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De captivitate ecclesiae. Praeludium Martini Lutheri

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De captivitate ecclesiae. Praeludium Martini Lutheri



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2.28 Perhaps they will say that the danger of idolatry demands that bread and wine be not really present. How ridiculous! The laymen have never become familiar with their subtle philosophy of substance and accidents, and could not grasp it if it were taught them. Besides, there is the same danger in the case of the accidents which remain and which they see, as in the case of the substance which they do not see. For if they do not adore the accidents, but Christ hidden under them, why should they adore the bread, which they do not see?

2.29 But why could not Christ include His body in the substance of the bread just as well as in the accidents? The two substances of fire and iron are so mingled in the heated iron that every part is both iron and fire. Why could not much rather Christ's body be thus contained in every part of the substance of the bread?

2.30 What will they say? We believe that in His birth Christ came forth out of the unopened womb of His mother. Let them say here too that the flesh of the Virgin was meanwhile annihilated, or as they would more aptly say, transubstantiated, so that Christ, after being enfolded in its accidents, finally came forth through the accidents! The same thing will have to be said of the shut door and of the closed opening of the tomb, through which He went in and out without disturbing them. Hence has risen that Babylonian philosophy of constant quantity distinct from the substance, until it has come to such a pass that they themselves no longer know what are accidents and what is substance. For who has ever proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that heat, colour, cold, light, weight or shape are mere accidents? Finally, they have been driven to the fancy that a new substance is created by God for their accidents on the altar – all on account of Aristotle, who says, "It is the essence of an accident to be in something," and endless other monstrosities, all of which they would be rid if they simply permitted real bread to be present. And I rejoice greatly that the simple faith of this sacrament is still to be found at least among the common people. They do not understand, so they do not dispute, whether accidents are present or substance, but believe with a simple faith that Christ's body and blood are truly contained in whatever is there, and leave to those who have nothing else to do the business of disputing about that which contains them.

2.31 But perhaps they will say: From Aristotle we learn that in an affirmative proposition subject and predicate must be identical, or, to set down the beast's own words, in the sixth book of his Metaphysics: "An affirmative proposition demands the agreement of subject and predicate," which they interpret as above. Hence, when it is said, "This is my body," the subject cannot be identical with the bread, but must be identical with the body of Christ.

2.32 What shall we say when Aristotle and the doctrines of men are made to be the arbiters of these lofty and divine matters? Why do we not put aside such curiosity, and cling simply to the word of Christ, willing to remain in ignorance of what here takes place, and content with this, that the real body of Christ is present by virtue of the words? Or is it necessary to comprehend the manner of the divine working in every detail?

2.33 But what do they say to Aristotle's assigning a subject to whatever is predicated of the attributes, although he holds that the substance is the chief subject? Hence for him, "this white," "this large," etc., are subjects of which something is predicated. If that is correct, I ask: If a transubstantiation must be assumed in order that Christ's body is not predicated of the bread, why not also a transaccidentation in order that it be not predicated of the accidents? For the same danger remains if one understands the subject to be "this white" or "this round" is my body, and for the same reason that a transubstantiation is assumed, a transaccidentation must also be assumed, because of this identity of subject and predicate.

2.34 [Si autem, intellectu excedens, eximis accidens, ut non velis subjectum pro eo supponere, cum dicis, "Hoc est corpus meum," Cur non eadem facilitate transcendis substantiam panis, ut et illam velis non accipi per subiectum, ut non minus in substantia quam accidente sit, "hoc corpus meum?" Praesertim, cum divinum illud sit opus, virtutis omnipotentis, quae tantum et taliter in substantia, quantum et qualiter in accidente potest operari.]

2.35 Let us not, however, dabble too much in philosophy. Does not Christ appear to have admirably anticipated such curiosity by saying of the wine, not, "Hoc est sanguis meus," but " Hic est sanguis meus"? And yet more clearly, by bringing in the word "cup," when He said, "This cup is the new testament in my blood." Does it not seem as though He desired to keep us in a simple faith, so that we might but believe His blood to be in the cup? For my part, if I cannot fathom how the bread is the body of Christ, I will take my reason captive to the obedience of Christ, and clinging simply to His word, firmly believe not only that the body of Christ is in the bread, but that the bread is the body of Christ. For this is proved by the words, " He took bread, and giving thanks, He broke it and said, Take, eat; this [i.e., this bread which He took and broke] is my body." And Paul says: " The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" He says not, in the bread, but the bread itself, is the communion of the body of Christ. What does it matter if philosophy cannot fathom this? The Holy Spirit is greater than Aristotle. Does philosophy fathom their transubstantiation, of which they themselves admit that here all philosophy breaks down? But the agreement of the pronoun "this" with "body," in Greek and Latin, is owing to the fact that in these languages the two words are of the same gender. But in the Hebrew language, which has no neuter gender, "this" agrees with "bread," so that it would be proper to say, "Hic est corpus meum." This is proved also by the use of language and by common sense. The subject, certainly, points to the bread, not to the body, when He says, "Hoc est corpus meum," "Das ist mein Leib," – i.e., This bread is my body.

