Skip to comments.Catholic Caucus: The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
Posted on 06/22/2002 5:57:49 PM PDT by Siobhan
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
There is probably no doctrine in the Catholic Faith that has been misunderstood more by Protestants than that of the Holy Mass. The Mass is the central act of Catholic worship: Christ's sacrifice on Calvary is perpetuated because the priest offers it anew to the Father. It is not a new sacrifice, but the same one that Jesus offered on the Cross 2,000 years ago, the difference being that in the Mass it is in a sense unbloody. Jesus does not die or suffer again at each Mass, but is simply re-presented, re-offered to the Father.
In short, the only difference between the Sacrifice of the Cross and that of the Mass is that the mode of offering is different. On the Cross, the mode of offering was bloody; in the Mass, the mode of offering is unbloody. This is the only difference. Since Christ's Sacrifice is present both on Calvary and at every single Mass, it is the same Sacrifice, and what is said of one must be said of the other. Therefore, since Christ's Sacrifice on Calvary was propitiatory i.e., sin-atoning so is the Sacrifice of Holy Mass. The Council of Trent teaches very explicitly: "Appeased by this sacrifice [of the Mass], the Lord grants the grace and gift of penitence and pardons crimes and sins."
By giving us the Mass, our Lord has ensured a way to apply the graces merited on His Holy Cross to us today, to all of His faithful in any and every age. As James Cardinal Gibbons noted, "In the Sacrifice of the Mass I apply to myself the merits of the sacrifice of the cross, from which the Mass derives all its efficacy." The Mass carries the Cross throughout the centuries until Christ returns. Each and every day (except Good Friday), the Church celebrates Mass to make present what Christ has wrought, to dispense and unlock again the infinite graces which He earned for us so that God's wrath for us on account of our sins might be appeased. Since Christ's Sacrifice is infinite and all-pleasing to God, there is potential forgiveness of any sin, if our souls are properly disposed and we are truly penitent.
Protestants will try to tell you that Christ underwent our punishment He did not! If that were so, then Christ would have had to be sent to Hell for all eternity, for this is what we truly deserve (see Rev. 20:13-14). Christ suffered for us, no question, but He did so in order to earn for us God's forgiveness, not so that we wouldn't have to suffer or be punished temporarily. In other words, Jesus helped us avoid Hell not by undergoing the punishment Himself, but by offering Himself to God in order to appease God's wrath and prevent His justice from being executed (see Isa. 53:10-12; Heb. 2:17). Just as lambs and goats were slain in the Old Testament in order to appease the wrath of God, so Christ was slain and slaughtered to appease God's wrath, but with Christ it was once and for all.
However, we are talking here about possible, or potential, forgiveness, not necessarily actual forgiveness. The Church does not teach that because of what Christ did for us, all sins will be forgiven in the sense that all people will be saved in the end; rather, the truth is that all sins can be forgiven because of Christ's ultimate act of love. What does the "can" depend on? It depends on us, on our willingness to repent, receive forgiveness, and obey Christ (see Heb. 3:12-15; Rom. 11:21-23). So that the graces of Calvary can be applied to all believers, and not just to those who were around the Cross that first Good Friday, our Lord instituted the Holy Mass. Now all who attend Mass can benefit from Christ's wonderful Sacrifice and receive His Body and Blood.
Protestants don't avail themselves of that privilege. All they do is pray, sing, read the Bible, and hear a sermon. No wonder, then, that the focus during their service is on the preacher, the "pastor," who is expected to give them a moving sermon. Protestants seem to believe that they have to "feel good" at their worship service. (I'm thinking especially of Evangelicals and Pentecostals here.) Since all they can focus on is the Bible, the music, and the pastor's sermon, it follows that if there is no emotional reaction on their part, they figure that something is wrong. This is evidenced by the preacher's tone, which is usually extremely emotional and theatrical. The desired outcome is that there be some sort of deeply felt reaction on the part of the listener either intense joy or sorrow or shame or just simple but enthusiastic agreement that shouts "Amen!" from the back of the auditorium. The more touched one is, the more one has worshiped God, the Protestant axiom seems to be. After all, how often have we heard that a Catholic became Protestant or that a Protestant has switched to a different church or denomination because he "didn't get fed"! But the true believer goes to church in order to worship God, not to feel moved. Not Me, but Thee.
The standard for worship is certainly set by God Himself. In Hebrews 12:28, St. Paul says: "Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe." Gee, read that again. He doesn't say, "any worship, with shouts of joy and clapping of hands." He says it must be done in reverence and awe. Also, Paul emphasizes that the worship ought to be acceptable. This means that some worship is not acceptable. How to decide? Whom to trust on the matter? You can choose between the Protestant notion of "each believer decides for himself" (whence Paul's admonition in Heb. 12:28 would make no sense at all) and the Catholic notion of "listen to the Apostles and their successors," for they speak for Christ (see Lk. 10:16; 2 Cor. 5:20).
