Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!


Ave Maria!
First Sunday of Passiontide—13 March AD 2016

אהיה אשר אהיה

[Ordinary of the Mass]
[Mass Text - Latin]
[Mass Text - English]
[Lenten Observance]

    Both Matthew and Luke have a genealogy of our Lord in their opening chapters.[1]  The genealogy is that of Saint Joseph, for under the law he was the legal father of Jesus.  The genealogy demonstrates descent from King David, making Jesus a legal descendant of that king—a fact appropriate for the one who would redeem the kingdom of God's people.  It is often said that Joseph's genealogy proves that Mary was also of the house of King David, for the tribal structure of ancient Israel was rather rigid, and people rarely married outside of their clan.  But Saint Luke's Gospel indicates that Mary had a familial connection to the house of Aaron, the priestly tribe of the Levite's.

    Elizabeth is the wife of the priest Zachary, and Saint Luke describes her as being "of the daughters of Aaron."[2].  And at the Annunciation, the Angel Gabriel tells Mary: "behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son [even] in her old age."[3]  Elizabeth's son is, of course, John the Baptist.

    The point of this is that Jesus is legally of the house of the Kings of Juda and Israel through the lineage of His foster father, and biologically a member of the hereditary priesthood of Aaron through His Holy Mother.  This, of course, is by the eternal design of God the Father, who spoke of His Divine Son in the Psalms: “Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech.”[4]     Melchisedech was the king and priest who offered sacrifice in bread and wine for Abraham, the founder of the Jewish nation.[5]  (In the Book of Hebrews, Saint Paul suggests that Jesus’ identity with the tribe of Juda is purposeful, as His priesthood is distinct from, and replaces, the priesthood of Aaron.[6])

    But, as we heard our Lord say in today's Gospel: “before Abraham came to be, I AM.”[7] Jesus was using the name by which God identified Himself to Moses when He sent him to release to Jewish people from bondage in Egypt.[8]  Jesus was identifying Himself with God the Father, whose essence IS existence: I AM WHO AM.

    As we approach Holy Week and Easter it is important that we understand the role of Jesus Christ as both priest and victim.  The purpose of His birth in the world was to make atonement for the sin of Adam.  Our infinite God sustained infinite offence from the disobedience of His very finite creatures, Adam and Eve.  The sacrifices of the Old Testament were but a primitive foreshadowing of the sacrifice that would propitiate Almighty God.  The priests of the Old Testament were sinful, mortal, human beings—the victims of the Old Testament were dumb animals.  The priest of the New Testament and the victim of the New Testament were one and the same WHO AM—Jesus Christ, true God and true man—the only being in creation capable of appeasing the Father's wrath over the sins of mankind since the fall of Adam .  The perfect sacrifice of the man-God on the Cross would restore the relationship of Grace enjoyed by Adam and Eve before the Fall.  "If the blood of goats and bulls and the ... ashes of a heifer sanctify the unclean ... how much more will the blood of Christ...?"[9]

    Last week we discussed the sixth chapter of Saint John's Gospel, in which our Lord promised to give His disciples the true "Bread of life.". " I am the bread of life.... I am the living bread that has come down from heaven.  If anyone eat of this bread he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give is My flesh for the life of the world.”[10]  Jesus insisted on the reality of this gift even though He lost the disbelievers as disciples.  He actually intended to give His flesh and blood, and not some mere symbols.

    “How can think man give us His flesh to eat?” asked the disbelievers, sarcastically.  Actually, that is not a bad question—a question that we will see answered precisely in the Masses of Holy Week.  Probably, you already know the answer!  But it is very important that we witness the truth of that answer to the modern world, in which even many Christians and even a few Catholics remain disbelievers.

    Remember that our Lord was a “priest according to the order of Melchisedech” —the priest-king who offered sacrifice in bread and wine.  A year after the promise of the “bread of life,” it was Passover again and our Lord had made His way into Jerusalem with His disciples for the feast.  He sent His disciples to prepare the traditional Passover sacrifice in the Upper Room.  As host, He passed around the customary dishes: lamb, bread, bitter herbs, and wine.  Quite likely, He spoke in Hebrew, the liturgical language of the Jews.  But when He came first to the bread, and later to the wine, He departed significantly from the traditional ritual.  “Take and eat [this bread]; this is my body.... all of you drink of this; for this is the blood of the new covenant, such is being shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins.”[11]

    Sometimes the disbelievers point to Jesus’ words “do this in memory of Me” to suggest that the Mass is nothing more than a remembrance of the Last Supper.  But the word Jesus used is recorded in Greek as ἀνάμνησιν—anamnesin—a memorial sacrifice[12], literally, a way of “never forgetting,” for the reality of the thing is made new each time one of Christ’s priests speaks the holy words of Consecration.   The same Greek word appears in the Old Testament to describe the sacrifices offered to God.[13]  And certainly the Mass is one with the Sacrifice of the Cross, for in it “the blood of the new covenant … is being shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins.”  After our Lord spoke these words for the first time, He went out, and His blood was promptly shed by the Jews and the Romans.

    Next Sunday we begin Holy Week.  During that week, we will read the various accounts of the Last Supper and its immediate connection to the Sacrifice of the Cross.  I hope you will be with us to hear them, and then to bear witness to them to the modern world.


[9]   Epistle: Hebrews ix:11-15


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