Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve used the ordination of Father Christopher Manning to help illustrate both the importance of the Sacrament of Holy Orders to the life of the Church as a whole, but also the role that ordained priests and deacons are playing in the growth of the Church in East Tennessee. When I last posted about Father Manning, I mentioned that we didn’t yet have video.of his ordination. That remains the case, but thanks to the hard work of Deacon Patrick Murphy-Racey of St. Albert the Great, and the kindness and courtesy of members of Father Christopher’s family, we do have a wonderful compilation of photographs of the ordination in a vignette put together by Deacon Pat.
This set of photos is no ordinary slideshow, however, because the photographs are set to the backdrop of a snippet of one of the best homilies on the Eucharist, thanksgiving, and hospitality that I have ever heard. I pray that if it is God’s will that I am ordained a deacon, that I can preach with even a quarter of the verve and precious zeal of the preacher of this homily.
The preacher is Father Christopher himself, and the occasion is his Mass of Thanksgiving, or First Mass on the occasion of being ordained. It is appropriate that it ought to be called “Mass of Thanksgiving,” because the word Eucharist actually means “thanksgiving.”
As Father Christopher rightly pointed out, Jesus was a great teacher, but he didn’t come to teach, he came to provide our every need for us, and he loves us so much that he sacrificed his very self for us, and gave us himself in the Eucharist to give us the best food he could possibly give us, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ.
At every Mass, the deacon assisting on the altar, or the priest if there is no deacon, says as he mingles water with wine as he prepares the chalice and cups for the consecration to come “by the mystery of this water and wine, grant us a share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” He is quietly asking for the Lord to give us a share in himself, to make us, the Body of Christ, a part of his divine life. When Father Christopher or any priest consecrates the host and the chalice and they thus become the Body and Blood of Christ, Jesus gives all of us a share in himself and his glory. It is the closest thing we will ever get on this earth to what Heaven is actually like, because in that moment we are truly all one in Christ, partaking of a banquet of such bounty as the world cannot even comprehend.
Whenever we are blessed with a new priest, God again gives his Church someone to bring all of us to the Table of Plenty.