Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Whose sacrifice?

In the 2002 Roman missal, the priest says:  Pray, brethren, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.  To this, the people respond:  May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good, and the good of all his Church.

This changed slightly in the 2006 translation to:  Priest: Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours
may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father
.  People:  May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.

The rubric for this (from the General Instruction) states: 

The Preparation of the Gifts
73. At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist the gifts which will become Christ’s Body and Blood are brought to the altar.
First of all, the altar or Lord’s table, which is the center of the whole Liturgy of the Eucharist,[69] is made ready when on it are placed the corporal, purificator, Missal, and chalice (unless this last is prepared at the credence table).
The offerings are then brought forward. It is a praiseworthy practice for the bread and wine to be presented by the faithful. They are then accepted at an appropriate place by the Priest or the Deacon to be carried to the altar. Even though the faithful no longer bring from their own possessions the bread and wine intended for the liturgy as was once the case, nevertheless the rite of carrying up the offerings still keeps its spiritual efficacy and significance.
Even money or other gifts for the poor or for the Church, brought by the faithful or collected in the church, are acceptable; given their purpose, they are to be put in a suitable place away from the Eucharistic table.
74. The procession bringing the gifts is accompanied by the Offertory Chant (cf. no. 37 b), which continues at least until the gifts have been placed on the altar. The norms on the manner of singing are the same as for the Entrance Chant (cf. no. 48). Singing may always accompany the rite at the Offertory, even when there is no procession with the gifts.
75. The bread and wine are placed on the altar by the Priest to the accompaniment of the prescribed formulas; the Priest may incense the gifts placed on the altar and then incense the cross and the altar itself, so as to signify the Church’s offering and prayer rising like incense in the sight of God. Next, the Priest, because of his sacred ministry, and the people, by reason of their baptismal dignity, may be incensed by the Deacon or by another minister.
76. Then the Priest washes his hands at the side of the altar, a rite in which the desire for interior purification finds expression.

The Prayer over the Offerings
77. Once the offerings have been placed on the altar and the accompanying rites completed, by means of the invitation to pray with the Priest and by means of the Prayer over the Offerings, the Preparation of the Gifts is concluded and preparation made for the Eucharistic Prayer.
At Mass, a single Prayer over the Offerings is said, and it ends with the shorter conclusion, that is: Through Christ our Lord. If, however, the Son is mentioned at the end of this prayer, the conclusion is: Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
The people, joining in this petition, make the prayer their own by means of the acclamation Amen.
For Lutherans this presents a problem.  If the sacrifice at the priest's hands is ONLY the sacrifice of the people's worship, thanksgiving, tithes, and offerings, then this sacrifice can be prayed for, namely, that God would accept this sacrifice through Christ our Lord.  

If the sacrifice at the priest's hands INCLUDES the bread and wine brought forward, as also gifts of the people in the offering, then it is possible to pray that the Lord would accept the bread and wine as part of the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving of His priestly people.  It is confusing at best and we would not use such language and liturgical actions that could possibly give the impression that we are praying the Lord to accept the sacrifice of Christ's body and blood.  

If the sacrifice at the priest's hands means the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving but INCLUDES offering of the unbloody sacrifice of Christ's body and blood in the Mass, then Lutherans hit a stop sign and cannot move forward from here.  Why would we need to pray that this sacrifice already received would be received again or anew?  What God has already accepted, He will not now reject so that prayer is not merely confusing but wrongheaded.  The only sacrifice about which there can be any doubt about the Lord receiving is the people's priestly offering of praise, thanksgiving, tithes, and offerings.  Here again, we have no doubt that offered in faith through Christ, God has already promised to receive the sacrificial worship of His people. 

The whole issue of Lutheran theology with respect to the Mass is the confusion of sacrificium with beneficium, sacrifice and sacrament.  This was not merely Luther's theoretical problem with the Mass but represents the crux of the liturgical issue faced by Luther and the Lutherans and it is this, along with the issue of justification by grace through faith, that provided the principles used for the excise of the canon.  What many Lutherans distinguish, however, is the issue raised above and the Eucharistic prayer itself.  It is my own conviction that the Eucharistic prayer does not automatically mix sacrificium and beneficium.  That is best determined by the language of the prayer.  This is certainly one issue relating to the issue of the Eucharistic prayer -- though not the only one.  Yet it does represent where the core issues of the Reformation remain in place even with a Roman Mass which has evolved much closer to the Lutheran ideal.  It also reminds us of the necessity, due to the principle of lex orandi lex credendi, to be extremely precise in the language of the liturgy which obscures the evangelical character of the sacramental gift in favor of an overt emphasis upon the sacrificial gift and its giver.  As Luther put it in the catechism, the defining words of the Sacrament of the Altar are in the words given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.

