Blog # 256 Theology of the Mass
Blog # 255 focused upon the essential connection between the Last Supper and Calvary. The love offered to the Father on Calvary by Jesus,(the Word of God Among us called Jesus,) and the love offered to the Father at the Last Supper by Jesus,(continuing as the Word of God Among Us called Jesus,) is the same love.
In Jesus, identified as one of us, it is a total love. It cost Him His life. It was a gift of all that He possessed. This act of total human love would be possible for Him physically only once in the entire history of creation. Once His human life was given in the mystery of death, as for us, it was no longer His to give. ( 1 Peter 3 18; Heb 9: 11,12, 25,28; 10: 10-12 ).
We know, however, by force of our faith in the incarnation of the Eternal Word of God in Jesus, the total love that was offered the Father on Calvary was not confined to the love involved in the human death of Jesus . By force of the Incarnation the person known as the Word and the person called Jesus is the same person.
Consequently the infinite eternal love of the Word for the Father was present, and shared in the total love the crucifixion of Jesus entailed. Coming among us in the Incarnation the Word of God never did nor could cease being divine, being God. Jesus, the name given the Word come among us never ceased being God. In other words in seeing Jesus walking from Jerusalem to Jericho we see God walking there. " Phillip, if you see me, you see God."(Jn 14: 9). "I and the Father are one!" (Jn 10: 30; 14: 7; 17: 11,22).
In the light of this, the death of Jesus in its human dimension was final. However, understood in the light of the identity of Jesus and the Word and therefore in its completeness it cannot be spoken of in the past tense as if it ended on Calvary, as if Jesus and the Word were two persons and there were two deaths on Calvary rather than one, identified as human and divine. The love of Jesus for the Father on Calvary and the love of Jesus for the Father at the Last Supper was the same love, expressed in two different modes. This is similar to the way a five dollar bill and a five dollar check are both worth a certain amount of money in different modes.
Now it remains for us to identify the theological connection between Calvary, the Last Supper, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In all three instances we are dealing with love. Love by its nature is an act of self-giving in response to a value we have perceived in another. The more we love, the more we give. A handshake, a smile, a birthday greeting, a letter of sympathy, cutting a neighbor's lawn when he is a patient in the hospital are all examples or expressions of responses to a loving relationship. "There is no greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for a friend."
Since we believe in one God, our loving response to God is unique. It is a total love..." with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind." (Mat 22: 37). It is called worship. None but God deserves such love. ( First Commandment). From as far back as Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve, through Noah, Moses, the tribe of Levi set apart by God to represent God's Chosen People as their priests, Melchizedek, Abraham, and Jesus on Calvary, the unique act that was identified, authorized, and commanded by God as the official mode of expressing our total love for God was sacrifice. The strict technical theological definition of sacrifice identifies it as an offering to God alone of some material gift by an official representative of the people with the change or destruction of what is offered in order to recognize the supreme dominion of God and our complete dependence upon God.
The death of Jesus on Calvary was a death of perfect love chosen by Jesus in obedience to the Father. Before His death on Calvary Jesus walked away from angry crowds who wanted kill Him. His 'hour', in the design of the Father, had not yet come . (Lk 22: 42; Lk 4:29 f; Jn 7:30; 8;20).
His death on Calvary fulfilled all the conditions listed in the technical theological definition of an act of worship through sacrifice. The experience of Jesus and the Apostles at the Last Supper also fulfilled these conditions. But like the Crucifixion itself, physically in history, the event of the Upper Room did happen and was experienced physically almost two thousand years ago once and for all in the entire history of creation. Either experience could be created anew, physically and in history, with new blood and new bread and wine. But that is not what our Catholic faith teaches of those events. We believe the redeeming love of Jesus on the Cross was once and for all time infinite. We believe that love was shared in the experience of the Upper Room and is shared today in the experience of the Sacrifice of the Mass.
It remains for us to connect the event of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which we experience daily in our churches throughout the world with the previous two events two thousand years ago. All three events, the Crucifixion, the Last Supper, and the Sacrifice of the Mass fulfill the conditions listed in the definition of sacrifice, but in different modes.
The claim of our Catholic faith is that the love, unconditional and total, that Jesus presented to the Father in His bloody crucifixion and in the event of the Last super is presented to the Father in the experience of the Mass but in an unbloody Sacramental mode. The task at hand is to authorize this connection. The authorization to identify and connect Calvary and the Upper Room comes from the words of Jesus: "...my body given for you", "my blood poured out for you.". The authorization to identify and connect Calvary and the Upper Room with the Sacrifice of the Mass down through the Centuries until now comes from the simple but very clear words of Jesus at the Last Supper : "Do THIS in memory of me."
This blog is long and may seem complicated. There are further thoughts on this subject I think would be useful so I'll be back with another blog stemming from this one. May the Lord bless you!