Of The Great Worthiness Of Priests, Who Offer This Holy Sacrifice: A Devout Exposition Of The Holy Masse 1622 By John Heigham
Crucifixion c. 1515
Of The Great Worthiness Of Priests, Who Offer This Holy Sacrifice
This Sacrifice being so excellent a thing, as hath before been showed; it was convenient, that the divine Majesty of Almighty God, should ordain in his Church, an order of men, which should be above others, who should both consecrate, and offer the same: which thing, he performed in his last supper, instituting the order of Priesthood, unto which, he gave power and authority, to consecrate, receive, and distribute to others, his most precious Body and Blood, veiled under the forms, of bread and wine.
2. By which, it is most manifest, that the Mass, is a work, the most great, the most worthy, and most excellent, that possibly a man can undertake or enterprise. seeing the Priest, who sayeth it, excelleth in dignity, all the Kings, Emperors, and Priests, either of the written law, or of the law of nature. And furthermore, he surpasseth in this power, the Patriarchs, the Prophets, yea, and the Angels themselves, who neither can consecrate. receive, nor distribute to others, the Body of our blessed Saviour: whereas the Priest having consecrated it, holdeth it in his hands, receiveth it, keepeth it, and imparteth it to others.
3. Rightly therefore do we say, that this noble dignity of Priesthood, can with no pomp, eloquence, or ornament of words, be sufficiently extolled. For it surmounteth and surpasseth the tongues of the most subtle Philosophers, yea the top and height of all excellency of every creature. If you compare it to the glory of Kings, or to the splendor of Princes Diadems, these are as far inferior the basest lead, to the purest and finest gold that is.
4. But what need I stand upon earthly comparisons, when the celestial citizens, the Angels themselves dare not aspire to Priestly authority. For to which of the Angels, hath God at anytime said? Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them: and whose you shall retain, they are retained. Jn.20. yea, the which is much more: Do this for the commemoration of me Cor.11.24. In a word, they admire and tremble to behold, that which the Priest may boldly touch, handle, and divide in pieces, as being warranted by Christ himself.
5. But to pass yet further from the Hierarchies of Angels, and Queen of all the world, even she, I say. albeit she far surpassed all creatures, in the plenitude and abundance of heavenly grace, yet even she herself, also giveth place to the orders and Hierarchies of the militant Church. For having all other honor, gives unto her by her Son in the highest degree, yet she attended not to this dignity of consecrating or offering this dreadful Sacrifice. True it is, that she in pronouncing eight humble words. Ecce ancilla &c. once only, corporeally conceived the Son of God, and of the Virgin is truly and really present in the Blessed Sacrament.
6. The high King of Heaven, being incarnate in our blessed Lady, she brought forth to the world, a Saviour, mortal and passable: the Priests offer to God, and give to men the very same Saviour, now impassable and most glorious. She gave suck to the new born babe, with her virginal breasts, handled him with her hands, bare him in her arms, and performed such other serviceable offices to Christ's little members. These Priests receive him with their mouths, carry him, and give him in meat to others, who is the bread and food of Angels. O venerable sanctity of holy hands! O high and happy dignity! O great and only wonder of the world?
7. Nor any of these comparisons, either arrogant, or hyperbolic, but true and justifiable in all property & rigor of speech. For as in all rigor of speech, it must of necessity be confessed, that God is far above his Creatures, the soul, much more noble then the body, & spiritual things more excellent then temporal: so in all rigor of speech it must needs be granted, Priestly dignity to be the highest dignity, and degree of this life, for as much as it is immediately exercised about the honor of God, and administration of divine and spiritual affair: whereas the dignity of Princes (though in their rank; most to be respected) yet their functions and affairs, are chiefly touching temporal things.
A Devout Exposition Of The Holy Masse 1622