"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Thursday 7 July 2011

Eucharistic Life as Fulfillment in the Lord Jesus

How is sharing in the Eucharist sharing in the sacrifice of Jesus?
1. The fundamental sacrifice of Jesus is his obedience to the Father’s will (22-B). This leads him to the Last Supper. In celebrating this Supper, he freely accepts the death which reconciles humankind to God and merits the divine work of renewal that commences with his own resurrection.

2. In celebrating the Last Supper, Jesus also empowers the apostles—and priests of all times and places—to act on his behalf in expressing and making present his redemptive sacrifice. Jesus’ sacrifice is thus present for us in every Mass. The unity of Christians with Jesus, initiated in baptism, is expressed and perfected by their participation in the Mass (23-B).3

3. An important point clarified by Vatican II is the universal priesthood of the faithful, insofar as all are called to offer spiritual sacrifices (see PO 2). Of course, the ordained priest has a unique role and dignity, for through his ministry “the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful is made perfect in union with the sacrifice of Christ, the sole Mediator” (PO 2; cf. S.t., 3, q. 82, a. 1). But the priest also offers Mass in the name of the people, and in this respect his celebration of the Mass would be pointless if the Christian life were not lived by the faithful. The offering must be the living sacrifice of “all those works befitting Christian men” (LG 10).

4. In speaking of the laity, the Council teaches that Jesus gives them the Spirit and urges them on “to every good and perfect work” (LG 34). If done in the Spirit, all the activities of life “become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Pt 2.5). During the celebration of the Eucharist, these sacrifices are most fittingly offered to the Father along with the Lord’s body. Thus, as worshippers whose every deed is holy, the laity consecrate the world itself to God” (LG 34; translation amended). This is, of course, true of all members of the Church, not just the laity.

5. Every Christian’s life, to the extent it is truly Christian, not only contributes to the growth of the eternal kingdom and continues Jesus’ redemptive work but completes his perfect sacrifice. Jesus offers the Father his obedience; we must share in this offering and live it out in our own lives. Such is eucharistic worship as sacrifice: the living of Christian life (see Rom 12.1–2). “Like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pt 2.5).4

Jesus’ free acceptance of death as the will of the Father is the sacrifice which seals the new covenant in blood—that is, in life, since blood is life (see Ex 24.8; Dt 12.23; Mt 26.28; Heb 9.11–22). Jesus’ sacrifice is once and for all (see Heb 10.12); he offers this sacrifice in the heavenly sanctuary (see Heb 8.1–6; 9.24).

Central to this unique sacrifice is Jesus’ perfect obedience to the will of the Father: “I have come to do your will” (Heb 10.9). Jesus’ righteous act displaced Adam’s sin as the principle of humankind’s relationship with God and “leads to acquittal and life for all men” (Rom 5.18). Through and in Jesus, God reconciles the world to himself (see 2 Cor 5.18–19). The gift of himself which Jesus makes by his obedience to the Father is neither of himself alone nor for himself alone. It seals the covenant of love for all humankind, and includes all who ever will be united with Jesus as members of his Mystical Body.5

Jesus’ redemptive sacrifice was explained (22-G) as a human act carried out both in the Last Supper and in the Mass (see S.t., 3, q. 73, a. 5). An essential point to remember is that Jesus’ human act is not what is done to him, but rather what he does in choosing to eat the Passover with his friends, knowing that in doing so he is freely accepting suffering and death. This human act is not a passing event, it is a lasting self-determination.

This clarifies the sense in which the Eucharist is done in remembrance of Jesus and is received to preserve his memory and proclaim his death (see 1 Cor 11.26; S.t., 3, q. 82, a. 1; q. 83, a. 1).6 There is no question here of recalling to mind a past event as past. Jesus’ redemptive act is not something apart from him; it precisely is the human fulfillment of his earthly life. That fulfillment, a gift of obedience to the Father on behalf of all of us, exists in Jesus, accepted and sealed with glory. Its remembrance is a reexpression of an inherently atemporal, existential reality, much as the remembrance of a wedding anniversary is the reexpression of the reality of the bond of marriage itself.

What Jesus first actually does outwardly to carry out his redemptive commitment, he does in the Last Supper (22-G). But in doing what he then does, he commands others to carry out further performances of the same type to keep his redemptive act present. The consecrations of all Masses, carried out as executions of this command, were included in the single act of Jesus at the Last Supper. For this reason, the central moment in the Eucharist is the consecration.7 In consecrating, the priest speaks in the very person of Christ, doing Jesus’ own act—an act only Jesus personally can do—for him (see DS 1321/698), much as a proxy in a marriage ceremony acts for (not in place of nor as a mere delegate of) the absent party who alone can give marital consent.

