In the Eucharist, Christ is present whole and entire under the species of the consecrated bread and whole and entire under the species of consecrated wine. The reason for the separate consecration is that Christ wishes to make Himself present as sacrificed (immolated) and as offering His Blood for our salvation. The Eucharist is not only the real presence of Christ brought to us but it is also a sacrificial rite.

That the Eucharist is a sacrifice appears in traditional Eucharistic liturgy long before the rise of medieval theology; most of all it appears in the actual accounts of the institution of the Eucharist in the Gospel. For St Paul, each time we ear this bread and drink this wine “we are heralding the Lord’s death”; moreover, Our Lord said “…..This is My Body which is to be given for you…..My Blood of the New Testament which is to be shed for you….and for many” .

What Sacrifice Entails

St Augustine says that “Every visible sacrifice is the Sacrament, the sacred sign of an invisible sacrifice”. It is for St Augustine a interior personal act which is expressed exteriorly by visible actions of offering and immolation (sacrifice).

The scope of these “interior personal acts” is thus defined by St Augustine as “Every good work which is capable of uniting us to God is a sacrifice”. Only those works that have as their aim to write the soul to God deserves to be regarded as ‘sacrifice’. But sacrifice implies the idea of immolation (the killing of a victim as a sacrifice). This immolation, in a religious sense, implies expiation (making amends for sin) and purification.

The external sacrifice is not only a sign of the interior plan or inclination but may also be means whereby this interior plan is made incarnate or real. To offer to God the first of one’s fruit or the first of one’s flock symbolises the fact that one belongs to God and that for His sake one deprives oneself of his possessions or perform a good work to prove, to make real, one’s inner desire to belong to God, and especially so, if this good work causes one to suffer in fulfilling his desire to expiate for one’s sins, a good work leading to purification and to union with God. The external action in performing such a “good work” is, in this case, not only a sign but also a reality, in that it is accomplishing one’s inner disposition or plan.

A sacrifice is purely symbolical as when an immolated victim, i.e. a lamb or bull, takes the place of the real victim God expects from someone, that is, oneself. It is a symbol replacing a reality. On the other hand, in denying oneself of what belongs to him, partially or totally (body or soul) is the accomplishment of one’s will to sacrifice.

Personal and Social Sacrifice

In individual or personal sacrifice, the external expression remains private while the social sacrifice is externally expressed ritually and publicly. A social sacrifice is offered in the name of the community and its chief characteristic is that it expresses the worship of all the members of the community in a unique visible and exterior ritual, whose forms are prescribed by laws.

A sacrifice on behalf of the community is offered by the leader of the community, the priest whose task is to awaken in the community that common spirit without which this sacrifice offered in its name would have no meaning.

Christ’s Unique Sacrifice

There are sacrifices in all religions and every religion has some idea of interior worship but the idea of sacrifice has been realised in unique and decisive way in the immolation of Christ on the Cross. Christ expressed His interior disposition by His exterior act, by His own free will in submitting Himself to the agony and bloody death on the Cross. “He offered Himself because He willed to do so”.

Such voluntary offering is love, expressed in obedience to the Divine will which gave value to His body sacrifice on the Cross. This interior disposition to offer Himself as a sacrifice began from the first moment of His incarnation. “When Christ came into the world He said ‘Sacrifices and offerings Thou hast not desired; but a Body hast Thou prepared for me’……then I said ‘I have come to do Thy will, O God’”.

Christ expressed this offering in all his acts especially in prayer and in fulfilling His mission – one of obedience and suffering. Although it is true that Christ’s whole life was one of sacrifice and in fulfilling His Father’s will, yet His supreme sacrifice for which he had come was His passion and death to expiate and make reparation for the sins of mankind, the sacrifice which the sinner must offer to God in order to be in His grace. The ‘social’ character of Christ’s sacrifice lies in the fact that He accomplished this sacrifice in the name of mankind, He who was the High Priest of Mankind. “I glorified thee on earth, having accomplished the work which Thou gavest me to do” .

Sacrifice as Sign and Symbol

A sacrifice accomplished in the name of the Community had value mainly as a sign and a symbol, as in the case of victims offered under the Old Covenant. Jesus, the immolated victim, is a perfect sign because He is a real victim for the suffering and death proved and expressed a true interior disposition, for Christ, a perfectly innocent man, of His own free will, sacrificed Himself, as the Priest in the name of all mankind.

A Permanent Sacrifice

The efficacy of Christ’s great sacrifice is demonstrated in its power to reconcile and unite man with God. The blood of calves and goats sacrificed over whole centuries did not have such power in itself. This blood of animals heralded the perfect sacrifice when Christ “offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins ….. for by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” . “He has appeared once and for all ….. to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” . The Blood of Our Lord, thus shed, dispensed mankind from the blood of any other sacrifice.

An idea of primary important is the permanence of Christ’s sacrifice which does not cease. Christ always offers Himself although He died only one. His interior disposition to offer Himself to God, which was the soul of His sacrifice, does not cease.

Christ died that He may rise again and the Resurrected Christ offers Him human immolation to His divinity. Jesus possesses the merits of His suffering and death, for it was He who loved even unto death and who gave Himself fully in shedding his last drop of His Most Precious Blood.

St Thomas Aquinas says that “Although Christ’s passion and death are not to begin all over again, yet the ‘virtue’ of this victim, offered once, remains forever” . This virtue is His power over God’s heart, the power that he possesses because He has been sacrificed.

The meaning of Christ’s Resurrection

Christ died that he might live; Jesus, through His passion and death, expiated for all sin and gained the right to give life. Christ’s glorious state, as the state of one risen from the dead, is the state of a victim always offered and always active to plead with God on our behalf permanently until the end of the world.

The sacrifice of the Mass

Christ does not “annihilate” Himself under the sacred species. In fact, He brings His presence to us. The eating of Christ in the Eucharist is a different sacrifice from that of the Cross but complementary to that of Cross, while Communion gives us a share in the Eucharistic sacrifice. It is definitely not true that the consecration of the two species has the power to separate the Body from the Blood in the state in which they really are, that is, when Christ’s Body is in its glorified state.

The consecrated species signify Christ’s sacrifice as well as His Body and Blood. The consecration is a sacramental symbolism, containing what it signifies. In this respect, one has to point out that co-existence between yesterday and today is not possible, yet Christ’s glorified Body, although absent, co-exists with us. Therefore Christ, present on the altar, is in His present state, as risen from the death.

The Sacrament of Christ’s Sacrifice

At the Mass, the sacrifice of the Cross is made present once again and offered in a sacramental and symbolic way but the Mass is, in reality, the sacrament of the sacrifice of the Cross because the Mass possesses all the virtue of the sacrifice of the Cross which is the power with which in God’s eyes it clothes Christ and applies its fruits to all those who share in the Eucharist when Christ actually and actively present as the sacrificed victim until the end of time.

By saying that the faithful are present at Mass as though they were at the sacrifice of the Cross, we mean that they are to share in the offering which Christ makes of Himself on our behalf – an offering possessing all its power from the pain which Christ suffered and from the Blood which He shed.

What the Mass adds to the sacrifice of the Cross

The Mass is a sacrifice only through its relationship with the sacrifice of the Cross and every Mass is a true sacrifice for the Christ is the only and principal author of the innumerable Eucharistic consecrations and the one only true invisible priest, represented by each priest celebrating Mass.

The first thing that the sacrifice of the Mass adds to the sacrifice of the Cross is that the Mass makes the reality of Christ’s sacrifice by placing it into the present time and this is very important because man’s salvation depends on his contact during his life with his Saviour, a contact brought about by faith. If one is to receive God’s pardon, His love and Grace, for one’s salvation, one has to participate fully with complete faith. In fact, one has to make his own the redeeming sacrifice made by Christ in one’s name. “My real life is the faith I have in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself to me” for the sacrament of the Eucharist was instituted to make this saving act of Christ sensibly, actually and exteriorly present for one’s salvation. The efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice is offered to every man wherever and whenever the Holy Mass is celebrated.


