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Posted in Seminary and Vocations on August 14, 2014

Understanding the ceremonies of the Rite of priestly Ordination

The Sacred Liturgy is a divine gift. By the design of the Liturgy, faithfully executed by the Church, the Holy Ghost leads man to an ever closer union with his sovereign God. A great part of this design reveals the truths and doctrines of which Holy Mother Church is the guardian and teacher. This process is particularly evident in the sacred Rite of Ordination to the Sacred Priesthood, during which every prayer, action, and gesture is an offering to God, and signifies venerable truths concerning the offering of the Holy Sacrifice held dear by the Church. Through these photos, we highlight the profound significance of several actions of the pontiff during the Ordination ceremony.

I. Instruction to the Ordinandi

As rite of Ordination begins, the pontiff gives instructions to the ordinandi, parts of which are excerpted here: Dearly beloved sons, you are about to be ordained to the order of the priesthood. Strive to receive it worthily, and having received it, to discharge its duties in a praiseworthy manner. The office of the priest is to offer sacrifice, to bless, to govern, to preach, and to baptize. Truly, it must be with great fear that you ascend to so high a station; and care must be taken that heavenly wisdom, an irreproachable character, and long continued righteousness shall commend the candidates chosen for it.

II. Imposition of Hands:

Once the Litanies have been completed, the Ordinandi arise and go before the Pontiff who imposes his two hands on the head of each Ordinandi in silence (Matter of the Sacrament). The Ordinandi then kneel before the altar, and all the priests present silently impose hands on each of them. Next the Pontiff and the Priests extend their right hand towards the Ordinandi. After all the Priests have imposed hands, the Pontiff says: Let us pray, dearly beloved brethren, to God, the Father Almighty, that He may multiply heavenly gifts upon these His servants who He has chosen for the office of the priesthood. May they by His help accomplish what they undertake at His gracious call.

When the Pontiff says the Form of the Sacrament, which makes the Ordinandi priests forever:

“We beseech Thee, almighty Father, invest these Thy servants with the dignity of the priesthood. Do Thou renew in their hearts the spirit of holiness, that they may hold the office, the second as to importance, which they have received from Thee, O Lord, and by the example of their lives point out a norm of conduct.”

III. Imposition of priestly vestments

The Stole: The Pontiff is seated, and each of the newly ordained kneel before him. He takes the stole of each, up until now worn in the fashion of Deacons, and crosses it in the fashion of Priests while saying: Receive the yoke of the Lord; for His yoke is sweet and His burden light.

The Chasuble: Then the Pontiff clothes the newly ordained in the chasuble (the Priestly vestment par excellence) while saying: Receive the priestly vestment, by which charity is signified; for God is powerful to increase unto thee charity and perfection of work. (Each chasuble of the newly ordained remains pinned up in the back.)

IV. Sacred oil: (Bestowal of the power to offer Mass)

The choir continues the chant to the Holy Ghost, Veni Creator Spiritus, while the Pontiff anoints the hands of the newly ordained and presents them the chalice. The Pontiff takes the Oil of the Catechumens anoints the hands of each of the newly ordained in the form of the cross, saying: Vouchsafe, O Lord, to consecrate and sanctify these hands by this unction and our blessing. Amen.

Then he spreads the Sacred Oil over the palms of the hands, saying: That whatsoever they shall bless may be blessed, and whatsoever they shall consecrate be consecrated and sanctified, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Pontiff joins the hands of the newly ordained together, and one of the assistants binds them with a white linen. After all have received the unction, the Pontiff presents a chalice containing wine and water surmounted by the paten contain a host. Each of the newly ordained touches the chalice, paten and host with his fingers while the Pontiff says: Receive the power to offer sacrifice to God and to celebrate Mass for the living as well as for the dead. In the name of the Lord.

V. The Offertory Prayers

After they have offered their candles, the newly ordained go to kneelers on which Missals are placed. They kneel there and are assisted by older priests. Unlike other Masses, the Pontiff says all the prayers of the Offertory and Canon out loud, and the newly ordained say along with him all these prayers.

VI. Bestowal of power to forgive sins:

The Pontiff is seated and the newly ordained kneel before him. He imposes both hands on the head of each one while saying: Receive the Holy Ghost; whose sins thou shalt forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins thou shalt retain, they are retained.

The back of the new priests' chasubles are unfolded while the Pontiff says: May the Lord clothe thee with the robe of innocence.

VII. Promise of obedience:

Each of the newly ordained again kneel before the Pontiff, placing their hands in his. The Pontiff asks: Dost thou promise to the Prelate who will be thy Ordinary for the time being, reverence and obedience? The newly ordained responds: I promise.

The Pontiff replies and gives him the kiss of peace: The peace of the Lord be always with thee. Amen.

The Pontiff then addresses all the newly ordained. Dearly beloved sons, since the office which you will perform is beset with considerable danger, I admonish you to learn carefully from other experienced priests the order of the whole Mass, the consecration and the breaking of the host, and the communion, before you begin to celebrate Mass.

Click the images below to enlarge them.

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