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The Sacrifice Sacrament of the Mass
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
The Credo of the People of God was proclaimed by Pope Paul VI at the close of the Year of Faith on June 29, 1968. Its purpose was to give us a profession of the principal articles of the Catholic faith especially for our day. Among the articles is the following:
We believe that the Mass, celebrated by the priest representing the person of Christ by virtue of the power received through the Sacrament of Orders, and offered by him in the name of Christ and the members of his Mystical Body, is in true reality the Sacrifice of Calvary, rendered sacramentally present on our altars.
What, then, do we believe is the Sacrifice of the Mass? It is the Sacrifice of the Cross which Christ is now offering to his heavenly Father, through the hands of his ordained priests.
But we ask: How is the Mass the same as the Sacrifice of Calvary and how does it differ?
The Mass is the Same Sacrifice as Calvary
The Church teaches that the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacrifice of the Cross are one and the same sacrifice. Why? Because on Calvary and in the Mass is one and the same Priest and Victim; namely Jesus Christ. He offered Himself on Calvary and He offers Himself in the Mass. On Calvary, He offered Himself once only in the bloody sacrifice which caused his bodily death. In the Mass, He offers Himself in an unbloody manner, since He can no longer die. However, in the Mass it is the same Jesus, now in his glorified humanity, who surrenders Himself with his human will to the heavenly Father.
Moreover, the purpose of Calvary and the Mass is the same:
How the Mass Differs from Calvary
Having seen how the Mass and Calvary are the same, we now ask how they differ. And we answer with the Church that they differ in four ways:
Our Self-Offering Through the Mass
What deserves to be repeated is that Christ, the Head of the Mystical Body, can no longer either suffer or die. But we, his living members, can experience both pain and death in this valley of tears. Through the Mass, we offer our sufferings and trials and unite them with the passion and death of Jesus Christ Our Lord.
The Merits of the Cross Applied
There are two sets of verbs that should be placed side by side to see how the Mass is related to Calvary:
Clear Church Teaching
The teaching of the Church in this matter could not be more clear. It was explained by Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Mediator Dei, which is the doctrinal foundation for the Constitution on the Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council.
On Calvary, Christ built a font of purification and salvation which is filled with the blood He shed. But if people do not bathe in it and wash away the stains of their sins, they can never be purified and saved.
The august Sacrifice of the Altar is the supreme instrument whereby the merits won by the Divine Redeemer on the cross are distributed to the faithful.
We may therefore say that the Mass is Calvary continued until the end of time. It is the sacrifice-sacrament of the Eucharist. It is the principal means instituted by Christ by which the treasures of his Passion are daily conferred on us poor children of Eve.
World Apostolate of Fatima
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