Skip to comments.On Earth as It Is in Heaven: According to the Order of Melchizedek
Posted on 09/20/2005 7:33:37 AM PDT by NYer
The Better Promises
The Letter to the Hebrews teaches that Jesuss Ascension was necessary to complete Gods saving plan, which included our Lords perfecting the Day of Atonement sacrifices by entering a sanctuary not made with human hands, a heavenly sanctuary, to atone for the worlds sins (Heb 9:24, 10:12).
The Letter to the Hebrews elaborates on the inadequacy of the Old Covenant offerings, referring to both the daily Tamid offerings and the annual Day of Atonement sacrifices. Paul teaches that Israels need to slaughter and offer new animals every day (cf. Heb 7:27) and every year (cf. Heb 9:25) illustrates the sacrificial ineffectiveness of these sin offerings and points toward their heavenly perfection by Christ in the New Covenant:
[The priests of the Temple] serve [in] a copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary; for when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, See that you make everything according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain [Ex 25:40]. But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry which is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant He mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second. (Heb 8:5-7; cf. 10:1-5, 11)
The Day of Atonement
Jesus completes His Sacrifice and perfects the Day of Atonement offerings when He, the high priest of the New Covenant, ascends to the ultimate holy of holies, into heaven itself (Heb 9:24), to offer Himself to the Father on our behalf: [H]e entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves, but His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption (Heb 9:11-12). Only in ascending can Jesus take His throne and fully inaugurate His kingdom (Catechism, no. 664; cf. no. 1076). Citing our Lords words recorded in Johns Gospel, the Catechism provides,
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself" [12:32]. The lifting up of Jesus on the Cross signifies and announces His lifting up by His Ascension into heaven, and indeed begins it. (no. 662)Jesus thus conveys that the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension are distinct but inseparable aspects of His one, triumphant Sacrifice of Calvary, His Paschal Mystery.
Making Heaven a Place on Earth
Through the New Covenant Passover ordinance of the Mass, Jesus enables the Church to make present the never-ending Sacrifice of Calvary completed. As He was designated a priest forever according to Melchizedek, so Jesus designates men, beginning with His Apostles, to act in persona Christi (in the Person of Christ), as New Covenant priests (cf. Catechism, no. 1548). The Churchs priests celebrate the Mass as the Passover ordinance transformed and fulfilled, making present, offering up and consuming the timeless sacrifice of the Lamb of God under the Melchizedekian signs of bread and wine, just as Christ did and designated at the Last Supper.
As the Catechism, no. 662 provides, As high priest of the good things to come he is the center and principal actor of the liturgy that honors the Father in heaven" [Heb 9:11; cf. Rv 4:6-11]. Jesus not only fulfills His Fathers will in heaven, but, living up to the Lords Prayer, on earth as in heaven through His priests, beginning with the Apostles.
(Ultimately, though, earth is fulfilled by being drawn up to heaven. That is, while Scripture describes Jesus as a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek, forever only means until the end of time in one sense, for in heaven the sacramental veils of bread and wine will give way to face-to-face communion with our beloved Lord (cf. 1 Cor 13:12). Yet, in a more important sense, Jesus perfects the priesthood of Melchizedek in heaven, because in the heavenly sanctuary he continues a priest for ever (Heb. 7:3), i.e., for all eternity.)
The general Protestant rejoinder to these various Catholic arguments is that Christs sacrifice and associated salvific work were completed with His death and Resurrection. Thus, the Mass cannot be a sacrifice in any sense. For those Christians who do not believe in the Mass, Catholics should charitably ask some questions.
The Church teaches that bread and wine are the signature, sacrificial matter of a Melchizedekian priesthood, citing, among other evidence, Genesis 14:18 and Christs use of bread and wine at the Last Supper. If bread and wine are not such matter, what are the distinguishing features of a Melchizedekian sacrifice, particularly regarding Christs once-for-all Sacrifice of Calvary? That is, given what the Letter to the Hebrews provides in 5:8-10, how is Christs Melchizedekian priesthood associated with His being the source of eternal salvation?
In addition, because Jesus holds His priesthood permanently, in what way does He continue to make intercession for us in a distinctively Melchizedekian manner if not through the sacramental re-presentation of His one Sacrifice at Mass? Remember, a priest is primarily appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest to have something to offer (Heb 8:3, emphasis added), and He must do so in a Melchizedekian manner.