The following explains what is new in the sacrifice of the Mass when compared with the sacrifice of the Cross:

a) In the Mass, it is the invisible Christ Himself who intervenes to offer and not the visible priest who consecrates.

b) Christ’s intervention signifies the offer He perpetually makes of Himself at a given moment of time.

c) The Sacrifice of the Mass applies the sacrificial efficacy of the Cross at a given moment of time to the faithful living at that time.

d) The sacrifice of the Cross is sacramentally offered through His Church by a priest, invested with Christ’s priesthood, mindful of the objectives of the Church, of the Ministers and of the faithful in the congregation; it is the sacrifice offered by men to God in and through Christ, their High Priest.

e) It is one of the essential principles in the Treatise of the Redemption that the faithful are not exempt from offering themselves in sacrifice because of the sacrifice of Christ, for, as clearly expressed in the Offertory Rite of the Mass, when Christ offers Himself through the instrumentality of men, Christ offers men themselves with Him. The Bread and Wine represent all the faithful’s possessions including their being and existence which they had received from God. The changing of the species in the Body and Blood of Christ Himself express clearly the act of Christ in possessing what we have are; for, by Grace, we are incorporated in Him. After the Consecration, it is no longer us who offer but Christ in us.

f) Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross signifies the total gift of an obedient son and victim as an offering to God and His gift to man. However, the reality of and the symbolism in the sacrifice did not possess a ritual character; Christ was the visible victim but not visibly the Priest; in the Mass the priest performs a sacred rite in our name but in the sacrifice of the Cross those who immolated Christ were carrying our an odious act and a horribly sinful deed. Christ’s sacrifice becomes a ritual in the sacrament of the Mass. Christ’s sacrifice does not cease to be real for it begins again in a sacred and liturgical forms that are all symbolic. In fact, Christ offered His sacrifice ritually at the Last Supper before offering it actually on the Cross.

The rite of the Mass has a twofold reality in that when we share in the sacramental sacrifice, we offer our real lives, our real beings and our existence in union with the reality of Christ, an immolated and risen victim offering Himself to God.

The Mass – A Sacrifice of the Church

The Mass is the sacrifice of the Church, of mankind already redeemed, for only those who believe may share in it. The Church, in her living members, is really united to Christ in the Eucharistic sacrifice, which intercedes for the whole world and offers salvation to all mankind for n his human nature, man can receive the grace of Christ and is entitled to make one’s own Christ’s death and Resurrection.

Each Mass is a new application of the virtue of the sacrifice of the Cross, which is, above all, its value as perfect worship to God, for every Mass contains in its totality the adoration of Christ, His thanksgiving, His desire to make reparation, passing through the Church and so through us making our offering His own.

The Reformation

However, at this point, reference has to be made to the controversy between the two major parties of Protestantism – the Lutheran and the Reformed, over the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Holy Eucharist and in their denying the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist and in giving the Council of Trent’s reaction to the Protestant’s contentions and heresies.

Reformers’ Denial of Real Presence

Johannes Oeclampadius (d. 1531), the Swiss Reformer, laid stress on the universal consensus and “stable foundation” of sound doctrine that the resurrected Body of Christ was in Heaven and that here on earth Christ ruled with His Spirit and His Grace “being present in His Power and Virtue” rather than “in His Body” . He also insisted that Christ’s promise that He would be present with His Church until the end of the age did not mean that His Body would be present.

Zwingli agreed perfectly with Oeclampadius when he stated that “When you see me ascend up to Heaven, you will see clearly that you have not eaten me literally and that I cannot be eaten literally” . In other words, both Zwingli, Oeclampadius, Bullinger and other reformers stated that if the Body of Christ was now in Heaven, it could not be correct to speak of His corporeal presence in the Blessed Sacrament. Moreover, the Reformers insisted that the presence of Christ with His Church after the Ascension was “according to His divinity, majesty, grace and spirit” , , but not according to His human nature which was at the Right Hand of God.

Luther’s Reaction

In reply to this heresy, Luther ascribed the omnipresence of the divine nature of Christ in His entire glorified person, both Divine and Human. Luther quoted Our Lord’s very words “No one has ascended into Heaven but He who has descended from Heaven, the Son of Man, who is in Heaven” . This meant that already during the Lord’s life on earth and certainly after His glorification, the Body of Christ was in Heaven and on earth at the same time, i.e. it was present everywhere. Moreover, “the Right Hand of God” did not refer to any specific place but to “the almighty power of God which at one and the same time can be nowhere and everywhere” .

A “Spiritual” eating

The Reformers, notably Calvin, Zwingli and Oeclampadius, heretically quoted Augustine’s statement “Believe and you have already eaten” to mean that the Eucharist was a ‘spiritual eating’ that could not be attributed to the act of outward eating , while Zwingli interpreted Augustine’s words as meaning that “when you partake of the Bread and Wine, all that you do is to confess publicly that you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ” since such believing meant, in Augustine’s words that “you have already eaten”.

