The Lord’s Supper” (coena dominica),
the “Sacrifice” (prosphora, oblatio),
“the gathering together” (synaxis, congregatio),
“the Mysteries”, and
(since Augustine), “the Sacrament of the Altar”.
With the name “Love Feast” (agape) the idea of the sacrifice of the Mass was not necessarily connected. Etymologically, the word missa is neither (as Baronius states) from a Hebrew word, nor from the Greek mysis, but is simply derived from missio, just as oblata is derived from oblatio, collecta from collectio, and ulta from ultio. The reference was however not to a Divine “mission”, but simply to a “dismissal” (dimissio) as was also customary in the Greek rite (cf. “Canon. Apost.”, VIII, xv: apolyesthe en eirene), and as is still echoed in the phrase Ite missa est. This solemn form of leave-taking was not introduced by the Church as something new, but was adopted from the ordinary language of the day, as is shown by Bishop Avitus of Vienne as late as A.D. 500 (Ep. 1 in P.L., LIX, 199):
In churches and in the emperor’s or the prefect’s courts, Missa est is said when the people are released from attendance.
In the sense of “dismissal”, or rather “close of prayer”, missa is used in the celebrated “Peregrinatio Silvae” at least seventy times (Corpus scriptor. eccles. latinor., XXXVIII, 366 sq.) and Rule of St. Benedict places after Hours, Vespers, Compline, the regular formula: Et missae fiant (prayers are ended). Popular speech gradually applied the ritual of dismissal, as it was expressed in both the Mass of the Catechumens and the Mass of the Faithful, by synecdoche to the entire Eucharistic Sacrifice, the whole being named after the part. The first certain trace of such an application is found in Ambrose (Ep. xx, 4, in P. L. XVI, 995). We will use the word in this sense in our consideration of the Mass in its existence, essence, and causality.
I. THE EXISTENCE OF THE MASS
Before dealing with the proofs of revelation afforded by the Bible and tradition, certain preliminary points must first be decided. Of these the most important is that the Church intends the Mass to be regarded as a “true and proper sacrifice”, and will not tolerate the idea that the sacrifice is identical with Holy Communion. That is the sense of a clause from the Council of Trent (Sess. XXII, can. 1): “If any one saith that in the Mass a true and proper sacrifice is not offered to God; or, that to be offered is nothing else but that Christ is given us to eat; let him be anathema” (Denzinger, “Enchir.”, 10th ed. 1908, n. 948). When Leo XIII in the dogmatic Bull “Apostolicae Curae” of 13 Sept., 1896, based the invalidity of the Anglican form of consecration on the fact among others, that in the consecrating formula of Edward VI (that is, since 1549) there is nowhere an unambiguous declaration regarding the Sacrifice of the Mass, the Anglican archbishops answered with some irritation: “First, we offer the Sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; next, we plead and represent before the Father the Sacrifice of the Cross . . . and, lastly, we offer the Sacrifice of ourselves to the Creator of all things, which we have already signified by the oblation of His creatures. This whole action, in which the people has necessarily to take part with the priest, we are accustomed to call the communion the Eucharistic Sacrifice”. In regard to this last contention, Bishop Hedley of Newport declared his belief that not one Anglican in a thousand is accustomed, to call the communion the “Eucharistic Sacrifice.” But even if they were all so accustomed, they would have to interpret the terms in the sense of the thirty-nine Articles, which deny both the Real Presence and the sacrifical power of the priest, and thus admit a sacrifice in an unreal or figurative sense only. Leo XIII, on the other hand, in union with the whole Christian past, had in mind in the above-mentioned Bull nothing else than the Eucharistic “Sacrifice of the true Body and Blood of Christ” on the altar. This Sacrifice is certainly not identical with the Anglican form of celebration.
The simple fact that numerous heretics, such as Wyclif and Luther, repudiated the Mass as “idolatry”, while retaining the Sacrament of the true Body and Blood of Christ, proves that the Sacrament of the Eucharist is something essentially different from the Sacrifice of the Mass. In truth, the Eucharist performs at once two functions: that of a sacrament and that of a sacrifice. Though the inseparableness of the two is most clearly seen in the fact that the consecrating sacrificial powers of the priest coincide, and consequently that the sacrament is produced only in and through the Mass, the real difference between them is shown in that the sacrament is intended privately for the sanctification of the soul, whereas the sacrifice serves primarily to glorify God by adoration, thanksgiving, prayer, and expiation. The recipient of the one is God, who receives the sacrifice of His only-begotten Son; of the other, man, who receives the sacrament for his own good. Furthermore, the unbloody Sacrifice of the Eucharistic Christ is in its nature a transient action, while the Sacrament of the Altar continues as something permanent after the sacrifice, and can even be preserved in monstrance and ciborium. Finally, this difference also deserves mention: communion under one form only is the reception of the whole sacrament, whereas, without the use of the two forms of bread and wine (the symbolic separation of the Body and Blood), the mystical slaying of the victim, and therefore the Sacrifice of the Mass, does not take place.
The definition of the Council of Trent supposes as self-evident the proposition that, along with the “true and real Sacrifice of the Mass”, there can be and are in Christendom figurative and unreal sacrifices of various kinds, such as prayers of praise and thanksgiving, alms, mortification, obedience, and works of penance. Such offerings are often referred to in Holy Scripture, e.g. in Ecclus., xxxv, 4: “All he that doth mercy offereth sacrifice”; and in Ps. cxl, 2: “Let my prayer be directed as incense in thy sight, the lifting up of my hands as evening sacrifice.” These figurative offerings, however, necessarily presuppose the real and true offering, just as a picture presupposes its subject and a portrait its original. The Biblical metaphors — a “sacrifice of jubilation” (Ps. xxvi, 6), the “calves of our lips (Osee, xiv, 3), the “sacrifice of praise” (Heb., xiii, 15) — expressions which apply sacrificial terms to sacrifice (hostia, thysia). That there was such a sacrifice, the whole sacrificial system of the Old Law bears witness. It is true that we may and must recognize with St. Thomas (II-II:85:3), as the principale sacrificium the sacrificial intent which, embodied in the spirit of prayer, inspires and animates the external offerings as the body animates the soul, and without which even the most perfect offering has neither worth nor effect before God. Hence, the holy psalmist says: “For if thou hadst desired sacrifice, I would indeed have given it: with burnt-offerings thou wilt not be delighted. A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit” (Ps. I, 18 sq.). This indispensable requirement of an internal sacrifice, however, by no means makes the external sacrifice superfluous in Christianity; indeed, without a perpetual oblation deriving its value from the sacrifice once offered on the Cross, Christianity, the perfect religion, would be inferior not only to the Old Testament, but even to the poorest form of natural religion. Since sacrifice is thus essential to religion, it is all the more necessary for Christianity, which cannot otherwise fulfil its duty of showing outward honour to God in the most perfect way. Thus, the Church, as the mystical Christ, desires and must have her own permanent sacrifice, which surely cannot be either an independent addition to that of Golgotha or its intrinsic complement; it can only be the one self-same sacrifice of the Cross, whose fruits, by an unbloody offering, are daily made available for believers and unbelievers and sacrificially applied to them.
If the Mass is to be a true sacrifice in the literal sense, it must realize the philosophical conception of sacrifice. Thus the last preliminary question arises: What is a sacrifice in the proper sense of the term? Without attempting to state and establish a comprehensive theory of sacrifice, it will suffice to show that, according to the comparative history of religions, four things are necessary to a sacrifice:
a sacrificial gift (res oblata),
a sacrificing minister (minister legitimus),
a sacrificial action (actio sacrificica), and
a sacrificial end or object (finis sacrificii).
In contrast with sacrifices in the figurative or less proper sense, the sacrificial gift must exist in physical substance, and must be really or virtually destroyed (animals slain, libations poured out, other things rendered unfit for ordinary uses), or at least really transformed, at a fixed place of sacrifice (ara, altare), and offered up to God. As regards the person offering, it is not permitted that any and every individual should offer sacrifice on his own account. In the revealed religion, as in nearly all heathen religions, only a qualified person (usually called priest, sacerdos, lereus), who has been given the power by commission or vocation, may offer up sacrifice in the name of the community. After Moses, the priests authorized by law in the Old Testament belonged to the tribe of Levi, and more especially to the house of Aaron (Heb., v, 4). But, since Christ Himself received and exercised His high priesthood, not by the arrogation of authority but in virtue of a Divine call, there is still greater need that priests who represent Him should receive power and authority through the Sacrament of Holy Orders to offer up the sublime Sacrifice of the New Law. Sacrifice reaches its outward culmination in the sacrificial act, in which we have to distinguish between the proximate matter and the real form. The form lies, not in the real transformation or complete destruction of the sacrificial gift, but rather in its sacrificial oblation, in whatever way it may be transformed. Even where a real destruction took place, as in the sacrificial slayings of the Old Testament, the act of destroying was performed by the servants of the Temple, whereas the proper oblation, consisting in the “spilling of blood” (aspersio sanguinis), was the exclusive function of the priests. Thus the real form of the Sacrifice of the Cross consisted neither in the killing of Christ by the Roman soldiers nor in an imaginary self-destruction on the part of Jesus, but in His voluntary surrender of His blood shed by another’s hand, and in His offering of His life for the sins of the world. Consequently, the destruction or transformation constitutes at most the proximate matter; the sacrificial oblation, on the other hand, is the physical form of the sacrifice. Finally, the object of the sacrifice, as significant of its meaning, lifts the external offering beyond any mere mechanical action into the sphere of the spiritual and Divine. The object is the soul of the sacrifice, and, in a certain sense, its “metaphysicial form”. In all religions we find, as the essential idea of sacrifice, a complete surrender to God for the purpose of union with Him; and to this idea there is added, on the part of those who are in sin, the desire for pardon and reconcillation. Hence at once arises the distinction between sacrifices of praise and expiation (sacrificium latreuticum et propitiatorium), and sacrifices of thanksgiving and petition (sacrificium eucharisticum et impetratorium); hence also the obvious inference that under pain of idolatry, sacrifice is to be offered to God alone as the begining and end of all things. Rightly does St. Augustine remark (De civit. Dei, X, iv): “Who ever thought of offering sacrifice except to one whom he either knew, or thought, or imagined to be God?”.
If then we combine the four constituent ideas in a definition, we may say: “Sacrifice is the external oblation to God by an authorized minister of a sense-perceptible object, either through its destruction or at least through its real transformation, in acknowledgement of God’s supreme dominion and of the appeasing of His wrath.” We shall demonstrate the applicability of this definition to the Mass in the section devoted to the nature of the sacrifice, after settling the question of its existence.
It is a notable fact that the Divine institution of the Mass can be established, one might almost say, with greater certainty by means of the Old Testament than by means of the New.
1. Old Testament
The Old Testament prophecies are recorded partly in types, partly in words. Following the precedent of many Fathers of the Church (see Bellarmine, “De Euchar.”, v, 6), the Council of Trent especially (Sess. XXII, cap. i) laid stress on the prophetical relation that undoubtedly exists between the offering of bread and wine by Melchisedech and the Last Supper of Jesus. The occurrence was briefly as follows: After Abraham (then still called “Abram”) with his armed men had rescued his nephew Lot from the four hostile kings who had fallen on him and robbed him, Melchisedech, King of Salem (Jerusalem), “bringing forth [proferens] bread and wine for he was a priest of the Most High God, blessed him [Abraham] and said: Blessed be Abram by the Most High God . . . And he [Abraham] gave him the tithes of all” (Gen., xiv, 18-20). Catholic theologians (with very few exceptions) have from the beginning rightly emphasized the circumstance that Melchisedech brought out bread and wine, not merely to provide refreshment for Abram’s followers wearied after the battle, for they were well supplied with provisions out of the booty they had taken (Gen., xiv, 11, 16), but to present bread and wine as food-offerings to Almighty God. Not as a host, but as “priest of the Most High God“, he brought forth bread and wine, blessed Abraham, and received the tithes from him. In fact, the very reason for his “bringing forth bread and wine” is expressly stated to have been his priesthood: “for he was a priest”. Hence, proferre must necessarily become offerre, even if it were true that the Hiphil word is not an hieratic sacrificial term; but even this is not quite certain (cf. Judges vi, 18 sq.). Accordingly, Melchisedech made a real food-offering of bread and wine.
Now it is the express teaching of Scripture that Christ is “a priest for ever according to the order [kata ten taxin] of Melchisedech” (Ps. cix, 4; Heb., v, 5 sq; vii, 1 sqq ). Christ, however, in no way resembled his priestly prototype in His bloody sacrifice on the Cross, but only and solely at His Last Supper. On that occasion He likewise made an unbloody food-offering, only that, as Antitype, He accomplished something more than a mere oblation of bread and wine, namely the sacrifice of His Body and Blood under the mere forms of bread and wine. Otherwise, the shadows cast before by the “good things to come” would have been more perfect than the things themselves, and the antitype at any rate no richer in reality than the type. Since the Mass is nothing else than a continual repetition, commanded by Christ Himself, of the Sacrifice accomplished at the Last Supper, it follows that the Sacrifice of the Mass partakes of the New testament fulfilment of the prophecy of Melchisedech. (Concerning the Paschal Lamb as the second type of the Mass, see Bellarmine, “De Euchar.”, V, vii; cf. also von Cichowski, “Das altestamentl. Pascha in seinem Verhaltnis zum Opfer Christi”, Munich, 1849.)
