'Sacrifice' of the Mass?

Hi all!

I have a question that’s been eating at me from another thread, and I thought it deserved some discussion of its own.

Among Christians who believe in the Real Presence of Christ at Holy Communion (Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Orthodox, some Anglicans, some Methodists), there is agreement: Christ is entirely present - physically, spiritually and every other possible way.

But there is also disagreement. Not just disagreement regarding how Christ’s Body and Blood comes to us (Transubstantiation, Sacramental Union, etc.), but also in understanding how Christ’s Body and Blood comes to us.

For Roman Catholics, the priest is said to be offering a sacrifice. At the surface, this sounds offensive to (at least) Lutheran ears, who, with absolute reverence for His Body and Blood, hear Rome saying that the priest is somehow adding his own, new sacrifice to Christ’s one, eternal Sacrifice - in other words, profaning the very Body and Blood of our Lord. :eek:

Now, I have heard Roman Catholics lovingly explain that Lutherans simply misunderstand the Roman practice; that the priest offers no new sacrifice, and is simply acting persona Christi. This is certainly more palatable to Lutheran ears, as we also understand our pastors to be acting in the stead and by the command of Christ when administering the Sacraments.

But then I read documents like Presbyterorum Ordinis, which speak to priests gaining ‘holiness’ by offering the Mass. The words, “My sacrifice and yours,” during the Mass certainly don’t help either. And blogs from priests who say, “The council fathers also describe that the priest is the one who offers sacrifice.” also make it difficult for a Lutheran to understand.

Would a Roman Catholic here be kind enough to explain the ‘Sacrifice’ of the Mass?

Moving this to Apologetics Steido
You’ll more answers there.

Thanks, friend!

steido01 #1 Evangelical Catholic (LCMS)
Among Christians who believe in the Real Presence of Christ at Holy Communion (Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Orthodox, some Anglicans, some Methodists), there is agreement: Christ is entirely present - physically, spiritually and every other possible way.

A belief must be based on reality. For Christ to be present in Holy Communion there must be a valid consecration which can occur only when there is a validly ordained priest. Only the Orthodox, apart from Catholics, have validly ordained priests who have the power to consecrate bread and wine.

But there is also disagreement. Not just disagreement regarding how Christ’s Body and Blood comes to us (Transubstantiation, Sacramental Union, etc.), but also in understanding how Christ’s Body and Blood comes to us

Only Christ’s Church has His authority to teach, and transubstantiation is the way in which the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ.

Modern Catholic Dictionary by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
MASS
. The Sacrifice of the Eucharist as the central act of worship of the Catholic Church. The “Mass” is a late form of missio (sending), from which the faithful are sent to put into practice what they have learned and use the graces they have received in the Eucharistic liturgy.

As defined by the Church at the Council of Trent, in the Mass, “The same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross, is present and offered in an unbloody manner.” Consequently, the Mass is a truly propitiatory sacrifice, which means that by this oblation "the Lord is appeased, He grants grace and the gift of repentance, and He pardons wrongdoings and sins, even grave ones. For it is one and the same victim.

He who now makes the offering through the ministry of priests and he who then offered himself on the cross. The only difference is the manner of offering" (Denzinger 1743).

The Mass cannot be understood apart from Calvary, of which it is a re-presentation, memorial, and effective application of the merits gained by Christ.

The re-presentation means that because Christ is really present in his humanity, in heaven and on the altar, he is capable now as he was on Good Friday of freely offering himself to the Father. He can no longer die because he now has a glorified body, but the essence of his oblation remains the same.

The Mass is also a memorial. Christ’s death is commemorated not only as a psychological remembrance but as a mystical reality. He voluntarily offers himself, the eternal high priest, as really as he did on Calvary.

The Mass is, moreover, a sacred banquet or paschal meal. The banquet aspect of the Mass is the reception of Holy Communion by the celebrant and the people, when the same Christ who offers himself to the Father as a sacrifice then gives himself to the faithful as their heavenly food. It was this fact that inspired the Holy See, after the Second Vatican Council, to restore the practice of receiving Communion under both kinds for all the faithful: “The entire tradition of the Church teaches that the faithful participate more perfectly in the Eucharistic celebration through sacramental Communion. By Communion, in fact, the faithful share more fully in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. In this way they are not limited to sharing in the sacrifice by faith and prayer, nor to merely spiritual communion with Christ offered on the altar, but receive Christ himself sacramentally, so as to receive more fully the fruits of this most holy sacrifice. In order that the fullness of the sign in the Eucharistic banquet may be seen more clearly by the faithful, the Second Vatican Council prescribed that in certain cases, to be decided by the Holy See, the faithful could receive Holy Communion under both species” (Sacramentali Communione, June 29, 1970).

Finally the Mass is the divinely ordained means of applying the merits of Calvary. Christ won for the world all the graces it needs for salvation and sanctification. But these blessings are conferred gradually and continually since Calvary and mainly through the Mass. Their measure of conferral is in proportion to the faith and loving response of the faithful who unite themselves in spirit with the Mass.

