Apology XXIV.84-92: Of the Mass (continued)

"Some think that missa is not derived from the Hebrew, but signifies as much as remissio, the forgiveness of sin. For, the communion being ended, the announcement used to be made: Ite, missa est: Depart, you have forgiveness of sins. They cite, as proof that this is so, the fact that the Greeks used to say: Lais Aphesis, which also means that they had been pardoned. If this were so, it would be an excellent meaning; for in connection with this ceremony forgiveness of sins must always be preached and proclaimed. But the case before us is little aided, no matter what the meaning of the word missa is."

“Some think that missa is not derived from the Hebrew, but signifies as much as remissio, the forgiveness of sin. For, the communion being ended, the announcement used to be made: ‘Ite, missa est: Depart, you have forgiveness of sins.’ They cite, as proof that this is so, the fact that the Greeks used to say: Lais Aphesis, which also means that they had been pardoned. If this were so, it would be an excellent meaning; for in connection with this ceremony forgiveness of sins must always be preached and proclaimed.”

Friday, Week 28

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Apology XXIV 84-92, Of the Mass (continued)

84] Ridiculous is their inference that, since mention is made in the Holy Scriptures of an altar, therefore the Mass must be a sacrifice; for the figure of an altar is referred to by Paul only by way of comparison. 85] And they fabricate that the Mass has been so called from an altar (midzbeah). What need is there of an etymology so far fetched, unless it be to show their knowledge of the Hebrew language? What need is there to seek the etymology from a distance, when the term Mass is found in Deut. 16:10, where it signifies the collections or gifts of the people, not the offering of the priest? For individuals coming to the celebration 86] of the Passover were obliged to bring some gift as a contribution. In the beginning the Christians also retained this custom. Coming together, they brought bread, wine, and other things, as the Canons of the Apostles testify. Thence a part was taken to be consecrated; the rest was distributed to the poor. With this custom they also retained Mass as the name of the contributions. And on account of such contributions it appears also that the Mass was elsewhere called agape, unless one would prefer that it was so called on account of the common feast. 87] But let us omit these trifles. For it is ridiculous that the adversaries should produce such trifling conjectures concerning a matter of such great importance. For although the Mass is called an offering, in what does the term favor the dreams concerning the opus operatum, and the application which, they imagine, merits for others the remission of sins? And it can be called an offering for the reason that prayers, thanksgivings, and the entire worship are there offered, as it is also called a eucharist. But neither ceremonies nor prayers profit ex opere operato, without faith. Although we are disputing here not concerning prayers, but particularly concerning the Lord’s Supper.

[Here you can see what rude asses our adversaries are. They say that the term missa is derived from the term misbeach, which signifies an altar; hence we are to conclude that the Mass is a sacrifice; for sacrifices are offered on an altar. Again, the word liturgia, by which the Greeks call the Mass, is also to denote a sacrifice. This claim we shall briefly answer. All the world sees that from such reasons this heathenish and antichristian error does not follow necessarily, that the Mass benefits ex opere operato sine bono motu utentis. Therefore they are asses, because in such a highly important matter they bring forward such silly things. Nor do the asses know any grammar. For missa and liturgia do not mean sacrifice. Missa, in Hebrew, denotes a joint contribution. For this may have been a custom among Christians, that they brought meat and drink for the benefit of the poor to their assemblies. This custom was derived from the Jews, who had to bring such contributions on their festivals; these they called missa. Likewise, liturgia, in Greek, really denotes an office in which a person ministers to the congregation. This is well applied to our teaching, because with us the priest, as a common servant of those who wish to commune, ministers to them the holy Sacrament.

Some think that missa is not derived from the Hebrew, but signifies as much as remissio, the forgiveness of sin. For, the communion being ended, the announcement used to be made: Ite, missa est: Depart, you have forgiveness of sins. They cite, as proof that this is so, the fact that the Greeks used to say: Lais Aphesis, which also means that they had been pardoned. If this were so, it would be an excellent meaning; for in connection with this ceremony forgiveness of sins must always be preached and proclaimed. But the case before us is little aided, no matter what the meaning of the word missa is.]

