“The Four Ends of Mass”

By: Fr. Anthony Amato

We are quickly approaching the liturgical season of Lent. During this season, we prepare for the Resurrection of the Lord through penitential practices that draw us closer to union with the Cross of Christ. The liturgies throughout that season constantly remind us of our need for a Savior and what Our Lord has promised to do for us. And yet, we know, by faith, that the Lord has already risen! He lives and reigns in Heaven, always interceding for us! (cf. Hebrews 7:25) In fact, “in the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims…we sing a hymn to the Lord’s glory with all the warriors of the heavenly army; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, §8).

At the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we truly worship God along with the saints and angels who already behold Him face-to-face! How can we possibly stay away from such an event as this? How is it possible that some become “bored” at Mass or that some feel they “just sit there” and wait for it to end? “If we only knew how God regards this Sacrifice,” St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio) tells us, “we would risk our lives to be present at a single Mass.” In his Pastoral Letter commemorating the sesquicentennial of our Diocese, in which he declared a “Year of the Eucharist,” Bishop Matano reminds us of the purpose for which we offer the Mass: “Thus, we draw near to the Eucharist with the utmost reverence to render worship, adoration, thanksgiving and prayers of supplication to the One who alone is Lord!” (Pastoral Letter, page 2, emphasis added).

Adoration, thanksgiving, propitiation, and petition have traditionally been called “the four ends of Mass.” Simply put, they are the four types of prayer that we offer during the Mass and indeed, in our own personal prayer life.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is first and foremost an offering of our worship and adoration to our Heavenly Father. Think of the command of the priest after the altar has been prepared: “Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father.” Each of us, lay or ordained, offer the Holy Sacrifice according to our state. We adore God by uniting ourselves to the offering that is made on the altar. This offering is nothing (or no one) less than the Son of God Himself. What a gift and a privilege it is that we can give our Father such honor and praise for what He has done for us by praying the Mass together! We honor Him as Creator of all things, we honor Him for His mercy, wisdom, and for His liberality towards us in giving us the means of salvation. The adoration we offer our Father at Mass has an equal value – an infinite value – with Christ’s own offering on the Cross.

Within this context of adoration and worship, we recognize that the Mass is a Sacrifice of thanksgiving as well. Everything we have, even our very life and existence, come from God, and so that is all that we have to offer back to Him. In the Roman Canon, as we offer the Immaculate Victim back to the Father we pray, “Therefore, O Lord…we, your servants and your holy people, offer to your glorious majesty from the gifts that you have given us….” All that we have is a gift, and so, out of our immense gratitude for the many graces Our Lord has bestowed on us – most importantly, the gift of eternal life – we give ourselves in union with Christ whom we offer on the altar.

Holy Mass is also a Sacrifice of propitiation or satisfaction and of petition or supplication. A single drop of Our Lord’s Blood would have been sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world, yet He gave all of His Blood in order to show us the abundance and depth of His love. There are two roads to Heaven: the way of innocence and the way of penance. The Mass is a Sacrifice of propitiation because Christ whom we offer on the altar in the form of bread and wine is the same Christ who atoned for our sins on the Cross. The effects are, therefore, the same: the remission of sins and the satisfaction of punishments due to us for our sins (or for the sins of the dead for whom we may offer the Mass). However, since we have most likely sinned since our baptism, and we no longer walk in complete innocence of life, the normal means of the remission of mortal sins is the Sacrament of Penance (Confession). Through the offering of the Mass, God grants us the remission of venial sins and the grace to move us to repent of any mortal sins and so to confess them worthily.

Finally, we offer the Holy Mass as a Sacrifice of supplication or petition, asking God to grant us the graces we need to live a holy life or for any need for which it is worthy to ask God. We only need to look at the words of the various Eucharistic Prayers, or listen to the Prayers of the Faithful at any Mass, to see the many needs which we bring to Our Lord. It is in the Mass that our hearts find a resting place in the midst of this world. It is at the altar, the threshold between Heaven and earth, that we meet Christ face-to-face and so ask Him for our greatest needs, confident of being heard by the God who comes to us whenever we call upon Him.

