In Christ and Through Christ

From The Gospel and the Catholic Church, 91-95 (1936)

Risen and ascended, the Son forever glorifies the Father; and in this glorifying, which was from all eternity, the human nature, assumed in the Incarnation, now shares. The Johannine doctrine of the glorifying assists our understanding of the concept in the Epistle to the Hebrews of Christ as our great high priest. Christ’s priesthood belongs, as his worship, to the eternal world; forever Son, he is also forever our priest. Priesthood means offering, and in the Son there is forever that spirit of self-offering, which the sacrifice of Calvary uniquely disclosed in the world of sin and death. The sacrifice of Calvary has been wrought once for all; but now Christ the high priest “ever lives to make intercession for those who draw near to God through him” (Heb. 7:25). He has “entered into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us” (Heb. 9:24).

Though Calvary can never be repeated, Christ is for ever with the Father in that character of self-giving and self-offering of which Calvary was the decisive historical expression. In the ascended Christ there exists our human nature rendering to the Father the glory which human beings were created to render. Whether we speak of this as the presence of our great high priest before the Father’s face, or as the glorifying of the Father by the Son, who was made man and died for us, the essential meaning is the same.

In union with its heavenly Lord, the Church on earth worships, looking back to what he did once upon Calvary, and looking up to what he is now with the Father. It is in worship in Christ and through Christ. If it is called a worship of sacrificial offering it is because it is through Christ who is our great high priest: “through Jesus let us continually offer up to God the sacrifice of praise, the tribute of lips that acknowledge his name” (Heb. 13:15). If it is called a worship of glorifying it is so because it is through Christ, who glorifies the Father.

Michael Ramsey (1904-1988) was the 100th Archbishop of Canterbury. A gifted theologian and spiritual writer, he advocated for the cause of church unity throughout his ministry. His book The Gospel and the Catholic Church, his most influential, was written during his early ministry, while training ordinands at the Bishop’s Hostel at Lincoln.

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