Just something to think about...



Chris Jones said...

Why would we need to pray that this sacrifice already received would be received again

I don't buy this argument that "we shouldn't pray for something God is sure to give (or has already given)." The Saviour himself commands us to pray "thy Kingdom come" when there is absolutely no doubt that the Kingdom will come, and shall have no end. He commands us to pray "give us this day our daily bread" when we know that his provision for us is unfailing. Prayer is not the expression of doubt whether God will give us the good things that we need, but precisely the expression of faith that he will do so. We pray to him for the good things that we need not because he needs to be reminded to give them to us, but because he has commanded us to do so.

So it is with the sacrifice of the Mass. Of course the sacrifice that delivers us from our sins was accomplished and completed on Calvary. And of course God the Father has accepted that sacrifice. And yet, in the Mass that sacrifice is made present for us, and its benefits are pleaded for us, and its fruits are delivered for us. The sacrifice is not simply something that happened thousands of years ago, and connected to us only in a notional or symbolic way. We who have been "baptized into his death" are intimately connected to his sacrifice. We do not sacrifice him again or anew, but the sacrifice is made present for us.

So when we pray that the sacrifice be accepted, it is not that we do not believe that it will be accepted nor that we do not know that it has been accepted, any more than we do not know or believe that his Kingdom shall come when we pray for that.

Janis Williams said...

Yes, but His kingdom WILL come; the sacrifice WAS made...

Unknown said...


You're well reasoned and correct description of what actually happens will never convince these Lutherans who fail to partake of the events of the Liturgy as happening now, when time, sacred time, ceases to be a linear progression from point a to point b when the fulness of the Kingdom is made real right now.

It is no different with the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom when, right before the Epiclesis, we "remember all those things that have come to pass to us: The Cross, the grave, the Third Day Resurrection, the Ascension into HEaven and the Second and Glorious Coming." Obviously, the second coming hasn't occurred yet, but we still regard it as something that has come to pass in the Divine Liturgy because we have been transported into the richness of the kingdom in its fulness.

In fact the Greek word for time in these instances is NOT χρονος, but is καιρον. And there is a difference.

Lutherans have a problem with this mysterious or mystical concept because it cannot be rationalized nor fit it into neat categories .

Chris Jones said...

Dear Unknown,

I appreciate your intention to agree with and support what I wrote, but I can't join you in your condemnation of "these dumb Lutherans" who (purportedly) can't escape their rationalism and "think mystically."

I've been a Lutheran for twenty years, and I don't know any of these rationalist Lutherans that you are talking about. The Lutherans I know are people who understand that the Christian faith and the Christian life means grappling with paradox, admitting the limitations of human reason in the face of the divine mysteries, and discerning the unseen realities that underlie our liturgical and sacramental life.

I wouldn't have written what I wrote on a Lutheran blog if I thought that none of us Lutherans could relate to it.

Dr.D said...

In the Mass, we offer a number of things as our sacrifice. This includes the money put into the collection plate, the altar candles that are burnt, the cut flowers on the altar, and the bread and wine that will be used to re-create the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for us today. We do not presume to make Christ's sacrifice; only He can do that. But we can provide the material elements, bread and wine, that He will use to become, in reality, His Body and His Blood. Our sacrifices are small indeed, but they contribute to the continuing sacrifice of Jesus Christ for us, for the salvation of our souls.

We do not simply re-enact the Last Supper, but rather we enter into it, as participants with the disciples, as Christ Himself says, "This is My Body... This is My Blood..." We become a part of the real event, the one, effective, and sufficient sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the sins of the whole world.

Fr. D+
Anglican Priest

David Gray said...

We do NOT "re-create the sacrifice of Jesus Christ." As Christ pointed out "It is finished." Period.

Anonymous said...

But of course: "in the Mass that sacrifice is made present for us, and its benefits are pleaded for us, and its fruits are delivered for us." Who is arguing against this?

The problem here is praying that "my sacrifice and yours" be acceptable; the sacrifice at your hands". As the words say: "Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours
may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father. People: May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands..."

We do not offer Christ to the Father or even the remembrance He has commanded us to make but He offers us to the Father in the remembrance which He has commanded us to make IN ADDITION to the fact that it is sacramental food and drink that imparts the blessing His words of institution describe.

The issue is who offers whom?! No?!

