THE PERIOD OF THE SCHOOLMEN: THE SACRIFICE
Rev. M. De La Taille, S.J
(I) The Problem Of The Mass In Relation To Christ's Eternal Sacrifice.

Before entering upon the discussion of the scholastic problem of the Mass, it is mere common sense to ask ourselves what is, in the matter of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the authoritative teaching of the Church. There may be room, and there is room, in theology, for many theories, conflicting opinions, widely divergent speculations; but only within certain limits, the boundaries of which are marked either by the everyday teaching of the unanimous body of the Pastors, or, it may be, by the occasional pronouncements of the Episcopate in council assembled, or of its Head, exercising his personal prerogative. Should we happen to overstep these limits, we are no longer playing the theologian, but the heretic.

On the subject of the Mass the whole of the Catholic teaching, as a matter of fact, has been set forth by the Council of Trent in three chapters and five canons, which may be summed up as follows:

1. There is in the Church a Sacrifice instituted by Christ, the Sacrifice of His Body and Blood, under the appearances of bread and wine.

2. That Sacrifice is in some sense one with the Cross: the same Victim, the same Priest: only a different manner of offering bloodstained on the Cross, bloodless on our altars.

3. It is a Sacrifice of atonement for our sins and the sins of those for whose sake it is offered, be they living or dead—but dead in Christ.

4. Its worth and efficacy is derived from the Sacrifice of the Cross, the benefit of which it applies to us.

5. Although offered up to God, and to God only, yet it may be celebrated out of devotion for the Saints, as a manner of honouring their memory, in honorem et memoriam.

6. The institution of that Sacrifice goes back to the Supper, when Christ, who was about to deliver Himself up for us on the Cross, wishing moreover to endow His Church with a Sacrifice commemorative of His own, in His capacity of High Priest according to the order of Melchisedech, first, offered up His Body and Blood under the appearances of bread and wine, and next, appointed His apostles (and likewise their successors for ever) to renew the same offering after Him.

Such is the Catholic doctrine of the Sacrifice of the Mass. These are the data on which not only modern theology, but practically also pre-Tridentine theology has had to base its account of the internal economy of that mysterious sacrifice.

We know that the object of theology is not only to ascertain what has to be believed, but also, and mainly, to discuss the how's and why's, and meet the objections of the unbeliever.

Now, how is it possible that the Eucharistic rite should be a true Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of the Lord? Why is Christ, at the end of the Eucharistic process, to be looked upon as sacrificed by us? 'Is it not absurd to think of Christ, of the glorified Christ, as a victim? And yet, if there is no victim, how can there be a sacrifice? That is the first question to be answered. And, secondly, there comes this difficulty: given that the Mass is a Sacrifice, how can the fact be reconciled with the all-sufficiency of the Sacrifice of the Cross, impressed on us with such force in the Epistle to the Hebrews?

The first question will take up most of our attention. From its solution, if adequate, the answer to the second question should follow of itself.

In the first place, then, the problem before us is the following: how is Christ, in our Eucharist, a victim? A victim, that is, something victimised, something subjected to a process of immolation; something, in a word, that can be looked upon as being really and truly in a state of sacrifice? The solutions of the post-Tridentine theologians are manifold.

First solution. We make Him a true victim, by endowing Him with new conditions, either of a physical or moral order, such as to lower His status, or lessen His activities, as a human being. That is the realistic theory of Lugo, Franzelin, and others.

Second solution. We do not alter in any way His real condition, nor need we turn Him into a true victim, which He once was, but never shall be again. All we have to do is to vest the reality of His Flesh and Blood with a likeness of death. The mere symbol of immolation, coupled with His real presence, yields, so to say, a real sacrifice in either of these two ways. First manner: in so far as it recalls the bloodstained immolation of Calvary. This is the view of Vasquez. Second manner: even apart from any antecedent immolation whatever, by the very fact of here and now showing Christ under an appearance of death. Thus Cardinal Billot, whose contention is that, a sacrifice being nothing but the outward sign of an inward self-dedication to God, it does not matter whether the intended victim is really affected by the ritual process or not, so long, that is, as there remains some visible sign of our own self-surrender: which sign, he claims, subsists just as well in the case of a merely symbolical as of a fully real immolation.

