Luther and the Mass

A group in my parish is studying Church history and we just came to the Protestant Revolution. Our understanding is that Martin Luther was adamant that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass had to be destroyed and based on that the Mass was outlawed in Germany and obviously other countries did the same as the heresy spread. But the Lutheran service looks a lot like the Mass so was it that he wanted to keep the form but remove the underlying meaning?

In Lutherans circles - we tend to call the Mass by it’s more formal name of Divine Service, but we don’t have any objections to the colloquial word Mass.

You may want to read this:

stpaullutheranchurchhamel.org/Revisiting_the_Sacrifice_.htm

As I understand it, Lutherans object to the language of “The Sacrifice of The Mass” - in that at the time in the 15th century, Lutherans (perhaps mistakingly) understood that the phrase had a meaning that the Priest was doing the sacrificing and Christ reciprocated with the Eucharist.

Most likely with Lutherans, if you say “The mass is a representation of Christ’s sacrifice for us” then you’d probably get assent.

It’s my understanding that Lutherans don’t reject the sacrifice per se, rather we reject the idea that we are somehow joining our sacrifice to that of the sacrifice of Christ in order to affect the salvation of others.

As far as “re-presentation” goes. I have no problem with that idea.

Right. It’s that “My sacrifice and yours” bit that offends us Lutherans. Lutheran theology is deeply, deeply focused on Christ’s one and eternal sacrifice. The Lutheran understanding of what took place on the Cross (and what is consequently remembered and celebrated in the Divine Service) is laid out in Romans 5 and 6. Christ takes our Old Adam to death, but it is He alone Who sacrifices to gift us life. We are, after all, poor sinful beings whose wages are death.

In a nutshell, Confessional Lutheranism is opposed to anything that could possibly detract from Christ’s work for us. See the signature. :smiley:

1 Cor 10:13-17 No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial He will also provide A WAY OUT, so that you may be able to bear it. Therefore, my beloved, avoid idolatry. I am speaking as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I am saying. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a PARTICIPATION in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a PARTICIPATION in the body of Christ?

But we did not die for our sins. Christ did. Even as the church is the Body of Christ while He is the Head, we made no sacrifice - Christ did. To claim that we made a sacrifice sounds, to Lutheran ears, as if we are somehow able to save ourselves. That’s the fundamental difference between Rome and Wittenberg’s understandings.

That said, I think there may be room to find agreement if the Roman understanding can be considered in a specific way (though Lutherans will likely still bristle at the wording). I’m certainly not eloquent enough to attempt making one though - best left to our respective theologians. :slight_smile:

…good question.

Oh! Since we’re talking about Lutherans, the easiest way to learn what they believe is simply to consult the Lutheran Confessions. From Confessio Augustana: bookofconcord.org/defense_23_mass.php

What book are you studying from? Was it written by Dan Brown?

Wow! I would echo Peter J; what in the world are you reading? It sounds highly inaccurate.

So it is the “my sacrifice and yours” is offensive? Here was an article that I just read last week that explained this idea using a situation from a normal life setting:

"I would like to summarize what happens in the eucharistic celebration with the help of an example from normal life. Think of a large family in which there is a first-born son who admires and loves his father without measure and wants to give him a valuable gift for his birthday. Before giving it to him, however, he secretly asks all his brothers and sisters to affix their signatures on the gift. This gift comes into the father’s hands as a sign of love from all his children indiscriminately, even though only one of the children has actually paid the price for it.
This is what happens in the eucharistic sacrifice. Jesus admires and loves his heavenly Father without measure. Every day until the end of the world, he wants to give him the most precious gift he can think of, that of his own life. At Mass he invites all his “brothers and sisters” to affix their signatures on the gift in such a way that the gift reaches God the Father as a gift coming from all of his children together, even though only one has paid the price for the gift. And what a price!
Our signature is represented by the little drops of water that are mixed into the wine in the chalice. Our signature, Augustine explains, is above all the “Amen” that the faithful say at the time of receiving communion: “It is to what you are that you reply Amen, and by so replying you express your assent. What . . . you see is the body of Christ, and you answer Amen. So be a member of the body of Christ, in order to make your Amen truthful. . . . Be what you can see, and receive what you are.” All of Augustine’s eucharistic ecclesiology that we recalled in the last meditation finds its application here. If one cannot say that the Eucharist is the church (as some of his disciples ended up asserting), we can and should say that the Eucharist makes the Church.
We know that whoever has signed an agreement then has the duty to honor that signature. This means that when leaving Mass we too need to make of our lives a gift of love to the Father and to our brothers and sisters. We too need to say, within ourselves, to our brothers and sisters, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Take my time, my abilities, my attention. Take my blood too, that is, my suffering, all that humbles me, mortifies me, and limits my strength, my physical death itself. I want all of my life, like Christ’s, to be bread broken and wine poured out for others. I want to make my whole life a Eucharist.

