The Blood of the New and Eternal Covenant

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Saturday of the Sixteenth Week of the Year I

Exodus 24:3-8

A Mystic Outline of the Mass

We see in today’s lesson from the Book of Exodus a mystic outline of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The first verse describes what is, in essence, a liturgy of the Word: “So Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice: ‘We will do all the words of the Lord, which He hath spoken’” (Ex 24:3).

Actuosa Participatio

What have we here if not a prefiguring of the Mass of the Catechumens, also called the Liturgy of the Word? Moses communicates the Word of God. The people listen, and then commit themselves to carry out what they have heard. Think, for a moment, of the quality of their listening to the Word, and of the density of their silence. One had to listen intently, inclining the ear of one’s heart. Actual participation at its best!

The Altar

After the proclamation of the Word of the Lord and the people’s promise of obedience to it, Moses builds an altar. “And rising in the morning he built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel” (Ex 24:4). One builds an altar for one thing alone: for sacrifice. The altar is surrounded by twelve pillars: a delineation of sacred space and a representation of the communion of the twelve tribes in a single sacrifice.

The Ascent to the Altar

In our liturgy, the Mass of the Faithful, also called the Liturgy of the Eucharist, begins with the preparation of the altar. The movement to the altar is a sacred moment. It is the ascent to the place of the Holy Sacrifice. The corporal is unfolded. The holy gifts are carried to the altar and placed upon it. The priest bows low before the altar, praying silently: “With humble spirit and contrite heart may we be accepted by you, O Lord, and may our sacrifice to you this day be pleasing in your sight, Lord God.”

A Sacrificing Priesthood

In the next verse, Moses presides over the bloody immolation of the victims: “Then, having sent certain young men of the children of Israel to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice young bulls as peace offerings to the Lord, Moses took half the blood and put it into bowls; the other half he poured upon the altar” (Ex 24:5-6). There can be no sacrifice without the shedding of blood. The shedding of blood requires both victims and sacrificers, both offerings and offerers.

Christ, Victim and Priest

In the Mass, Christ Himself is the Victim, and Christ Himself is the sacrificing Priest, acting through the ministry of his unworthy servant, the ordained priest who stands in His place before the altar. The immolation is real; the very sacrifice of Calvary takes place, albeit in an unbloody manner and hidden beneath the sacramental veils of bread and wine.

The Blood of the Covenant

“And taking the book of the covenant, Moses read it in the hearing of the people; and they said: ‘All things that the Lord hath spoken we will do, we will be obedient.’ And he took the blood and sprinkled it upon the people, and he said: ‘This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words’” (Ex 24:7-8).

Amen

This last verse corresponds to the rite of Holy Communion in the Mass. By approaching the altar to receive the Sacred Body and Precious Blood of Christ, the people are, in effect, saying: “All things that the Lord hath spoken we will do, we will be obedient.” One who, by means of Holy Communion, partakes of the Sacrifice of Christ, enters into the mystery of His victimal obedience to the Father. This is the meaning of your “Amen” to the words of the priest, “The Body and Blood of Christ.”

The Blood of the New and Eternal Covenant

At Holy Mass, the Blood of the Victim is not sprinkled; the Precious Blood is given as life-giving drink. “And my blood,” says the Lord, “is drink indeed” (Jn 6:55). The sprinkling of blood in the Old Dispensation was an outward ritual. In the New Dispensation, he who drinks of the Blood of Christ becomes one with Him; the Eucharist is the sacrament of interabiding: “Abide in me, and I in you” (Jn 15:4). Each communicant receives the Precious Blood, recalling the words of the priest at the consecration of the chalice: “Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the Cup of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal Covenant; it will be poured out for you and for all for the forgiveness of sins.”

The Kiss

Before leaving the altar at the end of Mass, the priest kisses it. The altar is the place of the Divine Sacrifice. By kissing it, the priest is saying, “Until we meet again, until I return to thee, O thou precious source and summit of my life, and of the life of these people nourished today from Thee.” Acting in the person of Christ, the Head of His Mystical Body, that final kiss of the priest expresses the deepest sentiments of each one of Christ’s members. The Christian, called to identification with Christ, Priest and Victim, lives for the altar. The Christian lives from the altar. The Christian measure of time is from one Mass to the next.

1 Comments

+JMJ
Dear Fr. Marco,
Jesus be praised for the spiritual nourishment I receive from your postings and transubstantially from Fr. Jacob during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on an almost daily basis. It is this perpetuation of our Sacred Mystery of faith that I am most grateful, and to both your Reverence's gift of Spirit filled preaching from the source of all Goodness which makes me spiritually love you both as priests forever. Thank You for hallowing our Father's name, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, with the Holy Spirit.
Giving Thanks to God in His Gifts, cob

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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