I recall when I first heard the Third Roman Missal’s new translation of the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I) I was struck by the phrasing of a portion of the Eucharistic Prayer following immediately after the Sanctus as part of the “Commemoration of the Living.” It goes like this,
Remember, Lord, your servants N. and N.
and all gathered here,
whose faith and devotion are known to you.
For them, we offer you this sacrifice of praise
or they offer it for themselves
and all who are dear to them:
for the redemption of their souls,
in hope of health and well-being,
and paying their homage to you,
the eternal God, living and true.
When I first heard it I thought the priest had made a mistake and corrected it! But later, when I looked in the Missalette, I realized, “The Canon contains a self-correction!” The presiding celebrant prays, “For them [the faithful], we offer you this sacrifice of praise,” but then immediately adds, “or they offer it for themselves and all who are dear to them.” The disjointed retraction in the midst of the Eucharistic Prayer places stark emphasis on the fact that both the ministerial priesthood of the Ordained and the royal priesthood of the baptized are fully active in the Mass’ one sacrificial offering of praise. They are two modes of Christ’s own priestly self-offering to the Father through, with and in His Body, the Church. And, as the Catechism reminds us, the offering of the ministerial priesthood “is at the service of the baptismal priesthood” (#1120).
Later in the same Eucharistic Prayer, the celebrant again distinguishes the two orders of priesthood that are engaged in the Mass’ liturgical work of sacrificial offering, but this time what is offered is not praise, but the very oblation of the Paschal Victim: the slain and risen Christ. After the gifts of bread and wine have passed through the transubstantiating Consecration, and the Mysterium Fidei has allowed the Assembly to directly address Christ now really present on the Altar, the Canon continues:
Therefore, O Lord,
as we celebrate the memorial of the blessed Passion,
the Resurrection from the dead,
and the glorious Ascension into heaven
of Christ, your Son, our Lord,
we, your servants and your holy people,
offer to your glorious majesty
from the gifts that you have given us,
this pure victim,
this holy victim,
this spotless victim,
the holy Bread of eternal life
and the Chalice of everlasting salvation.
The living Bread and saving Chalice, having become the same Christ who forever offers his Passion — accepted and immortalized in the Resurrection — to the Father as an eternal sacrifice for our eternal redemption, now become, by the power of the Spirit, our offering to the Father. Baptism and Holy Orders have variously united both Ordained ministerial priest and Baptized royal priest to the one Great High Priest, with the Ordained acting in the Person of Christ the Offered and Offering, and the priestly people co-offered and co-offering. Hence, in the Mass we, Christifidelis laici, “Christ’s faithful people,” through the ministry of the Ordained minister are made capable of offering God to God, Son to Father, as the only acceptable sacrifice that opens to us the unthinkable: not only redemption, health and well-being, but participation in the inner dynamics of divine life in the Triune Godhead.
This is the white hot core of “full, conscious and active participation” in the Mass. But really and truly how many of the lay faithful have any clue that this is what they have been empowered by Baptism and Confirmation to do?
This is why I have always thought the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, given to the Church in the 1930s through the private revelations of St. Faustina Kowalska, was a gift from God before the Second Vatican Council to offer the Church a piety that would help shape in the lay faithful a priestly-Eucharistic spirituality; a profound sense of the extraordinary dignity of the baptismal priesthood that is called and sent to labor incessantly out in the vineyard of the world in order to gather their own sacrificial offerings to join to Christ’s self-oblation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Chaplet captures the spiritual power and authority the laity to co-offer their lives with the Eucharistic Victim to the eternal Father for the redemption of the world.
Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world…For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
What profound Eucharistic language! A lovely and mystical extension of the offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass out into time and space, beyond the confines of the Rite. Much as with the Liturgy of the Hours or Eucharistic Adoration that work to sanctify the hours of the day outside of the Eucharistic Divine Liturgy, the Chaplet of Mercy offers a simple, devotional way to consecrate alol of one’s life in the fiery Heart of Jesus. It also helps the laity to cultivate a priestly spirituality and a deeper awareness that all of one’s life is to become a co-offering through-with-in Christ to the Father for the life of the world.
One other devotion my family and I have been committed to for many years, that I have special affinity for, is the Morning Offering. We begin every day with it. It contains the same profound awareness of the unity of the Sacrifice of the Mass and the sacrifice of one’s life, and starts the day by consecrating everything all at once to God. As my son once said, “I like saying it now as I always forget to keep doing it during the day.”
I will leave you with the version we pray.
What a dignity we have! The angels themselves long to peer into that dignity (cf 1 Peter 1:12)!
through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer You my prayers, works,
joys and sufferings
of this day for all the intentions
of Your Sacred Heart,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
throughout the world,
in reparation for my sins,
for the intentions of all my relatives and friends,
and in particular
for the intentions of the Holy Father.
A Marian Church
A last thought on this. My wife went to Rome years ago, and stopped for a day at a shrine outside of Rome called Santuario di Castelpetroso. It was a mini-pilgrimage fraught with hardship for her — what, for her, made it profoundly transformative. On the mountain next to the Basilica, there is a gorgeous Stations of the Cross, and near the end of the path it is a Pietà that, well, is nothing short of breath taking. She snapped a photo of it to show me. In it, as you see below, Mary is kneeling next to the dead body of her Son and her hands are extended outward and upward in a gesture of offering. If Mary is an icon of the Church, as Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium says, than I can imagine no more remarkable image of the Church as co-offerer of Christ’s sacrifice to the Father. What Mary does here is what the Church is called to do in her every action, her every prayer, and above all else in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Fiat! May it be so!