6. THE PROFIT TO BE DERIVED FROM THE HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS
1. By means of the holy sacrifice of the Mass the fruits of the sacrifice of the cross are applied to us in most abundant measure; more particularly we obtain thereby forgiveness of sin, certitude that our prayers are heard, temporal blessings, and eternal rewards.
Every Mass is productive of the same fruits, the same profit to the soul as that which resulted from the death of Our Lord on Good Friday. And since the sacrifice of the Mass is identical with the sacrifice of the cross, it follows as a necessary consequence that its effects are the same (Cochem). The death and Passion of Christ are the treasury, the Mass is the key that unlocks it. The cross is the tree of life laden with celestial fruits, and by the Mass those fruits are given to us. In the sacrifice of the Mass we are made partakers of the merits of Christ; they are, it is true, applied to us by the rather means of grace, but far less freely and abundantly. At the time of Mass God gives lavishly; from no other source do the streams of grace flow so copiously as from the altar. In the Mass, the Son of the most high God comes down from the gardens of paradise, bringing to us from thence celestial riches and treasures of infinite value. In the Mass the heavenly Father gives us His Son; “and hath He not with Him, also given us all tilings?” (Rom. viii. 32.) If you, O Christian, knew how to profit by the Mass, by it you might become richer than all the creatures of God can make you! One must be in a state of grace in order to receive most of the sacraments, other wise one cannot share in Christ’s merits, and one incurs the guilt of mortal sin; but it is not necessary to be in a state of grace to hear Mass; the sinner does not commit a fresh sin by doing so; on the contrary he gains the grace of conversion.
1. The forgiveness of sins consists in this: Through the sacrifice of the Mass sinners obtain the grace and gift of penitence (Council of Trent, 22, 2), while the just obtain the remission of venial sin, and of the temporal penalty due to sin.
That remission of sin is effected by the Mass, we learn from Our Lord’s words when He consecrated the chalice (Matt. xxvi. 28). The Mass is above all a propitiatory sacrifice; thereby it is differentiated from the Old Testament sacrifices. They only cleansed from legal impurities, not from sin (Heb. x. 1); the oblation of the New Testament alone has power to remit sin (Heb. ix. 9). Upon the cross Christ cried: “Father, forgive them” (Luke xxiii. 34), and at Mass He utters the same petition on behalf of all who are present. As the blood of Abel cried to heaven for vengeance, so the blood of Christ calls to heaven in the Mass for mercy, and the voice of His well- beloved Son has more power with God than that of Abel had (Heb. xii. 24). In the Mass Christ is our Advocate with the Father, the propitiation of our sins (1 John ii. 1). Our Lord once said to St. Mechtilde: “My condescension in the Mass is so great, that there is no sinner, however great, there present, to whom I will not gladly grant forgiveness, if only he asks Me for it.” Just as men are pacified by a gift, and induced thereby to condone offenses committed against them remember how Jacob on returning home approached his brother Esau with a present, to allay his wrath (Gen. xxxii. 20) so God allows His anger to be appeased by the oblation of holy Mass. That holy sacrifice rescues the sinner from eternal perdition. As the sun disperses the clouds and makes the face of nature bright, so holy Mass gladdens the Church of God. The effect of holy Mass upon the sinner is not immediately perceived; God brings about his conversion in an opportune moment, when his heart is open to the influence of grace. At the time of Our Lord’s crucifixion few were moved to repentance; not until Pentecost, when the hearts of many were softened by the preaching of Peter, did the effect of the sacrifice of the cross become apparent. Many are gradually converted through divine grace, without knowing that this is owing to the power of holy Mass. The Holy Ghost acts upon the hearts of those who assist at Mass as He acted upon the centurion and some others who stood beside the cross of Christ, and who acknowledged: “Indeed this man was the Son of God.” The lights about the altar are emblematical of the graces of the Holy Spirit, which are communicated in rich abundance to those who hear Mass devoutly. It would not be meet for one who had served at the table of a monarch to go away hungry, and it cannot be supposed