Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/29

This page needs to be proofread.



The simple fact that numerous heretics, such as WycHf and Luther, repudiated the Mass as "idolatry", while retaining the Sacrament of the true Body and Blood of Christ, proves that the Sacrament of the Eucharist is something essentially different from the Sacrifice of the Mass. In truth, the Eucharist per- forms at once two functions : that of a sacrament and that of a sacrifice. Though the inseparableness of the two is most clearly seen in the fact that the consecrat- ing and sacrificial powers of the priest coincide, and consequently that the sacrament is jiroduced only in and through the Mass, the real difference between them is shown in that the sacrament is intended pri- marily for the sanctification of the soul, whereas the sacrifice serves primarily to glorify God by adoration, thanksgiving, prayer, and expiation. The recipient of the one is God, who receives the sacrifice of His only- begotten Son; of the other, man, who receives the sacrament for his own good. Furthermore, the im- bloody Sacrifice of the Eucharistic Christ is in its nature a transient action, while the Sacrament of the Altar continues as something permanent after the sac- rifice, and can even be preserved in monstrance and ciborium. Finally, this difference also deserves men- tion : communion under one form only is the reception of the whole sacrament, whereas, without the use of the two forms of bread and wine (the symbolic separa- tion of the Body and Blood), the mystical slaying of the Victim, and therefore the Sacrifice of the Mass, does not take place.

The definition of the Council of Trent supposes as self-evident the proposition that, along with the "true and real Sacrifice of the Mass ", there can be and are in Christendom figurative and unreal sacrifices of various kinds, such as prayers of praise and thanksgiving, alms, mortification, obedience, and works of penance. Such offerings are often referred to in Hoh' Scripture, e. g. in Ecclus., xxxv, 4: "And he that doth mercy, oflereth sacrifice " ; and in Ps. cxl. 2: "Let my prayer be directed as incense in thy sight; the lifting up of my hands as evening sacrifice." These figurative offerings, however, necessarily presuppose the real and true offering, just as a picture presupposes its subject and a portrait its original. The Biblical metaphors — a "sacrifice of jubilation" (Ps. xxvi, (i), the "calves of our lips" (Osee, xiv, 3), the "sacrifice of praise" (Heb., xiii, 15) — expressions which apply sacrificial terms to simple prayer — would be without application or mean- ing if there were not, or there had not been, a true and real sacrifice (hostia, 0u<Tla). That there was such a sacrifice, the whole sacrificial system of the Old Law iDears witness. It is true that we mav and must recog- nize, with St. Thomas (II-II, Q. Ixxxv, a. 3, ad 2um), as the principale ncicrificium the sacrificial intent which, embodied in the spirit of praj-er, inspires and animates the external offering as the body animates the soul, and without which even the most perfect offering has neither worth nor effect before God. Hence, the holy psalmist says: "For if thou hadst de- sired sacrifice, I would indeed have given it: with burnt- offerings thou wilt not be delighted. A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit" (Ps. 1, 18 sq.). This indis- pensable requirement of an internal sacrifice, however, by no means makes the external sacrifice superfluous in Christianity; indeed, without a perpetual oblation deriving its value from the sacrifice once offered on the Cross, Christianity, the perfect religion, would be in- ferior not only to the Old Testament, but even to the poorest form of natural religion. Since sacrifice is thus essential to religion, it is all the more necessary for Christianity, which cannot otherwise fulfil its duty of showing outward honour to God in the most perfect way. Thus, the Church, as the mystical Christ, de- sires and must have her own permanent sacrifice, which surely cannot be either an independent addition to that of Golgotha or its intrinsic complement; it can only be the one self-same sacrifice of the Cross, whose

fruits, by an unbloody offering, are daily made avail- able for believers and unbelievers and sacrificially applied to them.

If the Mass is to be a true sacrifice in the literal sense, it must realize the philosophical conception of sacrifice. Thus the last preliminary question arises: What is a sacrifice in the proper sense of the term? Without attempting to state and establish a compre- hensive theory of sacrifice (q. v.), it will suffice to show that, according to the comparative history of religions, four things are necessary to a sacrifice: a sacrificial gift (res oblata), a sacrificing minister {minister legili- mus), a sacrificial action {actio sacrijka), and a sacri- ficial end or object {Jinis sacrificii). In contrast with sacrifices in the figurative or less proper sense, the sacrificial gift must exist in physical substance, and rnust be really or virtually destroyed (animals slain, libations poured out, other things rendered unfit for ordinary uses), or at least really transformed, at a fixed place of sacrifice {ara, altare), and offered up to God. As regards the person offering, it is not permit- ted that any and every individual should offer sacrifice on his own account. In the revealed religion, as in nearly all heathen religions, only a qualified person (usually called priest, sacerdos, ifpevt), who has been given the power by commission or vocation, may offer up sacrifice in the name of the community. After Moses, the priests authorized by law in the Old Testa- ment belonged to the tribe of Levi, and more espe- cially to the house of Aaron (Heb., v, 4). But, since Christ Himself received and exercised His high priest- hood , not by the arrogation of authority but in virtue of a Divine caH, there is still greater need that priests who represent Him should receive power and author- ity through the Sacrament of Holy orders to offer up the sublime Sacrifice of the New Law. Sacrifice reaches its outward culmination in the sacrificial act, in which we have to distinguish between the proxi- mate matter and the real form. The form lies, not in the real transformation or complete destruction of the sacrificial gift, but rather in its sacrificial oblation, in whatever way it may be transformed. Even where a real destruction took place, as in the sacrificial slay- ings of the Old Testament, the act of destroying was performed by the servants of the Temple, whereas the proper oblation, consisting in the "spilling of blood" {aspersio sanguinis) , was the exclusive function of the priests. Thus, the real form of the Sacrifice of the Cross consisted neither in the killing of l)y the Roman soldiers nor in an imaginary self-destruction on the part of Jesus, but in His voluntary surrender of His blood shed by another's hand, and in His offering of His life for the sins of the world. Consequently, the destruction or transformation constitutes at most the proximate matter; the sacrificial oblation, on the other hand, is the physical form of the sacrifice. Finally, the object of the sacrifice, as significant of its meaning, lifts the external offering beyond any mere mechanical action into the sphere of the spiritual and Divine. The object is the soul of the sacrifice, and, in a certain sense, its " metaphysicial form ". In all reli- gions we find, as the essential idea of sacrifice, a com- plete surrender to God for the purpose of union with Him; and to this idea tliere is added, on llic i)art of those who are in sin, the desire for pardon nnd recon- ciliation. Hence at once arises tin' (list inct ion 1 id ween sacrifices of and expiation {xncrijiciuni lutrcuti- cum et propitiatorium) , and .sacriliccs of tlKinksfiiving and petition {siicrifiriinn cucluiri.'ih'ruiii el hiij'ctrnto- rium); hence also the olivious iTifcnnn- ili:il. under pain of i<lolatry, sacrifice is to be olTcrcd lo ( ;(,.! alone as the beginning and end of all things. Hif;hlly doe.s St. Augustine remark (De civit. Dei, X, iv): "Who ever thought of offering sacrifice except to one whom he either knew, or thought, or imagined to be (iod?"

If then we combine the four constituent ideas in a definition, we may say: " Sacrifice is the external obia-