These four types of prayer (adoration, thanksgiving, propitiation, and petition) can be seen as the most basic aspects of communication with one another. They can be summarized in four simple phrases which we all know: “I love you,” “Thank you,” “I’m sorry,” and “Please.” At the Mass, this is how we participate. These simple phrases are taken up in prayer and united to the offering of the Son of God on the Cross, in an act of worship of infinite value. How beautiful, glorious, sublime it is to participate at even one Mass! May we always avail ourselves of the graces Our Lord wishes to give us at the Mass, and prepare our minds and hearts to offer our lives in His service.

O Thou memorial of our Lord’s own dying!
O living bread, to mortals life supplying!
Make Thou my soul henceforth on Thee to live,
Ever a taste of heavenly sweetness give.
(Adoro te devote, St. Thomas Aquinas)

Fr. Anthony Amato is the Parochial Vicar of Blessed Trinity Parish and St. Patrick Parish in Tioga County. Raised in Greece, NY, he attended the Aquinas Institute for high school and then the University of Rochester (2009), where he earned his bachelor’s in Philosophy and in Religious Studies. He then earned a Master’s of Theological Studies in Systematic Theology from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry (2011). After a year of discernment at Becket Hall, he was sent to study at Theological College at the Catholic University America, where he earned his Licentiate in Sacred Theology in Systematic Theology (2017). Fr. Amato was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Rochester on June 3, 2017.

Posted in Year of the Eucharist

“Do This in Remembrance of Me: Eucharist as Memorial”

Caravaggio – Supper at Emmaus

“Do this is in remembrance of me.” Spoken by Jesus at the Last Supper, this powerful command is passed along to us by Luke and Paul in Sacred Scripture (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24) and by the unbroken apostolic Tradition that traverses the centuries. These momentous words are well-known to us, since we hear them as often as we attend Holy Mass. But have we stopped to consider their meaning?

In normal usage, to ‘remember’ something is to ‘bring it to mind.’ When we remember our First Holy Communion, for example, we bring our remembrance of the event to the forefront of our mind, and try – as much as we can – to make the event present to ourselves again. The same holds true for the remembrance of people: we try to place ourselves in the presence of the person’s expression, their laughter, their words, their gaze.

Is this the way in which we remember Jesus during the Most Holy Eucharist? In a sense, yes: we try to recall everything he said and did; we try to make the unforgettable scenes of the Gospels present to us again, so that Jesus’s encounters with other people will inform our own encounter with our Savior; we try to place ourselves in the Upper Room at the Last Supper and at the foot of the Cross at Golgatha, as Jesus gives his Body and his Blood for the sake of our redemption from sin and death. But this alone is not enough to capture the depth and the mystery of Jesus’s command.

Bishop Matano’s Pastoral Letter brings us closer to the heart of the matter. The Letter includes an important reference to Preface II of the Most Holy Eucharist:

“for at the Last Supper with His Apostles, establishing for the ages to come the saving memorial of the Cross, [Jesus] offered Himself to you as the unblemished Lamb, the acceptable gift of perfect praise.”

Here we see that the Eucharistic liturgy is described as a memorial: it is the active response to Jesus’s command to remember. The Catechism of the Catholic Church helps us understand the special meaning of the term memorial in its scriptural context:

“in the sense of Sacred Scripture the memorial is not merely the recollection of past events but the proclamation of the mighty works wrought by God for men. In the liturgical celebration of these events, they become in a certain way present and real” (§1363).

Here the Most Holy Eucharist as a memorial is glimpsed in all of its explosiveness: it is not merely that those gathered try to muster up as much recollection as they can of the past. It is also that, by the action of the liturgy, the One remembered is really and truly present once again. The liturgical memorial is not merely the replaying of past memories in which Jesus was present to us; the memorial is the very presence of Jesus, the presence after which mere recollection could only longingly grasp.

“Do this in remembrance of me.” It is now clear that the liturgical memorial of Jesus at the Liturgy of the Eucharist is not a typical act of remembrance. When we try to remember someone from our past, we do everything we can to make them present to us again; we long for their presence, but quickly realize that no amount of recollection can bring them back to us in the present moment. The unthinkable wonder of the Eucharistic memorial is that it actually accomplishes what we so desperately desire: it makes present the One for whom we long, the One who would not let time and space interrupt his bodily presence with people of all times and all places.

