It is mercy that I want, not sacrifice

Bishop, Father of the Church and Martyr

An excerpt from a Against Heresies, Book 4

Saturday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

That they might be saved God demanded of these men of old not sacrifices and holocausts, but faith, obedience and righteousness. God expressed his will when he taught them in the words of Hosea: I desire mercy more than sacrifices, the knowledge of God more than holocausts. Our Lord’s warning to them was the same: If you had known what was meant by the words “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” you would never have condemned the guiltless. He bore witness that the prophets had spoken the truth; he also brought home to his listeners the folly of their own sin.

Moreover, he instructed his disciples to offer to God the first fruits of creation, not because God had any need, but so that they themselves should not be unproductive and ungrateful. This is why he took bread, a part of his creation, gave thanks and said: This is my body. In the same way he declared that the cup, an element of the same creation as ourselves, was his blood; he taught them that this was the new sacrifice of the new covenant. The Church has received this sacrifice from the apostles; throughout the world she offers to God, who feeds us, the first fruits of his own gifts, under the new covenant. It was foretold by Malachi, one of the twelve prophets, in the words: I take no pleasure in you, says the Lord Almighty, and no sacrifice will I accept from your hands. For, from the rising of the sun to its setting, the Gentiles glorify my name, and in every place incense and a spotless sacrifice are offered to my name; my name is great among the Gentiles, says the Lord Almighty.

But what name is glorified among the Gentiles if not that of our Lord, through whom glory is given both to the Father and to man. And since this name belongs to his own Son, who became man by the Fathers’ will, the Father calls this name his own. If a king were to paint a picture of his son, he could claim it as his own on two counts: because it is his son’s picture, and because he himself made it. In the same way, the Father declares that the name of Jesus Christ, which is glorified in the Church throughout the world, is his own, because it is his Son’s name and because he wrote it to save mankind.

And so, since the Son’s name belongs to the Father and since the Church makes its offerings through Jesus Christ to almighty God, for these two reasons the prophet is right when he says: In every place incense and a pure sacrifice are offered to my name. In the book of Revelation, John speaks of incense as the prayer of the saints.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen