Rorate Caeli

Eucharist - Passion - Sacrifice - Priesthood
Body - Blood - Soul - Divinity

A masterful lesson of our Pope on the Feast of Corpus Christi:
Dear brothers and sisters!

The priesthood of the New Testament is closely tied to the Eucharist. Today, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi and near the end of the Priestly Year, we are invited to meditate on the relationship between the Eucharist and the priesthood of Christ. ... It is the joy of community, the joy of the whole Church, which, contemplating and adoring the Blessed Sacrament, recognizes the real and permanent presence of Jesus the Eternal High Priest.


The first thing that is always to be kept in mind is that Jesus was not a priest according to Jewish tradition. His was not a priestly family. He did not belong to the descendants of Aaron, but of Judah, and he was therefore legally precluded from the priesthood. The person and activity of Jesus of Nazareth do not find themselves in the way of ancient priests, but rather in that of prophets – and in this line, distanced himself from a ritual conception of religion, criticizing the approach that gave value to human precepts tide to ritual purity rather than observing the commandments of God, that is, to that love for God and neighbour, which is "worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices" (Mark 12:33).

Even within the Temple of Jerusalem, the sacred place par excellence, Jesus performed a purely prophetic act when he chased the money changers and sellers of animals, all of which were used for the traditional offering of sacrifices. So Jesus is not recognized as a priestly Messiah, but prophetic and royal. Even his death, which we Christians rightly call "sacrifice", had nothing of the ancient sacrifices. Indeed, was the opposite: a most infamous death, by crucifixion, which took place outside the walls of Jerusalem.

In what sense, then, is Jesus a priest? The Eucharist gives us the precise answer. We can begin, again, from those simple words that describe Melchizedek: "He offered bread and wine" (Genesis 14:18). That is what Jesus did at the Last Supper: he offered bread and wine, and in that gesture summed up His whole self and his whole mission. In that act, in the prayer that precedes it and the words that accompany it, there is the whole sense of the mystery of Christ, as the Epistle to the Hebrews expresses in a decisive step that must be mentioned: "In the days of His earthly life,” the author writes, referring to Jesus, “He offered up prayers and supplications, with powerful cries and tears to God who could save Him from death, and, because of his complete abandonment to God, His prayers were heard and answered. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek."(5.8 to 10). In this text, which clearly alludes to the spiritual agony of Gethsemane, the passion of Christ is presented as a prayer and an offering. Jesus faces His "hour", which leads to death on a cross, immersed in profound prayer, which consists of the union of his own will with the Father. This dual and single will is a will of love. Lived in this prayer, the tragic proof that Jesus addresses is turned into an offering, a living sacrifice.

The Letter to the Hebrews says that Jesus "was heard." In what sense? In the sense that God the Father freed Him from death and raised Him. He was heard precisely because of his complete abandonment to the will of the Father: God’s loving plan was able perfectly to fulfil itself in Jesus, who, having obeyed even unto death on the cross, is become the "cause of salvation" for all those who obey Him. He is become the high priest himself, having taken upon himself all the sin of the world, as the "Lamb of God." It is the Father who gives this priesthood to Him at the very moment in which Jesus goes through the passage of his death and resurrection. It is not a priesthood according to the order of the Mosaic Law (cf. Lev 8-9), but "according to the order of Melchizedek" – according to a prophetic order, dependent only on its unique relationship with God.

Let us return to the expression of the Letter to the Hebrews, which says: "Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered." The priesthood of Christ involves suffering. Jesus really suffered, and He did so for us. He was the son and did not need to learn obedience to God, but we do: we always have and we always will.

For this reason the Son assumed our humanity and allowed Himself to be “educated” in the crucible of suffering, allowed himself to be transformed by it, like the grain of wheat, which in order to bear fruit, must die in the ground. Through this process, Jesus was "made perfect" in Greek teleiotheis. We must pause over this term because it is very significant. It shows the culmination of a journey, one that is precisely the the Son of God’s path of education and transformation by suffering through the painful passion. It is owing to this transformation that Jesus Christ has become "high priest" and can save all who trust Him. The term, teleiotheis, correctly translated as "made perfect", belongs to a verbal root, which, in the Greek version of the Pentateuch, i.e. the first five books of the Bible, is always used to indicate the consecration of the ancient priests. This discovery is very important because it tells us that the passion was for Jesus as a priestly consecration. He was not a priest according to the Law, but He became so existentially, in His in its paschal passion, death and resurrection, He offered Himself in atonement – and the Father, exalting Him above all creatures, constituted Him universal Mediator of salvation.

