Showing posts with label Sacramentology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sacramentology. Show all posts

Is Anyone among You Sick?

 The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick

And He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God,
and do what is right in His sight, and listen to His commandments,
and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which
I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer.”
Exodus 15, 26

Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the
church, and they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name
of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the
Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.
James 5, 14-16

In the Catholic Church, the Anointing of the Sick, also known as Extreme Unction, is a sacrament that is administered to a Catholic “who, having reached the age of reason, begins to be in danger due to sickness or old age,” except in the case of those who “persevere obstinately in manifest grave sin.” The sacrament provides physical and/or spiritual healing according to God’s will. It offers necessary graces so that the sick person may prepare for death; it pours out consolation and hope and provides an opportunity for the forgiveness of sins even when the sick person is too ill to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation. The Anointing of the Sick is often administered near the time of death to bring the person receiving the sacrament spiritual and physical strength. As a sacrament (an outward sign of something internal), it is performed to give God’s grace through the Holy Spirit. Only priests (presbyters and bishops) have the authority to minister the anointing of the sick using oil blessed by the bishop since Christ gave his apostles and the men they appointed in the ministry special power over natural and supernatural phenomena.

The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick has its foundations in “the economy of salvation.” Because sin has entered the world, illness and suffering plague our human condition. “In illness, man experiences his powerlessness, his limitations, and his finitude.” Those who are gravely or chronically ill catch a glimpse of death and are humbled by their illness. They acquire the wisdom of the fact that health and happiness aren’t permanent, and their lives must eventually come to an end (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1500). The acquisition of wisdom is a good thing, but illness, suffering, and the thought of approaching death do carry a negative influence. Although an ill or dying person might become more mature and able to discern the more important things in life than what one had previously thought were essential for happiness and contentment but, in reality, were temporal and fleeting in their shallowness, “illness can lead to anguish, self-absorption, sometimes even despair and revolt against God.” Still, suffering and/or dying can be good in that it often prompts a person to search for God and be reconciled to Him (CCC, 1501).

The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is particularly important in the life of the Church because it is a medium through which Jesus extends his love to the sick and dying. Our Lord heals the person in body and soul by conferring his graces to help them overcome their anguish and despair and make peace with God for peace of mind and spiritual rest.

God’s chosen people of the Old Covenant lived their sicknesses in the presence of God. They lamented their illnesses and misfortunes before God because they believed God was punishing them for their sins. Illness served as a means of conversion and prompted the Israelites to seek God’s forgiveness. With forgiveness should come restoration. The true Israelite in spirit sought the grace of being at peace with God in spite of their unfavorable condition unlike those who were seeking a temporal change of fortune for the better. In any event, “illness was linked to sin and evil, while faithfulness to God restored life” (CCC, 1502).

In the New Covenant, Christ is the physician in his consubstantial oneness with the Father. Christ’s compassion for the sick and the lame and his numerous miraculous healings of a variety of infirmities was a radiant sign that God had visited his people and that the kingdom of God was in their midst (Lk 7:16; Mt 4:24). Our Lord came into the world to heal the whole person, body, and soul, with the forgiveness of sin. The physically and spiritually infirm were in need of him (Mk 2:5-12). Jesus went so far as to identify himself with the sick to remind us that we should have the same love and compassion for them as he had (Mk 25:36). 

The Magisterium of his Church reminds us that “His preferential love for the sick has not ceased through the centuries to draw the very special attention of Christians toward all those who suffer in body and soul. It is the source of tireless efforts to comfort them” (CCC, 1503). In carrying out the sacramental rite, the priest acts in persona Christi as a physician. He is essentially a spiritual healer, but there have been occasions in which physical healing has been miraculously brought about with the forgiveness of sin and reconciliation to God by the grace of sanctification or justification bestowed through the sacrament.

Jesus offered his apostles a share in his priestly ministry and invested in them the authority to preach the gospel and call people to repentance. And this commission included the power to cast out demons and heal the sick by anointing their heads with oil (Mk 6:12-13). In the Catholic rite, a priest prays over the person and anoints their head and hands with chrism (holy oil). The anointing is the means by which there are supernatural results. The act of anointing someone is a power in itself that comes with the manifestation and operation of the Holy Spirit. The anointing is the presence and power of God through which the efficacy of divine grace heals the soul and restores it to good health.

If miraculous physical cures accompany spiritual restoration, they serve as visible signs to remind us of the connection between suffering and sin. Jesus healed the paralytic to show that he had the authority to forgive sins. If he hadn’t had this authority, he couldn’t have produced the miracle that happened (Mt 9:1-8; Mk 2:1-12; Lk 5:17-26). The scribes and Pharisees who told Jesus in their rage that only God could forgive sins had no idea that he was, in fact, God incarnate. Nor did they see that as a man Jesus was given the divine authority from the Father to absolve people of their sins and the power to miraculously cure them in the power of the Holy Spirit. It was this authority and power that was transferred from Jesus to his apostles since it was in his humanity that the divine Person carried out his priestly ministry.

