The One True Sacrifice of the Mass

April 6, 2023

Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper

Readings for Today

More Prayers and Reflections for the Triduum


Brothers and sisters: I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 1 Corinthians 11:23–24

We begin the most sacred Triduum, the greatest Feasts in the life of the Church. Tonight we celebrate the Last Supper with our Lord. The Church then keeps vigil in prayer until midnight. Tomorrow, though Holy Communion that was consecrated on Holy Thursday is distributed, the Mass is not celebrated and the tabernacle is empty. We venerate the Cross, recall the Passion, and experience the silence of the death of our Lord. On Holy Saturday, the Liturgy is not celebrated until the sun sets and we begin the Easter Vigil celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord.

Tonight we especially ponder the words of Jesus: “Do this in remembrance of me.” This is not only an invitation; it is a command. A command of love. A command to share in the Memorial Sacrifice of the Savior of the World. The word “memorial” is important to understand. When Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me,” He was not simply asking us to remember Him, or to celebrate the Eucharist as a memorial in the normal sense of a memorial. Normally, a memorial is something that is used only to remind us of something that previously took place. There might be a memorial plaque placed at a location of some important event, commemorating the event with a description and date. Or there might be a memorial ceremony where we honor someone who has gone before us. But the Mass is a memorial in a much different way.

As a memorial, or remembrance, our Church teaches that every time the Mass is celebrated, the saving events of the Paschal Mystery are truly made present. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in quoting the great Council of Trent, states it this way: 

The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” “And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. . .” (#1367).

In other words, when we participate in the Mass we are participating in the Sacrifice of Christ; we are present at the Cross. It is His offering that culminated in His victory over sin and death. Thus, when we celebrate this “remembrance,” we do more than remember the Last Supper. We are truly there, truly participating in it, truly experiencing the saving grace of Christ’s gift. It is very easy to “forget” what we actually participate in. Sometimes we can become distracted at Mass. If Mass is celebrated in an irreverent way, if it is rushed or if our minds are somewhere else, then we are standing at the foot of the Cross more like a soldier or bystander than like the Mother of God or people of deep faith.

As we participate in the Last Supper and the saving Sacrifice of Christ this night, reflect upon what you participate in every time you celebrate the Most Holy Eucharist. Pray for the eyes of faith and for the gift of reverence and awe. Pray that the veil be lifted and you be invited to gaze upon the greatest act of love ever known. Allow this night to be a true reminder to you that the Mass is real, is the Holy Sacrifice, is the most important Gift you will ever receive. It is the Gift of the Sacrifice of the Savior of the World.

My Sacrificial Lord, this night You instituted the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in which Your saving Sacrifice became a permanent Memorial in which we are invited to share. Please open my eyes to the reality of the Mass and help me to always participate in it with deep faith, reverence and love. Jesus, I trust in You.

More for Holy Week

Prayer meditation for Holy Thursday

Novena in preparation for Divine Mercy Sunday
Good Friday is the first day of the Divine Mercy Novena

Further Reading: Holy Thursday

Stations of the Cross

Poems for Holy Week

Rosary – Sorrowful Mysteries (with Scripture)

Litany of Humility

Uniting Suffering to the Cross

Prayer of Abandonment

Prayer of Surrender

40 Days at the Foot of the Cross

Saints/Feasts for Today

Mass Reading Options

Featured images above: The Last Supper By Luis Tristán, via Wikimedia Commons