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In your last e-mail you wrote that the Father does not desire the blood per se, but that he desired the humility and love that accompanied the sacrifices. I am totally in agreement with you. There's nothing about blood in and of itself that God likes, but rather the selflessness that accompanies the blood.

 

Yes, indeed.

 

You also said that we don't need to make other self-donations to God, that Jesus' self-donation was sufficient for obtaining forgiveness. I am in agreement with you again. I know that in the Old Testament, animal sacrifices were offered to God in order to procure forgiveness. But those days are gone. Forgiveness has been won. I never wanted to suggest that animal sacrifices could ever procure forgiveness.

 

Yes, I understood that. But, it is important to point out that this is what animal sacrifice (in all its various forms) was essentially based on.

 

In the Old Testament however, the Levites were not expecting a Spotless Lamb. Rather, they really believed that their animal sacrifices would do the job.

 

Yes. When I wrote that such animal sacrifices (or the humility associated with such animal sacrifices) was only of value when connected to the perfect Sacrifice that was to come, I did not mean to imply that the ancient Jews understood all this. Rather, the connection was a mysterious and implicit one. The Jews did know that their sacrifices lacked perfection (e.g. Jeremiah); and they knew that no one kept the Law perfectly, despite the unquestionable demands of the Law. Thus, rolling around in the Jewish mentality was always the idea of a perfect Servant Who could please God ...and this person was usually equated with the Messiah. Little did they realize the full, Incarnational extent by which this would be made a reality ...in which God Himself would become man so as to perfectly keep His own Law. :-) But, again, I didn't mean to suggest that the Jews had an integrated understanding of this. Most of them just assumed that the animals would appease God as much as possible, etc. :-) For the most part, the Jews were not theologians (or prophets like Jeremiah), but just victims of their own culture, going through the motions of that culture.

 

But if they were offered simply to place God in a position of debt, they had no spiritual value in the eyes of God. If they were offered with contrition and true sorrow, then they DID have the ability to stay God's anger.

 

Well, ... Two things: 1) God doesn't really get "angry." :-) And, 2) Yes, true contrition did supply value to their animal sacrifices, EXCEPT (as we know from the Christian perspective) this was only the case because such contrition was mystically associated with the Sacrifice of Jesus --the Sacrifice that all the animal sacrifices prefigured. In other words, all forgiveness (whether before or after the time of Christ) flows from the Cross and its Divine merits, and there is no forgiveness outside of it.

 

So if the Old Testament sacrifices were offered in faith, they COULD actually please God. That's the bottom line.

 

Yes. But, again, not apart from the Cross that they prefigured.

 

They could please God. And I am sure that God was pleased with many animal sacrifices in the Old Testament.

 

Only because He saw them as antetypes of the Cross / earthly life of Jesus that was to come.

 

But not to the blood per se, but rather to the selflessness that accompanied the sacrifice.

 

Yes, but again ... The selflessness (and contrition) was something that existed ***outside of the law***. Under the law, the guilt (with its corresponding punishments) REMAINED!. Rather, it was only the coming Redemption of Christ (applied to the OT sinner **outside of time**) that affected his or her forgiveness. The contrition itself was worthless apart from Christ, as is still the case with both Christians as well as non-Christian believers in God today.

 

Now I am sure that when the newly converted Levitical priest offered his daily animal sacrifice, he did not do so to obtain forgiveness.

 

Not if he was properly catechized, no. However, there is evidence to suggest that many Jewish Christians **still** failed to "get it" or to understand all the nuances of their new Christian faith (e.g. Acts 18:24-26, Acts 19:1-7, Titus 1:10-16, etc.). I'm sure this must have included a few Levites. ;-)

 

Rather, I am sure that he did so to please God (again) not that God would be pleased by the blood per se, but by the contrition and selfness that accompanied the sacrifice.

 

Well, ... As I said before (assuming that he was properly catechized), the Levite would not have actively offered animal sacrifices on behalf of himself or his fellow Christians, but (because of his duty as a Jewish priest), he would continue to offer sacrifices for his non-Christian brethren who, as yet, could only "connect" to God through him (their priest) and through the Old Covenant. But, the overriding assumption of these Christian Levites was that all Israel would soon convert to Christ and that the total passing away of the Old Covenant (with its animal sacrifices) would accompany the eminent Second Coming of Christ. Yet, this isn't what happened. Rather, the Temple was destroyed and the New Covenant continued apart from an immediate Second Coming. One could strongly argue that Jewish Christianity was not prepared for this, or at least that it assumed otherwise.

