My Daughter: On the Sacrifice of the Mass

I hope readers of SCE would realise by now that I have a couple of budding theologians for daughters. My oldest daughter, Maddy, commented to me today that she finds it strange that at her school the existence of other Christian Churches and other religions is not acknowledged (she knows she is a Lutheran – and has a friend at school who is a Sikh).

Is that surprising for a Catholic school, I asked?

No, but they should still recognise it, she replied.

Well, I answered, one of the things we are doing at work at the moment is asking the question of how religious pluralism is tackled at a primary school level in our schools.

But she went on.

I know I am a Lutheran, she said, because I don’t think Holy Communion is a sacrifice.

Really? How so?

Well, I know that the body and blood is Jesus’ sacrifice, but it’s God’s sacrifice for us, not ours for him.

Oh. Who have you been talking to about this?

No one. You just said the other day when I asked that one of the differences between Catholics and Lutherans is that Catholics think Holy Communion is a sacrifice we offer to God and Lutherans don’t.

Our conversation then went on to why it was necessary for us to offer sacrifices to God.

Well, she said, that’s just our idea. God doesn’t want us killing any of his animals to give to him.

But it was his idea originally, wasn’t it, in the Old Testament? (she hadn’t thought of that). A sacrifice has to be made for our sin, but animals aren’t enough. Not even our life is enough to pay for anyone’s sins but our own. So what if God wanted to give us the perfect sacrifice for us to offer to him for our sin? Wouldn’t he have to become one of us to make that offering back to God?

She thought she would think about that a bit more.

Please do, I said. And keep doing exactly what you have been doing. Anything I tell you, you think about it and try to work it out for yourself whether it is right or wrong. You have to do that with anything I tell you, or anything anyone else tells you, Lutheran or Catholic or otherwise. That’s how you will learn what is right for you to believe.

So why did you become Catholic, Dad? asks daughter number two who has been eagerly listening.

Because I found that my beliefs were closer to the Christian beliefs of Catholics than the Christian beliefs of Lutherans, I answered.

Yeah, I’m not sure yet, was her reply. And number one said: At the moment, I think I am a “Catholutheran”.

Keep working at it, my darlings.

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “My Daughter: On the Sacrifice of the Mass

  1. Christine

    Ah, your daughters are indeed budding theologians! Good for them for thinking about these things!

    Perhaps a couple of minor points to be made here. First, Holy Communion isn’t the sacrifice, it is the fruit of the sacrifice but I can understand how that can be confusing to Lutherans.

    Your point about Christ’s sacrifice being the one, perfect and eternal sacrifice that fulfilled the signs of the OT is well made. I was having a conversation with a Baptist friend a few years ago and she commented that Catholics “re-sacrifice” Jesus again and again on their altars.

    Because of her nonsacramental background it was hard for her to grasp that the Holy Sacrifice that Jesus instituted at the Last Supper is, for Catholics the same sacrifice He offered once for all on the cross and that when that sacrifice is sacramentally “re-presented” at every Mass it is not a NEW sacrifice but the one and same sacrifice, the merits of which are efficacious until the coming of the Kingdom, and that it is the glorious, risen and eternally living Word we receive in Holy Communion, not a dead, lifeless Christ.

    I’m sure your daughters will grasp these nuances at some point. They are quick studies! At the same time, this is indeed one of the points of division in the Catholic/Lutheran understanding of the Mass.

  2. Past Elder

    For God’s sake let’s pray they stay Lutheran rather than fall for the Roman delusion that because it’s one sacrifice it’s MY sacrifice.

    She’s right. It’s his sacrifce for us, not ours for him. It’s his sacrifice. His. Period. All this junk about fruits and sacrifices is simply how his gift to use becomes perverted into something we do for him. It’s his sacrifice for us. It’s ours by faith, not by sacrifice, fruits or other Roman garbage.

  3. Past Elder

    To us, not to use. Sorry.

  4. Christine

    No, no, that’s not what I meant. Of course it’s HIS sacrifice for us. But that very sacrifice fulfills the OT sacrifices in a way that the blood of bulls and goats could not. That’s why the OT sacrifices had to be repeated daily and why the sacrifice of the New is the one, eternal sacrifice made present in time.

    The re-presentation, the amanesis, of the Holy Sacrifice in the Mass is what makes our Communion in the Body and Blood of Christ possible. Very much the new and eternal covenant that the Old foreshadowed.

    Still a vital point of divergence in Protestant and Catholic thinking.

  5. Christine

    And, by the way, as you well know that is not only a Roman “delusion” but one of the East as well — the common witness of the ancient and undivided Church.

  6. Christine

    Er, make that “anamnesis” — my keyboard has forgotten how to spell today.

  7. Past Elder

    Well, I still can’t get that “I know what you meant and I’ll do that instead of what you typed” feature to work that I know Vista has got to have in there somewhere to work. Now back into the ring:

    Who is saying Jesus’ sacrifice did not complete the OT sacrifices and in a once for all event? Who is saying Communion is not the Body and Blood of that one sacrifice?