Passing over the more or less distinct references to the Mass in other prophets (Ps. xxi, 27 sqq., Is., lxvi, 18 sqq.), the best and clearest prediction concerning the Mass is undoubtedly that of Malachias, who makes a threatening announcement to the Levite priests in the name of God: “I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts: and I will not receive a gift of your hand. For from the rising of the sun even to the down, my name is great among the Gentiles [heathens, non-Jews], and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for my name is great among Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts” (Mal., i, 10-11). According to the unanimous interpretation of the Fathers of the Church (see Petavius, “De incarn.”, xii, 12), the prophet here foretells the everlasting Sacrifice of the New Dispensation. For he declares that these two things will certainly come to pass:
The abolition of all Levitical sacrifices, and
the institution of an entirely new sacrifice.
As God’s determination to do away with the sacrifices of the Levites is adhered to consistently throughout the denunciation, the essential thing is to specify correctly the sort of sacrifice that is promised in their stead. In regard to this, the following propositions have to be established:
that the new sacrifice is to come about in the days of the Messiah;
that it is to be a true and real sacrifice, and
that it does not coincide formally with the Sacrifice of the Cross.
It is easy to show that the sacrifice referred to by Malachias did not signify a sacrifice of his time, but was rather to be a future sacrifice belonging to the age of the Messiah. For though the Hebrew participles of the original can be translated by the present tense (there is sacrifice; it is offered), the mere universality of the new sacrifice — “from the rising to the setting”, “in every place”, even “among the Gentiles“, i.e. heathen (non-Jewish) peoples — is irrefragable proof that the prophet beheld as present an event of the future. Wherever Jahwe speaks, as in this case, of His glorification by the “heathen”, He can, according to Old Testament teaching (Ps. xxi, 28; lxxi, 10 sqq.; Is., xi, 9; xlix, 6; lx 9, lxvi, 18 sqq.; Amos, ix, 12; Mich., iv. 2. etc.) have in mind only the kingdom of the Messiah or the future Church of Christ; every other explanation is shattered by the text. Least of all could a new sacrifice in the time of the prophet himself be thought of. Nor could there be any idea of is a sacrifice among the genuine heathens, as Hitzig has suggested, for the sacrifices of the heathen, associated with idolatry and impurity, are unclean and displeasing to God (I Cor., x, 20). Again, it could not be a sacrifice of the dispersed Jews (Diaspora), for apart from the fact that the existence of such sacrifices in the Diaspora is rather problematic, they were certainly not offered the world over, nor did they possess the unusual significance attaching to special modes of honouring God. Consequently, the reference is undoubtedly to some entirely distinctive sacrifice of the future. But of what future? Was it to be a future sacrifice among genuine heathens, such as the Aztecs or the native Africans? This is as impossible as in the case of other heathen forms of idolatry. Perhaps then it was to be a new and more perfect sacrifice among the Jews? This also is out of the question, for since the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus (A.D. 70), the whole system of Jewish sacrifice is irrevocably a thing of the past; and the new sacrifice moreover, is to be performed by a priesthood of an origin other than Jewish (Is., lxvi, 21). Everything, therefore, points to Christianity, in which, as a matter of fact, the Messiah rules over non-Jewish peoples.
The second question now presents itself: Is the universal sacrifice thus promised “in every place” to be only a purely spiritual offering of prayer, in other words a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, such as Protestanism is content with; or is it to be a true sacrifice in the strict sense, as the Catholic Church maintains? It is forthwith clear that abolition and substitution must correspond, and accordingly that the old real sacrifice cannot be displaced by a new unreal sacrifice. Moreover, prayer, adoration, thanksgiving, etc., are far from being a new offering, for they are permanent realities common to every age, and constitute the indispensable foundation of every religion whether before or after the Messiah.
The last doubt is dispelled by the Hebrew text, which has no fewer than three classic sacerdotal declarations referring to the promised sacrifice, thus designedly doing away with the possibility of interpreting it metaphorically. Especially important is a substantive Hebrew word for “sacrifice”. Although in its origin the generic term for every sacrifice, the bloody included (cf.Gen., iv, 4 sq.; I Kings, ii, 17), it was not only never used to indicate an unreal sacrifice (such as a prayer offering), but even became the technical term for an unbloody sacrifice (mostly food offerings), in contradistinction to the bloody sacrifice which is given the name of Sebach.
As to the third and last proposition, no lengthy demonstration is needed to show that the sacrifice of Malachias cannot be formally identified with the Sacrifice of the Cross. This interpretation is at once contradicted by the Minchah, i.e. unbloody (food) offering. Then, there are other cogent considerations based on fact. Though a real sacrifice, belonging to the time of the Messiah and the most powerful means conceivable for glorifying the Divine name, the Sacrifice of the Cross, so far from being offered “in every place” and among non-Jewish peoples, was confined to Golgotha and the midst of the Jewish people. Nor can the Sacrifice of the Cross, which was accomplished by the Saviour in person without the help of a human representative priesthood, be identified with that sacrifice for the offering of which the Messiah makes use of priests after the manner of the Levites, in every place and at all times. Furthermore, he wilfully shuts his eyes against the light, who denies that the prophecy of Malachias is fulfilled to the letter in the Sacrifice of the Mass. In it are united all the characteristics of the promised sacrifice: its unbloody sacrificial rite as genuine Minchah, its universality in regard to place and time its extension to non-Jewish peoples, its delegated priesthood differing from that of the Jews, its essential unity by reason of the identity of the Chief Priest and the Victim (Christ), and its intrinsic and essential purity which no Levitical or moral uncleanliness can defile. Little wonder that the Council of Trent should say (Sess XXII, cap.i): “This is that pure oblation, which cannot be defiled by unworthiness and impiety on the part of those who offer it, and concerning which God has predicted through Malachias, that there would be offered up a clean oblation in every place to His Name, which would be great among the Gentiles (see Denzinger, n. 339).
2. New Testament
Passing now to the proofs contained in the New Testament, we may begin by remarking that many dogmatic writers see in the dialogue of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well a prophetic reference to the Mass (John, iv, 21 sqq ): Woman believe me, that the hour cometh, when you shall neither on this mountain [Garizim] nor in Jerusalem, adore the Father…. But the hour cometh and now is, when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth.” Since the point at issue between the Samaritans and the Jews related, not to the ordinary, private offering of prayer practised everywhere, but to the solemn, public worship embodied in a real Sacrifice, Jesus really seems to refer to a future real sacrifice of praise, which would not be confined in its liturgy to the city Jerusalem but would captivate the whole world (see Bellarmine, “De Euchar., v, 11). Not without good reason do most commentators appeal to Heb., xiii, 10: We have an altar [Thysiastesion, altare], whereof they have no power to eat [Phagein, edere], who serve the tabernacle.” Since St. Paul has just contrasted the Jewish food offering (Bromasin, escis) and Christian altar food, the partaking of which was denied to the Jews, the inference is obvious: where is an altar, there is a sacrifice. But the Eucharist is the food which the Christians alone are permitted to eat: therefore there is a Eucharistic sacrifice. The objection that, in Apostolic times, the term altar was not yet used in the sense of the “Lord’s table” (cf. I Cor., x, 21) is clearly a begging of the question, since Paul might well have been the first to introduce the name, it being adopted from him by later writers (e.g. Ignatius of Antioch died A.D. 107).
It can scarcely be denied that the entirely mystical explanation of the “spiritual food from the altar of the cross”, favoured by St. Thomas Aquinas, Estius, and Stentrup, is far-fetched. It might on the other hand appear still more strange that in the passage of the Epistle to the Hebrews, where Christ and Melchisedech are compared, the two food offerings should be only not placed in prophetical relation with each other but not even mentioned. The reason, however, is not far to seek: parallel lay entirely outside the scope of the argument. All that St. Paul desired to show was that the high priesthood of Christ was superior to the Levitical priesthood of the Old Testament (cf. Heb., vii, 4 sqq.), and this is fully demonstrated by proving that Aaron and his priesthood stood far below the unattainable height of Melchisedech. So much the more, therefore, must Christ as “priest according to the order of Melchisedech” excel the Levitical priesthood. The peculiar dignity of Melchisedech, however, was manifested not through the fact that he made a food offering of bread and wine, a thing which the Levites also were able to do, but chiefly through the fact that he blessed the great “Father Abraham and received the tithes from him”.
The main testimony of the New Testament lies in the account of the institution of the Eucharist, and most clearly in the words of consecration spoken over the chalice. For this reason we shall consider these words first, since thereby, owing to the analogy between the two formulas clearer light will be thrown on the meaning of the words of consecration spoken over the chalice. For this reason we shall consider these words first, since thereby, owing to the analogy between the two formulae, clearer light will be thrown on the meaning of the words of consecration pronounced over the bread. For the sake of clearness and easy comparison we subjoin the four passages in Greek and English:
Matt., xxvi, 28: Touto gar estin to aima mou to tes [kaines] diathekes to peri pollon ekchynnomenon eis aphesin amartion. For this is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins.
Mark, xiv, 24: Touto estin to aima mou tes kaines diathekes to yper pollon ekchynnomenon. This is my blood of the new testament which shall be shed for many.
Luke, xxii, 20: Touto to poterion he kaine diatheke en to aimati mou, to yper ymon ekchynnomenon. This is the chalice, the new testament in my blood, which shall be shed for you.
I Cor., xi, 25: Touto to poterion he kaine diatheke estin en to emo aimati. This chalice is the new testament in my blood.
The Divine institution of the sacrifice of the altar is proved by showing
that the “shedding of blood” spoken of in the text took place there and then and not for the first time on the cross;
that it was a true and real sacrifice;
that it was considered a permanent institution in the Church.
The present form of the participle ekchynnomenon in conjunction with the present estin establishes the first point. For it is a grammatical rule of New Testament Greek, that, when the double present is used (that is, in both the participle and the finite verb, as is the case here), the time denoted is not the distant or near future, but strictly the present (see Fr. Blass, “Grammatik des N. T. Griechisch”, p. 193, Gottingen, 1896). This rule does not apply to other constructions of the present tense, as when Christ says earlier (John, xiv, 12): I go (poreuomai) to the father”. Alleged exceptions to the rule are not such in reality, as, for instance, Matt., vi, 30: “And if the grass of the field, which is today and tomorrow is cast into the oven (ballomenon) God doth so clothe (amphiennysin): how much more you, O ye of little faith?” For in this passage it is a question not of something in the future but of something occurring every day. When the Vulgate translates the Greek participles by the future (effundetur, fundetur), it is not at variance with facts, considering that the mystical shedding of blood in the chalice, if it were not brought into intimate relation with the physical shedding of blood on the cross, would be impossible and meaningless; for the one is the essential presupposition and foundation of the other. Still, from the standpoint of philology, effunditur (funditur) ought to be translated into the strictly present, as is really done in many ancient codices. The accuracy of this exegesis is finally attested in a striking way by the Greek wording in St. Luke: to poterion . . . ekchynnomenon. Here the shedding of blood appears as taking place directly in the chalice, and therefore in the present. Overzealous critics, it is true, have assumed that there is here a grammatical mistake, in that St. Luke erroneously connects the “shedding” with the chalice (poterion), instead of with “blood” (to aimati) which is in the dative. Rather than correct this highly cultivated Greek, as though he were a school boy, we prefer to assume that he intended to use synecdoche, a figure of speech known to everybody, and therefore put the vessel to indicate its contents.
As to the establishment of our second proposition, believing Protestants and Anglicans readily admit that the phrase: “to shed one’s blood for others unto the remission of sins” is not only genuinely Biblical language relating to sacrifice, but also designates in particular the sacrifice of expiation (cf. Lev., vii 14; xiv, 17; xvii, 11; Rom. iii, 25, v, 9; Heb. ix, 10, etc.). They, however, refer this sacrifice of expiation not to what took place at the Last Supper, but to the Crucifixion the day after. From the demonstration given above that Christ, by the double consecration of bread and wine mystically separated His Blood from His Body and thus in a chalice itself poured out this Blood in a sacramental way, it is at once clear that he wished to solemnize the Last Supper not as a sacrament merely but also as a Eucharistic Sacrifice. If the “pouring out of the chalice” is to mean nothing more than the sacramental drinking of the Blood, the result is an intolerable tautology: “Drink ye all of this, for this is my blood, which is being drunk”. As, however, it really reads “Drink ye all of this, for this is my blood, which is shed for many (you) unto remission of sins,” the double character of the rite as sacrament and sacrifice is evident. The sacrament is shown forth in the “drinking”, the sacrifice in the “shedding of blood”. “The blood of the new testament”, moreover, of which all the four passages speak, has its exact parallel in the analogous institution of the 0ld Testament through Moses. For by Divine command he sprinkled the people with the true blood of an animal and added, as Christ did, the words of institution (Ex., xxiv, 8): “This is the blood of the covenant (Sept.: idou to aima tes diathekes) which the Lord hath made with you”. St. Paul, however, (Heb., ix, 18 sq.) after repeating this passage, solemnly demonstrates (ibid., ix, 11 sq) the institution of the New Law through the blood shed by Christ at the crucifixion; and the Savior Himself, with equal solemnity, says of the chalice: This is My Blood of the new testament “. It follows therefore that Christ had intended His true Blood in the chalice not only to be imparted as a sacrament, but to be also a sacrifice for the remission of sins. With the last remark our third statement, viz. as to the permanency of the institution in the Church, is also established. For the duration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is indissolubly bound up with the duration of the sacrament. Christ’s Last Supper thus takes on the significance of a Divine institution whereby the Mass is established in His Church. St. Paul (I Cor., xi, 25), in fact, puts into the mouth of the Savior the words: “This do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me”.
We are now in a position to appreciate in their deeper sense Christ’s words of consecration over the bread. Since only St. Luke and St. Paul have made additions to the sentence, “This is My Body”, it is only on them that we can base our demonstration.
Luke, xxii, 19: Hoc est corpus meum, quod pro vobis datur; touto esti to soma mou to uper umon didomenon; This is my body which is given for you.
I Cor., xi, 24: Hoc est corpus meum, quod pro vobis tradetur; touto mou esti to soma to uper umon [klomenon]; This is my body which shall be broken for you.
