Skip to comments.'An Ordinance Forever' - The Biblical Origins of the Mass
Posted on 01/31/2009 3:49:27 PM PST by NYer
Issue: What are the biblical origins of the Mass and the New Testament priesthood? Is the Mass really a sacrifice, or is it merely symbolic?
Response: The biblical origins of the Mass and the New Testament priesthood are rooted in the Old Testament. Both the Old and New Testaments provide clear evidence that the Mass is a true sacrifice, offered by a priest, and the Victim is the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.
God stated three times that the Passover sacrifice would be an ordinance for ever, not for a temporary period, such as until the Messiah came. This sacrifice, and other Old Covenant sacrifices, find their culmination in Christs sacrifice on Calvary (Ex. 12:14, 17, 24; cf. Lk. 22:7-20). Christs sacrifice at the Last Supper was a sacrifice of His Body and Blood, soul and divinity (cf. Catechism, nos. 1362-67, 1373-77). Much as the sacrifice offered at the Last Supper fulfilled the Old Covenant sacrifices, the priesthood of Christthe priesthood of Melchizedekreplaced the Levitical priesthood of the Old Testament. This New Testament priesthood, handed on to the apostles and their successors, allows Christs sacrifice on Calvary to fulfill the perpetual ordinance of a sacrifice through the celebration of the Mass (cf. Heb. 6:19-7:28).
Prefiguring the Lamb of God
God made a covenant with Abraham, swearing that all the nations (Gentiles) would bless themselves through his descendants (cf. Gen. 22:18). He designated Mount Moriah as the place where He would provide the sacrificial lamb, which was prefigured by the lamb that Abraham sacrificed that day (cf. Gen. 22:4-14). God the Father fulfilled the sacrificial provision in an ultimate way by offering His only-begotten Son (cf. Gen. 22:2; Jn. 3:16), the Lamb of God (cf. Rev. 5:6).
Interestingly, Mount Moriahs location, Salem, is another name for Zion or Jerusalem (cf. 2 Chron. 3:1; Ps. 76:2). In fact, Scripture identifies Mount Moriah as the site of Solomons Temple in Jerusalem, the city in which Christs sacrificial death took place. Also, Melchizedek was the priest and king of Salem (cf. Gen. 14:18). Jesus, as the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world, is the definitive High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek; Jesus offers Himself as the sacrifice of salvation and the universal blessing through whom all the nations will bless themselves (cf. Gen. 22:18; Acts 3:17-26; Heb. 6:19-7:28).
According to the terms of the Old Covenant, the Passover sacrifice has to be offered at the Temple in Jerusalem (cf. Deut. 16:1-6; 2 Chron. 35:1-19), a sacrifice that has not occurred since the Temples destruction in A.D. 70. One is left with two alternatives. First, one could state that Israel has failed to keep the covenant with God recorded in Exodus 12. Yet if that is true, God is thereby implicated for failing to provide His People with the means to continue the ordinance that He told them to keep forever.
Alternatively, one could state that the Temple sacrifice was destined by God to become obsolete and that, as the Lamb of God, Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Passover sacrifice (cf. 1 Cor. 5:7). This is the teaching of the Church. Jesus prophesied the fall of the Temple (cf. Mt. 24:1-2), an event that happened in A.D. 70 shortly after the desolating sacrilege of the Temple (Mt. 24:15). In addition, while prophets accurately foretold that the Temple would be rebuilt after its destruction in 587 B.C., no subsequent biblical prophets prophesied the Temples restoration after Christs predicted destruction.
Attempts to rebuild the Temple have failed, most notably the effort of the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate in 362. He hoped to discredit Christs prophecy about the Temple. Violent earthquakes at the site killed many of his workmen. When miraculous balls of fire kept bursting forth from the Temple foundation to prevent the approach of workmen, Julian finally abandoned his attempt.
