Friday, September 12, 2008
The Holy Sacrifice
“In the liturgy…we die with Christ in order to arise with Him; in the liturgy, too, we die to the world in order to live to God” (Liturgy and Personality, D. von Hildebrand, New Hampshire, 1986, pg. 156)
On July 7, 2007 Pope Benedict XVI issued his Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum. This document, issued on the Pope’s “own initiative,” essentially allows any Priest, even without his Bishop’s permission, to pray the Traditional Latin Mass. This is a watershed document for traditionalists. After Vatican II, the presumption was that the Old Rite had been abrogated, in favor of the Novus Ordo, “New Order,” Mass created under Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, at the behest of Pope Paul VI. Many traditionalists were persecuted even within their Church for saying otherwise. After Summorum Pontificum, the presumption changed. See, http://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/b16SummorumPontificum.htm.
The Novus Ordo, “New Order,” Mass itself was an attempt to assuage Protestant sensibilities. Cardinal Alfons Stickler wrote that the, “French philosopher Jean Guitton [said] that Pope Paul VI revealed to him that it was his [Pope Paul VI’s] intention to assimilate as much as possible of the new Catholic liturgy to Protestant worship.” (The Attractiveness of the Tridentine Mass, Alfons Cardinal Stickler, Latin Mass Magazine, Summer 1995.) The Novus Ordo mass was a “banal, on the spot,” (in the words of then Cardinal Ratzinger) liturgy, created in a liturgical think-tank, with the help of six protestant “observers.” The Novus Ordo is a veritable Protestant wish-list of reforms: Where—to many—the Altar becomes the table; the Body of Christ, communion bread, and Latin English etc. (See Cranmer’s Godly Order: The Destruction of Catholicism Through Liturgical Change, Michael Davies, Roman Catholic Books, 1995, particularly ch. XI.)
Of course, the Sacrifice is still present, but is often hidden by the mumbo-jumbo shenanigans of the priest “performing” in front of his happy-clappy parishioners. Worship becomes horizontal: It’s all about community fellowship; hugging each other, holding hands, clapping, etc., while totally forgetting the Sacrifice of Christ. The correct understanding of true participation on the part of lay people was not lost on the minds of pre-conciliar Popes. Pope St. Pius X: “[t]he first and necessary font of a truly Christian spirit for the faithful is their active participation in the most holy and sacred mysteries and in the solemn and common prayer of the Church.” (“Liturgy and Christian Unity”, Marshall and Taylor, Prentice-Hall, 1965, pg. 126,) and Pope Pius XII: “It is desirable that all the faithful should be aware that to participate in the Eucharistic Sacrifice is their chief duty and supreme dignity…” (St. Joseph Missal, Imprimatur, Francis Cardinal Spellman, Catholic Book Publishing Company, pg. 1.) So, these great souls knew the necessity of active participation, in mind body and soul, of the parishioner at the Latin Mass. Indeed, there is nothing more beautiful than participating at the Sacrifice of the Mass, and it is easily done with a hand missal, and soon many learn the Latin of the Mass without a missal, and can participate freely without one. It would be absurd to say that the Novus Ordo has created a more profound understanding of the Sacrifice of the Mass.
Even before the Novus Ordo was manufactured, the liturgy had become almost exclusively vernacular (an exclusively vernacular mass was anathemized by Canon 9 at the council of Trent, btw.) The preface to a Mass book of 1965 states that, “The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy emphasized the communal nature of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and the importance of the people taking their rightful parts in the Mass.” (Parish Mass Book, Catholic Book Publishing, 1965). The only Latin in this book is found on page 282 for the “Preface—Canon,” during the “Eucharistic Banquet,” on page 290, and during the dismissal prayer on page 292. At Mass, we should have our full attention directed towards the eternal Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross; we should grant our entire being to God during this small time-frame in our lives once a week; we should meditate on Christ’s Sacrifice during Mass; one hour spent with God.
Aside from runaway ecumenism, and a de-emphasis on the Sacrificial aspect of the mass, there was also the emphasis on the vernacular. Although the topic of a vernacular mass was treated thoroughly four centuries earlier at Trent, 60’s Catholics somehow thought they had discovered a new-found Truth: If only the mass were vernacular, there would be full and active participation, and the Age of Aquarius would dawn. The Latin Mass, to them, was a time when old ladies prayed their rosaries during mass, and the general parishioner had no clue what was going on.
