The Reason Why Christ Renews His Passion in Holy Mass
Fr. Martin Von Cochem | The Incredible Catholic Mass Ch. 8
The cause for which Christ suffered His bitter Passion cannot be better expressed than in the following words of Father Segneri, S.J.:
“When Christ was upon earth, by His divine omniscience He foresaw that, in spite of His bitter Passion, many millions of mankind would not participate in the Redemption He purchased for them and consequently would be doomed to eternal perdition. In the infinite love which He, as our Elder Brother, bore to us and in His desire for our salvation. He offered Himself to His heavenly Father, declaring Himself willing to hang upon the Cross, not three hours only, but until the End of Time, in order that the tears He shed, the Blood that flowed from His veins, His fervent prayers and sighs, might assuage the severity of divine justice and move the divine compassion and loving-kindness to ordain some means whereby the loss of so vast a number of souls might be prevented.”
St. Bonaventure, in his Meditations, also says that Christ was ready to remain upon the Cross until the End of the World, and other theologians concur in this opinion. Furthermore, Our Lord Himself has revealed to many Saints that for the sake of one sinner He would suffer over again all that He suffered for the whole world. The Eternal Father did not accept the offer made by the Saviour to prolong His Passion upon the Cross until the Last Day; the three hours of His crucifixion were amply sufficient; and in His omniscience He knew that whosoever failed to share in the merits of the Sacred Passion would have only himself to blame for the loss of his soul. Far from quenching the ardor of Christ’s love for man, this sentence only kindled it the more and strengthened His desire to rescue us unhappy sinners from eternal damnation.
Therefore, in His divine wisdom. He devised a means whereby He could remain on earth after His death, continue His saving Passion, unceasingly plead with God for man, as He did when nailed upon the Cross. What was this wondrous means?
None other than the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, wherein He daily, continually, suffers mystically upon the Cross; suffers for us, pleads for us, calls upon God for grace and mercy on our behalf with irresistible urgency. In the Bollandists’ life of St. Colette (March 6), who was remarkable for her great devotion to Holy Mass, it is said: On one occasion, when she was assisting at the Mass said by her confessor, she was heard at the Consecration to exclaim: “O my God, my Jesus! O Angels and Saints, O men and sinners, what marvels are these that we see and hear!” After Mass her confessor asked what had made her cry aloud in this manner. She replied: “When your reverence elevated the Sacred Host, I beheld Christ upon the Cross, the Blood flowing from His precious wounds; at the same time I heard Him thus address the Eternal Father:
‘Look upon this Body of flesh, in which I hung upon the Cross, in which I suffered for mankind. Look upon My wounds, look upon the Blood that I shed, consider My sufferings, consider My death. All this I endured to save sinners. Now, if Thou dost consign them to perdition on account of their iniquities and deliver them over to the devil, what compensation shall I have for My bitter Passion, for My cruel death? The reprobate sinners will render Me no thanks; on the contrary, they will curse Me for all eternity. But if they were saved, they would praise and magnify Me forever in gratitude for My sufferings. For My sake, therefore, spare these sinners, O My Father, and preserve them from eternal damnation.’ ”
By this we may understand how earnestly Our Lord intercedes for us in Holy Mass and implores His heavenly Father to have mercy upon us. For—since the Mass is a renewal of His Passion—while it is celebrated, that which was carried on upon the Cross must be enacted over again. On the Cross, Jesus cried with a loud voice: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). In like manner, in Holy Mass He cries from the altar, asking forgiveness for all sinners indeed, but yet more especially for those who are present at Mass. The voice with which He cries is so powerful, so persuasive, that it pierces the clouds and reaches the heart of the Eternal Father.
Thus Christ fulfills His office of Mediator; as St. John says, “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the just; and He is the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 2:1-2). And St. Paul writes: “Christ Jesus that died, yea, that is risen also again; who is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Rom. 8:34). He intercedes for us in Heaven, but more especially He intercedes for us at the altar, because there He exercises His sacerdotal functions, and as St. Paul says, it appertains to the priest to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people. (Heb. 5:1). St. Laurence Justinian bears the same testimony when he says: “When Christ is immolated upon the altar, He speaks to His Father, He shows Him the marks of the wounds on His Sacred Body, that by His intercession we may be saved from eternal torment.”
How much is done for our welfare by Christ’s prayers from the altar! How often would calamities have befallen us had they not been averted by His prayers! How many thousands of the Blessed, now happy in Heaven, would be in Hell, had not Christ by His intercession saved them from that place of torment! Let us, therefore, go frequently and gladly to Mass, in the hope that we may have a share in His intercession, be preserved from evil, and through that omnipotent Mediator, obtain from God that which of ourselves we cannot obtain.
