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Sacrifice of the Mass

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The word Mass ( missa ) first established itself as the general designation for the Eucharistic Sacrifice in the West after the time of Pope Gregory the Great (d. 604), the early Church having used the expression the "breaking of bread" ( fractio panis ) or "liturgy" ( Acts 13:2 , leitourgountes ); the Greek Church has employed the latter name for almost sixteen centuries. There were current in the early days of Christianity other terms;

  • "The Lord's Supper" ( coena dominica ),
  • the "Sacrifice" ( prosphora, oblatio ),
  • "the gathering together" ( synaxis, congregatio ),
  • "the Mysteries", and
  • (since Augustine ), "the Sacrament of the Altar".

With the name "Love Feast" ( agape ) the idea of the sacrifice of the Mass was not necessarily connected. Etymologically, the word missa is neither (as Baronius states) from a Hebrew, nor from the Greek mysis , but is simply derived from missio , just as oblata is derived from oblatio , collecta from collectio , and ulta from ultio . The reference was however not to a Divine "mission", but simply to a "dismissal" ( dimissio ) as was also customary in the Greek rite (cf. "Canon. Apost.", VIII, xv: apolyesthe en eirene ), and as is still echoed in the phrase Ite missa est . This solemn form of leave-taking was not introduced by the Church as something new, but was adopted from the ordinary language of the day, as is shown by Bishop Avitus of Vienne as late as A.D. 500 (Ep. 1 in P.L., LIX, 199):

In churches and in the emperor's or the prefect's courts, Missa est is said when the people are released from attendance.

In the sense of "dismissal", or rather "close of prayer ", missa is used in the celebrated "Peregrinatio Silvae" at least seventy times (Corpus scriptor. eccles. latinor., XXXVIII, 366 sq.) and Rule of St. Benedict places after Hours, Vespers, Compline, the regular formula: Et missae fiant ( prayers are ended). Popular speech gradually applied the ritual of dismissal, as it was expressed in both the Mass of the Catechumens and the Mass of the Faithful, by synecdoche to the entire Eucharistic Sacrifice, the whole being named after the part. The first certain trace of such an application is found in Ambrose (Ep. xx, 4, in P. L. XVI, 995). We will use the word in this sense in our consideration of the Mass in its 1existence, essence , and 1causality.


Before dealing with the proofs of revelation afforded by the Bible and tradition, certain preliminary points must first be decided. Of these the most important is that the Church intends the Mass to be regarded as a " true and proper sacrifice", and will not tolerate the idea that the sacrifice is identical with Holy Communion . That is the sense of a clause from the Council of Trent (Sess. XXII, can. 1): "If any one saith that in the Mass a true and proper sacrifice is not offered to God ; or, that to be offered is nothing else but that Christ is given us to eat; let him be anathema " ( Denzinger, "Enchir.", 10th ed. 1908, n. 948). When Leo XIII in the dogmatic Bull "Apostolicae Curae" of 13 Sept., 1896, based the invalidity of the Anglican form of consecration on the fact among others, that in the consecrating formula of Edward VI (that is, since 1549) there is nowhere an unambiguous declaration regarding the Sacrifice of the Mass, the Anglican archbishops answered with some irritation: "First, we offer the Sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; next, we plead and represent before the Father the Sacrifice of the Cross . . . and, lastly, we offer the Sacrifice of ourselves to the Creator of all things, which we have already signified by the oblation of His creatures. This whole action, in which the people has necessarily to take part with the priest, we are accustomed to call the communion, the Eucharistic Sacrifice". In regard to this last contention, Bishop Hedley of Newport declared his belief that not one Anglican in a thousand is accustomed to call the communion the "Eucharistic Sacrifice." But even if they were all so accustomed, they would have to interpret the terms in the sense of the thirty-nine Articles, which deny both the Real Presence and the sacrifical power of the priest, and thus admit a sacrifice in an unreal or figurative sense only. Leo XIII, on the other hand, in union with the whole Christian past, had in mind in the above-mentioned Bull nothing else than the Eucharistic "Sacrifice of the true Body and Blood of Christ " on the altar. This Sacrifice is certainly not identical with the Anglican form of celebration.

