BROTHERS and SISTERS, when Christ came as the High Priest of the blessings to come, He entered once for all into the Holy of Holies through the greater and more perfect Tabernacle, one not made with hands (that is, one not of this present creation), and not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own Blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer, through the sprinkling of those who have been defiled, sanctifies them, so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the Blood of Christ, Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself blamelessly to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God?
In the Epistle to the Hebrews, Saint Paul had as his aim showing to the Jews that what Christ did, and the way He did it proved both that He is the promised Messiah and that He was the only one Who could truly fulfill the Law given to them by God through Moses.
In the excerpt above, Saint Paul talks about the high priest and the sacrifices he made, which had temporary effect, as compared to Jesus Christ and the ultimate, salvific, and eternal sacrifice that He made. A high priest was the chief priest of the order. Once a year he would enter the Holy of Holies to offer a sacrifice, the blood of goats and calves. But Christ entered the heavenly Holy of Holies through His own Blood, shed on the Cross. And unlike the high priest, Christ did not enter year after year, but He did so once for all. And the shedding of the Lord's Blood on the Cross obtained for us our eternal redemption, the cleaning of our sins, cleansing our hearts, and buying us back from slavery to our sins to be the free children of God.
This was not a surprise. The Jews acknowledged that the blood of animals, goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer, through the sprinkling of those who have been defiled, truly sanctifies those who were ceremonially unclean, so that their flesh is purified, bringing outward ritual purity. If such things could provide outward cleansing, how much more will the Blood of Christ be able to cleanse the inner conscience from sinful dead works so that we could freely worship the living God?
Christ's sacrifice was not like the sacrifices of animals. Those sacrifices could not provide real life, nor be in any way equivalent with the spiritual need of human beings. It is impossible that such sacrifices could deal with human sin. Only the divine life of the Son of God, the Blood of Christ, could avail to give life to people because He, through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself to God. He did this blamelessly, offering a sinless life, one able to cleanse us from every stain of sin. Therefore, Christ's sacrifice could cleanse our conscience from all defilement, fitting us to stand before God.
By saying that Christ offered Himself blamelessly through the eternal Spirit, Saint Paul means that Christ's sacrifice was made in the Spirit, and thus was not bound by time and place (because the Spirit is eternal), as earthly sacrifices were. Earthly sacrifices had to be repeated because they availed temporarily, but Christ's sacrifice would avail forever because it is eternal and not bound or limited by the passing of time.
This reflection is based on the commentary by Father Lawrence Farley from his book "The Epistle to the Hebrews."
For last year's reflection, click here.
Yours in the Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest