Leo the Great on Melchizedek Priesthood and Anointing

I found this in my reading of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Volume X, Hebrews, this morning.  Since the translation used there is under copyright, and this is an extended quote, I’m getting the material from sacredtexts.com:

As often as God’s mercy deigns to bring round the day of His gifts to us, there is, dearly-beloved, just and reasonable cause for rejoicing, if only our appointment to the office be referred to the praise of Him who gave it.  For though this recognition of God may well be found in all His priests, yet I take it to be peculiarly binding on me, who, regarding my own utter insignificance and the greatness of the office undertaken, ought myself also to utter that exclamation of the Prophet, “Lord, I heard Thy speech and was afraid:  I considered Thy works and was dismayed 661 .”  For what is so unwonted and so dismaying as labour to the frail, exaltation to the humble, dignity to the undeserving?  And yet we do not despair nor lose heart, because we put our trust not in ourselves but in Him who works in us. And hence also we have sung with harmonious voice the psalm of David, dearly beloved, not in our own praise, but to the glory of Christ the Lord.  For it is He of whom it is prophetically written, “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedeck 662 ,” that is, not after the order of Aaron, whose priesthood descending along his own line of offspring was a temporal ministry, and ceased with the law of the Old Testament, but after the order of Melchizedeck, in whom was prefigured the eternal High Priest.  And no reference is made to his parentage because in him it is understood that He was portrayed, whose generation cannot be declared.  And finally, now that the mystery of this Divine priesthood has descended to human agency, it runs not by the line of birth, nor is that which flesh and blood created, chosen, but without regard to the privilege of paternity and succession by inheritance, those men are received by the Church as its rulers whom the Holy Ghost prepares:  so that in the people of God’s adoption, the whole body of which is priestly and royal, it is not the prerogative of earthly origin which obtains the unction 663 , but the condescension of Divine grace which creates the bishop. [Emphasis mine.  Footnotes lead to source notes on sacredtexts.com]

Of course, unction = anointing.  I’m interested particularly in this comment on ordination or any selection as leaders.  We should, as a church be simply acknowledging those whom God has chosen and prepared for the office.

I’m still meditating, however, on the idea that this leadership derives from the nature of Christ’s priesthood.  I have generally read Hebrews to say that temporal human beings in priestly office were no longer needed.  Yes, there are some intercessory activities of one person for another, but no established priesthood.  Whether a careful reading of Hebrews should change my views is something that will require time and study.

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