The Ultimate Sacrifice of Praise
An encounter with a person, more often than not, consist of two aspects – Conversation and Meal. You meet the person and spend a good amount of time talking and enjoying a meal or a snack.
Now we Catholics are fortunate to have such a close encounter with our Lord. And this encounter takes place at the Eucharist –
- The Liturgy of the Word (CONVERSATION)– where we hear the Lord speak and we respond to Him through our prayers.
- The Liturgy of the Eucharist (MEAL) – where we partake of the great banquet that Christ has prepared for us.
This encounter with the Lord is crucial for our Christian Life and therefore Vatican II (Lumen Gentium 11) says, ‘The Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian Life.‘
The Eucharist is participation in and anticipation of the heavenly praise with the angels and saints. The Eucharist therefore is like Noah’s ark where God’s order and will still exists in the midst of the flood of evil that we see in this world.
What is the Eucharist?
The Eucharist is the same sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary. In simple words, Eucharist is reaching Calvary and holding on to the cross of Christ and planting it down here, where it is celebrated. Mass is a continuation of Calvary. To take part in it we have to bring in our little crosses. (Work, relationships, money etc.)
Let us now look at three important elements of the Eucharist that make it – THE PERFECT SACRIFICE OF PRAISE.
The three acts of the Eucharist:
- You offer yourself to Christ (Offertory)
- You die with Him (Consecration)
- Because you die with Him, you get new life (Holy Communion)
You do not offer yourself to God just by being present. But by using symbols of bread and wine. Therefore when bread and wine is brought to the altar, you are brought to the altar.
Why do we use bread and wine?
No two substances explain unity better than bread and wine. Bread is made by the multiplicity of the grains of wheat and wine is made from the multiplicity of grapes and so in that way we who are many are one with Christ in mind and heart. Traditionally, bread and wine were the substances that nourished mankind. When we bring that which gives us life, we bring ourselves. We also bring forth a part of creation and we present it back to God, praising Him for His provision.
No sacrifice can be forced. Therefore offering is the first aspect of the Eucharistic sacrifice. Each one of us, needs to willingly and consciously offer ourselves to God and carry our crosses and plant them next to the great cross of Christ.
Christ’s sacrifice needs to be completed, not because the salvific work and offering of Christ are somehow “imperfect.” Rather, Christ’s oblation of himself, offered in the Holy Eucharist, remains incomplete “in need of fulfillment” until all people freely enter into the one offering of Christ, making their lives an acceptable offering to God. Our religion is not a quietist one, where we simply wait until God acts in us and we do nothing until then. No, we are expected to be “up and doing,” that is, active participants in God’s life of grace in our souls.
The Eucharistic Prayers we pray today all echo the sentiments of praise in which Jesus himself must have lived his final farewell supper.
Biblical scholar Giovanni Odasso puts it:
‘On the night on which he was handed over,’ Jesus not only agreed to carry out the Father’s will, giving himself even to death, to ‘death on a cross,’ but He also anticipated with His disciples on earth the sacrifice of praise that He would inaugurate, with His resurrection, for all eternity. In this perspective, the church that celebrates the Eucharist is the community of the Risen One, that unites itself to its Lord in the praise of the living and true God.
In commanding us to celebrate His supper, His “Eucharist,” in His memory, He wished to involve us in His praise-filled thanksgiving to His Abba for the life that was soon to be restored to Him forever. He expressed at the same time His ardent desire to share that life with all who would be willing to accept His gift.
At the Eucharist you have to die to that which is evil in you. At the moment of consecration you have to say the words of consecration in a secondary sense.
You might not change accidentally (your work, your vocation, your external presence) but substantially (internally) you have to sacrifice yourself and consecrate yourself to God – body, spirit, intellect and will. — This is the totality of myself. I die with you and that is the consecration. You are crucified and you die. You cannot live to Christ unless you die to your lower nature.
No one ever dies with Christ without receiving new life. To understand communion we need to view nature. If the sunlight, the carbons could speak they would say to the plants, unless you eat me you will have no life in you. If the plants could speak they will say to the animals unless you eat me you will not have life in you, and animals will say unless you eat me you will not have life in you and that’s exactly what Jesus tells us- unless you eat me you will not have life in you.
The cycle of transformation is thus complete – the carbons to plants, plants to animals, animals to man and then man to Christ.
The idea of communion is we become alter christus – another Christ. We die to something lower and receive a higher life.
When we receive communion, we have to bear the death of Christ in our life. We have to constantly deny our self so that Christ’s life could emerge.
At every Eucharist we die to ourselves and bring forth new life in Jesus. After every Eucharist, we should become more and more like Christ. There should be less of us and more of Him present in the world because I become part of His higher kingdom and I become a part of Him. Thus the sacrifice of the Eucharist is the sacrifice of Praise as we fulfil the will of God and our lives become the life of praise.
The sacrifice of Christ is the culmination and beginning of God’s plan to save creation after the fall of Adam. Christ’s sacrifice therefore, renders perfect praise. The action of martyrdom is the highest praise possible. The death is in praise of God’s perfection. Thus the Eucharist is the death of Jesus along with you and the rising to new life thus giving fitting praise to God almighty.