ANTI-CATHOLIC ASSERTION: There is no need of Catholic priests or of the sacrifice of the Mass, we have Christ and all is accomplished on the cross already.
Hebrews 7:27: "He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did this once for those of the people; he did this once for all when he offered up himself."
CATHOLIC TRUTH: While there was no requirement for daily sacrifice in the law of Moses, such a feature was prescribed for the Day of Atonement. Of course, what we can readily contrast are the repeated sacrifices of the Hebrews and the singular oblation of Jesus. True atonement could not be achieved by their sacrifices, and yet, such was expected between the fallen creature and his Creator. Indeed, the practice of making sacrifices, even in pagan religions, shows that there is an innate awareness of this responsibility imprinted upon nature itself. The sacrifices of the Old Testament are in preparation for and point to the redemptive cross. Chosen by God, the Jewish people were made righteous by their faith and fidelity to the covenant; and yet, even their beloved dead, preserved from the fires of hell, would have to await the descent of our crucified Lord before entering into paradise. As the catechisms explain, Christ took upon his shoulders the death we deserved and the heavy burden of sin. He conquers them, but they have yet to be undone in human history. The gates of heaven are opened and as our Mediator, Jesus makes possible our entry into the heavenly home.
Apart from Christ, any human sacrifice was only of a finite measure and could not make full reparation for the infinite dishonor against God caused by the primordial sin and our subsequent collaboration through personal sin.
The Eucharist or Mass is the Christian's sacramental way of making himself present to the great mystery of Calvary. Christ dies ONCE and FOR ALL; however, this saving mystery is extended through space and time by the Eucharist. Christ has died and will never die again. We do not have Christ killed upon our altars again and again. The Mass makes time travelers of us all, albeit through sacred signs. We see the image of a cross or crucifix, but it is the altar-table which most resonates with the cross of Christ. We see a priest at the altar and yet he acts in the person of Christ, the head of the Church. The cultic language of the Last Supper links it with his saving death. We see many different men function as priests, and yet their priesthood participates in the ONE PRIESTHOOD of Jesus Christ. He is the high priest of the Catholic Christian faith. The only difference from the initial historical death of Christ and its actual re-presentation in the Mass is our ability now to join ourselves to him. We can surrender ourselves along with Christ, joined inextricably to him, as one perfect sacrifice to the heavenly Father. We are faithful, generation after generation, in keeping his great command: "Do this in remembrance of me" (see Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25). This "anamnesis" is a living memory, making present that which is recalled and signified.
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Revised on April 30, 1998.