Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Whether Christ is sacrificed in this sacrament?"

Solemn Papal Mass

A recent poll suggests that half of American Catholics do not accept Church teaching concerning the Eucharist.   We believe this alarming state of affairs has arisen partly because the Mass in the US is typically conducted with less solemnity and reverence than the average Rotary Club luncheon.   Inadequate or non-existent catechesis is also partly to blame.  To remedy the doctrinal deficit, we have been transmitting the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas regarding the Eucharist, as contained in the great instructional text St. Thomas composed for beginners, the Summa Theologica.  To the quaestio above, St. Thomas responds:

"The celebration of this sacrament is called a sacrifice for two reasons. First, because, as Augustine says (Ad Simplician. ii), "the images of things are called by the names of the things whereof they are the images; as when we look upon a picture or a fresco, we say, 'This is Cicero and that is Sallust.'" But, as was said above (Question 79, Article 1), the celebration of this sacrament is an image representing Christ's Passion, which is His true sacrifice. Accordingly the celebration of this sacrament is called Christ's sacrifice. Hence it is that Ambrose, in commenting on Hebrews 10:1, says: "In Christ was offered up a sacrifice capable of giving eternal salvation; what then do we do? Do we not offer it up every day in memory of His death?" Secondly it is called a sacrifice, in respect of the effect of His Passion: because, to wit, by this sacrament, we are made partakers of the fruit of our Lord's Passion. Hence in one of the Sunday Secrets (Ninth Sunday after Pentecost) we say: "Whenever the commemoration of this sacrifice is celebrated, the work of our redemption is enacted." Consequently, according to the first reason, it is true to say that Christ was sacrificed, even in the figures of the Old Testament: hence it is stated in the Apocalypse (13:8): "Whose names are not written in the Book of Life of the Lamb, which was slain from the beginning of the world." But according to the second reason, it is proper to this sacrament for Christ to be sacrificed in its celebration."

St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.

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