The letter to the Hebrews defines the priest as someone who is taken from among men and set apart for the things that appertain to God (Hebrews 5:1).
This definition emphasizes the crucial function of the priestly duty as a bridge, a link between the divine and the human, between God and his people, and between the created and their creator. It also recognizes that it is, surprisingly human beings who are chosen to do this function and not angels or some other higher beings.
It is the human beings who are bestowed with these privileges and given its obligations. In the Old Testament the function of the priests included: (1) consulting the Urim and Thummim (Exodus 28:30), the sacred lot cast in order to decipher the mind of God in specific problematic situations. (2) Teaching, since according to the prophet they shall teach the sons of Israel the laws of God (Jer 18:18). (3) Sacrifice and cultic offering.
The common denominator in all these is that even in the Old Testament, the priest was an intermediary between God and men, the bridge uniting them in a two-way interchange (cf. Raymond Brown, Priests and Bishops: Biblical Reflections, 1970 p. 12-13). 9. However, in the Old Testament, the priests offered animals like bulls and goats. But Christ the priest offered himself to his heavenly Father.
He is thus the victim and the priest, the epitome of sacrifice. Some traditional religions have human sacrifice as the highest sacrifice in the most difficult and intractable moments of the life of the community. In the sacrifice of Christ, it is the God-man Jesus Christ that is the victim, not bulls and goats, not even created human beings. This is the special character of Christ’s priesthood.
That Christ is both priest and victim underscores the sublimity of the sacrifice of Christ and of his priesthood. It is the highest possible sacrifice that can be conceived. His sacrifice and priesthood are therefore unique. It is this priesthood of Christ which is our interest, the subject of our discussion.
It is this priesthood of Christ which he has perpetuated in mystery through the sacrament of Holy Orders. It is this gift that calls for grateful loving response from the privileged recipient or beneficiary. 10. Love informs the sacrifice of Christ which is an integral part of his salvific mission.
It is this same enduring love that made it necessary that the Lord should call human beings to share in his mission, to exercise the most sublime priesthood. The call to this priesthood is a gratuitous gift.