We now return, in our meditation, to the Eucharist, which will soon be at the centre of our liturgical assembly and subsequent solemn procession. In it, Jesus anticipated his sacrifice, not a ritual sacrifice, but a personal one. Jesus, in the Last Supper, moved by the "eternal spirit" with which He will then offer Himself on the Cross (cf. Heb 9:14), acts. Giving thanks and praise, Jesus transforms the bread and wine. It is Divine love, which transforms: the love with which Jesus accepts in advance the act of giving all of Himself to us. This love is nothing but the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and the Son, which consecrates the bread and wine, and changes their substance into the Body and Blood of the Lord, making present in the Sacrament the same sacrifice that takes place cruelly on the Cross.

We may therefore conclude that Christ was the real and effective priest, because he was full of the strength of the Holy Spirit, was filled with the fullness of God's love, and this, precisely, "in the night he was betrayed," precisely in the “hour of darkness"(cf. Lk 22:53). It is this divine power, the same power that realized the Incarnation of the Word, which transforms the extreme violence and extreme injustice into the supreme act of love and justice.

This is the work of the priesthood of Christ, which the Church has inherited and carried through history, in the twofold form of the common priesthood of the baptized and that of ordained ministers, in order to transform the world with the love of God. Everyone, priests and lay faithful alike, are nourished by the same Eucharist, we all prostrate ourselves in adoration, for the Eucharist is present our Master and Lord, the true Body of Christ, Priest and Victim, the Salvation of the world.

Come, let us exult with songs of joy! Come let us adore Him! Amen.
Benedict XVI
Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior and of
Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist in the Lateran

[Translation provided by Radio Vaticana; compared with original text]


Anonymous said...

I thought that it was masterly, not "masterful". The latter propertly means 'commanding'.


New Catholic said...

"Usage Note: According to a widely repeated dictum, masterful should be reserved for the sense 'imperious, domineering' (as in a masterful tone of voice), whereas masterly should be the choice when the intended sense is 'having the skill of a master' (as in a masterly performance of the sonata). The distinction can serve a useful purpose, but masterful in the latter sense has long been common in reputable writing and cannot be regarded as incorrect."

M. A. said...

"This is the work of the priesthood of Christ, which the Church has inherited and carried through history, in the twofold form of the common priesthood of the baptized and that of ordained ministers, in order to transform the world with the love of God...."

In view of the Year of the Priest, I started reading with the notion that Our Holy Father was going tie in the Feast of Corpus Christi with the ordained priesthood and their office of offering the Holy Victim....

Anonymous said...

New Catholic:

Sorry but it IS incorrect. The distinction between the two is useful and must therefore be preserved. Traditionalists are prescriptivists, not descriptivists. We do not ape the misusage of others and then claim that the misuage of the ignorant makes for correct form. Nor do we do that with the liturgy ....


New Catholic said...

I very much like mixed prescriptive-descriptive notes in dictionaries.


Anonymous said...

I thought that, according to tradition (little "t"), the father of the Blessed Virgin, Joachim, was a temple priest.

There is a long tradition connecting Mary to the Temple in Jersualem.

The Holy Father's comments seem to be an implicit rejection of that tradition. Can someone clarify?

New Catholic said...

No, he is considered to have been of the Royal House of David, therefore a member of the tribe of Judah.
You could be thinking of St. Zachary (Zacharias), father of the Baptist, who was a Levite and who was related to the Blessed Virgin by marriage (his wife St. Elizabeth being related by blood to the Virgin).

Anonymous said...

Vatican paper publishes article on Pope's view of Vatican II


So now I get clarity on what the Pope means by the two hermeneutics. The rupture is liberal junk. The continuity is reformed liberalism.

Not at all what I thought. To me this means the Traditional Church is toast. For shame.

What religion does this professor belong too?

Jordanes said...

The rupture is liberal junk. The continuity is reformed liberalism.

Your words, Anonymous, not the Pope's or Castellucci's.

To me this means the Traditional Church is toast.

The only "Traditional Church" that exists is the Catholic Church, which can never be "toast," no matter how bad things get. Don't be afraid, and don't worry.

Jordanes said...

There is a long tradition connecting Mary to the Temple in Jersualem.

The tradition to which you refer tells us that Sts. Joachim and Anne presented their daughter and only child Mary to the Temple priests, who accepted her as one of the virgin handmaidens of the Temple who are mentioned in Judges (the story of the near annihilation of the tribe of Benjamin, whose survivors were permitted to abduct and marry the young women who served at the Tabernacle in Shiloh) and I Kings (the story of Phinehas and Hophni, wicked sons of Eli the High Priest -- his sons defiled some of the Temple virgins).

