ORDINARY TIME, Week 2: Wednesday

“This “Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High,” “met Abraham as he returned from his defeat of the kings” and “blessed him...”” (Hebrews 7:1.)

In commenting on these verses from today’s First Reading, Eusebius of Caesarea writes:

“An ancient priest of the Mosaic order could only be selected from the tribe of Levi. It was obligatory without exception that he should be of the family descending from Aaron and do service to God in outward worship with the sacrifices and blood of irrational animals. But he that is named Melchizedek, which in Greek is translated “king of righteousness,” who was king of Salem, which would mean “king of peace,” without father, without mother, without line of descent, not having, according to the account, “beginning of years or end of life,” had no characteristics shared by the Aaronic priesthood. For he was not chosen by humans, he was not anointed with prepared oil, he was not of the tribe of those who had not yet been born; and, strangest of all, he was not even circumcised in his flesh, and yet he blesses Abraham, as if he were far better than he. He did not act as priest to the Most High God with sacrifices and libations, nor did he minister at the temple in Jerusalem. How could he? It did not yet exist. And he was such, of course, because there was going to be no similarity between our Savior Christ and Aaron, for he was neither to be designated priest after a period when he was not priest, nor was he to become priest, but be it. For we should notice carefully in the words, “You are a priest forever,” he does not say, “You shall be what you were not before,” any more than, “You were that before which you are not now” — but by him who said, “I am who I am,”1 it is said, “You are, and remain, a priest forever.”

And the fulfillment of the oracle is truly won drous to one who recognizes how our Savior Jesus, the Christ of God, now performs through his ministers even today sacrifices after the manner of Melchizedek’s. For just as he, who was priest of the Gentiles, is not represented as offering outward sacrifices but as blessing Abraham only with wine and bread, so in exactly the same way our Lord and Savior himself first, and then all his priests among all nations, perform the spiritual sacrifice according to the customs of the church and with wine and bread darkly express the mysteries of his body and saving blood. This by the Holy Spirit Melchizedek foresaw and used the figures of what was to come, as the Scripture of Moses witnesses, when it says, “And Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abraham.” And thus it followed that to him only was the addition of an oath, “The Lord God has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.’”

The psalm too, continuing, even shows in veiled phrase the passion of [Christ], saying, “He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head.” And another psalm shows “the brook” to mean the time of temptations: “Our soul has passed through the brook; yes, our soul has passed through the deep waters.” He drinks, then, in the brook, that cup of which he darkly spoke at the time of his passion, when he said, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” And also, “If this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”

It was, then, by drinking this cup that he lifted up his head, as the apostle says, for when he was “obedient unto death, even death on a cross, therefore,” he says, “God has highly exalted him,” raising him from the dead and setting him at his right hand, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and every name which is named, not only in this world but in that which is to come. And he has put all things in subjection under his feet, according to the promise made to him, which he expresses through the psalmist, saying, “Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool. Rule in the midst of your foes.” It is plain to all that today the power of our Savior and the word of his teaching rule over all them that have believed in him, in the midst of his enemies and foes.” (Proof of the Gospels, 5.)

Almighty ever-living God,
who govern all things,
both in heaven and on earth,
mercifully hear the pleading of your people
and bestow your peace on our times.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen