Eucharist
Part 4 Theology

Chapter e42 Sacrifice

Personal Context

Preliminary Questions

Bibliography

Summary

Dates

Osborne's Summary on Sacrifice

Daly on Sacrifice

Tips for Explaining the Mass as Sacrifice

Qualities of Good Sacrifice Theology

Sacrifice and Atonement

The Reformation and Sacrifice

Did the Presider Get it?

EJWU #9 Sacrifice

To Think About

Personal Context

What Most Catholics Believe...

During the years when Catholic Eucharist was celebrated in Latin, thousands of devout Catholics in the USA who were trying to follow the Latin Mass (e.g. c1938 to c1969) with a Bi-Lingual Missal used the very popular book “My Sunday Missal: Explained” by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Joseph F Stedman, director of the Confraternity of the Precious Blood.

This popular Missal had the Latin text on the even-numbered pages and an English translation on the opposing odd-numbered page.  The English text was richly footnoted with explanations of what was taking place at the altar.   

The footnote to the words of institution “For this is My Body!” explains: “Instantly the substance of bread is gone; it is changed into Jesus Christ, true God, true Man.  The person of the priest recedes.  It is Christ who speaks through the lips of the priest and offers Himself in the hands of the priest to His Father for our sakes.”   This footnote is typical of the way Mass was explained at that time.  1) Christ is sacrificed at the moment consecration and at this moment transubstantiation takes place (and the rest of the prayer is therefore not really all that important);  2)  Catholics were instructed in terms of Aristotelian philosophy:  trans-substance-iation; 3) Catholics learned the “In Persona Christi” theology of priesthood (the priest is one “set apart” from the rest of the baptized).  

After words over the cup Fr. Stedman states in the footnote explanation: “How does Jesus die again and renew His Sacrifice?  On Calvary He died ‘physically' by the separation of his body from his blood.  On the altar he dies ‘mystically,' since the words of Consecration are like a sword, mystically separating the Body from the Blood by two separate Consecrations.”  This is the theology taught in the Baltimore Catechism; on Calvary Christ died in a bloody manner and at Mass Christ dies again but now in an unbloody manner.  [And at the words “Do this in memory of me” Fr. Stedman explains that “with these words our Lord instituted the priesthood.”]

I doubt if Father Stedman's Missal was very popular in Lutheran churches.

My personl journey...

During my faith journey over the past 70 years, "sacrifice" has moved from "something we Catholics do from time to time - e.g. during Lent -- to the central place in my understanding of God, myself, and the meaning of creation. 

Sacrifice is no longer "something I give up" or "the death of Jesus on the Cross (re-presented at Mass)" but the love-offering (Holy Spirit) that God (the Father) gives to God (the Son) and the self-offering of love that the Son returns to the Father, this love itself being the face (persona) of the Sprit of God.  This offering, this sacrifice, is the very essence of the Trinitarian God: "God is love..." (1 John 4:8)  And as this Love (as all love) is "generative" and wants to propagate itself, this Love "wanted" to produce a creature that could love perfectly:  this "desire" is realized in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the perfect lover.  His life and death give witness of this love and demonstrate he would let nothing separate him from the love of God.  Even the threat (and reality) of death on the cross did not disturb his constant, joyful, loving, union with God. The Spirit of this perfect love-offering is the Risen Christ's gift to us; and by that Spirit-Gift, sacramentalized especially in our Baptism and our participation in the Eucharist, we are transformed into a compassionate, loving (agape) people and are absorbed into that eternal love-offering that is the life of the trinity.  This absorption into God, theosis, is our destiny in the loving plan of the Trinity. 

This understanding of sacrifice has both shaped and been shaped by my understanding of the Trinity, the Incarnation, Original Sin, and Theosis.  I have found comfort and confirmation in the journey of Fr. Robert J. Daly, S.J. as described in his book Sacrifice Unveiled: The True Meaning of Christian Sacrifice, (New York: T&T Clark International, 2009) ISBN 978-0-567-03421-2 $32.04.  This is a "must-read" for any serious student. 

"Authentic Christian Sacrifice:  First of all, Christian sacrifice is not some object that we manipulate, nor is it something that we do or give up.  It is first and foremost, a mutually self-giving event that takes place between persons.  It is, in fact, the most profoundly personal and interpersonal event that we can conceive or imagine.  It begins, in a kind of first 'moment', not with us but with the self-offering of God the Father in the gift of the Son.  It continues, in a second 'moment', in the self-offering 'response' of the Son, in his humanity and in the power of the Holy Spirit, to the Father and for us.  And it continues further in a third 'moment' -- and only then does it begin to become Christian sacrifice - when we, in the human actions that are empowered by the same Spirit that was in Jesus, begin to enter into that perfect, en-Spirited, mutually self-giving, mutually self-communicating personal relationship that is the life of the Blessed Trinity."   (Daly, Sacrifice Unveiled, p 5)

Preliminary Questions

How do you explain the relation between the Eucharist and the once and for all event of Jesus' death and resurrection? 

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Bibliography

Edward J. Kilmartin, S.J.  The Eucharist in the West:  History and Theology. Edited by Robert J. Daly, S.J.  Collegeville:  The Liturgical Press, A Pueblo Book.  1998.  ISBN 0-8146-6172-6.  422 pp.  In his posthumously published account of The Eucharist in the West, Edward Kilmartin asserts that “what can be described as the modern average Catholic theology of eucharistic sacrifice is, in general, a weak synthesis without a future.”  I heard Father Kilmartin deliver various chapters of this book at the international meetings of the Societas Liturgica and followed the editorial work of Father Daly through the meetings of the North American Academy of Liturgy after Kilmartin's death.  In both of these professional societies, the book was received with great enthusiasm.

Robert J. Daly, S.J. Sacrifice Unveiled: The True Meaning of Christian Sacrifice (New York: T&T Clark International, 2009) ISBN 978-0-567-03421-2 $32.04.  This is a "must-read" for any serious student / Catholic.

Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church, October 31, 1999.  The complete text of this very important document can be found on the Vatican Website.  An understanding of "justification," "grace," and "sacrifice" are essential to understanding the background to the question "How is the Eucharist sacrificial?"

Cabie, Robert. The Eucharist, New Edition 1986. Vol II of The Church at Prayer, G. Martimort editor. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1986, pp 149-186.

Dix, Gregory. The Shape of the Liturgy. London: Dacre Press, 1970, pp 613-734.

Franklin, William R. "Five Affirmations on the Eucharist as Sacrifice" Worship. 69:5, September 1995, pp 386-390.

Mitchell, Nathan. Cult and Controversy: The Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press [A Pueblo Book], 1982, pp 129-200.

