Saturday, 5 April 2008

The Ordination Rite II

Today's pictures show the moment of ordination, which takes place in two actions: the laying on of hands and the prayer of consecration.

Bishop Patrick, as principal consecrator, was first to lay his hands on Fr Michael's head. This is a very ancient action of the Church, frequently referred to in Scripture (most notably in the Acts of the Apostles). Primarily, it symbolises the calling down of the Holy Spirit. The same action is used in Mass to call the Spirit upon bread and wine, that they may be changed into Christ's Body and Blood. It is also used in confirmation, to call the Holy Spirit upon the candidates.

After Bishop Patrick, the other bishops come forward to do the same. Here, Most Rev. Patrick Kelly, Archbishop of Liverpool, lays his hands on Fr Michael's head...

... and here, Rt Rev. Brian Noble, Bishop of Shrewsbury. The Apostles received authority and the gift of the Holy Spirit from Christ Himself. Before their deaths, they passed this gift on to their successors, by the laying on of hands, and this line of contact is unbroken to this day. In this way the bishops, who are the successors of the Apostles, pass on both their ministry and their gifts to those they ordain to the episcopate.

Even the bishops who are not concelebrating at Mass take part in this action. Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, is pictured above.

Here the Papal Nuncio, himself an archbishop, takes his turn. The cardinals and the nuncio put on a stole for this action, as a sign of their office as bishop and because they are participating in a sacramental action.

The pictures tell the story well. A long, silent line of bishops queued, each waiting to lay their hands on the bishop-elect. Above, it is the turn of Bishop John Arnold, an auxiliary bishop in Westminster.

After this action was completed, the prayer of consecration was said. Two deacons held the Book of the Gospels over Fr Michael's head for the entire prayer. This symbolises the centrality of the Gospel in the life of a bishop. A bishop's calling as a successor of the Apostles is rooted in the Gospel; his duty is to preach the Gospel faithfully and fearlessly; his own life of faith must always be founded on what God has revealed to us in Christ.

Above, Bishop Patrick extends his hands over Fr Michael as he prays the prayer of consecration, which completes the change: Fr Michael knelt down as a priest; after the laying on of hands and the prayer, he rises as a bishop of the Church. Tomorrow there will be pictures of the final part of the ordination rite, in which Bishop Michael is presented with symbols of his new office.