Chapter II-2. Sacrifice
9. The Eucharist is above all else a sacrifice. It is the sacrifice of the Redemption and also the sacrifice of the New
Covenant, as we believe and as the Eastern Churches clearly profess: "Today's sacrifice," the Greek Church stated
centuries ago, "is like that offered once by the Only-begotten Incarnate Word; it is offered by Him (now as then), since it is one
and the same sacrifice." Accordingly, precisely by making this single sacrifice of our salvation present, man and the world
are restored to God through the paschal newness of Redemption. This restoration cannot cease to be: it is the foundation of the
"new and eternal covenant" of God with man and of man with God. If it were missing, one would have to question both the
excellence of the sacrifice of the Redemption, which in fact was perfect and definitive, and also the sacrificial value of the Mass.
In fact, the Eucharist, being a true sacrifice, brings about this restoration to God.
Consequently, the celebrant, as minister of this sacrifice, is the authentic priest, performing--in virtue of the specific power of
sacred ordination--a true sacrificial act that brings creation back to God. Although all those who participate in the Eucharist do
not confect the sacrifice as He does, they offer with Him, by virtue of the common priesthood, their own spiritual sacrifices
represented by the bread and wine from the moment of their presentation at the altar. For this liturgical action, which takes a
solemn form in almost all liturgies, has a "spiritual value and meaning." The bread and wine become in a sense a symbol of
all that the eucharistic assembly brings, on its own part, as an offering to God and offers spiritually.
It is important that this first moment of the Liturgy of the Eucharist in the strict sense should find expression in the attitude of the
participants. There is a link between this and the offertory "procession" provided for in the recent liturgical reform and
accompanied, in keeping with ancient tradition, by a psalm or song. A certain length of time must be allowed, so that all can
become aware of this act, which is given expression at the same time by the words of the celebrant.
Awareness of the act of presenting the offerings should be maintained throughout the Mass. Indeed, it should be brought to
fullness at the moment of the consecration and of the anamnesis offering, as is demanded by the fundamental value of the
moment of the sacrifice. This is shown by the words of the Eucharistic Prayer said aloud by the priest. It seems worthwhile
repeating here some expressions in the third Eucharistic Prayer that show in particular the sacrificial character of the Eucharist
and link the offering of our persons with Christ's offering: "Look with favor on your Church's offering, and see the Victim whose
death has reconciled us to yourself. Grant that we, who are nourished by his body and blood, may be filled with his Holy Spirit,
and become one body, one spirit in Christ. May he make us an everlasting gift to you."
This sacrificial value is expressed earlier in every celebration by the words with which the priest concludes the presentation of
the gifts, asking the faithful to pray "that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father." These words
are binding, since they express the character of the entire Eucharistic Liturgy and the fullness of its divine and ecclesial content.
All who participate with faith in the Eucharist become aware that it is a "sacrifice," that is to say, a "consecrated Offering." For
the bread and wine presented at the altar and accompanied by the devotion and the spiritual sacrifices of the participants are
finally consecrated, so as to become truly, really and substantially Christ's own body that is given up and His blood that is shed.
Thus, by virtue of the consecration, the species of bread and wine re-present in a sacramental, unbloody manner the
bloody propitiatory sacrifice offered by Him on the cross to His Father for the salvation of the world. Indeed, He alone, giving
Himself as a propitiatory Victim in an act of supreme surrender and immolation, has reconciled humanity with the Father, solely
through His sacrifice, "having cancelled the bond which stood against us."
To this sacrifice, which is renewed in a sacramental form on the altar, the offerings of bread and wine, united with the devotion
of the faithful, nevertheless bring their unique contribution, since by means of the consecration by the priest they become sacred
species. This is made clear by the way in which the priest acts during the Eucharistic Prayer, especially at the consecration, and
when the celebration of the holy Sacrifice and participation in it are accompanied by awareness that "the Teacher is here and is
calling for you." This call of the Lord to us through His Sacrifice opens our hearts, so that, purified in the mystery of our
Redemption, they may be united to Him in Eucharistic Communion, which confers upon participation at Mass a value that is
mature, complete and binding on human life: "The Church's intention is that the faithful not only offer the spotless victim but also
learn to offer themselves and daily to be drawn into ever more perfect union, through Christ the Mediator, with the Father and
with each other, so that at last God may be all in all."
It is therefore very opportune and necessary to continue to actuate a new and intense education, in order to discover all the
richness contained in the new liturgy. Indeed, the liturgical renewal that has taken place since the Second Vatican Council has
given, so to speak, greater visibility to the Eucharistic Sacrifice. One factor contributing to this is that the words of the
Eucharistic Prayer are said aloud by the celebrant, particularly the words of consecration, with the acclamation of the assembly
immediately after the elevation.
All this should fill us with joy, but we should also remember that these changes demand new spiritual awareness and maturity,
both on the part of the celebrant--especially now that he celebrates "facing the people"--and by the faithful. Eucharistic worship
matures and grows when the words of the Eucharistic Prayer, especially the words of consecration, are spoken with great
humility and simplicity, in a worthy and fitting way, which is understandable and in keeping with their holiness; when this
essential act of the Eucharistic Liturgy is performed unhurriedly; and when it brings about in us such recollection and devotion
that the participants become aware of the greatness of the mystery being accomplished and show it by their attitude.