The simple fact that numerous heretics, such as Wyclif and Luther, repudiated the Mass as "idolatry", while retaining the Sacrament of the true Body and Blood of Christ, proves that the Sacrament of the Eucharist is something essentially different from the Sacrifice of the Mass. In truth, the Eucharist performs at once two functions: that of a sacrament and that of a sacrifice. Though the inseparableness of the two is most clearly seen in the fact that the consecrating sacrificial powers of the priest coincide, and consequently that the sacrament is produced only in and through the Mass, the real difference between them is shown in that the sacrament is intended privately for the sanctification of the soul, whereas the sacrifice serves primarily to glorify God by adoration, thanksgiving, prayer, and expiation. The recipient of the one is God, who receives the sacrifice of His only-begotten Son ; of the other, man, who receives the sacrament for his own good. Furthermore, the unbloody Sacrifice of the Eucharistic Christ is in its nature a transient action, while the Sacrament of the Altar continues as something permanent after the sacrifice, and can even be preserved in monstrance and ciborium. Finally, this difference also deserves mention: communion under one form only is the reception of the whole sacrament, whereas, without the use of the two forms of bread and wine (the symbolic separation of the Body and Blood), the mystical slaying of the victim, and therefore the Sacrifice of the Mass, does not take place.

The definition of the Council of Trent supposes as self-evident the proposition that, along with the " true and real Sacrifice of the Mass", there can be and are in Christendom figurative and unreal sacrifices of various kinds, such as prayers of praise and thanksgiving, alms, mortification, obedience, and works of penance. Such offerings are often referred to in Holy Scripture , e.g. in prayer be directed as incense in thy sight, the lifting up of my hands as evening sacrifice." These figurative offerings, however, necessarily presuppose the real and true offering, just as a picture presupposes its subject and a portrait its original. The Biblical metaphors -- a "sacrifice of jubilation" (Ps. xxvi, 6), the "calves of our lips ( Hosea 14:3 ), the "sacrifice of praise" ( Hebrews 13:15 ) -- expressions which apply sacrificial terms to sacrifice ( hostia, thysia ). That there was such a sacrifice, the whole sacrificial system of the Old Law bears witness. It is true that we may and must recognize with St. Thomas (II-II:85:3), as the principale sacrificium the sacrificial intent which, embodied in the spirit of prayer, inspires and animates the external offerings as the body animates the soul, and without which even the most perfect offering has neither worth nor effect before God. Hence, the holy psalmist says: "For if thou hadst desired sacrifice, I would indeed have given it: with burnt-offerings thou wilt not be delighted. A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit" (Ps. I, 18 sq.). This indispensable requirement of an internal sacrifice, however, by no means makes the external sacrifice superfluous in Christianity ; indeed, without a perpetual oblation deriving its value from the sacrifice once offered on the Cross, Christianity, the perfect religion, would be inferior not only to the Old Testament , but even to the poorest form of natural religion. Since sacrifice is thus essential to religion, it is all the more necessary for Christianity, which cannot otherwise fulfil its duty of showing outward honour to God in the most perfect way. Thus, the Church, as the mystical Christ, desires and must have her own permanent sacrifice, which surely cannot be either an independent addition to that of Golgotha or its intrinsic complement; it can only be the one self-same sacrifice of the Cross, whose fruits, by an unbloody offering, are daily made available for believers and unbelievers and sacrificially applied to them.

If the Mass is to be a true sacrifice in the literal sense, it must realize the philosophical conception of sacrifice. Thus the last preliminary question arises: What is a sacrifice in the proper sense of the term? Without attempting to state and establish a comprehensive theory of sacrifice, it will suffice to show that, according to the comparative history of religions, four things are necessary to a sacrifice:

  • a sacrificial gift ( res oblata ),
  • a sacrificing minister ( minister legitimus ),
  • a sacrificial action ( actio sacrificica ), and
  • a sacrificial end or object ( finis sacrificii ).

