Why is the Mass a Sacrifice?

Q. Why do all the Protestant Churches have NO reference to Sacrifice in their Eucharistic Liturgies?

A. Protestants have no reference to “sacrifice” in their services (most are not liturgical) because of the NEW way they began to interpret communion. They rejected the Catholic theology of Eucharistic Communion. Some like Anglicans and Lutherans retained most of the Catholic theology but changed things according to their own preferences and theology. However their liturgies do not confect the bread and wine into the real body and blood of Christ. Most other Protestants reject nearly everything Catholic.

As time has passed, when many Protestants hear that Catholics offer the sacrifice of the mass they jump to the conclusion that Jesus is dying over and over again. Unfortunately, they rarely consult an authoritative Catholic source to find out if their conclusion is correct. We believe nothing of the sort, of course.

Scripture says Christ died ONCE… But believing we are sacrificing Jesus over and over has, for those who are anti-Catholic, the desired effect of making it look as if the Catholic Church does not know scripture.

The Sacrifice of the Mass is a true sacrifice because it is a RE-PRESENTATION of the one sacrifice of Calvary. We are in a spiritual sense traveling into eternity and enter into the very presence of Jesus outside of time or back in time at the foot of the cross.
Historically, the early fathers referred to this as a sacrifice. The job of any priest is to offer sacrifice for the people. On Calvary Jesus offered His body and Blood to God for the salvation of the world. In our liturgies we re-present this sacrifice for the people. God changes it from bread and wine to the body and blood of Christ. And so we offer the body and blood of Christ. This is how God in His infinite wisdom allows us, who are stuck in time, to be present to His sacrifice and partake of it.

Advertisements

12 Responses to Why is the Mass a Sacrifice?

  1. evenshine says:

    And yet scripture does NOT say “do this in re-enactment of my sacrifice’, it says “do this in remembrance of me”- i.e., remember what I did for you, not do it again…and again. If Christ is “offered anew” each time mass is celebrated, how is that not a sacrifice? Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t Trent use the word “immolation”?
    Also, you say, “Most other Protestants reject nearly everything Catholic”- I think this statement should be qualified. By “nearly everything Catholic” what are you attempting to say that we reject? We are closer in doctrine than you would have us appear.

  2. Robert says:

    Evenshine,

    Trent affirms that,

    “And forasmuch as, in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the mass, that same Christ is contained and immolated in an unbloody manner, who once offered Himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross”

    So there is the first and unrepeatable bloody sacrifice on the Cross, which is re-presented (presented again) in an unbloody manner on the altar. That we affirm the Mass to be an unbloody sacrifice means that we deny that we re-sacrifice Christ in any relevant sense. The sacrifice of the Mass consists in making present the one sacrifice at Calvary and offering it to the Father for our sins.

    “says “do this in remembrance of me”- i.e., remember what I did for you, not do it again…and again.”

    This is an odd interpretation. The key is to focus on ‘this.’ Do *what* in memory of me? Do what He just did, namely, the Eucharist. And so it is pointless to appeal to ‘remembrance’ when what is at question is, “what is the nature of the “this?” that is, what is the nature of the Eucharist which Christ just instituted? For only that will tell us really what it means.

    For instance, say we interpret it this way:

    1) Jesus Christ offered the Eucharist as an anticipatory sacrifice.

    Then to say, “do this” in memory of men, that is, do (1), would mean, “offer this Eucharist a sacrifice” in memory of me. And so it preserves both the “remembrance” (the ‘anamnesis’– a “remembering” but really a memorial which *makes present*) and the sacrifice. And the sacrifice consists in making present the unique sacrifice, oddly enough.

    In fact, it’s pretty appropriate, because Jesus is telling us to offer the sacrifice which He offered in anticipation of the Cross (this is my Blood… which *will be shed for you*, it was a making present of a *future* reality *beforehand*) in remembrance of Him (we offer the Blood which was shed for us, making a *past* reality present *afterwards*).

    It’s really only a contemporary Protestant interpretation which wrongly assumes that “memorial” or “remembrance” must mean “symbolic” or something like that. Or purely mental. It’s really nowhere in the text, but a near ubiquitous reading by those who oppose realist doctrines on the Eucharist. Or at least I should say, there’s no reason to think that the calling to mind is somehow opposed to the making really present of the Eucharist.

