Exploring the Sacred
Beholding the Sacred
“Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the angel. “Do not do the least thing to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you did not withhold from me your son, your only one.” Genesis 22:12
Abraham's sacrifice was also a prototype of the sacrifice of Calvary. Abraham was willing to offer to God his only son, Isaac, as God had commanded him.
The Jewish people always sought to perfect their sacrifices. If it hadn't been for God's fifth commandment given to Moses, "You shall not kill", the Jews may eventually have arrived at what is a most perfect offering, human sacrifice. Although a human being's offering of himself to God is the most perfect sacrifice, God did not will this victim's destruction.
God would give this notion of substitution a truly redeeming value by allowing His only begotten Son to offer Himself in the place of sinful humanity. Isaac bore the wood to the place of sacrifice, as Christ bore His cross. He allowed this immolation of himself by his father, as Christ, too, would willingly obey His Father's command. There is one great difference, however, God spared Isaac, but He did not space His own Son. The sacrifice was completed on Calvary and is repeated daily on our altars.
What was almost a dogma of the Old Testament, that all things are cleansed by the shedding of blood, and there was no expiation without it, was applied by Christ. Jesus shed his blood, and the infinite merits of that sacrifice sealed God's covenant with humanity and repaired for sins of all humans.
The Sacrifice of Melchizedek
Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine. He was a priest of God Most High. He blessed Abram with these words: “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, the creator of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your foes into your hand.” Genesis 14:18
Melchizedek, dressed in the robes of the High Priest offers an un-bloody sacrifice of bread and wine. Because he appears without without known origin or end, he is thus the sign of the eternal priesthood of Christ. In the ordination rite the priest is told, "You are a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchizedek," representative of Christ, the eternal High Priest.
The Old Testament bears witness to the obligation imposed on men to offer tithes of their possessions, from the first-born son to the first fruits of fields or flocks. Unleavened bread was often presented as an offering. It had the symbolism of divine nourishment, and the Bible tells stories of miraculous bread, such as the manna in the desert and that given to Elias the prophet enabling him to journey for forty days and nights.
Such a bread was found in the hands of the High Priest, Melchizedek, with wine, the fruit of the vine.
The herald at the top of the window announces the significance of this sacrifice, its value as the prefigurement of the Holy Eucharist. So significant was it that Melchizedek is still mentioned in the Roman Canon of the Mass.
Melchizedek's name itself signifies king of justice, and he was king of Salem, (later Jerusalem), which means peace. Jesus Christ would establish the Eucharist in the forms of bread and wine and offer the eternal sacrifice on Golgotha.
Christ, through his salvific action becomes both priest and sacrificial victim.
He is the Prince of Peace.