Yesterday was Candlemas, also called the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. The First Reading, fittingly, is a prophesy about how the Christ will visit the Second Temple (Malachi 3:1-4):
I've spoken about this passage recently, in the context of Christ's fulfillment of it. But yesterday, my dad mentioned something staring me in the face, which I'd repeatedly overlooked: Malachi 3 says that Christ established a priesthood. And not just any priesthood, but a sacrificial one. And this sacrificial priesthood is clearly made up of more than just Him. All of this points pretty clearly to, not only the Catholic priesthood, but the Eucharist and the Sacrifice of the Mass.
Michael Pacher, Presentation of Christ (1481)
Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the LORD, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.
But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap:
And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.
Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.
Nor is this passage some sort of outlier. Rather, on multiple occasions, this New Covenant priesthood was prophesied. My favorite example comes from the last chapter of Isaiah (Is. 66:18-21):
Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, Extreme Unction (1846)For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory.
And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles.
And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the LORD out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the LORD, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD.
That last line is even clearer in the NIV: “And I will select some of them also to be priests and Levites," says the LORD.”And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith the LORD.
These passages are a real problem for Protestants, who tend to claim either that every Christian's a priest (due to the priesthood of all believers), or that only Christ is (since He's the sole High Priest). Here's a typical anti-Catholic site arguing, without any sense of irony, that the Catholic priesthood is invalid both because we're all priests and none of us are:
St. Josemaría Escrivá at Mass (1971)Jesus Christ’s unending priesthood cannot be transferred to any other person, as stated in Hebrews 7:24, “But this man [Jesus Christ], because He continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.” Thus Rome’s sacrament of “Holy Orders”, which claims to pass on Christ’s sacrificial priesthood by “sacerdotal consecration”, is a tradition of men that contradicts revealed Biblical truth.
The Roman Catholic church does not have Christ’s New Testament sacrificial priesthood let alone any higher grade of bishop. The Catholic priesthood is created in order to perpetuate her seven physical sacraments, which she claims are necessary for salvation. The whole life of the Church of Rome revolves around her Bishops and Priests and the sacraments that they perform.
According to the Bible all believers have immediate access to God in the Lord Christ Jesus; all share in the royal priesthood of praise. (I Peter 2:9)
This argument basically refutes itself. If believers sharing in the royal priesthood aren't sharing in Christ's priesthood, whose priesthood are they sharing in? Is there some other source of priesthood other than Christ in the New Covenant?
But in any case, that's just not what Scripture says. Sure, nobody but Christ is the High Priest. And sure, all Christians, through Baptism, have some share in Christ's priesthood. But Scripture is just as clear that there's also a sense in which some (but not all) believers take part in a sacrificial priesthood like what the Levites had in the Old Covenant. I've addressed this point in more depth before, but had never realized that Malachi 3:3-4 was directly on point.
On one narrow point, I do agree with the anti-Catholic site I quoted above: the whole life of the Church of Rome does revolve around the Sacraments. And these Sacraments (particularly the Eucharist) require a sacrificial priesthood. It just so happens that Christ gave us just that, as Scripture promised He would.