The Theology of the Mass and the Errors advocated by the Novus Ordo Missae of 1969.
By Father John Brucciani SSPX
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the centre of the Christian religion. It is the heart of the Catholic Faith, the highest act of worship that can be addressed to God by man, through the action of the man-God, Jesus Christ.
St Thomas Aquinas teaches that, as everything in the Catholic Faith is directed towards Christ, so too everything is directed towards the Mass, which contains Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Again, in the same way that Christ’s life on earth was centred on the sacrifice of the Cross, so too the whole if Christianity is centred around the sacrifice of Our Lord on Calvary, sacrifice re-enacted and perpetuated at Holy Mass.
The Church has always held the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the highest veneration, for obvious reasons. Yet, the later part of the XXth century has seen the substitution of the Traditional Rite of the Mass, previously codified at the Council of Trent in the XVIIth century, for a new rite of Mass, commonly known under its Latin name: the Novus Ordo Missae. This substitution has been the cause of immense dissatisfaction, scandal and strife in the Catholic Church ever since. Traditional theologians are unanimous in condemning the Novus Ordo Missae. The declaration of Cardinals Alfredo Ottaviani and Antonio Bacci is become famous:
“The Novus Ordo Missae, both as a whole and in its details, a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass as it was formulated in Session 22 of the Council of Trent.”
In order to understand the gravity of the substitution of the “Old Mass” for a “New Mass”, it is necessary to possess a clear understanding of the theology of the Mass. Unfortunately, due to the rarity of catechetical instruction and the quasi-impossibility of assisting at Mass celebrated according to the Tridentine Rite, this clear understanding is lacking in many Catholic minds today, even in those who profess and manifest a deep attachment to the old forms of worship.
The present work is one of many that have been made on the Mass and XXth century liturgical reform. Its aim is to present a concise study of the history and theology of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and to demonstrate how the Novus Ordo Missae is in stark opposition to the Church’s perennial teachings on the Holy Eucharist. Much of its material will be taken from existing sources. It is hoped that any knowledge the reader may acquire will contribute to a greater understanding and ultimately to an unalterable love of the Catholic Church’s most precious treasure: the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
In order to comprehend the great historical and theological value of the Tridentine Mass, it is necessary to know a little of its history. We will limit ourselves to retracing the origins of the Roman Canon contained in the Tridentine Rite of the Mass.
The core of the Tridentine Rite of Mass, that is, the Roman Canon, can be traced back to the IVth century and beyond. A Canon of the Mass used at Milan and Rome survives in the book De Sacramentis of St. Ambrose (397). In it appear the first recognisable phrases of our modern Canon of the Mass:
"... approved, ratified reasonable..." "therefore, calling to mind his most glorious passion and resurrection... and we ask and pray that thou wouldst receive this oblation at thine altar on high by the hands of thine angels... as thou didst vouchsafe to receive the offerings of thy righteous servant Abel, and the sacrifice of our patriarch Abraham..."
This reference to the De Sacramentis, coupled with studies carried out on the Gelasian and Gregorian Sacramentaries, provides the strongest historical proof that the Roman Canon, in its essence, may legitimately be traced back to the golden age of the Fathers of the Church and even beyond, up to the very time of the Apostles. In his letter to the Corinthians in the year 88 A.D., Pope St. Clement of Rome, pope and martyr, writes that Our Lord laid down the order of the Mass, referring to the Offertory, Consecration and Communion. St. Justin the Martyr (in his writings, 155 A.D.) states that after His Resurrection, Our Lord taught the Apostles how to say Mass.
While the outline of the Canon, set forth in the Ambrosian Sacramentary, remained substantially unchanged through the course of time, additions, amplifications and ceremonies accompanying the Eucharistic Prayer varied from place to place. Different liturgical rites borrowed from one another and developed traits of their own. The Roman liturgy, about which we are concerned, assumed the features of other liturgies, especially, the Gallican.
This process of embellishment of this primitive rite of Mass led to the medieval "derived" rites, which are more properly called local uses of the Roman Rite. Most of these lapsed in 1570 when the Roman Missal was standardised and imposed upon all Roman Catholics who did not claim a 200-year precedent for their own uses.
Brief though this demonstration may be, we can conclude that the essential elements composing what we now know as the Tridentine Rite of Mass are identical to the prayers and ceremonies found in the ancient Leonine, Gelasian and Gregorian Sacramentaries.
These same prayers and ceremonies go back to apostolic times. We can objectively deduce that the Tridentine Rite is, in its essence, of apostolic origin.
In the Papal Bulle Quo Primum Tempore (14th July, 1570), Pope St Pius V presented to the Catholic world a codified rite of the Mass, now known as the Tridentine Rite.
We have seen that, over the centuries, many additions and imperfections had crept into the ancient liturgy of the Mass. In accordance to the wishes and requests of the Fathers of Trent, this liturgy was purified and restored to its original splendour and also codified, i.e. fixed forever.