    Flying Judas in the sanctuary, not me.

  8. Christine

    Okay, let’s try this. In Protestant thinking the events of Calvary are a one-time, finished event.

    In Catholic/Orthodox thinking, there is a holy exchange of gifts in the Mass/Divine Liturgy. The gifts of bread and wine, the result of human labor are offered to the Father and given back to us as the Body and Blood of Christ.

    Yes, we are forgiven sinners because of Calvary but we are still sinners coming into the presence of an all-holy God. It is the “re-presentation” of the one Sacrifice of Calvary, which in Catholic/Orthodox belief is the same sacrifice made present on the altar that gives us access to the Father and brings forgiveness of sins in every generation, a natural succession to the OT priesthood which was abolished with the destruction of the Temple. Christ, the true and eternal High Priest (in the line of Melchizedek who offered bread and wine) continues to plead the merits of His sacrifice at every Mass/Divine Liturgy until the end of time.

    Without the Sacrifice, no Communion.

    That is not exactly what happens in a Protestant Communion Service (and here I am thinking of the more “free church” traditions).

  9. William Weedon

    To repeat myself (or actually to repeat Dr. Stuckwisch), Lutherans of course acknowledge that the Eucharist is a sacrifice – noun. “May Thy body, Lord, born of Mary, that our sins and sorrows did carry, and Thy blood for us plead in all trial, fear, and need.”

  10. Schütz

    Christine: Thanks for batting! (A cricket term here in Oz for having a go on our behalf). Remember that in Lutheranish “Holy Communion” = “Mass” and you will probably get why we used that terminology in our conversation.

    PE, You said: “She’s right. It’s his sacrifce for us, not ours for him. It’s his sacrifice. His. Period.”

    BUT, PE, me ol’ mate, he wasn’t sacrificing to himself. The human Son of God made flesh offered the Sacrifice to his Father on behalf of humanity. Now when something is offered on behalf of a person, it is truly that person’s offering, though it is offered by another as a gift. What I said to the girls holds: it IS our sacrifice – the only sacrifice we CAN offer – because God gave it to us as his own self-offering on our behalf. It is not “something we do for him”, but something we offer him.

    The best example I could use is when the girls go to church and want to give something into the offering. They don’t have any money, so I give them a few coins for them to put in the offering bowl. Question: is it their offering or mine?

    Pastor William: Yes, it is a noun, but the very concept of the noun is built on a verb. A “sacrifice” is something which “is sacrificed”, an “offering” is something which “is offered”. So is it really possible to acknowledge the noun without the verb behind it?

    In any case, I think you Lutherans do acknowledge the verb – you say that God offered Christ’s body and blood as a sacrifice for us.

    Catholics do not disagree – but we do work the meaning of that statement out a little more. To whom was he offering it? Not to us, since God has no need to make sacrifice for sin to us. Rather, he gave to Christ a body which he could offer to the Father as a victim back on our behalf (cf. Heb 10:5).

    Thus:

    1) the victim for the sacrifice is a gift to humanity from God
    2) Christ, “The Man”, offered the sacrifice of his body and blood to God on behalf of humanity in propitiation for all sin
    3) The body and blood on the altar at Holy Mass is the same sacrifice
    4) Christ continues to plead the sacrifice of his body and blood before God in the sanctuary of heaven
    5) Since that sacrifice which he pleads in heaven and which is present before us on the altar is the same sacrifice he offered to God on our behalf, and since when a gift is offered to a person that person then has ownership of it, we can truly call the sacrifice on the altar “our” sacrifice.

    To repeat myself in another way:

    To say that the Sacrifice (noun) is God’s gift to us does not mean (as my daughter originally put it and as PE agreed) that God offered the sacrifice TO US. All sacrifice and worship is to be offered by creatures to God (not God to God or God to creatures or creatures to creatures). Therefore if the sacrifice is a true sacrifice, it must be offered by us to God. Since we do not have a sacrifice able to cover our sin, God – in full freedom and total grace – provided a sacrifice for us.

    It is exactly like the story of Abraham in the OT: was the ram caught in the thicket, which Abraham offered to God instead of his own son, a noun or a verb? Was it God’s gift to Abraham or Abraham’s offering to God? Surely it was both?

    This holds true for the holy sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ also.

  11. Joshua

    So far as I can see, the issue is this: did Christ hand over His sacrifice to His disciples to do (offer) in memory of Him, or did He only hand over to them Himself as present in the Sacrament? Did God so decree that the Holy Communion be not just the reception of the Real Presence for our deification, but also to be Christ’s one Sacrifice given to the Church so that the Church by His power could offer that one Sacrifice?

    PW and PE will argue that Scripture doesn’t say so in so many words, and that this shews it to be an unwarrantable Roman corruption. But I and David, etc., will argue that all the evidence from the Didache* onwards is that the undivided Chruch of the first millennium was very clear about offering up this sacrifice in the most unabashed tones, and we take the view that the Church has continuity, not discontinuity.

