Christ Priest, Altar And Victim In Preface V Of Easter

Christ Priest, Altar And Victim In Preface V Of Easter May 16, 2024

Christ Priest, Altar and Victim | Photograpy by lbrownstone, Pixabay
Christ Priest, Altar and Victim | Photograpy by lbrownstone, Pixabay

We conclude this special series, reflecting on the Christology expressed by each of the Easter prefaces. On this occasion, Preface V, which has the title, “Christ, Priest and Victim”.

As always, we will focus only on the preface embolism. The explanation of the structure of the prefaces and the introduction and conclusion of the Easter prefaces are developed in the first article of this series.

The embolism

It is truly right and just,
our duty and our salvation,
at all times to acclaim you, O Lord,
but in this time above all to laud you yet more gloriously,
when Christ our Passover has been sacrificed.

By the oblation of his Body,
he brought the sacrifices of old to fulfillment
in the reality of the Cross
and, by commending himself to you for our salvation,
shows himself the Priest, the Altar, and the Lamb of sacrifice.

Therefore, overcome with paschal joy, every land,
every people exults in your praise and even the heavenly Powers,
with the angelic hosts,
sing together the unending hymn of your glory,
as they acclaim:

Holy, Holy, holy Lord God of hosts

In the reality of the Cross

Despite being “overcome with paschal joy,” the preface does not mention the glorious resurrection of the Lord Jesus, instead, it exalts his sacrifice on the Cross. The post-Vatican II Roman Missal thus preserves this Easter theology that especially values the Joannine perspective of the Passion, well known by the Church Fathers until at least the second half of the fourth century.

In addition, according to a tradition originated in Asia Minor, and popularized in the West by Irenaeus, Tertulian and other authors, the latin term Pascha (Easter) would derive from the Greek verb páschein. Melitón de Sardes in his homiletic treatise “On Easter” seems to have no doubts: “In fact, the name was derived from what happened: from patheîn (to have suffered) comes páschein (suffer, or celebrate the Passion = Easter)”. According to the Letter of the Apostles, probably written in Greek in Asia Minor in the second half of the second century, but preserved complete only in Ethiopia within the so-called Galilean Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ the Risen One would have addressed these words to the apostles: “Make a commemoration of my death, that is, Easter.”

The sacrifices of old

The issue of fulfilling the sacrifices of the Old Testament is also appreciated in the same patristic circles. Instead of the lamb, God has come and instead of the ram, a man; and in man, Christ who contains everything. Thus, then, the sacrifice of the ram, the rite of the Passover and the prescription of the Law have culminated in Christ Jesus.

Christ, the Priest

Jesus is recognized as the perfect high priest, mediator of the New Covenant, having offered himself in sacrifice. This Christology has its source in the Letter to the Hebrews: there is only one priest in the full sense of the word; this priest is Christ. Only Christ was able to effectively fulfill the essential function of the priesthood, which is to establish a mediation between God and men.

Being the only mediator, to reach an authentic relationship with God we must necessarily go through him and, more precisely, through his sacrifice. No man can do without the mediation of Christ and no one can take the place of Christ to play this role in relation to other people.

To the multitude of former priests then succeeds a single new priest who puts his entire existence at the disposal of God, his Father, for the salvation of the brethren, making in his person the perfect Covenant between man and God: through him and in him all human beings can thus enter into an intimate relationship with God (mediation).

The aspect of the offering is found in the priesthood of all Christians, who are invited to approach God with full confidence and to offer their sacrifices, that is, to open their personal and social existence to the transformative action of God. The aspect of mediation in a strong sense belongs exclusively to Christ: “For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as ransom for all” (1 Tim 2, 5-6a). The possibility for Christians to open their existence to God remains linked to this mediation. The ministers of the Church are living instruments of Christ, the mediator.

Christ, the Altar

The embolism of the preface concludes by proclaiming Christ as “altar, Lamb and priest.” The first of the three definitions is understood by recognizing that the altar on which the sacrifice offering is made is no longer the stone placed at the entrance of the Temple, on which the priests offered their bloody sacrifices. Christ Jesus, through whom we “continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name” (Hebrews 13,15), is the “corner stone” (Eph 2:20) on which the holy building of God, which is the Church, rests, and by which every authentic cult is raised to the glory of the Father (cf. Heb 13:15).

Christ, the Victim

As in the old Passover a lamb was immolated, which was then eaten at the Passover dinner, so in the new Easter Christ is the true immolated Lamb, on which the faithful feed, is the one who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). From prefiguration it goes to fulfillment in a mysterious-sacramental sense: “These are the feasts of Passover, in which is slain the Lam, the one true Lamb” – sings the Roman Exsultet at the beginning of the Evening Vigil in the Holy Night. The description of the triumph of the sacrificed Lamb, in the Book of Revelation, should not be forgotten: “I looked again and heard the voices of many angels who surrounded the throne and the living creatures and the elders. They were countless in number, and they cried out in a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing.”” (Rev 5:11-12).

To conclude

As we have seen through these series, the principle Lex orandi, lex credendi, is true. What we pray is what we believe. A rich Christology is expressed through the Eucharistic Prayer prefaces in Easter, which gives us plenty of reasons to acclaim God together with the angelic choirs in heaven.

To read to the full series

  1. Understanding Easter through the Eucharistic Prayer Prefaces
  2. Preface I – The Paschal Mystery
  3. Preface II – New life in Christ
  4. Preface III – Christ living and always interceding for us
  5. Preface IV – The restoration of the universe through the Paschal Mystery
  6. Preface V – Christ, Priest and Victim
About Mauricio I. Pérez
Mauricio I. Pérez is a Catholic writer, journalist and YouTuber. He has received five national journalism awards by the Catholic Media Association. Mauricio has authored 18 books on Biblical commentary, spirituality and Catholic fiction, six of them bestsellers in Amazon. He has earned a diploma in Sacred Liturgy by the Universidad Pontificia de México and has graduated from several Liturgy programs at the Pontificio Istituto Liturgico in Rome. You can read more about the author here.

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