In contrast with sacrifices in the figurative or less proper sense, the sacrificial gift must exist in physical substance, and must be really or virtually destroyed (animals slain, libations poured out, other things rendered unfit for ordinary uses), or at least really transformed, at a fixed place of sacrifice ( ara, altare ), and offered up to God. As regards the person offering, it is not permitted that any and every individual should offer sacrifice on his own account. In the revealed religion, as in nearly all heathen religions, only a qualified person (usually called priest, sacerdos, lereus ), who has been given the power by commission or vocation, may offer up sacrifice in the name of the community. After Moses, the priests authorized by law in the Old Testament belonged to the tribe of Levi, and more especially to the house of Aaron ( Hebrews 5:4 ). But, since Christ Himself received and exercised His high priesthood, not by the arrogation of authority but in virtue of a Divine call, there is still greater need that priests who represent Him should receive power and authority through the Sacrament of Holy Orders to offer up the sublime Sacrifice of the New Law. Sacrifice reaches its outward culmination in the sacrificial act, in which we have to distinguish between the proximate matter and the real form. The form lies, not in the real transformation or complete destruction of the sacrificial gift, but rather in its sacrificial oblation, in whatever way it may be transformed. Even where a real destruction took place, as in the sacrificial slayings of the Old Testament, the act of destroying was performed by the servants of the Temple, whereas the proper oblation, consisting in the "spilling of blood" ( aspersio sanguinis ), was the exclusive function of the priests. Thus the real form of the Sacrifice of the Cross consisted neither in the killing of Christ by the Roman soldiers nor in an imaginary self-destruction on the part of Jesus, but in His voluntary surrender of His blood shed by another's hand, and in His offering of His life for the sins of the world. Consequently, the destruction or transformation constitutes at most the proximate matter; the sacrificial oblation, on the other hand, is the physical form of the sacrifice. Finally, the object of the sacrifice, as significant of its meaning, lifts the external offering beyond any mere mechanical action into the sphere of the spiritual and Divine. The object is the soul of the sacrifice, and, in a certain sense, its "metaphysicial form". In all religions we find, as the essential idea of sacrifice, a complete surrender to God for the purpose of union with Him; and to this idea there is added, on the part of those who are in sin, the desire for pardon and reconcillation. Hence at once arises the distinction between sacrifices of praise and expiation ( sacrificium latreuticum et propitiatorium ), and sacrifices of thanksgiving and petition ( sacrificium eucharisticum et impetratorium ); hence also the obvious inference that under pain of idolatry, sacrifice is to be offered to God alone as the begining and end of all things. Rightly does St. Augustine remark (De civit. Dei, X, iv): "Who ever thought of offering sacrifice except to one whom he either knew, or thought, or imagined to be God ?".

If then we combine the four constituent ideas in a definition, we may say: "Sacrifice is the external oblation to God by an authorized minister of a sense-perceptible object, either through its destruction or at least through its real transformation, in acknowledgement of God's supreme dominion and of the appeasing of His wrath." We shall demonstrate the applicability of this definition to the Mass in the section devoted to the nature of the sacrifice, after settling the question of its existence.

A. Scriptural Proof

It is a notable fact that the Divine institution of the Mass can be established, one might almost say, with greater certainty by means of the Old Testament than by means of the New.

1. Old Testament

The Old Testament prophecies are recorded partly in types, partly in words. Following the precedent of many Fathers of the Church (see Bellarmine, "De Euchar.", v, 6), the Council of Trent especially (Sess. XXII, cap. i) laid stress on the prophetical relation that undoubtedly exists between the offering of bread and wine by Melchisedech and the Last Supper of Jesus. The occurrence was briefly as follows: After Abraham (then still called "Abram") with his armed men had rescued his nephew Lot from the four hostile kings who had fallen on him and robbed him, Melchisedech, King of Salem (Jerusalem), "bringing forth [ proferens ] bread and wine for he was a priest of the Most High God, blessed him [ Abraham ] and said: Blessed be Abram by the Most High God. . . And he [ Abraham ] gave him the tithes of all" ( Genesis 14:18-20 ). Catholic theologians (with very few exceptions) have from the beginning rightly emphasized the circumstance that Melchisedech brought out bread and wine, not merely to provide refreshment for Abram's followers wearied after the battle, for they were well supplied with provisions out of the booty they had taken ( Genesis 14:11, 16 ), but to present bread and wine as food-offerings to Almighty God. Not as a host, but as " priest of the Most High God ", he brought forth bread and wine, blessed Abraham, and received the tithes from him. In fact, the very reason for his "bringing forth bread and wine " is expressly stated to have been his priesthood : "for he was a priest ". Hence, proferre must necessarily become offerre , even if it were true that the Hiphil word is not an hieratic sacrificial term; but even this is not quite certain (cf. Judges 6:18 sq. ). Accordingly, Melchisedech made a real food-offering of bread and wine.