2.36 Therefore it is with the sacrament even as it is with Christ. In order that divinity may dwell in Him, it is not necessary that the human nature be transubstantiated and divinity be contained under its accidents. But both natures are there in their entirety, and it is truly said, "This man is God," and "This God is man." Even though philosophy cannot grasp this, faith grasps it, and the authority of God's Word is greater than the grasp of our intellect. Even so, in order that the real body and the real blood of Christ may be present in the sacrament, it is not necessary that the bread and wine be transubstantiated and Christ be contained under their accidents. But both remain there together, and it is truly said, "This bread is my body, this wine is my blood," and vice versa. Thus I will for now understand it, for the honour of the holy words of God, which I will not allow any petty human argument to override or give to them meanings foreign to them. At the same time, I permit other men to follow the other opinion, which is laid down in the decree Firmiter. Only let them not press us to accept their opinions as articles of faith, as I said above.

2.37 The third captivity of this sacrament is that most wicked abuse of all, in consequence of which there is today no more generally accepted and firmly believed opinion in the Church than this – that the mass is a good work and a sacrifice. This abuse has brought an endless host of others in its wake, so that the faith of this sacrament has become utterly extinct and the holy sacrament has truly been turned into a fair, tavern, and place of merchandise. Hence participations, brotherhoods, intercessions, merits, anniversaries, memorial days, and the like wares are bought and sold, traded and bartered in the Church, and from this priests and monks derive their whole living.

2.38 I am attacking a difficult matter, and one perhaps impossible to abate, since it has become so firmly entrenched through century-long custom and the common consent of men that it would be necessary to abolish most of the books now in vogue, to alter almost the whole external form of the churches, and to introduce, or rather re-introduce, a totally different kind of ceremony. But my Christ lives, and we must be careful to give more heed to the Word of God than to all the thoughts of men and of angels. I will perform the duties of my office, and uncover the facts in the case. I will give the truth as I have received it, freely and without malice. For the rest let every man look to his own salvation. I will faithfully do my part that none may cast on me the blame for his lack of faith and knowledge of the truth, when we appear before the judgment seat of Christ.

2.39 IN THE FIRST PLACE, in order to grasp safely and fortunately a true and unbiased knowledge of this sacrament, we must above all else be careful to put aside whatever has been added by the zeal and devotion of men to the original, simple institution of this sacrament – such things as vestments, ornaments, chants, prayers, organs, candles, and the whole pageantry of outward things. We must turn our eyes and hearts simply to the institution of Christ and to this alone, and put nothing before us but the very word of Christ by which He instituted this sacrament, made it perfect, and committed it to us. For in that word, and in that word alone, reside the power, the nature, and the whole substance of the mass. All else is the work of man, added to the word of Christ. And the mass can be held and remain a mass just as well without it. Now the words of Christ, in which He instituted this sacrament, are these:

2.40 "And while they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it: and gave to His disciples, and said: Take it and eat. This is my body, which shall be given for you. And taking the chalice, He gave thanks, and gave to them, saying: All of you, drink of this. This is the chalice, the new testament in my blood, which shall be shed for you and for many the remission of sins. This do to commemorate me."

2.41 These words the Apostle also delivers and more fully expounds in 1 Corinthians 11. On them we must lean and build as on a firm foundation, if we would not be carried about with every wind of doctrine, even as we have until now been carried about by the wicked doctrines of men, who turn aside the truth. For in these words nothing is omitted that concerns the completeness, the use and the blessing of this sacrament and nothing is included that is superfluous and not necessary for us to know. Whoever sets them aside and meditates or teaches concerning the mass, will teach monstrous and wicked doctrines, as they have done who made of the sacrament an opus operatum and a sacrifice.

2.42 Therefore let this stand at the outset as our infallibly certain proposition – the mass, or Sacrament of the Altar, is Christ's testament which He left behind Him at His death, to be distributed among His believers. For that is the meaning of His word – "This is the chalice, the new testament in my blood." Let this truth stand, I say, as the immovable foundation on which we shall base all that we have to say, for we are going to overthrow, as you will see, all the godless opinions of men imported into this most precious sacrament. Christ, who is the Truth, said truly that this is the new testament in His blood, which is shed for us. Not without reason do I dwell on this sentence. The matter is not at all trivial, and must be most deeply impressed upon us.

2.43 Let us inquire, therefore, what a testament is, and we shall learn at the same time what the mass is, what its use is, what its blessing is, and what its abuse is.

2.44 A testament, as every one knows, is a promise made by one about to die, in which he designates his bequest and appoints his heirs. Therefore a testament involves, first, the death of the testator, and secondly, the promise of the bequest and the naming of the heir. Thus St. Paul discusses at length the nature of a testament in Romans 4, Galatians 3 and 4, and Hebrews 9. The same thing is also clearly seen in these words of Christ. Christ testifies concerning His death when He says: "This is my body, which shall be given; this is my blood, which shall be shed." He designates the bequest when He says: "For remission of sins." And He appoints the heirs when He says: "For you, and for many" – i.e., for such as accept and believe the promise of the testator. For here it is faith that makes men heirs, as we shall see.

2.45 You see, therefore, that what we call the mass is the promise of remission of sins made to us by God – the kind of promise that has been confirmed by the death of the Son of God. For the one difference between a promise and a testament is that a testament is a promise which implies the death of him who makes it. A testator is a man who is about to die making a promise. While he that makes a promise is, if I may so put it, a testator who is not about to die. This testament of Christ was forshadowed in all the promises of God from the beginning of the world. Yes, whatever value those ancient promises possessed was altogether derived from this new promise that was to come in Christ. This is why the words "covenant" and "testament of the Lord" occur so frequently in the Scriptures, which words signified that God would one day die. For where there is a testament, the death of the testator must follow (Hebrews 9). Now God made a testament. Therefore it was necessary that He should die. But God could not die unless He became man. Thus both the incarnation and the death of Christ are briefly understood in this one word "testament."

