The Sacrifice of the Church

Christ bequeathed his sacrifice to the Church, not just to each individual believer. God wants to save us, not in an isolated manner, prescinding from any relationship among them, but as a people. Each Mass presupposes union among the faithful and of the faithful with their bishop, the pope, and the universal Church. Moreover, that solid union is made stronger with the celebration of the Eucharist and is a consequence of it. The Second Vatican Council states it in this manner: "In the sacrament of the eucharistic bread, the unity of believers, who form one body in Christ,4 is both expressed and brought about." 5 

Both on the cross and in the Mass, the priest and victim are one and the same: Christ himself. He is both the one who offers and the one who is offered. No longer is there separation between priests and victims. 

The words of Jesus Christ at the Last Supper-"Do this in memory of me"-command the continuation of his sacrifice on the cross in every holy Mass celebrated anywhere in the world until the end of time. This was announced in the Old Testament with these words of the prophet Malachi: "From the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place there is a sacrifice and there is offered to my name a clean oblation." 6 

Following Christ's command, the priest offers the Mass acting as the representative of Christ. That is why he does not say, "This is the body and blood of Christ," but rather, "This is my body" and "This is my blood." The priest is the chosen instrument of Christ in the same manner that the brush is the painter's tool.

In the Mass, Christ is no longer alone on the cross. As in any other sacrament, the Mass is an action of Christ and also of the Church. At the moment of the preparation of the gifts the entire Church presents itself for sacrifice with Christ.  

We have testimonies from the very beginning of the life of the Church that the Christians had the celebration of the holy Mass on Sunday, the Lord's day, when the victory and triumph of the Lord's death became present. 

In the Old Testament, the Jews rested on Saturday, giving thanks to God for the gift of creation. In the New Testament, we celebrate a new creation, to the life of grace: a supernatural creation far superior to the material creation of the world. No wonder, then, that the Church requires under pain of mortal sin that we to go to Mass at least on Sunday. 

"The holy Mass cheers the heavenly court; it alleviates the poor souls in purgatory; it attracts all sorts of blessings to the earth; it gives more glory to God than all the sufferings of the martyrs put together, the penances of all the monks, all the tears shed by them since the beginning of the world and all their deeds until the end of time." 7

4.  Cf. 1 Corinthians 10-17.
5.  Vatican Council II, Lumen Gentium (=LG), 3.
6.  Malachi 1:11.
7.  St. John M. Vianney, Sermon on the holy Mass.

Printed with permission from eCatholicHub.

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January 26, 2015

Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, Bishops

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