Mary's Little Office

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Mass of The Apostles*


Joseph Husslein, S. J., J. P. Kennedy & Sons, 1929

Christ instituted the Eucharist both as Sacrifice and as a Sacrament. Under the former aspect it is perpetuated in the Holy Mass; under the latter, it is administered in Holy Communion.

The Eucharist was instituted as a Sacrifice insofar as at the Last Supper, by the words of the twofold Consecration, Christ represented His Body and Blood as separated. He further spoke of His Body as "given for us," and His Blood as "shed for us" (Luke xxii, 19, 20). Such a separation, together with the outpouring of blood, when offered up to God, constituted a true and real sacrifice. So alone the Apostles could view it according to their Old Testament concepts.

There, in the Cenacle, then, the infinitely Precious Body and Blood of Christ were offered up by Himself to the Eternal Father, not for the Apostles only, but "for many," and "unto the remission of sins." Particularly must Christ have had in mind all those who, by partaking worthily of His Eucharist, would thus have the merits of His Passion and Death applied to their souls, unto eternal life. Holy Mass is instituted by Him as a true expiatory Sacrifice. 

The Sacrifice of the Cross was pledged and anticipated in the Sacrifice of the Cenacle. In the latter, as in every Holy Mass thereafter, the separation of Christ's Body and Blood took place symbolically, mystically, unbloodily, as I shall immediately explain, but on Calvary that separation was actual and physical. Yet in both places the Oblation to the Father and the Sacrifice itself were equally true and real. It was the bloody Immolation that was mystical in the Cenacle and actual on the Cross.

FRACTIO PANIS. Capella Greca, Catacomb of Priscilla

Our oldest Mass picture, early part of the second century. 

In the same manner, therefore, we rightly speak of every Mass―which simply renews what Christ did at the Last Supper―as an unbloody Sacrifice, and as repeating mystically or symbolically the death of Christ. In itself, namely, the twofold Consecration, implying by virtue of the words there spoken the separation of the Body and Blood of Christ in the ordinary course of nature, would inevitably also imply His Death.

How, then, are we to explain what here takes place at the Sacrifice of the Mass? In answering that question let us consider each Consecration separately.

THE BREAKING OF BREAD. By Professor G. Martinetti

By virtue of the words of the first Consecration, "This is My Body," spoken by the priest in the name of Christ, who is the only High Pirest of every Mass, the Body of Christ alone is present. Such a separation of the Body from the Blood would naturally, I have said, produce death. But Christ can now die no longer.

What, therefore, is it that happens?

With the Body of Christ are present simultaneously―by concomitance―the Blood of Christ as well, His Soul also, and His Divinity. In a word, the entire Christ has become present on the altar at the words of the first Consecration. The action which occurred merely symbolized the separation of Body and Blood. In brief, Christ's Death has been represented "mystically." The Sacrifice remains "unbloody."

A similar action now repeats itself at the second Consecration.

By virtue of the words themselves: "This is the Chalice of My Blood," the Blood of Christ alone becomes present, but by concomitance are present also the Body, the Soul and the Divinity of Our Lord―the entire Christ as before―because all these are now forever inseparable.

Thus, under each form, the same Jesus Christ, Son of God and Saviour, is wholly and entirely upon the altar. Hence also we have a most important conclusion in the bearing of this truth on the Eucharist as a Sacrament. 

Since Jesus Christ is present entirely, Body and Blood, under each species, whether of the bread or wine, it is evident at once that we cannot receive more under both species than under one. Hence, the laity by receiving Holy Communion under one form satisfy fully the obligation imposed on them by Christ of eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood. They cannot satisfy it more perfectly by partaking under both. The Church today observes Communion under one form in the West and under both in the East, at the Holy Sacrifice.

In the early Church, as we shall see, the Communion of adults at the Mass was under both forms, but of infants under the form of wine alone, while outside of Mass it was administered under the form of bread alone to all alike. The Communion of the celebrant at the Holy Sacrifice must obviously be under both forms.

