How Can the Eucharist be a Perpetual Sacrifice


#1

…if as Jesus said: “It is finished.”

As I understand it the Catholic Church contends that the Sacrifice of the Cross (which the Mass and/or Divine Liturgy re-presents) is perpetual. My question revolves around how this claim stands in the face of Jesus’ words: “It is finished.”

This question came to me a few days ago and as a neophyte in the Christian mystery, I seek to understand better how the Catholic Church’s claim reconciles with the Bible.


#2

Scripture scholar Scott Hahn has a very interesting perspective on the meaning of “It is finished” (John 19:30).

After much study, he concluded that Jesus was referring to the Passover which He celebrated and transformed at the Last Supper.

The Jewish Passover seder includes the drinking of four cups of wine. Hahn states that at the Last Supper, Jesus drank only three cups of wine; thus the Passover meal was “unfinished.”

After He accepts the sour wine on a sponge as He hung on the cross, He said, “It is finished.”

This points to the fact that the Last Supper and Jesus’ sacrifice of Calvary are all part of one sacrifice, one saving act. In Scott Hahn’s words:

Jesus had left unfinished the Passover liturgy in the upper room by not drinking the fourth cup. He stated his intention not to drink wine again until he came into the glory of his Kingdom. As we have seen, he refused some on one occasion, right before being nailed to the cross (Mark 15:23). Then, at the very end, Jesus was offered “sour wine” (John 19:30; Matt.27:48; Mark 15:36; Luke 23:36). But only John tells us how he responded: “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished’; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (19:30).

AT LAST I had an answer to my question. It was the Passover that was now finished. More precisely, it was Jesus’ transformation of the Passover sacrifice of the Old Covenant into the Eucharistic sacrifice of the New Covenant. I learned Scripture teaches that the Passover sacrifice of the New Covenant began in the upper room with the institution of the Eucharist, not merely with Jesus being crucified on Calvary, as I was taught and had been teaching. In Jesus’ mind, his Eucharistic sacrifice as the Passover lamb of the New Covenant was not finished until Calvary. In sum, Calvary begins with the Eucharist and the Eucharist ends with Calvary. It is all of one piece.

You can read the rest of his article at catholic.com/thisrock/1991/9109fea1.asp


#3

Yes, Jesus drank the fourth and final cup during his crucifixion. This completed the paschal sacrifice as the previous poster had indicated. I learned this from my parochial vicar who took a homelitics course from Scott Hahn.

However, as my parochial vicar told us, fast-forward this to the Lord’s post-Resurrection appearance to St. Mary Magdalene wherein he told her not to touch him.

He was preparing her for his eventual departure and for his promise to His Church that He would be with them until the end of the age. This presence of Jesus is through the Blessed Sacrament, which can only come about through the Eucharist.

The sacrifice of Jesus is once for all. However, during the Mass, the veil between heaven and earth and time and space is lifted. We do not repeat the sacrifice. We become a party to it and are just as present at that moment as were the 12 in the Upper Room and the Blessed Mother and Sts. John and Mary Magdalene at Calvary.

Furthermore, the Old Testament talks about the sacrifice that will be offered throughout the world with the fragrance of incense. That can only mean one thing: it is foretelling the Mass.

Jesus charged his apostles, whom He ordained as priests (and who became bishops) to “do this in memory” of Him. When they speak in persona Christi, Christ operates through their words and the sacrifice is confected.


#4

Jesus died once and for all on the cross in 33 AD. His death was for all men at all times, past and future. But just because He died 2000 years ago, doesn’t mean we can’t take part in it now. And this is what is meant by a ‘perpetual sacrifice’. Even though Jesus died for us all those years ago, before any of us were born, we can still take part in that sacrifice and unite with Him in that sacrifice and receive Him. His sacrifice is still being felt today, and it saves His people through all time, forward and backward. In the mass, we celebrate the Eucharist and link with that sacrifice of dying on the cross all those years ago. We receive Him and the graces that come from that sacrifice, and can unite our own suffering with His. And respond and change because of that.

This is a key difference from most protestant thinking. Their view often is it happened once all those years ago, my only job is to believe in Him and I’m good to go. But that view misses the concept of transforming grace, and the point that our suffering now can be united with Jesus’ suffering on the cross, which sanctifies and changes us as we respond to that grace.