    Besides, as I pointed out above, the Catholic position is not to “do it again… and again.” Christ is never “re-sacrificed” in the relevant sense, His one sacrifice is made present many times. But this is something which no Christian can deny, for what else is justification but the *present* application of the fruits of Christ’s one, unrepeatable *past* sacrifice?

    If Christ is ‘offered anew’ then it is decidedly not in the sense of being sacrificed in a bloody way. Besides Trent obviously denying this (as I quoted above), that would be a major denial of the sufficiency of the sacrifice which Christ offered. And I suspect that is precisely why Catholic teaching opposes that idea. Christ no longer suffers. But He does stand before the Father constantly offering Himself as expiation for our sins. If the Cross were merely one-time, unique and unrepeatable in the strict sense that some Protestants interpret it, it would also not avail to forgive us now. But a more reasonable position (which I’m sure you would agree with) is that the past sacrifice is continually offered to the Father in Christ’s own Person in heaven, which continually avails for our forgiveness throughout time in our need.

    Hence,

    “But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world”. (1 Jn 2:1-2). Emphasis especially on “is expiation” (hilasmos estin) for our sins, noting the *present tense* of the phrase, for some would seem to want to confine expiation/propitiation to the past, but the Scriptures are quite clear that it is a present and continuing thing.

    God bless,
    Rob

  3. bfhu says:

    Evenshine,
    you are correct we do agree on more than we disagree on.

  4. John Schuster-Craig says:

    “And we thine unworthy servants beseech thee, most merciful Father, to hear us, and to send thy Holy Spirit upon us and upon these thy gifts and creatures of bread and wine, that, being blessed and hallowed by his life-giving power, ***they may become the Body and Blood of thy most dearly beloved Son…***
    Episcopal Church of Scotland, Book fo Common Prayer

  5. evenshine says:

    Rob-

    Thanks for your response.

    Can you explain to me, then, how you- oops, I mean, the Church- interprets the verses from Hebrews 9?

    “24For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

    bfhu- thanks. I think it’s important to remember.

  6. Robert says:

    evenshine,

    I had that passage in mind while writing my last post. It says, “nor did He enter heaven to offer Himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood… then Christ would have had to suffer many times.”

    He does not have to offer Himself any longer in this sense: in the sense that He offered Himself by suffering and shedding of blood. He does not offer Himself in *this way* any longer. But it does not follow that He does not offer Himself in any way. I would also note that Christ does not enter into the heavenly sanctuary again and again, rather, He stands in the heavenly sanctuary before the Father, offering Himself forever.

    He does offer Himself to the Father. ” We have such a high priest, who has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,a minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle that the Lord, not man, set up.” (Heb 8:1-2). We *have* (i.e., currently) such a high priest, who is a minister of the true heavenly sanctuary. Remember the quote from John from before:we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ.

    His continual offering is presented even more strongly in the next verse. “Now every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus the necessity for this one also to have something to offer.” (Heb 8:3).

    The author of the epistle defines the priesthood functionally. The high priest is the high priest because he fulfills the function of the high priest, namely, offering gifts and sacrifices. For this reason the epistle asserts it is necessary for Jesus Christ to be in heaven offering a sacrifice.

    Why? For earthly sacrifices are offered only in copies and shadows of the true heavenly temple (cf. Heb 8:5). Jesus’ sacrifice was done on earth, but is offered eternally before the Father in the true heavenly temple. The sacrifice isn’t merely the shedding of blood, but additionally the offering to God of the sacrifice. This second part Jesus fulfills in the true heavenly temple.

    Hence it says,

    ” For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf. Not that he might offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary with blood that is not his own; if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly from the foundation of the world” (Heb 9:24-26).

    So that “he might now appear before God on our behalf”– He lives in heaven to make intercession for the people He won for His Father.

    And again, note that it says, “not that he might offer himself repeatedly, *as the high priest enters each year*”. The epistle seeks to contrast the manner in which Christ the high priest offers Himself with the way the Jewish high priest would offer himself– and it is in this crucial respect, that He does not have to enter repeatedly through multiple sufferings. This is what the author intends to emphasize– Christ suffered once and this is sufficient; He suffers no more.

    But this is compatible with Catholic teaching.

    I hope this helps. One more interesting verse:

    “Therefore, it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified by these rites, but the heavenly things themselves by better sacrifices than these.” (Heb 9:23).

