John McQuirk.

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souls could never enjoy God as He has designed.
Hence these bodies are to rise again, to be restored
to their very souls, and to be with them glorious
and immortal. Why, then, should not these bodies,
typified by and identical with the material used in
Sacrifice, offer the homage of their nature to God
in oblations and prostrations and acts of recogni-
tion and praise? Why should we not render Sacri-
fice to God for these bodies ''fearfully and wonder-
fully made," and in which God Himself did not hesi-
tate to dwell when He became Incarnate? Why
should not these bodies prostrate themselves in
Sacrifice before God as the Angels do in heaven,
seeing that they are as much His creatures ?

In this world the greatness of God is disclosed to
us in the material world that we see and that we
know exists. For our souls are not seen of us,
although we are conscious of them within us, and
around us in other men. Their mutual communi-


cations declare their existence. Yet the material
universe and our material bodies and spiritual souls
are the only revelation we have of the wisdom and
power and greatness of God. All this material or
brute matter should bespeak the glory of its Creator.
But it cannot because it is brute, insensible in its
nature, and, therefore, cannot be conscious of its
Maker. But when we find a portion of it the dwell-
ing of a soul which can know and consciously
glorify God; as matter is thus invested with con-
sciousness and intelligence, it is right that it should
proclaim its recognition of its Maker and voice His
praises through the medium of this soul, which thus
becomes its mouthpiece. Thus, and thus only, can
all nature glorify its Creator and His unutterable
attributes. Hence the fitness of material Sacrifice
speaking for matter, through the instrumentality of
man's rational consciousness and living soul. Mat-
ter should be made to adore its Creator when pos-
sible, that is, when ruled by a spirit, as our soul:
material Sacrifice to be employed by matter directed
by intelligence and will.

Sacrifice to God is instinctive in the human heart. It
has been offered from the very beginning of the world,
in every land, in every clime, in every race. Cain and
Abel offered Sacrifices, one of the firstlings of his
flock, the other of the fruits of the earth. The one was
more acceptable to God than the other: hence Cain
was jealous of Abel and slew him. Enoch, Abra-
ham and the other patriarchs under the law of na-
ture rendered Sacrifices. Melchisedech and Abra-
ham rendered the same external homage. Melchise-
dech offered the Sacrifice of bread and wine, type


and emblem of the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the new
law. All the bloody Sacrifices of sheep, goats, etc.,
were offered by the Aaronic priesthood, all types of
the Sacrifice of the Cross; just as that of Abraham
and Isaac his son. They were fulfilled by Christ
offering Himself on the Cross, as He was the sub-
stance and truth of them all. Pagans true to the
same instinct and filled with consciousness of sin
which they would fain destroy, offered Sacrifices,
according to their lights, to their false deities ;
whom if they did not, they could have known to be
false. But the principle of worship was true to
nature, although its object was perverted from the
Creator to the creature.

And when the Lord established His chosen peo-
ple; and the law, written in the human heart, was
given from on high. Sacrifices were ordained which
He declared were acceptable to Him, and became
to men vehicles of grace; and hence are called
Sacraments of nature. They all typified the one
great Sacrifice that in the fullness of time was to be
offered on Calvary. From that they derived all their
merit and efficacy : they were anticipations of it.
The Sacrifice on the Cross was like the sun in
heaven, which shone upon the past when it was
present, which now shines, and which shall con-
tinue to shine till the end. Thus the Blood of Cal-
vary shed its influence and imparted its grace to
those ''weak and beggarly elements" ; it continues
to shed them through the unending and ubiquitous
Sacrifice of the Mass ; it shall continue until the
consummation of all things and the coming of Him
Whose mvstical Sacrifice it is.


Those Sacrifices of the old law were of various
kinds. There was the Holocaust or whole burnt
offering, of which no part was saved, but was wholly
consumed, to express no relative or quahfied hom-
age, but one that was absolute beyond all expres-
sion, God absolutely great, — Man, the creature, ab-
solutely nothing. This is the truest and loftiest
conception of Sacrifice to God. This was signified
by the whole burnt offerings, — the most illustrious
figure of the Sacrifice of Christ. There were Sacri-
fices of propitiation of God and expiation for sin.
Men were conscious of sin and the Divine anger which
it had incurred : they would fain be forgiven the
one, and would willingly appease God's justice. But
they could not : it was beyond all their resources.
Sin was irremissible : man, finite, could not make
atonement to the Infinite. Of himself man was
nothing and could do nothing to propitiate God or
cancel sin. But as in God's eternal counsels a
Divine Victim and Redeemer stood, an ever-present
fact in God's mind, for and in man's stead, these
Sacrifices by Him and through Him could have
effect : as these Sacrifices were anticipations of the
Sacrifice of the Incarnate Word to be shed in the
fullness of time, they could bestow grace from that
anticipated Sacrifice, as since that, grace has eman-
ated from it as a Sacrifice consummated. And this
has been especially through the Mass in Which that
of the Cross has been renewed and perpetuated, and
which, in a w^ord, is one with it. Resting in Christ
as the head of humanity restored, and with the
Blood of Calvary purchasing salvation, and shed-
ding its influence upon the world and the souls of


men, past, present and to come, these weak and
beggarly elements could have a propitiatory effect
on the justice of God; and, united with man's co-
operation (which even now under the law of grace
is required), could cancel and remit sin.

There were imprecatory Sacrifices for obtaining
from the Almighty special purposes and sought-for
favors. Of themselves, these oblations could have
no efficacy. Imprecations in the name and for sake
of man were equally worthless, as there was no
motive to move Divine goodness; because man had
no claim upon God, being cast away for his sins
and the apostasy of the race. But, asked in the
name and for the sake of the Redeemer yet to come,
in Whose name all things asked were tO' be granted,
there was assured hope that these Sacrifices could
imprecate many things from God. While the ob-
lations, as figures and symbols of the Sacrifice of
the Man-God, would naturally invoke and receive
Divine condescension and favors besought.

There were thanksgiving Sacrifices to God for all
mercies and gifts bestowed. But these offerings, in
themselves, were destitute of value before God,
profitless and unacceptable as empty expressions of
the gratitude of man, a mere creature, sinful and
fallen: unworthy of His divine Sovereignty and
inadequate to His benefits. Yet, as the belief and
profession and emblem of a Redeemer to come; as
the figures or shadows of the inestimable peace-
offering to be made in the fullness of time by the
Incarnate Word, in which infinite thanks would be
rendered for men and in their name, they could have
virtue and be pleasing to God ; even as the shadow


of Him in Wliom He is well pleased must be grate-
ful to Him.

The necessity and fitness of Sacrifice arises from
the contemplation of the Majesty of God, His na-
ture and attributes, and from man's utter depen-
dence and subjection. Infinite in what seems to us
great; no^ less infinite in what seems to us little;
infinite in all things. His least work proclaims His
infinity no less than His greatest. Infinite in the
heavens ; infinite in man and his faculties ; infinite in
the universe and spirits that He has made. All show
forth the infinitude and power of their Lord and
Creator. Consider the works of God. Look up to
the heavens; contemplate the glory, power, majesty
of those vast orbs, countless in number, musical in
their movements, illimitable in their distances, like
armies in battle array. The most elaborate harmony
of the divinest music would be a feeble echo of the
concert of praise and allelulias with which they con-
tinually acclaim the glory of God, and the unutter-
able power and wisdom which they show forth.
Seeing them from infancy we have dulled our ap-
prehension and sight in looking upon them. If we
were tO' open our eyes upon them for the first time
we would realize their marvellous grandeur and
awe-inspiring character; we would realize the in-
finitude of the Creator which they adumbrate, and
the omnipotence which has created them and holds
them as "a little dust in His palm and poised them
with three fingers." "The heavens truly proclaim
the glory of God" and the stars sing together and
forever His ineffable power and all-reaching wis-


The most insignificant atom of matter contains
no less evidences of power and wisdom ; the micro-
scope reveals there no less infinitude than the
heavens: the worlds of intelligence there disclosed
are as many and as great as those which the eye
or telescope discovers in the vast uncounted realms
of space, where stars and suns roll in endless motion
and describe illimitable distances, far greater in
magnitude and multitude than those of our solar

