is a gift from God. The sacramental priesthood is an icon showing that worship is a gift.

We further remind ourselves of that gift by invoking the word “name.” We only know God’s name because he has told us. Again, there is an icon of this truth in the Magisterium of the Church: God speaks to us from outside of us, through Scripture, interpreted by the Tradition, interpreted by the ordained leaders of the Church. To know God is all gift.

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Finally, it is a gift that draws us together, not dispersed to our private rooms, but gathered around the altar of praise – gathered around the ordained priest, who leads us in procession.

When we pray “hallowed be thy name,” even in our private rooms, we call to mind the ordained priest and understand how all of life is drawn to the altar of praise.

How would it change your day if you saw it pointing to the altar?

eric.m.johnston

2 Comments

  1. Again a fine understanding that led me to think. The one term among so many that needed a clear explanation was “praise”. What is praise in a liturgical, sacramental space time–sacred space with no space, sacred time with no time, in other words eternity and fullness.
    When we say the gloria and the end of a psalm what are we doing but Praising God for his actions. Praise refers to actions esp. those of the Blessed Trinity.”unchanging but always new” that is a description of the Trinity’s actions in the past, present, and future but there are not in our sense in the GODHEAD, there is no temporal distinctions, there only the NOW. It is the same from the Trinity’s ‘perspective’ but for us, the Gloria brings up our personal call into existence from the creative love of the Father, then the present, salvation history, of Israel and the CHURCH, and the future ‘will be forever, our hope and trust that we will be with Him and Them and us. Wow, that’s a story of God’s ACTIONS which are the content of our Praise. I mean no disrespect but would like my voice heard for you are a fine priest and homilist I admire and respect . May the Lord bless your priesthood and your work among us.
    John Catan

  2. Again a fine understanding that led me to think. The one term among so many that needed a clear explanation was “praise”. What is praise in a liturgical, sacramental space time–sacred space has no space, sacred time has no time, in other words, in the Godhead there is only eternity and fullness.
    When we say the ‘Glory’ prayer at the end of a psalm what are we doing but Praising God for his actions. Praise refers to actions esp. those of the Blessed Trinity, “unchanging but always new,” that is a description of the Trinity’s actions in two spheres, one of Being, eternal and unchanging and the other the sphere of becoming with time and place, the past, present, and future but they are not in our sense in the GODHEAD, there is no temporal distinctions there only the NOW.
    It is the same from the Trinity’s ‘perspective’ but for us, the Glory brings up our personal call into existence from the creative love in the mind of the Father, by name just as he called the prophet’s like Samuel; then the present, salvation history, of Israel and the CHURCH, finally the future is referenced and the future ‘will be forever, our hope and trust that we will be with Him and Them and us, all on fire with LOVE, Creative love mirroring clearly the Godhead, three persons in one God. Wow, that’s a story of God’s ACTIONS which are the content of our Praise.
    I mean no disrespect but would like my voice heard for you are a fine priest and homilist I admire and respect. Perhaps this is my baptismal priesthood speaking, perhaps? May the Lord bless your priesthood and your work among us.
    John Catan
    Please delete previous post and use this one which I edited as it need to be, If that cannot be done then delete both. I do not want my name associated with all the errors.Thank you

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