Can Priesthood be Outside Synodality?

Synodality invites us to understand priesthood in a new way. Perhaps, we have the Imperative to revist different layers of meanings that have come to attach it over time. In Greek , we have the word Presbyteros, which meant elder and which stood for a man of age in a social group. Gradually it acquired religious meaning that was closer to Latin, Sacerdos and Greek, Heiros meaning sacred. Thus, priest became the mediator between God and Humans. This mediation become institutionalized and ritualized unlike a Prophet who also mediated only when.he was possesed by the Spirit of God. Sacerdotalism took its roots only in the post-Apostolic age, where in the second century, episcopos and presbyter were linked to hiereus and Sacerdos. It highlighted the fact of being set apart from the laity. Here perhaps, we have the roots of clericalism in the Church. It became intensified with the conversion of Roman Emperor Constantine im 313 who bestowed several privileges on priests. Steadily, clergy came to defined by status rather than function.

Selva Rathinam says that priesthood among the People of Israel can be understood in three stages: Pre-monarchical priesthood, monarchical priesthood, post-exilic priesthood. During Pre-monarchical priesthood, we had only two kinds of priesthood: natural priesthood and profesional priesthood. Natural priests, were the fathers or elders in the family while the profesional priesthood was heriditary and served various sactuaries like Bethel , Beershaba, Gilgal etc . We can notice the levitization in Judges 17 where a wondering levite is made priest of a house-shrine . During this time priests did not offered sacrifices but were incharge of the oracles ( religious instruction) and the sacred objects. This indicates that Pre-monarchical priesthood was the priesthood of the word .

During the monarchical priesthood, natural priesthood was invested in the king. King David danced before Ark of the covenant. This is the royal priesthood celebrated in Psalm 110, later identified as an eschatological king of the order of Melchizedek . During the time of David, Jebusite Zadok and a Israelite Abiatar were the official priests in Jerusalem. With the expulsion of Abiatar by king Solomon, , zadokite priesthood reached unity and uniformity and took charge of the temple of Jerusalem. During the time of Josiah , zadokites were accepted as superior because they were thought to be of the lineage of Aaron and the rural levitical priests became assistant priests . During the monarchical priesthood, offering of sacrifice besides giving religious instruction became part of the priestly ministry.

The Post-exilic period brought and end to natural priesthood. The task of religious instruction was taken up by Scribes (lay theologians) and offering of sacrifice became the prerogative of priests alone. Thus, during the time of Jesus Jewish, priesthood had become fully cultic and concerned itself only with liturgy and offering of sacrifices. Thus, we can see that priesthood already diteriorates in the Old Testament and we can find God’s promise of new Shepherds in the work of Prophet Ezekiel. This consideration leads us to the priesthood of covenant where in Israel as people are called to be priestly people by virtue of election, experience of salvation and mission. As priestly people, they had to become a contrast community (Prophetic mission) . Jesus identifies with this non-cultic Prophetic priesthood. His breaking of the law of sabbath as well as cleasing of the temple is a great indication of such a priesthood as embraced by Jesus.

Although, Jesus was simply a Jewish lay person, the early Christians theologized about his life and work in the light of the covenantal theology of priesthood as a promise of the Old Testament. He is thus viewed as the priest who offers himself to God by dying on the cross. Jesus as a
priest, therefore, is a offeror as well as the offered victim. Thus, ritual of sacrifice becomes offering of onself in love for salvation of others. Thus, the new priesthood of Jesus challenges to let worship serve life and not life serve worship. This breaking of oneself for others is a prophetic priesthood. Thus clerical insulation of priesthood from the laity has to abandoned. Priesthood as Prophetic is synodal. It is a walking with the people of God and becoming bother the offered as well as offered gift like Jesus. Therefore, priesthood is not the power to confect the eucharist. It is the power to become the Eucharist by joining our Lord and his.people in the breaking of the bread. Thus, we have to agree that there is no priesthood outside synodality. Walking with God as well his people, a priest lives his priesthood.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao