Bridge to Eternity: A Retreat Guide on the Sacrament of Holy Orders

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For many years, my religious order followed a tradition of ordaining our members to the priesthood on Christmas Eve. I remember preparing for my own ordination: eight days of silent retreat full of prayer and penance as Christmas approached; and then, on Christmas eve, becoming a priest of Jesus Christ for all eternity. It’s hard to forget an experience like that.

But why schedule priestly ordinations for Christmas Eve? Why not choose a date more convenient for families traveling to celebrate their sons’ ordinations? What’s the point of piling such an important celebration onto a day that is already overflowing with liturgical significance?

It’s all about the symbolism. The sacrament of Holy Orders, instituted by Jesus himself, is meant to be an extension throughout history of Christ’s own incarnation, of his priestly mission to this fallen world, which begins to shine out with the birth of the Savior in Bethlehem on Christmas night. In a sense, every ordination truly is another Bethlehem: the birth of a messenger and bearer of God’s saving grace into a world needing redemption.

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