Concerning the restoration and re-editing of the Roman Missal and Breviary, the holy Pontiff declared:
“Hence, We decided to entrust this work to learned men of our selection. They very carefully collated all their work with the ancient codices in Our Vatican Library and with reliable, preserved or emended codices from elsewhere. Besides this, these men consulted the works of ancient and approved authors concerning the same sacred rites; and thus they have restored the Missal itself to the original form and rite of the holy Fathers. When this work has been gone over numerous times and further emended, after serious study and reflection, We commanded that the finished product be printed and published as soon as possible, so that all might enjoy the fruits of this labour; and thus, priests would know which prayers to use and which rites and ceremonies they were required to observe from now on in the celebration of Masses.”
The restoration of the Mass to its primitive splendour was seriously undertaken.
Concerning the obligation of celebrating Mass according to the newly restored Missal, and the Missal’s codification in perpetuum, St Pius V, using the full force of his divine authority, declares:
“We specifically command each and every patriarch, administrator, and all other persons or whatever ecclesiastical dignity they may be, be they even cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, or possessed of any other rank or pre-eminence, and We order them in virtue of holy obedience to chant or to read the Mass according to the rite and manner and norm herewith laid down by Us and, hereafter, to discontinue and completely discard all other rubrics and rites of other missals, however ancient, which they have customarily followed; and they must not in celebrating Mass presume to introduce any ceremonies or recite any prayers other than those contained in this Missal.
Furthermore, by these presents [this law], in virtue of Our Apostolic authority, We grant and concede in perpetuity that, for the chanting or reading of the Mass in any church whatsoever, this Missal is hereafter to be followed absolutely, without any scruple of conscience or fear of incurring any penalty, judgement, or censure, and may freely and lawfully be used. Nor are superiors, administrators, canons, chaplains, and other secular priests, or religious, of whatever title designated, obliged to celebrate the Mass otherwise than as enjoined by Us. We likewise declare and ordain that no one whosoever is forced or coerced to alter this Missal, and that this present document cannot be revoked or modified, but remain always valid and retain its full force notwithstanding the previous constitutions and decrees of the Holy See, as well as any general or special constitutions or edicts of provincial or synodal councils, and notwithstanding the practice and custom of the aforesaid churches, established by long and immemorial prescription - except, however, if more than two hundred years' standing.”
The Bulle finishes with the following admonition:
“Therefore, no one whosoever is permitted to alter this notice of Our permission, statute, ordinance, command, precept, grant, indult, declaration, will, decree, and prohibition. Let him know that he will thereby incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.”
Again, though the declaration of the sovereign Pontiff Pius V, we see that the Tridentine Rite of Mass is in accordance to the most ancient traditions of the Church. Consequently it was forbidden to the Western World to use any other form in the celebration of the Mass, save those rites, which existed 200 years prior to the Apostolic Bulle.
In this part we will undertake an extensive study of “sacrificiality” or sacrificial aspect Mass. Once this has become clear in our minds, we will then be able to begin a study of the Novus Ordo Missae and the theology that lies behind it.
The notion of sacrifice is essential to the theology of the Mass, so essential that it has been singled out and vehemently attacked by numerous heretics, the most infamous being Luther and Cranmer. Yet why is it so important? What do we imply when we profess the Mass to be a sacrifice?
The word comes from the Latin: “sacrum facere”, to do something sacred. Man, being a creature owes homage and honour to the Creator. Since the beginning he has always paid that homage by offering something, by giving something back to God from amongst all that he has received from Him. He thereby acknowledges that all things belong to God and he has use of them only by leave. In return for the “gift” he offers, man begs blessings for himself.
This form of rendering to God His due has, throughout history, taken the form of sacrifice. The offering of a gift and the receiving of blessings / benefits in return constitute the first three elements of sacrifice: homage and praise i.e. adoration, thanksgiving and impetration i.e. requesting benefits by entreaty.
Now, since man disobeys God i.e. he is a sinner, sacrifice will take on another aspect: reparation for the offence committed against the divine majesty. As a subject of a great king deserves punishment for his disobedience, man deserves nothing less than death for the grave offences he commits against God. The greater the majesty offended, the greater the offence. But God is of infinite majesty, therefore the offence also.
This offence must be repaired. The right order (absolute subjection of man to God) has been disturbed and needs to be restored. Man cannot take his own life which he has forfeited through his sin as this is against his nature. Therefore he takes instead one of God’s creatures and first immolates it, then offers it to the Divine Majesty in place of himself for his own acquittal, in expiation. In order to show that the victim belongs entirely to God, and to show creation’s (and therefore man’s also) absolute subjection to God, the victim is totally destroyed.
Hence sacrifice now is composed of the following elements:
These elements are commonly known as the four ends of sacrifice. They exist even in the Mass.
The effect of sacrifice is the union of man to God, i.e. his pardon / salvation. This is only possible through the expiation offered, which restores the right order, that of man’s total subjection to his Maker.
The sacrifice man owes to God must be according to man’s nature. Now man is both spirit and body. Therefore the sacrifice he is to offer must be according to these two aspects of his nature. It will therefore be both visible and invisible. The exterior, perceivable action is the image of the interior, invisible oblation of himself to God.
Also it is in the nature of man that he be a sociable animal. He lives in community with other men who all help each other attain their proper perfection. Therefore the sacrifice he offers takes on a social aspect; it is performed in the name of each individual and in the name of society in general. Whether we consider the individual, groups of individuals or the whole society of individuals, each individually and all collectively owe adoration, thanksgiving, impetration and expiation to God. Hence the act of religion called sacrifice is eminently a social act.