    I think this verse is very difficult for the typical Protestant interpretation, for it speaks of a multiplicity of sacrifices. What could this mean? It clearly cannot mean multiple sacrifices in the sense in which the Jewish high priest offered sacrifices, that is, by the annual shedding of blood. But it could mean something rather like what Catholics mean when we call the Eucharist a sacrifice– an unbloody oblation.

    God bless,
    Rob

  7. Evenshine says:

    Rob- thanks for the explanation.

    “He does not have to offer Himself any longer in this sense: in the sense that He offered Himself by suffering and shedding of blood. He does not offer Himself in *this way* any longer. But it does not follow that He does not offer Himself in any way.”

    Yes, of course, eternally standing before the Father as advocate for us. I’m not following how this translates to OUR offering him up daily in the Mass.

    “He does offer Himself to the Father. ” We have such a high priest, who has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,a minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle that the Lord, not man, set up.” (Heb 8:1-2). We *have* (i.e., currently) such a high priest, who is a minister of the true heavenly sanctuary. Remember the quote from John from before:we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ.”

    Yes, but I am missing the verses where he is “continually sacrificed”.

    “His continual offering is presented even more strongly in the next verse. “Now every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus the necessity for this one also to have something to offer.” (Heb 8:3).”

    Of course he has something to offer- the continual *reminder* of his sacrifice. He has something to offer in his continual presence before the Father, interceding for us- his finished sacrifice on the cross.

    “The author of the epistle defines the priesthood functionally. The high priest is the high priest because he fulfills the function of the high priest, namely, offering gifts and sacrifices. For this reason the epistle asserts it is necessary for Jesus Christ to be in heaven offering a sacrifice.”

    Where? Still not seeing the sacrifice?

    “Why? For earthly sacrifices are offered only in copies and shadows of the true heavenly temple (cf. Heb 8:5). Jesus’ sacrifice was done on earth, but is offered eternally before the Father in the true heavenly temple. The sacrifice isn’t merely the shedding of blood, but additionally the offering to God of the sacrifice. This second part Jesus fulfills in the true heavenly temple.

    Hence it says,

    ” For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf. Not that he might offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary with blood that is not his own; if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly from the foundation of the world” (Heb 9:24-26).”

    OK! Now we see what he IS doing. NOT that he might offer himself repeatedly.

    “So that “he might now appear before God on our behalf”– He lives in heaven to make intercession for the people He won for His Father.”

    Now we’re on the same page.

    “And again, note that it says, “not that he might offer himself repeatedly, *as the high priest enters each year*”. The epistle seeks to contrast the manner in which Christ the high priest offers Himself with the way the Jewish high priest would offer himself– and it is in this crucial respect, that He does not have to enter repeatedly through multiple sufferings. This is what the author intends to emphasize– Christ suffered once and this is sufficient; He suffers no more.”

    Again, we’re on the same page. I’m glad we can agree that he suffers no longer.

    ““Therefore, it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified by these rites, but the heavenly things themselves by better sacrifices than these.” (Heb 9:23).

    I think this verse is very difficult for the typical Protestant interpretation, for it speaks of a multiplicity of sacrifices. What could this mean? It clearly cannot mean multiple sacrifices in the sense in which the Jewish high priest offered sacrifices, that is, by the annual shedding of blood. But it could mean something rather like what Catholics mean when we call the Eucharist a sacrifice– an unbloody oblation.”

    Here my problem is in the tense of the verb “to be”- WAS. Past tense.

    I think we’re back to the beginning, as the discussion will inevitably come down to the Catholic position on the Eucharist vs. the Protestant position.

    Thank you for attempting to interpret this for me. Can you let me know the source so I can read it for myself?

    As always, many thanks.

  8. bfhu says:

    Dear Evenshine,

    Rob has done a very good job but you still are not understanding. Let me jump in for a minute.
    It is not a linear, Greek, and Western way of thinking. It is very Eastern/Hebrew.

    Jesus’ death was an ETERNAL sacrifice. Even though it happened in the past it still IS. When St. John saw Jesus in Heaven HE still looked “like a lamb that had been slain”.

    Jesus said “this IS MY BODY…This IS My Blood” So the shed body and blood soul and divinity of Jesus Christ is made present in time at every mass. His Body IS an ETERNAL SACRIFICE and we partake of this sacrifice at every mass. That is why it IS a sacrifice. That ETERNAL sacrifice is made phyically present in an unbloody manner on our altars.

