Chapter One is titled “The Mystery of Faith.” In the next ten numbered sections, Pope John Paul II explores some of the Biblical foundations of the Eucharist, with particular attention to the notion of sacrifice.
11. “The Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed” (1 Cor 11:23) instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of his body and his blood. The words of the Apostle Paul bring us back to the dramatic setting in which the Eucharist was born. The Eucharist is indelibly marked by the event of the Lord’s passion and death, of which it is not only a reminder but the sacramental re-presentation. It is the sacrifice of the Cross perpetuated down the ages. (Sacrosanctum Concilium 47) This truth is well expressed by the words with which the assembly in the Latin rite responds to the priest’s proclamation of the “Mystery of Faith”: “We announce your death, O Lord”.
In two of the three options, the new English translation has the assembly proclaiming the sacrifice of the Lord. The stronger verb implies something believers rarely catch: that our mission as believers, as the people who sing these words, is to proclaim Christ not only as an act of worship, but also as an act of evangelization or faith-sharing.
The Eucharist is the highest gift:
The Church has received the Eucharist from Christ her Lord not as one gift – however precious – among so many others, but as the gift par excellence, for it is the gift of himself, of his person in his sacred humanity, as well as the gift of his saving work. Nor does it remain confined to the past, since “all that Christ is – all that he did and suffered for all (people) – participates in the divine eternity, and so transcends all times”. (CCC 1085)
Pope John Paul II goes into a bit of detail as to how and why the Eucharist isn’t just an act of worship:
When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the memorial of her Lord’s death and resurrection, this central event of salvation becomes really present and “the work of our redemption is carried out”. (Lumen Gentium 3) This sacrifice is so decisive for the salvation of the human race that Jesus Christ offered it and returned to the Father only after he had left us a means of sharing in it as if we had been present there. Each member of the faithful can thus take part in it and inexhaustibly gain its fruits. This is the faith from which generations of Christians down the ages have lived. The Church’s Magisterium has constantly reaffirmed this faith with joyful gratitude for its inestimable gift. I wish once more to recall this truth and to join you, my dear brothers and sisters, in adoration before this mystery: a great mystery, a mystery of mercy. What more could Jesus have done for us? Truly, in the Eucharist, he shows us a love which goes “to the end” (cf. Jn 13:1), a love which knows no measure.
This love, if we cooperate with it, shows a real effect in the life of believers. Sanctification. The Eucharist is more than an act of worship, a one-way spiritual conduit to God. The Eucharist exemplifies not just a remembering and recounting, but an event that has an effect today, this Mass, this moment.
The focus of some commentators on the Mass solely as an act of worship actually miss the deeper implications of the notion of sacrifice.