It is in this sense that the Mass is an oblation of the whole Mystical Body, head and members. Yet, among the faithful, some have been ordained priests and their role in the Mass is essentially different from that of the laity. The priest is indispensable, since he alone by his powers can change the elements of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Nevertheless the role of the participants is of great importance; not as though there would be no Mass without a congregation but because the people’s “full, active and conscious participation will involve them in both body and soul and will inspire them with faith, hope and charity.” The more active this participation, the more glory is given to God and the more grace is bestowed not only on the Church but on all the members of the human race. (Etym. Latin missa, from mittere, to send; so called from the words of dismissal at the end of the service: Ite, missa est, “Go, [the congregation] is dismissed.”)
therealpresence.org/cgi-bin/getdefinition.pl

Sacrifice refers to the Lamb, as though slain, from the foundation of the world (Rev 5:6; 13:8), who Is currently offering himself to the Father in the Holy of Holies until the new heavens and new earth (Rom 8:19-21) when all things will be recapitulated under Him (Eph 1:10)

My sacrifice and yours (1 Cor 3:9; 2 Cor 6:1; Col 1:24 and Eph 5)

Transference of holiness (Eze 44:19; Luke 8:44; Acts 19:12)

Hopefully that helps :slight_smile:

I believe the words in the mass “my sacrifice and yours” refer to our sacrifices in our lives for the kingdom. These words occur right after the presentation of the gifts (offerings we give and money). A participation of “my sacrifices” with Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.

I could be wrong but that was my understanding.

Are you referring to Section 13:

Priests who perform their duties sincerely and indefatigably in the Spirit of Christ arrive at holiness by this very fact.

The Encyclical uses the word “holiness” (which you quoted) ten times, but this seems to be the only passage that fits in the context of your question.

Of course, this particular passage is not limited to Eucharist, but could apply to any “duties” of a priest (or any other minister, for that matter). Of course, a minister arrives at holiness by faithfully discharging the duties of his Office (whatever they may be).

The words, “My sacrifice and yours,” during the Mass certainly don’t help either.

I would think those words help quite a lot. In the Eucharist, we (both priest and congregation) unite ourselves with the Sacrifice of Calvary. I could see why you might object if the words were simply “My sacrifice,” but this is not the case. The words are inclusive of everyone present (which is consistent with Catholic Eucharistic theology).

And blogs from priests who say, “The council fathers also describe that the priest is the one who offers sacrifice.” also make it difficult for a Lutheran to understand.

I didn’t look at the blog, but the priest IS the one who offers the sacrifice (who else?), but acting in the ministerial capacity of Jesus in doing so.

Just for a point of comparison, there’s a surprisingly sacrificial prayer in Prayer Book; obviously this is not identical to the Roman doctrine. It takes place after the Our Father, which is itself recited immediately after the communion itself:

O Lord and heavenly Father, we thy humble servants entirely desire thy fatherly goodness mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; most humbly beseeching thee to grant that by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood, we and all thy whole Church may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion. And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto thee; humbly beseeching thee, that all we, who are partakers of this holy Communion, may be fulfilled with thy grace and heavenly benediction. And although we be unworthy, through our manifold sins, to offer unto thee any sacrifice, yet we beseech thee to accept this our bounden duty and service; not weighing our merits, but pardoning our offences, through Jesus Christ our Lord: by whom, and with whom, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, all honour and glory be unto thee, O Father Almighty, world without end. Amen.

catholicnewsagency.com/column.php?n=1775

Another of the changes of the new translation of the Latin Mass into English has to do with the invitation the priest makes to pray “that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” The response to this has remained the same, “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 holy Church.” The celebrant’s words have changed, however.

Why the change from “our sacrifice” to “my sacrifice and yours”? Is this merely a question of a more literal translation? The response itself does not make any reference to the sacrifice being the priest’s, the people’s or both of theirs but only asks that it be for “our good and the good of all his holy Church.”

The original prayer, in Latin, makes the distinction between “meum ac vestrum.” I think the change can provoke us to thought about three particular aspects about the Eucharist.

Also, from the GIRM:

usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/the-mass/order-of-mass/liturgy-of-the-eucharist/index.cfm

Eucharistic Prayer
The Eucharistic Prayer is the heart of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In this prayer, the celebrant acts in the person of Christ as head of his body, the Church. He gathers not only the bread and the wine, but the substance of our lives and joins them to Christ’s perfect sacrifice, offering them to the Father.

The introductory dialogue, establishes that this prayer is the prayer of the baptized and ordained, is offered in the presence of God, and has thanksgiving as its central focus. Following this dialogue, the celebrant begins the Preface.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (no. 79) provides the following summary of the Eucharistic Prayer:

The main elements of which the Eucharistic Prayer consists may be distinguished from one another in this way:

a) The thanksgiving (expressed especially in the Preface), in which the Priest, in the name of the whole of the holy people, glorifies God the Father and gives thanks to him for the whole work of salvation or for some particular aspect of it, according to the varying day, festivity, or time of year.

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