Osborne, Kenan. The Christian Sacraments of Initiation (New York: Paulist Press, 1987), pp 212-225.

Price, Charles P. "Anamnesis and Sacrifice in Episcopal Ecumenical Dialogues" Worship. 69:5, September 1995, pp 391-393.

Pierce, Joanne M. "The Eucharist as Sacrifice: Some Contemporary Roman Catholic Reflections" Worship. 69:5, September 1995, pp 394-405.

Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M. "Who Will Be Saved? A Catholic View of Salvation" Catholic Update, Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, April, 1994. C0494.

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Osborne's Summary of "Sacrifice"

[This summary is taken from Kenan B. Osborne, The Christian Sacraments of Initiation, pp 223-224.  Paulist Press, New York, 1987.  Osborne's summary presumes that you have read the corresponding pages in this book which has been assigned as a required text.]

1. The reformers of the sixteenth century took issue with the phrase and the theology which was preached and taught at that time regarding the sacrifice of the Mass. However, the issue of the sacrifice of the Mass was simply one instance of a deeper problem, namely, the question of the relationship between grace and good works.

2. The reformers, on the basis of what they were then hearing from preachers and theologians, complained that the way in which the sacrifice of the Mass was being explained totally undermined the once and for all propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus. The issue was christological not eucharistic.

3. The Council of Trent maintained, officially, that there was only one propitiatory sacrifice, namely, that of Jesus. This teaching was at the heart of the Christian faith.

4. The council also maintained that everything done by men or women, even the disposing or preparatory "good works," were ultimately done because of God's grace.

5. The council maintained that men and women cooperate with God's grace by using their own free will and are not simply passive or of no account.  However, because of sin, all men and women are totally incapable of doing anything to bring about reconciliation and justification.

6. As far as the Mass is concerned, the Council of Trent maintained that the one sacrifice of Jesus was offered by himself as priest in a bloody manner on Calvary; this same sacrifice is re-presented in an unbloody manner at the celebration of Mass. The council did not further clarify this bloody / unbloody modality.

7. The issue of the sacrifice of the Mass, however, remained one of the most divisive elements in the eucharistic theologies between Protestant and Catholic for almost four hundred years after the reformation and the Council of Trent.

8. Contemporary restudy of the entire issue as well as the efforts of ecumenical dialogue on the eucharist has pointed out a way in which the issue might be resolved, namely, the Mass is a sacrament of the one sacrifice of Jesus. [see:  anamnesis]

9. Jesus as the primordial sacrament furthers this very line of thought since it grounds the sacramentalizing of the eucharist in Jesus' humanness which includes the sacrifice of his life, death and resurrection.

10. The key issue in this matter of the relationship between the sacrificial work of Jesus and the eucharist is "sacrament." The eucharist is a sacrament of the one sacrifice. This says, today, much more and in a much better way, the thrust of the Tridentine formulation: bloody / unbloody.

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Sacrifice

How did “Sacrifice” enter Christian vocabulary?

I believe it is helpful to remember that one of the first objections of the Romans and the Greeks against the followers of Jesus was that those who honored various Greek and Roman gods prayed for the safety and well-being of the state.  The followers of Jesus did not seem to do this and were therefore, obviously unpatriotic!  The followers of Jesus went to the river now and then and took a bath and got together and drank wine but they didn't do anything religious!  For example there were no sacrifices to the gods for the good of the state.

In response to these accusations some of the earliest Christian authors “apologized” for the seeming lack of religion by explaining that there were elements in this new “Way” that were “religious” For example why we didn't kill animals or offer sacrifices in the sense they would recognize we did have something like that.  For example, there was a way in which the death of Jesus could be considered “a sacrifice” in some metaphorical sense.  And thus the word enters our vocabulary.

Remember, if you ask Mary, or John, or any of the apostles or followers of Jesus who might've been present on Calvary and witnessed the death of Christ, if you ask:  “Is this a sacrifice?”  They would have given you a very baffled look and said: “Of course not! The Romans are executing Jesus as if he were a criminal.  Sacrifice is something religious that we do in the temple!”

It is only later, for example in the letter to the Hebrews, that what Jesus did is explained as “Sacrifice” to show the Hebrews that the period of sacrifice is over.  We don't do that anymore.  There is no need for the high priest to enter the holy of holies and offer sacrifice for the sins of the people.  That era has passed.

"For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf. Not that he might offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary with blood that is not his own; if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly from the foundation of the world. But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice. Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment, so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him." (Hebrews 9:24-28 (Second Reading, 32nd Sunday of Cycle B)

Question:  Is the Mass a sacrifice? If so, in what way?  Is there a "killing of the victim?"  What is the visible sacramental sign of the sacrifice at the celebration of the Eucharist?  

"From the second century onward, the terminology of sacrifice was frequently applied.  Initially, the emphasis was placed on the sacrifice of the Church which was foretold by the prophet Malachi (1:10-12).  But in the third century, the favorite Old Testament text, understood to be a foreshadowing of the Eucharistic, became the sacrifice of Melchizedek in Genesis 14:18.  This happened as a result of the conscious theological reflection on the relationship of the sacrifice of the Church to the sacrifice of the cross." (Kilmartin, The Eucharist in the West, pg. 362.)

Definition of Sacrifice

Common usage in American English (e.g. Oxford Dictionary)  sacrifice (noun) 1 the practice or an act of killing an animal or person or surrendering a possession as an offering to a deity. 2 an animal, person, or object offered in this way. 3 an act of giving up something one values for the sake of something that is of greater importance.

Check the definition of "sacrifice" in the Merriam-Webster Online available at www.m-w.com

1. An act of offering to a deity something precious; especially the killing of a victim on an altar
2. Something offered in sacrifice
3. Destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else; something given up or lost
4. Loss
5. Sacrifice hit

Biblical, religious, theological usage:  Sacrifice = Joyful union with God.  This "union" can be ritualized in various ways:  holocaust, burn offering, meal sharing, etc.   (Note:  smell [in OT] was considered a "spiritual sense" and God, who is pure spirit, could enjoy a beautiful smell.)

At the Eucharist, this joyful union is signified by sharing a meal.  The meal is the outward sign (sacrament) of the sacrifice.

A sacrament is a visible sign of invisible grace.

Meal : Sacrifice :: Sacramental Sign : Grace (union with God)

 Balance: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday.  Each of these three speaks to us of "joyful union with God."

BUT: sacrifice is not the issue!

 To call the execution of Jesus of Nazareth a "sacrifice" involves theological reflection.

The temple sacrifices, familiar to the Jews and first Christians, do not form part of the lived experience of the majority of today's catechumens.

