Jesus Christ: Priest, Prophet, and King

These three terms: priest, prophet, and king, have come to symbolize the threefold mission and office of Christ Jesus and his Church … we do not merely imply that he holds these offices, but that he is sent to publicly manifest the powers of these offices.

In order to understand the concept of priest, prophet, and king, one must first come to understand what we mean by these terms. These three terms: priest, prophet, and king, have come to symbolize the threefold mission and office of Christ Jesus and his Church. This threefold office is commonly called by its Latin name (in plural form), munera. However, a munus is not merely an office, but signifies a mission, what one has been sent to do. Hence, when we talk about a person being a priest, prophet, and king, we do not merely imply that he holds these offices, but that he is sent to publicly manifest the powers of these offices. As “being” precedes “doing,” these offices are received, so that they may be executed in our lives.

A priest is one who offers sacrifice on behalf of others and/or himself. A prophet is one who teaches others the way they should live, so as to avoid evil and embrace the good. And a king is a shepherd, one who governs and uses his authority so that others may be brought to the fullness of their potential. The gift of authority, in the Church, is only properly used when it is employed to build up the Church, and grow the kingdom of God, which is like a seed. (See Mt 13: 31)

For us to understand these concepts, we will first look at the meaning and expression of them in the Hebrew Scriptures, showing then, the type/ante-type relationship that is fulfilled in Christ Jesus. This will bring us to deepen our understanding of how, as the followers of Christ, Christians participate in the threefold munera of Jesus Christ: Priest, Prophet, and King.

The Hebrew Covenant: Priest, Prophet, and King: Prefigurations of Christ

Before we can briefly dip into the rich heritage of the notion of priest, prophet, and king in the Hebrew Scriptures, it must first be stated that Christians understand both Testaments,Hebrew and Christian, as one unified work of Divine Revelation. This means, following the dictum of St. Augustine, “The New is in the Old, and the Old is in the New.” Hence, there is a relationship between the two covenants: Hebrew and Christian. The religious experience of the Jews has come to be fulfilled in Christ Jesus. This relationship between the Covenants is known as supercessionism. But this concept needs to be expressed clearly, as in the past it has been at times falsely interpreted. While we will deal with this in greater detail later, it will suffice us to say that no covenant is ever abrogated, but the many covenants made with the Jews come to fulfillment in the sacrifice of Christ and his resurrection. Supercessionism does not mean that Jews do not receive salvation, but that their salvation, like that of everyone else, comes from the one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who offers salvation to all humanity through the Paschal Mystery of Jesus.1


There are three main priesthoods in the Hebrew Covenant that should be briefly explored. They are: Aaronide, Levitical, and that of Melchizadek. In the Hebrew tradition, there is not the sense of divine vocation, or calling, to the priesthood. Rather, the priesthood is an office deputed to those of a given tribe of Israel, or the son belonging to a priestly family.2 While it was customary that priests came from the tribe of Levi, it was not unheard of that priests came from other tribes and families, specifically during the period of the judges, and in the early royal period.3 During the postexilic period, priesthood in Israel and prophecy largely went hand-in-hand. But it must be said that the deuterocanonical law begins to specify between “priests” and “levitical priests.” This is probably part of the priestly redaction of the Pentateuch.

The Aaronide priesthood largely consisted of offering the temple sacrifice, whereas the Levitical priesthood becomes characterized by charity and service to the people (See Dt 12:12, 18-19; Dt 14:27, 29; Dt 16:11, 14; and Dt 26:11-13). Yet, Moses, and therefore his brother Aaron, is ascribed to have been a part of the tribe of Levi.4 And so, this dichotomy between Levitical and Aaronide priesthood seems to be something that developed later, most likely around the eighth century around Jerusalem.5

Lastly is the priesthood of Melchizadek, who ruled over Salem. Now, this could be taken as a figurative person and not an actual king, since Salem comes from the Hebrew for “peace.” Furthermore, Salem has traditionally been identified as Jerusalem. In order to understand Melchizadek better, I will briefly look at Psalm 110, which will also highlight how we see this type/ante-type relationship fulfilled in Christ Jesus. 

Psalm 110 could be a Christological prefiguration for the “King of Peace” who will reign over the holy city, Jerusalem. This psalm is priestly because it expresses the eternity of the priesthood of Jesus Christ, a priesthood not based on heritage, such as the Levitical priesthood, but by divine anointing.

