I think priests get pretty busy during this holiest of weeks.
I don’t mean that to sound like an obvious understatement. I have just been thinking about all the preparation that needs to happen before Thursday. Then, just when liturgical ritual starts to take over, there seems to be a whole new set of details to attend to.
Details like making sure the family schedule accommodates getting to Triduum services on time, planning meals ahead while accommodating abstinence and fasting, and gathering items for children’s Easter celebration while trying to balance prayerful anticipation.
Confusing? See, when I use the word “priests,” I mean us, the baptized. Because that is who we are. With baptism in Christ we receive what the Church calls the “priesthood of the baptized.” That is to say we participate in Christ’s priestly identity. And this week we get to be reminded in a particular way of that identity, especially at the Easter Vigil.
Last week I heard a beautiful discussion between a seminarian and his lay classmates about priesthood; both that of the baptized and that of the ordained. Strikingly, he spoke of how Christ is both priest and victim on the cross and that is the perfection of all priestly sacrifice.
“ALL priestly sacrifice,” I thought. Well, that must mean that we as the baptized have a priestly sacrifice to make as well. And, of course, we do. The Second Vatican Council wrote of the laity:
“To them [Jesus Christ] also gives a share in his priestly office…For all their works, if accomplished in the Spirit, become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ: their prayers and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation of mind and body, even the hardships of life if patiently borne…In the celebration of the Eucharist, these are offered to the Father in all piety along with the body of the Lord. And so, worshipping everywhere by their holy actions, the laity consecrate the world itself to God.” (Lumen Gentium, 34)
I am glad to be reminded of my identity as Lent draws to a close and culmination. I have a priestly sacrifice to prepare in tending to this week’s details of family life and bearing hardships patiently. Some hardships are large: selling our house. And some are small: secretly putting together items for Easter baskets.
When Thursday arrives, liturgical ritual will take over. We will gather — priests in the pews and priest in the sanctuary. The words of the Eucharistic prayer, “pray that my sacrifice and yours…” will reinforce our shared and distinct identities. Together we will remember and celebrate our great high priest’s act of consecrating the world to the Father. Our participation in that priesthood is a privilege…and a responsibility.