John McQuirk.

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here we seek God alone and His glory. In this
stupendous act of worship — God to God by God —
w^e cast ourselves before Him, and in this posture,
expressive of the humility and self-nothingness with
which our hearts are filled, and feeling our utter
dependence upon Him, we offer Him the profound-
est adoration and supremest worship that He Him-
self could desire. We proclaim our gratitude, our
Thanksgiving, our worship, our hope, our loyalty
and love; our self-denial, our readiness to suffer,
and to die if it be His sovereign will. For in it we
adore God, the omnipotent Creator, the Lord and
Ruler and Dispenser of life and death and of all

The Mass is a Sacrifice of infinite value, because
the Victim is God and altogether commensurate with
God to be propitiated. By reason of the Personal
Union of the two natures in Christ, whatever can
be said of Him as man, can be said of Him as God ;


and whatever can be said of Him as God can be
said of Him as man : therefore, Christ was an infinite
expiation worthy of the infinite God. The Victim
is the Second Person of the adorable Trinity; the
Word and Wisdom of the Father, begotten of the
Father before all ages ; from Whom and the Father
proceeds the Holy Ghost; coeternal and consub-
stantial with the Father; the Figure of His sub-
stance and the Splendor of His glory; Who for us
men and for our salvation came down on earth, and
was made man ; died, rose again for our justifica-
tion; -Who, at the last day, will judge the living and
the dead. This is the unutterable Victim shed in the
Mass, to glorify God and to propitiate Him for the
sins of men.

An infinite Sacrifice because Christ is at once both
Victim and Priest. The ordinary priest is only an in-
strument, representing Christ in consecrating His
body and blood : forever : because this Sacrifice was
to be offered forever. So it has been from the night
when He ordained the Apostles priests, and in-
structed them to ofTer this Sacrifice forever through
their successors in memoi'y of Him. He will not
repent : in spite of the uncounted sacrileges and prof-
anations and insults and the loss of countless souls
because of the abuse of this Sacrifice ; in spite of all
the unutterable pains and penalties to Himself and
to men that it will involve, yet He will not repent.
The glory of the Father, the salvation of myriads
of the elect, who otherwise would be lost, will com-
pensate for this ; — in spite of the unceasing abase-
ment of the Godman, He will not repent: for "He
is a Priest forever according to the order of Mel-


It was not the Jews that sacrificed Him : He was
His own sacrificer, His own High Priest ; they were
but the instruments. "I have power to lay down my
Hfe, and I have power to take it up again." "Now
is your hour and the power of darkness." "Thou
wouldst not have any power against Me, unless it
were given thee from above." When the Sacrifice
on the Cross was consummated, He of His own
power gave up His Spirit. This Sacrifice was the
reality ; those that had preceded were but figures or
antetypes : His priesthood succeeded to that of Aaron
by His sacrificial death : His priesthood was the
legitimate succession of that of Melchisedech.
David in prophetic vision saw the Messiah, and ad-
dressed Him : "The Lord hath sworn, and He will
not repent : Thou art a Priest forever according to
the order of Melchisedech" ; — to of¥er Sacrifice in
bread and wine; for the memory of the one great
Sacrifice on the Cross must be perpetuated, and not
allowed to perish from the records of ages, must
continue radiant for eternity; — He will not repent:
Thou art a Priest forever; and, what is the same,
a Sacrificer forever, not bloody, but unbloody and
mystical : the separation of the bread and wine will
bespeak this sundering of body and soul, which is
the death of the Victim.

Tremendous power to be in the hands of men!
priests, good, bad, and indifferent. Yet, at their
worst, as good as the Jews, His first executioners.
No defilement from them can reach the God of
purity and holiness. Priests can offer this Sacrifice
as acceptably as Angels from Heaven ; for even they
would be unworthy, and its value and efficacy does


not depend npon the character or virtue or merit of
the sacrificer, or, rather, instrument; for the real
Sacrificer is Jesus Christ, the great High Priest,
Who ministered on Calvary and yet ministers at
every altar.

