Hebrew Sacrifices and the Eucharistic Sacrifice

Making an invisible reality visible

We human beings are composites of flesh and spirit. Though we have transcendent souls, our bodies nevertheless occupy the physical world.

Sacraments are important because we interact with God through them in this material realm we inhabit. Sacraments are visible signs of God’s invisible grace.

Before Christ gave us the Sacraments, the Jewish people worshipped God through ritual sacrifices. Sacrifices of animal flesh and plants and the sprinkling of animal blood (representative of life)1 served as an offering of oneself to God (Bergsma, 208).

Like the Sacraments, ancient ritual sacrifices made something invisible, the offeror’s intentions, a visible reality in the material world.

There were two main purposes for, and several different kinds of sacrifices performed by ancient Hebrews:

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The second Jerusalem temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., so ritual sacrifices are no longer part of the Jewish faith, but the Catholic Church celebrates a sacrifice at every Mass.

The Eucharist is believed to be a re-presentation of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Since Christ’s original sacrifice is absolutely perfect for the forgiveness of sins, there is no need to repeat it, but each time Mass is celebrated, time is transcended and the past and present become one.

Therefore, each Eucharistic sacrifice celebrated on the altars of all of the Churches throughout the world each and every day are one and the same sacrifice with the one that occurred on the cross at Golgotha in the year 33 A.D.

Eucharist makes visible and present to the Church Jesus Christ’s one perfect sacrifice.

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Sources:

Bergsma, John, and Brant Pitre. A Catholic Introduction to the Bible: Volume I, The Old Testament. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2018.

Powell, Mark Allan, ed. The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary. 3rd ed. New York: HarperOne, 2011.

Youngblood, Ronald F., ed. Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary: New and Enhanced Edition. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2014.

1

“Although some scholars believe the blood primarily means the animal’s life, most agree that blood refers to the animal’s death. … In the New Testament, this Old Testament idea of sacrifice is applied to Christ’s blood.” (Youngblood, 198) “In biblical writings, blood is understood to be the source of life’s power.” (Powell, 99) Blood is expiatory, atoning (reparation).