Sacrifice is the highest act of religion. it is a solemn act of adoration which can be made to God alone, and it is offered to God to acknowledge His supreme dominion as Creator and Lord of heaven and earth!
"I believe that were it not for holy Mass, at this moment the world would be in the abyss, unable to bear up under the mighty load of its iniquities. Mass is the potent prop that holds the world upon its base. Therefore, when we are assisting at it, we ought to practice that which once Alphonsus of Albuquerque did, who, finding himself with his fleet in danger of perishing during a fierce and terrific storm, adopted the following means: He took in his arms an innocent little child which was on board of his ship, and lifting it up toward heaven, he said, 'If we are sinners, this creature is certainly free from sin; O Lord, for love of this innocent, remit to us the death we deserve!' Will you believe it? The spectacle of that stainless babe was so pleasing to God that He calmed the sea and changed into joy for these unfortunates their terror of a death already imminent. Now, what do you believe is done by the Eternal Father when the priest, lifting in the air the thrice-sacred Victim, shows to Him the innocence of His Divine Son? Ah, then His compassion cannot resist the sight of the most spotless innocence of Jesus, and He feels as if compelled to calm our storms, and to provide for all our necessities." (St Leonard of Port Maurice.)
The history of the world, extending over the whole earth and going back to the beginning of recorded time, shows us all mankind offering sacrifice to the Supreme Being. God Himself told His chosen people the sacrifices they were to offer, and the ceremonies they were to use in these sacrifices. The details are found mainly in the Book of Leviticus, written by Moses under God's inspiration. There were first Holocausts, in which the victim was entirely consumed.
This signified that God was supreme master of life and death. Then there were peace offerings of Thanksgiving and Petition. Lastly there were the sacrifices of Expiation offered in reparation for sin. The most expressive of all these was the Expiatory Sacrifice offered once a year by the High Priest. He placed his hands upon it, while the multitude remained prostrate in adoration. This symbolized that the victim was offered for the people, laden as it were, with their sins, it received the death blow which morally struck the multitude. Then it was laid upon the pile and burned; and the sacrifice ascended to God "as an odor of sweetness," symbol of the offering of themselves which the people owed to Him.
St. Paul tells us that all these sacrifices were "weak and needy elements" and had their value only because they were figures of what was to come. Listen to St. Paul's own words to his Jewish converts: "When Christ appeared as High Priest of the good things to come, He entered once for all into the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands....nor again by the blood of goats and of calves but by virtue of His own blood into the Holy of Holies, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and of oxen, sanctify the unclean, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the Holy Spirit, offered Himself, unblemished unto God, cleanse our conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebr. 9:11-14.)
Thus Jesus Christ offered to God the most perfect sacrifice that had ever been offered, the sacrifice of His own life on the Cross of Calvary; "He offered Himself unblemished unto God." To show that at that moment of His death on the Cross, all other sacrifices henceforth ceased - the Evangelists relate that the Veil of the Temple of Jerusalem was rent from top to bottom. From henceforth Our Lord's sacrifice on Calvary was to take the place of all other sacrifices.
The Holy Mass
This the Prophet Malachy had foretold long before to the Jews. He spoke to them of a time when God would no longer accept sacrifices from their Temple, but on the other hand the Gentile nations, that is, all the other nations of the world, would offer to God one Sacrifice, a clean oblation; and it would be offered without ceasing from the rising to the setting of the sun. (Malachias 1:11.) This unceasing sacrifice, of a clean oblation pleasing to God, foretold by the Hebrew Prophet is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. When Jesus Christ changed bread and wine into His body and blood at the Last Supper He said to His Apostles: "Do this for the commemoration of Me." By these words He gave them power to do as He had done.
As Jesus needed the Apostles to carry on His work when He was gone, so the Apostles needed other priests to succeed them; because the Church was not to die out, at the end of the first century, but it was to continue "until the consummation of the world." Christ therefore commissioned the Apostles to hand on that same power to others by ordaining other priests. When the priest stands at the Alter celebrating Holy Mass, he does what Christ did at the Last Supper. He changes the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ by taking the place of Jesus and using the same words as He used at the Last Supper: "This is my Body...This is my Blood."
The teaching of the Catholic Church has always been that the Holy Mass is the same sacrifice as the sacrifice of the Cross. The Priest and the Victim of the Mass and of the Cross are one and the same, namely Jesus Christ. Source: Rev. W. Frean.
"You envy," said St. John Chrysostom, "the opportunity of the woman who touched the vestments of Jesus, of the sinful woman who washed His feet with her tears, of the women of Galilee who had the happiness of following Him in His pilgrimages, for the Apostles and disciples who conversed with Him familiarly, of the people of the time who listened to the words of grace and salvation which came forth from His lips. You call happy those who saw Him....But, come to the altar and you will see Him, you will touch Him, you will give to Him holy kisses, you will wash Him with your tears, you will carry Him within you like Mary Most Holy." Thus Jesus is truly with us. "Jesus is there!" The holy Cure of Ars could not finish repeating these three words without shedding tears. And St. Peter Julian Eymard exclaimed with joyful fervor, "There Jesus is!" Therefore all of us should go and visit Him!"
(St. Alphonsus De Liguori, The Holy Eucharist.)
O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, All Praise And All Thanksgiving, Be Every Moment Thine!