While the priesthood of Christ is unique, it is also participated in, albeit differently, by all the baptized and by ordained ministers. This ﬁnal thesis serves to introduce what will be presented and developed fully in the ﬁnal chapter. We might press on and add further theses about Christ’s priesthood, responding, for instance, to the question: was he, as priestvictim, the substitute and/or representative of sinful human beings? Or are substitution and representation unsatisfactory, ‘extrinsic’ terms? Would it be better to use the language of ‘communion’, ‘incorporation’, and ‘solidarity’? Such language ﬁnds support in the way Hebrews insists on Christ’s priestly solidarity with those to whom he was sent (e.g. Heb. 2: 17–18; 3: 1; 4: 15). But these and other questions can be dealt with more satisfactorily in the coming chapter.
Sharing Christ’s Priesthood
In the third century St Cyprian of Carthage wrote: ‘that which Christ is, we Christians shall become (quod est Christus, erimus Christiani)’ (De Idolorum Vanitate, 15). This dictum bears application to the threefold ofﬁce of Christ: what Christ is as priest, prophet, and king, Christians become. But what, in particular, does sharing in Christ’s priesthood entail for the baptized faithful and for ordained ministers?
We can approach these questions through the teaching of Samuel Seabury (1729–96), the ﬁrst bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States. Seabury wrote of Christ ‘as a priest’ offering ‘himself as a sacriﬁce to God in the mystery of the Eucharist: that is, under the symbols of bread and wine; and he commanded his apostles to do as he had done. If his offering were a sacriﬁce, theirs was also. His sacriﬁce was original, theirs commemorative. His was meritorious through his merit who offered it; theirs drew all its merit from the relation it had to his sacriﬁce and [priestly] appointment.’ After clarifying the sacriﬁcial nature of the Eucharist, Bishop Seabury logically proceeded to expound the priestly implications of Christ’s command to his apostles ‘to celebrate the Holy Eucharist in remembrance of him’: he ‘communicated his own priesthood to them in such measure and degree as he saw necessary for his church—to qualify them to be his representatives’ and ‘to offer the Christian sacriﬁce’. As for the non-ordained faithful, ‘such portion of Christ’s priesthood is given to them as qualiﬁes them to join in offering the Christian sacriﬁce and to partake of it with the priests of the church’. Hence, Seabury went on to say, ‘the whole body of Christians’ is ‘said to be made not only kings to reign with Christ in glory hereafter but [also] priests unto God [Rev. 5: 10; 20: 6]’. He added at once that from this priestly dignity it does not follow that ‘private Christians have a right or power to consecrate the Eucharist: that right or power being by the institution itself conﬁned to the apostles and their successors and those empowered by them’.1