St. Matt, xxvi; 26-28: Mark xiv; 22-24: Luke
xxii; 19-20 in words substantially the same, or even
identical, relate the institution of this great Sacrifice
and Priesthood of the New Law: "And taking
bread, He gave thanks, and brake it, and gave to
them, saying : This is My Body, which is given for
you. Do this for My remembrance. In like man-
ner the cup also, after supper, saying: This is the
cup, the new covenant in My Blood, which shall be
shed for you."

St. Paul, ''as one born out of time," writing about
twenty-three years after Christ's Ascension, declares :
"For I have received of the Lord that which also I
delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night
in which He was betrayed, took bread, and giving
thanks, brake it, and said : Take and eat : this is My
body, which shall be delivered for you : this do for
the commemoration of Me. In like manner also He
took the cup, after the supper, saying: This cup is
the New Covenant in My blood. This do ye, as
often as ye shall drink, for the commemoration of
Me. For as often as ye shall eat this bread, and
drink the cup, ye shall show forth the death of the
Lord, until He come." I Cor. xi ; 23-26.

Christ from His Nativity was a Priest forever
according to the order of Melchisedech. This priest-
hood did not sacrifice in animals or in the products
of the earth, as did that of Aaron; its Sacrifice was


in bread and wine. There is a natural affinity or
proportion between sacrifice and the priesthood.
When did Christ offer this essential duty of His
office? He could hardly have left the world without
even once fulfilling the figure of His prototype Mel-
chisedech; who, we know, meeting Abraham, ren-
dered Sacrifice to God in the symbols of bread and
wine. Where did Christ, or when, perform His
priesthood, but at the Last Supper? This took the
form of the Paschal Lamb; it becomes the new
Pasch : the priesthood of Melchisedech is perpet-
uated in the Apostles, whom He instructed to do as
He had done for a perpetual remembrance of Him,
and the unbroken continuation of the Sacrifice of
Calvary. If this be so, the W'Orld is not left without
a Sacrifice, as it had never been. All is fulfilled. In
this we have the True Sacrifice of the Body and
Blood of Jesus Qirist under the symbols of bread
and wine, produced by the power of His Melchise-
dechean priesthood.

Unless the Holy Sacrifice of the Body and Blood
of Jesus Christ, commonly called the Mass, be it,
where is the clean oblation foreseen by the prophet
Malachy, that was to be offered up from the rising
to the setting sun, not from the Jews, but from the
Gentiles; the oblation that was to take the place of
the Judaical victims and sacrifices that the Lord
declared through the prophet He would no longer
accept from the hands of the Jewish people? ''I have
no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of Hosts : and I will
not receive a gift of your hands. For from the ris-
ing 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. Chap, i; 10-11.
The prophet did not apply the word "victim" to it,
because it was not to be bloody. The ancient vic-
tims lost all their efficacy once the Sacrifice of Christ
was made; which Sacrifice would be offered up for
all time and everywhere in their stead : the shadow
should give way to the reality. By this, a far
greater praise and glory accrued and accrues to God
than they could possibly have rendered. Unless the
Mass be the clean oblation predicted by the prophet,
the word of the prophet is belied, and there is no
Sacrifice offered to God ; and the world has been
left for the first time since its creation without a

This Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ
was made in the instant, not after or before, in which
Christ uttered the words, "This is My Body which
is being given for you : this do ye in memory of Me ;
this is the Chalice of the New Testament in My
Blood which is being shed for you." This render-
ing of the words of institution brings out the full
force of the original Greek; a force which is some-
what obscured by the Latin translation putting the
word "shed" in the future, which is owned to be
erroneous. By these words, His Body and Blood
were to. be not only eaten by the Apostles, but to be
offered to God by them, a True Sacrifice. For they
were commanded to consummate forever the same
Sacrifice. Foreseeing what He was about to en-
dure, Christ voluntarily made a Sacrifice of His
Body and Blood, that the Father might be pro-


pitiated for men, now no longer with old time offer-
ings. ''Because Thou wiliest not hosts, and obla-
tions, and holocausts for sin, then said I, behold, I
come that I should do Thy Will, O God."

