Did Christ Institute the Mass?
“THE most perfect act of worship that can be made to God.” Thus the National Catholic Almanac (1951) describes the mass of the Roman Catholic Church. We further quote: “The Mass is the unbloody renewal of the Sacrifice of our Lord upon the cross. In it the priest, as the representative of Christ, offers to God the bread and wine, which he changes into the Body and Blood of our Lord at the Consecration, and then completes the sacrifice by consuming the Host and drinking the chalice at the Communion.” The mass, we are further assured, “is the perpetuation of the sacrifice of Calvary,” “is identical with the Sacrifice of the Cross.”
Did Jesus Christ institute the sacrifice of the mass on that last evening he spent with his apostles in the upper room, after they had celebrated the passover? There was a time when to raise such a question meant risking being burned at the stake. History records that an English tailor, a Lollard (follower of Wycliffe), John Badby by name, was burned at the stake in Smithfield Market, London, in the year 1410, because he held to the opinion that ‘Christ sitting at supper could not give his living body to his disciples to eat’.—England in the Age of Wycliffe, page 335.
Discussing the mass, the Catholic Encyclopedia (Vol. X) states that what Jesus instituted on the evening before his death was not merely a sacrament or an observance of his death but also an actual sacrifice. While admitting that the strongest support for this belief is the testimony of tradition, this authority does muster some scriptures in favor of its position, chief of which are Malachi 1:11 and the words of Jesus: “This is my body,” “this is my blood.” (Matt. 26:26, 28, Dy) Let us examine this purported Scriptural proof.
According to Catholic theologians, when Christ said, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins,” he was uttering the words of “Consecration”, which had the effect of actually changing the bread and wine into the literal body and blood of Christ, which change is termed “transubstantiation”; that is, the changing of a substance into something else. (Matt. 26:28, Dy) It is claimed that every ordained Catholic priest, and no others, has the power to perform the miracle of transubstantiation.
But is any change indicated? Did Christ institute a sacrificial arrangement back there or merely a memorial of his death? Rather the latter, as we shall see. In offering the bread and wine to his apostles, did he say: “Do this in sacrifice of me”? No, he said: “Do this for a commemoration of me.” (Luke 22:19, Dy) And if the wine was at that time actually his blood, then his blood would already have been shed. But he referred to its being shed as still in the future, “which SHALL BE shed for many.” That wine only represented but was not actually his blood. Further, had the wine been transubstantiated into his blood would he still have termed it the “fruit of the vine”?—Mark 14:23-25, Dy.
If actual transubstantiation takes place, from wine to bona fide blood, then why is the mass referred to as an “unbloody sacrifice”? It cannot be both, the actual flesh and blood and at the same time an unbloody sacrifice. Besides, if it is unbloody, then how can it have any sin-removing value, since Paul assures us that “without shedding of blood there is no remission”? (Heb. 9:22, Dy) And if it is indeed unbloody, why are Catholics in less enlightened lands encouraged to believe that should they prick the wafer they receive at mass with a pin blood would ooze forth? For shedding Jesus’ literal blood the Jewish nation was held guilty before God and suffered severe punishment. (Matt. 21:33-46; 23:33-38; 27:25; Luke 23:28-31) Are Catholic priests who claim to sacrifice Christ’s blood ready to incur the same guilt and punishment?
Nor is there any evidence that such a miracle took place at the time Jesus spoke the words “this is my body”, “this is my blood.” When Jesus changed the water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana, there was no question about a miracle’s having been performed. That water changed to wine tasted better than the regular wine they had been drinking. Had Jesus actually performed a miracle, then his apostles would have been guilty of breaking God’s law, which forbade the drinking of blood.—Gen. 9:4; Lev. 17:10-14; John 2:1-10; Acts 15:20.
True, Jesus did say, “this is my body” and “this is my blood”, in referring to the bread and the wine; but is it reasonable to take those words literally? Is not the thought rather that this bread and wine mean, represent or stand for my body and blood? When he said, “I am the true vine,” “I am the good shepherd,” etc., he obviously was using figurative expressions. And is it not written concerning him, “without parables [illustrations] he did not speak to them”?—Matt. 13:34; John 10:14; 15:1, Dy.
The apostle Paul uses an identical expression in likening Jesus to a rock. After telling of the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt he states that they “all ate the same spiritual food [manna], and all drank the same spiritual drink (for they drank from the spiritual rock which followed them, but the rock WAS Christ)”. Was that rock from which the Israelites obtained water in the wilderness actually Christ, or did it mean, represent or stand for Christ? Then why insist that when Jesus used an identical expression he was referring to his actual body? Clearly by the words “this is my body”, “this is my blood,” Christ was not instituting a sacrifice of the mass.—1 Cor. 10:1-4, Cath. Confrat.
The other Scripture text that is heavily relied upon by Catholic theologians to support the sacrifice of the mass is Malachi 1:11 (Knox), which reads: “No corner of the world, from sun’s rise to sun’s setting, where the renown of me is not heard among the Gentiles, where sacrifice is not done, and pure offering made in my honour; so revered is my name, says the Lord of hosts.” But does it follow that the sacrifice of the mass is here referred to merely because it is celebrated world-wide? Can we place such a construction upon it in view of all the foregoing? Rather, is not Malachi speaking of the same thing that Paul does at Hebrews 13:15 (Knox), namely, the “sacrifice of praise, the tribute of lips that give thanks to his name”? True Christians offer up spiritual sacrifices of praise, not flesh-and-blood sacrifices, as did the priests under the Mosaic law.—1 Pet. 2:5.
