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The Incarnation, the Eucharist, Women, and the All Male Priesthood

January 4, AD2018 18 Comments

maryMary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. Luke 1:38

As I sat and contemplated the incarnation, God becoming man, to undo what Adam and Eve had done, I could not help but think of the Priesthood and the role of men and women in the church.

“he created them male and female. When they were created, he blessed them and named them humankind.” Genesis 5:2

Women in the Priestshood?

I used to think that women should be able to be Priests. After all, women should be able to do anything a man can do. Equal rights for all! The church, in my mind, was old and antiquated, and I have heard very recently reporters saying this same thing. But then I had a conversion of heart. My conversion was not about the Priesthood, my conversion came during suffering and through prayer, and I came to know God personally. This personal relationship made me love God with my whole heart and made me want to follow his laws, including those that stated woman can’t be Priests, precisely because I loved Him.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:5

Saint John Paul the II wrote in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (1994) that,

“the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

Saint John Paul II went on to cite Paul VI who said:

“The real reason is that, in giving the Church her fundamental constitution, her theological anthropology—thereafter always followed by the Church’s Tradition—Christ established things in this way.”

Christ Did Not Make Women Priests

In other words, Christ Himself, who was in many ways counter-cultural, did not make women Priests, so the church has no authority to do so. Could it be that Christ Himself made a mistake by not making women Priests? I don’t think so, Jesus doesn’t make mistakes. Jesus ate with sinners and broke the rules of his Jewish culture, but this was one He did not change. He kept the Priesthood male.

We know that Christ valued women. Some of His greatest disciples were women. Just look at Mary Magdalene, who is known as the Apostle to the Apostles. Look how he treated the woman at the well and the adulterous woman. We are all equal in the eyes of God. But are we the same?

“The LORD God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him.”…. So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The LORD God then built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman. When he brought her to the man, the man said: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of man this one has been taken.” Genesis 2:18;1-23

Men and Women are Complementary

It seems men and women are complementary to one another. Bone of bone, and flesh of flesh, but created differently. A woman being a helper in no way implies she is less than. In fact, we should all be helpers to one another. But she is different. Even in the design of our bodies, we are different. When God commands them to be fruitful and multiply, the woman receives seed from the man. He gives it with his body, she receives it with hers in the marital act. Each says to the other, “This is my Body given up for you.” The giver and the receiver.

When we look at Christ and His church, we also see the marriage analogy. Many have pointed out that just as Eve was borne out of Adam’s side, so too was the Church was borne out of the side of Christ on this Cross. He is the bridegroom and the church is the Bride.

But beyond that, what else can we see? Women are the bearers of new life. With our very bodies, which we sacrifice in pregnancy, children spring forth from the love we have received from our husbands.
But where else do we receive life? Christ brings us divine life that we can receive every week at Mass.

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” John 6:53

Divine Life

This divine life comes from the Eucharist, the very DNA of God. These consecrated men, whom God chose, and who Christ Himself passed the tradition on to, give us God to receive. In this way, men give life. And we, the church, Christ’s bride, receive this life, this DNA of God. It is not something to be jealous of, it is something to be thankful for. Just as a man cannot birth a child, so a woman cannot consecrate the Eucharist, not because they are not equal, but because they are different.

When we try to grasp that which is not ours to grasp, we do what Adam and Eve did, grasping at the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Grasping at what is not ours to grasp leads to destruction. As a woman, and a working mother, I hold no envy or ill will towards the men that bring this gift of God at each and every Mass, instead I am profoundly grateful that they said yes to God’s call and love us enough to be servants with their very bodies which they have given to become Consecrated Men. The fact that I cannot become a Priest in no way means I am not valued in the church, and I see this so clearly when I look at our female Saints.

The gift of Life comes from God, but not without our cooperation. It comes in the form of the Eucharist through the cooperation of the priest with the Holy Spirit. Likewise, it comes in the form of Children, through the consent of the woman. Both require sacrifice. Both require love. Both require our cooperation. And even though different, the joy from each is profound.

Divine Life was breathed into Adam who was created from the Dust of the Earth. So too, from the dust of the earth, and the “work of human hands” is Divine Life breathed by the Spirit onto the gifts at Mass because of the words the Consecrated Man proclaims.

