Last Thursday I went to St. Peter's to attend Mass on the occasion of the 4th anniversary of John Paul II's death, stopping first at Ancora bookstore next to St. Peter's square. And while there I picked up a small but quite good book entitled A Priest for All Liturgical Seasons. Written by five American monsignori who work at the Vatican and with a forward by Cardinal Foley, this book offers meditations on the priestly life as understood by the light shed by the liturgical year.
There is a subtle affinity between the creation of man as narrated in the Book of Genesis and priestly ordination. The Genesis narrative speaks of God forming man out of clay and then breathing His Spirit into him and thereby "created man in His image" (Gen 1:27). The dust from which that clay was formed, rested on the ground. At the time, it had no character, no life. In an analogous manner, God forms a priest out of a man and breathes into him His Spirit at ordination and creates him into an alter Christus. With St. Paul, the priest can affirm, "It is not I who live now, but Christ lives in me" (Galations 2:20). Furthermore, the priest during the ordination ceremony, like the dust of clay, rests prostrated on the ground while the Litany of the Saints is being chanted. At the time, the candidate lacks priestly character and life. However, Our Lady and all the angels and saints are invoked not only to pray for but also to witness the new creation which is about to take place through ordination. While, in the first creation, God created man so that He would walk with him in the breeze of the evening (Genesis 3:8), in the new creation, God breathes upon the candidate and gives him the character and life of a priest so that Jesus Christ may continue to walk the earth with us, particularly through His Real Presence in the Eucharist. The key role which the priest plays in the new creation is that there can be no Eucharist without a priest and that a priest is useless without the Eucharist. Moreover, there can be no authentic Catholic Church without the Eucharist.