When St. Paul (I Cor. x) reproves those who had
partaken in the pagan sacrifices by eating what was
offered in them, and yet dared to partake in the
Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ, he draws
his argument from the Eucharist as a Sacrifice.
From the antithesis or contrast between the pagan
sacrifices made to devils and idols, and the Divine
Eucharistic Sacrifice offered to God, he utters their
condemnation. "The cup of blessing which v\^e bless,
is it not the communion of the Blood of Christ ; and
the Bread which we break, is it not the communion
of the Body of the Lord?" . . . Are not they
who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?
Those consorting in idolatrous sacrifices by eating
what is therein offered, are guilty of idolatry. The
pagan sacrifices were offered to devils, not to God.
What fellowship between Christian Sacrifices to
God, and pagan sacrifices to devils ? How drink of
the cup of the Lord, and of the cup of devils? How
partakers of the table of the Lord, and the tables of
devils ? Do we dare unite idolatry with the worship of
the Living God ? What companionship between the
children of the devil, and the followers of Christ, who
are fed on His Body and Blood ? Hence, by the con-
trast made by the Apostle between altars and altars,
tables and tables ; and between things offered to
devils placed upon them, and the Chalice offered by
Christians to God, we see that St. Paul teaches that
the Eucharistic Body and Blood of Christ is a true
Sacrifice to God.


Even if the establishment of this Sacrifice were
not recorded by the Evangehsts, it would still be as
divinely revealed, so long as it is taught by the
divine Magisterium of the Church: for in this case
she would be possessed of the consciousness of the
truth from the moment when she received the de-
posit of divine Revelation to be made known to men.
Not all revealed truths were reduced to writing;
scarcely any but what it was necessary to declare
for righting some error or meeting some exigency
that arose. The Scriptures were but incidental in
their character: they were never meant to be a
presentation of all the truths contained in Revela-
tion. Christ wrote nothing; nor did He instruct
the Apostles to embody all that He had taught them
in the form of a book: His command to them was
to preach the Gospel ; faith came by hearing. The
New Testament was not designed to be a treatise
or exposition of the whole cycle of religious truths.
The Church preceded the Apostolic writings, and
was well established before any truth was committed
to writing : not the Scriptures before the Church,
but the Church was established before the Scriptures
were written. The Church does not derive her war-
rant from the written Word, but it rather from her.
St. Augustine would not believe the Scriptures but
for her. The Church could dispense with the Apos-
tolic writings : but they were valueless unless she
recognized them as divine. They were but aids to
help the Church in her mission, not to supersede her
own divine authority. She who was filled with a con-
sciousness of divine Revelation by her Founder, and
illuminedby the Holy Ghost, "Who was to teach her


all truth and abide with her forever," could not be
beholden to the occasional or ephemeral writings or
letters of her missionaries — the Apostles.

Tradition or the spoken word of the Apostles was
of the same authority as the written word : for they
both came from the same divine consciousness of
the truth which filled the mind of the Church and
constituted her divine Magisterium. In her there
is ever present the deposit of Revelation and the
light of the Holy Ghost; and it is this that gives to
the Scriptures, no less than Tradition, their value
as divine teaching. From this consciousness in the
beginning imparted to the Church with the light of
the Holy Ghost, come all truths. Scriptural and Tra-
ditional, which she has been sent to teach : of these
she is the divine depositary, and faithful guardian,
and unerring teacher. She as wxll knows when and
how to define and announce them.

And in this Tradition the Sacrifice of the Mass
was always a luminous fact and manifested every-
where throughout the world and for all ages. From
the night Christ instituted it to St. Paul declaring
that he had had a special revelation concerning it,
and that those who partook of pagan sacrifices could
not partake of Christ's Altar, down through all the
ages it existed in the Church. When in the early
centuries, heretics, the Copts, Syrians and others
left the Church, bringing faith in this Sacrifice with
them ; throughout the long line of the Fathers, whose
belief was attested by their writings, to the Greek
Schism, which never charged error on the Church
in this belief, although its authors did everything
possible to belittle her authority, down to Beren-


garius, who first called it in question, and from him
to the Reformers, the Church was tranquil in her
belief of this Divine Sacrifice. There never was a
time when she was without this faith ; it has pre-
vailed from the beginning till now. The Reformers
rose against the doctrine of the ]\Iass, thereby show-
ing that till then it was the accepted teaching of the
Church. Previous sectaries did not question it be-
cause they believed it.

