At the close of the Eucharistic prayer, Jesus, who is really present under the forms of bread and wine, is offered as a living sacrifice to the Father. Lifting up the elements, the priest prays, “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.” At this moment the Catholic priest is in the true holy of holies, and what he does is analogous to what the high priest did in the Temple on the Day of Atonement. In ancient times the Jewish priest would enter the holy of holies, which was symbolic of the heavenly realm, and there he would sacrifice an animal to Yahweh on behalf of all the people. Then he would sprinkle some of the blood around the interior of the sanctuary, and the rest he would bring out in a bowl and sprinkle on the people, sealing thereby a kind of blood bond between God and the nation. The Catholic priest, at the climax of the Mass, offers to the Father not the blood of bulls and goats but the Blood of Christ beyond all price. Since the Father has no need of anything, that sacrifice redounds completely to our benefit.
The priest and the other Eucharistic ministers then come down out of the sanctuary, carrying Christ’s Body in the Host and his Blood in chalices and offering it as food and drink for the people. By this act they establish a blood fellowship between God and his people that is, in its intensity, beyond anything dreamed of by the Temple priests of old. We recall Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation [a koinonia, or a communion] in the blood of Christ?” (1 Cor 10:16). If our troubles began with a bad meal—seizing at the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—our redemption is affected through a properly constituted meal, God feeding his people with his own Body and Blood.
Excerpted from Catholicism p. 193 by Robert Barron. Copyright © 2011 by Word on Fire Catholic Ministries. Excerpted by permission of Image Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.