The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Hebrews 10:11-14, 18

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 13, 2012

This post includes Fr. MacEvilly’s summary analysis of Hebrews 11, followed by his notes on verses 11-14 and 18. I’ve included (in purple) his paraphrasing of the text he is commenting on.

The Apostle, having shown in the preceding chapter, that one bloody oblation of Christ had amply atoned for sin and answered all the ends of universal redemption, proceeds to show, in this, that Christ alone could redeem us and remit sin For, as to the law and the sacrifices of the Levitical priesthood, in which the Hebrews so much confided, he proves by several arguments, from verse 1 to 19, that they contained no efficacy whatever for the remission of sin. First, the law and the legal sacrifices were only the shadow of the future goods promised us by Christ; but not the reality promised. Secondly, the repetition of these sacrifices—and reference is directly made to the annual great sacrifice of expiation—for the self-same sins that were before remitted, proves their inefficacy for remitting sin. And thirdly, it was impossible for the blood of animals, of its own nature and intrinsic efficacy, to remit sin, as the Hebreivs vainly imagined (Heb 10:1-5).

The Apostle proves from Sacred Scripture, the inefficacy of the ancient sacrifices for the remission of sin. He introduces Christ addressing his Father, Psalm 40, “Sacrifices and oblations,” &c., andfrom this prophetic quotation, he draws a twofold conclusion—first, by saying “Sacrifices…thou wouldst not,” Christ has shown the abolition of the sacrifices referred to; and secondly, by saying, “Behold I come,” &c., the institution of the second description of sacrifice, which Christ offered according to the will of God (Heb 10:6-10).

Their repetition proved the inefficacy not only of the annual sacrifices, but also the inefficacy of the daily sacrifices, offered morning and evening among the Jews; whereas Christ, by one bloody oblation of himself, has made full atonement for sin, and purchased a treasure of grace for sanctifying men, at all times (Heb 10:11-14). The Apostle then proves, from the ProphetJeremias, the inefficacy of the ancient sacrificesfor remitting sin (Heb 10:15-19).

Having proved the abrogation of the legal sacrifices, and shown the superior excellence of the priesthood of Christ, and of his sacrifice over the Levitical priesthood and their offerings, he exhorts the Hebrews to constancy in the faith (Heb 10:19-21). He deters them from committing the dreadful crime of apostasy (Heb 10:24-31). He calms the fears which his words were calculated to inspire, by reminding them of their past good works of charity (Heb 10:32-34). Finally, he exhorts them to hold out for a short time, when they shall reap the full fruit of their past labours and sufferings.

Heb 10:11  And every priest indeed standeth daily ministering and often offering the same sacrifices which can never take away sins.

And not only does the high priest  annually repeat the sacrifice of expiation (making a commemoration of the same sins), but in the daily sacrifices, at which the priests minister in turn, the same victims are offered, the same repetition made—hence, they too, for a like reason, cannot take away sins.

In this verse he proceeds to show, that the circumstance of their repetition did not prove the inefficacy of the annual sacrifices of expiation only; that it also proved the same, for a like reason, in regard to the daily sacrifices, offered morning and evening, by the priests in their turn. “And every priest standeth,” in fear and awe; “daily ministering,” morning and evening (Numbers 28)  “Often offering the same sacrifices, which can never take away sin,” any more than could the annual sacrifice of expiation, offered by the high priest alone.

Heb 10:12  But this man, offering one sacrifice for sins, for ever sitteth on the right hand of God,

But Christ, after having offered one sacrifice, which satisfies for all sins, sitteth glorious at the right hand of God.

“But this man offering one sacrifice,” i.e., after having offered one sacrifice. The Greek for “offering,” προσενεγκας, means, having offered. “Sitteth” in glory and triumph. The Jewish priest “stood” with fear and awe; he “sitteth” in glory and majesty.

Heb 10:13  From henceforth expecting until his enemies be made his footstool.

Awaiting the time, when his enemies shall be made his footstool.

Nor will he leave this seat of glory until his enemies are prostrated, according to the promise of the Royal Prophet (Psalm 110:1)—”Sit at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” This subjection of all things to Christ will be manifested at the end of the world.

Heb 10:14  For by one oblation he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

For by one bloody oblation of himself-an oblation of infinite value, extending to all generations-he perfected those who are sanctified at all times; in other words, by this one bloody oblation of himself, he made atonement for all sin, and purchased the treasures of grace, whereby men are sanctified at all times.

