The Debt that We Owe, But Can Never Repay

God repays to God our debt of love
It is said, and it is true, that Christ's death upon the Cross, His offering of Himself to the Eternal Father is the method by which it pleased God to reconcile us to Himself, in as much as we, sinners, could not repay the debt owed to Him for our sins and offenses and that only the sinless one, the God-Man, the Lord Jesus Christ could possibly do so.

Protestants of any number of denominations and Catholics could agree on this central premise of the Christian Faith - the Atonement. The Catholic Faith, however, goes further and maintains that both our indebted status as human beings and God's sublime generosity in paying our debt goes on until Christ returns in Glory. The place where it continues to go on is in the Catholic Church - the Instrument of Salvation - and the method by which it goes on is Sacramental.

And this is a distinction. In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass a holy Oblation, a Sacrifice is made by God, to God, daily. In our participation of the Mass, we apply the merits of this Sacrifice to ourselves and benefit from the fruits of this Sacrifice - the fruit of the love of God. Though Christ's Sacrifice upon Calvary was 'once and for all', this Sacrifice is made in an unbloody manner, daily, upon the Altar. Therefore, daily does God repay to God the debt that is ours for our offenses be they many or few. Christ repays to the Eternal Father the debt that is ours because of our offenses, in as much as the Sacrificial Love made manifest upon the Altar makes satisfaction for our guilt and in giving us His Body and His Blood, enables us to share in the life of the Trinity, in Christ's victory over sin and death.

In giving us His own self, allowing us to partake in His own nature, God Himself makes us what we of ourselves could never be, of ourselves. By virtue of our Baptism we are adopted Sons and Daughters of God, yet still we cannot love God as we should. We cannot give God the glory and love and praise that by rights belong to Him as our Creator, therefore He gives us His Body and His Blood. We cannot love the Eternal Father of our own accord, therefore the Lord Jesus Christ gives us His love for the Eternal Father 'in the unity of the Holy Spirit'. In all of this, God is the prime mover, the One who takes the initiative, the One who makes up for our lack, not us, so we cannot claim for ourselves any merit for our love for God, for we only have it, in as much as we have it, because it has been given to us and this love has been 'poured into our hearts'. In this way we share in the merits of the Son. We are given the Son's love for His Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

In this sense, when Christ said, 'If you do not eat the Flesh and drink the Blood of the Son of Man, then you have no life in you,' He was speaking of the life of God, the Blessed Life of the Trinity, not just speaking of God as the source of all created life, the Author of all human life, but the Life of the Spirit, the Divine Life of love that ebbs and flows through the Trinity, between the Persons of God in One. This, too, is why He says, 'Apart from Me, you can do nothing'. This, too, is why He is 'the Way, the Truth and the Life'. He is the Way to the Eternal Father. He is the Truth, He is 'full of Grace and Truth', and in Him is all Truth. He is the Life, in as much as everything was made 'through Him' and His Life, the Life of the Trinity is given to us in Communion. Therefore every soul who receives Him is re-created, restored, reconciled, refashioned and made holy and new through Him and by Him, not by anything we ourselves have done or ever could do.

St John tells us that, 'as many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name.' This is what marks the Catholic Faith out from the Protestant denominations. The same Apostle tells us that, 'Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son a propitiation for our sins.' Our debts to God may grow, or lessen, according to our temperaments or our inclinations but even were we only to have committed one sin in our entire lives, it would still amount to a debt that we could never repay.

Let us take just one commandment: 'Honour your mother and father and you shall live long in the land.' Few of us could say that we have lived a life in which we have, in thought, word, deed or omission, upheld this moral law totally. Yet, in Jesus Christ, we have the Man, the God-Man who always honoured His Mother, the Blessed Mother of God, Mary, ever Virgin and His Father, the Almighty and Eternal Father. Even St Joseph, the foster-father of Our Lord, too, was honoured and treasured by Him, even though he was not His Father. He is the propitiation for our sin in as much as He fulfilled this law perfectly.