Posted in Year of the Eucharist

The Eucharist: The Sacrifice of the Church

Bread and Fish, Catacomb of St. Callixtus, Rome.

In our last entry, we observed that the Most Holy Eucharist is the re-presentation of the one, glorious sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom who saves us from the clutches of final death. It is in the Eucharist that the real presence of this sacrifice echoes throughout all of history; this sacrament opens the way for people of every age to participate in the fruits of Jesus’s sacrifice: truly, “he who eats this bread will live forever” (John 6:58).

Any discussion of the Eucharist as sacrifice would be incomplete without speaking about the role of the Church: the Church is both the one who offers the sacrifice (through the priest, who stands in persona Christi [in the person of Christ]) and the one who is offered. As the Second Vatican Council observed, “taking part in the Eucharistic sacrifice, which is the source and summit of the whole Christian life, [the faithful] offer the Divine Victim to God, and offer themselves along with It” (Lumen Gentium, §11).

The bread and wine brought forward to the Altar during the Offertory have a great part to play in this offering. Alexander Schmemann, an Orthodox theologian, reminds us: “this offering to God of bread and wine, of the food that we must eat in order to live, is our offering Him of ourselves, of our life and of the whole world” (For the Life of the World, 35). But a question arises: what is the significance of our offering to God, when Jesus has made the ultimately significant sacrifice that opened up the way to new life?

From one perspective, it must be said that the offering of ourselves bears the utmost significance. As Schmemann says, “it is the movement that Adam failed to perform, and that in Christ has become the very life of man: a movement of adoration and praise in which all joy and suffering, all beauty and all frustration, all hunger and all satisfaction are referred to their ultimate End and become finally meaningful” (ibid.). Here we offer what Adam did not, joining our sacrifice to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and entering into the newness of life he has won for us. There is no more significant act for a person to make with regard to his own destiny: the offering of one’s entire self to God in Jesus Christ is the secret to happiness, because it is the purpose for which we were made.

From another perspective, without the sacrifice of Christ, our own offering would be forever blemished by the presence of sin and brokenness. Like the Israelites before us, we can only look to the horizon for the coming of our Savior. There he appeared, born of Mary in Bethlehem, true God and true man, yet without sin: “he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself…. We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews, 9:26, 10:10). As Schmemann concludes, “we offer the world and ourselves to God. But we do it in Christ and in remembrance of Him. We do it in Christ because He has already offered all that is to be offered to God. He has performed once and for all this Eucharist…” (For the Life of the World, 35).

May we approach the Altar, ready to offer ourselves to God, in and through the great offering of Jesus Christ: “with him, [the Church] herself is offered whole and entire” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1368).

Posted in Year of the Eucharist

The Eucharist: The Most Holy Sacrifice

“[I]t is an extraordinary privilege for us to participate in the Eucharistic sacrifice, the resplendent manifestation and heart of our redemption in Christ.” – Bishop Matano

Basilica of Sts. Cosmas and Damian, Rome (7th Century) – Agnus Dei (Lamb of God)

When speaking about the Eucharist in the context of the Mass, Bishop Matano often describes it as the “holy sacrifice.” Similarly, in the most ancient of the Eucharist Prayers said by the priest during the Mass (Eucharistic Prayer #1, the Roman Canon), we hear the following words: “we offer to you, God of glory and majesty, this holy and perfect sacrifice: the bread of life and the cup of eternal salvation.”

What does it mean when Bishop Matano and the Roman Canon describe the Eucharist as a “holy sacrifice”?