  9. evenshine says:

    bfhu,

    Thanks for the clarification. I understand the line of thinking. Rob was right when he referred us back to the “this”- ultimately, our difference is in the nature of the Eucharist.

    Blessings.

  10. Robert says:

    “Yes, of course, eternally standing before the Father as advocate for us. I’m not following how this translates to OUR offering him up daily in the Mass.”

    In this sense Evenshine, just as Jesus offers Himself to the Father in heaven, so He offers Himself to the Father in heaven through the Eucharist. If we leave our physical eyes and look with the eyes of faith at the Mass, we see Jesus Christ offering Himself, just as He did at the Last Supper, to the glory of God the Father for the forgiveness of our sins. We see the ministerial priest with our eyes, but with our faith we know it is Jesus Christ in him offering the Eucharist to the Father. That is why the Eucharistic prayer is one big prayer to the Father.

    As to *our* offering, our offering is distinct from this one, but still very important. The priest says (this is literally how the Latin has it worded, although the current translation is admittedly botched), “pray brethren that your sacrifice and mine may be acceptable to God our Father.” Our offering is that we unite our entire selves, mind, soul and body to the Eucharistic offering, making ourselves living sacrifices in love to God the Father. The priest’s offering is that of the Eucharist itself to God the Father.

    Once we realize that what happens at Mass is Jesus Christ Himself offering His Body and Blood to the Father, we realize that it must be the same offering by which He continually and eternally offers Himself before the Father in heaven, for there is no true multiplicity here. That’s how it translates to Jesus “eternally standing before the Father as advocate for us.” Because that’s exactly what He’s doing at each Mass through the hands of His ministers.

    And thus the Catechism can say:

    “The redemptive sacrifice of Christ is unique, accomplished once for all; yet it is made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Church. The same is true of the one priesthood of Christ; it is made present through the ministerial priesthood without diminishing the uniqueness of Christ’s priesthood”

    And quote Thomas Aquinas: “Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his ministers.” (See CCC 1545).

    “Yes, but I am missing the verses where he is “continually sacrificed”. ”

    I think you misunderstand sacrifice to mean, “bloodily offerred.” But this if far from the case. Note the wave-offering which the entire people of the Israelites became before the Lord. See Number 8:13-14. They were literally ‘waved’ in front of the Lord as a sacrifice, but in no wise were they wounded. Sacrifice does not necessarily mean, in all its aspects, suffering and the shedding of blood. Rather, if we locate sacrifice as being primarily an offering made in love and obedience to God, then we have ample room for a conception of sacrifice where Christ offers Himself in an unbloody way to the Father. This is noting, of course, that He ‘stands as if slain’ before the throne (see Rev 5:6)– a bizarre image, to be sure, but this is what He does. Although no longer suffering, He continually offers the fullness of the fruits of His suffering, death and resurrection to the Father. But it involves no new suffering. In this sense, inasmuch as He is offering Himself in a way analogous to the ‘wave-offering’ it is a sacrifice.

    So we must not make the mistake of assuming that in order for Christ to offer Himself He must suffer or shed blood. If we take away that mistaken understanding of ‘offering’ or ‘sacrifice’ then you can see that there is no necessary contradiction between our positions.

    “Of course he has something to offer- the continual *reminder* of his sacrifice. He has something to offer in his continual presence before the Father, interceding for us- his finished sacrifice on the cross.”

    That not what the text says. And even if you’re trying to take the Last Supper narrative as a controlling text for this, it still begs the question to import the Protestant “reminder” interpretation onto it.

    But perhaps we are closer than we think. It is true (I imagine, but not being formally schooled in theology, I could be wrong– as always I submit to the judgment of the Church) that His offering is a memorial. I only deny any connotation (which I do not necessarily impute to you) that it is *merely* a reminder, as if His present offering of the past reality does not effectually make present the past reality and propitiate the Father, and expiate sins. In a sense His offering is really no more than the past offering *in that He makes present the fullness of the past offering, nothing being needed to be added to it*. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we agree here.

    “Where? Still not seeing the sacrifice?”

    You mean, “still not seeing the blood being shed.” And you’re right there. But standing before the Father and presenting Himself in His Person on behalf of us for forgiveness of sins is a sacrifice, merely not a bloody one. “Thus the necessity for this one also to have something to offer.” He *is* offering His sacrifice. In truth there is no real multiplicity here, although it seems to be there at times by the usage of language.