2.46 From the above it will at once be seen what is the right and what is the wrong use of the mass, what is the worthy and what is the unworthy preparation for it. If the mass is a promise, as has been said, it is to be approached, not with any work, strength or merit, but with faith alone. For where there is the word of God Who makes the promise, there must be the faith of man who takes it. It is plain, therefore, that the first step in our salvation is faith, which clings to the word of the promise made by God, Who without any effort on our part, in free and unmerited mercy makes a beginning and offers us the word of His promise. For He sent His Word, and by it healed them. He did not accept our work and thus heal us. God's Word is the beginning of all. Faith follows it, and love follows faith. Then love works every good work, for it does cause harm, no, it is the fulfilling of the law. In no other way can man come to God and deal with Him than through faith. That is, not man, by any work of his, but God, by His promise, is the author of salvation, so that all things depend on the word of His power, and are upheld and preserved by it, with which word He conceived us, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

2.47 Thus, in order to raise up Adam after the fall, God gave him this promise, addressing the serpent: "I will put hostility between you and the woman, and you seed and her seed. She shall crush your head, and you will lie in wait for her heel." In this word of promise Adam, with his descendants, was carried as it were in God's arms, and by faith in it he was preserved, patiently waiting for the woman who should crush the serpent's head, as God had promised. And in that faith and expectation he died, not knowing when or in what form she would come, yet never doubting that she would come. For such a promise, being the truth of God, preserves, even in hell, those who believe it and wait for it. After this came another promise, made to Noah – to last until the time of Abraham – when a rainbow was set as a sign in the clouds, by faith in which Noah and his descendants found a gracious God. After that He promised Abraham that all nations should be blessed in his seed. This is Abraham's arms, in which his posterity was carried. Then to Moses and the children of Israel, and especially to David, He gave the plain promise of Christ, thereby at last making clear what was meant by the ancient promise to them.

2.48 So it came finally to the most complete promise of the new testament, in which with plain words life and salvation are freely promised, and granted to such as believe the promise. He distinguished this testament by a particular mark from the old, calling it the "new testament." For the old testament, which He gave by Moses, was a promise not of remission of sins or of eternal things, but of temporal things – namely, the land of Canaan – by which no man was renewed in his spirit, to lay hold of the heavenly inheritance. Therefore it was also necessary that irrational beasts should be slain, as types of Christ, that by their blood the testament might be confirmed. So the testament was like the blood, and the promise like the sacrifice. But here He says: "The new testament in my blood" – not in another's, but in His own. By this blood grace is promised, through the Spirit, for the remission of sins, that we may obtain the inheritance.

2.49 The mass, according to its substance, is, therefore, nothing else than the words of Christ mentioned above – "Take and eat." It is as if He said: "Behold, condemned, sinful man, in the pure and unmerited love with which I love you, and by the will of the Father of all mercies, I promise you in these words, even though you do not desire or deserve them, the forgiveness of all your sins and life everlasting. And, so that you may be most certainly assured of this my irrevocable promise, I give my body and shed my blood, thus by my very death confirming this promise, and leaving my body and blood to you as a sign and memorial of this same promise. As often, therefore, as you partake of them, remember me, and praise, magnify, and give thanks for my love and bounty for you."

2.50 From this you will see that nothing else is needed to have a worthy mass than a faith that confidently relies on this promise, believes these words of Christ are true, and does not doubt that these infinite blessings have been bestowed upon it. Following closely behind this faith there follows, by itself, a most sweet stirring of the heart, by which the spirit of man is enlarged and grows fat – that is love, given by the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ – so that he is drawn to Christ, that gracious and good Testator, and made quite another and a new man. Who would not shed tears of gladness, no, nearly faint for the joy he has for Christ, if he believed with unshaken faith that this inestimable promise of Christ belonged to him! How could one help loving so great a Benefactor, who offers, promises and grants, all unasked, such great riches, and this eternal inheritance, to someone unworthy and deserving of something far different?

2.51 Therefore, it is our one misfortune, that we have many masses in the world, and yet none or but the fewest of us recognize, consider and receive these promises and riches that are offered, although truly we should do nothing else in the mass with greater zeal (yes, it demands all our zeal) than set before our eyes, meditate, and ponder these words, these promises of Christ, which truly are the mass itself, in order to exercise, nourish, increase, and strengthen our faith by such daily remembrance. For this is what He commands, saying, "This do in remembrance of me." This should be done by the preachers of the Gospel, in order that this promise might be faithfully impressed upon the people and commended to them, to the awakening of faith in the same.

2.52 But how many are there now who know that the mass is the promise of Christ? I will say nothing of those godless preachers of fables, who teach human traditions instead of this promise. And even if they teach these words of Christ, they do not teach them as a promise or testament, and, therefore, not to the awakening of faith.