Once more, we maintain that the sacrifical “giving of the body” (in organic unity of course with the “pouring of blood” in the chalice) is here to be interpreted as a present sacrifice and as a permanent institution in the Church. Regarding the decisive point, i.e. indication of what is actually taking place, it is again St. Luke who speaks with greatest clearness, for to soma he adds the present participle, didomenon by which he describes the “giving of the body” as something happening in the present, here and now, not as something to be done in the near future.
The reading klomenon in St. Paul is disputed. According to the best critical reading (Tischendorf, Lachmann) the participle is dropped altogether so that St. Paul probably wrote: to soma to uper umon (the body for you, i.e. for your salvation). There is good reason, however, for regarding the word klomenon (from klan to break) as Pauline, since St. Paul shortly before spoke of the “breaking of bread” (I Cor, x, 16), which for him meant “to offer as food the true body of Christ”. From this however we may conclude that the “breaking of the body” not only confines Christ’s action to the strictly present, especially as His natural Body could not be “broken” on the cross (cf. Ex, xii, 46; John, xix, 32 sq ), but also implies the intention of offering a “body broken for you” (uper umon) i.e. the act constituted in itself a true food offering. All doubt as to its sacrificial character is removed by the expresslon didomenon in St. Luke, which the Vulgate this time quite correctly translates into the present: “quod pro vobis datur.” But “to give one’s body for others” is as truly a Biblical expression for sacrifice (cf. John, vi, 52; Rom., vii, 4; Col., i, 22: Heb, x, 10, etc.) as the parallel phrase, “the shedding of blood”. Christ, therefore, at the least Supper offered up His Body as an unbloody sacrifice. Finally, that He commanded the renewal for all time of the Eucharistic sacrifice through the Church is clear from the addition: “Do this for a commemoration of me” (Luke, xxxii, 19; I Cor, xi, 24).
B. Proof from Tradition
Harnack is of opinion that the early Church up to the time of Cyprian (d. 258) the contented itself with the purely spiritual sacrifices of adoration and thanksgiving and that it did not possess the sacrifice of the Mass, as Catholicism now understands it. In a series of writings, Dr. Wieland, a Catholic priest, likewise maintained in the face of vigorous opposition from other theologians, that the early Christians confined the essence of the Christian sacrifice to a subjective Eucharistic prayer of thanksgiving, till Irenaeus (d. 202) brought forward the idea of an objective offering of gifts, and especially of bread and wine. He, according to this view, was the first to include in his expanded conception of sacrifice, the entirely new idea of material offerings (i.e. the Eucharistic elements) which up to that time the early Church had formally repudiated.
Were this assertion correct, the doctrine of the Council of Trent (Sess. XXII, c. ii), according to which in the Mass “the priests offer up, in obedience to the command of Christ, His Body and Blood” (see Denzinger, “Enchir”, n. 949), could hardly take its stand on Apostolic tradition; the bridge between antiquity and the present would thus have broken by the abrupt intrusion of a completely contrary view. An impartial study of the earliest texts seems indeed to make this much clear, that the early Church paid most attention to the spiritual and subjective side of sacrifice and laid chief stress on prayer and thanksgiving in the Eucharistic function.
This admission, however, is not identical with the statement that the early Church rejected out and out the objective sacrifice, and acknowledged as genuine only the spiritual sacrifice as expressed in the “Eucharistic thanksgiving”. That there has been an historical dogmatic development from the indefinite to the definite, from the implicit to the explicit, from the seed to the fruit, no one familiar with the subject will deny. An assumption so reasonable, the only one in fact consistent with Christianity, is, however, fundamently different from the hypothesis that the Christian idea of sacrifice has veered from one extreme to the other. This is a priori improbable and unproved in fact. In the Didache or “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”, the oldest post-Biblical literary monument (c. A.D. 96), not only is the” breaking of bread” (cf. Acts, xx, 7) referred to as a “sacrifice” (Thysia) and mention made of reconciliation with one’s enemy before the sacrifice (cf. Matt., v, 23), but the whole passage is crowned with an actual quotation of the prophecy of Malachias, which referred, as is well known, to an objective and real sacrifice (Didache, c. xiv). The early Christians gave the name of “sacrifice”; not only to the Eucharistic “thanksgiving,” but also to the entire ritual celebration including the liturgical “breaking of bread”, without at first distinguishing clearly between the prayer and the gift (Bread and Wine, Body and Blood). When Ignatius of Antioch (d. 107), a disciple of the Apostles, says of the Eucharist: “There is only one flesh of Our Lord Jesus Christ, only one chalice containing His one Blood, one altar (en thysiasterion), as also only one bishop with the priesthood and the deacons” (Ep., ad. Philad. iv), he here gives to the liturgical Eucharistic celebration, of which alone he speaks, by his reference to the “altar” an evidently sacrificial meaning, often as he may use the word “altar” in other contexts in a metaphorical sense.
A heated controversy had raged round the conception of Justin Martyr (d. 166) from the fact that in his “Dialogue with Tryphon” (c. 117) he characterizes “prayer and thanksgiving” (euchai kai eucharistiai) as the “one perfect sacrifice acceptable to God” (teleiai monai kai euarestoi thysiai). Did he intend by thus emphasizing the interior spiritual sacrifice to exclude the exterior real sacrifice of the Eucharist? Clearly he did not, for in the same “Dialogue” (c. 41) he says the “food offering” of the lepers, assuredly a real gift offering (cf. Levit, xiv), was a figure (typos) of the bread of the Eucharist, which Jesus commanded to be offered (poiein) in commemoration of His sufferings.” He then goes on: “of the sacrifices which you (the Jews) formerly offered, God through Malachias said: ‘I have no pleasure, etc’. By the sacrifices (thysion), however, which we Gentiles present to Him in every place, that is (toutesti) of the bread of Eucharist and likewise of the chalice Eucharist, he then said that we glorify his name, while you dishonour him”. Here “bread and chalice” are by the use of toutesti clearly included as objective gift offerings in the idea of the Christian sacrifice. If the other apologists (Aristides, Athenagoras, Minucius Felix, Arnobius) vary the thought a great deal — God has no need of sacrifice; the best sacrifice is the knowledge of the Creator; sacrifice and altars are unknown to the Christians — it is to be presumed not only that under the imposed by the disciplina arcani they withheld the whole truth, but also that they rightly repudiated all connection with pagan idolatry, the sacrifice of animals, and heathen altars. Tertullian bluntly declared: “we offer no sacrifice (non sacrificamus) because we cannot eat both the Supper of God and that of demons” (De spectac., c., xiii). And yet in another passage (De orat., c., xix) he calls Holy Communion “participation in the sacrifice” (participatio sacrificii), which is accomplished “on the altar of God” (ad aram Dei); he speaks (De cult fem., II, xi) of a real, not a mere metaphorical, “offering up of sacrifice” (sacrificium offertur); he dwells still further as a Montanist (de pudicit, c., ix) as well on the “nourishing power of the Lord’s Body” (opimitate dominici corporis) as on the “renewal of the immolation of Christ” (rursus illi mactabitur Christus).
With Irenaeus of Lyons there comes a turning point, in as much as he, with conscious clearness, first puts forward “bread and wine” as objective gift offerings, but at the same time maintains that these elements become the “body and blood” of the Word through consecration, and thus by simply combining these two thoughts we have the Catholic Mass of today. According to him (Adv. haer., iv, 18, 4) it is the Church alone “that offers the pure oblation” (oblationem puram offert), whereas the Jews “did not receive the Word, which is offered (or through whom an offering is made) to God” (non receperunt Verbum quod [aliter, per quod] offertur Deo). Passing over the teaching of the Alexandrine Clement and Origen, whose love of allegory, together with the restrictions of the disciplina arcani, involved their writings in mystic obscurity, we make particular mention of Hippolytus of Rome (d. 235) whose celebrated fragment Achelis has wrongly characterized as spurious. He writes (Fragm. in Prov., ix, i, P. G., LXXX, 593), “The Word prepared His Precious and immaculate Body (soma) and His Blood (aima), that daily kath’ekasten) are set forth as a sacrifice (epitelountai thyomena) on the mystic and Divine table (trapeze) as a memorial of that ever memorable first table of the mysterious supper of the Lord”. Since according to the judgment of even Protestant historians of dogma, St. Cyprian (d. 258) is to be regarded as the “herald” of Catholic doctrine on the Mass, we may likewise pass him over, as well as Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386) and Chrysostom (d. 407) who have been charged with exaggerated “realism”, and whose plain discourses on the sacrifice rival those of Basil (d. 379), Gregory of Nyssa (d. c. 394) and Ambrose (d. 397). Only about Augustine (d. 430) must a word be said, since, in regard to the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist he is cited as favouring the “symbolical” theory. Now it is precisely his teaching on sacrifice that best serves to clear away the suspicion that he inclined to a merely spiritual interpretation.
For Augustine nothing is more certain than that every religion, whether true or false, must have an exterior form of celebration and worship (Contra Faust., xix, 11). This applies as well to Christians (l. c., xx, 18), who “commemorate the sacrifice consummated (on the cross) by the holiest oblation and participation of the Body and Blood of Christ” (celebrant sacrosancta oblatione et participatione corporis et sanguinis Christi). The Mass is, in his eyes (De Civ. Dei, X, 20), the “highest and true sacrifice” (summum verumque sacrificium), Christ being at once “priest and victim” (ipse offerens, ipse et oblatio) and he reminds the Jews (Adv. Jud, ix, 13) that the sacrifice of Malachias is now made in every place (in omni loco offerri sacrificium Christianorum). He relates of his mother Monica (Confess., ix, 13) that she had asked for prayers at the altar (ad altare) for her soul and had attended Mass daily. From Augustine onwards the current of the Church’s tradition flows smoothly along in a well-ordered channel, without check or disturbance, through the Middle Ages to our own time. Even the powerful attempt made to stem it through the Reformation had no effect.
A briefer demonstration of the existence of the Mass is the so-called proof from prescription, which is thus formulated: A sacrificial rite in the Church which is older than the oldest attack made on it by heretics cannot be decried as “idolatry”, but must be referred back to the Founder of Christianity as a rightful heritage of which He was the originator. Now the Church’s legitimate possession as regards the Mass can be traced back to the beginnings of Christianity. It follows that the Mass was Divinely instituted by Christ. Regarding the minor proposition, the proof of which alone concerns us here, we may begin at once with the Reformation, the only movement that utterly did away with the Mass. Psychologically, it is quite intelligible that men like Zwingli, Karlstadt and Oecolampadius should tear down the altars, for they denied Christ’s real presence in the Sacrament. Calvinism also in reviling the “papistical mass” which the Heidelberg catechism characterized as “cursed idolatry” was merely self-consistent since it admitted only a “dynamic” presence. It is rather strange on the other hand that, in spite of his belief in the literal meaning of the words of consecration, Luther, after a violent “nocturnal disputation with the devil“, in 1521, should have repudiated the Mass. But it is exactly these measures of violence that best show to what a depth the institution of the Mass had taken root by that time in Church and people. How long had it been taking root? The answer, to begin with is: all through the Middle Ages back to Photius, the originator of the Eastern Schism (869). Though Wycliffe protested against the teaching of the Council of Constance (1414-18), which maintained that the Mass could be proved from Scripture; and though the Albigenses and Waldenses claimed for the laity also the power to offer sacrifice (cf. Denzinger, “Enchir.”, 585 and 430), it is none the less true that even the schismatic Greeks held fast to the Eucharistic sacrifice as a precious heritage from their Catholic past. In the negotiations for reunion at Lyons (1274) and Florence (1439) they showed moreover that they had kept it intact; and they have faithfully safeguarded it to this day. From all which it is clear that the Mass existed in both Churches long before Photius, a conclusion borne out by the monuments of Christian antiquity.
Taking a long step backwards from the ninth to the fourth century, we come upon the Nestorians and Monophysites who were driven out of the Church during the fifth century at Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451). From that day to this they have celebrated in their solemn liturgy the sacrifice of the New Law, and since they could only have taken it with them from the old Christian Church, it follows that the Mass goes back in the Church beyond the time of Nestorianism and Monophysitism. Indeed, the first Nicene Council (325) in its celebrated eighteenth canon forbade priests to receive the Eucharist from the hands of deacons for the very obvious reason that “neither the canon nor custom have handed down to us, that those, who have not the power to offer sacrifice (prospherein) may give Christ’s body to those who offer (prospherousi)”. Hence it is plain that for the celebration of the Mass there was required the dignity of a special priesthood, from which the deacons as such were excluded. Since, however, the Nicene Council speaks of a “custom that takes us at once into the third century, we are already in the age of the Catacombs with their Eucharistic pictures, which according to the best founded opinions represent the liturgical celebration of the Mass. According to Wilpert, the oldest representation of the Holy Sacrifice is the “Greek Chapel” in the Catacomb of St. Priscilla (c. 150). The most convincing evidence, however, from those early days is furnished by the liturgies of the West and the East, the basic principles of which reach back to Apostolic times and in whch the sacrifical idea of the Eucharistic celebration found unadulterated and decisive expression (see LITURGIES). We have therefore traced the Masses from the present to the earliest times, thus establishing its Apostolic origin, which in turn goes back again to the Last Supper.
