Re-presentation in Practice?



I originally posted this question in the Liturgy/Sacraments board, but immediately realized this was probably the proper place for it.

A question from an Anglican/Episcopalian who comes from what could be described as a high-church or Anglo-catholic parish. We, of course, believe that at Mass, our priest is effecting a re-presentation (not merely a symbol or memorial) of the once-and-for-all sacrifice made on Calvary, uniting the Church Triumphant and Militant, who join in presenting that sacrifice to the Father in heaven, so that he may make it be for us the Body and Blood of Christ, “the holy food and drink of new and unending life in Him.” So on, and so forth.

(Yes, I know that Roman Catholics believe our Mass is invalid, but that is a topic that has been discussed ad nauseum and not the topic of this question).

My understanding is that Roman Catholics officially believe the same doctrine as I typed it above. (Yes, you may have a better way to word it, but I think we can agree that the “re-presentation” idea best describes Roman Catholic dogma concerning the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist).

When I watch Roman Catholic Masses on EWTN, I pay close attention to the liturgy, and I have to say, I do not feel as though the “re-presentation” idea is coming through very well. That is to say, there is an awful lot of pleading to God to (please, please, please) accept these gifts or (please, please, please) find the offering or sacrifice worthy. The last Mass I watched, there must have been 3 separate times where the priest was pleading to God to find the offering worthy of receipt. This was the Mass for the cause of beatification of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen at The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria, IL where Bishop Jenky was presiding over the Eucharist.

If it truly is a “re-presentation,” why does the liturgy require the priest to make so many pleas to God in order to make the Gifts worthy of acceptance? Has not the Father already accepted the sacrifice of Calvary? Are we (you) not merely “participating” in that once-and-for-all sacrifice that already happened? What else is going on here that is not able to be viewed in the re-presentation/participation lens through which I am viewing the Eucharistic discourse? It seems by watching the EWTN Masses, what is true in theory is not true in practice.

If you view this post as an “attack” or “anti-anything,” please do not respond. Likewise, any responses regarding the asserted invalidity of Anglican orders or priestesses is off-topic and will not be well-received. Thanks in advance for what I am sure will be helpful, high-minded and well-thought-out responses.



I would have to look very carefully at the specific wording of the prayers to see where he finds this “pleading” to accept our sacrifice. It may very well be refering to our offering of bread and wine, and the offering of ourselves, our sins united with the sacrifice of Christ, that we are asking God to accept.


My first thoughts are, no, you’re not attacking and this is a very, VERY good question.

The pleading that we are asking, “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”, IMO is our pleading with God to accept OUR sacrifices that we unite with Christs’.

As we continue on to the Eucharistic Prayers where we ask God to Bless these Gifts that they may become the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, the asking shows that we know that it is Christ that is performing the miracle at Mass and not the priest. If we do not ask, then it may seem like we are presuming that the miracle is being done simply because we’ve made it so.

By asking, we are telling God that we trust in His Promises that the Bread and Wine will become His Body and Blood.


My :twocents: …

This is probably a poor analogy but the requests at Mass that the Father please accept the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ is kind of like a married couple renewing their life-long marriage vows. The couple’s marital status is unchanged and the Father’s acceptance of the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ is unchanged. However, what is made manifest at that particular place and time are, at the vow renewal, the married couple’s continuing love for each other and, at Mass, our continuing dependence on the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ.


I find the question a little odd, in that, in my Anglo-Catholic parish, we ask the same thing. 1928 BCP, supplimented by the Missal.


Anglicanus Catholicus


There are several things at work here.
The sign of bread is repeated every mass – because it is fresh bread made for the purpose of the mass. The point of bread, biblically, is that many grains of wheat are crushed together to make this food – (and it is no coincidence the temple was built on a grain threshing floor)

Bread is a composite body of many members. But bread as bread is not a sacrament, is not the body of christ, nor is it worthy to become God. And what if a defective grain was in the bunch… would that be a pleasing substance?

So, of course there is begging – if the bread is unworthy, or the congregation which is also the body of christ is unworthy, then the presentation of these gifts to become the eucharist could be quite – um – unworthy.

We are the body of christ – his mystical body – and at the same time the very purpose of the Eucharist is to nourish that body, both physically and spiritually, so that it will grow up to be like christ. To communicate (communion) is to distribute grace from every grain of wheat and become one body in christ.

Think of just the priest who acts in the person of christ in this memorial – his sin does not stop the sacrifice from being re-presented, but it could affect how pleased or unpleased God is with the priest, and the congregation.

As St. Paul notes, we are a spiritual sacrifice to God, it isn’t just him on that altar
because the very purpose of the eucharist is to include us in his incarnation.

No one has gone up to heaven except him who came down from there.
In essence we must become his flesh to be able to rise with him.

In history this occasionally manifests physically in the martyrs, for example Peter who was himself crucifed by the Romans – and who begged (I think) to be crucified differently, since he was not worthy to be sacrificed in the same manner as his Lord. Ironic, how all that Jesus does is to conform us to him – and even then fear and humility can make even a saint beg to be less perfectly conformed.

God bless you on your journey.


Perhaps the prayers are the connection between two separate actions:

  1. Our Lord’s sacrifice
  2. Application of the benefits of His sacrifice to us.

I don’t have access to a missal right now, so I’m going on memory. We ask Him to accept the sacrifice “for our good and the good of all the Church”, etc. We present the sacrifice and ask if He will bestow the benefits from it upon us.


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