The First Reading today reminds us that in the New Covenant, we have a high priest, “who has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle that the Lord, not man, set up.” 

This is incredible! While the priesthood of Christ was prefigured in the Old Testament, it goes far beyond the understanding of the old covenant priesthood. Though the former priesthood was established by God and was vital to the life and worship of the Israelite people, in the New Covenant, Our Lord, “has no need, as did the [former] high priests, to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did that once for all when he offered himself.” 

We see and participate in the perpetual offering of our great High Priest, Jesus Christ, every time we go to Mass. 

In a previous blog about the Mass, I drew attention to the fact that, despite good intentions to make the Mass more “relevant” and “dynamic,” neither laity nor priests are authorized to make changes to the rubrics of the Mass. But this is not to say that the Mass should be said mechanically, superficially or without zeal! Properly understood, the Mass is quintessentially relevant and both priest and laity should participate in the Mass with fervor and sincerity, reverence and awe. 

In an encyclical called Mediator Dei, Pope Pius XII helps us to understand how we ought to approach the Mass, urging us to participate in the Eucharistic sacrifice, “not in an inert and negligent fashion, giving way to distractions and day-dreaming, but with such earnestness and concentration that they may be united as closely as possible with [Jesus] the High Priest…” We unite ourselves to Christ as He offers Himself, the spotless Lamb, to God the Father at the Mass, but we also follow His example by placing ourselves on the altar as well.

When my children were little, I began saying a prayer called the ” Morning Offering” with them. “Oh Jesus, in union with your most precious blood, poured out on the cross and offered in every Mass, I offer you today, my prayers, works, joys, sorrows and sufferings…” I sketched out a little booklet we could look at while we prayed, showing (rather feeble) stick figures playing, praying, doing chores, and interacting with others. 

After praying the Morning Offering for years, I read something in the Catechism that helped me understand even more deeply our call as lay people to share in the priestly office of Christ. In regard to the laity, the Catechism says, “For all their works, prayers, and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation of mind and body, if they are accomplished in the Spirit…all these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. In the celebration of the Eucharist these may most fittingly be offered to the Father along with the body of the Lord” (CCC no. 901). How remarkable it is to share in the redeeming work of Christ! Thank God for the relevance of the Mass!

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