The phrase that “He will judge the nations” and the imagery of “sitting at the right” signify a new age, a new order of creation. “The old king is dead, and the new king is the Lord Himself, who is also a priest eternal and universal judge. … This king is an eschatological king, a king to usher in a new age.”6 The opening of this psalm establishes the Christological perspective, since it says that “YHWH declared to my Lord, ‘Take your seat at my right hand. … ’” To sit at the right of God is the greatest honor given only to the King 

There is a promise here that is filled with eschatological hope: victory over all enemies, sin, and death. This is symbolic of the restoration of all from the peccata mundi, that sin due to the fall that affects all of creation. This promise is followed by a vision of this eschatological victorious king. The priesthood comes about as an effect of this new king.

There is also the presence of the mayim, water, which the king drinks. This symbolizes the fullness of the priestly munus: Priest, Prophet, and King. The water symbolizes the divine wisdom flowing graciously from God. Hence, the King is not only king and priest, but also a prophet.

It is important to say a bit about the role of the king. The understanding of the king in Psalm 110 should bring light to the notion of the Good Shepherd in Psalm 23, and vice versa.

The king is meant to be a servant of the people. The Lord God is to choose the king. The king is to live a life as a servant, and as a servant, he should not have many wives, horses, etc. … in other words, the king is to live a life of simplicity. His power is also not to be a great military power, it is not a political power. He is to serve the Lord by meditating, night and day, on the law of the Lord, and living that law as a witness to it, and teacher of it, to his people. The king is to be like Adam, king of the Garden of Eden, lord of all animals, but, unlike Adam, as a New Adam, in obedience to the command of God.7

The role of the king is descriptive of the ministerial priesthood of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, there are many Christological prefigurations here present. This is so, because it is from Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd and Eternal High Priest that the priesthood proceeds. Hence, man cannot change the role and character of the priesthood.


The greatest of all the prophets was Moses, who gave the Law, Torah. Later prophets, such as Elijah and Isaiah were not lawgivers, but commented on the Law, Torah, and exhorted the people to be faithful to the Torah. This will reach its pinnacle during the exilic period or Babylonian Captivity, where, the secular kings, who ruled over the chosen people of God, were being forced to violate their faith and morals, their conscience, and swear by the foreign king and his gods. (See Maccabees)

Prophecy is not necessarily a vision of the future, but an exhortation to obey the Torah, and about teaching the Torah, so as to avoid the malediction of God.8 Prophets, unlike priests who were subject to their hereditary priesthood, were largely called and commissioned by God—sent to their people to re-awaken religious fervor.


The three great kings of the Hebrew Scriptures are Saul, David, and Solomon. Originally, God did not want to give his people a king, as only he is their king. But ceding to their request to be lead, and to be kept as one, God gave kings to his people. This history, though, shows how each king succumbed to infidelity, most vividly in the life of King David, who committed adultery with Bathsheba, and then murdered her husband, Uriah, the Hittite, to hide his infidelity. Yet, the concept of kingship, of governance, as the good shepherd (See Ps 23), is deeply rooted in the Hebrew tradition, and is the service for the cause of unity amongst the Jewish people, and their protection from others who seek to take from them their promised land.

Christ: the Fullness of Priest, Prophet, and King

As Psalm 110 shows, the wisdom literature, Kəṯûḇîm, sees the Messianic fulfillment as proclaimed by the Prophet Isaiah (See Is:7, 53), coming as one who is not merely a political king, but a priest and prophet. This is central to the rejection of Christ as the Messiah by the Zealots, who sought sociopolitical amelioration, rather than the spiritual liberation from sin, death, and the devil, that Christ won for us upon the Cross, and in his resurrection. We will now look at Christ Jesus as priest, prophet, and king, to see how he is the fulfillment and fullness of these.

Priest: The priesthood of Jesus Christ is expressed as the perfect priesthood, as Jesus is the perfect and only mediator between God and man. He is priest, offerer, and victim—the offered. His sacrifice is the perfect sacrifice, and his priesthood is eternal.

