Friday, March 21, 2014

More on the Problem of a Double Sacrifice

I had an interesting response to one of my postings and I want to examine it critically as it shows, I believe, some of the misunderstandings of our Catholic faith by people who have been inadequately catechized. 

Isn't an offering of bread and wine an appropriate at this point in the mass, preceding as it does the Eucharistic sacrifice, seeing as Jesus is high priest according to the order of Melchizedek? Melchizedek, after all, did offer bread and wine. By this I mean, as Melchizedek was the Old Testament figure of Christ as High Priest, and priests offer sacrifices. Seeing as the Mass is a recapitulation of the saving action of The Word of God, including some referent to the pre-Incarnation work of God redeeming mankind isn't out of place. Ergo, if it is an offering, even if it suggests that there are in fact two offerings during the mass, essentially, so what? From what little I've read, while not being specifically prepared to respond to your trumped up accusation of "blasphemy", I pretty sure I could gather up support that refutes your charge.   Foundations of the Anglican Church LXVII

“Isn’t an offering of bread and wine appropriate at this point in the mass…”   Offering is an ambiguous word.    In the sense of presenting the bread and wine for the Eucharistic Sacrifice, there is no problem, but I wasn’t writing of an “offering” but rather of a sacrifice (oblatio, the word used in the prayer Suscipe Sancte Pater and where the hostiam being offered is not Christ the Victim but the bread and the wine).  The Church teaches that the Sacrifice of Christ is the one efficacious sacrifice and the only sacrifice of the new covenant.  It is demeaning of the Sacrifice of Calvary in which each Mass participates to consider any other “sacrifice” that might be offered.  The bread and wine—and indeed the financial gifts and other items presented—oil, candles, flowers, etc. may be said to be “offered” but offered as gifts and not as Sacrifice.    This is not a fine line.  We can present things to God’s service.  We may donate a vestment to the Church or sacred vessels to be used at Mass.  We may make a charitable donation for the homeless.  These gifts may be a “sacrifice” in the that they cost us more than we can comfortably give.  But as for Sacrifice: there is one and one only in the new Covenant and it is Christ’s Sacrifice at Calvary in which we participate each time we “proclaim the Lord’s Death until he comes again.” 
Our correspondent continues:
Seeing as the Mass is a recapitulation of the saving action of The Word of God, including some referent to the pre-Incarnation work of God redeeming mankind isn't out of place.
I am not sure where our reader got the idea that the mass is a recapitulation of the saving action of the Word of God, including the pre Incarnation work of God redeeming mankind, but he certainly did not get this from either Scripture or our Catholic Tradition.  There are pious writers who suggest such things for meditation, and within certain limits that is fine, but The Mass is a participation in the Saving action of Christ on Calvary.  It, or rather the Sacrifice of Calvary, may sum up the entire redemptive work of God through both covenants in as that it is the completing and fulfilling deed, but it is Calvary’s Sacrifice and Calvary’s Sacrifice alone which the Mass re-presents.  There is no other work by which we are saved than Christ’s Sacrifice at Calvary.  Our salvation is not the result of a cumulative process of God’s saving acts.  There is one and one only definitive act by which we are saved and that is the cross.   At the Mass we may recall the Passover of the Hebrew people (Especially on Holy Thursday), or the deliverance of Noah and his family, or the victory of the Maccabees, or the sacrifice of bread and wine by Melchizedek,  but we certainly don’t simply place the Cross at the end of this long string of God’s redemptive acts.  The Cross stands alone as the sole and definitive Sacrifice by which we are saved.  Through the entire liturgy—including the Liturgy of the Hours, and especially in the Easter Vigil, we recall this long saga of salvation but the relationship of Christ’s eternal sacrifice to the Mass is unique and uncompromised for it is by Calvary and Calvary alone that humankind is reconciled to the Father.  In other words, the relationship of the Liturgy to the Giving of the Law on Sinai, for example, is not the same as the relationship of the Mass to the Death of the Lord. 
We are not saved through Noah or Melchizedek or even Abraham’s faith.   Cardinal Ratzinger made it abundantly clear in Dominus Iesus that salvation is through Christ and Christ alone.  Pious reflection on the parallels of the Sacrifice of Melchizedek and the Eucharistic banquet are very appropriate and sources of grace—but they must not be stretched to theological distortion. 
The issue behind this discussion is that the oblatio of bread and wine in the Mass of Pius V is seriously problematic from a theological background.  The development of a second sacrifice of bread and wine is inconsistent with the ancient liturgies and indeed with our faith that Christ offers the one eternal redemptive Sacrifice at Calvary.  Each Mass participates in that one eternal Sacrifice but in no way is Christ sacrificed anew and in no way is bread and wine a hostiam (sacrificial victim) at the mass as the word oblatio in the prayer Suscipe Sancte Pater, implies.  I am not saying that this theological slop-shop invalidates the Mass.  By no means.  That Liturgy served as the Church’s primary vehicle for the Church’s latria  for four centuries.  But its elimination from the 1970 Rite corrects a serious flaw in the 1570 Rite and, as Father Anthony Ruff points out, serves as a serious reason why we cannot go back to the earlier Rite. 
Our correspondent goes even more off track about Christ and the priesthood of Melchizedek but let me save that for another time. 

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