Half-way between realism and symbolism, we are confronted by conditional realism, which is the system of Lessius, Billuart and others. The words of consecration being, as a sacramental form, effective of what they mean, would have the power, it is claimed, to sever from one another the Body and the Blood, to which they point separately, in the mystical drama, were it not for the present condition of the glorified Christ, risen from the dead to die no more. Thus the Eucharistic rite implies a virtual slaying of Christ, which, under the circumstances, may be accounted as a true sacrifice.

Such are the main lines of thought followed by the theologians of the last three centuries. The disagreement is wide indeed, covering, as it does, all the distance between two such extremes as the destruction of Christ's actual life, to use the phrase of the Spaniard Ulloa, and the fiat denial of all sacrificial conditions within our so-called Victim, to put bluntly the view of many a metaphysical genius. At one end stands pre-eminent, with his wonderful erudition and absolute lack of balance, a man who in his days was of high repute, Theophilus Raynaudus, a contemporary of Lugo, but probably independent of him, who claims to find on our altars an immolation more real even and more thorough than on the Cross itself. That is to say, the sacramental conditions, depriving, as he thinks, Christ our Lord of His size and bodily dimensions, do by the very fact abolish in Him, normally speaking, not only the use of those external senses, which the Passion, by its very torment, was at least stimulating, but also, and consequently, the use of all internal senses, imagination, emotion and the like, grounded upon our physical apparatus, and, furthermore, all such exercise of the intellect and the will, as from its dependence on imagination and brain, may be called specifically human. A very dreadful conclusion, indeed, reached by dint of intrepid logic. At the other extreme, as I said, not the slightest element of any sacrificial state or condition whatever is considered inherent in Christ Himself; nothing but a semblance, due to the outward garment of death, to that Eucharistic shroud, thinly woven, of words and visible appearances, which, while hiding the presence of the Lord, exhibits to us His Passion. Another triumph of logic. Transubstantiation, they say, does not modify Christ in any way; it is a change not of Christ, either for better or for worse, but of the bread into Christ's Body, of the wine into Christ's Blood. The change effects what is subjected to it, and nothing else. Now of the two substances subjected to the change, bread and wine, nothing remains; no part of either is found to survive in Christ. There is nothing, then, in Christ to be affected by the change. That being so, nothing has been done by us, nothing effected, within Christ Himself. Therefore no real immolation has taken place. And therefore, again, they go on to say, of a true and intrinsic state of a victim there can in the Eucharistic Christ be no thought whatever. We must be content with a mere show.

One side objects to the other the impropriety of injuring, debasing Christ, even granted our power to do so, such as the Jews once had, but were never praised for using. The other side naturally rejoins by expostulating against the whittling away of sacrifice, which, failing a true victim, cannot but come to naught. Both sides combine in assailing the solution of the via media, the conditional slaying. On the one hand, as conditional, that is, dependent upon a condition which is not fulfilled, it remains just as unreal as the mere figuring of death, and thus lies open to the objection of the realist. On the other hand, the assumption that the twofold consecration could, even in a given condition, entail death, fails to do justice to the analysis of Transubstantiation, on which our modern symbolists, in full accord with St. Thomas, are wont to lay great stress. This is how we stand: either Christ is "victimised," and that is too much, or Christ is not victimised, and where then is the victim of that true sacrifice proclaimed by the Council of Trent, and before the Council of Trent by the explicit teaching of at least fourteen centuries? The plea that even killing in effigy manifests our devotion to God is irrelevant. We are not only to show our devotion to God, which may be done in a thousand ways, but to show it (the Council says) by the way of a true sacrifice: which supposes a victim, and a true victim; but a true victim there cannot be, short of a sacrificial state thereof. We are driven into a corner, then, it would seem; and no possibility appears of an escape. And yet there must be a way out of the difficulty, and in all probability an easy one: for this reason, that to us the dilemma is so obvious, whereas none of the mediaeval theologians seem ever to have been embarrassed, or even confronted by it. Which may suggest that possibly we have gone the wrong way about the problem. It is not unthinkable that the question should have been given a wrong twist, so to say; that some of its elements should have been inadvertently disturbed, so as now to be incapable of fitting together; just as, if in the data of a mathematical problem you include a latent contradiction, the contradiction may blossom ultimately into two sets of conflicting solutions. Such seems to be our case:

1st solution: I must impair Christ.