Here's the Catholic position, then. Since we're all imperfect, sinful, and totally dependent on Christ, we ourselves, no matter how much we might try, could not possibly worship God in a pleasing fashion. Think about it: God is infinite. He deserves infinite honor, glory, and worship. No creature could possibly give Him His due since all creatures are, by definition, finite. The ceremonial laws of the Old Testament were great, but by no means sufficient. God wanted to be worshiped by man in a particular fashion. Though the lambs and goats could never really take away sins (see Heb. 10:4,11), this is how God wanted man to make atonement for his sins under the Old Covenant. But now we're under a New Covenant, which is everlasting and a perfection of the Old. Through Christ, God is worshiped infinitely and perfectly. The Sacrifice of the Cross gives God His due! Hence, it follows that if we want to worship God in an acceptable fashion, as Paul commands us, we must somehow unite ourselves to that Sacrifice of Christ.
How? Through the Mass, which is the same Sacrifice made available to us here and now! No wonder the Church requires the faithful to go to Mass weekly! It is through Holy Communion (a visible sign conferring grace) that the believer unites himself with the Lord. No relying on fuzzy feelings, mustering a sense of faith, dramatic sermons, or "worship music." No, here we have something much more profound, something absolutely inimitable: a visible union between Christ and the believer. No shouting, dancing, or clapping can possibly trump that.
The Church teaches that the "chief fruit of the Eucharist is an intrinsic union of the recipient with Christ" (Ludwig Ott in Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 394). Jesus affirmed this most eloquently: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him" (Jn. 6:57). Through Christ's Sacrifice, God is given infinite worship, and hence he who unites himself to that Sacrifice can worship God in an acceptable way, in the way He wants to be worshiped. "The sacrifice of the Mass is always pleasing to God" (Ott, p. 413). That this is true is obvious since the true priest and victim of the Mass is Christ, who, on the Cross, was both priest and victim (see Heb. 7:26).
Now, all of this will raise some Protestant eyebrows. We often hear the argument that since the Mass is not a bloody but an unbloody Sacrifice, it cannot take away sins and therefore can't be the same as that of the Cross; after all, we read in Hebrews 9:22: "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." Thus, many Protestants conclude and triumphantly exclaim: "Look, your very own Bible condemns your Mass! It cannot take away sins if it's not bloody!" Gee, what happened here? Have Catholics overlooked this passage for 2,000 years? Are Protestants the first to have discovered Hebrews 9:22?
Actually, the Church wrote the Bible, compiled the Bible, and therefore interprets the Bible. It would be foolish to believe either that the Church was not aware of this passage, or that she teaches something contrary to Holy Scripture. So let's recapitulate: We've already seen that the Church insists that the Sacrifice of our Lord is one. It is unique and was done once and for all: "We have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10:10). The Church teaches that the Sacrifice of the Mass is identical to that of the Cross; it is not a different one; in fact, it could not be because this would imply that Christ's Sacrifice is defective, whereas both the Bible and the Church clearly teach the opposite: "Where there is forgiveness of [sins through Christ], there is no longer any offering for sin" (Heb. 10:18); "The satisfaction which Jesus Christ has in an admirable manner made to God the Father for our sins is full and complete" (Catechism of the Council of Trent, Article IV).
Mass and Cross being the one Sacrifice of Christ, then, we must ask ourselves: What is the nature of that Sacrifice? Is it bloody or unbloody? Clearly, Christ's Sacrifice was bloody! After all, He shed His most precious Blood on our behalf (see Rom. 3:25, Eph. 1:7, etc.). In its essence, then, Christ's Sacrifice is bloody. What is different at Mass is the mode or manner of offering. It is to this sense that the Catholic refers when he says that the Mass is un-bloody. But in the Mass, bread and wine transubstantiate into the Body and Blood of Christ. So obviously, in that sense, the Mass is a bloody Sacrifice. It does (and must) contain the true Body and Blood of Christ, otherwise it could hardly be identical to the Sacrifice on Calvary. However, whereas on Calvary, Christ died and shed His Blood in a unique way, in the Mass our Lord mystically renews His death and Body-and-Blood Sacrifice in a sacramental way, not under the appearance of His Body and Blood, as on the Cross, but under the appearance of bread and wine; hence the manner of offering at the Mass is unbloody. It is bloody in the sense that it is the Body and Blood of Christ, but unbloody in the sense that it is offered under the appearance of bread and wine in a sacramental fashion.
