THE DIGNITY OF PRIESTS AND KINGS THROUGH HISTORY TECSTHOUGHT VOL. 6 NO. 7

Emperor of the East, Theodosius, gave memorable witness to his personal respect for the authority of the Priest when after ordering a horrible massacre of the citizens of Thessalonica (390), he accepted the rebuke of Bishop Ambrose and did public penance at the door of the Cathedral in Milan.As a result of this, from the wall of Hadrian to the Euphrates River, Christianity in a time of extreme social decay, provided a refuge for the oppressed and acted as an agent of social justice.

Baronius relates that when the Empress Eusebia sent for Leontius, Bishop of Tripoli, he said that if she wished to see him, she should consent to two conditions: first, that on his arrival she should instantly descend from the throne, and bowing down her head, should ask his benediction; secondly that he should be seated on the throne, and that she should not sit upon it without his permission: he added, that unless she submitted to these conditions he should never go to the palace. Being invited to the table of the Emperor Maximus, St. Martin, in taking a draught, first paid a mark of respect to his chaplain, and then to the emperor. In the Council of Nicae, the Emperor Constantine wished to sit in the last place, after all the priests, and on a seat lower than that which they occupied; he would not even sit down without their permission. The holy king St. Boleslans had so great a veneration for priests, that he would not dare to sit in their presence.

The kings of the earth glory in honouring priests: “it is a mark of a good prince,” says Pope St. Marcellinus, “to honour the priests of God.” “They willingly,” says Peter de Blois, “bend their knee before the priest of God; they kiss his hands, and with bowed down head receive his benediction.” “The sacerdotal dignity says St. Chrysostom, “effaces the royal dignity; hence the king inclines his head under the hand of the priest to receive his blessing.”

The sacerdotal dignity is the most noble of all the dignities in this world. “Nothing,” says St. Ambrose, “is more excellent in this world.” It transcends, says St. Bernard, “all the dignities of kings, of emperors, and of angels.” According to St. Ambrose, the dignity of the priest as far exceeds that of kings, as the value of gold surpasses that of lead. The reason is, because the power of kings extends only to temporal goods and to the bodies of men, but the power of the priest extends to spiritual goods and to the human soul. Hence, says St. Clement, “as much as the soul is more noble than the body, so much is the priesthood more excellent than royalty.” “Princes,” says St. John Chrysostom, “have the power of binding, but they bind only the bodies, while the priest binds the souls.”

The dignity of priesthood speaks more volume from the spiritual realm than what gladens the eyes. Faith teaches more than what we estimate by our senses. God thank you for this sacerdotal treasure for human life.

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