The Church’s Greatest Treasure

02-14-2021Weekly Reflection

The Church’s greatest treasure is the sacrifice of the Mass and the Presence of Christ in His Church, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, true God, true Man. The Church’s greatest crisis has been in this latter days where Catholics no longer recognize or understand the meaning of the Mass and the Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and that He is God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, as well as Man taking flesh from the Virgin Mary. In the midst of this crisis which was going on during the Second Vatican Council and which metastasized after it. Pope Paul VI issued perhaps his most profound encyclical called Mysterium Fidei, the Mystery of Faith, in 1965. In it is a primer on the Church’s teaching on the Mass and the Holy Eucharist. Below are highlights from this great encyclical:

The Holy Eucharist A Mystery of Faith

As St. Thomas says, the fact that the true body and the true blood of Christ are present in this Sacrament "cannot be apprehended by the senses but only by faith, which rests upon divine authority. This is why St. Cyril comments upon the words, This is my body which is delivered up for you, in Luke 22, 19, in this way: Do not doubt that this is true; instead accept the words of the Savior in faith; for since He is truth, He cannot tell a lie."

Eucharistic Mystery in the Sacrifice of the Mass

It is a good idea to recall at the very outset what may be termed the heart and core of the doctrine, namely that, by means of the Mystery of the Eucharist, the Sacrifice of the Cross which was once carried out on Calvary is re-enacted in wonderful fashion and is constantly recalled, and its saving power is applied to the forgiving of the sins we commit each day."

Christ the Lord brought about the New Covenant, of which He is the Mediator, and made it sacred through His own blood, in instituting the mystery of the Eucharist. For, as the Evangelists narrate, at the Last Supper "he took bread, and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, This is my body, given for you; do this for a commemoration of me. And so with the cup, when supper was ended, This cup, he said, is the new covenant, in my Blood which is to be shed for you." And by bidding the Apostles to do this in memory of Him, He made clear that He wanted it to be forever repeated. (Note: Memory or commemoration does not mean here what it means in ordinary language: something past and over with and which someone recalls from the past. Memory here means something in the past but is not re-presented” in the now” and is set before us: Christ crucified and risen with his wounds offering Himself to God the Father in the Holy Spirit. This is highlighted in the Mass at the end of the Eucharist Prayer or Canon: Through Him, with Him, in Him in the unity of the Holy Spirit all glory and honor is yours forever and ever.

Offered Also for the Dead

Here is the testimony offered by St. Cyril of Jerusalem, who wrote the following memorable words for the neophytes whom he was instructing in the Christian faith: "After the spiritual sacrifice, the un-bloody act of worship, has been completed, we bend over this propitiatory offering and beg God to grant peace to all the Churches, to give harmony to the whole world, to bless our rulers, our soldiers and our companions, to aid the sick and afflicted, and in general to assist all those who stand in need; we all pray for all these intentions and we offer this Victim for them...and last of all for our deceased holy forefathers and bishops and for all those who have lived among us. For we have a deep conviction that great help will be afforded those souls for whom prayers are offered while this holy and awesome victim is present."

The Priesthood of the Baptized

We mean the fact that the whole Church unites in the role of priest and victim along with Christ, offering the Sacrifice of the Mass and herself completely offered in it. The Fathers of the Church taught this wondrous doctrine. To be sure, the distinction between the universal priesthood of the laity and the ordained priesthood is something essential and not just a matter of degree, and it has to be maintained in a proper way. (Note: the ordained priesthood differs from the share in the priesthood of Christ by laity, in essence and not only in degree. The ordained priest acts in the very Person of Jesus Christ in offering Mass. The laity exercise their share in the priesthood of Christ by uniting themselves to the sacrifice of the Mass.)

No Mass is "Private"

For each and every Mass is not something private, even if a priest celebrates it privately; instead, it is an act of Christ and of the Church. In offering this sacrifice, the Church learns to offer herself as a sacrifice for all and she applies the unique and infinite redemptive power of the sacrifice of the Cross to the salvation of the whole world. For every Mass that is celebrated is being offered not just for the salvation of certain people, but also for the salvation of the whole world. The conclusion from this is that even though active participation by many faithful is of its very nature particularly fitting when Mass is celebrated, still there is no reason to criticize but rather only to approve a Mass that a priest celebrates privately for a good reason in accordance with the regulations and legitimate traditions of the Church, even when only a server to make the responses is present. For such a Mass brings a rich and abundant treasure of special graces to help the priest himself, the faithful, the whole Church and the whole world toward salvation—and this same abundance of graces is not gained through mere reception of Holy Communion. (The root meaning of active participation of the faithful is the raising of their minds and hearts to God and uniting themselves to Christ’s sacrifice. It is not a group of people performing.