Being a social act, it is necessarily a hierarchical act (all society requires hierarchy i.e. authority). Therefore sacrifice performed in the name of the people has to be performed by a man delegated by the people for that purpose. We call him the priest.
We see therefore, that sacrifice is a religious obligation whereby man pays his due to God, in praise and honour of His name, in thanksgiving for gifts received, in reparation for any offences he has committed against the Divine majesty and to request God’s mercy and future blessings. This religious obligation is of man’s very nature. Even the most depraved or primitive civilisations were conscious of their religious duties, though in an erroneous manner.
Christ intended to found a religion in conformity with man’s nature. It is of the very nature of man to express his dependency on God by sacrifice. Therefore Christ’s religion was to contain sacrifice.
In the present context of mankind, that of human nature mortally wounded by original sin, sacrifice will have an eminently propitiatory aspect.
Before he can give worthy praise and glory to God through sacrifice, man must make reparation for his sin.
Yet how can he? He has offended an infinite God, his offence is of infinite gravity, only a priest untainted with sin and of infinite worthiness can offer an infinitely pleasing sacrifice to appease the infinitely offended Divine Majesty.
Therefore the Son of God, God Himself, became man to offer a worthy sacrifice of expiation to God and make full reparation for the sins of mankind. Being the Son of God, the priest of the sacrifice was of infinite dignity and the sacrifice itself was of infinite worth. It was nothing other then Christ offering His divine life to the Father, the offering of God to God.
This sacrifice therefore was eminently propitiatory, destroying the sin of man, purifying his heart and making him once more acceptable to God by opening his soul to sanctifying grace.
Let us study Christ’s sacrifice more closely. How was it a perfect sacrifice, capable of restoring the union of man with God?
A man cannot aspire to communicate with God of himself. Speaking in the name of society he must be first delegated by that society. Christ was to speak in the name of man, He must therefore be of the society of man, i.e. a man.
This delegate must be then made acceptable to God through
some sort of consecration i.e. he must be a priest. Christ’s
manhood was consecrated by its union with the divinity.
The priest is mediator between God and man. He offers the people’s prayer to God and in return passes on God’s blessings to man. Hence Christ is the mediator by excellence, for he is both God and man. He is the perfect priest. By His priesthood He offers the perfect sacrifice.
Christ offers His own divine Self as victim. Man deserved to die to repair the grave offence against God. Christ as man dies in his place. He is the priest who offers and the victim offered. And since Christ’s death is the death of a man who is God, Christ’s death in reparation for the sins of mankind is infinitely pleasing to God.
Christ’s sacrifice was necessarily one of pain and suffering. The pleasure of doing his own will was man’s downfall. The pain of his redemption will be his resurrection. To repair the pleasure experienced in disobeying God, pain and suffering is necessary, in order to rectify the will. Sin is the turning away from God and the turning towards creatures. Sacrifice has for its end, therefore, to turn the will of man back to God. Since man’s will is injured and carried more easily to sin, his conversion (turning the will back to God) will be painful. Since man is both body and soul, the suffering will be both corporal and spiritual.
Christ’s sacrifice is one of pain and suffering for three
- that men comprehend the malice of sin.
- that man perceive the infinite love of God.
- that Christ as mediator receive all the graces and blessings from such an agreeable sacrifice in order to pass them on to the rest of mankind. He first had to suffer in mankind’s place.
Christ’s passion was a true sacrifice. The sacrifices of the
Old Testament could not please God because of the infinite
distance between God and man due to sin. The sacrifice of the
Cross is the perfect sacrifice. Therefore it is capable of
for mankind’s sins and reuniting God and man.
Even after Christ’s sacrifice, man is capable of sin, of breaking away from God once more. Therefore, as a perpetual reminder to man of the sacrifice of Calvary, and in order to apply again and again the fruits of the Sacrifice of Calvary to the souls of men, Christ willed to perpetuate His sacrifice unto the end of time.
More simply, as long as sin exists, Christ’s sacrifice will exist. This sacrifice is perpetuated in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
“If anyone says that in the Mass a true and proper sacrifice is not offered or that the offering of Mass is not something other than that Christ is given to us that we may partake of Him, A.S.” (Council of Trent)
The list is endless. We will quote only one source:
“Even if one does not now see that Christ is sacrificed, still He Himself is sacrificed on earth, whenever the body of Christ is sacrificed”(St Ambrose)
In conformity to Holy Write and Apostolic Tradition, the Catholic Church teaches that the Sacrifice of Calvary and the Sacrifice of the Mass are wholly one and identical, with the sole difference that one is physical and bloody, the other, sacramental and unbloody.
The following proposition is de fide, a dogma of the Faith:
In the Sacrifice of the Mass and in the Sacrifice of the Cross, the Victim offered and the Priest offering are identical. Only the nature and the mode of the offering are different.
How is this? How can the priest and victim of every Mass be identical to the priest and victim of Calvary? I answer that at Mass Christ acts through the priest, to the extent that the priest becomes Christ (remember, the minister of a sacrament is the instrument of Christ!). The priest offers up Christ (Christ offers up Himself), thanks to the transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. Hence the identity of the Mass with Calvary stems from the identicalness of priest and victim.
