Fota VIII International Liturgy Conference, Cork, Ireland, 4-6 July 2015


The eighth Fota International Liturgy Conference was opened this morning by His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke.

The initial session of the conference heard two papers on the scriptural aspects of the priesthood of Baptism. The papers were delivered by Fr. Joseph Briody, St. John’s Seminary, Brighton, Massachusetts, and by Professor Dieter Böhler, SJ, Philosophisch-Theologische Hochschule Sankt Georgen, Frankfurt.

Fr. Briody’s paper was entitled The priesthood as a central dimension of biblical revelation:an overview of the royal priesthood of the faithful in Sacred Scripture. In it, he emphasized that the priesthood is not a peripheral biblical theme but a central dimension of biblical revelation and gave an overview of the priesthood in Sacred Scripture, with emphasis on the royal priesthood shared by the people of God.

The paper illustrated that from the beginning man is presented as both priestly and kingly (Genesis 1-2). The priestly system, especially in Leviticus, was about relationship with the Lord and living in the presence of the Holy One. With the disappearance of the monarchy, the intercessory role of kings is taken over by the priests, and then, by all the people, especially in the praying of the royal psalms and transmission of the wisdom tradition. Later post-exilic times look to a messianic figure, both royal and priestly. Exodus 19:5-6 is examined in some detail since it provides the background for royal priestly texts in the New Testament.

The royal priesthood is what defines the relationship of Christians to God and is what manifests the lordship of the Lamb. Hebrews, 1 Peter and Revelation develop the royal priesthood imagery, indicating that man’s destiny is the holy priesthood around the throne of God in heaven. The Bible concludes with the New Jerusalem where there is no Temple because the Lord God and the Lamb are the Temple and all present there are priests. The communion with God, sought but unachieved by Old Testament sacrifice, is realised. The fulfilment of Christian life is in becoming “priests of God and of Christ.” The royal priesthood is in fact the key to the scroll that is history.

The Old Testament distinction between the priesthood shared by all the people and the divinely willed “ministerial priesthood” of the few is maintained and developed in the New Testament.

Professor Böhler’s paper, entitled A Kingdom of Priests" (Ex 19:6). Priesthood and Royalty of God's People in the Old (MT, LXX, Tg) and New Testament compared the Hebrew Text of Ex 19:6 with its Greek and Aramaic versions (Septuagint respectively Targum) and investigated how the First Letter of Peter in 1Pet 2:5,9 adopts the Greek version of the text, while St John’s Revelation seems to follow a kind of Targumic reading.

The Hebrew text calls Israel “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”. This double expression most probably does not mean two synonyms, but, rather, two complementary entities which together form a whole: namely a priestly government for a sacred people. The Greek translation however interprets the Hebrew text in the sense of three synonyms: Israel is to be for God “a kingdom”, where God is king, “a priesthood”, probably mediating between God and the nations, and “a sacred people”. The priestly government of the Hebrew text has become in the Septuagint a priesthood of all Israel as a whole towards humanity. In the New Testament, 1Pet 2:5,9 takes over the Old Testament expression in its Greek form and more or less with the sense the Septuagint had given it.

The Aramaic versions of the Old Testament interpret Ex 19:6 as attributing to the Israelites the dignities of kings and priests. This kingship then is not God’s any more over Israel, but a dignity of the Israelites over the nations. Israel’s priesthood as well becomes in the Targum a dignity of the individual Israelites. It is more or less in this sense that John’s Revelation in 1:6; 5:10 and 20:6 takes over the Old Testament idea of Ex 19:6.

Both papers were followed by lengthy discussions moderated by His Eminence George Cardinal Pell.