Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"The Sacrament-Sacrifice of the Mass: Its Positive Aspect"

I may seem to have developed a fixation with books about the Eucharist.  For this I don't apologize, since Mass is the central worship of the Church, and thus for Catholics no topic can be more important.  Further, it seems to me that in recent years certain fundamental realities of Mass have become obscured.  In particular, the reality of Eucharist as sacrifice and as sacrament, as well as the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist have, to a shocking extent in some places, lost their importance to Catholics.  Indeed, it is a fair surmise that Catholics have lost their faith in these things.  Certainly, the behavior of many Catholics at Mass and in the presence of the Eucharist warrants the conclusion that they do not believe themselves to be in the presence of the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. 

In this atmosphere of inattention, to remind myself and others of the infinite importance of the Eucharist seems an urgent duty.   Which leads me to yet another long, but highly instructive, quotation from Abbot Vonier's  text, "A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist:"

"In the [Eucharist] the Church must act the spiritual thing with such clearness, power and directness, that no one will question her meaning; she really means to accomplish what she acts, as it were, on the stage of sacramental symbolism.  The inward reality of the sacrament is the prolongation of the signification of the sacrament.  Having gone thus far in saying and doing sacramental things we cannot stop short of the real thing.  We all know of the blasphemous gibes of the more ignoble sort of Protestant who uses the hideous word "incantation" to describe the sacramental rites of Catholicism.  An incantation is an expression of words and symbols so strong that the very spirits are tied to them.  I, for one, shall not blush for the accusation if, in my priestly office, I am supposed to use words and things so expressive that they must have the divine thing irrevocably tied to them.  I am not making arbitrary signs and pronouncing words of mere convention when I officiate at the altar and consecrate the bread and wine.  I am performing a rite which, if seen in its whole setting, must mean the Body and Blood of Christ as a sweet odor of sacrifice."

St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.

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