Anything worth doing will not be done by Amateur Brain Surgeon
Holocaust (20) Penultimate Holocaust post
To review from an earlier post in the series
...It would be superfluous and inopportune to enter here upon a discussion as to the origin of sacrifice, and as to the precise significance of its primitive forms. The Sacrifice of the New Dispensation should be considered as designedly connected, by complex typological relations, rather with the fully developed system which it was to supplant, than with the more rudimentary institutions of remoter times. Whatever may have been the case in prehistoric ages, or among barbarous peoples, it is plain that in thelevitical code the idea which lies at the root of all sacrifice is that of an offering, of an offering which affords a means of access to God, of an offering which is in some sense vicarious, as symbolical of the self-oblation of the offerer.To state the matter as briefly as possible, the notion of sacrifice and of self-sacrifice are indissolubly connected, even though the connection may often have been obscured, or forgotten, or overlooked.
Now this oblation (or self-oblation) might have three several ends or purposes. It might be a simple—albeit most solemn—acknowledgment of the supreme dominion of God ; and this would seem to have been the true inward significance of the holocaust or whole-burnt offering. Or it might be in the nature of a thank-offering or peaceoffering, terms which sufficiently explain themselves. Or again it might have for its specific purpose the removal of an obstacle in the form of a sin or trespass, which impeded the approach of the offender to God ; in which case the sacrifice would be in the strict sense propitiatory. This threefold division of sacrifices according to their moral character or purpose is, it need hardly be said, explicitly and repeatedly recognised in Holy Scripture ; and the order of enumeration, corresponding as it does to descending grades of dignity, is that which is followed in the opening chapters of the Book of Leviticus, when the subject is systematically dealt with. But the normal order of actual succession was necessarily different from this. For it is plain that for the attainment of the end ultimately desired, viz.' full fellowship with God, it was needful that obstacles should first be removed, and accordingly, in the actual carrying out of the ritual, the sin-offering or the trespass-offering took precedence of the other kinds of sacrifice (e.g. Lev. xvi. 3).
After the sin-offering, the holocaust ; and then, to put the seal—as it were—upon the reconciliation already effected, came the thank-offering or peace-offering (Lev. ix. 8, 12, r8).
It is next to be observed that there were certain characteristic details which differentiated these three kinds of sacrificial oblation, and which have an important bearing on the manifold significance of the unique and all-consummating Sacrifice of the New Law.That in the holocaust or whole-bumt offering the entire victim was consumed by fire on the altar is sufficiently indicated by the terms employed in the Septuagint and in the Vulgate and English versions, Catholic and Anglican. It is less clearly implied in the original Hebrew word Wan, which means a " sending-up " or "causing to ascend."
In the sacrifice for sin, a portion only of the victim was laid upon the altar, the remainder— when the ritual was carried out with full solemnity—being taken " outside the camp" to be there burnt as a thing unhallowed (Lev. xvi. 27). On these more solemn occasions at least, no portion of the victim might be eaten, either by the offerer or by the priest. It was only in the case of private and particular sin-offerings that the priests had their allotted portion reserved to them (Lev. vi. 18) ; and this allowance must be taken to have been something of a derogation from the fuller symbolism of the more selinn ritual.
The rite of the peace-offering was of a widely different character. Here the sacrificial meal was of primary importance. A portion of the victim was consumed by fire, a second portion was reserved for the priest or priests, but the greater part of the flesh was eaten by the offerer and his friends (Lev. vii. 15 • xix. 6), special mention being made in the 22nd Psalm Of the poor as guests at the feast (PS. Mu. 27)
Now in a sentence which has been embodied in one of the prayers in the Roman Missal (the Secreta of the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost), St. Leo tells us that in His one sacrifice Our Lord has united and consummated the ancient rites with all their diversities. And indeed it is easy to see that His offering of Himself was a holocaust byreason of its completeness ; a propitiatory offering for sin by reason of its atoning efficacy and purpose, and finally a peace-offering whereby the atonement was not only made but sealed by a sacrificial meal.
That the Sacrifice of Calvary had the character of a holocaust is not indeed asserted in express term anywhere in the New Testament ; but it is very clearly implied in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where the perfection of Our Lord's self-offering is contrasted with the imperfections of the ancient sacrifices, the holocaust being included in the brief enumeration (Hebr. x. 5 sqq.).