The contemporary use of the word sacrifice (giving something up) can be different from the biblical understanding (joyful union with God).

The over-emphasis on the propitiatory aspect of the Eucharist can obscure the once-and-for-all nature of Christ's Sacrifice.

The reformers were interested in preserving the meaning of Christ's sacrifice, not in denying something about the eucharist.

The biblical notion of anamnesis is key to the resolution of the historical difficulty.  Anamnesis takes place through the action of the Holy Spirit in epiclesis. It is the Holy Spirit who makes us present to the reality of the "once and for all" sacrifice of Jesus. The Spirit makes possible the liturgical "hodie" (today). We no longer need to argue about "unrepeatable / repeatable" or "bloody / unbloody". Epiclesis is at the heart of every liturgical action.

The biblical and liturgical renewal in all of the Churches has helped all Christians grow in sacramental awareness. Through this lens of sacrament we can understand the eucharist as the sacrament of Christ's sacrifice. And the meal the sacramental sign of the sacrifice. We no longer need to argue about "meal / sacrifice?

The core of the eucharistic liturgy is love: unity of Christians in Christ and with one another in the Spirit of Christ who is the soul of the Church.  This unity is the essential presupposition of the possibility of the authentic eucharistic celebration and not merely an effect of the reception of the eucharistic flesh and blood. (Kilmartin, 24)

For Thomas Aquinas, Jesus' death is a sacrifice precisely because of his full, free, perfect self-surrender to the One who “could save him from death.” In short, Jesus' sacrifice was “located” in his humanity, in his obedient will and in his body -- not in the actions of those who executed him. Jesus became a “living sacrifice” not because of what his tormentors did (which was homicide), but because of what he did (which was a self-surrender in trust and love).

Jesus' death thus became a liturgical act, an act of worship -- one in which (as later theologians liked to say) he is simultaneously sacificium et sacerdos, priest and victim, the one who offers and the one who is offered. Jesus' death, in short, was adoration: adoration = self-surrender = sacrifice. This same pattern (as Paul suggests in Romans 6) is replicated in all those who are plunged by baptism into Jesus' death. Once again the equation applies: adoration = self-surrender = sacrifice. And sacrifice is the action of priests. Thus, as a body, Christians constitute a holy nation, a “royal priesthood.” (Remember, by the way, that the NT reserves the word priest, in a positive sense, to Jesus and to the people alone. Ministers, in the NT, are never called priests.)

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Tips for Explaining the Mass as Sacrifice

1. Sacrifice / Thanksgiving / Memorial / Presence   The eucharist is one unified celebration and is best explained when "Sacrifice" is presented in the context of Thanksgiving, Memorial, and Presence.  It is helpful to explain the relationship between Sacrifice, Meal, Presence, and Sacrament.

2. The Meaning of "Sacrifice"   "The eucharist, the sacrament of our salvation accomplished by Christ on the Cross, is also a work of creation" (CCC 1359). It is the self-sacrificing love of the triune God manifested from the creation of the world, into which we are immersed at the sacrament of the eucharist. "The eucharist is also the sacrifice of praise" (CCC 1361). When explaining the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist do not speak of "sacrifice" too narrowly so that it only references the moment of Christ's death.  Sacrifice means more than "the ritual slaughter of an animal or a person." Today the movement among contemporary theologians is to recover the deeper meaning of sacrifice, that is, the inner, spiritual, or ethical significance of the cult over against the merely material or merely external understanding of it. The essence of Jesus Christ's sacrifice is found in the perfect unity of will and love between Son and Father in the Holy Spirit.  In this sense, not only his death, but his entire life was a sacrifice. The Eucharist is the sacramental sign of this union, as expressed and effected in eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ thus uniting us with the Son to the Father in the Holy Spirit.

I have found that one of the most fruitful implications of "marriage" as sacrament (sign of God) is the way it enables us to understand and celebrate the Eucharist.

Jay -- I find this approach very useful in preaching and teaching.

I have found that one of the most fruitful implications of this approach is the way it enables us to understand and celebrate the Eucharist.

Often at weddings I am asked to proclaim the gospel (Matthew 19:5ff) “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”?

There is, of course, in marriage a certain “leaving”, a certain “death” to the things that must be left behind from the single life when one becomes married. But when the bride is walking down the aisle in her beautiful dress, and the organ plays, and the choir sings, we don't look at her and think: “She's walking to her death!” No, our thoughts are not on the dying to the old life but on the union of love that is being born. That is what we are celebrating.

This experience is at the heart of understanding the meaning of Christian sacrifice. It is not so much the physical dying as the union with the Trinity that is being born. The sacrifice of the Mass is the Nuptial banquet of the Lamb. That is why we can sing:

Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim,
Till all the world adore His sacred Name.
Led on their way by this triumphant sign,
The hosts of God in conquering ranks combine.
O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree,
As Thou hast promised, draw the world to Thee.

This is the “death” we proclaim in the mystery of faith. The Eucharist is a celebration of the wedding feast of the Lamb.

3. Our Sacrifice The Catechism also makes clear that the eucharist is the sacrificial memorial of Christ and of his body the Church. Be sure your explanation does not stop short of the resurrection and or identify the sacrifice of the Mass with the sacrificed of Christ without the inclusion of Christ's body the Church. A good explanation of Eucharist as sacrifice shows how it is our sacrifice and shows how we offer ourselves to the Father in the Spirit. As Saint Augustan says, "it is your sacrament on the altar. Be what you see. Receive what you are." Or, as expressed by a contemporary theologian:  "Just as God accepted Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, and as a sign of his acceptance raised Jesus' body from the dead, so he accepts the sacrificial gifts of the Church which are the sacraments of the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus, and fills them with Jesus' life, transforming them into the bodily presence of Jesus. Thus eucharistic body and blood as signs of the redemptive death of Jesus and also of his resurrection, are revealed as sacraments of purification from sin and communication of divine life." (The Eucharist in the West, Kilmartin. p 320)

4. One Sacrifice The Catechism then appeals to "anamnesis" to show the relationship between the eucharist and the eternal plan of God. As the eucharist is the sacrament or visible sign of the sacrifice, it is important to explain how the sacrifice is made visible.  Formerly, this was explained by 1) the two-fold consecration, or 2) by the separation of the body and blood or 3) by the breaking of the host. (Note:  this theological explanation was elaborated at a time when few communicated at Mass and the "meal dimension" of the liturgical action was not as prominent as it is today.)  Today most theologians place the sign in the sharing of the sacred meal. In eating and drinking the body and blood of Christ, we are transformed into his body by the Holy Spirit and received with Christ by the Father. The meal is the sign of the sacrifice, the intimate union of Father and Son in the Spirit.

