The following was written in response to a question posed to me privately. It covers things I’ve posted about before, but I like going over the same ground multiple times in case something turns up that I missed before. I welcome any comments or corrections.
St. Paul writes, “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed, therefore let us celebrate the feast ….” 1 Cor. 5:7.
There is a lot of meaning in this verse. First, Paul refers to Christ as “our Passover”. This evidently means that the original Passover lamb was a foreshadowing of Christ. The original Passover sacrifice, then, was a foreshadowing of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross.
At the original Passover, the children of Israel were told that if they sacrificed a lamb and put its blood on the lintels of their houses, they would be saved from the Angel of Death. But those were not the only instructions: They also had to consume the Passover lamb. It had to be completely gone by morning; that which they couldn’t eat had to be burned. (Ex. 12:10.)
Why did the lamb have to be eaten? What’s the point?
St. Paul in another place writes, ‘Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?’ (1 Cor. 10:18.)
It would seem, then, that eating of the sacrifice makes you a participant in the sacrifice. Not everyone could literally take part in the sacrifice: It only took one man to kill the lamb and smear the blood on the lintel. But by eating the lamb, everyone else was also enabled to participate in the sacrifice which saved them.
This clarifies Paul’s meaning when he said (a couple verses earlier), ‘The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?’ (1 Cor. 10:16.) In other words, when we eat the bread and drink the cup, are we not participating in Christ’s sacrifice?
In support of this, we may look to Jesus’ words at the Last Supper. He didn’t merely say “this is my body, this is my blood.” Rather, he said “This is my body which will be given up for you,” and “This is my blood which will be shed for you.” Giving up his body, and shedding his blood, obviously refers to his sacrifice on the Cross. Therefore, “Take this and eat it” means “Eat my body given in sacrifice,” and likewise as to the blood.
So clearly, when Paul says the bread is a participation in Christ’s body, he means that eating the bread and drinking the cup makes us participants in Christ’s sacrifice. I think this is virtually beyond doubt.
He further drives the point home when he says, ‘You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Or shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy?’ (1 Cor. 10:21.) This is in the context of admonishing people not to eat meat sacrificed to idols. Why? Because that makes us participants in sacrifices to idols; which makes us idolators. Whereas God, being a Jealous God, won’t stand for us partaking of the “table [altar] of the Lord and the table [altar] of demons”.
All this being so clear, serves to clarify the traditional, obvious and correct interpretation of John 6: ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.’ (Jn. 6:53-54.)
Christ’s sacrifice saves us. But how, exactly, does it save us? It saves us through the Mass: You must eat Christ’s body given in sacrifice, and drink his blood shed in sacrifice, in order to have life in you. Christ’s sacrifice saves us by uniting us to himself, thereby enabling us to offer his sacrifice in our own behalf.
We’re saved by faith, certainly. What else but faith could enable us to believe that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood, and that doing so saves us? Looking at this claim from the perspective of the flesh, it sounds absurd. Jesus is standing right there. You can see that his flesh is not bread. Eating bread is not the same as eating flesh. This is judging by our natural faculties, in other words our flesh. But it’s the spirit that has faith and accepts Jesus’ words, no matter how impossible they may sound to us, knowing that he is God and incapable of deceiving us, and that nothing is impossible to him. If he says “You must eat my flesh”, it must be true in some sense; likewise if he says “Eating my flesh saves you”. The only thing left is to figure out how we can do such a thing.
When I think of Christ’s sacrifice being perpetually offered, I don’t think of him suffering and dying over and over, but as perpetually offering his one sacrifice. It doesn’t seem that this would be any great trick, both he and the Father being eternal, and therefore all things being present to them. I think of “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain”, as referred to in Rev. 5:6 (which, by the way, seems to be a scene of worship), standing perpetually before the Father’s throne, constantly interceding for us (Heb. 7:24-25). “Intercede” means literally to “go between”. In other words, Jesus stands between us and the Father, looking as though he had been slain — slain and yet alive, that is, the risen Jesus.
It’s those who participate in his sacrifice — via the Mass — who are being interceded for. As Jesus offers himself, and the Father is pleased with his offering, the Father is pleased with our offering as well — since it’s the same offering. We ourselves are offering the best offering we could possibly offer: The perfectly spotless Lamb of God.
I don’t know of any other theory of how Christ’s sacrifice saves us, that is half as coherent as the Mass.