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We all are well acquainted with the symbolism of Christ as the Bridegroom in relation to the Church as the Bride of Christ; for we received this symbolism directly from the apostles and the early Church. The all-male priesthood and the hierarchy that developed was male, for reasons of Tradition and mirrored in its symbolism as well. The Priests, Bishops and the Pope are all representatives of Christ, the Bridegroom. We, the Bride of Christ, are the feminine, indissoluble and sexual complementarity of the Heavenly Wedding between the Church (comprised of our individual souls) and Christ which makes us One with Him; something our worldly marriages should also reflect.

The individual soul is also characterized by the Church as feminine and we refer to the soul as ‘she’ whether we are male or female. This is understood as our souls stand in a feminine and receptive relationship to God who is the Creator and the Giver and the Head of the Heavenly household.

Therefore, we have a theological symbolism which developed and accurately reflected the Spiritual Realities of what God has done for us and hopes to accomplish within us; requiring no less than our total surrender to Him, in loving obedience.

So the Church and the souls of everyone in the Church are feminine. Thereby, only carefully chosen men (optimally as far as humanly possible) are called to represent Christ within the Church so that this Reality of Christ with us is fully revealed and made to come alive, both in the Eternal Spiritual Reality and also within the present reality in our temporal world as well. Our priests are referred to quite suitably as an alter Christus (another Christ) and their actions are viewed as being done in persona Christi (in the person of Christ). Therefore there exists a complimentary aspect between the priest and the people as there is between Christ and His Church; the Bridegroom and the Bride.

This symbology organically developed within the Church (and Her Sacred Liturgical Rites) to speak not simply to the mind but more profoundly to the heart and soul of each and every believer: and in this way it opened an important adjacent avenue by which the individual souls in attendance might understand, at the deepest levels, what is being communicated to us in the prayers and actions at the altar. Thus, at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, when the scriptures are read by the priest or deacon (rarely witnessed for the Epistles presently) we are being taught by Christ Himself . . . by those who represent Christ speaking to His Bride. As the priest delivers his homily on the texts, Christ is speaking directly to His Bride and further educating and consoling Her; advising and admonishing Her. And when the priest says the words of Consecration over the Bread and Wine, having already beseeched the sanctification of the Holy Spirit upon our offerings (a blessing to effect the miraculous changes promised by Our Lord), the Glorified Christ is made present on the altar under the appearance of bread and wine. The Bride should, as should our individual souls, delight in His presence and love and adore Him who would suffer so much for love of Her (and each of us). This is, after all, a prefigurement of the Heavenly Banquet.

The sanctuary (the Holy place) of the Parish, set a bit higher and closer to Heaven, is the only place (outside of the confessional) that this presence of Christ acting through our male priesthood is manifested in a profound and public way for our good and the good of the whole Church . . . and indeed the good of the whole world. This Divine Liturgy then is a work of God and He is rightly represented during the Rites by good and holy men who undertake this awesome and privileged vocation as the intercessor between the Heavenly Bridegroom and the Betrothed Spouse. This Bride (to be) is still waiting in Faith, Hope and Charity for the final consummation of Her Divine Purpose to be fulfilled. So it is only right and just that the priest, acting as the Bridegroom, feeds His Bride (the rest of us) with the Manna from Heaven (which is Himself) and encourages Her in His absence and leads Her toward Her destiny. It is a conversation and interaction between the Bridegroom (the masculine) and the Bride (the feminine).

It should be obvious that it is physically, ritually and symbolically impossible for a woman to represent Christ by assisting the priest at the altar, for the instructing of the Bride (as Christ would instruct Her) or for the feeding of the Bride (by feeding Herself); Her role is not to ‘take’ but to ‘receive.’ Indeed, such acts serve only to disrupt and confuse this theological symbolism of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and it further sows serious doubts about the special role of the priest; reducing priests into laymen who simply dress differently. This has caused confusion and a blurring of the lines between our royal priesthood and the ministerial priesthood of our ordained and consecrated male priesthood: for a priest is ordained to offer sacrifice for the people (those who are members of His Bride, the Church).

Role reversals of this type, especally in an ecclesial setting, should be as upsetting to us as same sex marriage should be (which will never accurately mirror the Heavenly marriage of Christ and His Bride) and it should likewise be seen to be gravely disordered. At times a type of ecclesial cross-dressing occurs with female altar servers are found to be dressed in the maculine choir dress of a priest by donning a cassock and surplice.

Practically speaking, what would be the motivation for a man to become a priest once their understanding of the Bride and Bridegroom and the alter Christus is completely destroyed or confused? I really don’t have a clue and each would have to answer this question themselves. Speaking for myself, however, I can only reveal that such actions are disturbing to me and that I am completely dismayed at how many parishioners treat their priests like ordinary Joe’s and the Holy Sacrament as something of an entitlement . . . even when they do not believe that the Holy Sacrifice  is Truly the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ come down from Heaven. Somethng has gone dreadfully wrong, I fear. Perhaps this is just one more aspect as to why our Good Tree is bearing less and less Good Fruit in our days.