This same authority and power lie with the Catholic priest. The chrism that he uses in conjunction with the formula of prayer is symbolic of its effects. When a priest anoints the head and palms of the hands (Roman rite) of those who are gravely or chronically ill and close to death in most circumstances, the primary purpose is to give spiritual strength, notably the graces of faith and hope, though the sacrament does address the physical, bodily conditions of the illness. The anointing is regarded as a means of health and comfort, and as a symbol of being consecrated to God. For the sacrament to be effective, the recipient must have faith in God and in His power which is communicated through the sacrament. He or she must also be repentant for the forgiveness of sin.

The Universal Magisterium of the Catholic Church teaches: “A particular gift of the Holy Spirit. The first grace of this sacrament is one of strengthening, peace, and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age. This grace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who renews trust and faith in God and strengthens against the temptations of the evil one, the temptation to discouragement and anguish in the face of death. This assistance from the Lord by the power of his Spirit is meant to lead the sick person to healing of the soul, but also of the body if such is God’s will. Furthermore, “if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (CCC, 1520).

Again, in almost all cases, the body isn’t physically healed and restored to health by God’s will as a grace of this sacrament. But there are beneficial psychological and emotional effects produced by the Holy Spirit. Miraculous cures are extremely rare because suffering unites us with the passion of Christ. “ By the grace of this sacrament the sick person receives the strength and the gift of uniting himself more closely to Christ’s Passion: in a certain way he is consecrated to bear fruit by configuration to the Savior’s redemptive Passion. Suffering, a consequence of original sin, acquires a new meaning; it becomes a participation in the saving work of Jesus” (CCC, 1521).

Christ conferred redemptive value on suffering and death which are penalties for original sin. He transformed what was evil into something good. But our Lord and Savior’s objective act of redemption must be joined with our subjective redemptive participation. We remit our temporal debt of sin by joining our suffering with Christ’s suffering so that we reap the full benefits of the eternal debt he alone has paid on our sinful behalf, provided we accept our suffering as a means of temporal reparation for our sins. The grace of the sacrament gives us the power and wisdom to discern this truth and the strength to accept our cross and carry it together with Christ so that we might be saved and rewarded with eternal life (Mt 16:24; 2 Tim 2:11-12).

By the grace we receive, we may be configured to Christ in his passion, death, and resurrection. Thus, the grace in the sacrament not only benefits the person receiving it but also the whole Church and the people of God. In this sense, it is called “ecclesial grace.” By “freely uniting themselves to the passion of Christ,” the sick who receive this sacrament “contribute to the good of the People of God.” The Church, in the communion of saints, intercedes for the benefit of the sick person by celebrating the sacrament, while he or she “contributes to the sanctification of the Church and to the good of all men for whom the Church suffers and offers herself through Christ to God the Father” (CCC, 1522). By configuring themselves to Christ in his passion and death, and having a share in his self-sacrifice, the sick person can merit grace (de congruo) for the entire body of Christ (cf. Col 1:24).

Finally, in preparation for the final journey, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick should be ministered to by a priest or bishop without hesitation when death is imminent. In addition to the anointing, those who are gravely ill or dying should receive the Holy Eucharist as Viaticum. “Communion in the body and blood of Christ, received at this moment of passing over to the Father, has a particular significance and importance. It is the seed of eternal life and the power of resurrection, according to the words of the Lord: ‘He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.’ (Jn 6:54). The sacrament of Christ once dead and now risen, the Eucharist is here the sacrament of passing over from death to life, from this world to the Father” (CCC 1524).

The Latin word viaticum means “provision for a journey,” from “via” or “way”. For Communion as Viaticum, the Eucharist is given in the usual form, with the added words “May the Lord Jesus Christ protect you and lead you to eternal life”. The sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist form a triad called “the sacraments of Christian initiation.” The sacraments of Reconciliation or Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, and the Eucharist as Viaticum constitute the end of the Christian life. These latter are the sacraments that “‘prepare for our heavenly homeland’ and the sacraments that ‘complete the earthly pilgrimage'” (CCC, 1525).

Perseverance is a particularly important character trait for us to have to be successful in life. It means determination at working hard regardless of any odds or obstacles that may exist. It is to insist and to be firm on getting something done and not give up. This practical definition can be applied in a spiritual sense and in a Christian context:

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do:
forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ
Philippians 3, 13-14

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering,
for he who promised is faithful.”
Hebrews 10, 23

“For you have need of endurance,
so that when you have done the will of God
you may receive what is promised.”
Heb 10, 36

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete,
lacking in nothing.”
James 1, 2-4

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial,
for when he has stood the test
he will receive the crown of life,
which God has promised to those who love him.”
James 1, 12


O God who sanctifiest this oil as Thou dost grant unto all who are anointed
and receive of it the hallowing wherewith Thou didst anoint kings and priests
and prophets, so grant that it may give strength to all that taste of it and health
to all that use it.”
St. Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition, 5:2
(c. A.D. 215)

