PRIESTS – ANGELS ON EARTH
If we understand the divine dignity of priesthood, we shall comprehend more fully the infinite greatness of Mass.
St Ignatius, Martyr, says that the priesthood is the most sublime of all created dignities.
St Ephrem calls it an infinite dignity.
Cassian says that the priest of God is exalted above all earthly sovereignities and above all celestial heights. He is inferior to God alone.
Pope Innocent III says that the priest is placed between God and man; inferior to God, but superior to man.
St Denis calls the priest a divine man and the priesthood a divine dignity.
St Ephrem says that the gift of the sacerdotal dignity surpasses all understanding.
Hence, St John Chrysostom says that he who honours a priest honours Christ, and he who insults a priest insults Christ.
St Ambrose has called the priestly office a divine profession.
St Francis de Sales, after having given orders to a holy ecclesiastic, perceived that in going out he stopped at the door as if to give precedence to another. Being asked by the Saint why he stopped, he replied that God favoured him with the visible presence of his angel guardian, who before he had received the priesthood always remained on his right and preceded him, but now since the moment of ordination walked on his left and refused to go before him. It was in a holy contest with the Angel that he stopped at the door.
According to St Thomas, the dignity of the priesthood surpasses that of the angels.
St Gregory Nazianzen has said that the angels themselves venerate the priesthood.
All the Angels in Heaven cannot absolve from a single sin. The Angel Guardians procure for the souls committed to their care grace to have recourse to a priest, that he may absolve them.
St Francis of Assisi used to say: If I saw an angel and a priest, I would bend my knee first to the priest and then to the angel.
St Augustine says that to pardon a sinner is a greater work than to create Heaven and Earth. To pardon a single sin requires all the omnipotence of God.
St Alphonsus: The entire Church cannot give God as much honour, or obtain so many graces as a single priest by celebrating a single Mass. Thus, by the celebration of a single Mass, in which he offers Jesus Christ in sacrifice, a priest gives greater honour to the Lord than if all men, by dying for God, offered Him the sacrifice of their lives.
St Ignatius: Priests are the glory and the pillars of the Church, the doors and doorkeepers of Heaven.
St Alphonsus: were the Redeemer to descend into a Church and sit in a confessional, and a priest to sit in another confessional, Jesus would say over each penitent: “Ego te absolvo.” The priest would likewise say over each of his penitents: “Ego te absolvo”, and the penitents of each would be equally absolved. Thus, the sacerdotal dignity is the most noble of all the dignities in this world.
St Ambrose says that it transcends all the dignities of kings, of emperors, and of angels. The dignity of the priest far exceeds that of kings as the value of gold surpasses that of lead.
St Cyprian said that all who had the true spirit of God were, when compelled to take the Order of priesthood, seized with fear and trembling.
St Epiphanius writes that he found no one willing to be ordained a priest, so fearful were they of so divine a dignity.
St Gregory Nazianzen says, in his ‘Life of St Cyprian’ that, when the Saint heard that his bishop intended to ordain him a priest, he, through humility, concealed himself. It is related in the life of St Fulgentius that he too fled away and hid himself.
St Ambrose, as he himself attests, resisted for a long time before he consented to be ordained.
St Francis of Assisi never consented to be ordained.