The Millennium and the Eucharist
by Father Paul A. Duffner, O.P.
The Church, founded by Christ, has not only endured for
2000 Years, but like the Mustard Seed in the Gospel (Matthew 13:31), has grown to cover the Whole World with its Branches; and like
the Leaven, put in a Measure of Flour, Quickening the Whole Mass of the Dough (Matthew 13:33), it has extended the
Kingdom of God, with its Life-giving Message, to all Parts of the World. Yet, this has not happened without Opposition-of the
Evil One, who established his
kingdom at the Fall of our First Parents, and
whose aim is our Eternal Damnation.
While both Satan and his kingdom were
Conquered by Christ, through His
Passion and Death, and their
Ultimate Defeat certain; yet, in the Providence of God,
he will be allowed to Test the Souls of Men until the
End-of-Time. For this reason, today, as with the First
Christians 2000 Years ago, growth in the
Divine Life of Grace, won for us by our Divine Savior, will not be attained
without a Price. It is by Sacrifice that we Share-in the
Fruits of Christ's Sacrifice. It
is by Obedience to His Word, handed-down by the
Church He Established, and by the Fervent-use of the means of Grace
He gave us, that we Share-in the Life-giving Fruits of
His Painful Obedience to the
Father. Such has been the History of the Followers of Christ for
Twenty (20) Centuries.
The Great Jubilee
For the Second Time, since the Birth of Christ, the
Church is Celebrating the Completion-of a Millennium of the
Christianization of the World. Yet, while this Past Century has
seen Outstanding Progress in the Fields of Scientific Research and Technology, it seems that the Church has
not been Equally Successful as to the Spread of the Message, Christ brought to the World. The
Forces of Evil have made better use of Modern Advances of Technology, than have the
Forces for Good; that is, they have been more effectively-used to spread the Spirit of the World,
than the Spirit and Message of Christ. Perhaps it has always been so, for
our Blessed Lord declared 2000 Years ago that
"the Children of this World are more Clever in their Own Sphere, than are the Children of Light" (Luke 16:8).
For this reason,
Pope John Paul II, on the occasion of this "Great Jubilee", has issued a Special Call for the Evangelization of those
who have not received the Good Tidings of the Gospel, and for
the Re-Evangelization of those who have received it, but because of Compromise with the
World, have not accepted it Wholly, or have Abandoned it Completely. This has caused
the Holy Father to declare that "the more the West is becoming estranged from its Christian Roots, the more it is becoming Mission
Having passed through Three (3) Years of Immediate Preparation for the Third
Millennium, One (1) Year dedicated to each of the Divine Persons of the
Trinity, the Focus of the Celebration of the Year 2000 will be on rendering
Glory to the Supreme Godhead of this Great Mystery.
From this Source, everything comes, and to it, every thing returns. But as the Holy Father explains, "since Christ is the only
way to the Father, in order to highlight His Living and Saving Presence in the Church, and in the World, the International Eucharistic Congress will take
place in Rome, on the occasion of the Great Jubilee. The Year 2000 will be intensely Eucharistic: in the Sacrament of the Eucharist the Savior, Who took
Flesh in Mary's Womb, Twenty Centuries ago, continues to Offer Himself to Humanity as the Source of Divine Life".
Christ in the Eucharist
during the Celebration of the Great Jubilee, the Church is asking us to focus our attention on the
Divine Source of all things, and the Ultimate End to which all
must return, and since, as the Holy Father points out, Christ is the only way to the
Father, as well as the Perfect Image of the
Father (John 14:9), a Special Emphasis will be placed on Honoring the
Father through the Eucharistic Presence of His
only-begotten Son. There are many ways in which we can Render Glory to
God by the fulfillment of His Will, but our concentration will be on seeking a better
Appreciation and Use-of Christ's Divine Gift of Himself, in the
Sacrament and Sacrifice of the Eucharist.
