Saint Peter wrote, “You are a chosen race, രാജകീയപുരോഹിതവര്ഗ്ഗവും, ഒരു വിശുദ്ധ ജനത, God’s own people” (1 വളര്ത്തുമൃഗം. 2:9). It is true that all Christians share in the priesthood of Christ through Baptism, yet this common priesthood is to be distinguished from the ministerial priesthood. What Peter said to the faithful in the New Testament, സത്യത്തിൽ, was also said to Israel in the Old, “You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (പുറ. 19:6). Within the priestly nation of Israel, എങ്കിലും, existed a distinct, ministerial priesthood, the Levitical priesthood. It is the same for God’s people in the New Covenant. ഞങ്ങള്, വളരെ, are a priestly nation; and within our ranks exists a special, sacramental priesthood charged with presiding over the Sacrifice of the Mass, our communal act of worship.
Our view of the Mass as a sacrifice sets Catholics apart from other Christians. At Mass the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is made sacramentally present to us on the altar through the Holy Eucharist. This does not mean Jesus dies again at Mass. Rather we are in effect transported back through time to the very moment of His death so that we might witness and participate in that saving sacrifice.
സുവിശേഷങ്ങൾ ൽ, the Apostles are given the authority to preside over the Eucharistic celebration. We see this in the account of Christ’s multiplication of the loaves and fish, an Eucharistic metaphor, in which the Lord commands the Apostles to feed the people (മാറ്റ്. 14:16). More directly, at the Last Supper, in the midst of instituting the Eucharist, the Lord commands the Apostles, “Do this in remembrance of me” (ലൂക്കോസ് 22:19). The Apostle Paul explained he was called “to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offerings of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (ROM. 15:16). And elsewhere he wrote, “ഇവൻ ഞങ്ങളെ അവനു [അതായത്, ശോഭിക്കുന്നു], as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries [അതായത്, കൂദാശാനുഷ്ഠാനങ്ങള്] of God. … നിങ്ങൾ ക്രിസ്തുവിൽ എണ്ണമറ്റ വഴികാട്ടികൾ ഏറെയില്ല, നിങ്ങൾ പല പിതാക്കന്മാർ ഇല്ല. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (1 കൊരി. 4:15).
While the term “priest” may not have been widely used by Christians in apostolic times, likely to set their ministers apart from the priests of Israel (CF. ROM. 15:16, മുകളിൽ), there is extensive evidence from the end of the first century forward of the term being applied to those who preside over the Eucharist. Writing in about the year 96 പന്ധിതന്മാരുടെ, ഉദാഹരണത്തിന്, Pope Saint Clement clearly distinguished between the ministerial priesthood and the priesthood of the laity. “മഹാപുരോഹിതൻ,” അവന് എഴുതി, referring to Christ, “is given his duties: പുരോഹിതന്മാർ [അതായത്, bishops] are assigned their special place, while on the Levites [അതായത്, deacons] particular tasks are imposed. The layman is bound by the layman’s code” (കൊരിന്ത്യർക്ക് ക്ലെമന്റ് ലേഖനം 40:1-5). As a matter of fact, this is the earliest recorded instance of the term “layman.”
വർഷം ഏകദേശം ൽ 107, Saint Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch and a disciple of the Apostle John, എഴുതി, “Good, വളരെ, are the priests; but the high priest [അതായത്, ക്രിസ്തു] is better, to whom was entrusted the holy of holies; and to him alone were entrusted the secret things of God” (Letter to the Philadelphians 9:1). He also counseled Christians to “follow the bishop as Jesus Christ did the Father. Follow, വളരെ, the presbytery as you would the apostles; and respect the deacons as you would God’s law. Nobody must do anything that has to do with the Church without the bishop’s approval. You should regard that Eucharist as valid which is celebrated either by the bishop or by someone he authorizes [അതായത്, a presbyter]. Where the bishop is present, there let the congregation gather, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church” (Letter to the Smyrneans 8).