I was having a very nice conversation with a Roman Catholic yesterday, (non-priest) about the parlous state of both our churches
And he rather exploded about the notion of priestly ordination creating 'ontological change'
That is, a change to the essential being of a person.
So when you are ordained you are ontologically changed from being (presumably) a non-priest to being an essential (ontological) priest.
I (half) jokingly said that I believed I was ontologically changed at ordination...so now at ordination "I am a priest forever..."
This is more, it seems to me, a poetic endeavour than a theological one.
But there is a more important point to be made. There is indeed essential (ontological) change when we are baptised into Christ. We move from being unredeemed to redeemed, from being less than Christ to being Christ-like.
That is what baptism does.
At baptism we all come to share in the universal priesthood of Jesus. Because we become like him.
Being a Jesus-priest by virtue of our baptism into him means that we share in that universal priesthood which is proclaimed by his life, death and resurrection. It is eternal. So there is indeed ontological change; because we go from being mortal (threatened by death) to being immortal (released by resurrection). From being an old man (Adam) to being a new being (Jesus).
I think this is mind blowing stuff.
But this is baptismal rather than priestly.
The sacramental priesthood does not proclaim something new.
I (as a sacrament...an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace) am a sacrament to the people of God of what their baptism does/is for them. It changes them ontologically and makes them Jesus-priests.)
It is not ordination that makes this ontological change.
It is baptism.
Ordination sacramentally realises what has already happened.
We share in the priesthood of Christ.
The ordained (formally ordered) priest proclaims as an outward and visible sign what is already realised through baptism in each Christian person.
It is, as it were, a reinforcer of the notion in human form.
What responsibilities does this place upon the priestly sacrament...ie. me and those others so ordered...
We live our lives in a human way, broken and restored, forgiven and penitent, fleshly yet touching the divine.
Although we often do this in a representative way, the reality is that we are priests by virtue of our baptism. We handle holy things, the principle 'thing' being our humanity by virtue of the ontological change which takes what is clay (Adam) and makes it Godly (Jesus)
Mind blowing stuff....and true ontological change. For all the baptised