In the Ancient World, sacrifice was essential to religion and a priest was someone who had the right and duty to offer sacrifice.
Israel forfeited the office of priesthood after they had sinned by worshiping the Golden Calf in the desert. After this incident, the priesthood was reserved for the tribe of Levi, whose members had refused to take part in the idolatry. The Levites were still operating as the Priests in the time of Jesus, offering sacrifices of slaughtered animals, grain, wine and incense. Supremely important, however, was the first offering of the day. Once the priests had discerned the first glimmer of dawn, they would begin the morning sacrifice – a whole burnt offering of a yearling, unblemished lamb. In all of this morning ritual, the priests of Jerusalem strove, symbolically, to be faithful where Adam had failed and where Israel had failed in the desert. They offered the day to God by offering him a life in its entirety, a life whose purity was scrupulously guarded.
The New Testament clearly presents Jesus as a New Adam, a new high priest, an unblemished lamb. St Paul spoke of Jesus as both sacrificial priest and sacrificial victim (Eph5:2).
Yet Jesus does not exercise his priesthood alone. He has restored it to the human race through the Catholic Church. He has “made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father” (Rev 1:6 and Rev 5:10) We are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood” (1 Pt 2:9).
So it is, two thousand years on, we are called to make an offering of our life each new day. We share in Christ’s priesthood because, through baptism, we share in His life, not only His divine nature but also His human nature. One way that Catholics exercise this priestly vocation is by praying a “Morning Offering” every day, as soon as they rise from sleep.
Since the mid-nineteenth century, the Church has urged its members to make a similar priestly offering every day, in union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass. The Morning Offering prayer was first actively promoted by members of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits. There are many prayers available that we can use for a Morning Offering. We may even make up our own. The following prayer was developed over the last century and a half. It is brief but theologically rich:
Oh Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all my relatives and friends and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father.”
Our day need not begin laboriously, as did the days in the Temple. We need no special bowls or trumpets for our priesthood. Our lamb has already been sacrificed. Now, in the fullness of time, we, with a simple prayer, begin to restore all things in Christ and through our daily activities – our single/married life, our family life, daily occupations, physical and mental relaxation and even hardships of life borne patiently – make our ‘sacrificial’ offerings acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.