Christ, the Great High Priest

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Christ, the Great High Priest
Saturday of the 5th Week in Great Lent
20 March, 2010
Hebrews 9:24-28 ; Mark 8:27-31


In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Today, our Saviour is asking His disciples : “'Who do men say that I am?'” The Lord understands that people are trying to comprehend just who this is, who is healing the sick, raising the dead, and delivering from evil. The disciples answer that some people are saying that He is John the Baptist, or the Prophet Elias who had come back, or some other prophet. In other words, the people consider that He is someone who has already been on earth, and who is returning. Then our Saviour asks His disciples directly : “'Who do you say that I am?'” On behalf of them all, the Apostle Peter answers : “'You are the Christ'”. That means the Messiah, the One who has been promised, who is going to save the world. At this time, our Saviour tells them not to talk about this to anyone. The disciples do recognise Who He is, but at the same time they do not understand what all this entails. That is why our Lord has begun to teach them (as we heard just now) the details of what is to come : the Events of the Passion, and the Event of the Resurrection.

“Who is Christ ?” is an important question for us continually to be answering. We cannot merely say that He is the Christ. Few people nowadays know anything about what this word and everything associated with it means. It is not enough simply to stop there. We have to live the understanding. Therefore, the Apostle Paul is making certain that we understand more clearly by saying that Jesus Christ is the Great and Eternal High Priest. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Apostle is teaching us about the High Priesthood of Christ. However, the Saviour is not a high priest like the hereditary high priests of His time, who were only human beings, and who, in anticipation of the sacrifice of Christ, were offering the blood of animals as a substitution for human beings. For our sake, our Saviour, the great High Priest, offers Himself once and for all. It is not that He is offering Himself to God the Father as some sort of appeasement. Because of His perfect and all-encompassing Love, He is offering Himself by emptying Himself. In emptying Himself, and allowing us to put Him to death, He overcomes death by His Resurrection. Very soon we will be singing that He has overcome death by His Death, and by His Resurrection He has given Life.

The Apostle Paul says that the high priest was entering into the Holy Place of the Temple, a foreshadowing of the true Holy Place. What is true Holy Place ? It is Heaven, in the presence of God. We, in Christ, members of His Body, have been given the gift to be taken into the holiest of Holy Places. In Christ, we have access to the bosom of the Holy Trinity in a way that the angels do not have. We are created lower than the angels, but in Christ we end up being greater.

However, our greatness as Christians can only be found in lowliness. We imitate Christ, the perfect Servant, who empties Himself completely, and offers Himself completely for us so that He can embrace us all and bring us with Him into the Kingdom. We must be living our lives in lowliness, in self-emptying, and in the embracing manner of Christ. His love gives life to those around us. In our lives, we can give joy to those around us, as Christ gives joy to us. We can give love to other people, and to all creation around us, as Christ gives love and life to us.

On this day, as we are coming close to the most solemn and most joyous time of the year, let us ask the Saviour to help us truly to understand Who He is, and to be able to confess Him with Peter and the apostles, to confess Him with our whole hearts. By the Grace of the Holy Spirit, may we be enabled to live Him with our whole hearts, so that in all things, and in all ways we may glorify Him, together with the unoriginate Father, and the all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.