‘For centuries this Ember Saturday was the only day in the Church’s year for the conferring of holy orders. Nowadays the sixth sacrament is administered also on other days, feast days and Sundays. But Mother Church has always favoured her Ember days as most appropriate for elevating her levites to the Priesthood of Christ, her Bridegroom.
May this Ember day awaken in us a deeper appreciation of the holiness and power of the Catholic priesthood. The sacrament of holy orders places the priest on a high mountain to bring good tidings to Sion, commissions him to lift up his voice with strength, to bring good tidings to Jerusalem. The priest assures his flock: “Behold your God! Behold the Lord God shall come with strength, and His arm shall rule! Behold His reward is with Him, and His work is before Him. He shall feed the flock like a shepherd, He shall gather go together the lambs with His arm, and take them up in His bosom, the Lord our God” (cf. 3rd lesson).
Between priests and people must exist an “admirable commercium”, a “wondrous exchange” of giving and taking. The priest as “minister of Christ and dispenser of the mysteries of God” must spend himself for his people, and so attain to eternal life together with the flock committed to his care. The flock must support him by prayer, co-operation and good will so that – as the ordination prayer says – “he may always discharge the duties of his ministry towards God in complete readiness.” Shepherd and flock must support one another and thus fulfil the law of Christ.
It is meet and just at all times, but especially in these days of preparation for Christmas, to pray fervently of our priests that the Holy Spirit may fill them with His seven-fold gifts, gifts so necessary for “bringing the tidings of great joy to all the people.” The Church is in need – today more than ever – of holy priests, of men full of zeal for God’s Kingdom, of shepherds with love for the flock, of fathers who will break the bread of life to their children, of “anointed Cyruses” (4th lesson) who will lead men from the Babylonian captivity of sin and misery to the promised land of liberty and peace.
May blessed Peter the Apostle to whom the eternal High Priest entrusted His lambs and sheep, and with whom we keep this venerable Ember day, bless priests and people. May he obtain from our Lord Jesus Christ what we ask: Holiness of life, mutual respect and charity, loyalty to the Church and the Apostolic See to both shepherds and flock.
“Come, Lord, and show us – priests and people – Thy face!”’.
from a meditation on the Ember Saturday in Advent in Vine and Branches, 1948, by Mgr Martin Hellriegel
Fr Lee Kenyon