 

You wrote that "we do not need to make **other** self-donations of God, that is, self-donations that are **apart from** the self-donation of Christ". You then said that, "rather our self-donation must be IN Christ". I am not sure if I know what you mean. You seem to be saying that since the animal is not "in Christ", that is, since the animal's blood is not ontologically and mystically the same thing as Christ's blood, then to offer it would constitute an offering **apart from** Christ. You seem to be saying that an animal sacrifice would not constitute an offering "in Christ", because the blood is not the same.

 

Well, ... That's part of it, yes. Essentially, the animal sacrifices of old were offered as symbolic "proxies" for the blood / self / life of the sinner. It was the Jew himself who sinned, and the Jew who deserved death or suffering because of this sin. Yet, instead of experiencing death or suffering himself, his sin was placed upon the animal, who was offered up instead of him. In Christ, however, we do not offer up vicarious animals, but rather our very selves. Our blood is one with His Blood (via the Eucharist), and it is our blood / self / life that we offer ...Whether in little ways (e.g. daily mortifications) or in the most extreme way (martyrdom for the Name of Christ). Thus, the sacrifices of the New Covenant (which are merely personal, Eucharistic-like re-presentations of the one Sacrifice) are more intimate and superior than the (animal) sacrifices of the Old Covenant. So, given what animal sacrifice really implied, it is perfectly clear that they are no longer necessary because the Incarnation and one-Blood Covenant of Christ makes them both outdated and pointless.

 

However I would have to ask, 'were not the Old Testament sacrifices - the ones that pleased God - (in actuality) "in Christ"?

 

Hummmm. Well, I'd say that they were "connected to" Christ, but not "in" Him. That is to say, given that there was, as yet, no Incarnation, there could be no one-Flesh / one-Blood Covenant between the OT sinner and the eternal Son of God. For example, ... A modern Jew who loves God and does his best to serve Him and keep the Commandments will be saved on the Last Day. Why? Because this Jew lives in, and is connected to, the grace of Christ (just like the sincere OT penitent who offered animal sacrifice). Yet, we would not say that such modern Jews are "in Christ." ...Because they, unfortunately, are not. Rather, their salvation would be an example of incidental grace ("the Spirit blows where He will"), and not the Sacramental grace of the Church, which alone is "in Christ."

 

Although the Old Testament priests did not mystically unite their sacrifices to Christ (since they were unaware that Christ would be a Spotless Lamb), God somehow accounted for this and counted their sacrifices (the ones offered in faith) as belonging "in Christ".

 

No, Damien, not "in Christ." Rather, "connected to" Christ ...meaning that the incidental grace flowed from Him. For example, ... Just because a sincere 1st Century Jew offered sacrifice for his sins (being truly sorry for those sins and expressing true love for God), this did not mean that he was excused from Christian Baptism. ...Baptism being the Sacrament that would place him "in Christ." Take Acts 2:37-38, for example. Here, Peter tells the Jewish pilgrims at Pentecost (all of whom came to Jerusalem to **offer sacrifices** at the Temple) that they must not only repent, but **be Baptized for the forgiveness of their sins**. In the Jewish understanding, an animal sacrifice did not absolve the person completely from sin, but merely "covered" the sin ("kippur" in Hebrew), so as to make a "legal deferment" and excuse the sinner from the punishments directly prescribed for said sin in the Law of Moses. Baptism, however, produced the Sacramental "death" and "rebirth" for the sinner, making him a new creation who was not the same person who committed the sin. This is what it meant to be "in Christ." The value of the animal sacrifice was only a "temporary fix" at best, and a prelude for one's eventual entering "into Christ." So, big difference.

 

So to the extent that the Old Testament sacrifices were offered;in Faith, God counted them as being offered "in Christ".

 

Uh, ... No. Because, if this were the case, then OT Jews could go to Heaven immediately upon death. This was not the case, however. Even the OT saints like Abraham and the other patriarchs did not ascend to Heaven until Christ Himself took them there via His Ascension. Before that time, both OT saints and sinners were subject to Death / Hell (Hades) / Sheol; and Jesus had to preach to them during His time among the dead. See: 1 Peter 3:19 & 4:6. See also Luke 16:22ff (the "Bosom of Abraham" and/or the "Paradise of the Fathers" was not Heaven, but part of Sheol, the realm of the dead), and Matt 27:51-53.

 

All the OT sacrifices did (assuming they were offered with sincere contrition) was preserve righteous Jews from fiery Gehenna, set them apart from the wicked, and provide the opportunity for them to eventually accept the saving Covenant of Christ, whether in this life or in the next (1 Peter 3:19 & 4:6).

 

Now I would likewise have to say that when the newly converted Levitical priest offered his daily animal sacrifice to God, he did so in union with the sacrifice of Christ.

