Qu. 80. What difference is there between the Lord’s Supper and the popish mass?

A. The Lord’s Supper testifies to us, that we have a full pardon of all sin by the only sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which he himself has once accomplished on the cross; and, that we by the Holy Ghost are engrafted into Christ, who, according to his human nature is now not on earth, but in heaven, at the right hand of God his Father, and will there be worshipped by us:—but the mass teaches, that the living and the dead have not the pardon of sins through the sufferings of Christ, unless Christ is also daily offered for them by the priests; and further, that Christ is bodily under the form of bread and wine, and therefore is to be worshipped in them; so that the mass, at bottom, is nothing else than a denial of the one sacrifice and sufferings of Jesus Christ, and an accursed idolatry.

Qu. 81. For whom is the Lord’s Supper instituted?

A. For those who are truly sorrowful for their sins, and yet trust that they are forgiven them for the sake of Christ; and that their remaining infirmities are covered by his passion and death; and who also earnestly desire to have their faith more and more strengthened, and their lives more holy; but hypocrites, and such as turn not to God with sincere hearts, eat and drink judgment to themselves.

Qu. 82. Are they also to be admitted to this supper, who, by confession and life, declare themselves unbelieving and ungodly?

A. No; for by this, the covenant of God would be profaned, and his wrath kindled against the whole congregation; therefore it is the duty of the Christian church, according to the appointment of Christ and his apostles, to exclude such persons, by the keys of the kingdom of heaven, till they show amendment of life.

The eightieth question, with the well-known sentence that the mass “is nothing else than a denial of the one sacrifice and sufferings of Jesus Christ, and an accursed idolatry”, did not appear in the first and original edition of the Heidelberg Catechism. It did appear in part in the second edition, and, in the form in which it appears now, in the third edition of the Catechism. Some claim that the question and answer were inserted under the influence and at the advice of Calvin, but this is at least doubtful. It was inserted by order of the Elector Frederick III as a counter-blast to the anathemas of the Council of Trent, which concluded its sessions Dec. 4, 1563. Schaff, “Creeds of Christendom”, I, p. 563, writes: “The same view of the Romish doctrine of transubstantiation and the sacrifice of the mass was generally entertained by the reformers, and is set forth as strongly in the articles of Smalcald and other symbolical books, both Lutheran and Reformed. It must be allowed to remain as a solemn protest against idolatry. But the wisdom of inserting controversial matter into a catechism for the instruction of the youth has been justly doubted.” The eightieth question disturbs the peaceful harmony of the book, it rewards evil for evil, it countenances intolerance, which is unprotestant and unevangelical. It provoked much unnecessary hostility, and led even, under the Romish rule of the Elector Charles Philip in 1719, to the prohibition of the Catechism; but the loud remonstrance of England, Prussia, Holland, and other protestant states forced the elector to withdraw the tyrannical decree within a year under certain condition, to save appearances.” With this judgment of Dr. Schaff we cannot agree. There certainly is more controversial material in the Heidelberg Catechism than that which is contained in the eightieth question, although it is not always so definitely and clearly expressed. And why a book that is used for the instruction of the youth should not contain controversial matter is difficult to understand. At any rate, the eightieth question with its severe judgment about the mass as an accursed idolatry is now included in the Heidelberg Catechism, and we have to explain it.

In his own exposition of the Catechism Ursinus has some interesting remarks on the term mass. Writes he: “Before we proceed, however, to point out the differences between the Lord’s Supper and the popish mass, it is proper that we should say a few words in reference to the term, mass. And first, there are some who derive the word mass from the Hebrew masas, which signifies a tribute, or voluntary offering. The word has this meaning in Deut. 16:10, where it is said, ‘Thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the Lord thy God with a tribute of a free-will offering of thine hand.’ This offering was so called,’ being as it were, a yearly tribute, which was given most willingly and cheerfully. It is also understood by some to signify a sufficiency, meaning that so much should be given as might be sufficient, which, perhaps, is the more correct interpretation since God in Deut. 15:8, commanded the Israelites to open their hands wide unto the poor, and to lend that which was sufficient for their need. This the Chaldee paraphrast interprets missah; from which it is supposed that it is called mass, or missa, as if it were a tribute, and a free-will offering, which should everywhere be offered to God in the church for the living and the dead. But this is not probable. It is true, indeed, that the church has borrowed some words from the Hebrew; as Satan, sabaoth, hallelujah, etc.; but these and similar words were introduced into the Greek Testament when it was first written in the Greek language; nor have we any Hebrew words in our church which the Greek church had not before. Furthermore, if we examine the writings of the Greek Fathers it will be seen, that the word missa is never used by them; from which we are inclined to believe that the word missa was not derived from the Hebrew.

“Therefore the term missa, which is doubtless a Latin word, seems to be taken from the Fathers, who used remissa for remissio. Turtullian says: ‘We have spoken of remission (remissa) of sins.’ Cyprian says: ‘He who was to grant remission of sins, did not disdain to be baptized.’ Again: ‘He who blasphemes against the Holy Ghost, obtains no remission of sins. Hence, as the Latin Fathers used the term remissa for remissio, so they also seem to have used missa for missio, which is derived from mittendo. But here again there is a great diversity of sentiment. For some will have it that missa is to be understood in the sense of missio, from an ancient custom of ecclesiastical rites, which was introduced into the Latin churches from the Greek, that when the sermon and the lecture were over, the deacon before the consecration of the mysteries sent away or commanded the catechumens, the demoniacs, and such as were excommunicated, to depart, saying, with a loud voice ‘If there be any catechumen still remaining in the church, let him depart;’ so that missa seems to be used in the sense of missio (sending away), because it was the last part of divine service. Others suppose that it is called missa in the sense of dismissa, or dismissio, from the manner in which the ecclesiastical assemblies, or congregations were dismissed; because, when the prayers and other services were ended, the deacon exclaimed, Ite, missa est;’ that is, Go, you may depart. Others, again, understand it thus: ‘Go, now is the collection of alms;’ which they say were called missa, from being sent, or thrown in for the benefit of the poor. In short, it was that which was transacted in the church after the departure of the catechumens or the collection of alms.”