There is a book published in 1965 titled “Liturgy and Christian Unity,” (Prentice-Hall) written by a Catholic Priest, Michael J. Taylor, S.J., and a Protestant, Romey Marshall, “President-emeritus, the Order of St. Luke,” which is a smorgasbord of ecumenical ideals. In it we read from Taylor, mind you he’s a priest, that, “The people…in the middle ages especially…lost a sense of being a vital part of the assembly [sic] action; it so happened that events caused them to take on a detached, spectator’s view.” (Pg. 103) This comports with the Protestant counter-point, “When we think only of the wonder of the Mass, of a miracle which we believe takes place upon the altar, when we become content to see and hear, as did the Christians of the Middle Ages [at least this Protestant has the respect to capitalize this glorious time in the Church], then we lose sight of the greatest miracle of all—that God through Christ gave himself for us…” (Pg. 29). That argument, underwhelming as it is, is the Protestant-Jansenist ideal of a Church bereft of adornments or accoutrements, which are superfluous in a “pure” church of Christ. But such an unadorned “church” bypasses the fact that Christ said He would “build” His Church on earth, and that the Church would be built upon Saint Peter (Matt. 16:18). The “building” is literal and spiritual—Christ Himself permitted His feet to be anointed with costly oil even though one of His disciples, Judas, who would ironically betray Him for money, protested that to do so would take away from the poor (Jn. 12: 3). Do Protestants think that all the Councils, magnificent Cathedrals, anathemas, pronouncements, decrees and dogmas through the centuries were in vain, but somehow Luther and Calvin found a truer path, even though most of their progeny now favor abortion?
The reality is that false ecumenism is alive and well in the Church; there is a new chapel in the Vatican for those outside the Church to offer their liturgies (http://www.cfnews.org/EcuChapel.htm;) it’s almost as if some prelates in the Church are unsure of the Church, and Her role—her essentiality—in the Salvation of the world through Her founder, Christ.
The Second Vatican Council imagined that there was a new ecumenical spirit alive in the 1960’s wherein, supposedly, the Holy Spirit was leading faith communities together:
"Today, in many parts of the world, under the inspiring grace of the Holy Spirit, many efforts are being made in prayer, word and action to attain that fullness of unity which Jesus Christ desires. The Sacred Council exhorts all the Catholic faithful to recognize the signs of the times and to take an active and intelligent part in the work of ecumenism.
Unitatis Redintegratio, 4.
The sad reality is that, today, the Catholic Church and various protestant sects are drifting further apart. Not because the Catholic Church is drifting, but because She is standing firm. For instance, it might have been conceivable in the 1960’s for the Episcopalians and Catholics to someday reconcile (through the Anglican church,) today this is inconceivable since Episcopalians ordain female bishops; a stance the Church will never budge on (unlike, say, married priests, which has historical precedent; and, in fact, there are married Priests in the Church today, though the general law of the Church is that Priests should be celebrate.)
Of course, there is nothing wrong with true ecumenism as properly understood. Dietrich von Hildebrand wrote that: "The attitude which goes with true ecumenism involves sympathetically emphasizing the elements of truth in other religions while clearly rejecting the errors they contain." (The Devastated Vineyard, Roman Catholic Books, 1985.) The problem with the Catholic ecumenical enterprise is that it has made manifold efforts to appease the Protestant position while the vast majority of Protestants have made no movements to the Catholic side. Many Catholics, in fact, have had their faith so watered-down, at times, by false ecumenism that they often look in the mirror and do not see a Catholic anymore (for instance, a minority now do not believe in the Real Presence, which is the central mystery of our Faith.) False ecumenism, therefore, has gained nothing for the Church, and has caused her to lose much. In the last decades, the Church became so intent on appeasing her separated brethren that she began to lose her essence. Fortunately, Pope Benedict XVI has made efforts to reverse the trend.
But how did such a situation arise in the first place? Did Vatican II call for us to give the Church’s treasures away and acquiesce to Martin Luther and his progeny? What good was served to the Church when John Paul II conducted a joint prayer service with two Lutheran Bishops inside St. Peter’s on October 5, 1991? Did this act tend to teach that the Catholic Church is just one branch of the Christian family tree, or did it affirm the Catholic doctrine of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus (outside the Church there is no Salvation)? John Paul II was a man of great faith and prayer, and possibly a Saint, but is the purpose of ecumenism, in the Catholic sense, to assuage the manifold Protestant denominations, or to affirm what is true in them, while “clearly rejecting” what is false?
