(Hebrews 7:26-28; 8:1-2)
On the occasion of this feast of the Archbishop of Constantinople St. John Chrysostom, today’s Epistle refers to the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul is writing to the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem, and he wants to help them understand that the priesthood of Aaron and his successors was temporary. Since Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Son of God came into the world, He inaugurated as the High Priest a new priesthood, immeasurably superior to the priesthood of the Old Testament. To confirm this, the Apostle Paul makes the following comparisons:
-The Jewish high priests, as sinful people, were obliged to offer sacrifices first for their own personal sins, and then to make sacrifices for the sins of the people (see verse 27). But Jesus Christ is Holy, innocent, undefiled and with no relation to sin (see verse 26). This is why, as High Priest, he does not need, like the others, to offer sacrifices for His own sins because he has none.
-The Hebrew high priests offered multiple sacrifices for forgiveness of their own sins and those of the Jews, but Jesus Christ offered only one sacrifice. Our Lord sacrificed Himself on the Cross of Calvary; this same Jesus became the sacrifice - "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29) - and the sacrificer, as the High Priest, who offered the sacrifice. This unique sacrifice of Christ has eternal and universal power, capable of saving the people of the world for all generations, until the end of the world (see Hebrews 10:14). This sacrifice of Jesus on Golgotha is present and felt at every Divine Liturgy, where the Holy Sacrament of the Divine Eucharist is celebrated. Upon the Holy Altar, our Lord Jesus Christ, for the sake of the congregation, offers Himself as sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins and for the salvation of all of us. Characteristic is the conclusion of the prayer of the Cherubim hymn: "For You, Christ our God, are the Offerer -the sacrifice- and the Offered -as a victim - the One who receives and is distributed, and to You we give the glory ...".
-Finally, the Mosaic Law had high priests with imperfections being installed into the office, men who would one day die. However, Jesus was told by God the Father, "You are the Priest forever" (Hebrews 7:21). Because He is immortal, “He continues forever, He has an unchangeable priesthood” (Hebrews 7:24). And to prove the supremacy of Christ’s function in this role, Paul ends with the following words: "We have such a High Priest - Jesus Christ- who ascended to the heavens and is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true Tabernacle, which the Lord erected and not man” (Hebrews 8: 1-2).
As we can see, what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians who were first under the Mosaic Law has great importance for us today. Whatever happens in our lives, we have in Heaven the eternal High Priest Jesus, who brings upon Himself our own human nature, lovingly observing and keeping us in touch with God the Father for our salvation. We can fully trust that in all of our needs, we can turn to Him with the certainty that He will hear and support us in all the ways that His love knows.
My dear brothers and sisters, let us finish with the following words of Paul's inspiration:
"We have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of the grace, to help in time of need"(Hebrews 4: 14-16). Amen.