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

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Hebrews 7:25-8:6

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 21, 2016

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.

Heb 7:25 Whereby he is able also to save for ever them that come to God by him; always living to make intercession for us.

Whence, he can convey perfect salvation, of grace here, and of eternal glory hereafter, on those who, through him, approach to God, because always living and exercising an eternal priesthood, he can always make intercession for us, in quality of high priest.

“Whereby,” i.e., because, “he continueth for ever, and hath an everlasting priesthood” (verse 24), he can save those who have recourse to his intercession, bestowing on them the life of grace here, to be consummated and perfected by a life of glory hereafter. “Always living to make intercession for us.” In Greek, for them. Of course, this intercession is quite different from the intercession of the saints, to which it is no ways opposed. Christ intercedes, as high priest; whereas, the intercession of the saints has no reference to the priestly character, which some of them may have borne on earth.—(See 1 John, 2:2). The Apostle, for reasons already stated (verse 10), forbears referring to the principal exercise of Christ’s priesthood, in the sacrifice of the Mass. In this verse, the Apostle merely refers incidentally to one of the effects, or results of his priesthood, viz., his interceding for us.

Heb 7:26 For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens:

For, Christ alone is gifted with the qualities and attributes with which it is meet and necessary that the Pontiff who undertakes to make full and adequate reparation for the sins of man, should be gifted, viz., endowed with sanctity, free from malice, exempt from the stain of sin, segregated from sinners, and placed beyond the reach of moral contamination, more exalted than the highest creatures in heaven.

Another argument of the superiority of Christ’s priesthood over that of Aaron is derived from the superior qualities and attributes, which Christ, as high priest, possesses over the Jewish high priests. Christ alone has the attributes required in every high priest who can make reparation for sin, being, “holy, innocent,” &c. “And made higher than the heavens,” which means, that he has penetrated the highest heavens, and is more exalted than the highest creature therein; for, no creature, however exalted, could redeem us. The implied contrast supposes that the Jewish high priest was not possessed of such qualities.

Heb 7:27 Who needeth not daily (as the other priests) to offer sacrifices, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, in offering himself.

Who is not bound by the Law (like the Levitical high priests) to offer up daily sacrifice of expiation, in the first place, for his own sins, and in the next place, for those of the people; for, he offered himself once as a sacrifice of expiation, not for his own sins, but for the sins of the world—the value of which bloody oblation of himself being such, as to render any repetition thereof, as a Redemptory sacrifice, and in a bloody manner, quite useless.

Another point in which Christ was superior to the Levitical priest. First, he had no sins to expiate, and therefore, was not bound by the law to offer a sacrifice of expiation for his own sins; this first point is proved next verse, 28; secondly, he was not bound by the law prescribing the offering of daily sacrifice of expiation for the sins of the people; this second point he proves in this verse; for, the meritorious value of the bloody oblation of himself, which he “once” offered, as a redemptory sacrifice for others, on the altar of the cross, are such as to render its repetition useless. It is to be observed, that although Christ once offered himself, in a bloody manner on the cross, he still continues to offer himself, in an unbloody manner. This he does in heaven by presenting his humanity continually to his Father (9:24); but it is on earth, he chiefly performs this function, by offering himself daily, being really, truly, and substantially present under the appearance of bread and wine, in the adorable Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the same with the Sacrifice of the Cross—the victim the same, the principal offerer the same; differing only in manner; the one, bloody, the other, unbloody. This latter part is abundantly proved in the several treatises on Theology. The Eucharistic Sacrifice is, then, a commemoration and continuation of the Sacrifice of the Cross. The principal parts or actions of a sacrifice are, the immolation of the victim, and the oblation of the same, once immolated. Now, the Sacrifice of the Cross ended only as to the bloody immolation; the same victim is immolated mystically by the separate consecration of the bread and wine, and continues, as to the oblation. It is also to be borne in mind, that the oneness of Christ’s sacrifice no more excludes sacrifices applicatory of this one Redemptory Sacrifice, than it excludes the sacraments, which are merely the channels for applying the merits purchased on the Sacrifice of the Cross. The Apostle makes two assertions in this verse, viz., that our High Priest was not under the necessity of offering up sacrifices daily, first, for his own sins, and secondly, for those of his people. In proving these points, he inverts the order, proving the second point in the first place.