The last message of Vatican II’s document on ecumenism is that unity is to be found only in the bosom of the Church: “The Council moreover professes its awareness that human powers and capacities cannot achieve this holy objective-the reconciling of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ.” UR, 24 (boldface added.)
Somehow this truth is lost on the likes of Cardinal Walter Kasper:
"The old concept of the ecumenism of return has today been replaced by that of a common journey which directs Christians toward the goal of ecclesial communion understood as unity in reconciled diversity…The Ecumenism of return is no longer applicable to the Church after Vatican II."
L’Osservatore Romano, January 20, 2000 (quoted in The Great Façade, pg. 201, Thomas E. Woods, Jr. and Christopher A. Ferrara, Remnant Press, 2002.)
So we have a Catholic publication—indeed, the Vatican’s official publication—publishing a piece diametrically opposed to the Church’s own understanding of the purpose of ecumenism; that is, the return of all Christians to the one and only Church of Christ. Though Vatican II made the point so small that it was easily obscured, it is there, nevertheless.
Cardinal Ratzinger, before he became Pope, spoke of a “unity in diversity,” (The Great Façade, pg. 202.) A unity in diversity is possible only if the diverse faith communities subscribe to the doctrines and dogmas of the Church, and offer the Sacrifice of the Mass, much as reconciled Byzantine Catholics do: They may have unique rites but they hold fealty to the one Church of Christ and her teachings.
Mixed signals have also been sent by Popes since Vatican II. Pope John Paul II, at the infamous interfaith “prayer gatherings” of Assisi I and II, stood in line with “muftis, Buddhist monks,” and others, holding potted olive plants for peace. The prayers for peace included an “Animist prayer to the Great Thumb,” (The Great Façade, pg. 84.) More shocking, at Assisi II:
"[v]arious religions were assigned rooms in the monastery attached to the Basilica of St. Francis to perform various pagan rituals. Thus at a profoundly sacred Catholic site, where for centuries holy monks had prayed for the conversion of such souls, a (polytheistic) Jainist minister burned wood chips in his sacred urn, and practitioners of the other religions, including voodoo, observed their own ‘traditions.’ "
The Great Façade, pg. 86 (citation omitted.)
It is a good thing to pray for peace, but such gatherings go beyond any conceivable notion of ecumenism that the Fathers who signed Unitatis imagined, and begin to stink of syncretism. Not that syncretism was the Church’s intention, but syncretism, by the Church not explicitly denouncing it, was the practical outcome for many at the prayer meeting and for many of those who observed since. Conducting joint prayer services with Lutheran ministers inside St. Peter’s Basilica, was a nice gesture in the modernist sense, but would have horrified the great Saints. The Church should be in the business of saving souls, not appeasing them.
The phenomena of Medjugorje isn’t helping things. The Church was built on the blood and bones of the martyrs. When Vicka, a “visionary” from Medjugorje, says that Our Lady is not calling people to become Catholics, but that, “[T]he Blessed Mother says all religions are dear to her and her Son…” (“The Visions of the Children,” Janice T. Connell, St. Martin’s Press, 1992, pg. 119,) one is left with a feeling of indifferentism towards the Catholic faith (in fairness, this is not an official message from Our Lady of Medjugorje, but Vicka’s interpretation.) The martyrs' blood—those who sacrificed all to teach the True Faith, and "convert all nations”—becomes irrelevant. For the same reason, some of the greatest Saints' teachings become irrelevant. Also, portions of the Bible become irrelevant because we are exhorted to spread the True Faith “to the ends of the earth”; but if God doesn't desire others to become Catholic, why bother? Why did the Martyrs shed their blood? Why did the Missionaries risk all, often also becoming martyrs, to spread the Faith? Why did Our Lady of Guadalupe appear to Saint Juan Diego, leaving her image on his tilma, which resulted in the conversion of millions, if all faiths are “dear”?
The practical effect of runaway ecumenism is that there are those in and out of the Church who think that Salvation is equally available to those outside of the Church. Again, Pope Benedict XVI has been making efforts to correct the mistake that the Church somehow espouses syncretism. And although Vatican II did not teach relativism, it has been misused and misconstrued by many to do so.