2.53 O the pity of it! Under this captivity, they take every precaution that no layman should hear these words of Christ, as if they were too sacred to be delivered to the common people. So mad are we priests that we arrogantly claim that the so-called words of consecration may be said by ourselves alone, as secret words, yet so that they do not profit even us, for we too fail to regard them as promises or as a testament, for the strengthening of faith. Instead of believing them, we reverence them with I know not what superstitious and godless fancies. This misery of ours, what is it but a device of Satan to remove every trace of the mass out of the Church? although he is meanwhile at work filling every nook and corner on earth with masses, that is, abuses and mockeries of God's testament, and burdening the world more and more heavily with grievous sins of idolatry, to its deeper condemnation. For what worse idolatry can there be than to abuse God's promises with perverse opinions and to neglect or extinguish faith in them?

2.54 For God does not deal, nor has He ever dealt, with man otherwise than through a word of promise, as I have said. Again, we cannot deal with God otherwise than through faith in the word of His promise. He does not desire works, nor has He need of them. We deal with men and with ourselves on the basis of works. But He has need of this – that we deem Him true to His promises, wait patiently for Him, and thus worship Him with faith, hope and love. Thus He obtains His glory among us, since it is not of ourselves who run, but of God who shows mercy, promises and gives, that we have and hold every blessing. That is the true worship and service of God which we must perform in the mass. But if the words of promise are not proclaimed, what exercise of faith can there be? And without faith, who can have hope or love? Without faith, hope and love, what service can there be? There is no doubt, therefore, that in our day all priests and monks, together with all their bishops and superiors, are idolaters and in a most perilous state, by reason of this ignorance, abuse and mockery of the mass, or sacrament, or testament of God.

2.55 For any one can easily see that these two – the promise and faith – must go together. For without the promise there is nothing to believe, while without faith the promise remains without effect, for it is established and fulfilled through faith. From this every one will readily gather that the mass, which is nothing else than the promise, is approached and observed only in this faith, without which whatever prayers, preparations, works, signs of the cross, or genuflections are brought to it, are incitements to impiety rather than exercises of piety. For they who come thus prepared are likely to imagine themselves on that account justly entitled to approach the altar, when in reality they are less prepared than at any other time and in any other work, by reason of the unbelief which they bring with them. How many priests will you find every day offering the sacrifice of the mass, who accuse themselves of a horrible crime if they – wretched men! – commit a trifling blunder – such as putting on the wrong robe or forgetting to wash their hands or stumbling over their prayers – but that they neither regard nor believe the mass itself, namely, the divine promise. This causes them not the slightest qualms of conscience. O worthless religion of this our age, the most godless and thankless of all ages!

2.56 Hence the only worthy preparation and proper use of the mass is faith in the mass, that is to say, in the divine promise. Whoever, therefore, is minded to approach the altar and to receive the sacrament, let him beware of appearing empty before the Lord God. But he will appear empty unless he has faith in the mass, or this new testament. What godless work that he could commit would be a more grievous crime against the truth of God, than this unbelief of his, by which, as much as in him lies, he convicts God of being a liar and a maker of empty promises? The safest course, therefore, will be to go to mass in the same spirit in which you would go to hear any other promise of God, that is, not to be ready to perform and bring many works, but to believe and receive all that is there promised, or proclaimed by the priest as having been promised to you. If you do not go in this spirit, beware of going at all. You will surely go to your condemnation.

2.57 I was right, then, in saying that the whole power of the mass consists in the words of Christ, in which He testifies that the remission of sins is bestowed on all those who believe that His body is given and His blood shed for them. For this reason nothing is more important for those who go to hear mass than diligently and in full faith to ponder these words. Unless they do this, all else that they do is in vain. But while the mass is the word of Christ, it is also true that God usually adds to nearly every one of His promises a certain sign as a mark or memorial of His promise, so that we may thereby the more faithfully hold to His promise and be the more forcibly admonished by it. Thus, to his promise to Noah that He would not again destroy the world by a flood, He added His rainbow in the clouds, to show that He would be mindful of His covenant. And after promising Abraham the inheritance in his seed, He gave him the sign of circumcision as the seal of his righteousness by faith. Thus, to Gideon He granted the sign of the dry and the wet fleece, to confirm His promise of victory over the Midianites. And to Ahaz He offered a sign through Isaiah concerning his victory over the kings of Syria and Samaria, to strengthen his faith in the promise. And many such signs of the promises of God do we find in the Scriptures.

2.58 Thus also to the mass, that crown of all His promises, He adds His body and blood in the bread and wine, as a memorial sign of this great promise, as He says, " This do in remembrance of me." Even so in baptism He adds to the words of the promise, the sign of

immersion in water. We learn from this that in every promise of God two things are presented to us – the word and the sign – so that we are to understand the word to be the testament, but the sign to be the sacrament. Thus, in the mass, the word of Christ is the testament, and the bread and wine are the sacrament. And as there is greater power in the word than in the sign, so there is greater power in the testament than in the sacrament. For a man can have and use the word, or testament, apart from the sign, or sacrament. "Believe," says Augustine, "and you have eaten." But what does one believe save the word of promise? Therefore I can hold mass every day, yes, every hour, for I can set the words of Christ before me, and with them refresh and strengthen my faith, as often as I choose. That is a truly spiritual eating and drinking.

