Their identity at the altar should be seamlessly linked to a manifestly holy identity in daily life. As we noted, Yves Congar played a major role in preparing Vatican II’s decree on the ministry and life of priests. Writing shortly after the Council closed, he ﬁrmly set out the selfgiving that the Eucharist requires from priests and people: ‘The Eucharist of the New Testament is not a rite that could exist apart from our giving ourselves to God and to one another, in order to form one body of sacriﬁce in Jesus Christ, who was delivered for us.’ He drew the logical conclusion: ‘However beautiful, ritually, the celebration may be, if it does not include the effective spiritual sacriﬁce of human beings [it] is not really and truly the sacriﬁce of the New Testament.’ In the same vein, Congar added: ‘we do not discharge our duty to God by offering him in sacriﬁce “some thing”, however precious or costly, if it is anything, or even everything, except our selves.’ For ‘the one thing God desires from us’ is ‘our heart, our selves, living persons made in his image’.12
12 Y. Congar, Priest and Layman, trans. P. J. Hepburne Scott (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1967), 79 80, 92 3; trans. corrected.
Congar put his ﬁnger here on the persistent temptation for priests to indulge and be satisﬁed with ritualism. Gestures, words, and what accompanies them can become more important than interior devotion and loving service to others. In the New Testament and the works of early Christian writers, ‘liturgy (leitourgia)’ referred both to Christian worship and to the obligation to meet the material needs of others. The double usage of this term suggests the essential bond between worship and social action through the service of the needy and suffering.13