The following proposition is again de fide:
In the Sacrifice of the Mass, Christ’s Sacrifice on the cross is made present, its memory is celebrated, and its saving power is applied.
How is this? How is the Sacrifice of the Cross made present everyday on our altars? I answer that the sacrifice of the Mass is the presenting again of the Sacrifice of the Cross, in so far as the sacrificial Body and Blood of Our Lord are made present under the separate species, thus symbolically representing the real separation of the blood from the body of Christ on Calvary. The sacrifice of Christ was completed when He bowed His head and died, His blood having drained from His body. This separation occurs each day at Mass in symbol. Hence the sacrifice also.
In the world as we know it, the problem is how to recover this self-surrender. We are not merely imperfect creatures who must be improved: we are, as Newman said, rebels who must lay down our arms. The first answer then, to the question why are cure should be painful, is that, to render back the will which we have so long claimed for our own, is in itself, wherever and however it is done, a grievous pain. (...) But to surrender a self-will inflamed and swollen with years of usurpation is a kind of death.” The Problem of Pain, ch. VI, On Human Pain.
First, why does a material action produce a divine reality? We have seen that man is both body and soul, composed therefore of material and immaterial elements. Since religion must be according to man’s nature, it must comprise of material as well as immaterial elements. A wholly spiritual religion with no reference or dependence on the material world is unnatural and unsuited to mankind.
It is true also that man, composed of body and soul, depends on what is tangible and material to accede to what is immaterial and spiritual. For example, intellectual knowledge, which is something spiritual, can only exist if man comes into sense contact of what he wishes to know. This sense contact comes about through the five senses: I see, hear, touch, smell or taste something and only then do I formulate an idea, an intellectual concept of it.
In view of these truths, the Council of Trent teaches that man is so constituted that he cannot aspire to mental or intellectual knowledge unless via the medium of sensible objects. In order therefore to be able to grasp the hidden realities of the soul’s sanctification God decided that his power be manifested to us through the intervention of external signs called symbols. The soul’s purification from sin at Baptism, for example, is symbolised by the body’s ablution in water. The Catechism of Trent quotes St John Chrysostom: “If man were not clothed in a material body, these good things would have been presented to him naked and without any covering; but as the soul is joined to the body, it was absolutely necessary to employ sensible things in order to assist in making them understood.” (St John Chrysostom)
Secondly, how does a material action produce a divine reality? The answer belongs to the deposit of the Faith: the action of the minister produces a spiritual effect by virtue of Christ, God made man, who acts through the minister of the sacrament and produces in the soul of the receiver sanctifying grace and the particular sacramental grace. Christ instituted the sacraments and in doing so, guaranteed that their specific actions, when performed by the proper ministers and with the proper intentions, would produce their specific effects. Thus we may say, when man performs a sacramental action, Christ acts through him and consequently, the material actions of man (pouring water over the head in Baptism) produce a divine reality (justification of the soul.)
Catholic theology calls God the principal agent in the sacraments and man, the instrumental agent, through/by whom God acts.
In the IIIrd part of his Summa Theologica, question 49, St Thomas Aquinas enumerates three main effects of Christ’s passion:
St Thomas describes each of these effects as follows:
Christ's Passion causes forgiveness of sins by way of redemption. For since He is our head, then, by the Passion which He endured from love and obedience, He delivered us as His members from our sins, as by the price of His Passion: in the same way as if a man by the good industry of his hands were to redeem himself from a sin committed with his feet. For, just as the natural body is one though made up of diverse members, so the whole Church, Christ's mystic body, is reckoned as one person with its head, which is Christ.
Christ's Passion causes forgiveness of sins also by way of efficiency, inasmuch as Christ's flesh, wherein He endured the Passion, is the instrument of the Godhead, so that His sufferings and actions operate with Divine power for expelling sin. (Summa Theologica, question 49, art. 1)
Through Christ's Passion we have been delivered from the debt of punishment in two ways. First of all, directly--namely, inasmuch as Christ's Passion was sufficient and superabundant satisfaction for the sins of the whole human race: but when sufficient satisfaction has been paid, then the debt of punishment is abolished. In another way--indirectly, that is to say--in so far as Christ's Passion is the cause of the forgiveness of sin, upon which the debt of punishment rests. (Summa Theologica, question 49, art. 3)
Christ's Passion is in two ways the cause of our reconciliation to God. In the first way, inasmuch as it takes away sin by which men became God's enemies, according to Wis. 14:9: "To God the wicked and his wickedness are hateful alike"; and Ps. 5:7: "Thou hatest all the workers of iniquity." In another way, inasmuch as it is a most acceptable sacrifice to God. Now it is the proper effect of sacrifice to appease God: just as man likewise overlooks an offence committed against him on account of some pleasing act of homage shown him. Hence it is written (1 Kgs. 26:19): "If the Lord stir thee up against me, let Him accept of sacrifice." And in like fashion Christ's voluntary suffering was such a good act that, because of its being found in human nature, God was appeased for every offence of the human race with regard to those who are made one with the crucified Christ. (Summa Theologica, question 49, art. 4)
This last point is of the utmost importance. Man has indeed been made acceptable to God, so acceptable that he can become a son of God, sharing in the very nature and life of God Himself: “But as many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name. Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (Jo. I, 12-13)
A more general description of the effects of Christ Passion is presented and explained in the VIth session of Council of Trent. This session proclaimed the decree on Justification. As we will see later on, this decree is of capital importance in the theology of the Mass. We will therefore make a short summery.
