Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Annual Requiem for Fr. Homer Rogers

Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek

When a priest dies, his body is vested in the vestments he wore when he celebrated Mass: alb, amice, chasuble, stole, maniple. The point is that the priesthood of the Church is the priesthood of Jesus Christ and as such is not just a temporary job but a permanent and eternal character conferred upon a man.

The biblical origin of this understanding is without a doubt Psalm 110:4 and the quotation of this Psalm in the Epistle to the Hebrews 7:17 which identifies the eternal priesthood of Christ with the priesthood of  Melchizedek.

Melchizedek is a mysterious man, a pagan priest, who acknowledges the blessings God has given Abraham by presenting to him bread and wine. Abraham reciprocates by giving  Melchizedek a tithe of the spoils he has just gained in battle.

A good inter-faith gesture and that would have been the end of it, if Melchizedek had not been mentioned in the Psalms and then picked up by the Epistle to the Hebrews.

The temple has been destroyed and so the Jewish priesthood has ended. At least it seemed so to the Christian Jews. But the author of Hebrews argues that the old priesthood has not been abolished but replaced by the priesthood of Christ and this priesthood is eternal.

The priesthood of Jesus Christ unlike the Levitical priesthood is not based on heredity but on divine appointment. Melchizedek has no genealogy. Despite human weakness, a man is called by God to be a priest. Melchizedek was a gentile and Christ came to save not just the House of Israel, but the people of all nations. This new priesthood of the last Supper is prefigured in Melchizedek’s offering of bread and wine. Melchizedek was not a priest of the Old Covenant. Christ as a priest offered the perfect sacrifice for sin and made the new, perfect, and everlasting covenant with His own blood.

There are endless wonderful tales about Padre. Recollections of his wisdom and wit abound. We often find ourselves wondering what Fr. Rogers would do in this situation or that.  This parish is forever marked by his influence.

But the most important thing about him, what he once was here, he is now, just a priest: a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

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