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Christ – Priest and Victim

“The truth about Christ’s priesthood has always struck me in an extraordinarily eloquent way in the Litany which used to be recited in the seminary at Cracow, especially on the eve of a priestly ordination. I am referring to the Litany of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Priest and Victim.  What profound reflections it prompted! In the Sacrifice of the Cross, made present anew in every Eucharist, Christ offers Himself for the salvation of the world. The invocations of eh Litany call to mind the many aspects of this mystery.  They come back to me with all the rich symbolism of the biblical images with which they are interwoven.  When I repeat them, it is in Latin, the language in which I recited them at the seminary and then so often in later years:

lesu, Sacerdos et Victima,

lesu, Sacerdos in aeternum, secundum ordinem Melchisedech,

lesu, Pontifex ex hominibus assumpte,

lesu, Pontifex pro hominibus constitute,…

lesu, Pontifex futurorum bonorum,…

lesu, Pontifex fidelis et misericors,…

lesu, Pontifex qui dilexisti nos et lavisti nos a peccatis in sanguine tuo,

lesu, Pontifex qui tradidisti temetipsum Deo oblationem el hostiam,…

lesu, Hostia sancta el immaculata,…

lesu, Hostia in qua habemus fiduciam el accessum ad Deum, lesu, Hostia vivens in saecuk  saeculorum,…

What theological depth is present in these expressions!  They are invocations deeply rooted in Sacred Scripture, especially in the Letter to the Hebrews.  We need only reread this passage: “Christ … as a high priest of the good things to come … entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.  For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls …sanctified for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb 9:11-14).  Christ is a priest because He is the Redeemer of the world.  The priesthood of all presbyters is part of the mystery of the Redemption. This truth about Redemption and the Redeemer has been central to me; it has been with me all these years, it has permeated all my pastoral experiences, and it has continued to reveal new riches to me.

In these fifty years of priestly life, I have come to realize that the Redemption, the price which had to be paid for sin, entails a renewal discovery, a kind of a “new creation” of the whole created order: the rediscovery of man as a person, of man created by God as male and female, a rediscovery of the deepest truth about all his achievements and creative abilities.

After I was elected Pope, my first spiritual impulse was to turn to Christ the Redeemer. This was the origin of the Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis. As I reflect on all these events, I see ever more clearly the close link between the message of the Encyclical and everything that is found in the heart of man through his sharing in Christ’s priesthood. “

John Paul II “Gift and Mystery”