Understanding Our Church

A Treasury of Arkansas Writers Discussing the Catholic Faith

Our need to be close to God is completed in intimacy of Eucharist

Published: October 18, 2003

By Father Andrew Smith

In Latin the words sacra (holy) and facere (to make) form the basis for the English contraction into the word sacrifice, a word that denotes “to make holy” more than it denotes destruction or annihilation. So, the irrevocable dedication of his risen and spirit-filled humanity (and we are composite, organic elements of that humanity through our baptism and confirmation) to the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit is the holy sacrifice (the making us holy) of Jesus Christ.

It is this we call the holy sacrifice of the Mass. “Hence the Mass, the Lord’s Supper, is at the same time and inseparably: a sacrifice in which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated; a memorial of the Lord’s death and resurrection … a sacred banquet in which through the communion of the Lord’s body and blood, the people of God share the benefits of the paschal sacrifice … and in faith and hope foreshadow and anticipate the eschatological banquet in the Father’s kingdom, proclaiming the Lord’s death until his coming.” (Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery, May 25, 1967 #3)

It is the Holy Spirit who assembles and unites us. The Spirit unites us into the assembly, the ecclesia, crying out within us: “Abba, Father,” and melding us into that common whole communion that is the holy communion of Christ. Thus, the sacrifice of Christ we call the Mass is the atonement which makes us whole again with God the Father.

So the Mass is called the holy sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and in it we give thanks and humbly submit ourselves to God’s word and God’s spirit in order to be transformed, in order that Christ’s inner attitude might become our attitude. (Phil 2:1-18) The effect of Christ’s sacrifice is that he gives us, by joining ourselves into his humanity, the power to overcome all that alienates and estranges us from each other and from God.

Separated, segregated, fractured and divided we stand in desperate need of a savior in order to pass over our spiritual death into the life of his spirit. Sin brings with it death. Christ in his sacrifice brings us the chance and the power to restore us to life, his risen life. All of this Christ freely chose. He freely chose to become humanity victimized.

He then “hands over his spirit” from the cross. In making that human choice, God our Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit, causes Christ to become the kyrios in the resurrection. The life of his spirit is incarnated into his mystical body and he is made present to us and to our world through his sacraments.

For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him.” (John 6) The encounter could hardly be more human, more personal and more intimate. It is God’s answer to our quest. God comes to us in our need and our want to be close to him. He gives himself to us in the Eucharist. The eucharistic liturgy is the core act of the Church. Each celebration of the Mass is our entering once again into this one, continual saving act of Christ, returning all of creation back to the Father.