THE SACRIFICE OF THE MASS
For every high-priest taken from among men is ordained for men in the things that appertain to God, that he may offer up gifts and sacrifices for sins-(Heb. v. 1). The priest, then, is placed by God in the Church in order to offer sacrifice. This office is peculiar to the priests of the Law of grace, to whom has been given the power of offering the great Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of the Son of God-a Sacrifice sublime and perfect in comparison with the ancient sacrifices, the entire perfection of which consisted in being the shadow and figure of our Sacrifice. They were sacrifices of calves and oxen, but the Sacrifice of the Mass is the Sacrifice of the eternal Word made Man. Of themselves they had no efficacy, and were therefore called by St. Paul weak and needy elements (Gal. iv. 9). But the Mass has power to obtain the remission of temporal penalties due to sins, and to procure an increase of grace, and more abundant helps for those in whose behalf it is offered.
Jesus Christ performed no action on earth greater than the celebration of Mass. In a word, of all actions that can be performed, the Mass is the most holy and dear to God, as well on account of the oblation presented to God, that is, Jesus Christ, a Victim of infinite dignity, as on account of the first Offerer, Jesus Christ, Who offers Himself on the altar by the hands of the priest. “The same now making the offering,” says the Council of Trent, “by the ministry of priests, who then offered Himself on the Cross.” St. John Chrysostom said: “When you see a priest offering, do not believe that this is done by the hand of a priest; the offering is made rather by the hand of God invisibly stretched out.”
All the honours that the Angels by their homage, and men by their virtues, penances, and martyrdoms, and other holy work, have ever given to God, could not give Him as much glory as a single Mass. For all the honours of creatures are finite honours, but the honour given to God in the Sacrifice of the altar, because it proceeds from a Divine Person, is an infinite honour. Hence we must confess that of all actions the Mass, as the Council of Trent says, is the most holy and divine: “We must needs confess that no other work can be performed by the faithful so holy and divine as this tremendous Mystery itself.” It is, then, as we have seen, an action the most holy and dear to God-an action that appeases most efficaciously the anger of God against sinners, that beats down most effectually the powers of hell, that brings to men, on earth the greatest benefits, and that affords to the souls in Purgatory the greatest relief. It is, in fine, an action in which, as St. Udo, Abbot of Cluny, has written, consists the entire salvation of the world: “Of all the favours granted to me, this is the greatest: it is truly by the most generous ardour of His love that God instituted this mystery, without which there would be no salvation in this world.” And, speaking of the Mass, Timothy of Jerusalem said that by it the world is preserved. But for the Mass the earth should have long since perished on account of the sins of men.