A Look at the Sacrificial Language of the Mass


This is an offshoot of the thread about kneelers, since the discussion moved away from kneelers specifically. (Let this be a lesson to all: when the conversation goes off topic, make a new thread! It’ll stop the moderators from justly closing the derailed thread.)

From kneelers and kneeling, the conversation moved to posture in general, noting that kneeling was not the posture at the Last Supper, nor was it prevalent in the early Church, being found more in Western liturgy than Eastern. The consideration that parishes removed (or didn’t install) kneelers in an effort to bring the Church back to the earlier practice brought up the accusation of antiquarianism or archeologism, fallacies in liturgical reform condemned several times, most recently/memorably by Pope Pius XII in Mediator Dei nn. 61-64.

The last three comments were as follows:

And so this is the aim of this thread: to look at the difference in sacrificial language used in the two forms of Mass, and to discuss whether the misconceptions that many of the faithful (clergy and laity alike) have about the nature of the Mass (and the Eucharist specifically) could have come about from the two-step process of a) making more prayers audible, but at the same time b) removing important sacrificial language from those prayers (or removing the prayers altogether).


Sacrificial Language in the Extraordinary Form (traditional translation)

Offertory Prayer (Host)

“Accept … this spotless host, which I, Your unworthy servant, offer to You … to atone for my numberless sins, offences, and negligences; on behalf of all here present and likewise for all faithful Christians living and dead, that it may profit me and them as a means of salvation to life everlasting.”

Offertory Prayer (Chalice)

“We offer unto Thee, O Lord, the chalice of salvation … for our own salvation, and for that of the whole world.”

Other Offertory Prayers

“… may our sacrifice be so offered this day in Thy sight as to be pleasing to Thee, O Lord God.”

“Come Thou, the Sanctifier, Almighty and Everlasting God, and bless + this sacrifice which is prepared for the glory of Thy holy Name.”

Roman Canon (Before Consecration)

We ask God to “accept and to bless these + gifts, these + presents, these + holy unspotted Sacrifices, which we offer up to Thee, in the first place, for Thy Holy Catholic Church, that it may please Thee to grant her peace, to preserve, unite, and govern her throughout the world; as also for … our Pope, and … our Bishop, and for all orthodox believers and all who profess the Catholic and Apostolic faith.”

The faithful “offer up to Thee this Sacrifice of praise for themselves and all those dear to them, for the redemption of their souls and the hope of their safety and salvation…”

Roman Canon (After Consecration)

After the Consecration, we “beseech Thee, almighty God, … that those of us who shall receive the most sacred Body + and Blood + of Thy Son by partaking thereof from this Altar may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing.”

Last Blessing

“Grant that the Sacrifice which I … have offered … bring forgiveness to me and to all for whom I have offered it.”


Sacrifical Language in the Ordinary Form (Part 1)

Offertory Prayer (Host)

“Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life.” – Why are we offering it? To what end?

Offertory Prayer (Chalice)

“Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink.” – Same questions as above.

Orate, Fratres (response) (note: I omitted this from the E.F. above by mistake)

“May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of his name, for our good, and the good of all his Church.”

Eucharistic Prayer I (Before Consecration)

“We offer them for your holy catholic Church, watch over it, Lord, and guide it; grant it peace and unity throughout the world. We offer them for … our Pope, for … our bishop, and for all who hold and teach the catholic faith that comes to us from the apostles.” – ICEL translation does not explicitly connect the offering of the sacrifice with the please for guidance, peace, unity, etc.

“We offer you this sacrifice of praise for ourselves and those who are dear to us. We pray to you, our living and true God, for our well-being and redemption.” – ICEL translation omits “souls” and calls “hope of safety and salvation” simply “well-being”

Eucharistic Prayer II (Before Consecration)


Eucharistic Prayer III (Before Consecration)

“From age to age you gather a people to yourself, so that from east to west a perfect offering may be made to the glory of your name.” – Quoting Malachi, but it only mentions one dimension of the sacrifice (the glory of the name of God)

Eucharistic Prayer IV (Before Consecration)

None, except maybe for: “Let them become the body and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord as we celebrate the great mystery which he left us as an everlasting covenant.” – But it doesn’t explain the purpose of the celebration of this mystery

E.P. Reconciliation I (Before Consecration)


E.P. Reconciliation II (Before Consecration)


E.P. Children I (Before Consecration)

“We bring you bread and wine and ask you to send your Holy Spirit to make these gifts the body and blood of Jesus your Son. Then we can offer to you what you have given to us.” – Quite good, although it doesn’t explain the purpose of the offering.