Christ Sacramentally Present in the Sacrifice of the Mass

The Lord is sacrificed in an unbloody way in the Sacrifice of the Mass and He re-presents the sacrifice of the Cross and applies its saving power at the moment when he becomes sacramentally present— through the words of consecration—as the spiritual food and medicine of the faithful, under what looks like bread and wine. (Note: all material things have substance, what something is, and appearances, which are accidental. So in a gathering of human beings they all share the same substance, human beings, but their accidents or appearances differ: weight, height, shape, eye color, hair color, etc. In the Mass the accidental qualities of the bread and wine remain, shape, smell, taste, size, color etc. but the substance changes. It is no longer bread and wine but Christ Himself. Only God can change the substance of one thing while keeping the appearances of something else.)

Christ Present in the Eucharist through Transubstantiation

To avoid any misunderstanding of this type of presence, which goes beyond the laws of nature and constitutes the greatest miracle of its kind, we have to listen with docility to the voice of the teaching and praying Church. Her voice, which constantly echoes the voice of Christ, assures us that the way in which Christ becomes present in this Sacrament is through the conversion of the whole substance of the bread into His body and of the whole substance of the wine into His blood, a unique and truly wonderful conversion that the Catholic Church fittingly and properly calls transubstantiation. As a result of transubstantiation, the appearances of bread and wine are no longer ordinary bread and wine but they take on this new signification, this new finality, precisely because they contain a new "reality”. For what now lies beneath the aforementioned appearances is not what was there before, but something completely different; and not just in the estimation of Church’s belief but in reality, since once the substance or nature of the bread and wine has been changed into the body and blood of Christ, nothing remains of the bread and the wine except for the appearances—beneath which Christ is present whole and entire in His physical "reality," corporeally present, although not in the manner in which bodies are in a place.

On the Worship of Latria

The Catholic Church has always displayed and still displays this latria (latria means the worship given to God alone) that ought to be paid to the Sacrament of the Eucharist, both during Mass and outside of it, by taking the greatest possible care of consecrated Hosts, by exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and by carrying them about in processions to the joy of great numbers of the people.

Daily Mass and Holy Communion

It is desirable to have the faithful in large numbers take an active part in the sacrifice of the Mass each and every day and receive the nourishment of Holy Communion with a pure and holy mind and offer fitting thanks to Christ the Lord for such a great gift. They should remember these words: "The desire of Jesus Christ and of the Church to see all the faithful approach the sacred banquet each and every day is based on a wish to have them all united to God through the Sacrament and to have them draw from it the strength to master their passions, to wash away the lesser sins that are committed every day and to prevent the serious sins to which human frailty is subject." And they should not forget about paying a visit during the day to the Most Blessed Sacrament in the very special place of honor where it is reserved in churches in keeping with the liturgical laws, since this is a proof of gratitude and a pledge of love and a display of the adoration that is owed to Christ the Lord who is present there. Dignity Bestowed by Eucharist 67. No one can fail to see that the divine Eucharist bestows an incomparable dignity upon the Christian people. For it is not just while the Sacrifice is being offered and the Sacrament is being confected, but also after the Sacrifice has been offered and the Sacrament confected—while the Eucharist is reserved in churches or oratories—that Christ is truly Emmanuel, which means "God with us." For He is in the midst of us day and night; He dwells in us with the fullness of grace and of truth. He raises the level of morals, fosters virtue, comforts the sorrowful, strengthens the weak and stirs up all those who draw near to Him to imitate Him, so that they may learn from his example to be meek and humble of heart, and to seek not their own interests but those of God. Anyone who has a special devotion to the sacred Eucharist and who tries to repay Christ's infinite love for us with an eager and unselfish love of his own, will experience and fully understand—and this will bring great delight and benefit to his soul—just how precious is a life hidden with Christ in God and just how worthwhile it is to carry on a conversation with Christ, for there is nothing more consoling here on earth, nothing more efficacious for progress along the paths of holiness.