From the Psalter:
The Lord has sworn and he will not recant: “You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.”
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Psalm 110:4 (BCP Version) – December 7, 2013.)
I have a pair of cufflinks with part of this verse inscribed on them in Latin: “Sacerdos in Aeternum” (“Priest Forever”). They were given to me as an ordination present. I seldom have reason or opportunity to wear them as I don’t generally wear long-sleeved, let alone French-cuff, shirts. But yesterday I did.
At my parish, our chapter of the Episcopal Church Women holds an annual “English Cream Tea” on the Friday nearest St. Nicholas Day. This is the group’s big fund-raiser for the year and it is a major undertaking. Yesterday was the day! The 21st Annual St. Nicholas Tea.
We are in the process of expanding our church building, specifically the fellowship area and gathering space, and the Tea was the first major event in the not-quite-finished new space. It took a lot of work by a lot of people to get things cleaned up, set up, and ready to go. It took more work by more people to host the event, seat the guests, serve the tea, run the gift shop which is part of the event . . . and then, after 140 guests (in two seatings) had enjoyed their tea and tid-bits, to tear it all down, clean it all up, and put it all away.
I wore my “Sacerdos in Aeternum” cufflinks because each year I join other men in the parish assisting the ladies. We dress in formal wear to do so. It’s the one day each year that I get to wear my tux, French-cuff shirt, silk waistcoat, and those cufflinks. Together, the day, the cufflinks, and their engraved message are a reminder that a priest is a priest in community. It is the community of the church which discerns the call to ordination, nurtures the priest in formation, ordains him or her to the office, and sustains his or her presbyteral ministry. Clergy do not minister in isolation.
Nor are the clergy the only ministers in the church. In my tradition (the Episcopal Church), our catechism reminds us that “the ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons.” (BCP 1979, page 855) We take seriously the Reformation idea of the priesthood of all believers. We are a community of priests, some ordained to the sacerdotal priesthood, but all of us part of the “royal priesthood” about which Peter wrote in his first epistle, “a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Pet. 2:9)
That Light is coming into the world. Be alert, be prepared. It’s Advent!
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.