Sancta Missa - Rituale Romanum (Roman Ritual) - Holy Sacraments - Introduction



In the fullness of time, when our heavenly Father was to exercise the most lavish act in is economy with mankind, He did so by means of a sacrament, the foremost sacrament: the incarnation with its extension throughout the ages in the Church, the mystical body of the Word made Flesh. "As Christ comes into the world He says, 'No sacrifice, no offering was your demand; you have endowed me instead with a body. You have not found any pleasure in burnt sacrifices, in sacrifices for sin. See then, I said, I am coming to fulfill what is written of me, where the book lies unrolled; to do your will, O my God.'"[1] "He has put everything under His dominion, and made Him the head to which the whole Church is joined, so that the Church is His body, the completion of Him who everywhere and in all things is complete."[2] The incarnation and the Church together is the primal sacrament; in fact, it may well be considered the one full sacrament of the New Covenant, all others by that name being fundamentally the unfolding communication of this supreme work of God's manifest kindness, mercy, and grace.

Christ and His Church. In becoming man He "is that head whose body is the Church; it begins with Him";[3] the Church, a new creation, the sacrament in which we are redeemed. Never before had God approached man in such full realism. This manifestation of the sole-begotten Son in creature form signified dramatically the limit to which the Uncreated would stoop, in order that He who is the Creator of man in the original state of grace would be likewise the renovator of man fallen from this estate. "O stupendous interchange of gifts, that the Creator of the human race, taking to Himself a human body, has deigned to be born of a virgin, and coming forth as man without the intervention of human seed, has endowed us with His divinity!"[4] The essence of Godhead is joined in sacramental mystery with visible mortal substance, "so that while we contemplate Him as God made manifest to our sight, we may be drawn by Him to the love of things unseen."[5] And since after the resurrection Jesus Christ would withdraw His glorified humanity from the earth to the seat at the right hand of God the Father, He provided that the sacramental mystery of incarnation and redemption be prolonged in the sacramental mystery of His body the Church. "I will not leave you orphans; I am coming back to you. Yet a little while, and the world sees me no longer; but you will see me, because I live, and you, too, shall live. On that day you will come to understand that I am in the Father, and you are in me, and I in you.... I am the vine, you are the branches.... But when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will conduct you through the whole range of truth. He is to glorify me, for He will draw upon what is mine and announce it to you."[6]

Christ who is life came as the sacrament of the Word made Flesh, prolongs life in the sacrament of the Church, effects and sustains life in the members of the Church through her sacramental mysteries. These are her most treasured possessions and her primary (and normally indispensable) means of grace. It is by the first of them, baptism, that the Church can solemnly declare to the soul dead in sin: "Awake, you that sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light."[7] Baptism is the sacrament which re-creates us a child of God, a brother of Jesus, a member of the Church. It is the beginning of our ontological union with the mystical body of the Savior. Yet another sacrament, the Eucharist, is required to intensify and complete this incorporation.[8] "He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, abides in me and I in him."[9] We are made a new creature by water and by blood, as symbolized on Calvary: "One of the soldiers opened His side with a spear; and immediately blood and water flowed out."[10] To complete Himself the head needs to draw members unto Him to build up the mystic edifice. Through the sacraments which flow from the side of Christ, God's plan of developing and completing the mystic Christ is carried out.[11] Consequently, it is so much more important that we know and accept Christ living and acting in sacramental reality here and now in His body the Church than simply to contemplate Him as the historical figure who onetime in the past went about in our world working the salvation of men.

