In the first reading Paul told his disciple Timothy to make use of the gifts that were his from the “Imposition of hands by the presbyterate.” To us Catholics that sounds as though Paul was speaking of Timothy’s ordination as a priest. The “presbyterate” refers to the full group of presbyters, but the question remains as to who the presbyters were.
Many English translations of the New Testament prefer translating presbyter as an “elder,” rather than as a “priest”; but in favor of seeing it as a priest is the fact that Webster tells us that our word priest is a contraction of presbyter.
Going further back on the word presbyter, we see that it is derived from an Indo-European word for an “ox.” A “pres-byt” would be a lead ox. That tells us that a true priest should be out in front, teaching younger oxen how to pull the load. He shouldn’t be the gentleman swinging the whip.
At a priestly ordination all the priests present, the whole presbyterate, puts hands on the priestly candidate. The symbolism of imposing the hands is that all the powers in the older man is thought of as passing down his arms into the new man.
Our belief in the efficacy of the Sacrament of Holy Orders has us believing, that with God’s blessing, it passes on something of what the older priests had learned along the way.