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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Fr. Tom Collins: "Through Him and with Him and in Him" - The Great Forfeiture

Editor's note: A forfeiture is "the loss or giving up of something as a penalty for wrongdoing." Reflect on that definition as you read Father's column on the "Great Forfeiture." 

Our Lord and Savior gave Himself up as a holocaust on the altar of sacrifice as a penalty for OUR sins, the innocent Lamb of God. And yet, as Father points out, we do not lose Him in the giving up. In His gracious mercy He abides with us still in all the tabernacles of the world even til the end of time. 

Even during this time of pain and suffering and loss of the Mass, when so many churches are actually closed and locked, He remains with us. If they lock us out of our local church (as they've done to churches in Pittsburgh where my daughter lives) I will be kneeling on the steps outside gazing at the tabernacle through the glass doors and praying. May God have mercy on us in this time when the faith of many is wavering as they put their trust in the CDC rather than in Almighty God. Prudence is one thing; fear and panic is quite another.
 THE GREAT FORFEITURE       by Fr. Tom Collins

Many saints through the ages have marveled at the many dimensions of divine love and mercy manifested in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Among these are the gracious generosity of God speaking to us through His Holy Word, the sacred mystery of transubstantiation (whereby bread and wine are transformed into the sacred Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ) and the sacred privilege of entering into a Holy Communion with the Eucharistic Christ. But there is another important dimension of the Mass that is just as important for a proper appreciation of the sacred mysteries ministered to us in this holy sacrifice, the Great Forfeiture.

This mystery is manifested to us at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer. The priest, holding up the sacred Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, proclaims, “Through Him and with Him and in Him, O God Almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is Yours forever and ever!” And the congregation responds, “Amen!”

What is often overlooked about this liturgical rite is the fact that it is the final consummation of the Sacrifice/Sin Offering/Holocaust. In that sacred rite, we join in offering Christ to the Father as the perfect Sacrifice/Sin Offering/Holocaust* required to effect our salvation from the power of sin and death. This being the case, it would seem proper to expect that, if the Father is really accepting this Perfect Sacrifice/Sin Offering/Holocaust, we would no longer have the Victim of that Sacrifice present in our midst. And such an expectation would be correct. To use an example, if I were to damage another person’s car, I would expect that I would have to pay him for the damages. And in doing so, I should not expect to be able to keep the money I paid him for those damages, Yet, in the Mass, after we offer the Eucharistic Christ to the Father, as the priest lowers the paten and chalice, we are not left with an empty paten and an empty chalice. The Eucharistic Christ is still abiding with us. Yet this does not mean that the Father has rejected the Sacrifice. Rather it points to a gracious and  mysterious dynamic at work in our midst.

What is being asserted in the Great Doxology at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer is a humble confession that, due to our sins and neglect, we have forfeited any and all “rights” we may have had to the salvation given to us through our baptism into Christ. This reality goes against some modern theological thought, which alleges that the faithful have a “right” to the Eucharistic Christ. Especially in view of our sins and perverting addictions, there is no way that we can reasonably assert that we have a right to the Eucharistic Christ. But God does have the right to be gracious in His mercy and fidelity toward us. And, in His great compassion for us, He offers to do so with a love beyond comprehension.

But, in order for us to be blessed by His graciousness, we need to reverently, humbly and contritely confess that, through our sins, we have forfeited any “right” to the blessings and Holy Communion offered to us through the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Such an act of forfeiture would be analogous to requiring each participant at Mass sign a blank check and drop it into the collection basket. If such a requirement were made, it would generate great anxiety in the congregation, but it would vividly highlight this most important dimension of the Eucharistic Sacrifice/Sin Offering/Holocaust.  Thus it is that we are led by the Holy Spirit to the conviction that our salvation, in all its dimensions, is a pure gracious and dynamic gift of God.

Amazingly, though, the Eucharistic Christ does not disappear at the Great Doxology. For the Father graciously embraces our humble repentance and our willingness to confess that we have indeed forfeited the salvation offered through His Son’s Sacrifice/Sin Offering/Holocaust. It is analogous to the situation of a husband, who,  in sincere repentance, bringing a big bouquet of flowers to his wife – only to discover that she graciously embraces him along with the bouquet. So it is that, in a profoundly more beautiful way, through the Great Forfeiture at Mass, Our Heavenly Father embraces us along with our Sacrificial Victim, so that we can come to receive the nourishment our Eucharistic Savior as pure graciousness. Having humbly proclaimed, “Lord, I am not worthy . . . .”, we are able to hear Him lovingly proclaim, “I know. But I, Who am Truth, say you are worth My sacrificial love.”

Only by allowing ourselves to be fully immersed in His mercy and graciousness can we learn to truly forgive ourselves and become gracious and merciful to others. But apart from Him, Who is pure, humble and grateful graciousness, we can do nothing but bitterly thrash around in a quagmire of guilt, resentment, cynicism, despondency and despair.   

Thus it is that, as we conscientiously and reverently receive the Eucharistic Christ as pure divine graciousness, we are able to become more perfectly by His Holy Spirit one Body and one Spirit in Christ. We are thus able to be embraced more deeply into that gracious love, whereby we can transcend all the pettiness and perversions of sin, so as to become more faithful participants in the reconciling and regenerative mystery of Divine Mercy, whereby Christ makes all things new.

   *The term “sacrifice” includes all forms of offerings made to God, in order to share more
     deeply in the blessings He offers;                                                                                                                              
     The term “sin offering” indicates a sacrifice offered in order to show contrition for sin and
     a desire to be restored into full communion with God and His People;                                                                                                                                     
    The term “holocaust” indicates a sacrifice which is totally given to God.
    Christ’s Sacrifice, graciously made efficaciously present at each Mass, includes all these 

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