“In addition to these there is also a seventh [sacrament], albeit hard and laborious
In this way there is fulfilled that too, which the Apostle James says: ‘If then, there is
anyone sick, let him call the presbyters of the Church, and let them impose hands
upon him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith
will save the sick man, and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him.’”
Origen, Homily on Leviticus, 2:4
(A.D. 244)

“Of the sacrament of life, by which Christians [baptism], priests, kings and prophets
are made perfect; it illuminates darkness [in confirmation], anoints the sick, and by
its secret sacrament restores penitents.”
Aphraates the Persian Sage, Treatises, 23:3
(A.D. 345)

“Why, then, do you lay on hands, and believe it to be the effect of the blessing, if
perchance some sick person recovers Why do you assume that any can be cleansed
by you from the pollution of the devil? Why do you baptize if sins cannot be
remitted by man? If baptism is certainly the remission of all sins, what difference
does it make whether priests claim that this power is given to them in penance or at
the font? In each the mystery is one.”
St. Ambrose, Penance, 1,8:36
(A.D. 390)

“Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions,
and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you.”

Luke 10, 19

Pax vobiscum

Partaking of the Body of the Lord

 The Sacrament of Holy Eucharist

The chalice of benediction, which we bless, is it not the communion of
the blood of Christ? And the bread, which we break, is it not the
partaking of the body of the Lord ?
1 Corinthians 10, 16

The Holy Eucharist refers to Christ’s body and blood present in the consecrated host on the altar. Catholics believe that the consecrated bread and wine are actually Christ's body and blood, soul, and divinity. For Catholics, the presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist isn’t just symbolic; it’s real. The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species of bread and wine is a unique mystery. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as “the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.” In the most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1374). Our Lord’s presence is called real because it is a substantial presence by which Christ, the Godman, makes himself wholly and entirely present.

Our Lord and Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his body and blood at the Last Supper. He did this to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he returned in glory and to entrust to his Church a memorial of his death and resurrection. The Blessed Sacrament “completes Christian initiation”. By Baptism, we are “raised to the dignity of the royal priesthood” and so “participate with the whole community in the Lord’s own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist” (CCC, 1322). Further, the Holy Eucharist is a sacrament of “love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal (sacrificial) banquet, in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us” (CCC, 1323). The Eucharist is “the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that of the unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being” (CCC, 1325). God’s action of sanctifying the world culminates in the Eucharist since the celebration of the sacrament in Holy Mass is a re-presentation of our Lord’s sacrifice on the cross by which Christ produced the dispensation of sanctifying grace for us.

In the Old Covenant, bread and wine were offered in sacrifice among the first fruits of the earth as a sign of grateful acknowledgment to the Creator. This gesture is still part of the Jewish Passover meal. The unleavened bread that the Israelites eat every year at Passover commemorates their hasty departure from Egypt after they had been liberated. The remembrance of the manna in the desert during the Exodus still calls them to live their lives by the word of God and recalls the pledge of God’s faithfulness to His promises. The Cup of Blessing at the end of the Passover meal adds to the festive joy of wine an eschatological dimension: the messianic expectation of rebuilding Jerusalem. When Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he gave a new and definitive meaning to the blessing of the bread and the cup of wine.

The traditional Passover meal has four phases, each in which one cup of wine is served for drinking, four separate cups altogether. The first cup of wine (Kiddush) is mixed with water and served during the introductory rite. Here, the family's father leads a prayer of thanksgiving and blesses the food. The appetizers are consumed in this part of the meal. In the second stage, the second cup of wine (Haggadah) is mixed with water but not consumed, for the son asks his father questions about the original Passover night and the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. In contrast, the father replies by citing passages contained in the Pentateuch of the Old Testament.

However, in the Gospels, Jesus is presented after the first and second cups of wine have been drunk, continuing with the mixing and serving of the third cup (Berekah), which was served after the main meal (unleavened bread and the flesh of the sacrificed Passover lamb) would have been eaten. With this third cup, the Cup of Salvation, or Cup of Blessing, Jesus is traditionally blessing and thanking God for having brought forth bread and the fruit of the vine on the earth (Lk 22:14-20). It appears that Jesus (the Word of God in the flesh) is identifying himself with “the bread of life” and the paschal lamb, he himself being the Lamb of God who has come to take away the sins of the world by the outpouring of his blood which is the new wine of salvation that is spoken of by the prophets (Amos 9: 11, 13; Joel 3:1; Isaiah 24: 7, 9, 11; 25: 25: 6-8; cf. Jn 2: 1-11).

Our Lord and Savior establishes a renewed paschal sacrificial meal of bread and wine while looking towards the future instead of recollecting and reliving the past. Jesus is taking the place of the lamb and looking towards his own self-immolation for the forgiveness of sins on the Cross. His sacrifice of himself has begun at the Last Supper as a pre-presentation of Calvary, as he blesses the bread and the wine of salvation and substantially transforms these species into his own body and blood for the apostles to consume instead of the unconsecrated wine and the flesh of the traditional lamb. In the traditional Jewish Passover meal, the flesh of the sacrificed lamb must be eaten (with the sprinkling of blood), or the sacrifice is rendered fruitless (Ex 12:5-8; 24:8; cf. Jn. 6:54).