Furthermore, Heinrich Bullinger, in his Sermon on the Lord’s Supper (1558 – 6r, 6v) insisted, heretically, that the “presence of the Lord in the Church” and about “eating Him” were to be interpreted “not carnally or corporeally but spiritually”. Zwingli stated that “spiritually eating” and the notion of a physical body were mutually exclusive. The Reformers, unlike the Lutherans, emphasised that the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist was not a natural or local presence but a spiritual presence that conveyed “the efficacy and power” of the Body of Christ.

Bullinger even went so fat as to state that the interpretation of the Eucharist as a sacrifice of propitiation (atonement) was a violation of the Divine institution of Christ, who had ordained it to be “a testament, covenant and legacy” emphasising that Christ was the only sacrifice of propitiation.

Ambrosius Catharinus (d. 1553) declared that the Protestants were putting asunder what God had joined together including “the Highest Sacrifice of God” in the Mass, spiritual repentance and the penitential system, the adoration of Christ in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist and the decretal epistles of canon law .

The Decrees of the Council of Trent

The Council of Trent condemned Luther’s statement that “one sacrament cannot be of greater rank than another” for it was obvious that among the sacraments, the Eucharist did have greater rank “especially by reason of its context” .


Lutherans disagreed with the doctrine of transubstantiation and insisted that their doctrine of ‘Consubstantiation’ was the true doctrine. Scotus defined ‘transubstantiation’ as the “complete change of one substance into another substance” .

The Council reconfirmed what the Fourth Lateran Council had specified on its decree on transubstantiation that the Body and Blood of Christ were present “in real fact, truly and really” as expressed by “Transubstantiation”.

The Protestants’ objection to Transubstantiation were on several different basis. The Council defended Augustine’s use of the expression “Believe and you have already eaten” against those who interpreted it as saying that “Augustine denies sacramental eating” for it was evident that among the Protestant errors enumerated, that of Zwingli, Oeclampadius and the Sacramentarians was to teach “that in the Eucharist there is not in fact present the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ” .

Denial of Real Presence

The real point of their objection was not to the theory of transubstantiation but to the doctrine of the Real Presence. This applied also to Calvin’s calumniation on the use of the words of institution as being a “magic incantation” , .

Denial of Mass as Sacrifice

The Real Presence and the Sacrifice of the Mass had long been interlinked both in the rule of Prayer and in the rule of faith and after its consideration of transubstantiation and the Real Presence, the Council of Trent turned to the sacrifice of the Mass. Protestants, both those who believed in the Real Presence and those who denied it, deny the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist on the basis that it inevitably detracted from the uniqueness of the Sacrifice on the Cross and it attributed to human works that which was achieved by the Divine Grace in Christ. Protestants contend that the sacrifice of Christ took place on the Cross, that it is all-sufficient and that Christ sacrificed Himself only ONCE and it is by faith in that unique and perfect sacrifice on the Cross that we shall be saved. Consequently he Mass, if regarded as a sacrifice, detracts the sacrifice of the Cross. The Reformers had rejected as blasphemous and superstitious that seemed to attribute to the Mass the saving efficacy that belongs to Christ alone.

Relation between Sacrifice of Mass and Sacrifice on the Cross

The Council considered the relation between the sacrifice on Calvary and the sacrifice of the Mass and decreed that in this (for in reality it is ONE sacrifice) sacrifice “although the sacrificial victim is one and the same, the mode of existence and of being offered is diverse” and that “the sacrifice should be defined as one for the same sacrificial victim of the Body and Blood of Christ is offered in the Mass that was immolated on the Cross, the same Lamb of God and not another; it is One Christ who is sacrificed everywhere, and He is One and the same High priest for both. He who is victim and priest at the same time” .

The Council of Trent found it somewhat difficult to argue the case of the Mass as sacrifice on a purely Biblical basis because theologians were inclined to find evidence in Scripture to support their own particular ideas.

When referring to the “breaking of Bread” in the Acts and what Dionysius the Areopagite stated, it was proved that the offering of the sacrifice of the Mass for the dead came “from an Apostolic Tradition” .