5. Moral Implications This union of sacrifice and communion is an easy segue to the moral implications of the sacrifice. We must be willing to "live as Jesus lived," if we intend to fulfill his command to "do this in memory of me."

6.  Lex Orandi Legem Credendi  Start with the lived experience of the inquirer.   When the eucharist was experienced primarily with the Good Friday metaphor, Mass was spoken of as standing at the foot of the cross.  Now that the community hears the prayers in their own language, now that the scriptures are read the the gospel call to social justice is more in evidence, now that people receive Holy Communion at Mass, the explanation of what the eucharist is about has been modified accordingly.  (Note:  Remember the diagram "Dynamics of Change"  -- Facts / Attitudes / Behavior / Group Behavior.  Historically it has usually been the case that there are a number of years between the change in the rite and the change in the catechetical explanation of the meaning of the rite.  It usually takes a while for the catechesis to catch up.

"Liturgy is a font of theology; it incorporates and hands on the Catholic sense of things.  In short, Liturgy is the norm of prayer that establishes the norm of belief.  In liturgy we actually do (i.e., live, make real) theology; and we ought to believe in accord with what we do.  On the other hand, dogmas are also sources of theology.  But the relation between liturgy and dogma is not explained simply by subordinating the one to the other.  The norm of belief cannot be reduced to fixed formulas which cannot be varied; so too with prayer.  The eucharistic font of theology has its own special contribution to make."  (The Eucharist in the West.  Kilmartin.  p 323) 

7.  Anamnesis  Key to a good explanation of the Eucharist as sacrifice is the understanding of the relation between 1) today's celebration of the eucharist, 2) the death of Jesus, and 3) the eternal, immutable self-offering of the God to love and save the world.   Osborne is very helpful here.

"Contemporary restudy of the entire issue as well as the efforts of ecumenical dialogue on the eucharist has pointed out a way in which the issue might be resolved, namely, the Mass is a sacrament of the one sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus as the primordial sacrament furthers this very line of thought since it grounds the sacramentalizing of the eucharist in Jesus' humanness which includes the sacrifice of his life, death and resurrection.  The key issue in this matter of the relationship between the sacrificial work of Jesus and the eucharist as "sacrament." The eucharist is a sacrament of the one sacrifice. This says, today, much more and in a much better way, the thrust of the Tridentine formulation: bloody / unbloody."  (The Christian Sacraments of Initiation, Kenan B. Osborne, p 224.)

Or, again, Kilmartin [explaining modifications of Johannes Betz' modifications of Casel's theory of anamnesis:  "Acceptance by God is essential to a sacrifice.  God accepts the sacrifice of the Church because it is the sacramental representation of the sacrifice of Christ.  Just as God accepted Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, and as a sign of his acceptance raised Jesus' body from the dead, so he accepts the sacrificial gifts of the Church which are the sacraments of the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus, and fills them with Jesus' life, transforming them into the bodily presence of Jesus.  Thus eucharistic body and blood as signs of the redemptive death of Jesus and also of his resurrection, are revealed as sacraments of purification from sin and communication of divine life."   (The Eucharist in the West.  Kilmartin.  p 320) 

8.  Epiclesis  A theology based on a lex orandi where the priest says the Eucharistic prayer silently, and says a prayer which does not have an explicit mention of the work of the Holy Spirit in the transformation of the gifts and the transformation of the Church places special emphasis on the "words of consecration" and a corresponding "in persona Christi" theology.   The vernacular ("we" offer) and the addition of the explicit role of the Spirit have led to a recovery of "in persona ecclesiae" theology of ordination and the role of the community and the Church in the offering.

9.  Spiritual Sacrifice  The word "Sacrifice" (American Heritage © Dictionary 2002) in contemporary English means:  1a. The act of offering something to a deity in propitiation or homage, especially the ritual slaughter of an animal or a person. b. A victim offered in this way. 2a. Forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of one considered to have a greater value or claim. b. Something so forfeited. 3a. Relinquishment of something at less than its presumed value. b. Something so relinquished. c. A loss so sustained. 4. Baseball A sacrifice hit or sacrifice fly.  [propitiate To conciliate (an offended power); appease: e.g. propitiate the gods with a sacrifice.]

John H. McKenna writes (Eucharist and Sacrifice:  An Overview, Worship, September 2002, 76:5, pp 386-402):  "There is a strong scholarly consensus that a long process of 'spiritualization' of the understanding of sacrifice in the Jewish scriptures and also in the surrounding Hellenistic culture formed the backdrop for Christian usage.  An evolution had taken place in which the notion of sacrifice had become less that of a material immolation (destruction) ritual and more that of a spiritual prayer form" (p 387).  See Psalms 50, 56, 106, 107 etc. 

This religious meaning of sacrifice became obscured at the time of the post-reformation and the the meaning of sacrifice was narrowed to mean "the ritual slaughter of an animal or a person." as in the dictionary definition above. 

Today the movement among contemporary theologians is to recover the deeper meaning of sacrifice.  For example, Robert Daly (The Origins of the Christian Doctrine of Sacrifice, Philadelphia:  Fortress Press, 1978) describes this movement as "an attempt to emphasize the true meaning of sacrifice, that is,  the inner, spiritual, or ethical significance of the cult over against the merely material or merely external understanding of it."  (p 7).  The essence of Jesus Christ's sacrifice is found in the perfect unity of will and love between Son and Father in the Holy Spirit.   In this sense, not only his death, but his entire life was a sacrifice.   "Behold, I come to do your will..."  The Eucharist is the sacramental sign of this union, as expressed and effected in eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ and thus being united with the Son to the Father in the Holy Spirit.

This avoids the need to find the external sign of the sacrifice in the 2-fold consecration, or by the separation of the body and blood or by the breaking of the host. Today most theologians place the sign in the sharing of the sacred meal. In eating and drinking the body and blood of Christ, we are transformed into his body by the Holy Spirit and received with Christ by the Father. The meal is the sign of the sacrifice, the intimate union of Father and Son in the Spirit.

10.  Holy Communion  Today, an explanation of the eucharist as sacrifice must include an explanation of why we eat and drink at Mass.  One way of achieving this is the understanding of sacrifice as joyful union with God and the Meal Sharing as the sacramental sign of that joyful union.   "In spirituality, the goal of union with God suggests oblation as the more appropriate term for the self-offering by which the union is sought; the difficulty here has been the tendency to identify sacrifice or oblation entirely with a passive acceptance of suffering, in imitation of the suffering Christ."  ["Sacrifice" in The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality.]

