Christ: The Eternal Priest

“Those priests were many because they were prevented by death from remaining in office, but he, because he remains forever, has a priesthood that does not pass away. Therefore, he is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them.
It was fitting that we should have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens. He has no need, as did the high priests, to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did that once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints men subject to weakness to be high priests, but the word of the oath, which was taken after the law, appoints a son, who has been made perfect forever.” (Hebrews 7:23-28)

Christ, The Highest Priest, is precisely whom the human race requires, holy and sinless, installed far above humans and angels; one having no need to offer sacrifice daily for sins, like the high priests of the Old Testament, but making a single offering of Himself once for all on His cross.

“At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of his Body and Blood. He did this to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the centuries until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and Resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is consumed, the soul is filled with Grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.”

“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’” (Luke 22:19). The writings of Paul and John reflect belief in the Real Presence.

The Church teaches that the Mass is the re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary. Yet, it is more than just a memorial service. John A. O’Brien, writing in The Faith of Millions, said: “The manner in which the sacrifices are offered is alone different. On the cross Christ really shed his blood and was really slain; in the Mass, there is no real shedding of blood, no real death; but the separate consecration of the bread and of the wine symbolizes the separation of the body and blood of Christ and thus symbolizes his death upon the cross. The Mass is the renewal and perpetuation of the sacrifice of the cross in the sense that it offers [Jesus] anew to God . . . and thus commemorates the sacrifice of the cross, reenacts it symbolically and mystically, and applies the fruits of Christ’s death upon the cross to individual human souls.

The Catholic Church specifically says Christ does not die again—his death is once for all. Through his intercessory ministry in heaven and through the Mass, Jesus continues to offer himself to his Father as a living sacrifice.

The Old Testament predicted that Christ would offer a true sacrifice to God using the elements of bread and wine. In Genesis 14:18, Melchizedek, priest and king of Salem, actual Jerusalem, offered sacrifice under the form of bread and wine. Psalm 110 predicted Christ would be a priest “after the order of Melchizedek,” offering a sacrifice in bread and wine. We must look for some sacrifice other than Calvary, since it was not under the form of bread and wine, and the Mass meets that need.

What Jesus did in the past is present to God now, and God can make the sacrifice of Calvary present to us at Mass. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).

Jesus does not offer himself to God as a bloody, dying sacrifice in the Mass, but as we offer ourselves, a “living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1). As this passage indicates, the offering of sacrifice does not require death or the shedding of blood. If it did, we could not offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God. Jesus, having shed his blood once for all on the cross, now offers himself to God in a continually holy, living sacrifice on our Intercession.

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