Look into your selves ; material bodies made one
with spiritual souls, spirit ruling matter, and matter
showing itself the faithful servant. Bodies won-
drously made, divine tabernacles inhabited by im-
mortal souls, and destined with them to everlasting
bliss. Heart, brain, w^hole organism, living and en-
ergized by a spirit. All this, no less than the
heavens and the earth, manifests the powder and
wisdom of God. Your hand shows forth the om-
niscience and even the moral attributes of the Crea-
tor, no less than the stupendous world, or smallest

All this naturally fills the soul w-ith adoration,
gratitude and love. How are these shown? In-
stinctively by Sacrifice. Man longs to cast himself
before the Lord and Giver of life, and Maker of all
things, and acknowledge His Sovereign dominion,
confess his own nothingness, and declare his grati-
tude for such unutterable goodness, inconceivable
and inexpressible greatness, and transcendent power.

In all this you have the reason for the worship,
external and internal, which man renders to God
by Sacrifice, and which is at once the adoration of
soul and lx>dy.


"For from the rising of the sun even to its going
down, My name is great among the Gentiles: and
in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered
to My name a clean oblation : for My name is great
among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts." —
Mai. 1 ; 11.

All the sacrifices of the Old Law were but figures
and emblems of the Great Sacrifice of the New.
When this came, they lost all their acceptableness
and efficacy; and were abolished, as the stars with-
draw or are overwhelmed by the effulgence of the
risen sun. The type gives way to the reality, and
is no longer a type except in remembrance.

When Christ established the Holy Eucharist, He
gave us a true and proper Sacrifice. The Jewish
Passover was finished : the Christian Passover was
come. The night before He died on the Cross, He
established the New Sacrifice in the Mystery of His
Body and Blood, that the bloody Sacrifice He was
about to suffer, should be consummated and forever
perpetuated by the unbloody Sacrifice of His Body
and Blood, under the forms of bread and wine.
For this, He, himself a priest forever, according to
the order of Melchisedech, ordained the Apostles
priests in the words, "Do ye this in memory of Me.''



And they in turn should ordain other priests, who
in their turn and forever should offer His Body and
Blood. And thus this Sacrifice, one and the same
with that of the Cross, was to be perpetuated until
He come again.

The Church declares her faith in the Sacrifice of
the Mass in these words : "If anyone says that in
the Mass there is not offered to God a true and
proper sacrifice, or that what is offered is nothing
else than Christ given to us to be eaten ; anathema
sit." This, then, is a doctrine of faith : the Mass,
therefore, is not a mere commemoration of Christ's
last supper, nor a banquet or Communion in which
we receive the Body of Christ. It is none of those
things that sectaries who have renounced the faith
of the Church would have it to be: it is indeed a
Sacrament; but, at the same time, it is a true and
proper Sacrifice offered to God as any sacrifice: in
token of His supreme dominion, in recognition of
our supreme subjection, to the Lord and ruler of
life and death, for the sins of the living and the
dead. Being one with that of the Cross, it is pro-
pitiator}^ in its character and avails for the sins of
the living and the dead. The fruits of the bloody
Sacrifice are imparted and received through the

It was not enough that Christ should exercise His
priesthood but once on the Cross: His priesthood
was not to be extinguished by that death on the
Cross; that death was to be made immortal by the
perpetual exercise of priestly power, as He from
His birth was a priest according to the order of
Melchisedech. *'He, therefore, our God and Lord,


although He was about to offer Himself once on
the altar of the cross unto God the Father, by means
of his death, there to operate an eternal redemption ;
nevertheless, because that His priesthood was not
to be extinguished by His death, in the last supper,
on the night in which He was betrayed — that He
might leave to His own beloved spouse, the Church,
a visible sacrifice, such as the nature of man re-
quires, whereby that bloody Sacrifice, once to be
accomplished on the Cross, might be represented,
and the memory thereof remain even unto the end
of the world, and its salutary virtue might be ap-
plied to the remission of those sins which we daily
commit, — declaring Himself a priest forever, ac-
cording to the order of Melchisedech, He offered up
to God the Father His own body and blood under
the species of bread and wine; and, under the sym-
bols of those same things. He declared His own
body and blood to be received by His apostles, whom
He then constituted priests of the New Testament;
and by those words, do this in commemoration of
Me, He commanded them and their successors in
the priesthood, to offer them; even as the Catholic
Church has always understood and taught." Coun-
cil of Trent; Sess. xxii, 6, I.)