    “OK! Now we see what he IS doing. NOT that he might offer himself repeatedly. ”

    Indeed, not that He must offer Himself repeatedly, in this sense: that He might not go through multiple bloody sacrifices. Sacrifice is not equal to the shedding of blood. Whenever you read me saying sacrifice you interpret it to mean “by the shedding of blood” when I mean it in a less specific sense than that. The text does not deny that He ceases to offer Himself in *all* or *any* sense of the word, merely in the sense in which multiple offerings would entail multiple successions of suffering and shedding of blood.

    “Now we’re on the same page. ”

    When it comes down to it, your statement about our agreement being more profound than our disagreement is usually quite true.

    “Here my problem is in the tense of the verb “to be”- WAS. Past tense. ”

    Yes, but what *multiple* sacrifices were there which could cleanse the heavenly dwelling? The only one that really could do so was the (single) sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Hence, I think it must be interpreted that the multiplicity refers to the continual offering of Jesus Christ’s one sacrifice to the Father. The plural is difficult for most fundamentalists I’ve dialogued with either way– present or past– for it doesn’t fit well into the ‘once in the past and totally done’ theology they’ve made.

    “I think we’re back to the beginning, as the discussion will inevitably come down to the Catholic position on the Eucharist vs. the Protestant position. ”

    I don’t think so. But all I’m trying to do is remove objections and obstacles, not prove it to you. That’s a necessary first step. I don’t think I can prove the divine mysteries to you.

    As for sources– I recommend that you read the Catechism on the Eucharist:

    http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p2s2c1a3.htm

    I also recommend that you read a good book on the history of Eucharistic doctrine. “The Hidden Manna” by James T. O’Connor offers selections on authors from the beginning of the Church until the current day on the Eucharist. It may help you to come to understand the Eucharist.

  11. Michael says:

    Rob, the word “representere” used by he Council of Trent; is it to be translated as “to represent”, in the sense of signify, i.e. “the role proper to an image in relation to reality to which it refers”, as the SSPX claim in their publication The Problem of The Liturgical Reform, p. 79; or as “to re-present”, or “make present” as you seem to suggest?

    Is the latter supposed to mean what the Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 47 refers to as “perpetuate” (perpetuaret, in Latin).

    The SSPX provides a reference to St. Thomas’ S.Theol. III, Q 83, A1 (cf.especially ad 2) in support of their claim.

  12. evenshine says:

    ” I don’t think I can prove the divine mysteries to you”- :) Don’t worry, not your job.

    “That’s not what the text says”- hmmm, I think you’re just as far from the original text as I am. But, just to refresh ourselves:

    19And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
    20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

    Even better, let’s look at the earlier verses:

    14When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
    17After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

    Eat this passover, before I suffer. Sounds like the Protestant view of communion to me- which is why I said it comes back to the nature of the Eucharist.

    I, too, am not trained theologically (at least formally). But let’s see if I am following your explanation here:

    During the Mass, Catholics offer up the body and blood of Christ, which is not a sacrifice but is called such, and which is a “spiritual act” but involves, according to the Church, literal body and blood, and, of course, literal human people.

    The priest prays that the “sacrifice” will be “acceptable”- although it has already been performed, completed, and finished, through the person of Christ and his death and ressurrection, and has been deemed acceptable already by God for all eternity.

    This sacrifice-which-is-not-a-sacrifice performs the same action (the expiation of sin) which it already did 2000 years ago, again through the finished work of Christ on the cross, an act which the Scripture says does not need duplication, having happened in time, once, valid for all eternity.

    However, it is also somehow a representation, a reflection, and the Catholic is doing physically what Christ is doing spiritually…except it IS also physical for Christ, because according to you, he IS there, physically present. A re-presentation of a sacrifice of Himself.

    Now, I’m not the most brilliant thinker that ever walked the earth, but it seems excessive to read this into the text. And it involves an awful lot of interpretation on your part, which, I am sure, you would readily admit is fallible. And to point me towards early church writers, who were also divided on the issue? Not helping your case.

    Thank you for your attempt to explain it. I have to concede my continued lack of understanding. As always, I continue to enjoy the conversations, believing, of course, that it fosters mutual understanding. Except in this situation. Maybe it’s a “reflection” of my understanding. Maybe I’ll only understand fully before the throne. Either way I am grateful for your time and patience.

    Blessings.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: