In a recent ‘Prayer over the offerings’ (Wednesday, 6th week of Easter, morning Mass), this was said, “O God, who by the wonderful exchange effected in this sacrifice…”
I can understand that A CHANGE has been affected, but what is this ‘EXCHANGE’?
The word in Latin is commercium. Pope Benedict touched on this topic in an address he gave during his recent apostolic visit to Germany:
And love is not just somehow within God, it is God, he himself is love by nature. And divine love does not want to exist only for itself, by nature it wants to pour itself out. It has come down to humanity, to us, in a particular way through the incarnation and self-offering of God’s Son: by virtue of the fact that Christ, the Son of God, as it were stepped outside the framework of his divinity, took flesh and became man, not merely to confirm the world in its worldliness and to be its companion, leaving it to carry on just as it is, but in order to change it. The Christ event includes the inconceivable fact of what the Church Fathers call a sacrum commercium, an exchange between God and man. The Fathers explain it in this way: we have nothing to give God, we have only our sin to place before him. And this he receives and makes his own, while in return he gives us himself and his glory: a truly unequal exchange, which is brought to completion in the life and passion of Christ. He becomes, as it were, a “sinner”, he takes sin upon himself, takes what is ours and gives us what is his. But as the Church continued to reflect upon and live the faith, it became clear that we not only give him our sin, but that he has empowered us, from deep within he gives us the power, to offer him something positive as well: our love – to offer him humanity in the positive sense. Clearly, it is only through God’s generosity that man, the beggar, who receives a wealth of divine gifts, is yet able to offer something to God as well; that God makes it possible for us to accept his gift, by making us capable of becoming givers ourselves in his regard.
The Church owes her whole being to this unequal exchange. She has nothing of her own to offer to him who founded her, such that she might say: here is something wonderful that we did! Her raison d’être consists in being a tool of redemption, in letting herself be saturated by God’s word and in bringing the world into loving unity with God. The Church is immersed in the Redeemer’s outreach to men. When she is truly herself, she is always on the move, she constantly has to place herself at the service of the mission that she has received from the Lord. And therefore she must always open up afresh to the cares of the world, to which she herself belongs, and give herself over to them, in order to make present and continue the holy exchange that began with the Incarnation.
Thank you very much for this. There is a lot to take in there - I will re-read it when I am more fully awake than I am at the moment…