The decree begins by recalling the fall of man, the loss of grace and consequently man’s radical incapacity to be pleasing to God, i.e. just in God’s eyes:
“Whereas all men had lost their innocence in the prevarication of Adam-having become unclean, and, as the apostle says, by nature children of wrath, as (this Synod) has set forth in the decree on original sin, they were so far the servants of sin, and under the power of the devil and of death, that not the Gentiles only by the force of nature, but not even the Jews by the very letter itself of the law of Moses, were able to be liberated, or to arise, therefrom.” (Chapter 1)
God therefore sent His only begotten Son to redeem mankind:
“The heavenly Father, the father of mercies and the God of all comfort, when that blessed fullness of the time was come, sent unto men, Jesus Christ, His own Son, that He might both redeem the Jews who were under the Law, and that the Gentiles, who followed not after justice, might attain to justice, and that all men might receive the adoption of sons.” (Chapter 2)
Only those to whom the merits of Christ’s passion are applied become once more just in God’s eyes:
“Though He died for all, yet do not all receive the benefit of His death, but those only unto whom the merit of His passion is communicated.” (Chapter 3)
Then follows a description of what the justification of man entails:
“A translation, from that state wherein man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace, and of the adoption of the sons of God, through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Saviour.” (Chapter 4)
This justification comes about through baptism.
Then follows the famous chapter 7, in which the process of man’s justification is fully explained. We can but quote the wonderfully clear and concise teaching of the Council in its entirety:
What the justification of the impious is, and what are the causes thereof.
This disposition, or preparation, is followed by Justification itself, which is not remission of sins merely, but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man, through the voluntary reception of the grace, and of the gifts, whereby man of unjust becomes just, and of an enemy a friend, that so he may be an heir according to hope of life everlasting.
The causes of man’s justification are given:
Of this Justification the causes are these:
The final cause indeed is the glory of God and of Jesus Christ, and life everlasting;
… while the efficient cause is a merciful God who washes and sanctifies gratuitously, signing, and anointing with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance;
… but the meritorious cause is His most beloved only-begotten, our Lord Jesus Christ, who, when we were enemies, for the exceeding charity wherewith he loved us, merited justification for us by His most holy Passion on the wood of the cross, and made satisfaction for us unto God the Father;
…the instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith, without which (faith) no man was ever justified;
… lastly, the alone formal cause is the justice of God, not that whereby He Himself is just, but that whereby He maketh us just, that, to wit, with which we being endowed by Him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and we are not only reputed, but are truly called, and are, just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to every one as He wills, and according to each one's proper disposition and co-operation. For, although no one can be just, but he to whom the merits of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ are communicated, yet is this done in the said justification of the impious, when by the merit of that same most holy Passion, the charity of God is poured forth, by the Holy Spirit, in the hearts of those that are justified, and is inherent therein: whence, man, through Jesus Christ, in whom he is engrafted, receives, in the said justification, together with the remission of sins, all these (gifts) infused at once, faith, hope, and charity. For faith, unless hope and charity be added thereto, neither unites man perfectly with Christ, nor makes him a living member of His body.
For which reason it is most truly said, that Faith without works is dead and profitless; and, In Christ Jesus neither circumcision, availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by charity. This faith, Catechumen's beg of the Church-agreeably to a tradition of the apostles-previously to the sacrament of Baptism; when they beg for the faith which bestows life everlasting, which, without hope and charity, faith cannot bestow: whence also do they immediately hear that word of Christ; “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”
Wherefore, when receiving true and Christian justice, they are bidden, immediately on being born again, to preserve it pure and spotless, as the first robe given them through Jesus Christ in lieu of that which Adam, by his disobedience, lost for himself and for us, that so they may bear it before the judgement-seat of our Lord Jesus Christ, and may have life everlasting.
The ultimate effect or consequence of Christ’s Passion is the justification of man, when the merits of the Passion are applied to the soul through the sacraments, in particular the first sacrament of baptism.
Man’s justification consists in the destruction of his sins, his subsequent purification and the infusion of sanctifying grace and virtues in the soul, whereby he becomes a true son of God.
Since man remains nevertheless a sinner, his souls needs to be constantly bathed in the merits of Christ’s Passion, purified in Christ’s blood, justified anew. This happens through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, re-enactment and continuation of the Sacrifice of Calvary.
Therefore, the necessity of the Sacrifice of the Mass being a propitiatory sacrifice is tantamount. If it were not, it would not be the continuation of Calvary. It would be reduced to a mere memorial or commemorative meal. This is the case of the Communion Service of the various Protestant Churches.
We cannot present here an in-depth study of Protestant Theology, indeed it would be near impossible to do so with all the variants that against between Protestant authors and theologians. We wish only to explain the main point of divergence between Catholic and Protestant teaching: justification. We will follow Luther’s explanation of justification.