So, in this one commandment, Christ does for us what we failed to do and fail to do, in His honouring of His Mother and Father and fulfilling the law, in a perfect manner, in a sublime and holy way in which we could not, because He was and is God. Even in Heaven, He still honours His Mother and His Eternal Father eternally. In repaying our debt by keeping the law perfectly because He was the fulfilment of the Law, we receive in His Body and Blood the grace and power to honour not just our own parents, as He would wish, but to Honour His parents, His Eternal Father and His Blessed Mother, Mary, ever Virgin - His Mother and our Mother, who He gave us at the foot of the Cross and His Father and 'Our Father' because, as He said to St Mary Magdalen, He would ascend to 'My Father and your Father, to my God and to your God'.

At one point in the Mass, the Celebrant says, 'Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro' ('Let us give thanks to the Lord our God'), to which we reply, 'Dignum et justem est' ('It is right to give Him thanks and praise'). This is a sacrifice of praise on our part. Yet, this is a moment of wonder that God is giving to God the only Sacrifice which is truly fitting, the only Sacrifice with which God can be truly pleased - the Sacrifice of the Son to the Eternal Father by the power of the Holy Spirit - the Sacrifice of the Mass.

It is tuly right and it is truly fitting that we should give thanks and praise to God, but it is just a small, tiny "contribution", a small act of "participation" in an action which is totally God's, at the hands of the Priest. That is why the Celebrant says, 'Per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso, est tibi Deo Patri omnipotenti in unitate Spiritus Sancti, omnis honor et gloria. Per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.' (Through Him, and with Him, and in Him, is unto Thee, God the Father almighty, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.')

This is one major difference, and a vital one at that, in understanding Christ's Sacrifice, between the Catholic Faith and other Protestant denominations; that while Christ indeed died 'once and for all' so that sins might be forgiven, His Sacrifice is made daily upon the Altar of God in the Catholic Church, at His own command, by the words of institution said by the Priest. By this method it pleased the Lord to give Himself to us under the guise of bread and wine, for our salvation and to be the remedy for our faults. The Lord did not leave us alone after His Ascension. He desires to make us like Himself and He does this by giving us Himself.

We do not have to create an artificial love for God that we find is not within us, by 'praise and worship' services which show God that we love Him, for just as 'God loved us first', in dying for us, God, in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, 'loves us first', indeed, loves the Father first, and gives us Himself, His Body, His Blood, His Soul, His Humanity and His Divinity. If we tried by our efforts to love God, our love would be weak and tawdry, a sad effort. No, we can only love God in as much as the Lord Jesus enables us to love Him by receiving Him in Holy Communion, by sharing in His love for the Father and the Blessed Life of the Trinity. Sadly, this Treasure of the Church, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the source and summit of Christian prayer and worship, has been misrepresented and misunderstood in recent years. The Sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Mass is the only one which pleases God. The only Sacrifice of praise that pleases God, is that Sacrifice made by Son to the Eternal Father by the power of the Holy Spirit, on our behalf. He knows that our efforts are pretty useless, therefore, we do not have to do this...

Because of His Sacrifice upon Calvary and the unbloody manner of the renewal of that Sacrifice in the Mass, Our Lord Jesus Christ pleads, on our behalf, 'at the right hand Father' from whence He shall come' to judge the living and the dead'. He must have been pleading incessantly to His Father during that Mass, for the walls of that Church to have remained standing after it! What a patient, loving and merciful God we have! They don't even genuflect at the Tabernacle! We can be assured, given that this Mass took place on Christmas Eve in France, that wherever Marcel Lefebvre is, he is definitely thinking or even saying, "I told you so!"


shadowlands said…
Mmm...not my cup of tea, at all. I like christian worship music and even priests dancing and hand clapping, if that's how they identify with Jesus but not at Mass.

Doesn't rest easy, maybe I'm just an old trad at heart? An old charismatic trad though....
pelerin said…
That video was horrible and the date was Christmas Eve too. I would have definitely walked out if I had been there.

But it's not all bad in France - I shall be in Paris for Candlemas and have discovered an EF Sung Mass with procession that evening. The last Candlemas I went to there was a Novus Ordo and right at the beginning we were told that owing to the large number in the congregation (it was the Chapel in the Rue du Bac) there would be no procession - elf'n safety triumphed again!
LarryD said…
Does watching that video suffice for reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on this First Friday?
Anonymous said…
Doesn't rest easy, maybe I'm just an old trad at heart?

I'd say not really in that the Latin Rite was purposefully made to be a sober rite, and we live in an age of drunken sentimentalism and when it gets in the Mass it has a deadly trivializing effect.

Thanks to LarryD for turning me on to this site.