By uniting us with Christ, the head, the sacraments unite us with His other members in the Church, the society of the faithful. "We, too, all of us, have been baptized into a single body by the power of a single Spirit, Jews and Greeks, slaves and free men alike; we have all been given drink at a single source, the one Spirit. The body, after all, consists not of one organ but of many.... And you are Christ's body, organs of it depending upon each other."[12] To perfect the bond of fellowship is primarily the work of the Eucharist, yet every sacrament has a share in this consolidation, since all of them converge toward the Eucharist as their end. The Eucharist is par excellence the sacrament of fellowship, unity, charity. As sacrifice the eucharistic oblation of Christ, truly His very own renewal of Good Friday in sacramental manner, is also the sacrifice of the Church, with a priest as minister acting in the person of Him and in the person of the entire fellowship of the faithful. Then as the communion of the body and blood of Christ, the holy sacrament of the altar, which culminates the bond of union and love between Jesus and the individual recipient, likewise extends the kiss of peace from member to member. If no other consideration, then this very one along with its corollaries should go far toward demonstrating that the sacramental mysteries of Christ and His Church, viewed and used properly, avoid the stigma of routine or ritualism or external formalism or arbitrariness which the unknowing would at times hurl at them. Although objective functions of religion, our wonderful sacraments indeed provide full play for man's subjective religious aspirations. They are the universal means of holiness, alike for the highest mystic and for the lowliest sinner. We acknowledge that God can and does come to a soul with His grace outside of their stream- -the Spirit breathes where He will. Yet ordinarily they are the main contact with and growth in Christ and His Church--they are necessary, they have stability, they work infallibly. "By means of the holy sacraments all true justice is established in its beginning, that which exists is increased, that which is lost is restored";[13] so teaches the Council of Trent.

It is certainly made plain from the history of Christianity that the sacraments fare better or worse in respect to how men evaluate them at different times and among different cultures as well as individuals. The simple of heart delight in them more readily than those of overrefined intellects; and this is predicated without implying that true intellectualism need in any way find them embarrassing. The most brilliant of the Fathers and Scholastics have been their champions. The best endowed theologians have been responsible for their theological formularies. To Christians in the East they seem to be more awe- inspiring than to the brethren in the West; at least we find among the former less controversy and hairsplitting and rationalizing and less temptation to neglect them at times for less certain sources of piety. The sacraments fared badly in the Protestant revolt: "How can a man be justified by an external ceremony without right movements of the heart?" No need to point out the fallacious way in which the question is formulated! And if havoc was raised for the sacramental system by Protestant subjectivism and individualism, its death knell was tolled for those outside the Church by the former's stepchild, Rationalism. For the latter the very notion of sacrament becomes laughable, since this system identifies "sacramentalism" with necromancy--logical enough, and completely in accord with its denial of God's grace and man's personal or inherited guilt. Modern civilization with its instability, vulgarity, intellectual confusion, subjectivism, and unbelief finds beyond itself the acceptance of God becoming immanent and operative in creature elements, words, and gestures. Nevertheless, there are indications that a change of heart is occurring in the sects, who are showing evidence of discovering that what is natural Christ has made supernatural, as St. Chrysostom points out: "For if you had been incorporeal, He would have delivered to you the incorporeal gifts bare; but because the soul has been locked up in a body, He delivers to you the things that the mind perceives, in things sensible.[14]... For although they are done on earth, yet nevertheless they are worthy of the heavens. For when our Lord Jesus Christ lies slain (as a sacrifice), when the Spirit is with us, when He who sits on the right hand of the Father is here, when sons are made by the washing...when He says, 'Whose sins you retain they are retained, whose sins you remit, they are remitted': when they have the keys of heaven, how can all be other than heavenly?"[15] In Catholicism too there is increased devotion to the sacraments ever since the eucharistic-liturgical renewal of Pius X. In fact, whenever we find an age deeply conscious of the doctrine of the mystical body, the sacrament of Christ and His Church, we notice a corresponding deepening of faith that in the sacramental mysteries we have Christ's incarnation and redemption made present again.

