The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass

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The Holy and traditional Mass expresses the entirety of the Catholic doctrine.

Archbishop Lefebvre liked to say often that the priest is made for sacrifice, that he is ordained for the offering of sacrifice. This is an essential, “transcendental” ordination or ordering: just as there is no sacrifice without a priest, so too there is not priest without the sacrifice; this is what constitutes priestly identity.

With Bishop de Castro Mayer, his friend, he stated that there is no true religion without sacrifice:

If, by some impossible turn of events, the Mass was no longer a sacrifice, there would no longer be any sort of religion on earth.”

Only one unique sacrifice

But just as Christ died once, so too there is only one unique sacrifice:

There is one sacrifice: the one that Jesus the priest and victim offered once for all on the cross; with reenactments of this same sacrifice. As St. Paul says to the Hebrews: ‘In [this] will (to offer Himself in sacrifice), we are sanctified by the oblation of the body of Jesus Christ once.... But this man, offering one sacrifice for sins, forever sitteth on the right hand of God.... For by one oblation He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified’ (Heb. 10:10, 12, 14).

By a marvelous design of His omnipotence, Jesus entrusted His sacrifice to His Church in a unbloody manner in the Eucharistic sacrifice, which really perpetuates His sacrifice on the cross.... The only difference between the cross and the Mass is that one is bloody and the other unbloody. On the altar we see no blood flow. That is the only difference. But it is indeed the same sacrifice: the same priest who offers it, the same victim that is offered, as the Council of Trent teaches:

On the night He was betrayed (1 Cor. 11:23), [He wished to] leave to His beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice (as the nature of man demands), whereby that bloody sacrifice once to be completed on the Cross might be represented, and the memory of it remain even to the end of the world and its saving grace be applied to the remission of those sins which we daily commit.By “memory” or “remembrance” we must understand not only a subjective or collective memory, but a memorial, that is, the objective action that takes place at the altar. The re-presentation under consideration here is none other than the reenactment of the Passion and death of Christ, manifested by the separate consecration of the Body then of the Blood, an action suited to represent the bloody separation and outpouring of blood that accompanied Christ’s death on the cross."[1]

An extraordinary mystery

Archbishop Lefebvre liked to contemplate the efficaciousness of the Mass in the light of faith:

The more we study the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the more we realize that it truly is an extraordinary mystery. It is truly the Mystery of our Faith! The priest is like someone who is outside of time and who passes almost into eternity because all his words have an eternal value.... [The Mass] is not a simple rite carried out today, but an eternal reality that exceeds time and has eternal consequences for the glory of God; it saves souls from Purgatory, and sanctifies us. Each Mass truly has the weight of eternity in it.”

Marcel Lefebvre often recalled the four ends of the Sacrifice of the Mass: praise of God, thanksgiving (hence the name Eucharist), propitiation (or atonement) and impetration (or intercession). Unlike the modernists, he insists on the propitiatory aspect: God who has been offended is made propitious by His incarnate Son’s act of extreme charity in offering Himself on the cross. But he also loves to elaborate on the praise and glorification that the Mass procures for God.

Most importantly, he teaches that Holy Communion is communion with the Victim on Calvary and that under this aspect “it transforms us into victims in union with Jesus the Victim”, an effect that is not often recognized.

What a fine ideal Our Lord has left for us! What a beautiful plan for sanctity God wants us to accomplish on earth!”

