Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre gave this sermon in the Austrian national Marian shrine of Mariazell on September 8, 1975 during a pilgrimage of German-speaking Catholics.
The true Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ
My dear brethren,
I regret that I am unable to speak to you in your own language, but you have an interpreter in the person of this seminarian who is with me and who is accustomed to translating for me.
I wish to thank Dr. Steinhart, who was so kind as to organize this pilgrimage, and I should like to thank as well the Reverend Fathers who have been so kind as to receive me. We should indeed have been happy to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with you, but God has asked this small sacrifice of us so that we may adore Him in His Blessed Sacrament. We shall ask of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary that we may adore Him with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength—for if there is today a sentiment in danger of disappearing from the hearts of men, it is indeed that of adoration. Adore Our Lord Jesus Christ—that is what we shall do during this hour of prayer, during this hour of adoration.
For what shall we especially pray? We shall pray to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary in this place of pilgrimage which you love and which is the heart of Austria, in this place of pilgrimage where the eminent Cardinal Mindszenty was recently buried, he who for us is an image of the Faith opposed to all the enemies of the Church and to those who want to tear from our hearts this Faith which is for us the promise of eternal life and without which a Catholic Christian cannot live. Thus, we shall also ask of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, through the intercession of Cardinal Mindszenty, that she increase our Faith today in our hearts and in our souls, that we may truly be among those who are attached to the Creed of the Catholic Church and to the Catholic Priesthood.
The Most Blessed Virgin Mary is first and above all the Mother of the Eternal Priest.
Our Lord Jesus Christ was essentially Priest for eternity, Priest according to the Order of Melchisedech. The whole life of Our Lord Jesus Christ, His whole raison d'etre, was to offer the Sacrifice of the Cross, to offer Himself on the Cross. This was the goal of the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ. All His life Our Lord Jesus Christ was haunted by this desire to ascend the Cross. How many times Our Lord said, "My hour is not yet come." "My hour is coming." "My hour is come." Why? Because the hour of Our Lord Jesus Christ was the hour of His Sacrifice. When He ascended the Cross and offered His Sacrifice, He Himself said, "All is consummated—Consummatum est." I have done My work. I have realized My desire; I have accomplished that for which I came on earth—to offer My sacrifice to God for the redemption of the sins of the world. This is why Our Lord came, and this is what the Most Blessed Virgin Mary teaches us. For the Virgin Mary is nothing other than the mirror of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In her heart there is no other name written, than the name of Jesus and of Jesus Crucified. The Most Blessed Virgin Mary accompanied Him everywhere, even to the Sacrifice of the Cross. She was present there as if to teach us that she had no dearer desire than to be with Our Lord on Calvary at the Sacrifice of the Cross.
This then is what she teaches us today, as always, in a special manner: to love the Sacrifice of the Cross; to see in Our Lord Jesus Christ Our Lord Jesus Christ Crucified. And consequently, we, too, should have this desire to participate in the Sacrifice of Our Lord, to unite ourselves to the Sacrifice of the Cross, that we may truly be Christians who offer themselves with Our Lord, who unite themselves to Him in His Sacrifice as victims with Him. Such is the true Christian; such is the Catholic.
It seems to me that the Virgin Mary, whom we find close to the Cross, Our Lady of Compassion, Our Lady Co-Redemptrix, invites each one of us, each human creature born into this world—she takes us by the hand, after a fashion, to lead us to Calvary, to give us to participate in the merits of Our Lord Jesus Christ. But how does she give us to participate in the merits of her Divine Son for the redemption of our sins? Through priests. Our Lord wished that we participate in the Sacrifice of the Cross, that we receive His merits, that our souls be washed of their sins through His Sacrifice continued by His priests. When He said to them at the Last Supper, "Do—Do this in memory of Me—Hoc facite in meam commemorationem"—Our Lord did not say, Repeat the account of My Supper, recall My sacrifice. He said "Facite"—perform this Sacrifice. Reproduce this Sacrifice; continue My sacrifice. "Hoc facite in meam commemorationem."
