Hello there everybody. Welcome back to another episode of all About my Catholic Faith. This is the second of three lessons about the Holy Eucharist. Last week we talked about how the Holy Eucharist was a sacrament. Today in this lesson, we're going to talk about how the Holy Eucharist is a sacrifice.
Today's lesson is going to be divided into eight different subcategories and we'll talk a little bit about each one of those as we go along.
So briefly, the areas we're going to talk about in today's lesson are about the Mass being a sacrifice. We're going to talk about the cross being the perfect sacrifice and we're going to talk about the Mass also being the perfect sacrifice continued from the original sacrifice on the cross. I will also to talk about the Mass being a ceremony, as well as the purposes of the Mass, and how the Mass is our sacrifice, and finally how we should assist at Mass.
So let's start talking first about the Mass being a sacrifice. Two thousand years ago, on Calvary, Jesus Christ was sacrificed in a bloody manner, which means that he gave his life. He gave every drop of his blood as a sacrifice for us and to save us from our sins. The Mass that we go to every week is also a sacrifice of Christ that's offered in a sacramental manner, not a bloody manner. And of course, not only is the Mass a sacrifice, but it is also a sacrament like we talked about last week. The Mass is indeed a Sacrament or a sign of the sacrifice of Jesus. In this way, it's actually a sign of Christ, in action, offering himself in love to God the Father as he did when he died on the cross. When Jesus died on the cross for us he did it out of pure love for us and for his Father. The Mass is also an act of love, it's our share in the great act of love that Christ made on the cross.
You mentioned sacrifice a few times already, can you explain what a sacrifice is?
Great question, I guess I should have started with that.
Sacrifice, in the pure sense of the word, is an offering of a victim by a priest to God alone, and then the destruction of that offering in some way that acknowledges that God is the creator of all things. So today, a sacrifice is an action in which we give a gift to God to show him our true love for him and our devotion to him.
Christopher, when you give me or your mom a gift for our birthday you are doing that, I suppose because you love us. This gift shows us that you really do love us and course we gladly accept it, not only because we're happy with the gift, but most importantly because we're happy with your love that came with the gift. I guess that's where the saying comes from that says, "it's the thought that counts," and it’s the love that comes with the gift that really counts, not the gift itself. If you were to give a gift to someone and not do it out of love, then the gift would be empty. I think what kind of illustrates this, is if we go back to the Old Testament times of Cain and Abel. We see that both of them offered sacrifices to God, but God was only pleased with one of their sacrifices.
Why is that?
Well, God was very pleased with Abel's gift or sacrifice, because he saw that Abel was doing this out of true love and devotion and from his heart. And since God saw the true love that Abel was making the sacrifice with, he gladly accepted it, the same as I would accept a gift from you that came from your love for me. God, however, did not accept Cain's gift because the gift that Cain gave for the sacrifice was not done so out of love for God.
In the Old Testament time, a lot of times the sacrifice that was offered to God was a lamb or another animal such as that. And this lamb, when it was sacrificed, was killed, and so we call a gift offered to God as a sacrifice a victim.
And one more term to get straight when we're talking about sacrifice is that the person or the one who offers the sacrifice to God, in the name of all the people, is called a priest.
Let's move into the next area and talk about how Jesus, dying on the cross, was the perfect sacrifice.
When we go to Mass and we see the priest up at the front, we know he is the priest, however, the primary or the principal priest at every Mass is actually Jesus Christ himself. Jesus is really the priest there at Mass because he is the one who is offering to God the Father, his body and blood which were also sacrificed on the cross 2000 years ago. The priest that we see there standing in front of us is actually what we call “in Persona Christi” which means that he is standing in the place of Christ. Remember from our last lesson that the priesthood was started at the Last Supper when Jesus told his Apostles to go out into the world and to preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus and most especially to offer the sacrifice of the Mass in remembrance of him.
Remember the typical sacrifice involves a priest who is the one offering the sacrifice and a victim who is the one who is being sacrificed. When Jesus was crucified on the cross this was the perfect sacrifice because Jesus Christ was the priest, the perfect priest because he is the Son of God made man, and he was also the victim, the perfect victim because he being God, gave his own human life as a sacrifice. This sacrifice cost Jesus every single drop of his precious blood. He gave every drop of his blood to God the Father to show him his love and devotion, and you know as Jesus Christ hung on the cross and bled and died, every beat of his Sacred Heart was saying to God the Father, his father, “I love you.” You know I don't think there is a much better gift or better sacrifice than to actually die for the one that you truly love.
Remember that God accepted Abel's sacrifice because it was done out of love. God the Father accepted the gift of Jesus because it was offered out of true love. The Father not only accepted this great gift that Jesus was offering, but he rewarded Jesus by raising him from the dead on Easter Sunday and then bringing him to heaven to be with him for all eternity on Ascension Day.