Now it is the express teaching of Scripture that Christ is "a priest for ever according to the order [ kata ten taxin ] of Melchisedech " ( Psalm 109:4 ; Hebrews 5:5 sq. ; 7:1 sqq. ). Christ, however, in no way resembled his priestly prototype in His bloody sacrifice on the Cross, but only and solely at His Last Supper. On that occasion He likewise made an unbloody food-offering, only that, as Antitype, He accomplished something more than a mere oblation of bread and wine, namely the sacrifice of His Body and Blood under the mere forms of bread and wine. Otherwise, the shadows cast before by the "good things to come" would have been more perfect than the things themselves, and the antitype at any rate no richer in reality than the type. Since the Mass is nothing else than a continual repetition, commanded by Christ Himself, of the Sacrifice accomplished at the Last Supper, it follows that the Sacrifice of the Mass partakes of the New testament fulfilment of the prophecy of Melchisedech. (Concerning the Paschal Lamb as the second type of the Mass, see Bellarmine, "De Euchar.", V, vii; cf. also von Cichowski, "Das altestamentl. Pascha in seinem Verhaltnis zum Opfer Christi", Munich, 1849.)

Passing over the more or less distinct references to the Mass in other prophets ( Psalm 21:27 sqq. , Isaiah 66:18 sqq. ), the best and clearest prediction concerning the Mass is undoubtedly that of Malachias, who makes a threatening announcement to the Levite priests in the name of God : "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 down, my name is great among the Gentiles [ heathens, non- Jews ], and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for my name is great among Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts" ( Malachi 1:10-11 ). According to the unanimous interpretation of the Fathers of the Church (see Petavius, "De incarn.", xii, 12), the prophet here foretells the everlasting Sacrifice of the New Dispensation. For he declares that these two things will certainly come to pass:

  • The abolition of all Levitical sacrifices, and
  • the institution of an entirely new sacrifice.

As God's determination to do away with the sacrifices of the Levites is adhered to consistently throughout the denunciation, the essential thing is to specify correctly the sort of sacrifice that is promised in their stead. In regard to this, the following propositions have to be established:

  • that the new sacrifice is to come about in the days of the Messiah ;
  • that it is to be a true and real sacrifice, and
  • that it does not coincide formally with the Sacrifice of the Cross.

It is easy to show that the sacrifice referred to by Malachias did not signify a sacrifice of his time, but was rather to be a future sacrifice belonging to the age of the Messiah. For though the Hebrew participles of the original can be translated by the present tense (there is sacrifice; it is offered), the mere universality of the new sacrifice -- "from the rising to the setting", "in every place", even "among the Gentiles ", i.e. heathen (non- Jewish ) peoples -- is irrefragable proof that the prophet beheld as present an event of the future. Wherever Jahwe speaks, as in this case, of His glorification by the " heathen ", He can, according to Old Testament teaching ( Psalm 21:28 ; 71:10 sqq. ; Isaiah 11:9 ; 49:6 ; 60:9 , 66:18 sqq. ; Amos 9:12 ; Micah 4:2 , etc.) have in mind only the kingdom of the Messiah or the future Church of Christ ; every other explanation is shattered by the text. Least of all could a new sacrifice in the time of the prophet himself be thought of. Nor could there be any idea of is a sacrifice among the genuine heathens, as Hitzig has suggested, for the sacrifices of the heathen, associated with idolatry and impurity, are unclean and displeasing to God ( 1 Corinthians 10:20 ). Again, it could not be a sacrifice of the dispersed Jews ( Diaspora ), for apart from the fact that the existence of such sacrifices in the Diaspora is rather problematic, they were certainly not offered the world over, nor did they possess the unusual significance attaching to special modes of honouring God. Consequently, the reference is undoubtedly to some entirely distinctive sacrifice of the future. But of what future? Was it to be a future sacrifice among genuine heathens, such as the Aztecs or the native Africans ? This is as impossible as in the case of other heathen forms of idolatry. Perhaps then it was to be a new and more perfect sacrifice among the Jews ? This also is out of the question, for since the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus (A.D. 70), the whole system of Jewish sacrifice is irrevocably a thing of the past; and the new sacrifice moreover, is to be performed by a priesthood of an origin other than Jewish ( Isaiah 66:21 ). Everything, therefore, points to Christianity, in which, as a matter of fact, the Messiah rules over non- Jewish peoples.

