Saint Peter wrote, “You are a chosen race, రాజ అర్చకత్వం, ఒక పవిత్ర దేశం, God’s own people” (1 పెట్. 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, నిజానికి, was also said to Israel in the Old, “You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6). Within the priestly nation of Israel, అయితే, existed a distinct, ministerial priesthood, the Levitical priesthood. It is the same for God’s people in the New Covenant. మేము, చాలా, 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.
సువార్తలలో, 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 (మాట్. 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” (ల్యూక్ 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” (రామ్. 15:16). And elsewhere he wrote, “This is how one should regard us [అనగా, ఉపదేశకుల], as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries [అనగా, మతకర్మలు] of God. … For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (1 Cor. 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. రామ్. 15:16, above), 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 ఎ.డి, ఉదాహరణకు, Pope Saint Clement clearly distinguished between the ministerial priesthood and the priesthood of the laity. “పూజారి,” అతను రాశాడు, referring to Christ, “is given his duties: పూజారులు [అనగా, bishops] are assigned their special place, while on the Levites [అనగా, deacons] particular tasks are imposed. The layman is bound by the layman’s code” (కొరింథీయులకు కు క్లెమెంట్ లేఖ 40:1-5). As a matter of fact, this is the earliest recorded instance of the term “layman.”
గురించి సంవత్సరంలో 107, Saint Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch and a disciple of the Apostle John, రాశారు, “Good, చాలా, are the priests; but the high priest [అనగా, క్రీస్తు] 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. అనుసరించండి, చాలా, మీరు అపోస్టల్స్ లాగ ప్రేస్బీటరీ; మరియు మీరు దేవుని చట్టం లాగ దానధర్మాలను గౌరవం. ఎవరూ బిషప్ యొక్క అనుమతి లేకుండా చర్చి సంబంధం కలిగి ఏదైనా చేయాలి. మీరు బిషప్ లేదా అతను అనుమతి ఎవరో గాని జరుపుకుంటారు ఇది చెల్లుబాటయ్యే ఆ యూకారిస్ట్ భావించాను [అనగా, ఒక ప్రేస్బిటార్]. ఎక్కడ బిషప్ ఉంది, అక్కడ సమాజం సేకరించడానికి వీలు, కేవలం యేసు క్రీస్తు పేరు గా, there is the Catholic Church” (Letter to the Smyrneans 8).