Christ, the Life of the Soul
Holy Communion Nourishes the Soul
The Ordinary/Natural Food we Eat
The Sacred Host we Eat in Holy Communion, causes Us to
True Love is a Unitive Force, and this is especially
True of Godís Love for us. In His Infinite Wisdom and
Love, He has established through the
Eucharist, a means of Union between the Human Soul and
Himself, so Intimate even in this Life, that we can never fully Understand or Appreciate it. It is a Union as close as that between
Truth and the Mind conceiving it, between
Goodness and the Will desiring it; for by means of this
Divine Food of the Eucharist, Christ Transforms the Soul
into the Likeness-of Himself, Who is
Infinite Truth, and Infinite Love. As the
Council of Trent explains: "Christ Willed that this Sacrament be received as the Spiritual Food of Souls, whereby may be Fed and
Strengthened, those who Live by His Life, Who said, 'He that eats Me, shall also live by Me'" (John 6:36).
It was not enough that He should become one of us, by Adopting our Human Nature, but
He devised a most Extraordinary Means of Union, in which He becomes our
Food, doing for the Soul what Ordinary Food does for the
Body. Unlike Ordinary Food, that is Transformed-into our own Flesh
and Blood, this Food causes us to be Transformed-into
Him, that is to say, to Share more-and-more in His
Divine Life, so that more-and-more we See as He Sees,
Will as He Wills, Love
as He Loves. Such a one can exclaim with Saint Paul: "The Life I live now is not my
own; Christ is Living in me. I still live my Human Life, but it is a Life of Faith in the Son of God, Who Loved me and gave Himself for me"
He, of Whom Saint John says: "All things were made through
Him" (John 1:13), the Maker and Fashioner of the
Entire Universe, has deigned to Conceal Himself under the
Appearance of Bread and Wine, in order to become our Spiritual Food, filling an Ongoing Need of the
Soul, with His Light
and Strength and Peace.
He comes to us in this Invisible Way, known only by the Light of Faith. While the
Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ is only Temporary, remaining only
until the Properties of the Bread and Wine disappear through the Natural Process of Digestion; there is a Deeper and Lasting Union with
Christ, by-means-of Grace, through our Incorporation into
His Mystical Body, of which He is the
Head, and we the Members. This Incorporation into the Body of Christ,
through which we Live by His Life, should Increase with each Reception of Holy
The Eucharistic Sacrifice
Saint Thomas explains that the Eucharist "is both a Sacrament and a Sacrifice; it has
the Nature of a SACRIFICE inasmuch as it is Offered up; and it has the Nature of a SACRAMENT inasmuch as it is Received" (III, 79, 50). We come
to Mass, therefore, not merely to Receive from the Father the
Word of God - both in the Liturgy of the Word, and as
Divine Food in the Liturgy of the Eucharist;
but we come to Offer-to the Father:
Divine Victim, Who is made Present by the
Words of Consecration, and Who Offers
Infinite Adoration, Thanksgiving and
Reparation to the Father through the
Renewal of the Oblation of Himself, made on
Offer ourselves in the Renewal of our Resolve to Surrender our Will to
In the Measure that our Resolve is Sincere, in that Measure we are United with the Divine High Priest and
Victim, Offering again to the Father along with
His Prayers - the Sufferings, and Wounds,
and Insults, and Rejection, and
Hatred, Endured-on our behalf. And we shall see that those Two (2) Aspects of the
Mass (Offering and Receiving) are Intimately connected. The Fruitfulness
of the Second depends on the Completeness of the First; that is,
on the Extent of our Union with Christ, and the Completeness of our Surrender to the
We can never Fully Appreciate the Greatness of the Gift we Receive in Holy
Communion, for that Divine Food is our Blessed Lord
Himself, Truly and Substantially present. Yet, from what we have just explained, it should be clear that the Extent that this
Eucharistic Meal enriches the Soul , depends in no small Measure
on the Extent that we are One with Christ in the Renewal of
His Sacrifice, for Holy Communion is the
Fruit of that Sacrifice. For that Reason, it is important to
understand the Sacrificial Aspect of the Mass, and our
Participation in that Sacrifice.
When Christ pronounced the
Words of Consecration over the Bread and Wine at the Last Supper, the Night before He
Died, He Endowed us with a
He made it possible for each of the Redeemed to Share in a
Unique Way, in the Fruits of His Redemptive Mission,
through this Sacramental Meal.
