Monday, March 29, 2010

Does the Eucharist Re-Sacrifice Christ?

Tonight is Passover, so it seems like an appropriate time to address a common misunderstanding about the Eucharist. In one of CARM's arguments against Catholicism, they ask:
Roman Catholics are quick to say that the Eucharist is not a re-sacrifice of Christ. They want to make it clear that Christ was offered once for all and that the Mass is not a re-sacrifice but a "re-presentation" of the sacrifice. We certainly do not want to misrepresent Roman Catholic theology, but we must ask how it is possible for the Mass to not be a re-sacrifice of Christ when the Mass is called a divine sacrifice (CCC, 1068) that is done over and over again. We are told that "the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice"; (CCC, 1367); that it is an unbloody offering that is proptiatory, (CCC, 1367); that it can make reparation of sins, (CCC, 1414); and is to be considered a true and proper sacrifice (The Catholic Encyclopedia, topic: "Sacrifice of the Mass"). We must conclude that it is a sacrifice that occurs over and over again and since it is said to be a true and proper sacrifice that is propitiatory, then logically it must be a re-sacrifice of Christ. If it is not, then how can it be called a sacrifice of Christ? Also, how could it be propitiatory if it is not a sacrifice of Christ since it is Christ's offering on the cross that is itself propitiatory?

That's a legitimate question, and the stakes are important. If the Eucharist is a re-Sacrifice of Christ, It's illegitimate, because Christ was slain "once for all" (Heb. 7:26-27). The answer is foreshadowed in the Passover. The Passover consists of three distinct parts:
  • the slaying of the lamb (Exodus 12:5-6)
  • the covering of the doorposts in blood (Exodus 12:7)
  • the eating of the lamb (Exodus 12:8-10)

This foreshadowed Christ's Passion. The Slaying of the Lamb of God occurred once for all time at the Crucifixition. Covering ourselves in His Blood occurs most directly at Baptism, which is itself a one-time event. Yet the eating of the Lamb is something which we can do time and time again. Think about it: a Jew celebrating Passover could go for a second helping of the Lamb (and was in some cases required to, since it had to be eaten that day). But this second eating didn't mean a second sacrifice: they didn't have to re-kill or re-sacrifice (or even re-mark the doorposts) to consume the lamb. That's what it means when the Catechism says "the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice." That's also why the Eucharist is termed the "unbloody Sacrifice," because the bloodshed was in the slaying of the Lamb, not the eating.

The Eucharist is therefore a vital part of the finished work of the Cross: specifically, it's the application of that work. This sounds, at first, foreign to most Protestants, but I don't think it is. Many Protestants can point to the day -even the hour- and the exact circumstances in which they got saved. But it was a point in their lifetime. Nobody says, "I got saved in c. 32 A.D., when Jesus died on the Cross." Certainly, it's because of that past one-time event that they're able to get saved, but they got saved when they were justified by faith through Grace, and that Blood was applied to them. His Blood was shed in c. 32, but it was applied to their doorposts (figuratively speaking) when they turned their life over to Christ.

So Protestants, like Catholics recognize a distinction between the shedding of Blood and the application of that shed Blood. This is also how non-Calvinists (and even some Calvinists) can reject the notion of limited atonement: the idea that Christ only died for certain folks. We say in response that His Blood is sufficient to cover everyone, and that "God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). His Blood is shed out of Love for "the world," but only saves those it's applied to, that is, "whoever believes in Him."

Later today, I plan to post on the "Four Cups" of the Passover, an idea which Scott Hahn has explored in depth quite well, which also deals with the connection between the Passover, Last Supper, and Passion of Christ.

6 comments:

  1. The problem with CARM's argument seems to be a misunderstanding of the teaching on transubstantiation. The Eucharist is not a created substance. The Eucharist is body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus. This means the Eucharist is divine substance which is uncreated and to say we re-sacrifice (sacrifice again) the only God the Son ever in existence in the Eucharist implies we reincarnate God the Son or re-create God the Son. Since God the Son was not created, is not created, and never shall be created, we do not speak as though we re-create God and then re-sacrifice God. If you imply reincarnation, when you say to resacrifice (sacrifice again implies reincarnation since you must sacrifice a body in a corporeal world), the argument that we resacrifice still doesn't hold, because Christ is resurrected, meaning his soul was rejoined to his body after his death (wherein his soul separated from his body for 3 days). Since Christ only has one body, he cannot be reincarnated into a different one and therefore, Christ cannot be re-sacrificed in the Eucharist, and the sacrifice is His only Body and Blood. Therefore, it follows that the Holy Sacrifice of Mass is the same sacrifice of God the Son on Calvary and this celebration is making present or re-presenting in our time something Eternal (outside time), i.e. God the Son sacrificing His life on the cross. Going further out on a limb since I've gone to the edge of Greenbow County, Christ being the High priest, i.e. having valid orders in the sense that we think of it, can consecrate a Eucharist. Now, at the last supper since Jesus says the words of Institution, and also because God is not a liar, and God says, "This is my body which WILL be given up for you." and similarly with the cup of wine, God the Son makes present in the past that eternal sacrifice which temporally speaking would happen the next day. I don't even know why I thought about that, but it just seemed cool.
    In Christ,
    Ryan
    PS, if I ever say anything heretical, I'm wrong, not the Church.

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  2. I just thought about it even more and CARM might be begging the question with this resacrifice so they can say, see, this 'disproves' transubstantiation. From what I have read (not much), transubstantiation is a revelation http://www.newadvent.org/summa/4075.htm, I'm not sure it is provable except if we trust Jesus' words. St. Thomas's proofs of transubstation are from the perfection in the new covenant in relation to the old, but they are still based on revelation. If CARM does not accept the revelation, why even speak of re-sacrifice, other than to try and disprove a Divine Command, which I'm not at this point attributing to malice, I'll just say it may be hopefully vincible ignorance.

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  3. If the Mass were truly propitiatory, you would only have to attend once in your life, not every week, since the merits Jesus obtained on the cross for us are infinite.

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  4. Honeycom,

    By your logic, why would we even need to go once? Of course the merits are infinite, but that doesn't mean that their application prevents future sins.

    Are you of the mindset that since Christ's Sacrifice is eternal, we just need to believe once, for an instance, and then be saved, regardless of all subsequent actions? Because if you're assuming that Once Saved, Always Saved is true, I'd love to have that debate. Simon the Magus in Acts 8 is described as someone who believes and is baptized, but then falls into mortal sin (simony) which threatens his salvation - at the end, Peter's made it clear that Simon may well be going to Hell. And 2 Peter 2 specifically addresses the possibility that some who are ransomed by Christ will turn away from Him and return to the filth of their former ways.

    In other words, your intellectual theorizing about how Christ's infinite Sacrifice ought to work is clearly and absolutely rebutted by the evidence in Scripture for how it actually does work. Christ's infinite merits don't stop up from sinning, and don't stop us from falling away.

    Further, Christ tells us to pray for our Daily Bread, and the term used is a neologism that Jerome translated as both "Daily Bread" and "Supersubstantial Bread." It is, in other words, the Eucharist, the Bread Come Down From Heaven. For this reason, both the weekly Sabbath and the daily Manna are foreshadowing.

    But the Sacrifice of the Mass is something related to, but distinct from, Christ's once for all Sacrifice on the Cross. At the Mass, we offer up Sacrifice to God, and cover ourselves in the Blood of Christ. The first part (our offering up constant sacrifices of ourselves in worship) is totally in keeping with the model laid out in Romans 12:1, Hebrews 13:16, 1 Peter 2:5, etc. The second part is as I explained in this post: not a re-Sacrifice of Christ, but a re-application of the once for all Sacrifice of Christ. That Sacrifice is applied every time someone turns to Christ, and His Merits are credited to us as righteousness through faith.

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  5. Why would the Lord of the Universe turn Himself into a piece of bread so His followers believe they are consuming His body, blood,soul and divinity? Jesus did not change the substance as at Cana, and He did not say "touto gignetai" meaning this is turned into or has become, but "touto esti" meaning this represents or stands for. In Matt.26:29 He said ,"I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine...until my Father's kingdom." Let's take Jesus at His word. He offered one perfect sacrifice for all time that does not need to be "re-presented" thousands of times every day on Catholic altars around the world.

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  6. Honeycom,

    Let's take Jesus at His word, I agree. I respond to your four points here:
    http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2010/12/taking-jesus-at-his-word-in-eucharist.html

    I look forward to your response. In Christ,

    Joe.

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