Returning to the book, “Liturgy and Christian Unity,” (which of course advocates ad-nauseam about the necessity for the vernacular—how stupid a Latin Mass was, and, by extension, all those Saints formulated by it—and for a table instead of an altar etc.) the most blasphemous parts are the advancements for “periodic intercommunion.” From the Priest on page 170: “After a history of common prayer, we would be better disposed to undertake occasional intercommunion together. Aware of our basic spiritual unity…we could approach the Eucharist not as a sign of union in faith and worship, but as an extraordinary supplication for God’s intervention in our move towards unity.” (Pg. 170) Wow! That is where things were leading in the 1960’s. Christ as a political tool for unity! No longer is He Christ the King, the Lord of Lords, etc, but He’s a vehicle for unity! This is Liberation theology before its time. Now I’d like to distinguish this sacrilegious misunderstanding.
The Mass which formed the majority of the great Saints, including Saint Therese de Lisieux, Saint Bernadette, Saint Theresa of Avila, Saint John of the Cross, Saint Thomas More, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, Saint Juan Diego, and hundreds others, was done in Latin, in the “Extraordinary” form, and it was a Sacrifice, not a “service.” These Saints, many of them illiterate, came to the Church through the Latin Mass. The missionaries on the great plain brought millions to the Church through the same rite, yet there were those with the gall in the 60’s to say that it was “deficient,” and the mass should be vernacularized and protestantized.
The Church has through the centuries maintained the Latin language in worship, which Cardinal Stickler explains:
"Chapter 8 [of the Council of Trent] is dedicated to the peculiar language of worship in the Mass. It is known that in the cult of all religions a sacred language is used. In the Roman Catholic Church during the first three centuries the language was Greek, being the common language employed in the Latin world. From the fourth century on, the Latin language developed into the common idiom in the Roman Empire. Latin remained for centuries in the Roman Catholic Church as the only lanuuage for worship. Quite naturally, Latin was also the language of the Roman rite in its central act of worship, the Mass. This remained the case even after Latin was replaced as the living language by the various Romance languages.
Now we come to the question: why not chance again? We answer: divine Providence establishes even secondary things. For example, Palestine—Jerusalem—is the place of the Redemption by Jesus Christ. Rome is the center of the Church. Peter was not born in Rome. He came to Rome. Why? It was the center then of the Roman Empire—that means, of the world. That is the practical background of the diffusion of the Faith by the Roman Empire, only a human thing, a historical thing. But it enters certainly in divine Providence.
A similar process can be seen even in other religions. For the Moslems, the old Arab language is dead and yet it remains the language of their liturgy, of their cult. For the Hindus, the Sanskrit. Due to its necessary connection with the supernatural, worship naturally requires its own particular religious language, which should not be “vulgar” one.
The fathers of the Council knew very well that most of the faithful assisting at the Mass neither understood Latin nor were able to read translations. They were generally illiterate. The fathers also knew that the Mass contains a great deal of instruction for the faithful.
Nevertheless they did not agree with the view held by Protestants that it was necessary to celebrate the Mass only in the vernacular. In order to provide instruction for the faithful, the Council ordered that the old custom approved by the Holy Roman Church—the mother and teacher of all churches—be maintained everywhere, and that care should be had for souls in explaining the central mystery of the Mass.
Canon 9 threatens with excommunication those who affirm that the language of the Mass must only be the vernacular. It is noteworthy that in both chapter and canon the Council of Trent only rejected the exclusivity of the “vulgar” language in the sacred rites. On the other hand, we need once again to take into account that these various Conciliar regulations do not only have a disciplinary character. They are based on a doctrinal, theological foundation that involves the Faith itself.
The reasons for this concern can be seen, firstly, in the reverence that is due to the mystery of the Mass. The decree which immediately followed concerning what has to be observed and avoided in the celebration of the Mass states, “Irreverence cannot be separated from impiety.” Irreverence always involves impiety. In addition, the Council wished to safeguard the ideas expressed in the Mass, and the precision of the Latin tongue safeguards the content against misunderstanding and potential errors based on linguistic imprecision.
For these reasons the Church has always defended the sacred tongue and even recently Pius XI expressly stated that this language should be non vulgaris. For these self-same reasons Canon 9 established excommunication against those who affirm that the rite of the Roman Church, in which a part of the Canon and the words of consecration are pronounced silently, must be condemned. Even silence has a theological background."
Latin Mass Magazine, Id.
