Moses ordaining Aaron as High Priest of All Israel
Perhaps the least understood element of in true Old Testament Judaism (as practiced by Moses) is the liturgical offering of animal sacrifice. Blood sacrifice was the central element of the precepts Moses because it was instituted in anticipation of the Cross of Christ.
All the Apostles and Church Fathers stress that animal blood sacrifice was a preparation for the bloody sacrifice of Christ on the altar of the holy cross. Moreover, the sacrifice endures through time through the unbloody sacrifice of the Holy Mass, so that Holy Sacrifice of the Cross and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are one and the same. So when Catholic priests today enter the sanctuary and kiss the altar, they kiss the cross of Christ. Incidentally, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has asked that a crucifix be always placed on the altar so as to better signify this mystery to the priest and to the people. We must be ever mindful that the altar is the locus of sacrifice. The sacrificial blood of Christ is the means by which we are made children of God the Father, brethren of Christ the King, deified partakers of the Holy Spirit and sanctifying grace, justified sinners, and eventually saints prepared for heaven.
Saint Fulgentius gives us a clear and beautiful explanation of animal sacrifice and how it is fulfilled by Christ:
The sacrifices of animal victims which our forefathers were commanded to offer to God by the holy Trinity itself, the one God of the old and the new testaments, foreshadowed the most acceptable gift of all. This was the offering which in his compassion the only Son of God would make of himself in his human nature for our sake.
The Apostle teaches that Christ offered himself for us to God as a fragrant offering and sacrifice. He is the true God and the true high priest who for our sake entered once for all into the holy of holies, taking with him not the blood of bulls and goats but his own blood. This was foreshadowed by the high priest of old when each year he took blood and entered the holy of holies.
Christ is therefore the one who in himself alone embodied all that he knew to be necessary to achieve our redemption. He is at once priest and sacrifice, God and temple. He is the priest through whom we have been reconciled, the sacrifice by which we have been reconciled, the temple in which we have been reconciled, the God with whom we have been reconciled. He alone is priest, sacrifice and temple because he is all these things as God in the form of a servant; but he is not alone as God, for he is this with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the form of God.
Hold fast to this and never doubt it: the only-begotten Son, God the Word, becoming man offered himself for us to God as a fragrant offering and sacrifice. In the time of the old testament, patriarchs, prophets and priests sacrificed animals in his honour, and in honour of the Father and the Holy Spirit as well.
Now in the time of the new testament the holy catholic Church throughout the world never ceases to offer the sacrifice of bread and wine, in faith and love, to him and to the Father and the Holy Spirit, with whom he shares one godhead.
Those animal sacrifices foreshadowed the flesh of Christ which he would offer for our sins, though himself without sin, and the blood which he would pour out for the forgiveness of our sins. In this sacrifice there is thanksgiving for, and commemoration of, the flesh of Christ that he offered for us, and the blood that the same God poured out for us. On this Saint Paul says in the Acts of the Apostles: Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock, in which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as bishops to rule the Church of God, which he won for himself by his blood.
Those sacrifices of old pointed in sign to what was to be given to us. In this sacrifice we see plainly what has already been given to us. Those sacrifices foretold the death of the Son of God for sinners. In this sacrifice he is proclaimed as already slain for sinners, as the Apostle testifies: Christ died for the wicked at a time when we were still powerless, and when we were enemies we were reconciled with God through the death of his Son.
- Saint Fulgentius, De fide ad Petrum, Cap. 22. 62 (CCL 91 A, 726. 750-751)
We see, then, that the Old Testament reveals a religion that is not modern day Rabbinic Judaism (rabbis and synagogues without blood sacrifice), but rather a religion that we might call Mosaic Judaism (priests and temple, centered on blood sacrifice). This is why I often say that the one religion on earth that most closely resembles and therefore fulfills the religion of Moses, is not contemporary Judaism, but rather Catholic Christianity. If Moses visited a modern-day synagogue, he would not find it familiar. Moses prescribed blood sacrifice, priesthood, vestments, and a tabernacle - not merely rabbis, cantors, and homilies. In fact, Moses would discover Catholicism to be the fulfillment of everything that he prescribed. The Holy Eucharist, as source and summit, fulfills all the hopes of Moses.