And Secondly, He provided the
Church with a Sacred Rite whereby, in Union with Him,
the Church could continue to Offer the Father the
Infinite Adoration and Praise
Rendered to Him during the Passion.
It would be a Rite which consists in the Renewal of the Offering,
Christ made of Himself on
Calvary for the Glory of the Father and the
Salvation of Mankind.
We are dealing here with a
Great Mystery. Yet, the Love and
Wisdom and Power of God has made possible this
Mystery of the Eucharist in which
Christ is Really and Truly present, and whereby in the Church there is made possible a Permanent
Sacrifice that is Identical in Substance with that of the Cross.
It is a Sacrifice that Transcends the Limits of Time and Space, so that the Offering of
Calvary can be Repeated until the End of Time, in the midst of the Church, for the
Salvation of Souls. Saint Thomas refers to this:
"We do not say that Christ is Daily Crucified or Killed (in the Mass), because both the Acts of the Jews and the Punishment of
Christ are Transitory. Yet, those things which carry with them Christ's relation to God the Father are said to be done Daily (in the Mass). These are:
to Offer, to Sacrifice, etc. On that account, the Victim is Perpetual, and was Offered once by Christ in this manner, that it might be Offered Daily
by His Members" (4 Sent. vii).
Various Protestant Religions do not accept the Sacrificial Aspect of the
Eucharist, for they say that the Sacrifice of Christ
that took place on Calvary, was All-sufficient; and it is by Faith
in that Unique and Perfect Sacrifice that we shall be Saved. To
say that the Mass is a Renewal of the
Sacrifice of Calvary, they claim, is to Detract-from the Efficacy of the
Lord's Passion and Death.
The Priest is an Instrument of Christ,
the One and Only High Priest
It was in response to this that the Council of Trent went to great length to Clarify and Reaffirm the Traditional Doctrine of the
Church, namely, that the Sacrifice of the Mass
is a Renewal of the Sacrifice of Calvary;
for in each Mass there is the same High Priest, the
same Divine Victim, and the same
Oblation of Himself for the same Purpose, the
Glory of the Father and the Salvation of
Souls. The main difference between the Two (2) is that on
Calvary, Christ Physically
Suffered in His Mortal Body and Shed
His Blood; but after His
Resurrection in His Glorified and
Immortal Body, He can neither
Suffer nor Die. As Saint Paul insists: "Christ, having Risen from the
Dead, Dies now, no more" (Romans 6:19). Yet, in the Mass, He
Renews the Outpouring of His Human Soul,
in Total Surrender to His Father's Will, on our behalf. Too, the Catholic
Church teaches that the Sacrifice of the Mass
does not add anything to what Christ did on Calvary,
but that it Applies-to font color="#FFFFFF">Souls, the Fruits of that
Sacrifice. And this it does in the Measure that One is United-with Christ
- Priest and Victim - in the Renewal
of that Immolation. Each Mass the World over bears
Fruit for every Member of the Mystical Body, in all parts of the World, insofar as one
is open to the Action of the Holy Spirit. We commented on this earlier:
"As the Heart continually pumps Life-sustaining Blood to all Members of the Human Body, so each Mass is like a Heart-beat,
sending Life-giving Grace of the Divine Head to all Members of the Mystical Body who do not place Obstacles in the Way of His Gifts"
Christ in Heaven, with His
Glorified Body, is the Christ Present-in the Eucharistic
Host, the Christ Who in the Mass
Renews the Offering of Himself to the
Father. We are dealing here with a Supernatural Reality made possible only by the
Power of God, and Known only by the Light of Faith;
consequently one must not try to Visualize it in terms of a Sacrifice in the Natural Order.
Father M.M. Philipon, O.P. gives the common Theological Explanation as follows:
"As the Real Shedding of the Blood of Redemption which Christ offered up, constitutes the Essence of the Sacrifice of the Cross,
so does the Rite of Double Consecration, which both Signifies and Effects the Sacramental Separation of the Body and Blood of Christ, constitute the Essence
of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which the Church, through her Priests, offers in the Name and Person of Christ . . . . On the Altar, therefore, the same
Sacrifice of Redemption is Substantially Perpetuated" (The Sacraments in the Life of the Church).
