2. We call the sacrifice instituted by Our Lord at the Last Supper holy Mass, or the sacrifice of the Mass.
In the first centuries of Christianity the catechumens and penitents used to be sent away out of the church at the commencement of the sacrifice. The Latin for dismissal is miss (raise).* Hence it came to pass that the ceremonies consequent to the dismissal of the catechumens were called the missa, the Mass. This expression is used by Pope Pius I. as early as the second century; it also occurs frequently in the writings of St. Augustine and St. Ambrose. An other explanation of the word missio (mission) is that it denotes the sending of Our Lord from heaven to earth at the moment of the consecration, and again the sending of the sacred Victim up to heaven by the faithful in the hands of angels; as St. Bonaventure says: “First of all God sends His Son down to us upon the altar, then the Church sends Him up to the Father, to make intercession for sinners.” The sacrifice of the Mass must be clearly distinguished from the Sacrament of the Altar. In the latter Christ is present as an object of our worship and as our spiritual sustenance; in the former He is also our Victim and the means of our salvation.
* The true derivation of the word missa is wrapped in obscurity. The derivations given in the text are conjectural.
1. The sacrifice of the Mass is the chief and central act of Catholic worship.
Several of the sacraments and the sacramentals can only be ad ministered in connection with the Mass. It stands in the same relation to the other services of the Church as a jewel does to its setting. It is a reservoir wherein the streams of grace are collected which flow from the sacrifice of the cross, and whence they are poured out upon mankind through the channels of the sacraments. The holy Mass is the sun of grace, day by day rising upon the world, the bright rays of which, in the prismatic colors of the seven sacraments, form the fair rainbow, the emblem of peace, the connecting link between heaven’s riches and earth’s poverty. The dignity of holy Mass surpasses by many degrees that of the sacraments, for they are only vessels of mercy for the living, whereas the Mass is an inexhaustible ocean of divine liberality for the living and the dead. In the holy Mass man has a foretaste of heaven upon earth, for in the sacred Victim he has before him the Creator of heaven and of earth, he even holds Him in his hands. The sacrifice of the Mass contains in itself as many mysteries as there are drops in the ocean, stars in the firmament, flowers upon the earth. Take this sacrifice away from the Catholic Church and you leave nothing but unbelief and error. Were holy Mass not of such surpassing excellence the devil would not have aroused so many enemies against it among heretics.
2. The sacrifice of the Mass is a catholic sacrifice in the true sense of the word, for it is and will be offered unceasingly throughout the whole earth until the end of time.
At the present time some 350,000 Masses are celebrated daily on our globe; there is not an hour in the day in which Mass is not being said. Thus the words of the prophet are literally fulfilled: “From the rising of the sun until the going down, in every place there is sacrifice” (Mal. i. 10). Mass will be celebrated until the Day of Judgment (1 Cor. xi. 26). Not any or all of the adversaries of the Church, not Antichrist himself, will be able to suspend the offering of the holy sacrifice. The last Mass said will be on the last day of this world’s existence. This is what Our Lord meant when He said: “I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Matt. xxviii. 20).
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3. What takes place in the sacrifice of the Mass
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