We deny to claim "any Superiority to ourself
to defyne, decyde, or determyn any Article or Poynt
of the Christian Fayth and Relligion,
or to chang any Ancient Ceremony of the Church
from the Forme before received and observed
by the Catholick and Apostolick Church."

Norman Simplicity

Norman Simplicity
Click image for original | © Vitrearum (Allan Barton)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Day of Atonement

The Messiah, both high priest and victim, was the theme of the Eucharist as it was of the Day of Atonement. Dix concluded:

From the days of Clement of Rome in the first century, for whom our LORD is ‘the High-priest of our offerings’ Who is ‘in the heights of the heavens’ (1 Clem.6) it can be said with truth that this doctrine of the offering of the earthly Eucharist by the heavenly Priest at the heavenly altar is to all intents and purposes the only conception of the eucharistic sacrifice which is known anywhere in the church… there is no pre-Nicene author Eastern or Western whose eucharistic doctrine is at all fully stated who does not regard the offering and consecration of the Eucharist as the present action of the LORD Himself, the Second Person of the Trinity [The Shape of the Liturgy, p.186].


2. The theology of the patristic period does not limit the reference in the Eucharist to our Lord's death. The scope of it includes also His resurrection and ascension and life in heaven. When St. Ignatius has said that ‘the Eucharist is the Flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ which suffered for our sins,’ he immediately adds, ‘which the Father of His goodness raised up’ [Ad Smyrn. 6]. St. Irenaeus implies that the action of Christians on earth in the Eucharistic sacrifice is joined with that which our Lord is now doing in heaven when he says:

There is then an altar in the heavens, for thither our prayers and our offerings are directed; and a temple, as John says in the Revelation, "And the temple of God was opened "; and a tabernacle, "For, behold," he says, "the tabernacle of God in which He will dwell with men" [C. Haer. IV. xviii. 6].

Tertullian, in describing the Priesthood of our Lord, makes special reference to it as existing after the resurrection:

‘That Jesus,’ he says, ‘is the Christ, the Priest of God the Father Most High, who at His first coming came in human form, passible, in lowliness, even unto His Passion, being Himself made a victim in every way for us all, who after His resurrection was clad with a garment down to the feet and named a Priest for ever of God the Father’ [Adv. Jud. 14].

St. Ambrose adds to the passage already quoted, connecting the Eucharist with the Passion of Christ, an express reference to its connexion also with the intercession which our Lord now offers in heaven. Christ, he says,

Himself offers Himself as Priest that He may remit our sins; here in symbol, there in truth, where He intercedes for us with the Father as our Advocate [De Offic. i. 248].

St. Chrysostom, who is at pains to emphasize that Christ offered one sacrifice and that the Eucharistic offering is the memorial of that one sacrifice [In Ep. Ad Heb. Hom. xvii. 3], says also:

Our high priest is above, and much better than those among the Jews, not only in the manner, but also in the place, and in the tabernacle, and in the covenant, and in the Person. And this has been said as regards that which is according to the flesh. It is right, then, that those of whom He is the priest should be much better. And as much difference as there is between Aaron and Christ, so much is there between us and the Jews. For, behold, we have our victim above, our priest above, our sacrifice above. Let us therefore offer such sacrifices as can be presented on that altar [Ibid. xi. 2-3].

St. Augustine refers repeatedly to our Lord's work in heaven in connexion with the Holy Eucharist [Serm. cccli. 7; In Ps. xxv. Enar. ii 10], and compares His intercession at the right hand of the Father with the offering of the Jewish sacrifice within the veil on the Day of Atonement. Thus, he says:

"Thou wilt make propitiation for our iniquities" [Ps. lxiv. 4 (Lat. = lxv. 4, Heb. = lxv. 3, English)]. Thou art the Priest, Thou art the Victim, Thou art the Offerer, Thou art That which is offered. He is Himself the Priest who has now entered into the parts within the veil, and alone there of those who have worn flesh makes intercession for us. In the type of which thing in that first people and in that first temple, one priest entered into the Holy of Holies, all the people stood without, and he who alone entered into the parts within the veil offered sacrifice for the people standing without [In Ps. lxiv. Enar. 10].

The Liturgies commemorate the resurrection and ascension and heavenly life of Christ as well as His death. To give an instance, the Liturgy of St. James, after the commemoration of the passion and death, proceeds to mention ‘the resurrection from the dead on the third day, and the ascension into heaven, and the session on the right hand of God the Father, and the glorious and terrible second coming’ of our Lord [Brightman, Liturgies Eastern and Western, i. 52-53].


  1. If you allow links, I think that thesis of this book (it is in the post, so I can't say this dogmatically) is very much that the Eucharist is the participation in the resurrection & ascension as well as the death of Christ. Some interesting historical stuff about Trent, too, in the chapter available online.

  2. Two affirming points:

    1. The canon ought speak of Christ's "death, resurrection, and glorious ascension."

    2. We ought not to entertain "the sacrifices of Masses" but only the continual re-petition and re-presentation of "[t]he offering of Christ once made."