The Levites and Priests of the New Covenant (Words from Saint Leo the Great)

Pope Saint Leo the Great,
Reigned from Peter’s Chair 440-61

Later in 2010, my new book The Catholic Perspective on Paul (Vol 2 in “The Catholic Origins of Catholic Christianity”) will become available. The new book seeks to defend the “old perspective on Paul” – not the “older perspective” of Luther and Calvin – but rather the “oldest perspective” of the primitive Catholic Church, namely, that Saint Paul is a theologian who is sacramental, a churchman who is hierarchical, a mystic who is orthodox.

The book contains a chapter on the sacerdotal priesthood as articulated by Saint Paul. Here’s a free podcast that I recorded if you’re interested in this subject: Was Paul a Catholic Priest?

Many scholars believe that that the idea of a Christian sacrificial priesthood developed later and was not apostolic. However, I seek to demonstrate that it is already present in the New Testament – primarily in Paul’s epistles.

This morning in the Office of Readings, I came across the following passage from Pope Saint Leo confirming the belief that Christian presbyters correspond to priests and that Christian deacons correspond to Levites. It’s quite beautiful and Christocentric.

Lord, you drew all things to yourself so that the devotion of all peoples everywhere might celebrate, in a sacrament made perfect and visible, what was carried out in the one temple of Judea under obscure foreshadowings.

Now there is a more distinguished order of Levites, a greater dignity for the rank of elders, a more sacred anointing for the priesthood, because your cross is the source of all blessings, the cause of all graces. Through the cross the faithful receive strength from weakness, glory from dishonour, life from death.

The different sacrifices of animals are no more: the one offering of your body and blood is the fulfilment of all the different sacrificial offerings, for you are the true Lamb of God: you take away the sins of the world. In yourself you bring to perfection all mysteries, so that, as there is one sacrifice in place of all other sacrificial offerings, there is also one kingdom gathered from all peoples.

Sermo 8 de passione Domini 6-8, Patrologia Latina 54, 340-342.

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