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The Sacraments Instituted By Christ… Christ Is The Fulfillment Of The Sacrifices Of The Old Law

April 15, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM

Part 24

In the two previous articles, we considered the three most important ceremonies of the Old Law, namely, the Sacrifice of the Covenant, the Pasch, and the Day of Atonement. In the New Testament, the Sacrifice of Calvary is closely connected to those three central Jewish sacrifices.
In this article, we will see how the Sacrifice of the Covenant, the Passover, and the Day of Atonement were fulfilled in the Sacrifice of the Cross.
In turn, we see other realities that were prefigured in the Old Testament but fulfilled in the New: Christ says at the Last Supper, “This cup is the New Covenant in my Blood” (Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25). Yes, He established a New Covenant, not on the blood of the goats or lambs, but on His own Blood. The Letter to the Hebrews brings out the importance of the New Covenant, and our Lord’s superiority to Moses.
May I suggest that all Wanderer readers become more acquainted with the Letter to the Hebrews, if any of you are not already? The Letter to the Hebrews explains the meanings of the Old Testament rituals, and their connection with the New.
Jesus is the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The Last Supper takes place at the time of the festival of the Jewish Passover, when they sacrificed a one-year-old, unblemished lamb, and sprinkled its blood over the Ark of the Covenant. In Jesus’ time, the Ark was not in the Holy of Holies. Where was it, has been a question that puzzles the minds of many people — including Indiana Jones! But I digress.
The Letter to the Hebrews in particular compares the ritual of the Day of Atonement with the death of Christ whose Precious Blood and sacrifice are efficacious once and for all.
St. Paul speaks of Christ Jesus as being made a sacrifice of propitiation (Romans 3:25. Cf. 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10). The goat upon whom the High Priest imposed all the sins of the people was sent into the wilderness to die. This “scapegoat” was a “type” (symbolic preview) of the promised Redeemer who took upon Himself all the sins of mankind and took them away in His death outside the Holy City of Jerusalem.
Mount Calvary was outside of the walls of Jerusalem.
We have been speaking of sacrifice. It is time to define the term with precision. The English word is borrowed from the French sacrifice, which in turn comes from Latin sacrificium, from sacre (“sacred, holy”) + facio (“do, make”). To make or do something sacred, holy. Thus, sacrifice is an act of offering to God something precious; especially the killing of a victim on an altar. One can also offer something in sacrifice — the destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else deemed higher.
A sacrifice is a public action in which a priest offers or transfers to God a visible gift or victim, in order to signify God’s supreme and fatherly dominion over us, our total dependence on Him, and our childlike submission to His will. This definition is verified in the Sacrifice of the Cross and the Sacrifice of the Mass.
To emphasize the continuity of the sacrifices from the Old Law to the New, the Jewish sacrifices helped the apostles to understand the Sacrifice of Christ because Judaism was in fact the preparatory school of Christianity. This is a very important point to avoid confusion: The elementary lessons which the apostles had learned from the Temple ritual were not to be set aside, but preserved and enriched.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17), Jesus proclaimed at the Sermon of the Mount.
Our Adoration of God in sacrifice naturally carries with it acts of Thanksgiving, Petition, and Atonement or Expiation. Or, to use our system to help the memory, we have the four letters ACTS, that is, “A” for Adoration; “C” for Contrition; “T” for Thanksgiving, and “S” for Supplication.
Thus, for example, the perfect Sacrifice of Christ is called a Redemptive Sacrifice, because primarily it is a Sacrifice of Expiation. Similarly, the Mass is called a Eucharistic Sacrifice, because, before all else, it is a Sacrifice of Thanksgiving for the Redemption.
The Sacrifice of the Cross: As in the Old Testament, when the ancient pact of God with the Israelites was sealed with the blood of animals offered in sacrifice, so too, in the New Testament, a new pact between God and all mankind was to be sealed with the Precious Blood shed in the Sacrifice of the Cross (Heb. 9:19-20). That is, the Blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Christ offered Himself at the Last Supper to make it clear that He freely accepted the work of the redemption, and that it was not imposed on Him by the treachery of Judas, the hostility of the Jews, or the sentence of Pilate.
Upon His call, God the Father would have sent more than twelve legions of angels to defend Him from the Romans and the Jews (Matt. 26:53). But He freely chose to accept the sacrifice. Our Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled on the cross the promise He had made at the Last Supper.

Purify Your Conscience

In the Letter to the Hebrews, we find it set forth as a fundamental truth and insistently repeated that the many sacrifices of the Old Law were only figures of the one, all-sufficing Sacrifice of the Cross.
To quote just a single passage: “If . . . the blood of goats and bulls . . . sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the Blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience?” (Heb. 9:13, 14).
Next article: More on Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the sacrifices of the Old Law

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(Raymond de Souza, KM, is a Knight of the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta; a delegate for International Missions for Human Life International [HLI]; and an EWTN program host. Website: www.RaymonddeSouza.com.)

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