1 January 2022

New Year's Resolution: preach about the Sacrifice of the Mass

After the Catholic Revival in the Church of England, we emphasised the reality of the Lord's presence in the consecrated elements. And so we should have done. Indeed, perhaps we should have done more of it. While I was in Devon, nearly every sermon I preached for six years was about the Eucharist; and, right at the end of it, one distinctly intelligent parishioner told me that he was starting to realise what it was all about. 

Moreover, the extent to which Roman Catholic laity have forgotten the Lord's Eucharistic Presence is notorious. I once heard some of my Church of Ireland people talking in shocked tones about the irreverence with which RCs received Communion. Yes; this job is still not finished. 

But there is another job which I sometimes feel we have barely started. And that is teaching about the Eucharistic Sacrifice. In 1947, Dom Gregory Dix congratulated the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, which he was addressing, upon having done 'notable work' in restoring adoration, corporate and personal; reparation; and many other aspects of Eucharistic devotion which centred round the doctrine of the Real Presence. But he felt that the sacrificial aspect had proved much less easy to bring out. 

I would like to leave you - and especially brother priests - with this thought. I think we have been made much too nervous by Protestant attacks upon the Sacrifice of the Mass on the grounds that it undermines the uniqueness of Calvary. We have tended to feel that, rather than saying something which, horror of horrors, led to this appalling error, it will be better to say nothing. I think this is completely wrong. 

Laypeople get a whole lot of things wrong; and if you don't think your laity do, then I think you should try to talk to them more. We can't ensure that every woman-jill of them puts everything just precisely accurately. Even among clergy, I often feel that some sort of general approximation and a few dollops of goodwill are the best we can hope for. So, sez I, teach them that the Mass is the sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ and that it is offered daily in your church by the priest and that it is the sacrifice appointed by God to take away sins. 

Don't put a paragraph or two into your homily about how incredibly careful we must be to avoid compromising the uniqueness of Calvary. If the Calvary question gets raised, of course you can do some finessing. But even if their understanding is likely to be askew, nevertheless just teach the basics, simply and ... yes ... crudely. And ...yes ... repeatedly.


Fr. Thomas Hoisington said...

I hope, Fr. Hunwicke, that you will publish a collection of your sermons about the Holy Sacrifice. Short of that, is there a collection from someone else already published that you would recommend?

frjustin said...

In his recent book, "The Holy Bread of Eternal Life: Restoring Eucharistic Reverence in an Age of Impiety", the inimitable Peter Kwasniewski devotes an entire chapter to "The Usefulness of Leviticus: Sacrifice for Catholics" (published in 2020).

Father, as a brother priest who preaches homilies, I have a request to make. Dr. Kwasniewski has written a superb book about the Eucharist. What he has not written is a series of homilies. Which leads me to the question: have you given any thought to publishing the homilies you preached at Devon? It would be such a help to your fellow priests, especially those who have not received a solid formation on the Mass as a sacrifice!

Albertus said...

Dear Father, you are once more absolutely right. I do not preach often, but when I do, I preach on the Eternal Godship of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who became incarnate in time of the Immaculate Virgin, died upon the Cross and rose again in glory, and instituted a priesthood in alostolic succesion to set forth sacramentally upon the altars of our chuches the Sacrifice of His Body and Blood, for the forgiveness of our sins, for the worship of the Holy Trinity and for union with us in Holy Communion. I always manage to weave this points into nearly every homily, no matter what tge Epistle or Gospel. Most Catholics nowadays never hear homilies nor catechesis on these most central chridtian beliefs, and as a result, are through little fault of their own, but great fault of the clergy, ignorant of their faith. Even moreso if the Liturgy they attend does not reflect the true lex credendi (nit the case at all in our old-rite personal parish!) Thank you fir reminding us!

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. The book referenced below cam be read for free online but it is much better to have a hard copy of it which can be found on amazon.

S.J. M. Gavin in his 1903 book, "The Sacrifice of the Mass; An explanation of its Doctrine, Rubrics and Prayers," observed, If you wish to find a people who have kept the faith through an almost passionate love for the Mass, look at Ireland where in Dublin alone some 40,000 hear Mass daily.

Father Gavin was Pastor of The Immaculate Conception Church of Farm Street London, and in 1901 he initiated a weekly series of explanations of Catholic Doctrine for the Faithful and the curious.

All of this happened back in the bad old days when the Faithful were taught the four sacrificial aspects of The Mass - The Holocaust/Sacrifice of homage to His sovereign greatness, The Holocaust/Sacrifice of expiation, offered to appease His Justice, The Holocaust/Sacrifice of impetration offered to implore His bounty, and The Holocaust/Sacrifice offered to thank Him for His beauty.

The Mass is a Holocaust which the one True Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church offers to God as an offering to His greatness and power, a sacrifice of expiation to appease His Justice, a sacrificed of impetration to solicit His bounty, and a Eucharistic sacrifice offered to Him in thanksgiving for all of his favors.

Back in those benighted times, there was true ecumenism and a true appreciation of the four sacrificial aspects of the daily Holocaust/Sacrifice but now, thanks to the new ecumenism and the new Lil' Licit Liturgy, we have progressed to the point where it now makes little difference what sect you belong to because universalism and the superstitious Real Mass has been blowed-up and so now we have the Lord's Supper which is a product of the gathering community.

And no, ABS is not bitter about anything just because his progenitors on his Mother's side were from County Cork or because he can not find a Real Mass within a decent drive of where he lives, for he has no reason for bitterness because we have progressed to the point where such irksome truths as Truth no longer matter because all is Mercy.

Dear Father. I'd wager than fewer than 10% of ordained clergy know the four sacrificial aspects of the Mass and if they do know it that is becuaw they were intellectually curious and was learnt about it via autodidactism.

