The Order of Melchisedech
Roman Catholic Books
A New Edition of Michael Davies’ The Order of Melchisedech
And a new Introduction by Rev. Gerald E. Murray, JCD, the EWTN comentator and pastor of the Church of the Holy Family, the “U.N. Parish,” in New York City
I first became aware of this book by reading a review of it when I was in college with plans to enter the seminary upon graduation in 1980. I ordered it and still remember vividly picking up the package at the college post office, and reading it with great interest. Davies’ book taught me a fundamental truth that I had never clearly and thoroughly grasped in my years of Catholic elementary and secondary education: the essence of the Catholic priesthood is found in the power to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the renewal of Christ’s own perfect sacrifice at Calvary. The priest is ordained to sacrifice—his whole life is centered upon Christ in a supernatural relationship in which he sacramentally offers the sacrifice that Christ Himself offered once for all on Good Friday.
As I was getting ready to enter the seminary this new insight into the precise nature of the priestly calling was invigorating and inspiring. The priest is called upon to form his self-understanding not from commonplace or popular notions of what a priest is supposed to be or do. External activities of all sorts are required of the Catholic priest, but his raison d’etre is of a higher order than his mere accomplishment of various duties. The priest offers to God what Christ offered, which is Christ himself, in the sacrament renewal of his Oblation for the salvation of men. The priest is an essential link in the divine economy of salvation. Christ the Great High Priest ordained the Apostles as his first priests and commanded them at the Last Supper to “do this in memory of Me.” They in turn ordained other men to carry on this mission, and so forth down to our own day.
As a soon-to-be college graduate, learning clearly the nature of what I sought as my life’s work, namely the priesthood, was a gift I received from reading this book. I told Michael Davies years later, when I had the pleasure of meeting him through the kindness of publisher Roger McCaffrey, how much his book meant to me. He replied that a number of other priests told him the same thing.
Davies’ analyses of various innovations in ritual, and of currents of theological speculation carried out following the Second Vatican Council, remains useful for our understanding the current situation in the Church. Among the many crises we are still experiencing in the Church, the crisis of priestly life and identity remains a serious concern for all Catholics. Recent controversies about value of the Church’s discipline of priestly celibacy in the Latin Rite reveal the need to highlight once again that the priest is sacramentally ordained to be Christ among us. His identity is given to him at his ordination. The priest is, as it were, a living icon of Christ the Priest. His life and work must be centered upon the reverent offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. All else in his activity flows from, and harkens back to, this great mystery of Christ’s victory over sin and death at Calvary, sacramentally made present in our own time by the priest who renews that same sacrifice in a unbloody manner in the Mass.
Michael Davies, a convert to the Catholic Faith, was an indefatigable defender of the Faith he had embraced as true. Truth was all that mattered to him in his discovery of God’s revelation to his creatures. I am grateful that his defense of that truth included this excellent work in defense of the holy priesthood against the errors and omissions of our day.
It was especially gratifying that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger saw this quality in author Davies, when he said in 2004:
“I have been profoundly touched by the news of the death of Michael Davies. I had the good fortune to meet him several times and I found him a man of deep faith and ready to embrace suffering. Ever since the Council he put all his energy into the service of the Faith and left us important publica- tions especially about the Sacred Liturgy. Even though he suffered from the Church in many ways in his time, he always truly remained a man of the Church. He knew that the Lord founded His Church on the rock of St. Peter and that the Faith can find its fullness and maturity only in union with the successor of St. Peter. Therefore we can be con- fident that the Lord opened wide for him the gates of heaven. We commend his soul to the Lord’s mercy.”
I am grateful as well to Roman Catholic Books for re-publishing Michael Davies’ book. I am sure you will share that sentiment as you read this excellent defense of the Church’s doctrine against various errors that had great currency in the period immediately following the Second Vatican Council, and are, in fact, still with us.
Praise for the first edition of The Order of Melchisedech:
“I most heartily recommend this book as a necessary and most valuable corrective to the false ecumenism of our times and a veritable goldmine as an historical study in the controversy surrounding the true doctrine of the Blessed Eucharist and an ordained priesthood. Those who are perturbed and perplexed by recent happenings in the ecumenical field will find, in this profound work, consolation and certainty in their faith, and abundant argumentation to refute...new breed theologians who emasculate and at times deny true doctrine....”
— The late Bishop Bernard D. Stewart of Sandhurst, Australia
“He has some important things to say, which should be pondered by Catholics generally—not least by bishops, theologians, and liturgiologists. Time after time Mr. Davies brings into the open questionable tendencies, reforms gone awry, and areas of theological confusion within the Church....”
— Christian Order
“While negating false positions and pointing to obscurities, Davies has rendered a valuable service in firmly outlining the nature of the Sacrament of Orders. This alone would put his book at the top of a list of recommended readings....”
— Paul Hallett, National Catholic Register
“A scholarly yet exhilarating gallop through the origins and history of the priesthood...very sound and wellresearched....”
— Christopher Monkton, The Universe