My wife and I have been stumped a bit on this issue of how to understand the nature of the “sacrifice” of the Mass. Does the Lord Jesus Christ become present in the elements in such a way that he transitions from life, death, and life again?
Also, if Christ is truly in heaven, alive and never dying, and if it is he who becomes present in the sacrament, then how is it that he dies on the Altar? We say that the sacrifice of the Eucharist is a re-presentation of the one sacrifice, but how can this be done thousands of times all over the world if Christ is not dying in heaven?
I have some ideas, but not sure if they are correct. One idea is that the offering of Christ is tantamount to his very presence. In other words, by the fact that Jesus appeared in heaven before God the Father after having taken away the sins of the world, that sacrifice is eternal by his very presence. And so wherever Jesus is, there is the efficacy of his death, which is forgiveness and sanctification for us.
Another idea is that Jesus is not JUST a man, but the Incarnate Word AND a man. So when an ordinary man dies, he dies once in that moment. But when Jesus the Incarnate Word suffered and died, His death overflowed the moment to the beginning and end of time. Even on the Cross, he saw all of humanity past, present, and to come, and offered Himself for all of us. Therefore this re-presentation of his once-for-all Sacrifice is really and truly a way in which we are made present at His Sacrifice, AND that Sacrifice is made present eternally before the Father in heaven. It is why Jesus COMMANDED us to do this.
***The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. **(Romans 6:10)
He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did this once for all when he offered up himself. (Hebrews 7:27)
for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Hebrews 9:26)
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; (1 Peter 3:18)*
Christ died once, for everyone. He does not die repeatedly.
What you say in your last paragraph is the correct view of what is going on in the Mass. Christ is appearing to us as separated flesh and blood in the consecrated bread and wine, symbolizing the sacrificial death He underwent. However, He is our sacrifice for sins, then, now and forever. Always offering Himself for us in the presence of the Father.
No. Christ died once on Calvary. But it is the same Sacrifice as that offered at Calvary because it is Christ who is offering the Sacrifice at the Consecration through the Priest and He offers it for the same reason as He offered Himself on Calvary. No blood is shed at Mass but Christ shed His blood once on Calvary.
In Communion we receive the Resurrected Christ.
Also, if Christ is truly in heaven, alive and never dying, and if it is he who becomes present in the sacrament, then how is it that he dies on the Altar?
Again, He does not die on the Altar. The Church teaches that the Sacrifice of the Mass is a continuation of the Sacrifice on Calvary. It is not a " new " sacrifice. Christ Himself said, " do this in memory of me. " On the Altar He is saying to the Father, " I offer myself to you Father for those here present ( paraphrased ). " He is saying the very same prayer He said at the First Eucharist, He uses the same words, the same intentions, made present Now as Then. It is not a new sacrifice or a new prayer, it is the very same sacrifice, the very same prayer, made by the One, Eternal, Son, for Whom there is no time.
We say that the sacrifice of the Eucharist is a re-presentation of the one sacrifice, but how can this be done thousands of times all over the world if Christ is not dying in heaven?
You must remember that Christ is God. Everything about creation, the Incarnation, the Eucharist is a Miracle. The Church teaches that God is truely Present by His Substance wherever His power is active. Since Christ is God, He can make Himself physically present in His glorified Body wherever the Eucharist is present, and completely and wholly present in every particle of the bread and every drop of the wine whenever separated from the original elements. At the same time He is present in Heaven in His physical, Glorified body and united with the Father and the Holy Spirit at the same time.
This explains what happens. But how it happens is known only to God. The whole Sacrifice and every thing about it is a Miracle and cannot be explained scientifically or through human reason.
have some ideas, but not sure if they are correct. One idea is that the offering of Christ is tantamount to his very presence. In other words, by the fact that Jesus appeared in heaven before God the Father after having taken away the sins of the world, that sacrifice is eternal by his very presence. And so wherever Jesus is, there is the efficacy of his death, which is forgiveness and sanctification for us.
Yes, there is a lot of good reasoning here. At least I see nothing wrong with it.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a good treatment of this mystery. So does the Baltimore Catechism # 4, and St. Thomas has a great treatment in the Summa Theologica - newadvent.org/summa/4073.htm , Ques. 73-83, but a difficult read.
It also helps to understand what the Biblical meaning of “remembrance” is. For us, remembrance is a simple mental recall, but it was not so for the ancients. Memorial (Heb. zikkaron, Gk. anamnesis) for them meant that the actual event they were commemorating was mystically made present for them again. And so it is with us. Jesus does not die again, but his one death is mystically and sacramentally made present on our altars, just as it is ever present to the Father in the heavenly sanctuary. This is why at Mass, we are truly at Calvary, and truly in heaven.