Thus far Ursinus on the term mass.

The Catechism calls attention to a two-fold difference between the Lord’s Supper and the mass. The first difference is that the Lord’s Supper testifies to us “that we have a full pardon of all sin by the only sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which he himself has once accomplished on the cross; and, that we by the Holy Ghost are engrafted into Christ while, on the other hand, the mass teaches “that the living and dead have not the pardon of sins through the sufferings of Christ, unless Christ is also daily offered for them by the priests.” And the second point of difference is indicated in the Catechism by the words that Christ “according to his human nature is now not on earth, but in heaven, at the right hand of God his Father, and will there be worshipped by us;” while the mass, on the other hand, teaches “that Christ is bodily under the form of bread and wine, and therefore is to be worshipped in them.”

It is on the basis of this two-fold Roman Catholic teaching concerning the mass that the Heidelberg Catechism pronounces the severe, but nevertheless perfectly true judgment, that “the mass, at bottom, is nothing else than a denial of the one sacrifice and sufferings of Jesus Christ, and an accursed idolatry.”

We can therefore distinguish between the Eucharist and the mass. Both presuppose that the bread and wine at the Lord’s table are transubstantiated into the body and blood of Christ. But while the Eucharist, or the communion proper, consists only in the eating of the wafer and the drinking, by the priest, of the wine, the mass proper really consists in the sacrifice of Christ, also by the priest, under the form of bread and wine.

The question now is: does the Roman Catholic church really teach, in the first place, that Christ must be worshipped as He is present in the bread and wine; and secondly, that there is a continual sacrifice of Christ, offered by the priest, through the substantiated signs on the altar?

Of the first point, namely, that Christ under the symbols of bread and wine is to be worshipped and adored, the decrees of the Council of Trent leave no doubt. In the Thirteenth Session it declared in Chapter V of those Canons: “Wherefore, there is no room left for doubt, that all the faithful of Christ may, according to the custom ever received in the Catholic Church, render in veneration the worship of latria, which is due to the true God, to this most holy sacrament. For not therefore is it the less to be adored on this account that it was instituted by Christ, the Lord, in order to be received; for we believe that same God to be present therein, of whom the eternal Father, when introducing him into the world, says: And let all the angels of God adore him. Whom the magi, falling down, adored; who, in fine, as the Scripture testifies, was adored by the apostles in Galilee.

“The holy synod declares moreover, that very piously and religiously was this custom introduced into the church, that this sublime and venerable sacrament be, with special veneration and solemnity, celebrated, every .year, on a certain day, and that a festival; and that it be borne reverently and with honor in processions through the streets and public places. For it is most just that there be certain appointed holy days whereon all Christians may, with a special and unusual demonstration, testify that their minds are grateful and thankful to their common Lord and Redeemer for so ineffable and truly divine a benefit, whereby the victory and triumph of his death are represented. And so indeed did it behoove victorious truth to celebrate a triumph over falsehood and heresy, that this her adversaries, at the sight of so much splendor, and in the midst of so great joy of the universal church, may either pine away weakened and broken; or, touched with shame and confounded, at length repent.”

In a series of radio questions and answers by Conway, published in 1903, we read on page 447: “Why do Catholics place one knee upon the floor before entering the pew? Catholics genuflect on entering and leaving the church as a mark of love and adoration to Christ, the Son of God, who is really present upon the Catholic altar.”

And again, on page 448: “After the candles are lighted upon the altar, the priest takes the host consecrated at the mass out of the tabernacle, and places it in a stand of gold or silver, called the monstrance, or ostensorium, which remains upon the altar, or upon an elevated throne, where it may be seen by all the people. The priest then puts incense into the thurible and waves it three times in the direction of the blessed sacrament as a symbol of the people’s prayer. Then placing over his shoulders a long silk scarf, called the humerale veil, the priest takes up the monstrance, and with it makes the sign of the cross over the people; and thus the Eucharistic Christ blesses the people.”

It certainly is evident from all this that it is the bread called the Eucharistic Christ that is worshipped as God and is the object of prayer by the audience. The same Eucharistic Christ is supposed to bless the people. Now all this the Catechism rightly calls idolatry. It stands to reason that the Catholics deny this accusation. And it is also true that as soon as one accepts the Roman Catholic theory of transubstantiation, this accusation of idolatry must fall. After all, the doctrine of transubstantiation is the sole basis upon which the mass rests. According to Catholics, they do not worship bread and wine, but they worship what is called “the real presence”. And therefore they hurl their anathemas at all that maintain “that in the holy sacrament of the Eucharist, Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is not to be adored with the worship, even external of latria; and is, consequently, neither to be venerated with a special festive solemnity, nor to be solemnly borne about in procession, according to the laudable and universal rite and custom of the church; or is not to be proposed publicly to the people to be adored, and that the adorers thereof are idolaters.” Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, Canon VI. Nevertheless, from the protestant viewpoint, which denies transubstantiation, there is on the altar nothing but bread and wine. And therefore the Roman Catholics do not worship Christ and God in Christ, but render homage to mere material signs. And this is idolatry pure and simple.