Wednesday, September 29, 2010
In What Does Christ's Sacrifice Consist?
1.) Our Lord's Sacrifice consists in His complete self-renunciation--an immolation that began with the first instant of His earthly existence and terminated on Calvary's Cross.
2.) Our Lord's Sacrifice consists above all in the preferring of God's will to His own: a preference shown by His oblation, which persists eternally. This perfect love of Christ for His Father was stabilized by His death and will abide throughout eternity.
Death fixes us in the dispositions we have at the moment of dying. Our degree of charity at death will mark our degree of glory for eternity. The set of our hearts at death remains as the final disposition of our wills. Our Lord, at the moment of His death on the Cross, attained (so to speak) the climax of His love for His Father. And it is precisely these sublime dispositions of our Lord toward His Father at the moment of His death that are made actual in the Mass. Now do you see why the Mass is of such great value?
Is the Mass the same as Christ's Sacrifice on the Cross, or is it a different Sacrifice? It is the same Sacrifice. Christ offered Himself once for all. "...[We] are sanctified by the oblation of the Body of Jesus Christ once" (Heb 10:10).
To understand this, we have only to go back to the concept of oblation, renunciation, and choice. The renunciation is summarized by Christ's death accepted once and for all. On Calvary, this act of renunciation was made once, and it passed.
But above all, our Lord's Sacrifice consists in this constant desire for His Father's will in preference to His own; and this preference remains eternally fixed in heaven. Suffering passes--the fact of having suffered remains.
It is the same thing for us when we renounce anything. The act of self-denial is, like all acts, temporary; but the disposition of the will to deny itself for a greater good remains just so long as we do not take it back. Death fixes us forever in the dispositions in which it finds us. Christ's Sacrifice persists in heaven, because the legacy of His life made on the Cross has never been cancelled. That which He gave was given for all time....Christ's immolation is eternal. St. John, in his vision of heaven, sees Jesus as "a Lamb standing upright, yet slain (as I thought) in sacrifice" (Rev 5:6).
This is understandable. The purpose of our Lord's Sacrifice having been to glorify God, the act whereby He glorifies Him must, of necessity, be eternal.
When the priest brings Christ down upon the altar, he renders Him present such as He is in heaven; and He is in heaven with the same loving dispositions that He had on Calvary at the moment of His death.
The Mass is, therefore, not a new Sacrifice by Christ; but the same Sacrifice actualized in the present. "We know that Christ rising again from the dead, dieth no more" (Rom 6:9).
The Mass is thus the perpetual prolongation of the Sacrifice made on the Cross. Consequently, every Mass is the one immolation of Christ repeated in the Act of Oblation. By the same act of the will, Jesus offers at the Last Supper His death in the future; on Calvary His death in the present; in heaven and on the altar His death in the past.
This special presence of Christ on the altar is peculiar to the Mass and demonstrates its grandeur.
When we celebrate the other mysteries of Christ's life, we merely commemorate them. There is no real renewal of the mystery on the day devoted to it. At Christmas, the Church recalls to our minds the Savior's birth, but this birth does not really take place--is not actualized in the present. On Ascension Thursday, our Lord does not renew His ascent into heaven. It is quite otherwise for the Mass. It is no simple symbolic representation, for the same Sacrifice that Christ accomplished on the cross is made truly present in an unbloody manner on the altar.