Priesthood and touching the Body of Christ

This Sunday within the Octave of Corpus Christi, let us reflect on the priesthood and the Blessed Sacrament, by looking at two post-Resurrection episodes in Holy Writ. First, when Christ, risen from the tomb, met Mary Magdalene, He forbade her from touching Him. “Touch Me not,” said He. Second, when Christ appeared to His disciples again, Thomas being present, He bade Thomas put his finger into His wounds. “Put in thy finger hither, and see My hands; and bring hither thy hand, and put it into My side; and be not faithless, but believing,” said the Lord. While theologians sometimes juxtapose these two instances to expound the mystery of faith, we can read these two episodes under a different light.

Явление Христа Марии Магдалине после воскресения | Алексaндр Андрeевич Ивaнов | 1835

Holy Mother Church ranks Mary Magdalene amongst the Lord’s disciples, according her an honour more sublime than the rest. The West calls her the Apostola Apostolorum, the Apostle of the Apostles. The East calls her Ἰσαπόστολος, an Equal to the Apostles. While Mary Magdalene received the privilege of being the first of all Christ’s disciples Holy Writ recorded to have met and conversed with the risen Lord, she didn’t receive the honour of touching the Lord’s risen Body. The privilege alone belonged to the apostles. The Lord did not raise Mary Magdalene to the ministerial priesthood, and He commanded her not to touch Him. On the other hand, the Lord did indeed raise Thomas to the ministerial priesthood, and so He instructed him to touch the living marks of the Passion on His risen Body. Here we can see why Holy Mother Church cannot go beyond what the Lord had done, and that is to admit women into sacred orders.

Incredulità di san Tommaso | Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio | 1601–1602

While Mary Magdalene did not receive the ministerial priesthood, she, of course, shared in our common priesthood. For all intents and purposes, she was laywoman, a holy laywoman. When this sinks in, terror must then possess us whenever, unworthy as we are, an ordained minister invites us to touch the consecrated species. Our unconsecrated and unanointed hands must never touch the Most Holy Body of the Lord. Such an honour was denied even from one who watched the salvation of mankind unfold on Calvary, who stood under the Cross as the Lord hung from its gibbet, witnessed His burial, and brought myrrh on the first day of the week after to properly anoint His Body. We must always remember His command to this holy laywoman whom the Church honours as Equal to the Apostles and as the Apostle of the Apostles: “Touch Me not!”

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.