The traditional belief of the Church is shown in
the teachings of the Fathers. St. Ignatius tells the
Christians of his time that "they must partake of
one Eucharist; since there is one flesh of our Lord
Jesus Christ; one chalice which unites us to His
Blood; one place of Sacrifice." "The new oblation
which the Church received from the Apostles."
What mean the words of Clement the Roman, the
contemporary of the Apostles, writing to the Cor-
inthians : "We must do all things in order which
the Lord hath ordered us to do. At appointed times,
oblations and sacred of^ces to be made He hath
ordered, nor rashly nor confusedly." Hear the
words of the great Tertullian : "We ofTer Sacrifices
for the health of the Emperor." Cyprian, Cyril,
Gregory Nazianzen, St. John Chrysostom, Hier-
onymus, all proclaim in similar strain, and an un-
broken chorus keep up with the rest of the Fathers
the Faith of the Church in their respective times in
the Sacrifice of the Mass. "His body is offered up
instead of all those sacrifices and oblations, and it is
given to the communicants," says St. Augustine.

No greater or more enduring or more secure
monuments of the doctrine and belief of the Church


exist than those of its perpetual and universal litur-
gies, or the words and rites and forms and cere-
monies employed in the celebration of the Mass or
in the administration of the Sacraments. In these
liturgies the doctrines themselves are encased, en-
shrined and forever preserved. They represent the
belief of the whole Church, in all parts of the world,
at all times, and though divergent in form, yet are
one in the universal belief which they contain and
symbolize. And this all the more, as they witness
to the Faith as held in all parts of the Church, and
in its various rites; some of which have lapsed at
divers times from the unity of the Church, and yet
in their separation have abided steadfast in this
palmary doctrine.

All these liturgies speak of the "tremendous, di-
vine, unbloody, the perpetual, the living Sacrifice of
the Lamb, Who being sacrificed, never dies" ; "Our
Sacrifice is the body and blood of the priest Himself,
Christ our Lord." Franzelin De Euchar. The litur-
gies of St. James, St. Mark, St. Basil, that contained
in the XIII book of the Apostolic Constitutions, the
Nestorian liturgy, St. Cyril, the Roman liturgy, all
proclaim the existence of Sacrifice, and belief therein
in the Mass. "Which oblation do Thou, O God,
vouchsafe in all respects, to bless, approve, ratify,
make reasonable, and acceptable; that it may be
made for us the body and blood of Thy most-
beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." And on the
Feast of the Epiphany, in the prayer over the offer-
ings it is added : "by which gold, frankincense, and
myrrh are no longer offered : but what was signified
by those offerings, is sacrificed and received, Jesus
Christ, Thy Son our Lord."


Sacrifice never ceased to be offered to Almighty
God : in the Old Law, and before the Old Law : in
the time of the patriarchs back to the beginning :
not only among God's chosen people, but among
pagans; and in every part of the earth. Why should
it cease with the coming of the One great Sacrifice
which they all prefigured and to which they all
looked forward ? In point of abundance and ef^cacy
the One great Sacrifice was indeed enough ; but this
needed to be perpetuated and consummated lest it
should sink into oblivion ; these commemorations
are but the One great Sacrifice renewed forever.
\Vhy should the great High Priest, a priest forever,
according to the order of Melchisedech, offer His
Sacrifice or exercise His priesthood but once? No,
it should be offered continually to the eternal father,
to \\'hom it is ever pleasing, \\niy a priest forever
except to sacrifice forever? If not, its remembrance
would perish from the minds of men ; recollection
of the Sacrifice would fade, l^e lost with the knowl-
edge of the spot on which the Cross was erected.
Hence Malachy predicted that from the rising to the
setting sun there should be offered a clean oblation.
li the Mass be not the fulfillment of the prophet's
prediction, where is the fulfillment? Is it belied or
frustrated? This pure oblation acceptable to God
when all other Sacrifices are rejected because no
longer pleasing to God : ''With the blood of goats
and oxen thou wert not content, then said I, behold,
I come ; in the head of the book it is written of Me
that I should do Thy will, O God."

