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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning the Mass part 68

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Hebrews 10:11–14

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass 

It is a ridiculous inference that the Mass must be a sacrifice because the Holy Scriptures mention an altar. Paul refers to the altar by way of comparison. They also fabricate the term Mass from midzbeah, meaning altar. Why such a far-fetched an etymology, unless to show off your knowledge of Hebrew? Why seek the etymology from afar, when the term is found in Deuteronomy 16:10, where it means the collection or gifts of the people, not the offering of the priest? Individuals coming to the celebration of the Passover were obliged to bring some gift as a contribution. Originally, the Christians kept this custom. The Canons of the Apostles show that when they came together, they brought bread, wine, and other things. Part was to be consecrated; the rest was distributed to the poor. With this custom they also retained Mass as the name of the contributions. It appears that the Mass was elsewhere called agape because of these contributions, unless one would prefer that it was called Mass because of the common feast.

Pulling It Together

The origin and therefore, original meaning of the term “Mass” is widely disputed. That it originates in the Latin word missa is not disputed. That word means “sending” or “dismissal.” Research in the Oxford English Dictionary yields no conclusive or even straightforward etymology from its earliest usages in our language. What is clear is that it was used to refer to a worship service, particularly of the Eucharist. Melancthon seems to favor the idea that “Mass” is related to the dismissal at the end of the liturgy. If that is the case, worshipers would be sent out to love and serve the Lord by loving and serving their neighbors, using part of the offerings of the Church.

The real question, rather than this quick side note on etymology, is whether the Mass is our sacrifice, or a priest’s sacrifice of Christ, or a remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice. It is the latter, at very least, because that is the one that requires faith in God. Moreover, it cannot be the second because it is in conflict with Scripture.

Prayer: Help me to remember you, Lord, and send me to bring others. Amen.

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This edition of the Luther's Small Catechism is specifically designed to go with the Sola Confirmation Series. The 2010 Sola/ReClaim Edition* is a faithful word-for-word translation from Luther's German Catechism. It also includes the section on the Office of the Keys, added later to Luther's Catechism.

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