88] The Greek canon says also many things concerning the offering, but it shows plainly that it is not speaking properly of the body and blood of the Lord, but of the whole service, of prayers and thanksgivings. For it says thus: […]. When this is rightly understood, it gives no offense. For it prays that we be made worthy to offer prayers and supplications and bloodless sacrifices for the people. For he calls even prayers bloodless sacrifices. Just as also a little afterward: We offer, he says, this reasonable and bloodless service. For they explain this inaptly who would rather interpret this of a reasonable sacrifice, and transfer it to the very body of Christ, although the canon speaks of the entire worship, and in opposition to the opus operatum Paul has spoken of logike latreia (Rom 12:1) [reasonable service], namely, of the worship of the mind, of fear, of faith, of prayer, of thanksgiving, etc.

Of the Mass for the Dead

89] Our adversaries have no testimonies and no command from Scripture for defending the application of the ceremony for liberating the souls of the dead, although from this they derive infinite revenue. Nor, indeed, is it a light sin to establish such services in the Church without the command of God and without the example of Scripture, and to apply to the dead the Lord’s Supper, which was instituted for commemoration and preaching among the living [for the purpose of strengthening the faith of those who use the ceremony]. This is to violate the Second Commandment, by abusing God’s name.

For, in the first place, it is a dishonor to the Gospel to hold that a ceremony ex opere operato, without faith, is a sacrifice reconciling God, and making satisfaction for sins. It is horrible saying to ascribe as much to the work of a priest as to the death of Christ. Again, sin and death cannot be overcome unless by faith in Christ, as Paul teaches, Rom. 5:1: Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, and therefore the punishment of purgatory cannot be overcome by the application of the work of another.

90] Now we shall omit the sort of testimonies concerning purgatory that the adversaries have: what kinds of punishments they think there are in purgatory; what grounds the doctrine of satisfactions has, which we have shown above to be most vain. We shall only present this in opposition: It is certain that the Lord’s Supper was instituted on account of the remission of guilt. For it offers the remission of sins, where it is necessary that guilt be truly understood. (For what consolation would we have if forgiveness of sin were here offered us, and yet there would be no remission of guilt?] And nevertheless it does not make satisfaction for guilt; otherwise the Mass would be equal to the death of Christ. Neither can the remission of guilt be received in any other way than by faith. Therefore the Mass is not a satisfaction, but a promise and Sacrament that require faith.

91] And, indeed, it is necessary that all godly persons be seized with the most bitter grief [shed tears of blood, from anguish and sorrow] if they consider that the Mass has been in great part transferred to the dead and to satisfactions for punishments. This is to banish the daily sacrifice from the Church; this is the kingdom of Antiochus, who transferred the most salutary promises concerning the remission of guilt and concerning faith to the most vain opinions concerning satisfactions; this is to defile the Gospel, to corrupt the use of the Sacraments. These are the persons [the real blasphemers] whom Paul has said, 1 Cor. 11:27, to be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, who have suppressed the doctrine concerning faith and the remission of sins, and, under the pretext of satisfactions, have devoted the body and blood of the Lord to sacrilegious gain. And they will at some time pay the penalty for this sacrilege. [God will one day vindicate the Second Commandment, and pour out a great, horrible wrath upon them.] Therefore we and all godly consciences should be on our guard against approving the abuses of the adversaries.

92] But let us return to the case. Since the Mass is not a satisfaction, either for punishment or for guilt, ex opere operato, without faith, it follows that the application on behalf of the dead is useless. Nor is there need here of a longer discussion. For it is evident that these applications on behalf of the dead have no testimonies from the Scriptures. Neither is it safe, without the authority of Scripture, to institute forms of worship in the Church. And if it will at any time be necessary, we shall speak at greater length concerning this entire subject. For why should we now contend with adversaries who understand neither what a sacrifice, nor what a sacrament, nor what remission of sins, nor what faith is?

(…to be continued)


  Today’s reader: Matthew Carver

Matthew Carver lives in Nashville, Tenn., and works as a freelance artist and translator. His interests include languages, liturgy, hymnody, and church history. A selection of his work is viewable online on his blog, HYMNOGLYPT.