Updated: Jun 27, 2021
By Luke Lancaster
Many Protestant-Christians will attempt to undermine the Catholic Mass by saying that Jesus alone is our priest; that His sacrifice on Calvary alone is our sacrifice. We Christians only have a “sacrifice of (vocal) praise” to give to God, as Hebrews 13:15 says. This is why Protestant worship services have only songs to sing, but no physical sacrifice. How do we respond to such a statement?
A Sacrifice of Praise
A "sacrifice of praise" actually refers to the sacrifice of the Mass. For, according to Biblical scholar Pablo Gadenz, a "sacrifice of praise" is called the “thanksgiving sacrifice” or "todah sacrifice" in Lev. 7:11-15 (see also Numbers 15:8-10, 1 Chronicles 16, and Psalm 50). This todah sacrifice had a vocal song of thanksgiving, but it was not only a vocal song as Protestants believe. Rather, there was a physical, sacrificial offering of a lamb, bread, and wine.
We see this in Psalm 116, where the vocal prayers are combined with the todah sacrifice. 1 Chronicles 16 speaks of these songs and hymns of thanksgiving. Psalm 100 is called a psalm for thanksgiving. The Jewish rabbi's wrote that: “In the coming Messianic age, all sacriﬁces will cease, but the thank offering [todah] will never cease” (Pesiqta). This is what we have in the Eucharist (meaning "thanksgiving), which is the true "sacrifice of praise." Even in the context of the prophet Jeremiah's promise of a New Covenant (Jer. 31:31), he mentions the people offering a thanksgiving sacrifice (Jer. 33:11).
For during the Last Supper, Jesus offered a sort of thanksgiving sacrifice. The text reads, "And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you" (Luke 22:19). Jesus gave thanks during his Passover meal, tying it to the todah sacrifice of praise. The Mass is a thanksgiving sacrifice offered by a priest in the form of bread and wine, which is truly the Lamb of God - Jesus.
Fr. Pablo says, "With regard to "sacrifice of praise" (Heb 13:15), it is helpful to interpret this expression in light of its OT background. The phrase in fact occurs only here in the whole NT, but in the Greek OT (LXX) it is used for the todah or thanksgiving sacrifice (Lev 7:11-15) which involves the eating of bread, a sacrifice, and prayers/hymns. A case can be made that Heb 13:15 is referring to the Christian transformation of the thanksgiving sacrifice which is precisely the Eucharist. The Protestant exegete Hartmut Gese has written about the Lord's Supper as the Christian todah."
He continues, “Certainly there is the verbal praise of God, but this accompanies the ritual action -- as in Psalm 116 where the psalm accompanies the "sacrifice of thanksgiving" (Ps 116:17; "sacrifice of praise" in the Greek LXX). So, in the Christian todah / sacrifice of thanksgiving (= Eucharist), you have the threefold combination of the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ, its memorial involving the eating of bread from the "altar" (Heb 13:10), and the verbal praise of God (Heb 13:15). As I see it, Hebrews does not contrast ritual and no-ritual (see the reference to "baptisms" and "laying on of hands" in Heb 6:2), but rather between ineffective ritual and effective ritual - ritual which is made effective by and united with Christ's once-for-all sacrifice.”
Thus, Hebrews 13:15 is not a good argument against the sacrifice of the Mass.