More explicitly the writer of the same Epistle calls attention to the fact that Christ suffered extra portam" outside the gate," thus carrying out in His own person the symbolism of the sin-offering, in which (as has been said) the body of the victim was burnt extra •.astra—" outside the camp" (Hebr. xiii. 12 sq.). And he develops at considerable length the antitypal relation of the sacrifice of the Cross with that most solemn of all the expiatory sacrifices of the Old Law which was offered on the Day of Atonement
But it was essential to the antitypal perfection of Christ's -sacrifice that it should likewise include the specific qualities of a peace-offering and these qualities it can be said to have possessed only if the Holy Eucharist be taken into account.
As in the peace-offerings of the Old Law the flesh of the victims was no less truly eaten than the victim itself was truly slain, so also—but after a more perfect manner—it must needs be in the case of the all-consummating sacrifice of the New Dispensation. In the ancient 'rite, conditioned as it was by the limitations of material • objects, a portion of the victim was offered on the altar and a portion was eaten ; here the whole is offered and the 'whole is eaten—eaten entire by every one of the faithful, in accordance with the words of St. Thomas's hymn : Sic totum omnibus, quod toturn singulis ; And again : Sumit unus, sumunt mille, Tantum isti quantum Hie, Nec sumptus consumitur.
Nor is this all. The animal offerings under the Mosaic Law were regularly supplemented by oblations of meal and libations of wine, the whole constituting one rite (e.g. Num. vi. 17). For this, too, if the typology was to be complete, it was to be expected that an analogue would be found 'under the New Law. And, moreover, all that has been said of the veritable eating of the victim's flesh, and of the accompaniment of meal or (unleavened) bread, might be repeated, in a slightly modified form, with reference to the paschal sacrifice and meal, the typical character of which is explicitly affirmed in the New Testament.
Another and a more fundamental point now calls for discussion. In the great majority of theological treatises on the Holy Eucharist which have been published since the Council of Trent, it has been either asserted or assumed that the idea of sacrifice involves that of an offering made by way of "destruction." And since in the Holy Eucharist as such there is no physical "destruction," theologians .have been greatly puzzled to explain how the definition of -a " sacrifice " is verified in the Mass. Vazquez, for instance, who has had many followers, states the matter thus : "Since by the force of the words, only the Body of Christ is put under the species of bread, and only His Blood under the species of wine—although under either species the whole Christ is present by concomitance—the consecration of the two separate species thus performed constitutes a representation of that separation of the Body from the Blood which makes death ; and this representation is called a mystical separation. And the death itself is represented : therefore it is called a mystical slaying. . . .
Before the consecration of the wine, the Body of Christ is not represented as dead or immolated." Lugo on the other hand, whose opinion has been popularised by more than one English writer, puts the essence of the sacrifice in the circumstance that, in placing Himself under the sacramental species, our Lord undergoes a certain exinanitio (or kenosis) comparable to that of the Incarnation, but in some respects going beyond it, since in the Holy Eucharist He lies as it were dead upon the altar, not so much by virtue of the mystical separation of the Blood from the Body of which Vazquez speaks, as by the fact that the natural operations and functions of the human body are suspended in the sacramental state. It is in this assumption of the "status metimae," as of a "status declivior," that the element of destruction or quasi-destruction is to be found. According to this view the double consecration is essential to the sacrifice, not as a matter of intrinsic necessity and ex natura rei, but simply as a matter of positive institution.
It is needless to proceed further in the enumeration of the various theories that have been devised to meet the difficulty. The very fact of their diversity is enough to show that no plea of universal acceptance can be set up on behalf of any one of them. Roughly speaking, they are all reducible—as has been already implied—to the statement that in the act of consecration there is some kind of " moral " or " equivalent " destruction, and that thus the ratio sacrincii is saved. But all such explanations leave it open to the objector to say : "If destruction is a necessary element in sacrifice, then where the destruction is real, there will be or may be a real sacrifice ; but where the destruction is only 'moral' or 'symbolical' or 'equivalent' (which really means not quite equivalent) the rite, however solemn, will be a sacrifice only in some moral or symbolical or equivalent—or not quite equivalent—sense."