 

Not possible, Damien. The Sacrfice of Christ was a Covenant that **replaced** the Old Covenant because it was superior to it. If a Levitical priest did such a thing, he would be guilty of the kind of poor catechesis I referenced among some Jewish Christians above. Again, ... The Levites offered up sacrifices that were donated by non-Christian Jews ...the anti-Christian Pharisees and Sadducees among them. How could a Christian Levite offer up the sacrifice of an anti-Christian in union with the Cross of Christ? Not possible. And, even for Jews who were pro-Christian, or Christian themselves, to offer the Old Covenant in union with the New (as opposed to **ancillary** to the New) would be directly claiming that Christ was still bound by the Old Covenant! :-) ...OR, in other words, that the priesthood of Melchizedek (that of Christ) was compatible with that of Levi. That would be a major no-no for a 1st Century Christian. Rather, the Christian Levites, and all Christians who were practicing Jews, served an Old Covenant that ran alongside and **parallel to** the New Covenant, and was soon to be replaced by the New Covenant. And while it was surely recognized that the rites of the Old Covenant had connections to the New, they did not "mix" the two for fear of blaspheming the New Covenant. Indeed, what you're suggesting above is akin to a Jewish Christian circumcizing his son **in union with** his Christian Baptism. However, what this would imply is that Baptism isn't enough to make one a full member of the Chosen People of God. ...That more is required to be a full disciple of Christ (the error of the Jewish Christians in Acts 15). In the same way, if the Christian Levites offered up animal sin offerings "in union with" the Cross of Christ and the Eucharist, they would be saying that the Cross / Eucharist is not enough to atone for sins. It would not be an additional indulgence or penance, but an **additional sacrifice**! This must be kept in mind.

 

I would have to say that the Christian Levite offered the animal sacrifice IN Christ

 

Again, this is not possible. This would imply that the Old Covenant was/is a Covenant "in Christ," which would mean that all Jews were/are Christians automatically. Not possible. Rather, the Christian Levites continued to serve an Old Covenant that was outside of Christ with the intention of "phasing it out" in favor of the New Covenant in Christ. Remember, to be a Christian, these Levites had to take Christ's words seriously; and Christ directly prophecized that the Temple was soon to be destroyed. This meant that the Christian Levites knew that the animal sacrifices would soon come to an end (although, as I said above, they probably associted this with the Second Coming). So, while they continued to serve the Old Covenant, and those who only knew the Old Covenant, they were expecting to be "out of a job" pretty soon and looking forward to it. :-) They did not think that their service to the Old Covenant was doing anything more than preserving the Old Covenant until all who practiced it could be converted to Christ (the very mission of the Twelve Apostles, who, unlike Paul, focused their evangelization efforts almost exclusively on the Jews). There was no "mixing" or "assimilation" attempted between the two Covenants. Why should there be if the Old was about to pass away?

 

For, as you say, it is not the blood per se that God is interested in, but rather the self-donation that accompanies the sacrifice.

 

True. But, Damien .... With the New Covenant established, there was a much better form of self-donation available. Levites who were truly Christian would have known this quite well.

 

So, if God is not really interested in the animal's blood, but the state of being that accompanies the sacrifice, then the animal sacrifice could be counted as being offered in Christ.

 

Sorry, it cannot. And, I'll explain why immediately below ...

 

If I give up alcohol (as a way of pleasing God) one could easily say that my giving up alcohol does not constitute a sacrifice "in Christ", since the alcohol is not in Christ. But we both know that such a thing can be done(and is done, every day by some) in Christ. I am not suggesting that animal sacrifices can obtain forgiveness, but rather that they can please God. I cannot see how animal sacrifices can't be offered "in Christ" - the Christian Levites managed to do it!

 

:-) Well, again, the Christian Levites **didn't** "manage to do it" at all, because their animal sacrifices were not "in Christ," but according to the **OLD** Covenant.

 

What's more, as I also touched on above, what you're clearly doing is confusing OT animal sacrifice with Christian penance or indulgences. They are NOT the same thing. If a **Christian**, who happens to have a problem with alcohol, abstains from it for love of God, this is not an additional sacrifice that is outside of the Cross of Christ, but rather a personal mortification through which he is offering up his very self, which is one Body / one Blood with Christ. However, if a Christian, who happens to be a 1st Century Levitical priest, offers up an animal sacrifice according to the prescriptions of the Old Covenant, then this is NOT a penance or indulgence for himself (and certainly not for the non-Christian Jew he is serving!) because it is an **additional** sacrifice that is outside of His one-Body / one-Blood Covenantial commitment in Christ (and outside of his Jewish client's experience, since this Jew doesn't even know Christ). So, for a number of reasons, there would be no way for the Christian Levite to offer up an animal "in union with Christ," even if he wanted to.

