Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Friendship of Christ, Chapter 7: Christ in the Priest

 Previous: Chapter 6, Christ in the Church

Christ in the Priest was a chapter that I enjoyed reading, and yet didn't resonate with me in the way that earlier chapters have, so I'm glad that Erin is writing about it:

A good part of this chapter is a defense of the priesthood.  I'm concerned mainly with what it means to find friendship with Christ in the priest---and it seems to me that by this Benson means friendship with Christ in the priesthood and its attributes, friendship with Christ-as-the-High-Priest.  Because of course friendship with Christ can be found in the human personality of any particular priest you happen to meet or know; I suspect, though, that we are going to meet this particular image of Christ in later chapters, such as "Christ in the Saint," "Christ in the Sinner," "Christ in the Average Man."  Because of course a given priest could be any of those things, and God help him, he may eventually be all three.

The priest is a man whose job is to willingly do the will of God.  All of us have the job to do that!  But the particular version of this, for the priest, is---at very particular and crucial moments---to submit his own personality totally to the personality of Christ; to accept with John the Baptist, "I must decrease, and he must increase;" and to give God permission to use his hands, his voice.  Christ "energizes,"  Christ "exercis[es] the prerogative of mercy," Christ "mak[es] himself present in...the Sacrament."  The priest consents. 

So where is the friendship?

[Christ] exhibits, in that atmosphere that has grown up about the priesthood, through the instincts of the faithful rather than through the precise instructions of the Church, attributes of His own Divine character, in sympathy with which constitutes the friendship of those who love Him.

I think when people talk about having that "personal relationship with Christ," it is very easy for them to be picturing a relationship with the human nature and character of Christ only:  the same sort of imagination that gives us the parlor-game of "Which historical character would you like to have dinner with?"  We close our eyes and there is Jesus, copied from a picture we saw once, in sandals and tunic, sitting in our living room.  We try to make friends with this Jesus.  Even if we imagine a Jesus speaking in our interior hearts, it's a human-sounding voice. We try to make that connection feel as like a human friendship as possible.  When it really does feel like that, we understand it to be a grace and a consolation.

And it's not wrong!

But we must also make friends with the Divine character of Christ.  And for that we have not much in the way of models from practical experience.  

Benson is telling us that friendship with Christ is also "sympathy with attributes of His own Divine character," and that we are able to develop some of this by having a devotion to the priesthood.

Next: Chapter 8, Christ in the Saint 

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