II. THE NATURE OF THE MASS
In its denial of the true Divinity of Christ and of every supernatural institution, modern unbelief endeavours, by means of he so-called historico-religious method, to explain the character of the Eucharist and the Eucharist sacrifice as the natural result of a spontaneous process of development in the Christian religion. In this connection it is interesting to observe how these different and conflicting hypotheses refute one another, with the rather startling result at the end of it all that a new, great, and insoluble problem looms of the investigation. While some discover the roots of the Mass in the Jewish funeral feasts (O. Holtzmann) or in Jewish Essenism (Bousset, Heitmuller, Wernle), others delve in the underground strata of pagan religions. Here, however, a rich variety of hypotheses is placed at their disposal. In this age of Pan-Babylonism it is not at all surprising that the germinal ideas of the Christian communion should be located in Babylon, where in the Adapa myth (on the tablet of Tell Amarna) mention has been found of “water of life” and “food of life” (Zimmern). Others (e.g. Brandt) fancy they have found a still more striking analogy in the “bread and water” (Patha and Mambuha) of the Mandaean religion. The view most widely held today among upholders of the historico-religious theory is that the Eucharist and the Mass originated in the practices of the Persian Mithraism (Dieterich, H. T. Holtzmann, Pfleiderer, Robertson, etc.). “In the Mandaean mass” writes Cumont (“Mysterien des Mithra”, Leipzig, 1903, p.118), “the celebrant consecrated bread and water, which he mixed with perfumed Haoma-juice, and ate this food while performing the functions of divine service”. Tertullian in anger ascribed this mimicking of Christian rites to the “devil” and observed in astonishment (De prescript haeret, C. xl): “celebrat (Mithras) et panis oblationem.” This is not the place to criticize in detail these wild creations of an overheated imagination. Let it suffice to note that all these explanations necessarily lead to impenetrable night, as long as men refuse to believe in the true Divinity of Christ, who commanded that His bloody sacrifice on the Cross should be daily renewed by an unbloody sacrifice of His Body and Blood in the Mass under the simple elements of bread and wine. This alone is the origin and nature of the Mass.
A. The Physical Character of the Mass
In regard to the physical character there arises not only the question as to the concrete portions of the liturgy, in which the real offering lies hidden, but also the question regarding the relation of the Mass to the bloody sacrifice of the Cross. To begin with the latter question as much the more important, Catholics and believing Protestants alike acknowledge that as Christians we venerate in the bloody sacrifice of the Cross the one, universal, absolute Sacrifice for the salvation of the world. And this indeed is true in a double sense first, because among all the sacrifices of the past and future the Sacrifice on the Cross alone stands without any relation to, and absolutely independent of, any other sacrifice, a complete totality and unity in itself; second because every grace, means of grace and sacrifice, whether belonging to the Jewish, Christian or pagan economy, derive their whole undivided strength, value, and efficiency singly and alone from this absolute sacrifice on the Cross. The first consideration implies that all the sacrifices of the Old Testament, as well as the Sacrifice of the Mass, bear the essential mark of relativity, in so far as they are necessarily related to the Sacrifice of the Cross, as the periphery of a circle to the centre. From the second consideration it follows that all other Sacrifices, the Mass included, are empty, barren and void of effect, so far and so long as they are not supplied from the mainstream of merits (due to the suffering) of the Crucified. Let us deal briefly with this double relationship.
Regarding the qualification of relativity, which adheres to every sacrifice other than the sacrifice of the Cross, there is no doubt that the sacrifices of the Old Testament by their figurative forms and prophetic significance point to the sacrifice of the Cross as their eventual fulfilment. The Epistle to the Hebrews (viii-x) in particular develops grandly the figurative character of the Old Testament. Not only was the Levitie priesthood, as a “shadow of the things to come” a faint type of the high priesthood of Christ, but the complex sacrificial cult, broadly spread out in its parts, prefigured the one sacrifice of the Cross. Serving only the legal “cleansing of the flesh” the Levitical sacrifices could effect no true “forgiveness of sins”; by their very inefficacy however they point prophetically to the perfect Sacrifice of propitiation on Golgotha. Just for that reason their continual repetition as well as their great diversity was essential to them, as a means of keeping alive in the Jews the yearning for the true sacrifice of expiation which the future was to bring. This longing was satiated only by the single Sacrifice of the Cross, which was never again to be repeated. Naturally the Mass, too, if it is to have the character of a legitimate sacrifice must be in accord with this inviolable rule, no longer Indeed as a type prophetic of future things, but rather as the living realization and renewal of the past. Only the Last Supper, standing midway as it were between the figure and its fulfilment, still looked to the future, in so far as it was an anticipatory commemoration of the sacrifice of the Cross. In the discourse in which the Eucharist was instituted, the “giving of the body” and the “Shedding of the Blood” were of necessity related to the physical separation of the blood from the body on the Cross, without which the sacramental immolation of Christ at the Last Supper would be inconceivable. The Fathers of the Church, such as Cyprian (Ep., lxiii, 9), Ambrose (De offic., I, xlviii), Augustine (Contra Faust., XX, xviii) and Gregory the Great (Dial., IV, lviii), insist that the Mass in its essential nature must be that which Christ Himself characterized as a “commemoration” of Him (Luke, xxii, 19) and Paul as the “showing of the death of the Lord” (I Cor, xi, 26).
Regarding the other aspect of the Sacrifice on the Cross, viz. the impossibility of its renewal, its singleness and its power, Paul again proclaimed with energy that Christ on the Cross definitively redeemed the whole world, in that he “by His own Blood, entered once into the holier having obtained eternal redemption” (Heb., ix 12). This does not mean that mankind is suddenly and without the action of its own will brought back to the state of innocence in Paradise and set above the necessity of working to secure for itself the fruits of redemption. Otherwise children would be in no need of baptism nor adults of justifying faith to win eternal happiness. The “completion” spoken of by Paul can therefore refer only to the objective side of redemption, which does not dispense with, but on the contrary requires, the proper subjective disposition. The sacrifice once offered on the Cross filled the infinite reservoirs to overflowing with healing waters but those who thirst after justice must come with their chalices and draw out what they need to quench their thirst. In this important distinction between objective and subjective redemption, which belongs to the essence of Christianity, lies not merely the possibility, but also the justification of the Mass. But here unfortunately Catholics and Protestants part company. The latter can see in the Mass only a “denial of the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ“. This is a wrong view, for if the Mass can do and does no more than convey the merits of Christ to mankind by means of a sacrifice exactly as the sacraments do it without the use of sacrifice, it stands to reason that the Mass is neither a second independent sacrifice alongside of the sacrifice on the Cross, nor a substitute whereby the sacrifice on the Cross is completed or its value enhanced.
The only distinction between the Mass and the sacrament lies in this: that the latter applies to the individual the fruits of the Sacrifice on the Cross by simple distribution, the other by a specific offering. In both, the Church draws upon the one Sacrifice on the Cross. This is and remains the one Sun, that gives life, light and warmth to everything; the sacraments and the Mass are only the planets that revolve round the central body. Take the Sun away and the Mass is annihilated not one whit less than the sacraments. On the other hand, without these two the Sacrifice on the Cross would reign as independently as, conceivably the sun without the planets. The Council of Trent (Sess. XXII, can. iv) therefore rightly protested against the reproach that “the Mass is a blasphemy against or a derogation from the Sacrifice on the Cross” (cf. Denzinger, “Enchir.”, 951). Must not the same reproach be cast upon the Sacraments also? Does it not apply to baptism and communion among Protestants? And how can Christ Himself put blasphemy and darkness in the way of His Sacrifice on the Cross when He Himself is the High Priest, in whose name and by whose commission His human representative offers sacrifice with the words: “This is my Body, this is my Blood”? It is the express teaching of the Church (cf. Trent, Sess. XXII, i) that the Mass is in its very nature a “representation” (representatio), a “commemoration” (memoria) and an “application” (applicatio) of the Sacrifice of the Cross. When indeed the Roman Catechism (II, c. iv, Q. 70) as a fourth relation, adopts the daily repetition (instauratio), it means that such a repetition is to be taken not in the sense of multiplication, but simply of an application of the merits of the Passion. Just as the Church repudiates nothing so much as the suggestion that by the Mass the sacrifice on the Cross is as it were set aside, so she goes a step farther and maintains the essential identity of both sacrifices, holding that the main difference between them is in the different manner of sacrifice — the one bloody the other unbloody (Trent, Sess. XXII, ii): “Una enim eademque est hostia idem nunc offerens sacerdotum ministerio, qui seipsum tunc in cruce obtulit, sofa offerendi ratione diversa”. In as much as the sacrificing priest (offerens) and the sacrificial victim (hostia) in both sacrifices are Christ Himself, their same amounts even to a numerical identity. In regard to the manner of the sacrifice (offerendi ratio) on the other hand, it is naturally a question only of a specific identity or unity that includes the possibility of ten, a hundred, or a thousand masses.
B. The Constituent Parts of the Mass
Turning now to the other question as to the constituent parts of the liturgy of the Mass in which the real sacrifice is to be looked for we need only take into consideration its three chief parts: the Offertory, the Consecration and the Communion. The antiquated view of Johann Eck, according to which the act of sacrifice was comprised in the prayer “Unde et memores . . . offerimus”, is thus excluded from our discussion, as is also the of Melchior Canus, who held that the sacrifice is accomplished in the symbolical ceremony of the breaking of the Host and its commingling with the Chalice. The question therefore arises first: Is the sacrifice comprised in the Offertory? From the wording of the prayer this much at least is clear that bread and wine constitute the secondary sacrificial elements of the Mass, since the priest in the true language of sacrifice, offers to God bread as an unspotted host (immaculatam hostiam) and wine as the chalice of salvation (calicem salutaris). But the very significance of this language proves that attention is mainly directed to the prospective transubstantiation of the Eucharistic elements. Since the Mass is not a mere offering of bread and wine, like the figurative food offering of Melchisedech, it is clear that only the Body and Blood of Christ can be the primary matter of the sacrifice as was the case at the Last Supper (cf. Trent, Sess. XXII, i, can. 2; Denzinger, n. 938, 949). Consequently the sacrifice is not in the Offertory. Does it consist then in the priest’s Communion? There were and are theologians who favour that view. They can be ranged in two classes, according as they see in the Communion the essential or the co-essentlal.
Those who belong to the first category (Dominicus Soto, Renz, Bellord) had to beware of the heretical doctrine proscribed by the Council of Trent (Sess. XXII, can. 1), viz., that Mass and Communion were identical. In American and English circles the so-called “banquet theory” of the late Bishop Bellord once created some stir (cf. The Ecclesiastical Review, XXXIII, 1905, 258 sq ). According to that view, the essence of the sacrifice was not to be looked for in the offering of a gift to God, but solely in the Communion. Without communion there was no sacrifice. Regarding pagan sacrifices Döllinger (“Heidentum und Judentum”, Ratisbon 1857) had already demonstrated the incompatibility of this view. With the complete shedding of blood pagan sacrifices ended, so that the supper which sometimes followed it was expressive merely of the satisfaction felt at the reconciliation with gods. Even the horrible human sacrifices had as their object the death of the victim only and not a cannibal feast. As to the Jews, only a few Levitical sacrifices, such as the peace offering, had feasting connected with them; most, and especially the burnt offerings (holocausta), were accomplished without feasting (cf. Levlt., vi, 9 sq.). Bishop Bellord, having cast in his lot with the “banquet theory”, could naturally find the essence of the Mass in the priests’ Communion only. He was indeed logically bound to allow that the Crucifixion itself had the character of a sacrifice only in conjunction with the Last Supper, at which alone food was taken; for the Crucifixion excluded any ritual food offering. These disquieting consequences are all the more serious in that they are devoid of any scientific basis.
Harmless, even though improbable, is that other view (Bellarmine, De Lugo, Tournely, etc.) which includes the Communion as at least a co-essential factor in the constitution of the Mass; for the consumption of the Host and of the contents of the Chalice, being a kind of destruction, would appear to accord with the conception of the sacrifice developed above. But only in appearance; for the sacrificial transformation of the victim must take place on the altar, and not in the body of the celebrant, while the partaking of the two elements can at most represent the burial and not the sacrificial death of Christ. The Last Supper also would have been a true sacrifice only on condition that Christ had given the Communion not only to His apostles but also to Himself. There is however no evidence that such a Communion ever took place, probable as it may appear. For the rest, the Communion of the priest is not the sacrifice, but only the completion of, and participation in, the sacrifice, it belongs therefore not to the essence, but to the integrity of the sacrifice. And this integrity is also preserved absolutely even in the so-called “private Mass” at which the priest alone communicates; private Masses are allowed for that reason (cf. Trent, Sess. XXII, can. 8). When the Jansenist Synod of Pistoia (1786), proclaiming the false principle that “participation in the sacrifice is essential to the sacrifice”, demanded at least the making of a “spiritual communion” on the part of the faithful as a condition of allowing private Masses, it was denied by Pius VI in his Bull “Auctorem fidei” (1796) (see Denzinger, n. 1528).
After the elimination of the Offertory and Communion, there remains only the Consecration as the part in which the true sacrifice is to be sought. In reality, that part alone is to be regarded as the proper sacrificial act which is such by Christ’s own institution. Now the Lord’s words are: “This is my Body; this is my Blood.” The Oriental Epiklesis cannot be considered as the moment of consecration for the reason that it is absent in the Mass in the West and is known to have first come into practice after Apostolic times (see EUCHARIST). The sacrifice must also be at the point where Christ personally appears as High Priest and human celebrant acts only as his representative. The priest does not however assume the personal part of Christ either at the Offertory or Communion. He only does so when he speaks the words: “This is My Body; this is My Blood”, in which there is no possible reference to the body and blood of the celebrant. While the Consecration as such can be shown with certainty to be the act of Sacrifice, the necessity of the twofold consecration can be demonstrated only as highly probable. Not only older theologlans such as Frassen, Gotti, and Bonacina, but also later theologians such as Schouppen, Stentrup and Fr. Schmid, have supported the untenable theory that when one of the consecrated elements is invalid, such as barley bread or cider, the consecration of the valid element not only produces the Sacrament, but also the (mutilated) sacrifice. Their chief argument is that the sacrament in the Eucharist is inseparable in idea from the sacrifice. But they entirely overlooked the fact that Christ positively prescribed the twofold conscration for the sacrifice of the Mass (not for the sacrament), and especially the fact that in the consecration of one element only the intrinsically essential relation of the Mass to the sacrifice of the Cross is not symbolically represented. Since it was no mere death from suffocation that Christ suffered, but a bloody death, in which His veins were emptied of their Blood, this condition of separation must receive visible representation on the altar, as in a sublime drama. This condition is fulfilled only by the double consecration, which brings before our eyes the Body and the Blood in the state of separation, and thus represents the mystical shedding of blood. Consequently, the double consecration is an absolutely essential element of the Mass as a relative sacrifice.