The question remains: How does the Passover sacrifice of Jesus Christ continue as an ordinance forever? Just as the old Passover lamb freed the People of the Old Covenant from the bondage of slavery, the new Passover Lamb frees us from the slavery of sin (cf. Mt. 26:28). In accepting Saint John the Baptists designation of Jesus as the new Lamb of God (Jn. 1:29-35), Jesus states clearly that He will be both sacrificed and eaten (cf. Lk. 22:7-20; Jn. 6:51-66), just as the old Passover lamb was both sacrificed and eaten (cf. Ex. 12:8-11). Unfortunately, most contemporary Protestants do not accept this biblically based teaching about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Transcending Time and Space
The quick Protestant rejoinder to Catholic teaching on the Mass is that Christ died once for all (cf. Heb. 9:26-28; 10:10), to which the Church would say, Amen! The Church has always taught that the one sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist (the Mass) are one single sacrifice, and that the Eucharistic Sacrifice re-presents (makes present) Christs sacrifice on the Cross (Catechism, nos. 1366-67, emphasis in original). How can this be? God the Son created time and space and therefore is not bound by them (cf. Jn. 1:1-3). As eternal Being, Christ stands outside of time, and therefore all of history is simultaneously present to Him. We cannot fully grasp Gods omnipotence. Like the dogmas of the Trinity or Christs being both God and man, Gods omnipotence is beyond our capacity to understand, yet does not contradict reason. To argue that God is limited by time and space is necessarily to argue that God is not omnipotent, and therefore not God.
In short, then, God cannot create something, including time and space, that can limit Him. For example, because of Gods omnipotence, all of us, not just one of us, can be temples of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 6:19). This demonstrates His ability to be beyond space, for the Holy Spirit is present in the souls of all believers: the saints who have died (cf. Rev. 6:9-11), as well as all the faithful who are living today.
We can also speak of Gods ability to be present throughout time on earth and also outside of time in heaven. Relative to God, Who is eternal and unchanging, everything is present; relative to us human beings, everything we experience is bound by time and space. Because the Son of God is eternal and transcends time, what He does as the God-Man in history can transcend time. Jesus sacrifice on Calvary is thus once for all, yet never ending; it is timeless. Thus, when we re-present Christs one sacrifice at Mass, God actually enables us to make ourselves present to this timeless offering. Analogously, we become present to the sun each morning. The sun basically stays put, while we change relative to the sun because of the earths daily rotation.
The Eucharistic Sacrifice is foreshadowed by the prophet Malachi: For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts (Mal. 1:11). The Church sees these verses as a prophecy of the Sacrifice of the Mass, for what other truly pure sacrifice could there be that Christians can offer throughout the world every day?
The Masss transhistorical nature is first illustrated when Christ offered His glorified Body and Blood at the Last Supper, the day before He actually died on the Cross (cf. Catechism, nos. 1337-40). It is illustrated thereafter in the Mass offered by His disciples. Saint Paul notes that Christs sacrifice as the new Passover Lamb is once for all, but he also explains that its celebration somehow continues on in history: For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Cor. 5:7-8). Thus, the merits of Christs sacrifice are applied to Christians throughout the centuries.
We speak of the Eucharist as an unbloody sacrifice. Christ is not killed at each Mass. If that were so, there would be many sacrifices, and Christ would not have died once for all. Rather, the Council of Trent teaches that at each Mass the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner (as quoted in Catechism, no. 1367).
Hes Got His Whole Self . . . in His Hands?
Some people ask incredulously, Could God hold Himself in His hands at the Last Supper? And how could He offer up a sacrifice the day before He actually died? The short answer is that Jesus could because He can do all things (cf. Mt. 19:26), such as when He appeared to His disciples in the flesh miraculously after His Resurrection, despite locked doors. To answer these questions about the Last Supper adequately, we must examine the biblical and other historical evidence for the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist by analyzing whether God really offered His Body and Blood, soul and divinity at the Last Supper, and whether priests re-present the same sacrifice at every Mass.
Consider Jesus words: [H]e who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. . . . [H]e who eats this bread will live for ever (Jn. 6:54-56, 58).
