The Adorable Sacrifice of the Mass
THE dogmatic proofs put forward in the last chapter have, we are fully conscious, but imperfectly dealt with the points discussed. Space obliged us, more or less, to sacrifice clearness. Devotion, as we before remarked, not controversy, is our aim; to try to warm and increase, by the grace of God, love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in the hearts of those who believe. We now come to the adorable sacrifice of the altar the Mass. Well may we distrust ourselves in presuming to write about this "tremendous mystery." Let us invoke God's help in proceeding with our humble task.
Sacrifice is an external act of supreme religious worship given to God alone. In our hearts we adore and praise God; but by sacrifice we pay external outward homage to the Deity. We confess God the Sovereign Lord and Master of all creation of life and of death. We profess our entire subjection to him, and total dependence on his gracious Providence. The light of reason and the laws of nature engraven by God on the human heart, point out sacrifice as an essential part of the worship of the Supreme Being. Hence we find that all nations, however barbarous, adored the Deity, whether true or false, by sacrifice. In the true faith, from the beginning of the world to the end sacrifice has never ceased, and never shall cease.
In the Old Testament, the patriarchs worshiped the true God by sacrifice. Witness that of Abel (Gen. v.); of Noah (Gen. viii.); of Melchisedech (Gen. xiv.); of Abraham (Gen. xv.); as also of holy job, David, Solomon, and many others. The sacrifices of the old law consisted chiefly of living creatures, such as lambs, oxen, goats, etc., and sometimes of inanimate things, such as fine flour, oil, cakes, etc., and the bread and wine of Melchisedech. These sacrifices had no intrinsic value of themselves. St. Paul calls them "poor and weak elements," incapable of themselves of canceling sin or conferring grace." It is impossible that with the blood of oxen and goats sins should be taken away." Heb. x. 4. 11 "Shall I, said the Lord, eat the flesh of bullocks, or shall I drink the blood of goats?" "With burnt offerings thou shalt not be delighted." Ps. xlix. 13; i. 18 They were but mere types and figures of the great sacrifice of the New Law, and from this alone they derived all their value and became pleasing to God. The Victims slain, and the blood offered on the altar, were types of the bloody sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Mount Calvary, and of the unbloody one of Jesus on the altar. On Calvary the Victim of infinite value, Jesus Christ, was slain; his blood offered up in atonement, and all mankind redeemed.
The mass! What is the mass? The mass, in one word, is the very same sacrifice as that of the cross. The High Priest in the mass is the same Jesus Christ; the Victim offered up in the mass the same Jesus Christ. The same precious blood is offered in atonement on the Cross and on the altar. The mass is not a simple representation; it is the essence, the truth, and reality of Calvary. The Council of Trent says (Sess. xxii. c. 2): The same Christ is contained and immolated [on the altar] in an unbloody manner, who once offered himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the Cross." "For the Victim is one and the same; the same now offering himself by the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the Cross." The only difference is the manner of offering. On the Cross, Jesus offered his blood, and actually died; on the altar the same Jesus offers the same blood, and mystically dies; that is, his death is represented by the separate consecration of the bread and wine, which denotes the separation of his sacred blood from his body. The sacrifice of Calvary is the infinite ocean of redemption: the sacrifice of the mass is the application of that of Calvary to the souls of men. In the mass we have a standing memorial of the death of Christ. The memory of his passion is daily renewed, and the merits of his blood are applied to our souls. The Victim slain is of infinite value Jesus Christ himself. Infinite is the sanctity of the High Priest Jesus Christ, who, as St. Paul says (Heb. vii. 26), "is holy, innocent, without spot, separated from sinners, and elevated above the heavens; and infinite glory is given to the adorable Trinity. The mass is the very soul of the Christian religion; the most sublime and august mystery of our holy faith; the most sacred function that can be performed on earth. "We must needs confess," says the Council of Trent, "that no other work can be performed by the faithful so holy and divine as this tremendous mystery, wherein the lifegiving Victim, by which we were reconciled to the Father, is daily immolated on the altar by priests." Sess. xxii. Would to God that we were all penetrated by these sacred words when we attend the celebration of the divine mysteries!
The great sacrifice of the mass will end only with the end of time. At the Last Supper, when the Redeemer celebrated the first mass, gave his body and his blood for the remission of sins, he ordained his disciples priests of the New Testament, and commanded them and their lawful successors to the end of time to offer the same holy sacrifice. "Do this," says Christ, "in remembrance of me." Luke, xxii. 19. That is, as St. Paul explains it, to show forth his death till his second coming (I Cor. xi. 26). St. Paul again proves, in emphatic words, that the priesthood of Christ shall never end. "The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech." Heb. vii. 21.
