The Holy Mass is the sum of Christianity, the soul of faith and the summary of all that is good and beautiful in the Church of God. It alone is holy and perfect and in every respect complete, where the faithful render the highest honour to God, and, at the same time acknowledge their own nothingness and the supreme domination God has over His creatures.
The Mass is essentially the same sacrifice that was offered on the Cross of Calvary, the only difference being that the Sacrifice of the Cross was bloody and made once for all, and did satisfy fully all the sins of the world. The sacrifice of the altar, however, is an unbloody sacrifice which can be repeated throughout all ages, and was instituted in order to apply to each of us the universal atonement which Christ made for us on Calvary.
The mystery of the Mass is not simply a representation of a past event, but the very same sacrifice which was offered on the Cross though in an unbloodied manner.
When we go to church to hear Mass we are approaching Calvary to be present at the death of our Redeemer. We ought not to profane these holy rites with careless behaviour or sacrilegious thoughts, words or deeds.
The priest who offers the victim is the same God-Man Christ Jesus offered to God. The priest we see at the altar is Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He is the primary offerer because He has instituted this Holy Sacrifice and through His merits for love of us deigns to change the bread and wine into His holy Body and precious Blood.
The sacrifice is agreeable to God no matter how unworthy the minister, since the principal offerer is Christ Our Lord.
The celebrant is a mediator of all the faithful with the invisible priest who is Christ offers to the Eternal Father, on behalf of all mankind and himself when he prays - "pray brethren that your sacrifice and mine may be acceptable to God". Hence when you assist at Mass you perform in a certain manner the office of priest.
For priests, join your hands and fill your hearts with holy love, gratefully thanking the Eternal Father for having placed you in the sweet necessity of often offering to Him this heavenly Victim.
The Angelic doctor, St Teresa [of Avila], teaches us that our debts to God are infinite and are especially four.
The first debt is to praise and honour the infinite majesty of God, which is infinitely worthy of all the praise and honour the creature can give Him. Amongst all the creatures of the universe there is none worthy of God. An offering worthy of God must be God Himself. Our good Jesus is not only man but true and omnipotent God and by humiliating Himself on the altar He offers to the Most Holy Trinity an infinite homage.
The second debt is to satisfy for the many sins committed against His infinite majesty.
We are bound towards God to satisfy His justice for our numberless and enormous sins. By means of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, on account of its intrinsic value and holiness, we are enabled to make a complete and adequate satisfaction for all the sins we have ever committed.
Although the Mass cannot aid us in mortal sin by way of propitiation, it however helps us by way of supplication; hence all sinners should hear as many Masses as possible in order to obtain the grace of conversion. To souls however who live in grace it gives a wonderful strength enabling them to remain in their happy state.
The third Debt is to thank Him for the many favours received from Him.
Place together all the gifts and graces which our loving God has bestowed upon us and we have an infinite debt that we owe to Him. Gifts of nature, grace, body, soul, senses, faculties, health and life itself, added to the very life and death on the cross that Jesus suffered for the love of us and our debt is infinite.
Our poverty is so great that we have no means of making an adequate return for the least of these favours. The very least of favours coming from the hand of a majesty so grand accompanied by an infinite love acquires an infinite value and obliges us to respond with infinite reverence and love. The manner of showing our gratitude to that good benefactor for all His favours can only be through the Holy Mass.
The fourth debt is to supplicate Him as the giver of all good gifts and ask for new graces from Him. Our necessities of soul and body are grievous and manifold and every moment of our existence it is necessary to have recourse to Him as He alone is the chief source, beginning and end of all our good whether temporal or eternal.
We must ask God at every Mass the grace to become a saint and He will give us every virtue and all the perfections required.
The wonderful blessings, intrinsic worth and value of one Holy Mass is sufficient to obtain the salvation of the whole human race.
The Divine Sacrifice not only aids the souls of the dead in a propitiatory and satisfactory manner for the temporal punishment due to their sins, but also obtains for them their entire deliverance from purgatory.
We must weigh seriously the excellence of Holy Mass now and in the future and be sure to value the great and immense "hidden treasure" of the Holy Mass.
This is an edited and abridged version of "The Hidden Treasure of the Holy Mass" published in the "Treasury of Catholic Doctrine".
St Leonard of Port Maurice (1676-1751), canonised in 1867, was an Italian Franciscan friar who preached and wrote extensively, and encouraged devotion to the Stations of the Cross.