that one who had heard Mass piously should be allowed to depart without spiritual nourishment. As when the mouth eats the whole body is refreshed, so the faithful communicate spiritually at the communion of the priest, although they do not actually receive the Lord’s body. The just obtain remission of venial sin through the sacrifice of the Mass, because the treasures of the infinite satisfaction Our Lord made to His heavenly Father are offered for them in it. “Venial sins,” says Cochem, “melt away at Mass like wax before the fire.” The Council of Trent (22, 1), declares that by the sacrifice of the Mass we obtain the remission of the sins we daily commit. If, as St. Augustine asserts, one Our Father said from the heart will expiate the venial sins of a whole day, how much the more are they expiated by the holy Mass? The Mass is also a sacrifice of atonement for sins of which we are not conscious. Father Cochem tells us that one Mass will do more to pay the temporal penalty due to sin than the severest penances. Moreover the divine chastisements are averted by holy Mass. When God sent a pestilence upon Israel during David’s reign, and seventy thousand of the people died, the prophet told the sorrowing king to offer a holocaust and burnt-offerings to appease the anger of God. No sooner was this done than the plague was stayed. Now if the sacrifice of oxen and sheep availed to arrest the divine judgments, what cannot the sacrifice of the Mass effect? “If,” says Cochem, “thou dost often hear Mass, thou mayst hope that thy purgatory will be short and not severe, because by frequently assisting devoutly at holy Mass, thou hast to a great extent expiated thy sins.” Consider how quickly the penitent thief, who witnessed the sacrifice of Our Lord upon the cross, was admitted to heaven.
2. The prayers we offer during Mass will surely be heard, because they are aided by the prayer of Our Lord and of the angels who are present.
When we hear Mass, our prayers are strengthened by Our Lord’s prayers, and His prayers are never offered in vain, for the Father heareth Him always (John xi. 42). The holy angels await the time of Mass, in order to proffer their petitions on our behalf with greater urgency and more hope of success. As the sacrifice of the Mass is more excellent than any other act of worship, so the prayers offered during Mass are more efficacious than any others. St. Francis of Sales says that prayers offered in union with the divine Victim have an inexpressible power; favors can be obtained at the time of Mass which can be obtained at no other. “Let him who is always com plaining that he cannot pray aright,” says Cochem, “go to Mass, that Christ may pray for him and instead of him, and supply what is wanting to his prayers.” How foolishly those act who say at home the prayers they might say at Mass!
3. Through the holy sacrifice of the Mass temporal blessings are obtained, especially these: God protects us from misfortune, assists us in our work, and blesses us in our temporal substance.
He who has heard Mass devoutly will succeed in all things during the remainder of the day. The favorite servant of Queen Elizabeth of Portugal escaped apparently certain death through hearing Mass. St. Philip Neri was accustomed to offer the holy sacrifice before commencing any important undertaking, because he thereby insured its success. You are strengthened to meet the troubles of the whole day, if you have been near your Redeemer in the morning at holy Mass. God assists those in their work who have heard Mass with devotion in the early morning. St. Isidore, a farm-servant at Madrid, used to rise daily at a very early hour, in order to hear Mass before going to his work. When his master, at the instigation of his fellow servants, blamed him for doing this, he replied: “If you find that I get through less work than the others, take something off my wages.” The master observed him narrowly, and was soon convinced that Isidore did a great deal more than the other men, for an angel at his side assisted him in his labor; and thenceforward he did not attempt to hinder him from going daily to Mass. God also adds to the worldly possessions of those who make a point of hearing Mass. By increasing their property He gives them the occasion of earning more merits. He does not fail to recompense even unrepentant sinners who go to Mass. Since they are not in a position to receive an eternal reward, God, Who of His infinite bounty does not permit the least good work to go unrewarded, either confers some good fortune upon them, or protects them from misfortune.