Jesus is both true God and true Man, consubstantial with the Father and the Holy Spirit, according to his divine nature, and consubstantial with humanity, according to his human nature. The office of mediator is most perfectly exercised by one who is capable of joining two extremes in the middle.9 The hypostatic union of the two natures in the one person of Jesus Christ serves to unite two extremes, divinity and humanity, in the middle, so as to shower divine grace and light upon humanity and to offer humanity reconciled back to God. Now the priesthood of Christ is not an operation of his divine nature, but of his human nature.10 It is an act of humanity to offer sacrifice for the sake of our reconciliation with God. Therefore, the human nature of Christ is where the priesthood is exercised, so as to reconcile humanity with God 

Unlike the priestly sacrifices of the Aaronide priesthood, Christ’s priesthood is unique in that he is the priest, the offerer, and the victim, offered, at the same time.11 He offers himself upon the Altar of the Cross, as the sacrifice, whose primary effect is the expiation of sins.12 The sacrifice of Christ Jesus, the sinless lamb (cf. Ex12:1-14, 24-27; Lv 16:8; et alios), offered for our sins, is the lone acceptable sacrifice to God the Father. A sacrifice can be judged by the quality of that which is offered in sacrifice. An offering which is pure, undefiled, and of great worth is a greater sacrifice than that which is impure, defiled, and of little worth. Jesus, being the Son of God, is of ineffable and infinite value. Thus, his sacrifice is perfect, the one sacrifice which suffices for all humanity and all creation for all time.

The issue of time is important. Does the sacrifice of Christ extend reflexively, upon all those who came before him, presently to all those who were alive at his time on earth, and for all time forward? The fact that we teach that Christ Jesus ascended into Heaven, which is outside of all time and space, means that we can posit that he has an eternal and timeless priesthood. “You are a priest forever of the order of Melchizedek” (Ps 110:4). His sacrifice is for all time and space and indeed can be applied to all who unite themselves, even unconsciously, to his Paschal Mystery.13

Prophet: Jesus, the Son and Word of God, fulfills the Law, Torah, and the Prophets, Nevi’im, as indeed he is the very font of divine revelation itself. 

Jesus is, then, Prophet. He is the envoy sent by the Father to bring men the Word of God; his teaching, therefore, has divine authority; the Father himself requires us to listen to the word of Jesus (cf. Mt 17:5). But Christ is more than prophet; he is the Master, that is, he who teaches on his own authority (Mt 7:29). Thus, he is acknowledged and called “Master” by his disciples, and he accepts this title; he is not one master among many, but the absolute and only master of the New Testament: “You,” he tells the Apostles, “call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am” (Jn 13:13). This personal authority with which he teaches, which the evangelists themselves bear witness to, made them “surprised to see him teaching everywhere and at all times, teaching in a manner and with an authority previously unknown.” It comes across very strongly in the words “I tell you” (cf. Mt 5:22; Jn 8:51; etc.). And, when Jesus quotes passages from the Old Testament, not only does he expound on his teaching in the light of the sacred text, but he also, and in a particular way, explains the sacred text in the light of himself.14

The authority of Jesus to teach beyond that of the prophets, even beyond Moses, who gave the Law, is by virtue of the fact that Jesus is not a mere commentator and exhorter, but the very source of the law itself. Indeed, when in Exodus 20 it says, “Then God spoke all these words,” and he gave the Ten Commandments, it was Jesus who spoke those words to Moses. Moses but gave the Jewish people what God had given him. When Jesus speaks, we hear God himself speak to us.

As was spoken of earlier, the new and eternal covenant in Christ Jesus supersedes those covenants made previously. The notion of supercessionism must be understood in the context of an organic development, or hermeneutic of continuity, not a rupture or an abrogation. This covenantal relationship of gift and response can be expressed in the Hebrew concepts of Hen and Hesed. Hen or Henan is the gratuitous gift of God’s glory given mankind, which mankind could not have merited. It is akin and commonly translated in the New Testament as Charis, the glory of God. Hesed is a response to Hen, as it is the kind act of relationship done out of a commitment, a covenant, with a person. With each new Hen, there is the just response of a Hesed, each building upon the other until their consummation in perfect charity. Likewise, the covenants established between God and the Jewish people build upon each other until they are perfected in the new and eternal covenant in Christ Jesus, which brings about the forgiveness of sins and a share in his eternal life.