2nd solution: I cannot by any means do so; and even could I, God forbid that I should!

Let us get back, then, to the original setting of the question, and there try to get at the root of the discrepancy between post-Tridentine and pre-Tridentine theologians. If we hit upon some different implications or presuppositions, then no doubt the difficulty will be more than half solved.

When the realists say, we have to victimise Christ, they take two things for granted: first, that the object of a sacrifice is to turn one into a victim; second, that Christ, at the present time, is not a victim apart from our sacrifice.

Now the symbolist disagrees with the realist as to the first point; but he agrees with him as to the second.

How about the pre-Tridentine theologian? Does he admit either of these two presuppositions? He admits neither; and there the difference comes in between him and the school or schools of modern times. This cannot be illustrated without summarily at least indicating the old schoolmen's views, first, on sacrifice in general; and second, on Christ's eternal condition.

For the exposition of mediaeval thought we may fairly apply (amongst others) not only to the Prince of theologians, St. Thomas, or to his master, Albert the Great, but also to their senior, a specialist on the question of sacrifice, William of Paris, and to their junior, Duns Scotus, a specialist on the question of the Mass. Their statements do not in the main appear to have been challenged during the period under consideration, that is, down to the Renaissance, by any orthodox writers. They complete one another, and for the sake of brevity, in the course of this study, shall be blended together.

A sacrifice is a sign, the visible token of our inward self-dedication to God, in the shape of a gift meant primarily, by its removal from profane use and transference into God's dominion, to testify to our own religious consecration, and secondarily (if so it be) to bespeak by its bloodstained condition the acknowledgment of our guilt, along with the intention of repairing it in some way and the desire of being pardoned. All that is implied in the latreutic and propitiatory sacrifice of fallen humanity. Fundamentally then the sacrifice is a gift; not any kind of a gift, nor for any purpose you may devise; but for a religious purpose, a ritual gift.

Now it is the object of a gift not only to be given or presented, but also to be accepted or taken. That is what is aimed at by the giver; and in the case of a sacrifice, it is in this that his hopes of grace and relief have a sure foundation. If God does not accept the offering, if He rejects it, nothing is done, no benefit can accrue to the offerer. On the other hand, if accepted, the sacrifice has effect to the end for which it was presented. Thus arises between God and man a kind of contract, or covenant, even as between man and man from any similar transaction. As a matter of fact, does God accept, does He take unto Himself the gifts of our human lowliness? Goats and oxen were slain before His altar: did He taste them? The sweet odour of incense rose to the clouds; did He smell it? He protests through His prophets that He has no use for it all. And yet the Jews were persuaded, and divinely encouraged in their persuasion, that their sacrifices were in some way accepted. In some way, I say, because on the other hand St. Paul writes in the Epistle to the Hebrews that the whole thing was a failure; otherwise it would not have to be repeated every day. Only one sacrifice has been a success; that of our High Priest according to the likeness of Melchisedech. What then? God did not accept the victims of the Hebrews? Yes, in some way, as has been said, that is, in figure; even as the thing itself was a shadow of the Victim to come. And that figurative acceptance was made sensible and visible in most cases by the action of the miraculous fire, which, preserved from the day of Aaron's consecration, alone was entitled to devour God's share in the banquet. But the acceptance in the case of Christ was real; and not only enclosed in the secret of God's bosom, but also, as behooves a covenant, declared outwardly and actually carried out in Christ's resurrection from the dead, ascension to heaven and glorification throughout eternity. Truly and verily the Victim slain and dead was devoured by God's uncreated fire of heavenly glory. Truly was it transferred from its earthly and corruptible state into God's own incorruption and immortality. Truly was the price of our sin taken into God's powerful hand, there to be retained for ever. Truly was the Lamb carried into the bosom of Him to whom it had been made over. Nothing more real, nothing more true, nothing more actual and nothing more perennial than the divine acceptance of Christ's sacrifice; what St. Thomas calls the eternal consummation of the Sacrifice once performed. And here is the conclusion which strikes the earlier schoolmen, as it had struck the Fathers, led by St. Paul's teaching to the Hebrews: Christ is a victim even now, hostia illa perpetua est, St. Thomas says. In heaven He is a victim, no less than He was on the Cross, only more so, forasmuch as the offering then tendered having now reached Its destination, there is a seal, as it were, on its character of a gift passed from mankind to the Deity. That is of primary importance. If Christ is a victim, confirmed and stamped, so to say, in that capacity by His very glory, then He has not got to be turned into a victim by us. He has not to be slain or immolated, marred or impaired in any way. You cannot make Him to be what he already is without us; and then the very foundation for the realist's contention falls to the ground. But the symbolist is also hit by the discovery. He thought that in our Sacrifice we were to do without anything really endowed with the actual character of a victim. Now you cannot have Christ without having in Him what He is: the victim of our salvation.