It does not mean catholics view Jesus as still dying on the cross right now today. That supposes that catholics don’t believe in His resurrection. We do. But we don’t overlook the power of His death on the cross, and because we link to and unite ourselves with that powerful death in the Eucharist, we can gain strength and transformation through grace.

Remember, in heaven there is no time. The redemption brought by Jesus’ death is celebrated forever in heaven. And the mass is our uniting on earth with the celebration in heaven. So in the mass, Jesus’ death is literally made present here on earth.


#5

You have to know what the “it” that Jesus is referring to is. Jesus didn’t say “the sacrifice is finished” or “my work is finished”; he said “it is finished”.

A sacrifice has two parts: the slaughtering (immolation) of the victim and the offering (oblation) of the victim.

Christ died once on the cross, never to die again. The Eucharist is an unbloody re-presentation of his immolation, in that it presents the immolation of Christ on the cross (denoted by the separate consecration of the bread and the wine, thus denoting the separation of Christ’s blood from his body on the cross) without actually spilling Christ’s blood (that is, slaughtering him) again.

Jesus then presented himself as a pure oblation before the altar in heaven to his Father. The Eucharist, after being confected (that is, consecrated), is then offered to God the Father at the beginning of the second half of the Eucharistic Prayer; language along the lines of “In memory of his Passion and crucifixion, his glorious Resurrection and Ascension into heaven, we offer you, Father, this holy and living sacrifice” is used. This is a re-presentation of the perpetual intercession that Jesus makes for us at the right hand of the Father, in which he offers himself.

The “re-presentation” concept can best be described this way: the perfect act of sacrifice existed both in time (the death) and in eternity (the offering). In the re-presentation of that sacrifice, we transcend space and time to witness both Calvary and the heavenly altar. The Eucharist, then, is more than just a “memorial” the way modern man thinks of “memorial”. It’s more like a Civil War re-enactment (although it surpasses that) than a Memorial Day parade: we are doing more than calling something to mind; it is being made present to us. Just like Israel celebrated the Passover as if they themselves were being freed from slavery (with their loins girt, sandals on their feet, staff in hand, etc.), so we celebrated the Eucharist as if we ourselves are at the foot of the Cross, because we are.

The covenant that Christ made with us, in his blood, has a visible, physical manifestation (i.e. a “sign”), and that sign is not merely bread and wine, but his actual Body and Blood: I repeat, Christ made a covenant with us in his body and blood, not in bread and wine. This covenant sign is made present on the altar. A covenant is ratified (and renewed) by the consumption of the sacrifice by the priest, which is why the priest eats the Body and Blood first before the rest of us.

I suggest reading what Scott Hahn has written on the matter; in addition to what one poster has quoted, I refer you to A Father Who Keeps His Promises.


#6

Thanks to all the responses so far. They are most helpful in realigning my perspective.

You must forgive us neophytes. From my experience with my fellows in the RCIA class of '08, our Faith is ever in a state of flux, and while we accept all that the Catholic Church teaches is true, we are always hungering for more depth in our understanding. :thumbsup:


#7

It is a perpetual sacrifice because God exists in eternity and sees all things as being “present” to Him. Thus, God at one in the same time witnesses the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection. I would ask you to reflect on the following:

Apocalypse 1 - Here we have Christ glorified:

13 And in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, one like to the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. 14 And his head and his hairs were white, as white wool, and as snow, and his eyes were as a flame of fire, 15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as in a burning furnace. And his voice as the sound of many waters. 16 And he had in his right hand seven stars. And from his mouth came out a sharp two edged sword: and his face was as the sun shineth in his power.

Apocalypse 5 - And here we have Christ crucified

6 And I saw: and behold in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the ancients, a Lamb standing as it were slain, having seven horns and seven eyes: which are the seven Spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth. 7 And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat on the throne. 8 And when he had opened the book, the four living creatures, and the four and twenty ancients fell down before the Lamb

So at one and the same time, Christ is presented as both the Risen One and the Slain Lamb. How can this be? How can He be two different things at once? Because the sacrifice and the Resurrection are both eternally present to God. And when Christ said to the Apostles, “do this in memory of me”, He was not telling them to “re-crucify” Him, but re-present to the Father, the One Sacrifice which is present to God in perpetuity.

