Day 282 – The Heavenly Sanctuary

Today’s reading: Hebrews 9

In today’s reading, the author describes Jesus entering into the heavenly sanctuary and how and why it surpasses the earthly sanctuary.  Having established in the previous chapters that Christ is God, higher than the angels, and resurrected and therefore alive forever the author now states:

…how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Hebrews 9:14

The author then compares this to how Moses inaugurated the old covenant and shows that it follows that Jesus has therefore inaugurated a new and greater covenant.  Since the old covenant was inherently inadequate it had to be purified by the yearly offering of blood.  However, Jesus offering of blood is perfect and the heavenly sanctuary pure.  Therefore this offering is effective to take away sin and has to be made only once:

Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.  Hebrews 9:25-26

Here we come to an important point of Catholic teaching.  The Mass is not a re-sacrificing of Jesus.  Rather, the sacrifice of the Mass is a participation in the one original sacrifice of Christ.  From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1366: 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:

[Christ], our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God the Father by his death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption. But because his priesthood was not to end with his death, at the Last Supper “on the night when he was betrayed,” [he wanted] to leave to his beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice (as the nature of man demands) by which the bloody sacrifice which he was to accomplish once for all on the cross would be re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit.189


1367: The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” “And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.”

These are tough but important concepts.  To understand it fully we must first understand that to the Jewish people a memorial sacrifice truly made presents the events being remembered.  Particularly, at the Passover, the Jewish people would speak of God rescuing “us” (present tense) out of Egypt.”  Recall, that the Last Supper is a Passover meal.  Thus, Jesus is invoking this spiritual truth when he says, “do this in remembrance of me”.  Thus, by his word and actions at a Passover meal, Jesus is making the events of the last supper present again to us at the Mass.  Therefore, we participate in Jesus salvific offering without re-crucifying Jesus.

Tomorrow: Hebrews 10



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