Christus pro nobis immolatus est
Catholic writer David Delaney has posted some of his thoughts here on Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist. This paragraph really struck me:
B16 does a very good job in showing how the entire Christian life is formed around, must be structured by, and is made possible through the Eucharist and the liturgy. The Mass is the one and only acceptable offering to God on the part of humanity. As such, Benedict recognizes that the accidents which surround and adorn the liturgy must accord with the liturgy’s nature. We therefore, must adorn the one Sacrifice that reconciles man with God with the very best that humanity has to offer. It is in light of this that he earnestly desires to reshape the way the average Catholic looks at and approaches the liturgy. Clearly he thinks that an important step in do so will come in replacing the mundane adornments with the sacred.
Just over ten years ago, when I first began to consider the claim of the Catholic Church to be The Church that Jesus Himself founded, this concept of “offering” or sacrifice in connection with Communion was a stumbling block to me. I had internalized a Protestant understanding of Hebrews 9-10, that Christ suffered for our sins “once for all”, and that any other religious action done by humans that called itself a sacrifice for sins was beyond the pale. In the midst of my prayer and thought about this, strangely enough, it was the memory of an old Star Trek episode that helped me understand the Eucharistic sacrifice. At that time (1996), I wrote the following in my journal:
If the Eucharist is a sacrifice, who is doing the offering of the sacrifice? Are we/the priests making the offering, or is Christ offering up Himself? If we are simply jumping through hoops in performing the ritual, we’re doing nothing more than offering fruit baskets at the mouth of the cave of Vaal (Star Trek original series, episode #38 – “The Apple”). If, however, Christ Himself does the transforming through the office of the priest and the proclamation of His Word, then He really is offering up Himself, which places us with Him in that “wrinkle in time”, which means it’s the real McCoy. (Sorry for the bad pun.)
In every Mass, Christ (the true celebrant of every Mass, with the priest standing in persona Christi) offers up Himself – a unbloody reiteration of His blood-soaked death by torture on the cross of Calvary. Time and space fold over; matter changes its essence; God gives Himself again into our hands to have His flesh torn and His blood poured out. This is our spiritual food and drink, our sustenance for our real life, the one we live in Him.
In the midst of how busy we all are with seminars, missions, Masses, choir rehearsals, classes, and retreats (and don’t forget the day job!) in preparation for Easter, I think it’s good to remember that God is the one whose will controls things, who directs our steps, who plots our course. Though we’re hard at “working out [our] salvation with fear and trembling”, let’s keep in mind that “it is God who works” in us, both to will and to act according to His design (Phil. 2:12-13). I believe He is pleased to see trust in our eyes when we look to Him, rather than the impatience that often (in my case, at least) meets His gaze.