Some Christians argue that Christ meant this statement figuratively, just as He did when He described Himself as the vine or the door (Jn. 10:7-9; 15:1-5). However, to eat the body and drink the blood of someone was an ancient Hebrew idiom that meant to slander a person. The Old Testament testifies to this figurative meaning: When evildoers assail me, uttering slanders against me, my adversaries and foes, they shall stumble and fall (Ps. 27:2). A footnote in the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition confirms that uttering slanders against me in Hebrew literally means to eat up my flesh. If we then insert the figurative meaning in John 6:54, Jesus says that he who slanders me has eternal life. Such a figurative interpretation would make our divine Lord look very foolish.
While the Levitical priesthood prohibited the consumption of blood (cf. Lev. 17:10-14; see also Gen. 9:1-4), Jesus came to do away with and yet fulfill this temporary discipline. Given that this Levitical prohibition and similar ones that were still in force when Christ preached on the Eucharist in Capernaum, one could understand the Jews disbelief and would therefore expect Christ to clarify Himself if He intended a figurative interpretation of His words. However, despite the ensuing departure of many of His followers (Jn. 6:66), Jesus did not back down from His command to eat His Body and drink His Blood.
Like the Passover lambs before Him, Jesus would be both sacrificed and eaten. Whereas animal blood symbolized life and thus yielded imperfect atonement, Jesus freely offers us His Bloodindeed commands consumption (cf. Jn. 6:54-55)because His Blood provides us redemptive life and perfect atonement.
Saint Paul affirms Christs Real Presence during the sacrifice of the Mass (cf. 1 Cor. 11:23-32). How can people be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord (1 Cor. 11:27), and why are they getting sick and even dying, if they are merely consuming bread and wine? As Jesus teaches and Saint Paul affirms, the re-presentation of this one offeringthis breaking of bread (Acts 2:42)was to continue in the Church. We partake of this one sacrifice in a sacramental manner, under the appearance of bread and wine, and in a way that does not diminish God, Who is infinite. Jesus not only fulfills Passover in Easter, but also makes it possible for the New Covenant of His sacrifice to be re-presented every day at Mass.
The Priesthood of Melchizedek
Christs priesthood forever according to Melchizedek (cf. Ps. 110:4; Heb. 5:6) makes clear the connection between the Last Supper, Jesus Crucifixion, and the Mass. When Christ died on Calvary, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 5:9-10). While Christ suffered and died once for all, His sacrifice on Calvary is somehow connected with and continues forever according to a Melchizedekian offering or sacrifice: one using the elements of bread and wine (cf. Gen. 14:17-20). On the day before He died on the Cross, Jesus pre-presented His completed, glorified sacrifice under the appearances of bread and wine (cf. Lk. 22:19-20) and thus manifested that He is not constrained by time (cf. Catechism, nn. 1337-40). Fulfilling Christs command to [d]o this in remembrance of me (Lk.22:19), the Church re-presents this same timeless offering of His Body and Blood under the appearances of bread and wine.
Indeed, as a faithful Priest Who continues to intercede for His People in Heaven after His death and Resurrection, Jesus must have something to offer. He does, and it can only be His one, definitive, and never-ending sacrifice (cf. Rev. 5:1-14), which He continues to offer forever as a priest according to the order of Melchizedek through His priests on earth (cf. Catechism, no. 1337). While Jesus does not need to re-present His sacrifice sacramentally to save us, He faithfully continues the Passover ordinance forever as His gift to us, reminding us daily of His great love and providing us with abundant graces to aid our journey to heaven. When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christs Passover, and it is made present: the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present. As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out (Catechism, no. 1364, citations omitted).
Christ is the one mediator between God and man (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5), but He allows certain men to participate in His mediation, by exercising authority in general (cf. Mt. 28:18-20), granting forgiveness of sin (cf. Jn. 20:21-23), and re-presenting His one sacrifice sacramentally (cf. Mt. 26:26-28). The Catholic Church is the new Israel, a spiritual house, and a holy priesthood (cf. 1 Pet. 2:5). The Eucharist is disconcerting to some Christians, not only because it simultaneously shows Gods awesome omnipotence and humble condescension, but also because it reminds us that salvation is not a momentary, once and for all event, but a process that involves our saying yes to God each and every day. Salvation is by grace, but our free assent is needed for the gift of salvation to be efficacious in our lives.
Christ has perfected the Passover ordinance. He has torn down the barrier between God and man, enabling us to be reconciled to the Father and partake again of His divine nature (cf. Rom. 5:15-17; 2 Pet. 1:4). Heeding Christs command, we continue re-presenting and partaking of His sacrifice at every Mass. While [t]his is a hard saying (Jn. 6:60), it is very much in keeping with salvation history, and not too remarkable for a God Who created us out of nothing and became man to save us from our sins. Our response to such an incredible gift should echo the words of Saint Peter, when Christ asked him if he also would leave Him: Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God (Jn. 6:68-69).
In case you were wondering.
Thank you, NYer. This is an excellent explanation all in one place. I have read some of these things before, but never all in one article. I especially like the connection between the Passover ordinance to continue forever and the Mass fulfilling that ordinance.
read later - with a grain of salt
read LiteKeeper’s posts later in this thread with a grain of salt
Nope, I wasn't wondering.
Exodus 12:14 calls the feast of Passover a "memorial", and to make this memorial an ordinance - a part of the Jewish Law. What exactly does that have to do with the Mass and it supposedly having literal sacrificial power?
The Jewish people who celebrated the Passover Feast did not hold the feast itself up to be sacrificial, but a remembrance of the Grace of God who "passed over" those homes marked with sacrificial blood, and also in remembrance of God's further deliverance from Egypt.
This is exactly the same context and picture that Christ painted at the Last Supper - when he instructed the Disciples to "take, eat", this is My Body.... Do this in REMEMBRANCE of me. Christ did not say to make it into a continual sacrifice, but to do it "whenever you come together" as a remembrance.
The Lord's Supper (Communion, Eucharist, etc.) is an ordinance (command/rule) that we do, just as the picture of the Passover Feast to the Jews, to remind us of what Christ has done as the PERFECT Passover lamb.
Hebrews 10:7-18 gives a clear picture of the REAL sacrifice - that was given one time for the remission of sin. Not a continual offering by priests:
7Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. 8Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; 9Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 10By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. 14For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. 15Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, 16This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.
Read those verses slowly and carefully. Don't take ANY out of context or try to trim away the parts that are inconvenient.
The writer was clearly reaffirming that God was not pleased by the old sacrificial system. Instead, He made ONE sacrifice - through His Son - for all sin. And look at v. 14 - FOR BY ONE OFFERING He hath perfect for ever them that are sanctified.
This was all accomplished by the perfect Sacrifice of Jesus Christ - which we remember by celebrating the Lord's Supper.
Let me respectly disagree!
It seems to me, when our Lord Jesus Christ ended His conversation,in the third chapter of John,as to His flesh and His blood; He said: “It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63)
Earlier Jesus taught; “Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship what ye know not
what: We know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”John 4:21-24)
I also claim “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of god.” and “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” (Romans 8:14 & 8:16)
“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ: if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Romans 8:17)
“For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body; according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are manifest in your consciences.” (II Cor. 5:10-11)
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away, behold all things become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trepasses unto unto us the word of reconciliation. Now we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For He (God) hath made Him (Jesus) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (II Corinthians 5:17:21)
And last let us remember our Lord Jesus prayed: “....that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:22b)
In summation; Let us build bridges, and not walls. That is reconciliation!
Amen & Amen !
I also think upon our Lord’s presence in: “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)
And in: “....I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5b)
Also: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
A whole new batch.
What, exactly, is your disagreement?
Shows how the traditional Mass sums up the entire Old Testament worship from the time of Adam to the time of Christ, how even minute details of the present Mass were used by Christ in the very First Mass, and how they have come down to our day with the same symbolic meaning they originally had. The author delves into the history and tradition of every aspect of Hebrew worship and shows clearly how Our Lord blended and wove them all together into the beautiful liturgy we call the Mass. Impr. 438 pgs, PB
We Catholics and Orthodox enter in to that one offering made present, every time we assist at Mass.
