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Part 33

Of the Term Mass.

The adversaries also refer us to philology. From the names of the Mass they derive arguments which do not require a long discussion. For even though the Mass be called a sacrifice, it does not follow that it must confer grace ex opere operato, or, when applied on behalf of others, merit for them the remission of sins, etc. Leitourgia, they say, signifies a sacrifice, and the Greeks call the Mass liturgy. Why do they here omit the old appellation synaxris, which shows that the Mass was formerly the communion of many? But let us speak of the word liturgy. This word done not properly signify a sacrifice, but rather the public ministry, and agrees aptly with our belief, namely, that one minister who consecrates tenders the body and blood of the lord to the rest of the people, just as one minister who preaches tenders the Gospel to the people, as Paul says, 1 Cor. 4, 1: Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God, i.e., of the Gospel and the Sacraments. And 2 Cor. 5, 20: We are ambassadors for Christ as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, Be ye reconciled to God. Thus the term Leitourgia agrees aptly with the ministry. For it is an old word, ordinarily employed in public civil administrations, and signified to the Greeks public burdens, as tribute, the expense of equipping a fleet, or similar things, as the oration of Demosthenes, FOR LEPTINES, testifies, all of which is occupied with the discussion of public duties and immunities: Phehsei de anaxious tinas anthrohpous euromenous ateleian ekdedukenai tas leitourgias, i.e.: He will say that some unworthy men, having found an immunity, have withdrawn from public burdens. And thus they spoke in the time of the Romana, as the rescript of Pertinax, De Iure Immunitatis, l. Semper, shows: Ei kai meh pasohn leitourgiohn tous pateras ho tohn teknohn arithmos aneitai, Even though the number of children does not liberate parents from all public burdens. And the Commentary upon Demosthenes states that leitourgia is a kind of tribute, the expense of the games, the expense of equipping vessels, of attending to the gymnasia and similar public offices. And Paul in 2 Cor. 9, 12 employs it for a collection. The taking of the collection not only supplies those things which are wanting to the saints, but also causes them to give more thanks abundantly to God, etc. And in Phil. 2, 25 he calls Epaphroditus a leitourgos, one who ministered to my wants, where assuredly a sacrificer cannot be understood. But there is no need of more testimonies, since examples are everywhere obvious to those reading the Greek writers, in whom leitourgia is employed for public civil burdens or ministries. And on account of the diphthong, grammarians do not derive it from liteh, which signifies prayers, but from public goods, which they call leita, so that leitourgeoh means, I attend to, I administer public goods.

Ridiculous is their inference that, since mention is made in the Holy Scriptures of an altar, therefore the Mass must be a sacrifice; for the figure of an altar is referred to by Paul only by way of comparison. And they fabricate that the Mass has been so called from mzbh, an altar. What need is there of an etymology so far fetched, unless it be to show their knowledge of the Hebrew language? What need is there to seek the etymology from a distance, when the term Mass is found in Deut. 16, 10, where it signifies the collections or gifts of the people, not the offering of the priest? For individuals coming to the celebration of the Passover were obliged to bring some gift as a contribution. In the beginning the Christians also retained this custom. Coming together they brought bread, wine, and other things, as the Canons of the Apostles testify. Thence a part was taken to be consecrated; the rest was distributed to the poor. With this custom they also retained Mass as the name of the contributions. And on account of such contributions it appears also that the Mass was elsewhere called agapeh, unless one would prefer that it was so called on account of the common feast. But let us omit these trifles. For it is ridiculous that the adversaries should produce such trifling conjectures concerning a matter of such great importance. For although the Mass is called an offering, in what does the term favor the dreams concerning the opus operatum, and the application which, they imagine, merits for others the remission of sins? And it can be called an offering for the reason that prayers, thanksgivings, and the entire worship are there offered, as it is also called a eucharist. But neither ceremonies nor prayers profit ex opere operato, without faith. Although we are disputing here not concerning prayers, but particularly concerning the Lord's Supper.

[Here you can see what rude asses our adversaries are. They say that the term missa is derived from the term misbeach, which signifies an altar; hence we are to conclude that the Mass is a sacrifice; for sacrifices are offered on an altar. Again, the word liturgia, by which the Greeks call the Mass, is also to denote a sacrifice. This claim we shall briefly answer. All the world sees that from such reasons this heathenish and antichristian error does not follow necessarilv, that the Mass benefits ex opere operato sine bono motu utentis. Therefore they are asses, because in such a highly important matter they bring forward such silly things. Nor do the asses know any grammar. For missa and liturgia do not mean sacrifice. Missa, in Hebrew, denotes a joint contribution. For this may have been a custom among Christians, that they brought meat and drink for the benefit of the poor to their assemblies. This custom was derived from the Jews, who had to bring such contributions on their festivals, these they called missa. Likewise, liturgia, in Greek, really denotes an office in which a person ministers to the congregation. This is well applied to our teaching, because with us the priest, as a common servant of those who wish to commune, ministers to them the holy Sacrament.

Some think that missa is not derived from the Hebrew, but signifies as much as remissio the forgiveness of sin. For, the communion being ended, the announcement used to be made: Ite, missa est: Depart, you have forgiveness of sins. They cite, as proof that this is so, the fact that the Greeks used to say: Lais Aphesis (laois aphsesis), which also means that they had been pardoned. If this were so, it would be an excellent meaning, for in connection with this ceremony forgiveness of sins must always be preached and proclaimed. But the case before us is little aided, no matter what the meaning of the word missa is.]

The Greek canon says also many things concerning the offering, but it shows plainly that it is not speaking properly of the body and blood of the Lord, but of the whole service of prayers and thanksgivings. For it says thus: Kai poiehson hemas axious genesthai tou prospserein soi deehseis kai hikesias kai thusias anaimaktous huper pantos laou. When this is rightly understood, it gives no offense. For it prays that we be made worthy to offer prayers and supplications and bloodless sacrifices for the people. For he calls even prayers bloodless sacrifices. Just as also a little afterward: Eti prospheromen soi tehn logikehn tautehn kai anaimakton latreian, We offer, he says this reasonable and bloodless service. For they explain this inaptly who would rather interpret this of a reasonable sacrifice, and transfer it to the very body of Christ, although the canon speaks of the entire worship, and in opposition to the opus operatum Paul has spoken of logikeh latreia [reasonable service], namely, of the worship of the mind, of fear, of faith, of prayer, of thanksgiving, etc.

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