Christ instituted both sacrament and sacrifice

In the Epistles of Paul thee was frequent reference to the “sacrifice of Christ”, yet no mention of a sacrifice was made in the Supper, but always on the Cross. Nevertheless, Christ instituted both the sacrament and the sacrifice in the Supper when He said “Do this”. The “doing” in the Command did not refer to eating or drinking, since the primary use of the Eucharist is to be sacrificed and offered ; that was what the verb meant both in Greek and Latin.

The “eating” of the sacrificial victim followed the “immolating” in the Eucharist, as in the Passover. “But we do not eat the Christ immolated on the Cross, therefore it must be the one immolated in the Eucharist” . Similarly, the words of the Psalm 110: 4 “You are a priest for eternity according to the order of Melchisedeck” could not refer to the sacrifice on the Cross or to a sacrifice offered once and for all at the Last Supper but must mean “the offering in the Eucharist which happens perpetually” .

No conflict between Eucharist and sacrifice on the Cross

“The sacrifice of the Mass is, so far as that which is offered is concerned, nothing other than the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ” differing from it only in the manner of presentation and the effect and consequently “there is no conflict between the sacrifice of the Eucharist and the sacrifice of the Cross, for the former derives its power from the latter and is the benefit accomplished by it; therefore it does not detract from the suffering of Christ, but enhances it” .

It was St Chrisostom who said that the sacrifice of the Mass was an ‘exemplar’ of the sacrifice of the Cross and was one with it; it did not detract from that eternal sacrifice, but “because we do not offer our own offering, but that of Christ, we do not, by our offering, make null and void the offering of Christ” , .

The comprehensive doctrine of the Eucharist by Dionysius the Areopagite (c. 500), a mystical theologian – as “Communion”, as a memorial and a sacrifice of thanksgiving offered by the priest and as a proper object of adoration – was a valuable authority for the continuity in the Catholic understanding of the sacrament of the Eucharist since the end of the first century .

John Duns Scotus (d. 1308) stated that “practically all the devotion of the Church is related to the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist” . The adoration of this sacrament was one of the strangest proofs of the real presence, since such worship, addressed to a mere symbol of the Body of Christ, would be idolatrous.

The sacrifice of the Mass may be applied to some particular intention. As a sacrifice, the Mass benefited not only the priest who offered it, but the entire Church on behalf of which he did so . The relation of the sacramental sacrifice to the sacrifice on Calvary was a vexing issue, for everyone had to agree that “no sacrifice succeeded, or could succeed the offering of Christ” , the only true sacrifice and the only true priest, but as two 14th century writers asserted, this sacrifice was offered once and for all as the price of redemption, but it is continually recalled in the Church through the Mystery that is consecrated and offered by the Ministry of the priests .

A sacrificial meal

The Eucharist is not only a sacrifice, it is a sacrificial meal. Our Lord wanted the Eucharist to be food so that communion is an integral part of the Eucharistic sacrifice for it is only by earing that we can assimilate and make our own the sacrifice of the Cross.

When Christ said “This is my Body” and “This is My Blood” he literally and actually told us that he is really and wholly present under the species of Bread and Wine, which after consecration during the Mass, become the sacrament of Redemption. By using the two separate sentences “This is My Body” and “This is My Blood” Jesus was interpreting the Prophets’ symbolic gesture which indicated that the Body is separated from the Blood. This alone would indicate a sacrifice to Jewish hearers.

Furthermore, what Christ said when He gave His Apostles the cup, after He had given thanks “Drink of it, all of you; for this is My Blood of the Covenant” confirms the sign of Christ’s sacrifice for during His life Jesus used the word ‘cup’ to indicate His Passion. “Can you drink of the cup that I am to drink?” ; “Abba, Father, all things are possible to Thee; Remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt” .

To drink the cup is to d God’s will. Consequently, “The Cup of My Blood” signifies Christ’s voluntary Passion in obedience to His Father’s will.

The Mass – A living Memorial

The Mass is a living memorial for the Eucharist makes present not only Christ Himself but also His whole sacrifice on the Cross for every time the Mass is celebrated, we make a living memorial of the Passion, Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord. The Mass, besides being a sacrifice of thanksgiving, is also a sacrifice that appeases God while bestowing on us pardon and grace.

The Mass is a true sacrifice. The Mass reproduced the Last Supper in which Christ left the Church a sacrifice which commemorates and represents the sacrifice upon the Cross in the form of Bread and Wine. The sacrifice of the Mass is the sacrifice of the Cross made available to s in another form. The Mass is not distinct from the sacrifice of the Cross in any way. The Council of Trent stressed on 3 January, 1552 that “although the sacrificial victim is one and the same…..the mode of existence and of being offered is diverse” .

