Catholic Truth Society Postal Course #8: The Sacrifice of Our Saviour, by Father Herbert C Fincham

Christ on the Cross, by Alonzo Cano, 17th centuryIt was on Mount Calvary that Jesus offered Himself in sacrifice for our salvation. He could have done this without all the torments of His Passion, for every act of His was infinite in value to atone for our sins and all-sufficient to purchase eternal life for all mankind, but He chose the hard way to make us realize the reality of His infinite love for us: Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). To prove our love in return we must be ready to take up our cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23). The Cross is our standard and our badge, with which we are marked as Christ’s followers and with which we sign ourselves whenever we make the Sign of the Cross.

The Meaning Oe Sacrifice

In all ages men have sought to worship either the One True God, or their false gods, by sacrifices. A sacrifice is an offering of a victim by a priest to God alone, in testimony of His being the sovereign Lord of all things. Sin opposes the Lordship of God; a sacrifice acknowledges it by offering something to God to make up for sin. What is offered is called the Victim, and the one appointed by God to make the offering in the name of all the people is called a Priest. On Calvary Jesus offered the only perfect and infinitely worthy sacrifice possible, because in it He, the infinite Son of God, was at the same time both Priest and Victim. Hence His sacrifice won for mankind infinite merits and satisfaction, by which our sins are forgiven and heaven opened to us, as Saint Peter assures us: “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things as gold or silver, from the vain conversation of the tradition of your fathers: but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled” (1st Peter 1:18,19).

Christ Is The Victim

We are saved by the Blood of Christ, as a lamb unspotted and undefiled. When Saint John saw the vision of Christ in heaven, Jesus was not in glory but like “a lamb standing as it were slain” (Apocalypse 5:6). It was under this same title that Saint John the Baptist pointed out Jesus to his disciples: “Behold the lamb of God, behold Him who taketh away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). The reason for this insistence on the title “Lamb of God” is that for centuries the sacrifice of the Redeemer had been foreshadowed among the Jews by the sacrifice of the Pascal Lamb (Exodus 12-13), commemorating thd salvation of the Chosen People of God * The numbers in brackets refer to the Catechism of Christian Doctrine. from the avenging angel. It was on the occasion of this annual feast and sacrifice that Jesus died on the Cross, to make it quite clear that He was fulfilling what the Passover foreshadowed and the prophets of old had foretold.

The prophet Isaias had foretold: “He was offered because it was His own will, and He opened not His mouth: He shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter, and shall be dumb as a lamb before his shearer” (Isaiah 53:7). (The use of the prophetic past tense for future events is frequent in the Old Testament). This inspired prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus stretched out His arms on the Cross and “By one oblation He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14)

Christ’s Sacrifice Is Catholic

But our Saviour did not wish His sacrifice to be only for one moment and one age, it was and is Catholic for all ages and all places and all peoples. He did not wish this oblation to be for us but a dim memory of the past, an historical event fast fading into the oblivion of the ages. He willed that it should be as real and present to us as it was to Mary, John and the others at the foot of the Cross; that it should continue in this world as it must in the “eternal present” of His Father, where Jesus remains the Lamb slain in sacrifice, as Saint John saw Him; and Saint Paul tells us that “This man (Christ) offering one sacrifice for sins, for ever sitteth on the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12).

Christ Perpetuated His Sacrifice

That this might be possible Jesus transformed the symbolic sacrifice of the Pascal Lamb, which He was celebrating with His apostles at the Last Supper, into a true and everlasting sacrifice, continuing and proclaiming His sacrifice on the Cross until the end of time. The first three Gospels and Saint Paul tell us how Jesus took bread and blessed and gave to His apostles, saying, “Take and eat: this is My Body”, and in like manner the cup of wine, saying, “Take and drink ye all of this. This is the Blood of the new testament which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins.” And Saint Paul adds what all this is to mean to us, saying: “For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink this chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until He come” (1st Corinthians 11:26). For Our Lord commanded His apostles to do what He had done for a commemoration of Him, and the apostles fulfilled this command, passing it on, together with the power to fulfill it, to their successors, the priests of Christ’s Church.