2.59 Here you may see what great things our theologians of the Sentences have produced. That which is the principal and chief thing, namely, the testament and word of promise, is not treated by one of them. Thus they have obliterated faith and the whole power of the mass. But the second part of the mass – the sign, or sacrament – this alone do they discuss, yet in such a manner that here too they teach not faith but their preparations and opera operata, participations and fruits, as though these were the mass, until they have fallen to babbling of transubstantiation and endless other metaphysical quibbles, and have destroyed the proper understanding and use of both sacrament and testament, altogether abolished faith, and caused Christ's people to forget their God, as the prophet says, days without number. Let the others count the manifold fruits of hearing mass. Focus your attention on this: say and believe with the prophet, that God prepares a table before you in the presence of your enemies, at which your soul may eat and grow fat. But your faith is fed only with the word of divine promise, for " not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Hence, in the mass you must above all things pay closest heed to the word of promise, as to your rich banquet, green pasture, and sacred refreshment. You must esteem this word higher than all else, trust in it above all things, and cling firmly to it even through the midst of death and all sins. By thus doing you will attain not merely to those tiny drops and crumbs of "fruits of the mass," which some have superstitiously imagined, but to the very fountainhead of life, which is faith in the word, from which every blessing flows. As it is said in John 4: "He who believes in me, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water" and again: " He who will drink of the water that I will give him, it shall become in him a fountain of living water, springing up to life everlasting."

2.60 Now there are two roadblocks that commonly prevent us from gathering the fruits of the mass. First, the fact that we are sinners and unworthy of such great things because of our exceeding vileness. Secondly, the fact that, even if we were worthy, these things are so high that our faint-hearted nature dare not aspire to them or ever hope to attain to them. For to have God for our Father, to be His sons and heirs of all His goods – these are the great blessings that come to us through the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. If you see these things clearly, aren't you more likely to stand in awe before them than to desire to possess them? Against this twofold faintness of ours we must lay hold on the word of Christ and fix our gaze on it much more firmly than on those thoughts of our weakness. For "great are the works of the Lord; all who enjoy them study them," " who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." If they did not surpass our worthiness, our grasp and all our thoughts, they would not be divine. Thus Christ also encourages us when He says: "Fear not, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you a kingdom." For it is just this overflowing goodness of the incomprehensible God, lavished upon us through Christ, that moves us to love Him again with our whole heart above all things, to be drawn to Him with all confidence, to despise all things else, and be ready to suffer all things for Him. For this reason, this sacrament is correctly called "a fount of love."

2.61 Let us take an illustration of this from human experience. If a thousand gold coins were bequeathed by a rich lord to a beggar or an unworthy and wicked servant, it is certain that he would boldly claim and take them regardless of his unworthiness and the greatness of the bequest. And if any one should seek to oppose him by pointing out his unworthiness and the large amount of the legacy, what do you suppose he would say? Certainly, he would say: "What is that to you? What I accept, I accept not on my merits or by any right that I may personally have to it. I know that I am unworthy and receive more than I have deserved, no, I have deserved the very opposite. But I claim it because it is so written in the will, and on the account of another's goodness. If it was not an unworthy thing for him to bequeath so great a sum to an unworthy person, why should I refuse to accept this other man's gracious gift?" With such thoughts we need to fortify the consciences of men against all qualms and scruples, that they may lay hold of the promise of Christ with unwavering faith, and take the greatest care to approach the sacrament, not trusting in their confession, prayer and preparation, but rather despairing of these and with a proud confidence in Christ Who gives the promise. For, as we have said again and again, the word of promise must here reign supreme in a pure and unalloyed faith, and such faith is the one and all-sufficient preparation.

2.62 Hence we see how angry God is with us, in that he has permitted godless teachers to conceal the words of this testament from us, and thereby, as much as in them lay, to extinguish faith. And the inevitable result of this extinguishing of faith is even now plainly to be seen – namely, the most godless superstition of works. For when faith dies and the word of faith is silent, works and the traditions of works immediately crowd into their place. By them we have been carried away out of our own land, as in a Babylonian captivity, and despoiled of all our precious possessions. This has been the fate of the mass. It has been converted by the teaching of godless men into a good work, which they themselves call an opus operatum and by which they presumptuously imagine themselves all-powerful with God. Thereupon they proceeded to the very height of madness, and having invented the lie that the mass works ex opere operato, they asserted further that it is none the less profitable to others, even if it be harmful to the wicked priest celebrating it. On such a foundation of sand they base their applications, participations, sodalities, anniversaries and numberless other money-making schemes.

2.63 These lures are so powerful, widespread and firmly entrenched that you will scarcely be able to prevail against them unless you keep before you with unremitting care the real meaning of the mass, and bear well in mind what has been said above. We have seen that the mass is nothing else than the divine promise or testament of Christ, sealed with the sacrament of His body and blood. If that is true, you will understand that it cannot possibly be a work, and that there is nothing to do in it, nor can it be dealt within any other way than by faith alone. And faith is not a work, but the mistress and the life of all works. Where in all the world is there a man so foolish as to regard a promise made to him, or a testament given to him, as a good work which by his acceptance of it he renders to the testator? What heir will imagine he is doing his departed father a kindness by accepting the terms of the will and the inheritance bequeathed to him? What godless audacity is it, therefore, when we who are to receive the testament of God come as those who would perform a good work for Him! This ignorance of the testament, this captivity of the sacrament – are they not too sad for tears? When we ought to be grateful for benefits received, we come in our pride to give that which we ought to take, mocking with unheard-of perversity the mercy of the Giver by giving as a work the thing we receive as a gift. So the testator, instead of being the dispenser of His own goods, becomes the recipient of ours. What sacrilege!

