The Wednesday feature of the Worldly Saints blog is a Scriptural meditation whereby I take a verse or passage I have been pondering lately and seek to edify my readers with it’s promises, encouragements, warnings, rebukes, etc.
The Catholic Mass is at the heart of Roman Catholicism. Almost fifty years ago, during the 2nd Vatican Council (1962-1965), those attending called the mass “the fount and apex of the whole Christian life.” Pope Pius XII even called it “the culmination and center of the Christian religion; it is the crowning act.”
The question of the Mass is a central question in defining the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism. There are four questions I want to answer in this primer on the subject: 1. What is the Mass? 2. Why is the issue of the Mass important?3. Is the Mass biblical? 4. Should a genuine Christian ever partake in the Mass or even be present while one is taking place?
What is the Mass?
A mass service generally consists of the following. The priest enters the sanctuary along with a deacon and altar servants and pronounces the presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to the congregation (e.g., with a cross gesture). A few chants, prayers and hymns are sung. The wine from grapes – which is mixed with water – is placed in a chalice and the wafers (also called “hosts” from the Latin word for “victim”) is placed in a silver or golden plate called a patencomes from). This leads to what is called the prayer of consecration where the Catholics claim the wine and wafers are literally converted into the body and blood of Jesus. And when the priest repeats the words of Christ said at the Lord’s Supper the bread and wine is said to mystically and miraculously become the body and blood of Christ through the Spirit’s power (the doctrine of transubstantiation). Thus, Jesus becomes a wafer in the hand of a priest. The late Mother Teresa commented,
“It is beautiful to see the humility of Christ. … in his permanent state of humility in the tabernacle, where He has reduced Himself to a small piece of bread that the priest can hold Him with two fingers.”
Soon after, the priest and one of his helpers lift the chalice and paten for “the Great Amen.” Then the distribution of the elements begins.
The Mass is to be taken daily because it helps attain eternal life. In fact, Catholic law requires Mass to be taken every Sunday and on certain feast days and least 1x per year during the Easter season. In fact, they even teach it is a mortal sin to do otherwise and anathemas are pronounced upon any who refuse to participate in the Mass.
The “bottom line” is that the Catholic Mass reduces Christ to a thin piece of bread and redefines the Gospel as an unfinished work on the cross. In essence, Christ is re-sacrificed at the Mass. He is not re-crucified but re-sacrificed. The Mass is a continuation of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. This is why Catholics have a crucifix and not an empty cross.
Why is the issue of the Mass important?
First, there has been a movement in recent years to define Catholics as brothers and sisters in Christ. There are voices in the evangelical world (e.g., ecumenical movement, ECT document, etc.) who are calling upon the Church to accept all Roman Catholics and fellow children of God and, as a result, there is a blurring of the lines of who is and isn’t a genuine believers. Instead of accepting them as genuine believers. We need to understand where the line is drawn and the Mass is one of those non-negotiables.
Second, it has been the cause of much martyrdom in history. One of the unfortunate consequences that have come to those who reject the Mass has not been one of rebuke or even excommunication but of martyrdom. Some examples of such figures killed for their refusal to take the Mass or for speaking out against it are, but not limited to John Rogers, John Hooper, Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, and Thomas Cranmer.
Third, it is clearly unbiblical and, unfortunately, widely accepted … and that should be cause for great concern no matter what the subject is.
Is the Mass biblical?
First, the Mass denies the real location of Jesus right now. There is a problem with the Mass here. Catholics teach that during the Mass, the body of Jesus literally is present. Hebrews 1:1-3 says otherwise – He is right now at the right hand of the Father. The Mass puts the body of Christ in numerous places throughout numerous places throughout the world; the Bible puts Jesus in one place: at the Father’s right hand.
Second, the Mass misses the purpose for taking the Lord’s Supper. We are to partake in the Lord’s Supper out of remembrance and not out of reenactment. The Catholic Church reenacts a sacrifice that we are simply to remember. It is not the sacrifice but a commemoration of that sacrifice. Jesus said simply in Luke 22:19, “… Do this in remembrance of Me.”
Third, the Mass is based upon interpreting some figurative language literally. Luke 22:19-20 says, ‘This is my body which is give for you’ and ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood’. In Did Jesus intend it that way? The common hermeneutics rule is “if the plain sense makes sense, seek no other sense.” In other words, if you can interpret something literally and it makes sense, there is no need to interpret it any other way. We know Jesus didn’t mean literally because cannibalism was strictly forbidden by the Law (Lev 7:26; 17:10-14; Acts 15:28-29). He couldn’t possibly expect this to be understood as something that symbolized them breaking the Law. Surely the disciples would have objected to this if they heard Jesus tell them to be cannibals; they didn’t have a problem rebuking Christ and they don’t here.
Fourth, the Mass denies the work on the cross as finished and sufficient. This is the big one! When Jesus said “It is finished” (John 19:30), it has been well-explained that the word meant “paid in full.” The perfect tense conveys a process but happening at one point in time with continuing results. This could be translated “It has been finished and stands complete.” This simply means there is nothing left to atone for. There is nothing left to be sacrificed for. All is finished on the cross. Well, if the Catholic Church teaches the Mass is a continual sacrifice than Jesus was a liar and should have said “It isn’t quite finished yet. You finish it!” Jesus’ work was completed on the cross. The Mass says it was not enough.
Fifth, the Mass is idolatry. People begin to think they are drawing near to God when they receive these elements in the Mass but really they are committing idolatry. They make God into something formed by man; they put him into an image. John MacArthur spoke about this as well: “It is idolatrous as the Host is worshipped. The Mass cancels the cross. It is the worship of an idol made with hands. Somebody made the wine and somebody made the bread.”
Should a Christian participate in the Mass in any way?
John Calvin said, “on the strongest grounds that Christian men ought not even to be present at the Mass.” J.C. Ryle’s The Five English Reformers chronicles these English martyrs refusal to attend Mass. He writes his own abrupt, straight-forward and biblical opinion. He says,
“Whatever men please to think or say, the Romish doctrine of the real presence if pursued to its legitimate consequences obscures every leading doctrine of the gospel and damages and interferes with the whole system of Christ’s truth. Grant for a moment that the Lord’s Supper is a sacrifice and not a Sacrament, grant that every time the words of consecration are used the natural body and blood of Christ are present on the communion table under the forms of bread and wine, grant that everyone who eats that consecrated bread and drinks that consecrated wine does really eat and drink the natural body and blood of Christ, grant for a moment these things and then see what momentous consequences result from these premises. You spoil the blessed doctrine of Christ’s finished work when He died on the cross. A sacrifice that needs to be repeated is not a perfect or complete thing. You spoil the priestly office of Christ. If there are priests that can offer an acceptable sacrifice to God besides Him, the great High Priest is robbed of His glory. You spoil the scriptural doctrine of the Christian ministry. You exalt sinful men into the position of mediators between God and man. You give to the sacramental elements of bread and wine an honor and veneration they were never meant to receive. You produce an idolatry to be abhorred by faithful Christians. Last but not least, you overthrow the true doctrine of Christ’s human nature. If the body born of the Virgin Mary can be in more places than one at the same time, it is not a body like our own and Jesus was not the last Adam in the truth of our nature.”
The answer is simple: if you don’t mind being present at a false sacrifice on a false altar in a false temple by a false priest, where the atonement of Christ on the cross is continued by humanity, than attend the Mass.
 Mother Teresa, In the Silence of the New Heart.