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The Mass

Christ instituted the Mass at the Last Supper. The Gospels tell us: "Then, taking bread and giving thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body' . . . He did the same with the cup after eating, saying as He did so, "This . . . is . . . my blood.'" (Luke 22:19-20; See also Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; 1 Cor 11:23-25). What is more, Jesus said, "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19), which meant that the Last Supper was to be perpetuated as the Mass.

The Mass, more than just being a memorial of Christ's death, is the actual sacrifice that took place on Calvary. The Mass re-presents or re-enacts the sacrifice of Calvary. His sacrificial death is actually made present again, at each Mass. Although Jesus suffered and died once (Heb 9:12, 10:10) and offered Himself once (Heb 9:28, 10:12, 10:14), God makes that same sacrificial offering present at every Mass. The separation of the blood of Christ from Christ's body caused His sacrificial death on Mount Calvary 2000 years ago. When the bread and wine are consecrated at the Mass into the body and blood of Christ, the separate consecration of bread and wine re-enact that separation of the body and blood of Christ, and therefore Christ's death occurs just as it did on Calvary. The sacrifice made is the same, so it is the same death (and therefore sacrifice) that Christ suffered on Calvary, not a new death or sacrifice. Jesus does not die again. So we are witnessing the actual death of Jesus at the Mass. As St. Paul wrote about the Mass, "As often as you shall eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord" (1 Cor 11:26).

Think about it this way. A movie is shot only once, but it is seen repeatedly, in many different times and places, as many times as the movie is shown. That is the way the Mass works. Although Jesus died once, God makes that same death occur at every Mass, in a very mysterious way.

What about this "once and for all" sacrifice talked about in Hebrews? Doesn't this cast doubt on the Mass? Hebrews 9:25-26 states: "Nor was it to offer Himself repeatedly . . . for then He would have had to suffer repeatedly . . . But . . . He has appeared once for all . . . to put away sin." The phrase, "for then He would have had to suffer," demonstrates that the unbloody sacrifice of the Mass in no way contradicts what is in Hebrews. When mentally inserting "bloody" into Hebrews, the objections to the Sacrifice of the Mass fade, because the Mass is not a bloody sacrifice. So Hebrews would read: "He has no need . . . to offer [bloody] sacrifices daily . . . He did this once for all when he offered up himself [in a bloody manner] . . . Nor was it to offer Himself repeatedly [in a bloody manner] . . . He has appeared once for all . . . to put away sin by the [bloody] sacrifice of Himself . . . We have been sanctified through the [bloody] offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 9:25-10:10).

The book of Hebrews also refers to the Eucharistic sacrifice when it says: "We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat" (Heb. 13:10). Those priests serving in the Jewish temple, of course, have no right to eat the Christian Eucharist.

Old Testament prophecies also concern the Sacrifice of the New Testament, the Mass. Malachi, after foretelling the rejection of the Jewish priesthood, predicted that, "from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles; and in every place there is a sacrifice and there is offered to my name a clean oblation" (Mal. 1:10-11). Here, one sacrifice is made, not many sacrifices, and that sacrifice is offered in many places. This is a prophecy of the Mass.

In Genesis 14:18, Melchizedek, a priest, offered a sacrifice in the form of bread and wine. Psalm 109 predicted that Christ would be a priest, "according to the order of Melchizedek," and the author of Hebrews repeated this (Heb. 7:1, 17). So Jesus, in other words, would offer a sacrifice with the elements of bread and wine. This is another prophecy of the Mass.

"Do this in memory of me" (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor 11:25), can also be rendered, from the original Greek, as "offer this as my memorial sacrifice." The Greek word for remembrance is anamnesis, and every time it appears in Scripture, it appears in the context of a sacrifice (Num. 10:10). This is why the epistle to the Hebrews mention so often the priestly role of Jesus (Heb. 2:17, 3:1, 4:14-16, 5:1-10, 6:20, 7:1-28, 8:1-6, 9:11-15, 24-28, 10:19-22). He continues to offer Himself in an unbloody manner at the Mass. So Hebrews states that, "He holds His priesthood permanently" (Heb. 7:24).

Revelation describes an "altar" in heaven (Rev. 6:9, 8:3,5, 9:13, 11:1, 14:18, 16:7). Obviously, then, the need for altars was not abolished with the death of Christ. In Revelation 5:6, a Lamb is "standing as though it had been slain." Jesus, in front of a golden altar (Rev. 8:3), in the midst of God's throne (Rev. 5:6, 7:17, 22:1,3), presents Himself as a sacrifice to the Father perpetually.

Protestants object to the Mass by saying that since it is a bloodless sacrifice, it cannot remit sins, because "apart from the shedding of blood, there is no remission (of sin)" (1 John 1:7), and "The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." (Heb. 9:22). The passage from Hebrews, when read in context, shows that in the Old Testament, a repeated blood sacrifice was needed for the remission of sins, but under the New Covenant, Christ's blood is shed once and offered continuously to the Father. The Sacrifice of the Mass may be offered in an unbloody manner, but since the Mass is a re-presentation of Calvary, the graces that the shedding of blood obtained for mankind are made available. The separate consecration of the bread and wine symbolize the shedding of blood, so there indeed is a "shedding of blood" of sorts, though not in the same sense as Calvary.