Hence, by celebrating the Last Supper with his apostles during the Passover meal, Jesus gave the Jewish Passover its definitive meaning. Jesus’ passing over to his father by his death and resurrection (the new Passover) is anticipated in the Lord’s Supper and celebrated in the Eucharist, which fulfills the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final Passover of the Church in the glory of the kingdom (CCC, 1340). At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ’s Body and Blood. Faithful to the Lord’s command, the Church continues to do, in his memory and until his glorious return, what he did on the eve of his Passion: “He took bread. . . . He took the cup filled with wine. . . .”

The Church sees in the gesture of the king-priest Melchizedek, who “brought out bread and wine,” a prefiguring of her own offering (Gen 14:18). We carry out this command of the Lord by celebrating the memorial of his sacrifice. In so doing, we offer to our heavenly Father what He has himself given us: the gifts of his creation, bread, and wine, which, by the power of the Holy Spirit and by the words of Christ, have become the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sin. Christ is thus really and mysteriously made present in the sacrificial offering of his body and blood in the species of bread and wine. We are bound by a sacred assent in faith to regard the Holy Eucharist as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, a sacrificial memorial of the body and blood of Christ, and the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist by the power of his word and of his Spirit. Our Lord is substantially present to us as He was present to His Most Blessed Mother Mary and His beloved Disciple standing beneath the cross.

The Eucharist is “a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all His benefits, for all that He has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification” (CCC, 1360). The word “Eucharist” comes from the Greek word eucharistia (ευχαριστία), which means, first of all, “thanksgiving.” The Eucharist is also “the sacrifice of praise by which the Church sings the glory of God in the name of all creation. This sacrifice of praise is possible only through Christ: he unites the faithful to his person, to his praise, and to his intercession so that the sacrifice of praise to the Father is offered through Christ and with him, to be accepted in him” (CCC, 1361).

Finally, 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 the institution a prayer called the anamnesis or memorial” (CCC, 1362). Therefore, the sacrifice of the Mass is the highest form of worship we can offer God, just as the sacrifices in the Old Covenant were for the Israelites.

The Eucharist is also a sacrifice since it is the memorial of Christ’s Passover. The sacrificial character of the Eucharist is manifested in Our Lord’s very words of institution: “This is my body which is given for you” and “This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood”(Lk 22:19-20). In the Eucharist, Christ gives us the very body that he gave up for us on the cross and the very blood that he “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”(Mt 26:28). Thus, by being a memorial meal, the Lord’s Supper is a sacrificial meal just as the traditional Passover meal is for the Jews. By looking into the past, we bring it into the present. The Eucharist, therefore, is a sacrifice because it sacramentally represents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross. Because the Eucharist is a memorial that makes present the one sacrifice of the past, it applies its fruit.

Jesus, our Lord and Savior, offered himself to the Father by his death on “the altar of the cross” for our everlasting redemption. However, since his priesthood at the Last Supper was to continue after his death, he willed to leave his beloved bride the Church a visible sacrifice that he was to accomplish once and for all on the cross that would be represented, and its memory perpetuated until the end of the world. In the Eucharistic sacrifice, the salutary power of the cross is applied to forgive the sins we commit daily (1 Cor 11:23; Heb 7:24, 27).

The sacrifice of Christ on the cross and the Holy Eucharist thus constitute one sacrifice that was accomplished once and for all, whose fruits would be applied every day until the end of time. In each celebration of the Mass, the sacrifice of our Lord on the cross is made present, which means that this sacrifice isn’t being repeated. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is once for all and is never repeated in daily Mass by being made present or perpetuated. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is everlasting. It transcends the parameters of time and space despite the repeated celebrations of the Eucharist in the linear course of time since the Last Supper and the Passion of our Lord. The one single sacrifice on the cross was made present at the Last Supper just as it is made present in daily Mass.

The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist begins at the moment of the consecration (epiclesis) by the power of the Holy Spirit. It endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ (CCC, 1377). Since Christ is substantially present in the Eucharist, Catholics adore and worship it. Catholics don’t worship the accidental properties of the bread and wine that remain visible to the physiological senses. In the Eucharist, the crucified Christ himself is being adored body, blood, soul, and divinity. The Blessed Virgin Mary and the disciple John were the first to offer our crucified Lord this sublime adoration on Calvary.

Catholics worship the Eucharist in the sacred liturgy of the Mass to express their faith in the real presence of Christ, their Lord, under the species of bread and wine. Their adoration is expressed, among other ways, by genuflecting or bowing deeply. A cult of adoration exists in the Catholic Church, in which the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist is revered in silent adoration at a given time of day before the tabernacle behind the altar where the sacred Host is kept. Solemn veneration is also shown when the consecrated host is exposed in the monstrance, placed on the altar, or carried in procession.