But that tradition does not say that the Blessed Virgin or her parents were of the tribe of Levi or the family of Aaron. On the contrary, it affirms that St. Joachim was a man of the House of David, of the tribe of Judah, and not a priest at all.

John McFarland said...

The Holy Father begins by making reference to Corpus Christi and the Priestly Year, but then has very little to say about either the Eucharist as traditionally honored on Corpus Christi, or about the priesthood in the sense of the other Christs who confect the Eucharist. Rather, the focus is on an analysis of Our Lord's priesthood.

This analysis goes to some lengths to insist that the priesthood of Christ is not a "ritual" priesthood, even though the confection of the Eucharist at Mass is surely done by means of a ritual: "Et antiquum documentum/Novo cedat ritui." One also notes that a priest becomes a priest by the ordination ritual, and that the sacraments are administered by means of rituals.

The Holy Father's analysis also appeals to the Epistle to the Hebrews. In this connection, it would be interesting to compare the elements of the Epistle to which the Holy Father appeals, and the ones to which he does not appeal.

One element of the Epistle that the Holy Father does not appeal to is its emphasis on faith and on holding fast to faith. Indeed, the word "faith" does not appear in the homily.

At the end, the Holy Father draws the implications of his analysis as follows:

"This is the work of the priesthood of Christ, which the Church has inherited and carried through history, in the twofold form of the common priesthood of the baptized and that of ordained ministers, in order to transform the world with the love of God. Everyone, priests and lay faithful alike, are nourished by the same Eucharist, we all prostrate ourselves in adoration, for the Eucharist is present our Master and Lord, the true Body of Christ, Priest and Victim, the Salvation of the world."

The parity of the priesthood of the baptized and of ordained priests is quite striking.

Not only does not the Holy Father not speak of the ordained priest as he who confects the Eucharist, but rather speaks of him as he who, together with the rest of the priesthood, is nourished by the Eucharist.

So here weyou have a homily by the Holy Father towards the end of the Priestly Year, at the great feast of the Holy Eucharist, whose connection with the priesthood the Pope himself underlines. But in that homily the Pope apparently feels no need to to talk about the priest as priest beyond mentioning that there are ordained priests, nor any need to talk about priests in connection with the Eucharist beyond mentioning that they, too, are nourished by the Eucharist.

Is the Priestly Year then better described by the Pope's lights as the Year of the Priesthood of Christ and of All the Baptized?

John McFarland said...

Anonymous 15:21,

Apropos of ttp://

Father Castellucci's analysis doesn't strike me as much different from the Pope's.

If the Pope is not touting a proponent of a reformed liberalism, then what is he a proponent of?

Do you think that by reform he means what, say, St. Pius X or St. Pius V would mean by reform?

Ma Tucker said...

If I read this without knowing who the author was I would never have guessed it was written by Pope Benedict.

Anonymous said...

I'd just like to note here that our priests are the successors of the Temple priests, replacing the old sacrifice of animals with the new Offering of Christ. If we are attentive to the Pope's words, our priests are also successors of Christ as Priest but in the prophetical line. Hence our priests are priestly in two different senses. While the Pope does not emphasise the first sort of priesthood (and denies it for Christ Himself) in our priests, he never denies it either.

In this respect, I see no problems with the Pope's words. But I do tend to see other problems, as summed up here by Mr. McFarland.


Shandon Belle said...

The new issue of CHRISTVS REGNAT, a journal of Catholic heritage from Ireland, might be of interest to your readers. A link would be much appreciated:

Anonymous said...

"The parity of the priesthood of the baptized and of ordained priests is quite striking."

Mr. McFarland, it is without question that this implicit heresy you have so keenly uncovered with your theological acumen means that the faith is now founded upon you and not the office of Peter. However, lacking jurisdiction you have no Church -- unless, of course, you lay claim to the same parity the Holy Father did in his Corpus Christi homily. In which case, I will be over to your private residence for Mass.

Jordanes said...

Mr. McFarland never disappoints. It would have been surprising if he didn't attempt to sow the tares of doubting whether or not the Holy Father believes in the ontological distinctiveness of the ministerial priesthood.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, Jordanes. In fact, one wonders why Ratzinger became a priest himself if he could have been a layman enjoying the same parity as a priest in the form of a rock star or a Bavarian pub owner.

Lumen Gentium #31 and the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity are more than sufficient explanations for the Holy Father's remarks as are references from Sacred Scripture (1 Peter 2:4-10, for example).

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta was not a priest (non-ordained religious are technically and canonically lay persons), yet I doubt any Catholic would deny her remarkable example of living and spreading the Gospel by her words and actions. Unless, of course, you believe she was the poster saint for the counterfeit Church that has taken over the "true" Church -- or some other 7th Day Adventist tripe.