Luther’s theology, and the general tenants of Protestant teaching, may be summarised as follows:
Let us look at these assertions in detail:
The Catholic Church teaches that human nature was grievously injured through Original Sin. Not only did man fall from the state of grace and justice in which he had been created, but he also sustained terrible wounds to the mind and the will. Henceforth he would suffer from ignorance and the revolt of the lower passions. However, though grievously harmed, human nature was not destroyed by Original Sin. A cure was possible, which takes place when the soul is justified. It was/is therefore possible for human nature to be restored to its former dignity, i.e. purified of its sin and filled once more with sanctifying grace and the virtues.
Luther believed that as a result of Original Sin, human nature was irremediably injured. Though the fall of Adam man’s nature is become evil and must ever remain so, so evil that the death of Christ is not sufficient to restore it to its former state of justice. Man will therefore remain evil, a sinner, whose sins can never be destroyed or taken away.
Since man can never be freed from his sin, the Sacrifice of Calvary was not a propitiatory sacrifice, one that atoned for the sins of mankind. What was the Sacrifice of Calvary? Calvin professes that it was a vicarial, vindicatory punishment for sin, i.e. the Son of God alone bore upon Himself the guilt of mankind’s sins and absorbed in the place of the rest of humanity the full force of God’s merciless vengeance. Now the price of sin has been paid, the salvation of man is assured by an act of faith in Christ, as will be explained further on.
Since man remains steeped in his sin, he is radically unable to receive divine grace, i.e. a share in the divine life. What did Christ’s passion therefore merit for him? It merited for man the non-imputation of his sin. Grace takes on a new meaning for the Protestant. Merited by Christ’s death on the Cross, it no longer means the giving of new life to the soul, but simply covering of the soul with the cloak of Christ’s righteousness. God no longer sees the sin, the leprosy of the soul, only his Divine Son’s righteousness with which the soul is covered.
The merit of Christ’s passion is the cause of man’s justification. Luther has a new definition of the justification of the sinner. It is no longer the destruction of sin, purification of the soul and infusion of sanctifying grace and the gifts; it is merely, as mentioned above, the non-imputation of sin. Hence, after justification in the Lutheran sense the soul still remains hideous, evil in itself and thereby intrinsically repulsive to God. It becomes acceptable to God by being cloaked in the garment of Christ’s righteousness.
For Luther there is no interior sanctification of the soul, no infusion of grace, no share in the divine life, no gifts, no virtues, nothing when the soul is justified. It is simply that God withholds the accusation of sinner.
For Luther, justification means that the soul is declared just and therefore acceptable to God, since Christ has paid the price for its sin. For the Catholic justification means the soul is made just.
Since man remains spiritually dead, he can do nothing of himself to acquire a spiritual reward: heaven. Good works are useless in man’s plight for salvation. Therefore all that remains for him is to place his trust in God. This is the definition of the Lutheran act of faith. It is an act of blind confidence in God who looks upon us as clothed in Christ’s justice and therefore admits saves us.
This is the logical consequence of Luther’s refusal of Catholic justification. No man is made whole, holy, just, Our Lady included. Man’s sin remains though it is hidden from God’s sight. Therefore, there is no communication of grace, i.e. a participation in the life of God whereby man is elevated to the state of adoptive son of God. Hence nothing binds men together, no common bond of grace, no spiritual life shared by the members of the Church triumphant, suffering and militant, i.e. the Mystical Body of Christ. This is the very definition of the Communion of the Saints.
If anything man can do is useless in his plight for salvation and if man is saved by faith alone, the sacraments and the ministers of the sacraments become obsolete and unnecessary.
The Catholic Church defines a sacrament as an outward sign of inward grace. Through the sacraments, the graces and merits of Christ’s passion are communicated to the soul, justifying it ever more and rendering it ever more pleasing to God. This was intolerable to Luther.
Carrying his belief in the irremediable corruption of human nature to its logical end, Luther denied that anyone or anything in the created universe could be used unto salvation. Faith and faith alone was the sole criterion for salvation. Grace (in the Catholic sense) does not exist, therefore the sacraments, channels of divine grace, do not exist either. If the sacraments do not exist, the sacramental priesthood does not exist.
For Luther there was to be no ministerial communication of grace. Salvation was a personal affair between God and the soul, without the intermediary of men ordained to distribute the sacraments. Christ having paid the debt of punishment once and for all on the Cross, man’s salvation was assured and all he had to do was “latch on to” that salvation by an act of faith in Christ.
Christ having paid the debt of punishment once and for all on the Cross, man’s salvation was assured and all he had to do was “latch on to” that salvation by an act of faith in Christ.
If the sacramental system was to be rejected, the Mass in particular had to be destroyed, for two reasons in particular:
Firstly, we have seen that the Mass is the continuation of the Sacrifice of Calvary, and therefore a propitiatory sacrifice, rendered present by the ministry of the priest-celebrant, through which the saving merits of Christ’s passion are applied to the individual soul unto its justification.
But for Luther, Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary was not propitiatory because it did not atone for man’s sins, but merely merited for him their non-imputation.
Therefore the “sacrificiality” of the Mass had to be abolished, as this was a perpetual reminder and attestation of the justifying (in the Catholic sense) powers of Calvary.