The Council of Trent, in its teaching on the Mass, does not say that the sacrifice of the Mass precisely is the same sacrifice as that of the cross, nor does it say that the offering is the same offering. Rather, it holds that the unity of the Mass and the cross is in this: Jesus offered himself in a bloody manner on the cross, and now offers himself in an unbloody manner (see DS 1743/940). But Vatican II says: “As often as the sacrifice of the cross in which ‘Christ, our passover, has been sacrificed’ (1 Cor 5.7) is celebrated on an altar, the work of our redemption is carried on” (LG 3). To suppose that the two councils disagree, however, would be a mistake.

The sacrifice of the Mass and of the cross is one, yet they are many; the offering is unique, yet it is repeated. The central redemptive choice, by which Jesus as man is our saving Lord, is one and unique. The performances which express this choice are many. The first performance of it was in the Last Supper, which carried out Jesus’ choice in which he freely accepted what he knew would be done to him—namely, arrest, mistreatment, and murder. The performances since then of what he commanded to be done in his memory also carry out that same choice. The unity of the sacrifice is primarily in the unity of the self-determining act of Jesus and secondarily in the ordered unity of the performances. The multiplicity of the sacrifice is in the multiplicity of the outward expressions of the same personal reality.

This situation is common in our experience. It is not unlike the multiplicity of performances which execute the marital commitment. In the rite of marriage, it is carried out by verbal expressions of consent; in subsequent consummating sexual intercourse, it is carried out in fitting bodily communion; in faithful abstinence with respect to any other potential sexual partner, the marital commitment also is outwardly realized and manifested. Even the wearing of a wedding ring is an act which expresses the same commitment. The fundamental marital act is the commitment which inherently lasts; the many expressions are not so many additional marriages.

It is similar with the offering of Jesus which marries humankind to God. It is one lasting act with many and somewhat varied outward expressions. Among these, the performances which are consecratory acts in Masses are special, for they were specifically included in the Last Supper, they continue that same sacred banquet, and they make Jesus in glory bodily present among us.

The making present of the redemptive act in the Eucharist provides us with a visible sacrifice, which we need in order to be able to participate as men and women in our Lord Jesus’ human act (see DS 1740/938). As the General Instruction of the Roman Missal states: “The celebration of Mass, as the action of Christ and the people of God hierarchically structured, is the center of the entire Christian life for both the universal and the local Church, as well as for each of the faithful” (cf. SC 41; LG 11; PO 2, 5, and 6; CD 30; UR 15).8 The Eucharist, therefore, is our sacrifice, too.

3. For relevant exegesis: F. X. Durrwell, C.Ss.R., The Resurrection: A Biblical Study, trans. Rosemary Sheed (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1960), 35–77, 136–50, and 319–32; In the Redeeming Christ: Toward a Theology of Spirituality, trans. Rosemary Sheed (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1963), 54–63.

4. See Louis Bouyer, Liturgical Piety (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1955), 76–78; Robert J. Daly, Christian Sacrifice: The Judaeo-Christian Background before Origen (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America, 1978), 498–508.

5. See St. Augustine, City of God, x, 6.

6. See Louis Bouyer, Eucharist: Theology and Spirituality of Eucharistic Prayer (Notre Dame and London: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968), 103–5.

7. See Pius XII, Allocution to the International Congress on Pastoral Liturgy (22 September 1956), 48 AAS (1956) 711–25.

8. The New Order of the Mass, introduction and commentary by J. Martin Patino et al., trans. Bruno Becker, O.S.B.; Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, trans. Monks of Mount Angel Abbey (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1970), 69.


This article is very good in so far as it sees the intimate connection  between what we do in our ordinary lives and our participation in the Mass.   The early Church regarded our "sharing in the chalice of the Lord" by martyrdom as the most intimate and permanent participation in the eucharistic sacrifice.   Thus, for St Irenaeus, the place the church of Rome has in the universal Church springs, not from Peter being the first bishop - bishops come and go - but from the fact that Saints Peter and Paul died a martyr's death there.   Their participation in the Mass of the Roman Church, their self-offering in union with Christ's sacrifice in the local Eucharist, was completed and brought to perfection in their martyrdom.  Moreover, their tombs in Rome and the fact that the Mass unites heaven and earth meant that they remained, in a very special way, members of the local church  From the same perspective, the daily offering of our ordinary Christian lives which makes us witnesses of  Christ is united to Christ's sacrifice in the Mass.   All that is Christian in our lives is offered to the Father  by Christ who has entered the Father's Presence in the Ascension and who includes us in his own self-offering through the Mass..   This article underlines the important truth that what we do "outside" the Mass is an intrinsic part our participation in the Mass.   Liturgy is not all bells and smells.