The altar, around which the Church is gathered to celebrate the Eucharist, represents the two aspects of the same mystery: the altar of the sacrifice and the table of the Lord. This is all the more so since the Christian altar is the symbol of Christ himself, present amid the assembly of his faithful, both as the victim offered for our reconciliation and as food from heaven giving himself to us (CCC, 1388). The Lord addresses an invitation to us, urging us to receive him in the sacrament of the Eucharist: “Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (Jn 6:53).

There are many references to the Holy Eucharist in both the Old and New Testaments. We find our first reference in the Book of Genesis 14:18. It’s in this verse that the term “priest” is first used. The primary function of a priest is to mediate by performing a sacrificial rite. The priest in question here is Melchizedek. Not only is he a priest, but he’s also a king and the king of Salem, which would later be called Jerusalem (Ps 76:2). Jesus is the King of his Father’s heavenly kingdom on earth, which is the New Jerusalem (the Church) that has come down from heaven. Anyway, the sacrifice Melchizedek has to offer to God consists of bread and wine. So, this high priest prefigures Christ in his royal priesthood. Our Lord’s priesthood isn’t in the order of Levi but in the order of Melchizedek (Heb 5:5-6).

God intended that the Old Covenant Levitical priesthood last for only a short time (Heb 7:11 – 12, 9 – 10) and be replaced. This is why the biblical appearance of Melchizedek occurred many decades before Levi (Abraham’s great-grandson) was born and more than three hundred years before Israel received the Mosaic law (Ex 20). The existence of Melchizedek’s order, prior to giving the law, meant that it would not be bound by its rules regarding the priesthood. This made it possible for Jesus (of the tribe of Judah) to serve as the High Priest before God in his sacred humanity after his resurrection and ascension into heaven.

We read in Hebrews 9:23 that the sacrifices of the Old Covenant were only copies of heavenly things. We have a better sacrifice offered daily in heaven, as John himself saw in his vision. The heavenly sacrifice in Hebrews is called “sacrifices” even though Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross only once. This is because the crucifixion occurred only once in history. Still, our Lord’s sacrifice transcends time in heaven and reaches the earth as sacramentally represented repeatedly in the celebrations of Holy Mass. The prophet reveals that God promises His earthly kingdom (the Church) will consist of a sacrificial priesthood that shall last forever or perpetually throughout time. This promise can only be fulfilled by the priests of the Catholic Church, who sacramentally offer or present the sacrifice of Christ “from the rising of the sun to its setting” in every Mass celebrated in the world until Christ returns in glory (Jer 33:18).

In any event, the phrase “sacrifice of praise” in Hebrews 13:15 refers to the actual sacrifice or toda offering of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary not made by human hands who, like the Old Covenant toda offerings must be consumed to render it beneficial (Lev 7:12-15; 22:29-30). The Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass is a newly defined sacrifice of “praise and thanksgiving.” The Eucharistic sacrifice referred to in Hebrews 9:23 fulfills not only Jeremiah's prophecy but also Zechariah's prophecy (9:15) that the sons of Zion shall drink blood like wine and be saved. We have no life within us unless we eat the flesh of Jesus and drink his blood. We come to Jesus, the mediator or High Priest of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel (Heb 12:23-24). We couldn’t come to our Lord’s sprinkled blood if it were no longer being offered to the Father and made sacramentally present to us through consecrated priests of the New Covenant who act in persona Christi and can trace their priesthood to our High Priest Christ in the order of Melchizedek (cf. 2 Chron 26:18).

We must turn to the Old Testament to see the foreshadowing of the Eucharistic sacrifice. The prophecy in Psalm 110:4 reveals that Jesus will be the eternal High Priest and King like the king-priest Melchizedek. This indicates an eternal bread and wine sacrifice that is fulfilled historically in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass in the Catholic Church. Malachi (1:11) concurs that this sacrifice will be offered worldwide. Therefore, This single sacrifice transcends time and space for our salvation. The Feast of Unleavened Bread during Passover is a perpetual ordinance that should last forever (Ex 12:14, 17, 24; cf. 24:8). But it wasn’t fulfilled until the Last Supper. The marriage feast of the Lamb (the Bread of Life) for all eternity in heaven fulfills this ordinance. The memorial celebration of the Lord’s Supper or Paschal feast in the Mass meanwhile serves as a sign of the heavenly feast and is part of it.