2.64 Who has ever been so mad as to regard baptism as a good work, or to believe that by being baptised he was performing a work which he might offer to God for himself and communicate to others? If, therefore, there is no good work that can be communicated to others in this one sacrament or testament, neither will there be any in the mass, since it too is nothing else than a testament and sacrament. Hence it is a manifest and wicked error to offer or apply masses for sins, for satisfactions, for the dead, or for any necessity whatsoever of one's own or of others. You will readily see the obvious truth of this if you but hold firmly that the mass is a divine promise, which can profit no one, be applied to no one, intercede for no one, and be communicated to no one, save him alone who believes with a faith of his own. Who can receive or apply, in behalf of another, the promise of God, which demands the personal faith of every individual? Can I give to another what God has promised, even if he does not believe? Can I believe for another, or cause another to believe? But this is what I must do if I am able to apply and communicate the mass to others. For there are but two things in the mass – the promise of God, and the faith of man which takes that which the promise offers. But if it is true that I can do this, then I can also hear and believe the Gospel for others, I can be baptised for another, I can be absolved from sins for another, I can also partake of the Sacrament of the Altar for another, and – to run the gamut of their sacraments also – I can marry a wife for another, be ordained for another, receive confirmation and extreme unction for another!

2.65 So, then, why didn't Abraham believe for all the Jews? Why was faith in the promise made to Abraham demanded of every individual Jew? Therefore, let this irrefutable truth stand fast. Where there is a divine promise every one must stand upon his own feet, every one's personal faith is demanded, every one will give an account for himself and will bear his own burden, as it is said in the last chapter of Mark: "He that believes and is baptised, shall be saved. But he that does not believe, shall be damned." Even so everyone may derive a blessing from the mass for himself alone and only by his own faith, and no one can commune for any other. Just as the priest cannot administer the sacrament to any one in another's place, but administers the same sacrament to each individual by himself. For in consecrating and administering, the priests are our ministers, through whom we do not offer a good work or commune (in the active), but receive the promises and the sign and are communed (in the passive). That has remained to this day the custom among the laity, for they are not said to do good, but to receive it. But the priests have departed into godless ways. Out of the sacrament and testament of God, the source of blessings to be received, they have made a good work which they may communicate and offer to others.

2.66 But you will say: "How is this? Will you not overturn the practice and teaching of all the churches and monasteries, by virtue of which they have flourished these many centuries? For the mass is the foundation of their anniversaries, intercessions, applications, communications, etc. – that is to say, of their fat income." I answer: This is the very thing that has constrained me to write of the captivity of the Church, for in this manner the adorable testament of God has been subjected to the bondage of a godless traffic, through the opinions and traditions of wicked men, who, passing over the Word of God, have put forth the thoughts of their own hearts and misled the whole world. What do I care for the number and influence of those who are in this error? The truth is mightier than they all. If you are able to refute Christ, according to Whom the mass is a testament and sacrament, then I will admit that they are right. Or if you can bring yourself to say that you are doing a good work, when you receive the benefit of the testament, or when you use this sacrament of promise in order to receive it, then I will gladly condemn my teachings. But since you can do neither, why do you hesitate to turn your back on the multitude who go after evil, and to give God the glory and confess His truth? Which is, indeed, that all priests today are perversely mistaken, who regard the mass as a work whereby they may relieve their own necessities and those of others, dead or alive. I am uttering unheard-of and startling things. But if you will consider the meaning of the mass, you will realize that I have spoken the truth. The fault lies with our false sense of security, in which we have become blind to the wrath of God that is raging against us.

2.67 I am ready, however, to admit that the prayers which we pour out before God when we are gathered together to partake of the mass, are good works or benefits, which we impart, apply and communicate to one another, and which we offer for one another. As James teaches us to pray for one another that we may be saved, and as Paul, in 1 Timothy 2, commands that supplications, prayers and intercessions be made for all men, for kings, and for all that are in high station. These are not the mass, but works of the mass – if the prayers of heart and lips may be called works – for they flow from the faith that is kindled or increased in the sacrament. For the mass, being the promise of God, is not fulfilled by praying, but only by believing. But when we believe, we shall also pray and perform every good work. But what priest offers the sacrifice of the mass in this sense and believes that he is offering up nothing but the prayers? They all imagine themselves to be offering up Christ Himself, as all-sufficient sacrifice, to God the Father, and to be performing a good work for all whom they have the intention to benefit. For they put their trust in the work which the mass accomplishes, and they do not ascribe this work to prayer. Thus, gradually, the error has grown, until they have come to ascribe to the sacrament what belongs to the prayers, and to offer to God what should be received as a benefit.

2.68 It is necessary, therefore, to make a sharp distinction between the testament or sacrament itself and the prayers which are there offered. And it is no less necessary to bear in mind that the prayers avail nothing, either for him who offers them or for those for whom they are offered, unless the sacrament be first received in faith, so that it is faith that offers the prayers, for it alone is heard, as James teaches in his first chapter. So great is the difference between prayer and the mass. The prayer may be extended to as many persons as one desires. But the mass is received by none but the person who believes for himself, and only in proportion to his faith. It cannot be given either to God or to men, but God alone gives it, by the ministration of the priest, to such men as receive it by faith alone, without any works or merits. For no one would dare to make the mad assertion that a ragged beggar does a good work when he comes to receive a gift from a rich man. But the mass is, as has been said, the gift and promise of God, offered to all men by the hand of the priest.