11.  Ecumenical Sensitivity   One of the goals of all contemporary theology is "to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ"  (Constitution on the Liturgy, #1)

12.  Sacrifice  To call the execution of Jesus of Nazareth a "sacrifice" involves theological reflection.  The temple sacrifices, familiar to the Jews and first Christians, do not form part of the lived experience of the majority of today's catechumens.  The contemporary use of the word sacrifice (giving something up) can be different from the biblical understanding (joyful union with God).

13.  Salvation by Faith (Faith/Works)  The over-emphasis on the propitiatory aspect of the Eucharist can obscure the once-and-for-all nature of Christ's Sacrifice.  The reformers were interested in preserving the meaning of Christ's sacrifice, not in denying something about the eucharist.  Be able to explain why Catholics and Protestants can today come together in understanding these issues (e.g. ecumenical statements). Be able to explain why some Protestants avoid sacrificial terms (propitiation, priest, altar, etc) and why some Catholics avoid meal terms (The Lord's Supper, etc) and insist so strongly on the sacrificial elements of eucharist.

14.  Modern solutions  The biblical notion of anamnesis is key to the resolution of the historical difficulty.  Anamnesis takes place through the action of the Holy Spirit in epiclesis. It is the Holy Spirit who makes us present to the reality. The Spirit makes possible the liturgical "hodie" (today). We no longer need to argue about "unrepeatable / repeatable" or "bloody / unbloody". Epiclesis is at the heart of every liturgical action. Epiclesis is what makes the action liturgical.  The liturgical renewal in all of the Churches has helped all Christians grow in sacramental awareness. Through this lens of sacrament we can understand the eucharist as the sacrament of Christ's sacrifice. The meal is the sacramental sign of the sacrifice. We no longer need to argue about "meal / sacrifice?   (See Power, EM 260 and J.H. McKenna, "Eucharistic Epiclesis:  Microcosm or Myopia?"  Theological Studies 36 (1975) 265-84, esp. 272-274 and 282-83 for a critique of the positioning and splitting of the epiclesis as well as Daly, "Robert Bellarmine," 242.243.)

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Daly on Sacrifice and Atonement

Robert J. Daly, S.J. Sacrifice Unveiled: The True Meaning of Christian Sacrifice, (New York: T&T Clark International, 2009) ISBN 978-0-567-03421-2 $32.04.

"For if we are correct as this book will claim, in seeing the essence of Christian sacrifice as our participation through the Spirit, in the transcendently free and self-giving love of the Father and the Son, and if Christian sacrifice is our inchoative, but already real, entering into the fullness of the totally free, self-giving, loving personal life of God, then it is obvious that the common understanding of 'sacrifice' with all its negative baggage -- giving up what you love, destruction of a victim, doing something you'd rather not have to do, etc., etc. -- does more to veil than it does to reveal this reality." (Daly, Sacrifice Unveiled, p 1)

Atonement

"The first point to be made and always kept in mind, is the 'the atonement' -- especially when one means by that any particular theory of atonement -- is not a central Christian doctrine. What is central, irreducibly central, is the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. Take away the Atonement, meaning the atonement theories developed in the Christian West, one still has the vibrant Christianity of the East that, although founded on the same theological origins and patristic sources as that of the West, bases its theology of salvation, fully Trinitarian and fully incarnational, much more on theologies of theosis /divinization rather than on Western-type atonement theories.  On the other hand, take away the Incarnation and there is, at least for mainline or Trinitarian Christianity, no Christianity left." (Daly, Sacrifice Unveiled, p 100)

"Stated over simply and in its most blatant stereotypical form, traditional Western atonement theory includes, or is ultimately reducible to the following affirmations:
(1) God's honor was damaged by human sin;
(2) God demanded a bloody victim -- innocent or guilty -- to pay for human sin;
(3) God was persuaded to alter the divine verdict against humanity when the Son of God offered to endure humanity's punishment;
(4) the death of the Son thus functioned as a payoff; salvation was purchased." (Daly,
Sacrifice Unveiled, p 100)

[Note that while the word atonement is used over 80 times in the Old Testament, the word does not appear in the New Testament.]

"God's participation in human life and God's indwelling of Jesus of Nazareth in particular did not make the Crucifixion inevitable or necessary." (Finlan, Problems in Atonement, p 104, quoted in Daly, Sacrifice Unveiled, p 100)

It is incorrect to think "that God deliberately intended Jesus violent death." (Finlan, p 101 quoted in Daly, Sacrifice Unveiled, p 101)

Most atonement theories are elaborated in the light of an understanding of human nature as "fallen" as a result of original sin -- which is understood to be a distinct historical event.

The best of contemporary Scripture scholarship elaborates the truth of the creation accounts (Genesis 1- 2) and finds that this is not a "historical truth" but a "deep truth."  The first historical people in the recorded history of salvation are Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 11).  While there is deep meaning in the concept of original sin, original sin is not a historical event but a continuing reality.  [Original Sin is that urge we sometimes feel to act independently of our feeling a relationship to the creator.  It is like the "spoiled child" that thinks he/she is in charge and has no need of the parent.]

Consequently, if original sin is not a historical event, there is no "time before the fall" and "time after the fall".   Human nature is not so much "fallen" as developing, maturing, on a journey towards Christ the Omega.  Just as a child is not so much a "fallen adult" as a human being on the way towards adulthood -- developing and maturing.

[Note that St. Paul probably thought of Adam and Eve as historical persons.  He would have had no reason to think otherwise.]

St. Augustine elaborates a theory of original sin primarily to explain why infant baptism is possible.  In the course of time the emphasis shifts to explaining why infant baptism is necessary.

There is no doctrine of original sin present in the New Testament. 

Incarnation

If there was no "Fall" why did God the Son take Flesh and be born among us?

"[Blessed John Duns] Scotus maintains that God became human in Jesus out of love (rather than because of human sin) because God wanted to express God's self in a creature who would be a masterpiece and who would love God perfectly in return.  This is Scotus's doctrine of the Primacy of Christ.  Christ is the first in God's intention to love.  Creation is not an independent act of divine love that was, incidentally, followed up by divine self-revelation in the covenant.  Rather, the divine desire to become incarnate was part of the overall plan or order of intention.  Scotus places the Incarnation within the context of creation and not within the context of human sin.  Christ, therefore is the masterpiece of love, the "summum opus Dei."  The idea that all of creation is made for Christ means that for Christ to come about there had to be a creation, and, in this creation, there had to be beings capable of understanding and freely responding to divine initiative.  Creation was only a prelude to a much fuller manifestation of divine goodness, namely, the Incarnation."  (Ilia Delio, O.S.F., A Franciscan View of Creation:  Learning to Live in a Sacramental World. St. Bonaventure, NY:  The Franciscan Institute,2003. ISBN 1-57659-201-4)

Primacy of Christ

I have attempted a catechetical presentation of the "primacy of Christ" in my book The Mass: A Guided Tour (Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M. The Mass: A Guided Tour. Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press. 2009, pp )

I think that the best way to see this "integrated vision" of Christmas and the Eucharist is to start at the beginning -- the very beginning.