Further, there is a foreshadowing in the Old Testament that Christ's sacrifice must be consumed. The priests of the Old Covenant made atonement for sin with the guilt offering of an unblemished lamb that had to be consumed for the offering to be beneficial (Lev 19:22). Jesus is both our eternal High Priest and the sacrificial Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. His one sacrifice of atonement must also be consumed to benefit our souls. Indeed, the paschal lamb that was sacrificed under Mosaic law had to be unblemished and eaten (Ex 12:5; cf. Isa 53:7). Jesus is the unblemished Lamb of God (conceived and born without sin) and must be consumed in the same manner in the New Dispensation (Lk 23:4, 14; Jn 18:38). And, of course, the blood of a lamb had to be sprinkled on the two doorposts of the Israelite’s homes on the night of the first Passover to spare the lives of their firstborn sons. In the Eucharistic sacrifice presented in the Letter of the Hebrews, we come to the sprinkling of our Lord’s blood to be spared eternal death of the soul.

Finally, God gave His chosen people bread (manna) from heaven to sustain them on their journey to the promised land. This event foreshadows the true bread that has come down from heaven, which likewise must be consumed to sustain us spiritually on our sojourn to the new promised land, which is heaven (Ex 16:4-36; Neh 9:15; cf. Jn 6:32-33). The Old Covenant was consummated with a meal in God’s presence (Ex 24:9-11). The New and eternal covenant is consummated with the Eucharistic supper: the body and blood of Christ under the appearance of bread and wine (Mt 26:26-29; Mk 14:23-24; Lk 22:20). God declares that those who eat Him will hunger for more, and those who drink Him will thirst for more (Sir 24:21). Jesus says in His divine personage, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (Jn 6:54).

Returning to the New Testament, we see Jesus promising his real presence in the Holy Eucharist. He is in Capernaum on the eve of Passover when the lambs are gathered and slaughtered to be eaten (Jn 6:4). In his discourse, our Lord says four times, “I am the bread from heaven” (Jn 6:35, 41, 48, 51). Jesus wouldn’t have reiterated what he meant to say more than once if he were speaking metaphorically about himself. Rather, he wants it to be known that he himself literally is the eternal bread from heaven. He compares himself with the manna that fell from heaven during Exodus, which, as we have seen, must be consumed to sustain life. But the bread Jesus gives is for sustaining eternal life with God (Jn 6:27, 31, 48-49). He then proceeds by saying that this bread he shall give is his flesh for the life of the world (Jn 6:51). Jesus now associates himself with the paschal lambs that are being sacrificed during the Passover in atonement for sin which, again, must be eaten for the sacrifice to be efficacious. Jesus, the Lamb of God, gives us his flesh to eat in the Eucharist under the appearance of bread that is sacrificially offered by our High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.

At this point in our Lord’s Eucharistic discourse, the Jews are shocked or offended by what he had just said because they understood him to be speaking in a literal sense (Jn 6:52). They question our Lord’s words by asking each other, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus refrains from correcting their literal interpretation because they understood him correctly. In fact, our Lord dismisses any metaphorical interpretation by swearing an oath and being even more literal about eating his flesh. Four times does he say that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood (Jn 6:53-58). Our Lord is driving an important point home, and he has his Eucharistic sacrifice in mind in his teaching. Catholics have believed since Apostolic times that Jesus truly presented his body and blood in the holy sacrifice of the Mass under the appearance of bread and wine.

As we have seen, the event of Christ offering himself as the paschal lamb in the Last Supper is what the celebration of the Eucharist became for the New Covenant believers. That night of the Jewish Passover, Jesus transformed the traditional sacrificial meal of the Passover lamb. To see how this happened, we must examine the course of our Lord’s supper traditionally in more detail. Jesus presides over the Passover Seder meal with his apostles, requiring them to drink four cups of wine. However, he is recorded serving only the third cup (Berekah) or the “Cup of Salvation or Blessing” (Mt 26:29; Mk 14:25). Paul uses the “Cup of Blessing” to refer to the Eucharist, connecting the Seder meal to the Eucharistic sacrifice (1 Cor 10:16). The third cup actually makes present the Paschal sacrifice of Christ, the Lamb who was slain for our sins.

Yet Jesus omits serving the fourth cup (Hallel) or “Cup of Consummation.” This significant omission joins the Eucharistic sacrifice offered in the Seder meal to Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. In other words, they comprise one single sacrifice. Therefore, The Last Supper is a pre-presentation of our Lord’s sacrifice on the Cross, which is present in the Seder meal. Dr. Brant Pitre points out that this one and the same sacrifice, however, isn’t completed until Jesus partakes of the fourth cup of wine just before he dies on the cross after saying, “It is consummated” (Jn 19:29, 30; cf. Mt 27:48; Mk 15:36).

Jesus was given sour wine on a “hyssop” branch, used to sprinkle the lamb’s blood on the doorposts on the night of the first Passover (Ex 12:22), and by the priests in the sacrificial offerings of the Old Covenant. This joins Christ’s sacrifice of himself to the lambs that were slaughtered and consumed by the Jews in the Seder meal, which was ceremonially completed by drinking the wine in the Cup of Consummation. Thus, Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross began in the upper room and was completed on Golgotha (Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Doubleday, New York, 2011). The Holy sacrifice of the Mass is a re-presentation of this one single sacrifice. The Lord’s Supper or Seder meal of the New Covenant makes Christ’s sacrifice on the cross perpetually present as a sign of the marriage feast in heaven. St. Paul tells us that we must celebrate the Eucharistic feast (1 Cor 5:8). In other words, we must eat the flesh of the Lamb of God and drink His blood in the Blessed Sacrament to be in holy communion with God.

