Saturday, November 2, 2013

Bossuet on the priesthood of all believers

"When one speaks in the presence of the faithful either of the duties of the priesthood or of the powers of ecclesiastics, they think that these discourses touch upon them not at all, and refer the whole practice of these duties either to the sacerdotal order or to consecrated persons.  But it is a Christian truth that, a spiritual impression of the character of the pontificate of our Lord Jesus Christ [(Heb 7-8)] being made on us by Holy Baptism, all those who are honored to be his members are also participants of his priesthood; and that, by consequence, they must take part, according to the measure that is given to them, in the Spirit and in the functions of his priesthood.  This is what the learned Saint Chrysostom explains very excellently by the very order of sacrifice, in which the people are united with the priest in [the] company of the same Spirit; in which the priest, although appearing alone at the altar, nevertheless carries [to it] the desires of all and speaks in the name of the entire holy congregation, instructing the children of God by this holy ceremonial that they are truly united with him in a priestly and apostolic Spirit [(Hom. 18.3, on 2 Cor 8:16)].  This is why I am persuaded, Messieurs, that what I have to say today on the holy pontiff [Saint Charles Borromeo], whose memory we honor, although regarding the ecclesiastical state above all, will not, however, be irrelevant to the rest of my auditors.  And as I intend to help you see that the Spirit of the priesthood obliges all Christians to consecrate themselves to God as victims, I hope that the faithful, whom the blood of the Savior of the world has made both priests [of] and sacrificers to the living God, will understand by this doctrine that they are obliged to present themselves as holy, living, and acceptable oblations through Jesus Christ to the eternal Father [(Rom 12:1)].  But as Saint Paul assures [us] that this sacrifice must be consummated in the Spirit of the same Jesus, and because I learn from the same apostle that this Jesus offered himself to his Father by the Holy Spirit [(Heb 9:14)], let us ask this same Spirit to produce the abundance of grace in our hearts in order that they might be transformed into living victims; but let us request this grace via the intercession of Mary, by addressing her [as follows]:  Ave [Maria]."

     From the first installment in the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade I've ever had the good fortune to own (i.e. pick up used).  It came down to me from the library of John P. O'Connell.  Fr. Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, "Panégyrique de Saint Charles Borromée" (Paris, 4 November [1656]), in Bossuet:  oraisons funèbres, panégyriques, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade 33, ed. the Abbé Bernard Velat (Paris:  Librairie Galllimard, 1951):  674-675.  1656 is the date suggested by the Abbé Velat, who nevertheless admits that "On peut hésiter entre 1656, 1659 et 1661."  Bossuet was not a bishop until 1669.