BrionyB said...

If you ask a modern-day Catholic (a practising one who believes in the Real Presence) what the Mass is, they are likely to say something along the lines of “first we are fed with the Word of God in the readings and homily, then we are fed with the Body of Christ in holy Communion”. I assume this is what is now taught in catechism classes and so on. This may not be entirely wrong (leaving aside for a moment the question of the didactic vs. doxological purpose of the ‘readings’), and it’s an improvement on the “Mass is a gathering of the community for a shared meal” approach that used to be taught, but it seems to leave out something quite important...

I really think most church-going Catholics would be astonished to learn that the Mass is primarily a sacrifice; if anything the unspoken belief seems to be that if it’s a re-presentation of anything, that something is the Incarnation (e.g., “Jesus comes down from heaven on to the altar”). If the sacrificial aspect was better known, it might shape attitudes to styles of worship, among other things?

Dave K said...

"Moreover, the extent to which Roman Catholic laity have forgotten the Lord's Eucharistic Presence is notorious. I once heard some of my Church of Ireland people talking in shocked tones about the irreverence with which RCs received Communion. Yes; this job is still not finished."
Sadly, one only had to see the Midnight Mass on BBC 1 to see how the Holy Eucharist was accepted in the hand by communicants to verify the above statement. No further comment is necessary.

Unknown said...

Dear Father,

As a brother priest I could not agree with you more! The Mass as Sacrifice is almost unknown in many ways. I personally have learned an immense amount from you over the past few years on the unique and beautiful elements of the Roman Canon which, in turn, have helped me have a much deeper understanding and appreciation for the sacrificial nature of the Mass. Please, please write more on the powerful gift of the Roman Canon!

Fr. Frank Amberger USA

frjustin said...

In a nod to the Ordinariate, you might entitle any such collection "First Book of Homilies on Mummish Massing As Sacrifice".

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. The last paragraph from Father Gavin's `1903 book reads, , Lastly: if the Church's liturgy is to be said in the vernacular where shall we end? ... No thoughtful man can suppose that a multiplication of liturgies can do else than diminish the reverence of the faithful for the adorable sacrifice of the Altra.

70% of surveyed AmCatholics who go to the N.O. do not believe in the real presence which is just anther way of saying that 70% of AmCatholics do not believe that the N.O. is a valid mass.

Joshua said...

Most Catholics don't even know that the Mass is a Sacrifice - since that fact is not made sufficiently obvious in the most frequently used E.P. II, which by some clergy is the only one ever used: "we offer you, Lord, the Bread of life and the Chalice of salvation" (E.P. II) certainly encapsulates the Eucharistic Sacrifice, but the phrase is too short, and there is no expression of its impetratory value, as the petitions in that Prayer do not state that the Sacrifice is offered up for all needs.

The other Eucharistic Prayers all expressly mention sacrifice, but they are hardly ever said: I (the Roman Canon) expresses it superbly as it has down all the ages; but so does III ("so that... a pure sacrifice may be offered to your name... we offer you in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice. Look, we pray, upon the oblation of your Church and, recognising the sacrificial Victim... May this Sacrifice of our reconciliation... advance the peace and salvation of all the world..."); and so does IV ("...we offer you his Body and Blood, the sacrifice acceptable to you which brings salvation to the whole world. Look, O Lord, upon the Sacrifice which you yourself have provided for your Church... remember now all for whom we offer this sacrifice..."), but who hears them, and who prays them? Neither people nor priests. All they get is E.P. II.

Most Catholics think that the only difference between a Mass and a Communion Service is that the former is longer than the latter, because Father must consecrate more hosts, rather than he or a substitute simply doling out reserved hosts previously consecrated.

I would say that the doctrine of the Sacrifice of the Mass is nearly totally unknown to Catholics these days.

Gael éigin said...

I think the most valuable eucharistic concept to grasp is the infinite worship that the Son gives the Father. We are all in a sense mere spectators, grains of dust in that Universal Mystery.

PM said...

Would not the problem in your last paragraph, Father, be covered by emphasising that the Mass is a participation (good Thomistic word!) in the one Sacrifice of the Son on Calvary?

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. The Bride and I were blessed to discover the Divine Liturgy of the Maronites in what was once a Mission Parish not too far away from where they live. Since we first starting assisting there it has now become a Parish.

Of the many beautiful prayers in the D.L (St. James) is this hymn which the entire congregation sings:


You have united O Lord,

your divinity with our humanity,

and our humanity with your divinity;

your life with our mortality

and our mortality with your life.

You have assumed what is ours

and you have given us what is yours,

for the life and salvation of our souls.

To you be glory forever.


Jesus established His Church for two reasons


but it does not seem that the Catholic Church is too keen on teaching its faithful about such the beautiful truth that God became man so man could come God.

Scapular said...

There is always confusion surrounding the term Eucharist for The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Holy Eucharist Asian the Blessed Sacrament.

Scapular said...

There is always confusion surrounding the term Eucharist for The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Holy Eucharist Asian the Blessed Sacrament.

Banshee said...

I was just thinking about this. People say a lot of stuff about "We Three Kings" not being a _real_ hymn, but it's very strong stuff for little kids (and adults these days), because it does say things like "King and God and Sacrifice."

And very few hymns do come right out and say that.

Con Devree said...

At the Sacrifice of the Mass we are not mere spectators.

frjustin said...

The Roman Martyrology for today, January 3, lists an appropriate intercessor for priests who wish to preach on the Sacrifice of the Mass. It's the feast of St. Joseph Mary Tomasi (1649-1713), who wrote a "Breve istruzione del modo di assistere fruttuosamente al Santo sacrificio della Messa", thereby anticipating Fr. Hunwicke by several centuries!