The manner of offering in the Mass is sacramental for the Mass is the sacrament of the sacrifice of the Cross. It is a REAL sacrifice because it is the one perfectly sufficient sacrifice made present again through sign which consists in the sacrificial, Eucharistic meal renewed daily at Mass.

A Redeeming Sacrifice

The actual sacrifice on the Cross and the sacrament of the Mass are two complementary expressions of the same reality; the sole difference between them is the matter of the offering.

The sacramental principle which is the key to the doctrine of the Eucharist, consists in that the Redemptive Incarnation is prolonged throughout time and space by and through the sacrificial meal. Through the sacrament we are in the presence of the same victim, the same redeeming sacrifice and the same High Priest that was offered on Calvary. In one word, the Passion and death of Christ is made present and available to us.

As the earing of the Paschal Lamb was the perpetual memorial of the Passover, so the Eucharistic Meal commanded b Our Lord, is eaten as a memorial of His own passing out of this World to the Father.

The relation between the Paschal Meal and the Eucharist is perfectly demonstrated to us by the Council of Trent:

At the last supper, on the night in which he was betrayed, in order to leave his beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice as the nature of man demands, declaring himself a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech he offered his body and blood under the species of bread and wine to God the Father and he gave his body and blood under the same species to the apostles to receive, making them priests of the New Testament at that time. This sacrifice was to re-present the bloody sacrifice which he accomplished on the cross once and for all,. It was to perpetuate his memory until the end of the world. His salutary power was to be applied for the sins which we daily commit. He ordered the apostles and their successors in the priesthood to offer this sacrifice when he said ‘Do this as a memorial of me’ (Lk 22, 19; 1 Cor 11, 24) as the Catholic Church has always understood and taught. For after he celebrated the old Pasch, which the assembly of the children of Israel offered as a memorial of the passage from Egypt (Ex 12,1) Christ instituted a new Pasch. He himself was the new Pasch to be offered by the Church through her priests under visible signs as a memorial of his passage from this world to the Father when by the shedding his blood ‘he snatched us from the power of darkness and transferred us into his kingdom’”. (Council of Trent, Sess. 22, Chapter 1, D938[1740f]. Italics added).

The sacrifice of the cross is represented by the Eucharist in both senses of the word “represent”: to signify and to make present again.

The Christ on the cross and the Christ in the Holy Eucharist is the one and the same with only the manner of presence being different – the Victim and Priest are the same Christ and Our Lord so that the sacrifice is re-produced in the rite of double consecration. The rite of the Mass both signifies and effects the Sacramental shedding of Christ’s Blood. In the Mass, Christ becomes a sacrificial victim as he became on the Cross.

A Real Immolation in the Mass

Although there is no physical immolation in the Mass, there is a real immolation, for the one perfect immolation that is eternal in Heaven is rendered present in a different manner when we can see and hear Christ by faith in the symbols of his death and resurrection present on the altar.

The Sacrifice offered on the Cross

Biblical images teach us what a sacrifice is any Christ’s death upon the Cross was the perfect sacrifice.

Sacrifice is made up of the words sacrum facere meaning to make holy, to consecrate something or someone to God, to offer it to Him as a gift. The basic teaching of the Bible is that for a sacrifice to mean anything, it must be internal in the sense that the sacrifice acceptable to God is the completely penitent and humble heart for what God wants is not the gift but the donor.

The Old testament sacrifices involved the killing of animals as a giving of the animal to God and not in the sense of its being destroyed. The sprinkled blood symbolised a life surrendered to God.

God provided the eternal sacrifice

Unredeemed man, of himself, could not offer an acceptable sacrifice to God in atonement for his sins. Consequently, it was God’s plan to provide a sacrifice Himself as indicated in the letter to the Hebrews “For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins” . This is confirmed in the following text:

“Sacrifices and offerings Thou hast not desired
But a Body hast Thou prepared for Me
In burnt offerings and sin offerings
Thou hast taken no pleasure
Then I said, ‘Lo, I have come to do your will O God
As it is written of Me in the roll of the Book’”

Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins…..for by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified . Christ, obedient to death of the cross provided an acceptable sacrifice surpassing the most spiritual sacrifices of the Old Testament.

