Sacrifice of the Mass/Catholic & Protestant Viewpoints


#1

Three questions on the sacrifice of the mass and possible misunderstandings related thereto:

(1) If I understand Catholic theology on the point, which may be a BIG assumption, the Mass does not constitute a RE-SACRIFICE of Christ (since we are told in Hebrews that there was a single sacrifice which was sufficient) but, instead, the Mass is a RE-PRESENTATION of that orginal sacrifice on Calvary. God, of course, exists outside of time and space and, therefore, through the miracle of the mass it is possible for us to somehow be present at that sacrifice of the Lamb who is forever slain for our sins. Is this essentially correct from a Catholic viewpoint?

(2) Now, assuming that my understanding above is essentially correct, let me ask this. Protestants have attacked the Catholic Church’s understanding of the mass by saying that Catholics “sacrifice Christ again and again”. This Protestant accusation would be false if my understanding above is correct because Christ is not being sacrificed again…it is the original sacrifice…but a subsequent re-presentation of that sacrifice. Is this correct from a Catholic viewpoint?

(3) Finally, assuming that the Protestant accusation of a repeated re-sacrifice is theologically erroneous, from what did this accusation arise? I’ve skimmed the Book of Concord and don’t see where that accusation is made (although I very easily could have missed it). In the Westminster Confession, however, it does seem to suggest that the Calvinists did believe that Catholics were resacrificing Christ. See Chapter XXIX, paragraph II below:

“In this sacrament, Christ is not offered up to His Father; nor any Real sacrifice made at all, for remission of sins of the quick or dead;[2] but only a commemoration of that one offering up of Himself, by Himself, upon the cross, once for all: and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God, for the same:[3] so that the popish sacrifice of the mass (as they call it) is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one, only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of His elect.”

reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/

Calvin and the other signatories to the Westminster Confession were not uneducated or stupid people. What about the Catholic Church’s description in the 1500s of the sacrifice of the mass would have lead educated persons to believe that Catholics were professing a form of sacrifice that, today at least, it seems clear that they are not?

I’d appreciate some serious responses if possible…please, let’s just skip over all the “Satan made them do it” stuff, ok?


#2

I’m not sure about the 1500’s, but I think that the very word “re-presentation,” which is often used in regard to the Eucharist can cause us to misunderstand the underlying theology. Hearing the word, “re-presentation,” we tend to think that the sacrifice of Calvary is somehow being repeated at each and every Mass. But as you noted, there is only one sacrifice. The Eucharist makes us present at that one sacrifice.

Christ has but one body. So while the appearances of the Eucharistic species are multiplied, Christ is not. Whoever receives the body of Christ in the Eucharist is effectively united with all others who so receive, at any time and place, because what is received is one and the same person–Christ, and he is not many, but one.

Because we live in time, we tend to think sequentially, but this is a mistake in respect to the Eucharist. Perhaps that was part of the problem.


#3

A problem I have with the Mass being a re-presentaion of the one sacrifice is the results attributed to it. The Catholic Church says it is the same sacrifice as Calvary offered in an unbloody way. It is said to be propitiary in that it results in the forgiveness of venial sins. However, the original sacrifice forgave both mortal and venial sins. If it is the same sacrifice re-presented, should it not have the same result with both mortal and venial sins being forgiven by it?


#4

I would speculate that the error came about from another error, when they began to think of Christ’s sacrifice as fully bounded in time, rather than as being both in time (the sacrifice as made present through his human nature, you might say) and outside of time (his sacrifice as made present through his divine nature). As soon as they rejected the reality that Christ’s sacrifice also exists outside of time, it was natural that they would think every Sacrifice of the Mass must be a new sacrifice.


#5

There is no forgiveness of sins without repentance. Due to the different and more serious nature of mortal sin, a different and more explict form of repentance is required.

Do you believe that Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary forgave mortal sins of those who were never repentant?


#6

It is necessary to repent of any sin. However if someone is repentant and goes to Mass, if it is the same sacrfice that forgave mortal sin to those who repent then it should have the same result.