Nevertheless, while I have no wish to correct the author's positive statements about the Mass, it does suffer some limitations.   I shall use the numbers of his paragraphs as references.

1.  This is a good opening paragraph.

2.    Of course, at the Last Supper, there was only one person empowered to celebrate, Jesus himself.   In that limited sense, there was one priest, and all the rest were laymen!!   This is important because the Last Supper was not just a sacerdotal event, because it gave a "eucharistic" character to the whole Church. Not only were priests told to celebrate in the "Do this..", but the whole Church. was told to participate in the Eucharist. The liturgy is not just a clerical activity, nor is ordination the main event in the Last Supper..   As Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:

We can summarize these thoughts by saying that neither the priest alone, nor the congregation alone, "does" the liturgy. Rather, the Divine Liturgy is celebrated by the whole Christ, Head and members: the priest, the congregation, the individuals insofar as they are united with Christ and to the extent that they represent the total Christ in the communion of Head and Body. The whole Church, heaven and earth, God and man take part in every liturgical celebration and that not just in theory, but in actual fact. ., 

In ordinary Byzantine vocabulary, Christ celebrates the Divine Liturgy (the Mass); the Church celebrates the Mass; but the bishop or priest serves the Mass.   He is serving Christ and the Church who, together, are the real celebrant of the Mass, with him as their instrument.  

 I am convinced that what is wrong with the Novus Ordo is not the text but the way it is often celebrated.   The truth of the matter is that many of the priests who enthusiastically put into practice the norms of the New Mass had as little sense of liturgy as their pre-Vatican II forefathers.   In our ignorance, we copied  the Protestants or used our uninformed imagination.   We interpreted the documents of Vatican II and the post-Vatican II liturgy through spectacles  designed in the Middle Ages.   In doing so, we made worse some of the inadequacies of pre-Vatican II practices, such as the centrality of the priest.   Neither the priest nor the people is central to the Liturgy:  Christ in his relationship to the Father is absolutely central.   The best rubric for the celebration of the Mass is that given by St John the Baptist, "He must grow greater, and I must become less." (John 3, 30).   Instead, before Vatican II bishops in some places had their rings kissed by the faithful who were about to receive communion, while priests grin across the altar after Vatican II: the style is different; the mistake is the same.  Before the council the priest could manifest his own glory through pomp and ceremony; while, after the council, he manifests
 his glory informally, like a star in a pop concert.   Of course, there were crowds of priests before the council who approached the Lord with awe, reverence and love; and there are crowds of priests who celebrate according to the Novus Ordo in the same spirit.    Nevertheless, both before and after, there have been priests who are very conscious that they represent Christ, but not so conscious of the presence of him whom they represent, both in themselves and in the community to whom they minister.

Of course, the apostles did receive their priestly commission  
at the Last Supper; but it could be argued that they were empowered to do this only at Pentecost when the Church as we know it came into being, as in implied in the epiclesis in the new eucharistic prayers. 

3.   The priest offers the Mass for the people; but he also offers the Mass with the people because he too is one of the faithful and needs the Mass as much as they do.   He needs to listen to the Word of God, to bring his ordinary daily life to be integrated in the sacrifice of Christ, to pray and to sing with the people, to receive communion and so become a permanent offering, as Eucharistic Prayer III says, together with them.   It is only because he is one of them that he could have been singled out to manifest in their midst the ministry of Christ for them.  Both these priestly activities, the one that is distinct from that of the community that arises from his ordination, and the one that is identical to the rest that arises from his baptism,  should be obvious in a well balanced liturgical celebration.  

Let us look once more at those insights of the Eucharist that are underestimated or absent from the article but which complement the valuable things he has to say.

a)   A whole chapter of the Catholic Catechism is about our participation in the Mystery of Christ as a church.   The chapter is based on the theology of one of   Cardinal Ratzinger's favourite theologians, the late Fr Jean  Corbon OP, a Greek Catholic professor of theology based on the Lebanon, though he didn't actually write the chapter.   (He wrote the chapter on prayer and the Church's mystical tradition.)

