The ceremony of priestly ordination foresees a gesture that remains fixed in the memory of those who live it and in those who participate in the Mass. The young men who will be consecrated are invited to lay prostate and pray with their faces to the ground. God is about to take possession of their being, through the laying on of hands of the bishop, giving them the power to say “I” in Jesus’ name. Placing themselves on the ground in this manner, they express the awareness of their absolute disproportion in front of the responsibility they will receive.
Laying prostrate is a very strong gesture but when we are interiorly dominated by the presence of the Mystery we feel adequate. During the first months of my second year of high school, the film From a Far Country by Krzysztof Zanussi was released in Italy. The whole school was invited to the theater to watch the movie. I was profoundly moved by the scene in which Karoly Wojtyla was waiting for a train at a convent in Warsaw which would take him to Krakow where he would become bishop. He asked a religious sister to advise him of the arrival of the train while he went to pray in the chapel. Entering the chapel he placed himself prostate on the ground and began to immerse himself in an intimate and silent dialogue with God. Watching the film, I desired to be able to pray like him. I was fascinated by the trust that his gesture expressed towards a God who was familiar for him, as well by the great noble sense of God’s infinite majesty.
In the moment of extreme human weakness Jesus too placed himself on the ground in the garden of Gethsemane, and invoked God calling him by the name Abbà. In the act of laying prostrate familiarity and the sense of the strength operating in God are united.
While the candidates for ordination are laying in front of the altar, the whole Church is praying with them. It is one of most suggestive moments of the ceremony of the consecration of the new priests. We become aware that the heavens are united with the earth in a special petition, and it is almost as if these men laying prostrate are elevated and brought before the presence of God.
Everyone kneels down and invokes the angels and the saints in the hymn of the litany. A long sequence of names unfolds and a response is repeated: pray for us. To every name corresponds a face and a calling to serve Jesus, a life fulfilled. The mysterious names of the angels. The great patriarchs and the prophets of the Hebrew people. Peter, Paul, James, John and the other Apostles, the names that root the consciousness of every Christian. And then many other men and women and children, who lived in various epochs, long ago and in more recent times, many faces and stories which are cherished by the men prostrated on the ground. In the months leading up to the celebration, these names were chosen with care, like a synthesis of the itinerary of growth in the faith, and now everyone invokes these saints for the ordinandi. All of paradise, every redeemed sinner, is united with all those praying on the earth in a united intercessory choir.
It is said that God grants the petitions that man makes in this particular moment.
We ask the members of the Fraternity who are preparing to receive ordination to reflect in a lengthy manner, in order that they may present to God their most true and inner desires, their most radical petitions, in full consciousness and freedom, without word games, entrusting themselves with confidence into the hands of He for whom all things are possible.
In the picture: Ordinations 2015 (ph. Giovanazzi)