 

A good example of what I'm talking about, Damien, would be the Jansenist heresy, which still effects the English-speaking (and especially the Irish) Catholic Church to this day. More of a cultural sensibility than an actual doctrine, Jansenism moves the Catholic to behave as if God thinks he or she is the scum of the earth, and as if God wants to see them suffer before He will pay any attention to them. Thus, the Catholic Jansenist practices all sorts of "mortifications," NOT to grow in holiness or build up spiritual resistance to sin, but to "please God." In this, a Jansenist "Catholic" might do something like beat himself with a stap until he bleeds. Yet, given his intention (to "please God" who would otherwise think him "unworthy"), the Jansenist is not offering up the sacrifice of himself in union with the Cross of Christ, but is rather offering up an **additional sacrifice** (his own pain and suffering) in order to "satisfy God" and "make God like him." Now, at first glance, one might have great difficulty distinguishing this sort of behavior from something like giving up alcohol or performing some other penance or mortification in order to grow in holiness. Yet, the difference is quite apparant in that the latter (e.g. giving up alcohol) would be done with the realization that such a "sacrifice" has no value in and of itself, but one is already in God's favor by freely accepting His Son --abstinance from alcohol being just an "indulgent" manifestation of that acceptance. However, the Jansenist who beats himself, or who even abstains from alcohol, does this **apart from** His acceptance of Christ. In other words, in his mind, his free acceptance of Christ was not enough to please God, and he must beat himself or abstain from alcohol before God will love him or accept him seriously as a son. Well, when it comes to OT animal sacrifices, which can only be appreciated and practiced WITHIN their intented Old Covenant context as sacrifices meant to atone for, or "cover," sins, a Christian Levite could only mimic the behavior of a Jansenist (and offer an **additional** sacrifice aside from the Cross of Christ). He could not offer his OT animal sacrifice as a penance or "indulgent" manifestation of the Christian Covenant. This would not be possible given the context, which is that of a sin offering intended to heal the relationship between a penitent and God --to win God's favor through something offered **in addition to** the Cross of Christ.

 

As for modern animal sacrifice, ... This too would be an example of Jansenism. If God can accept the sorrw of a person apart from their penitental sacrifice, but based solely on their sincere acceptance of Christ, how could animal sacrifice be anything other than an additional, and competing, sacrifice for a Christian? For example, a Christian who gives up alcohol or some other harmful thing does so for the good of his body and to conform to the perfection of Christ Jesus. Yet, animal sacrifice does not accomplish this. Thus, how would you suggest that animal sacrifice can be "plugged into" the Christian Covenant? ...without it becoming an occassion of Jansenism, that it? :-)

 

Since, the Christian Levites, up till 70 A.D., offered animal sacrifices to God, (and did so"in Christ" in order to please Him, (not to gain forgiveness) then I do not see how the practice cannot "in principle" be revived.

 

Again, because ... a) It was not "in Christ"; b) It was not for Christians but an element of the Old Covenant; and c) Animal sacrifice intended to please God **in addition to** the Cross of Christ, not in accord with it. Again, I ask you ... How can killing an animal (as opposed to giving up alcohol, for example) make you grow in holiness? Is it (like giving up alcohol or another personal penance) a indulgent manifestation of your acceptance of Christ's free offer of salvation? Or is it not an additional sacrifice, like when a Jansenist beats himself or practices some other mortification with the intention of "pleasing God"? :-) Damien, Catholics do not practice mortification, penance, or indulgences in order to "please God" or "get on His good side" (e.g. animal sacrifices under the Old Covenant). Rather, we please God by willingly accepting the freely-offered salvation of His Son; and we only practice mortification, penance, and indulgences to remove personal obstabcles to accepting that free offer, so as to accept it more fully. Big difference.

 

Anyway ... I look forward to your thoughts. :-)

 


You then went on to say that the God only accepts human (i.e., Christian) blood, and NOT animal blood. I see a problem here. You say that God only accepts human blood under the New Covenant but I cannot see how it is that you arrived at that conclusion. I do not see HOW it necessarily follows that animal blood is not acceptable to God. Just because there is one blood sacrifice (Jesus') doesn't necessarily mean that another type of blood sacrifice (animal) is excluded. I cannot seem to be able to connect the dots. Can you help me with this one?

 

Okay. I think I see the nature of your difficulty with what I said. First of all, there's the matter of context, which requires a realization of what animal sacrifice was really used for. What I said was **not** that God 'only accepts human blood rather than animal blood.' Rather, what I said (and perhaps I could have been clearer) is that only one Blood Sacrifice is acceptable for THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS under the New Covenant ...or any Covenant, for that matter. :-) ...And that Blood Sacrifice is the Cross of Christ. Conversely, all animal sacrifices, whether performed before or after the institution of the New Covenant, were merely a prefigurement of Christ's Blood Sacrifice.