Unknown said...


You and I must have hung out with different Lutherans. :) But most of them cannot handle paradox and resort to extreme rationalization and categorization. I wonder how they still can condemn Thomism when that is exactly what they are doing.


In the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, it is clear that the sacrifice is one of praise, not an oblation like the one of the Jewish temple. I think the Roman Canon employs sacrifice the same way.

Secondly, if the priest acts in persona Christi, then Christ is both the offered and the offerer. And that cannot be condemned. The priest nor the people cannot do that on their own.


If we are baptized into Christ, we are baptized into everything He has done for us and participate in that, too. No one said anything about recreating. That's YOUR word. Re-present and re-create are not one and the same. Maybe in the universe where you live do disparate words have the same meaning, but not here. A recreation means you're starting from scratch to build a replica. A re-presentation is a wholly mystical participation in what Christ has done. If it's not a re-presentation, then the Eucharist becomes a mere remembrance (like the Calvinists believe).

David Gray said...

"No one said anything about recreating. That's YOUR word. "


Check out the Dr. D fellow immediately preceding my comment. They aren't my words at all. That's why I put them in quotes. Apologies accepted.

David Gray said...

Oh and who is sufficiently badly educated to believe that Calvinists consider the supper a mere remembrance?

Chris Jones said...

Dear Unknown,

I almost replied to my friend David with the claim that "nobody used the word 're-create'," but I have known him long enough to know that he doesn't make that sort of mistake. So I carefully re-read all of the comments and found that Fr D had indeed been careless enough to use that word.

I am Lutheran and David is Reformed, so there is a good deal that he and I do not agree on. But he is learned, thoughtful, and very careful in what he writes. I would advise you not to underestimate him.

And in general, when you are talking theology on the Internet, it is a risky business to tell other people what they believe, based on their Churchly affiliation. We Lutherans are in the questionable habit of lumping all Protestants other than ourselves into one pile and calling it "Reformed" -- something David has schooled me on more than once. You are in effect doing the same thing. It's true that there are a lot of more-or-less "evangelical" Protestants whose views on the Eucharist amount to a lazy sort of Zwinglianism; but that is not true of folks like David who advisedly and intentionally bear the name of "Calvinist."

So far you have got the Lutherans wrong and you have got the Calvinists wrong. Quit while you're behind, and stick to telling us what you believe, not what you think we believe.

Unknown said...


I will never apologize to you. You owe them to me you self righteous, miserable man!

David Gray said...

I am certainly a miserable sinner but I do understand how quotation marks work.

Anonymous said...


I think the main sticking point between Lutherans and Roman Catholics on this issue is that of co-operation. In the Roman Mass, the priest (who speaks on behalf of the Church and on behalf of Christ), offers Christ to God as an "unbloody" sacrifice. Of course, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is very clear that this sacrifice is not an extra or separate sacrifice, but rather a re-presentation of Christ's once-for-all sacrifice. And, of course, Roman Catholics are right in pointing out that this is, according to their own theology, something mystical and mysterious.

The point of contention, however, comes when we establish two points First, in the order of the Mass, the priest prays, "we, your servants and your holy people, offer to your glorious majesty from the gifts that you have given us, this pure victim, this holy victim", etc, etc. Thus, in the sacrifice of the Mass, the priest - and with him, the Church - co-operate in the offering of Christ's body and blood to the Father. Second, this sacrifice is, according to Trent, a propitiatory sacrifice, one that merits the forgiveness of sins and actual graces.

All this to say, that in Roman Catholic theology man, moved by grace and the Holy Spirit, co-operates in meriting the increase of justification and in meriting eternal life. This is seen most clearly and powerfully in the Mass, for the reasons that I listed above. *This* is the chief objection of Lutherans to the Roman Catholic theology of the Eucharist. We believe that the very concept of merit is blasphemous, an affront to Christ's honor as sole Redeemer and a denial of the whole idea of grace.

To go along with your point, Chris, I would say that there is a difference between a Christian receiving the sacrifice of Christ again and again (which he does in Absolution, the Supper, and whenever he repents), and the Father being re-propitiated through the co-operation of man with Christ.

Sorry for the length. Hope this is somewhat helpful, and I appreciate correction if I've made a mistake somewhere.

Aidan Clevinger said...


Not to distract from the serious debate going on, but I'm digging your profile pic.

David Gray said...

Thank you!

The picture is of General Charles Gordon, a public Christian and the man who without European troops abolished the slave trade in the Sudan and died a lonely death at the hands of Islamic radicals at Khartoum.