With this first electronic issue on the Catholic-Internet Network, we bring you an extensive series on both the Mass - 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...and the One, True, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church He founded approximately one thousand nine hundred and sixty seven years ago: the Roman Catholic Church which we reverently refer to as Holy Mother Church.
All that is Roman Catholic is contained within this New Sacrifice - the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Over the next year we will detail the evolution of the Mass from the early Christian times to our present day so that all may better understand the true meaning of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the sacred structure of the Church which Jesus set in place for His Kingdom on earth.
We will be using various sources, but the best are "My Catholic Faith - A Manual of Religion" (now out of print) by Bishop Louis LaRavoire Morrow, S.T.D., "The Mass of the Roman Rite" by Fr. Josef Jungmann, S.J., "The Story of the Mass" by Fr. Pierre Loret, "Rubrics of the Mass" by Fr. Peter M.J. Stravinskas, "The Wonders of the Mass" by Fr. Paul O'Sullivan, O.P., the "Catholic Dictionary" amassed by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, the "Catholic Encyclopedia" from Thomas Nelson Publishers, both the Baltimore Catechism and the new Catechism of the Catholic Church along with the 1983 edition of the "Code of Canon Law", numerous missals, as well as out-of-date publications with an imprimatur such as "The Catholic Church Alone The One True Church"(1902), "Cabinet of Catholic Information" (1903), "Ancient and Modern Masterpieces of the Leading Lights of the Catholic Church", "Historical, Theological, and Miscellaneous Subjects on Catholicism" by Archbishop M.J.Spalding of Baltimore circa 1885, "The Glories and Triumphs of the Catholic Church" (1907), and "Lives of the Saints" from Benziger Brothers(1922). In addition we will use either the Douay-Rheims version for quoting Sacred Scripture or the Confraternity Text for Old Testament passages. Other documents we will refer to are the "Vatican Council II Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents: Volumes I and II" edited by Dominican Fr. Austin Flannery, O.P. Again, there will be many other sources we will use, but these are the primary ones.
With a better perception of what the Mass truly is, we will not so easily be swayed by new-fangled gimmicks and liturgical abuses being introduced by individual celebrants and ICEL, the International Committee for English in the Liturgy. We will discover why the basis for the use of vestments and sacred vessels, the purpose for the Rubrics of the Mass, the logic of Church Scholars and Popes through the ages for fending off changes that would water-down the Sacrifice and even invalidate the greatest remembrance Christ gave to His Church.
Too often, today, the Mass is being referred to as "a meal", "sharing of the bread", "a supper." True, that is an important aspect of the ritual, but it is so much more than that for its roots are steeped in Old Testament Law. In the Old Law sacrifices were the ultimate oblation to God. But they were not perfect- goats and sheep, which were slaughtered for Yahweh, were unworthy offerings to one so mighty. In Malachias 1:10-11, God said to the prophet, "Who is there among you, that will shut the doors, and will kindle the fire on My altar gratis? I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts: and I will not receive a gift of your hand. 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: for My name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts. And you have profaned it in that you say: The table of the Lord is defiled: and that which is laid thereupon is contemptible with the fire that devoureth it." Malachias had foretold in the words "a clean oblation" the universality of the sacrifice of the Mass. This prophecy is fulfilled today for "a clean oblation" is indeed offered throughout the world in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Holy Mother the Church has always taught that the Mass is a true sacrifice.
St. Paul confirms this in Hebrews 13:10-15 when he says, "We have an altar, from which they [the Jews] have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the Holies by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp; and so Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people by His blood, suffered outside the gate. Let us therefore go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach; for here we have no permanent city, but we seek for the City that is to come. Through Him, therefore, let us offer up a sacrifice of praise always to God." Paul was making clear the separation of the Old Law with the New Law instituted by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper on the night before He died.
Christ, too, was making the separation between the Old Law and the New Law but He did not do so in a rebellious manner. Rather He chose the Passover, the occasion when the old sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb was celebrated. He became the New Lamb. It was a fulfillment of Genesis 22 where Abraham was willing to sacrifice his own son Isaac, whom he told that "God will provide Himself a victim for an holocaust" until the Angel of the Lord intervened. In Isaac's place Abraham offered up a male lamb, caught in the thornbush nearby. It was a symbol of the Lamb of God, His head ensnared with thorns, Who would be sacrificed on the cross. The similarities between the Old Law and the New Law are too numerous to detail here, but suffice it to say that Jesus exercised the rites of the Old Law to usher in the observance of the New Covenant which He instituted on Holy Thursday.
The very words He used in establishing the Sacrifice of the Mass, the New Covenant, were almost identical with those used in the creation of the Old Law.Though all four Evangelists differ on the exact words Our Lord said over the Bread and the Wine, one thing remains constant: The words: "THIS IS MY BODY...THIS IS MY BLOOD" as well as the word: "COVENANT." It was a fulfillment of what He had said in the Synagogue at Capharnaum in John 6, "Amen, amen I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from Heaven, but My Father gives you true bread from Heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world" (John 6:32), and "I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst" (6:35), and finally the clincher, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has life everlasting and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood, abides in Me and I in him. As the living Father has sent Me, and as I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also shall live because of Me. This is the bread that has come down from Heaven; not as your fathers ate manna, and died. He who eats this bread shall live forever" (6:54-59).
For Catholics this is one of the most important passages in Sacred Scripture for it is truly proof of the Transubstantiation which takes place at the Consecration of the Mass. It is sad our Protestant brethren don't realize Christ's real meaning here for it is not a symbol as they profess, but the reŽenactment of the transformation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Our Blessed Lord did not say to the Apostles that evening in the upper room, "Tell people about this," or "relate it to them"; no, He said "Do this in remembrance of Me"(Luke 22:19). By those words, He instructed the Apostles to do, offer in sacrifice to God His Body and Blood under the appearances of bread and wine: He commanded them in those words to say Mass, as the perfect sacrifice. The Transubstantiation, meaning a change of anything into something essentially different, is what the doctrine of Christ's intention is: The substance of the eucharistic elements are converted from bread and wine into that of the Body and Blood of Christ.
Many mistake the Mass for a meal by just thinking of the events of the Last Supper, when in reality Christ consummated the sacrifice of His Body and Blood the next day by freely willing to die on the Cross. For the two acts (the Last Supper and the Cross) were only two parts of the one supreme sacrifice that the Son offered to the Father. The Mass is a real sacrifice, for in this ritual a Victim is offered up for the purpose of reconciling man with God. Jesus allowed His Passion and Death in order to enter into the institution of the Mass and therefore join them as one.
In the next issue chapter two will outline the difference between the Sacrifice of the Cross and the Sacrifice of the Mass and what Christ truly meant when He instituted the Blessed Sacrament.