Ordination Brings Attention To The Mystery of Christ And His Mystical Body, The Church; While Celebrity Brings Attention To Oneself
Bishop Mansour Tells A Crowd of 700 People At His Enthronement Ceremony
Following the Enthronement ceremony of His Excellency Bishop Gregory John Mansour, a banquet was held at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott Hotel in Brooklyn, New York. Many speakers offered their best wishes and congratulations to the newly enthroned bishop, among whom were Bishop John Chedid, Retired Bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon; Dr. David Suley, Office of Catholic Home Missions-USCCB and Bishop Stephen Hector Doueihi. At the end of the program Bishop Mansour delivered the keynote address for the evening in which he outlined his understanding of the office of bishop.
Brother Bishops and priests, dignitaries, honored guests, beloved brothers and sisters in Christ… today much has been said. I don’t want to bore you with too many more words, but I would like to offer a brief reflection on the Mystery of Ordination itself – one of the seven Mysteries (Sacraments) of the Church.
When we think of the Church, we think of three different categories of people who make up the Church: the clergy, the religious and the laity, each having its own mission and purpose to sanctify, teach and help govern the Church in her God-given mission.
The laity bring the mission of the Church to family life, to the workplace, to the political arena, and to the cities and neighborhoods in which they live. They live and work in the world.
The religious, monks and nuns, are called to sanctify themselves (somewhat apart from the world) and to follow the particular chrism of the founder of their religious order and/or congregation. By their life of holiness and by following the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, they are models of holiness for the entire Church; they remind us all that there is more to life, and it is worthy of personal sacrifice.
The clergy, i.e., the order of Deacon, Priest and Bishop, (we could also mention the minor orders of cantor, lector and subdeacon) have a special vocation to be inserted into the life and hierarchy, indeed the very fabric, of the Church in order to sanctify, teach and govern the People of God. The clergy are to give themselves completely to the service of the Gospel and the church. It is this particular element of the Church, i.e. ordained ministry, that I would like to briefly reflect on tonight.
Even though I am young, I am now an expert on the orders of the Church for I have been ordained nine times! I have been ordained Cantor, Lector, Sub-deacon, Deacon, Archdeacon, Priest, Periodute, ChorBishop and now Bishop. For most people it takes only one or two ordinations, but for me it took all nine. Maybe this last one I will finally get right!
In the Syriac Maronite Church these nine orders have different functions that serve to edify the Church. My favorite ordination was that of the subdiaconate (oh to be a subdeacon again! ). The nine ranks of the Church are likened to the nine ranks of cherubim and seraphim, angels and archangels, powers and dominions, etc. who do God’s bidding in the heavens and on earth. Believe me, we clergy types are not angels!!! But we are called to lead others to God just as they are.
Thus ordination is a service to the People of God (clergy, religious and laity), a call to do His bidding. The major orders reflect the different aspects of the person of Christ. The deacon shows forth Christ’s servanthood and his care for the needy. The priest shows forth the eternal priesthood of Christ still interceding for us at the throne of grace. The bishop, who has the fullness of the orders of the Church (that’s probably why it took nine times!) shows us Christ the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the flock. In this context we can understand more fully what St. Augustine meant when he said, “With you I am a Christian, for you I am a Bishop.”
Thus, my friends this day is not “all about me”, it is about us, as the People of God! The opposite of ordination is not unordination, because one can never be unordained… Nor is it “non-ordination”, because ordination is always for the purpose of others-for their good. Rather the opposite of ordination is celebrity. While celebrity brings attention to oneself, ordination brings attention to the Mystery of Christ and this Mystical Body, the Church. The one ordained may or may not be popular, that is not the purpose of ordination. Rather the one ordained is called to be faithful to the particular mission and to the particular people entrusted to him.
When I was a priest I used to look at the Bishop as if he was for me Christ. I wanted his voice to resound in my heart, so that the unity of the Church and her mission would be first and everything else second. Now that I am a Bishop it worries me that anyone would think of me in those terms.
I used to love to kiss the hand of the Bishop, not because I wanted to get on his good side, though that thought did occur to me, but because I believed that it is from his hand that the Church is created anew, just as it was first created from the side of Christ on the Cross. The hand of the priest brings to us the Eucharist, pardon and blessing – we kiss that hand as well. But the hand of the Bishop brings us the priest.
By the way, it is not the ring of the Bishop that we kiss according to our oldest Maronite tradition, because for centuries our Maronite Bishops had no rings – it is the hand that gives us the priest, who gives us the Eucharist, which gives us God’s pardon and blessing. The hand of the Bishop, since the time of the Apostles creates the Church anew in every place.
And by the way, how precious are the hands of our parents. Our fathers who worked to sustain us, and our mothers whose hands gave us comfort and peace. These are the hands that also deserve to be kissed.
So dear brother priests, deacons and subdeacons, beloved religious, and esteemed laity, I pray that we will re-double our efforts, and I hope that each of us would assume generously our proper role in the Church. Bishop Chedid was fond of telling me “to follow the Church is to follow Christ. Don’t be too far ahead of her, or too far behind her.” So let us follow the Church, she is the sure way to salvation and to Christ Himself.”
Therefore, I ask that we pray, we be people who pray. For the entire enterprise of the Christian life, the witness to Christ, the practice of the faith, the respect for the principles and moral values that are part of our common Catholic heritage can only be achieved with prayer. As our Holy Father has recently said, “Prayer transfigures and transforms the human person.” Through our prayers we become who we are and who God desires us to be.
Thank you for making the many sacrifices to be here. Thank you to the Cathedral Parish, the organizing committee, the priests and laity and religious of the Eparchy of Saint Maron and Our Lady of Lebanon for all you have done to make this day personally beautiful and beautiful for the whole Church. May God Bless You.