Secondly, we have seen that Christ’s sacrifice is the source of salvation for all men, both for Catholics and Protestants. Now Catholics say that though the salvation of man has been wrought, it must still be applied to the individual soul, over and over again, since the soul sins anew each day. This takes place through the reception of the sacraments and in particular that of Holy Mass. Hence the necessity to celebrate Mass. However, Protestants deny that the application of the merits of Christ’s passion must be applied to the soul day after day. They are applied once and for all through the famous act of faith in Christ.
Thus, the sacrifice of the Mass, the re-enactment of Calvary, where the fruits of Christ’s passion are applied to the souls of the faithful, is useless, rather it is, they say, blasphemous and derogates the honour due to the one and unique sacrifice of Calvary.
We see therefore that Luther’s teaching is in contradiction with Catholic teaching. Luther denies man’s redemption in the Catholic sense.
According to Catholic teaching, man’s redemption was operated on Calvary by Christ’s bloody sacrifice. This redemption consists in the destruction of sin and the justification of the souls of all those who receive a share in the merits of Jesus Christ. The souls shares in the merits of Jesus Christ through its adherence to the Church and reception of the sacraments, imparted to them by ordained priests.
According to Protestant teaching, man’s redemption is also operated on Calvary by Christ’s bloody sacrifice. But the redemption does not destroy sin, merely removes the blame for it (non-imputation). Therefore, since sin remains, Christ’s sacrifice is not propitiatory (atones for our sins) and furthermore, there is no justification of the soul, i.e. infusion of sanctifying grace, since the presence of God in the soul is incompatible with sin still residing therein.
We will now see what consequence Luther’s system of belief bore on the liturgy he designed for his new religion.
“Lex orandi, lex credendi”: the law of prayer follows on the law of belief. This is a well-known theological axiom. We pray as we believe. It applies to all religions.
By virtue of this principle, Catholic prayer (the Liturgy) must necessarily be in accordance with Catholic Doctrine.
Therefore, if one were to change Catholic doctrine, one would also have to change the liturgy. This was the case of Luther and all the Protestant reformers.
We shall briefly enumerate the main points of Luther’s doctrine concerning the Mass and thereby show how and why Luther had to tamper with the Mass.
For Luther, the Mass was only a sacrifice of praise, that is an act of praise, of thanksgiving, but most certainly not an expiatory sacrifice, which recreates the Sacrifice of Calvary and applies its merits, since such a belief would have been incompatible with his heretical teachings. Luther and his followers could not but repudiate this teaching, since it was in contradiction with his two mains points of his new system of belief: justification and atonement.
Luther also could not tolerate the idea of the sacrifice of the Mass being a continuation of the sacrifice of Calvary, for this would necessarily imply the propitiatory effects of Calvary being applied to man here and now, unto the forgiveness of his sins and his sanctification. Therefore he abolished all notion of sacrifice. The Mass was to become a mere memorial of Christ’s past and completed sacrifice.
Luther and his followers believed that Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary was unique and omni-sufficient to appease God’s anger forever. God had granted an irrevocable decree of pardon to His predestined elect. There was, therefore no need for the re-iteration of this sacrifice and the application of its merits to mankind.
Luther wrongly believed that the Mass contained a separate value from the act of Our Lord’s sacrifice of the Cross. If Christ’s sacrifice was of infinite value, why the need to repeat it each day upon the altar, by the ministry of priests? To do so would be to blasphemously deny the infinite and all sufficient value of the Cross.
The Protestants denied the real and substantial presence of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ in the Eucharistic species. If there was to be no sacrifice, no continuation of Calvary, there was no longer to be a victim, Jesus Christ present under the Eucharistic species. And again, if there is to be no victim (Christ) substantially present and offered to the Father, there is no more need for sacrifice, i.e. the sacred act of offering a victim. These two errors are mutually supportive of one another.
There are different Protestant theories on how Christ is present in the Eucharist. Luther professed consubstantiation: the co-existence Christ with the substance of bread and wine. Cranmer opted for a spiritual presence of Christ in the Eucharist, i.e. the consummation of the Eucharist is a figure of our interior and mystical communion with Christ. Christ was however not “in” or “under the appearance of” the bread and wine. These remained simply what they always were: bread and wine.
“Christ made no difference between the priest and the layman, that the priest should make oblation and sacrifice for the layman, and eat with him the Lord’s Supper all alone, and distribute it and apply it as him liketh. Christ made no such difference: but the difference that is between the priest and the layman in this matter is only in the ministration: that the priest, as a common minister of the Church, doth minister and distribute the Lord’s Supper unto other, and other receive it at his hands.”
Cranmer’s words are clear. The explanation for the Protestant denial of the priesthood has been briefly explain above. Suffice to say here, that, if there is no sacrifice, no transubstantiation, no victim to be offered in oblation there is no need for a priest, i.e. somebody empowered to perform the aforesaid actions. In lieu of a priest performing the sacred function of offering sacrifice to God, we are left with a president of the people presiding over a Eucharistic Meal in commemoration of the Last Supper. This president or simple minister possesses no specific powers of a sacramental nature. He does not mediate between God and man, since man has direct personal contact with God through his faith. The minister simply organises the manner of worship and instructs the people in the understanding of the Scriptures.