When you think about creation -- the universe and everything in it -- how do you imagine it all getting started? What was the first thing that "was"? Dinosaurs? The Big Bang? Adam and Eve. The snake? Scientists, astronomers, and geologists all work to discover how the universe started. They are dealing with historical facts and scientific theories -- "top of the iceberg" material. Here, let's look "under the iceberg."

As we were packing our bags for this tip I mentioned that I might invite you to put on your "theological wetsuit" and stick your head in the water to take a look at the bottom of your "Eucharist Iceberg" -- those unarticulated attitudes and memories and feelings that shape the largest part of our understanding of the Eucharist -- the "subconscious" part.

One way to "see" this invisible "under the surface part" of ourselves is through story telling and imagination. Try to forget about "facts" and "religion" and "dogmas" and all those top of the iceberg things for a few minutes, and let's go under the surface of the waters and engage in story telling and imagining.

Imagine that it's the morning of the day before time existed -- before God created anything. Before there even was a day or a morning. Nothing exists but the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- eternally living and loving in endless bliss and perfect peace.

Now picture God -- Father, Son, and Spirit -- sitting around the breakfast table having their morning coffee. They would be reading the newspaper, but there is no news since nothing has happened yet. In fact, no "things" exist -- so "no-thing" can happen. And in this imaginary scenario, one of the Divine Person says to the others:

"This living in endless bliss is really quite the thing, isn't it."

"It sure is," said the Father.

"It's about the best thing I can imagine," added the Spirit.

"Well, you can't beat bliss; but on the other hand, it's boring."

"Really boring!" said the Son.

"Well then, let's do something," said the Father.

"Do something? What shall we do?"

"Let's create."

"What's that"

"It means 'make something out of nothing.'"

"Can we do that?"

"Sure, we're God. We can do anything."

"All right then, let's make something. What shall we make?"

How do you think they answered that question? The way you imagine the answer to that question will influence not only the way you think about the Eucharist, but the way you view the universe and everything in it.

The first thing in the mind of God was Jesus Christ.

Under the Iceberg

I can already hear the sound of icebergs crashing into each other under the surface of the water. To speak of the "primacy of Christ" will evoke stirring in the subconscious and perhaps even in the unconscious. Our visit to "Christmas" might involve some "rearranging" of how you imagine Jesus (we will discuss this at greater length at Site 4 of this pilgrimage), Adam and Eve, and especially, the snake! As your guide, all I can do here is to ask you to put on your "theological wetsuit" and take a look under the surface of your "Eucharist iceberg" as we examine this idea in more detail.  

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The Reformation and Sacrifice

1. The principle issue is: What role do our "Good Works" play in salvation? Are we saved by faith alone, or saved by our good works?

2. If we are saved by faith alone, there is no need to keep "repeating" [important word] the Sacrifice of Calvary.  Salvation is not earned (bought?) by good works and/or indulgences.

3. Reformers: Back to basics; remove "magic" symbols.  Counter-Reformers:  Which symbols are the "magic" ones?  Don't throw out the baby with the bath water.  

4. Today, we have moved beyond this seeming contradiction.  On October 31, 1999 German Lutheran Bishop Christian Krause, president of the Lutheran World Federation, and Catholic Cardinal Edward Cassidy, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, signed "The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification" in Augsburg, Germany.  The text states that we both believe: "By grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping us and calling us to good works."   Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church, October 31, 1999.  The complete text of this very important document can be found on the Vatican Website.  An understanding of "justification," "grace," and "sacrifice" are essential to understanding the background to the question "How is the Eucharist sacrificial?"

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Qualities of Good Sacrifice Theology

Each time that I teach the Eucharist course, I ask the students to write an essay explaining the Eucharist as sacrifice.  After reading and critiquing the submissions, the students formulated the following list of those issues which should be included in any good explanation of the Eucharist as sacrifice. 

A good theology of Eucharist as sacrifice should:

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Did the Presider Get it?

How can you tell if the priest-presider is working out of Kilmartin's theology of sacrifice or our of Thomas Aquinas' theology of sacrifice?  You can tell that the priest has Kilmartin's theology of sacrifice if he:

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The Sacrifice of Good Friday

Eucharist Jesus With Us #9, October 2005. Q1005

The following is a draft of a published article ©2005 by St. Anthony Messenger Press, 28 w. Liberty St., Cincinnati, OH 45202.  1-800-488-0488.  The article may not be reproduced or sold without written permission from the publisher.

Often when I am giving talks on the Eucharist I will ask: “What is the Mass?” And there are always people in the audience who will respond spontaneously: “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.”  This answer from the Baltimore Catechism which I memorized in grade school has had a lasting influence on the way Catholics understand the Eucharist as a sacrifice.   

And what is a sacrifice?   Sacrifice was defined in that same catechism as “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.” (Baltimore Catechism, ©1953, # 358)  And when does this destruction of the victim happen?   

Not all of the authors agreed on the answer to this question.  Some said it happens “when the bread was eaten”; others said it is “when the priest breaks the host.”  But the most common explanation was that the sign of Jesus' death is found in the two-fold consecration.  The bread (Christ's Body) is on the paten (the small round bread plate) and the wine (Christ's Blood) is in the chalice. This separation of his Body and his Blood is the sign of Jesus' death, the “immolation” of the sacrifice.   

The prayer book I used a child explained: “How does Jesus die again and renew His Sacrifice?  On Calvary He died 'physically' by the separation of His Body from His Blood.  On the altar He dies 'mystically,' since the words of Consecration are like a sword, 'mystically' separating the Body from the Blood by the two separate Consecrations.” (Father Stedman's, Sunday Missal, ©1938, page 52.)  

This understanding of the Sacrifice of the Mass served me well for many years.  There were some “loose ends” if I pushed the explanation too far.  But one might expect some “loose ends” when trying to explain the unexplainable.  However in recent years I have begun to work out a slightly different synthesis based on things I have learned about the history of the Mass and the meaning of “remembering” and “sacrifice” in Sacred Scripture.  I want to present the basic outline of this synthesis and invite you to examine your own understanding of the Mass to see if it might enrich your appreciation of the Eucharist:   the Sacrifice of Good Friday. 

