Blog Template Theology of the Body: The Eucharist - the Church's Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Eucharist - the Church's Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

"He who offers me the sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me," says the Psalmist (Psalm 50:23) and before this, in the same Psalm "Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving." (vs. 14). What are we, as Christians, to make of these verses?

There are some who will say that the Sacrifice of Christ upon the Cross has made all sacrifice obsolete. In other words - all sacrifice seeks to in some way "buy off" God, and since this has been done once and for all, then it need be done no longer. This a bit simplistic however, because in the OT there are many types of sacrifice. There are holocausts or "burnt offerings" there are sin offerings, there are cereal offerings, libations of wine, and then this "thank offering." Each has a distinct purpose, and in the book of Leviticus, we see the purposes. The thank offering described in Leviticus, chapter 7, is an offering of unleavened cakes or wafers mixed with oil. Leviticus Chapter 2 mentions this as well. The cereal offering is burnt upon the altar by the priests. It is meant to be a thanksgiving for the first fruits of the harvest.

A recent blog post by Taylor Marshall on this subject really fleshes this out in reference to Isaiah 66:19-21, in which Gentile priests are depicted bringing a cereal offering to the holy mountain Jerusalem. Did this happen prior to the Death and Resurrection of Jesus? Not possible. Why? It is not possible that there could have been Gentile priests prior to the Church. The sacrifice of thanksgiving continues, even past the Passion because it is still correct and laudable to offer thanks to God for His perfect Sacrifice. The very word we use in the Church - Eucharist (meaning thanksgiving) means this very thing. The Eucharist as a sacrifice is united to the One Sacrifice of Jesus upon the Cross, a perfect re-presentation of His Death and Passion.

As such, it is right that not only continue this sacrifice of thanksgiving, but that it continues until Our Lord's coming, for He says "I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." Matthew 26:29