The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
ďA Renewal of the Bloody Sacrifice on the Cross - Good Friday"
By Rev. J. Fuhlrott
"It is consummated." - John xix. 30.
The holy sacrifice of the Mass, which, during this holy season of Lent, we have considered as the only perfect sacrifice of the new law, is the perpetual renewal of the bloody sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross, upon which we will meditate today. Jesus Christ Himself was the high priest of this tremendous sacrifice, for He, the only begotten Son of God, offered Himself up of His own free will to the heavenly Father; He Himself was the oblation, because He let Himself be put to death for the sins of men like a true Paschal lamb, to propitiate the wrath of the heavenly Father for the sins of men, as foretold of Him by the Prophet Isaias: "He was offered because it was his own will, and was reputed with the wicked, and he hath born the sins of many." (Is. liii. 7, 12) And as the Apostle Paul says: "Him, that knew no sin, for us he hath made sin, that we might be made the justice of God in him" (II. Cor. v. 21) So, then, after those last words which the dying Redeemer spoke upon the cross, "It is consummated," this great work was accomplished, which could only take place through the cooperation of the justice and mercy of God, as the Psalmist so beautifully expresses it: "Mercy and truth have met each other; justice and peace have kissed." (Ps. lxxxiv. II.) Let us consider to-day the sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross:
I - As a
sacrifice of divine justice.
II - As a sacrifice of divine mercy.
The revolt of mankind against God created such a chasm between God and man that a reunion was not to be thought of; God was so greatly offended and angered by man's disobedience and revolt that it seemed impossible to expect forgiveness and atonement. If a reunion was to be made possible, then, first of all, that chasm must be bridged over, if we could conceive of an atonement and forgiveness on the part of God, then such satisfaction must be made for mankind as would appear all-sufficient in the eyes of the eternal God. This was only possible if God Himself should make satisfaction, for God alone can make atonement to the offended God. Therefore, the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, offered Himself as a sacrifice of expiation to the divine justice, and so that His sacrifice should be valid for us He took upon Himself our human nature. As true God, He could make an infinitely worthy satisfaction, and as true man He could apply to us men the full value of His satisfaction.
Come, my soul, and let us contemplate the Lamb of God, the only begotten Son of God, laden with the sins of mankind, Himself innocent and sinless, but appearing as culprit before the offended Father. What does the justice of God require of Him? Who can describe all the sorrows and sufferings of body and soul which the Father permitted to overwhelm the Son? He was delivered up to His bitterest enemies, and they exercised their malice upon Him, and heaped upon Him every conceivable suffering, ignominy, and ill-treatment. (Matt. xxvi.; Mark xiv; John xviii. 19: Luke xxiii). Betrayed by one of His own disciples, denied by the Faithful Peter, forsaken by all His disciples, He was condemned to the most disgraceful death, and nailed to the cross between two thieves. The only begotten Son of God hangs there between heaven and earth, His whole body wounded and bruised, His blood streaming from the gaping wounds made by the nails in His hands and feet, mocked at and derided by the gazing multitude, calumniated by those whom He taught so lovingly, to whom He showed so many kindnesses. He suffers such agony, and feels Himself so forsaken and disconsolate, that He cries aloud: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Behold, is this the well-beloved Son in whom the Father was well pleased, whom He now permits to suffer such misery, such distress? Yes, indeed; it is the same well-beloved Son, but this well-beloved Son has taken upon Himself the sins of men, and infinite justice, whose sacrifice He has become of His own free will, requires with inexorable severity complete expiation of the guilt, full satisfaction. This awful justice will not be propitiated until the spotless Paschal lamb is slaughtered, not until the beloved Son has shed the very last drop of His blood, and, dying, cries out: "It is consummated." Yes, now is accomplished the great work of Redemption and of man's deliverance; now is the most complete satisfaction accomplished; now the severe justice of God is appeased; now are the chains burst asunder which held the entire human race in bondage; now the gates of heaven are opened again. The Son of God has sacrificed Himself; men have again become the children of God; the debt is paid; the punishment is remitted.
O my brethren, how must sin appear to the eyes of God, to require such a sacrifice! Truly it must then be "a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Heb. x. 31). Holy Writ teaches us, that "if God spared not the angels that sinned: but delivered them, drawn down by infernal ropes to the lower hell, unto torments, to be reserved unto judgment" (II. Peter ii. 4), how would the justice of God have visited us and punished us, for it "spared not even his own Son" (Rom. viii. 32), who took upon Himself our sins!