Heb 7:28 For the law maketh men priests, who have infirmity: but the word of the oath (which was since the law) the Son who is perfected for evermore.

The law very properly enacted that the priests should offer up sacrifice for their own sins; because it instituted as high priests men liable to sin, which required a sacrifice of expiation. But the oath referred to by David, long after the promulgation of the law and the institution of the Levitical priesthood, has constituted as High Priest, the Son of God, not for a time but for ever, not subject to sin, but wholly perfect; and free from it.

The Apostle explains the words “as the other priests,” or as the Greek has it ἀρχιερεῖς, high priests (verse 27), and proves the first assertion made by him in preceding verse, viz., that our High Priest did not offer up daily sacrifice for his own sins, because he was sinless; the enactment was necessary as regarded the Levitical priests; because, they themselves were subject to sin; but Christ, whom God constituted priest by oath, which was expressed by David long after the law, was the Son of God, free from all sin; in all things perfect and constituted, for evermore.

Heb 8:1 Now of the things which we have spoken, this is the sum: We have such an high priest who is set on the right hand of the throne of majesty in the heavens,

The summary abridgment of all we have said concerning the priesthood of Christ is this: that in him we have a Pontiff, who sits at the right hand of the throne of majesty in heaven,

St. Chrysostom understands by “sum,” κεφάλαιον, the chief, the greatest of all the qualities yet enumerated; others, the recapitulation of the foregoing; but, the interpretation in the Paraphrase is preferable.

Heb 8:2 A minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord hath pitched, and not man.

The ministering pontiff of the celestial Holy of Holies, that is to say, of the true tabernacle (to which the Jewish bore the relation of type), which the Lord hath framed, and not man.

He was minister of the true tabernacle, of which the Jewish tabernacle—built after the model proposed to Moses on the Mount, verse 5—was a mere type. The Greek for “minister,” λειτουργος, means one who performs publicly religious services; it is a term, which applies to all priests; but particularly to a high priest. “Holies and true tabernacle,” probably refer to the same thing—viz., the Church triumphant in heaven and militant on earth; then, “and” means, that is. He is “minister of the holies and (that is) of the true tabernacle”—or, if they refer to different things; then, “the holies” refer to heaven, and “the true tabernacle,” as distinguished from it (although, in reality, “the holies,” formed a part of the Jewish tabernacle), means the Church militant; and Jesus is minister in both; for, he exercises his priesthood in heaven and on earth. “True” is said, not in opposition to false, it means real, opposed to type and figure.

By an allusion to the duties of the high priest in the old law, the Apostle points out the superior excellence of Christ. The great duty of the Jewish high priest was to enter yearly and minister in the earthly “Holy of Holies,” which might be termed a “throne of majesty” (verse 1), but not “in the heavens.” He did not “sit” there; he rather trembled before it. Our High Priest sits down in the real Holy of Holies, “in the heavens,” next the majesty of God himself.

Heb 8:3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is necessary that he also should have some thing to offer.

(Although sitting at the right hand of God, he still acts as ministering pontiff of the true tabernacle), because every high priest, by the very nature of his office, is constituted to offer gifts and victims in sacrifice to God. Hence, as Christ is priest even in heaven, he must have something to offer.