The prophet Malachi had foretold, long before St. Paul, that this sacrifice would last forever. He says in words the most beautiful: "I have no pleasure with you, saith the Lord of Hosts; and I will not receive a gift of your hands: for from the rising of the sun even to the going 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 the Gentiles, saith the Lord of Hosts." i. 10. The Protestant Church, which has neither priest, nor victim, nor altar, nor oblation, cannot pretend to fulfil this prophecy. She has left the fold of Christ, the bark of Peter, and is in the way of error. But in the Catholic Church, built upon the rock of Peter, whose fair face neither error, nor heresy, nor old age has ever sullied; the Catholic Church, the virgin spouse of Christ, ever ancient and ever new; in her ever have been, and ever shall be, altar and sacrifice: in her, from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof, the Name of the Lord shall be great; and on countless altars, on behalf of millions and millions of souls, the clean oblation of the sacrifice of the Mass shall be offered to the Lord of Hosts.
The Saints on the Mass.
It will edify the pious reader to transcribe a few of the numberless sayings of God's servants, to show how they drank in sanctity at the fountain of salvation, and how sublime and exalted were their ideas of the mysteries of the altar. St. Augustine says, "that Jesus Christ, though omnipotent, could give nothing more than his Body and Blood." St. Thomas of Aquin says, that the mass "is not only the greatest of all God's miracles, but it is an abridgment of all the wonders he has ever wrought." St. Bonaventure says: "The mass is a compendium of all God's love, and of all his benefits to men." De Instit. c. ii. St. Francis of Sales called the mass "a mystery which comprises the entire abyss of Divine love." Philot. c. xiv. St. Chrysostom says: "The holy sacrament of the altar is the treasure of all God's benignity." Hence St. Liguori concludes, "that all the honors which angels by their homages, and men by their virtues, penances, and martyrdoms, and other holy works, have ever given to God, could not give him as much glory as a single mass." Selva. The reader will excuse a long quotation from "The Hidden Treasure" of St Leonard of Port Maurice. He says: "The mass is the sun of Christianity, the soul of faith, the center of the Catholic religion, the grand object of all her rites, ceremonies, and sacraments; in a word, it is the condensation of all that is good and beautiful in the Church of Christ." Again he says: "The mass is the miracle of miracles, the wonder of wonders." "O treasure inestimable! O treasure beyond all human comprehension!'' "The mass," he concludes, "is the sun of our holy religion, which dissipates the clouds and restores serenity to the heavens. It is the celestial rainbow that stills the tempest of divine justice. For my part I am persuaded that, if it were not for the holy mass, the world would have long since tottered from its foundations, crushed beneath the enormous weight of its many accumulated iniquities. The mass is the ponderous and powerful supporter on which the world rests which keeps it from falling into horrid chaos." p. xiii. "When the priest," says the Imitation of Christ, "celebrates, he honors God, rejoices the angels, edifies the Church, helps the living, obtains rest for the dead, and makes himself partaker of all that is good."C. V.
Such is the adorable sacrifice of the mass, as taught us by the Word of God and the writings of his saints. If Christians but meditated on these great mysteries, and realized in their souls what faith teaches, in what esteem, love, and reverence they would hold the holy mass! They would regard it as the greatest blessing and privilege of their lives to be allowed to assist at mass. They would never omit even one opportunity of so doing. And with what devotion, piety, reverence, and awe they would join the angels round the throne of Jesus Christ! May Jesus inspire us all with this lively faith.
My soul, divine faith teaches thee that there is nothing more valuable, more holy, more divine, than the adorable sacrifice of the mass. To secure heaven for thee, Jesus on the altar, as on Calvary, is the High Priest and Victim shedding his blood for the remission of thy sins.
Divine Jesus! Victim on the altar the same as on Calvary; infinite in value and merits; believing what faith teaches regarding the "tremendous mysteries of the altar," I resolve, by thy holy grace, to value and esteem thy holy sacrifice in accordance with this divine faith; and to have the greatest confidence to obtain at all times of the Almighty Father, through the merits of the adorable sacrifice of his Son in the mass, all graces and blessings for myself and the Church of God. Almighty Father, through the merits of Jesus on the altar grant me grace to keep my resolution.
Return to Contents
Return to Homepage.