Jesus, the true Paschal Lamb

The Paschal Lamb is essentially involved in the event of the Exodus and John teaches that Jesus is the true Paschal Lamb . The Hebrews “commemorated and solemnised as a feast for ever” the rite of the Passover every year as a perpetual ordinance for the Hebrews and their descendants. The meal was to be a commemorative sacrifice for in eating the meal the Jew should share in the experience of his ancestors. “On this day you shall explain to your son ‘this is what they Lord did for me when I came our of Egypt’” . “You shall therefore keep this ordinance at is appointed time from year to year” . St Paul says “Christ, our Paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed….. Let us therefore celebrate the festival” . We celebrate because “Christ is the true Paschal Lamb who took away the sins of the world and by rising, restored life to us” .

Christ’s sacrifice makes full and perfect satisfaction for all sins committed by mankind.

The Mass signifies the Sacrifice of the cross

It is possible for us to offer upon our altars the same sacrifice as was offered on the Cross by repeating the Last Supper sacramentally.

Christ’s passion and death on the cross was a sacrifice. Likewise, the Mass is a sacrifice because it signifies and contains the whole reality of the sacrifice of the Cross. Jesus offered Himself during the Last Supper in the form of bread and wine. Indeed, Jesus had already decided to offer Himself as a victim to redeem man of his sins so that even before the Last Supper, He had already offered His Body and Blood to His Heavenly Father. The rite that Christ celebrated left to His Church as His memorial was a fill and complete sacrifice so that every time it is repeated it does what the Last Supper did – it represents and signifies the sacrifice of the cross.

Our Redemption

The sign of the Eucharist is a meal not only a religious meal, it is the Lord’s Supper, a sacrifice in the form of a meal. Jesus’ last meal celebrated the Pasch in advance and the rite was provided to celebrate it for all time until He comes again.

The Pasch of Jesus is His passion, death, resurrection and his ascension to Heaven, by which He fulfilled our Redemption. The Lord’s Supper celebrates our Redemption for by Holy Communion we partake of the Redemption that Jesus accomplished for us with His Blood. This Supper anticipates the eternal Messianic Supper in Heaven.

The Mass as Sacrifice of the Church

The Mass is the sacrifice of the Church because through the Mass the Church offers herself and her worship to God. The sacrifice is offered by Christ Himself through the priest who acts in His name. Although the people do not share directly n the act of consecration, they truly offer sacrifice when they join themselves to the priest for “by participation in the Mass the faithful enter into closest union with their High priest…..and together with Him offer the sacrifice, surrendering themselves in union with Him” .

Through the Eucharistic sacrifice, the people offer themselves and their whole life as victims, holy, loving and pleasing to God. Our true, internal participation in the Mass makes our actual sacrifice. Moreover, the faithful as a “holy priesthood” is enables by the Eucharist to extend the One sacrifice of Christ into their lives.

The Eucharist, sacrifice and sacrament of unity

The basic principle of sacramental theology is that “the sacraments effect what they signify”. The Eucharist signifies unity and peace. Unity is union with God and with our neighbour. Peace means reconciliation with God and universal harmony. Unity and Peace were disrupted by Adam’s sin so that the sacrifice of Christ was directed to re-establish such peace and unity for Jesus died “not for the [Jewish] nation only but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” so that Christ came to bring mankind back to God. Through the Blood of Christ the Christian has been ‘incorporated with Christ’; he has been reconciled with God and has been united with God and with his neighbour through the mission of Christ as mediator between sinful and God in the Holy Eucharist.


NICOLAS Marie-Joseph, Fact and Faith Books, 52 – What is the Eucharist?, London, 1960

O’NEILL Colman E., Theology and Life Series, Vol. II – Sacramental Realism, a General Theory of the Sacraments, Dublin

O’SHEA William, Foundations of Catholic Theology Series – Sacraments of Initiation, Prentice Hall, 1966

PELIKAN Jaroslav, The Christian Tradition – A History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol. IV – Reformation of Church and Dogma (1300 – 1700), Chicago, 1983

SCHMAUS Michael, Dogma 5 – The Church as Sacrament, U.S.A 1975

The Encyclopaedia of Theology, a Concise Sacramentum Mundi, edited by Karl Rahner, London 1975.