On-Going Instruction in the Principles of Christianity
2020 Jubilee 2021
YEAR OF THE EUCHARIST - 9/6
("MYSTERY OF FAITH",
ENCYCLICAL LETTER OF
POPE PAUL VI)
This holy Doctor [St. Cyril of Jerusalem] closes his instruction by citing the parallel of the crown which is woven for the emperor to move him to pardon exiles: “In the same fashion, when we offer our prayers to God for the dead, even though they be sinners, we weave no crown, but instead we offer Christ slaughtered for our sins, beseeching our merciful God to take pity both on them and on ourselves.”
St. Augustine testifies that this manner of offering also for the deceased “the Sacrifice which ransomed us” was being faithfully observed in the Church at Rome, and at the same time he observes that the universal Church was following the custom in her conviction that it had been handed down by the earliest Fathers.
To shed fuller light on the mystery of the Church, it helps to realize that it is nothing less than the whole Church which, in union with Christ in His role as Priest and Victim, offers the Sacrifice of the Mass and is offered in it. The Fathers of the Church taught this wondrous doctrine. A few years ago Our predecessor of happy memory, Pius XII, explained it, and only recently the Second Vatican Council enunciated it in its treatise on the People of God as formulated in its Constitution on the Church.
To be sure, the distinction between universal priesthood and hierarchical priesthood is one of essence and not merely one of degree, and this distinction should be faithfully observed. Yet We cannot fail to be filled with the earnest desire that this teaching on the Mass be explained over and over until it takes root deep in the hearts of the faithful. Our desire is founded on Our conviction that the correct understanding of the Eucharistic Mystery is the most effective means to foster devotion to this Sacrament, to extol the dignity of all the faithful, and to spur their spirit toward the attainment of the summit of sanctity, which is nothing less than the total offering of oneself to service of the Divine Majesty.