Hence, the Lord’s Supper isn’t just a symbolic memorial meal, as most Protestants contend, but a marriage feast that marks God’s establishment of the New Covenant in which the Eucharist makes Christ’s one eternal sacrifice present. Mr. Salza informs us that Scripture confirms this truth in the words of consecration (“Do this in remembrance of me.”) used by Jesus in the Last Supper: touto poieite tan eman anamnasin (Lk 22:19; cf. 1 Cor 11:24-25). What our Lord literally says is “Offer this as a memorial sacrifice.” The Greek verb poiein (ποιεν) or “do” is used in the context of offering a sacrifice where, for instance, in the Septuagint, God uses the same word poieseis (ποιέω) regarding the sacrifice of the lambs on the altar (Ex 29:38-39). The noun anamnesis (νάμνησις) or “remembrance” also refers to a sacrifice that is really or actually made present in real-time by the power of God in the Holy Spirit, as it reminds us of the actual historical event (Heb 10:3; Num 10:10).

So, the Holy sacrifice of the Mass isn’t merely a memorial of a past event but a past event actually made present in time. Christ’s Eucharistic sacrifice is a memorial or reminder of what our Lord has accomplished for us and continues to accomplish by his single sacrifice, not what he had accomplished and is finished in time. Only the crucifixion itself remains a past historical event. Christ’s sacrifice of himself on the Cross is ever-present in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

We read in Leviticus 24:7: ‘By each stack put some pure incense as a memorial portion to represent the bread and to be a food offering presented to the LORD.’ The word “memorial” in Hebrew in the sacrificial sense is the feminine noun azkarah ( אַזְכָּרָה ), which means “to actually make present.” There are many instances in the Old Testament where azkarah refers to sacrifices that are currently being offered, and so are present in time (Lev 2:2,9, 6:5; 16; 5-12; Num 5:26; 10:10). These are one and the same sacrifices that are memorially being offered in time (The Biblical Basis for the Eucharist). Jesus’ command for us to offer the bread and wine (transubstantiated into his body and blood) as a memorial offering shows that the sacrificial offering of his body and blood is made present in time over and over again while serving as a reminder of what he has accomplished for us through his single sacrifice. Thus, the Holy sacrifice of the Mass is a re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross that began at the Last Supper.

In the Eucharistic celebration, we unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life. The Lord’s Supper anticipates the wedding feast of the Paschal Lamb in the heavenly Jerusalem. (1 Cor 11:20; Rev 19:9). The Church is the New Jerusalem that has come down from heaven in place of the old Jerusalem, and the Levitical sacrifices offered in the Holy Temple, which was eventually destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70 along with the priestly sacrifices ever since (Rev 17-19).

Citing the Book of Revelation 4-5, Dr. Scott Hahn tells us that John was taken up to heaven on the ‘Lord’s day’ (Sunday), where he envisioned the heavenly worship and sacred liturgy of the Mass in the marriage feast of the Lamb. John sees Christ our High Priest in the order of Melchizedek enrobed in a liturgical garment that resembles the liturgical garment worn by the presiding priest in Holy Mass. The antiphonal heavenly chant parallels our Entrance Antiphon. There is worship in the presence of God at an altar. On the altar lies the slain Lamb of God or Holy Eucharist. Added to this vision are the golden lampstands (menorah), which we place on the altar for High Mass, and the Eucharistic and Baptismal candles. There is also incense to bless the altar, as in Holy Mass. The sign of the cross and greeting, the Rite of Blessing, and the Penitential Rite are also recorded, along with the Gloria and Opening Prayer. These items are seen during the introductory part of the heavenly liturgy, as we who attend Mass would see them.

Moreover, the Liturgy of the Word that follows in the celebration of Holy Mass is revealed in John’s vision of the Book or Scroll that contains messages from Christ. The Alleluia and Gospel references are also envisioned, followed by the intercession of angels and saints that parallel the prayers of intercession by the priest and the faithful following the readings in Mass. The vision then proceeds to the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The bowls and chalices John sees represent the Preparation of the Gifts in which we have chalices filled with wine and bread bowls. The heavenly command models the Eucharistic introductory command to “lift up our hearts to the Lord” and the following dialogue.

The heavenly congregation sings “Holy, Holy, Holy” as the worshippers kneel. The sanctuary's Great Amen and the sacrificed Lamb represent our Great Amen and the Communion rite. John envisions the marriage supper of the Lamb that the priest on earth celebrates by proclaiming, “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are we who are called to his table,” as he raises the Host. John’s vision concludes with a Final Blessing that parallels the concluding rites and final blessing at the end of Holy Mass.


