Baltimore Catechism 3

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The Sacrifice of the Mass


 * Q. 357. What is the Mass?
A. The Mass is the Sacrifice of the New Law in which Christ, through the ministry of the priest, offers Himself to God in an unbloody manner under the appearances of bread and wine.


 * The name "Mass" comes from the Latin word Missa meaning dismissal. In the early days of the Church the catechumens were asked to leave after the gospel and sermon were finished. The faithful, however, remained until they were dismissed after the sacrifice was completed. Then, as now, this was done by saying or singing Ite Missa Est. In the course of time the word Missa, or dismissal, was used to designate the entire sacrifice.

 * > "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 the 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" (Malachias 1:10-11).

 * > "Therefore, beloved, flee from the worship of idols. I am speaking as to men of sense; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not the sharing of the blood of Christ? And the bread that we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord? Because the bread is one, we though many, are one body, all of us who partake of the one bread. Behold Israel according to the flesh, are not they who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What then do I say? That what is sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No; but I say that what the Gentiles sacrifice, 'they sacrifice to devils and not to God'; and I would not have you become associates of devils. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils; you cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord and of the table of devils. Or are we provoking the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?" (1 Corinthians 10:14-22).

 * > "We have an altar, from which they have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle" (Hebrews 13:10).

 * > See Scripture, question 344, Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29.


 * Q. 358. What is a sacrifice?
A. A sacrifice is the offering of a victim by a priest to God alone, and the destruction of it in some way to acknowledge that He is the Creator of all things.


 * By his very nature man wants to adore and thank his Creator. Men mistaken at times about the nature of the true God have offered false worship; but they have always recognized the obligation of adoring the Supreme Being. As far back as the history of man is recorded, there is evidence that men acknowledged their dependence on the Supreme Being by offering sacrifices to Him.

 * Before the coming of Christ, sacrifices were offered to God in many different ways. The patriarchs and Jewish priests at the command of God offered fruits, wine, or animals as victims. Cain, for example, offered fruits; Abel offered some sheep of his flock; Melchisedech offered bread and wine. The destruction of these offerings removed them from man's use and thereby signified that God is the Supreme Lord and Master of the entire created universe and that man is wholly dependent upon Him for everything. Sacrifice, therefore, is the most perfect way for man to worship God.

 * All these different sacrifices of the Old Law were only figures of the sacrifice that Christ was to make of Himself. His offering of Himself on the cross was the greatest sacrifice ever offered to God. All the sacrifices of the Old Law derived their efficacy, or value, from the sacrifice which Christ was to offer on the cross.

 * See Scripture, question 357, Malachias 1:10-11.


 * Q. 359. Who is the principal priest in every Mass?
A. The principal priest in every Mass is Jesus Christ, who offers to His heavenly Father, through the ministry of His ordained priest, His body and blood which were sacrificed on the cross.


 * The Mass is the same sacrifice as the sacrifice of the cross. It is now, in the New Law, the sacrifice that is acceptable to God.

 * See Scripture, question 344, Matthew 26:26-28; Luke 22:1920.


 * Q. 360. Why is the Mass the same sacrifice as the sacrifice of the cross?
A. The Mass is the same sacrifice as the sacrifice of the cross because in the Mass the victim is the same, and the principal priest is the same, Jesus Christ.


 * Christ, though invisible, is the principal minister, offering Himself in the Mass. The priest is the visible and secondary minister, offering Christ in the Mass. The most important part of the Mass is the Consecration. In the Consecration bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ, who then is really present on the altar. Through the priest He offers Himself to God in commemoration of His death on the cross.

 * The other most important parts of the Mass are the Offertory and the Communion. In the Offertory the priest offers to God the bread and wine that will be changed into the body and blood of Christ. In the Communion the priest and the people receive the body and blood of Our Lord under the appearances of bread and wine.

 * > "And Jesus cried out with a loud voice and said, 'Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.' And having said this, he expired" (Luke 23:46).

 * > See Scripture, question 344, Luke 22:19-20.