As prophet, teacher, and master of the new covenant, Christ Jesus’ divine and human natures must not be misunderstood. Christ teaches what he teaches because his mission is to make his Father known. As God, Jesus is omniscient. As a human, Jesus has three forms of knowledge. This is important, because when Christ teaches, he teaches not merely as God, but also as a human, drawing from his own human experience. Experience signifies knowledge learned, not knowledge always had. Consequently, we must briefly look at the three forms of human knowledge of Christ: acquired, infused, and beatific vision.

Acquired knowledge is that knowledge which comes from experience—sense data—and is developed over time in different contexts and through different experiences through our own human efforts. Acquired knowledge would also include deductive and inductive reasoning, the operation of logic. Thus, when St. Luke says that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature (Lk 2:25), the evangelist is expressing the fact of the reality of the Incarnation, that indeed the Son of God has taken on a true human nature, which includes limitations. Christ’s acquired knowledge also has limitations. “The knowledge acquired by the Savior always had (error having been excluded) the perfection appropriate to his age, the time he lived in, the places he knew, and was in keeping with the people he conversed with, and the designs of wisdom intended, for the glory of God and the salvation of the world.”15 The humanity of Christ learned from experiential sense data, and this experiential acquired knowledge formed one source of knowledge from which Christ taught. In this way, Jesus is no different from any of the other prophets.

Jesus also has infused knowledge. “Infused knowledge is the name given to knowledge which is not acquired directly by the application of reason, but is infused into the human mind directly by God—for example, prophetic knowledge, which is not prognostication but genuine, definite knowledge of the future.”16 While there are no incontrovertible proofs from Scripture that Jesus had infused knowledge, it would be false to apply merely a priori knowledge to Christ, since both his divinity and humanity are hypostatically united in his one person. Therefore, it is not a theological improbability or impossibility for his divine omniscience to simultaneously infuse itself, and impress itself upon his human intellect. “Moreover, he is the Head of men and of angels; ‘from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace’ (Jn 1:16), and it seems appropriate for the Head to have all the graces which will be given to the members (including infused knowledge).”17 Indeed, how can the Head, who is Christ, give to the angels and saints, that which he himself does not have?

The form of knowledge Christ Jesus has—which expresses most clearly the union of two natures, and by which teaching we affirm his divine authority to teach, over and above all other prophets—is his knowledge of vision. This is also called the beatific vision. “Along with acquired knowledge and infused knowledge, the great majority of theologians agree that, from the first moment of his conception, Christ had the knowledge of the blessed (called ‘the science of vision’), that intuitive vision of the Godhead which St. Paul refers to as ‘to see God face to face’ (cf. 1 Cor 13:12), and St. John, when he says that we shall know God ‘as he is’ (cf. 1 Jn 3:3).”18 It must be made clear, that the beatific vision of Christ only applies to his humanity, not his divinity, as the object of the vision is God; thus God does not seek to see God, but Christ’s true humanity beholds its highest object: God. Christ Jesus does not have faith. We assent to divine revelation with an act of faith, but what he taught was coming from his direct vision of God. The Son makes known the Father, because the Son knows the Father, and the Father, the Son.

The Ecumenical Councils of Nicea, Constantinople I and II, and Ephesus clearly taught that there were two natures in Christ Jesus. In fact, until the Council of Chalcedon (451), the notion of “mixture” of these two natures was common, which contributed to the development of Monophysitism and Monothelitism/Monergonism. The notion of mixture is even present in orthodox voices, such as St. Gregory of Nyssa. It was Theodore of Mopsuestia who was the first to realize that “mixture” (χρāσις) authentically described the union of the two natures of Christ. The notion of mixture allows for the domination and/or dissolution of one in the other, or the synthesis into a totally new substance. “Unconfused” but harmonious, hypostatically united, and indivisible natures in the one person of Jesus Christ protect the full reality of his humanity and divinity. “This mutual ontological presence (περιχώησις) not only preserves the being particular to each element, to the divine and the human natures, but also brings each of them to its perfection in their very difference, even enhancing that difference.”19

Our understanding of the three human forms of knowledge, as well as Jesus’ divine omniscience, is a key theological principle which expresses and defends the christology of Chalcedon and Constantinople III. From these Ecumenical Councils, we come to realize that the person of Jesus Christ is one in two natures hypostatically united, without confusion, and in perfect harmony. The human will of Christ Jesus is in union, without confusion, and in perfect harmony with the divine will common to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Likewise, we say that the human intellect of Jesus is without confusion and in perfect harmony with the divine. This allows us to express and defend the reality of the hypostatic union through showing how the highest of human powers, the powers of the soul, the intellect, and the will of Jesus in his human nature are without confusion and in harmony with his divine nature. In this way, we express the harmony and hypostatic unity of both natures in the one person of Jesus Christ.

