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Vol. I, Feb. 1995

 

The Voice of God

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

1. On December 7 of 1965, the Fathers of the II.Vatican Council accepted with 2390 against 4 voices the decree "On the Ministry and Life of the Priests - Presbyterium Ordinis". It must be esteemed for its depth and briefness. Divided in three chapters, it deals

(I) about the Mystery of the Priesthood in the mission of the Church (art. 2&3),

(II) about the Ministry of the priest: the priest as prophet, priest and pastor (4 to 6) in his communion with the Bishop, the presbyterium and the faithful (7 to 9) and in the special areas of the missions (10) and vocations (11); finally

(III) about the Life of the priest: their call to perfection through the spiritual (12) and ministerial (13f) life, supported by the Virtues of the evangelical councils, obedience (15), continence (16) and poverty (17), and by the spiritual (18), intellectual (19) and material means (20f). In the Conclusion the Fathers manifest their esteem and gratitude to the many faithful priests and give a very encouraging word.

Last October the Congregation for the Clergy organized an International Symposiun in Rome with the purpose to reflect about the 30 years of Presbyterium Ordinis. Profound conferences with a very personal presentation of the Holy Father, especially about his own vocation and the central place of the Celebration of the Holy Mass in his nearly fifty years of priesthood will certainly reawake the first love in each one of us wherever we may stand.

2. If we reflect on this occasion about our priesthood, then we trust in the power of the grace of GOD in us, assured by the indelible character; but we mistrust ourselves and with reason look out for help. Of course, each one of us looks up to CHRIST as our model. Nevertheless we accept gratefully particular interpretations of His infinite rich ideal as it is given by the Saints, especially by saintly priests. Saints are authentic interpreters of CHRIST, Saints are certainly powerful intercessors. However, helpers at our side, constant mediators of inspirations and guiding lights, humble and faithful admonishers, zealous impellers - these we find in the holy Angels, who are specially offered to us priests, today's Apostles, as "fellow servants" (cf. Rev 19:10)!

This explains why we may acknowledge it as a true vocation, to live out our priesthood with the holy Angels as holy and faithful servants of GOD, as adorers with purity and missionaries with zeal. - The cooperation between Angels and Priest we consider as a grace offered by GOD! We can see it foreshadowed in Elias, who desperate in the desert was strengthened by an Angel with Bread and Water (cf 1 Kg 19); it was evidently lived by St. John the Evangelist (cf Rev 1:1; 19:10) as well as by St. Peter (Acts 10 and 12) and St. Paul (Acts 16 and 27; Hebr 1).

As we look back to the itinerary of the past year we are confident: With the assistance of the holy Angels we hope to work more faithfully with Our Lord JESUS CHRIST, THE PRIEST!

We considered how they educate us to a more constant conformation and awareness of being a priest (cf the Letter in June) and to find our glory in a love which serves (July and August).

The holy Angels desire our communion with the Bishop and Clergy in forming an association with other priests around ourselves who stretch out for the same angelic help (January and February).

That the holy Angels want to lead us to greater perfection we considered by their call to follow them in the PASSIO DOMINI, in the darkness of CHRIST in Gethsemane and in the School of the Cross (March), by the celebration of the mysteries of our faith worthily as a real participation in the heavenly liturgy (April) and by following their "Imitation of CHRIST" in honoring Our Lady with a filial love and with submission (May).

We expect from them the important help in the formation of an ever deeper understanding of the mysteries of faith (September) and in their guidance into the depth of prayer (October) and into the living communion with the Communion of Saints (November).

Occasions will come, when we can extend and deepen this conviction about the brotherly help of the holy Angels in our priestly life. In this coming year our attention shall go towards scriptural lessons about the holy Angels' exemplar life, for St. Charles Borromaeus said, "that the priest ought to live the life of an Angel" (Reading on Nov.14th in the Liturgy of the Hours).

3. The dominant figure of the Advent is St. John the Baptist. He said: "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,' as the prophet Isaiah said" (Jn 1,23). To make Zechariah believe (in his annunciation), the Angel took his voice till his son will be born and bring it back. The similarity between the Angel and St. John is specially seen in the eastern tradition; it is not only based in the interpretation of Mal 3:1. Some aspects which will help us to understand through St. John the Baptist the Angel are the mission, to lead the people to JESUS, the redeeming Lamb of GOD (cf. Jn 1 and Acts 8 and 10), the virtue of self-denial of the messenger by turning the people away from himself to GOD (cf Jn 3:30 and Rev 19:10), the call to be just the "Voice" of GOD (cf Mt 3:3 and Ex 23:21) who finds his full joy when he finds Him with the repentant man, the Bridegroom with the bride (cf Jn 3:29 and Lk 15:7.10; see J. Danielou, The Angels, 1991, 51-54). These and other moments show us ways in which we can live together with the Angel more deeply. Let us try this in one of various possible ways.

St. John is shown to us first as one who hears, then as one who jubilees filled with grace, and only years later his voice will resound: it announces the coming of the redeemer, corrects the sinners, invites the repentant, and when it reached its address and brought "over" the message it disappears. This characteristic evidently brings him near the Angels: servants, constantly ready for any call of their Lord, instruments, comparable with the vocal chords - totally offered, humbly waiting, fervently longing for being used. Six characteristics let us pick out here and try to conform us to them:

Towards GOD we find St. John and the Angels as well

  • in silence by total renunciation of their self and admiration of GOD,
  • listening at any moment to the Will of GOD ("totally ear") and
  • obeying at any cost whatever He asks, wherever He sends.

 

Towards man we find them

  • in absolute poverty (cf Mt 3:1ff - desert as symbol of renunciation),
  • in total purity or transparence towards GOD'S Will (without human respect and with no distinction of persons, cf Lk 3:19 and 1:19f)
  • and faithful even to death (cf Lk 7:18ff and Ex 23:21).

 

4. This view at the personality and holiness of the holy Angels granted by the transparent angelic example of St. John the Baptist, shall be the object of our meditations and ascetical effort in this Advent:

a) Let us become silent or deaf towards our Ego and its desires,

let us listen to GOD in Spiritual Reading, Meditation, in every moment, let us promptly obey when He calls us in conscience or by someone! Let us strive for more poverty in material possessions or at the table, let us purify our words more conforming to the Will of GOD alone; let us be faithful to the proposals every today.

b) Being it Advent we may assimilate us to the Angels for thirty minutes every day in our meditation: becoming silent first, then listen to the Gospel or theme chosen and then make a resolution of obedient practice: it may be an act of poverty or a purification of one intention, and at the evening the examination about our faithfulness; done with attention to the holy Angel an in the imitation of their example, we will become daily more friend!

c) Let us also read this month with docility Presbyterorum Ordinis and each one - and we are more then 500 ! - dedicate one homily to the priesthood in gratitude towards GOD and the Holy Church for our vocation and the grace of perseverance till this day!

May the joy of being called to serve the Lord with the help and according to the example of the holy Angels unite us deeper and fill us with greater zeal and fervor!

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC