Sacrifice of the Mass
The word Mass (missa) first established itself as the general
designation for the Eucharistic Sacrifice in the West after
the time of Pope Gregory the Great (d. 604), the early Church
having used the expression the "breaking of bread"
(fractio panis) or "liturgy"; the Greek Church has employed
the latter name for almost sixteen centuries. There were current
in the early days of Christianity other terms;
• "The Lord's Supper" (coena dominica),
• the "Sacrifice" (prosphora, oblatio),
• "the gathering together" (synaxis, congregatio),
• "the Mysteries", and (since Augustine),
• "the Sacrament of the Altar".
What is a Sacrifice?
From the Council of Trent we know the Church intends the
Mass to be regarded as a "true and proper sacrifice." If the
Mass is to be a true sacrifice in the literal sense, it must
realize the philosophical conception of sacrifice. Thus the
preliminary question arises: What is a sacrifice in the proper
sense of the term? Four things are necessary to any sacrifice:
• a sacrificial gift (res oblata),
• a sacrificing minister (minister legitimus),
• a sacrificial action (actio sacrificica), and
• a sacrificial end or object (finis sacrificii).
must be really or virtually destroyed (i.e. animals slain, libations
poured out, other things rendered unfit for ordinary uses),
or at least really transformed, at a fixed place of sacrifice
(ara, altare), and offered up to God.
(2) As regards the person offering, it is not permitted that any
and every individual should offer sacrifice on his own
account. Only a qualified person (usually called priest,
sacerdos, lereus), who has been given the power by commission
or vocation, may offer up sacrifice in the name of the community.
After Moses, the priests authorized by law in the Old
Testament belonged to the tribe of Levi, and more especially
to the house of Aaron. But, since Christ Himself received and
exercised His high priesthood, not by the arrogation of authority
but in virtue of a Divine call, there is still greater need that
priests who represent Him should receive power and authority
through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, to offer up the sublime
Sacrifice of the New Law.
(3) Sacrifice reaches its culmination in the sacrificial act, in
which we have to distinguish between the proximate matter and
the real form. The form lies, not in the real transformation or
complete destruction of the sacrificial gift, but rather in its
sacrificial oblation, in whatever way it may be transformed.
Even where a real destruction took place, as in the sacrificial
slayings of the Old Testament, the act of destroying was
performed by the servants of the Temple, whereas the proper
oblation, consisting in the "spilling of blood"
(aspersio sanguinis), was the exclusive function of the priests.
Thus the real form of the Sacrifice of the Cross consisted
neither in the killing of Christ by the Roman soldiers nor in an
imaginary self-destruction on the part of Jesus, but in
His voluntary surrender of His Blood shed by another's hand,
and in His offering of His life for the sins of the world.
Consequently, the destruction or transformation constitutes
at most the proximate matter; the sacrificial oblation, on the
other hand, is the physical form of the sacrifice.
(4) Finally, the object of the sacrifice, as significant of its
meaning, lifts the external offering beyond any mere mechanical
action into the sphere of the spiritual and Divine. The object is
the soul of the sacrifice, and, in a certain sense, its
"metaphysical form". In all religions we find, as the essential
idea of sacrifice, a complete surrender to God for the purpose
of union with Him; and to this idea there is added, on the part
of those who are in sin, the desire for pardon and reconciliation.
Hence, at once arises the distinction between sacrifices of praise
and expiation (sacrificium latreuticum et propitiatorium), and
sacrifices of thanksgiving and petition
(sacrificium eucharisticum et impetratorium); hence also the
obvious inference that under pain of idolatry, sacrifice is to be
offered to God alone, as the beginning and end of all things
If then we combine the above four constituent ideas in a single
definition, we may say:"Sacrifice is the external oblation to God
by an authorized minister of a sense-perceptible object, either
through its destruction or at least through its real transformation,
in acknowledgement of God's supreme dominion and of the
appeasing of His wrath."
prophetical relation that undoubtedly
exists between the offering of bread
and wine by Melchizadek, and the
Last Supper of Jesus.The occurrence
was briefly as follows: After
Abraham (then still called "Abram")
with his armed men had rescued his
nephew Lot from the four hostile kings
who had fallenon him and robbed him,
Melchizadek, King of Salem
(Jerusalem), "bringing forth bread
and wine, for he was a priest of the
Most High God, blessed him [Abraham]
and said: Blessed be Abram by the
Most High God . . .And he [Abraham]
gave him the tithes of all".
Catholic theologians have from the beginning rightly emphasized the
circumstance that Melchizadek brought out bread and wine, not
merely to provide refreshment for Abram's followers wearied after
the battle, for they were well supplied with provisions out of the
booty they had taken, but to present bread and wine as food-offerings
to Almighty God. Not as a host, but as "priest of the Most High God",
he brought forth bread and wine, blessed Abraham, and received
the tithes from him. In fact, the very reason for his
"bringing forth bread and wine" is expressly stated to have been
his priesthood: "for he was a priest." Accordingly, Melchizadek
made a real food-offering of bread and wine. Now it is the express
teaching of Scripture that Christ is "a priest for ever according
to the order of Melchizadek". Christ, however, in no way
resembled his priestly prototype in His bloody sacrifice on the Cross,
but only and solely at His Last Supper. On that occasion He
likewise made an unbloody food-offering. He accomplished something
more than a mere oblation of bread and wine, namely the sacrifice
of His Body and Blood under the forms of bread and wine. Since the
Mass is nothing else than a continual repetition, commanded by
Christ Himself, of the Sacrifice accomplished at the Last Supper,
it follows that the Sacrifice of the Mass partakes of the New
Testament fulfillment of the prophecy of Melchizedek.
Passing over the more or less distinct
references to the Mass in other prophets,
the best and clearest prediction concerning
the Mass is undoubtedly that of the prophet
Malachi, circa 500 B.C., who makes a
threatening announcement to the Levite
priests in the name of God: "I have no
pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts: and
I will not receive a gift of your hand.
For from the rising of the sun even to the
down, my name is great among the Gentiles,
and in every place there is sacrifice, and
there is offered to my name a clean
oblation: for my name is great among
Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts"
(Malachi 1:10-11). According
to the interpretation of the Fathers
of the Church, the prophet here
foretells the everlasting Sacrifice
of the New Dispensation. For he declares
that these two things will certainly
come to pass:
• The abolition of all Levitical sacrifices, and
• the institution of an entirely new sacrifice.
As God's determination to do away with the sacrifices of the
Levites is adhered to consistently throughout the denunciation,
the essential thing is to specify correctly the sort of sacrifice that
is promised in their stead. In regard to this, the following
propositions have to be established:
• That the new sacrifice is to come about in the days of the
• that it is to be a true and real sacrifice, and
• that it does not coincide formally with the Sacrifice of
• the Cross.
The sacrifice referred to by Malachi did not signify a sacrifice
of his time, but was rather to be a future sacrifice belonging to
the age of the Messiah.
The Last Supper was to be that first sacrifice.
New Testament Reference to the Mass
(1) Passing now to the proofs contained in the New Testament,
we may begin by remarking that many dogmatic writers see in the
dialogue of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well a
prophetic reference to the Mass (John 4:21): "Woman believe Me,
that the hour cometh, when you shall neither on this mountain
[Garizim] nor in Jerusalem, adore the Father .... But the hour
cometh and now is, when the true adorers shall adore the Father
in spirit and in truth." Since the point at issue between the
Samaritans and the Jews related, not to the ordinary, private
offering of prayer practiced everywhere, but to the solemn, public
worship embodied in a real Sacrifice, Jesus really seems to refer
to a future real sacrifice of praise, which would not be confined
in its liturgy to the city Jerusalem, but would captivate the whole
(2) The feeding of the multitude in the wilderness, contained in all
four Gospels, foreshadows Jesus as the Bread of Life. In John
(6:26-27) Jesus says:
Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes - by LANFRANCO
"I am telling you the truth; you are looking for Me because
you ate the bread and had all you wanted, not because you
understand my miracles. Do not work for food that spoils;
instead, work for food that lasts for
eternal life. This is the food which the Son of Man will give you,
because God the Father has put His mark of approval on Him."
(3) The tearing of the huge Temple Veil into two pieces, by an
Act of God, as Jesus expired on the Cross, is the final sign of
the Sacrifice of the Mass to come. In order to understand and
appreciate the significance of the torn veil, we first need to
understand the significance of the veil itself.