 * Q. 361. What are the purposes for which the Mass is offered?
A. The purposes for which the Mass is offered are: first, to adore God as our Creator and Lord; second, to thank God for His many favors; third, to ask God to bestow His blessings on all men; fourth, to satisfy the justice of God for the sins committed against Him.


 * In every Mass adoration, praise and thanksgiving are given to God and reparation is made to Him.

 * Besides the purpose for which the Mass is offered and the effects that it produces, there are also special fruits of the Mass. The fruits of the Mass are the blessings that God bestows through the Mass upon the celebrant, upon those who serve or assist at it, upon the person or persons for whom it is offered, and also upon all mankind, especially the members of the Church and the souls in purgatory. The measure of these blessings depends especially on the dispositions of those to whom they are given.

 * See Scripture, question 360, Luke 23:46.


 * Q. 362. Is there any difference between the sacrifice of the cross and the Sacrifice of the Mass?
A. The manner in which the sacrifice is offered is different. On the cross Christ physically shed His blood and was physically slain, while in the Mass there is no physical shedding of blood or physical death, because Christ can die no more; on the cross Christ gained merit and satisfied for us, while in the Mass He applies to us the merits and satisfaction of His death on the cross.


 * On the cross Christ was offered in a bloody manner; in the Mass He is offered in an unbloody manner. On the cross Christ alone offered Himself directly; in the Mass He offers Himself through the priest, who is the secondary but true minister, dependent upon Christ.

 * On the cross Christ suffered and died; in the Mass He can no longer suffer or die. On the cross He paid the price of our redemption; in the Mass He applies to us the merits of His Sacrifice on the cross.

 * There are various kinds of Masses: first, a Solemn Mass, which is celebrated by a priest who is immediately assisted by a deacon and a subdeacon; second, a High Mass, in which the celebrating priest sings certain parts of the Mass; third, a Low Mass, in which the priest reads all the parts of the Mass: fourth, a Pontifical Mass, which is celebrated by a bishop and by certain other prelates.

 * Any of these kinds of Masses can be a Requiem Mass, which is one offered for the dead. In a Requiem Mass the celebrating priest wears black vestments and reads or chants special prayers for the dead.

 * Some prayers make up the "Ordinary" of the Mass and are practically always the same; others make up the "Proper" of the Mass and differ according to the seasons and the feasts of the ecclesiastical calendar. Ordinarily Mass must be offered on an altar stone consecrated by a bishop or by his delegate.

 * The priest wears the following vestments during Mass: first, the amice, a white linen cloth placed over the shoulders and about the neck; second, the Alb, a long white linen garment covering the body; third, the cincture, a cord tied about the waist; fourth, the maniple, a short band of cloth hanging from the left arm; fifth, the stole, a long narrow band of cloth worn over the shoulders and crossed in front of the body; and sixth, the chasuble, an outer garment covering the greater part of the body.

 * These vestments have an ancient origin, and most of them resemble the garments worn by the apostles.

 * The colors of the outer vestments worn during Mass are: white, which signifies purity of soul and holiness; red, which signifies the shedding of blood and burning love; green, which signifies hope; violet, which signifies penance; black, which signifies mourning; rose, which signifies joy in the midst of penance; and gold, which is used on solemn occasions in place of white, red, or green vestments.

 * White vestments are worn on feasts of Our Lord, the Blessed Virgin, saints who were not martyrs, and during the Easter season; red is used on the feasts of the Holy Ghost, the passion of Our Lord, and martyrs; green is used on the Sundays outside of Advent, Lent, and the Christmas and Easter season; violet is worn in Lent, Advent, and on penitential days; black is worn in Masses for the dead; rose may be used instead of violet on the third Sunday of Advent and on the fourth Sunday of Lent.

 * Some of the important articles used during Mass are: the chalice, or gold-lined cup, in which the wine is consecrated; the paten, or gold covered plate, on which the host is placed; the purificator, or cloth, for wiping the chalice; the pall, or linen-covered card, used to cover the chalice; the corporal, or square linen cloth, on which the host is placed; the missal, or book, from which the priest reads the prayers of the Mass; the beeswax candles; the crucifix over the altar; and the three linen cloths that cover the altar.

