A Closer Look At The Oblation In Eucharistic Prayers
Combined with the Memorial of the Lord’s Death and Resurrection is the Offering of the Sacrifice, which is also called the Oblation. The Church gathered in prayer, having fulfilled the Lord’s command to remember him, now offers the sacrifice of Christ. The author to the Letter to the Hebrews compares the worship of the first covenant with the sacrificial offering of Christ in the new covenant. The first covenant had a sanctuary on earth constructed with two compartments – the outer one where the priests regularly offered their sacrifices and the inner one, beyond a veil, called the Holy of Holies where only the High Priest entered once a year with the sacrificial blood of a goat to make an offering for his sins and those of the people. This custom is still observed on the annual High Holy Day of Yom Kippur. Christ, the high priest, has entered into the heavenly sanctuary of God once and for all, taking with him his own blood (see Hebrews 9). Therefore, the sacrifice of the first covenant is powerless to sanctify God’s people in comparison to Christ’s Sacrifice. The Church now offers Jesus’ sacrifice to the Father in the Mass in an unbloody manner.
Not only do we offer Christ’s sacrifice. Christ’s sacrifice is also the Church’s sacrifice we offer as described in the “General Instruction of the Roman Missal” – “The oblation, by which, in this very memorial, the Church, in particular that gathered here and now, offers the unblemished sacrificial Victim in the Holy Spirit to the Father. The Church’s intention, indeed, is that the faithful not only offer this unblemished sacrificial Victim but also learn to offer their very selves, and so day by day to be brought, through the mediation of Christ, into unity with God and with each other, so that God may at last be all in all” (Paragraph 79f). Through baptism we have been united in the closest intimacy with Christ; and, in the Eucharist we unite our lives with his sacrifice.
St. Augustine expressed this profound union and mystery with these words “When you look at the paten and the chalice, O Christian, see yourselves.” Christ invites us to unite ourselves and our daily lives with his in His the offering of his life to the Father. Prior to Vatican II, the Offertory used to refer to the time when the collection was taken up and the priest prepared the gifts for Mass. Today, the Offertory is actually this prayer in which we offer ourselves with Christ to the Father.
Eucharistic Prayer II describes this union with Christ in the sacrifice in these words “… giving thanks that you have held us worthy to be in your presence and minister to you.”
“May he make of us an eternal offering to you, so that we may obtain an inheritance with your elect …” is prayed in Eucharistic Prayer III.
Eucharistic Prayer IV says “Look, O Lord, upon the Sacrifice which you yourself have provided for your Church, and grant in your loving kindness to all who partake of this one Bread and one Chalice that, gathered into one body by the Holy Spirit, they may truly become a living sacrifice in Christ to the praise of your glory”.
Reconciliation Prayer I proclaims “Look kindly, most compassionate Father, on those you unite to yourself by the Sacrifice of your Son….”
Father Sauer continues his look at the Mass in the Dec. 15 issue of The Message.