Thursday, February 02, 2006

Dispelling the Rumors of the Catholic Church
Part 2 of an Ongoing Series: The Sacrifice of the Mass

I can not think of a doctrine that is more foundational to the Catholic Church and more misunderstood by Protestants and other outsiders than that of Holy Communion. It will take more than one entry here to dispell that even though I would like to do it all at once, this is a simple explanation designed to encourage study. (Well that, and I don't want to send that nice picture of the Double B to the archives yet!).

It is a misheld notion by many Protestants and by many Catholics that the Sacrifice of the Mass is the sacrificing of Chirst over and over again at each Mass. As if the sacrifice was somehow insufficient. In the early part of this century, this view was common amongst Fundamentalist Proestants, but due to a failure of the Catholic Church to sufficiently teach their own coupled with groups trying to "save" Catholics, this notion has krept into the Catholic Church.

To make a long story, Catholics believe (or at least those who study and learn the faith) that Jesus does not die again at each Mass. They hold to scripture that He died only once and that this death was wholly sufficient to atone for all our sins, he gave Himself up willingly as a voluntary, perfect sacrifice.

In the Catholic Mass, the sacrifice of Calvary is made present, re-presented to the faithful in that moment in time in an unbloody sacramental way. Christ's body and blood were shed but once. When the priest offers the Sacrifice of the Mass, it is the exact same sacrifice that was present at Calvary. I hope that makes sense to everyone out there.

It is a prescence that is distinct from a historical prescense and distinct from a symbolic prescense. It is distinct from a spiritual prescence. It is Christ, His body and His blood that is given to the faithful for nourishment as He proclaimed at the Last Supper and elsewhere in the Gospels (John 6 comes to mind). Through the Mass Christs saving act is made present day by day until the end of the world so that all the faithful may eat of His body and drink His blood.

Catholics hold a very literal reading of Scripture in this regard, because Christ was literal. Of course this also leads to the need to understand the idea of Transubstantiation which is next in the series.

The sacrament itself mirrors that of the sacrament of marriage. The bride coming forth to recieve her groom and becoming one. Christ is the bridegroom of the Church and we are His bride. Even the words of invitation in the Catholic Church reference this concept mirrored in Revelation 19:9.

So long story short, the Catholic Church does not believe that Christ is sacrificed over and over again, depsite the claims made by others and the uneducated in her fold. Go ahead, look it up and reach your own conclusion. But don't base it on what others tell you, don't believe it because some author tells you, go to the source and make up your own mind.

No comments: