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Question

Good evening Father Angelo,
why is it that the sacrifice of Christ is renewed during Holy Mass?
Does this have a basis in the Bible?
In Hebrews we read that Christ sacrificed Himself once and for all.
Can you please explain this to me, Father?
Thank you, I will be anxiously waiting for your reply because when Protestants ask me about this I don’t know what to respond.


Priest’s answer

Dearest,
1. Christ’s sacrifice was celebrated once and for all and it has eternal value.
Saint Paul reminds us very clearly of this when he writes: “As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God.” (Rom 6:10).
In Hebrews this idea is remarked upon:
“He has no need, as did the high priests, to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did that once for all when he offered himself.” (Heb 9:27);
“He entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.” (Heb 9:12);
“But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice.” (Heb 9:26);
“So also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.” (Heb 9:28).

2. Therefore it is incorrect to say that during Mass Christ’s sacrifice is renewed. Saint Thomas uses a more accurate expressions and says that during Mass the sacrifice that Christ fulfilled on the Cross, and that He now fulfills in Heaven, is made present.
This is also the reason why Saint Leonard of Port Maurice rightly points out that Mass isn’t a copy of Christ’s sacrifice, but the original.

3. It is made present on the altar because Christ asked us to do so: “Do this in memory of me.” (Lk 22:19).
Christ doesn’t command us to repeat the sacrifice, but to repeat the gestures and the words that make present on the altar his sacrifice, celebrated once for all.
It commands us to do so “until He comes” (1 Cor 11:26), meaning until the end of the world.

4. He commands this not only so that the Christians who congregate in His name can offer it up to the Father together with Him in a spirit of adoration, gratitude, atonement and supplication, but also so that they can be nourished by it and transformed in Him in a single offering.

5. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit” (CCC 1366).

And it cites a text from the Council of Trent: “Christ, our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God the Father by his death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption. But because his priesthood was not to end with his death (Heb 7:24; Heb 7:27), at the Last Supper on the night when he was betrayed (1 Cor 11:23), he wanted to leave to his beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice (as the nature of man demands) by which the bloody sacrifice which he was to accomplish once for all on the cross would be re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world (1 Cor 11:23), and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit.” (CCC 1366).

6. It happens sometimes to hear that the Mass is the renewal of the sacrifice of the cross. But this expression is improper, or rather incorrect.
And it allows ill-prepared Protestants (the ones who are well-prepared know what the Catholic Church teaches) to claim that, according to Catholics, Mass is the renewal of the sacrifice of the cross.
But the Catholic Church teaches that, obeying Christ’s command, we repeat those gestures and words who make present among us His only and eternal sacrifice in order to apply its fruits to us more perceptibly.

In the hope that your interlocutors will understand and finally make use of the benefits of what the Lord commanded us to do, I wish you well, I recommend you to the Lord and bless you.
Father Angelo


Translated by Marta G.