“They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist
to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins,
and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again.”
St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to Smyrnaeans, 7,1
(c. A.D. 110)

“For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as
Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise
have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from
which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that
Jesus who was made flesh.”
St. Justin Martyr, First Apology, 66
(A.D. 155)

“He acknowledged the cup (which is a part of the creation) as his own blood, from which
he bedews our blood; and the bread (also a part of creation) he affirmed to be his own
body, from which he gives increase to our bodies.”
St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, V:2,2
(c. A.D. 190)

“For the blood of the grape–that is, the Word–desired to be mixed with water, as His blood
is mingled with salvation. And the blood of the Lord is twofold. For there is the blood of
His flesh, by which we are redeemed from corruption; and the spiritual, that by which we
are anointed. And to drink the blood of Jesus, is to become partaker of the Lord’s
immortality; the Spirit being the energetic principle of the Word, as blood is of flesh.
Accordingly, as wine is blended with water, so is the Spirit with man. And the one, the
mixture of wine and water, nourishes to faith; while the other, the Spirit, conducts to
immortality. And the mixture of both–of the water and of the Word–is called Eucharist,
renowned and glorious grace; and they who by faith partake of it are sanctified both in
body and soul.”
St. Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, 2
(ante A.D. 202)

“For because Christ bore us all, in that He also bore our sins, we see that in the water is
understood the people, but in the wine is showed the blood of Christ…Thus, therefore, in
consecrating the cup of the Lord, water alone cannot be offered, even as wine alone cannot
be offered. For if anyone offer wine only, the blood of Christ is dissociated from us; but if
the water be alone, the people are dissociated from Christ; but when both are mingled, and
are joined with one another by a close union, there is completed a spiritual and heavenly
sacrament. Thus the cup of the Lord is not indeed water alone, nor wine alone, unless each
be mingled with the other; just as, on the other hand, the body of the Lord cannot be flour
alone or water alone, unless both should be united and joined together and compacted in
the mass of one bread; in which very sacrament our people are shown to be made one, so
that in like manner as many grains, collected, and ground, and mixed together into one
mass, make one bread; so in Christ, who is the heavenly bread, we may know that there is
one body, with which our number is joined and united.”
St. Cyprian of Carthage, To Caeilius, Epistle 62(63):13
(A.D. 253)

“Having learned these things, and been fully assured that the seeming bread is not
bread, though sensible to taste, but the Body of Christ; and that the seeming
wine is not wine, though the taste will have it so, but the Blood of Christ; and
that of this David sung of old, saying, And bread strengthens man’s heart, to
make his face to shine with oil, ‘strengthen thou thine heart,’ by partaking
thereof as spiritual, and ‘make the face of thy soul to shine.’”
St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, XXII:8
(c. A.D. 350)

“Let us then in everything believe God, and gainsay Him in nothing, though
what is said seem to be contrary to our thoughts and senses, but let His word be
of higher authority than both reasonings and sight. Thus let us do in the
mysteries also, not looking at the things set before us, but keeping in mind His
sayings. For His word cannot deceive, but our senses are easily beguiled. That
hath never failed, but this in most things goeth wrong. Since then the word
saith, ‘This is my body,’ let us both be persuaded and believe, and look at it with
the eyes of the mind. For Christ hath given nothing sensible, but though in
things sensible yet all to be perceived by the mind…How many now say, I
would wish to see His form, the mark, His clothes, His shoes. Lo! Thou seest
Him, Thou touchest Him, thou eatest Him. And thou indeed desirest to see His
clothes, but He giveth Himself to thee not to see only, but also to touch and eat
and receive within thee.”
St. John Chrysostom, Gospel of Matthew, Homily 82
(A.D. 370)

“You will see the Levites bringing the loaves and a cup of wine, and placing them o
the table. So long as the prayers and invocations have not yet been made, it is mer
bread and a mere cup. But when the great and wonderous prayers have been recited
then the bread becomes the body and the cup the blood of our Lord Jesu
Christ…When the great prayers and holy supplications are sent up, the Wor
descends on the bread and the cup, and it becomes His body.”
St. Athanasius, Sermon to the Newly Baptized, PG 26, 1325
(ante A.D. 373)

“Perhaps you will say, ‘I see something else, how is it that you assert that I
receive the Body of Christ?’ And this is the point that remains for us to prove.
And what evidence shall we make use of? Let us prove that this is not what
nature made, but what the blessing consecrated, and the power of blessing is
greater than that of nature, because by blessing nature itself is changed…The
Lord Jesus Himself proclaims: ‘This is My Body.’ Before the blessing of the
heavenly words another nature is spoken of, after the consecration, the Body is
signified. He Himself speaks of His Blood. Before the consecration, it has another
name, after it is called Blood. And you say, Amen, that is, It is true. Let the
heart within confess what the mouth utters, let the soul feel what the voice
St. Ambrose, On the Mysteries, 9:50
(A.D. 390-391)

He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood,
dwells in me, and I in him.

John 6, 56

Pax vobiscum