Question

Dearest p. Angelo

I’m back to you after a while.

At number 113 of the requirements of the ordination ritual of presbyters it is written: “With sacred ordination the sacrament is conferred on priests by which, by virtue of the anointing of the Holy Spirit, they are marked by a special character which configures them to Christ, in order to be able to act “in the person” of Christ the Head “(PO 2), a specific ontological bond that unites the priest to Christ. In other documents, instead of configuring, other words are used such as conform, closely united, similar, representative, consecrated, image …

I would be happy if you would clarify for me:

– the exact meaning of “configures him to Christ” and whether the configuration is understood as an immediate fact, the fruit of ordination, or if this configuration to Christ takes place over time, with the exercise of priestly activity.

– the meaning of acting “in the person” of Christ the Head.

– Is it possible to permanently eliminate the roots of sin?

Father Livio of Radio Maria in his text “The Confession” says: “Sin is an incurable disease, a tumor that needs a special medicine which is that of grace.

It is the love of God whose strength is capable of destroying the root on which every iniquity proliferates. It is the poisonous root of the selfishness of pride and lack of love.

It is in the sacrament of confession that Jesus frees us from the slavery of sin, and the grace of Jesus accomplishes this healing “.

Is it possible to permanently cut off the root of sin to live permanently in God’s grace? How can we do? 

Thanks and I look forward to your welcome response.

p. Egidio Maria


Answer

Dear Father Egidio Maria,

There are three questions you asked me.

1. The first has as its object the new configuration to Christ that is received with the sacrament of Holy Orders.

With Baptism we are all configured to Christ and receive his imprint, his seal in our souls. We receive the image of the Son of God as that of an indelible mold in our soul.

Previously we were creatures of God. We were similar to him in the order of nature, endowed as God with intellect and will.

Now with Baptism we become participants in the same divine life and we receive a new image that conforms us to the only-begotten Son of God, to the second Person of the Most Holy. Trinity.

It is an image that elevates us to the supernatural order of grace and allows us to relate to God not only as Creator, but as Father.

With this new image, a germ of the divine life of  God is introduced into us (1 Jn 3: 9) which allows us to think as God thinks, to love as God loves and to interact with him not only as the creature with the Creator, but like the son with the Father, at the same table.

 With the Order of the priesthood or presbyterate, a new configuration to Christ is received. By retaining the previous ones, a third one is acquired which conforms to Christ the Good Shepherd and Head of humanity “to offer the Sacrifice (of the Mass) and to forgive sins”, as the Council says in the decree on priestly life (PO 2 and 13).

John Paul II in “Pastores dabo vobis” summarizes the identity of the ministerial priesthood as follows: “Priests are, in the Church and for the Church, a sacramental re-presentation of Jesus Christ, Head and Shepherd., They authoritatively proclaim His word, they repeat his gestures of forgiveness and by offering salvation, especially with Baptism, Penance and the Eucharist, they exercise their loving concern, up to the total gift of self for the flock, which they gather in unity and lead to the Father through Christ in the Spirit. In a word, priests exist and act for the proclamation of the Gospel to the world and for the building up of the Church in the name and in person of Christ the Head and Shepherd.

This is the typical and proper way in which ordained ministers participate in the one priesthood of Christ.

The Holy Spirit, through the sacramental anointing of the Order, configures them, with a new and specific title, to Jesus Christ, Head and Shepherd, conforms and animates them with his pastoral charity and places them in the Church in the authoritative condition of servants of the proclamation of the Gospel to every creature and servants of the fullness of the Christian life of all the baptized ”(PDV 15).

This conformation is of an ontological character, confers divine powers such as those of consecrating and absolving sins and takes place in the essence of our soul.

This type of conformation knows no growth. In this respect, no one is more a priest than another.

To this conformation we must add the morality that is implemented through the acquisition of those virtues that make the priest a living image of Jesus the Good Shepherd.

This configuration is simultaneously the fruit of grace, of the commitment of the individual and also of the pastoral ministry which is sanctifying above all for the priest himself.

Here our conformation is never adequate and the priest must feel committed to continuous growth.

2. In the second question you ask what it means to act “in the person” of Christ the Head.

Acting in persona Christi means being one with him.

To put it better, I could say that when the priest celebrates, he does not work only in the name of Christ as an ambassador with full powers, but under the actual motion of Christ.

His relationship with Christ is much stronger than that of the child with his mother, because the son draws life from his mother, but has his own, autonomous existence. He received the beginning of life from his mother. But if his mother fails, he survives.

In the priesthood, however, this is not the case because Christ through character unites the priest to Himself in a new way, conforms him to Himself and equips him to act in intimate union with him.

Somehow He appropriates him to be able to use him every time He wants to communicate His divine life to people. 

This seal confers on him the sacred power to act in persona Christi.

When this expression is used, it means that the priest never acts by his own virtue, in the same way that no instrument acts by his own virtue.

In the exercise of his ministry he always remains an instrument in the hands of Christ, the only, high and eternal priest.

While he celebrates “it is Christ who actually gives strength to all the sacraments of the Church, it is He who baptizes, it is He who is the true priest who offered Himself on the altar of the cross and for whose virtue His Body is consecrated every day on the altar “(St. Thomas, Sum against the Gentiles, IV, 76).

Priests are such only in Him and by the strength that comes from Him.

If, unimaginably, Christ ceased to act from heaven, immediately all the priests on earth could no longer exercise divine powers and would simply be men like everyone else.

3. The third question you ask me is this: “Is it possible to permanently cut the roots of sin?”.

Confession confers the grace to cut definitively with the roots of sin.

But in fact this cutting or uprooting depends on the dispositions of the individual.

Unfortunately, even after confession, what John Paul II calls gray areas or infectious foci of sin remain in us.

As in a garden when the weeds are removed and one also tries to eradicate the roots, but there is always some stem left which inexorably reappears again, so also in us after the sacramental confession the disordered inclinations remain.

Only on one condition it is possible to definitively cut off from sin.

And that is when a supernatural union with the Lord is reached so high as to implement what theologians call the transforming union.

Only at this point is the subject confirmed in grace so that the roots of sin become inoperative and sometimes even extinct.

With the hope that you will reach this height if you have not yet reached it, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and I wish you a fruitful ministry.

Father Angelo

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