 

Now, ... The ancient Jews used to use animal sacrifces as ***sin offerings**. However, as Scripture tells us quite clearly, God never cared about the sacrifices themselves. He didn't want to see people kill animals or desire their blood. Rather, what He wanted was the humility and contrition that accompanied these sacrifices. In this, a Jew who was sorry for his sins **showed this** by giving up a valuable piece of property (e.g. a sheep), and so took his repentance seriously.

 

Now, ... What you are apparently suggesting is that we Christians could do the same today. What you're apparently saying is, just as we Catholics might perform a penance or go on a pilgrimage (so as to obtain an plenary indulgence via total contrition and sorrow for our sins), we might also sacrifice a ram or a goat (assuming that this ram or goat is of value to us), and obtain our indulgence this way. However, such a perspective has the whole principal of sacrifice backwards! :-) ...Especially as it relates to ancient animal sacrifice being a mere **prefigurement** of the Cross of Christ. Yet, let me illustrate what I mean ...

 

Once again, the ancient Jew who sacrificed an animal in repentance for his sins was giving up something of personal value --a metaphor for giving himself back to God. Yet, as Scripture clearly tells us, the old Jewish prescriptions (the legalistic system) could not produce true righteousness ...UNLESS these imperfect sacrifices were mystically united to the future Cross of Christ (e.g. Elizabeth and Zechariah). In this, the imperfect sacrifices relied upon the eventual appearance of the One Who could perform a truly perfect Sacrifice --a human being Who could **truly** give Himself completely to God. And this Person of course was Jesus Christ.

 

Now, ... Just as with the animal sacrifices, God the Father (despite what some crypto-Arian Protestants seems to believe) DID NOT desire the cruel torture and murder of His only begotten Son! :-) He did NOT desire Jesus' Blood per se. Rather, the Father merely desired that Jesus go to the utmost extreme of human love, even if that meant laying down His life to save us. In doing this, Jesus gave to God the most valuable personal sacrifice imaginable --a total donation of His perfect humanity; and, in establishing a Covenant in which we can be one-Body and one-Blood with Him (in which we can enter into the very same Sonship which Jesus Himself enjoys with the Father), we DO NOT need to make **other** self-donations of God. ...that is, self-donations that are **apart from** the self-donation of Christ. Rather, our self-donation must be IN Christ; for it is the grace of Christ that allows us to give of ourselves to God. We do not do this under our own authority or power.

 

Thus, all Christian Sacrifice flows from that one Self-donation of Christ (made in the context of the Blood Sacrifice of His Cross); and we do not, like the ancient Jews, need to offer up other things of personal value (e.g. animal sacrifices) so as to make peace with God and atonement for our sins. Rather, penance done in the Catholic Christian context takes place **after** forgiveness and atonement are already **freely** given (thanks to the Cross of Christ); and such penance is merely an act of reparation for spiritual damage that has been done to ourselves (or sometimes to others). This is extremely different from the Jewish practice under the Law, where animal sacrifice was offered to affect the **actual atonement**. In the corrupted, Phariseeic understanding, for example, these sacrifices were offered in actual **payment** to God! :-) And, even in the authentic Old Covenant intention, the sacrifices themselves possessed no reconciling power apart from the perfect Sacrifice that was yet to come. ...the Sacrifice that united a righteous Old Testament Jew (e.g. David) with the truly righteous New Adam, Who alone could perfectly heal the division between the all-holy God and fallen man.

 

So, bottom line: It is not the blood, but the self-donation. And, since our self-donations to God can only be made in and through the Self-donation of Jesus Christ, there is no place for animal sacrifices, or the (inferior) self-donations they represent, in Christianity. In other words, we do not give ourselves to God by offering Him a valuable animal, thus winning His favor. Rather, we give ourselves to God by claimng, and participating in, the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Who perfectly won God's favor and in Whom we can please God perfectly.

 

You also write ...

 

The second query that I have it this: You say that "there are no additional blood sacrifices under the New Covenant". Agreed. However on the net, you wrote that "the first Christians (all of whom were Jewish) possessed **two** priesthoods (the Levitical and the Messianic), and this was because (until 70 A.D.) they were living under **two** Covenants (the Old and the New) **simultaneously**." This is what confuses me. I see a contradiction here. HOW could the two covenants exist simultaneously? Given the above, HOW could the Levitical priests (who had just become Christians) offer to the Lord God two "dramatically different" sacrifices as you call them, one of animal blood, the other of Jesus' blood? Sunday would seem pretty confusing for the newly converted Levitical priest, don't you think?

 

I'm very sure it was, yes. :-) But, here, we must try to understand what it was like to be a 1st Century Jewish Christian and to live out our ever-developing awareness of the Christian Covenant within the context of our pre-existing Jewish culture.