#7

We sit at the same table as did the Apostles in the upper room with Christ. Not a mere re-enactment. Not something lesser. This table extends through time and space, at which the whole Church sits.

Same with the cross. In the Mass, it still stands through time and space. Not a mere re-enactment. Not a new or different sacrifice.


#8

The sacrifice of the Mass is to make Presence the Sacrifice at Calvary. That is why it the same sacrifice as Calvary in an unbloody manner.

The sacrifice at the Cross in the bloody manner is only One time. This itself is a mystery. In the Mass, the Bread and Wine is no longer bread and wine in substance. The accidents no longer exist but becomes Jesus Christ himself, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

That is why some priest will say, “This is the Lamb of God, the Same Jesus who died on the Cross, who takes away the sin of the World.”

In the Mass, Jesus is Truly Present hence the word, make Presence.

I hope this helps. This is also a mystery that your finite mind cannot grasp.


#9

Yes, I clearly stated that.

However if someone is repentant and goes to Mass, if it is the same sacrfice that forgave mortal sin to those who repent then it should have the same result.

If a Catholic is repentant of a mortal sin, then they demonstrate that repentance by seeking forgiveness (which is only possible through the sacrifice of Christ) by doing what Christ’s Church teaches in the matter.

What you are doing is minimizing the quality of repentance that is necessary in the case of a serious, deadly sin. The Church does not make that mistake. She calls us to serious, life-giving repentance in the case of serious, death-giving sin.


#10

“In this sacrament, Christ is not offered up to His Father; nor any Real sacrifice made at all, for remission of sins of the quick or dead;[2] but only a commemoration of that one offering up of Himself, by Himself, upon the cross, once for all: and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God, for the same:[3] so that the popish sacrifice of the mass (as they call it) is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one, only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of His elect.”

What strikes me most about this “statement of faith” is that it is no such thing. It is a statement of several denials of faith that really tell us nothing useful except that those who wrote it didn’t want to believe what the Church teaches and/or they had seriously skewed what the Church teaches, again because they simply don’t want to believe it.

This is nothing new. The Arian heresy raged through the Church even though the NT and Church Fathers had plainly taught that Jesus was fully God and fully man. Some just didn’t want to believe that, so they denied what the Church had always taught.

People still do this today–those who deliberately reject what the Church teaches not those who are merely ignorant. It’s not that they cannot know what the Church teaches or do not know, it’s that they will not believe. Sadly, there is no argument in the world that can overcome willful disbelief.


#11

It is common for a misconception to be perpetuated by those who reject Catholicism as to accept the Catholic view then they would not perpetuate it.

So those who continued to hold the view that Catholics somehow think they are resacrificing Christ pass this down. Those who learn the Catholic point of view then move away from those who don’t. They then do not share the Catholic point of view with the ones who have learned differently.

This continues on and on, just like Jack Chick tracts keep going on and probably will continue if someone takes up his cause after he passes on. The misinformation will continue.

This probably came up as rhetoric which preached around the time of the Reformation as a reason against the Mass, yet continues today, it is convenient to misrepresent Catholic belief.

I looked at CARM and they state the Catholic position, then state that isn’t the Catholic position, then attack that. Which is just like me looking at a Japanese person who bows to another. Stating that though they are just acknowledging and giving honor to someone else, that that is worship and they are worshipping each other.
It is very convenient to misrepresent Catholic belief to state that Catholics are re-sacrificing Christ. Since that is wrong, it is easy to disagree with and attack.

Compare the Catholic point of view
Catholic
to this, CARM
non-catholic

In Christ
Scylla


#12

But what strikes me is that during the Reformation almost half of the Western Church left to become Protestant, a half that immediately prior to the split had indeed been faithful Catholics. Nonetheless, it appears that many of these folks, educated and otherwise, believed that the Catholic Church taught the re-sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist. People can be right, people can be wrong, but when you have that many people making a particular assertion there is usually some basis for the assertion…even if ultimately the assertion itself proves to be erroneous.


#13

#14

Three objections to your theory.

