There are two meanings of the word mystery: the first, and more common, refers merely to something that is unknown, to something hidden. In this sense we say, for example, “a mystery movie.” The other meaning refers to the things that God reveals, indicating that the fullness of something is too vast for man to understand, even after it is revealed, like the mysteries of the Holy Trinity, the Incarnate Word, the Church, the Eucharist, and the Priesthood.
A. The Priesthood Is a Supernatural Mystery
In the first place, this is because the priest, just like every other man, is created in God’s image and likeness, born, baptized, and raised in a particular family, chosen, and called; from this it follows that only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light.
Secondly, in the priesthood there is additional election and another calling that is manifested in yet another sacrament: the sacrament of Holy Orders. It is here that we enter into the most profound sense of supernatural mystery.
Another Christ is made by the sacrament of Orders, one who is sacramentally identical with Christ Head and Pastor. We can, then, paraphrase the Council and say: only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of the priest take on light. Who can understand the mystery of the priesthood, a mystery that has a relation to the infinite Being of God? It surpasses the capacity of all created understandings, even if we were to gather them all together.
In spite of the fact that in our days everything is mixed up and upside-down (it suffices to think of how there are men who want to be women, women who want to be men, children who want to be old, old people who want to be young, sheep who want to be the shepherd, shepherds who want to be sheep; even among the animals themselves the sheep has never been seen whistling for the shepherd), it is still true that in the Mystical Body of Christ, all of us who are pastors are sheep with respect to the Head of the Shepherds, that is, Christ, the only Pastor of the Church.
B. The Priest Himself Is a Supernatural Mystery
The concept of communion was emphasized by the Second Vatican Council, and it is very proper for expressing the profound nucleus of the mystery of the Church. Just as there has been an insufficient understanding of the Church as a mystery of communion, so too has there been a misinterpretation of the priest as a man of communion. Why is this? It is because this concept of communion has not been integrated with the People of God (if it is a people, then it needs leaders) and with the Body of Christ (if it is a complete body, someone needs to be the head, and someone the body). It also comes from forgetting that even though the priest is “a man of communion” he is also the man of the sacrament of salvation.
C. The Priest Is the “Man of Communion”
The priest is the “man of communion,” that is, of personal union both with the Trinity and with other men.
Communion always implies two dimensions:
- Vertical: with God; and
- Horizontal: with men.
Moreover, this communion is both invisible and visible:
- Invisible: it is a communion with the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit, and with all other men who are participants in the divine nature, in Christ’s Passion, in the same faith, and of the same Spirit.
- Visible: communion in the doctrine of the Apostles, in the sacraments, and in an ordered hierarchy.
Within these double dimensions, there is an intimate and constitutive relationship between the Church as sacrament and the priest as minister of the essential salvific actions. The Incarnation is the source and the force that creates communion among the members of the Church because it unites each one of them to Christ Himself.
Dear brothers and sisters:
These newly-ordained priests have received tremendous powers over the Body of Christ: over His physical Body through the power to convert bread and wine into the Lord’s Body and Blood, and over His mystical body through the power to forgive sins.
The priesthood is a mystery even to them; right now they do not know what priestly profile the Lord chose for them, a profile that He will show them only in the future. They must continue to prepare themselves in order to know if God wants them to be come priests who are busied with caring for the poor, who are great preachers of popular missions, who are untiring confessors, who are dedicated to intellectual apostolates, or who are good leaders.
We place all of these things, and each one of these priests, in the hands of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Queen of Priests.
 Ecumenical Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, 22.
 Cf. Saint Augustine, Obras Completas, Madrid 1981, t. VII, 664.
 Congregation for the Clergy, The Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests, 7.
 John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, 18; Congregation for the Clergy, The Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests, 30.
 Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Churc on some aspects of the Church understood as Communion – Communionis notio, 3.
 Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Churc on some aspects of the Church understood as Communion – Communionis notio, 4.