Just as Jesus dying on the cross was the perfect sacrifice, the Holy Mass that we go to every week is also the perfect sacrifice, because the Mass continues the same sacrifice that happened on the cross. Every time that we go to Mass and the Sacrifice of the Mass is offered by the priest, the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made on Calvary by dying on the cross is repeated. Some non-Catholics criticize Catholics because they think that the Mass is re-sacrificing Jesus again and again, however, this is not true. A new sacrifice is not being offered, but instead, because of the power of God, the very same sacrifice of Jesus dying on the cross is actually repeated, not created new again. 1st Corinthians chapter 11 verse 26 says, “as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the cup you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” Again at Mass, Jesus continues to offer himself to God the Father the same as he did two thousand years ago on the cross and at Mass, God the Father continues to accept his Son’s gift the same as he did way back then.
Immediately after the consecration, remember that's when the bread and the wine are miraculously changed by God to the body and blood of Jesus, the priest says that we are the continuation of the redemption of Christ and that we offer the same sacrifice. As a Catholic, we are called to offer our self to Christ freely and in full awareness, in order to help in the salvation of the entire world. In the Latin Mass the priest will say this in Latin, but I'm going to read it in English for you right now. It says, “wherefore, O Lord, we thy servants, as also thy holy people, calling to mind the blessed passion of the same Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, his resurrection from hell, and glorious Ascension into heaven, offer unto Thy most excellent majesty of Thine own gifts bestowed upon us, a pure victim, a holy victim, an immaculate victim, the holy bread of eternal life and the Chalice of everlasting salvation."
And one more point before I move on is that the reason that the Mass is the same sacrifice as the sacrifice on the cross, and both are the perfect sacrifice, is because in the Mass, the victim is the same, that is Jesus, and the principal priest is the same, who is also Jesus. I'll talk a little bit more about that in just a moment.
Remember our last lesson when the bread and the wine are consecrated to become the body and blood of Jesus, that through a miracle of God, the bread and wine still appear to be bread and wine and don't actually appear as flesh and blood. Jesus wanted and actually commanded that this sacrifice would be continued throughout the ages to all parts of the world, but not in the same bloody way in which he offered it originally on the cross. Again, Jesus knew that that would be way too hard for any of us to accept and participate in. So again, at the Last Supper Jesus gave to all of us the wonderful gift of the ceremony of the Mass where we could continue his sacrifice in remembrance of him. Although other prayers and actions have been added the Holy Mass, it is basically the same ceremony as the Last Supper from 2,000 years ago.
And the Mass is not just simply a ceremony, it is a ceremony that is also a Sacrament because it is a sign of the action of Christ and a channel of God's grace. The Mass is a Sacrament because it is a sign of the action of Jesus when he died on the cross. So just like on the cross, during Mass, we have a priest, a victim, and an offering. On the cross, the priest was Jesus Christ himself and in the Mass, the priest is Jesus Christ in the form of the ordained priest who is taking his place. The victim on the cross was Jesus Christ, and the victim in the Mass is also Jesus's body and blood under the appearances of bread and wine. And finally, the act of offering on the cross was because Jesus offered himself out of pure love from his Sacred Heart. At the Mass, this very same Act of Love of the Sacred Heart takes place at the consecration when the bread and wine are each consecrated separately to symbolize the death of Christ on the cross.
So I know that when Jesus suffered and died for us on the cross, this was called his passion, so would you say that the Mass is also The Passion of Christ?
Pretty much, but the only clarification I would make is that the Mass is the sacrament of The Passion of Christ, remembering that a Sacrament is a sign of the action of Christ.
Okay thanks, I got it.
I know it's important to go to Mass so that we can worship God and receive the true body and blood of Jesus. Are those the only reasons to go to Mass?
Good question and those are great reasons to go to Mass, but there are four main purposes why the Mass is offered. First of all, it is to adore God as our creator and our Lord. The second reason that Mass is offered is so that we can thank God for the many things that he has done for us. The third purpose of the Mass is so that we can ask God to give us his blessings to us and also to bless everyone in the world, all of his children. And the fourth purpose of the Mass is to satisfy the justice of God for the sins committed against him
I know you've taught us that we need to be in the State of Grace in order to receive Holy Communion, does the priest also need need to be in a state of grace in order to consecrate the bread and wine and to offer the Mass for us?
Wow, that's a very good question! And indeed in order for us to properly receive all the graces associated with the Holy Eucharist, we do need to be in the state of grace. If we’re not in a state of grace then not only do we not receive the fullness of Grace from the Holy Eucharist, we are actually causing death to our soul. Now if we're in a state of grace, but we do have smaller sins, the venial sins, then we still receive the grace from the Mass and the Holy Eucharist. The more holy the state of our soul is, which means the less sin there is on our soul, then the more grace we will receive from the Holy Eucharist at Mass.