Panem, vinum in salutis Consecramus hostiam.
"The bread and wine we consecrate, Into the victim of salvation."

What St. Thomas says in those lines, and more distinctly still in the Summa, and in the Commentary on the Sentences, the popular apologists at the outbreak of the Reformation were not slow to retort to Luther, who, while holding the Real Presence, rejected the Sacrifice. "Is Christ's Body and Blood truly present under the sacramental appearances?" George Witzel would ask Luther: "If thou art a Catholic, thou must say yes. Now then, is Christ's Body and Blood there a sacrifice also, and a victim? That is the crux of the question. But I will solve it for thee. If Christ's Body and Blood is no victim at all, then our faith is vain and we are yet in our sins. But if His Body and Blood is a victim even as yesterday so today, yea and for ever, how then darest thou deny Him to be a victim in the Sacrament?" This is one instance amongst many. One point then is secured so far as the outcome of transubstantiation; not indeed the making of a victim, but the presence of a victim. Christ was a victim in the making once, on the Cross. He is a victim ready-made now for ever, wherever He is. If present in the Sacrament, there He is such as He is: a victim, a host. The Real Presence of Christ, in whatever shape or form, carries with it the sacrificial status inherent in the Lamb that was slain and liveth.

But is that an adequate solution of the problem of the Mass? By no means. As all the scholastics were quick to perceive, a sacrifice is not the mere presence of a victim, but the offering thereof. Now where is the offering? So far I see the putting before us of the divine Victim. I do not see the sending up thereof to God. I would say more. A question arises whether the possibility of a fresh sacrifice is not precluded by the very permanence of Christ's sacrificial status. If He be already a sacrifice, how can He be sacrificed any more? All is done, nothing remains to be done. Away then with the sacrifice of the Mass! We may have the Divine Victim brought down from on High; we may come into contact with that eternal Victim; and a memorial too of past immolation and oblation there may be. But a sacrifice of ours we have not, we cannot have, as long as He, the ransom of our lives, remains what He is for ever, a Victim. And certainly this has been one of the objections of the reformers against the Sacrifice of the Mass. I shall not ask how the scholastics met it, but how the old school had forestalled it.

In the opinion of the thirteenth-century theologians, the immolation of Calvary is all-sufficient, and, as a real immolation, exclusive of any repetition. But immolation is only one element of sacrifice, and indeed not the one that has to be performed by the priest, or sacrificer. The priestly element is oblation. The oblation has been performed by Christ, St. Thomas marks, in such wise, that it might be renewed by us. The immolation then, or mactation, has been done once, and need not be repeated, and cannot be repeated. But the offering can, and should be, of daily recurrence, according to Christ's command: this do in remembrance of Me. Now the sacrifice being not the mactation or immolation, but the offering up of what is either slain or to be slain, it follows that our daily celebration is also a daily sacrifice. That is the common teaching of the old commentators on the famous question of the fourth book of the Lombard: Si Christus quotidie immoletur, vel semel tantum immolatus sit.

It remains further to be seen how and why the Eucharistic rite is an offering of Christ's immolation.


(2) The Mass As An Offering Of The Passion.

