Article XXXI makes negative reference to "the sacrifices of Masses", to the impression that had been given that each Mass is a new and distinct sacrifice. The Prayer of Consecration rightly speaks of "one sacrifice once offered". And yet we do stand at the Altar to offer sacrifice. How can this be? Perhaps it is because we transcend time, and join with Christ, actually present with at that one oblation of Calvary. A few years ago I wrote the following after an experience of imaginings that seemed very real, and that helped me to grasp, in part, just what "Eucharistic Sacrifice" may mean.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005, at Mass. We have just said the angels' song, 'Holy, Holy, Holy' . There is a hush. Father pauses, lifts his hands and his eyes toward heaven, and begins the great Prayer of Consecration, "All glory be to thee . . .". Suddenly I have a sense of the timelessness of what we are doing. I seem to hear not only the words of our Prayer Book, but also ‘Te igitur clementissime Pater…’ and ‘…Holy and all-holy…’ and the many other ways that prayer begins in other places. I seem to see not only our own little New Hampshire church, but also an ancient Saxon chapel, an Irish Culdee praying, a pompous solemn cathedral Mass, a . . .
Time is irrelevant. There is (in the eternal scheme of things) only one Mass, and we are there . . .
A Hole in Time
. . . and hands raise up,
and eyes lift up,
and a voice speaks up,
and a voice speaks up,
and a voice . . .
. . . and a voice, and a voice, and a voice . . .
. . . and in a wattled shrine of Saxon days,
and on a lonely Celtic isle,
and in cathedrals great and granite,
newly built in days gone by,
and in the ancient, aging piles of stone,
that still remain today,
and in a hidden persecuted room,
where faith, attacked, costs dear
and at the altar of His rising up,
where glorious pomp prevails,
and as the trumpet sounds for His return,
while the last of Masses here below is said,
. . . the countless hands lift up,
unnumbered eyes are raised,
and multitudes of voices speak,
a sound like rushing mighty waters flowing,
flowing through the streams of time,
rushing o'er the many rapids
of the clamoring strifes of men,
and in a world with sin's pollution
the river runs, the voices speak,
and yet are speaking . . .
. . . voices numberless beyond all counting
(yet the voices are but one),
and hands that lift up,
holding sacred things,
though many, are likewise here but one,
and eyes that now towards heaven are turned,
are one with those that now look down,
for many priests there are, but only one,
and many Masses offered, yet but one,
for at the altar time and space are vanquished,
and here He offers once the one oblation,
and many priests and many altars
there may be,
but here . . .
. . . His hands raise up,
His eyes lift up
His voice speaks up,
and He is here,
and we are there,
and . . .