The Mass is a commemoration of the Sacrifice, and, upon consuming the body and blood of Christ, a celebration of the Resurrection - hence Sunday worship. We don’t celebrate the Eucharist because God needs us to. We celebrate it because God tells us we need to. By repeating this re-presentation, we are participating, in time, with what God sees in eternity - the one complete sacrifice. By perpetually celebrating the Eucharist, we are perpetually present at Calvary, as well as the Resurrection, and reminded of God’s unfathomable mercy and love for His children.


#8

Be careful on that other board, Antonius. Judging from the handful of responses I looked at (esp. from Kirsten), they’re avoiding answering the question by simply saying it’s not true (because they don’t believe it).


#9

Two things for you to contemplate regarding the perpetual sacrifice:

  1. At the Last Supper Jesus says “this is my body which is given…”. He doesn’t say “which will be given…”. And he says “this is my blood…which is poured out…”. He doesn’t say “which will be poured out…”

  2. In Hebrews 8:3 we read “For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer.” This was written after the crucifixion, but Paul writes that it is necessary for this priest (Christ) to have something to offer. Just as Christ is our High Priest forever, it is necessary that he have something to offer forever.


#10

The Christian paradox, as Fr. Alexander Schmemann put it is “already, but not yet.”

The Eucharistic Sacrifice is the earthly presentation of/entering into the One Eternal (that is, outside time) Sacrifice timelessly pleaded in Heaven.

One Orthodox writer said that the Sacrifice of the Euchrist is PRECISELY the change of the bread and wine into the true Flesh and Blood of the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world–ETERNALLY.


#11

That’s a great way of describing it. We are witnessing ON EARTH temporally and veiled under the forms of bread and wine, what is happening IN HEAVEN eternally and unveiled.


#12

Be careful what you ‘hunger’ for, Antonius. You may find it will be a life’s work, just to learn all things Catholic! As enjoyable as it is, it doesn’t leave much time just to ensure you’re breathing, let alone, properly!

:cool:


#13

I am from the “Class of 04” in RCIA and I had wished that my group would have been so eager to study more.:shrug: Antonius Lupus, welcome and enjoy your time of learning and growth.

Not being one of the more well informed (able to quote scripture/eartly fathers), I came to a more simple belief in the Real Presence of our Lord in the Holy Eucharist.

God created the universe out of NOTHING…

God created man from the Dust of the Earth…

If God could do this, then His being present in the Eucharist is a peice of cake:thumbsup:

I learned the hard way about OVER thinking all things concerning God, the Church and the doctrines. It drove me crazy and rattled my faith a bit. When I finally just accepted by faith that which I could not through my 5 senses understand, things got easier for me. I was less stressed and more at peace. I still study (hope to do so till Jesus takes me home), but now, when there is something that I don’t understand, I give it to God and tell Him that even though I don’t “Get It”, I still believe and trust that all will be Made Clear once I am Home.

God Bless you on your journey, pace yourself though, the Church left to us by Jesus (Catholic Church) is 2000 years old so there is tons to learn.

I drove the “cradles” in my parish crazy with my questions, some still duck when they see me coming and just roll their eyes at me (another goofy convert):rotfl: I have more fun with that.


#14

Even though I am a “cradle,” I experienced the same thing several years ago when I began to study the faith I was born into. I questioned things that didn’t fit my “world view,” and it was very stressful. Then when I decided to believe because “God said so,” and because He gave the Church the authority to say so, I gained peace, and eventually things began to make sense.

It is often true that faith precedes understanding.


#15

This is why Scripture teaches us that, even though we know Christ died 2000 years ago, the Lamb suffered since the foundation of the world. The Sacrifice, though realized in time, has a power that is ETERNAL.

