Pygmies in Giants' Armour

Austin Farrer, The Essential Sermons:

Apples don’t drop from the sky, they grow on apple trees. And sacraments don’t hurtle down here and there like lightning from heaven: they grow on the great branching tree of the Apostles’ ministry… into which tree, by virtue of his ordination, every new priest is grafted.

So then, a priest is a living stem, bearing sacraments as its fruits: he gives you the body and blood of Christ; he gives you, if you faithfully confess before him, Christ’s own absolution. And that’s not all; the man who bears the Sacrament is sacramental himself; he is, one might almost say, himself a walking sacrament... 

Just exactly what a priest is, you can see best in the Holy Eucharist. In a great part of that holy action he is, of course, no more than the voice of the congregation... But there is a moment when the priest steps into the place of Christ himself, to do what Christ did, to bless and to break, to present the mysterious sacrifice before God Almighty...

These moments, certainly, are exceptional in the activity of a priest; exceptional, but still not disconnected with his whole life or character. The man who is as Christ in the Sacrament is not just like anyone else ever: he bears the stamp... in him Christ sets up the standard of his Kingdom and calls us to the colours.

It is just this fact that shows up the priesthood so terribly, and makes us, and them too, so painfully aware of their deficiencies... Anyone may be a better Christian than the priest, more holy of life, more deeply versed in prayer. But the priest has a special obligation to lead a devout life, to study divinity, to pray; and so to be fit to give some help to his fellow-Christians in these supremely important concerns…

None of us [Christians] can be let off being Christ in our place and our station: we are all pygmies in giants’ armour... it’s the price (how small a price!) paid for the supreme mercy of God, that he does not wait for our dignity or our perfection, but just puts himself there in our midst; in this bread and this wine, in this priest, in this Christian man, woman, or child.

He who gave himself up to us first as an infant, crying in a cot, he who was hung up naked on the wood, does not stand on his own dignity.

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