King: The Jews, at the time of Jesus, were hoping for a strong political leader to reunite them, and restore their kingdoms of Judah in the South, and Israel in the North. The Zealots, in particular, sought to use violence in order to liberate the Jewish people from foreign rule. The Book of Maccabees speaks of the Babylonian Captivity (approx. 597-538 B.C.), in which the Jews were sent into exile from their lands, the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, and the people fell subject to the rule of the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. During this time, Jews were tempted to renounce their God for the gods of the Babylonians. Those who renounced the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were rewarded, and received, great bounty from the table of the secular king. The secular king sought to supplant the Law, Torah, with secular laws. These laws were no longer grounded in the supreme authority of God, but were founded upon the supreme authority of the secular king, the state. It was for this reason that the Jews sought a strong political Messiah who would lead them to the freedom they desired, where the kingdom and their religious practice would go hand-in-hand.

Christ Jesus, already drawing on the imagery of the Good Shepherd from the Hebrew Scriptures (See Is 4:9-11; Ps 23; Ps 78:52; Mi 2:12-13; and Jer 3:15), comes not merely to replace secular government, but most importantly to provide the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth, a kingdom that is in union with the celestial kingdom. Christ Jesus is not merely a human king, but his kingship is over all time and space, from one end of the cosmos to the other. It was for this reason that Jesus resisted the insistence of the people to make him a king on earth. The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom, but it is also truly human. Christ is the Good Shepherd, and the Church, the People of God, is his flock. In this way, we cannot separate the kingdom from Christ Jesus or the Church.

If the kingdom is separated from Jesus, it is no longer the Kingdom of God which he revealed. The result is a distortion of the meaning of the kingdom, which runs the risk of being transformed into a purely human or ideological goal and a distortion of the identity of Christ, who no longer appears as the Lord to whom everything must one day be subjected (cf. 1 Cor 15:27). Likewise, one may not separate the kingdom from the Church. It is true that the Church is not an end unto herself, since she is ordered toward the kingdom of God, of which she is the seed, sign and instrument. Yet, while remaining distinct from Christ and the kingdom, the Church is indissolubly united to both.20

As Christ Jesus is head of his mystical body, the Church, he is king of the kingdom of Heaven and of earth. His Kingship is in virtue of his being the Savior of all. Thus, “being under Christ’s sway is being saved, whereas to reject his kingdom (like those people in the parable: ‘We do not want this man to reign over us’: Lk 19:14) is to perish: it means rejecting salvation.”21

Christian Participation in the Threefold Munera of Christ

The sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and holy orders imprint a permanent mark/character upon our souls that grants us a share in the threefold munera of Jesus Christ: Priest, Prophet, and King.22 This sacramental character is given us, as the sacraments which are the action of Christ in word and work, by Christ Jesus himself, so that we may ever grow in his likeness stamped by a seal that opens us to his grace.23


The sacrament of baptism configures us to Christ and deputes us to right worship.24 Sharing in the priesthood of Christ as baptized Christians, we offer prayer and penances for ourselves and for the Church that they may be sanctified. We also have the Dominicus character, which unites us with the Paschal Mystery of Christ, and which is renewed and deepened by our capacity, as baptized priests of Christ, to unite ourselves sacramentally with the death and resurrection of Christ at Mass. This Dominicus character is a seal that marks us with the spiritual character of the cross and resurrection, by which we are saved.

Baptism also grants us a share in Christ’s prophetic and kingly ministry. This is lived by our teaching of the faith, especially as catechists, proclamation of the Word of God, service to the Church, especially liturgical, and by the witness we offer through a holy life and practical charity. By perseverance in faith, hope, and love, we come to salvation.