The second question now presents itself: Is the universal sacrifice thus promised "in every place" to be only a purely spiritual offering of prayer, in other words a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, such as Protestanism is content with; or is it to be a true sacrifice in the strict sense, as the Catholic Church maintains? It is forthwith clear that abolition and substitution must correspond, and accordingly that the old real sacrifice cannot be displaced by a new unreal sacrifice. Moreover, prayer, adoration, thanksgiving, etc., are far from being a new offering, for they are permanent realities common to every age, and constitute the indispensable foundation of every religion whether before or after the Messiah.

The last doubt is dispelled by the Hebrew text, which has no fewer than three classic sacerdotal declarations referring to the promised sacrifice, thus designedly doing away with the possibility of interpreting it metaphorically. Especially important is a substantive Hebrew for "sacrifice". Although in its origin the generic term for every sacrifice, the bloody included (cf. Genesis 4:4 sq. ; 1 Samuel 2:17 ), it was not only never used to indicate an unreal sacrifice (such as a prayer offering ), but even became the technical term for an unbloody sacrifice (mostly food offerings), in contradistinction to the bloody sacrifice which is given the name of Sebach .

As to the third and last proposition, no lengthy demonstration is needed to show that the sacrifice of Malachias cannot be formally identified with the Sacrifice of the Cross. This interpretation is at once contradicted by the Minchah , i.e. unbloody (food) offering. Then, there are other cogent considerations based on fact. Though a real sacrifice, belonging to the time of the Messiah and the most powerful means conceivable for glorifying the Divine name, the Sacrifice of the Cross, so far from being offered "in every place" and among non- Jewish peoples, was confined to Golgotha and the midst of the Jewish people. Nor can the Sacrifice of the Cross, which was accomplished by the Saviour in person without the help of a human representative priesthood, be identified with that sacrifice for the offering of which the Messiah makes use of priests after the manner of the Levites, in every place and at all times. Furthermore, he wilfully shuts his eyes against the light, who denies that the prophecy of Malachias is fulfilled to the letter in the Sacrifice of the Mass. In it are united all the characteristics of the promised sacrifice: its unbloody sacrificial rite as genuine Minchah , its universality in regard to place and time its extension to non- Jewish peoples, its delegated priesthood differing from that of the Jews, its essential unity by reason of the identity of the Chief Priest and the Victim (Christ), and its intrinsic and essential purity which no Levitical or moral uncleanliness can defile. Little wonder that the Council of Trent should say (Sess XXII, cap.i): "This is that pure oblation, which cannot be defiled by unworthiness and impiety on the part of those who offer it, and concerning which God has predicted through Malachias, that there would be offered up a clean oblation in every place to His Name, which would be great among the Gentiles (see Denzinger, n. 339).

2. New Testament

Passing now to the proofs contained in the New Testament, we may begin by remarking that many dogmatic writers see in the dialogue of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well a prophetic reference to the Mass ( John 4:21 sqq. ): Woman believe me, that the hour cometh, when you shall neither on this mountain [Garizim] nor in Jerusalem, adore the Father.... But the hour cometh and now is, when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth." Since the point at issue between the Samaritans and the Jews related, not to the ordinary, private offering of prayer practised everywhere, but to the solemn, public worship embodied in a real Sacrifice, Jesus really seems to refer to a future real sacrifice of praise, which would not be confined in its liturgy to the city Jerusalem but would captivate the whole world (see Bellarmine, "De Euchar., v, 11). Not without good reason do most commentators appeal to Hebrews 13:10 : We have an altar [ Thysiastesion, altare ], whereof they have no power to eat [ Phagein, edere ], who serve the tabernacle." Since St. Paul has just contrasted the Jewish food offering ( Bromasin, escis ) and Christian altar food, the partaking of which was denied to the Jews, the inference is obvious: where is an altar, there is a sacrifice. But the Eucharist is the food which the Christians alone are permitted to eat: therefore there is a Eucharistic sacrifice. The objection that, in Apostolic times, the term altar was not yet used in the sense of the "Lord's table" (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:21 ) is clearly a begging of the question, since Paul might well have been the first to introduce the name, it being adopted from him by later writers (e.g. Ignatius of Antioch died A.D. 107).

