NEW YEAR DEVOTIONS ON THE HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS

 

Frail, fallen humanity can offer no better act of worship to God than the Mass. It is the most eloquent outpouring of praise and thanksgiving to God, the most potent remedy for all our temporal and spiritual needs, and atones for sin more effectively than any other prayer. The Mass accomplishes all these things because at the altar the priest offers to God the Father the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The Mass, then, is the re-enactment, the renewal, the representation of the sacrifice Christ made on Calvary. As St. Cyprian of Carthage wrote: “The Passion of the Lord is the Sacrifice we offer.”

As long as humankind has had an inkling that there is a Supreme Being, people have offered sacrifices. When Jesus was physically present on earth, pious Jews brought live sheep, goats, bulls, even doves, to the Temple in Jerusalem. There the servants of the priests took the creatures and killed them; then the priests offered the slain victims to God. That is what sacrifice meant in Judaism two thousand years ago: a living creature slain and offered to God. Christ's death on the Cross was the perfect sacrifice. It had the perfect victim, Christ Himself, who went to His death at the hands of evil men, as meekly as any lamb slain in the Temple. It had the perfect priest – again, Christ Himself – who offered Himself to the Father for our sake. Christ's death on the Cross accomplished three things once and for all: it atoned for the sins of the entire human race; it healed the breach that had existed between God and humanity since the Fall; and it opened wide the gates of heaven. The Mass is the ongoing memorial of our redemption, of Christ's sacrifice on the Cross. And what we do on earth, Christ does in heaven. Day after day He stands before the Father, His Body still bearing the marks of His Passion, an eternal reminder of what He suffered to appease the just wrath of God and gain forgiveness and salvation for humankind. St. John describes the scene for us: ‘Behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the ancients, a Lamb standing as it were slain.' {Apocalypse 5:6} When a priest offers the Mass, he is showing the Father, reminding the Father, as it were, what the Son wrought for us. Archbishop Fulton Sheen put it this way: ‘The Mass is the only Holy Act which keeps the wrath of God from a sinful world, because it holds the Cross between heaven and earth, thus renewing that decisive moment when our sad and tragic humanity journeyed suddenly forth to the fullness of supernatural life.' Furthermore, the Mass is a sign of the unity of the Church. It is the dramatic expression that ‘we, being many, are one bread, one body.' At the heart of the Mass is a miracle. Over the bread and wine the priest repeats the same words that Christ spoke at the Last Supper. ‘This is My Body...This is My Blood.' At these words of consecration, ordinary bread and wine become truly the Body and Blood, the Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. It is an inestimable gift to humankind, and an inexpressible mystery. Our senses cannot grasp the miracle that has taken place, but faith can. ‘Do this for a commemoration of me.' And the Church has fulfilled that command faithfully ever since. Both the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of St. Paul tell us that when the first Christians gathered to pray, they repeated the words and actions of Christ at the Last Supper. And we know that the doctrine of the Real Presence was already firmly understood in the earliest days of the Church. Saint Paul writes; ‘Is not the cup of blessing we bless a sharing in the Blood of Christ? And is not the bread we break a sharing in the Body of Christ?'

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Let us pray: We beseech Thee, O Lord. That as the receiving of Thy Body and Blood in this life doth foreshadow the everlasting fruition of Thy Godhead, so Thou wouldest vouchsafe unto us to be fulfilled with the same. Who livest and reignest One God, unto ages of ages, and world without end. Amen.

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And a Passing Thought

God, raising up His Son, hath sent Him to bless you: that everyone may convert himself from his wickedness.

{St. Peter. Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 3}

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JESUS, our God, Who vouchsafest to be present upon the Altar: Have mercy upon us!

JESUS, Bread of Life, true God and true Man: Have mercy upon us!

Thou gavest them Bread from Heaven: Containing in Itself all sweetness!

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I adore Thee as my first beginning. I aspire after Thee as my last end. I thank Thee, my constant Benefactor. I call on Thee as my Sovereign Protector. {Pope Clement XI}

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