He need not leave heaven to repeat, like the Jewish priest, the bloody oblation of himself; for, by one such oblation, he has compassed all the ends of Redemption, he has made perfect atonement for sin, and merited the graces, whereby men are, at all times, sanctified.

Objection.—Against the sacrifice of the Mass. In these two chapters, the Apostle allows only one oblation of Christ, therefore, he excludes the repeated oblation of him in the Mass, as opposed to the unity of his offering.

Answer.—The oblation of Christ referred to by the Apostle in these chapters, and the repetition of which he rejects, is the bloody oblation on the cross; for, there is question of the oblation, by which “he perfected” (or sanctified) “all;” i.e., redeemed mankind, and atoned for sin; the oblation wherein, if repeated, he should suffer death (Heb 9:26). But, from the fact that he cannot be offered up again, in a bloody manner, can it be inferred, that he cannot be offered, in an unbloody manner? As well might it be inferred from the fact of God having promised, that the world would not be again destroyed by water, that therefore, it is not to be destroyed in any other way, whether by water or by fire, which would be contrary to faith. Christ is offered up, in an unbloody manner, in the sacrifice of the Mass; and the Apostle, for reasons already assigned, does not refer to that oblation; it does not fall within his scope; nor, perhaps, would it be expedient at the time, to do so.

Objection-. But, by saying, he can be offered, only once, does he not exclude a second oblation or more; and hence, the oblation made of him, in the Mass?

Answer.—He excludes a second oblation of the same kind, and presented in the same way. The unity of Christ’s oblation is insisted on, in opposition to other reiterated oblations. Now, to any person attentively examining the reasoning of the Apostle, in these two chapters, it must appear quite clear, that the opposition instituted is, between the bloody oblation of Christ on the cross, and the annual and daily sacrifices of the Jews, the efficacious
and fruitful unity of the former being contrasted with the useless multiplicity of the latter. The objection, therefore, is quite inconclusive; Christ will not be offered up a second time—which, to be true, must mean—in a bloody manner. Therefore, he will not be offered up, in an unbloody manner. Just as conclusive would it be to say—The world will not be destroyed again by the waters of deluge. Therefore, it will be destroyed in no other way, and it shall be eternal. The Apostle excludes the repetition of the sacrifice of Christ in the Mass, as a redemptory sacrifice, as making atonement and offering
satisfaction for sin; in which respect only, the sacrifice of Christ is contrasted with the annual and daily sacrifices among the Jews; he never contemplates rejecting the repetition, or rather the continuation of the same, in an unbloody manner, as applicatory of the merits purchased on the cross. On the cross, an infinite treasure of merit was purchased; a satisfaction offered, adequate to make reparation for the sins of ten thousand worlds. But, no Christian can deny that by the institution of God himself, there are certain channels required for the application to our souls, in a limited degree, of this treasure of grace, in itself infinite. What else is the end of the sacrament of baptism, to which all Christians have recourse for the remission of original sin?—and Catholics regard the sacrifice of the Mass, as a channel through which are applied to us the merits and graces purchased on the cross. Surely, it cannot be alleged that the sins of the elect are directly remitted by the merits of Christ, the instant they are committed. Would this not be plainly opposed to the precept, inculcated in several passages of SS. Scripture, of recurring to baptism for the remission of sin? Would not be opposed to the words of our redeemer:—” He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that beheveth not, shall be condemned?”—(Mark 16:16). It is opposed to the manner in which the Jews converted after St. Peter’s first sermon were justified. They were told, “to do penance, and to be baptized, every one of them, for the remission of their sins” (Acts 2:28). Now, on their justification was to be modeled that of all the Gentiles, who at the preaching of the Apostles did penance, believed, were baptized, and their sins thus remitted.

Heb 10:18  Now, where there is a remission of these, there is no more an oblation for sin.

Now, where these are remitted, and a ransom adequate to make atonement for them offered, there is no further need for any such oblation for sin.

“Now where there is remission of sin,” &c. There is no necessity for repeating oblations for sins already remitted. This is quite clear, if there be question of actual remission. Nor can there be any difficulty about it either, if there be a question of potential remission, in the sense that there has been a ransom paid, and a redemptory sacrifice offered for them; because, one redemptory sacrifice, if efficacious, must be a sacrifice of infinite value; and hence, its repetition as such, would be useless; but neither signification of the words is opposed to the repeated offering of applicatory sacrifices for sins, not yet actually remitted; the Mass, therefore, as an applicatory sacrifice, is not excluded; if so, the other means of grace, faith, hope, contrition, sacraments, should be excluded as well, on the same principle.

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