 * > "For we know that Christ, having risen from the dead, dies now no more, death shall no longer have dominion over him. For the death that he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life that he lives, he lives unto God" (Romans 6:9-10).

 * > "For Jesus has not entered into a Holies made by hands, a mere copy of the true, but into heaven itself, to appear now before the face of God on our behalf; nor yet has he entered to offer himself often, as the high priest enters into the Holies year after year with blood not his own; for in that case he must have suffered often since the beginning of the world" (Hebrews 9:24-26).

 * > "Because Christ also died once for sins, the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. Put to death indeed in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit" (1 Peter 3:18).


 * Q. 363. How should we assist at Mass?
A. We should assist at Mass with reverence, attention, and devotion.


 * There are different ways of assisting at Mass devoutly: using the missal to follow the priest, saying the Mass prayers as found in a prayer book, reciting the Rosary, or singing hymns.


 * Q. 364. What is the best method of assisting at Mass?
A. The best method of assisting at Mass is to unite with the priest in offering the Holy Sacrifice, and to receive Holy Communion.


 * It is evident from the words of the priest himself that we do unite with him in offering up the Holy Sacrifice. After the Offertory he turns to the people and says: "Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the Father Almighty." In the second commemoration of the Canon of the Mass he says: "Remember, O Lord, Thy servants ... , for whom we offer, or who offer up to Thee, this sacrifice of praise ... ."


 * Q. 365. Who said the first Mass?
A. Our divine Savior said the first Mass, at the Last Supper, the night before He died.


 * See Scripture, question 344.




 * Man naturally seeks some way of showing externally his adoration and gratitude toward His Creator. From the beginning of time the method by which men most clearly manifested their reverence toward God has been by the ceremony of sacrifice. By this ceremony man takes a creature-for example, an animal, or a cup of wine-and makes a gift of it to God. This is an expressive way of saying that God is the Lord of all created things. Also implied in this offering is man's acknowledgement that God gives him everything he has, and so he thanks the Almighty for His favors in the past and begs Him to continue His favors in the future. Then the offering is destroyed-for example, the animal is killed, or the wine is poured out. This too has a symbolic meaning. It signifies that man confesses that he has sinned, and deserves to be punished by God, and by this ceremony he implores pardon. Thus, the purposes of every sacrifice are four-adoration, gratitude, petition, and atonement for sin and for its punishments. Sacrifice is a public act-that is, it is offered by a group or society, through their representative, an official known as a priest.

 * There are many references to sacrifices in the Old Testament. Cain and Abel, the sons of our first parents offered sacrifices, the former of the fruits of the earth, the latter some of the sheep of his flock. Noah offered a sacrifice on leaving the Ark. Melchisedech offered a sacrifice of bread and wine on meeting Abraham. God Himself prescribed many forms of sacrifice for the Jewish people. However, all these sacrifices were but preparations for the great sacrifice that was to be offered on Calvary, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the sacrifice of which He was both priest and victim. As St. Paul says: "At the end of the ages. He has appeared for the destruction of sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Hebr., 9, 26) The sacrifice of Himself which Our Lord offered was of infinite worth, because of the infinite dignity of the priest and victim, and so it gave infinite praise and adoration to God, and was capable of satisfying for the sins of all mankind.

 * However, Our Lord wished that the sacrifice of Calvary should not be limited to one place or one time. He willed that all men should have an opportunity of assisting at the sacrifice of His body and blood. And so, on the night before His death He established the Sacrifice of the Mass. This was to be a renewal of Calvary, in the sense that the same body and blood that were offered on the cross were to be offered again. There was to be no new death of Our Saviour; but His death was to be represented vividly by the twofold consecration of the bread into His body and the wine into His blood, typifying the separation of body and blood that actually took place on Calvary. This sacrifice was to apply to the souls of men the merits and satisfaction which Our Saviour earned by His death. It was this sacrifice, the Mass, which God through the prophet announced, more than four centuries before Christ: "From the rising of the sun even to the 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" (Mal., 1, 11).