B. The Metaphysical Character of the Sacrifice of the Mass
The physical essence of the Mass having been established in the consecration of the two species, the metaphysical question arises as to whether and in what degree the scientific concept of sacrifice is realized in this double consecration. Since the three ideas, sacrificing priest, sacrificial gift, and sacrificial object, present no difficulty to the understanding, the problem is finally seen to lie entirely in the determination of the real sacrificial act (actio sacrifica), and indeed not so much in the form of this act as in the matter, since the glorified Victim, in consequence of Its impassibility, cannot be really transformed, much less destroyed. In their investigation of the idea of destruction, the post-Tridentine theologians have brought into play all their acuteness, often with brilliant results, and have elaborated a series of theories concerning the Sacrifice of the Mass, of which, however, we can discuss only the most notable and important. But first, that we may have at hand a reliable, critical standard wherewith to test the validity or invalidity of the various theories, we maintain that a sound and satisfactory theory must satisfy the following four conditions:
the twofold consecration must show not only the relative, but also the absolute moment of sacrifice, so that the Mass will not consist in a mere relation, but will be revealed as in itself a real sacrifice;
the act of sacrifice (actio sacrifica), veiled in the double consecration, must refer directly to the sacrificial matter — i.e. the Eucharistic Christ Himself — not to the elements of bread and wine or their unsubstantial species;
the sacrifice of Christ must somehow result in a kenosis, not in a glorification, since this latter is at most the object of the sacrifice, not the sacrifice itself;
since this postulated kenosis, however, can be no real, but only a mystical or sacramental one, we must appraise intelligently those moments which approximate in any degree the “mystical slaying” to a real exinanition, instead of rejecting them.
With the aid of these four criteria it is comparatively easy to arrive at a decision concerning the probability or otherwise of the different theories concerning the sacrifice of the Mass.
(i) The Jesuit Gabriel Vasquez, whose theory was supported by Perrone in the last century, requires for the essence of an absolute sacrifice only — and thus, in the present case, for the Sacrifice of the Cross — a true destruction or the real slaying of Christ, whereas for the idea of the relative sacrifice of the Mass it suffices that the former slaying on the Cross be visibly represented in the separation of Body and Blood on the altar. This view soon found a keen critic in Cardinal de Lugo, who, appealing to the Tridentine definition of the Mass as a true and proper sacrifice, upbraided Vasquez for reducing the Mass to a purely relative sacrifice. Were Jephta to arise again today with his daughter from the grave, he argues (De Euchar, disp. xix, sect. 4, n. 58), and present before our eyes a living dramatic reproduction of the slaying of his daughter after the fashion of a tragedy, we would undoubtedly see before us not a true sacrifice, but a historic or dramatic representation of the former bloody sacrifice. Such may indeed satisfy the notion of a relative sacrifice, but certainly not the notion of the Mass which includes in itself both the relative and the absolute (in opposition to the merely relative) sacrificial moment. If the Mass is to be something more than an Ober-Ammergau Passion Play, then not only must Christ appear in His real personality on the altar, but He must also be in some manner really sacrificed on that very altar. The theory of Vasquez thus fails to fulfil the first condition which we have named above.
To a certain extent the opposite of Vasquez’s theory is that of Cardinal Cienfuegos, who, while exaggerating the absolute moment of the Mass, undervalues the equally essential relative moment of the sacrifice. The sacrificial destruction of the Eucharistic Christ he would find in the voluntary suspension of the powers of sense (especially of sight and hearing), which the sacramental mode of existence implies, and which lasts from the consecration to the mingling of the two Species. But, apart from the fact that one may not constitute a hypothetical theologumenon the basis of a theory, one can no longer from such a standpoint successfully defend the indispensability of the double consecration. Equally difficult is it to find in the Eucharistic Christ’s voluntary surrender of his sensitive functions the relative moment of sacrifice, i.e. the representation of the bloody sacrifice of the Cross. The standpoint of Suarez, adopted by Scheeben, is both exalting and imposing; the real transformation of the sacrificial gifts he refers to the destruction of the Eucharistic elements (in virtue of the transubstantiation) at their conversion into the Precious Body and Blood of Christ (immulatio perfectiva), just as, in the sacrifice of incense in the Old Testament, the grains of incense were transformed by fire into the higher and more precious form of the sweetest odour and fragrance. But, since the antecedent destruction of the substance of bread and wine can by no means be regarded as the sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ, Suarez is finally compelled to identify the substantial production of the Eucharistic Victim with the sacrificing of the same. Herein is straightway revealed a serious weakness, already clearly perceived by De Lugo. For the production of a thing can never be identical with its sacrifice; otherwise one might declare the gardener’s production of plants or the farmer’s raising of cattle a sacrifice. Thus, the idea of kenosis which in the minds of all men is intimately linked with the notion of sacrifice, and which we have given above as our third condition, is wanting in the theory of Suarez. To offer something as a sacrifice always means to divest oneself of it, even though this self-divestment may finally lead to exaltation.
In Germany the profound, but poorly developed theory of Valentin Thalhofer found great favour. We need not, however, develop it here, especially since it rests on the false basis of a supposed “heavenly sacrifice” of Christ, which, as the virtual continuation of the Sacrifice of the Cross, becomes a temporal and spatial phenomenon in the Sacrifice of the Mass. But, as practically all other theologians teach, the existence of this heavenly sacrifice (in the strict sense) is only a beautiful theological dream, and at any rate cannot be demonstrated from the Epistle to the Hebrews.
(ii) Disavowing the above-mentioned theories concerning the Sacrifice of the Mass, theologians of today are again seeking a closer approximation to the pre-Tridentine conception, having realized that post-Tridentine theology had perhaps for polemical reasons needlessly exaggerated the idea of destruction in the sacrifice. The old conception, which our catechisms even today proclaim to the people as the most natural and intelligible, may be fearlessly declared the patristic and traditional view; its restoration to a position of general esteem is the service of Father Billot (De sacram., I, 4th ed., Rome, 1907, pp. 567 sqq.). Since this theory refers the absolute moment of the sacrifice to the (active) “sacramental mystical slaying”, and the relative to the (passive) “separation of Body and Blood”, it has indeed made the “two-edged sword” of the double consecration the cause from which the double character of the Mass as an absolute (real in itself) and relative sacrifice proceeds. We have an absolute sacrifice, for the Victim is — not indeed in specie propria, but in specie aliena — sacramentally slain, we have also a relative sacrifice, since the sacramental separation of Body and Blood represents perceptibly the former shedding of Blood on the Cross.
While this view meets every requirement of the metaphysical nature of the Sacrifice of the Mass, we do not think it right to reject offhand the somewhat more elaborate theory of Lessius instead of utilizing it in the spirit of the traditional view for the extension of the idea of a “mystical slaying”. Lessius (De perfect. moribusque div. XII, xiii) goes beyond the old explanation by adding the not untrue observation that the intrinsic force of the double consecration would have as result an actual and true shedding of blood on the altar, if this were not per accidens impossible in consequence of the impassibility of the transfigured Body of Christ. Since ex vi verborum the consecration of the bread makes really present only the Body, and the consecration of the Chalice only the Blood, the tendency or the double consecration is towards a formal exclusion of the Blood from the Body. The mystical slaying thus approaches nearer to a real destruction and the absolute sacrificial moment of the Mass receives an important confirmation. In the light of this view, the celebrated statement of St. Gregory of Nazianzus becomes of special importance (“Ep. clxxi, ad Amphil.” in P. G., XXXVII, 282): “Hesitate not to pray for me . . . when with bloodless stroke [anaimakto tome] thou separatest [temnes] the Body and Blood of the Lord; having speech as a sword [phonen echon to Xiphos].” As an old pupil of Cardinal Franzelin (De Euchar., p. II, thes. xvi, Rome, 1887), the present writer may perhaps speak a good word for the once popular, but recently combatted theory of Cardinal De Hugo, which Franzelin revived after a long period of neglect; not however that he intends to proclaim the theory in its present form as entirely satisfactory, since, with much to recommend it, it has also serious defects. We believe, however, that this theory, like that of Lessius, might be most profitably utilized to develop, supplement, and deepen the traditional view. Starting from the principle that the Eucharistic destruction can be, not a physical but only a moral one, De Lugo finds this exinanition in the voluntary reduction of Christ to the condition of food (reductio ad statum cibi el potus), in virtue of which the Saviour, after the fashion of lifeless food, leaves himself at the mercy of mankind. That this is really equivalent to a true kenosis no one can deny. Herein the Christian pulpit has at its disposal a truly inexhaustible source of lofty thoughts wherewith to illustrate in glowing language the humility and love, the destitution and defencelessness of Our Saviour under the sacramental veil, His magnanimous submission to irreverence, dishonour, and sacrilege, and wherewith to emphasize that even today that fire of self-sacrifice which once burned on the Cross, still sends forth its tongues of flame in a mysterious manner from the Heart of Jesus to our altars. While, in this incomprehenslble condescension, the absolute moment of sacrifice is disclosed in an especially striking manner, one is reluctantly compelled to recognize the absence of two of the other requisites: in the first place, the necessity of the double consecration is not made properly apparent, since a single consecration would suffice to produce the condition of food, would therefore achieve the sacrifice; secondly, the reduction to the state of articles of food reveals not the faintest analogy to the blood — shedding on the Cross, and thus the relative moment of the Sacrifice of the Mass is not properly dealt with. De Lugo’s theory seems, therefore, of no service in this connection. It renders, howover, the most useful service in extending the traditional idea of a “mystical slaying”, since indeed the reduction of Christ to food is and purports to be nothing else than the preparation of the mystically slain Victim for the sacrificial feast in the Communion of the priest and the faithful.
III. THE CAUSALITY OF THE MASS
In this section we shall treat: (a) the effects (effectus) of the Sacrifice of the Mass, which practically coincide with the various ends for which the Sacrifice is offered, namely adoration, thanksgiving, impetration, and expiation; (b) the manner of its efficacy (modus efliciendi), which lies in part objectively in the Sacrifice of the Mass itself (ex opere operato), and partly depends subjectively on the personal devotion and piety of man (ex opere operantis).
A. The Effects of the Sacrifice of the Mass
The Reformers found themselves compelled to reject entirely the Sacrifice of the Mass, since they recognized the Eucharist merely as a sacrament. Both their views were founded on the reflection, properly appraised above that the Bloody Sacrifice of the Cross was the sole Sacrifice of Christ and of Christendom and thus does not admit of the Sacrifice of the Mass. As a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving in the symbolical or figurative sense, they had earlier approved of the Mass, and Melanchthon resented the charge that Protestants had entirely abolished it. What they most bitterly opposed was the Catholic doctrine that the Mass is a sacrifice not only of praise and thanksgiving, but also of impetration and atonement, whose fruits may benefit others, while it is evident that a sacrament as such can profit merely the recipient. Here the Council of Trent interposed with a definition of faith (Sess. XXII, can. iii): “If any one saith, that the Mass is only a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. . . but not a propitiatory sacrifice; or, that it profits only the recipient, and that it ought not to be offered for the living and the dead for sins, punishments, satisfactions, and other necessities; let him be anathema” (Denzinger, n. 950). In this canon, which gives a summary of all the sacrificial effects in order, the synod emphasizes the propitiatory and impetratory nature of the sacrifice. Propitiation (propitiatio) and petition (impetratio) are distinguishable from each other, in as much as the latter appeals to the goodness and the former to the mercy of God. Naturally, therefore, they differ also as regards their objects, since, while petition is directed towards our spiritual and temporal concerns and needs of every kind, propitiation refers to our sins (peccata) and to the temporal punishments (poenae), which must be expiated by works of penance or satisfaction (satisfactiones) in this life, or otherwise by a corresponding suffering in purgatory. In all these respects the impetratory and expiatory Sacrifice of the Mass is of the greatest utility, both for the living and the dead.
Should a Biblical foundation for the Tridentine doctrine be asked for, we might first of all argue in general as follows: Just as there were in the Old Testament, in addition to sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, propitiatory and impetratory sacrifices (cf. Lev., iv. sqq ; II Kings, xxiv, 21 sqq., etc.), the New Testament, as its antitype, must also have a sacrifice which serves and suffices for all these objects. But, according to the prophecy of Malachias, this is the Mass, which is to be celebrated by the Church in all places and at all times. Consequently, the Mass is the impetratory and propitiatory sacrifice. As for special reference to the propitiatory character, the record of instituation states expressly that the Blood of Christ is in the chalice “unto remission of sins” (Matt., xxvi, 28).