To answer your question about the priest, he does not need to be in a state of grace in order for the bread and the wine to be consecrated and for those to become the body and blood of Jesus. The state of the priest's soul does not determine the validity of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. If he was in a state of mortal sin, that bread and the wine was still consecrated to the Body and Blood of Jesus, because remember it's not just the action of the priest, it is actually the action of Jesus Christ through the priest. Hopefully, the priest will remain in a state of grace, because at Mass he is also receiving Holy Communion, and if he receives Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin then he is causing death to his soul the same as if we receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin.
Here is reading from 1st Corinthians, chapter 11: verses 23 through 30, that helps to explain this a little further.
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying.
There are a couple differences between the sacrifice on the cross and the sacrifice of the Mass.
So on the cross, Christ really did die, but in the Mass, Christ does not die. On the cross the crowd shouted hateful things, darkness rolled in at three in the afternoon, there was an earthquake, and the soldiers cast lots or gambled for the clothing of Jesus. At the Mass, we don't see the same things happening at all. On the cross, Christ by himself was the priest and the victim. In the Mass, Christ is the priest and the victim, but he also unites with all the members of his mystical body, the members of his Church, the Catholic Church, in both his priesthood and his victim-hood.
In the crucifixion the Sacred Heart of Jesus said to the Father, "I love you," and in the Mass the Sacred Heart does not just say to the Father that I love you, but he says, "Father I love you and so do all of these people here with me who are united as members of my Church, my mystical body."
If we really want to get down to two key reasons for the Mass, they are that we bring our prayers, our works, and sufferings that we have every day together with all of the other people of the Mystical Body of Christ. At the Mass, we who are the Mystical Body, are united with the head of the body, which is Jesus Christ himself. We offer all of our prayers, works, and sufferings together with Jesus, to the Father. The other important thing of the Mass, is just like when the Father was so pleased with the sacrifice that Jesus made out of love on the cross for him that he raised him from the dead and brought him to heaven, in the Mass, the Father is also pleased with our sacrifice out of our love for him that he gives us the real flesh of his son Jesus Christ to eat as his sign that he is very pleased with us, and also that one day he will raise our bodies from the dead to be with him forever in heaven. Again the Mass is our act of love for God. We must truly love God and show him our love by going to Mass at least once a week because God is the only way that we can make it to heaven. Only by the Grace of God can we be saved.
Wow, that does help me realize just how important going to Mass is. How can I get even more out of going to Mass?
Great question, and to get everything possible out of Mass that you can remember to go to confession often so that your soul can be as pure as possible. While you're at Mass, you should do everything you can to assist at Mass by being reverent, and showing your attention and devotion. Remember you don't have to be an altar server or be in the choir to assist at Mass. Actually to assist at Mass means something even bigger and better than being an altar server or being in the choir, although those are very important. The best way to assist at Mass is to unite yourself with the priest as best you can in offering the holy sacrifice to God and by receiving Holy Communion, or in other words unite with the priest when he offers the holy sacrifice by joining in mind and heart with Jesus Christ who again is the principal priest and the principal victim, and by following the Mass in the missal, and by reciting or chanting the responses. We'll have another lesson on how to properly respond at Mass.
Remember something very important, Jesus Christ our divine Savior was the first person to say Mass, and that was at the Last Supper the night before he died. Today, the Mass is said throughout the world nearly every single day by the Pope, bishops or priests who have been ordained through the power of God through Apostolic succession in the Catholic Church.
If you haven't been going to Mass then I hope that you will be inspired by the Holy Spirit to return to Mass so you that you can also join with the rest of the mystical Body of Christ in this wonderful sacrifice and sacrament of the Holy Mass. If you do go to Mass Faithfully every week, then strive to get more out of Mass by preparing in prayer before Mass, praying at Mass before Mass starts, leaving your cell phone at home or in the car, and assisting more fully at Mass, and really trying to join yourself together with the priest on the altar. By doing this you will not only be joining yourself to the priest, but you will also be joining yourself even closer to Jesus Christ himself. Again, a lot of non-Catholic Christians will say that what is important is that you have a personal relationship with Jesus, and they are absolutely correct. The best way to have a personal relationship with Jesus is to unite as close as possible with him in prayer and in the Sacrament and the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass and by taking his Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist.
Thanks, Dad, I really learned a lot today.
I'm glad you did and I hope other people learned a lot too. If you have any questions about what we've been talking about or about the Catholic faith, you can email me through our website, All About My Catholic Faith.com. You'll see an area on the right-hand column if you're on the web version of the website where you can enter your question, comment, and even your prayer request. I read all of those questions and comments and prayer request and I promise that I will take your prayer request with me to Mass when I go and I will also do my very best to answer any questions that you have. You can also send me a question or a prayer request through Twitter by going to @TwoCJ'sMedia, and that is two CJs spelled out, t w o C J s media. That link to twitter will be in the show notes.
We are getting closer to Easter so I hope that each and every one of you are having a very blessed Lent and remember if you're Catholic, the day this podcast is coming out is Friday, which means no meat.
Until next week's lesson please remember to pray for me and I will, of course, be praying for you.
God bless you and goodbye for now.