E.P. Children II (Before Consecration)


E.P. Children III (Before Consecration)


E.P. for Special Needs I-IV (Before Consecration)



A person would have to be deaf,wool gathering,asleep. or of very low I.Q not to comprehend from the prayers that the Mass, whether OF or EF, is a sacrifice. Maybe someone at an EF who had absolutely no Latin and wasn’t following the prayers, but I can’t imagine that persons who would attend the EF would be that obtuse. On the other hand one meets all sorts of folks at Mass so I would never say never.


Both liturgies also use the word “victim” which is a reference to sacrifice.


Sacrificial Language in the Ordinary Form (Part 2)

Eucharistic Prayer I (After Consecration)

“… from the many gifts you have given us we offer to you, God of glory and majesty, this holy and perfect sacrifice: the bread of life and the cup of eternal salvation.” – Language has been neutered from the Extraordinary Form (which I omitted above): “we … offer unto Thy most sovereign Majesty out of the gifts Thou hast bestowed upon us, a Victim + which is pure, a Victim + which is holy, a Victim + which is spotless, the holy Bread + of life eternal, and the Chalice + of everlasting Salvation.”

“Then, as we receive from this altar the sacred body and blood of your Son, let us be filled with every grace and blessing.”

Eucharistic Prayer II (After Consecration)

“… we offer you, Father, this life-giving bread, this saving cup. … May all of us who share in the body and blood of Christ be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit.” – No explicit reference to the precise nature of the sacrifice (a word missing from E.P. II altogether)

Eucharistic Prayer III (After Consecration)

“… we offer you in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice. Look with favor on your Church’s offering, and see the Victim whose death has reconciled us to yourself. Grant that we, who are nourished by his body and blood, may be filled with his Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit in Christ. May he make us an everlasting gift to you and enable us to share in the inheritance of your saints…” – This is very good and clear language!

“Lord, may this sacrifice, which has made our peace with you, advance the peace and salvation of all the world.” – Also good.

Eucharistic Prayer IV (After Consecration)

“we offer you his body and blood, the acceptable sacrifice which brings salvation to the whole world.” – Very good language, possibly needs clarification about salvation vis-a-vis the whole world (which has not yet received salvation).

“Lord, look upon this sacrifice which you have given to your Church; and by your Holy Spirit, gather all who share this one bread and one cup into the one body of Christ, a living sacrifice of praise.” – Decent language

“Lord, remember those for whom we offer this sacrifice…” – Good language

E.P. Reconciliation I (After Consecration)

“Therefore we offer you, God ever faithful and true, the sacrifice which restores man to your friendship. Father, look with love on those you have called to share in the one sacrifice of Christ. By the power of your Holy Spirit make them one body, healed of all division.” – Good language

E.P. Reconciliation II (After Consecration)

“We celebrate the memory of this death and resurrection and bring you the gift you have given us, the sacrifice of reconciliation. Therefore, we ask you, Father, to accept us, together with your Son. Fill us with his Spirit through our sharing in this meal.” – Good language, except for calling Holy Communion a meal in the prayer

E.P. Children I (After Consecration)

“We remember his death and resurrection and we offer you, Father, the bread that gives us life, and the cup that saves us.”

E.P. Children II (After Consecration)

“He put himself into our hands to be the sacrifice we offer you.” – Decent language

“Send the Holy Spirit to all of us who share in this meal.” – Meal language in the E.P. :frowning:

E.P. Children III (After Consecration)

“In this holy sacrifice, which he gave as a gift to his Church, we remember his death and resurrection.” – It doesn’t explain what the sacrifice is for, apart from “remember[ing]”

“Father in heaven, accept us together with your beloved Son.” – Decent language

“Through this sacred meal give us strength to please you more and more.” – Meal language :frowning:

Note: my biggest concern with the language used for children is that they understand just what is meant by “accept us with your Son”, and that they be taught the reasons for the offering of this sacrifice.

E.P. for Special Needs I-IV (After Consecration)

“we offer you the bread of life and the cup of eternal blessing. Look with favor on the offering of your Church in which we show forth the paschal sacrifice of Christ entrusted to us.”


And now some general commentary.

The Ordinary Form does not make any connection between the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice and the dead that we ask God to “remember”. The Extraordinary Form explicitly mentions that the sacrifice is offered “to atone for [the] numberless sins, offences, and negligences … of all here present and likewise for all faithful Christians living and dead, that it may profit … them as a means of salvation to life everlasting”.

The Ordinary Form also omits certain prayers of the priest that also explicitly mention the purposes for offering the sacrifice; if these were included (and even said out loud, as is the O.F.'s wont) they would help impress upon the minds of the faithful the reasons for offering the Eucharist.


I don’t think many Catholics who attend the E.F. are oblivious to the true sacrificial character of the Eucharist, nor to the reasons for it being offered, nor to the purpose of the Mass in the first place.

I am concerned that many Catholics who attend the O.F. are not aware of just what the Eucharist is offered for, and tend to see it simply as a gift from God to us (a holy meal He shares with us) and not at all as a sacrifice being offered to God in atonement for our sins.


