Holy Mass is a sacrifice. Its sacrificial nature is clearly seen in the texts used by Holy Mother Church for centuries. Immediately after making the Sign of the Cross, the priest announces his intention to offer sacrifice. Taking his words from Psalm xlii, he says: "I will go in to the altar of God." Indeed, he says it three times; twice as an antiphon and a third time within the text of the Psalm itself. Even in requiem Masses when the Psalm is omitted, he always says at least once: "I will go in to the altar of God."
As he ascends the altar, he reminds us of the high priest of old, allowed to enter the most holy place on earth: "Take away from us our sins, O Lord, that we may enter with pure minds into the holy of holies. Through Christ our Lord. Amen." He blesses incense and offers it before the altar, a sign of the sacrifice we are about to offer wafting heavenward: "Be thou blessed by Him in whose honor thou shalt be consumed. Amen."
When the various readings are concluded he begins to offer the bread and wine that will become the Sacrificial Victim, Our Lord Jesus Christ:
As in holocausts of rams and bullocks, and as in thousands of fat lambs; so let our sacrifice be made in Thy sight this day, that it may please Thee; for there is no confusion for them that trust in Thee, O Lord.(1)
Accept, O holy Father, almighty and eternal God, this spotless victim, which I, Thine unworthy servant, offer Thee, my living and true God, to atone for my numberless sins, offenses, and negligences; on behalf of all here present, and likewise for all faithful Christians living and dead, that it may profit me and them as a means of salvation unto life everlasting. Amen.
We offer unto Thee, O Lord, the chalice of salvation, humbly begging of Thy mercy that it may arise before Thy divine majesty with a pleasing fragrance, for our salvation and that of all the world. Amen.
In a humble spirit and a contrite heart, may we be accepted by Thee, O Lord, and may our sacrifice so be offered in Thy sight this day as to please Thee, O Lord God. Come, Thou Sanctifier, + almighty and eternal God, and bless this sacrifice prepared for the glory of Thine holy Name."
As he incenses the offerings upon the altar, he recites Psalm cxl, saying:
May my prayer be an incense offering in Thy sight, my uplifted hands, as an evening sacrifice. Set, O Lord, a watch over my mouth, and a guard over the door of my lips. Permit not my heart to turn to evil, seeking pretexts for wickedness, with men who work iniquity.
And then he washes his hands while reciting Psalm xxv:
I will wash my hands among the innocent, and will walk round Thine altar, O God.... Lord, I love the beauty of Thy house, and the place where Thy glory dwells.
Accept, most holy Trinity, this offering which we are making to Thee in remembrance of the passion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, our Lord....
Kissing the altar and turning full circle, the priest says: "Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may become acceptable to God the Father almighty." To which the people answer: "May the Lord accept the sacrifice at thy hands, unto the praise and glory of His name, for our advantage and that of all His holy Church."
The priest reads the Secret(s), prayers that place the offering of the Sacrifice within the context of the theme of the day or special intention.
O God, who in this one sacrifice hast perfected the offering of the many victims prescribed under the Old Law; receive this same sacrifice offered by Thy devoted servants and sanctify it with a blessing, like unto that which Thou didst bestow upon the offerings of Abel; that what each one of us has brought here to the glory of Thy name, may profit all unto salvation.(2)
The Preface of the Holy Cross:
It is truly meet and just, right and availing unto salvation, that we should in all times and in all places give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty and everlasting God. Who didst set the salvation of mankind upon the tree of the Cross, so that whence came death, thence also life might rise again, and that he who overcame by the tree might also be overcome on the tree....
The Preface of Easter:
It is truly meet and just ... that we should extol Thy glory, O Lord, when Christ our Pasch was sacrificed. For He is the true Lamb that has taken away the sins of the world. Who, by dying, has overcome our death, and by rising again has restored our life...."
The Preface of Christ the King:
It is truly meet and just ... O Holy Lord, Father Almighty and everlasting God. Who with the oil of gladness hast anointed Thine only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, as eternal high priest and universal King; that offering Himself on the altar of the Cross as an immaculate victim and peace offering, He might complete the mysteries of human redemption...."
After "Holy, Holy, Holy!" we begin the Canon:
We therefore, most gracious Father, humbly beg of Thee and entreat Thee, through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, to deem acceptable and bless these gifts, + these offerings, + these + holy and unspotted oblations; which we offer unto Thee in first instance for Thy Holy and Catholic Church, that Thou wouldst deign to give her peace and protection, to unite and guide her the whole world over; together with Thy servant N..., our Pope, N..., our Bishop; and all true believers who cherish the Catholic and Apostolic Faith. "Be mindful, O Lord, of Thy servants and handmaids ... on whose behalf we offer unto Thee, or who themselves offer unto Thee, this sacrifice of praise for themselves and all their own....
( He extends his hands over the offerings): Graciously accept, then, we beseech Thee, O Lord, this service of our worship and that of all Thy household.... "Do Thou, O God, deign to bless what we offer.... "Jesus Christ, our Lord....Who, the day before He suffered, took bread into His holy and venerable hands ... blessed, + broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying: Take ye all and eat of this, FOR THIS IS MY BODY. Taking also this goodly chalice into His holy and venerable hands ... He gave it to His disciples, saying: Take ye all, and drink of this, FOR THIS IS THE CHALICE OF MY BLOOD ... WHICH SHALL BE SHED FOR YOU AND FOR MANY UNTO THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS.
Mindful, therefore, O Lord, not only of the blessed passion of the same Christ, Thy Son, our Lord ... we offer unto Thy supreme majesty, of the gifts bestowed upon us, the pure + Victim, the holy + Victim, the all-perfect + Victim; the holy Bread + of life eternal, and the Chalice + of unending salvation....
And this do Thou deign to regard with gracious and kindly attention, and hold acceptable, as Thou didst deign to accept the offerings of Abel, Thy just servant, and the sacrifice of Abraham our Patriarch, and that which Thy chief priest Melchisedech offered unto Thee, a holy sacrifice and a spotless victim....
Almighty God, bid these offerings be brought by the hands of Thy holy angel unto Thine altar above ... that those of us who, by sharing in the Sacrifice of this altar, shall receive the most sacred + Body and + Blood of Thy Son....
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, grant us peace..... Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sins of the world."
The Sacrificial victim is reverently consumed, and may be shared among the faithful. "May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve my soul unto life everlasting. Amen.... May the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve my soul unto life everlasting. Amen."
After all of the fragments are gathered and consumed, an a moment is spent in thanksgiving, the priest bows low before the altar:
May the tribute of my worship be pleasing to Thee, most holy Trinity, and grant that the sacrifice which I, all unworthy, have offered in the presence of Thy majesty, may be acceptable to Thee, and through Thy mercy obtain forgiveness for me and for whom I have offered it. Through Christ our Lord. Amen."
The priest kisses the altar, and turns for the Blessing before reading the Last Gospel and Leonine Prayers.