Because of Vatican II and its deleterious aftermath, a whole generation has been brought-up to understand the Mass as a community gathering, not as the Worship of God in the Sacrifice of the Mass. We can gather with and greet one another before or after mass, but the practical effect of, say, the Novus Ordo Kiss of Peace, is to distract us from God (a peace offering interiorly should be done with the Priest.) Mass is a time to worship God, not communicate with each other (which we can readily do AFTER mass.) When we hold hands at the Our Father, we are distracted from God, and think of the sweaty palm in ours, not the sublime prayer we are reciting.
One unbridgeable bride between Catholics and Protestants is the nature of the Mass itself. The Protestant worship service is a community gathering of song, praise and fellowship. The Mass, despite the best efforts of the liberal periti at Vatican II, and screaming liberal Catholic “theologians” since, was and remains the Unbloody Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, first and foremost, perpetuated as He Himself commanded us to perpetuate: “For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord, until he come.” (1Cor.11:26) No one did better to describe the significance of the Mass than the late Michael Davies:
"[T]he altar of sacrifice in the Jewish Temple represented God, just as the Christian altar represents Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The blood of the victim was said to contain its life, and when poured upon the altar it had been returned to God in Whom that life originated. …. The Christian religion has only one sacrifice, the sacrifice that was once offered when Our Lord Jesus Christ, acting both as priest and victim, shed His Blood for us upon the Cross. Every type and every purpose of Old Testament sacrifice was fulfilled to perfection on Calvary. Holocaust, peace offering, sin offering were all merely types, shadows, figures of that one perfect sacrifice on the first Good Friday when God the Son made Man reconciled all tings unto Himself, ‘making peace through the Blood of His Cross, both as to the things that are on earth and the things that are in heaven’ (Col. 1:20).
In so far as the Old Testament sacrifices had been offered sincerely with an humble and contrite heart, they had pleased God and brought blessings upon those who had offered them. But such sacrifices could never atone for the sin of Adam and the sins of all his descendants. In a perfect sacrifice priest and victim must be identical, but this had been impossible before the coming of Our Lord.
When Christ on the Cross cried out His Consummatum est, few were the men who noticed it, fewer still the men who perceived that this phrase announced a turning point for mankind, that this death opened into everlasting life gates through which, from that moment on, all the people of the earth would pass. Now, to meet the expectant longing of mankind, this great event is arrested and, through Christ’s institution [of the mass] held fast for these coming generations so that they might be conscious witnesses of that event in the last centuries and amongst the remotest nations, and might look up to it in holy rapture.’…[t]he Catholic Church has meaning and significance only in so far as it is directed towards God. It is equally true that it has meaning and significance only in so far as it is considered as an exercise of the priesty office of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord’s priestly office on earth did not come to an end when He ascended into heaven. He perpetuates it in His Mystical Body, the Church, which, in its innermost reality, is an extension of the Incarnation throughout the nations and the centuries. Our Lord is present among us today in His Church, teaching, ruling, and sanctifying us. Priests who have received their orders in direct succession from the Apostles offer the Mass in Christ’s name and in His person, in persona Christi. Our Lord Himself is the true High Priest of every Mass, the priest at the altar acts only as His instrument. In the traditional Mass of the Roman Rite, now commonly known as the Tridentine Mass, this sublime truth is symbolized fittingly by the manner in which the priest subordinates himself to the awe inspiring holiness and majesty of the rite which he is celebrating, the rite which Father Faber described as the most beautiful thing this side of heaven.’ A prayer in the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom evokes the profound truth that: ‘It is really Thou Who dost offer and art offered, Thou Who dost receive the offering and art given back to us, Christ our God.’ The Sacrifice of the Mass is truly the Sacrifice of Calvary made present among us, a sacrifice at which we should dare to be present only in a spirit of the utmost reverence and most abject humility, conscious of our unworthiness in the presence of the all holy God. ‘Quam terribilis est haec hora!’ cries out the deacon in the Syrian liturgy. ‘How awesome is this hour!’ Awesome it is indeed when our Savior and our God is present among us as priest and victim."
Michael Davies, The Eternal Sacrifice, Newman Press, 1987, pages.11-14, citation omitted.
Now, the obvious Protestant response is: “My personal relationship with Jesus is all.” That is a natural response, and I don’t judge it. But let me ask my Protestant friends this: By what authority do you base your opinions? If private judgment is authoritative, why so many sects and beliefs? Did Christ institute one Church, as He says in the Bible, or 33,000 protestant denominations? The Catholic, if he is such, also must have a personal relationship with Christ to be saved. But we need more; we need the Sacraments, we need to do good works, we need the “Bread of Life.”
