The Eucharistic Sacrifice
This Is the Mass
The Mass, the memorial of the death and
resurrection of the Lord—in which the sacrifice of the cross is
perpetuated over the centuries—is the summit and source of all Christian
worship and life; it signifies and effects the unity of the people of
God and achieves the building up of the body of Christ. It is an action
of Christ himself and the Church; in it Christ the Lord, by the ministry
of a priest, offers himself, substantially present under the forms of
bread and wine, to God the Father and gives himself as spiritual food to
the faithful who are associated with his offering.[i]
Christ on the Cross
We are born
to live; Christ, however; was born to die. On the night of the Last
Supper, Christ instituted the Mass in order to leave a memorial to his
beloved Spouse, the Church, He offered his body and blood under the
species of bread and wine to God the Father.
bread, Christ 'said: "This is my body, which will be given up for you."
Also taking the chalice with wine, he said: "This is the cup of my
blood, the blood of the new and ~verlast1ng covenant. It will be shed
for you and for all so that sins maybe forgiven!" Christ then commanded
his apostles: "Do this In memory of me, making them priests of the New
Testament. This rite anticipated the bloody sacrifice that Christ
accomplished on the cross once and for all on Good Friday for the
redemption of the world.
continues to offer the sacrifice of the cross, but in a bloodless
manner. The Mass is neither a repetition of nor a substitute for the
cross, but the merit we gain from the Mass is the same merit that we
would have gained had we actually been present at the foot of the cross
historical event of Calvary does not, however, repeat itself, nor is it
continued, in each Mass. The sacrifice of Christ is perfect and,
therefore, does not need to be repeated. Glorious in heaven, Christ does
not: die again. His sacrifice is not repeated; rather, the presence of
the singular sacrifice of the cross is multiplied, overcoming time and
The Mass: The Sacrifice of the New Covenant
sacrifice of Christ, the main sign or figure of the sacrifice of Christ
Testament is the paschal lamb. At every Passover, the Jews recalled
their covenant with God by sacrificing a lamb. This sacrificial lamb
once spared the first-born of the Jews from the exterminating angel who
came to slay the first-born of every family in Egypt.
anticipates his sacrifice on the cross in the last supper, within the
Jewish ritual celebration of the Passover. In the Cenacle as on Calvary,
the essential elements of the sacrifice are there: the immolation and
self-offering (body and blood) to God the Father. Christ is the
unspotted Lamb. He sets all people free from the slavery of sin and
establishes the eternal alliance between creature and Creator, the New
Covenant. More than that, what had been only a foreshadowing in sign is
now fully realized: the communion of blood and of life between God and
faithful are said to offer Mass together with the priest, this does not
mean that all the members of the Church, like the priest himself perform
the visible liturgical rite. This is done by the celebrant only. He has
been divinely appointed for this purpose through the sacrament of Holy
The principal victim of the sacrifice; is Jesus
Christ. But the faithful, in order to exercise their common priesthood
fully, should unite their sacrifice to his and thus offer themselves,
also, to God the Father: "I exhort you… to present your bodies as a
sacrifice, living, holy pleasing to God—your spiritual service,"
wrote St. Paul to, the Roman,[ii]
The Mass "requires all Christians, so far as human
power allows, to reproduce in themselves the sentiments that Christ had
when he was offering himself in sacrifice: sentiments of humility,
adoration, praise and thanksgiving to the divine Majesty. It requires
them also to become victims, as it were, Cultivating a spirit of
self-denial according to the precepts of the Gospel, willingly doing
works of penance, detesting and expiating their sins. It requires
us all, in a word, to die mystically with Jesus Christ on the cross, so
that we may say with the same apostle: 'With Christ, I hang upon the
The Mass: 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,[iv]
is both expressed and brought about."[v]
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.”[vi]
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 tool. In the Mass, Christ is no longer
alone on the cross. As in any other sacrament, the Mass is an act 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.
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,"[vii]
The Mass: The
Life of Each Christian
Mass is the same sacrifice as Calvary, sacramentally renewed, with all
its strength and sanctifying power, the Church considers it the center
of its life and the life of each of the faithful.
"The Eucharistic sacrifice is the 'source and
summit of all Christian life'. It is a single sacrifice that embraces
everything. It is the greatest treasure of the Church. It is her life.”[viii]
The Mass is
also the center of the life and mission of each priest, who finds in it
the direction and goal of his ministry.
Mass brings us face to face with one of the central mysteries of our
faith, because it is the gift of the Blessed Trinity to the Church. It
is because of this that we can consider the Mass the center and the
source of a Christian's spiritual life.
