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The Sacraments Instituted By Christ . . . More On Christ As The Fulfillment Of The Old Law

April 22, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM

Part 25

The Sacrifice of the Cross was a true and perfect sacrifice. It was unique, because in the Sacrifice of the Cross, Our Lord Jesus Christ was at once the Priest and the Victim, the one who offers, and the one who is offered; being divinely chosen and appointed for each of these offices.
It was in itself a Redemptive Sacrifice. It was the price He paid (ransom) for our liberation from sin; therefore, He did not offer it for Himself, as the Old Testament High Priests did, but He offered it for us sinners.
It is a remarkable combination of events: As a Priest, He offered His life to God for the sake of us, sinners; as a Victim, He gave up His life to God, for the sake of us, sinners. In the Jewish sacrifices, it was the altar that sanctified the gift laid on it. But the altar was just a structure of wood, or of wood and metal (cf. Matt. 23:19).
But Christ the Victim, who was Holiness itself, had no need of any such extrinsic sanctification. His own sacred Body was the Altar, and the Blood that streamed out on it was the sign that He had offered His life for us. Thus, Christ was not only the Priest and Victim, but also the Altar of His Sacrifice.
We should not go over these realities too quickly. Our redemption was brought about by them. We should take time to meditate on them, from time to time, especially when we go to Mass, to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
When the priest utters the words of the consecration, let us remember that he is not speaking of himself when he says, “This is my Body” and “This is my Blood.” It is Jesus Christ who is uttering those words. Let us try our best not to see Fr. Jim, or whatever his name may be, but Jesus Christ offering the sacrifice.
That is why Robert Cardinal Sarah, head of the Congregation for Divine Worship, emphasized the importance of the priest celebrating Mass ad orientem — that is, facing the East, facing the altar — and not facing the people, so that we, in the congregation, may realize that Christ is doing it, not Fr. Jim.
And all of us, Christ and His people, are turned to the Altar of God in Heaven.
At the elevation, it is Jesus who offers Himself, just as it happened in the Last Supper, when He consecrated the Bread and the Wine: Jesus was holding Himself in His hands! Just think about it.
These are marvelous realities, ones that we should never just go over in a second and then think of something else. When we receive Holy Communion, the priest gives us Jesus Christ in the Host, His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.
No wonder so many young people today have come to realize the grandeur of this mystery, and receive Communion on their knees! What a lesson for us, the wise who think we know better. . . .
Here we pass to another important point: Christ Jesus is the High Priest of the human race. Among the Hebrews, the High Priest offered sacrifice for the Hebrews alone, and never for the Gentiles, because He was the High Priest of the Jews, not of everybody on Earth. But with Our Lord Jesus Christ it is altogether different: He, as the High Priest of the human race, offered His sacrifice for all mankind, both Jews and Gentiles.
The Jewish High Priest entered the Holy of Holies, a tabernacle made by men, taking with him the blood of calf or goat, whose blood he offered on behalf of sinners. Christ, our High Priest, went up to the true Holy of Holies in Heaven, not made by human hands, and there offered at the throne of the Divine Majesty His own Most Precious Blood.
The offering made by the Jewish High Priest was but a passing reality, one that happened only once a year: The offering made by Christ was made once and will continue forever.
St. John the Baptist, pointing to our Savior, said: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) Those prophetic words, uttered at the beginning of Christ’s public life, were verified at its close: At the Last Supper He revealed Himself as the Lamb who was to give His life for our redemption, the Lamb whose Sacrifice was to be commemorated and renewed in the new Pasch of the Blessed Eucharist.
The first Paschal Lamb was slain to deliver Israel from the slavery of Egypt, and its blood, spread on the doorposts, saved the firstborn of every Hebrew family from death: Christ, our Paschal Lamb, was slain to save mankind from the bondage of Satan. His Blood, offered at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, renews the promise of our salvation.
The Sacrifice of Christ ended at the moment of His death on the cross, immediately after He uttered the words, “My Father, in to thy hands I commend my Spirit” (Luke 23:46). The divine sacrifice was crowned and glorified by His Resurrection and Ascension.
St. Paul stated that if Jesus had not risen from the dead our faith would be in vain (1 Cor. 15:14). The Resurrection showed that Christ was what He had claimed to be, the Son of God.

Christ Offered Thanks

Christ at the Last Supper instituted a sacrificial rite as a memorial and representation of His death on the cross. Christ offered a true, bloodless sacrifice at the Last Supper. The Last Supper was the beginning and formal offering of the Sacrifice of the Cross. At the Last Supper, Jesus consecrated bread and wine separately, to indicate His death. When the blood is taken out of the body, the person is truly dead; no one denies it.
On the cross, His Blood was poured out of His Body. He was dead. Thus, the Last Supper and the cross are bound together in close, inseparable, union. As the bishops at the Council of Trent agreed, what Christ began at the Supper, He completed on the cross. It is indeed obvious that it was at the Supper that Christ made clear His intention to offer His life in sacrifice for us on the cross.
The new rite was well named the Eucharist (literally, “the thanksgiving”) because of the thanks offered by Christ before consecrating the bread and the wine: Raising His eyes to Heaven, He thanked His Father for man’s creation, for man’s redemption, and for all the blessings that were to flow from it through the Church and the sacraments.
Next article: delving into the mystery of transubstantiation.

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(Raymond de Souza, KM, is a Knight of the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta; a delegate for International Missions for Human Life International [HLI]; and an EWTN program host. Website: www.RaymonddeSouza.com.)

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