I was in a conversation recently with a fellow Catholic who made the following statement:
When the mass is celebrated, there are four "actors." Christ, the Church, the Priest, the Congregation. For whom, among these four, do the elements become the Body/Blood of Christ? Who is the "us" in the "for us"?
Bread and wine do not become Christ's Body and Blood for Christ. They do become the Body/Blood for the Church, the Priest, and the Congregation - for our salvation. (They become these elements for the same reason Christ sacrificed Himself on the cross.)
I must take issue with this view. Here is how I responded:
With all due respect, I cannot agree to the premise. He says:
"When the mass is celebrated, there are four "actors." Christ, the Church, the Priest, the Congregation.""I cannot agree with this sentiment. There are no actors. There is a celebrant. The priest and there are those who are there to worship. The faithful. There is nothing more, nothing less. Why make it more complicated than it needs to be? There need be no more than two persons, a priest and one layman to have Holy Mass. Yet, you start making things immediately more difficult by including Christ as an actor? The Church as an actor? No Father, the Church is present insofar as the Church militant gathers, but the Church doesn't have an acting role. And Christ, while present in an unbloody way, is not an actor, He is the sacrifice.
He then asks:
"For whom, among these four, do the elements become the Body/Blood of Christ?"
I knew he would disagree 100% with this, but the answer is, for God, the Father. That is who the Mass is offered for. It is not offered for man. That is the change in theology which has burdened the Church. Holy Communion is not a necessity save once a year for the faithful. The sacrifice, in an unbloody way, is for God the Father. And the faithful worship God, the Father at Holy Mass while the Sacred Host is being immolated. Once the sacrifice is complete, we may share in it, through Holy Communion. But it is in our joining to God, the Father that we are able to share in that sacrificial banquet.
He then states:
"Bread and wine do not become Christ's Body and Blood for Christ. They do become the Body/Blood for the Church, the Priest, and the Congregation - for our salvation. (They become these elements for the same reason Christ sacrificed Himself on the cross.)"
This is true, but the re-presentation of the sacrifice at Calvary in an unbloody way is first a sacrifice to God, the Father. Why would we sacrifice something to ourselves? That makes no sense, from any sort of religious point of view.
Yes, Christ sacrificed Himself for us on the Cross. But that happened one time. He doesn't die over and over and over. The unbloody re-presentation of Calvary is a commemoration of that event, on our behalf to God, the Father.
I'll spell it out as clearly as I can. The sacrifice of the Mass is not "for us" in the manner that it is being presented. It is for God the Father. We participate in that sacrifice insofar as we worship. But, to presume that it is for us is to misunderstand the intention of the Church.
How does the Canon start again? We come to you Father....
The whole of the Canon is aimed not toward us, but toward God. Where it rightly belongs. We worship. We lay our prayers at the foot of the altar. The priest gathers those prayers and he takes them to the altar and offers them on our behalf, as he offers (celebrates) the Mass.
I can't be any clearer. Sure there are parts of the Mass where we recognize what we are doing, but the Mass is not "for us" it is "for God." If that were not the case, then there would be no need for a heavenly liturgy. Yet there is one. And the Mass is the re-presentation of that heavenly liturgy on Earth.