2.69 It is certain, therefore, that the mass is not a work which may be communicated to others, but it is the object, as it is called, of faith, for the strengthening and nourishing of the personal faith of each individual. But there is yet another stumbling-block that must be removed, and this is much greater and the most dangerous of all. It is the common belief that the mass is a sacrifice, which is offered to God. Even the words of the canon tend in this direction, when they speak of "these gifts," "these offerings," "this holy sacrifice," and farther on, of "this offering." Prayer also is made, in so many words, "that the sacrifice may be accepted even as the sacrifice of Abel," etc., and hence Christ is termed the "Sacrifice of the altar." In addition to this there are the sayings of the holy Fathers, the great number of examples, and the constant usage and custom of all the world.

2.70 We must resolutely oppose all of this, firmly entrenched as it is, with the words and example of Christ. For unless we hold fast to the truth, that the mass is the promise or testament of Christ, as the words clearly say, we shall lose the whole Gospel and all our comfort. Let us permit nothing to prevail against these words, even though an angel from heaven should teach otherwise. For there is nothing said in them of a work or a sacrifice. Moreover, we have also the example of Christ on our side. For at the Last Supper, when He instituted this sacrament and established this testament, Christ did not offer Himself to God the Father, nor did He perform a good work on behalf of others, but He set this testament before each of them that sat at table with Him and offered him the sign. Now, the more closely our mass resembles that first mass of all, which Christ performed at the Last Supper, the more Christian will it be. But Christ's mass was most simple, without the pageantry of vestments, genuflections, chants and other ceremonies. Indeed, if it were necessary to offer the mass as a sacrifice, then Christ's institution of it was not complete.

2.71 Not that any one should condemn the Church universal for embellishing and amplifying the mass with many additional rites and ceremonies. But this is what we contend for: no one should be deceived by the glamour of the ceremonies and entangled in the multitude of pompous forms, and thus lose the simplicity of the mass itself, and indeed practice a sort of transubstantiation – losing sight of the simple substance of the mass and clinging to the manifold accidents of outward pomp. For whatever has been added to the word and example of Christ, is an accident of the mass, and ought to be regarded just as we regard the so-called monstrances and corporal cloths in which the host itself is contained. Therefore, as distributing a testament, or accepting a promise, differs diametrically from offering a sacrifice, so it is a contradiction in terms to call the mass a sacrifice. The former is something that we receive, while the latter is something that we offer. The same thing cannot be received and offered at the same time, nor can it be both given and taken by the same person. Just as little as our prayer can be the same as that which our prayer obtains, or the act of praying the same as the act of receiving the answer to our prayer.

2.72 What shall we say, then, about the canon of the mass and the sayings of the Fathers? First of all, if there were nothing at all to be said against them, it would yet be the safer course to reject them all rather than admit that the mass is a work or a sacrifice, lest we deny the word of Christ and overthrow faith together with the mass. Nevertheless, not to reject altogether the canons and the Fathers, we shall say the following: The Apostle instructs us in 1 Corinthians 11 that it was customary for Christ's believers, when they came together to mass, to bring with them meat and drink, which they called "collections" and distributed among all who were in need, after the example of the apostles in Acts 4. From this store was taken the portion of bread and wine that was consecrated for use in the sacrament. And since all this store of meat and drink was sanctified by the word and by prayer, being "lifted up" according to the Hebrew rite of which we read in Moses, the words and the rite of this lifting up, or offering, have come down to us, although the custom of collecting that which was offered, or lifted up, has fallen long since into disuse. Thus, in Isaiah 37, Hezekiah commanded Isaiah to lift up his prayer in the sight of God for the remnant. The Psalmist sings: "Lift up your hands to the holy places" and "To you will I lift up my hands." And in 1 Timothy 2 we read: "Lifting up pure hands in every place." For this reason the words "sacrifice" and "offering" must be taken to refer, not to the sacrament and testament, but to these collections, from this also the word "collect" has come down to us, as meaning the prayers said in the mass.

2.73 The same thing is indicated when the priest elevates the bread and the chalice immediately after the consecration, whereby he shows that he is not offering anything to God, for he does not say a single word here about a victim or an offering. But this elevation is either a survival of that Hebrew rite of lifting up what was received with thanksgiving and returned to God, or else it is an admonition to us, to provoke us to faith in this testament which the priest has set forth and exhibited in the words of Christ, so that now he shows us also the sign of the testament. Thus the offering of the bread properly accompanies the demonstrative this in the words, "This is my body," by which sign the priest addresses us gathered about him. In like manner the offering of the chalice accompanies the demonstrative this in the words, "This chalice is the new testament, etc." For it is faith that the priest ought to awaken in us by this act of elevation. I wish that, as he elevates the sign, or sacrament, openly before our eyes, he might also sound in our ears the words of the testament with a loud, clear voice, and in the language of the people, whatever it may be, in order that faith may be the more effectively awakened. For why may mass be said in Greek and Latin and Hebrew, and not also in German or in any other language?

