Friday, November 5, 2010
BLOG # 88 THE HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS
Blog # 88 THE HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS A symbol is a tool we have devised or discovered that expresses a reality that is beyond or greater than itself, similarly to the way a sign works. For example a nation's flag expresses a nations' history, physical expanse, a people's dreams and achievements, etc. and a warm handshake or embrace expresses a welcome and friendship. There is always more to a symbol than its physical expression. Throughout our human history we have learned to make use of symbols to express various aspects of our relationship with God our Creator. Bowed head and closed eyes can be a symbol of our desire to close off distractions and give our minds more attentively to prayer. The posture of kneeling can symbolize our humility before God and our desire to be submissive to God's will. Our fundamental and all-pervasive relationship with God our Creator was expressed by Jesus in His answer to the question of the lawyer who asked Jesus what was the most important of all the Commandments. Jesus answered that we must love God above all else, totally, unconditionally. We were created and designed for this and in this love we find genuine happiness and everlasting peace. Though our love of God can be expressed or symbolized in various ways and at various times through prayer, spiritual and physical fasting, acts of love for one another, granting and receiving forgiveness etc., none of these symbols of our love express our total love totally, in themselves. The unique symbol that does precisely this, designed by God for this very purpose of expressing our total love totally in itself is SACRIFICE. We find the reason this is true in our insight into love as self-giving. The more we love the more we give. The implication is there are degrees of love. The insight of Jesus in John 15:23 comes to mind: "There is no greater love than this: to lay down one's life for a friend." Until the very last conscious instant of our lives we have something more to give, that very conscious instant. In other words only in death can we experience the perfect love Jesus spoke of in John. That is the love that is symbolized in sacrifice, establishing the victim or whatever it is that is offered in place of the one who offers the sacrifice, as the sign of that person's total love. Next it is important to identify the multiple sacrifices legislated by Yahweh for His faithful believers as recorded in the Old Testament in the same definition of sacrifice we apply to the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary: an offering to God alone of some material thing by an official representative of the people, with the change or destruction of what is offered in recognition and response in total unconditional obedient love to God's supreme dominion and our complete dependence upon God. When we relate the experience of Jesus at the Last Supper with that of Jesus on the Cross and consequently the experience of Jesus in the Mass with that of Jesus on the Cross we find the basic definition of sacrifice verified in all of these instances. However the sacrifice of Calvary is so different from all the rest it can be put into its own category. God's eternal infinite wisdom and goodness is to be found in the whole plan of creation and in the question of authentic worship, from the design and definition of the sacrifices legislated for the people before the coming of Jesus right up to our current experience of the Eucharistic Sacrifice in our Catholic churches around the world today. The sacrifices of the Old Testament had to be repeated day by day not because the definition of sacrifice was not satisfied in them and the killing of a victim or the pouring out of wine was not a valid symbol of the total obedient love of those who participated in the offering of the sacrifices, but because of the limited nature of the human love that was offered. Of necessity, by its nature, as pleasing to God and experienced in obedience to God's will as it was, it was a human and therefore a limited love. That love was the only love the people possessed, the only love they had available to them to symbolize in their acts of sacrifice. Then when the time was ripe, beyond our wildest imagination, the Incarnation of the Eternal Word of God came to be. Jesus,the Word of God, eternally one with the Father, that is with no beginning or end yet equal to us, human as we in all but sin, brought a new love to earth, a divine love in a human heart. That human-divine love was the love with which Jesus died on the Cross. Here are some considerations that will help us understand what this means and make application of it to our understanding of the true real presence and action of Jesus in the Mass: As a human being every conscious thought word or act I perform is accomplished in my body but is actually done by me personally. In other words I use my body for all I think and say and do but I personally am the thinker the speaker and the actor. Applying this to the Crucifixion, the Last Supper, and the Sacrifice of the Mass, we have Jesus as the main actor. We firmly believe the Eternal Word of God became incarnate in our human nature and was given the name Jesus. As we personally go about our lives making use of our human bodies, so Jesus, PERSONALLY IDENTIFIED AS THE ETERNAL WORD OF GOD INCARNATE made use of his humanity. Jesus is not identified as a different person from the Word Incarnate. Because of the limitations of our created personhood all of our thoughts words and acts are limited. However, and this is a key insight into our discussion, in the case of Jesus, all that he thought said and did , including His choices and therefore His love, were both human and divine in the light and truth of the Incarnation of the Word in Jesus. Jesus always did the will of the Father. When it was the will of the Father that Jesus raise the dead or cure a leper it was the Word of God that obeyed divinely. When it was the will of the Father that Jesus walked from Jerusalem to Jericho it was the Word of God that obeyed humanly. There were not two persons in Jesus, one human called Jesus and one divine called the Eternal Word. That is an important insight to keep in mind in our present discussion. The death of Jesus on the Cross seen as His total obedient love for the Father can be found or identified in the definition of sacrifice. Sacrifice is motivated by love and is an expression of love. The total love expressed on the Cross was not the love of two persons one known as the Word of God and one called Jesus, the love of Jesus and not the love of the Word or the love of the Word and not the love of Jesus. Jesus is the Word Incarnate , one divine person, one with the Father, one with the Spirit, yet one with us in his true historical humanity. The love on the Cross with which Jesus loved the Father and offered the Father in our name according to the Father's will, was divine as well as human. This sets it apart from all other sacrifices. The blood and wounds, t he sweat and the mockery of the crowd, the beatings and the physical death all go to make a symbol of the love Jesus was experiencing and offering to the Father on the Cross. This was a symbol because it was the human side of the Crucifixion and in the limits of anything human there is always more to come, something further to which it points. The divine side of the crucifixion, the love of the person of Jesus was divine, complete, unlimited, eternal,incapable of being symbolized because there is and could not be any love greater than it, the total love of God's Eternal Word on earth, total always, everywhere beyond our comprehension, divine. You cannot symbolize a ten dollar bill with a ten dollar bill, nor the moon with the moon. Each is a ten dollar bill or the moon. A symbol points to something beyond itself. A ten dollar bill and the moon point to themselves and stop there. Applying all of this, ( if you are still with me ! ) to the Last Supper and to the Sacrifice of the Mass we continue. The actual historical blood and sweat the beatings and the mocking of the crowd on Calvary as symbols of the divine love of Jesus are not repeated in the experience of the Last Supper and the Mass, but the divine love of God for God in Jesus is present in the experience of the Upper Room and in the Mass. This love is the infinite total divine love offered on Calvary. Total and infinite, it cannot be symbolized and it cannot be repeated. And so it was not only fitting but absolutely necessary for Jesus to say not this bread and this wine symbolizes my body given for you and poured out for you, but this IS my body, this IS my blood. No symbols here. Just appearances. If we believe Jesus they will not deceive us. O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine. Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, may You be adored loved and glorified every moment in all the tabernacles throughout the world. May the Love You give the Father and offer us in the Eucharistic sacrifice become a source of light and power among all people who profess a faith in you for us to be united with You in the living unity of Your Body, the Church, the unity for which You prayed the night before You died for the Father's glory and for us. Amen.