THE NATURE OF THE EUCHARISTIC SACRIFICE EXPLAINED IN POPE PIUS XII’S ENCYCLICAL “MEDIATOR DEI,” 66-81
The mystery of the most Holy Eucharist which Christ, the High Priest instituted, and which He commands to be continually renewed in the Church by His ministers, is the culmination and center, as it were, of the Christian religion. We consider it opportune in speaking about the crowning act of the sacred liturgy, to delay for a little while and call your attention, Venerable Brethren, to this most important subject.
Christ the Lord, “Eternal Priest according to the order of Melchisedech,” “loving His own who were of the world,” “at the last supper, on the night He was betrayed, wishing to leave His beloved Spouse, the Church, a visible sacrifice such as the nature of men requires, that would re-present the bloody sacrifice offered once on the cross, and perpetuate its memory to the end of time, and whose salutary virtue might be applied in remitting those sins which we daily commit, . . . offered His body and blood under the species of bread and wine to God the Father, and under the same species allowed the apostles, whom he at that time constituted the priests of the New Testament, to partake thereof; commanding them and their successors in the priesthood to make the same offering.”
The august sacrifice of the altar, then, is no mere empty commemoration of the passion and death of Jesus Christ, but a true and proper act of sacrifice, whereby the High Priest by an unbloody immolation offers Himself a most acceptable victim to the Eternal Father, as He did upon the cross. “It is one and the same victim; the same person now offers it by the ministry of His priests, who then offered Himself on the cross, the manner of offering alone being different.”
The priest is the same, Jesus Christ, whose sacred Person His minister represents. Now the minister, by reason of the sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is made like to the High Priest and possesses the power of performing actions in virtue of Christ’s very person. Wherefore in his priestly activity he in a certain manner “lends his tongue, and gives his hand” to Christ.
Likewise the victim is the same, namely, our divine Redeemer in His human nature with His true body and blood. The manner, however, in which Christ is offered is different. On the cross He completely offered Himself and all His sufferings to God, and the immolation of the victim was brought about by the bloody death, which He underwent of His free will. But on the altar, by reason of the glorified state of His human nature, “death shall have no more dominion over Him,” and so the shedding of His blood is impossible; still, according to the plan of divine wisdom, the sacrifice of our Redeemer is shown forth in an admirable manner by external signs which are the symbols of His death. For by the “transubstantiation” of bread into the body of Christ and of wine into His blood, His body and blood are both really present: now the eucharistic species under which He is present symbolize the actual separation of His body and blood. Thus the commemorative representation of His death, which actually took place on Calvary, is repeated in every sacrifice of the altar, seeing that Jesus Christ is symbolically shown by separate symbols to be in a state of victimhood.
From the very beginning sacrifice to God has been offered in two forms, in an bloody manner and in an unbloody manner. We see this in Genesis 4:3 where the first sacrifices to God were offered. We also see this in the Mosaic Law. Levitcus 1 talks about bloody sacrifices to God and Leviticus 2 talks about unbloody sacrifices ( cereal or grain offering). All of this is a prefigurement of Calvary (bloody sacrifice) and the Holy Mass ( unbloody sacrifice). The Sacrifice of the Cross and the Sacrifice of the Mass are the same in the sense that the Priest is the same in both (Jesus) and the Victim offered is the same ( Jesus). The difference between the two is in the manner of offering. The Sacrifice on the Cross was bloody and involved a real death, like the bloody sacrifices of the old Law. In the Mass, there is no shedding of blood , like the unbloody cereal offerings of the Old Testament. On the Cross Christ merited redemption for us, in the Mass Christ through His priestly intercession with the Father applies what He won on the Cross to the faithful. The efficaciousness of the Holy Mass is derived from the once and for all death of Christ on the Cross.
We must be careful not to blurr the distinction between the Sacrifice on the Cross and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
God does not live in “time”. His every thought is His act, and his every Act is from all eternity and into all eternity.
Since all things, past and present and future are immediately present to God, then in that sense, Jesus dies on the cross every nanosecond of every day. How, exactly, that interrelates with the Eucharist is a mystery since we cannot possibly comprehend true timelessness. But one truly cannot say that Jesus’ death on the cross was a “one time event” except as we, who live in time, perceive it. Jesus’ eternal sacrifice is brought to a focus in the Eucharist. We know that only because He told us so, not because we have somehow penetrated the Mind of God ourselves.