Thursday, February 7, 2013

Religious Life and the Presentation

On February 2nd, the Feast of the Presentation, almost twenty of our brothers in temporary vows renewed their profession of poverty, chastity and obedience for another year.  The profession and renewal of religious vows on that feast is a long-standing tradition in the Church because of the light that mystery sheds on the meaning of religious life.

Pope Benedict XVI, in the recent volume of his Jesus of Nazareth Trilogy points out that the Greek word used to describe Mary and Joseph “presenting” Jesus in the temple actually means “offering”, as in priestly offering.  The pope remarks that a deliberate connection is being made between the Presentation and the Crucifixion where Jesus offers himself to the Father as priest and victim “for us men and for our salvation.”    It is His self-gift that saves us and gives us new life.

And it is in response to His self-gift that men and women religious throughout the world make a gift of themselves to God and the Church through the living out of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.  This too is a priestly offering.  As a fruit of baptism, all the baptized now share in the priesthood of the faithful.  While not the same as the ministerial priesthood, it is still a participation in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ.  This means that all that we are, have and do can be united to the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ, particularly in the Eucharist, and contribute to our own sanctification and that of the whole world.

This reality is especially true for men and women religious because “in the Church's tradition religious profession is considered to be a special and fruitful deepening of the consecration received in Baptism” (Vita Consecrata, 30).  Thus, through the profession of poverty, chastity and obedience, men and women religious join Jesus, priest and victim, in His one “offering” to the Father.  That’s good news!

God bless you all!

Fr. Isaac Mary Spinharney, CFR
St. Joseph Friary
Harlem, NY

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