The CAPG's Blog
The Holy Mass
The daily celebration of the Mass over the whole Christian world fulfills the prophecy contained in the first chapter of Malachias V.11.
"For from the rising of the sun, even to the going down, My Name is great among the Gentiles" (i.e., among those who were to form the present Christian world); "and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to My Name a clean oblation; for My Name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of Hosts."
The Mass is this fore-told sacrifice, and clean oblation. It is offered from the rising to the going down of the sun; and it is the self-same sacrifice as that offered once in a bloody manner upon the Cross, but now in an unbloody manner on every Catholic altar. The self-same Christ is at once the High-Priest and the Victim.
The Sacrifice of the Mass is not inconsistent with the truths that, firstly, there is but One Sacrifice; secondly, that the merits of the Sacrifice of the Cross are all-sufficient; and, thirdly, that Christ, having once died, can do so no more. The Mass and the Oblation on Calvary are one, because there is the same Divine victim, Jesus Christ, in each case. It is not held to create new merits by adding to those gained on the Cross, but only apply daily those so gained.
Christ does not die on the Altar, yet remains a perfect victim. Death is not essential for a sacrifice, as we learn by the old anti-type of the offering of Mass, when the Scape-Goat, being offered up as a sacrifice to God, was afterwards allowed to go free into the wilderness. (Lev. xvi, 10.)
Sacrifice has always been the one supreme from of Divine worship, and nothing more perfectly shows forth the death of the Lord, till he come (i. Cor. xi, 26), and so well obeys the Divine injunction on this matter, as the offering of the Holy Mass.
The Holy Eucharist is at the same time a sacrifice in itself and also a memorial of the Sacrifice of Calvary. The Sacrifice of the Mass does not lose its rightful claim to be a sacrifice because it is at the same time commemorative of another sacrifice. "The action of the Last Supper looked forward to that action on Calvary, as the action of the Holy Mass looks backwards upon it. As the shadow is cast by the rising sun towards the west, and as the shadow is cast by the setting sun towards the east, so the Holy Mass is, I may say, the shadow of Calvary, but it is also the reality: (Cardinal Manning - Glories of the Sacred Heart).
The words of the Mass were not primarily intended to be recited or even followed by the people. The Congregation only assist at the action, priests alone being set apart to sacrifice by the reception of the powers conferred in the Sacrament of Holy Orders; and non-Catholics, if uninformed, are naturally surprised to find a priest celebrating Mass recite much of it in silence. As a proof of the former proposition, there is a portion of the Mass still called the Secret; and in ancient times a screen was drawn between the priest and the laity, so that the latter were not permitted even to see the act, yet were considered as duly participating in all its merits by their mere presence. Today the laity are rather recommended to follow the words, and these are set down in all their prayer-books in English and Latin; yet every one assisting at Mass is free to use any private form of prayer and meditation.
We have strong confirmation of the antiquity of the Mass in the writings of the pagan Romans, whose calumnies show that the Mass was always the one principal service of the early Christians. These writers refer to the slanderous stories of their times, that the Christians killed an infant and ate its flesh at their religious meetings. Such misrepresentations were very common, and prove that the primitive Christians did sacrifice and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord in their Holy Communions. Those pagan tales with their half-truths are evidently founded on the celebration of the Holy Mass wherein Christ is sacrificed.
The words of the Mass are almost solely derived from Scripture, and could the Catholic Church more practically and more publicly venerate its Divine inspiration than in this full use of the Bible in its greatest act of worship?
Source: Guide to a Catholic Church: for non-Catholic Visitors, by Fox, WL and O'Gorman, RA. 1904