“For from the rising of the sun, even to its setting, my name is great among the nations; And everywhere they bring sacrifice to my name, and a pure offering.” (Malachi 1:11)
Everywhere throughout the entire world where there are Catholic priests, who are validly ordained and under the authority of our Holy Father the Pope, this prophecy is fulfilled each and every day, even every hour, in churches whenever and wherever the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is being offered. It is the most Holy Sacrifice of the Cross which is re-presented under the humble forms of bread and wine in the Sacrifice of the Mass which Jesus instructed, no rather, commanded His Apostles to celebrate in remembrance of Him. Each and every time Catholics celebrate Holy Mass we are obeying our Lord’s command to, “Do this in remembrance of me.” In fact, St. Paul recounts it quite well, “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.’” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) This is what Catholic priests do each and every time they celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
(CCC) 1362 The Eucharist is the memorial of Christ’s Passover, the making present and the sacramental offering of his unique sacrifice, in the liturgy of the Church which is his Body. In all the Eucharistic Prayers we find after the words of institution a prayer called the anamnesis or memoria.
The word anamnesis means “recall by making present” (Robert Louis Wilken) or rather re-actualizing. It is in no way a symbolic act. Jesus was commanding the Apostles to repeat exactly what he was doing at the Last Supper. The Last Supper was in fact the very first Mass. The Mass today is the same basic ceremony as the Last Supper. At the Last Supper, Jesus Christ instituted the Holy Priesthood and the most Holy Eucharist. The Mass is the memorial of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus which Saint Paul spoke of so eloquently in the passage I quoted in 1 Corinthians 11.
Some critics argue that Catholics re-sacrifice Jesus over and over again in the Mass but that is totally untrue. Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice is made present again by Divine power under the forms of bread and wine. In the consecration at Mass, the priest changes the bread and wine into the most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus – called Transubstantiation. The substances of the bread and wine become Jesus but the accidents – what we see, touch and taste – remain the same. Do you really believe that God Almighty – who walked among us and performed so many miracles of love – cannot perform this miracle? He told us, “Unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you.” (John 6:53)
Why is it so hard for you to believe? I am not saying you have to understand it, I am just saying to believe it on faith in the God you adore and worship because He said so. Why do so many people interpret so many bible verses literally but when it comes to this one, they refuse?
Let us go back to the Old Covenant, shall we! Sacrifice is extremely Biblical and began in the beginning in the Book of Genesis to be exact when even Abram built an altar to the Lord and “invoked the Lord by name.” (Genesis 12:8) Isaac as well built an altar to the Lord at Beer-sheba and “invoked the Lord by name.” (Genesis 26:25) Noah as well built an altar to God and offered animals in sacrifice to the Lord. (Genesis 8:20) So, we see in the beginning even Abram, Isaac and Noah built altars to call upon the name of the Lord. It was the first signs of liturgical worship which Catholics still have to this day!
“When Moses came to the people and related all the words and ordinances of the Lord, they all answered with one voice, ‘We will do everything that the Lord has told us.’ Moses then wrote down all the words of the Lord and, rising early the next day, he erected at the foot of the mountain an altar and twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. Then, having sent certain young men of the Israelites to offer holocaust and sacrifice young bulls as peace offerings to the Lord, Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls; the other half he splashed on the altar. Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people, who answered, ‘All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do.’ Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words of his.” (Exodus 24:3-8) Now, if you will please compare this to Luke 22: 19-20 “Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it , and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me. And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.’” Do you really and truly believe at the core of your being that God Almighty would have Moses ratify a covenant with Israel with real blood but that Jesus would establish the new and everlasting covenant with just bread and wine to be merely ‘symbols’ of His body and blood? I highly, highly doubt it. Why would Jesus establish a covenant to be inferior to the Old Covenant when it was to be the New and Everlasting covenant? The Last Supper is the only place that Jesus uses the word Covenant in the Gospels!!!!
In the Old Covenant, there were sacrifices of bread, wine, oils, birds and animals including sheep and goats. The Israelites even were instructed to sacrifice an unblemished lamb for the Passover. When they were preparing to escape Egypt before the 10th plague, God instructed Moses to tell the Israelites all they had to do to keep the Passover correctly. In Exodus Chapter 12 the whole Passover ritual is prescribed in detail. In verse 14 God instructs them, “This day shall be a memorial feast for you which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the Lord, as a perpetual institution.” The fact of the matter is if the Israelites had not listened to all the commands of the Lord and followed them without mistake, then they would have woken up to their first-born son dead. It had been commanded by the Lord to be done in a certain way and they had to follow it without cost. Eating the lamb was never an option. It was to form a covenant family bond with God the Father. It was considered a communion meal for the Israelites and they had to eat the lamb.
Anyway, the Israelites were instructed to keep this as a perpetual institution throughout all of their generations. It was not just a once-and-done meal. It was to be every year at the same time. In fact, I am sure devout, practicing Jewish people today continue to celebrate the Passover meal even to this day and rightly they should because they do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah and that He came 2000 years ago to fulfill the Old Covenant Passover and begin the New Covenant Passover meal; which he in fact did at the Last Supper with His Apostles. He changed forever the Passover for all of the world.
You see, when they were at the table Jesus did something very strange. He ended the Passover meal with the third cup and the roasted lamb and unleavened bread (this is when he instituted the Holy Eucharist) “This is my body, this is my blood.” Traditionally, the Passover meal had four parts, which included four cups of wine. Devout Jews still practice this today at the Seder meal at Passover. However, after the third cup, which is called the cup of blessing, they sang a hymn which is called the Great Hallel which is composed of Psalms 114-118 and left for the Mount of Olives. Saint Paul speaks about this cup of blessing in 1 Corinthians 10:16. I am sure the Apostles, being practicing Jews, were confused by this as Jewish scholars are but later on it all made sense and they could figure it out with the help of the Holy Spirit, of course. Jesus had made a monumental change in the way the Passover was to be celebrated. He left with His apostles before the fourth part, the climactic part of the Passover. He left before he had offered the fourth cup!
Why did he skip the fourth cup? When would he drink it? Well, if you look at Matthew’s gospel in Chapter 26, in the Agony in the Garden where Jesus immediately went after he left the Last Supper, he speaks to the Father THREE TIMES and says, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” This cup he is referring to is the fourth cup of the Passover that he had skipped over at the Last Supper.
John Chapter 19 verse 28, “After this, aware that everything was now finished, on order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I thirst’. There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.” This is the fourth cup. This is the cup that Jesus had skipped at the Passover with His Apostles. He did this for a very important reason. He wanted to show us that the Last Supper was the beginning of His voluntary self-offering which would be completed on Calvary. He shows us that the Passover meal was the beginning of the Sacrifice of the Cross and the Sacrifice of the Cross was the completion of the Passover for himself. Therefore, we can conclude by this that the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross on Calvary are the same sacrifice.
The King of kings and Lord of lords knew what He was doing when he left the Last Supper after the third cup. Even Saint Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthian 10:16 “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” Saint Paul was reiterating what Jesus had taught us at the Last Supper and on Calvary. The Eucharist and the Cross are the same just the manner of sacrifice is different.
Jesus came, did he not, to fulfill the Old Covenant? The way in which he did this is by changing the Old Passover meal into the New Passover meal; the Holy Eucharist. As the Israelites in Ancient Egypt had to consume the unblemished lamb, the lamb without any broken bones, we too as children of God have to consume Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The Passover was complete for Jesus on the Cross when he said “It is finished” However, we must follow God’s command to eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus.(John 6:53) We too must eat the Lamb of God. This is not just metaphoric language. Do you not remember that Saint John quotes Saint John the Baptist at the beginning of the gospel “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29.) John is introducing Jesus as the Lamb of God. He is the New Covenant Lamb which must be sacrificed and which will do away with all of the Old covenant sacrifices of animals which could never completely atone for sins.
