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In other words, God, Creator of the universe and Governor of history, appointed certain sacrifices for the Jews precisely with a view to the one all-sufficient and perfect sacrifice of Christ. In the same question of the Summa , St. Thomas shows how each major element of the Levitical code has both a valid historical reason and a figurative or mystical meaning.
The text is too lengthy to reproduce here, but I will share a couple of highlights. Why, according to Leviticus, do the animals have to be killed rather than, say, brought in for a moment, and after a quick prayer, taken away and put back in the flock? Thomas explains:. The animals which were offered in sacrifice were slain, because it is by being killed that they become useful to man, forasmuch as God gave them to man for food.
Hence, too, they were burnt with fire: because it is by being cooked that they are made fit for human consumption. Again, the slaying of these animals signified the slaying of Christ. Elsewhere St. Thomas tells us why the non-animal items specified for worship — bread, wine, oil, incense, and salt — are not arbitrary:.
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The products of the soil are useful to man, either as food, and of these bread was offered; or as drink, and of these wine was offered; or as seasoning, and of these oil and salt were offered; or as healing, and of these they offered incense, which both smells sweetly and binds easily together [i. Now the bread foreshadowed the flesh of Christ; and the wine, His blood, whereby we were redeemed; oil betokens the grace of Christ; salt, His knowledge; incense, His prayer.
The Angelic Doctor helps us to appreciate why the activity of offering sacrifice to God is something that should be natural to us, if we are thinking rightly about ourselves and God. Aversion to the very idea of sacrifice, which is common in our day and age, finally comes back to a too limited notion of God. If we think of God as a fellow player on the field of the universe, a kind of superhuman force, then sure, we feel comfortable letting God have some dealings with mankind, but there could be no question of yielding ourselves up to Him as a burnt offering.
Augustine , the absolute origin of all that I am, and the single goal of all that I will be. But then we find, to our dismay, that we cannot fulfill this desire on our own. All men are born, so to speak, in the Old Testament; we have to be lifted up out of our proneness to idolatry in all its different forms. We are born in the shadow of the golden calf and have to be weaned from the temptation to pull God down to our level and make of him a rival in the contest for self-determination.
We need a savior, a rescuer, who has stooped to our condition, has entered into it so fully that he can lift us up on his shoulders and bring us to where we are supposed to be. The New Testament gives us the key that interprets the whole of the Old Testament. It is Our Lord Jesus Christ who offers the perfect sacrifice, the perfect worship, that fulfills the original plan of creation and making it possible for the rest of us to do so as well. As Cardinal Ratzinger beautifully says:. The Shepherd [of Israel] has become a Lamb. The vision of the lamb that appears in the story of Isaac, the lamb that gets entangled in the undergrowth and ransoms the son, has become a reality; the Lord became a Lamb; He allows Himself to be bound and sacrificed, to deliver us.
In so doing He brings to an end the sacrificial system contained in Leviticus. He is the reality that the symbols of the Jewish religion point to. He is the agent in whose person and by whose action fallen human beings can resume their rightful place as royal priests who bring the world back to its original purpose, who help the universe achieve its destiny.
That is what is at stake! But how do we make His perfect sacrifice of love our own? Or better, how does He share this sacrifice with us? Jesus makes Himself our food and drink so that we may share His life and the reality of His sacrifice.
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If we turn to the Gospel of John, we can see this more clearly. By the time St. They know that the Eucharist has fulfilled and replaced the Passover meal.
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John plays on this in a remarkable way. Just when readers accustomed to the Synoptic Gospels expect the account of Jesus lifting up bread at the Last Supper, they get instead the body of Jesus being lifted up on the Cross as the Passover Lamb. This is the hour, according to ancient Jewish sources, when all the lambs were ritually slaughtered in the court of the Temple, in order to be brought to the homes where the meal would be celebrated.
Jesus, the true Lamb of God, is handed over at this very moment to be sacrificed on the Cross. Now, since as John is dramatically showing the body of Jesus on the Cross is the Passover Lamb, and since as the Christians already know the Eucharist is the new Passover Meal, therefore the Eucharist is the very same body of Jesus that hung on the Cross for our salvation — the same Jesus who is our salvation. To eat this Passover meal, therefore, means that we are incorporated into the Son of God: we become living members of His body, and we are spared the destroying angel.
With these marvelous truths in mind, what are some concrete applications to our life as Catholics, our way of thinking and acting? From the time of the Apostolic Fathers to the present, the Church has understood the Mass to be nothing other than the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary, made present to us under the appearances of bread and wine — the forms Jesus chose at the Last Supper, the Passover meal He transformed into the first Mass. You would have to travel and find a place to stay.
Imagine the emotional or spiritual burden as you made this trek, knowing that you would have to identify and confess your sin to the priest in offering your sacrifice. But also imagine the burden rolling away. You would think, It should be me. I am the one who deserves to die. But this innocent animal has become my substitute.
This animal has died so I can live.
This was good news. Nancy Guthrie teaches the Bible to women at her church, Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tennessee, and at conferences worldwide. She and her husband, David, are the cohosts of the GriefShare video series used in more than 10, churches nationwide and also host Respite Retreats for couples who have experienced the death of a child. The Wisdom of God Nancy Guthrie. The Promised One Nancy Guthrie. The Son of David Nancy Guthrie. The Word of the Lord Nancy Guthrie. Sign In. Crossway is a not-for-profit Christian ministry that exists solely for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel through publishing gospel-centered, Bible-centered content.
According to Quinn, there were perhaps 25 such burials a year, for a city of perhaps , people. The Roman historian Diodorus and other ancient historians gave graphic accounts of Carthaginian child sacrifice: "There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus, extending its hands, palms up and sloping towards the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire.
Diodorus even said that some citizens who bought children from poor people and reared them specially for sacrifice believed misfortunes had resulted because they had not sacrificed their own offspring. The argument has been passionate for years, with scientists often reaching opposed conclusions from the same bone fragments: four years ago a group of scientists published a paper saying the cremated remains did not indicate infant sacrifice.
Now in the same issue as Quinn's research, Antiquity is publishing a new paper on the same bones, insisting that the earlier study got the science of burnt infant bones wrong, and therefore greatly overestimated the number who died before birth rather than being murdered in infancy. It was striking how often colleagues, when they asked what I was working on, reacted in horror and said, 'Oh no, that's simply not possible, you must have got it wrong.