Incorporated into the Church by baptism and given the foundational character needed for anyone to exercise the Christian vocation, the sacrament of confirmation acts as a capstone upon baptism, the way Pentecost is the capstone upon Easter. “By the sacrament of Confirmation they are more perfectly bound to the Church and are endowed with the special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence, they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread the faith by word and deed.”25 Confirmation strengthens our capacity to live the sacramental character already received at baptism to exercise the threefold munera by the reception of the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, and holy fear of the Lord. Confirmation gives us the strength and power of the Holy Spirit, who was sent by the Father and the Son, and subsequently sends us to be missionaries of Christ, making God the Father known throughout the whole world.

The Ministerial Priesthood

There is a difference in both degree and essence—ontology—between a non-baptized, a baptized, a confirmed, and an ordained person. Furthermore, within the sacrament of holy orders, there is a difference in degree and essence between deacons, priests, and bishops. The distinction between the baptized and confirmed, and the specifics of the sacramental characters received have been expressed above. There is a further distinction regarding the threefold munera as they are participated in by Christians, and that is the distinction between the common priesthood of the baptized and confirmed, and the ministerial priesthood.

Within the sacrament of holy orders, there are three unique orders separated not only by degree, but essence. “Those who are constituted in the order of the episcopate, or the presbyterate, receive the mission and capacity to act in the person of Christ the Head, whereas deacons are empowered to serve the People of God in the ministries of the liturgy, the word and charity.”26 The diaconate, which is not part of the ministerial priesthood, receives the character of Christ the Servant, and the ministry of proclaiming the Gospel, and performing charitable service. But the ministerial priesthood of Christ is only exercised by ordained priests, in persona Christi, and bishops, who “take the place of Christ himself, teacher, shepherd and priest, and act as his representatives (in eius persona).”27 Priests and deacons receive a share in the higher episcopal ministry, and thus, priests and deacons share in the episcopal threefold munera which make Christ Jesus himself present in word and deed to the rest of the Church, but according to a different degree and essence.

The Role of the Laity and the Clergy in the Threefold Munera of Christ

Each of us has his own special role within the Church, for the building up of the Church, through the exercise of the threefold munera of Jesus Christ: Priest, Prophet, and King.28 Bishops, with priests and deacons, authoritatively teach faith and morals, proclaim and preach the Word, and preserve the Apostolic faith with the authority of Christ, in union with the Magisterium. The bishops, with his priests, are the stewards of the Eucharist, and the other sacraments for the sanctification of the laity and themselves. The bishop exercises a proper, ordinary, and immediate authority over his diocese in union with the Pope. The priests and deacons exercise governance in union with their bishop, who is in union with the Pope. This expresses the unity and catholicity of the Church.29

All the faithful have the duty to teach and defend the faith, and to lead others to it by prayer and holy witness. The laity, in union with their pastors (shepherds), exercise governance and authority to build up the Church of Christ. By exercising their baptismal and confirmational priesthood, the laity sanctify the Church with their prayers and penances.


Jesus is the High Priest, Fulfillment of all Prophecy, and King of Kings. He brings to completion the priestly, prophetic, and kingly imagery of the Hebrew Scriptures as he is the incarnation of the Hebrew covenants. In the sacrifice of the New and Eternal covenant, Jesus does not merely perfect the priesthood, but bestows it upon us. Through the sacraments, all the Christian faithful come to share in diverse ways in the threefold munera of Jesus Christ: Priest, Prophet, and King for the building up of the Church and their own sanctification.

