The Catholic Forum mentions the following as an ”anti-Catholic whopper.”
”Catholics re-sacrifice Christ at every Mass because [they say] we don’t understand that His death on the cross was the FINAL sacrifice.”
In the above statement, is the argument that 1. Catholics don’t believe that Christ is sacrificed at every Mass or 2. Catholics do believe that Christ is sacrificed at every Mass but that this does not imply that Christ’s death on the cross was not the ”final sacrifice?”
The second argument seems strange. It seems to me that only the first argument is plausible. So, I shall focus on this one. In The Constant Thirst and Constant Sacrifice of Jesus Christ: The Charism of Mother Teresa, I examined Mother Teresa’s belief that Jesus Christ in heaven is constantly “thirsting for souls?” In that post I linked the “constant thirst” idea to the constant sacrifice of the Mass. In Roman Catholic theology – perhaps, philosophy is a more appropriate term – the sacrifice is never over.
According to Roman Catholicism, Christ was not sacrificed once and for all, but is sacrificed constantly – in the Mass. From this idea it’s no big leap to imagine that every time Christ is “offered” as a sacrifice in the Mass, He also thirsts (for souls) as he did at His crucifixion. The term “constant” is from Pope John Paul II. In his teaching of the sacrifice of the Mass, Pope John Paul II writes: . . . the Church is the instrument of man’s salvation. It both contains and continually (my italics) draws upon the mystery of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice. Through the shedding of His own blood, Jesus Christ constantly (my italics) “enters into God’s sanctuary thus obtaining eternal redemption” (cf. Heb 9:12). (Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope (New York: Knopf, 1995, p. 139). The underlined section is the Pope’s rendition of Hebrews 9:12.). The Pope’s “constantly enters” resonates with the Council of Trent’s declaration that the Mass is not merely a “re-enactment”, but a real propitiatory sacrifice, which is repeated at every consecration of the wafer and the wine. “And for as much as, in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the mass, that same Christ is contained and immolated in an unbloody manner who once offered himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross . . . For the victim is one and the same, the same now offering by the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross, the manner alone of offering being different. . . If any one saith, that the sacrifice of the mass is only a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; or, that it is a bare commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross, but not a propitiatory sacrifice. . . and that it ought not to be offered for the living and the dead for sins, pains, satisfactions, and other necessities: let him be anathema.” Here is one Catholic’s depiction of “the agony of Our Lord in each Holy Mass.” As is (intentionally?) made clear, it’s hard not to make the propitiary sacrifice of the Mass unbloody, which the Council of Trent stipulates is an unbloody sacrifice, for surely ”sacrifice” implies blood – real, not mystical, blood. The first part of John Paul’s statement – “continually draws upon the mystery of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice” – does not conflict with the Bible. However, just because the Church “continually draws upon the…sacrifice” this does not mean that Jesus Christ is constantly sacrificed. After quoting what he says is Hebrews 9:12, the Pope ends with “(cf. Heb 9:12).” “Cf’” means see/refer to/compare Hebrews 9:12. Let’s do so. Here is the complete verse of Hebrews 9:12 from the Roman Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible translation (I underline the part of the verse that the Pope has asked us to compare with his): “Neither by the blood of goats, or of calves, but by his own blood, entered ONCE into the holies, having obtained eternal redemption.”(My emphasis). Here is the Pope’s rendition: Through the shedding of His own blood, Jesus Christ constantly “enters into God’s sanctuary thus obtaining eternal redemption” (cf. Heb 9:12). John Paul replaces ‘entered once’ with ‘enters, and ends up with: “(Jesus) constantly ‘enters entered once into God’s sanctuary thus obtaining eternal redemption’ (cf. Heb 9:12).’” John Paul changed “entered” to “enters,” to fit in with his “constantly.” Whether a Pope is interpreting ex cathedra (that is, by infallible inspiration of the Holy Spirit) or in his personal capacity, the practical effect on many devout Roman Catholics is the same. But, for sure, John Paul is indeed speaking ex cathedra, and merely reiterating the Council of Trent on the issue. “And for as much as, in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the mass, that same Christ is contained and immolated in an unbloody manner who once offered himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross . . . For the victim is one and the same, the same now offering by the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross, the manner alone of offering being different. . . If any one saith, that the sacrifice of the mass is only a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; or, that it is a bare commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross, but not a propitiatory sacrifice. . . and that it ought not to be offered for the living and the dead for sins, pains, satisfactions, and other necessities: let him be anathema.” The question is: Was Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice (that is, the punishment sinners deserve is borne by Christ to satisfy/propitiate the Father’s wrath) a unique first-and-final sacrifice? If scripture is anything to go by, the answer is a whopping yes. If Christ is constantly sacrificed (for souls), it’s no big leap to imagine that He is constantly thirsting (for souls), as Mother Teresa believed. As I argued here Christ is not constantly thirsting, that is, suffering with thirst, for souls. Neither does a propitiatory sacrifice occur every time the priest utters hoc est enim corpus meam “for this is my body.” The Council of Trent says otherwise; and that settles it for Roman Catholics – God on earth has spoken Although I do not agree with the Catholic view that the breaking of the bread depicts the breaking of Jesus’ physical body (I stand with Calvin here), I do agree with the Catholic that ‘it was broken in pain, in anguish and distress of heart, under the weight of the indignation and wrath of God, which He sustained in bearing our sins.’ The wine signifies ‘that His Blood was severed from His flesh’ and it ‘tells you that He died for you, that His Blood was shed for you.”(My emphasis). (Quotes from Robert Bruce – Sermons on the Lord’s Supper).
‘You” in the last sentence refers to those whom God (in His mercy) appoints to salvation:
Acts 13 44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
Robert Bruce says: ”We utterly damn the vanity of those that affirm Sacraments to be nothing else but naked and bare signs…”
And he affirms that
”in the Supper, rightly used, Christ Jesus is so joined with us, that he becomes the very nourishment and food of our souls.”
There is mystery here, as there is in so many of Christ teachings. For those Protestants (followers of the Zwinglian tradition), there is no mystery in the Lord’s supper, for they hold the ”elemental” view that the Lord’s Supper (”communion”) is nothing more than a remembrance; hence their use of the term ”elements” to refer to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. For Calvin – if not many modern Calvinists – the bread and the wine (the signifiers – to use Robert Bruce’s term) – becomes in a mysterious sense (that is, we only have very partial knowledge) the Body and Blood of the Lord (the signified).