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The highest form of adoration. A priest authorized by God’s law in the name of the people offers a victim in acknowledgment of God’s supreme dominion and of our total dependence on God.
The victim is immolated, or destroyed, and thereby at least partially removed from human use. The victim is freely offered to God, which makes it an oblation or gift. Both together constitute the sacrifice, the victim freely surrendered by man as a gift to God.
In the Torah, sacrifice honored God by offering him creatures precious to man. Torah required two kinds of sacrifices: bloody and unbloody.
Among the bloody sacrifices, the holocaust, or whole-burnt offering, was the most perfect sacrifice. The animal was completely consumed by fire. This was the “perpetual sacrifice” because it was offered twice each day, in the morning and evening. The sin offering was to expiate misdeeds committed through ignorance or inadvertence. The kind of victim depended mainly on the dignity of the person offended. The guilt offering was for sins demanding restitution. The peace offering was in gratitude, in fulfillment of a vow, or simply voluntary. The unbloody sacrifices, offerings of solid or liquid food, accompanied every holocaust and peace offering, but never sin or guilt offerings (except at the cleansing of a leper).
Jesus allowed the Mosaic sacrifice. However, He told His followers that the Temple, and its sacrifices, would soon end. Mk 13:2, Jn 4:20-23 At the Last Supper, instituting the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist, He declared, Lk 22:19 “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. ... This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
St. Paul constantly identifies Christ as the Sacrificial Victim. 1 Cor 5:7 “For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed.” Eph 5:2 “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.” The theme of Christ’s sacrifice is further confirmed in the Catholic Epistles. 1 Pet 1:19 “...but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” 1 Jn 2:2 “...and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” The whole Letter to the Hebrews is about Christ the High Priest, who Heb 10:12 “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins...” He is the eternal priest who even now intercedes with His heavenly Father for a sinful humanity.
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