 

First of all, my statement stands: "There are no additional blood sacrifices under the New Covenant." Yet, the Jewish Christians (such as the Levite converts in Acts 6) were not merely living under the New Covenant. They were also, at least nominally, living under the Old Covenant ...as were the Apostles and all other Jewish Christians until A.D. 70, when the split with Judaism became permanent and apparent to all. In other words, while they were free of the requirements of the Old Covenant (St. Peter and St. Paul clearly knew this), they still remained faithful to them for the sake of holding communion with, and evangelizing, their brother Jews. And, again, this state of affairs continued until at least A.D. 70. In this, one must keep in mind that Christianity never parted ways with Judaism. Rather, it was Judaism that parted ways with Christianity. It was the Jews who walked away from us, and from the Messianic Covenant.

 

Now, ... You ask how two Covenants can exist simultaneously. Ah! But, isn't that the case today? :-) Granted, the Book of Hebrews speaks of the Old Covenant as "disappearing." Yet, this doesn't mean that it is gone. Rather, the Catholic Church teaches that the Old Covenant is still in effect today for our Jewish brethren. Now, this does not mean that it is the **reigning** Covenant. Rather, the New Covenant exists as the only reigning Covenant; yet, just as was the case with the Jews and the Samaritans in Jesus' day (the Samaritans retaining the old, Mosaic Covenant but lacking the later, more developed Jewish Covenant through David), it is perfectly possible for a reigning Covenant to exist side-by-side with an out-dated, yet still perfectly valid, Covenant. Thus, when the Apostles and other early Jewish Christians observed both the prescriptions of the Temple and the Eucharistic celebrations in their own house-churches, they were indeed participating in two Covenants: the reigning Covenant and the out-dated one. Yet, the only reason that they participated in the out-dated one at all was to draw their Jewish brethren into the fullness of the New Covenant (the very reason why the Jewish Jesus bothered to speak to the Samaritan woman in John 4:22). What's more, in taking part in the rites of the Old Covenant, the Jewish Christians both realized their imperfect and fleeting nature AND saw new (Christian) meaning in these old rites and customs ...all of which were eventually translated into the fully-developed Christian Liturgy. So, you have to imagine a situation something like a modern Protestant minister who has come to believe that Catholicism is true but has not yet given up on his congregation. Rather, he continues to worship God within his Protestant tradition, imposing more and more Catholicism on his (imperfect) Sunday service, until his own flock asks him to leave. This is **exactly** what happened with the early Jewish Christians who were literally cast out of the Temple and synagogues. :-)

 

The Levitical priests who became Christians knew that their animal sacrifices were out-dated and had no value in and of themselves. Yet, as Jewish priests, they still had the duty to offer these sacrifices for their devout Jewish brethren who had not yet accepted Christ, and who knew only the Old Covenant. In this, as with the righteous Jews of the Old Testament (e.g. Elizabeth and Zechariah), it was possible for such non-Christian Jews to validly repent for sins by offering an animal sacrifice ...assuming that, as with the righteous Jews of old, this was done with a sincere heart and in expectation of the perfect Sacrifice that "was to come." Jesus Himself admits that this is possible in giving instruction to His own Jewish disciples: Matthew 5:23-24.

 

However, the mere fact that this was the state-of-affairs for our Jewish-Christian ancestors does not mean that it is proper, or should be revived, today. This is because: a) The Catholic Church no longer operates within the context of Mosaic Judaism, nor is it concerned within evangelizing Mosaic Jews ...because Mosaic Judaism no longer exists (modern Judaism is Rabbinical Judaism). And b) There is no Temple in which such sacrifices can be offered, nor is there a Levitical caste to offer them (again, Mosaic Judaism no longer exists --modern Judaism is Rabbinical Judaism. It has no sacrificing priesthood, and is unable to observe a whole myriad of prescriptions demanded by the Torah). So, while modern Jews are faithful to the basic tenets of the Old Covenant, they are not the same formal religion that we both (modern Jews and Catholics) stem from; and so the one and only reason that our Jewish Christian forefathers continued to practice animal sacrifice (i.e., to maintain communion with their Jewish brethren) is no longer pertinent today. There is thus no reason, whether culturally, formally, or theologically, for Catholics to participate in animal sacrifice.

 


For the Old Testament Jew, the way to please God was by offering animal sacrifices and obeying the Mosaic Laws. God accepted these sacrifices (when offered in faith) in view of the coming PERFECT SACRIFICE of Jesus. By the same token, for the New Testament Catholic, the way to please God is also by offering sacrifices to God, such as fasting, and works of mercy. God accepts the New Testament Catholic's sacrifices (when offered in faith) in view of the accomplished PERFECT SACRIFICE of Jesus. Hence, there is nothing inherently WRONG with these individual sacrifices in and of themselves, so long as the individual's personal sacrifices do not cloud THE one and PERFECT SACRIFICE of Jesus. So, if the Pope really wanted to, couldn't he revive the practice of animal sacrifice and observance to all the regulations stipulated by the Law, by simply adding them to the Catholic's list of optional devotions? For in effect, there is nothing different between Jewish animal sacrifice and Catholic Friday fasting: both are sacrificial in nature and both are designed to please the Lord.

