Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Fr Jack Khalil: A High Priest Like This

Arabic original here.

A High Priest Like This

Today we commemorate the translation of the relics of the doctor of the Church, John Chrysostom, the faithful shepherd who served and toiled in imitation of the Good Shepherd and the hierarch who served the mysteries of Christ Jesus, the Great High Priest. Therefore the Church has arranged a reading from he Epistle to the Hebrews where the author of the epistle presents Christ's salvific priestly work by His sacrifice that He offered for the forgiveness of sins.

The Apostle compares Christ, the chief priest whose virtue covers the heavens, in whom there is no evil, stain or sin, to the chief priests who served according to the Mosaic Law in the Old Testament, who afterwords resisted Christ's salvific dispensation. The latter are people who performed the law in order to serve the temple made with hands, while people suffer from their weaknesses.

But Christ is completely different from them and no one resembled Him apart from the king of peace, Melchizedek.

In the previous verses, the Apostle had compared Melchizedek, the priest and king, who has no father or mother, alive, a priest forever, and Levi, the father of the tribe of priests who performed the law.

From Psalm 110:4, he concludes that Christ's high priesthood was not established according to the human commandments of the law (Hebrews 17:16), but according to the divine promise to be a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek, to whom the patriarch Abraham submitted.

The Apostle observes in the previous verses that the promise was given after the law, so why did he liken Him to the order of Melchizedek instead of saying according to the order of Levi? In the passage read today, he explains the reason: Christ's priesthood is not like the Levite priesthood.

The Levites performed the law, but He came according to the divine promise. They offered sacrifices daily for their sins first, then for the sins of the rest of the people, but Christ is without blame and without sin and He offered His blood as a single eternal sacrifice.

They serve in a temple made by human hands, but the eternal Son sat at the right hand of the great throne in heaven, performs the liturgies in the true tabernacle, not the shadow of it (that is, the temple of the law), which God established, and grants forgiveness of sins to believers.

Chrysostom was a hierarch. He stood in the place and likeness of Christ. He derived his priesthood from Christ's priesthood because he offered the one, sole sacrifice that Christ offered once, which is forever placed on the heavenly altar in the true tabernacle.

He worked and toiled in Christ's vineyard. He fought the good fight, imitating the God Shepherd and faithful High Priest. So if it is fitting for us to have a High Priest like this who has realized perfection (Hebrews 7:11-19), then Chrysostom refused to be anything but like Him, following every day the way of perfection through the cross. There is no priesthood except that which is in the likeness of the great High Priest and there is no priest except the one who imitates Him, is united to Him, is filled with His Holy Spirit and is pleasing to the Father in everything. We celebrate Chrysostom because he, as a person like us, became a hierarch worthy of serving the sacrifice of the New Testament, which Christ serves upon the heavenly throne.

Archimandrite Jack Khalil
Saint John of Damascus Institute of Theology

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