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Christ the High Priest

Christ is dressed in the vestments of a bishop, representing the fullness of his priesthood. He is seated on a throne and wears a crown because He is both king and priest forever according to the order of Melchizedech. Though a king, Christ emptied Himself of the dignity of His divinity; now he reclaims it. Christ holds in his lap an open gospel book, symbolizing the priestly ministry of proclaiming the Good News. The text implies that the priest must be willing to give his life for his flock, just like true shepherd Jesus. The red vestments and the archbishop's pallium that He is wearing over

His shoulders signify the self-emptying of Christ, a characteristic of all who share in His ministerial priesthood. Christ's right hand is raised in blessing in the customary Byzantine form recreating the Christogram IC XC by the positioning of the fingers. Christ gazes directly out to us with a benevolent expression, welcoming us into a relationship in which He encourages us to take up our cross, a burden that He makes light. In each Eucharist the priest acts in the person of Christ who is Himself altar, victim, and priest of the New Covenant. Through the contemplation of this icon, priests come to identify more fully with the sacrificial love of the Good Shepherd, and the laity grow in the trust that is in Christ who acts in the Sacraments even in the human weakness of His priests.

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