Sister Mary Thomas Ryan, O.P.
Christ died 2000 years ago. All who are saved must share in that death, for it is the one great act in which salvation lies. Before he died, Christ created the means of sharing in his death and resurrection. The Church teaches that at the Last Supper, "Our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his body and blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the centuries until he should come again..."
The Mass is Christ communicating himself to us, entering our substance. "Take ye and eat. This is my body." It is Christ's body in the act of redeeming us. Christ says, "This is my body given for you," as dead to the world and glorified in God. And in consecrating the chalice, Christ says, "This is my blood shed for you." The Mass is the sacrifice of Calvary become a reality in our lives too.
After the consecration the priest invites the people to proclaim the mystery of faith. It is the mystery of Christ's incomprehensible sacrifice, and the mystery that that sacrifice is made present to us.
Father Francis X. Durrwell, CSSR, says, "The Mass is the one and only tree of the cross planted in our midst that we may eat of its fruits." The Mass enables the Church to take part in Christ's redemptive act, to die with him and rise with him in order to be saved. Dom Eugene Boylan, OCSO, wrote, "As on the cross Christ offered himself as the head of the whole human race, so in the Mass he offers himself not only as head of the Church, but in himself he encloses us, each of us, his members, for he encloses us all, even the weakest of us, most lovingly in his heart."
The constitution of the Sacred Liturgy teaches that the Faithful of Christ, by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest but also with him, should learn to offer themselves too. The third Eucharistic Prayer puts this truth so beautifully: 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...
Christ joins the whole Church to his body and turns her into his own sacrifice that she may be Christ on earth in his redeeming death. The Church is thus Christ's own body present to the world, containing salvation for the world. The Church is to become the Mass that the world may be saved.
Through all her members who believe, hope, and love the Church will be the redeeming Christ on earth. Christ instituted the Mass to make his redeeming sacrifice effective in everyone. All Christian life is a celebrating of the Paschal Mystery.