I consecrate the Body and Blood of Christ, and am supposed thereby to offer up to God the Victim of the Passion. How is that? Simply and solely because by thus doing I am doing the same thing which was done by Christ before me. This do in remembrance of Me. What are we to do? The same that He did: this, what He had just been doing. If then Christ offered up His death while consecrating the bread and wine, surely, on the strength of Christ's own word, I too, while consecrating the bread and wine, am offering His death. But did Christ, as a matter of fact, at the Last Supper, offer up to God His passion and death for the redemption of mankind? That is exactly what our doctors tell us. Christ in the Supper offered Himself up to death. "This is My Body," He says, "which is delivered up for you," delivered unto death (as even our modern rationalist commentators point out). "This is My Blood, which is shed for you, in atonement for your sins." "My Blood which flows for you": is not that death? Death put indeed before us in a symbol, by means of that sacramental parting of the Blood from the Body; but death at the same time already pledged to God for all its worth, as well as all its awful reality, by the expressive language of that sacred symbol. The price of our sins shall be paid down on Calvary; but here the liability is incurred by our Redeemer, and subscribed in His very Blood. The Flesh of the Lamb is here consigned into God's hands, forasmuch as it is assigned as our ransom. Christ is bound for His Passion, from which it is henceforth impossible for Him to step back without taking from God what He has given to God, and thus violating that principle of justice according to which every one is bound to render unto God the things that are God's. Wherefore, St. Anselm remarks, it was Christ's duty to die, not to fulfil any particular command of His Father, which to the majority of our doctors is unthinkable, but only to keep the law of justice, even unto death.

Such is the ritual process by which Christ made an offering, an outward and visible offering of His passion. It has not been analysed to the full by the Schoolmen: possibly because it was too plain to all from Scripture, from the Fathers, and from their popular hymns. But we find in their writings all the elements of this statement, that Christ offered His passion, while representing it, in the Eucharist. So that in turn they might also say that the Eucharist, the sacrament, the mystery of the Body and Blood was "consecrated," or was "offered" on the Cross itself; that is, finally brought there to its completion as a sacrifice; a statement which we find not only in Albert the Great, but even before the opening of the scholastic period in Bede, and at the close of the Middle Ages in the writings of another great Englishman, Thomas Walden. Such was the link between the Eucharist and the Cross, that the Eucharist was "fulfilled" on the Cross, because the Cross had been pledged in the Eucharist.

One point has escaped the notice of the Scholastics, although it was set forth so plainly in the works of one of their favourite authors, Hesychius; that is to say, the similarity between Christ's method of offering and the traditional Hebrew rite of oblation. Oblation, as distinct from immolation, amongst the Hebrews, took the form mostly of a sprinkling of the blood on the altar: the blood representing life, and the altar being looked upon as the seat of the Divinity, and therefore as a fit substitute of the Godhead, in regard to the visible reception and invisible sanctification of the gifts. Accordingly Christ offered His life by sprinkling the Blood on the altar. The altar of Christ is His own Body, the true seat of the Divinity, sanctified and sanctifying. On that true altar Christ poured His Blood, while sacramentally shedding it, in view of the Cross, where the shedding was to be no more sacramental, but real. Thus was the Body bathed in blood twice; not only on the Cross, at the hands of the executioners, but in the first instance, sacerdotally as well as mystically, by Christ Himself, the High Priest according to the order of Melchisedech. If the mediaeval theologians did not explicitly note this parallelism of the Hebrew rite and the Eucharistic proceedings of the Supper night, yet this much is dear to them—that Christ's Body is God's Altar, the one Altar of the one Sacrifice; the only Altar to which our High Priest ever ministered, on which ever lay the price of the world, and from which the Blood of the Victim may be obtained by us. This view, for which might be quoted scores of authorities ranging from the ninth to the thirteenth century, may serve as a useful confirmatur for the conclusion at which we had already arrived from the mere consideration of the symbolic immolation. Christ in the Supper offered His death. And we offer it, because we do the same that He did. "Do this"—what?—"the same that I have done. I have offered My death; you shall offer My death." Thus we do the same that He did, but yet with a difference, and indeed with a twofold difference, respecting time and authority.