Having denied the notion of sacrifice, having denied the Real Presence, having denied the sacramental priesthood, the Reformers concluded that the Mass was merely a memorial of what Our Lord had done at the Last Supper, whereby each individual recalled Christ’s redeeming sacrifice of Calvary and thereby entered into direct contact with God, through faith in the power of Christ’s redemption: “There is properly no oblation nor sacrifice, but a remembrance of the one oblation of Christ upon the cross, made once and for all; a giving of thanks for the same and the prayer of the public minister for the whole congregation.”
This is the reason for the Protestant rejection of altars in churches: “The form of a table shall more move the simple from the superstitious opinions of the popish Mass, unto the right use of the Lord’s Supper. For the use of an altar is to make sacrifice upon it; the use of a table is to serve for men to eat upon”
The reduction of the Mass to a mere Commemoration of the Last Supper also rules out its salutary effect on the dead. The dead cannot partake or a reunion meal, therefore the sacrament of he Eucharist has nothing to do with them.
We have sought to give a succinct explanation of Protestant theology in order to explain its effect on the Protestant liturgy, in particular with regards to the Mass.
By virtue of the principle: lex orandi, lex credendi, Luther and the other reformers were obliged to bring what was then Catholic worship, into line with their new theories, and therefore transformed the liturgy. One therefore cannot deny that, to change the form of prayer (the liturgy) implies a change in belief (doctrine).
We may therefore conclude, just as Cranmer had a theological motif in changing the liturgy, anyone else who wished to tamper with the Catholic Church’s manner of worship, in particular with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the centre of all Catholic Worship, must also have some theological motive for his action. What is this theological motive? One may discover it by examining the reforms introduced. If the reforms are compatible with Catholic teaching, the theological motive behind them will also be compatible. If the reforms are not in line with Catholic teaching, the theological motive behind them becomes very doubtful.
In 1969 a new prayer, a new rite of Mass was introduced in the Church. The Old Mass, stretching back to the time of Gregory the Great, was abolished and replaced by a new ritual.
Now, for this ritual to be acceptable, it must be conform with the Catholic Church’s teachings on all the doctrines enumerated above, in particular Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice, the existence and possibility of grace, justification of man, etc
We shall now proceed to a detailed examination of the Novus Ordo Missae. This study will be based in large part on the “Ottaviani Intervention”.
The Ottaviani intervention was a detailed study of the New Mass composed by a group of Roman theologians, and signed and submitted to Pope Paul VI by the Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci. This document, little known, is of the utmost importance. Cardinal Ottaviani, at the time of the Novus Ordo Missae’s promulgation in 1969, was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, once called the Holy Office. This means that, at the time of the Novus Ordo Misaae’s promulgation, Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani was in effect the most powerful man in the Church, second only to the Pope. His opinion and judgement of the New Mass is of singular importance.
*** End of Part I ***
Part I: Brief History of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 2
The Origins and development of the Mass. 2
Restoration of the Mass and its codification into the “Tridentine Rite.”_ 2
Part II: Catechetical Teaching on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 5
The Notion of Sacrifice. 5
What is sacrifice?_ 5
The visibility and “publicity” of the sacrifice. 5
Conclusion: The Necessity of Sacrifice. 6
Application of these notions to the Eucharist. 6
The Sacrifice of Christ, God Incarnate. 6
To what end? (Final cause) 6
Using what means? (efficient cause) 7
What does Christ offer? (material cause) 7
Of what nature is Christ’s sacrifice? (formal cause) 7
The Eucharistic Sacrifice_ 8
Proof from Scripture_ 8
Proof from Tradition_ 8
Relation of the Sacrifice of the Mass to the Sacrifice of the Cross 9
The Metaphysical Nature of the Sacrifice of the Mass 9
Part III: The Effects of Christ’s Sacrifice on Calvary: Man’s Justification 11
Man is freed from sin. 11
Man is freed from the debt of punishment due to sin. 11
Man is reconciled to God. 11
Part IV: Protestant Theology 14
Luther’s Theology. 14
Essential Corruption of Human Nature_ 14
Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary is not propitiatory. 14
Grace is the non-imputation of sin. 15
Justification consists merely in the non-imputation of sin. 15
Man is saved by faith alone. 15
No recognition of Our Lady’s eminent sanctity, no Communion of Saints. 15
Denial of the sacramental system and the priesthood. 15
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is to be rejected at all cost. 16
Part V: Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi 17
The Protestant Definition of the Mass: the Rejection of the notion of Expiatory Sacrifice. 17
In contradiction with his basic theology of grace and justification: 17
In contradiction with his interpretation of atonement. 17
The Denial of Transubstantiation. 17
The Denial of the Sacramental Priesthood. 18
The Reduction of the Mass to a mere Commemoration of the Last Supper, or Eucharistic Meal. 18
“The Lutherans supposition is erroneous, in that they make out the sacrifice of the altar to be a different sacrifice from that which Christ offered on the Cross. For in truth it is the very same sacrifice (as it is the very same body of Christ on the altar, on the Cross, and now in heaven). But the difference is the manner of offering, because the sacrifice was then in a material manner, now it is offered in a spiritual manner. Then it was offered in the reality of death, now it is offered in the mystic figure of death.” (De Erroribus, Chap. IX)