Saturday, August 11, 2007

I desire mercy and not sacrifice

~by St. Irenaeus from Against Heresies

God did not seek sacrifices and holocausts, but faith, and obedience, and righteousness, for the sake of their salvation. As God said, teaching his will through Hosea the prophet, What I want is love, not sacrifice; knowledge of God, not holocausts. Our Lord taught the same, saying If you had understood the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the blameless. Thus he bore witness to the truth of the prophets’ teachings while convicting the people of culpable folly.

Giving directions to His disciples to offer to God the first-fruits of his own creation — not offering them as if God needed them but so that they themselves should not be sterile or ungrateful — he took a created thing, bread, gave thanks, and said This is my body. And as for the cup, which is part of the same creation as us, he proclaimed it to be his blood and taught that it was the new offering of the new covenant. The Church received this from the Apostles and offers it to God throughout the world, to the God who gives us food, the first-fruits of his gifts under the new covenant. Malachi, one of the twelve prophets, foretold this as follows: I am not pleased with you, says the Lord of Hosts; from your hands I find no offerings acceptable. But from farthest east to farthest west my name is honoured among the nations and everywhere a sacrifice of incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering too, since my name is honoured among the nations, says the Lord of Hosts. Thus he clearly indicated that the people of old (the Jews) would cease to make offerings to God, but that in every place a sacrifice would be offered, and a pure sacrifice at that; and his name would glorified among the nations.

What other name is there which is glorified among the Gentiles than that of our Lord, by whom the Father is glorified, and man also? Because it is the name of his own Son, who was made man by him, he calls it his own. Just as a king, if he himself paints a portrait of his son, is right in calling this portrait his own, both because it is because it is a portrait of his son and because he himself painted it, so also the Father professes the name of Jesus Christ, glorified in the Church throughout the world, to be his own, both because it is that of his Son, and because he himself wrote it and gave it for the salvation of mankind.

The prophet’s words are doubly appropriate, both because the Son’s name belongs properly to the Father, and because the Church everywhere makes her offering to almighty God through Jesus Christ: In every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure sacrifice. For as John says in the Apocalypse, incense is the prayer of the saints.

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