  1. See Lg, 8, 16; GS, 22. 
  2. See NJBC, 76:13.
  3. See Ibid., 76: 18.
  4. See Ibid.
  5. See Ibid., 76: 20.
  6. Bruna Costacurta, “The Wisdom Literature: Biblical Exegesis: The Psalms and Wisdom Writings” (lecture, Pontificia Universitá Gregoriana, Roma, It, January 22, 2008).
  7. Bruna Costacurta, “The Wisdom Literature: Biblical Exegesis: The Psalms and Wisdom Writings” (lecture, Pontificia Universitá Gregoriana, Roma, It, January 22, 2008).
  8. The Jewish wisdom literature of the Old Testament speaks of the concept of rîb, which seeks justice for the sake of the conversion of the malefactor. In this case the innocent seeks justice against the malefactor not for their satisfaction, but that the malefactor will recognize their wrong-doing and repent. This is the redemptive justice that God offers us. “God’s ‘anger’ at man’s sin is compatible not only with justice but also with his faithfulness to the love which led him to create the universe. (F. Ocariz, L.F. Mateo Seco and J.A. Riestra, The Mystery of Jesus Christ: A Christology and Soteriology Textbook (Dublin, Ireland: Four Courts Press LTD, 2008), 279)” When God condemns our evil it is with the intention of helping us see the err of our ways and repent.
  9. See St. Thomas, S. Th., III, q. 26 a. 1. “dicendum quod mediatoris officium proprie est coniungere eos inter quos est mediator: nam extrema uniuntur in medio.”
  10. Ibid., III, q. 26 a. 2; q. 50 a. 1. See St. Augustine, Confessions, Bk. 10, Ch. 43.
  11. See St. Thomas, S. Th., III, q. 22 a. 2.
  12. See ibid., III, q.22 a. 3. See Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011), 229-240.
  13. See LG, 8, 14-16; GS, 22; Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi, 103: AAS 35 (1943), 242-243; Philip-Michael F. Tangorra, Whether There Is the Necessity for All Humanity to Have the Implicit Desire (Votum) for the Eucharist for Salvation: According to the Thought of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Sacred Liturgy (tesina, Pontificia Universitas Studiorum a Sancto Thoma Aquinatis in Urbe Angelicum, 2011), 43-48 and 76-77.
  14. F. Ocariz, L.F. Mateo Seco and J.A. Riestra, The Mystery of Jesus Christ: A Christology and Soteriology Textbook (Dublin, Ireland: Four Courts Press LTD, 2008), 147.
  15. F. Vigue, “Quelques precisions concernant l’objet de la science acquise du Christ”, (Recherches de Science Religieuse: 10, 1920), 27.
  16. F. Ocariz, L.F. Mateo Seco and J.A. Riestra, The Mystery of Jesus Christ, 152.
  17. F. Ocariz, L.F. Mateo Seco and J.A. Riestra, The Mystery of Jesus Christ, 153.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Cosmic Liturgy: The Universe According to Maximus the Confessor, trans. by Brian E. Daley, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2003), 63-64.
  20. CDF, Dominus Iesus, 18: AAS 92 (2000), 760.
  21. F. Ocariz, L.F. Mateo Seco and J.A. Riestra, The Mystery of Jesus Christ, 144.
  22. See St. Thomas, S. Th., III, q. 63 aa.1-6.
  23. See Ibid.
  24. See Ibid., III, q. 69 a. 10; LG, 11.
  25. LG, 11.
  26. Pope Benedict XVI, Omnium in mentem, Art. 2.
  27. LG, 21. See Council of Trent, Twenty-second Session, ch. 2; and Twenty-third Session, ch. 4.
  28. See Avery Dulles, Models of the Church, (New York, London, Toronto, Sydney, Auckland: Image Books and Doubleday, 2002), 152-166.
  29. See LG, 18-30.
Father Philip-Michael F. Tangorra, STL About Father Philip-Michael F. Tangorra, STL

Fr. Philip-Michael Tangorra is a priest of the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey. He was the co-founder and president of “Hands of Mary for Haiti,” an Association of the Christian Faithful aimed at helping, both materially and spiritually, the people of Notre Dame du Perpetuel Secours parish in Fragneau-Ville, Haiti, following the devastating earthquake there in 2010. He served as the parochial vicar for the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Morristown, New Jersey, where he also served on the Board of Directors for the Neighborhood House in Morristown. He recently rebuilt and created an award-winning Catholic Campus Ministry at William Paterson University, serving as its chaplain. He has also served as the Assistant Coordinator for Evangelization for the Diocese of Paterson. He is the author of Holiness and Living the Sacramental Life, a part of the "Living Faith Series" published by Emmaus Road. In “Holiness and Living…” Fr. Philip-Michael lays out the mystical and invisible realities that are present during the celebration of the sacraments, and explains how they can lead us to living ever more in-tune with God. He has a Licentiate in Dogmatic Theology from the Angelicum in Rome, and is currently studying Canon Law at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.


  1. Thank you, Fr. Tangorra, for your article. You did acknowledge that, “Through the sacraments, all the Christian faithful come to share in diverse ways in the threefold munera of Jesus Christ: Priest, Prophet, and King for the building up of the Church and their own sanctification.” And you did acknowledge that, “Confirmation gives us the strength and power of the Holy Spirit…, and subsequently sends us to be missionaries of Christ, making God the Father known throughout the whole world.”

