A small number of blog readers, one in particular, likes to maintain that after the life, death, and Ressurection of Jesus, a priesthood is no longer necessary.
That is a position I FUNDAMENTALLY DISAGREE WITH!
FROM THE CATHOLIC POSITION
“A friend of mine who belongs to an evangelical Church was asking me about the Mass. She read a quote from Hebrews, which seemed to say that the Mass could not be a sacrifice. Can you help me in this matter?”
The quote in question probably comes from chapter 9 of the Letter to the Hebrews, which addresses the sacrifice of Jesus. Verses 25-28 read, “Not that [Christ] might offer Himself there again and again, as the high priest enters year after year into the sanctuary with blood that is not his own; if that were so He would have had to suffer death over and over from the creation of the world. But now He has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sins once for all by His sacrifice. Just as it is appointed that men die once, and after death be judged, so Christ was offered up once to take away the sins of many; He will appear a second time not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await Him.” Perhaps, your friend may also be thinking of Hebrews 7:27: “Unlike the other high priests, [Jesus] has no need 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.” To isolate these verses from the rest of Sacred Scripture and simply take them for face value would lead one to conclude that there could be no other sacrifice — Christ sacrificed Himself, it is over and done with, and that is it period. Such a view is myopic, to say the least.
Please note that in no way do we as Catholics believe that Christ continues to be crucified physically or die a physical death in Heaven over and over again. However, we do believe that the Mass does participate in the everlasting sacrifice of Christ. First, one must not separate the sacrifice of our Lord on the cross from the events which surround it. The sacrifice of our Lord is inseparably linked to the Last Supper. Here Jesus took bread and wine. Looking to St. Matthew’s text (26:26ff), He said over the bread, “Take this and eat it. This is my body”; and over the cup of wine, “This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, to be poured out in behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” The next day, on Good Friday, our Lord’s body hung on the altar of the cross and His precious blood was spilt to wash away our sins and seal the everlasting, perfect covenant. The divine life our Lord offered and shared for our salvation in the sacrifice of Good Friday is the same offered and shared at the Last Supper. The Last Supper, the sacrifice of Good Friday, and the resurrection on Easter form one saving event.
Second, one must broaden our understanding of time. One must distinguish chronological time from kairotic time as found in Sacred Scripture. In the Bible, chronos refers to chronological time– past, present, and future– specific deeds which have an end point. Kairos or kairotic time refers to God’s eternal time, time of the present moment which recapitulates the entire past as well as contains the entire future. Therefore, while our Lord’s saving event occurred chronologically about the year 33 AD, in the kairotic sense of time it is an everpresent reality which touches our lives here and now. In the same sense, this is why through Baptism we share now in the mystery of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection, a chronological event that happened almost 1,967 years ago but is still efficacious for us today.
The Mass therefore is a memorial. In each of the Eucharistic Prayers, the anamnesis or memorial follows the words of consecration, whereby we call to mind the passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord. However, this memorial is not simply a recollection of past history in chronological time, but rather a liturgical proclamation of living history, of an event that continues to live and touch our lives now in that sense of kairotic time. Just as good orthodox Jews truly live the Passover event when celebrating the Passover liturgy, plunging themselves into an event which occurred about 1200 years before our Lord, we too live Christ’s saving event in celebrating the Mass. The sacrifice which Christ offered for our salvation remains an everpresent reality: “As often as the sacrifice of the cross by which ‘Christ our Pasch is sacrificed’ is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, No. 3). Therefore, the Catholic Catechism asserts, “The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit” (No. 1366).
Very often, the Protestant or Evangelical position is a total misunderstanding of the actual Catholic position.
Catholics actually believe that the Mass is a PARTICIPATION in the once for all sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and a living MEMORIAL of it.
It is clear from the New Testament that Christ did call 12 disciples / apostles to a specific mission – to go out and be preachers, teachers, and baptisers of all the world.
These disciples were distinct from His other followers.
WHEN “DISCIPLES” BECAME “PRIESTS”.
The word priest is ultimately derived from Latin via Greek – presbyter.
The regular Latin word for priests was sacerdos.
With the spread of Christianity, that word was applied to bishops and not priests. Later, it applied to priests.
WHEN “PRIESTS” BECAME “CLERICS”.
The word priest was used a long time before the word cleric.
Cleric is a complicated word and represents the development of church structures, church laws, and a separate “caste” in church circles. And hence we talk about the clericalisation of the Church.
I have been a priest for going on 47 years abd 6 years before that in seminary.
I view priesthood as:
1. To lead a community in prayer, faith, and knowledge and to celebrate the Mass and Sacraments for the community.
2. To be a pastor. The word “pastor” comes from the word “shepherd.
In practice, that means to be always with the sheep, watching over them, protecting them from harm, and seeing to their all their needs.
I’ll give you an example of what I mean.
From 1978 to 1983, I was a priest at Divis Flats and the lower Falls Road.
It was at a time of great violence and chaos. Everybody was in great danger 24 / 7.
Every night at midnight, I used to walk around the whole perimeter of the parish – up the Falls Road, down the Grosvenor Road, along Durham Street, and back up Divis Street to the presbytery.
I was only 26 – 31, but I felt a father or big brother’s love for my people.
Since 1986 – 36 years now , I have been able to continue that style of priesthood precisely because I have not been in the clerical club.
The Church is supposed to lead people to Christ.
But the Church and many priests in it have become a massive road block on the way to Christ 😞