Is the Holy Mass a Sacrifice?
In the past, both in the natural religions and in the ritual sacrifices of the Old Testament, an animal or a bird was killed and its blood was offered as a sacrifice to God. Whereas, Jesus offered himself on the Cross as the sacrifice for the salvation of the entire humankind. In the Last Supper, Jesus celebrated the first Eucharist as the sacramental anticipation of his sacrifice on the Cross. This unique sacrifice, offered by Jesus on the Cross for our redemption, is made present in the Holy Mass. The Catechism of the Catholic Church authenticates stating: “The Eucharist is the memorial of Christ’s Passover, making present the sacramental offering of his unique sacrifice in the liturgy of the Church which is his Body…” (CCC #1362).
The redeeming sacrifice of Christ is perpetuated down through the centuries by the Apostles and by the consecrated priests: “… As often as the sacrifice of the cross, in which Christ our Passover was sacrificed, is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried on …” (Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution of the Church # 3).
The priest is the celebrant, who presides over the community, gathered around the altar. Nevertheless, the faithful, in so far as they are members of the Body of Christ, offer together the same Eucharistic sacrifice. In fact, they offer, united with the sacrifice of Christ, their entire lives, their works and hardships with prayers & praises, as a total offering (Cf. CCC # 1368). The Eucharistic prayer in the Holy Mass expresses clearly how the entire Church under the influence of the Holy Spirit, takes part in the sacrifice: “Look, O Lord, upon the sacrifice which you yourself have provided for your Church and grant in your loving kindness to all who partake of this one Bread and one Chalice that, gathered into one body by the Holy spirit, they may truly become a living sacrifice in Christ to the praise of your glory” (Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer IV).
The Holy Mass, in as much as it makes present Christ’s sacrifice, has the same effect as the sacrifice of the Cross. However, the fruits of the Holy Mass are received not equally but vary in accordance with the degree and measure of faith and devotion with which one participates in the celebration.
God bless you
Fr. Arul Joseph V.