How can this be? It is possible because "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Heb. 13:8). God can make what Jesus did in the past available to us in the present.

The Didache (Didache 14 [A.D. 70]) "Assemble on the Lord's day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until they have been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice [Matt. 5:23-24]. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, 'Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations' [Mal. 1:11, 14]".

Pope Clement I (Letter to the Corinthians 44:4-5 [A.D. 80]) "Our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who blamelessly and holily have offered its sacrifices. Blessed are those presbyters who have already finished their course, and who have obtained a fruitful and perfect release".

Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to the Philadelphians 4 [A.D. 110]) "Make certain, therefore, that you all observe one common Eucharist; for there is but one Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and but one cup of union with his Blood, and one single altar of sacrifice--even as there is also but one bishop, with his clergy and my own fellow servitors, the deacons. This will ensure that all your doings are in full accord with the will of God".

Justin Martyr (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 41 [A.D. 155]) "God speaks by the mouth of Malachi, one of the twelve [minor prophets], as I said before, about the sacrifices at that time presented by you: 'I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord, and I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands; for from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, my name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering, for my name is great among the Gentiles . . . ' [Mal. 1:10-11]. He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us [Christians] who in every place offer sacrifices to him, that is, the bread of the Eucharist and also the cup of the Eucharist".

Irenaeus of Lyons (Against Heresies 4:17:5 [A.D. 189]) "He took from among creation that which is bread, and gave thanks, saying, 'This is my body.' The cup likewise, which is from among the creation to which we belong, he confessed to be his blood. He taught the new sacrifice of the new covenant, of which Malachi, one of the twelve [minor] prophets, had signified beforehand: 'You do not do my will, says the Lord Almighty, and I will not accept a sacrifice at your hands. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure sacrifice; for great is my name among the gentiles, says the Lord Almighty' [Mal. 1:10-11]. By these words he makes it plain that the former people will cease to make offerings to God; but that in every place sacrifice will be offered to him, and indeed, a pure one, for his name is glorified among the Gentiles".

Cyprian of Carthage (Letters 63:14 [A.D. 253]) "If Christ Jesus, our Lord and God, is himself the high priest of God the Father; and if he offered himself as a sacrifice to the Father; and if he commanded that this be done in commemoration of himself, then certainly the priest, who imitates that which Christ did, truly functions in place of Christ".

Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures 23:7-8 [A.D. 350]) "Then, having sanctified ourselves by these spiritual hymns, we beseech the merciful God to send forth his Holy Spirit upon the gifts lying before him, that he may make the bread the Body of Christ and the wine the Blood of Christ, for whatsoever the Holy Spirit has touched is surely sanctified and changed. Then, upon the completion of the spiritual sacrifice, the bloodless worship, over that propitiatory victim we call upon God for the common peace of the churches, for the welfare of the world, for kings, for soldiers and allies, for the sick, for the afflicted; and in summary, we all pray and offer this sacrifice for all who are in need".

Gregory of Nazianz (Letter to Amphilochius 171 [A.D. 383]) "Cease not to pray and plead for me when you draw down the Word by your word, when in an unbloody cutting you cut the Body and Blood of the Lord, using your voice for a sword".

John Chrysostom (The Priesthood 3:4:177 [A.D. 387]) "When you see the Lord immolated and lying upon the altar, and the priest bent over that sacrifice praying, and all the people empurpled by that precious blood, can you think that you are still among men and on earth? Or are you not lifted up to heaven?".

Ambrose of Milan (Commentaries on Twelve Psalms of David 38:25 [A.D. 389]) "We saw the prince of priests coming to us, we saw and heard him offering his blood for us. We follow, inasmuch as we are able, being priests, and we offer the sacrifice on behalf of the people. Even if we are of but little merit, still, in the sacrifice, we are honorable. Even if Christ is not now seen as the one who offers the sacrifice, nevertheless it is he himself that is offered in sacrifice here on Earth when the body of Christ is offered. Indeed, to offer himself he is made visible in us, he whose word makes holy the sacrifice that is offered".

Augustine (The City of God 17:20 [A.D. 419]) "For when he says in another book, which is called Ecclesiastes, 'There is no good for a man except that he should eat and drink' [Eccl. 2:24], what can he be more credibly understood to say [prophetically] than what belongs to the participation of this table which the Mediator of the New Testament himself, the priest after the order of Melchizedek, furnishes with his own body and blood? For that sacrifice has succeeded all the sacrifices of the Old Testament, which were slain as a shadow of what was to come. . . . Because, instead of all these sacrifices and oblations, his body is offered and is served up to the partakers of it".

Catholic Tracts


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