Christ exercises the office of priest by presenting his humanity and passion to God the Father (9:24); but especially by the ministry of his vicars on earth, in the sacrifice of the Mass. It is the former mode of ministering that the Apostle here principally regards. The question of the Eucharist did not fall within his scope, and he omitted direct reference to it, for reasons already assigned. However, the universal proposition employed by the Apostle, together with the word “gifts,” which refers to unbloody oblations, as well as his frequent allusions to the order of Melchisedech, which is fulfilled only in the Eucharistic sacrifice, renders it very probable, that reference is here made to that sacrifice, at least in such a way, as to be perceived and understood by the faithful.

Heb 8:4 If then he were on earth, he would not be a priest: seeing that there would be others to offer gifts according to the law.

If, then, he were a priest of an earthly tabernacle, and belonged to that department which is opposed to the celestial, or rather, if this “something,” or victim, which, as priest, he must offer, were terrestrial, he would be no priest at all; because, not belonging to the tribe of Levi, he would be disqualified by the law for such offerings, or, rather, because his priesthood would be quite useless, since the established ministry of the Aaronic priests would suffice for that purpose:

“If then.” In the ordinary Greek copies, εἰ μὲν γὰρ, for if. The Vulgate is supported by the Alexandrian and other manuscripts, and is generally preferred by critics.

“On earth,” may refer to the priest, if Christ were priest of an earthly tabernacle, or, more probably, it refers to the victim, “should have something to offer” (verse 3), as if he said, If then thissomething,” or victim, were earthly, Christ would not be priest at all; since “there would be others to offer gifts according to the law,” which law would disqualify him, not being of the tribe of Levi. Moreover, his priesthood would be, in that case, quite useless; as the Aaronic priests would suffice. And since, according to the Psalmist, he is a priest; he is, therefore, a priest of the heavenly tabernacle, of which the Jewish is a mere type. He is, of course, as superior to the Levitical priests, as heaven is to earth; as the reality, to its type and figure.

Heb 8:5 Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things. As it was answered to Moses, when he was to finish the tabernacle: See (saith he) that thou make all things according to the pattern which was shewn thee on the mount.

Who minister in the tabernacle, which is but the obscure delineation, and mere shadowing representation of the heavenly (of which Christ is ministering pontiff—verse 2), according to the divine response given to Moses, when about to make the tabernacle:—“See (he says), that thou do all things according to the model shown thee on the mount.”

The Aaronic priests “serve.” The Greek word, λατρευουσι, implies worship, in a tabernacle, which is but “the example.” In Greek, ὑποδείγματι, a mere obscure delineation; “and shadow of heavenly things,” i.e., of the heavenly sanctuary and true tabernacle of the Church, militant and triumphant (verse 2). The word “example” is not taken here in its ordinary signification, which is, that of model or pattern, as in the words, “according to the pattern,” κατὰ τον τὺπον. The Greek word already quoted, shows the meaning given in the Paraphrase to be correct. “As it was answered to Moses,” &c. The tabernacle of Moses was, according to the Apostle, only a figure and obscure representation of things done by Christ in the Church militant and triumphant. And this, Moses clearly perceived, from the divine oracle commanding him, when about to frame the tabernacle, to make it according to the pattern, sensibly presented to him on the Mount. He saw that this pattern had a typical relation to the future things to be done by Christ in his Church and in heaven. “See thou make all things,” &c. The words, “all things,” are not found in the text (Exodus, 25:40), they have been added by the Apostle.

Heb 8:6 But now he hath obtained a better ministry, by how much also he is a mediator of a better testament which is established on better promises.

But now, in his heavenly sanctuary, Christ has obtained a priestly ministry as far exceeding in superior excellence the priesthood of Aaron, as the covenant, of which he is mediator, surpasses the covenant of Moses and as the promises, with which this new testament is promulgated, exceed the promises of the old.

The Apostle having already clearly proved the translation of the Aaronic priesthood, is preparing, in this verse, while adducing a further argument in favour of the superior excellence of Christ’s priesthood, to show us, that the entire Mosaic law or covenant is to make way for, and to be abolished by, a more excellent one introduced by Christ.

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