Further, if the Mass has no biblical basis, how has the Melchizedekian priesthood fulfilled the levitical priesthood? (cf. Heb 7:11-12).
And, if there are no New Covenant priests serving the Father in and with Christ on earth, how did God fulfill Malachi 3:3 and purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present[ed] right offerings to the Lord (cf. Jer 33:17-18)?
Finally, if not the Mass, what is the pure offering that is offered among the nations on an apparently daily basis, from the rising of the sun to its setting? (Mal 1:11).
In contrast, the Catholic celebration of the Mass makes biblical and historical sense of the interdependent themes of 1) the transformed Passover ordinance, in which Jesus both pre-presented and anticipated His Communion Sacrifice at the Last Supper; 2) His completed Sacrifice of Calvary, i.e., completed in everlasting glory at the Ascension, thereby enabling His work of redemption/atonement to continue both in heaven and on earth; and 3) Christs service as a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek, which Scripture reveals is enacted in light of His becoming the source of eternal salvation through the same Sacrifice of Calvary, and which the Church re-presents under the Melchizedekian appearances of bread and wine at every Mass, just as Jesus commanded.
Scott Hahn¹s The Lamb's Supper - The Mass as Heaven on Earth.
Foreword by Fr. Benedict Groeschel.
Part One - The Gift of the Mass
Hahn begins by describing the first mass he ever attended.
"There I stood, a man incognito, a Protestant minister in plainclothers, slipping into the back of a Catholic chapel in Milwaukee to witness my first Mass. Curiosity had driven me there, and I still didn't feel sure that it was healthy curiosity. Studying the writings of the earliest Christians, I'd found countless references to "the liturgy," "the Eucharist," "the sacrifice." For those first Christians, the Bible - the book I loved above all - was incomprehensible apart from the event that today's Catholics called "the Mass."
"I wanted to understand the early Christians; yet I'd had no experience of liturgy. So I persuaded myself to go and see, as a sort of academic exercise, but vowing all along that I would neither kneel nor take part in idolatry."
I took my seat in the shadows, in a pew at the very back of that basement chapel. Before me were a goodly number of worshipers, men and women of all ages. Their genuflections impressed me, as did their apparent concentration in prayer. Then a bell rang, and they all stood as the priest emerged from a door beside the altar.
Unsure of myself, I remained seated. For years, as an evangelical Calvinist, I'd been trained to believe that the Mass was the ultimate sacrilege a human could commit. The Mass, I had been taught, was a ritual that purported to "resacrifice Jesus Christ." So I would remain an observer. I would stay seated, with my Bible open beside me.
As the Mass moved on, however, something hit me. My Bible wasn't just beside me. It was before me - in the words of the Mass! One line was from Isaiah, another from Psalms, another from Paul. The experience was overwhelming. I wanted to stop everything and shout, "Hey, can I explain what's happening from Scripture? This is great!" Still, I maintained my observer status. I remained on the sidelines until I heard the priest pronounce the words of consecration: "This is My body . . . This is the cup of My blood."
Then I felt all my doubt drain away. As I saw the priest raise that white host, I felt a prayer surge from my heart in a whisper: "My Lord and my God. That's really you!"
I was what you might call a basket case from that point. I couldn't imagine a greater excitement than what those words had worked upon me. Yet the experience was intensified just a moment later, when I heard the congregation recite: "Lamb of God . . . Lamb of God . . . Lamb of God," and the priest respond, "This is the Lamb of God . . ." as he raised the host. In less than a minute, the phrase "Lamb of God" had rung out four times. From long years of studying the Bible, I immediately knew where I was. I was in the Book of Revelation, where Jesus is called the Lamb no less than twenty-eight times in twenty-two chapters. I was at the marriage feast that John describes at the end of that very last book of the Bible. I was before the throne of heaven, where Jesus is hailed forever as the Lamb. I wasn't ready for this, though - I was at Mass!
There are a lot of questions here. I believe this explanation goes into detail about each point:
Answer: Yes they did. Even in apostolic times, the author of Hebrews writes: By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name (Hebrews 13:15). This verse is not a direct reference to the Eucharist, but the principle certainly applies, for during the Lords Supper, Christians praise and thank God for the atoning work of Jesus Christ. Indeed our English term Eucharist is derived from the Greek word eucharistia which means gratitude, thanks giving. Jesus gave thanks (eucharisteo) when he took the bread and the wine (Matthew 26:27, Luke 22:19).
