Priest and Victim Are One

From Exposition of the Christian Faith, 3.11 (379)

How, save by means of the flesh, was Christ made partaker with us, or by what, save by bodily death, did Christ break the chains of death? For Christ’s endurance of death was made the death of death. This text, then, speaks of the Incarnation.  Let us see what follows: “For he did not indeed straightway put on Him the nature of angels, but that of Abraham’s seed. And thus was he able to be made like his brethren in all things throughout, that he might become a compassionate and faithful prince, a priest to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself suffered, Christ is able also to help those who are tempted.” …

“In so far as he took upon him the seed of Abraham;” the apostle plainly asserts the begetting of a body. How, indeed, but in his body did he expiate the sins of the people? In what did he suffer, save in his body — even as we said above: “Christ having suffered in the flesh?” In what is  Christ a priest, save in that which he took to himself from the priestly nation?

It is a priest’s duty to offer something, and, according to the Law, to enter into the holy places by means of blood. Seeing, then, that God had rejected the blood of bulls and goats, this High Priest was indeed bound to make passage and entry into the holy of holies in heaven through his own blood, in order that he might be the everlasting propitiation for our sins. Priest and victim, then, are one; the priesthood and sacrifice are, however, exercised under the conditions of humanity, for he was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and he is a priest after the order of Melchizedek.

St. Ambrose (ca. 334-397) became Archbishop of Milan at a time of bitter strife about Christological doctrine, and upheld orthodox teaching in a his widely circulated sermons and treatises. He is credited with introducing hymns to the Western Church, some composed by himself, and his greatest disciple was the even more influential St. Augustine. His feast day is December 7.


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