It can scarcely be denied that the entirely mystical explanation of the "spiritual food from the altar of the cross", favoured by St. Thomas Aquinas , Estius, and Stentrup, is far-fetched. It might on the other hand appear still more strange that in the passage of the Epistle to the Hebrews, where Christ and Melchisedech are compared, the two food offerings should be only not placed in prophetical relation with each other but not even mentioned. The reason, however, is not far to seek: parallel lay entirely outside the scope of the argument. All that St. Paul desired to show was that the high priesthood of Christ was superior to the Levitical priesthood of the Old Testament (cf. Hebrews 7:4 sqq. ), and this is fully demonstrated by proving that Aaron and his priesthood stood far below the unattainable height of Melchisedech. So much the more, therefore, must Christ as " priest according to the order of Melchisedech " excel the Levitical priesthood. The peculiar dignity of Melchisedech, however, was manifested not through the fact that he made a food offering of bread and wine, a thing which the Levites also were able to do, but chiefly through the fact that he blessed the great "Father Abraham and received the tithes from him".

The main testimony of the New Testament lies in the account of the institution of the Eucharist, and most clearly in the words of consecration spoken over the chalice. For this reason we shall consider these words first, since thereby, owing to the analogy between the two formulas clearer light will be thrown on the meaning of the words of consecration spoken over the chalice. For this reason we shall consider these words first, since thereby, owing to the analogy between the two formulae, clearer light will be thrown on the meaning of the words of consecration pronounced over the bread. For the sake of clearness and easy comparison we subjoin the four passages in Greek and English:

  • Matthew 26:28 : Touto gar estin to aima mou to tes [kaines] diathekes to peri pollon ekchynnomenon eis aphesin amartion . For this is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins.
  • Mark 14:24 : Touto estin to aima mou tes kaines diathekes to yper pollon ekchynnomenon . This is my blood of the new testament which shall be shed for many.
  • Luke 22:20 : Touto to poterion he kaine diatheke en to aimati mou, to yper ymon ekchynnomenon. This is the chalice, the new testament in my blood, which shall be shed for you.
  • 1 Corinthians 11:25 : Touto to poterion he kaine diatheke estin en to emo aimati . This chalice is the new testament in my blood.

The Divine institution of the sacrifice of the altar is proved by showing

  • that the "shedding of blood" spoken of in the text took place there and then and not for the first time on the cross;
  • that it was a true and real sacrifice;
  • that it was considered a permanent institution in the Church.

The present form of the participle ekchynnomenon in conjunction with the present estin establishes the first point. For it is a grammatical rule of New Testament Greek, that, when the double present is used (that is, in both the participle and the finite verb, as is the case here), the time denoted is not the distant or near future, but strictly the present (see Fr. Blass, "Grammatik des N.T. Griechisch", p. 193, Gottingen, 1896). This rule does not apply to other constructions of the present tense, as when Christ says earlier ( John 14:12 ): I go ( poreuomai ) to the father". Alleged exceptions to the rule are not such in reality, as, for instance, Matt., vi, 30: "And if the grass of the field, which is today and tomorrow is cast into the oven ( ballomenon ) God doth so clothe ( amphiennysin ): how much more you, O ye of little faith ?" For in this passage it is a question not of something in the future but of something occurring every day. When the Vulgate translates the Greek participles by the future (effundetur, fundetur), it is not at variance with facts, considering that the mystical shedding of blood in the chalice, if it were not brought into intimate relation with the physical shedding of blood on the cross, would be impossible and meaningless; for the one is the essential presupposition and foundation of the other. Still, from the standpoint of philology, effunditur (funditur) ought to be translated into the strictly present, as is really done in many ancient codices. The accuracy of this exegesis is finally attested in a striking way by the Greek wording in St. Luke: to poterion . . . ekchynnomenon . Here the shedding of blood appears as taking place directly in the chalice, and therefore in the present. Overzealous critics, it is true, have assumed that there is here a grammatical mistake, in that St. Luke erroneously connects the "shedding" with the chalice ( poterion ), instead of with "blood" ( to aimati ) which is in the dative. Rather than correct this highly cultivated Greek, as though he were a school boy, we prefer to assume that he intended to use synecdoche, a figure of speech known to everybody, and therefore put the vessel to indicate its contents.