The chief source of our doctrine, however, is tradition, which from the earliest times declares the impetratory value of the Sacrifice of the Mass. According to Tertullian (Ad scapula, ii), the Christians sacrificed “for the welfare of the emperor” (pro salute imperatoris); according to Chrysostom (Hom. xxi in Act. Apost., n. 4), “for the fruits of the earth and other needs”. St Cyril of Jerusalem (d .386)) describes the liturgy of the Mass of his day as follows (“Catech. myst.” v, n. 8, in P. G., XXXIII, 1115): “After the spritual Sacrifice [pneumatike thysia], the unbloody service [anaimaktos latreia] is completed; we pray to God, over this sacrifice of propitiation [epi tes thysias ekeines tou ilasmou] for the universal peace of the churches, for the proper guidance of the world, for the emperor, soldiers and companions, for the infirm and the sick, for those stricken with trouble, and in general for all in need of help we pray and offer up this sacrifice [tauten prospheromen ten thysian]. We then commemorate the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, that God may, at their prayers and intercessions graciously accept our supplication. We afterwards pray for the dead . . . since we believe that it will be of the greatest advantage [megisten onesin esesthai], if we in the sight of the holy and most awesome Victim [tes hagias kai phrikodestates thysias] discharge our prayers for them. The Christ, who was slain for our sins, we sacrifice [Christon esphagmenon yper ton emeteron amartematon prospheromen] to propitiate the merciful God for those who are gone before and for ourselves.” This beautiful passage, which reads like a modern prayer-book, is of interest in more than one connection. It proves in the first place that Christian antiquity recognized the offering up of the Mass for the deceased, exactly as the Church today recognizes requiem Masses — a fact which is confirmed by other independent witnesses, e.g. Tertullian (De monog., x), Cyprian (Ep. lxvi, n. 2), and Augustine (Confess., ix, 12). In the second place, it informs us that our so-called Masses of the Saints also had their prototype among the primitive Christians, and for this view we likewise find other testimonies — e.g. Tertullian (De Cor., iii) and Cyprian (Ep. xxxix, n. 3). By a Saint’s Mass is meant, not the offering up of the Sacrifice of the Mass to a saint which would be impossible without most shameful idolatry, but a sacrifice, which, while offered to God alone, on the one hand thanks Him for the triumphal coronation of the saints, and on the other aims at procuring for us the saint’s efficacious intercession with God. Such is the authentic explanation of the Council of Trent (Sess. XXII cap, iii, in Denzinger, n. 941). With this threefold limitation, Masses “in honour of the saints” are certainly no base “deception”, but are morally allowable, as the Council of Trent specifically declares (loc. cit. can. v); “If any one saith, that it is an imposture to celebrate masses in honour of the saints and for obtaining their intercession with God, as the Church intends, let him be anathema“. The general moral permissibility of invoking the intercession of the saints, concerning which this is not the place to speak, is of course assumed in the present instance.
While adoration and thanksgiving are effects of the Mass which relate to God alone, the success of impetration and expiation on the other hand reverts to man. These last two effects are thus also called by theologians the “fruits of the Mass” (fructus missae) and this distinction leads us to the discussion of the difficult and frequently asked question as to whether we are to impute infinite or finite value to the Sacrifice of the Mass. This question is not of the kind which may be answered with a simple yes or no. For, apart from the already indicated distinction between adoration and thanksgiving on the one hand and impetration and expiation on the other, we must also sharply distinguish between the intrinsic and the extrinsic value of the Mass (valor intrinsecus, extrinsecus). As for its intrinsic value, it seems beyond doubt that, in view of the infinite worth of Christ as the Victim and High Priest in one Person, the sacrifice must be regarded as of infinite value, just as the sacrifice of the Last Supper and that of the Cross. Here however, we must once more strongly emphasize the fact that the ever-continued sacrificial activity of Christ in Heaven does not and cannot serve to accumulate fresh redemptory merits and to assume new objective value; it simply stamps into current coin, so to speak, the redemptory merits definitively and perfectly obtained in the Sacrifice of the Cross, and sets them into circulation among mankind. This also is the teaching of the Council of Trent (Sess. XXII cap. ii): “of which bloody oblation the fruits are most abundantly obtained through this unbloody one [the Mass].” For, even in its character of a sacrifice of adoration and thanksgiving, the Mass draws its whole value and all Its power only from the Sacrifice of the Cross which Christ makes of unceasing avail in Heaven (cf. Rom. viii, 34; Heb., vii, 25). There is, however, no reason why this intrinsic value of the Mass derived from the Sacrifice of the Cross, in so far as it represents a sacrifice of adoration and thanksgiving, should not also operate outwardly to the full extent of its infinity, for it seems inconceivable that the Heavenly Father could accept with other than infinite satisfaction the sacrifice of His only-begotten Son. Consequently God, as Malachias had already prophesied, is in a truly infinite degree honoured, glorified, and praised in the Mass; through Our Lord Jesus Christ he is thanked by men for all his benefits in an infinite manner, in a manner worthy of God.
But when we turn to the Mass as a sacrifice of impetration and expiation, the case is different. While we must always regard its intrinsic value as infinite, since it is the sacrifice of the God-Man Himself, its extrinsic value must necessarily be finite in consequence of the limitations of man. The scope of the so-called “fruits of the Mass” is limited. Just as a tiny chip of wood can not within it the whole energy of the sun, so also, and in a still greater degree, is man incapable of converting the boundless value of the impetratory and expiatory sacrifice into an infinite effect for his soul. Wherefore, in practice, the impetratory value of the sacrifice is always as limited as is its propitiatory and satisfactory value. The greater or less measure of the fruits derived will naturally depend very much on the pesonal efforts and worthiness, the devotion and fervour of those who celebrate or are present at Mass. This limitation of the fruits of the Mass must, however, not be misconstrued to mean that the presence of a large congregation causes a diminution of the benefits derived from the Sacrifice by the individual, as if such benefits were after some fashion divided into so many aliquot parts. Neither the Church nor the Christian people has any tolerance for the false principle: “The less the number of the faithful in the church, the richer the fruits”. On the contrary the Bride of Christ desires for every Mass a crowded church, being rightly convinced that from the unlimited treasures of the Mass much more grace win result to the individual from a service participated in by a full congregation, than from one attended merely by a few of the faithful. This relative infinite value refers indeed only to the general fruit of the Mass (fructus generalis), and not to the special (fructus specialis) two terms whose distinction will be more clearly characterized below. Here, however, we may remark that by the special fruit of the Mass is meant that for the application of which according to a special intention a priest may accept a stipend.
The question now arises whether in this connection the applicable value of the Mass is to be regarded as finite or infinite (or, more accurately, unlimited). This question is of importance in view of the practical consequences it involves. For, if we decide in favour of the unlimited value, a single Mass celebrated for a hundred persons or intentions is as efficacious as a hundred Masses celebrated for a single person or intention. On the other hand, it is clear that, if we incline towards a finite value, the special fruit is divided pro rata among the hundred persons. In their quest for a solution of this question, two classes of theologians are distinguished according to their tendencies: the minority (Gotti, Billuart, Antonio Bellarini, etc.) are inclined to uphold the certainty or at least the probability of the former view, arguing that the infinite dignity of the High Priest Christ can not be limited by the finite sacrificial activity of his human representative. But, since the Church has entirely forbidden as a breach of strict justice that a priest should seek to fulfil, by reading a single Mass, the obligations imposed by several stipends (see Denzinger, n. 1110) these theologians hasten to admit that their theory is not to be translated into practice, unless the priest applies as many individual Masses for all the intentions of the stipend-givers as he has received stipends. But in as much as the Church has spoken of strict justice (justitia commutativa), the overwhelming majority of theologians incline even theoretically to the conviction that the satisfactory — and, according to many, also the propitiatory and impetratory — value of a Mass for which a stipend has been taken, is so strictly circumscribed and limited from the outset, that it accrues pro rata (according to the greater or less number of the living or the dead for whom the Mass is offered) to each of the individuals. Only on such a hypothesis is the custom prevailing among the faithful of having several Masses celebrated for the deceased or for their intentions intelligible. Only on such a hypothesis can one explain the widely established “Mass Association”, a pious union whose members voluntarily bind themselves to read or get read at least one Mass annually for the poor souls in purgatory. As early as the eighth century we find in Germany a so-called “Totenbund” (see Pertz, “Monum. Germaniae hist.: Leg.”, II, i, 221). But probably the greatest of such societies is the Messbund of Ingolstadt, founded in 1724; it was raised to a confraternity (Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception) on 3 Feb., 1874, and at present counts 680,000 members (cf. Beringer, “Die Ablasse, ihr Wesen u. ihr Gebrauch”, 13th ed., Paderborn, 1906, pp. 610 sqq.). Tournely (De Euch. q. viii, a. 6) has also sought in favour of this view important internal grounds of probability, for example by adverting to the visible course of Divine Providence: all natural and supernatural effects in general are seen to be slow and gradual, not sudden or desultory, wherefore it is also the most holy intention of God that man should, by his personal exertions, strive through the medium of the greatest possible number of Masses to participate in the fruits of the Sacrifice of the Cross.
B. The Manner of Efficacy of the Mass
In theological phrase an effect “from the work of the action” (ex opere operato) signifies a grace conditioned exclusively by the objective bringing into activity of a cause of the supernatural order, in connection with which the proper disposition of the subject comes subsequently into account only as an indispensable antecedent condition (conditio sine qua non), but not as a real joint cause (concausa). Thus, for example, baptism by its mere ministration produces ex opere operato interior grace in each recipient of the sacrament who in his heart opposes no obstacle (obez) to the reception of the graces of baptism. On the other hand, all supernatural effects, which, presupposing the state of grace are accomplished by the personal actions and exertions of the subject (e.g. everything obtained by simple prayer), are called effects “from the work of the agent”; (ex opere operantis). we are now confronted with the difficult question: In what manner does the Eucharistic Sacrifice accomplish its effects and fruits? As the early scholastics gave scarcely any attention to this problem, we are indebted for almost all the light thrown upon it to the later scholastics.
(i) It is first of all necessary to make clear that in every sacrifice of the Mass four distinct categories of persons really participate.
At the head of all stands of course the High Priest, Christ Himself; to make the Sacrifice of the Cross fruitful for us and to secure its application, He offers Himself as a sacrifice, which is quite independent of the merits or demerits of the Church, the celebrant or the faithful present at the sacrifice, and is for these an opus operatum.
Next after Christ and in the second place comes the Church as a juridical person, who, according to the express teaching of the Council of Trent (Sess. XXII, cap. i), has received from the hands of her Divine Founder the institution of the Mass and also the commission to ordain constantly priests and to have celebrated by these the most venerable Sacrifice. This intermediate stage between Christ and the celebrant may be neither passed over nor eliminated, since a bad and immoral priest, as an ecclesiastical official, does not offer up his own sacrifice — which indeed could only be impure — but the immaculate Sacrifice of Christ and his spotless Bride, which can be soiled by no wickedness of the celebrant. But to this special sacrificial activity of the Church, offering up the sacrifice together with Christ, must also correspond a special ecclesiastico-human merit as a fruit, which, although in itself an opus operantis of the Church, is yet entirely independent of the worthiness of the celebrant and the faithful and therefore constitutes for these an opus operatum. When, however, as De Lugo rightly points out, an excommunicated or suspended priest celebrates in defiance of the prohibition of the Church, this ecclesiastieal merit is always lost, since such a priest no longer acts in the name and with the commission of the Church. His sacrifice is nevertheless valid, since, by virtue of his priestly ordination, he celebrates in the name of Christ, even though in opposition to His wishes, and, as the self-sacrifice of Christ, even such a Mass remains essentially a spotless and untarnished sacrifice before God. We are thus compelled to concur in another view of De Lugo, namely that the greatness and extent of this ecclesiastical service is dependent on the greater or less holiness of the reigning pope, the bishops, and the clergy throughout the World, and that for this reason in times of ecclesiastical decay and laxity of morals (especially at the papal court and among the episcopate) the fruits of the Mass, resulting from the sacrificial activity of the Church, might under certain circumstances easily be very small.
With Christ and His Church is associated in third place the celebrating priest, since he is the representative through whom the real and the mystical Christ offer up the sacrifice. If, therefore, the celebrant be a man of great personal devotion, holiness, and purity, there will accrue an additional fruit which will benefit not himself alone, but also those in whose favour he applies the Mass. The faithful are thus guided by sound instinct when they prefer to have Mass celebrated for their intentions by an upright and holy priest rather than by an unworthy one, since, in addition to the chief fruit of the Mass, they secure this special fruit which springs ex opera operantis, from the piety of the celebrant.
Finally, in the fourth place, must be mentioned those who participate actively in the Sacrifice of the Mass, e.g., the servers, sacristan, organist, singers, and the whole congregation joining in the sacrifice. The priest, therefore, prays also in their name: Offerimus (i.e. we offer). That the effect resulting from this (metaphorical) sacrificial activity is entirely dependent on the worthiness and piety of those taking part therein and thus results exclusively ex opere operantis is evident without further demonstration. The more fervent the prayer, the richer the fruit. Most intimate is the active participation in the Sacrifice of those who receive Holy Communion during the Mass since in their case the special fruits of the Communion are added to those of the Mass. Should sacramental Communion be impossible, the Council of Trent (Sess. XXII. cap. vi) advises the faithful to make at least a “spiritual communion” (spirituali effectu communicare), which consists in the ardent desire to receive the Eucharist. However, as we have already emphasized, the omission of real or spiritual Communion on the part of the faithful present does not render the Sacrifice of the Mass either invalid or unlawful, wherefore the Church even permits “private Masses”, which may on reasonable grounds be celebrated in a chapel with closed doors.
(ii) In addition to the active, there are also passive participators in the Sacrifice of the Mass. These are the persons in whose favour — it may be even without their knowledge and in opposition to their wishes — the Holy Sacrifice is offered. They fall into three categories: the community, the celebrant, and the person (or persons) for whom the Mass is specially applied. To each of these three classes corresponds ex opere operato a special fruit of the Mass, whether the same be an impetratory effect of the Sacrifice of Petition or a propitiatory and satisfactory effect of the Sacrifice of Expiation. Although the development of the teaching concerning the threefold fruit of the Mass begins only with Scotus (Quaest. quodlibet, xx), it is nevertheless based on the very essence of the Sacrifice itself. Since, according to the wording of the Canon of the Mass, prayer and sacrifice is offered for all those present, the whole Church, the pope, the diocesan bishop, the faithful living and dead, and even “for the salvation of the whole world”, there must first of all result a “general fruit” (fructus generalis) for all mankind, the bestowal of which lies immediately in the will of Christ and His Church, and can thus be frustrated by no contrary intention of the celebrant. In this fruit even the excommunicated, heretics, and infidels participate, mainly that their conversion may thus be effected. The second kind of fruit (fructus personalis, specialissimus) falls to the personal share of the celebrant, since it were unjust that he — apart from his worthiness and piety (opus operantis) — should come empty-handed from the sacrifice. Between these two fruits lies the third, the so-called “special fruit of the Mass” (fructus specialis, medius, or ministerialis), which is usually applied to particular living or deceased persons according to the intention of the celebrant or the donor of a stipend. This “application” rests so exclusively in the hands of the priest that even the prohibition of the Church cannot render it inefficacious, although the celebrant would in such a case sin through disobedience. For the existence of the special fruit of the Mass, rightly defended by Pius VI against the Jansenistic Synod of Pistoia (1786), we have the testimony also of Christian antiquity, which offered the Sacrifice for special persons and intentions. To secure in all cases the certain effect of this fructus specialis, Suarez (De Euch., disp. lxxix, Sect. 10) gives priests the wise advice that they should always add to the first a “second intention” (intentio secunda), which, should the first be inefficacious, will take its place.
(iii) A last and an entirely separate problem is afforded by the special mode of efficacy of the Sacrifice of Expiation. As an expiatory sacrifice, the Mass has the double function of obliterating actual sins, especially mortal sins (effectus stricte propitiatorius), and also of taking away, in the case of those already in the state of grace, such temporal punishments as may still remain to be endured (effectus satisfactorius). The main question is: Is this double effect ex opere operato produced mediately or immediately? As regards the actual forgiveness of sin, it must, in opposition to earlier theologians (Aragon, Casalis, Gregory of Valentia), be maintained as undoubtedly a certain principle, that the expiatory sacrifice of the Mass can never accomplish the forgiveness of mortal sins otherwise than by way of contrition and penance, and therefore only mediately through procuring the grace of conversion (cf. Council of Trent, Sess. XXII, cap. ii: “donum paenitentiae concedens”). With this limitation, however, the Mass is able to remit even the most grievous sins (Council of Trent, 1. c., “Crimina et peccata etiam ingentia dimittit”). Since, according to the present economy of salvation, no sin whatsoever, grievous or trifling, can be forgiven without an act of sorrow, we must confine the efficacy of the Mass, even in the case of venial sins, to obtaining for Christians the grace of contrition for less serious sins (Sess. XXII, cap. i). It is indeed this purely mediate activity which constitutes the essential distinction between the sacrifice and the sacrament. Could the Mass remit sins immediately ex opere operato, like Baptism or Penance, it would be a sacrament of the dead and cease to be a sacrifice (see SACRAMENT). Concerning the remission of the temporal punishment due to sin, however, which appears to be effected in an immediate manner, our judgment must be different. The reason lies in the intrinsic distinction between sin and its punishment. Without the personal cooperation and sorrow of the sinner, all forgiveness of sin by God is impossible; this cannot however be said of a mere remission of punishment. One person may validly discharge the debts or fines of another, even without apprising the debtor of his intention. The same rule may be applied to a just person, who, after his justification, is still burdened with temporal punishment consequent on his sins. It is certain that, only in this immediate way, can assistance be given to the poor souls in purgatory through the Sacrifice of the Mass, since they are henceforth powerless to perform personal works of satisfaction (cf. Council of Trent, Sess. XXV, de purgat.). From this consideration we derive by analogy the legitimate conclusion that the case exactly the same as regards the living.
C. Practical Questions Concerning the Mass
From the exceedingly high valuation, which the Church places on the Mass as the unbloody Sacrifice of the God-Man, issue, as it were spontaneously all those practical precepts of a positive or a negative nature, which are given in the Rubrics of the Mass, in Canon Law, and in Moral Theology. They may be conveniently divided into two categories, according as they are intended to secure in the highest degree possible the objective dignity of the Sacrifice or the subjective worthiness of the celebrant.
1. Precepts for the Promotion of the Dignity of the Sacrifice
(a) One of the most important requisites for the worthy celebration of the Mass is that the place in which the all-holy Mystery is to be celebrated should be a suitable one. Since, in the days of the Apostolic Church, there were no churches or chapels, private houses with suitable accommodation were appointed for the solemnization of “the breaking of bread” (cf. Acts, ii, 46; xx, 7 sq.; Col., iv, 15; Philem., 2). During the era of the persecutions the Eucharistic services in Rome were transferred to the catacombs, where the Christians believed themselves secure from government agents. The first “houses of God” reach back certainly to the end of the second century, as we learn from Tertullian (Adv. Valent., iii) and Clement of Alexandria (Strom., I, i). In the second half of the fourth century (A.D. 370), Optatus of Mileve (De Schism. Donat. II, iv) could already reckon more than forty basilicas which adorned the city of Rome. From this period dates the prohibition of the Synod of Laodicea (can. lviii) to celebrate Mass in private houses. Thenceforth the public churches were to be the sole places of worship. In the Middle Ages the synods granted to bishops the right of allowing house-chapels within their dioceses. According to the law of today (Council of Trent, Sess. XXII, de reform.), the Mass may be celebrated only in Chapels and public (or semi-public) oratories, which must be consecrated or at least blessed. At present, private chapels may be erected only in virtue of a special papal indult (S.C.C., 23 Jan., 1847, 6 Sept., 1870). In the latter case, the real place of sacrifice is the consecrated altar (or altar-stone), which must be placed in a suitable room (cf. Missale Romanum, Rubr. gen., tit. xx). In times of great need (e.g. war, persecution of Catholics), the priest may celebrate outside the church, but naturally only in a becoming place, provided with the most necessary utensils. On reasonable grounds the bishop may, in virtue of the so-called “quinquennial faculties”, allow the celebration of Mass in the open air, but the celebration of Mass at sea is allowed only by papal indult. In such an indult it is usually provided that the sea be calm during the celebration, and that a second priest (or deacon) be at hand to prevent the spilling of the chalice in case of the rocking of the ship.
(b) For the worthy celebration of Mass the circumstance of time is also of great importance. In the Apostolic age the first Christians assembled regularly on Sundays for “the breaking of bread” (Acts, xx, 7: “on the first day of the week”), which day the “Didache” (c. xiv), and later Justin Martyr (I Apol., lxvi), already name “the Lord’s day”.
Justin himself seems to be aware only of the Sunday celebration, but Tertullian adds the fast-days on Wednesday and Friday and the anniversaries of the martyrs (“De cor. mil.”, iii; “De orat.”, xix). As Tertullian calls the whole paschal season (until Pentcost) “one long feast”, we may conclude with some justice that during this period the faithful not only communicated daily, but were also present at the Eucharistic Liturgy. As regards the time of the day, there existed in the Apostolic age no fixed precepts regarding the hour at which the Eucharistic celebration should take place. The Apostle Paul appears to have on occasion “broken bread” about midnight (Acts, xx, 7). But Pliny the Younger, Governor of Bithynia (died A.D. 114), already states in his official report to Emperor Trajan that the Christians assembled in the early hours of the morning and bound themselves by a sacramentum (oath), by which we can understand today only the celebration of the mysteries. Tertullian gives as the hour of the assembly the time before dawn (De cor. mil., iii: antelucanis aetibus). When the fact was adverted to that the Saviour’s Resurrection occurred in the morning before sunrise, a change of the hour set in, the celebration of Mass being postponed until this time. Thus Cyprian writes of the Sunday celebration (Ep., lxiii): “we celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord in the morning.” Since the fifth century the “third hour” (i.e. 9 a.m.) was regarded as “canonical” for the Solemn Mass on Sundays and festivals. When the Little Hours (Prime, Terce, Sext, None) began in the Middle Ages to lose their significance as “canonical hours”, the precepts governing the hour for the conventual Mass received a new meaning. Thus, for example, the precepts that the conventual Mass should be held after None on fast days does not signify that it be held between midday and evening, but only that “the recitation of None in choir is followed by the Mass”. It is in general left to the discretion of the priest to celebrate at any hour between dawn and midday (ab aurora usque ad meridiem). It is proper that he should read beforehand Matins and Lauds from his breviary.
The sublimity of the Sacrifice of the Mass demands that the priest should approach the altar wearing the sacred vestments (amice, stole, cincture, maniple, and chasuble). Whether the priestly vestments are historical developments from Judaism or paganism, is a question still discussed by archaeologists. In any case the “Canones Hippolyti” require that at Pontifical Mass the deacons and priests appear in “white vestments”, and that the lectors also wear festive garments. No priest may celebrate Mass without light (usually two candles), except in case of urgent necessity (e.g. to consecrate a Host as the Viaticum for a person seriously ill). The altar-cross is also necessary as an indication that the Sacrifice of the Mass is nothing else than the unbloody reproduction of the Sacrifice of the Cross. Usually, also, the priest must be attended at the altar by a server of the male sex. The celebration of Mass without a server is allowed only in case of need (e.g. to procure the Viaticum for a sick person, or to enable the faithful to satisfy their obligation of hearing Mass). A person of the female sex may not serve at the altar itself, e.g. transfer the missal, present the cruets, etc. (S.R.C., 27 August, 1836). Women (especially nuns) may, however, answer the celebrant from their places, if no male server be at hand. During the celebration of Mass a simple priest may not wear any head-covering — whether biretta, pileolus, or full wig (comae fictitiae) — but the bishop may allow him to wear a plain perruque as a protection for his hairless scalp.
(c) To preserve untarnished the honour of the most venerable sacrifice, the Church has surrounded with a strong rampart of special defensive regulations the institution of “mass-stipends”; her intention is on the one hand to keep remote from the altar all base avarice, and on the other, to ensure and safeguard the right of the faithful to the conscientious celebration of the Masses bespoken.
By a mass-stipend is meant a certain monetary offering which anyone makes to the priest with the accompaning obligation of celebrating a Mass in accordance with the intentions of the donor (ad intentionem dantis). The obligation incurred consists, concretely speaking, in the application of the “special fruit of the Mass” (fructus specialis), the nature of which we have alreadly described in detail (A, 3). The idea of the stipend emanates from the earliest ages, and its justification lies incontestably in the axiom of St. Paul (I Cor., ix, 13): “They that serve the altar, partake with the altar”. Originally consisting of the necessaries of life, the stipend was at first considered as “alms for a Mass” (eleemosyna missarum), the object being to contribute to the proper support of the clergy. The character of a pure alms has been since lost by the stipend, since such may be accepted by even a wealthy priest. But the Pauline principle applies to the wealthy priest just as it does to the poor. The now customary money-offering, which was introduced about the eighth century and was tacitly approved by the Church, is to be regarded merely as the substitute or commutation of the earlier presentation of the necessaries of life. In this very point, also, a change from the ancient practice has been introduced, since at present the individual priest receives the stipend personally, whereas formerly all the clergy of the particular church shared among them the total oblations and gifts. In their present form, the whole matter of stipends has been officially taken by the Church entirely under her protection, both by the Council of Trent (Sess. XXII, de ref. ) and by the dogmatic Bull “Auctorem fidei” (1796) of Pius VI (Denzinger, n. 1554). Since the stipend, in its origin and nature, claims to be and can be nothing else than a lawful contribution towards the proper support of the clergy, the false and foolish views of the ignorant are shown to be without foundation when they suppose that a Mass may he simoniacally purchased with money (Cf. Summa Theologica II-II:100:2). To obviate all abuses concerning of the amount of the stipend, there exists in each diocese a fixed “mass-tax” (settled either by ancient custom or by an episcopal regulation), which no priest may exceed, unless extraordinary inconvenience (e.g. long fasting or a long journey on foot) justifies a somewhat larger sum. To eradicate all unworthy greed from among both laity and clergy in connection with a thing so sacred, Pius IX in his Constitution “Apostolicae Sedis” of 12 Oct., 1869, forbade under penalty of excommunication the commercial traffic in stipends (mercimonium missae stipendiorum). The trafficking consists in reducing the larger stipend collected to the level of the “tax”, and appropriating the surplus for oneself. Into the category of shameful traffic in stipends also falls the reprehensible practice of booksellers and tradesmen, who organize public collections of stipends and retain the money contributions as payment for books, merchandise, wines, etc., to be delivered to the clergy (S.C.C., 31 Aug., 1874, 25 May, 1893). As special punishment for this offence, suspensio a divinis reserved to the pope is proclaimed against priests, irregularity against other clerics, and excommunication reserved to the bishop, against the laity.
Another bulwark against avarice is the strict regulation of the Church, binding under pain of mortal sin, that priests shall not accept more intentions than they can satisfy within a reasonable period (S.C.C, 1904). This regulation was emphasized by the additional one which forbade stipends to be transferred to priests of another diocese without the knowledge of their ordinaries (S.C.C., 22 May, 1907). The acceptance of a stipend imposes under pain of mortal sin the obligation not only of reading the stipulated Mass, but also of fulfilling conscientiously all other appointed conditions of an important character (e.g. the appointed day, altar, etc.). Should some obstacle arise, the money must either be returned to the donor or a substitute procured. In the latter case, the substitute must be given, not the usual stipend, but the whole offering received (cf. Prop. ix damn. 1666 ab Alex. VIII in Denzinger, n. 1109), unless it be indisputably clear front the circumstances that the excess over the usual stipend was meant by the donor for the first priest alone. There is tacit condition which requires the reading of the stipulated Mass as soon as possible. According to the common opinion of moral theologians, a postponement of two months is in less urgent cases admissible, even though no lawful impediment can be brought forward. Should, however, a priest postpone a Mass for a happy delivery until after the event, he is bound to return the stipends. However, since all these precepts have been imposed solely in the interests of the stipend-giver, it is evident that he enjoys the right of sanctioning all unusual delays.