In this sense the Eucharist is a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. This, however, is altogether different from the sacrifice of the mass of the Roman church. Whereas the Catechism of the Catholic Church acknowledges the Eucharist as a sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving (paragraphs 1359-3361), the Roman position goes well beyond that. It teaches that the Eucharist is a propitiatory sacrifice, that is, a sacrifice that atones for sin. The Council of Trent defines the issue:
The mass is said to be something more than a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. It is properly a propitiatory sacrifice - that is, a sacrifice offered for sins. The Sacrifice of the Mass is offered to God to appease Him, make Him due satisfaction for our sins, and to help the souls in Purgatory, and hence it is called Propitiatory (Catechism of St Pius X).
This goes beyond Scripture which describes the Eucharist as a memorial and a proclamation of the Lords death, but never as a sin offering. Moreover the Scripture refutes the idea that Christs sacrifice is daily re-presented and renewed. On the contrary the Bible asserts that His sacrifice is complete and finished. This man after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:12).
Catholic apologists claim that the early church fathers support the doctrine of the sacrifice of the mass. They list quotations from early church writings that include the word sacrifice in connection with the Eucharist. Unaware of the distinction between a propitiatory sacrifice and a sacrifice of praise, many unsuspecting readers fall into the trap. Take this quotation from an early church document as an example:
But on the Lord's day, after that ye have assembled together, break bread and give thanks, having in addition confessed your sins, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let not any one who hath a quarrel with his companion join with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be polluted, for it is that which is spoken of by the Lord. In every place and time offer unto me a pure sacrifice, for I am a great King, saith the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the Gentiles (Didache, chapter 14).
Is there anything in the text that compels us to understand sacrifice in a propitiatory sense? The reference to the Book of Malachi suggests that the sacrifice is not propitiatory for Malachi uses the word minchah which according to Strongs definition, it is usually a bloodless and voluntary offering. Moreover, the context in the Didache is highly suggestive of a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving: break bread and give thanks that your sacrifice may be pure.
Referring to Malachis prophecy and the Eucharist, Justin Martyr writes: Accordingly, God, anticipating all the sacrifices which we offer through this name, and which Jesus the Christ enjoined us to offer, i.e., in the Eucharist of the bread and the cup, and which are presented by Christians in all places throughout the world, bears witness that they are well-pleasing to Him .Now, that prayers and giving of thanks, when offered by worthy men, are the only perfect and well-pleasing sacrifices to God, I also admit. For such alone Christians have undertaken to offer, and in the remembrance effected by their solid and liquid food, whereby the suffering of the Son of God which He endured is brought to mind (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho).
Evangelicals concur: the Eucharist is a sacrifice insofar as we offer our thanksgiving for what Christ has done for us. The Eucharist is a sacrifice of praise, and a remembrance of the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Augustine writes: Before the coming of Christ, the flesh and blood of this sacrifice were foreshadowed in the animals slain; in the passion of Christ the types were fulfilled by the true sacrifice; after the ascension of Christ, this sacrifice is commemorated in the sacrament (Augustine, Contra Faustus, XX)
The claim that the Eucharist is also a propitiatory sacrifice is not supported by the Scripture. Like Evangelicals today, the early Christians considered the Eucharist as a sacrifice of praise.
BTW-Scott Hahn has been many things including a Calvinist. Catholic is just his latest.
This is a crude simplification, that allows the author to draw his spurious distinction. The Church teaches that indeed the mass is a propituary sacrifice as well as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, but it does not teach that the atonement is happening anew each mass. It is the same, one and only, sacrifice of Christ that has atoned for sins once. When a priest consecrates the elements of the Eucharist, he opens a mystical connection to the propituary sacrifice of Christ. There is nothing in Trent to say anything different. It is not possible to separate the praise and thanksgiving aspect from the propituary aspect because the praise is directed at the sacrifice of the Cross.
CHAPTER LXVI -- OF THE EUCHARIST. And this food is called among us Eukaristia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, "This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;" and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, "This is My blood;" and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn.This teaches that the Eucharist is mirroring the sacrifice of the flesh of Christ, which is the reason of being thankful. It does not teach that the Eucharist itself remits sin.
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