This Sacrifice, called that of the Mass, while a
memorial, is not a mere memorial, of that of the
Cross: it is Itself, truly and indeed, a Sacrifice,
propitiatory in its nature : one and the same with
that of Calvary, from which It derives all Its tran-
scendent merit and unfailing power. The Eucharist
is, therefore, not merely a Sacrament, or the Holy
Communion in which Christ's Body is distributed


as the food of our souls. As a Sacrament it is ac-
complished by the words of Consecration : as a
Sacrifice it is perfected by the sacrificial act, viz.,
the mystical separation of the Body and Blood, and
by the Consummation or their consumption by the
sacrificing priest. The Eucharist, accordingly, is
not a mere banquet in which the Body of Christ is
given us to eat. Still less is It a mere sacrifice of
praise and thanksgiving. It profits not only those
that receive It, but those also who assist at It with
due dispositions. It is offered for the living and the
dead, for sins, pains, satisfactions, and other neces-
sities. (Council of Trent, c, ix.) It nowise lessens
or derogates from, but forever commemorates and
perpetually renews the Sacrifice of Christ consum-
mated on the Cross, with which it is one and identi-
cal. It is, therefore, truly a real. Divine Sacrifice
established by the Lord Jesus; Who, as priest of
Melchisedech, was not to exercise His office only
once on the Cross, but forever by His priests of the
New Law until He come again. There should be a
continual fulfillment of all the types, and an un-
failing and universal memorial of the Sacrifice of
Jesus Christ.

The Eucharist has all the constituents of a true
Sacrifice. Differing in nowise except in the man-
ner of offering from that of the Cross, — being truly
one and the same, — it has all the same virtue, ex-
cellence and properties. Whatever can be predi-
cated of one, can be predicated of the other, except
that one is bloody, and the other bloodless, without
a second death. The transformation or destruction
essentially implied in a sacrifice is found in the mys-


tical death, or separation of soul and body, repre-
sented by the separate consecration of the bread and
of the wine : and further by the production of Christ's
Body deprived of its natural life. There is the law-
ful minister, the priest, whom He has ordained, and
through whom, as an instrument, He himself, the
Great high Priest, places the sacrificial act : the same
Christ being both Priest and Victim. Our Redemp-
tion once accomplished by, and being the purchase
of the Cross, the Mass is its undying remembrance
and renewal and participation. True sacrifice pro-
claims the sovereignty and supreme power and
authority of God, inasmuch as to no creature can it
be offered, but to the Creator alone : and this is the
paramount end of sacrifice. It enables man — noth-
ing of himself — to feel and to confess his nothing-
ness by the greatness of the Sacrifice, and to offer to
God an adequate worship by the divine value of the
Victim immolated. It is a sensible object — bread
and wine — transubstantiated into the Body and
Blood of Christ.

The truth thus declared, it is obvious that the
Mass is a holocaust, because it adores God with a
homage the most sublime that He could possibly
receive, or that could be rendered to Him. For the
Eternal Word Incarnate offers Himself, whole and
entire, as a Victim enduring an ignominious and
agonizing death. For the glory of His Father and
the salvation of men, He brings Himself to so abject
and extreme a posture that it seems to border on
annihilation. What acknowledgment or recogni-
tion of God's absolute and universal sovereignty
over men and all creatures, over life and death, over


this world and the world to come, could be greater
or more unutterable than this?

This Sacrifice is, in the highest possible degree,
propiatory for the sins of men, collectively and in-
dividually. For, how could the Eternal Father
resist the blood of His Son, crying for mercy on
the souls of men, and, at the same time, crying to
these souls to be converted and live? What can
the Father refuse to Him, Who, out of obedience,
humbled Himself to a human condition, and to
death, even the death of the Cross? The Divine
Victim immolated in this Sacrifice is adequate to
atone for all possible sins of men and angels, — for
all the sins that an eternal hell will never be able to
liquidate or expunge.

As in this Sacrifice we are enabled to present to
God the most precious and greatest of all gifts, we
have in it an action by which we can render to Him
adequate and proportionate thanks for all benefits,
even the divinest, which He has vouchsafed us, or
still vouchsafes us, or will ever vouchsafe us. For
we render Him the thanks of His beloved Son, in
Whose name we ask them, and for Whose sake He
grants them. No gift more acceptable to Him than
His only begotten Son, in Whom He is always well
pleased ; to Whom He can refuse nothing.