The Eucharistic Faith of the Church has unchangingly been the same in the days of the Apostles and in our own. But a new technical terminology, conformable to the needs of more modern times, has given a greater precision of expression to what was ever the practical faith of the ages.

To the early Christians the Eucharist was indeed a mystery, as has been justly remarked, but not a difficulty, much less a subject of controversy. No one doubted, no one questioned, any more than did St. Paul, the evident and literal sense of Christ's words.

It was unimaginable, unthinkable, to the Apostolic Christians, and equally to those of all the subsequent centuries included in the patristic era, that any one could deny the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, and yet claim to be a Christian. Of all the numerous heresies which arose during that entire period, not one ever specifically denied the Real Presence, even when their false doctrines logically demanded such a denial. The very Docetæ celebrated at least their own Eucharist and interpreted the words of Christ literally.

No greater anachronism, therefore, can well be possible than to assign modern controversial meanings to such words as "sign," "symbol," "type," or "figure," whenever used by the Fathers in connection with the Eucharist. To them the bread and wine were indeed signs and symbols, but of the underlying reality of the Eucharist, which they all alike held to be the Body and Blood of Christ.

Allegorical references to the Church or the doctrine of Christ, as His Body, were simply superadded by them to their normal teaching, which always maintained the truth of the Real Presence. Such language confused nobody, because all fully understood the unquestionable eucharistic faith of the speaker, and interpreted his words accordingly.

Needless to say there are many things in these early writers which now are hard to understand, particularly for those who have never had any intimate contact with the eucharistic belief of the Church in the first centuries and thereafter.

Thus, there arose at a rather early period the Discipline of the Secret, already alluded to, embracing all the mysteries of the Faith, but surrounding with tenfold strictness the great Mystery of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, at which not even the catechumens might be present, and of which no profane ear might as much hear the mention. A studied cryptic expression was therefore used regarding it, intelligible to the initiated alone. Yet that tremendous secrecy is in itself the best evidence of the belief in the Real Presence. Else why should anyone have surrounded with such unspeakable sacredness and mystery a mere figure?

Words, moreover, had not then their present technical meanings, nor was there as yet a set theology. Minor inaccuracies invariably disappeared in the course of time beneath the steady, unbroken, onward sweep of the orthodox eucharistic Faith, coming down from the days of the Apostles.

In spite therefore, of all actual difficulties, we find belief in the Real Presence, as we shall here abundantly show, written large over the early Christian literature, history and art. It is a clear, plain, unhesitating faith.

More than this, we often find there a eucharistic realism surpassing our own. Thus Irenaeus, in the second century, speaks of the very arteries and veins, the blood and bones of the glorified Christ present in the Eucharist.

In the forceful language of the patristic writers, our bodies must make contact with the vivifying Flesh of Christ in order that the divine ferment may leaven the mass. Without this union we shall not have life nor be raised up to glory on the Last Day, in this our flesh. Such was their plain, literal interpretation of the words of Christ, as given by St. John (vi, 55-57).

The doctrine laid down by the Council of Trent is exactly the same as that which we find so plainly expressed, although not with the same precision of terms, throughout the entire early Church. The Council says:

"In the revered Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, after the Consecration of the bread and wine, Our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and Man, is contained truly, really, and substantially under the species of those sensible things (i.e. under the purely outward appearance of bread and wine, perceptible to the senses)."

Still further elucidating the nature of that conversion of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, which the Council now accurately describes under the technical term of "Transubstantiation," it teaches that:

"By the Consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a conversion of the entire substance of bread into the substance of the Body of Christ, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His Blood."

In other words, after the Consecration, nothing whatever is left of the substance of the bread and wine, but in its stead there is present the substance of the Body and Blood of Christ, under the outward accidents of bread and wine that veil them. We believe it because the Son of God has said it. "Than the Word of Truth, there is naught 
more true."

Pray Your Rosary Every Day

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