2.74 Let the priests, therefore, who in these corrupt and perilous times offer the sacrifice of the mass, take heed, first, that the words of the greater and the lesser canon together with the collects, which smack too strongly of sacrifice, be not referred by them to the sacrament, but to the bread and wine which they consecrate, or to the prayers which they say. For the bread and wine are offered at the first, in order that they may be blessed and thus sanctified by the Word and by prayer. But after they have been blessed and consecrated, they are no longer offered, but received as a gift from God. And let the priest bear in mind that the Gospel is to be set above all canons and collects devised by men. The Gospel does not sanction the calling of the mass a sacrifice, as has been shown.

2.75 Further, when a priest celebrates a public mass, he should determine to do nothing else through the mass than to commune himself and others. Yet he may at the same time offer prayers for himself and for others, but he must beware lest he presume to offer the mass. But let him determine to commune himself, if he holds a private mass. The private mass does not differ in the least from the ordinary communion which any layman receives at the hand of the priest, and has no greater effect, apart from the special prayers and the fact that the priest consecrates the elements for himself and administers them to himself. So far as the blessing of the mass and sacrament is concerned, we are all of us on an equal footing, whether we be priests or laymen.

2.76 If a priest be requested by others to celebrate so-called "votive" masses, let him beware of accepting a reward for the mass, or of presuming to offer a votive sacrifice. He should be careful to refer all to the prayers which he offers for the dead or the living, saying within himself, "I will go and partake of the sacrament for myself alone, and while partaking I will say a prayer for this one and that." Thus he will take his reward – to buy him food and clothing – not for the mass, but for the prayers. And let him not be disturbed because all the world holds and practices the contrary. You have the most sure Gospel, and relying on this you may well despise the opinions of men. But if you despise me and insist upon offering the mass and not the prayers alone, know that I have faithfully warned you and will be without blame on the day of judgment. You will have to bear your sin alone. I have said what I was bound to say as brother to brother for his soul's salvation. Yours will be the gain if you observe it, yours the loss if you neglect it. And if some should even condemn what I have said, I reply in the words of Paul: " But evil men and seducers shall grow worse and worse: erring and driving into error."

2.77 From the above every one will readily understand what there is in that often quoted saying of Gregory's: "A mass celebrated by a wicked priest is not to be considered of less effect than one celebrated by any godly priest. St. Peter's mass would not have been better than Judas the traitor's, if they had offered the sacrifice of the mass." This saying has served many as a cloak to cover their godless doings, and because of it they have invented the distinction between opus operati and opus operantis, so as to be free to lead wicked lives themselves and yet to benefit other men. Gregory speaks truth, but they misunderstand and pervert his words. For it is true beyond a question, that the testament or sacrament is given and received through the ministration of wicked priests no less completely than through the ministration of the most saintly. For who has any doubt that the Gospel is preached by the ungodly? Now the mass is part of the Gospel, no, its sum and substance. For what is the whole Gospel but the good tidings of the forgiveness of sins? But whatever can be said of the forgiveness of sins and the mercy of God, is all briefly comprehended in the word of this testament. So popular sermons ought to be nothing else than expositions of the mass, that is, a setting forth of the divine promise of this testament. Doing this teaches faith and truly edifies the Church. But in our day the expounders of the mass play with the allegories of human rites and make it a joke to people.

2.78 Therefore, just as a wicked priest may baptise, that is, apply the word of promise and the sign of the water to a candidate for baptism, so he may also set forth the promise of this sacrament and administer it to those who partake, and even himself partake, like Judas the traitor, at the Lord's Supper. It still remains always the same sacrament and testament, which works in the believer its own work, in the unbeliever a "strange work." But when it comes to offering a sacrifice the case is quite different. For not the mass but the prayers are offered to God, and therefore it is as plain as day that the offerings of a wicked priest avail nothing, but, as Gregory says again, when an unworthy intercessor is chosen, the heart of the judge is moved to greater displeasure. We must, therefore, not confound these two – the mass and the prayers, the sacrament and the work, the testament and the sacrifice. For the one comes from God to us, through the ministration of the priest, and demands our faith, the other proceeds from our faith to God, through the priest, and demands His answer. The former descends, the latter ascends. Therefore the former does not necessarily require a worthy and godly minister, but the latter does indeed require such a priest, because " God does not hear sinners." He knows how to send down blessings through evildoers, but He does not accept the work of any evildoer, as He showed in the case of Cain, and as it is said in Proverbs 15, "The victims of the wicked are abominable to the Lord" and in Romans 14, "All that is not of faith is sin."

2.79 But in order to make an end of this first part, we must take up one remaining point against which an opponent might arise. From all that has been said we conclude that the mass was provided only for such as have a sad, afflicted, disturbed, perplexed and erring conscience, and that they alone commune worthily. For, since the word of divine promise in this sacrament sets forth the remission of sins, that man may fearlessly draw near, whoever he be, whose sins distress him, either with remorse for past or with temptation to future wrongdoing. For this testament of Christ is the one remedy against sins, past, present and future, if you but cling to it with unwavering faith and believe that what the words of the testament declare is freely granted to you. But if you do not believe this, you will never, nowhere, and by no works or efforts of your own, find peace of conscience. For faith alone sets the conscience at peace, and unbelief alone keeps the conscience troubled.


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