MASS OPPOSED TO THE RANSOM
Further proof that Christ did not institute any sacrifice of the mass appears as we note how it conflicts with the Bible teaching of the ransom, one of the most basic teachings of the Christian religion. Concerning it Paul stated: “For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, bearing witness in his own time.” (1 Tim. 2:5, 6, Cath. Confrat.) The ransom is based on God’s law of justice, which required a life for a life.—Deut. 19:21.
Jesus Christ offered that sacrifice once for all time, and it needs no repeating. Thus we read: “Christ was offered once for all, to drain the cup of a world’s sins.” (Heb. 9:28, Knox) “But this man, offering one sacrifice for sins, for ever sitteth on the right hand of God. For by one oblation [sacrificial offering] he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” And after showing how the new covenant (testament) will cause the sins of God’s people to be forgiven, Paul goes on to say: “Now, where there is a remission of these, there is no more an oblation for sin.”—Heb. 10:12, 14-18, Dy.
In Paul’s comparison of the animal sacrifices of the Mosaic law with the sacrifice of Christ another weakness of the mass is made apparent. The sacrifice of Christ did not need to be repeated, because it actually took away sin, but the sacrifices under the law were repeated because these removed sin only in a pictorial sense. The very fact that the mass needs to be repeated shows that it is like the animal sacrifices, unable to actually take away sin.
The fact that the Catholic priest is unable to appear in the presence of God to present his sacrifice is further proof that Christ did not institute the “sacrifice of the mass”. Paul shows that just as the high priest entered into the most holy compartment of the temple with the blood of the sacrifices made for sin, so Christ “entered heaven itself, where he now appears in God’s sight on our behalf”.—Heb. 9:24, Knox.
But since “the kingdom of God cannot be enjoyed by flesh and blood; the principle of corruption cannot share a life which is incorruptible”, it was necessary that Christ be raised as a spirit creature; which he was. (1 Cor. 15:50, Knox; 1 Pet. 3:18, NW) If it was necessary for the Jewish high priest to appear in the typical presence of God with the blood of the typical sacrifices, and it was necessary for Christ to appear in the actual presence of God with the merit of his own sacrifice to take away sins, then the priest must also appear in the presence of God if his sacrifices of the mass are to remove sins. Does he? Of course not!
FRUITS AND ORIGIN
That Christ did not institute the mass is also to be seen from the fact that in the mass only the officiating minister partakes of the wine. Endeavoring to justify this departure from Christ’s example and instructions, the Baltimore (1949) Catholic Catechism states: “Christ is entirely present under the appearances of bread, and also entirely present under the appearances of wine. Therefore, we receive Him whole and entire under the appearances of bread alone or of wine alone.”
Even if we were to grant, for the sake of argument, that the Catholic Church improved upon Christ’s method, what justification can there be for Pope Pius II, on March 31, 1462, to threaten to excommunicate all who administered both the wine and the bread to the laity, which was what many of the followers of Huss were doing at the time and against whom this threat was directed? (Schaaf-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, page 1046) On that basis all the early Christians, the apostles, including Peter, of whom the pope is supposed to be successor, should have been excommunicated, because they all made no such distinction, in fact, not even recognizing a clergy-laity distinction, but appreciating that “you have but one Master, and you are all brethren alike”. (Matt. 23:8, Knox) Not only that, but even Christ Jesus would have been subject to excommunication, since he administered both the cup and the loaf to the eleven apostles, after Judas’ departure.
Instead of Christ’s instituting the mass, or its finding its precedent in the sacrifices of the Law, the facts show that the mass is of pagan origin. According to Cardinal Newman, the Kyrie eleison, “Lord, have mercy upon us!” which words, set to music, begin the first movement of the mass of the Roman Catholic Church, are of pagan origin and have been “sanctified by their adoption into the Church”.—An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, page 373.
The unbloody feature of the sacrifice of the mass goes back to ancient Babylon. (The Two Babylons, Hislop, pages 156-158) The wafers used in the mass must be round. Here again there is nothing in the Scriptures to support this requirement, but we do find a precedent in ancient Egypt. Says Wilkinson, in his Egyptians, Vol. 5, page 353: “The thin round cake occurs on all altars” and was a symbol of the sun. The requirement that one must have fasted from midnight until the time of mass likewise finds no support in the Scriptures, for the apostles had just finished eating the passover when Jesus offered them the loaf and the wine. (Matt. 26:26) But such a custom did prevail in ancient times among pagan peoples.
Trying to graft such pagan teachings and practices results in many inconsistencies, as we have already seen. Two more of such may be noted. Christ Jesus is the high priest. (Heb. 8:1) Yet in the mass he is at the beck and call of every Catholic priest. According to Catholic teaching Christ Jesus is a member of the triune God, the trinity, which would mean that in the mass the people are eating their God!