In the first place, our celebration is connected with His passion and death as things of the past, whereas His was pointing towards the Cross as a thing of the future. He was offering Himself up to what was in store for Him; we offer the relic, but the living relic of His Blood once spilled. His was an oblation of the immolation to come: se obtulit immolandum as not only the Fathers, or old Liturgies, but also the early mediaeval writers, like Alcuin, for instance, were wont to express it. Ours is the oblation of the Victim once immolated, rei immolatae oblatio, or oblatio occisi ad cultum Dei, to use Albert's phrases. There we have just the difference of the commemoration and the anticipation. What He anticipated. we commemorate; even as He said, "Do ye this in memory of Me "; or St. Paul, "As often as ye eat this bread and drink the cup, ye proclaim the Lord's death till He come." In both cases the sacrifice rests upon the same immolation, upon the Cross; but in two different ways, that is, from two opposite sides: here, oblatio hostiae immolatae; there, oblatio hostiae immolandae. So that His sacrifice, as many of the Fathers at Trent pointed out, although celebrated ritually by Him in the upper room, was not finished till He died at the hands of His enemies; whereas our sacrifice, having no more to expect its completion from the slaying of the Victim and the shedding of its Blood, ends with the very Eucharistic celebration, which, as has been said, lays before God the Victim that it yields: the Victim of the passion immortalized in glory, not an idolothytum, but an eternal theothytum. Here we touch the reason why one sacrifice was blood-stained, and the other is bloodless, and yet both are the same.

Second difference. In the upper room, He was alone to offer: nor could it be otherwise: we must be redeemed before we join with Him in the act of His priesthood. So that even Mary, the Virgin Mother, could not effectively share in the first offering of the Sacrifice by which she herself, as well as the rest of mankind, although in a different manner, had to be redeemed—indeed more redeemed than ourselves, that is with a fuller effect of that purifying grace of redemption, which in her forestalled all taint of sin. Torcular calcavi solus, the Lord could verily say, although in a different sense perhaps from the prophet. But now, it is the other way about. We, if I may say so, tread the wine-press, which He once trod. We are offering anew, under Him indeed, and by His commission; but truly we are offering, and truly it is a fresh offering. On His part, on the contrary, there is nothing but the oblation gone by, ever operative through ours. None of the scholastics before the sixteenth century ever ascribed to Christ more than this one oblation of old, permanently hovering, so to say, over our altars, so as to incorporate in itself the sub ordinate and ministerial exercise of our delegated priesthood. The words are ours, the sacred words which are once more, by the narrative of the Supper, placed on the lips of the Lord. They are ours as to the uttering, but His as to the virtue and efficacy which they borrow from His one utterance (and present cooperation). The power to offer is His; but the act of offering is ours. He offers indeed, but through us only, that is, through our agency, not by any formal presentation of His own. He offers, in so far as we offer by His mandate, as partakers of that priestly dignity and activity of His, which once shone forth amid the surroundings of the passion, and now has come to rest on the seat of glory at the right hand of the Father. The toiling of the priesthood is now all our own; ours is the plea for acceptance on behalf of the Church, that fullness of Christ's Body, which being entirely sacerdotal as Body of the High Priest, yet must needs use the appointed and ordained organs of its sacrificing activity, and through them only forward to God the gift of the community, the Victim, which it is its privilege to share with Christ in offering.

That doctrine, taught implicitly at least by St. Thomas, as Suarez himself, an opponent, frankly admits, has been more fully, more explicitly, and we may say, more brilliantly, expounded by Scotus in his famous twentieth Quodlibetum. But who better than Thomas Walden ever expressed our present relation to Christ's original act, in the phrase, namely, by which he describes the part of the priest in the consecration? "Ponuntur verba illa superexcellentis divinae auctoritatis, alta mentis devotione promulganda: promulgatur et (perhaps for et should be read enim) semper effectrix Christi sententia: Hoc est corpus meum." What we do is a promulgation of Christ's effective sentence, of His authoritative statement, to the bread which we hallow and to the chalice which we bless. Wherefore also we declare, in the very act of consecration, that Christ in the Last Supper actually handled the chalice which we bless, and blessed the chalice which we handle: "accipiens et hunc praeclarum calicem in sanctas ac venerabiles manus suas . . . dixit: Hic est calix sanguinis mei." Christ spoke then of the Eucharist of all times, of any individual bread or chalice that might ever be reached by the force of His words, conveyed on our lips, or rather, of the one bread and the one chalice, ever the same through all ages from the night in the supper-room to the last day of the world. Which view in the early Middle Ages received current expression from the pen of Agobardus, Florus, Paschasius, and others down to Innocent III.