We have now seen the principal reason why Christ renews His Passion in Holy Mass; it is in order to be able to intercede for us with as much efficacy as when He hung upon the Cross and to move His heavenly Father to compassion by the sight of His sufferings. Another reason for the renewal of Christ’s Passion in the Mass is this: in order to apply to us the fruits of His sacrifice of Himself upon the Cross. We shall understand this better if we bear in mind that, throughout the whole course of His life, and pre-eminently on the Cross, He earned an infinite store of merits, of which only a few pious persons, who were found worthy to receive them, were then made partakers. He now communicates these treasures daily, on many occasions, but chiefly during Holy Mass.
A pious writer tells us: “That which on the Cross was a sacrifice of redemption is in Holy Mass a Sacrifice of appropriation, whereby the virtue and the power of the Sacrifice of the Cross is applied to each one individually.” These are joyful and reassuring words for the sinner. It has not been our privilege to stand beneath the Cross on Calvary and share in the fruits of that stupendous Sacrifice, but if we hear Mass with attention, the virtue and power of the Sacrifice of the Cross will be applied to our souls—not indeed in quite the same manner, yet to each one in particular according to the depth of his devotion.
Now see what an immense benefit it is for us that Christ renews His Passion in Holy Mass for our sakes, bestowing upon and applying to us the merit of it! And why, do you think, does He do this? Principally that we may take for our own the merits of that Passion and offer them to Almighty God, to the great profit of our souls. St. Mechtilde tells us of what advantage this offering is to us. To her Christ once said: “Behold, I bestow all My bitter sufferings upon thee, that they may be thine own and thou give them back and offer them to Me.” And that we might know that this gift is made to us pre-eminently in Holy Mass, Our Lord added: “He who offers up to Me My Passion, which I have made his, shall receive twofold for all that he gives, as I have said: He shall receive a hundredfold and shall possess life everlasting.”
These words are indeed full of comfort. Happy above measure are we in possessing Holy Mass, since in it Christ bestows on us treasures of great price, which it is within our power to increase and augment. If we do but say to Our Lord, “I offer Thee, O Jesus, Thy bitter Passion,” He replies, “My child, I give it back to thee in twofold measure;” and if we offer Him His Precious Blood, the answer is the same, for whatever portion of His sufferings we present to Him, He returns us double for all we offer. This He will do as often as we offer to Him as our own any part of His Passion. Truly this is good usury, an easy method of acquiring spiritual riches!
There is yet another reason for the renewal of Christ’s Passion in Holy Mass. He does this in order that the Faithful, for whom it is impossible to have assisted at the Sacrifice of the Cross, may, by assisting at Mass, earn the same graces and merits as if they had actually stood beneath the Cross, provided they do so with the same devotion.
This is saying a great deal, for it is tantamount to saying: “See how great a Sacrifice is ours!” It is not merely a memorial of the Sacrifice once offered upon the Cross: It is one and the same [with it] and will always be the same. Moreover, the fruits it produces are identical with those produced by the Sacrifice of the Cross. This assertion appears almost incredible.
Can it possibly be that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the self-same sacrifice that was offered on Calvary? Can it possibly produce the same effects as Christ’s Passion? That this is so proves how admirable and how efficacious a Sacrifice it is. Listen to the words of Molina on this point. “Christ has ordained that His Church should perpetually offer the same Sacrifice which He offered upon the Cross, the identical Sacrifice although it be offered not in a bloody, but an unbloody manner. I say the same Sacrifice, yet the Mass contains infinitely more graces and excellencies. As it is the same Sacrifice as that of the Cross, it must possess the same potency and the same merit and be equally acceptable to God. That it is really and essentially the same may be seen from the fact that the Victim is the same, the Priest is the same; it is offered to the same God, with the same object. The only difference consists in this, that the manner of offering is not the same, for then upon the Cross Christ was immolated with pain and shedding of blood; whereas now, in a painless and unbloody manner.”
Ponder then, O Christian, these forcible words; consider the priceless value of the Sacrifice of the Mass, its great dignity, its immense potency. Not only do we know this from the teaching of pious and learned men: Holy Church declares expressly that the Sacrifice of the Cross and the Sacrifice of the Mass are one and the same. Hence we see clearly that we can do as much to please Our Lord, and acquire as much merit for ourselves when we hear Mass as we should have done had we been present on Calvary, if we are no less devout and recollected than we should have been standing beneath the Cross. Ought we not to consider ourselves supremely fortunate in being able daily to witness Christ’s Passion in Holy Mass and apply the fruits of it to our souls?
Fortunate indeed, in that we can stand in spirit beneath the Cross of the dying Saviour, that we can behold Him with our eyes, speak to Him with our lips, tell Him our troubles, obtain from Him help and consolation, just as those did who were present in person at the Crucifixion. How highly we ought to prize the favors Christ thus daily places within our reach; how anxious we should be to claim a share in the graces He thus holds out to us!