The Unbridgeable gap between Catholics and Protestants really is the Eucharist confected in the Holy Sacrifice. Many Protestants are interested in the early Church, but the early Church was decidedly Catholic. The Eucharist was all important to the Church Fathers: Saint Ignatius, third Bishop of Antioch after St. Peter, on his way to martyrdom at the Flavian ampitheatre for being a Christian, for instance, wrote in a letter that, “[The Eucharist is] the medicine of immortality, and the sovereign remedy by which we escape death and live in Jesus Christ for evermore.” And, “There is no pleasure for me in any meats that perish, or in the delights of this life; I am fain for the bread of God, even the flesh of Jesus Christ, who is the seed of David; and for my drink I crave that Blood of His which is love imperishable.” (Cir. 110 A.D.) St. Ephraim the Syrian (d. AD 373) wrote that, “one particle from [the Eucharist’s] crumbs is able to sanctify thousands and thousands, and is sufficient to afford life to those who eat of it.” Justin Martyr wrote that:
"Just as our Savior Jesus Christ was made flesh by the word of God and took on flesh and blood for our salvation, so also were we taught that the food, for which thanksgiving has been made through the word of prayer instituted by him, and from which our blood and flesh are nourished after the change, is the flesh of that Jesus who was made flesh."
First Apology, cir. 155 A.D.
Saint Augustine wrote:
"It is an excellent thing that the Punic Christians call baptism itself nothing else but 'salvation' and the sacrament of Christ’s Body nothing else but “life.” Whence does this derive, except from an ancient, and I suppose, Apostolic Tradition, by which the Churches of Christ hold inherently that without Baptism and participation in the Table of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and life eternal. This is the witness of Scripture too. "
De Peccatorum Remissione et de Baptismo Parvulorum, AD 412
There are many more quotes from the early Church Fathers regarding the Eucharist. One of the earliest quotes on the Sacrificial aspect of Mass, where ordinary bread becomes the Body of Christ during Transubstantiation, comes from Saint Cyprian, a convert, Bishop and Martyr:
"[i]n the priest Melchizedek we see prefigured the sacrament of the sacrifice of the Lord…
[t]he Lord’s sacrifice [is not] celebrated with a legitimate consecration unless our oblation and sacrifice respond to His passion.
For if Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, is Himself the chief priest of God the Father, and has first offered Himself a sacrifice to the Father, and has commanded this to be done in commemoration of Himself, certainly that priest truly discharges the office of Christ, who imitates that which Christ did; and he then offers a true and full sacrifice in the Church to God the Father, when he proceeds to offer it according to what he sees Christ Himself to have offered.
And because we make mention of His passion in all sacrifices (for the Lord’s passion is the sacrifice which we offer), we ought to do nothing else than what He did. For Scripture says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you do show forth the Lord’s death till He come.” [1 Corinthians 11:26] As often, therefore, as we offer the cup in commemoration of the Lord and of His passion, let us do what it is known the Lord did. And let this conclusion be reached, dearest brother: if from among our predecessors any have either by ignorance or simplicity not observed and kept this which the Lord by His example and teaching has instructed us to do, he may, by the mercy of the Lord, have pardon granted to his simplicity. But we cannot be pardoned who are now admonished and instructed by the Lord to offer the cup of the Lord mingled with wine according to what the Lord offered, and to direct letters to our colleagues also about this, so that the evangelical law and the Lord’s tradition may be everywhere kept, and there be no departure from what Christ both taught and did."
Epistle 62, 4-17, cir. 250 A.D.
Of course, the Bible is full of references to the Eucharist and Sacrifice. Christ said three times that the Eucharist IS His body (Matt. 26:26, Mk. 14:22, Lk. 22:19,) Christ didn’t say, “this is like my body,” but, “this IS my body.” That point is lost by many. Although Christ’s actual death was a one-time event, Heb. 7:27, Christ clearly wanted His disciples to re-present the event of His Sacrifice in an unbloody manner in the Consecration. The Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world. Rev. 13:8.
Paul speaks specifically about the altar of the Sacrifice: “We have an altar, whereof they have no power to eat who serve the tabernacle. For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the holies by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people by his own blood, suffered without the gate.” Heb. 13:10-12.