Firstly, most people weren’t as educated as we are today. Scholars might have understood the fine points of theology but the average man certainly didn’t.

Secondly, the numbers of people who desert true teaching tells us nothing at all about what is and what isn’t true teaching.

And thirdly, the rise of nationalism set against the authority of the Church aided many in abandoning some of the teachings of the Church in favor of local “reformers” who preached without fear of being arrested by their governments, who were more than happy to throw off the emperor (who was supported by the Church) in order to go their own way.

Large numbers changing their beliefs never happens in a vacuum. Millions were converted to the Church in South America due to the Spanish missionaries and the apparitions of Guadalupe at the same time the Reformation was rolling across Europe. While Europeans were valuing their independence apart from the Church their ancestors had died for, the native peoples of South America were embracing the faith which was the remedy to all the bloodshed they had endured for centuries.

Seems to me that God was showing that he could “raise up stones” in place of those who claimed to be the “children of Abraham” (spiritually speaking) who had abandoned their faith for a “mess of pottage.”


#15

prior to the split had indeed been faithful Catholics. /QUOTE]

I have been with you all on this thread so far and saw no need to weigh in until now. Although I am not a scholar on the reformation, it is my understanding that there was nowhere near half of the Church that left at that time or after. However, there were whole governments and/or states whose rulers took sides and their subjects would have been counted in, but had not made any such decision to leave the Church. For example when Henry VIII took his action, does that mean that all faithful British Catholics left with him? Someone with more direct knowledge of this issue should help us here please.

rr1213, help us please, what is your source for the one-half figure?

Just an approximation based on roughly which countries became Protestant. Some of these people changed because their ruler changed faiths, others because they were convinced by the reasoning of the Reformers. Generally speaking though, all of Scandanavia, North and Central Germany, England, Scotland, the Netherlands and some other places became predominately Protestant…about half, although I don’t want to get hung up on that argument.
[/quote]


#16

Maybe, but it still doesn’t explain why so many former Catholics would have a misconception as to a central teaching of the Catholic Church regarding the sacrifice of the mass.


#17

Back in those days, people were of the same religion as their leaders. The majority of people couldn’t read or write, and they didn’t have telephones, newpapers, or computers. They didn’t even have schools. There was no way for them to learn anything other than what was being taught in their village church. So, if the village church was Protestant, then they learned Protestantism, and if it was Catholic, then they learned Catholicism. There was no opportunity for them to put the teachings side by side and compare them, to evaluate which one seems to make the most sense. There was certainly no opportunity for them to freely switch religions - Protestants living in Catholic areas were put to death, and so were Catholics living in Protestant areas.

Leaders in Northern Europe had political and economic reasons for wanting to be out from under Church authority. The idea of creating their own national churches (which was suggested by Martin Luther to the German princes after his excommunication from the Church) seemed very appealing to the leaders in Northern Europe - after all, they didn’t want to pay tithes for a building in Rome that they would never get to visit, nor for a war in the South against people who would never be a threat to them, personally - they knew that the Saracens didn’t have the technology to travel over the mountains.

Nonetheless, it appears that many of these folks, educated and otherwise, believed that the Catholic Church taught the re-sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist. People can be right, people can be wrong, but when you have that many people making a particular assertion there is usually some basis for the assertion…even if ultimately the assertion itself proves to be erroneous.

As Della points out, all they knew was what they disagreed with, which was a misunderstanding of Catholic doctrine. Many of the reformers were not that well educated, even though they were very intelligent people - John Calvin was only 12 years old, and Simons Mennos was just barely literate - he was a peasant farmer.

They also never came up with a common idea of what they did believe, instead, which is why there were at least three different varieties of Protestantism right from the get-go, and at least 20 by the end of the 1500s, multiplying into the hundreds (perhaps thousands) that we see today.


#18

Hello! I’m KellyH on CARM, and I’d much rather chat with you here…but that’s for another thread.:wink:

In regard to the Eucharist and the way the view of it changed during the reformation needs to be expanded a bit. What else changed? Suddenly, many thought it wrong to baptize infants. Marriage was no longer viewed as permanent. Holy Orders? Apostolic Succession was lost on the protestants. Confession? Suddenly no longer necessary. Real Presence? Yes for some, not for others. Confirmation? Only for those who kept the infant baptism. Anointing of the sick/extreme unction? Nope. All of the Sacraments were stripped in some shape or form.

