Mystagogy Series

Beautiful Light: A Paschal Mystagogy, Part I—Sacrifice

Welcome to Beautiful Light, a liturgical catechesis rooted in the Church’s mystagogical tradition. Mystagogy is an ancient form of catechesis that helps us go deeper into the mysteries we celebrate in the sacraments. Every week a new theme will help you focus on the graces available to you through the Mass as you prayerfully reflect on the content.

Imagine the Rite

A sweet silence has come upon your inner being... as if a gentle dew has fallen upon the thirsty ground of your soul. You sit alert in the wooden pew with your eyes fixed upon the actions of the priest, who stands erect behind the altar. First, his hands lift the paten containing the host. Still holding the paten, he speaks the ancient words: “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you...” Gently, he lays the paten upon the snow-white corporal linen lying in the middle of the altar. Next, the chalice is raised high, containing wine into which a few drops of water were mingled. The eyes of the priest are elevated as he speaks more ancient words, in union with Jesus, to our Heavenly Father: “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have this wine to offer you...” After each invocation, your voice unites with those of the whole assembly in response: “Blessed be God forever.” You are intimately uniting your own heart to this offering. You are drawn in... within you awakens a more profound desire to become a living sacrifice with Jesus, the Great High Priest.

people kneeling in prayer

Every baptized member of the liturgical assembly is called to full, conscious, and active participation in the Body of Christ. Sharing in the common priesthood of all the baptized, united with the ordained priest acting in persona Christi (in the person of Christ), how might you join yourself with Jesus’ self-offering to God the Father in service to others?

Excerpt from the Church Fathers

“Listen now to what the Apostle urges us to do. I appeal to you, he says, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice. Paul has raised all men to priestly status by this exhortation of his. How marvelous is the priesthood of the Christian? We participate as both the victim offered on his own behalf and the priest who makes the offering. He does not need to go beyond himself to seek what he is to immolate to God: with himself and in himself, he brings the sacrifice he is to offer God for himself. The victim remains, and the priest remains, always the same. Immolated, the victim still lives: the priest who immolates cannot kill. Indeed, it is an extraordinary sacrifice in which a body is offered without being slain, and blood is offered without being shed. The Apostle says: I appeal to you by the mercy of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice. Brethren, this sacrifice follows the pattern of Christ’s sacrifice by which he gave his Body as a living immolation for the life of the world. He really made his Body a living sacrifice because, though slain, he continues to live. In such a victim, death receives its ransom, but the victim remains alive. Death itself suffers the punishment. This is why death for the martyrs is a birth and their end a beginning. Their execution is the door to life, and those who were thought to have been blotted out from the earth shine brilliantly in heaven.”

– St. Peter Chrysologus

priest holding chalice

Catechetical Reflection on the Rite

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Church is united in the offering of Jesus Christ to God the Father and for the sake of others:

“The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of the Church. The Church, which is the Body of Christ, participates in offering her Head. With him, she is offered whole and entire. She unites herself to his intercession with the Father for all men. In the Eucharist, the sacrifice of Christ also becomes the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and his total offering and so acquire a new value. Christ’s sacrifice present on the altar makes it possible for all generations of Christians to be united with his offering.” (CCC, no. 1368)

Celebrating each of the seven Sacraments involves the simultaneous action of dying and rising. In baptism, as the Church teaches, we die to ourselves and rise with Christ. With Sacred Chrism, also used for Confirmations and Ordinations, each baptized person is anointed in Jesus Christ as priest, prophet, and king. One’s appreciation for the universal call to holiness and mission is predicated on understanding this threefold character of anointing. As such, each baptized person receives the necessary divine grace to serve in witness to the person and mission of Jesus Christ through missionary discipleship and stewardship.

The efficacy of Jesus’ words and actions at the Last Supper are revealed in his Crucifixion and Death on the cross. He lays down his life so we might live eternally with him in communion with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. In union with the whole Church, sharing in the common priesthood of the baptized, the members of the Body of Christ participate in the offering of Jesus. We unite our lives, all that we have to offer in thanksgiving, to his offering.

Jesus is the one who became like us in all things but sin. He shares in our experiences of pain, sorrow, joy, loss, encounter, disappointment, accomplishment, birth, and death. Having been created in the image of God, we are loved beyond comprehension by the Holy Trinity. Any offering of self that we make to God pales in comparison to that of Jesus. Imperfect as we are, we always have something to offer back to God. While Jesus offers himself in obedience in atonement for man’s disobedience to the Father, we offer ourselves in thanksgiving. Thus, we strive to participate fully, consciously, and actively in the Eucharistic banquet. We die to ourselves and rise with him.

women praying

Living Christ Today

The Eucharistic celebration of Mass is the “source and summit” of Catholic identity and mission, from which all ministries and services flow. Offering ourselves with Jesus Christ to God the Father in union with the Holy Spirit, rooted in our baptismal call to holiness and mission, is meant to inspire our participation in the spiritual and corporal (bodily) works of mercy. For authentic Christian witness of any Catholic, living a sacramental life in Jesus Christ within the domestic, social, economic, and political spheres of society must be consistent with our participation in the self-offering of Jesus Christ in the Offertory.

On Divine Mercy Sunday, we do well to consider the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

The spiritual works of mercy include:

• Admonishing the sinner

• Instructing the ignorant

• Counseling the doubtful

• Comforting the sorrowful

• Bearing wrongs patiently

• Forgiving injuries

• Praying for the living and the dead

The corporal works of mercy include:

• Feeding the hungry

• Giving drink to the thirsty

• Clothing the naked

• Sheltering the homeless

• Visiting the sick

• Visiting the imprisoned

• Burying the dead

These works of mercy, especially the corporal works, are predicated on the Gospel of Matthew 25:31–46 and are often cited by Pope Francis as the hallmark of missionary discipleship in Jesus Christ.

Friar serving old woman

Living Christ today involves the stewardship of our time, talent, and treasure of ourselves to others—including our families, our co-workers, our classmates, and fellow parishioners, but especially those on the margins and peripheries of society, namely, the poor, the homeless, the sick, the lonely, the elderly, the refugee, the prisoner, and the dying. Embracing the call to missionary discipleship, as Pope Francis urges us, we must be willing to go beyond our comfort zones, egos, and personal agendas to recognize and respond to the needs of those around us. We do not necessarily need to go off to foreign lands, sell all we have, or completely alter our lives to participate in the mission of proclaiming the Good News. As St. Teresa of Calcutta was known to say, “Do small things with great love.”

Many parishes provide opportunities, such as serving in food pantries, providing meals for the homeless, visiting the sick, and assisting those grieving. There are various ways to make a difference, whether organized or simply living one’s life in an intentional way of generosity in service to others—flowing from our disciple relationship with Jesus.

Ultimately, let us remember that we are called to participate in Jesus Christ’s mission of transforming the world rather than letting the world get the best of us. Let us pray with St. Francis of Assisi, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”

Through the Beautiful Light series, each week from April 13 to May 25, 2023, you'll be invited to go deeper into the mysteries of the Mass through four steps:

1. Meditating on a rite (or part) of the Mass;

2. Reading an excerpt from one of the Church Fathers related to the rite;

3. Engaging with a catechetical reflection on the rite of the Mass;

4. Considering how you can "Live Christ Today", bridging your experience of faith with your daily life of discipleship.

We also invite you to go even deeper by praying with our Eucharistic Prayer Companions for the Easter Season [English | Spanish] which connect every week to our Mystagogy series.