As to the establishment of our second proposition, believing Protestants and Anglicans readily admit that the phrase: "to shed one's blood for others unto the remission of sins " is not only genuinely Biblical language relating to sacrifice, but also designates in particular the sacrifice of expiation (cf. Leviticus 7:14 ; 14:17 ; 17:11 ; Romans 3:25 , 5:9 ; Hebrews 9:10 , etc.). They, however, refer this sacrifice of expiation not to what took place at the Last Supper , but to the Crucifixion the day after. From the demonstration given above that Christ, by the double consecration of bread and wine mystically separated His Blood from His Body and thus in a chalice itself poured out this Blood in a sacramental way, it is at once clear that he wished to solemnize the Last Supper not as a sacrament merely but also as a Eucharistic Sacrifice. If the "pouring out of the chalice " is to mean nothing more than the sacramental drinking of the Blood, the result is an intolerable tautology: "Drink ye all of this, for this is my blood, which is being drunk". As, however, it really reads "Drink ye all of this, for this is my blood, which is shed for many (you) unto remission of sins," the double character of the rite as sacrament and sacrifice is evident. The sacrament is shown forth in the "drinking", the sacrifice in the "shedding of blood". "The blood of the new testament", moreover, of which all the four passages speak, has its exact parallel in the analogous institution of the 0ld Testament through Moses. For by Divine command he sprinkled the people with the true blood of an animal and added, as Christ did, the words of institution ( Exodus 24:8 ): "This is the blood of the covenant (Sept.: idou to aima tes diathekes ) which the Lord hath made with you". St. Paul, however, ( Hebrews 9:18 sq. ) after repeating this passage, solemnly demonstrates (ibid., ix, 11 sq) the institution of the New Law through the blood shed by Christ at the crucifixion; and the Savior Himself, with equal solemnity, says of the chalice : This is My Blood of the new testament". It follows therefore that Christ had intended His true Blood in the chalice not only to be imparted as a sacrament, but to be also a sacrifice for the remission of sins. With the last remark our third statement, viz. as to the permanency of the institution in the Church, is also established. For the duration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is indissolubly bound up with the duration of the sacrament. Christ's Last Supper thus takes on the significance of a Divine institution whereby the Mass is established in His Church. St. Paul ( 1 Corinthians 11:25 ), in fact, puts into the mouth of the Savior the words: "This do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me".

We are now in a position to appreciate in their deeper sense Christ's words of consecration over the bread. Since only St. Luke and St. Paul have made additions to the sentence, "This is My Body", it is only on them that we can base our demonstration.

  • Luke 22:19 : Hoc est corpus meum, quod pro vobis datur; touto esti to soma mou to uper umon didomenon ; This is my body which is given for you.
  • 1 Corinthians 11:24 : Hoc est corpus meum, quod pro vobis tradetur; touto mou esti to soma to uper umon [klomenon] ; This is my body which shall be broken for you.

Once more, we maintain that the sacrifical "giving of the body" (in organic unity of course with the "pouring of blood" in the chalice ) is here to be interpreted as a present sacrifice and as a permanent institution in the Church. Regarding the decisive point, i.e. indication of what is actually taking place, it is again St. Luke who speaks with greatest clearness, for to soma he adds the present participle, didomenon by which he describes the "giving of the body" as something happening in the present, here and now, not as something to be done in the near future.

