By Bishop Anthony T. Lobo
The Greek Fathers of the Church describe the life of the Trinity
as PERICHORESIS (peri - around; choresis - dancing). Drawing from
this profound insight, Bishop Lobo lays the foundation for a
refreshing understanding of priestly identity based on the
Trinitarian relationship.
"Pastores Dabo Vobis", says that the source of the priesthood is
the Blessed Trinity. The Greek Fathers of the Church describe the
life of the Trinity as PERICHORESIS. So the three persons of the
Trinity are "dancing around".
Though seemingly irreverent at first, there is a profound
biblical basis for understanding this. Jesus says in the gospel
of John:
          "He will glorify me since all he reveals to you
           will be taken from what is mine. Everything the Father
           has is mine; that is why I said: all he reveals to you
           will be taken from what is mine"
(Jn 16:14-15)
Again, in his high priestly prayer, Jesus says to his Father:
"All that I have is yours and all you have is mine"(Jn 17:10).
So we have the divine dance where the Father goes out to the Son
and gives all - all His wisdom, power, love and life. But the Son
moves out towards the Father and in turn gives him back all his
wisdom, power, love and life. This mutual self-giving is the Holy
Spirit, the giving and receiving between Father and Son. These
movements or "missions" within the Trinity is the intimate life
of God or "perichoresis".
We are made for self-giving.
The first book of the bible tells us, "God created man in the
image of Himself, in the image of God He created him, male and
female He created them" (Gen 1:27). This means that the nature of
the human person is "perichoretic", because it is made in the
image and likeness of God. So, in the very core and center of our
being, we are made for self-giving. To live selfishly would be to
go against our true nature.
But the same first book of the Bible tells us that man sinned
(Gen 3). His perichoretic nature was wounded. The divine image
was distorted. But in his mercy, God promised a saviour, born of
a woman, whose work would be to restore to human beings the
divine image according to which they were originally created.
Paschal Mystery
Even before Creation, we catch a glimpse within the perichoretic
life of the Trinity, of what we later would call the Paschal
Mystery, the dying and rising to life again. When the Father
gives all to the Son (His wisdom, power, love and even life) then
He, so to say, "dies". When the Son returns all to the Father
(His wisdom. power, love and even life), the Father, so to
say, comes back to life again. So we have the roots of the
Paschal Mystery in the perichoretic life of the Trinity.
When the promised Saviour came as man to redeem man, his saving
action expressed itself in the death and resurrection of the Son
of God, the Word made flesh. The perichoretic paschal mystery in
the Trinity, revealed in the sacrifice of the cross, was in the
context of a sinful and redeemed humanity. Thus the last command
of the Redeemer was to "teach all nations and baptize them in the
name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:20). Salvation
therefore means to be plunged back into the perichoictic life of
the Blessed Trinity, to share once again in the very life of God,
whose inmost being is mutual self-giving.
Those that become disciples are members of the Church and they
share in the universal priesthood of all believers. Their duty is
to live the perichoretic life of the Trinity in whose image and
likeness they were originally made. Now, thanks to the sacrifice
of the cross, that image and likeness, damaged by sin, is
Ministerial priesthood at the service of the common priesthood
The question remains: how do the believers who share the common
priesthood, relate with that sacrifice offered once and for all
by the one and only High Priest? The answer is through the
ministerial priesthood, instituted at the Last Supper, when Jesus
          "Do this in memory of me" (Lk 22:19).
The ministerial priesthood was thus instituted by Jesus to be at
the service of the common priesthood of the believers. Like
Christ the High Priest, the ministerial priest stands between God
and the people of God as, "minister of the sanctuary" (Hebrews
8:2) and "mediator of the New Covenant" (Hebrew 9:15). The
ministerial priesthood has a two-fold task towards God and
towards man: "To stand in my presence to minister" (God-ward) and
then "to go out and bless in my name"(man-ward). In the heavenly
sanctuary, Jesus is intercessor ("He liveth to pray unceasingly"
Hebrews 7:25). He is there to give us access to God's presence,
to bring us close to God.
Spousal Love For The Church
As Mediator of the New Covenant, Jesus offers his blood to
cleanse our conscience from all dead works, to serve the living
God (Hebrews 9:14). The ministerial priesthood, according to
Pastores Dabo Vobis, continues on earth this twofold task of our
High Priest in Heaven. His role is described as sharing in the
priesthood of Christ the Head and Shepherd. As Head of the
Church, His Body, we recall that she was born from his pierced
heart at the foot of the cross, just as the first Eve was born
from the side of the first Adam. There is a spousal love between
Christ and his church which is expressed in priestly celibacy.
The bond between head and body is not a legal, man-made one but
one forged with divine love. As Head, he communicates all God's
blessings to his spouse, and carries into heaven all her prayers
and gifts.
As Shepherd, he feeds his flock on the Bread of Life, the Bread
of Heaven, and even lays down his life in sacrifice.
The soul of his sacrifice is perichoresis, the absolute
surrender, the total self-gift, which is the very life of God and
the core and center of the inner being of all human persons, male
and female, created in his image and likeness.
Purpose Of The Ministerial Priesthood
The purpose of the ministerial priesthood is to help the faithful
to live according to the restored image and likeness, to offer
themselves according to their common priesthood so that they can
live once again, according to their true nature, the trinitarian
life of mutual self-giving. The ministerial priest feeds his
flock with the eucharistic bread and, following the command of
Christ, makes present the memorial of the sacrifice of Calvary.
One with the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for his sheep,
the ministerial priest also makes his own self-offering, his
daily surrender, his absolute self-gift, by living a life of
complete dedication, utterly unselfish.
In union with Christ in his total self-offering, the priest
becomes one with the Head, becoming the channel of mediation
between God and man, carrying up our prayers and gifts to God and
bringing down God's graces and blessings to us. Like Jesus the
High Priest, who " lives to make unceasing intercession for us"
(Hebrews 7:25), the priest is a man of prayer, faithful to his
Divine Office and leader of the praying Christian Community.
The ministerial priest is minister of reconciliation, applying
"the blood of Christ which cleanses our conscience from all dead
works to serve the living God", (Hebrews 9:14).
May all who work for the formation of ministerial priests, and
all who are candidates preparing to answer the call of God to
this great vocation, grow more and more in appreciating its
dignity and strive to be more worthy of this priceless gift of
God to the world.

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