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Why must Mary be considered a Priest?

Why must Mary be considered a Priest?

In tradition many reasons are given why Mary can rightly be called a priest. Here we enumerate just a number of them.

1. Mary belonged to a priestly family

The Fathers of the Church point out that Mary was of priestly descent. According to legend she had lived in the temple from early childhood. Her being part of a priestly family is seen as important since Jesus himself, the eternal High Priest, derived his priesthood from her.

  • “Today, in harmony with prophecy, the shoot of David has budded forth from the always blossoming staff of Aaron, the staff that announced the flower it would bring forth, the staff of power, Christ. Today has emerged from Judah and David a young virgin girl, presenting the face of royalty and the priesthood of Aaron, who has exercised the priestly functions according to the order of Melchisedech.” St. Andrew of Crete (c. 660 - 740), First Homily on the Nativity, PG 96, cols. 864B-865A.
  • “Hail Blessed Virgin . . . . ointment with which the royal priesthood has been anointed , . . . . royal seal, imprinting on the universal King who takes his substance from her, a body similar to that of his Mother, . . . . incorruptible wood from which the spiritual altar who is Christ, was made.” Theodore the Studite (826), 2nd Homily on the Nativity. PG 96, col. 693C-D.
  • There is no doubt that the Virgin Mary possessed not only royal, but also priestly blood’; ‘Mary drew her family ties both from a royal [=Judah] and a priestly tribe [=Levi]’: St. Augustine; also: St. Irenaeus; St. Hilary of Poitiers; St. Ambrose; Epiphanius; Severus of Antioch, etc.
    Mary, the Mother of God, was of both royal and priestly descent’: John of Euboea.
    Hail, o Queen, descended from kings, descended from priests!’: John the Geometer. See further the compendium of texts from the Fathers.

2. Mary exercised priestly functions

Mary exercised many priestly functions, especially offering Jesus as a sacrifice both at the Presentation in the Temple and on Calvary.
A further collection of thirty relevant quotations from theologians and spiritual writers will be found in Mary as a sacrificial priest.

  • “Mary performs her sacrificial functions in two ways: in one way, which is more indirect and less specific, by her providing the sacred victim . . . . and in a more direct, immediate and noble way by concurring with Jesus in this precious sacrifice. While offering the same victim of propriation that belongs to her on the title of her motherhoood . . . . she has become his priestess by offering her divine Son to God for the salvation of the world and thus meriting grace and glory for us by means of this sacrifice, not with the perfect merit and justice which only belongs to Jesus Christ, but with an imperfect merit, a merit of goodwill.” Lazare Dassier (1692), 3e Sermon sur la Purification, l.c. p. 370.
  • “Mary could not escape from Calvary because God had given her the mission to remain there as priest, victim and mediatrix. She had to stay on Calvary, next to the cross and in the heart of her Son. She stood up straight on Calvary and undertook her function as priest. She stood next to the cross and fulfilled the role of a victim. She stayed in the heart of Jesus and acquitted herself of the task of mediatrix: strong in her first task, faithful to her second, devoted in her third . . .Mary had to fulfill her first task, that of being a priest.” St Antonio María Claret (1807 - 1870), Copiosa y vera collección de panegíricos, Rome 1860, vol. 3, pp. 390-391.

3. Mary gave us the Eucharist

Mary is also considered as the person who, with Christ, gave us the Eucharist. The Fathers therefore called her “the golden table with the loaves of proposition”.

  • Mary is the ‘table that carries life, that supplies not the loaves of proposition but the bread of heaven’: St. John of Damascus.
    ‘this table of life on which lie the loaves of proposition of human life . . . .’: George of Nicomedia.
    ‘holy table’, ‘mystical table’, ‘the most holy table which has carried by itself the living bread, Our Lord and God Jesus Christ, eternal life made bread . . . . ’: St. Andrew of Crete.
    ‘Table through whom we who suffered hunger have been filled with bread’, ‘o table, who carries the new and supernaturally cultivated bread with which we, who died of hunger because of the season of sin, have been fed’: St. Germanus of Constantinople.
    ‘table of the bread of life’: St. Tarasius of Constantinople, St. Joseph the Hymnographer, Pseudo-Ephraem, Epiphanius II. Read the compendium of texts from the Fathers.
  • “If the Saviour, as the Fathers of the Church assure us, is at each Mass the principal priest and the one who offers himself to the Father and who delivers himself up to people, the blessed Virgin shares in this function of the sovereign priesthood, accompanying the oblation and immolation which her Son makes of herself with her own agreement. For it is therefore that St Epiphanius among other praises, calls the Virgin a priest and an altar.” Jean de Machaut (1599 - 1676), Le Thrésor, vol III, pp. 152-153.