“It is the aim of all the sacraments. The life of
grace, into which we are brought by Baptism, and which is increased and
strengthened by Confirmation; grows to its fullness in the Mass."[ix]
"The more perfect form of participation in the
Mass whereby the faithful; after the priest's Communion, receive the
Lord's body from the same sacrifice is warmly recommended to those who
are duly prepared and in the state of grace."[x]
sacrifice of the Mass is the same as the sacrifice of Calvary, their
purpose is the same:
To adore the Blessed Trinity. The sacrifice of the
cross was first of all a sacrifice of adoration and praise of God.
Although the Mass is sometimes offered "in honor and in memory of the
saints, the Church teaches us that the Mass is not offered to the saints
but to God alone who has given them their crown."[xi]
give thanks for the many benefits we receive from God, including those
of which we are not aware. The second aim of the Mass is thanksgiving.
Only Christ our Lord can offer God a worthy hymn of thanksgiving. He did
so at the Last Supper when he gave thanks and when, hanging on the
cross, he continued to give thanks; our Lord continues to thank God the
Father for us in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
ask pardon for our sins and for the many times we have not loved God as
we should. This desire for expiation and, atonement should lead us to
make a good confession. The same Christ who died on the cross for our
sins is present and offered in the Mass "so that sins may be forgiven."
To ask for the spiritual and material things we
need. The fourth purpose of the Mass is petition. Jesus Christ on the
cross died "offering prayers and supplications and was heard because of
his reverent obedience" and now in heaven "lives always to make
intercession for us.”[xii]
These graces benefit those present at holy Mass and the per- sons for
whom it is offered.
participate in the Mass externally,
taking care of some details.
Attend the Mass with a spirit of prayer, praying as the Church teaches
us to pray, avoiding distractions. Be one with the words, action, and
gestures of the celebrant, who acts in the person of Christ. Give up
personal preferences; accept the option that the celebrant, considering
the circumstances of the people in each community, has chosen from among
the legitimate possibilities that the liturgy offers to us.
Listen, respond, acclaim, sing, or keep opportune silence, in order to
facilitate union with God and to deepen your reflection on the word of
Stand, sit and kneel—and be serene—even if you see someone who does not
punctua1. This is a considerate detail for Christ our Lord, himself, and
for others who are attending Mass. Arrive before the priest goes to the
altar. Leave only after the priest has left.
your missa1, or the missalette available in. the church. By following
the prayers of the priest, you can avoid distractions. The more complete
missals for the faithful have the prayers of the Mass distributed in
three main sections: Fixed Prayers of the Order of Mass, Proper Prayer,
and Readings. The missalettes for the use of the faithful usually
contain some of the variable prayers for each day's Mass and most of the
fixed parts of the Order of Mass arranged in their usual sequence.
Dress properly as for an important meeting and
not, for instance, as if you were going to participate in a sport. Dress
ought to convey the respect, solemnity and joy of the Mass.[xiii]
Communion and Thanksgiving
Having the right intention in receiving Communion
means having these good purposes: to please God, to achieve greater
union with him through charity, and to apply this divine remedy to one’s
moral weaknesses. The sacrament should not be received out of routine,
vainglory, or human respect.
bound, under serious obligation, to receive holy Communion at least once
a year—ordinarily during Easter time—and when we are in danger of death.
Communion may be received a second time on a given day, when and if one
attends a holy Mass, or when one in danger of death receives the Blessed
Sacrament as Viaticum.
Complete the Mass with an intense thanksgiving. Devote a 1ew minutes to
private prayer. In this way, your Mass Will have direct influence on
your work, your family life, your dealings with others, and the manner
in which you will spend the rest of your day. In short, the Mass should
not be an isolated event of the day; rather, it should be the
inspiration and the dynamo for all your actions.
the whole day into a continuous preparation for the holy sacrifice of
the Mass—working and praying—and, at the same time, into a never-ending
act of thanksgiving. For a Christian, all honest activities can be
turned into prayer.
Imitate the piety of the Blessed Virgin Mary and ask it of her. While
our Lord offered and immolated his flesh, Mary offered and immolated her
spirit. Participate in each Mass as if it were your last.
Handbook of Prayers, Rev. James Socias, General Editor, Scepter
Publishers, Princeton, NJ, and Midwest Theological Forum, Chicago, IL. ©
1995, pp. 86-94.
Cf. Codex Iuris Canonice, 897-898.
Pius XII, Mediator Dei, Nov. 20, 1942.
Cf. 1 Corinthians 10-17.
Vatican Council II, Lumen Gentium, 3.
St. John M. Vianney, Sermon on the holy
John Paul II, Prayer on Holy Thursday, 1982.
Blessed Josemaria Escriva, Christ Is Passing By, 87,
Princeton, N.J. Scepter Publishers, 1974.
Vatican Council II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, 55.
Council of Trent, Session 22, Chapter 3.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1387, Liberia Editrice