Then the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person. Genesis 2:7

A woman was birthed from the side of man, and generations of children come from her, generations of people created in His image and likeness. Perhaps no one understood this more than Mary.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him…” Luke 1:46-50

Mary Sacrificed Her Body

She sacrificed her body, her reputation, her future, and so much more to bear the Son of God into this world. Likewise, she stood at the foot of the cross as He sacrificed Himself so we could receive Him. At the announcement of His conception, Mary said “yes.” In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said “yes.” They undid the “no” of Adam and Eve. Different sacrifices, same love, which is united to the will of the Father. One gave life to the Incarnation, the other gives divine life to us every day at Mass. She is our Mother. He is Our Savior. Redeemer and Co-Redemptrix.

We all actually participate in this, men and women alike, but each have a different role. We are fully aware that God created men and women physically complementary, but we have also been created mentally, emotionally and spiritually complimentary. This is not so we would make a competition out of our gifts and try to rank one as more important than another, but that our gifts would be of aid to one another, giving where the other is lacking and receiving where we are in need. If we each, men and women alike, live out what we are meant to be, then as Saint Catherine of Siena says, we will “set the world on fire.”

It was a woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with oil, women who walked the Passion with him, and women who prepared the spices after his burial. It was the apostles, all men, who were sent out two by two, who were given the authority to forgive sins, and who were present at the last supper.

At Pentecost, we see very clearly the complementary roles of the woman, Mother Mary, and the Apostles in the mission of the Church. In the Upper Room, the Holy Spirit breathes on them and the men were given life to go out and start the church. Mary was also there praying and interceding on their behalf. As their Mother, she played an important and complementary role in the mission of the Church. Each of these is equally important in the eyes of God and they are not to be ranked in human terms.

True Equality

True equality between women and men has nothing to do with the material equality we so often feel resentment over. True equality actually has everything to do with who we were created to be through the eyes of God. The complementary nature of men and women is reflected in the very design of God’s creation. Furthermore, it was validated by the mission of Jesus Christ and implemented through the handing on of the Holy Spirit.

Let us be grateful for the men who love God enough to say “yes” and bring us His body and blood. And let us be grateful for Our Mother Mary, who is following the continual call of the Heavenly Father, shall be called Blessed for all generations.  Let us be grateful for one another all equally loved with different gifts.   What we receive from God is much greater than anything we can give.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

My name is Susan Skinner and I am a lifelong Catholic. I attended all Catholic schools including the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.

I am a wife to a wonderful husband and a mother to 3 children and we now reside in the South. I love living in the South.

Though I have always identified as Catholic, it was the murder of my friend in 2010 that brought a transforming change to my heart and made me a true disciple of Jesus Christ. I now make it my mission to spread His Love and Good News everywhere I go. Jesus isn’t just someone we should just know about, He is someone we should KNOW, personally. He has made me new. I am now the Adult RCIA and Faith Formation Coordinator of a Catholic Church where I live and I know God has brought me to where I am. I am nothing without him.

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  • In New Testament Christianity, the priesthood that is conferred by the Holy Spirit is the only one that is available; and it is not by ordination. It is for both men and women.

    • Sue

      The priesthood of the people is for both men and women, but the ministerial Priesthood is for men. Offering sacrifice is a duty that belongs to priests (see Leviticus 9:7, 14:12; Hebrews 8:3). At the last supper Jesus is commanding the apostles to offer the Last Supper as a sacrifice when he says “Do this in remembrance of me,” he is teaching them to offer the Sacrifice. And yes, the church, to whom Christ left the authority, did in fact state this at the council of Trent. “If anyone shall say that by the words ‘Do this in commemoration of me’ Christ did not institute the apostles priests, or did not ordain that they and other priests should offer his body and blood: let him be anathema (Council of Trent, session 22, ch. 1).

    • In New Testament Christianity, there is no ministerial priesthood that is apart
      from the priesthood of the people. There are elders, presbyters, deacons, and bishops.

    • Sue

      Calling the New Covenant ministers apostles, bishops, or presbyters, their function is clearly priestly. A great example of this can be found in how St. Paul refers to his own apostolic ministry as a “priestly service.”