For all who believe in the Scriptures it is there to perceive that already in the Old Testament the foundations were laid for future faith in the sacraments of the Church. The ancient covenant had its own sacraments which not only preannounced ours, but had a certain efficacy, not in the sense that they caused grace, but rather that they conferred grace by reason of the faith in Christ which they expressed. There is one episode in particular which the Church with fine psychological insight borrows during Lent, in order to impress upon her candidates for baptism that henceforth their communion with God will be effected chiefly through her sacramental powers. On Monday in the third week of Lent, she uses as the Epistle of Mass the passage from the Fourth Book of Kings which recounts Naaman's cure of leprosy through the waters of the Jordan. "In those days Naaman, general of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honorable...but a leper. Now there had gone out robbers from Syria, and had led away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid, and she waited upon Naaman's wife. And she said to her mistress: 'I wish my master had been with the prophet that is in Samaria; he would certainly have healed him of the leprosy which he has.' ...So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and stood at the door of the house of Eliseus; and Eliseus sent a messenger to him, saying: 'Go, and wash seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh shall recover health, and you shall be clean.' ...Naaman was angry, and as he turned and was going away with indignation, his servants came to him and said to him: 'Father, if the prophet had bid you to do some great thing, surely you would have done it; how much rather what he now said to you: "Wash, and you shall be clean"?' Then he went down and washed in the Jordan seven times, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored, like the flesh of a little child, and he was made clean."[16] The Church reads this as an instruction on baptism for her catechumens, but it can be applied as well to all the sacraments. Naaman, when he believed in Eliseus (a type of Christ) and consented to wash in the waters of the Jordan (the sacramental signs which both signify and effect), had his flesh restored (purification and grace) like the flesh of a little child (sonship of divine adoption).

During His public life our Lord, before instituting the sacraments, took pains to secure our faith in them by frequently making use of homely signs as He went about healing the people of their infirmities. We believe that these miracles had not only an immediate purpose of dispensing mercy to those He found afflicted with bodily and spiritual ailments, or to confirm His divine nature and mission in the sight of onlookers, but also served to preannounce that in the sacraments He would institute, "virtue would go out from Him and heal all."[17] Moreover, these good works of Jesus do more than teach and prefigure. The fathers never tire of proclaiming that His historical acts are performed not only for the moment, but that they are done "in mysterio"; that whenever His deeds are set before us in the Gospel for our contact by faith, or in the liturgy for our contact by sacrament, the grace which they one time merited is now produced within us. "As Jesus was departing again from the district of Tyre...they brought to Him one deaf and dumb, and entreated Him to lay His hand upon him. And taking him aside from the crowd He put His fingers into the man's ears, and spitting, He touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, He sighed and said to him: 'Ephpheta,' that is, 'Be opened.' And his ears were at once opened, and the bond of his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak correctly."[18] What He could have accomplished by a mere act of will or the utterance of a word He chose actually to effect through the instrumentality of matter, gestures, and words: spittle, touch, Ephpheta. Another time when ten lepers besought Jesus to have mercy on their condition, He commanded them to present themselves to the priests: "and as they went they were made clean."[19] Spiritual leprosy is now cleansed by Christ acting through His Church, whose priests are His tools, dispensing medicinal powers by means of effective and demonstrative signs.

A sacrament, or a mystery, as the Greek fathers call it, is a visible thing which contains an invisible divine power and action, the inward content being really connected with and partially signified by the outward words, elements, and their application, the full essence remaining, nonetheless, concealed, mysterious, and transcendent to human comprehension. What the human mind apprehends of the sacrament, in so far as it is knowable to finite beings, is grasped by the intellect, aided by the senses through the visible signs, and supernaturally enlightened by faith. The marvelous role of a sacrament, as a sensory material instrument to effect God's grace and simultaneously render present the redemptive work of Christ, is an act of religion which appeals to the body-spirit nature of which man is composed. Mankind sinned by turning his will away from the Creator to prefer the creature. Justification shall be humbly sought through the instrumentality of the same creature things which brought his ruin.

We must consider here St. Paul's teaching on the "new creation." "If anyone be in Christ, he is a new creation; the former things have passed away, behold all things are made new."[20] By the coming and sacrifice of Christ, creation, all of it, animate and inanimate, has been consecrated anew and transfigured. As in Adam all sinned and were penalized with God's curse-he, his posterity, and the entire cosmos which was summed up in him, so in Christ shall all be redeemed and made a new creation. For this purpose a new order has come into being, new realities which exist on a plane midway between heaven and earth, the plane on which God and creatures meet and embrace. This new world is found in the sacramental character of the Church, the great sacrament in herself, her seven sacraments in the narrower and stricter sense, along with her sacramentals. Here we have a marvelous structure, the cornerstone of which is Christ, wherein the communication of His divine life is bound up with a visible organization, human persons, sensory objects.