    *14:1 But every Lord’s day do ye gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. 2 But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. 3 For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations.

  12. Schütz

    Actually, Josh, you give the scriptural support (we can’t really be so bold as to say “proof”) for our argument in your first sentence. Christ did not only say to the apostles “Eat and Drink this”, but “Do this”.

    Lutherans and Catholics would agree that the “do this” refers not just to the eating and the drinking, but to the entire action of taking, blessing, breaking and giving.

    Hence the inference is fairly clear: Do what I do. I offer my body and blood. I give this to you now for you to do the same.

  13. William Weedon

    We don’t want to miss the OT background whereby the sacrifice (which is always first of all God’s gift to man whereby man can stand before the holy God and not be destroyed) runs in both directions simultaneously: the gift of man to God (which was first a gift of God to man), and then from God the gift of man to God made anew the gift of God to man.

    God gives wheat and grapes. Man offers (at God’s command) bread and win. God offers (with His promise) body and blood – Calvary’s sacrifice. It’s always a W, not an M. It starts with God’s giving and each time He ups the ante, until we are blown away and left only with thanksgiving as our sacrifice to give.

  14. Past Elder

    I’m going to leave the Akedah alone. Any decent rabbi can demonstrate from it that something like either Communion or a sacrifice on a cross is precisely what God DOESN’T want and would hardly do himself.

    What does the New Testament call the new testament? What is a testament? That’s the whole deal here. A testator about to die is leaving an inheritance to his heirs. Then, just like the apostles, we fall into a dispute about who is the greatest — is this ours, is it his, is it ours and his, where do we fit in, mostly, me, me, tell me about me.

    He is the priest. He is the victim. It is ours by faith. That is why he has Lamentations, we have Thanksgiving.

    We do not need any mystery cult Roman state religion about priests and sacrifices to clear this up.

    Just as I am, without one plea,
    Except Thy blood was shed for me.

  15. Schütz

    Well, yes and no, William. Yes, I can run with your W rather than M analogy. No Catholic theologian would say otherwise.

    However, to say that we are left “only with thanksgiving as our sacrifice to give” is to finally end only with a / rather than the full W. There are two /s in W, just as there are two \s. We need to take the whole “W” into the picture and call it what it is. Both God’s gift to us and our offering to him. The sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood AND thanksgiving. That’s what the Eucharist has always been recognised to be.

  16. William Weedon

    No, the full W works this way (at least in my mind):

    God gives grain and grapes
    We give Him bread and wine
    He gives us body and blood – in the fullest sense His very self
    We give Him thanks and praise and our very selves in lives of service to Him and the neighbor.

    The last part of the W is how He shoos out out into the world to LIVE the sacrifice we have received and been united to as our life.

  17. William Weedon

    David,

    Thought you’d appreciate this as well. This is from Dr. Piepkorn’s *The Church*:

    When we celebrate the Holy Eucharist in remembrance of Christ’s saving death, we are in effect saying:

    “No offering that we could bring could possibly reconcile us to Thee, our God. All that we can plead is the work of Thy Son, His perfect obedience in all that He did and all that He suffered, His Body nailed to the Cross for us, His Blood poured out for the forgiveness of our sins. As by the mystery of the Sacramental Union Thou hast made His true Body and Blood present for us in this Bread and in this Cup, for us Christians to eat and to drink, so, we beseech Thee, let it be present in Thy sight also as the price of our redemption. Let it remind Thee that Thou hast forgiven mankind in the reconciliation which Thou hast wrought in Thy Son. Before Thee we appeal to no virtue, no righteousness of our own, but only to the alien righteousness of Thy Suffering Servant and Son, our true Paschal Lamb, which was offered for us and has taken away the sins of the world, Who by His death has destroyed death, and by His rising to life again has restored to us everlasting life.”

    [The Church, p. 241]

  18. Schütz

    Well that is very close to the Catholic doctrine, Pastor Weedon. Close, but no cigar.

    Regarding the final / of the W, the church has never separated (until the Reformation) the “thanks and praise and offering of our very selves” from the gift of the Body and Blood. The giving of the gift is a part of the same liturgical action as the offering of the sacrifice of thanks and praise. Also, we eat and drink the gift, thus assimilating it to ourselves SO THAT our very bodies can be an offering to God. Finally, the gift that is offered to us (the Body and Blood) are not “alien” to humanity, but are precisely HUMAN body and blood, ie. One with Us.

    In Piepkorn’s statement: “No offering that we could bring could possibly reconcile us to Thee”: True. EXCEPT: that which thou givest to us. Which is more or less what he says when he says that we “plead the work of Thy Son”. The thing is, like your statement in the former combox, he sees this as an offering “alien” to us. Catholic doctrine says that it is NOT alien to us, because of the humanity of Christ and our communion in that righteousness which comes through this divine gift of God’s human body and blood.