4. We cannot obtain an eternal recompense through hearing Mass unless we are in a state of grace.
“Every Mass thou nearest,” says Father Cochem, “perceptibly in creases thy future felicity.” As one who is mounting a flight of stairs comes higher at each step, so he who hears Mass ascends one degree higher in heaven. The higher he mounts, the nearer he comes to God; the more clearly he knows Him, the more dearly he loves Him, the more ineffable is his enjoyment of Him. And for all the hardships you have to endure by reason of going to Mass, early rising, exposure to cold, etc., you will be abundantly requited in heaven. A man who had given up going to Mass on week-days for some time, on account of the distance, once beheld in a dream an angel following him on the way to the church, and counting every step he took, in view of his future reward. After he had that dream, he again attended Mass regularly. How unwise are those who neglect the holy sacrifice of the altar! The early Christians valued holy Mass aright, and were ready to lay down their lives rather than be deprived of it. What a responsibility for us, now that it is such an easy matter, that it costs us nothing to go to Mass. The burnt-offerings of the Jews were costly; they were required to sacrifice at once a sheep and a goat, or if poor, two doves; and we have an all-efficacious sacrifice without price. “Let us therefore go with confidence to the throne of grace” (Heb. iv. 16).
2. Those who participate in the fruits of the holy sacrifice of the Mass are: First, the individual for whom it is celebrated; then the priest and all who are present; finally, all the faithful, both living and dead; moreover the holy sacrifice gives joy to all the angels and saints.
First and foremost, the individual for whom the Mass is said benefits most by it. The priest is at liberty to apply the actual fruit of the Mass to whomsoever he will. From time immemorial it has been customary in the Church to give a fixed sum to the priest, that he may say the Mass for a certain intention. The money is not given to pay for the Mass, for the value of the Mass is beyond all price, but as an alms towards the maintenance of the priest, and to defray the expenses of divine worship; to pay the server, to purchase candles, etc. In early times the priest was not paid in money, but in kind; the people brought him wine, oil, bread, etc.; not until the Middle Ages did it become usual to give money. The amount to be given is fixed by the bishop; it varies in different countries. No priest is allowed to ask more, unless the Mass is wanted at a very early hour, or a sung Mass is desired, or the priest has to go a long distance. The priest who celebrates Mass derives greater benefit from it than do those who hear it, because of his closer proximity to the Author of all grace. A monarch pays more attention to the envoy of his subjects than he would to one of the people who have deputed him to speak for them; and God, in like manner, regards the priest at the altar not as a sinful mortal, but as the ambassador empowered to speak in the name of the Church and as the representative of His Son; consequently his prayer has more power with God. All who are present at Mass are spiritually sprinkled with the blood of Christ. Could you see the beauty and the brilliancy of a soul thus sprinkled with His blood, you would be ready to fall down and adore it. By reason of the communion of saints, the whole Church is benefited by the holy sacrifice. It is an embassy to the Holy Trinity, bringing a gift of inestimable value. If a deputation from a town offers a present to their monarch, all the inhabitants take part in offering it. So all Christendom has its share in the Mass, although at the sacrificial act its representatives are few in number; on this account the priest says in the prayers of the Mass that he offers up this sacrifice of praise for the whole Church, for all who pay their vows to the eternal, living and true God (prayer after the Sanctus). Every priest offers the sacrifice of the Mass for the salvation of the whole world; without it, destruction would long ago have come upon the earth by reason of the multitude of man’s transgressions. The faithful departed benefit more particularly by holy Mass. Our Lord’s death upon the cross was of immediate profit to the dead, for He directly went down to limbo, to set free many who were there. It is the same now; whenever a Mass is said, several souls are released from purgatory; the angels hasten to open for them the gate of their prison. Moreover the holy sacrifice gives joy to the angels and saints. Since the blessed desire above all things the glory of God and the salvation of mankind, they experience inexpressible delight when they see that in the Mass highest honors are paid to the Holy Trinity, and the spiritual welfare of man is powerfully promoted. The angels and saints also rejoice because their names occur in the holy Mass; they exult with the exultation of warriors who, having been companions of their monarch in the fight, are not forgotten in the triumph of his victory. And if even from the Jewish sacrifices a most sweet odor rose up to heaven (Numb. xxviii. 2), how much more must this be the case with the oblation of Christ. The fragrance of His blood goes up on high to refresh and invigorate the blessed denizens of heaven. For this reason the angels descend from the realms above to assist at Mass; as on Christmas night they came down to Bethlehem, singing songs of praise, to adore the new-born Infant in the manger, so now they stand around the altar at the time of Mass, because the only-begotten Son of God is again made flesh. When God brought in the first begotten into the world, He said: “Let all the angels of God adore Him” (Heb. i. 6). Remember, when you hear Mass, that you are in the company of countless celestial spirits.
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