As the humanity of Christ drawn from the earth was a real physical cause, not merely a moral one, of bringing His divinity and the Holy Spirit upon the earth and into the mystical body, so material nature was ordained by Him to participate in conferring Himself and the operation of the Holy Spirit on humankind until the coming of the everlasting kingdom. Precisely how the sacraments as external signs are the bearers of supernatural riches has been a matter of enthusiastic speculation, in fact, of heated controversy among theologians. We like to believe that they are right who go all the way in attributing as much power of causality to them as they could possibly be endowed with. It should be perfectly obvious, of course, that at most sacraments are instrumental causes only, that God Himself is the principal cause of grace. On this score there must be nothing short of universal agreement. But as instrumental causes, how do they operate? Unless we are mistaken, it appears that the tendency is to favor such theologians of today who place themselves on the side of the early Scholastics, who in turn based their convictions on a realistic understanding of scriptural terminology and the writings of the fathers. If they are right, then the sacraments are in the strictest sense real causes (physical causes, or as Scheeben[21] says, hyperphysical causes) of grace. Otherwise the sacraments in their character of outward signs would merely dispose the soul for the reception of grace, would call upon God, effectually inducing Him to exercise His power of producing grace. To maintain, however, that they are truly physical instrumental causes (and not merely moral causes) entails that divine power has been imparted to them to the extent that God works directly through them, so that His grace is immediately effected in man's soul by them. In other words, the outward signs of the sacraments are possessed of at least a transient power of the Holy Spirit. "If under the appearance of bread and wine there can be the body and blood of Christ, St. Thomas, the most honest and logical of all thinkers, will say that under baptismal water there also can be the power of the Holy Ghost, so that baptismal water, or any other sacramental sign, is not only an infallible token of God's activity in the souls of men, but that it is more: the water, the chrism, and the words of absolution, they all contain a participated power from Christ."[22] St. Ambrose, whose insight into the sacramental mysteries of the Church can hardly be equaled, is positively uninhibited when he considers the divine powers given to sacramental signs. It is not enough for him to speak in some vague way about a participated power of Christ. He insists on a divine presence in the material elements, and that not only at the moment they are employed to confer a sacrament, but in themselves, because they have been so fructified through the Church's consecration. "What have you seen? Water, certainly. but not water alone.... I believe that there is in it the presence of divinity. Do you believe in its power to effect, but not in the presence? How can the effect follow unless the presence first precede it?"[23] If his words are to be dismissed as pure hyperbole, then so are the sacred prayers which the Church uses at the consecration of the font of baptism as well as the holy oils. One must consider, moreover, the Church's deep solicitude about the handling and disposal of sacramental elements, as expressed again and again in the rubrics of the Ritual. But how can lowly matter be the repository of lofty supernatural realities? St. Ambrose is content to state that in the sacraments, from every aspect, there is much more than bodily eyes can discern.

The sacraments are mysteries, both in the sense that they are corporeal bearers of divine operations, and that they are mysterious entities, supernatural realities which we cannot fully comprehend. But to assist the intellect--aided necessarily by faith--to penetrate partially into their spiritual content, they are clothed in powerful external and demonstrative signs. Their property of signification, moreover, is to be sought throughout the rite under which they are administered, from beginning to end, and not only under the essential acts alone. To add to their power of signifying what they effect, the Church, guided by divine wisdom, in true genius has surrounded each sacrament with a number of solemn and beautiful ceremonies and prayers above what is required as a minimum for validity. In baptism, for example, how much better we understand that it is deliverance from Satan's bondage because the exorcisms signify this aspect; that it is a renewal of the whole man because this is signified by partaking of the blessed salt, by the touching with spittle of the nostrils and ears, by the anointing with oil of catechumens; that it is a consecration and elevation to the state of divine sonship, so that the Blessed Trinity makes the soul a temple of Its indwelling, as signified by the consecration with chrism, the conferring of the white garment, the presentation of the lighted candle; and then that it is essentially a death and a resurrection in Christ Jesus, a total incorporation in Him and His Church, as demonstrated by the bath in the fountain of baptismal waters, the holy womb of Mother Church, wherein we die to the old man conceived by the first Adam and put on the new Adam, Jesus Christ our Savior. Although we cannot consider it here, the whole eucharistic rite is even more powerfully demonstrative.

