1. As the holy sacrifice of the Mass is an oblation of infinite value, to celebrate or to hear Mass is a good work which surpasses all other good works in excellence.
An oblation is nothing else than a gift we offer to God. Now the value of a gift is proportionate to the dignity of the giver and the costliness of the gift. Thus it is with a sacrifice; the more holy the sacrificer and the more precious the victim, the greater is its importance in God’s sight. Hence it is that the value of the sacrifice of the Mass is infinite, for the priest and victim are none other than He of Whom God the Father said: “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased” (Matt. iii. 17). The glory given to God in the Mass is greater than that which accrues to Him from all the good works of the saints, for the glory they give Him is finite, whereas the glory He receives in the Mass is infinite; it is an honor paid not by angels or men, but by Christ Himself. “Christ alone,” says Cochem, “knows the greatness of the divine majesty; He alone knows what is due to the Most High; He alone is capable of rendering to the divine majesty the honor that appertains to Him; all that angels and men can do for the glory of God scarcely deserves notice in comparison with what Christ does.” No sacrifice is an act of such profound abasement as the sacrifice of the Mass, for in it the all-glorious Son of God abases Himself to the utmost upon the altar, making Him self appear less than man. In presence of the sacrifice of the Mass, all the sacrifices of the Old Testament vanish as do the stars when the sun rises, for those sacrifices were only acceptable to God inasmuch as they foreshadowed the oblation of Christ on the cross, with which the Mass is identical. Therefore to hear or celebrate Mass is a good work of greater excellence than any other. As the sun exceeds the planets in radiance and vivifying power, so to hear Mass devoutly is much more important, more profitable to us, than any other good work. “If,” says St. Laurence Justinian, “you place all your good works, prayers, fasts, alms, mortifications in one scale, and a single Mass in the other, you will find the latter far outweighs the former.” For by the practice of penance we offer to God gifts that are purely human, but when we hear Mass with due devotion, we offer Him gifts that are divine; we offer Him the body of Christ, the blood of Christ, the wounds of Christ, the Passion of Christ nay, the only-begotten Son of God Himself. The Council of Trent declares that no more holy and divine act can be performed by the faithful than the sacrifice of the Mass. To hear Mass, as a good work, is more profitable than mental prayer, which is the highest form of prayer, because in meditation we represent to ourselves Christ as present, whereas in the Mass He is really present in person.
2. Offering or hearing Mass has more value as a good work in proportion to the worthiness and devotion of priest and people.
The sacrifice of the Mass has a twofold virtue. The one it has of itself, quite independently of the worthiness of the priest. By the sacrifice of the Mass the virtues of Christ’s Passion and His merits are applied to our souls in a totally different manner to that of any other works. Hence a man in no wise loses the fruit of the holy sacrifice if it is offered for him by a priest who is unworthy. Just as the efficacy of the sacraments does not depend upon the character of the priest who dispenses, so the oblation of a bad priest has the same intrinsic value as that of a good priest (St. Thomas Aquinas). Yet on the other hand, the Mass regarded as a good work performed by a believing Christian, has a secondary virtue which depends upon the sanctity and fervor of priest and people. The holier the priest, the more profound his devotion, the more acceptable is the sacrifice he offers, and the greater is the benefit accruing from it. Thus it is far preferable to hear the Mass of a good priest than of a careless one, for the piety and sanctity both of the minister himself, and the faithful who join with him in offering the sacred oblation, enhance its beneficial effect as a good work and incite those present to greater devotion.
This article, 8. THE VALUE OF THE SACRIFICE OF THE MASS. is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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