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I'd like to know what is the Catholic theology behind offering Jesus's suffering to the Father.

I'm trying to understand this prayer (from St. Bridget's 12-Year Prayer) more deeply:

Eternal Father, through Mary’s unblemished hands and the Divine Heart of Jesus, I offer to Thee the terrifying suffering of the Heart of Jesus on the Mount of Olives, and every drop of His Sweat of Blood, as atonement for my and all of humanity’s sins of the heart, as protection against such sins, and for the spreading of Divine and Brotherly Love.

I don't fully understand how can one offer somebody's else suffering to gain grace for oneself.

I have a theory but I'm not sure if it's correct. My theory or understanding is that none of us is capable of such a sacrifice which brings reconciliation with God. So offering it up to the Father it reminds him of this reconciliation. And here I think is the problem with my understanding. I don't think God the Father needs to be reminded of his suffering. That's why I'm asking what is the teaching...

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Part of the answer can be found in Colossians 1:24.

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church.

The question a Christian must answer is, "What is lacking in Christ's afflictions?" I think most would agree that nothing at all is lacking, so what does Paul mean?

From a Catholic worldview, when we are baptized into Christ, we are part of the body of Christ. Being part of that body is not simply metaphorical but actual and real. Saint Bridget has made Christ's sacrifice her own by uniting herself to that sacrifice in her devotions and selfless life, forming herself ever more into the likeness of Christ.

God the Father is well aware of Christ's sufferings, as his mother is and as we should be. We are called as Catholics to unite our sufferings to Christ's.

Bridget in her prayer is acknowledging Christ's sacrifice and joining herself to it, like Paul suffering for Christ's sake for the Gospel to our benefit. In this prayer, she points out the blood that the Lord sweat from his skin in the garden.

By combining this prayer with the Hail Mary and Our Father, Bridget shows this prayer to be contemplative prayer, like the rosary. In contemplative prayer, she prays not just by repeating the verses, but rather by putting herself in the garden in the anticipation and fear that the Lord experienced. By imagining herself as Jesus and experiencing the fear and pain of what is coming, including the falling away by the few that should have been faithful, she joins in that suffering. Contemplative prayer is a powerful way to unite to Christ and experience his suffering.

In your question you asked:

I don't fully understand how can one offer somebody's else suffering to gain grace for oneself.

Bridget is not offering just anybody's suffering up to the Lord, only the suffering of the one person whose suffering can and does merit grace.

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    I'm not sure if this answers my question. – Grasper Dec 18 '15 at 18:14
  • Short version - Through suffering, a Catholic unites themselves to the saving sacrifice of the Cross. This is part of our sanctification which will be completed in this life or the next, when Christ suffered, he sacrificed himself, when we suffer without Christ it means nothing on it's own, however, uniting that sacrifice to Christs own Perfect Self sacrifice, the blood and water that flowed from his side, his divine heart peirced for our sins, our sacrifice is accepted by God The Father. Anything we do of our own has no redemtive value. – Marc Dec 18 '15 at 20:18
  • I understand what you are saying but it doesn't explain the official Catholic theology behind offering Christ's passion in a prayer. – Grasper Dec 18 '15 at 20:59
  • Perhaps another person will explain it in a way which makes it more clear. – Marc Dec 19 '15 at 2:20
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One clue to the meaning comes from the introductory words to the prayer:

Through Mary’s unblemished hands and the Divine Heart of Jesus, I offer...

In other words, the pray-er is only able to offer what he offers through someone else's action or intercession. In this case, the reason we are able to offer Jesus' sacrifice is because it was done on our behalf (and because we are united to it and to Christ). One might say, "I have nothing from myself to offer, but Jesus gave me mercy through his sacrifice. So I offer that to you now."

This seems all the more explicit in one of Bridget's other prayers (from your link):

Eternal Father, accept as worthy for the needs of Holy Church, and as atonement for the sins of all Mankind, the precious Blood and Water which poured forth from the Wound of the Divine Heart of Jesus.

As for "reminding" God of his suffering, I see a parallel in Exodus:

And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. (Exodus 2:24 RSVCE)

Nevertheless he regarded their distress, when he heard their cry. He remembered for their sake his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. (Psalm 106:44-45 RSVCE)

God "remembered" the covenant. Does this mean the omniscient God had he had forgotten? Clearly not. But when we pray for God to remember, it is to contextualize or emphasize the request.

  • Christ's sacrifice was already offered by Jesus. Why or what is the reason we keep repeating to offer it up again and again. I know we keep sinning but wasn't Christ sacrifice offered for the future sins too? – Grasper Dec 28 '15 at 15:24
  • @Grasper The same reason we keep repeating that we repent of our sins, I'd guess. – Mr. Bultitude Dec 28 '15 at 19:16
  • that is different because we actually repeat sinning but Jesus doesn't repeat his sacrifice. "He gave his life once and for all" – Grasper Dec 28 '15 at 20:52
  • @Grasper I don't see the difference. We continually repent of our sins on the basis of the continued efficacy of the once-for-all sacrifice. We can re-offer the sacrifice on the same basis (its continued efficacy, and our continual sins). – Mr. Bultitude Dec 28 '15 at 20:57
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I did a little research and I found some answers.

Through his intercessory ministry in heaven and through the Mass, Jesus continues to offer himself to his Father as a living sacrifice, and he does so in what the Church specifically states is "an unbloody manner"—one that does not involve a new crucifixion.

"Do this in remembrance of me" can also be translated as "Offer this as my memorial sacrifice." The Greek term for "remembrance" is anamnesis.

So I think here is the answer. We offer his sacrifice at mass and in the prayers in remembrance of Him. And every time we remember we open ourselves up to the Lord (the Father). So it's this sacrifice which brings reconciliation with God the Father. I guess every sin we commit require reconciliation and offerings to God. And Christ's offerings(sacrifice) servers this purpose.

For this is that which was proclaimed by the Lord:

‘In every place and time let there be offered to me a clean sacrifice. For I am a great king,’ says the Lord, ‘and my name is wonderful among the gentiles’

[cf. Mal. 1:11]" (14:1–3).

More can be found here.

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I know that this is an old thread but I came across it and thought I would contribute. This is how I think of it.

The history of sacrifice is that a true sacrifice involves offering up only something of immense value to yourself. For example, in a time when life was hard and raising livestock required a lot of energy and resources, Abel offered his best animal, while it is implied that Cain's offering was not his best offering.

If you read the Gospel of Matthew, it is clear that the narrative is building up the idea in the reader's head that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice.

As Catholic Christians, we are called to a life in which we sacrifice the best we have to offer, in order to inherit eternal life. The best we have to offer collectively, as humans, is the life of Jesus, as the perfect human being, and he chose to be that sacrifice. So he offers himself to the father, and we offer him to the father also. The way that we offer him is through the Eucharist.

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