From our catechism we learned that the Eucharist is a thing of past, present, future--a memorial of our Lord's sacrifice, a present participation in its grace, a pledge of future resurrection and immortality. St. Thomas makes it clear that what is predicated of the Eucharist in this respect is likewise true of each sacrament. "A sacrament is a commemorative sign of that which has gone before, namely, of Christ's passion; a demonstrative sign of what is effected in us now by the passion of Christ, namely, of grace; a predictive sign, in as much as it preannounces future glory."[24] In this way the sacraments are indeed a clear announcement of the glad tidings of Christianity. We are brought into contact with the person of our Lord as High Priest in the act of redeeming us, as beneficent dispenser of the fruits which He merits for us, as the king of future glory "Who has dominion over God's house."[25] What broader dynamic vistas are opened to us when we contemplate the Church's sacramental mysteries in this threefold activity, instead of regarding them as a mere affair of the moment. Through them, more than in any other exercise of religion, are we given sure signs of God's predilection for us and our predestination as His elect. "Who will come forward to accuse God's elect, when God acquits us? Who will pass sentence against us, when Jesus Christ, Who died, nay, has risen again, and sits at the right hand of God, is pleading for us? Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will affliction, or distress, or persecution, or hunger, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?"[26] We see in the sacraments guarantees of our high calling; they give us such confidence because they have marked us with the seal of the Blessed Trinity and the cross of Christ, fed us with the bread of heaven, loosed us from sin, anointed us for glory. "Let us come forward with sincere hearts in the full assurance of the faith, our guilty consciences purified by sprinkling, our bodies washed clean in hallowed water."[27] Baptism is the beginning of our election. The eucharistic banquet is food for the elect.

Quite another and a very meaningful teaching of how time becomes vanquished in the sacramental mysteries is given by the fathers and finds frequent expression in liturgical prayers. It is said that sacraments are re-enactments under signs and symbols of the saving work of redemption. A popular way of expressing the same is to state it somewhat as follows: "The sacraments make it possible for us to take our place at the foot of the Cross"; or as Karl Adam says, they are "a refreshing touching of the hem of His garment, a liberating handling of His sacred wounds."[28] The Eucharist is most directly the sacramental re-presentation of the paschal sacrifice of Christ. However, many of the early fathers, in the East particularly, do not limit the sacrifice of redemption to the moment of His death. They look upon the Passover sacrifice of the New Covenant as something which began with His appearance in the flesh (the basis in concrete expression of His will to be sacrificed), continued throughout His life until reaching a climax on Calvary ("My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will."[29]), finally approved in the resurrection (when the Redeemer became the glorified God-man), rewarded and exalted in the ascension, and only to be completed and perfected in the final coming, when He shall gather together His elect to partake in the eternal sacrifice of heaven. These historical events already past, together with the Parousia of future time, form one integral act by which Christ becomes our Paschal Lamb offered for the world's ransom. And what He did historically is now brought about mystically (in mysterio) by Him and His Church, through the instrumentality of external sacred formulae. In the sacramental activity of the glorified Christ and His mystical body we have continually set forth the Savior in the act of doing the will of the Father who sent Him. This altogether admirable and realistic explanation of the mystery which is Christ, as St. Paul expresses it, profoundly affects our thinking about the sacraments. The sacraments, as an objective remembrance of all that happened to Christ--from incarnation to everlasting glorification--make it possible for us to participate in the mysteries of our divine head, not only in the effects but in the very facts. In fine, we live with Christ in the sacraments. They are the drama of redemption in which God through Christ carries on His action in the Church and in our individual souls. What is impossible for us to experience with Christ in a natural way, we can experience with Him in a sacramental way. We die and rise with Christ sacramentally; in the same way we share with Him the exaltation at the right hand of His Father.[30]

