Several objects are always in the sanctuary of a Catholic church building: the presider’s chair, the ambo or pulpit, and the altar. While the chair rightly seems the least important of those items, it still has a place of importance.
The central position of the chair for the priest or bishop who presides at Mass says something about his relationship with the congregation. He is, of course, a member of the congregation and, with the congregation, is part of the celebration.
But his role in the celebration is unique because, in the name of Jesus, he is calling the congregation together to enter into worship. His role does more than preserve order as the Eucharistic actions unfold. He represents his congregation, speaking on behalf of them, even as he represents Christ.
For most of the Mass, the presider is calling out to God, giving voice to the sentiments, hopes, and prayers of his people. His phrase, “Let us pray,” draws the attention of all present, even as he directs the attention of the congregation to God. The brief pause at the beginning of the prayer, and his solemn recitation, give time for the congregation to unite itself with his words.
Most priests who have served a long time in a parish come to know their parishioners very well. As they look out on their congregations, the stories of various parishioners, their crises, their strivings, their particular joys and pains, have found a place in the priests’ hearts. They carry, sum up, and represent in themselves the people they serve in the name of Jesus.
The presider’s chair is hardly a throne. Its place of honor reflects the honor of God’s people, called into relationship with Christ, represented by the priest. That chair will have even more honor as the priest becomes more like Christ, more the parish’s servant.
When you go into a church building, what are the things you notice?
Try to find some way to show support and affirmation for your pastor and parish priests. This may be done by a personal word, by a short letter or card, or by offering some particular help to ease his life.
Lord, I thank you for the priests you have sent into my life, and for the ways in which they have often stretched themselves to be of service to others. I pray for their endurance and perseverance. I pray, too, that more men and women will find in their hearts the generosity to respond to your call to give themselves in service and love to your people and your Church.
READINGS FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT
Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; Psalm 27:1,7-8,8-9, 13-14; Philippians 3:17-4:1 Luke: 9:28b-36
PSALM RESPONSE: The Lord is my light and my salvation