The present author writes, "Jesus’ redemptive act is not something apart from him; it precisely is the human fulfillment of his earthly life."   He then goes on to find connections between the Last Supper, the Cross and the Mass without bringing in the Resurrection and Ascension. Writing on the tendency to see the Mass solely in terms of Christ's death, Cardinal Ratzinger said:

Thus we see how the Eucharist had its origin, what its true source is. The words of institution alone are not sufficient; the death alone is not sufficient; and even both together are still insufficient but have to be complemented by the Resurrection, in which God accepts this death and makes it the door into a new life. From out of this whole matrix-that he transforms his death, that irrational event, into an affirmation, into an act of love and of adoration-emerges his acceptance by God and the possibility of his being able to share himself in this way. On the Cross, Christ saw love through to the end. For all the differences there may be between the accounts in the various Gospels, there is one point in common: Jesus died praying, and in the abyss of death he upheld the First Commandment and held on to the presence of God. [11] Out of such a death springs this sacrament, the Eucharist.

Scholastic theology separated the Mass from the liturgy in order to explain it - a basically flawed method - and then imposed its interpretation on the liturgy, thus suppressing many aspects of the Eucharist which the liturgy contains but which had no place in their abstraction. Fr Jean Corbon, like the author of the article, sees Christ's death as the culmination of a life of obedience "unto death"; but he doesn't go directly from there to the Mass.   For Fr Jean, this death of Christ as a total gift of self passes from time to eternity in the resurrection; and this death and resurrection become the central theme of the heavenly liturgy at the Ascension.  Christ's death, resurrection and ascension become the eternal route through which we and all creation must pass into the Father's Presence by means of the Holy Spirit..   This route we call the Christian Mystery.   When we participate in the Word and sacraments, but especially in the Eucharist, we   participate in the heavenly liturgy.   As the Roman Canon says, the gifts of bread and wine are taken up to the heavenly altar and become identical to the Lamb, slain but standing (Rev. 5,6) so that, when we receive from our altar, we receive,not just bread and wine, but the very body and blood of Christ: we are sharing in the wedding feast of the Lamb.

   All this can be found in the Letter to the Hebrews where all of us, priests and people alike, approach the heavenly Jerusalem ( Heb. 12, 22vv).  We "enter into the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus (sacrifice) by the new and living way he opened for us (the Christian Mystery) through the curtain - that is, through his flesh (communion), and, since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach (the hebrew and aramaic words for "sacrifice" derive from the verb which means "to approach") with a true heart and full assurance of faith....." (Heb. 10, 19ff)

b)   The Epistle to the Hebrews and the Book of Revelation both centre their attention on the heavenly liturgy.   Ratzinger echoes this position as he comments on some frescoes in a monastery.   He writes:
.But one fact is of fundamental importance: the sacred liturgy is not something which the monks (or anyone else - ed) manufacture or produce. It exists before they were there; it is an entering into heavenly liturgy which was already taking place. Only in and through this fact is earthly liturgy a liturgy at all.
 Neither the Scriptures nor the Fathers of the Church see the Eucharist simply as priests consecrating for the people.   Nor do the Fathers and the liturgies that were formed under their inspiration restrict their understanding of the Mass to its relationship with the cross in isolation.    All liturgies, except, perhaps, a few Protestant ones, see the death, resurrection and ascension as a single whole, and they are  to be remembered together in relationship with one another.     Also, in our participation in the Christian Mystery, which is a true participation in the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. is to be found the solution to the problem of how the sacrifice of Christ offered, once and for all, can be offered again and again by the Church.

c)   There was a change of perspective in Vatican II in that, beforehand, the Catholic truth of Mass was often seen from an exclusively clericalist perspective.   In the Constitution on the Liturgy the Mass is an act of the whole Church.   The priest has an important place, and without him there would be no Mass; but it is an act of the whole Church with its many members; and this diversity in unity should be reflected in liturgical celebrations, especially in the Eucharist.   

  There is no sense in the article we are examining of the central importance of our participation in the heavenly liturgy in the Mass, nor of our direct contact with the death, resurrection and ascension through the Mass; and the article portrays an understanding of the Mass based on what the priest does for the people rather than on the relationship between the Eucharist and the Church.    In the light of the Vatican II documents and how the teaching of Vatican II is being developed in the Catechism and in the thought of Pope Benedict, the author has some catching up to do; but there is no real difference in the substance of our faith.   It is an article that should gain the ready agreement of many who celebrate or attend Masses in the extraordinary version of the Latin Rite.   Reading it fills me with hope that, once they have stopped wallowing in nostalgia and  in enjoying what for them is the novelty of wearing Roman cassocks, birettas and lace, once they begin to concentrate on the authentic teaching of Vatican II, they will allow the teaching of the council to modify their practice of the old Latin Rite.   I also hope that those who follow the Novus Ordo will also grow in a greater awareness of what the liturgy really is and will allow this too to modify their practice ut omnes unum sint.

The Anglican Ordinariate (A new look at the Liturgy)



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