Dear brother Antonius Lupus,

As a neophyte attempting to understand the Faith, perhaps you will appreciate the following:

The ETERNAL nature of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is one of the primary reasons I (who was previously a Coptic Orthodox not in communion with Rome) was able to accept the teaching of the Immaculate Conception. Those who argue against it claim that Christ had not yet died, so how could Mary have been “saved” prior to that time? The common Catholic apologetic is that she was saved by “anticipation” of the merits of Christ. But to me, that apologetic was not enough. It was only upon reflection on the ETERNAL nature of Christ’s Sacrifice that I was able to fully accept the teaching on the Immaculate Conception. In other words, the saving Grace of Christ’s Sacrifice actually existed at the time of Mary’s conception for it to be uniquely applied to her.

Blessings,
Marduk


#16

WOW! That is awesome!

As always brother Marduk, you help to make my faith in the UNIVERSAL Catholic Church grow ever stronger.

Thank you again, you are an inspiration to me (especially after reading your testimony). :signofcross:


#17

Expanding on the eternity concepts consider the eternalness of and timelessness of God, the unity of God in His Three Persons, The Word made Flesh. I submit for meditation the following vignette of scripture verses:

Genesis 1:26 And he said: Let us make man to our image and likeness.

Apocalypse 1:8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, saith the Lord God, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.

John 1:1-5
In the beginning was the** Word**, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

1 John 5: 7 And there are three who give testimony in heaven, the Father,** the Word,** and the Holy Ghost. And these three are one.

Luke 1:38 And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

John 1: 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we saw his glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Psalms 32:6 By **the word **of the Lord the heavens were established; and all the power of them by the spirit of his mouth:

Psalms 67:12 The Lord shall give the wordd to them that preach good tidings with great power.
Genesis 14 Found 2

Genesis 14:18 But Melchisedech the king of Salem, bringing forth bread and wine, for he was the priest of the most high God,

Psalms 109:4 The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent: Thou **art a priest for ever **according to the order of Melchisedech.

Mathew 4 Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, **but in every word **that proceedeth from the mouth of God.

Luke 4:4 And Jesus answered him: It is written, that Man liveth not by bread alone, but by every word of God.

Psalms 77: 24 And had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them the bread of heaven.

Psalms 77: 25 Man ate the bread of angels: he sent them provisions in abundance.

John 6: 33-35 For the bread of God is that which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life to the world. 34 They said therefore unto him: Lord, give us always this bread. 35 And Jesus said to them: I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall not hunger: and he that believeth in me shall never thirst

1 Corinthians 5: 8 Therefore let us feast, not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Luke 4:36 And there came fear upon all, and they talked among themselves, saying: What word is this, for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they go out?

Luke 7:7 For which cause neither did I think myself worthy to come to thee; but say the word, and my servant shall be healed.

John 5: 24 Amen, amen I say unto you, that he who heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath life everlasting; and cometh not into judgment, but is passed from death to life.

John 8: 51 Amen, amen I say to you: If any man keep my word, he shall not see death for ever.

Acts 6:4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the** ministry of the word**.

2 Corinthians 5:19 For God indeed was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing to them their sins; and **he hath placed in us the word **of reconciliation.

James 1:18 For of his own will hath he begotten us by the word of truth, that we might be some beginning of his creatures.

James 1:21 Wherefore casting away all uncleanness, and abundance of naughtiness, with meekness receive the ingrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

Hebrews 6:20 Where the forerunner Jesus is entered for us, made **a high priest **for ever according to the order of Melchisedech.

Apocalypse 19:13 And he was clothed with a garment sprinkled with blood; and his name is called, THE WORD OF GOD.

Apocalypse 21: 6 And he said to me: It is done. I am Alpha and Omega; the beginning and the end. To him that thirsteth, I will give of the fountain of the water of life, freely.*

James


#18

I wish I could remember where and how the article went.

In God’s eyes, Jesus’ sacrifice is like our sun. The sun perpetually shines in the heavens. There is no day or night. It is always there.

From an earthly perspective, we have the rising and the setting of the sun. The sun doesn’t change or actually go anywhere, but we see it anew everyday.

The Eucharist is like the rising and the setting of the Son from an earthly perspective. It is re-presented to us each day, but in actuality His sacrifice shines in the heavens always. His sacrifice hasn’t changed or gone anywhere, but we see it anew everyday.

Hope that helps.


#19

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.