  • “Since the will of the Virgin has cooperated with the will of the Son in the realisation of the Eucharist, we can with enough certainty declare and absolutely affirm that she has given us and has offered for us this heavenly bread. In fact, we recognise that the gift which is entrusted to us under these species - - that is : the body and blood of Christ the Lord -- is truly her gift and belongs to her. The divine Epiphanus touched on this reason is his sermon ‘De Laudibus Virginis’.
    What could we say or imagine that is more splendid ? He says that the Virgin is a priest in some way in the gift and in the offering of the celestial bread; which is true precisely for this reason that together with her Son she gave and offered [this eucharistic bread], thus realising at the same time both the sacrament and the sacrifice.”
    . . . . “It was right that she who was present at the first act of giving, and of whom it was said that she had given and offered together with the Father and the Son, should also be present at the consummation and fulfilment of this donation, to such an extent that we can say that she has in the same way given and offered it (the Eucharist) with her Son. ”
    . . “The manner in which the incarnation was achieved in the breast of the Virgin pleased Christ so greatly ...that he invented a new way of repeating it and reiterating it...-... that is, the Eucharist. Ferdinand Chirino de Salazar (1575 - 1646), In Proverbiis, IX, no 148-149, vol. 1, 770D-771A.

4. Mary procures forgiveness of sins

Through her role as intercessor and mediator on behalf of the rest of mankind, Mary was seen to be instrumental in procuring for us forgiveness of sins, always independent on Jesus’ own redemptive role of course. Intercession and procuring forgiveness of sins were seen to be specifically priestly functions, as described in the letter to the Hebrews.

  • ‘Truly kind mediatrix of all sinners’: St. Germanus of Constantinople.
    ‘Hail o mediatrix of all people on earth!’; ‘mediatrix of salvation for the world’: St. Tarasius.
    ‘Exercising your mediation you reconcile us’; ‘Mary's birth is a great joy, for she will bring mediation and reconciliation’: George of Nicomedia.
    ‘Mary mediates between God and people’; ‘this instrument of reconciliation [=Mary] is presented in the Temple. Be all reconciled to God today!’; ‘Christ has reconciled us to God, o Mary, through you’: St. Andrew of Crete. See compendium of texts of the Fathers.
  • “Three elements belong to the priesthood and episcopacy: the call, the role of intercession, and sacrifice (Hebr 5, 1) . . . [With regard to intercession] as Son of God Christ has all power over God. Our Lady too, because she is the true Mother of God, has all power over God. And if the prayers and intercessions of Christ are heard on account of the fact that he is the Son, those of Our Lady will not be less heard, and are even heard with more surety because of the fact that she is his Mother. Therefore it is crystal clear that in Mary we find overwhelmingly the second quality required for the dignity of a bishop!” Antonio Vieira (1608 - 1697), Sermon on the Rosary, ib. p. 74.
  • “Do not be afraid that, in order to focus on the mother, I would be imprudent enough to diminish the Son or minimise his glory. No, I am sure, and faith teaches it to me, Jesus Christ is the only priest, the only bishop in essence and excellence . . . He is also the only mediator.
    Yet, there are other priests and other bishops who are subordinated to Jesus Christ and who in their own way offer God this sacred victim of our reconciliation. There is also another kind of mediators, mediators by intercession, because they pray and intercede for us. Mary is one of those, in preference to all others.” C.L.Richard (1796), Sermon 63 sur l‘Assomption, Orateurs Sacrés, Paris, vol. 67, p. 702.

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