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'Another Christ'

Alter Christus

Priest | Priests | Priestly

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What does 'another Christ' mean?

 

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A Catholic priest acts as an 'Alter Christus' (Latin for 'Another Christ') when performing his priestly ministry...

"A priest is the representative of Christ among men: his mission is to carry on Christ's work for the salvation of souls; in Christ's name and by His power, he teaches men what they ought to believe and what they ought to do: he forgives sins, and offers in sacrifice the Body and Blood of Christ. He is another Christ (sacerdos alter Christus)." (Catholic Encyclopedia)

The term 'another Christ' does NOT, of course, literally mean there is another Christ or that the priest is God.

+ + +

"When you see the priest, think of our Lord Jesus Christ." (St. John Vianney)

"If we had faith, we could discern God hidden in the person of the priest, like a light behind a glass." (St. John Vianney)

"The priest is the same, Jesus Christ, whose sacred Person His minister represents. Now the minister, by reason of the sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is made like to the High Priest and possesses the power of performing actions in virtue of Christ's very person. Wherefore in his priestly activity he in a certain manner 'lends his tongue, and gives his hand' to Christ." (Pope Pius XII, "Mediator Dei", 1947 A.D.)

"Through the character of Sacred Orders, God willed to ratify that eternal covenant of love, by which He loves His priests above all others; and they are obliged to repay God for this special love with holiness of life... So a cleric should be considered as a man chosen and set apart from the midst of the people, and blessed in a very special way with heavenly gifts - a sharer in divine power, and, to put it briefly, another Christ... He is no longer supposed to live for himself; nor can he devote himself to the interests of just his own relatives, or friends or native land... He must be aflame with charity toward everyone. Not even his thoughts, his will, his feelings belong to him, for they are rather those of Jesus Christ who is his life." (Pope Pius XII)

"The Apostle of the Gentiles thus perfectly sums up what may be said of the greatness, the dignity and the duty of the Christian [Catholic] priesthood: Sic nos existimet homo Ut ministros Christi et dispensatores mysteriorum Dei - 'Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and the dispensers of the mysteries of God.' The priest is the minister of Christ, an instrument, that is to say, in the hands of the Divine Redeemer. He continues the work of the redemption in all its world-embracing universality and divine efficacy, that work that wrought so marvelous a transformation in the world. Thus the priest, as is said with good reason, is indeed 'another Christ'; for, in some way, he is himself a continuation of Christ. 'As the Father hath sent Me, I also send you,' is spoken to the priest, and hence the priest, like Christ, continues to give 'glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will.'" (Pope Pius XI, "Ad Catholici Sacerdotii", 1935 A.D.) 

"[T]he priesthood is a great gift of the Divine Redeemer, Who, in order to perpetuate the work of redemption of the human race which He completed on the Cross, confided His powers to the Church which He wished to be a participator in His unique and everlasting Priesthood. The priest is like 'another Christ' because he is marked with an indelible character making him, as it were, a living image of our Savior. The priest represents Christ Who said 'As the Father has sent me, I also send you'; 'he who hears you, hears me'. Admitted to this most sublime ministry by a call from heaven, 'he is appointed for men in the things pertaining to God, that he may offer gifts and sacrifices [e.g. the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass] for sins'. To him must come anyone who wishes to live the life of the Divine Redeemer and who desires to receive strength, comfort and nourishment for his soul; from him the salutary medicine must be sought by anyone who wishes to rise from sin and lead a good life. Hence all priests may apply to themselves with full right the words of the Apostle of the Gentiles: 'We are God's helpers'. This lofty dignity demands from priests that they react to their exalted office with the strictest fidelity. Since they are destined to promote the glory of God on earth and to cherish and increase the Mystical Body of Christ, they must be outstanding by the sanctity of their lives in order that through them the 'fragrance of Christ' may be spread everywhere." (Pope Pius XII, "Menti Nostrae", 1950 A.D.)


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