At the end of the Last Supper, the Lord Jesus prayed aloud to the Father.
He prayed for Himself, for His Apostles, and for us. In other words, He prayed as a priest. He offered Himself to the Father, He consecrated Himself, and He invoked divine assistance upon all the people gathered around Him—gathered around Him then and throughout the ages, from St. John and St. Peter down through time to us.
In the eternal Trinity–the blessed communion of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–there is no need for a priest. The three divine Persons are bound together in perfect, perpetual unity—more inseparable than a ball and its roundness or water and its wetness. A ball doesn’t need a priest to be round; water doesn’t need a priest to be wet; the eternal Son doesn’t need a priest to be consubstantial with the eternal Father.
But then God created. He created something other than Himself. He brought into existence a world with limts.
Don’t get me wrong. The world excites our wonder and esteem. As Woody Allen put it, “The world is the only place where you can get a good steak.” In this lovely world, you can grow blueberries; you can go for a boatride; you can listen to Mozart.
But the deepest sense we possess tells us that this world is not IT. A steak is delicious; a boatride is delightful. A steak on a boat with blueberry pie for dessert—awesome. But none of these things are IT.
Meanwhile, we are surrounded by other creatures for whom steaks and blueberry pies really do suffice. Dogs do not need priests. Dogs need bones. Squirrels do not need priests. They need nuts. Cats do not need priests; cats need…Well, only God knows what cats need. Prey, I guess. I was watching the nature channel once, and they showed footage of a Himalayan snow leopard going after an ibex. Whoo.
Anyway, the Trinity needs no priest; the other creatures need no priest. But we human beings need a mediator between heaven and ourselves. We need an official to represent our humble race, an official who will act on our behalf before the Almighty, making peace with our Creator for us, allowing us to be God’s friends, giving us hope for God’s favor now and forever.
In ancient days, a worthy, divinely-appointed succession of priests ministered before God for us. Abel, Abraham, Aaron, Zadok, Zechariah, and all the priests in between—they all offered acceptable sacrifices; they all delivered holy gifts to the people. But the whole business was clearly provisional; they were all waiting for something, looking forward to a mystery yet to come. The sacrifices of the Old Covenant were faithful, holy, devout—but they were not IT.
When the triune God created a cosmos separate from Himself; when He created spiritual material beings who would long for peace and communion with heaven; when He turned the wheels of history towards a goal—He knew what He was doing. He knew what He was about.
“I made a world that needs a priest. I made a people that needs a priest. I myself will undertake the office.” The eternal Son of God, consubstantial with the Father, makes a human priestly offering of Himself. He consecrates the human race. He gives the gift of communion with God.