The veil was a thick veil made of
woven linen that separated the holy place in the tabernacle from
the Most Holy Place. Into this Most Holy Place, no one was
allowed to enter except Israel's high priest. Even he could enter
only once a year with the blood of a sacrifice. Only after he had
made an offering for his sins could he offer the blood of a sacrifice
for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The plain
significance of the linen curtain was that the old covenant could
not reveal the way for the sinner's approach to God. It does not
require a wild imagination or inspired ingenuity to find a
symbolical significance for the tabernacle veil. Scripture makes the
Holy Spirit's intention concerning this matter very clear. It stood
as a symbol of the old covenant's inability to reveal the way into
God's holy presence. The priests of the old covenant had to repeat
the same sacrificial ritual year-after-year, thus signifying that
had not truly forgiven the sins for which they had offered the
sacrifice. The Day of Atonement was a solemn reminder that
covenant-breaking sinners could not approach a holy God.
the old covenant sacrifices could do was to provide ceremonial
cleansing for sins committed unintentionally. They could formally
restore the relationships that had been broken between a man and
his God and a man and his neighbor, but they could not take away
those sins that had caused the breach.
The tearing of the temple veil is full of significance for the New
Covenant people of God. The radical
earthquakes that accompanied this event, as well as the event itself,
bears eloquent testimony that the redemptive work of Christ
effected far more than a mere "change of administration" within an
overarching covenant of grace. His redemptive word was a
divine intervention in history that inaugurated a new age;
a new creation. Those who belong to this new creation are
heirs of better promises that are granted by a new and better covenant.
The old order has passed away, and the new order has come to stay.
As a result, the most holy place on earth during the old covenant
order was no longer holy. Forty years later the Roman Legions of
Titus would completely destroy the Temple. The number Forty is a
time of preparation for the New.
It is first of all necessary to make clear
that in every sacrifice of the Mass four
distinct categories of persons really
(1) At the head of all stands of course the High Priest, Christ
to make the Sacrifice of the Cross fruitful for us and to secure its
application, He offers Himself as a sacrifice, which is quite
independent of the merits or demerits of the Church, the
or the faithful present at the sacrifice.
(2) Next after Christ, and in the second place, comes the Church
as a juridical person, who, according to the express teaching of t
he Council of Trent has received from the hands of her Divine
Founder the institution of the Mass and also the commission to
ordain priests and to have celebrated by these the most
venerable Sacrifice. This intermediate stage between Christ
and the celebrant
may be neither passed over nor eliminated, since a bad and
immoral priest, as an ecclesiastical official, does not offer up
sacrifice -- which indeed could only be impure -- but the
immaculate Sacrifice of Christ and His spotless Bride, which can
be soiled by no wickedness of the celebrant. However, the
greatness and extent of this ecclesiastical service is dependent on
the greater or less holiness of the reigning pope, the bishops, and
the clergy throughout the World, and for this reason in times of
ecclesiastical decay and laxity of morals (especially at the papal
court and among the episcopate) the fruits of the Mass, resulting
from the sacrificial activity of the Church, might under certain
circumstances, easily be very small.
(3) With Christ and His Church is associated in third place the
celebrating priest, since he is the representative through whom
the real and the mystical Christ offer up the sacrifice. If,
the celebrant be a man of great personal devotion, holiness, and
purity, there will accrue an additional fruit which will benefit not
himself alone, but also those in whose favor he applies the Mass.
(4) Finally, in the fourth place, must be mentioned those who
participate actively in the Sacrifice of the Mass, e.g., the servers,
lectors, organist, singers, and the whole congregation joining in
the sacrifice. The more fervent the prayer, the richer the fruit.
Most intimate is the active participation in the Sacrifice of those
who receive Holy Communion during the Mass, since in their case
the special fruits of the Communion are added to those of the
Papal Guidance Concerning the Mass
"At the Last Supper, on the night He was handed over, Our Lord
instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of His Body and Blood, to
perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until He
should come, and thus entrust to the Church, His beloved spouse,
the memorial of His death and resurrection: a sacrament of
devotion, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet
in which Christ is received, the soul is filled with grace and there
is given to us the pledge of future glory."
"The Mass in fact truly makes present the sacrifice of the Cross.