    There continues to be, even after explicit Church direction to the contrary, serious deficiency among the laity in our formation needed for us to live our vocation – our part in the apostolate of the Church to evangelize. The Church affirms of us:

    “In the Church there is a diversity of ministry but a oneness of mission. Christ conferred on the Apostles and their successors the duty of teaching, sanctifying, and ruling in His name and power. But the laity likewise share in the priestly, prophetic, and royal office of Christ and therefore have their own share in the mission of the whole people of God in the Church and in the world.
    “They exercise the apostolate in fact by their activity directed to the evangelization and sanctification of men and to the penetrating and perfecting of the temporal order through the spirit of the Gospel. In this way, their temporal activity openly bears witness to Christ and promotes the salvation of men. Since the laity, in accordance with their state of life, live in the midst of the world and its concerns, they are called by God to exercise their apostolate in the world like leaven, with the ardor of the spirit of Christ.” (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, #2)

    This vocation of the laity requires of our shepherds, adequate shepherding. We need the offices of priest, prophet and king given to the clergy exercised our our behalf – making us a people rightly disposed for the sacraments dispensed that they may be fruitful; forming us rightly in the Word, in the revealed truth of God; shepherding us rightly toward full maturity in Christ and the fulfillment of our call.

    Again, as the Church requires:
    “Priests therefore, as educators in the faith, must see to it either by themselves or through others that the faithful are led individually in the Holy Spirit to a development of their own vocation according to the Gospel, to a sincere and practical charity, and to that freedom with which Christ has made us free. Ceremonies however beautiful, or associations however flourishing, will be of little value if they are not directed toward the education of men to Christian maturity.” ( (Presbyterorum Ordinis §6)

    Blessed John Paul II wrote, of this work of the clergy:
    “The exercise of the “munus regendi” is directed both to gathering the flock in the visible unity of a single profession of faith, lived in the sacramental communion of the Church, and to guiding that flock, in the diversity of its gifts and callings, towards a common goal: the proclamation of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Every act of ecclesiastical governance, consequently, must be aimed at fostering communion and mission.” (John Paul II, Address to Bishops of Pennsylvania and New Jersey (Vatican City: September 12, 2004) (

    The call to the laity to be witnesses in the secular world, to be evangelizers in the secular world, to defend the Faith against the anti-Catholics in the world – our call to be Catholics in the secular world – requires adequate formation, which requires the active and sincere help of the clergy. I hoped to hear of this need for solid and complete adult faith formation for the laity in your article, explicitly addressed, because we need the problem to be addressed more faithfully by priests – by our pastors.

    Thank you for your work in the Church. May the Lord bless you and work through you.

    Thomas Richard

  2. Fr. Philip-Michael Tangorra Fr. Philip-Michael Tangorra says:

    Dear Thomas,
    I am glad that you found this essay helpful. I understand the need for us priests to help train the laity to be evangelists. In my diocese, the Diocese of Paterson, we have a special Evangelization Center, St. Paul’s Inside the Walls, exactly for that purpose. I work as a chaplain at William Paterson University in Wayne, NJ and part of my job is to train the young people to be evangelists.

    Honestly, most every parish provides Bible Studies, Faith Formation for Youths and Adults, and other such opportunities. I know most parishes are always looking for good catechists. I also know that the Legion of Mary, Knights of Columbus, Serrans and many other such organizations also do a great job, of course depending upon the people in one’s local council, to get the laity involved in evangelization, charitable outreach, and service projects. Of course there are also the St. Vincent de Paul societies, soup kitchens and homeless shelters that also provide the faithful opportunities to evangelize and become a witness to the face of Christ to those who are under-privileged. And, lets not forget that our Catholic schools can always use volunteers to help and to fund-raise!

    There are many opportunities to get involved. Many parishes use a stewardship model these days that asks their parishioners to tithe, not merely money, but time and talent. In this situation the different ministries and organizations of the parish have a fair for people to sign-up and get more involved. Sadly, in most cases its always the same people who sign-up for everything.

    There is no lack of opportunity to serve. I also don’t think there is any great lack of invitation offered by priest to the laity to get involved. Granted I can’t speak for all priests and all parishes and I am unfamiliar with your particular situation. But, I hope that you find a parish that will afford you the opportunity to exercise the threefold munus that you have received at your Baptism and Confirmation.