In our own days the suggestion has been made—and the point has been developed and insisted on by more than one distinguished theologian—that the whole of this difficulty has been occasioned by a misapprehension as to the precise part which " destruction " holds in the notion of sacrifice, or—to state the matter slightly otherwise—as to the part which destruction actually held in the sacrificial system of the Mosaic law. That animal victims offered in sacrifice must be slain is, of course, incontestable. Yet even in the case of animal victims it is particularly deserving of notice that the actual slaying of the creature was by no means the most important item in the ritual. Indeed, the act of slaying the victim was not per se a priestly function at all. It could be performed, and usually was performed, not by the priest, but by the person who made the offering. The priest's duty was to receive the victim's blood, to pour it about the altar, to lay upon the altar the body or a portion of the body, according to the nature of the sacrifice, and, of course, to kindle the fire by which it was to be consumed. The distinction between the part which was assigned to the offerer and that which was proper to the priest is quite clearly laid down at the outset of the Book of Leviticus ; and it certainly should not be left out of account in any serious discussion of the subject.
The case has been forcibly stated by Wilhelm and Scannell, in a passage which summarises the teaching of Professor Schanz : "The notion of offering (oblatio, rpoa0opci) may be taken as the fundamental notion of all sacrifices. . . . The burning or out-pouring of the gifts hands them over to God, and through their acceptance God admits the giver to communion with Him. For the essential character of the sacrificial gift is not its destruction, but its handing over and consecration to God. . . . The out-pouring of the libation and the killing of the animals are but the means for handing over the gift to God, and for bringing the giver into communion with Him. The killing necessarily precedes the burning, but the killing is not the sacrifice. 'The victim is killed in order to be offered (Greg. M. in Ezech i. 2, Hom. 10, 19) ; in other words the killing is preparatory to the sacrifice. More importance attaches to the blood of the victim which is gathered and poured out at the altar. For, according to ancient ideas, the life, or the soul, is in the blood. When, therefore, the blood is offered, the highest that man can give, viz., a soul or a life, is handed over to God. .. .
[Again] the sanctifying power of fire is as well known as the role it plays in heathen mythologies. God Himself was a fire, 'Our God is a consuming fire' (Heb. xii. 29), or the fire was a power sent down from heaven, and frequently the heavenly fire is said to have consumed the victim. . . . The independent unbloody sacrifices can only be explained from the same point of view, viz, that they express oblation of self to, and union with, God. . . . Sacrifice in general may, therefore, be defined as the offering to God, by an authorised minister, of an actual gift of something of our own, transformed by the consecration of the minister, and thus passing into the dominion of God, Who accepts the gift for the sanctification of the offerer.'"
To say, however, that the slaying of the victim is not the sacrificial act par excellence is a very different thing from saying (what would be altogether untrue) that the victim's death is not of the essence of sacrifice. The fact would seem to be that the animal sacrifices of the Old Law were an attempt to shadow forth the voluntary self-offering of a vicarious substitute. Perhaps we shall best get at the truth by remembering that in every animal sacrifice there was a double substitution, viz., that of the victim for the offerer, and—under another aspect—that of the priest for the victim. As victim the animal was a substitute for the offerer. As presenter of the offering the priest performed on behalf of the victim what by the nature of the case the victim could not (even had it been otherwise capable) have done for itself.
Hence it is explicitly noted, as an element in the perfection of the sacrifice of Christ, that in this case Priest and Victim were one and the same. And yet even here the idea of substitution was not wanting, for here the all-perfect Victim was self-offered for His people. In the divine tragedy of Calvary it is plain that it was not the act of slaying Our Lord that constituted the sacrifice, but Our Lord's acceptance of the death inflicted on Him.
But it is also plain that the death was inflicted by those on whose behalf the sacrifice was offered ; so that in this respect also the typology was preserved or realised. Assuming however (what is beyond question) that, in the case of a living victim, death by the shedding of blood was of the very essence of the sacrifice, and was a necessary preliminary to the presentation of the flesh and the blood to God upon the altar ; it is by no means clear that in the case of a commemorative sacrifice, in which, after the shedding of blood "once for all," the same Victim is offered again and again, we are compelled to look for a repeated equivalent of the bloodshedding, or for an element of real or equivalent "destruction."
