The Church teaches that the Mass is a true and real sacrifice offered to God, indeed, that it is the selfsame sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for our sins. The Mass is the same sacrifice as the sacrifice of Calvary, but offered in an unbloody manner, not only in adoration and thanksgiving, but also in reparation, or propitiation, for sins. The Council of Trent declared infallibly the following words:
Canon 1. If anyone says that in the mass a true and real sacrifice is not offered to God; or that to be offered is nothing else than that Christ is given to us to eat, let him be anathema...
Canon 3. If anyone says that the sacrifice of the mass is one only of praise and thanksgiving; or that it is a mere commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross but not a propitiatory one; or that it profits him only who receives, and ought not to be offered for the living and the dead, for sins, punishments, satisfactions, and other necessities, let him be anathema.In the Tridentine Mass, this doctrine is very clearly expressed. At the Offertory, the Priest offers the bread of the Host to God, praying the following words:
"Receive, O Holy Father, almighty and eternal God, this spotless host, which I, Thine unworthy servant, offer unto Thee, my living and true God, for my countless sins, trespasses, and omissions; likewise for all here present, and for all faithful Christians, whether living or dead, that it may avail both me and them to salvation, unto life everlasting. Amen."Note the depth and richness in doctrine of this single prayer.
"Receive... this spotless host..." The word spotless here is an enunciation of the perfection of the victim of oblation, the perfection of the sacrifice which is to be made. At the consecration, the bread will be miraculously changed into the body of Jesus Christ, Who, being not only the perfect man but also God, is therefore the most perfect sacrifice. He is spotless. This makes very clear the sacrificial nature of what is occurring at the mass: there is an oblation, an offering, a true sacrifice being made.
"...which I, Thine unworthy servant, offer unto Thee...for my countless sins, trespasses, and omissions..." This makes utterly clear the propitiatory nature of the sacrifice being offered. Man is a sinful creature, he has offended his God, Who is infinitely good. This is why the sacrifice being made must be absolutely perfect, "spotless," as just explained - indeed, the sacrifice must itself be possessed of infinite perfection. Only such a sacrifice could satisfy the infinite goodness and justice of God, which has been offended by man's "countless sins, trespasses, and omissions."
"...likewise for all here present, and for all faithful Christians, whether living or dead, that it may avail both me and them to salvation, unto life everlasting. Amen." Here again, the doctrine of the Church is very clearly expressed, namely that the sacrifice is made in reparation for the sins of all men, living or dead.
These points would also seem to make clear that the sacrifice being offered here is more than a mere commemoration of the sacrifice of the cross, but it is the selfsame sacrifice, the offering of a perfect victim, namely the God-man Christ, in satisfaction for the sins of man.
Now, compare this prayer to the equivalent prayer from the Novus ordo:
"Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life."Note how the sacrificial nature of the Mass is minimalized, expressed only in the word "offer," which itself hardly says much. Also, whereas the Tridentine prayer referred to the "spotless host," thereby pointing to the perfection of the victim to be offered - perfect because it is divine - this prayer speaks merely of the bread which is a product of the earth, and the work of human hands. Food comes from the earth, and its produced by human labor; whereas the spotless host, which is to become the victim of the oblation, is much more than just food. At the consecration it will become the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, offered on the altar to God. And yet this prayer from the New mass fails to make mention of these truths.
Note further how much the propitiatory nature of the sacrifice is minimalized: there is no mention here at all of the countless sins, trespasses, and omissions of man.
Again, in the Tridentine Mass, now at the offering of the chalice, the Priest prays the following words:
"We offer unto Thee, O Lord, the chalice of salvation, beseeching Thy clemency that it may ascend as a sweet odor before Thy divine majesty, for our own salvation, and for that of the whole world. Amen."Again, note how the propitiatory nature is expressed, insofar as is also expressed the need of offering the perfect sacrifice "for our own salvation, and for that of the whole world"; and also in the words "beseeching Thy clemency," i.e. beseeching His mercy, that God would be so pleased with our sacrifice as to bring us to salvation, which by our sins we have not deserved. Further, in beseeching God's clemency, we recognize the divine source of the gift which is to be sacrificed. In other words, it is only by the efficacy of God Himself that a truly satisfactory offering can be made. Thus, the divine origin and direction of the offering is clearly expressed.
And again, contrast this with the equivalent prayer in the Novus ordo:
"Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink."It is interesting to observe that the wording of this prayer is almost an exact copy of the wording for the offering of the host, except that it is now concerned with the chalice. Note also the phrase "our spiritual drink." In the prayer for the offering of the host, the phrase "bread of life" was used, and for the offering of the chalice the phrase "our spiritual drink" is used; and in both, the offerings are emphasized as being the fruit of the earth and the vine, and the work of human hands; whereas the Tridentine offering of the wine stressed the divine origin and direction of the offering. Thus it becomes quite obvious that not only is the notion of sacrifice being downplayed in the Novus Ordo prayers, but the notion of a meal is being emphasized. Recall again the words of Trent: "If anyone says that in the mass a true and real sacrifice is not offered to God; or that to be offered is nothing else than that Christ is given to us to eat, let him be anathema." The idea condemned here seems to be precisely the idea which influences the mentality of the texts of the Novus ordo which we have just examined. Now, the prayers of the Novus ordo need not be interpreted as being directly contrary to Trent's teaching, and thus they are not heretical; indeed, everything expressed by these prayers is, in itself, quite true. The Mass is a meal, the host is changed into the bread of life, the chalice does become a spiritual drink, etc. But it would be false to say that this is all that the mass it is. The sacrifice is just as essential to the mass as the meal is, if not more essential. The mass is not only a repetition of the Last Supper, but it is also the sacrifice that was made by Jesus on the Cross at Calvary. While the Tridentine Mass expresses this doctrine very clearly, the Novus ordo seems to downplay it and minimize it, thereby even obscuring it.
Interestingly, something similar happened at the time of the Protestant revolution as well. Protestants object to the notion of sacrifice. In particular, Martin Luther and Thomas Cramner both expressed a very strong dislike for the notion of a sacrifice, and they quite rightly recognized that in order to destroy Catholic liturgy they had to dispose of the sacrifice. Martin Luther spoke of "all that abomination called the Offertory, and from this point almost everything reeks of oblation."* Moreover, Luther substituted the idea of a meal for that of a sacrifice: "'Eat and drink.’ This is the only work that we are told to do in the Eucharist.'"* The Novus Ordo prayers seem to implicitly go right along with Luther's claim, suppressing the notion of sacrifice and mentioning only the "bread of life" and the "spiritual drink."
These weaknesses of the Novus Ordo also seem to indicate that it was written with Ecumenical motivations, meaning that it was written in such a way as to be more agreeable to Protestant theology, since Protestants reject the notion of sacrifice. But the only way to make something which is Catholic more agreeable to Protestants is by watering down its Catholic nature, and that is precisely what has happened here - not in the sense that anything previously taught has now been explicitly denied, but that much has been omitted so as to give a false impression.
Hopefully I'll be dealing with other problems in later posts, at some point.
*Quoted in Dom Pietro Leone's series on The Roman Rite.