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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Some Eucharistic Thoughts

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At its twenty-second session, the Council of Trent came up with the following definition of the Sacrifice of the Eucharist after a long debate. Now, let's think about what is actually said here and what isn't.Here is the text:
CHAPTER I.On the institution of the most holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Forasmuch as, under the former Testament, according to the testimony of the Apostle Paul, there was no perfection, because of the weakness of the Levitical priesthood; there was need, God, the Father of mercies, so ordaining, that another priest should rise, according to the order of Melchisedech, our Lord Jesus Christ, who might consummate, and lead to what is perfect, as many as were to be sanctified. He, therefore, our God and Lord, though He was about to offer Himself once on the altar of the cross unto God the Father, by means of his death, there to operate an eternal redemption; nevertheless, because that His priesthood was not to be extinguished by His death, in the last supper, on the night in which He was betrayed,--that He might leave, to His own beloved Spouse the Church, a visible sacrifice, such as the nature of man requires, whereby that bloody sacrifice, once to be accomplished on the cross, might be represented, and the memory thereof remain even unto the end of the world, and its salutary virtue be applied to the remission of those sins which we daily commit,--declaring Himself constituted a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech, He offered up to God the Father His own body and blood under the species of bread and wine; and, under the symbols of those same things, He delivered (His own body and blood) to be received by His apostles, whom He then constituted priests of the New Testament; and by those words, Do this in commemoration of me, He commanded them and their successors in the priesthood, to offer (them); even as the Catholic Church has always understood and taught. For, having celebrated the ancient Passover, which the multitude of the children of Israel immolated in memory of their going out of [Page 154] Egypt, He instituted the new Passover, (to wit) Himself to be immolated, under visible signs, by the Church through (the ministry of) priests, in memory of His own passage from this world unto the Father, when by the effusion of His own blood He redeemed us, and delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into his kingdom. And this is indeed that clean oblation, which cannot be defiled by any unworthiness, or malice of those that offer (it); which the Lord foretold by Malachias was to be offered in every place, clean to his name, which was to be great amongst the Gentiles; and which the apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, has not obscurely indicated, when he says, that they who are defiled by the participation of the table of devils, cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord; by the table, meaning in both places the altar. This, in fine, is that oblation which was prefigured by various types of sacrifices, during the period of nature, and of the law; in as much as it comprises all the good things signified by those sacrifices, as being the consummation and perfection of them all.
I believe if one can get past their anti-Catholic emotions and fears, the obvious can be understood here. There is not a new sacrifice. It is one and the same sacrifice that is offered once and for all. What a priest does at the Eucharist is to offer the same offering that Christ offered to the Father for the forgiveness of sins. With the theological connection of Melchisedech and the eternal priesthood of Christ, the nature of the offering is not an improvement or an addition to the one offering of Christ. It's that very offering brought into the present and applied to us for the forgiveness of sins daily committed. Is there scriptural justification for this? What did Jesus mean when He said 'do this as my memorial for the forgiveness of sins?' One can see the theology of sacramental efficacy in the providing in the present that offering of the past. That is what is going on. As the New Pascha, the Eucharist brings into the present the offering of Christ and we receive the forgiveness of sins (Is. 6 'the burning coal') and receive the eschatalogical hope of the fulness of the Kingdom being brought near to us in the present as we journey into the future. The offering of Christ in the Eucharist does not take away from the offering of Christ on the Altar of the Cross because it's the SAME offering though of course it's unbloody because Christ Jesus no longer is able to suffer death. This is the fulfillment of the promise from Mal. that the Gentiles would offer the sacrifice and incense up to God. It is in this manner that all of the early Church Fathers spoke of the Eucharistic sacrifice and had calmer heads prevailed in the C16, we might not have all the reductio ad absurdum explanations from the Puritan sects in England in the late C16 and early C17.

What has happened is that the silly conclusions that some writers arrived at have become the supposedly de facto position of the Church's teaching on this issue and many of those arguments simply fail to see what the Church has believed here. This is not to deny that there were terrible abuses within the Medieval Church that have been corrected and admitted as abuses. There's simply no denying it. But the abuse of something like Eucharistic Sacrifice should not automatically make void what is right within the theology of Eucharistic Sacrifice. What is threatened or taken away from the Gospel or the One Sufficient and Satisfactory offering of Christ at Calvary by believing and teaching the Church's Eucharistic/Sacramental offering of Christ in that rite?

2 Comments:

Blogger Clement Ng said...

Hi, I have an unrelated point. I noticed in your blogroll that The New Pantagruel is classified under "Catholic Blogs". My understanding is that, except for Fr. Gassalasca Jape (this is a pseudonym, or so I hear), most of the folks who work on the journal are of Reformed Presbyterian stock (such as the editor, Caleb Stegall). In any event, the contributors' bio page shows that a the tNP crew is quite ecumenical in character. You may want to move the link to another section.

3:02 am  
Blogger Jeff said...

Thanks!

9:05 am  

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