      … because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God… (Romans 15:15-16)

      It’s like denying the Trinity because the word isn’t in the bible.

    • Is the service of the people also a priestly service? If it is, we are not formally ordained.

    • Sue

      From The Catechism of the Catholic Church
      ARTICLE 6
      THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY ORDERS

      1536 Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate….

      Two participations in the one priesthood of Christ

      1546 Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church “a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.”20 The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet, and king. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are “consecrated to be . . . a holy priesthood.”21

      1547 The ministerial or hierarchical priesthood of bishops and priests, and the common priesthood of all the faithful participate, “each in its own proper way, in the one priesthood of Christ.” While being “ordered one to another,” they differ essentially.22 In what sense? While the common priesthood of the faithful is exercised by the unfolding of baptismal grace –a life of faith, hope, and charity, a life according to the Spirit–, the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood. It is directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians. The ministerial priesthood is a means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads his Church. For this reason it is transmitted by its own sacrament, the sacrament of Holy Orders.

      In the person of Christ the Head . . .

      1548 In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth. This is what the Church means by saying that the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in persona Christi Capitis:23

      It is the same priest, Christ Jesus, whose sacred person his minister truly represents. Now the minister, by reason of the sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is truly made like to the high priest and possesses the authority to act in the power and place of the person of Christ himself (virtute ac persona ipsius Christi).24
      Christ is the source of all priesthood: the priest of the old law was a figure of Christ, and the priest of the new law acts in the person of Christ.25

      1549 Through the ordained ministry, especially that of bishops and priests, the presence of Christ as head of the Church is made visible in the midst of the community of believers.26 In the beautiful expression of St. Ignatius of Antioch, the bishop is typos tou Patros: he is like the living image of God the Father.27

      1550 This presence of Christ in the minister is not to be understood as if the latter were preserved from all human weaknesses, the spirit of domination, error, even sin. The power of the Holy Spirit does not guarantee all acts of ministers in the same way. While this guarantee extends to the sacraments, so that even the minister’s sin cannot impede the fruit of grace, in many other acts the minister leaves human traces that are not always signs of fidelity to the Gospel and consequently can harm the apostolic fruitfulness of the Church.

      1551 This priesthood is ministerial. “That office . . . which the Lord committed to the pastors of his people, is in the strict sense of the term a service.”28 It is entirely related to Christ and to men. It depends entirely on Christ and on his unique priesthood; it has been instituted for the good of men and the communion of the Church. The sacrament of Holy Orders communicates a “sacred power” which is none other than that of Christ. The exercise of this authority must therefore be measured against the model of Christ, who by love made himself the least and the servant of all.29 “The Lord said clearly that concern for his flock was proof of love for him.”30

      . . . “in the name of the whole Church”

      1552 The ministerial priesthood has the task not only of representing Christ – Head of the Church – before the assembly of the faithful, but also of acting in the name of the whole Church when presenting to God the prayer of the Church, and above all when offering the Eucharistic sacrifice.31

      1553 “In the name of the whole Church” does not mean that priests are the delegates of the community. The prayer and offering of the Church are inseparable from the prayer and offering of Christ, her head; it is always the case that Christ worships in and through his Church. The whole Church, the Body of Christ, prays and offers herself “through him, with him, in him,” in the unity of the Holy Spirit, to God the Father. The whole Body, caput et membra, prays and offers itself, and therefore those who in the Body are especially his ministers are called ministers not only of Christ, but also of the Church. It is because the ministerial priesthood represents Christ that it can represent the Church.

    • Sue

      I am not sure what else to say to you. The catechism clearly outlines this. Are you a Catholic?

    • I am a cradle Catholic with K thru 16 Catholic schooling; but when I was 20, I became agnostic because of my doubts. At 30 I found my way into the Bible, and there I found a spirituality which helped me with my emotional issues. It taught me to cast all of my care on the Lord and to be anxious for nothing (see 1Peter 5:5-7 and Philippians 4:6-7). This had a transforming effect on my life. It was simple but powerful. I wasn’t taught this in my early years. From that point on I have used the Bible as my primary spiritual handbook. I had no interest in the Catholic Church for many years, but I found my way back after reading some of Vatican II, and deciding that I could retain my spirituality and still be part of the Church. I wrote a book on my spiritual journey. If you google Peter Aiello Hidden Treasure, you will see it immediately. The website has a free download of the entire book.

