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Sunday, August 05, 2007

St. John Chrysostom: Christian Priesthood, Bk.III.4


4. For the priestly office is indeed discharged on earth, but it ranks amongst heavenly ordinances; and very naturally so: for neither man, nor angel, nor archangel, nor any other created power, but the Paraclete Himself, instituted this vocation, and persuaded men while still abiding in the flesh to represent the ministry of angels. Wherefore the consecrated priest ought to be as pure as if he were standing in the heavens themselves in the midst of those powers. Fearful, indeed, and of most awful import, were the things which were used before the dispensation of grace, as the bells, the pomegranates, the stones on the breastplate and on the ephod, the girdle, the mitre, the long robe, the plate of gold, the holy of holies, the deep silence within.86 Exod. xxviii. 4 sq.

But if any one should examine the things which belong to the dispensation of grace, he will find that, small as they are, yet are they fearful and full of awe, and that what was spoken concerning the law is true in this case also, that “what has been made glorious hath no glory in this respect by reason of the glory which excelleth.”87 2 Cor. iii. 10.

For when thou seest the Lord sacrificed, and laid upon the altar,88 “What then? do we not make an offering every day? We do, certainly, but by making a memorial of His death; and this memorial is one, not many. How one, not many? Because the sacrifice was offered once for all, as that great sacrifice was in the Holy of Holies. This is a figure of that great sacrifice, as that was of this: for we do not offer one victim to-day and another to-morrow, but always the same: wherefore the sacrifice is one. Well, then, as He is offered in many places, are there many Christs? No, by no means, but everywhere one Christ, complete both in this world and in the other, one body. As then, though offered in many places, He is but one body, so is there but one sacrifice. Our High Priest is He who offers the sacrifice which cleanses us. We offer that now which was offered then: which is indeed inconsumable. This takes place now, for a memorial of what took place then. ‘Do this,’ said He, ‘for my memorial.’ We do not then offer a different sacrifice, as the high priest formerly did, but always the same; or rather we celebrate a memorial of a sacrifice.”and the priest standing and praying over the victim, and all the worshippers empurpled with that precious blood,89 This may be only a rhetorical expression, but perhaps there is an allusion to a custom which prevailed in some churches, that the worshippers after receiving the cup applied the finger to the moistened lip, and then touched their breast, eyes and ears, canst thou then think that thou art still amongst men, and standing upon the earth? Art thou not, on the contrary, straightway translated to Heaven, and casting out every carnal thought from the soul, dost thou not with disembodied spirit and pure reason contemplate the things which are in Heaven?

Oh! what a marvel! what love of God to man! He who sitteth on high with the Father is at that hour held in the hands of all. “Just as the bread before consecration is called bread, but when the Divine Grace sanctifies it through the agency of the priest it is released from the appellation of bread, and is deemed worthy of the appellation of the ‘Lord’s Body,’ although the nature of bread remains in it, and we speak not of two bodies, but one body of the Son: so here the Divine nature being seated in the human body, the two together make up but one Son—one Person.”and gives Himself to those who are willing to embrace and grasp Him. And this all do through 47the eyes of faith!91 Some mss. omit the word πίστεως “of faith,” having in its place τότε “at that time.”

Do these things seem to you fit to be despised, or such as to make it possible for any one to be uplifted against them?

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    O God, most glorious, most bountiful, accept, we humbly beseech thee, our praises and thanksgivings for thy holy Catholic Church, the mother of us all who bear the name of Christ; for the faith which it hath conveyed in safety to our time, and the mercies by which it hath enlarged and comforted the souls of men; for the virtues which it hath established upon earth, and the holy lives by which it glorifieth both the world and thee; to whom, O blessed Trinity (+), be ascribed all honour, might, majesty and dominion, now and for ever. Amen.
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