CHIEF ARTICLES OF THE FAITH
1 Our churches are falsely accused of abolishing the Mass. The Mass is held among us and celebrated with the highest reverence. 2 Nearly all the usual ceremonies are also preserved, except that the parts sung in Latin are interspersed here and there with German hymns. These have been added to teach the people. 3 For ceremonies are needed for this reason alone, that the uneducated be taught ‹what they need to know about Christ›. 4 Not only has Paul commanded that a language understood by the people be used in church (1 Corinthians 14:2, 9), but human law has also commanded it. 5 All those able to do so partake of the Sacrament together. This also increases the reverence and devotion of public worship. 6 No one is admitted to the Sacrament without first being examined. 7 The people are also advised about the dignity and use of the Sacrament, about how it brings great consolation to anxious consciences, so that they too may learn to believe God and to expect and ask from Him all that is good. 8 This worship pleases God [Colossians 1:9–10]. Such use of the Sacrament nourishes true devotion toward God. 9 Therefore, it does not appear that the Mass is more devoutly celebrated among our adversaries than among us.
10 It is clear that for a long time the most public and serious complaint among all good people is that the Mass has been made base and profane by using it to gain filthy wealth [1 Timothy 3:3]. 11 Everyone knows how great this abuse is in all the churches. They know what sort of men say Masses for a fee or an income, and how many celebrate these Masses contrary to canon law. 12 Paul severely threatens those who use the Eucharist in an unworthy manner, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27). 13 Therefore, when our priests were warned about this sin, private Masses were discontinued among us, since hardly any private Masses were celebrated except for the sake of filthy gain.
14 The bishops were not ignorant of these abuses. If they had corrected them in time, there would now be less discord. 15 But until now they have been responsible for many corruptions seeping into the Church. 16 Now, when it is too late, they begin to complain about the Church’s troubles. This disturbance has been caused simply by those abuses that were so open that they could no longer be tolerated. 17 There have been great disagreements about the Mass, that is, the Sacrament. 18 Perhaps the world is being punished for profaning the Mass for such a long time and for tolerating this in the churches for so many centuries by the very men who were both able and duty-bound to correct this situation. 19 It is written in the Ten Commandments, “The Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). 20 But since the world began, nothing that God ever ordained seems to have been so abused for filthy wealth as the Mass.
21 An opinion was added that infinitely increased private Masses. It states that Christ, by His passion, made satisfaction for original sin and instituted the Mass as an offering for daily sins, both venial and mortal. 22 From this opinion has arisen the common belief that the Mass takes away the sins of the living and the dead simply by performing the outward act. 23 Then they began to argue about whether one Mass said for many is worth as much as special Masses for individuals. This resulted in an infinite number of Masses. ‹With this work, people wanted to obtain from God all that they needed, and in the meantime, trust in Christ and true worship were forgotten›.
24 Our teachers have warned that these opinions depart from the Holy Scripture and diminish the glory of the passion of Christ. 25 For Christ’s passion was an offering and satisfaction, not only for original guilt, but also for all other sins, as it is written, 26 “We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). 27 Also, “By a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). ‹It is an unheard-of innovation in the Church to teach that by His death Christ has made satisfaction only for original sin and not for all other sin. So it is hoped that everybody will understand that this error has been rebuked for good reason.›
28 Scripture teaches that we are justified before God, through faith in Christ, when we believe that our sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. 29 Now if the Mass takes away the sins of the living and the dead simply by performing it, justification comes by doing Masses, and not of faith. Scripture does not allow this.
30 But Christ commands us, “Do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). Therefore, the Mass was instituted so that those who use the Sacrament should remember, in faith, the benefits they receive through Christ and how their anxious consciences are cheered and comforted. 31 To remember Christ is to remember His benefits. It means to realize that they are truly offered to us. 32 It is not enough only to remember history. (The Jewish people and the ungodly also remember this.) 33 Therefore, the Mass is to be used for administering the Sacrament to those that need consolation. Ambrose says, “Because I always sin, I always need to take the medicine.”
34 Because the Mass is for the purpose of giving the Sacrament, we have Communion every holy day, and if anyone desires the Sacrament, we also offer it on other days, when it is given to all who ask for it. This custom is not new in the Church. 35 The Fathers before Gregory make no mention of any private Mass, but they speak a lot about the common Mass, ‹Communion›. 36 Chrysostom says “that the priest stands daily at the altar, inviting some to the Communion and keeping back others.” 37 It appears from the ancient council decisions that one person celebrated the Mass from whom all the other presbyters and deacons received the body of the Lord. 38 The records of the decisions of the Council of Nicaea state, “Let the deacons, according to their order, receive the Holy Communion after the presbyters, from the bishop or from a presbyter.” 39 Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11:33, has this command in regard to Communion: “wait for one another” so that there may be a common participation.
40 Therefore, since the Mass among us follows the example of the Church, taken from the Scripture and the Fathers, we are confident that it cannot be disapproved. This is especially so because we keep the public ceremonies, which are for the most part similar to those previously in use. Only the number of Masses differs. Without a doubt, these might be reduced in a helpful way, because of very great and clear abuses. 41 For in older times, even in churches attended the most often, the Mass was not celebrated every day, as the Tripartite History (Book 9, chap. 33) testifies, “In Alexandria, every Wednesday and Friday the Scriptures are read, and the doctors expound them, and all things are done, except the solemn rite of Communion.”
Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions. Edited by Paul Timothy McCain. St. Louis, MO : Concordia Publishing House, 2005, S. 47
Soli Deo Gloria
Soli Deo Gloria