I’d like to write posts from time to time emphasizing ways to dialogue with Adventist friends or relatives in meaningful ways. In particular, I’d like to highlight some Adventist-specific ways to introduce the teachings of the Catholic Church. Here’s my first entry:
THE SANCTUARY DOCTRINE (a doozy to understand… but very helpful)
Adventists stress the Priesthood of Christ. In particular, they emphasize that the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross does not complete the plan of redemption. The blood of Christ must also be applied to believers on earth and to the Heavenly Sanctuary. (They also add that Christ began cleansing the Most Holy Place of the Hevaenly Sanctuary in 1844). An understanding of the work of Christ in the Heavenly Sactuary, presenting His body and blood before the Father to cleanse the universe of sin prior to His Second Coming is a unique insight of Adventism. In Adventism, it is hailed as a central doctrinal truth and its discovery led to the formation of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Interestingly enough, this belief brings them much criticism from other Protestants (and some who have left the Church) who believe the doctrine denies the efficacy of Chist’s once-for-all Sacrifice, and yet, this doctrine places them closer than any other Protestant group to understanding the Sacrifice of the Mass:
We as Catholics also affirm that the Sacrifice of the Cross paved the way for Christ, as Priest, to continually apply the benefits of His once-for-all Sacrifice to believers and eternally present His body and blood before the Father. However, we add that in the Eucharist, Christ’s body and blood is also made present in the Church, and the priest, acting in the person (and priesthood) of Christ, presents that body and blood of Christ to God together with the local church assembled in the echaristic sacrifice. Thus, what Adventists rightly envision occuring in the Heavenly Sanctuary (that is, Christ eterally presenting His once-for-all Sacrifice before the Father) is made mystically present in Catholic & Orthodox churches during every liturgy or mass. We join our Great High Priest, and the Church, in the universal liturgy centered around the throne of God the Father. (One of the reasons Catholics sing the Sanctus is because we are mystically united to all the angels in Heaven when we prepare to offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice sigging the song of Heaven: Holy, Holy, Holy.)
One should read the Catechism on the Eucharist & the Sacrifice of the Mass, or Adventist materials online/in print on the sanctuary message to better appreciate the nuances of both beliefs…become conversant with this very loaded idea… one will find a degree of similarity unmatched in any other Protestant group, and open door. Serious Adventists will understand this doctrine backwards and forwards (unfotunately, not all tend to study it with depth, and despite its centrality, its complexity ensures it is often understressed or unmentioned).
When witnessing, point out this unique common ground. Again, this teaching is central to Adventist theology, and quite frankly, to Catholic sacramental theology. Then, proceed to point out how the Catholic “sancutuary message” is more profound than that found in Adventist theology:
What occurs in the Heavenly Sanctuary is made mystically present in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the Church is one with her High Priest.
We partake of the Sacrifice inthe Eucharist, as the Israeites ate the Passover. Adventists stress the anctuary and sacrifice, but have no concept of what it means to partake of the Sacrifice of Christ. Yet, the notion of eating the sacrifice was central to the Old Testament ritual system.
Protestant “discoveries” can never equal the eternity of Catholic dogma. Catholic theology is the fulness of Christianity… ever more profound, ever more beautiful, ever more personal.
When witnessing to your Adventist friends, be sure to use words such as “sanctuary, once-for-all sacrifice, High priest”… this will ring a deep resonant chord with many Adventists (in short, speak the lingo). Also, never present this as a challenge, but in a spirit of sincere comparison between the two doctrines. Impress them with your concern to learn more of their perspective on something considered profound in Adventism, and enage in throughtful exploration of the Catholic perspective.