First Reading: Genesis 14:18-20
18 Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine: and he was priest of God Most High. 19 He blessed him, and said, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth: 20 and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”
Abram gave him a tenth of all.
World English Bible
These verses were woven into the story of Abram and Lot. Abram rescued Lot after he was taken captive in the sacking Sodom and Gomorrah. With his allies and a contingent of over three hundred men, Abram traveled up the Jordan Valley, past the Sea of Galilee, and attacked the kings who ransacked the cities. Abram freed his cousin, Lot, and returned the booty that was taken back to the cities.
In the midst of the victory celebration, the king of Sodom went out to meet Abram and make peace. Sandwiched in the meeting between and the king and Abram, Melchizedek suddenly appeared and blessed Abram with a humble offering to “God Most High” of bread and wine. Melchizedek blessed the gifts with two blessings: a blessing for Abram by the king-priest’s God (14:19) and a blessing to his God for Abram’s victory (14:20). While the offering was not defined, we can assume the bread and wine were a communion offering to “God Most High.” In other words, part of the offering was consumed in the sacrifice to “God Most High,” part was shared as a meal with Abram and Melchizedek. This symbolized a heavenly meal in which Abram partook. Melchizedek, the king-priest of Salem, was the mediator and co-celebrant. In return for his sacrifice, Abram tithed his estate to Melchizedek. This was Abram’s way to thank God for his victory.
Melchizedek took on mythic proportions over the centuries. Since Melchizedek’s origin or destiny were not described in the scriptures (he neither was born nor died), he was seen in eternal dimensions. In Psalm 110:4, YHWH was invoked to anoint the king of Judah as a Melchizedek figure, a priest-king forever. In Hebrews 5-7, the author identified Jesus as the Melchizedek figure in the worship of heaven.
Melchizedek’s deity, “God Most High” (“El Elyon” in Hebrew) was identified with YHWH in Psalms 47:2; 57:2; 78:35, 56. The title was a generic phrase that described the ultimate concept of divinity (the creator of all things) and not a personal name.
The combination of the offering, communion meal with the persona of Melchizedek and his deity, “God Most High” had a tremendous impact on early Christian Christology and worship. That tradition influenced in Paul’s writings and found its full development in the Letter to the Hebrews. These simple verses became a lens through which Christians see their relationship with their Savior.
Can you think of the Mass without the themes found in the Melchizedek narrative?
Reflect on the themes of this reading. How do these themes help your appreciation of the Eucharist?