Under the species of bread and wine, upon which has been
invoked the outpouring of the Spirit who works with absolutely
unique power in the words of consecration, Christ offers
Himself to the Father in the same act of sacrifice by which He
offered Himself on the Cross. 'In this divine sacrifice which is
accomplished in the Mass, the same Christ who offered Himse
lf once and for all in a bloody manner on the altar of the Cross
is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner'. To His
sacrifice, Christ unites the sacrifice of the Church: 'In the
Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice
of the members of His Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise,
sufferings, prayer and work, are united with those of Christ
and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value'. The
truth that the whole community shares in Christ's sacrifice is
especially evident in the Sunday gathering, which makes it
possible to bring to the altar the week that has passed, with
all its human burdens." . . . . by Pope John Paul II
Conclusion The Institution of the Eucharist -
No feast better exemplifies Catholicism than
Holy Thursday's Mass
of the Lord's Supper for it was at the Last Supper Jesus Christ
instituted the Blessed Sacrament when He turned the bread He
offered His disciples into His Own Flesh and the wine into His
Precious Blood. Though the physical properties of the bread
remain the same, when He pronounced the words "Take this, all
of you, and eat it: this is My Body which will be given up for you."
it became His Body.
Then, as the Canon of the Mass
says, "When supper was ended,
He took the cup. Again He gave
you thanks and praise, gave the
cup to His disciples, and said:
'Take this, all of you, and drink
This is the cup of My Blood,
the Blood of the New and
It will be shed
for you and for all so that
sins may be
forgiven. Do this in memory of me.'"
At that very moment the wine,
in all physical aspects, became
His Precious Blood.
Jesus used bread, for He is the
"Bread of Life" (John 6:35) and wine
for He is the "true Vine" (John 15:1).
The fruit of the vine becomes the
fruits of Redemption, made possible
by Christ's death, a death which totally made it possible for every
of God's children to be redeemed. The only difference between th
e Sacrifice of the Cross and the Sacrifice of the Mass is that
former, Jesus physically shed His Blood, while in the latter
there is no
physical shedding of blood nor physical death because Christ
been immolated once.
By His death He gained for us the merit and, through the Holy
Sacrifice of the Mass, applies to us that merit and reward of
His Bloody Death through the unbloody oblation of
His Body and Blood during Mass. It is very similar to what one
would see on video tape. What was taped happened at the moment
it was being filmed. When it is being played over and over, no
matter how many times, it is a re-enactment of the event.
Though it cannot happen again, we are reliving it as though it were.
So also, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Jesus continues to offer
Himself as a Sacrifice in order to unite us with Him, to give us a
gift worthy to be offered to God (Malachi 1:11), "a clean oblation"
and allow us the opportunity to share in the merits of His eterna
l Sacrifice on the Cross. The fruits of attending Mass worthily,
and in the state of grace are that He not only answers our
heartfelt prayers, but we gain even more of the merits of Christ
for our souls, as well as gaining temporal blessings.
When we consider these things, isn't it sad that so few attend
Daily Mass? Isn't it even sadder that so many Catholics attend
Sunday Mass without truly realizing what they are partaking in?
We need to re-emphasize the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, to instill
in all the Catholic faithful the value of the Mass which is infinite
because it is the renewal of Christ's death.
Therefore to attend Mass devoutly is the greatest prayer we can
offer. There is no more holy and divine act that can be performed
here on earth than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We need to let
all our brothers and sisters know that all who participate in the
Mass, both here on earth and in Purgatory, reap the general
fruits since the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered for everyone
. This not only includes all who are present, or assist, especially
the priest who represents Christ, but also the person for whom it
is being offered as well as the souls in Purgatory - the
Why go to Daily Mass?
Mass is worth as much as the sacrifice of Our Lord's life,
sufferings, and death.
Holy Mass is the world's most powerful atonement for your sins.
At the hour of death the holy Masses you have heard devoutly
will be your greatest consolation.
Every Mass will go with you to judgment and plead for pardon.
At Mass, you can diminish more or less temporal punishment
due to your sins, according to your fervor.
Assisting devoutly at Holy Mass, you render to the sacred
humanity of Our Lord the greatest homage.
He forgives the venial sins which you have not confessed.
The power of Satan over you is diminished. He supplies for m
any of your negligence and omissions.
You are preserved from dangers and misfortunes which o
therwise might have befallen you. You shorten your Purgatory.
Every Mass wins for you a higher degree of glory in Heaven.
You receive the priest's blessing which Our Lord ratifies in
You kneel amidst a multitude of holy angels, who
are present at the adorable Sacrifice with reverential awe.
You are blessed in your temporal goods and affairs.
By piously hearing Holy Mass you afford the Souls in
Purgatory the greatest possible relief.
One Mass heard during life will be of more benefit t
o you than many heard for you after your death.