Berakah / Prayer of Blessing 

Pretend for a moment that you have never seen a jigsaw puzzle, and you have in your possession a small strangely shaped piece of cardboard with a beautiful picture on it.  You treasure this object because it was given to you by your parents and had been handed down from their parents.  Then one day you learn about jigsaw puzzles and find other objects similar to the one you possess.  And you discover that your object is actually a piece something much larger and even more beautiful.  And in the context of the total puzzle your “piece” takes on new significance and meaning.  A similar process has taken place regarding the way we think of the words of consecration at Mass.   

Recent discoveries regarding the shape and function of the Eucharistic Prayer have led us to rethink the function of the words of consecration.  Formerly the words of Jesus at the Last Supper ---“This is my body... This is my blood...”--- were, in my mind at least, the only really significant part of the Mass.  (And I believe I was not alone in this perception.  I have seen books which describe the Mass as “the words of consecration with prayers before and after.”)  Consecration was the moment when it all happened.  The altar boy rang the bells.  The singing stopped.  We stopped whatever prayers we were saying.  The priest elevated the host.  Christ had come down from heaven onto the altar. 

As wonderful and important as this is, today we see that the “institution narrative” or words of consecration are one piece of a larger picture, the Eucharistic Prayer.  In a former issue of this newsletter we examined the berakah (blessing) “shape” of the Eucharistic Prayer and said that it consisted of three parts:  1) naming, 2) thankful remembering, and 3) petition through the Holy Spirit.   

To help my students remember this berakah shape of the prayer I sometimes use the silly example of the teenager talking to his dad:  “Dad [naming], you're the best father a guy could ever have.  [thankful remembering] You work hard for us all week to put food on the table.  I bet you're tired and want to stay home tonight and watch television.  [petition] Can I have the keys to the car?” 

In the context of the structure of the Eucharistic Prayer, the words of consecration are seen in the context of the “grateful remembering.”  At each Eucharist we remember God's wonderful and mysterious plan for our salvation which culminated in the incarnation and life of Jesus of Nazareth, the Last Supper with his disciples, his death on the cross, his resurrection, and his ascension into heaven.   

Anamnesis / Remembering 

God the Father freely offers the human race a share in his own divine life by sending his Son among us.  Filled with God's spirit Jesus passed through suffering and death to return to the Father's side.  At each Eucharist we gratefully remember this divine offering by recalling the events of the Pascal Mystery.  But we “remember” these events in the biblical sense of remembering.   

Biblical remembering is not simply recalling an event which happened once, long ago, in the past.  Anamnesis (the biblical notion of memorial) is a remembering that “makes present.”  “Remember me when you come into your kingdom. ... Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (see Luke 23:42-43).   

The anamnesis or “grateful remembering” of the Eucharistic Prayer lifts us out of our “past / present / future” kind of earthly time (chronos in Greek) and we enter into God's time, God's eternal now, the time of salvation (chiros in Greek).   We do not repeat the Last Supper or Christ's death or his resurrection, but we --- in some mysterious way --- become present to these “once and for all” events so that we “are enabled to lay hold upon them and become filled with saving grace.”  (Constitution on the Liturgy, 102) 

At the Eucharist we become present to the great events of the Paschal Mystery.  We are there with the apostles at the Last Supper.  We stand at the foot of the cross.  We witness the Resurrection and Ascension.  The Eucharist is called “the Holy Sacrifice, because it makes present the one sacrifice of Christ the Savior.”  (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1330).

Sacrifice -- Joyful Union

Biblical scholars have helped us see beyond the “death of the animal” in understanding the nature of a sacrifice.  It is not the suffering and death of the animal that is the key to the meaning of sacrifice.  Sacrifice is a ritual action which has as its aim joyful union with God.

For example on the Day of Atonement---the holiest day of the Old Testament calendar---the high priest took the blood of the animal (that is, its very life) and sprinkled it on the altar in the holy of holies (the dwelling of God on earth) and then sprinkled it on the people to indicate that God's life flows through them.  They are united in the same blood and in the same life.  Their sins are forgiven because they are “at one” with the God's life:  At-one-ment.  “Since the life of a living body is in its blood, I have made you put it on the altar, so that atonement may thereby be made for your own lives.” (Leviticus 17:11)    

This same “union of life” is exemplified in Jesus of Nazareth.  He let nothing stand in the way of his union with the Father.  Throughout his life he could pray “Behold, I come to do your will, O God.”  (Hebrews 10:7)   He emptied himself of all pride and self-will and everything that could impede this joyful union with his Father.  He “humbled himself, / becoming obedient to death, / even death on a cross.”  (Philippians 2:8)  At the Eucharist we stand in the presence of this mystery of sacrificial union.  

We stand in the presence of the Paschal Mystery and open ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit to receive the Father's offering of divine love in his Son.  And when in Holy Communion we receive Christ's Body and drink the Blood of the new covenant, we are consumed by that Divine Love and become Christ's Body here on earth and thus achieve the end, the purpose of sacrifice:  joyful union with God.

Our transformation into Christ is the principal petition (epiclesis / invocation) at every Eucharist.  In Eucharistic Prayer IV, for example, we ask that the Holy Spirit “gather all who share this one bread and one cup / into the one body of Christ, a living sacrifice of praise.”  Thus the sacred meal becomes the sacramental sign of the sacrifice of Christ.

 In summary, we can say that at the Eucharist we gather as the Baptized, the Body of Christ.  We read the Scriptures and hear the story of God's wonderful plan for our salvation.  We give thanks for these memories and in the grateful remembering we become present to the Paschal Mystery.  We ask God to send the Holy Spirit to transform our bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ so that we who dine at that sacred table might be transformed into that very Body.  And in Holy Communion we receive a foretaste of that heavenly banquet where we will be one in Christ, and Christ one with God, “so that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28) and thus God's eternal Plan for creation comes to its fulfillment.

 Integration and Synthesis

I believe that these insights into 1) the structure of the Eucharistic prayer, 2) the remembering that makes present, and 3) sacrifice as joyful union with God, can help us come to a deeper appreciation of the Eucharist: the Sacrifice of Good Friday. 

In trying to incorporate these ideas into our understanding of “sacrifice” I am not rejecting the understanding of the faith I received from my parents and the teachers of my youth.  Rather I hope that I am walking in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council which reminds us in the in the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation that the tradition that comes to us from the Apostles continues to grow and develop with the help of the Holy Spirit.  “For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her.”  (Divine Revelation, #8) 

I invite you to see if the ideas presented in this newsletter can help you on your journey toward the “fullness of divine truth.”

“Sacrifice” and “real presence” are the key elements of our Catholic understanding of the Eucharist.  In this newsletter we have examined the Eucharist as sacrifice; but the Eucharist is also the real presence of Christ -- and that will be the subject of our next newsletter.

