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The Sacraments Instituted By Christ… The Mass Is A True Sacrifice

May 6, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM

Part 27

We have seen in previous articles that the sacrifices of the Old Law involved and required two specific elements: the Victim and the Priest. The Mass possesses both the requisites for a sacrifice:
First of all, we have the Victim, whose life is sacrificed: Jesus Christ is the Victim, the Victim who declared Himself to be a perpetual Victim, capable of being offered to the end of time as He offered His Life at the Last Supper and on the cross. He did so by His very command to the apostles to do as He did, to consecrate as He consecrated.
The second element is the priest, the one who offers the Victim for the same sacrificial ends for which the Victim was offered at the Supper and on the cross: for the salvation of the whole world and “for the remission of sins.” The Priest, Jesus, offers the Victim, Jesus, for the purpose of adoring, praising, and glorifying the Father Almighty (adoration), of thanking Him for His past mercies and favors (thanksgiving), of beseeching His help and blessings (petition), of appeasing His anger and gaining His friendship (propitiation), and of obtaining release from the punishment due to sin (satisfaction).
These purposes are expressed in the prayer Glory to God in the Highest, the Our Father, the Eucharistic Prayer, and in other parts of the Mass.
Christ is the Victim of the Mass, but He does not die or suffer again at Mass. He is presented to God as the Lamb, once slain, who lives forever; as the Crucified, Risen, and living Victim, perfectly pleasing to our Heavenly Father; as the great Mediator between God and man.
It would be silly to expect that at every Mass our Lord would come down to Earth to renew the sacrifice over and over again, and in every detail, what took place on Calvary. But that is not so. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass renews the Last Supper and Calvary in an unbloody manner, without any physical death, as St. Paul explains: “Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him” (Romans 6:9).
Thus, we may speak of Mass as a “renewal” or “re-presentation” of Calvary, but we avoid the words “repetition” or “re-enactment.”
The Mass is the same sacrifice as that of the Last Supper and the cross, because in both there is the same Victim, Jesus, the same Priest, Jesus, the same Offering to the Father, and yet they are not identical in every respect. The differences are that in the Mass, Christ as Priest offers through the ministry or agency of the priests of the Church, and His offering is not accompanied by the shedding of His Blood.
Thus, Christ is the Principal Priest of the Mass, and the earthly priest in your parish is His agent. But he is a true agent; he truly consecrates or offers, just as he truly absolves your sins. He is the agent or minister of Christ, since it is from Christ he has received the “character” of the priesthood.
But the priest is not offering the Mass alone: We, the laity, because we are baptized Catholics, have the power of co-offering, that is, the power of attaching our offering to that of the priest. Every Mass is offered by Christ as the Principal Priest, and by the Universal Church as well.
It is visibly offered by the officiating priest, who acts as minister of Christ and the Church; by the congregation present; and by those who cause the Mass to be celebrated.
Can a woman be priest? Of course! Every baptized female is also a priest, participating in the priesthood of the laity, as all baptized males do. Because there are two kinds of priesthood in the Catholic Church; the priesthood of the laity and the ministerial priesthood. All the lay faithful are priests, males and females, and St. Peter (1 Peter 2:9) speaks of the Christian people as “a royal priesthood.”
We, the Christian laity, are the co-offerers of the Mass, but we do not have power to perform the sacrificial rite of the consecration — that is reserved to the ministerial priesthood, which is a special calling of God to some men. It is not a human right for any man to be a priest: It is a special calling from God, which is discerned by the Church. We the laity share in the priesthood of Christ by Baptism, but we are not ministerial priests as those in Holy Orders.
The only sacrament we can minister is Baptism, in case of necessity. But under no circumstances at all could a layman or a deacon say Mass — the Code of Canon Law states that he would incur latae sententiae excommunication — that is, automatic excommunication, without need of a declaration from the bishop. That is why there are no women priests in the Catholic Church, even if a bishop attempts to ordain them: All those who were supposedly “ordained” priestesses were automatically excommunicated when they attempted to “celebrate their first ‘mass’.”
Again, it is not a human right for any man to be a priest: It is a special calling from God, which is discerned by the Church.
There were also altars in the Old Law. In the New Law, the altar at which the priest celebrates has been consecrated or dedicated with great solemnity by the bishop, so that, like the cross of Calvary, it may be a secondary altar of Christ’s sacrifice.
But Christ Himself is the true or chief Altar, and it is in that capacity that He receives and attaches to Himself our offering of ourselves as sharers in His Victimhood.
A beautiful prefigure of Christ in the Old Testament was the King of Salem, Melchizedek, who blessed Abraham after his victory over the four kings, and offered a sacrifice of bread and wine, the first great figure of the unbloody sacrifice of the New Law. In the Old Law, animals were sacrificed, but Melchizedek offered bread and wine, thus indicating a new kind of priesthood that would appear in the future: The Catholic Priesthood. Since Christ offered this unbloody sacrifice at the Last Supper, and will continue to offer it to the end of time, He is called “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 7:17; cf. Psalm 110:4 [109:4].)
In the days of the Prophet Malachi, God angrily rejected the Levitical sacrifices, and the prophet foretold that their place will be taken by a clean oblation which would be offered up all over the world: “From the rising of the sun to its setting My name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to My name, and a pure offering” (Mal. 1:10-11).
God spoke in these words of a new, pure offering, an unbloody sacrifice, one that should be pleasing to Him, and, therefore, one of His own institution. It was to be offered at every hour and in every place. Observe how wonderfully His prophecy has been fulfilled: At every hour of our day, dawn is breaking in some part of the world, and with it comes the daily Mass, the clean oblation, the great sacrifice founded by His Divine Son.
Next article: The blessings of the Mass.

+ + +

(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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