Paul Says again in 1 Cor. 10:16-22:
"The chalice of benediction, which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread, which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord? For we, being many, are one bread, one body, all that partake of one bread. Behold Israel according to the flesh: are not they, that eat of the sacrifices, partakers of the altar? What then? Do I say, that what is offered in sacrifice to idols, is any thing? Or, that the idol is any thing? But the things which the heathens sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God. And I would not that you should be made partakers with devils. You cannot drink the chalice of the Lord, and the chalice of devils: you cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord, and of the table of devils."
"I am the bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the desert, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven; that if any man eat of it, he may not die.
I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying: How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.
For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He that eateth this bread, shall live for ever."
Jn. 6:41-59, Duay-Rheims.
Many Protestants advocate for a literal interpretation of the Bible, except when it comes to certain Eucharistic passages, including the one above, or, for instance, where Christ tells his Apostles that they can forgive sins (the institution of the Sacrament of Penance, Cf. Jn. 20:23.) Some passages are, admittedly, “hard” teachings in the Bible. Christ wasn’t advocating cannibalism, an idea which crossed his listeners’ minds, but the teaching of the Church, of which He is the head, is that the Eucharist really is the soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, as hard as that is to believe for some. There are many more Eucharistic and Sacrificial aspects in the Bible, too numerous to go into for the purposes of this article.
Instead of continuing the down-ward, watering down of our faith to protestant sensibilities, we should grasp the initiative of Pope Benedict XVI in his Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, and regain what has been lost in the essence of Catholic identity—namely, the understanding of the Mass as Sacrifice. It seems as though prelates after Vatican II thought the imperative was to modernize, mechanicalize, and make palatable the mass to modern senses. But Christ said that His Kingdom was not of this world, but of the next. The mass should be a time to transcend the banal in everyday life, and live with God for a short time. Thus, the Latin Mass has been called, “the most beautiful thing this side of heaven (Fr. Frederick Faber;) this mass was celebrated by Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, on April 18, 1999: http://www.unavoce.org/ratzinger1.htm. This might be seen as the beginning of the restoration of the true worship of Catholicism in the world after Vatican II.
Pope Benedict, before he became Pope, spoke of Martin Luther and his progeny as saying that it is "the most appalling horror and a damnable impiety to speak of the sacrifice of the Mass." Our Pope went on to confirm the understanding of the Mass as Sacrifice: http://www.christianorder.com/features/features_2004/features_junejuly04_bonus.html.
But it is this “damnable heresy,” that will restore Catholicism. The disbelief in the Mass as Sacrifice is the true heresy, which is easily demonstrable by the three prongs of Catholic teaching: The Magisterium, Sacred Scripture and Tradition; without the true belief in the Eucharist, Catholicism is null and void. So, true ecumenism is not in acquiescing to and appeasing our separated brothers and sisters in the protestant faiths in having our faith more palatable to them, but in reaffirming our traditional values and teach in a firm way that the Mass really is an unbloody Sacrifice, and the Eucharist the Body of Christ. We can do this, first and foremost, by returning to the Latin Mass, the “Extraordinary Form” of mass, as contemplated by Pope Benedict XVI. Only in this way will we show by example what true worship is. The Church had no lack of converts before Vatican II. Watering-down our faith has gained us nothing, and lost us so much.
True Ecumenism is to teach others the Truth, found only in the Catholic Church, not to cooperate in the faith and beliefs of our separated brethren. We should teach, exhort, call to the fold our separated brothers; not join them in unnecessary interfaith prayer gatherings or intercommunion; activities which leave the impression that all Christian churches are branches of the Church of Christ. There is only one Church of Christ: The Roman Catholic Church; all ecumenical activity should be geared towards exhorting the return of our separated brethren back into the Ark of Salvation, outside of which “there is no salvation.”
The Sacrifice of the Mass is hard to understand. It is hard to comprehend. It is a “hard teaching.” But that is no reason to diminish it. Many Catholics may be embarrassed by it, they may wish for a protestant prayer service in lieu of it, but it remains nevertheless. The unbloody Sacrifice of the Mass was the bulwark which great Saints, great missionaries, etc. counted on to feed them in their trials and tribulations.
After seeing the Priest ascend the three steps leading up to the Altar--representing Faith, Hope and Charity--and seeing Christ lifted-up in the Eucharist above the Altar, we see again His Sacrifice; we experience both the sorrow of His Mother seeing Her Son both immolated, but also made the Salvation of the World. We see Christ as He is: the One who humbles and presents Himself everyday on the altar during Mass, to be among us, and as the Savior of the World.