After the English Carmelite, Thomas Walden, we may still give ear to an Irish Franciscan, Anthony Hickey (Hyquaeus), of much later date, who aptly connects our ministration not only with Christ's personal activity and initiative, but also, and none the less essentially, with the general intention and collective devotion of the universal Church; so that even severed from the unity of the Church, a priest still does offer (if he offers at all) in the name and on the part of the Church, of the true Church, of the whole Church: "Haereticus sacerdos etiam in persona Ecclesiae . . . offert sacrificium"; a statement which through Gabriel Biel, and in part through Scotus and William of Paris, goes back to Algerus of Liege, the best exponent in the early Middle Ages of the doctrine of St. Augustine on the Eucharist.

To sum up, the generally accepted view of the Eucharistic sacrifice amongst pre-Tridentine theologians, so far as we may gather it from a conscientious study of their works, appears to have been the very same that was propounded at the outbreak of the Reformation against Luther by such unsophisticated champions of the Faith as Latomus, Thomas Herenthalinus, Tapper in Flanders, Herbornus, Gropper and the canons of Cologne in the Rhineland, Klinke in Saxony, Fabri in Bavaria, Jerome Negri da Fossano in Northern Italy, and many others, who all fall in line with the definition given by Blessed Peter Canisius in that famous catechism that saved the faith of Lower Germany. "What are we to believe of the sacrifice of the altar?" the catechism asks. The answer is: c "The sacrifice of the Mass rightly understood is both a representation, at once holy and living, and an offering, bloodless yet actual"—of what ?—"of the passion of the Lord and of the blood-stain sacrifice which was offered for us on the Cross." You see the two elements combined in the definition: first, a representation (symbolical, of course) of the passion and death of the Lord: second, an oblation, real though bloodless, of the same passion and death. The Mass, whilst picturing, also tenders unto God the sacrifice of the Cross. That is offered which is represented. You represent Christ's death; you offer Christ's death. Such was the catechism taught to our forefathers, not only in Germany, but also, as might be shown, in other countries as well.

As long as this doctrine was left in peaceful possession of the theological field, there could hardly be any difficulty in reconciling the recurrence of our daily sacrifice with the all-sufficiency of the one sacrifice of redemption. It is true that St. Paul says that Christ offered only one sacrifice, and offered it only once; and that this unique oblation once for all perfected them that are sanctified. It is true, therefore, that the fullness and adequacy of the price once paid excludes all addition of any further installment, if I may so speak; and, as the price was paid in the Blood of Christ, it follows that to the one immolation of our one Victim there can be no question of appending any subsequent immolation of either the same or another victim. Which comes to this: that henceforth no other sacrifice can be acceptable to God. Hence the objection of the Reformer: the Mass must be done away with: there is no such thing in the Church as a sacrifice of atonement for the living or the dead: since the one sacrifice of atonement for all men and for all sins was that of the Cross.