Under the limitations which conditioned the offering of animal victims, anything in the nature of a repetition of the offering was plainly impossible, even had there been a reason for such repetition. But these limitations being absent in the case of the supreme sicrifice of Christ, it would seem that the sacrificial "presentation" or " oblation " of the Victim might be repeated indefinitely, and that nothing more was required in order to the realisation of the idea of a true bloodless sacrifice than that the presentation or oblation should be made by means of an outward and significant rite, not necessarily involving any sort of "destruction."
That the rite actually chosen and instituted by Our Lord does in fact "show forth His death" by virtue of the separate consecration of the Host and of the Chalice, no one would think of calling in question; but, in view of the divergence of opinions among theologians, it would seem to be desirable not to lay undue stress upon any of the particular explanations of the ratio sacrificii in the Mass, as though, if this particular explanation (e.g., that of Vazquez or De Lugo) were mistaken, the ratio sacrificii would be lacking.
The point may be aptly illustrated by means of a comparison. In treating of the mystery of man's redemption two questions must be distinguished, viz. : (r) What was necessary in order that Christ Our Lord might redeem mankind? and (2) how did Our Lord in fact redeem mankind ?
To the first question the answer is that any single act of the God-Man would have been sufficient for the purpose. To the second the answer is that in fact Our Lord redeemed us by dying on the cross. And to this simple statement may be added many considerations which bring into prominence the manifold congruity of the "plentiful redemption" (going so far beyond the mere intrinsic necessities of the case) whereby we were redeemed.
Precisely so in dealing with the Sacrifice of the Mass we must distinguish between two questions, viz. : (r) What were the necessary and suftient conditions to be fulfilled in order that the Mass might be a true sacrifice ? and (2) what is it that in fact makes the Mass a true sacrifice ?
The first question has reference to the intrinsic necessities of the case, the second concerns the actual institution of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. To the first question it should, I think, be answered that—so far as we can see—any rite which God might have chosen to institute, whereby the Divine Victim, once slain, should be again self-offered upon an altar, would have been sufficient for the verification or realisation of the ratio sacrifice.
For instance, it was not —so far as we can see—intrinsically impossible that there should have been a eucharistic sacrifice "under one kind," had it pleased God so to ordain ; and it is at least exceedingly doubtful whether we are justified in postulating any second "destruction" or " quasi-destruction " or "mystical destruction" of the Victim, once slain, as an indispensable element in the rite.
But to the second question the answer must be that, at least de facto, at least as a matter of positive divine ordinance, the particular rite whereby it has pleased Our Lord to offer Himself again upon the Christian, altar, and therefore the particular act by virtue of which the Holy Eucharist is a true sacrifice, consists in the double oxseparate consecration. And here again it is easy to point out the manifold congruity of the divine choice. But it is important, as it seems to me, to avoid creating a gratuitous difficulty by laying down (as though it could be proved a priori) that what God has in fact done it was intrinsically necessary that He should do in order that the Mass might be a true sacrifice.
By way of supplementing and completing what has already been said, it may be useful to return for a moment to the relation which the death of the victim held to the completed sacrificial ritual. The death was necessary, not merely that the physical acts of pouring out the blood and burning 'the flesh might be accomplished, but that the very life of the victim (conceived of as being contained in the blood) might be removed, as it were, to another sphere of existence.
Not, of course, that the soul of an animal could really survive its immolation. But this was precisely one of those many limitations by reason of which the sacrifices of the Old Law were mere types and symbols. The symbolical presentation of the animal's life--conceived as still contained in the blood—to God, was a faint foreshadowing of the act whereby Our Lord, triumphant over death, offered or presented on our behalf the life which He had laid down yet not lost. It is particularly noteworthy that both in the Apocalypse and in the Epistle to the Hebrews the sacrifice of Christ is regarded as in a manner perennial and continuous, at least so far as regards the ritual act of the self-presentation of the Divine Victim. Christ having died. on the Cross entered into the heavenly sanctuary to offer or present on our behalf, not the blood of goats and of heifers, but His own.
And be entered that heavenly sanctuary, not—like the Levitical High Priest—to withdraw after a few moments, but to make everlasting intercession for us. So, too, on the Apocalyptic altar the Lamb for ever stands "as it were slain," i.e. bearing all the marks of death, yet ever living, a propitiatory Victim to the end of time. And what—according to our way of reckoning—takes place in heaven continuously or perennially, is reproduced on earth, not indeed continuously in any single place, but daily and hourly on ten thousand altars "from the rising of the sun even to its going down."