(d) To the kindred question of “mass-foundations” the Church has, in the interests of the founder and in her high regard for the Holy Sacrifice, devoted the same anxious care as in the case of stipends. Mass-foundations (fundationes misssarum) are fixed bequests of funds or real property, the interest or income from which is to procure for ever the celebration of Mass for the founder or according to his intentions. Apart from anniversaries, foundations of Masses are divided, accordlng to the testamentary arrangement of the testator, into monthly, weekly, and daily foundations. As ecclesiastical property, mass-foundations are subject to the administration of the ecclesiastical authorities, especially of the diocesan bishop, who must grant hls permission for the acceptance of such and must appoint for them the lowest rate. Only when episcopal approval has been secured can the foundation be regarded as completed; thenceforth it is unalterable for ever. In places where the acquirement of ecclesiastical property is subject to the approval of the State (e.g. in Austria), the establishment of a mass-foundation must also be submitted to the secular authorities. The declared wishes of the founder are sacred and decisive as to the manner of fulfillment. Should no special intention be mentioned in the deed of foundation, the Mass must be applied for the founder himself (S.C.C., I8 March, 1668). To secure punctuality in the execution of the foundation, Innocent XII ordered in 1697 that a list of the mass-foundations, arranged according to the months, be kept in each church possessing such endowments. The administrators of pious foundations are bound under pain of mortal sin to forward to the bishop at the end of each year a list of all founded Masses left uncelebrated together with the money therefor (S.C.C., 25 May, 18 ).
The celebrant of a founded Mass is entitled to the full amount of the foundation, unless it is evident from the circumstances of the foundation or from the wording of the deed that an exception is justifiable. Such is the case when the foundation serves also as the endowment of a benefice, and consequently in such a case the beneficiary is bound to pay his substitute only the regular tax (S.C.C., 25 July, 1874). Without urgent reason, founded Masses may not be celebrated in churches (or on altars) other than those stipulated by the foundation. Permanent transference of such Masses is reserved to the pope, but in isolated instances the dispensation of the bishop suffices (cf. Council of Trent, Sess. XXI de ref.; Sess. XXV de ref.). The unavoidable loss of the income of a foundation puts an end to all obligations connected with it. A serious diminution of the foundation capital, owing to the depreciation of money or property in value, also the necessary increase of the mass-tax, scarcity of priests, poverty of a church or of the clergy may constiutute just grounds for the reduction of the number of Masses, since it may be reasonably presumed that the deceased founder would not under such difficult circumstance insist upon the obligation. On 21 June, 1625, the right of reduction, which the Council of Trent had conferred on bishops, abbots, and the generals of religious orders, was again reserved by Urban VIII to the Holy See.
2. Precepts to secure the Worthiness of the Celebrant
Although, as declared by the Council of Trent (Sess. XXII, cap. i), the venerable, pure, and sublime Sacrifice of the God-man “cannot be stained by any unworthiness or impiety of the celebrant”, still ecclesiastical legislation has long regarded it as a matter of special concern that priests should fit themselves for the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice by the cultivation of integrity, purity of heart, and other qualities of a personal nature.
(a) In the first place it may be asked: Who may celebrate Mass? Since for the validity of the sacrifice the office of a special priesthood is essential, it is clear, to begin with, that only bishops and priests (not deacons) are qualified to offer up the Holy Sacrifice (see EUCHARIST). The fact that even at the beginning of the second century the regular officiator at the Eucharistic celebration seems to have been the bishop will be more readily understood when we remember that at this early period there was no strict distinction between the offices of bishop and priest. Like the “Didache” (xv), Clement of Rome (Ad Cor., xl-xlii) speaks only of the bishop and his deacon in connection with the sacrifice. Ignatius of Antioch, indeed, who bears irrefutable testimony to the existence of the three divisions of the hierarchy — bishop (episkopos), priests (presbyteroi) and deacons (diakonoi) — confines to the bishop the privilege of celebrating thanksgiving Divine Service when he says: “It is unlawful to baptize or to hold the agape without the bishop.” The “Canones Hippolyti”, composed probably about the end of the second century, first contain the regulation (can. xxxii): “If, in the absence of the bishop, a priest be at hand, all shall devolve upon him, and he shall be honoured as the bishop is honoured. “Subsequent tradition recognizes no other celebrant of the Mystery of the Eucharist than the bishops and priests, who are validly ordained “according to the keys of the Church,” (secundum claves Ecclesiae). (Cf. Lateran IV, cap. “Firmiter” in Denzinger, n. 430.)
But the Church demands still more by insisting also on the personal moral worthiness of the celebrant. This connotes not alone freedom from all ecclesiastical censures (excommunication, suspension, interdict), but also a becoming preparation of the soul and body of the priest before he approaches the altar. To celebrate in the state of mortal sin has always been regarded by the Church as an infamous sacrifice (cf. I Cor., xi, 27 sqq.). For the worthy (not for the valid) celebration of the Mass it is, therefore, especially required that the celebrant be in the state of grace. To place him in this condition, the awakening of perfect sorrow is no longer sufficient since the Council of Trent (Sess. XIII, cap. vii in Denzinger, n. 880), for there is a strict eccleciastical precept that the reaction of the Sacrament of Penance must precede the celebration of Mass. This rule applies to all priests, even when they are bound by their office (ex officio) to read Mass, e.g. on Sundays for their parishioners. Only in instances when no confessor can be procured, may they content themselves with reciting an act of perfect sorrow (contritio), and they then incur the obligation of going to confession “as early as possible” (quam primum), which in canon law, signifies within three days at furthest. In addition to the pious preparation for the Mass (accessus), there is prescribed a correspondingly long thanksgiving after Mass (recessus), whose length is fixed by moral theologians between fifteen minutes and half an hour, although in this connection the particular official engagements of the priest must be considered. As regards the length of the Mass itself, the duration is naturally variable, according as a Solemn High Mass is sung or a Low Mass celebrated. To perform worthily all the ceremonies and pronounce clearly all the prayers in Low Mass requires on an average about half an hour. Moral theologians justly declare that the scandalous haste necessary to finish Mass in less than a quarter of an hour is impossible without grievous sin.
With regard to the more immediate preparation of the body, custom has declared from time immemorial, and positive canon law since the Council of Constance (1415), that the faithful, when receiving the Sacrament of Altar, and priests, when celebrating the Holy Sacrifice, must be fasting (jejunium naturale) which means that they must have partaken of no food or drink whatsoever from midnight. Midnight begins with the first stroke of the hour. In calculating the hour, the so-called “mean time” (or local time) must be used: according to a recent decision (S.C.C., 12 July, 1893), Central-European time may be also employed, and, in North America, “zone time”. The movement recently begun among the German clergy, favouring a mitigation of the strict regulation for weak or overworked priests with the obligation of duplicating, has serious objections, since a general relaxation of the ancient strictness might easily result in lessening respect for the Blessed Sacrament and in a harmful reaction among thoughtless members of the laity. The granting of mitigations in general or in exceptional cases belongs to the Holy See alone. To keep away from the altar irreverent adventurers and unworthy priests, the Council of Trent (Sess. XXIII, de ref.) issued the decree, made much more stringent in later times, that an unknown priest without the Celebret may not be allowed to say Mass in any church.
(b) A second question may be asked: “Who must say Mass?” In the first place, if this question be considered identical with the enquiry as to whether a general obligation of Divine Law binds every priest by reason of his ordination, the old Scholastics are divided in opinion. St. Thomas, Durandus, Paludanus, and Anthony of Bologna certainly maintained the existence of such an obligation; on the other hand, Richard of St. Victor, Alexander of Hales, Bonaventure, Gabriel Biel, and Cardinal Cajetan declared for the opposite view. Canon law teaches nothing on the subject. In the absence of a decision, Suarez (De Euchar., disp. lxxx, sect. 1, n. 4) believes that one who conforms to the negative view, may be declared free from grievous sin. Of the ancient hermits we know that they did not celebrate the Holy Sacrifice in the desert, and St. Ignatius Loyola, guided by high motives, abstained for a whole year from celebrating. Cardinal De Lugo (De Euchar., disp. xx, sect. 1, n. 13) takes a middle course, by adopting theoretically the milder opinion, while declaring that, in practice, omission through lukewarmness and neglect may, on account of the scandal caused, easily amount to mortal sin. This consideration explains the teaching of the moral theologians that every priest is bound under pain of mortal sin to celebrate at least a few times each year (e.g. at Easter, Pentecost, Christmas, the Epiphany). The obligation of hearing Mass on all Sundays and holy days of obligation is of course not abrogated for such priests. The spirit of the Church demands — and it is today the practically universal custom — that a priest should celebrate daily, unless he prefers to omit his Mass occasionally through motives of reverence.
Until far into the Middle Ages it was left to the discretion of the priest, to his personal devotion and his zeal for souls, whether he should read more than one Mass on the same day. But since the twelfth century canon law declares that he must in general content himself with one daily Mass, and the synods of the thirteenth century allow, even in case of necessity, at most a duplication (see BINATION). In the course of time this privilege of celebrating the Holy Sacrifice twice on the same day was more and more curtailed. According to the existing law, duplication is allowed, under special conditions, only on Sundays and holy days, and then only in the interests of the faithful, that they may be enabled to fulfil their obligation of hearing Mass. For the feast of Christmas alone have priests universally been allowed to retain the privilege of three Masses, in Spain and Portugal this privilege was extended to All Souls’ Day (2 Nov.) by special Indult of Benedict XIV (1746). Such customs are unknown in the East.
This general obligation of a priest to celebrate Mass must not be confounded with the special obligation which results from the acceptance of a Mass-stipend (obligatio ex stipendio) or from the cure of souls (obligatio ex cura animarum). Concerning the former sufficient has been already said. As regards the claims of the cure of souls, the obligation of Divine Law that parish priests and administrators of a parish should from time to time celebrate Mass for their parishioners, arises from the relations of pastor and flock. The Council of Trent (Sess. XXIII, de ref.) has specified this duty of application more closely, by directing that the parish priest should especially apply the Mass, for which no stipend may be taken, for his flock on all Sundays and holy days (cf. Benedict XIX, “Cum semper oblatas”, 19 Aug., 1744). The obligation to apply the Mass pro populo extends also to the holy days abrogated by the Bull of Urban VIII, “Universa per orbem”, of 13 Sept., 1642; for even today these remain “canonically fixed feast days”, although the faithful are dispensed from the obligation of hearing Mass and may engage in servile works. The same obligation of applying the Mass falls likewise on bishops, as pastors of their dioceses, and on those abbots who exercize over clergy and people a quasi-episcopal jurisdiction. Titular bishops alone are escepted, although even in their case the application is to be desired (cf. Leo XIII, “In supremacy, 10 June, 1882). As the obligation itself is not only personal, but also real, the application must, in case of an impediment arising either be made soon afterwards, or be effected through a substitute, who has a right to a mass stipend as regulated by the tax. Concerning this whole question, see Heuser, “Die Verpflichtung der Pfarrer, die hl. Messe fur die Gemeinde zu applicieren” (Düsseldorf 1850).
(c) For the sake of completeness a third and last question must te touched on in this section: For whom may Mass be celebrated? In general the answer may be given: For all those and for those only, who are fitted to participate in the fruits of the Mass as an impetratory, propitiatory, and satisfactory sacrifice. From this as immediately derived the rule that Mass may not be said for the damned in Hell or the blessed in Heaven, since they are incapable of receiving the fruits of the Mass; for the same reason children who die unbaptized are excluded from the benefits of the Mass. Thus, there remain as the possible participants only the living on earth and the poor souls in purgatory (cf. Trent, Sess. XXII, can. iii; Sess. XXV, decret. de purgat.). Partly out of her great veneration of the Sacrifice, however, and partly to avoid scandal, the Church has surrounded with certain conditions, which priests are bound in obedience to observe, the application of Mass for certain classes of the living and dead. The first class are non-tolerated excommunicated persons, who are to be avoided by the faithful (excommunicati vitandi). Although, according to various authors, the priest is not forbidden to offer up Mass for such unhappy persons in private and with a merely mental intention, still to announce publicly such a Mass or to insert the name of the excommunicated person in the prayers, even though he may be in the state of grace owing to perfect sorrow or may have died truly repentant, would be a “communicatio in divinis”, and is strictly forbidden under penalty of excommunication (cf. C. 28, de sent. excomm., V, t. 39). It is likewise forbidden to offer the Mass publicly and solemnly for deceased non-Catholics, even though they were princes (Innoc. III C. 12, X 1. 3, tit. 28). On the other hand it is allowed, in consideration of the welfare of the state, to celebrate for a non-Catholic living ruler even a public Solemn Mass. For living heretics and schismatics also for the Jews, Turks, and heathens, Mass may be privately applied (and even a stipend taken) with the object of procuring for them the grace of conversion to the true Faith. For a deceased heretic the private and hypothetical application of the Mass is allowed only when the priest has good grounds for believing that the deceased held his error in good faith (bona fide. Cf. S.C. Officii, 7 April, 1875). To celebrate Mass privately for deceased catechumens is permissible, since we may assume that they are already justified by their desire of Baptism and are in purgatory. In like manner Mass may be celebrated privately for the souls of deceased Jews and heathens, who have led an upright life, since the sacrifice is intended to benefit all who are in purgatory. For further details see Göpfert, “Moraltheologie”, III (5th ed., Paderborn, 1906).