I would not say that certain forms of the realistic or even the symbolistic theory are not hit by that argument: in so far, namely, as either they imply in Christ some change of state for the worse, or at least hold out some sort of sacrifice subsisting apart from the Cross. Wherefore we find that some confusion or lack of thoroughness may be noted at times in certain post-Tridentine solutions of the above objection, as was remarked by Cardinal Cienfuegos. The confusion in fact goes back even to the days of Trent, and showed itself in one of the conciliar debates, not regarding indeed directly the Mass, but the Last Supper. The question arose, whether the Last Supper should be defined to have been a sacrifice or not. Great was the difference of opinion amongst the Fathers. A number of them opposed the definition, on the ground that it would create a very serious difficulty in our discussions with the heretics. The heretics would certainly object the oneness of Christ's sacrifice, as emphasized in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Now should we not have two sacrifices of Christ, if in the Last Supper, that is, prior to the Cross, there appeared already one? Worse still: as the sacrifice in the Supper must needs be, if anything, a sacrifice of atonement—("This is My Blood that is being shed for you and the many unto the forgiveness of sins"), would it not follow that mankind was redeemed even before the sacrifice on the Cross? What an awkward conclusion I and how could one possibly escape it? Thereupon the answer came from a certain number of Bishops, amongst whom I may be permitted to point out the Bishop of Paris, Eustace du Bellay, who spoke as follows: "Christ did offer Himself up in the Last Supper.... Yet there are not two offerings, but one only together with that of the Cross. For in the offering of the Supper He had already begun His passion; and the offering in the Supper was continuous with that of the Cross; and being the same with that of the Cross, it was propitiatory too." Many followed suit, as for instance the Bishop of Leiria, in Portugal: "In the Supper and on the Cross there is only one victim and one oblation. The unity of the Supper and of the Cross is indivisible." Similarly the Bishop of Palermo: "In the Supper, Christ began His offering, and finished it on the Cross." And the same you hear from the lips of the Bishops of Fiesole, Calvi, Teano, Campagna, in Italy, of Viviers, in France, and a number of others of various nationalities. Some time before, the Archbishop of Cologne had thus advocated a change in the original draft of the decree (which change the Council sanctioned): "Christ," he said, "under the species of bread and wine offered His Body and Blood for a sacrifice which was to be completed and carried out on the Cross by the hands of others.... Christ offered Himself up to His Father by His own hands; but the wicked to whom He was delivered up made no end of beating, crushing, scourging and crucifying Him, till they had achieved the Sacrifice which was offered up in bread and wine.... And with this doctrine," he goes on to say, "both Fathers and Scripture agree, who from the sacrifice of the Supper never dissociate the sacrifice of the Cross, but include the latter in the former, in such manner as is possible, namely, in a bloodless manner; yet even so it was nothing else but the self-same sacrifice, that was being offered already . . . pending its final completion. This doctrine," he concludes, "being most true and Catholic, it seems well that we should alter a few words in the draft, lest they should be interpreted otherwise." Which recommendation of his, as I have said, won the sanction of the Council. Thus the Protestant difficulty was cut at the root, as regards, at least, the Last Supper.

But the same solution must, with due proportion, apply to the Mass. Yes, the Mass would be derogatory to the dignity, and I would say the monopoly of the Cross, if any other immolation but that of Calvary were to be offered on our altars. But the selfsame sacrifice of redemption is offered here and there. There by the Redeemer, here by the redeemed, whom He not only loosed from their sins, but also made priests unto God His Father, to join with Him in the offering of the Blood of the Covenant, as behooves the members of the High Priest. The dignity of the Cross is perfectly safe. Nothing is added to the price once paid, nor to the payment of it once made. Only we, as fellows of Christ, subscribe to the document of that divine transaction, not to enhance its value, but to appropriate its merit, that is, its worth and efficacy. Where is the belittling of the Divine Sacrifice? Rather there is an exaltation of our human frailty, which, indeed, we may well admire, and give thanks to the mercy of God, through whose grace we Christians are an elect race, a royal priesthood.

Such is the doctrine of the Mass which to my mind commends itself as more true to antiquity, not only scholastic, but also patristic; more true also to Scripture, especially the Epistle to the Hebrews; more true to the nature of things and to the Semitic view of sacrifice; and moreover as reconciling together the various points that have proved irreconcilable in the other conflicting theories.

Before concluding, I may perhaps be permitted to tell a little story. Seventeen years ago, while staying at Accrington, I was asked by the Rector of the church, Fr. Martin, to give a course of sermons on the Mass. I replied that I would willingly preach on the Sacrament of the Eucharist, on Holy Communion. No, on the Sacrifice, he said, on the Mass. I felt rather afraid to speak on the subject, no theory having ever approved itself to me, save one, for which I knew of no authority amongst the theologians of modern times. I went to the library of the house in search of some respectable patron. The first book that attracted my notice was the Catechism of Blessed Peter Canisius, which I had never opened before. I opened it, and found there the definition to which I have referred above. All my fears were gone. I preached the desired course of sermons, which in later years developed into a course of university lectures, and finally into a volume, to which I beg to refer my hearers.

In the meantime it is a great pleasure for me to be able to bring back to England's shores what I thus owe to the encouragement of an English priest and the goodwill of an English congregation.


Provided Courtesy of:
Eternal Word Television Network
5817 Old Leeds Road
Irondale, AL 35210
www.ewtn.com


HOME-EWTNews-FAITH-TELEVISION-RADIO-LIBRARY-GALLERY-CATALOGUE-GENERAL
ESPAÑOL