Alice C. Linsley
The short answer: the very integrity of the divine office.
Savvy, a reader of Just Genesis, has asked this question after reading The Origins of the Priesthood: "Are you saying that men carry blood guilt and women do not? So a priest representing Christ has to be male, to atone for this guilt. But, did Jesus not come to save both men and women."
Blood guilt and anxiety is in all people. It was very acutely felt by people in earlier times because they believed in the Creator and knew that the One who gives life is the only One who can take life. Since they associated blood with life, any shed blood was a cause for anxiety and had to be accounted for.
The priest stands at the altar as the icon of the Great High Priest, of which there is really only one: Jesus Christ. All priests are mere reflections of Him. The reflection is marred when priests are not pure. The reflection is corrupted when a woman stands at altar as a priest.
Further, women were never priests because the priest took the life of the animal. The life-taking work of the priest and the life-giving work of women are binary opposites and the life-giving work is superior. This understanding is lost when women serve as priests.
Jesus is the only way to salvation for both males and females. Jesus' kenotic act was to join himself fully to the human creature, and the human creature - both male and female - is "other" in reference to the Trinity.
In the biblical worldview, the Creator is always number one and the Referent by which all other entities derive meaning. The oldest system of communication probably employed only 1 and 2, allowing for mutual understanding before the development of more complex languages built upon a binary foundation. This would include the Divine and Other, and would apply to fixed observable entities that are binary opposites. This is suggested by comparison of the spelling sign language systems for the deaf used worldwide in which the first and second signs are almost universally the same.
For example, in Japanese signing, two index fingers held up with the palms facing represent two people facing each other. Slowing bending the fingers toward each other makes the sign of two persons bowing to each other in the typical Japanese greeting. There is a universal logic to the first and second positions in the various sign languages for the deaf.
The universal application of the binary sequence, whether it be letters (A-B) or numbers (1-2), suggests an inherent logic common to all human communications.
The greatest love is shown when A submits to B or when 1 bows to 2. Whether that love is reciprocated matters not. So it is the great love of God that is demonstrated in the incarnation of Christ our Lord. It goes against every message that the world declares and it goes against the instinct of the individual ego. Our Lord Jesus showed the full extent [eis telos] of his love when He stooped to become human, when He bowed to the creature, when He washed the disciples' feet. There can be no question that His condescension was an expression of divine love for all both males and females.
The Creator condescends to grant to the lesser a greater role. So it is that a young maiden, from the least of the tribes of Israel, should become the unwedded Bride of God and the ever-virgin Mother of Christ.
The biblical revelation of Jesus, whose coming as the Seed of the Woman was promised to Abraham's ancestors (Gen. 3:15), has a definite pattern. The first to sin or to be lost are the first to recieve the message of redemption. The woman, who with the man was created just beneath the Creator, lowered herself to the status of a creature that goes with its belly on the ground. In doing so, she caused the inversion of the hierarchy of creation. God restores the original hierarchy in the incarnation of His Son by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary. God redeems the whole creation and gives life to the redeemed through the Blood of His Son.
Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest
The the sacramental work of the priest at the altar was instituted by Christ our God and Priest when He broke bread and shared the cup with his disciples before His death and resurrection. None of the disciples were of the ruler-priests lines, as far as we know from Scripture and Tradition, so none of them would have been qualified to institute the Euchartist. We call it "the Lord's Supper" because it is exactly that. It must be taken on the grounds and according to the tradition that it respresents, which included the all-male priesthood to which Jesus belonged.
Nazareth was the home of the eighteenth priestly division, ha·pi·TSETS (Happizzez). In 1962 excavators discovered in the ruins of a synagogue at Caesarea a small piece of a list of the twenty-four priestly divisions. This marble fragment is inscribed with the names of where four of the divisions resided, including Nazareth, the residence of Happizzez. Joseph's family lived in Nazareth, the home of the priestly division of Happizzez (1 Chronicles 24:15).
The Virgin Mary's full title would have been "Miriam Daughter of Joachim Son of Pntjr (Panther) Priests of Nathan of Beth Lehem." From the earliest predynastic times, ntjr designated the king among Abraham's Horite people. The name Panther or p-ntjr means "God is King."
It is certain that Mary was of the ruler-priest caste because even those who hated her admit this. Sanhedrin 106a says: “She who was the descendant of princes and governors played the harlot with carpenters.” It is said that she was so despised that some Jews tried to prevent the Apostles from burying her body.
The words happi and ntjr originate in the Nile Valley, as do the names of many of the ruler-priests listed in the genealogies in Luke and Matthew. Melchi, a name that appears twice in Mary's ancestry, means "my image" in Amharic and refers to the Creator King.
Mary's father was Joachim, a shepherd priest from Bethlehem. I Chronicles 4:4 lists Hur (Hor) as the "father of Bethlehem." The author of Chronicles knew that Bethlehem was originally a Horite settlement in the heart of Horite territory. The prophets foretold Bethlehem as the birth place of the Son of God. Children were registered according to the clan of their mothers, just as today Jewish identity is traced through the mother, not the father.
There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah; and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth…. Once when he [Zechariah] was serving before God while his division was on duty... (Lk. 1:5, 8)
Mary and Elizabeth were of the ruler-priests lines, as were their husbands Joseph and Zachariah. Priests only married the chaste daugthers of priests. This endogamous practice originated with their Nilotic ancestors who are listed in Genesis 4 and 5. There are many rabbinic traditions attesting to this practice. For instance, Rabbi Tarfon states that when he was a boy he stood on the steps outside the sanctuary to participate in the priestly benediction with "Shimshon, his mother's brother" (Ecclesiastes Rabbah 3:11). This indicates that his uncle Shimshon was a priest, and that Tarfon's mother was also of priestly stock.
The historical importance of the priesthood of Jesus Christ, according to the tradition He received from his Horim must not be overlooked or minimized. The Christian priest stands at altar as the icon of Christ and that image is distorted when the form at the altar is that of a female.
Related reading: Mary's Priestly Lineage; Gender Reversal and Sacred Mystery; The Importance of Binary Distinctions; Blood and Binary Distinctions; God as Male Priest; C.S. Lewis' Priestesses in the Church?