Dedication of altar at St. Michael Church, Dane Print
From the Diocesan Administrator
Thursday, Mar. 28, 2019 -- 12:00 AM
From the Diocesan Administrator column

Following is the homily given by Msgr. James Bartylla, diocesan administrator, at the dedication of the altar at St. Michael Church, Dane, in Blessed Trinity Parish.

Thank you to Fr. Scott Jablonski and all the members of Blessed Trinity Parish who worked so diligently on this beautiful sanctuary renovation as we dedicate this new altar today at St. Michael Church in Dane.

This morning, I ask you to put on your theological thinking caps as we ponder the new altar, and particularly the Sacrifice of the Mass at the altar.

Does the following statement sound pious to you? At the Sacrifice of the Mass we place ourselves at the foot of Calvary by going back to Calvary, the one unique sacrifice, in a kind of mystical transportation in time that transcends human understanding.

This may sound pious, but it is not Catholic doctrine and is erroneous. You'll find the doctrine of the Mass, already present in the Fathers, in the language of the Eucharistic Prayer, in the reflections of St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica, in the Council of Trent, in the Catechism of Pius X, and find it very clearly set forth in the Eucharistic theology of Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Mediator Dei.

The position that the sacrifice of the Mass and the sacrifice of Calvary are numerically identical was rejected by Pope Pius XII in Mediator Dei.

The death of Christ on Calvary is unique and is never repeated -- Christ died a bloody death only once on the cross as the great High Priest in reparation for the sins of the world.

However, he also left for us a memorial of that sacrifice. Why did He do so? It is one thing to speak about the redemption objectively accomplished on the cross, it is another thing to say, "How do I lay hold of that and make it my own and apply it to my life?

The doctrine of the Church is that the preeminent way that I lay hold of the power of Calvary to redeem me from sinning and unite me to God is through the sacrifice of the Mass.

If you look at the history of the liturgy all the way back to the earliest liturgies that we have, the language of the Eucharistic prayer is the language of offering. In Eucharistic Prayer I we read, "Be pleased, O God, we pray, to bless, acknowledge, and approve this offering . . ." The practice of the Church has always been to regard the Mass as a distinct or separate oblation (sacrifice) with its own propitiatory character.

Similarities and differences

If the Mass is a distinct oblation from Calvary, how are they the same?

The doctrine of the Church is that the sacrifices of Calvary and the Mass are specifically the same (of the same species) but are numerically distinct.

They're the same because they contain the same victim, namely Christ, the same priest, namely Christ, and they are offered for the same reason, namely, for the redemption of sinners, etc . . ., but the manner of the offering differs between Calvary and the Mass.

On Calvary, Christ was killed; he was bloodied and wounded. In the Mass, he is not bloody and wounded. The bloody sacrifice on the cross happened only once, but the Mass is an unbloody sacrifice and is repeated as a distinct oblation. The same Christ who died once on Calvary is the same Christ who now reigns in glory and is offered in the Mass, in the sacred elements through transubstantiation, in an unbloody sacrifice to God the Father.

Here's a nuance. In the sacrifice of the Mass we use two elements -- we use bread and wine. They become for us the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Our Lord, but present under two species. Could Christ have given us one species for the Holy Mass? Sure. He could have given us bread. He could have given us wine. But he chose to give us bread and wine.

Why the two species -- isn't that a little mysterious? Well, because every sacrament, and the Eucharist is a sacrament, is also a sign. Bread represents and then becomes the Body of Christ. Wine represents and also becomes the Blood of Christ. Now we know by transubstantiation the whole Christ is present in both elements, but the representative quality of the species, bread over here and wine over here, signifies Jesus present in a state of victimhood.

When your body is over here and your blood is over there, you're dead. But is Christ on the altar truly dead? He is not; the resurrected Jesus is there glorified, living, and powerful under each of the elements. But the mere separated elements themselves, signify the figure of Christ in a state of victimhood.

Offering of Christ

When I go to Mass and I make the offering of Jesus, whole and entire and glorified on the altar, to God the Father in reparation for my sins, and offer myself along with Him, then I lay hold in a unique way to the power of Calvary to sanctify me. But I am not mystically translated in a form of time travel back to the foot of the cross. No, on the contrary, I make an offering of Christ right here, right now, really and truly, in the present moment.

If I believe I'm passively transported back to Calvary as a bystander at Mass, like a window shade that is opened for me to view Calvary for a brief moment, then I'm a passive spectator.

In that case, other active things may become more important to me, such as the homily, the priest's personality, whether the priest smiles at me after Mass, or perhaps even watching the clock for the start of the Packer game.

However, if I am actively offering Christ to the Father along with myself this morning, fully and consciously, then I have literally offered the sacrifice of God-made-man to God the Father. Suddenly, my little concerns ebb away as I become an active participant in the work of salvation.

Sacramental sign

Here's a short epilogue to the sacramental sign of the element of bread separated from the element of wine as signifying the body separated from the blood of Christ in death.

Later, in the Communion Rite, the priest fractions or breaks the sacred host and deposits (commingles) a portion of the sacred host into the chalice in the Precious Blood.

This commingling is a symbol or sign of the underlying reality that you're truly receiving the living and true glorified, resurrected Christ at Holy Communion. How grateful you must be today for the privilege to offer the perfect sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father on this altar, along with yourself, and receive Our Glorified Lord in Holy Communion, in full, active, and conscious participation.

Monsignor Bartylla is grateful to Dr. David Anders of Called to Communion on EWTN Catholic television for the content of this article which was taken from one of Dr. Anders' answers to a caller on his radio call-in show.