Not surprisingly at the end of the Year for the Priests, the Holy Father invited the faithful to meditate on the relation that exists between the Eucharist and the Priest. There is certainly more than a relation of causality between the priest and the Eucharist. Yes, it is true that it is the priest who confects the Eucharist and as such is really the agent that produces this admirable Sacrament. In fact he is not the first and primary agent. The changing of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus is produced first by God as the principal agent, by the humanity of Christ as the instrument conjoined to the divinity, and by the celebrant as a separate instrument, conscious and free, Father Garrigou-Lagrange explains.
And this shows the great dignity of the priest, who, though simply an instrumental cause, has still a power on God Himself who obeys him. In virtue of his priesthood, the priest has a power on the Body of Christ that he can confect here or there whenever he wants, as a conscious and free agent. But again, there is more than a relation of causality. Consider what the Eucharist is and consider how it is confected, or what does the priest say when he confects it.
The Eucharist is the Sacrament that contains the body, the blood, the soul and the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the appearances of bread and wine. It means that a consecrated host is Jesus Himself. In his sermon for the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Holy Father recalled who Jesus is. He is the High Priest. And His Priesthood results from His very own Humanity. He was not a priest according to the Jewish tradition, the Holy Father says. He did not belong to the lineage of Aaron. He is rather a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek! Nobody knows really who he was. The Scriptures give just few information about him: he was King of Salem, priest of the Most High who brought bread and wine and that’s all what we know. And Jesus is priest according to the order of this mysterious man and not in reason of his belonging to the tribe of Aaron. It shows the superiority of the priesthood of Christ and its mysterious origin that has to be found in the hypostatic union.
The degree of excellence belonging to any priesthood depends on the intimacy of union, first between the priest and God, Father Garrigou-Lagrange says. Since there is no higher degree of union with God than the hypostatic union, there is no higher priesthood than the one Of Christ. Secondly the degree of excellence of any priesthood depends also on the intimacy of union between the priest and the victim possessing the greater purity and value and which is more completely destroyed. In our case, Christ is both Priest and Victim; no other victim would have been worthy of His priesthood.
And being consummated, he became, to all that obey him, the cause of eternal salvation.(Hb 5,9). Being consummated can also be translated by ‘made perfect.’ Then the Pope explains: The term "teleiotheis," translated correctly as "made perfect," belongs to a verbal root that, in the Greek version of the Pentateuch, namely the first five books of the Bible, is always used to indicate the consecration of the ancient priests. This discovery is quite precious, because it tells us that the Passion was for Jesus as a priestly consecration. He was not a priest according to the Law, but he became so essentially in his Passion, Death and Resurrection: He offered himself in expiation and the Father, exalting him above every creature, constituted him universal Mediator of salvation.
The offering of the bread and wine, prefigured by Melchizedek and that is now the offering of the body and of the blood of Christ is the perfect Sacrifice. When a priest confects the Eucharist, he also renews the Sacrifice of Jesus, and both are intimely connected. The Eucharist is both a Sacrament and a Sacrifice, and if we can distinguish between them we cannot separate them. The permanence of the physical presence of Christ is a fruit of His Sacrifice.
We return, in our meditation, to the Eucharist, Pope Benedict continues, which in a while will be the center of our liturgical assembly and of the subsequent solemn procession. In it Jesus anticipated his sacrifice, not a ritual sacrifice but a personal one. In the Last Supper he acted moved by that "Eternal Spirit" with which he will offer himself later on the Cross (cf. Hebrews 9:14). Giving thanks and with a blessing, Jesus transformed the bread and wine. It is divine love that transforms: the love with which Jesus accepts in advance to give himself completely for us. This love is none other than the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, which consecrates the bread and wine and changes their substance into the Body and the Blood of the Lord, rendering present in the Sacrament the same sacrifice that is made later in a bloody manner on the cross.
The priests who consecrate every day the bread and the wine make the Sacrifice of Christ present. As such, it is the greatest sign of the love of God for us. Priests renew the only one Sacrifice of Jesus and make possible the permanence of the physical presence of our Redeemer by saying the words that Jesus said: This is my body – this is the chalice of my blood. And this time, they act in persona Christi. Like Christ was made perfect by his Sacrifice, priests are made perfect when they celebrate the holy sacrifice of the Mass. By confecting the Eucharist, they perfect themselves, and in a certain way “they confect themselves” if we can say this, because they act in persona Christi, Priest and Victim. This is why there is more than a relation of causality between the priest and the Eucharist. This is a great mystery! This is why the Church, through the mouth of the Bishop admonishes the priests on the day of their ordination: Imitamini quod tractatis: Imitate that which you celebrate – or what you do!
The feast of Corpus Christi is a call for all the priests to live a holy life, the life of Christ. May Our Blessed Mother pray for them and protect them.