This Sacrifice has been offered in the Church from
the very beginning, that is, from the time of the


/Vpostles, with all the pomp and majesty that cir-
cumstances allowed. Its truth as a sacrifice was
never questioned till the Sixteenth Century. Imag-
ine that it was introduced at a later period, with
what volume of reclamation and indignation would
the innovation have been greeted! What episcopal
fulminations, what imperial rescripts would have
been hurled against the new worship! What coun-
cils would have been called to sit in judgment on
the unheard of novelty! What vehement protests
from the faithful similar to those that greeted Nes-
torius denying the Divine maternity of the Blessed
Virgin, or that stigmatized Berengarius in question-
ing the kindred doctrine of the Real Presence in the
Eleventh Century! No time later than Apostolic
could be assigned for this imagined introduction,
because none such existed and because none later
could have the force and authority to ensure the
reception and belief of the faithful : it would
have been too great an innovation and corrup-
tion of the faith once delivered to the Church
by the divinely accredited Apostles. Hence by the
rule of prescription the existence of the Mass and
the faith of the Church therein must have been from
the beginning ; and that, too, without lapse or inter-

The Copts, the Syrians, the Nestorians, left the
Church in the Fifth Century: in their long separa-
tion they have retained the Sacrifice of the Mass and
their belief therein: where did they obtain it?
Where, but from the Church : therefore, it was in
the Church long before their secession. The Greeks
left the Church in the Tenth Century: they reviled


the Church with everything that could justify, or
seem to justify or extenuate, their withdrawal. But
never did they reproach her with error in her belief
of the Mass. On the contrary, they clung to it and
still cling to it. And having a true priesthood, they
have to this day this Divine Sacrifice. The Re-
formers in the Sixteenth Century were among the
first who charged the Church with error, and would
reduce the Divine Sacrifice of all ages to a mere com-
memoration or communion, in which men partake ;
according to some, to mere emblems ; or, according
to others, to the body and blood of Christ figura-
tively, or in the faith of the receivers. The Sacrifice
of the Mass as presented in the Church was the
object of their attacks: therefore, the Sacrifice was
the teaching of the Church and the belief of the
faithful. And they have been accounted heretics
chiefly because of their rejection of this dogma.
And this case so continues.

What a glorious opportunity does the Real
Presence of Christ in this Sacrifice and Sacrament
afford to the believer for faith, for hope, for charity,
for contrition ! What a realizing sense of these vir-
tues comes over him when he knows that he is in
presence of very God, not merely God as present
everywhere, but locally before Him as the Incarnate
God ! What faith does he not in his soul elicit when
upon the word of God he believes that the Incarnate
Deity is before him just as truly, nay, infinitely more
truly, than if he saw Him present physically, with,
his eyes, or touched Him with his hand, or conversed
with Him, as man with man, orally ! What assured
and unfailing hope must not animate his soul when


he thus realizes that God truly stoops to his capacity,
sinks Himself to his level ! What may he not trust
that God will give him, when He thus gives him
Himself ! How the worshipper's heart should melt
with love, when he sees before him the amazing love
of the Godhead, making Himself a man, nay, putting
Himself in such a form that man may feed upon
Him and nourish his soul with His flesh and blood ;
and offer Him to His eternal Father as a Holocaust
for his sins, and the Divine pledge and expression of
his love! With what consolation must not the sin-
ful soul be filled, when it feels that it can with un-
limited confidence seek pardon in the name and
blood of Jesus Christ, Who is the ever-acceptable
Victim of propitiation to the eternal Father, for its
sins and the sins of all men! These are the divine
virtues which this Sacrifice kindles and cultivates
in the soul of the believer.

What true worship does this Real Presence gen-
erate in the souls of men. True adoration of God
is essentially the utter prostration, the all but self-
annihilation of the soul, overwhelmed with the in-
finite greatness and unutterable majesty of the God-
head. Verily, would man call upon the hills to hide
and the mountains cover him from the face of
offended Deity: with good reason did the Jews,
overcome by the glory of God, ask Moses to be
their mediator and mouthpiece with the Almighty.
*Tor when since God created man, hath it been
heard, that man should look upon the face of God,
and yet live?" When we shut our eyes to God, we
are apt to imagine that we are something, because

Online LibraryJohn McQuirkSermons and discourses (Volume 3) → online text (page 21 of 43)