Holy Mass Is The Perpetual Sacrifice

The power that Christ gave to His apostles was power to do what He did, take bread and change it into the Body of Christ, and wine into His Blood. Of this we will say more when we come to deal with the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist; it is enough here to state the fact that the power to consecrate the bread and wine is the highest function of the priesthood and is exercised whenever Holy Mass is offered. For the Holy Mass is the sacrifice by which Christ continues and makes real to us His Sacrifice on the Cross. Here is fulfilled for us that “showing forth of the death of the Lord”, of which Saint Paul speaks.

Holy Mass Continues The Sacrifice Of The Cross

In the Mass we have the same Victim and Priest as on Calvary, for Jesus is present under the appearances of bread and wine, His Body and Blood mystically and apparently separated under the different forms, so as to proclaim the shedding of His Blood on the Cross. Here the infinite merits gained for our salvation on the Cross are continually, in all places and at all times, poured out upon this sinful world in the “clean oblation” foretold by Malachy before Christ came: “From the rising of the sun even to the going down thereof, My Name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to My name a clean oblation: for My name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts” (Malachias 1:11).

Holy Mass Fulfills Malachy’s Prophecy

The Holy Mass, the sacrifice of the New Law, alone fulfils all the conditions of this prophecy. No Jewish oblation was offered by the Gentiles in every place, and of all other sacrifices offered by Gentiles Saint Paul says, “But the things the heathen sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils and not to God. And I would not that you should be made partakers with devils. You cannot drink the chalice of the Lord and the chalice of devils: you cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord and of the table of devils” (1st Corinthians 10:20,21). The followers of Christ have their own sacrificial meal, which is the clean oblation pleasing to God, offered in every part of the world from sunrise to sunset, in which the Body and Blood of Christ in living presence on our altars are offered to God for the living and the dead.

Christ’s Sacrifice Is Ours

In this sacrifice we “unite ourselves to the Divine Victim and Priest offering an oblation of infinite value. Thus we pray: “Through Him, and with Him, and in Him, is to Thee, God the Father Almighty, in unity with the Holy Ghost, all honour and glory” (Prayer before the Pater Noster in the Canon of the Mass). By our union with the Infinite Victim our worship becomes His, and is valued as if it were His infinite, all honour and glory our thanksgiving, as the word Eucharist means, becomes in like manner adequate and all-worthy of the infinite God; satisfaction for our sins is made from the infinite merits of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, shown forth and poured forth upon us in Holy Mass; our petitions are taken up by Him whose word was all-sufficient to assure the repentant thief: “This day thou shalt be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

The Rite Of Christ’s Sacrifice Has Developed

The simple action of the Last Supper and “the breaking of bread” so frequently referred to in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:42,46; 20:7,11, etc.), has, as might well be expected in so glorious and solemn a mystery, become enshrined in many prayers and ceremonies which make up our majestic and wonderful liturgy. It is not easy for a stranger to follow all these rites and prayers, but this is not essential for taking our part in the Holy Mass. It is enough that we unite ourselves to Christ, the High Priest and Victim, through His earthly priest who stands in His place and offers the sacrifice in His name, and offer ourselves to our Heavenly Father that we may be redeemed with the Blood of Christ, and be at one with Him in His act of infinite worship and thanksgiving.

Our Rite Uses Latin

The sacredness of the Roman Rite has led the Church to keep most of the text of the Mass in one language, Latin. In some parts of the earth other rites and languages are used, but translations into the living languages for all races and nations would inevitably lead to change of meaning in the sacred liturgy in the course of ages. Moreover, the use of one common language does undoubtedly increase our sense of oneness and unity with the Church in the Western World. Translations are provided for the people to follow the prayers used by the priest and though it takes some trouble to study the Missal it well repays the effort.


MLA Citation

  • Father Herbert C Fincham. “The Sacrifice of Our Saviour”. The Catholic Postal Course, 1951. CatholicSaints.Info. 5 April 2016. Web. 9 December 2016. <>