Text from page en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/03/28/st._ambrose:_faith_in_the_eucharist/en1-785624
of the Vatican Radio website

Thanks for posting the article.
Mary.

Thank you for sharing this. It is an interesting concept noted in the article, and one that is worth studying by Lutherans, I think. As I said earlier, there may be ways for the Lutheran and Roman understandings of the Mass to reach convergence. Imagery such as the parable you shared may be one such way.

For me personally, I am uncomfortable affixing even my wretched, sinful name to such a magnificent gift. :o I hope that our Roman Catholic friends understand that the Lutheran objection to some of the language of the Roman Mass is out of supreme reverence for Christ’s work, even when our 500-year-old polemics may, on the surface, appear to be rather argumentative or even anti-Catholic if taken out of context.

Well … Roman Catholics are a motley crew you know.

.

GKC

So this^ is what happens when you get a Melkite Greek Catholic, an Anglican and a Lutheran in the same online forum.

:thumbsup:

Jon

11] In addition to all this, this dragon’s tail, * the Mass, has begotten a numerous vermin-brood of manifold idolatries.

12] First, purgatory. Here they carried their trade into purgatory by masses for souls, and vigils, and weekly, monthly, and yearly celebrations of obsequies, and finally by the Common Week and All Souls’ Day, by soul-baths so that the Mass is used almost alone for the dead, although Christ has instituted the Sacrament alone for the living. Therefore purgatory, and every solemnity, rite, and commerce connected with it, is to be regarded as nothing but a specter of the devil. For it conflicts with the chief article [which teaches] that only Christ, and not the works of men, are to help [set free] souls. Not to mention the fact that nothing has been [divinely] commanded or enjoined upon us concerning the dead. Therefore all this may be safely omitted, even if it were no error and idolatry.

13] The Papists quote here Augustine and some of the Fathers who are said to have written concerning purgatory, and they think that we do not understand for what purpose and to what end they spoke as they did. St. Augustine does not write that there is a purgatory, nor has he a testimony of Scripture to constrain him thereto, but he leaves it in doubt whether there is one, and says that his mother asked to be remembered at the altar or Sacrament. Now, all this is indeed nothing but the devotion of men, and that, too, of individuals, and does not establish an article of faith, which is the prerogative of God alone.

14] Our Papists, however, cite such statements [opinions] of men in order that men should believe in their horrible, blasphemous, and cursed traffic in masses for souls in purgatory [or in sacrifices for the dead and oblations], etc. But they will never prove these things from Augustine. Now, when they have abolished the traffic in masses for purgatory, of which Augustine never dreamt, we will then discuss with them whether the expressions of Augustine without Scripture [being without the warrant of the Word] are to be admitted, and whether the dead should be remembered at the Eucharist. 15] For it will not do to frame articles of faith from the works or words of the holy Fathers; otherwise their kind of fare, of garments, of house, etc., would have to become an article of faith, as was done with relics. [We have, however, another rule, namely] The rule is: The Word of God shall establish articles of faith, and no one else, not even an angel.

16] Secondly. From this it has followed that evil spirits have perpetrated much knavery [exercised their malice] by appearing as the souls of the departed, and with unspeakable [horrible] lies and tricks demanded masses, vigils, pilgrimages, and other alms. 17] All of which we had to receive as articles of faith, and to live accordingly; and the Pope confirmed these things, as also the Mass and all other abominations. Here, too, there is no [cannot and must not be any] yielding or surrendering*

12] First, purgatory. Here they carried their trade into purgatory by masses for souls, and vigils, and weekly, monthly, and yearly celebrations of obsequies, and finally by the Common Week and All Souls’ Day, by soul-baths so that the Mass is used almost alone for the dead, although Christ has instituted the Sacrament alone for the living. Therefore purgatory, and every solemnity, rite, and commerce connected with it, is to be regarded as nothing but a specter of the devil. For it conflicts with the chief article [which teaches] that only Christ, and not the works of men, are to help [set free] souls. Not to mention the fact that nothing has been [divinely] commanded or enjoined upon us concerning the dead. Therefore all this may be safely omitted, even if it were no error and idolatry.