Who is not overwhelmed with fear and anxiety by the consideration of these truths, of the inexorable severity, of the infinite justice of God? Who would not wish to curse sin under the cross of the dying Redeemer, and to swear an undying hatred to everything sinful, and to all things which lead to sin? Who would hesitate for a moment, if burdened with a grievous sin, to partake of the graces of redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross by a sincere confession and repentance? Let us to-day, may dear brethren, unite the most sincere repentance for our sins with the most fervent gratitude to our Redeemer, that He has offered Himself as a sacrifice of justice, and let us acknowledge and confess that if Christ had not died for us upon the cross we should have been delivered over for all eternity to the wrath and chastisements of the just God.
What was it then that could have moved the only begotten Son of God to give Himself as a sacrifice of expiation for mankind? What could have induced Him to take our guilt upon Himself? Did we, perhaps, ever do anything to merit that the Son of God should take pity upon us? Oh, no; nothing of the kind. What could have moved the heavenly Father to accept the sacrifice offered by His only begotten Son, to permit such misery and punishment to overwhelm His beloved Son, and what caused Him to accept the satisfaction of His Son as sufficient for us? Ah, dear brethren, we can find no other motive on the part of the Father, or on that of the son, than the boundless mercy of God, as the Apostle Paul teaches us: "Not by the works of justice which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us." (Titus iii. 5). And we must therefore, with the Apostle Peter, cry out with grateful hearts: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who, according to His great mercy, hath regenerated us unto a lively hope" (I. Peter i. 3). Jesus Christ therefore has become for our sakes the sacrifice of mercy. He loved us, and "gave himself for our sins." (Gal. i. 4). Jesus Christ loved us, and therefore He could not see us go to perdition in our sins; He loved us, and therefore He could not behold His heavenly Father angry with us; He loved us, therefore He could not behold us deprived of he blessedness of heaven; He loved us, therefore He o not behold us children of the devil, that we should remain the victims of God's wrath; He loved us, therefore He humbled Himself, that thereby we might be exalted as the children of God; He loved us, therefore He died for us, so that we might receive eternal life and not die an everlasting death; He loved us, therefore He allowed Himself to be bound and fastened to the cross, that we might be liberated from the chains of sins.
Now we can understand, my brethren, why He prayed so fervently to His Father upon the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke xxiii. 34). His infinite love for us brought forth his prayer. Now we can understand His burning thirst (John xix. 28), for this exterior thirst was only a sign of His infinitely greater thirst, of the insatiable longing for our salvation, for the saving of our souls. Now we can understand the infinite value of this present which He gave to us from the cross, when He assigned His beloved Mother to His favorite disciple, and in him to us all; we were confided and recommended to her motherly love and intercession. Now we can understand why He so readily forgave the penitent thief who was crucified with Him, and promised him: "This day thou shalt be with me in paradise." (Luke xxiii, 43). It is His mercy His boundless love for sinners, which causes Him to forget His own sufferings, if He can only make them happy. Behold, dear brethren, thus has Christ upon the cross become the most perfect sacrifice of justice, and the most touching sacrifice of mercy. Now we understand the salutation which we so often hear at this time: "O crux, ave, spes unica!" "Hail, cross, our only hope!" Now it is explained to us how the cross, which meant shame to the heathens and a scandal to the Jews, has gained such distinction that the highest dignitaries of Church and worldly powers are proud to adorn their breasts with it; that the cross adorns the crowns and castles of kings and princes. Now we understand why the devil so fears the cross, and that with this sign man can parry the assaults of satan as he can drive away a vicious dog with a stick. The cross is the throne of grace; it has become the throne of God's mercy; therefore this sign has become so glorious, for this reason it is the fear of the evil spirits, it is the consolation and the joy of all pious persons. Wherever Christians dwell, the cross, which is the pledge of the remembrance of the justice and mercy of God is the principal decoration of man's habitations; it adorns churches and chapels. The cross is the throne of the mercy and justice of God; it is therefore the dearest and most consoling article which we can place in the hand of the dying, those called to appear before the judgment seat of divine justice, when there is no other consolation, no other hope than in the boundless mercy of God. The cross is the throne of the mercy and justice of God; for this reason it is the most beautiful, the only worthy ornament of the Christian's last resting-place, for in the confidence of God's mercy the bodies of the departed lie awaiting the resurrection at the last day, to be reunited with their immortal souls, and then to enter unto the glory of heaven, which was merited for us by the Crucified One, by His sacrifice of justice and mercy.
Oh, my brethren, let us therefore venerate the holy cross. It is indeed the mark of honor of a true Christian. Woe unto those Christians who are ashamed of the cross! It is our weapon in the conflict with satan and every evil; woe unto those Christians who do not make use of the cross as a weapon; they will not gain the victory. The cross is our teacher; woe to those Christians who do not know how to learn from it. O let us honor the cross during our lives, that at the hour of our death, when it is put into our hands and pressed to our lips, it may not cause us fear, but that it may be our consolation and the pledge of propitiation of God's justice, and of His mercy obtained. Amen.