You may well be correct, but if they are paying attention to the prayers which are in plain English they can’t miss it. Whether even half are paying attention is another matter. I went over the prayers of the OF while at breakfast with my priest friend last week. He brought his small Missal with him. Neither he nor I could understand how anyone could not get it unless they were totally “out-to-lunch.”:thumbsup:

I would also agree that the vast majority of those who prefer the EF are not your general run of the mill Sunday Catholic and understand quite well what is taking place. :thumbsup:


Yes, that is another matter (which sorely needs addressing, but this forum ain’t gonna get it done).

That’s good to hear… I’m curious, though, if some of the omitted prayers might better relate the nature of the sacrifice. Again, it’d only help if people paid attention…


I certainly hope that the ICEL will take all of this into account with the new translation of the Roman Missal. Unfortunately, in the well-intentioned attempt at helping children understand the sacred mysteries unfolding before them during the Mass, [edited] may have gone too far in watering the EP for children. For their part, ICEL didn’t help manners any by further watering it down.

What my PV has done is to really emphasize, at the tail end of nearly every one of his homilies, the fact that the Mass is the Holy Sacrifice. While there are some priests who place more emphasis on the meal, we need to remember that there is the sacrificial aspect that must not be forgotten, let alone downplayed.


For Eucharistic Prayer IV, I think that it is no different from the “totius mundi salute” anticipatory Offertory in the EF/TLM

Why are we offering it? To what end?

It is obvious that the ‘Blessed are you’ prayers are not meant to offer in the same way as the prayers of the EF/TLM do. In the TLM it is a dramatic anticipation of what will happen. The idea of oblation is drawn out from the Canon and amplified. It is much like how some of the Eastern liturgies speak already of the bread and wine as Body and Blood before the anaphora. This, as all anticipatory language, in all liturgies, is justified on a sense of the bread and wine being ‘types’ of the Body and Blood.

In the OF, there is no sense of a preliminary offering, but the bread and wine are considered exactly as such – bread and wine. It was designed so as to remove all anticipatory language. Initially, the commission even studiously avoided the language of offering- the first proposed prayers were drawn from the Didache. Even when the “Blessed are you” prayers were written, they initially omitted the phrase “to offer”. This phrase was inserted at the encouragement of Paul VI. Even this is toned down in some of the translations to “present” e.g. Italian: “lo presentiamo a te”, French: “nous te le présentons”, Spanish “ahora te presentamos”. In any case, the offering here is not that of Christ’s Body and Blood but of the bread and wine, and as is sometimes said, symbolized by them, the spiritual sacrifices of the faithful

The Ordinary Form does not make any connection between the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice and the dead that we ask God to “remember”

The anticipatory prayers at the Offertory in the EF are later insertions into the liturgy especially the prayer cited (Suscipe Sancte Trinitas was more common, though it often also included petitions for the dead). So if we look at it, how did the liturgy express this idea before the introduction of this prayer? The only prayer before this was the Canon, and in the Canon there is only a simple Memento for the Dead without any explicit mention of it being “offered” for the dead.

I think the “Memento” is a pivotal word. It is taken that the sacrifice is for the dead, because the intercessions are made within the ambit of the sacrifice. As the Mystagogic Catechesis relates

Then, after the spiritual sacrifice, the bloodless service, is completed, over that victim of propitiation we entreat God for the common peace of the Churches, for the welfare of the world …………… then on behalf also of the Holy Fathers and Bishops who have fallen asleep before us, and in a word of all who in past years have fallen asleep among us, believing that it will be a very great benefit to the souls , for whom the supplication is put up, while that holy and most awful victim lies.

In other words, because the intercessions are made in the presence of the Victim they show the propitiatory aspect of the sacrifice. This is stressed in the new Prayers because they follow the Antiochene pattern of having the intercessions after the Institution-Anamnesis-Epiclesis. Thus the intercessions are recited over the Body and Blood present on the altar. The intercessions are not separated but connected to the Offering made earlier in the prayer – “Remembering his death….we offer you……(therefore graciously) remember …….” The same logic is there in the Roman Canon for the petition for the deceased.

But I feel that the arguments I’ve made are largely in the theoretical plane. I think that practically it would be best to have a direct mention or reiteration of the offering so that its propitiatory value does not have to be “deduced”.


Right. For all Vatican II said about make the rites more clear, it seems that the specific intent is cloudier now, and the particular reasons the sacrifice is offered are not spelled out as clearly anymore.


Your posts are always so well thought out.

I’d like to read a general statement of your views on all these liturgical controversies.

Ironically, it seems to take a bonafide liturgist to understand the deeper meaningm despite attempts to make the liturgy more accessible.

What do you think the reason for the lack of general understanding about the sacrifice is? I didn’t even know the Mass was a sacrifice until I started to go to the EF.


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