13] The Papists quote here Augustine and some of the Fathers who are said to have written concerning purgatory, and they think that we do not understand for what purpose and to what end they spoke as they did. St. Augustine does not write that there is a purgatory, nor has he a testimony of Scripture to constrain him thereto, but he leaves it in doubt whether there is one, and says that his mother asked to be remembered at the altar or Sacrament. Now, all this is indeed nothing but the devotion of men, and that, too, of individuals, and does not establish an article of faith, which is the prerogative of God alone.

14] Our Papists, however, cite such statements [opinions] of men in order that men should believe in their horrible, blasphemous, and cursed traffic in masses for souls in purgatory [or in sacrifices for the dead and oblations], etc. But they will never prove these things from Augustine. Now, when they have abolished the traffic in masses for purgatory, of which Augustine never dreamt, we will then discuss with them whether the expressions of Augustine without Scripture [being without the warrant of the Word] are to be admitted, and whether the dead should be remembered at the Eucharist. 15] For it will not do to frame articles of faith from the works or words of the holy Fathers; otherwise their kind of fare, of garments, of house, etc., would have to become an article of faith, as was done with relics. [We have, however, another rule, namely] The rule is: The Word of God shall establish articles of faith, and no one else, not even an angel.

16] Secondly. From this it has followed that evil spirits have perpetrated much knavery [exercised their malice] by appearing as the souls of the departed, and with unspeakable [horrible] lies and tricks demanded masses, vigils, pilgrimages, and other alms. 17] All of which we had to receive as articles of faith, and to live accordingly; and the Pope confirmed these things, as also the Mass and all other abominations. Here, too, there is no [cannot and must not be any] yielding or surrendering.

18] Thirdly. [Hence arose] the pilgrimages. Here, too, masses, the remission of sins and the grace of God were sought, for the Mass controlled everything. Now it is indeed certain that such pilgrimages, without the Word of God, have not been commanded us, neither are they necessary, since we can have these things [the soul can be cared for] in a better way, and can omit these pilgrimages without any sin and danger. Why therefore do they leave at home [desert] their own parish [their called ministers, their parishes], the Word of God, wives, children, etc., who are ordained and [attention to whom is necessary and has been] commanded, and run after these unnecessary, uncertain, pernicious will-o’-the-wisps of the devil [and errors]? 19] Unless the devil was riding [made insane] the Pope, causing him to praise and establish these practices, whereby the people again and again revolted from Christ to their own works, and became idolaters, which is worst of all; moreover, it is neither necessary nor commanded, but is senseless and doubtful, and besides harmful. Hence here, too, there can be no yielding or surrendering [to yield or concede anything here is not lawful], etc. 20] And let this be preached, that such pilgrimages are not necessary, but dangerous; and then see what will become of them. [For thus they will perish of their own accord.]

21] Fourthly. Fraternities [or societies], in which cloisters, chapters, vicars have assigned and communicated (by a legal contract and sale) all masses and good works, etc., both for the living and the dead. This is not only altogether a human bauble, without the Word of God, entirely unnecessary and not commanded, but also contrary to the chief article, Of Redemption. Therefore it is in no way to be tolerated.

22] Fifthly. The relics, in which there are found so many falsehoods and tomfooleries concerning the bones of dogs and horses, that even the devil has laughed at such rascalities, ought long ago to have been condemned, even though there were some good in them; and so much the more because they are without the Word of God; being neither commanded nor counseled, they are an entirely unnecessary and useless thing. 23] But the worst is that [they have imagined that] these relics had to work indulgence and the forgiveness of sins [and have revered them] as a good work and service of God, like the Mass, etc.

24] Sixthly. Here belong the precious indulgences granted (but only for money) both to the living and the dead, by which the miserable [sacrilegious and accursed] Judas, or Pope, has sold the merit of Christ, together with the superfluous merits of all saints and of the entire Church, etc. All these things [and every single one of them] are not to be borne, and are not only without the Word of God, without necessity, not commanded, but are against the chief article. For the merit of Christ is [apprehended and] obtained not by our works or pence, but from grace through faith, without money and merit; and is offered [and presented] not through the power of the Pope, but through the preaching of God’s Word.
bookofconcord.org/smalcald.php#mass

As you can see, irenicism was not one of Luther’s strong points. Neither is this all he had to say pertaining to the mass in this document. Just to name one example, the section immediately following he attacks the invocation of the saints (as we do at the beginning of every mass in the Confiteor) as an "[abuse] of the Antichrist."The complaints here are still relevant today because they are not just Luther’s private opinions, but part of the official and binding confessions of all Lutherans to this day. At any rate, I hope it gives you some perspective on Luther’s mindset.

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