The four ends of mass

I thought this was a very appropriate write up on the Mass…I think sometimes people forget what the Mass is and its purpose as well as why we participate. Enjoy!


Let’s begin with what the mass is not. The mass is not a community meal designed to strengthen our unity and “gather us in.” Feelings of unity and community can be strengthened at any number of events, including potlucks or Church picnics. At most, feeling unified with our brothers and sisters in Christ is a nice byproduct of the mass, but it is certainly not its chief end.

Second, the mass is not about you. It is not about having a wonderful “weekend experience,” as one new parish based program claims. Nor is its purpose to make you feel good about yourself, to encourage you, to inspire you, or to make you feel included and welcomed. You simply aren’t the audience—God is, and the mass is all about him.

So what is the mass essentially? It is first and foremost a sacrifice. In fact, it is the once for all sacrifice of Christ on Calvary, that transcends time and space, made present for us again in an unbloody manner. It is the perfect sacrifice that all the Old Testament sacrifices prefigured (See Malachi 1:11). In it, Jesus Christ lovingly offers himself in an act of oblation to God the Father on our behalf. He adores God the Father, he atones for our sins, he offers thanks and praise, and he intercedes for our needs.

As Catholics, we have the privilege of attending this sacrifice, and uniting ourselves to Christ’s self-offering. Put another way, we can imitate Christ by offering ourselves, souls and bodies, to God the Father as “living sacrifices,” as St. Paul says. This is what participation in the mass really means. In the prayer Orate Frates, the priest acknowledges this participation of the faithful when he prays, “Pray brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father.”


Now that we’ve discussed what the mass is, let’s briefly look at its four ends or purposes.

  1. Adoration – The Holy Mass is first and foremost an act of loving adoration. It is worship of God our Father. Why? Because he deserves it. Almighty God is the most perfect of all Beings, the self-existing one, and all that exists owes its existence to him. He is the Supreme Good, the Good from which all other goods receive their meaning. He is the Supreme Beauty, the sole standard by which we can recognize and understand that which is beautiful. And he is Love itself, giving of himself from all eternity. He alone is worthy of our awe-struck adoration.

“Worthy art thou, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for thou didst create all things, and by thy will they existed and were created,” the saints and angels cry in the book of Revelation, and the mass is participation in this heavenly worship.

  1. **Thanksgiving **– All that we are and have comes from God’s generous hand. Every good, every blessing finds its source in God alone, and our very existence is dependent on his will. In response to God’s endless generosity, which we often don’t even notice, thanksgiving is the only acceptable response. And guess what? True gratitude is one of the most joyful feelings we can have. “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought,” said G.K. Chesterton, “and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” That is exactly what Holy Mass should be—an experience of happiness doubled by wonder.

  2. Atonement – We are all sinners, and while we do our best to rationalize and minimize it, all sin is a grave offense against God, incurring his just wrath. But while we all deserve hell, we are not without hope. On the cross, Jesus Christ atoned for our sins totally and completely, and we have the assurance that if we turn to him in repentance and faith, we can find forgiveness and healing.

The sacrifice of Christ on the holy cross is our certain hope, and the Holy Mass is the re-presentation of this sacrifice. Therefore, the third end of the mass is atonement for our sins. The book of Revelation describes Christ appearing as a “Lamb as if it had been slain.” In heaven, Jesus stands before God’s throne, offering God the Father his once for all sacrifice in continual atonement for our sins and the sins of the whole world. This reality is made present at every mass.

  1. Petition – The mass is a powerful form of prayer. In fact, it is the most powerful prayer the Church possesses. St. Jerome once said, “Without doubt, the Lord grants all favors which are asked of Him in Mass, provided they be fitting for us.” Many of the saints tell us that bringing our requests before Our Lord after the consecration is one of the most effective ways to obtain all that we need spiritually and physically. I would encourage you to pray in this way, knowing that Jesus is on the altar interceding for you as well.


In every mass, Jesus Christ’s descends upon the altar in the fullness of his body, blood, soul, and Divinity. He is truly present, giving himself to us completely in the Holy Eucharist. It is truly the sacrifice of Calvary made present once again. What a beautiful and profound reality! As St. Padre Pio once said, “If we only knew how God regards this Sacrifice, we would risk our lives to be present at a single Mass.” Why would we miss mass for anything?

Peace & All Good!!

Thanks for this great post!! You’re right, it can be surprisingly easy to forget this, especially among cradle Catholics.

One of the many reasons I love the TLM is I find it really prompts me to keep these ends in mind more readily


That is a great picture.

Believe it or not good things actually came from the old church lol! Including this picture :smiley:

I’m sorry but the Mass is a community meal designed to strengthen our unity.

The Mass is also many other things as well but the Eucharist was called the sacrament of unity by St. Thomas Aquinas.


I was offended by the first two paragraphs, also, Tim. It is not a bad article, but I don’t believe there was a good reason to preface it with a left-handed slur toward the OF.
The OP refers to this blogger frequently. Maybe he’s the author?

I was not offended. I just think it is a wildly inaccurate and very ignorant statement, that’s all.

We can argue about whether the Mass is “first and foremost a sacrifice” but Mass has been called, “The Paschal Meal” since antiquity and the Eucharist as a sacrament of unity is a clear teaching of the Church since forever.

