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Don’t forget that the Mass is a sacrifice
SIR – Nicholas Hinde (letter, September 7) is probably correct to suggest that the high point of Mass nowadays is Communion, and that the identity of the sacrifice of the Mass with that of Calvary is neglected. This makes an interesting contrast with the state of affairs before the introduction of the vernacular liturgy. Before the Council the high point was more likely to be the Consecration, precisely because this is the moment at which Jesus’s sacrifice at Mass takes place. Once the priest has pronounced the words “This is my Body” and then “This is my Blood”, Jesus’s Body and Blood are separately present, and so the sacrificial death itself becomes actively present.
The loss of a strong sense of the Mass as a sacrifice identical (in terms of the essential salvific action of Christ) with Calvary is perhaps understandable in light of recent liturgical changes. Nowadays the congregation sees what the priest is doing, and hears the words of Consecration in English, and so can easily be distracted by the re-presentation of what Jesus did and said at the Last Supper. When the elevations and the bell were all the congregation saw and heard, this distraction was less likely.
The value of encouraging a strong awareness of Christ’s sacrifice prior to Communion derives from the fact that the communicant’s disposition affects the fruitfulness, or degree of union with Christ, brought about by Communion. The more the communicant is consciously united by love to Jesus, the more he is actually united to him on receiving his Body and Blood, and nothing is more likely to provoke love for Jesus than calling to mind the suffering and death he endured for our salvation. “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Of course other forms of preparation for Communion also contribute to making it fruitful. There is the long-term formation resulting from regular prayer and the continuous quest for holiness, and the medium-term preparation of frequent Confession (St John Paul II
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