 * The Sacrifice of the Mass is therefore the greatest possible act of divine worship. It is the only form of sacrifice now acceptable to God. The power to offer Mass is the greatest power of the Catholic priest. However, the members of the laity should remember that they too have a share in the offering of this divine sacrifice. It is in their name that the priest officiates; they offer the body and blood of Our Saviour to His eternal Father through the hands of the priest. And the more fervently they participate in the offering of the Mass, the more benefits they will receive from this precious sacrifice by which the death of our Redeemer on Calvary is daily represented and its benefits applied on thousands of altars throughout the Catholic Church.

 * The more actively and intimately a person participates in the offering of the Mass, the greater benefits will he derive. Thus, a boy who serves Mass or a person who sings in the choir will partake more abundantly of the fruits of the Holy Sacrifice, other things being equal, than one who merely assists as a member of the congregation.




 * Resolve to become familiar with the ceremonies of the Mass, the vestments, the sacred vessels, and especially the prayers of the Mass, so that you can follow intelligently the Holy Sacrifice with the Missal.

 * Complete Exercises For Lesson 27





 * (Check each of the following statements as either true or false. The correct answers will be found in the preceding portions of the lesson).


 * The most important part of the sacrifice of the Mass is the Communion.

 * The measure of the fruits of the Mass depends especially on the dispositions of those to whom they are given.

 * Christ is the principal priest in every Mass.

 * Gold vestments can take the place of violet vestments.

 * In every Mass Our Lord gains new merit and satisfaction for us.

 * The Mass is offered for the same purposes as the sacrifice of the Cross.

 * The altar should be covered with four linen cloths.

 * The pall is the linen cloth for wiping the chalice.

 * The first Mass was said on Calvary.

 * The people unite with the priest in offering the sacrifice of the Mass.



 * (Answer the questions orally or write them as your teacher may direct):


 * What is the earliest sacrifice acceptable to God, of which we have a record?

 * What gave value to the sacrifices of the Old Law?

 * Are modern religious sacrifices, other than the Mass, acceptable to God? Explain your answer.

 * Gabriel, who hopes someday to become an outstanding journalist, finds it hard to write from six to nine sentences that will explain what the priest does at the three principal parts of the Mass. You try it.

 * Sum up in four words the purposes for which the Mass is offered.

 * Richard, an altar-boy, and his twin brother Anthony, go to the children's Mass. Richard serves the Mass; Anthony kneels in the first pew. Supposing their fervor is the same, and all other considerations being equal, how do they share in the fruits of the Mass? Does one get more than the other, or do they get the same amount? Explain the answer.

 * Father Bronislaus, vesting for Mass, is interrupted by a parishioner just before he puts on the final vestment for Mass. The interview with the parishioner being ended in two or three minutes, Father Bronislaus takes the chalice, and starts for the sanctuary. "Father, you forgot to put on that thing" said the vigilant altar-boy Quintus as he pointed to the vestment that had been overlooked. What is the proper name of the "thing" referred to by Quintus? Name the other garments the priest wears at the celebration of Holy Mass. There are six garments in all.

 * On the following days, what color of vestments does the priest wear during Mass: December 8th and 25th, Ash Wednesday, Easter, Pentecost, November 1st, November 2nd, March 17th, and August 15th?

 * Name the liturgical articles the priest carries in his hands as he approaches the altar to celebrate Mass.

 * What is the name of the large book the priest uses in the celebration of Mass? In what language is it written?

 * When assists at Mass he follows the priest, reading the prayers from an English Missal. His brother recites the rosary. Which method do you think is preferable, and why?

 * One Sunday morning Fr. announces that the following Sunday a bishop will celebrate a pontifical Mass. Explain what is meant.

 * Explain in your own words, with examples, the difference between the Ordinary and the Proper of the Mass.

 * Was the first Mass celebrated on a Sunday morning? If not, when was it celebrated? In what city? In what country? On what continent? By whom? Was it celebrated in a church, a temple, a synagogue, or a private dwelling?


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