    • Sue

      Well welcome home. You should probably talk to a Priest about the Priesthood. I am not a theologian or an apologist and most of what I write comes from prayer. For me, revelation is personal. A conversation between me and God, that’s actually where this article came from. I have the “head” knowledge and have learned it, but it’s my heart Christ speaks to and that’s where my writing comes from. You probably have a lot more questions, so I would point you to a Priest or to some courses on Catholic theology. I will try to google your book this week. Thanks and Peace be with you.

    • Because of my background, I’m quite familiar with Catholic theology. I’ve also learned a bit about post-Vatican II changes. I do a lot of comparing with Scripture. Vatican II, in Dei Verbum 21 says: “Therefore, like the Christian religion itself, all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture.” I take this seriously. Being Scripturally literate is a good thing.

    • Sue

      I totally agree. Scripturally literate and schooled in tradition and understanding the authority of the church. Dei Verbum 7 says: But in order to keep the Gospel forever whole and alive within the Church, the Apostles left bishops as their successors, “handing over” to them “the authority to teach in their own place.”(3) This sacred tradition, therefore, and Sacred Scripture of both the Old and New Testaments are like a mirror in which the pilgrim Church on earth looks at God, from whom she has received everything, until she is brought finally to see Him as He is, face to face (see 1 John 3:2).

    • Fortunately the Church compiled the Scriptures in the fourth century as a regulator for tradition. They need to be in synch.

    • Even though most of us are not in the administrative positions in the Church; when we are in Christ and Christ is in us, we participate in Christ’s priesthood. It sounds like the Catechism recognizes that the administrative positions in the Church are specific functions within the general priesthood of all believers, and are not part of a separate tier of priesthood. If this is the case, Holy Orders is for the specific administrative functions because the person is already a priest as a result of Baptism and Confirmation.
      All of the sacraments presuppose faith. Vatican II, in Sacrosanctum Concilium 59, says of the sacraments: “They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express it; that is why they are called ‘sacraments of faith’ “.
      We are all ambassadors of Christ, even without Holy Orders; which means that we all act “in persona Christi Capitis” (see 2Corinthians 5:18-20). We all make Christ visible on the earth.
      There is no indication that Paul’s apostleship was the result of Holy Orders; but was a direct action of Christ Himself. He started his ministry well before visiting those who were apostles before him. Ananias was a “certain disciple” who laid hands on him to receive the Holy Spirit (see Acts 9:17-20). Apostle is one of the gift ministries (1Corinthians 12:28-29).

    • Sue

      We are all called to act as Christ. But the ministerial Priesthood has the invaluable calling of Consecrating the Eucharist. This was the gift Conferred to them. The Eucharist brings us the very DNA of Christ. He commanded this in John 6. And those that could not hear “went back to their fomer way of living”John 6:66. It is for this reason the ministerial Priesthood is most attacked by Satan because it is what nourishes us with God’s DNA bringing his life into ours. That’s what this article was addressing.

  • Shimmer

    Christ didn’t make men priests either. This is something established way after His death by the church. He did say This is Peter and upon this rock I will build my church. He said nothing about men or women for that matter being priests. The church has had to review many things and change. Jesus may have liked women. St Augustine wouldn’t sit in a room alone with a woman. Origen and others called women misbegotten men. Tell me I am a liar. In your heart you know I am correct on this

    • Sue

      I disagree, offering sacrifice is a duty that belongs to priests (see Leviticus 9:7, 14:12; Hebrews 8:3). At the last supper Jesus is commanding the apostles to offer the Last Supper as a sacrifice when he says “Do this in remembrance of me,” he is teaching them to offer the Sacrifice. And yes, the church, to whom Christ left the authority, did in fact state this at the council of Trent. “If anyone shall say that by the words ‘Do this in commemoration of me’ Christ did not institute the apostles priests, or did not ordain that they and other priests should offer his body and blood: let him be anathema (Council of Trent, session 22, ch. 1).”

  • MG Ragan

    Beautiful and true. It is a blessing to your parish that you are running their RCIA program.

    • Sue

      Thank you. God Bless you.