From the moment of his conception in Mary’s womb to his triumph over death in the resurrection, Jesus’s entire existence was characterized by a mission. Sent by the Father, through the Holy Spirit, Jesus was like a Bridegroom in search of his Bride, seeking to rescue her from the darkness of sin and death. The Church, the Bride, cries out in wonder and awe: “the voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills” (Song of Songs 2:8). The final mountain he climbed – in order to leap over death itself – was Calvary. Here he showed the Bride the astonishing greatness of his love: “greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Jesus’s sacrificial death on the Cross was not only an illustration of his loving desire to rescue his Bride, but was itself the very fulfillment of this desire. Jesus’s death and resurrection was the culmination of his mission and the very liberation, the very redemption, of his Bride. While the sacrifices in the Old Testament were powerless to free us from our slavery to sin, Jesus’s sacrifice brings about this glorious freedom: the sacrifice of the Lamb of God “is unique; it completes and surpasses all other sacrifices” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, §614). Here it was not the life of an animal that was offered to God, but rather “the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:19). The very Son of God, retaining the fullness of his divinity, became man and suffered the effects of sin for our sake, as an offering of love that satisfied the Father’s deep thirst for love from mankind. As Pope St. John Paul II wrote in Redemptor Hominis, “Jesus and Jesus alone…satisfied that fatherhood of God and that love which man in a way rejected by breaking the first Covenant and the later covenants that God ‘again and again offered to man’” (§9).

The Eucharistic sacrifice is “the resplendent manifestation and heart of our redemption in Christ” (Bishop Matano) because it is the sacrifice of Christ encountered in the Church. John Paul II put this memorably: “the Eucharist is indelibly marked by the event of the Lord’s passion and death, of which it is not only a reminder but the sacramental re-presentation. It is the sacrifice of the Cross perpetuated down the ages” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, §11). In the Eucharist, then, we encounter the real presence of Christ the redeemer, who tramples down death by death for the liberation of mankind from sin. May the Church, the Bride, listen in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the Bridegroom’s call:

“Arise, my love, my fair one, 
             and come away;
for lo, the winter is past, 
            the rain is over and gone. 
The flowers appear on the earth, 
           the time of singing has come”
(Song of Songs 2:10-12)

Posted in Year of the Eucharist

Source and Summit

Early in his Pastoral Letter, Bishop Matano affirms that the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist “is the source and summit of the Christian life.” This famous phrase is taken from Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, promulgated in 1964.

As a way of discussing the meaning of this statement, it is worth pointing out that the phrase “source and summit” is somewhat unusual. Source usually indicates a jumping-off point, a beginning from which things proceed. Summit typically means a culmination, a high point to which things proceed. To take an obvious example: if you’re climbing Mount Everest, the base camp from which you proceed (your source) is very different from where you’re going (the summit). The whole drama of this daring feat – the whole promise of success and the dangers of failure – occurs between your source and the summit!

The unusual claim that the Most Holy Eucharist is both the source and the summit of Christian life is made deliberately. The Council Fathers are expressing in words the ineffable mystery – and the inestimable gift – of this sacrament: the Eucharist is precisely the beginning from which our Christian life proceeds, and it is also the high point to which our Christian life is ordered.

Jesus himself established the Eucharist as the source of Christian life: “as the living Father sent me, so I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me” (Jn 6:57). Christian life, with all of its struggles, its demands, and its unfathomable dignity, flows from our partaking of Christ’s own life, which occurs principally through the Eucharist. By nourishing our communion with Christ, the Eucharist gives us “the motivation and strength to live as a true Christian” (Pope St. John Paul II, General Audience, April 8, 1992). It also cleanses us from venial sins and preserves us from future mortal sins: it is the “medicine of immortality” (St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Ephesians, 20:2).

 Jesus also confirmed that the Eucharist is the summit of Christian life: “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn 6:54). The Eucharist accomplishes the goal of every other dimension of Christian life, which to be united body and soul to Jesus Christ. While the greatness of the mystery is often not yet outwardly visible, “by the Eucharistic celebration we…anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1326).

The whole drama of our own daring feat – to be saints of God in the midst of all trials and tribulations – also occurs between source and summit: the Eucharist serves as our commissioning and our culmination in faith, hope, and love. May we run from Eucharist to Eucharist, Mass to Mass, receiving all strength and all healing from the sacrament, setting the world on fire with divine love on our way.

Raphael – Mond Crucifixion

Posted in Year of the Eucharist

Why Celebrate our Anniversary with a Year of the Eucharist?