Under sacramental signs the economy of salvation flows anew into God's holy Church, and her people are caught up in its stream. Sin and its prompter are routed as the Holy Spirit comes to make His abode in the soul, to establish and then ever to perfect its sharing in the nature of God by the bond of grace and charity. We cannot even speak of a cooperation of man in the strict sense. The work is God's, not man's. Yet man does not remain altogether passive. His contribution is one of right disposition of mind and will. The sacraments are a matter of divine action and human devotion--devotion in its best meaning, that is, sincere allegiance to the task that Christ and His Church propose to accomplish. In the case of the minister, he must above all be empowered by the Church to act in her behalf and have the intention of doing what the Church purposes to do in her sacraments. It is not required of him that he believe in them or be enlightened about them. Nor does his personal unworthiness hinder their effect. They do what they do, whether his own life be blameless or corrupted in grossest sin, whether he be zealous or indifferent, whether his manner of administering them be a cause of edification or of scandal. But this least minimum is not what the Church wants to find in the human conduit of divine powers. She desires and, in the case of her especially deputed and ordained ministers, she commands that her sacred treasures, as befits their very dignity and sanctity, be handled with pure heart and unsoiled hands, that they be dispensed with understanding, solemnity, and reverence. "Since in God's Church nothing is holier, loftier, more beneficial, or more divine than the sacraments instituted by Christ the Lord for the salvation of mankind, let every pastor--in fact, every priest to whom pertains their administration--bear uppermost in mind that he is dealing with holy things, and that he must be prepared almost every moment to discharge this sacred office. Therefore, let him ever be solicitous about leading a blameless, a chaste and holy life. For even though the sacraments cannot be sullied by the unclean nor their effects impeded through an evil minister, yet they who administer them while unworthy and unclean are guilty of grievous sin."[31] It must be maintained that priests in discharging their sacramental office not only sanctify the subjects, but are in turn themselves sanctified, in the measure of how devotedly they perform their stewardship. "Imitamini quod tractatis: Let your conduct be in conformity with the action you perform."[32] First things first! A priest's sacramental ministry is the Alpha and Omega of his sacerdotal existence. All else pertaining to the care of souls, be its import what it may, must be kept subordinate.

The devotion we speak of is presumed likewise in the subject of the sacraments, even though we say they produce their effects infallibly as long as the recipient places no obstacle in the way. The chief disposition required in the subject is faith, faith in Jesus Christ and all therein implied. Faith is so necessary that it cannot be dispensed with even in infant baptism, in which case, however, the Church supplies vicariously what the child is incapable of eliciting. Moreover, the subject must have the intention of receiving the sacrament, except the Eucharist, because the body and blood of our Lord is always received, no matter what the disposition or preparation of the one who communicates. As a preparatory act to sacramental regeneration and transfiguration, in the case of an adult, there must be a change of heart, a turning away from sin and a wholehearted conversion to Christ. This is nothing else than the activity of faith referred to above. "For he that comes to God must believe that He is, and is a rewarder to them that seek Him."[33] (Even this activity of faith on the part of man, it must not be forgotten, is made possible only because God previously gives the impetus by a gratuitous movement of grace.) Man's faith summons the sacrament to effect the mystical marriage of the soul with its Maker. Once this union through grace has been consummated, the accompanying virtues of faith, hope, and charity infused by God into man will assist the latter to seek a continuance and increase of grace and charity, by means of a devout and fruitful use of the other sacraments, above all the sacrament of the Eucharist. Man's subjective devotion and aspirations, in union with the Church's faith and fervor, will determine to a greater or lesser degree how fruitful the operation of the Holy Spirit will be. The sacraments of Christ's Church are the chief and universal way for man to plunge into the redemptive stream of holiness and ultimate glorification. Yet he will not be swept along with the current to its intended supernatural termination without some consciously directed endeavor on his part.