 

Well, Damien ...

 

First of all, it is true that a reigning Pope can revive anything he wants (provided that the Spirit moves him to do this). After all, Jesus did give the Chair of Peter the final authority to "bind and loosen" on earth. So, your question doesn't really address authority but rather appropriateness. In this, funny enough, it is intrinsically connected to the Friday fast from eating meat (if one indeed understands the historical framework behind meatless Fridays).

 

Simply put, the Catholic Church will never revive animal sacrifice because, unlike other sacrifices that are offered up **in union with** the Sacrifice of Christ (e.g. fasting and good works), animal sacrifices would be an **additional** blood sacrifice ...that is, the sacrifice of blood that is **different from** the Blood of Christ. I'll explain what I mean by this in a moment. Yet, for starters, one must keep in mind that the blood sacrifices of the Old Covenant had no power or value in and of themselves, but were merely **prefigurements** of Christ's own Bloodshed, which does have infinite value (being the full donation of the God-man to humankind --all that the Incarnate Person of Christ had to give: His very, hypostatic Self). And, indeed, ... When a Christian martyr lays down his life for Christ, he or she is doing **exactly** the same thing. However, there is also a mystical and ontological **difference** between a Christian martyr's death and the death of Christ, in that the Christian martyr does not offer his own blood to God. Rather, the martyr had already given himself (or herself) over to God in Baptism and in the reception of the Eucharist (in which Christ's Body and Blood becomes one with that of the communicant). Rather, as **part of** the Body of Christ (the Church), the Christian martyr offers his (or her) blood **in full union with** the Blood of Christ; and so there is no additional sacrifice ...because only **one Blood** (Christ's blood) is shed: "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting ME." (Acts 9:4) In sheding the blood of martyrs, Saul was attacking the Body of Christ, and so sheding **Christ's** Blood --an intrinsic and ontological continuation of the Sacrifice of Calvary!

 

And so, ... Given that the "blood sacrifice" of a Christian martyr is not an additional blood sacrifice, but rather one in essence (one Body) with the ultimate Blood Sacrifice of Christ, we see that there are no additional blood sacrifices under the New Covenant. What's more, if we consider the fact that laying down one's life for Christ is merely the **most extreme** example of Christian good works (i.e., "Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends"), then it suddenly becomes clear that ALL Christian sacrifices (e.g. fasting, charity, etc.) are merely spiritual participations in the one Blood Sacrifice of Christ --"mortifications" (from the Latin root "mort" --"death") that connect us to Christ's own ultimate Sacrifice, by which He layed down His life for us (out of love).

 

Thus, if you really think about it, the regular sacrifices performed under the Christian Covenant (e.g. fasting, good works, etc.) are dramatically different from the animal sacrifices under the Old Covenant because they are all rooted in that one act of Bloodshed which is the Cross of Christ. No other Bloodshed can be offered in substitution for it; rather, all bloodshed for Christ must be human bloodshed offered by and in the Body of Christ, the Church. For only the Church is "one Body / one Blood" with Him.

 

What's more, ... The reason the Catholic Church instituted meatless Fridays back in antiquity was because, unlike today, if you wanted to have steak for dinner on Friday night, it meant that you had to **slaughter** the cow that morning! :-) They had no refrigeration back then. Yet, since the Lord's own Blood was shed on a Friday, the Church wanted to make it perfectly clear that **His** Blood was sufficient for all, and so no domestic animals were to be killed for eating on that day. This was especially important in the ancient world, where most commercial "butchers" were also pagan priests (e.g. 1 Corinth 10:25-30). So, that is the origin of the custom and the devotion, anyway. Yet, unfortunately, the meaning of the devotion does not translate very well into our modern experience ...which is why Vatican II relaxed it.

 

Lastly ... The Church would be unable to revive OT animals sacrifices for the simple reason that animal sacrifice under the Old Law requires a Levitical priesthood to perform these sacrifices, and no such Levitical prieshood exists. The Catholic ministerial priesthood is the priesthood of Christ Himself, which is not after the order of the Levites, but the order of Melchizedek. What's more, even if we were to allow the priestly order of Melchizedek (the Catholic ministerial priesthood) to sacrifice animals, then they would be making blood sacrifices that are **distinct** and **separate from** the one Blood Sacrifice that they presently (although mystically) offer, which is the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrifice of Christ. Needless to say, no animal is "one blood" with Jesus Christ; and so such animal blood sacrifices could not be unified with the Sacrifice in His own Blood. Our priesthood, therefore, has no authority to sacrifice animals.