“It is my prayer and firm conviction that we make the Most Holy Eucharist, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the heart and center of our Sesquicentennial Celebration. Indeed, this august sacrament, the Real Presence of Christ among us, has sustained us over these many years and has been the driving force for our Diocese’s pastoral, apostolic, and charitable works, ever mindful of the motto of Bishop Bernard J. McQuaid, our first Bishop: “Salus Animarum, Lex Suprema” (“The Salvation of Souls is the Supreme Law”). – Bishop Matano

Fra Angelico – Institution of the Eucharist

Why does it make sense for Bishop Matano to pray that “we make the Most Holy Eucharist, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the heart and center of our Sesquicentennial Celebration”?  

Simply put, the Most Holy Eucharist is at the heart and center of our Diocesan anniversary because it is at the heart and center of the Church! This is true for us today in the Diocese of Rochester and it was true in the early Church as well, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles: “they held steadfastly to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (2:42).

The most significant reason for the centrality of the Eucharist in the Church is mentioned in a passage of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoted by Bishop Matano in his Letter: “in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ Himself” (§1324). The Holy Eucharist is at the heart and center of the Church because the Eucharist is the real, self-giving presence of Jesus Christ, the Church’s true treasure and glory!

The Church cannot exist apart from the personal presence of Jesus Christ. How could the Body of Christ exist apart from its Head? How could the flock know the way to safe and verdant pastures in the absence of its Shepherd? The glory of the Church is found in this: that it is the place where all people may encounter the personal presence of our Savior, Jesus who reveals the loving heart of the Father in the Holy Spirit. Pope Francis put it like this: “the Church brings Jesus: this is the center of the Church, to carry Jesus! If, as a hypothesis, the Church were not to bring Jesus, she would be a dead Church. The Church must bring Jesus, the love of Jesus, the charity of Jesus” (General Audience, October 13, 2013).

The Eucharist, then, is the real presence of Jesus Christ in the very heart of the Church. It is the place where the Church most powerfully mediates His very life and love. Here all people are invited in a particularly powerful way to turn away from sin, to encounter Jesus Christ, and to receive newness of life! Remarkably, this real presence also is the glorious fulfillment of Jesus’s promise, that he would be with his Church “always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

May this Year of the Eucharist help us recognize that “the Eucharist, as Christ’s saving presence in the community of the faithful and its spiritual food, is the most precious possession which the Church can have in her journey through history” (Pope St. John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, §9).


Posted in Year of the Eucharist

Welcome to the Year of the Eucharist!

Welcome and greetings in the Lord! The Diocese of Rochester’s Office of Evangelization and Catechesis is thrilled to offer this blog as a means of celebrating and commemorating the Year of the Eucharist, declared by Bishop Salvatore Matano in conjunction with the 150th Anniversary of our Diocese. The Office hopes that these reflections will help us all take advantage of this unique opportunity to renew our Eucharistic love and devotion. The blog posts will provide brief meditations that will unpack and explore the Church’s theology of the Eucharist contained and communicated in Bishop Matano’s Pastoral Letter.

As the author of this blog, I do not intend these reflections to replace a direct reading of the Letter. Bishop Matano’s thoughts are so rich, and they are filled with the authority of a Successor to the Apostles – please read his Letter first, if you have not already! Although I am not speaking directly for the Bishop in what I write, my aim is to provide a commentary that honors, magnifies, and closely reflects all that is contained in Bishop Matano’s Letter. The Eucharistic teaching of the Church, as it comes to us so beautifully and so personally in Bishop Matano’s Letter, is a great gift to each of us – may we savor it continually throughout this Year!


Posted in Year of the Eucharist

About the Author

Dr. Matthew Kuhner is the Director of Catechesis for the Diocese of Rochester and Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology at St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry. Matthew earned dual Bachelor’s degrees in Theology and Philosophy at DeSales University in Pennsylvania in 2010 and his Masters in Theological Studies at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family in Washington, DC in 2013. He recently defended his dissertation at Ave Maria University. Matthew is married to his college sweetheart, Michelle, and they have the joy of sharing their lives with their two-year-old daughter, Catherine Grace.

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