Good observation, but the fact that the people understood Christ to be speaking literally about his flesh and blood should clear up any doubts concerning figurative speech in the context of John Ch 6.
Also the word "spirit" is nowhere used in the Bible to mean "symbolic", it is as real as the material.
In verse 63 we see a contrast between the "the flesh" or carnal man, and the "spirit" filled man:
1 Cor 2: 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
1 Cor 14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Christ also says "the flesh" profiteth nothing he does not say "my flesh" profiteth nothing.
1 Cor 3 1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. .. 3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
And that is the problem. Christ says that we are to do it as a Memorial. He says nothing about doing it repeatedly as even a Part of a sacrifice.
The verbage may change, but what you are admitting is (and some right here on FR has said as much) that it is an act of sacrifice (sacrament) every time it is celebrated. Thus the reason it is called a Sacrament, and the reason it can be “withheld” like other of the big list (7) of sacraments - as practically a punishment.
The treat used today (that has seldom been carried out) by the Church to withhold the sacraments from politicians who support abortion is just a reflection of the “sacraments” being used as a weapon to get their way in the church back in the mid-2nd century forward.
Of course, this leaves out the very clear Biblical command that the partaking of the Lord’s Supper is left to the judgment of the one partaking - thus the admonition against those taking it unworthily - they drink unto themselves condemnation.
Time after time, legalism and reliance on anything beyond faith in Jesus Christ is condemned by Paul and others (including Christ Himself). Yet through “tradition”, the church has developed a set of 7 tools to control and manipulate people, and to grant itself special powers to withhold God’s grace. From the concept of a priest to present or conduct so many of these sacramental acts, to so many other non-Biblical teachings, the Church has developed by tradition and man’s words, what Christ has exclusive authority over.
Even with so much church history filtered through Catholic sources (so many records that conflict with the Catholic view of history have been destroyed or suppressed), an open-eyed study of the history of Christianity is eye-opening.
Just as with any source of info - pay attention to the source. Even Bibles have fallen into the hands of translators with a bias (thus the gender-neutral translations for one). History books are exactly the same - one from a distinctly Catholic view will be far different from one with a distinctly Methodist, Baptist, or whatever view.
Want an ultra-Baptist source for church history - check out The Trail of Blood. But while I am Baptist, I find that work to be stretching a great deal to promote a view that I don’t believe is completely “pure”.
But the point is - as we read in 2 Timothy 2:15 “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
The love of God, demonstrated through the perfect life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is sufficient. We don’t need an earthly “priest” to bestow God’s Grace upon us, and we certainly do not and cannot earn or buy it - God’s Grace is a a free gift (Romans 5:15).
I notice that you bolded the word 'remembrance'; why not the words DO THIS? In 1 Cor. 10:16, Paul asks the question, "the cup of blessing and the bread of which we partake, is it not an actual participation in Christ's body and blood?" Is Paul really asking because He, the divinely inspired writer, does not understand? No, of course not. Paul's questions are obviously rhetorical. This IS the actual body and blood. Further, the Greek word "koinonia" describes an actual, not symbolic participation in the body and blood.
Hebrews 10:7-18 gives a clear picture of the REAL sacrifice
Look at 1 Cor. 10:18. In this verse, Paul is saying we are what we eat. We are not partners with a symbol. We are partners of the one actual body. Paul does not explain what he has actually received directly from Christ, except in the case when he teaches about the Eucharist. In 1 Cor. 11:23, Paul emphasizes the importance of the Eucharist by telling us he received directly from Jesus instructions on the Eucharist which is the source and summit of the Christian faith. In the Emmaus road story (Luke 24:26-35), Jesus gives a homily on the Scriptures and then follows it with the celebration of the Eucharist. This is the Holy Mass, and the Church has followed this order of the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist for 2,000 years.