I would go further and say that in God’s eyes the is about us because God gave the Mass to us for our salvation. God does not need the Mass. God gains nothing from atonement, petition, adoration or thanksgiving. These are “the four ends of Mass” but it doesn’t end there.

***For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. *(John 3:16)

The sacrifice of the Mass, with it’s petition, adoration, thanksgiving and Christ’s atonement exists not for God’s benefit but so that you and I might have eternal life. The end of the sacrifice is our salvation. God did this because he loved us and wants us to be with him forever.


There is no conflict between the OF and the EF. Yes, the Mass is about adoration, atonement, thanksgiving, and petition.

It is the one sacrifice of Calvary made present in every time and place for our salvation. We are all joined in the one body of Christ and in the one sacrifice, so that makes it the sacrament of unity. It has been called the Paschal Meal since the Last Supper which it commemorates.

And it is for us. It is man that needs to worship his creator, man that needs to atone for sin, man that needs to offer thanksgiving, and to present petitions. It is the sacrament in which we can join our own sacrifices to that of Christ, and to offer our petitions to the Father through Him, while offering the perfect atonement to the Father.


The Sacrifice of the Mass

Lesson 27 from the Baltimore Cathechism

  1. What is the Mass?

The Mass is the sacrifice of the New Law in which Christ, through the ministry of the priest, offers Himself to God in an unbloody manner under the appearances of bread and wine.

For, from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles; and in every place there is sacrifice and there is offered to my name a clean oblation. (Malachi 1:11)

  1. What is a sacrifice?

A sacrifice is the offering of a victim by a priest to God alone, and the destruction of it in some way to acknowledge that He is the Creator of all things.

  1. Who is the principal priest in every Mass?

The principal priest in every Mass is Jesus Christ, who offers to His heavenly Father, through the ministry of His ordained priest, His body and blood which were sacrificed on the cross.

And having taken bread, he gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is being given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In like manner he took also the cup after the supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which shall be shed for you.” (Luke 22:19-20)

  1. Why is the Mass the same sacrifice as the sacrifice of the cross?

The Mass is the same sacrifice as the sacrifice of the cross because in the Mass the victim is the same, and the principal priest is the same, Jesus Christ.

  1. What are the purposes for which the Mass is offered?

The purposes for which the Mass is offered are: first, to adore God as our Creator and Lord; second, to thank God for His many favors; third, to ask God to bestow His blessings on all men; fourth, to satisfy the justice of God for the sins committed against Him.

  1. Is there any difference between the sacrifice of the cross and the Sacrifice of the Mass?

The manner in which the sacrifice is offered is different. On the cross Christ physically shed His blood and was physically slain, while in the Mass there is no physical shedding of blood nor physical death, because Christ can die no more; on the cross Christ gained merit and satisfied for us, while in the Mass He applies to us the merits and satisfaction of His death on the cross.

For we know that Christ, having risen from the dead, dies now no more, death shall no longer have dominion over him. (Romans 6:9)

  1. How should we assist at Mass?

We should assist at Mass with reverence, attention, and devotion.

  1. What is the best method of assisting at Mass?

The best method of assisting at Mass is to unite with the priest in offering the Holy Sacrifice, and to receive Holy Communion.

364a. How can we best unite with the priest in offering the Holy Sacrifice?

We can best unite with the priest in offering the Holy Sacrifice by joining in mind and heart with Christ, the principal Priest and Victim, by following the Mass in a missal, and by reciting or chanting the responses.

  1. Who said the first Mass?

Our Divine Savior said the first Mass, at the Last Supper, the night before He died

I learned the same as the OP, except with slightly different wording. I was taught ACTS–Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, Supplication. Very easy to remember. :wink:

Cardinal Arinze also mentions the four ends in his video on dancing and music.

Or an equally easy to remember acronym RAPT promoted by, if not created by, Peter Kreeft as part of his approach to prayer. The idea is you pray with rapt attention.

RAPT: Repentance, Adoration, Petition and Thanksgiving

I personally prefer RAPT because I think the order is better and follows the Mass.

Wait a minute, what about a T A R P (Thanksgiving, Adoration, Reparation, and Petition)? That’s what I use for prayer! It makes prayer time nicely balanced, and keeps me from getting carried away. :stuck_out_tongue:

As for Mass, I agree 100% with the OP’s post. Mass is NOT about me.
I do not go to be entertained or humored. I do not go to meet up with friends or chat about my week. I do not go because the choir is great, or because Father preaches wonderfully clear homilies/sermons. I go to Mass for God, because I love Him and He deserves all the praise I can give to Him. Should He choose to give me graces as part of this, so be it. I simply do this because I love Him, and I want to grow deeper in love of God and neighbor. :signofcross:

Makes me wonder how the church survived all these centuries without an acronym to explain the highest form of prayer. :slight_smile:

Actually, I believe that the various acronyms to describe the forms of prayer–adoration, thanksgiving, petition, reparation, are used to refer to all types of prayer, and not just the Mass, which combines all four. I think that any prayer falls into one or more of those categories.

This is an excellent video. I always enjoy seeing Cardinal Arinze speak, because he tells it like it is, with no compromise.

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