It would be incomplete, indeed, a serious omission were we to conclude our consideration of the sacramental concept without some brief word about its property of cult. St. Thomas tells us that the sacraments have a twofold purpose, namely, to perfect the soul for its part in the worship of God according to the Christian dispensation, and to be a remedy against sin.[34] Their movement is upward from man to God as well as downward from God to men. In fact, the two trends are inseparable. In the sacramental life of the Church man is sanctified not for his own sake, but rather that, being made a new creature and consecrated to an ennobled dignity by the divine Spirit, he may give glory to the triune God, now on earth and forever in heaven. Christ's redemptive sacrifice glorifies the Father in two ways: first, by faithfully fulfilling His Father's will; second, by raising man to a state in which he can participate with the divine head in giving glory to God. "Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you, even as you have given Him power over all flesh, in order that to all you have given Him, He may give everlasting life."[35] It was principally as a priest, the High Priest according to the order of Melchisedech, that Christ brought about the rapprochement between His Father and outcast humankind. And since we have been incorporated in Him, we must in all things be like Him, also to the extent of sharing in His priesthood.

Precisely for this reason three sacraments especially have a consecratory role. They are the priestly sacraments: baptism, confirmation, and holy orders, which imprint indelibly on the soul a character, making it conformable to the priesthood of the incarnate Word. The seal of Christ in the soul is more than an image of the High Priest--it actually endows the soul with a participated power of His priesthood. So that a man sealed with the third character of orders is fully made one with the eternal High Priest, and henceforth the two are identified in all that pertains to the Church's sacramental activity of worship and sanctification. Yet the faithful who lack the full priestly consecration are, nevertheless, constituted priests in the image of Christ in a lesser and general way by the sacramental characters of baptism and confirmation. And thus for all members of the City of God the sacraments are instruments of divine worship. In this their God- ward direction they reach their superlative perfection and fullest mystery. They are the outward protestation of our inner faith; they express in solemn manner our profession of God's excellence, His power and His kindness. Adoration, supplication, thanksgiving, satisfaction, humility, obedience, charity, the spirit of sacrifice or asceticism-- all these inward acts are called forth and embodied in the rites and prayers which embellish sacramental administration, ever converging toward the Eucharist, the sacrament which is at the same time the New Covenant sacrifice of the Whole Christ, wherein worship no longer remains purely subjective, but the inward total surrender becomes localized in the most realistic objective act of glorifying God, the eucharistic offering of the vine and the branches, that sacrifice in which Christ is priest and victim and we are truly priests and victims in Him and with Him, raising aloft to the divine majesty all honor and glory.


1. Heb 10.5-7, Knox version.

2. Eph 1.22-23, Knox.

3. Col 1.18.

4. Vespers on the Octave of Christmas.

5. Preface of Mass on Christmas.

6. Jn 14.18-20; 15.5; 16.13-14.

7. Eph 5.14.

8. Cf. Ferdinand Holbock: "Der Eucharistische und der Mystische Leib Christi," p. 215.

9. Jn. 6.57.
10. Jn 19.34.

11. Cf. St. Thomas, S. Th., III P., q. 64, 2 and 3.

12. 1 Cor 12.13-14, 27.

13. Preface to Session VII.

14. Homily 82 on Mt 26.26-28, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. X, The Christian Literature Co., New York, 1888.

15. Homily 14 on Heb 7.1-2, ibid, Vol. XIV.

16. 4 Kgs 5.1-14.

17. Lk 6.19.

18. Mk 7.32-35.

19. Lk 17.14.

20. 2 Cor. 5.17.

21. Cf. "The Mysteries of Christianity."

22. Vonier: "Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist," p. 69.

23. "De Mysteriis," Florilegium Patristicum, Fasc. VII, Pars III, Bonn, 1936.

24. S. Th., III P., q. 60, art. 3.

25. Heb 10.21.

26. Rom 8.33-35.

27. Heb 10.22.

28. "The Spirit of Catholicism." p. 19.

29. Mt 26.39.

30. For an adequate treatment of this explanation of the Christ-Mystery there is a rather vast literature, access to which can best be sought in the volumes of "Jahrbuch fur Liturgiewissenschaft."

31. Roman Ritual. Sec. I, Ch. I, nos. 3 and 4.

32. Rite of ordination.

33. Heb 11.6.

34. S. Th., III P., q. 60, art. 5, and q. 63, art. 1.

35. Jn 17.2.

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