And this is the whole difference between the Catholic doctrine, which has always been taught, and the Protestant doctrine. The Protestants forget—they do not want to know that Our Lord said, "Hoc facite"—Do this in memory of Me. They say only, "in meam commemorationem." Remember Me. This they say who do not continue the Sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Blessed Virgin Mary teaches us, with the Apostles, with Our Lord, that we must go to the altar with the priest to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and that by the mouth of the priest Our Lord truly returns on the altar as Victim present in the Holy Eucharist. It is to the Apostles that He said, "Hoc facite." Thus we must ask of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary that we may have a profound faith in the Holy Sacrifice of the altar.
The Church cannot do without the Sacrifice of the Altar. Look at the beautiful churches, which have been constructed. A little while ago—the Reverend Father Abbot [the Benedictines have custody of the shrine—Ed] was telling me that this church, or at least the original church, dates back to the beginning of the 9th century. How many generations have come to this church of Mariazell to pray and to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered by priests! The altar is the life of the Church, the altar of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
We should then have a profound faith in the action, which takes place on the altar by the mouth of the priest. When the priest pronounces the words of the Consecration, Our Lord, as on the Cross, returns on the altar to offer His Sacrifice, which is continued for the remission of our sins. This is the heart of the Mass; this is what the Most Blessed Virgin Mary teaches us, this is what the Apostles teach us.
You learned in your catechism that the sacrifice of the altar is a true sacrifice and that it differs from the sacrifice of the Cross only because the sacrifice of the Cross was bloody and the sacrifice of the Mass is unbloody. This is the only difference between the sacrifice of the Cross and the sacrifice of the altar. That is why we venerate the sacrifice of the altar. In Catholic doctrine, all is there. All is gathered together in this small and this immense reality of the Sacrifice of the Mass. For if there is a sacrifice, the victim must be present. There is no sacrifice if there is no victim present. Thus, Our Lord must be present because He offers Himself in sacrifice. Let us not say, then, that the Sacrifice of the Mass is simply a commemorative meal, a simple remembrance of what Our Lord did at the Last Supper. All that is a blasphemy against the doctrine of the Church, against that which Our Lord Jesus Christ did and which He wanted to do.
All that ruins the priesthood. The priest is not the president of a commemorative meal; he is not the one who presides at a meal table. The priest is he who performs the sacrifice. The priest is he who causes to descend upon the altar the victim who is present, really present on the altar. Thus you see the grandeur of the priest, who has need of a character to offer the sacrifice, who needs to be marked in his soul for all time—for all eternity—to offer this sacrifice. You see that he must keep his virginity, observe celibacy, because for him it is an extraordinary thing—to cause God to come from heaven to earth, to cause Our Lord Jesus Christ to come in the Holy Eucharist, by his words, by his lips. Thus one can understand why the priest is a virgin, why the priest does not marry, why he is a virgin like the Virgin Mary. This is why the priest is a celibate, and not because he is too busy with the concerns of his apostolate.
The whole grandeur of the Sacrifice of the Mass comes precisely from the fact that it is a real sacrifice, like the sacrifice of Calvary. This is what our ancestors always believed; this is what the Church has always believed. We cannot vary from this faith by one iota. If we vary, if we change the expressions, if we now say: we are offering a Eucharist, we are having a eucharistic meal, we are having a supper ...then we are becoming Protestants. And we are losing the whole reality of the Catholic Church, which reposes on this truth. There is no more Catholic Church if there is no more Sacrifice of the Mass. There is no more Catholic Church if there is no more priest who has a character so that he may offer the Holy Sacrifice.
This is why these beautiful churches were constructed. It was not for a eucharistic meal. It is the Faith of the Catholic people, which caused these magnificent basilicas to be constructed throughout the world for the Sacrifice of Our Lord, which must be continued on the altar, and for the presence of the Divine Victim in which we participate in Holy Communion and with Whom we offer ourselves. This is the reality of the Sacrifice of the Mass. This is the reality of the priesthood.
This is also why the Faithful owe it to themselves to have an immense respect for the altar of God where the sacrifice is offered. And they should have this respect for the Eucharist where the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ are truly, really and substantially present. We shall never be respectful enough; we shall never adore the Holy Eucharist with a heart sufficiently respectful.