  • 1. With Bishop de Castro Mayer, his friend, he stated that there is no true religion without sacrifice: If, by some impossible turn of events, the Mass was no longer a sacrifice, there would no longer be any sort of religion on earth.” Only one unique sacrifice But just as Christ died once, so too there is only one unique sacrifice: There is one sacrifice: the one that Jesus the priest and victim offered once for all on the cross; with reenactments of this same sacrifice. As St. Paul says to the Hebrews: ‘In [this] will (to offer Himself in sacrifice), we are sanctified by the oblation of the body of Jesus Christ once.... But this man, offering one sacrifice for sins, forever sitteth on the right hand of God.... For by one oblation He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified’ (Heb. 10:10, 12, 14).” By a marvelous design of His omnipotence, Jesus entrusted His sacrifice to His Church in a unbloody manner in the Eucharistic sacrifice, which really perpetuates His sacrifice on the cross.... The only difference between the cross and the Mass is that one is bloody and the other unbloody. On the altar we see no blood flow. That is the only difference. But it is indeed the same sacrifice: the same priest who offers it, the same victim that is offered, as the Council of Trent teaches: On the night He was betrayed (1 Cor. 11:23), [He wished to] leave to His beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice (as the nature of man demands), whereby that bloody sacrifice once to be completed on the Cross might be represented, and the memory of it remain even to the end of the world and its saving grace be applied to the remission of those sins which we daily commit.’ By “memory” or “remembrance” we must understand not only a subjective or collective memory, but a memorial, that is, the objective action that takes place at the altar. The re-presentation under consideration here is none other than the reenactment of the Passion and death of Christ, manifested by the separate consecration of the Body then of the Blood, an action suited to represent the bloody separation and outpouring of blood that accompanied Christ’s death on the cross."[1] An extraordinary mystery Archbishop Lefebvre liked to contemplate the efficaciousness of the Mass in the light of faith: The more we study the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the more we realize that it truly is an extraordinary mystery. It is truly the Mystery of our Faith! The priest is like someone who is outside of time and who passes almost into eternity because all his words have an eternal value.... [The Mass] is not a simple rite carried out today, but an eternal reality that exceeds time and has eternal consequences for the glory of God; it saves souls from Purgatory, and sanctifies us. Each Mass truly has the weight of eternity in it.” Marcel Lefebvre often recalled the four ends of the Sacrifice of the Mass: praise of God, thanksgiving (hence the name Eucharist), propitiation (or atonement) and impetration (or intercession). Unlike the modernists, he insists on the propitiatory aspect: God who has been offended is made propitious by His incarnate Son’s act of extreme charity in offering Himself on the cross. But he also loves to elaborate on the praise and glorification that the Mass procures for God. Most importantly, he teaches that Holy Communion is communion with the Victim on Calvary and that under this aspect “it transforms us into victims in union with Jesus the Victim”, an effect that is not often recognized. What a fine ideal Our Lord has left for us! What a beautiful plan for sanctity God wants us to accomplish on earth!”

Ein außerordentliches Geheimnis

Erzbischof Lefebvre betrachtete gern die Wirkung der Messe im Lichte des Glaubens: „Je mehr man gedanklich in das heilige Messopfer eindringt, desto mehr wird man inne, dass es wirklich ein außerordentliches Geheimnis ist! Es ist wahrhaft das Geheimnis unseres Glaubens! Der Priester erscheint da als jemand, der fast in die Ewigkeit eintaucht, weil alle seine Worte Ewigkeitswert besitzen. (…). Es ist nicht ein heute ausgeführter einfacher Ritus, es ist eine ewige Wirklichkeit, die über die Zeit hinausreicht und die ewige Folgen hat für den Ruhm Gottes, um die Seelen aus dem Fegefeuer zu erlösen und unsere Seelen zu heiligen. Jede Messe hat in der Tat Gewicht für die Ewigkeit.“

Oft erinnerte Erzbischof Lefebvre an die vier Ziele des Messopfers: das Lob Gottes, die Danksagung (daher der Name Eucharistie), das Opfer und die Kommunion. Gegen die Modernisten besteht er auf dem Aspekt der Sühne: der beleidigte Gott wird durch die Tat der äußersten Liebe seines menschgewordenen Sohnes, der sich am Kreuz darbringt, gnädig gestimmt. Ebenso gerne aber erklärt er das Lob und die Verherrlichung Gottes durch die Messe.

Vor allem lehrt er, dass die heilige Kommunion die Vereinigung mit dem Opfer auf Golgatha ist, und dass sie uns unter diesem Gesichtspunkt „in eine mit dem Opfer Jesus vereinte Opfergabe umwandelt“, eine nur wenig bekannte Wirkung. „Was für ein hohes Ideal hat uns unser Herr hinterlassen! Was für ein erhabenes Programm der Heiligkeit will der liebe Gott von uns während dieser wenigen Jahre verwirklicht sehen, die wir hier auf Erden verbringen!“