By H.G. Dr Geevarghese Mar Osthathios
The Old Testament priesthood with bloody sacrifice ended with Jesus Christ and became the New Testament priesthood without bloody sacrifice. Christ is the end of the Law and the beginning of the Gospel. His own sacrifice with His own blood was accepted by the Father as the one and only sacrifice for the sins of the whole world and the same sacrifice of Calvary is perpetuated and continued in the Holy Eucharist in the Church.
The Holy Eucharist is not any new sacrifice, nor the repetition of the sacrifice of Calvary, but the continuation of the Unique sacrifice of the eternal Son of God. The Epistle to the Hebrews develops this theme of the eternal priesthood of Christ according to the order of Melchizedec and the all sufficiency of His Sacrifice. St. Paul says that Christ, our paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed. (I Cor. 5: 7). Those who agree that Christ is priest, prophet, and king will have to agree that when the Holy Spirit was breathed on the apostles with the words, "As my Father has sent me, even so I send you" (Jn. 20: 22), He sent His apostles as priests, prophets, and kings. The Paschal Lamb slain once for all must be eaten till He comes again and so the same sacrifice must continue till His parousia. To St. Paul, even mission to the Gentiles was 'the priestly service of the Gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit' (I Cor. 1: 16). The Didache, the teaching of the Twelve Apostles, (2nd century A. D.) makes special mention of the 'high priests.'
It is strange to think that Christ, the Head, is the High priest and that the Church, the body, has no priesthood. The Church which is called by St. Peter, 'the royal priesthood' (I Pet. 2: 9) is the continuation of the Old Israel with new meaning put into the concept of priesthood by the Lord of the Church. The general priesthood of the faithful will be lost if there is no special priesthood in the church as it has happened to the fundamental groups and sects. Priesthood in the Church is meaningful as the Holy Eucharist is a continuing sacrifice because there is no priesthood if there is no sacrifice.
The priesthood of Christ is interceding before the Father in heaven and the priesthood in the Church is interceding to the Father on earth for the members of the church and the whole world. The crucified and risen Christ is manifesting His own priesthood through the apostles just as the brain is functioning through the Central Nervous System. The Holy Spirit is the chief functionary of priesthood in the Church as the Heart in the Body. If this analogy is taken seriously, the special priesthood is like the arteries and the veins for the purification of the body and the life of the body. Jesus Christ has not ended with death and priesthood did not end with the historic Jesus. (Read Hebrews 5 - 7; Jn. 17; Rev. 13: 8; St. Cyprian's Epistle 61)
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