Through the efificacy and merits of this Sacrifice
we may, with unfailing confidence, expect from God
all the favors and graces necessary to salvation, and
even temporal gifts, in so far as they be helps and
not hindrances thereto. In it we ofYer to God the
fullest equivalent for all conceivable goods and
graces. For it is essentially imprecatory in its char-


acter : it never ceases to sue for our grace and par-
don and salvation. As we have Jesus Christ at the
right hand of the Father to make intercession for us,
so, here on His altar, the same imprecation is for-
ever. From this unfailing fountain, we can, if we
will, by imploring Him to apply to our souls the
merits of the Sacrifice of His cross and His altar,
obtain the grace of conversion, the abhorrence of
sin and its remission, the power of repentance, perse-
verance therein, immortal life hereafter,

I have already said that this Sacrifice is propitia-
tory for the living: it is also for the dead. The
Council of Trent, Sess. XXH, Can. HI, on Purga-
tory, teaches: ''Moved by the oblation of this
Sacrifice, the Lord, granting grace and the gift of
repentance, forgives crimes and sins, even if they
be great." It also teaches that it is the most effica-
cious means of relieving the souls in Purgatory; and
may be applied especially to the needs of individuals.
(Sess. XXn, Purgatory.)

In this Sacrifice, that eating and drinking, or con-
sumption of the Victim, which naturally inheres in,
and accompanies sacrifices, is made possible by the
forms of bread and wine under which repose, en-
dowed with a spiritual mode of existence, the Vic-
tim which hung upon the cross. This consumption
otherwise would be impossible.

On the cross Christ was immolated but once : His
priesthood was exercised but once. Here in this
Sacrifice He is offered without cessation, from the
rising to the setting of the sun, from the hour of its
establishment to the present hour, and shall so con-
tinue till the end of time : He exercises His ofifice as


High priest on all the altars of the world, and for-

On the cross the Lord Jesus was made an outcast
from men, and shorn of every vestige of what He
was: here, surrounded with majesty, and men pros-
trated before His Sacrifice and Person, some com-
pensation is made to Him for the abject misery and
humiliation to which He reduced Himself in His
human life and ignominious death. The adoration
and love and loyalty of men have succeeded to the
contempt and hate and perfidy of those who, as
instruments of providence in the work of divine re-
demption, became His vilifiers and executioners. •

By this Sacrifice is fulfilled all its types, all the
sacrifices of the Old Law. Jeremiah foretells that
when the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord shall no
longer exist, or be remembered, which, of course,
will be when the Alessiah shall have come, there
shall not be wanting priests to offer sacrifices con-
tinually, and who with the Levites and the seed of
David shall be multiplied beyond numbering. (Jer.
xxxiii.) All this relates to the Sacrifice of the New
Law — the unbloody Sacrifice of Jesus Christ and
the Eucharist; — that His covenant with David, His
servant, may never be made void, but should last
till the end of time. "I have no pleasure in you,
saith the Lord of hosts : and I will not receive a
gift of your hand. For, from the rising of the sun,
even to its going down. My name is great among
the Gentiles : and in every place there is Sacrifice,
and there is offered to My name a clean oblation :
for My nanije is great among the Gentiles, saith the
Lord of hosts." (Mai. i; 10-11.)


In this Divine Sacrifice we should ponder and
seek to reahze that it is God Who is offered ; it is to
God it is offered ; it is by God it is offered. Mystery
of mysteries! Who can declare it, fathom it, com-
prehend it? No one but God, Who is its author, its
victim, and its priest. Who will investigate how
God is at once the offended Deity, the atoning Vic-
tim, the sacrificing Priest ! how God can be appeased
by God at once Priest and Victim. In this Sacrifice
God is offered to God, and by God: Victim, Ap-
peased, and Sacrificer, one and the same. Abyss of
mystery that God can thus be propitiated.

This Sacrifice is offered exclusively to God, to no
other being. In other actions we seek ourselves;

Online LibraryJohn McQuirkSermons and discourses (Volume 3) → online text (page 20 of 43)