Ecclesia de Eucharistia 13

More on this notion of sacrifice:

13. By virtue of its close relationship to the sacrifice of Golgotha, the Eucharist is a sacrifice in the strict sense, and not only in a general way, as if it were simply a matter of Christ’s offering himself to the faithful as their spiritual food. The gift of his love and obedience to the point of giving his life (cf. Jn 10:17-18) is in the first place a gift to his Father. Certainly it is a gift given for our sake, and indeed that of all humanity (cf. Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20; Jn 10:15), yet it is first and foremost a gift to the Father: “a sacrifice that the Father accepted, giving, in return for this total self-giving by his Son, who ‘became obedient unto death’ (Phil 2:8), his own paternal gift, that is to say the grant of new immortal life in the resurrection”. (Redemptor Hominis 20)
In giving his sacrifice to the Church, Christ has also made his own the spiritual sacrifice of the Church, which is called to offer herself in union with the sacrifice of Christ. This is the teaching of the Second Vatican Council concerning all the faithful: “Taking part in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which is the source and summit of the whole Christian life, they offer the divine victim to God, and offer themselves along with it”.(Lumen Gentium 11)

The stress seems clear, and also far-reaching: the Eucharist is not just an experience of Christ giving of himself to nurture believers. There are important aspects, including the notion that the liturgy is “first and foremost” an act of love rendered by the Son to the Father.

The caution here is to explore the notion of human expressions within this love relationship within the Trinity. Is God offended that we are involved, sometimes in our petty ways or with our false humilities?

My sense is that the sacrifice of Christ is also part of the base story of our Christian heritage. The Eucharist is not about our experiencing the benefits of Christ (i.e., glory, praise, eternal life) as much as it is about our being urged to imitate Christ. We imitate the Son, and focus our efforts wholly on that imitation. Let the final results take care of themselves in good time. Or out of time. That would be Christ’s attitude.

Pope John Paul cites the kenosis passage from Philippians (2:5-11). Paul leads off that passage of praise to Christ by suggesting it foremost not as a hymn to be sung, but as a model for not only our behaviors but our attitudes. Do as Christ did, we are urged.

To me, this is a vital value in the Eucharist not to be lost. The Mass is not only a nourishment for the believer, but a practice ground for the disciple.

Steering back to the Philippians passage, it gains a lot of attention as a possible early Christian hymn. It may be or not. The importance of the passage is not its genre, but the message, and whether or not Christians absorb or follow that message. That’s my sense of what Pope John Paul is attempting to communicate here. The message of the Eucharist is not primarily in the benefits received, but in the way people are inspired to take action, to do as Christ did, and to live out the sacrifice in their lives.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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