Living the Mass
Since the Mass is essentially the Renewal of
Christ's Sacrifice on Calvary, Living the
Mass throughout the Week means Living that Spirit of Sacrifice.
It requires a Willingness to make the Sacrifices required for
the Observance of God's Commandments, for the Fulfillment of the Duties of one's State-in-Life, and for the
Patient Bearing of the Crosses that God allows in Daily Life;
for as Saint Paul reminds us: "We must Suffer with Him, that we may be Glorified with Him" (Romans 8:17).
All this might be called the 'Remote Preparation' for our Participation-in the Sacrifice of the
Mass, which requires that Spirit of Self-giving that makes one more United with
Christ the Victim, Who at
Mass, Renews His total
Self Oblation to the Father.
If one were Negligent or Half-hearted in his/her efforts to Fulfill his/her Christian Duties throughout the
Week, he/she cannot expect to be Closely United with our Blessed Lord, Renewing
His Oblation to the Father.
In other words, the more Willingly we make the Sacrifices we are
called to make to Live our Christian Faith in Daily Life, the more we are Living the
Mass, and the more Fruitful will be our Participation-in the
Mass. The Prayers we offer at Mass to
prepare ourselves to be more Attentive to the Great Mystery at hand are important, but they will be rather
Shallow without the 'Remote Preparation' we have just described. All this is another of way of saying that there must be an abiding 'Interior'
Spirit of Sacrifice that corresponds to our 'Exterior' Participation in the
Mass, if that Participation is to bring Abundant Fruit. In this respect, Saint Thomas states
that "Christ's Passion has not its Effect in those who are not disposed toward it, as they should be" (III, 79, 2, ad 2).
The Mystical Body of Christ includes the Church Militant, Church Suffering, the Church Triumphant, and even God's Angels.
Christ, along with all Members of His Mystical Body, participate in each and every Sacrifice of the Mass.
Since we are One with Christ as Members of His Mystical Body,
all that He did as Head of that
Body, is ours to Offer to the Father. The Angelic Doctor assures us of this:
"The Head and Members are one Mystical Person, and therefore Christ's Satisfaction belongs to all the Faithful as His
Members (III, 48, 2, ad l) . . . . Baptized Person being a Member of Christ, shares in the Satisfactory Value of
Christ's Passion as if he himself had Undergone the Penalty" (III, 69, 2). This means that we can Offer-to the
Father, not merely all that we Suffer, all the
Sacrifices we make, all the Hardships we endure, but also all that
Christ Suffered - as our own; and this we can do again-and-again. So when we approach
God in Prayer, we never need to feel that we have little to Offer.
Consequently our Blessed Lord, through the Sacrifice of the
Eucharist, has placed in our hands the most Adequate Means of Offering to the
Father: Supreme Adoration, Thanksgiving, and
Reparation for our Sins and the
Sins of others, that is, of Filling-up what is Wanting in other Members of the
Mystical Body. And since Our Savior Offers our
Prayers along with His Own, our Petitions, Offered-up in the
Mass have a Special Efficacy, provided what we ask is in keeping with the Father's Will.
As we begin the Third Millennium since the Birth of Christ,
the Forces of Evil mentioned above seem to be at work more than ever before -
Deceiving so many. The Redeeming and Strengthening
Power of Christ - at work through the Eucharist - is Needed as
never before. Let this "Great Jubilee" Year become, as the Holy Father asked, an "intensely
Eucharistic Year", to set the Pace and Direction for those Years that follow. Ask the Help of the Mother
of Jesus, who was at the Foot of the
Cross for that First Mass, Offering
herself and her Dying
Son, for the same Redemptive Purpose as He. Ask
herto Assist with you at Mass, and help you to Surrender your
Will to God as she did,
no matter how Difficult.
For God gives Himself to us, especially in
Holy Communion, in the Measure that we give ourself to Him.