What one Church has remained true to all of the above? And the lone hold-out against artificial birth control, dissolution of marriage, homosexuality, abortion in all circumstances? I’ll let you answer that. Everyone else lets society and emotions dictate what they’ll give up next. The Church is made up of people who, at times, have failed miserably. The Church is led by Jesus. He never fails and neither will the Church He established until He comes again.

Peace be with you always,

Kelly

See ‘Disunity on Essentials’


#19

I don’t know that they were all faithful Catholics before the split. And many went on to reject Luther and Calvin, forming the so-called Radical Reformation, not recognizing Christ’s presence in the Sacrament whatsoever other than as a symbol.

In any event, the loss was more than made up by converts in the New World.


#20

Laudatur Iesus Chistus.

I do not think we need rely too heavily on references to things “outside of time”; The Holy Mass is the work of the Messiah perpetuated through time.

The difficulty about “multiple sacrifices” may have arisen because of a too simplistic understanding of the Temple Sacrifice, and therefore of its perfection in the Holy Mass. In the Temple Sacrifice the victim was slain separately from the altar; the flesh and blood were separated and brought to the altar in golden vessels. (See, Qorbanot article on Judaism 101’s website.) At the altar the blood was poured out around the altar and the flesh was partially burned as an offering to God. The balance of the flesh was then (in most forms of sacrifice) divided between the priest and the worshipers to be eaten as a feast.

The confusion under discussion may have arisen (and continue to arise) from the use of the word “sacrifice” to refer to several different things in this liturgical process at the Temple in Jerusalem: (1) the killing of the victim, (2) the offering of the flesh and blood to God, (3) the name for the victim offered, and (4) the name for the entire process.

In the Holy Mass, the miracle of the Consecration is parallel to the miracle of the fish and the loaves. There is only one sacrifice in the sense that Jesus Christ is the only Victim. There is only one sacrifice in the sense of the killing of the Victim, since Christ died only once on the Cross on Calvary. However, there are many sacrifices in the sense that, by the miracle of the Consecration, the very flesh and blood from that single killing of the single Victim is made present on each and every altar. In the Mass this same Flesh and Blood is offered – presented again – to God as a continuation of the work of the Messiah.

It is easy to understand how people would become confused, if they were unfamiliar with the practices of the Temple Sacrifice, and had only newly become familiar with images of “blood sacrifices” in ancient Rome and Greece; in the pagan sacrifices, the offering and the killing of the victim were the same act, and the killing was done on the altar.

Confusing the Sacred Liturgy of Israel and the Holy Mass with these pagan blood sacrifices might easily lead the prideful to assert that the Church was mistaken and that multiple killings of Christ were being claimed, because the “sacrifice” in the sense of the Victim and the slaying of the Victim might be confused with the “sacrifice” in the sense of the presentation of the Flesh and Blood of the Victim to God, with prayers of thanksgiving, supplication, intercession, and praise. In this sense of the offering or “presentation of the Victim to God” the “sacrifice” is multiplied without limit as “from east to west a perfect sacrifice is made in praise and thanksgiving.”

Another sense of sacrifice is important in understanding the Mass: we present our sacrifices in the form of bread and wine. These “sacrifices,” which carry our intentions and offering of ourselves to the altar, are new at each Mass. These “offerings” are destroyed in the Consecration when they become Christ’s perfect offering. Thus our “little” offerings are transubstantiated into Christ’s perfect Offering, so that we can share in His merits and be admitted into Communion with the Trinity.

Given this complexity, and the fact that few people even in our “literate age” understand these matters, it is not surprising that a generation unfamiliar with the liturgical practices at Jerusalem or the details of Church teachings on these subjects could be honestly confused and mistaken about the matter of “many sacrifices.”

Pax Christi nobiscum.

John Hiner


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.