 

And, on that very point, you also write ....

 

But even after the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., who SAID that animal sacrifices and observance of the Laws of Moses had to stop? Why not revive them? After all, Jesus said that He did not come to abolish the Law. There is nothing wrong with these Old Testament practices, so long as they are kept in their proper place (i.e.) subordinate to the one PERFECT sacrifice of Jesus, the spotless Lamb.

 

Well, you are correct that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law. Yet, this does not prevent Him (or His Church) from abolishing the **forms** employed by the Law (e.g. Acts 15). In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus Himself says that love of God and love of neighbor embodies and fulfills both the Law and the Prophets. Yet, how one exercises love for God and for neighbor (i.e., the forms) was certainly subject to change under the New Covenant; and the changing of proscriptive forms was certainly necessary if the early Church was to include Gentiles as well as Jews, for example (e.g. the **formal** Law prohibited association with Gentiles, whereas the spirit of the Law called all men to know the God of Israel and have fellowship in Him). And, it was in adapting these forms that things like animal sacrifice, Temple worship, and other Mosaic prescriptions were set aside and replaced with higher, Divinely-instituted Christian forms (e.g. the Eucharist). In both Temple sacrifices and the Eucharist, man was able to properly show love for God. Yet, the Eucharist is, without question, the more perfect and more **intimate** way. ...the way that God desires.

 

You also write ...

 

Many Protestant preachers (and some Catholic theologians) make the point that the Law of Moses was designed by God to show the Jews that they were not perfect. They say that God purposely designed a Law that would be impossible to keep in the hopes that the Jews, on recognition of their inability to keep the Law, would truly repent of their sins and turn to God who alone could save them. Instead however, we are told that the Jews became proud of the Law and of their obedience toward it. It is told us by Protestant preachers that what was once impossible for the Old Testament Jews (obedience to the entire Law) is now possible for us New Testament Christians since we (unlike the Old Testament Jews) have hearts made of flesh, not stone. Obedience to the Law should therefore be second nature to the New Testament Christian. And if Zechariah and Elizabeth observed 'all the Lords commandments and regulations blamelessly' (Luke 1:6) while living under the Old Covenant, how much more can we New Testament Christians do the same. So the question is, how, or why it is that Christians are not still living according to the Mosaic Law?

 

Well, ... Quite simply, we are not living according to the **Mosaic** Law (i.e., the prescriptions) yet we **are** living according to the Divine Law that the Mosaic Law points to. Here, one must really get away from the very flawed understanding of Protestantism and understand what the Old Law really was. For example, ... The Old Law commanded "Thou shalt not kill." Now, are Christian's bound by this law? Surprisingly enough, the answer to that is "no." ...That is to say, we are not bound by the **legal commandment** not to kill (the Jewish legal prescription). Rather, we are bound by the natural law behind the legal commandment; for the natural law is rooted in objective truth; and that Truth is Christ. In other words, our covenant (relationship) with God is not legal-based, but family-based --i.e., our adoption into the Family of God through Christ Jesus. Simply put, the sons and daughters of God do not kill because, as His sons and daughters, we reflect the righteousness of our Father, Who has no such darkness in Him. A Jew, on the other hand, does not kill because he is **bound** by a law that forbids him to kill; and if he violates that law, then the Old Covenant lists a whole set of punishments that he is automatically subject to ...punishments that we Christians are not legally bound by. Thus, the Old Covenant was a simple legal arrangement --a restrictive "truce" between an all-holy God and naturally-sinful and lawless man. And the error of the Pharisees and other Jews of Jesus' day was that they though that, if they could just get everyone in Israel to keep the mandated prescriptions of the Law, then God would be **compelled** (forced **by contract**!) to bring about blessings upon them and the "golden age" of the Messiah. In other words, the religion of the Pharisees was nothing but a "deal" with God, and it completely ignored the Father-child principals implicit in the Old Covenant. THIS is why the Old Covenant was "impossible to keep" ...because it was **never meant** to be kept that way. It was never supposed to be a purely-legalistic arrangement (a something-for-something "contract"), but rather (as Elizabeth, Zechariah, and many other OT saints observed it) a personal and familiar Covenant of love. The New Covenant in Jesus Christ makes this readily apparent; and to drive this point home, it sets aside all the old prescriptions that prevented people from seeing that their relationship with God is not merely a matter of legal observation.

 

Anyway, Damien ... I hope that helps. If I failed to address anything, please let me know.

 

God bless you

 

Mark Bonocore

Mark Bonocore
May 14, 2003