That is why it has been the custom of the Church for countless centuries to kneel down to receive the Holy Eucharist. It is prostrate on the ground that we ought to receive the Holy Eucharist, and not standing up. Are we the equals of Our Lord Jesus Christ? Is it not He who will come on the clouds of heaven to judge us? When we see Our Lord Jesus Christ, shall we not do like the Apostles of Thabor, who prostrated themselves on the ground from fear and admiration before the grandeur, the splendor of Our Lord Jesus Christ? Is it not the great shame of our age that we lack respect towards Our Lord Jesus Christ? Let us guard in our hearts and in our souls this spirit of adoration, this spirit of profound respect for Him Who created us, for Him Who redeemed us, for Him Who died on the Cross for our sins.
What de observe in the ten years since the end of the Council? We are obliged to observe, we cannot close our eyes, we must not close our eyes to the sad realities of our age, when priests themselves lose their faith in the priesthood, and no longer know what the Sacrifice of the Mass is. When priests even abandon their priesthood. The seminaries are empty. Why? Why are there no more vocations? Because men no longer know what the Sacrifice of the Mass is. Consequently, they can no longer define the priest. When the Sacrifice of the Mass is well defined, when it is known, when it is accepted as the Church has always taught, then vocations are numerous.
I have the evidence in my own seminary. I do nothing other than reaffirm the truths, which the Church has always affirmed. So these young men are attracted by the altar, by the Sacrifice of the Mass. What an extraordinary grace for a young man to ascend to the altar as the minister of Our Lord, to be another Christ, to offer the same sacrifice that Our Lord offered! There is nothing more beautiful, nothing more grand here below. Then it is worth the trouble to ascend to the altar, to abandon one's family, to leave the world to ascend to the altar. But if all that no longer exists, there is no more reason for vocations. And that is why the seminaries are empty. Let there be a return to the true notions of the Faith and there will be vocations; but if men abandon these notions of the Faith, if they continue in the same line as the Church in the last ten years, soon all the seminaries will be up for sale and all the religious congregations will disappear.
For what is the grandeur and the beauty of the religious, man or woman? It is to offer himself or herself as a victim at the altar with Our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the life of the religious. If they no longer have this intention—"I offer myself publicly in the Church as victim with Our Lord; my whole life is offered with Our Lord"—then the religious life has no more sense. And that is why there are not more religious vocations. Let there be a return to this spirit of victim, of sacrifice and of union with Our Lord Jesus Christ at the altar, and then the vocations will flourish once again and will become numerous. There are vocations, the young desire to devote themselves—and they are as numerous in our age as they have been in every other. But let them be given true things, real things, that which the Church has always given, and then vocations will flourish once again.
Ah, how much I should like you to understand my dear brethren, why our seminary at Econe is filled with vocations, why these young men come to us—to continue the Catholic Church and for no other motive. And not to become Protestants! We refuse to become Protestants, to be modernists, to be progressives in the degree that these things are contrary to our Catholic truth, in the degree that these things have been condemned by the popes for centuries and centuries. We refuse them! We want to remain Catholic. We want Catholic seminaries and Catholic priests—nothing else! Now, they want to forbid us to form Catholic priests, to have Catholic seminaries. These young men, if I send them to other seminaries, risk losing their Faith, and not only the Faith, but their morals as well. So I maintain a deep faith in Divine Providence. God cannot abandon His Church.
Our Lord wants Catholic priests as He Himself made them. The pope cannot not want Catholic priests. The Church cannot not want Catholic priests. That is why I am persuaded that we remain profoundly united to our Holy Father the pope and to the Church. That which the Church has desired for twenty centuries the pope cannot not desire. It is impossible. Thus it is altogether false to say that we risk becoming a sect or falling into schism. Far from it. None are more united than we to our Holy Father and to the Catholic Church.
We ask the Most Blessed Virgin Mary then, to guard the Catholic priesthood and to grant that it may continue. We shall ask that numerous graces of vocations and of attachment to the Church be given to those young men who desire to become priests. We shall pray in the course of this Rosary for the Church, for our Holy Father the pope; that the seminaries may once again become true houses of formation of Catholic priests; that men and women religious may find once again the way of the truth; and that religious congregations may flourish anew and return to the Faith of Tradition, the Faith which has been taught for twenty centuries.
That is what we shall ask of the Most Blessed Virgin during the course of this prayer, for you need priests, many priests, holy priests. This is certainly what you desire, and what we shall pray for today, gathered around Our Lady of Mariazell. May God grant us the grace ever to have priests, holy priests.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.