Christ does not suffer again or die again in the Mass; however, He does renew His already completed suffering and death on the Cross. Protestant Eric Svendsen wonders just what this means: "It is difficult to know just what the real difference is between a re-presenting of Christ's sacrifice and a re-sacrificing of him." Let's help Mr. Svendsen out here: A sacrificial action is clearly characterized by the killing of the victim. For there to be a new or another sacrifice, there would have to be a new killing. At Mass, no killing takes place, so it cannot be a re-sacrificing of Christ. What, then, does it mean to re-present or mystically renew the Sacrifice of Calvary? It means that we once again take the already sacrificed Christ, hold Him up to the Father, and say, "Father, look upon the Lamb that was slain for our sake. Through this holy and perfect Sacrifice, pardon our sins, and turn Your wrath away from us; be appeased by the pleasing odor of this unblemished Lamb." In order to do this, obviously, Christ must be made present again which is why the priest transubstantiates the bread and wine into Christ's Body and Blood.
This may all seem rather overwhelming due to the complicated theological matter. But let us remember that, being earthly creatures, we are always confined to a limited view of the truth and to expressing what we know about this truth in human and finite words. We must always keep in mind that we're dealing with mystery a mystery that cannot be completely understood from this side of Heaven.
The Sacrifice of the Mass was prophesied in the Scriptures, most notably in Malachi 1:11: "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" (italics added). How privileged are we who receive the sacramental Body and Blood of our Savior; it is as though we were at the Cross 2,000 years ago! "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16).
In the popular Catholic mind, especially before Vatican II, these words have had an almost magical quality. Whenever a validly ordained priest utters them over a large host (often times over a ciborium full of smaller hosts as well) and then over a chalice containing wine, Christ immediately comes down from heaven, taking the form of bread and wine to be received by the faithful as holy Communion, that is, His very body and blood, soul and divinity.
Bless you for all your energy here at FR. How's history_matters?
Father George May, Professor of Canon Law at Mainz University from 1960 to 1994, denounced the scandal of Archbishops Walter Kasper and Karl Lehmann receiving red hats.
In a February 2001 interview in Kirchliche Umschau, Father May said: "The nomination of Kasper and Lehmann [to the College of Cardinals] is a genuine scandal, that is to say, an occasion of sin . . . "
Both Kasper and Lehmann were made Cardinals by Pope John Paul II on February 21, 2001.
As for Karl Lehmann, even the liberal Italian press calls him "soft rebel," contrasting him with "hard rebels" such as Hans Kung. For years Lehmann resisted the Vatican's efforts to stop the German bishops from operating "counseling centers" which issued certificates German women need to obtain abortions under German law. He has also publicly questioned the Church's teaching that divorced and remarried Catholics may not receive Holy Communion. He co-authored [with fellow progressivist Walter Kaspar] a theology text which, among other things, denies the existence of a personal devil and personal demons.
Lehmann is unrepentant since his elevation to the status of Cardinal. Catholic World News reported that the day after he got his red hat, Lehmann "told reporters that he did not regret his opposition to the Holy See on the question of abortion counseling in Germany."
The other new Cardinal, Walter Kasper, is well-known for his heterodox views on the person of Jesus Christ. In his 1973 book Jesus Yes, Church No?, Father Kasper scorned the infallible Sacred Scriptures, stating that Christ "probably described himself neither as Messiah nor as Servant of God, nor as Son of God nor as Son of Man."
After Kasper's elevation to the Cardinalate, he was appointed Prefect of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. At the same time, he brazenly defied 2000 years of Church teaching alleging that non-Catholics need not convert to Catholicism for salvation. In a public statement printed in Adisti in February, Kasper said: ". . . today we no longer understand ecumenism in the sense of a return, by which the others would 'be converted' and return to being 'Catholics.' This was expressly abandoned at Vatican II."
With Cardinals like these, who need enemies?
Salvation is in and through the blood of Christ. there is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood. (Hbr 9:12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption [for us].)
It can not be offered anew as Jesus died once for all (Hbr 10:10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all].)
..He died and He rose ..sacrificing Him anew is of no benefit..Hbr 10:17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
Hbr 10:18 Now where remission of these [is, there is] no more offering for sin.
Hbr 10:19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,
Hbr 10:20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;
Hbr 10:21 And [having] an high priest over the house of God;
IMHO a bloodless "sacrifice "is not pleasing to God...like the sacrifice offerd by Cain it is not the one demanded by God it is an invention of man ! Jesus said "It is finished" and it is !
JPII appointed both of them, then elevated Kaspar to head a Pontifical Commission.
What do you think that says about JP II?
"'With Cardinals like these, who need enemies?'
"JPII appointed both of them, then elevated Kaspar to head a Pontifical Commission.
"What do you think that says about JP II?"
That he's not perfect??
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