The reading klomenon in St. Paul is disputed. According to the best critical reading (Tischendorf, Lachmann) the participle is dropped altogether so that St. Paul probably wrote: to soma to uper umon (the body for you, i.e. for your salvation ). There is good reason, however, for regarding the word klomenon (from klan to break) as Pauline, since St. Paul shortly before spoke of the "breaking of bread" ( 1 Corinthians 10:16 ), which for him meant "to offer as food the true body of Christ". From this however we may conclude that the "breaking of the body" not only confines Christ's action to the strictly present, especially as His natural Body could not be "broken" on the cross (cf. Exodus 12:46 ; John 19:32 sq. ), but also implies the intention of offering a "body broken for you" ( uper umon ) i.e. the act constituted in itself a true food offering. All doubt as to its sacrificial character is removed by the expresslon didomenon in St. Luke, which the Vulgate this time quite correctly translates into the present: "quod pro vobis datur." But "to give one's body for others" is as truly a Biblical expression for sacrifice (cf. John 6:52 ; Romans 7:4 ; Colossians 1:22 ; Hebrews 10:10 , etc.) as the parallel phrase, "the shedding of blood". Christ, therefore, at the least Supper offered up His Body as an unbloody sacrifice. Finally, that He commanded the renewal for all time of the Eucharistic sacrifice through the Church is clear from the addition: "Do this for a commemoration of me" ( Luke 32:19 ; 1 Corinthians 11:24 ).

B. Proof from Tradition

Harnack is of opinion that the early Church up to the time of Cyprian (d. 258) the contented itself with the purely spiritual sacrifices of adoration and thanksgiving and that it did not possess the sacrifice of the Mass, as Catholicism now understands it. In a series of writings, Dr. Wieland, a Catholic priest, likewise maintained in the face of vigorous opposition from other theologians, that the early Christians confined the essence of the Christian sacrifice to a subjective Eucharistic prayer of thanksgiving, till Irenaeus (d. 202) brought forward the idea of an objective offering of gifts, and especially of bread and wine. He, according to this view, was the first to include in his expanded conception of sacrifice, the entirely new idea of material offerings (i.e. the Eucharistic elements) which up to that time the early Church had formally repudiated.

Were this assertion correct, the doctrine of the Council of Trent (Sess. XXII, c. ii), according to which in the Mass "the priests offer up, in obedience to the command of Christ, His Body and Blood" (see Denzinger, "Enchir", n. 949), could hardly take its stand on Apostolic tradition ; the bridge between antiquity and the present would thus have broken by the abrupt intrusion of a completely contrary view. An impartial study of the earliest texts seems indeed to make this much clear, that the early Church paid most attention to the spiritual and subjective side of sacrifice and laid chief stress on prayer and thanksgiving in the Eucharistic function.

This admission, however, is not identical with the statement that the early Church rejected out and out the objective sacrifice, and acknowledged as genuine only the spiritual sacrifice as expressed in the "Eucharistic thanksgiving". That there has been an historical dogmatic development from the indefinite to the definite, from the implicit to the explicit, from the seed to the fruit, no one familiar with the subject will deny. An assumption so reasonable, the only one in fact consistent with Christianity, is, however, fundamently different from the hypothesis that the Christian idea of sacrifice has veered from one extreme to the other. This is a priori improbable and unproved in fact. In the Didache or "Teaching of the Twelve Apostles", the oldest post-Biblical literary monument (c. A.D. 96), not only is the "breaking of bread" (cf. Acts 20:7 ) referred to as a "sacrifice" ( Thysia ) and mention made of reconciliation with one's enemy before the sacrifice (cf. Matthew 5:23 ), but the whole passage is crowned with an actual quotation of the prophecy of Malachias, which referred, as is well known, to an objective and real sacrifice (Didache, c. xiv). The early Christians gave the name of "sacrifice"; not only to the Eucharistic "thanksgiving," but also to the entire ritual celebration including the liturgical "breaking of bread", without at first distinguishing clearly between the prayer and the gift (Bread and Wine, Body and Blood). When Ignatius of Antioch (d. 107), a disciple of the Apostles, says of the Eucharist: "There is only one flesh of Our Lord Jesus Christ , only one chalice containing His one Blood, one altar ( en thysiasterion ), as also only one bishop with the priesthood and the deacons " (Ep., ad. Philad. iv), he here gives to the liturgical Eucharistic celebration, of which alone he speaks, by his reference to the "altar" an evidently s

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