Why do we need priests if Christ is our Mediator?

Jesus Christ is the Priest of the New Law; and he exercises his Priesthood through mere men. "Do this for the commemoration of me." — "Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them...." — "He that heareth you, heareth me...."[1] To all the members of his Mystical Body he gives some share in his Priesthood; but just as God set up a hierarchy of ministers under the Old Law, so too under the New, but in a more wonderful manner.

Not only did our Lord set St. Peter and the Apostles over the whole Church to teach, to preside over the sacred rites, and to govern the faithful; he also gave them the power to offer the sacrifice of his body and blood, to forgive sins in his name, and to ordain successors. To these men today's pope and bishops trace their authority through unbroken lines of ordination by the laying on of hands.[2]

In his ordination a priest is mystically configured to Christ our Priest, Prophet, and King. This indelible stamp on the soul does not make a man free from sin or weakness, but it does endow him with an objective holiness which always deserves our reverence, no matter the level of his personal holiness.[3] St. John Vianney wrote in his Catechism on the Priesthood, "If I were to meet a priest and an angel, I should salute the priest before I saluted the angel. The latter is the friend of God; but the priest holds His place."

For this reason a priest is called, by a figure of speech, an alter Christus, "another Christ." That is not to say that the priest is Christ's equal, but that he is mystically configured to him in a unique way and acts in his name. A priest offering Mass is said to act in persona Christi, "in the person of Christ." In other words, it is Christ who offers the Mass, through the ministry of the priest.[4]

That God should let a mere mortal represent him, convey his grace, make judgments that are ratified by heaven, is indeed amazing, even shocking; but it is no more shocking than that he should become one of us, or that he should make us temples in which he himself comes to dwell.

1. 1 Cor. 11:24; Jn 20:23; Lk 10:16

2. Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 871 ff; 1546 ff

3. Ibid, para. 1563, 1581-1582

4. Ibid, para. 1548


Todd Aylard