To Think About

God in his goodness and love for us has given us some hints, some visual aids, to help us figure out the meaning of life and the purpose of our existence.

Principal among these “visible signs” are the sacraments (visible signs of the invisible God).

The Sacrament of Marriage “speaks” to us about the nature of God.

Anyone who is been married (and also those of us who have spent considerable time doing marriage counseling) know the truth of the statement recorded in the Gospel according to Matthew: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  (19:5)

In order for the marriage to be successful, in order for husband and wife to become "one flesh", there is a certain “leaving” behind of the single life that must take place on the part of both husband and wife.  Becoming one requires a certain “death” to the past, something must be “sacrificed”.  This death (sacrifice) is not a physical death, but it is certainly real.

Marriage is a sacrament, a sign of who God is.  God the Father, in an eternal mystery of self-giving love, begets the Son in the Holy Spirit.  The sacrice experienced in the sacrament of marriage is a sign and sacrament of the inner, Trinitarian love within the Godhead. 

Robert Daly, SJ, describes this sacrifice in the following terms: “It begins with the self-offering of God the Father in the gift of the Son, and continues in the self-offering 'response' of the Son, in his humanity and in the power of the Holy Spirit, to the Father and for us. …This loving 'moment' becomes Christian sacrifice when we, in the human actions that are empowered by the same Spirit that was in Jesus, begin to enter into that perfect, en-Spirited, mutually self-giving, mutually self-communicating personal relationship that is the life of the Blessed Trinity."   (Daly, Sacrifice Unveiled, p 5)

This mutual self-giving, mutual self-communicating personal relationship that is the life of the Blessed Trinity, is the very heart of the sacrament of the Eucharist.

At each Eucharist at the epiclesis (the invocation, the very “point” of the prayer, the “give me the keys to the car” part of the prayer) we pray that we who eat and drink the Bread and Cup become the Body of Christ.

As in the sacrament of marriage where husband and wife vow to leave behind whatever would impede their marital love (symbolically:  to leave father and mother), so in the sacrament of the Eucharist we vow to leave behind whatever would impede us from becoming one in the Body of Christ.

This is the sacrifice that each of us offer at every Eucharist.  It is not a physical dying, but it is real.  And “dying” is why we can speak of the “sacrifice” of the Mass.

When St. Paul speaks of:  “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?  Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17 NAB), he is obviously not speaking simply of the physical act of breaking a piece of bread and eating it, he is speaking of the sharing of a common meal.  Something happens when people share a meal together.  There is a certain “coming together” a union brought about through the conversation, physical presence, and the physical sharing of food and drank. 

The physical meal is the outward sign and cause of this spiritual, psychological, real union among the participants.  This is what happens at each Eucharist: the sharing of the meal is the outward sign and cause (sacrament) of the inner reality that takes place, namely, union with Christ and with one another.  This is the very meaning of Christian sacrifice; and therefore it can be said that the meal is the visible sign of the sacramental reality, the sacrificial union with Christ.

This understanding brings together the Protestant preference for “The Lord's Supper” and the Catholic preference for “The Sacrifice of the Mass”-- although this latter designation is now understood in terms of sacrifice as union rather than in terms of Jesus dying once again on the altar.

This theological vision of the Eucharist, sacrament, Sacrifice, and the Trinitarian love of God, has several far-reaching implications:

1.  This understanding of the Sacrifice of the Mass is radically different from what most Catholics were taught.  “On the altar [Christ] dies ‘mystically,' since the words of Consecration are like a sword, mystically separating the Body from the Blood by two separate Consecrations” (My Sunday Missal).   It was this explanation which implies that Christ dies again that Luther (and any contemporary Catholic theologian) would find unacceptable.  Christ died once.  That death cannot be repeated, nor does it need to be.

The above Sacramental understanding of Christian sacrifice (death to sin/union with God) is acceptable to both East and West, Protestant and Roman.  Consequently it removes one of the major causes of the Reformation and opens the bridge to unity in Eucharistic practice among all Christians. 

 2.  The end or purpose of this sacramental action (Christian sacrifice) is becoming one with Christ and thus one with God (theosis, divinization).  This is the very purpose of the Eucharist: that we who eat and drink the Bread and Cup become the Body of Christ.

 “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?  Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17 NAB)

This action is not “merely symbolic” it is real.  We really do become the Body of Christ.  This is the very point that St. Augustine emphasized in his homilies to his fourth century congregations:  “If then you are the Body of Christ and his members, it is your sacrament that reposes on the altar of the Lord … Be what you see and receive what you are.”  “There you are on the table and there you are in the chalice.”  (We are, of course, not physically present in the chalice but our presence is truly real, sacramental.)

This reality points up the difficulty that many Christians have with Transubstantiation.  On the one hand, “substance” can give the impression of physical presence.  And on the other hand Transubstantiation can give the impression that it is the "body of Jesus" that becomes truly present and this “change” is not mentally visualized and understood as including the “Transubstantiation” of the "people in the pews" who become, by eating the Bread and drinking the Cup, the Body of Christ, “really, truly, substantially.”

This broader, biblical, Traditional (in the true sense of Christian tradition) of Real Presence is acceptable to both East and West, Protestants and Romans.  Consequently it removes the other major cause of the Reformation and opens the bridge to unity in Eucharistic practice among all Christians. 

***☺☺☺An added frivolous footnote to those who said, in response to Assignment  #4 that “the principal difference between Catholics and Protestants is that Catholics believe in the Real presence and Protestants do not”:

I read today in The Criterion [the official Catholic newspaper for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis] (February 27, 2015, page 13), that: “Recent polls indicate that some 70% of Catholics in the United States (and 66% in Ireland) do not believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist but rather hold that it is only a symbolic presence of Christ” (Fr. Kenneth Doyle, “The Question Corner”).  If this is true, (and who should doubt the Archbishop's official newspaper?) perhaps it would be more accurate to say that “Catholics (that is, Catholic theologians and official teachers) believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist whereas Protestants (that is, the people in the pews) believe only in a symbolic presence” and to say that “Protestants (that is, Protestant theologians and official teachers) believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist whereas Catholics (that is, the people in the pews) believe only in a symbolic presence.”

So where's the big difference between Catholics and Protestants????  ☺☺☺

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1. In what way is the Mass a sacrifice?

2. At Mass, who offers what to whom?

3. In what way does the Mass "repeat" the sacrifice of Calvary?

4. Explain the reformers preference for the term "The Lord's Supper" over "The Sacrifice of the Mass."

5. Explain what was at issue in the faith-works controversy at the time of the reformation.

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