The Eucharist is the covenant meal that God has commanded us to eat to become family with Him. It is our communion meal that he has so graciously given to us by virtue of our birth or our conversion into His family of the Holy Catholic Church. We must obey him without cost. You see, animal sacrifice in the Old Covenant was not just about the killing. It was indeed about sharing of a meal to establish a covenant. It was about becoming family. We are indeed the family of God. We are his children by adoption. That is why Jesus teaches us to call God ‘Abba’; we are the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity. How awesomely blessed are we to be able to call ourselves brothers and sisters of Christ.
The Mass is the Heavenly Liturgy. When I am at Mass, I can ‘see’ with eyes of faith the angels and Saints up on the altar. I imagine Jesus right behind the ordained priest because He truly is offering himself to the Father through his earthly priest. So many people say Mass is boring, how can this be possible? Saint Padre Pio once said that the world could exist more easily without the sun than without the Holy Mass. The Mass is so completely found in the Sacred Scriptures and the Sacred Scriptures are indeed completely brought to life in the Holy Mass. The Book of Revelation is filled with the Heavenly Liturgy, the Mass. I ask you to study it and to find the truth. If you are not excited about going to Mass and if you are not excited about studying Sacred Scripture, then I beg you to ask God for the grace to get you excited! Why are you wasting precious time on this earth? Why do you say you don’t need to know the why of the beauty of the True Catholic Faith? If we, the faithful Catholics walking the earth today, do not learn the truths of our faith and pass it on to the next generation, then who will? How will the true faith continue if we do not make it happen? We will be held accountable for our actions when we die, not the person who doesn’t know Christ and the teachings of His Holy Catholic Church, but us. We must get excited, we must learn the teachings of the Church in their entirety. We must read and study! It only takes a little time each day to learn so very much. There are millions and millions of fallen away Catholics out in our world who are just starving for the truth of the faith they left behind. If we don’t learn our faith enough to have a contagious spirit then how will we witness and explain to them when they question or belittle the faith? Many people tell me that fallen away Catholics are the most anti-catholic people out there. Maybe that is true, maybe not, I don’t know. I have met Protestant anti-Catholics as well. The point is we need to be able to teach them all when and if the opportunity arises.
I take no credit for what I have written here. This is universal Catholic teaching and I have learned it from scholars and the saints. My favorite author is, as I have mentioned before, Dr. Scott Hahn, and he has been my most valued teacher of Sacred Scripture and theology. I highly recommend his talk The Fourth Cup and His book Understanding the Scriptures (Chapter 21 The Cup of Consummation is where I learned so much of what I have written here). He breaks everything down so that I can understand it. I am an amateur but I want to learn. I crave knowledge about the Bible and theology. He is not the only one you can learn from. Maybe he does not speak to you the way he speaks to me. There are so many learned, well-trusted Catholic sources out there. Lighthouse Catholic Media is awesome and I have listened to many of Scott Hahn’s talks from them. But they have so many other theologians and scholars you can listen to and read and learn from. Find your favorite and start to read and learn and grow in your faith so that you can spread it to your children, your spouse, your friends and then the world! We are only here a short time and we must not waste even a second. I want everyone to be able to celebrate the meal of the Holy Eucharist – the meal of the New Covenant – the meal of the New Passover. I want everyone to be able to come and enjoy the Heavenly Liturgy and partake of the Covenant family meal which Jesus went through so much to give us. This is not because I look down upon or think less of those who are not Catholic Christians, in fact, my most devoted and true friend is a Protestant with strong faith convictions and I love her for who she is and I always will. St. John writes in Revelation 19:9 “Then the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These words are true; they come from God.” Jesus calls all of us to this wedding feast which is indeed the Holy Mass, the question is will you hear his voice and answer His call?
Saint Padre Pio, pray for us and all people everywhere to come to a better understanding and appreciation of the supreme gift we are given in the most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass!