Friday, December 04, 2009

446th Anniversary of the Closing of the Council of Trent

From the Acta of the Council of Trent (1545-1563)
(Three-digit numbers refer to Denzinger-Bannwart paragraphs)
SESSION XXII (Sept. 17, 1562)

The Doctrine on the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass*

937a The holy, ecumenical, and general Synod of Trent lawfully assembled in the Holy Spirit with the same legates of the Apostolic See presiding, has decreed that the faith and doctrine concerning the great mystery of the Eucharist in the holy Catholic Church, complete and perfect in every way, should be retained and, after the errors and heresies have been repudiated, should be preserved as of old in its purity; concerning this doctrine, since it is the true and the only sacrifice, the holy Council, instructed by the light of the Holy Spirit, teaches these matters which follow, and declares that they be preached to the faithful.

Chap. 1 [The Institution of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass] *

938 Since under the former Testament (as the Apostle Paul bears witness) there was no consummation because of the weakness of the Levitical priesthood, it was necessary (God the Father of mercies ordaining it thus) that another priest according to the order of Melchisedech [Gen. 14:18; Ps. 109:4; Heb. 7:11] arise, our Lord Jesus Christ, who could perfect [Heb. 10:14] all who were to be sanctified, and lead them to perfection. He, therefore, our God and Lord, though He was about to offer Himself once to God the Father upon the altar of the Cross by the mediation of death, so that He might accomplish an eternal redemption for them [edd.: illic,there], nevertheless, that His sacerdotal office might not come to an end with His death [Heb. 7:24, 27] at the Last Supper, on the night He was betrayed, so that He might leave to His beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice [can. 1] (as the nature of man demands), whereby that bloody sacrifice once to be completed on the Cross might be represented, and the memory of it remain even to the end of the world [ 1 Cor. 11:23 ff.] and its saving grace be applied to the remission of those sins which we daily commit, declaring Himself constituted "a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech" Ps. 109:4; offered to God the Father His own body and blood under the species of bread and wine, and under the symbols of those same things gave to the apostles (whom He then constituted priests of the New Testament), so that they might partake, and He commanded them and their successors in the priesthood in these words to make offering: "Do this in commemoration of me, etc." [ Luke 22:19;1 Cor. 11:23], as the Catholic Church has always understood and taught [can. 2]. For, after He had celebrated the ancient feast of the Passover, which the multitude of the children of Israel sacrificed [Exod. 12:1 ff.] in memory of their exodus from Egypt, He instituted a new Passover, Himself to be immolated under visible signs by the Church through the priests, in memory of His own passage from this world to the Father, when by the shedding of His blood He redeemed us and "delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into His kingdom [Col. 1:13 ].

939 And this, indeed, is that "clean oblation" which cannot be defiled by any unworthiness or malice on the part of those who offer it; which the Lord foretold through Malachias must be offered in every place as a clean oblation [Mal. 1:11 ] to His name, which would be great among the gentiles, and which the Apostle Paul writing to the Corinthians has clearly indicated, when he says that they who are defiled by participation of the "table of the devils" cannot become partakers of the table of the Lord [ 1 Cor. 10:21], understanding by table in each case, the altar. It is finally that [sacrifice] which was prefigured by various types of sacrifices, in the period of nature and the Law [ Gen. 4:4;8:20;12:8;22; Ex: passim], inasmuch as it comprises all good things signified by them, as being the consummation and perfection of them all.

Chap. 2 [The Sacrifice is a Visible Propitiation for the Living and the Dead]

940 And since in this divine sacrifice, which is celebrated in the Mass, that same Christ is contained and immolated in an unbloody manner, who on the altar of the Cross "once offered Himself" in a bloody manner [Heb. 9:27], the holy Synod teaches that this is truly propitiatory [can. 3], and has this effect, that if contrite and penitent we approach God with a sincere heart and right faith, with fear and reverence, "we obtain mercy and find grace in seasonable aid" [Heb. 4:16]. For, appeased by this oblation, the Lord, granting the grace and gift of penitence, pardons crimes and even great sins. For, it is one and the same Victim, the same one now offering by the ministry of the priests as He who then offered Himself on the Cross, the manner of offering alone being different. The fruits of that oblation (bloody, that is) are received most abundantly through this unbloody one; so far is the latter from being derogatory in any way to Him [can. 4]. Therefore, it is offered rightly according to the tradition of the apostles [can. 3], not only for the sins of the faithful living, for their punishments and other necessities, but also for the dead in Christ not yet fully purged.

Chap. 3 [Masses in Honor of the Saints]

941 And though the Church has been accustomed to celebrate some Masses now and then in honor and in memory of the saints, yet she does not teach that the sacrifice is offered to them, but to God alone, who has crowned them [can. 5]. Thence the priest is not accustomed to say: "I offer sacrifice to you, Peter and Paul,'' * but giving thanks to God for their victories, he implores their patronage, so that "they themselves may deign to intercede for us in heaven, whose memory we celebrate on earth" [Missal].

Chap. 4 [The Canon of the Mass]

942 And since it is fitting that holy things be administered in a holy manner, and this sacrifice is of all things the most holy, the Catholic Church, that it might be worthily and reverently offered and received, instituted the sacred canon many centuries ago, so free from all error [can. 6], that it contains nothing in it which does not especially diffuse a certain sanctity and piety and raise up to God the minds of those who offer it. For this consists both of the words of God, and of the traditions of the apostles, and also of pious instructions of the holy Pontiffs.

Chap. 5 [The Solemn Ceremonies of the sacrifice of the Mass]

943 And since such is the nature of man that he cannot easily without external means be raised to meditation on divine things, on that account holy mother Church has instituted certain rites, namely, that certain things be pronounced in a subdued tone [can. 9] in the Mass, and others in a louder tone; she has likewise [can. 7] made use of ceremonies such as mystical blessings, lights, incense, vestments, and many other things of this kind in accordance with apostolic teaching and tradition, whereby both the majesty of so great a sacrifice might be commended, and the minds of the faithful excited by these visible signs of religion and piety to the contemplation of the most sublime matters which lie hidden in this sacrifice.

Chap. 6 [The Mass in which the Priest Alone Communicates]

944 The holy Synod would wish indeed that at every Mass the faithful present receive communion not only by spiritual desire, but also by the sacramentalreception of the Eucharist, so that a more abundant fruit of this most holy Sacrifice may be brought forth in them; yet if that is not always done, on that account it does not condemn [can. 8], those Masses in which the priest alone communicates sacramentally, as private and illicit, but rather approves and commends them, since indeed these Masses should also be considered as truly common, partly because at these Masses the people communicate spiritually, and partly, too, because they are celebrated by a public minister of the Church not only for himself, but for all the faithful who belong to the Body of Christ.

Chap. 7 [The Water to be Mixed with Wine to be Offered in the Chalice]

945 The holy Synod then admonishes priests that it has been prescribed by the Church to mix water with the wine to be offered in the chalice [can. 9], not only because the belief is that Christ the Lord did so, but also because there came from His side water together with blood [ John 19:34], since by this mixture the sacrament is recalled. And since in the Apocalypse of the blessed John the peoples are called waters [Rev. 17:1, 15 ], the union of the faithful people with Christ, their head, is represented.

Chap. 8 [The Mass not to be Celebrated in the Vernacular, and its Mysteries to be Explained to the People]

946 Although the Mass contains much instruction for the faithful, it has nevertheless not seemed expedient to the Fathers that it be celebrated everywhere in the vernacular [can. 9]. For this reason, since the ancient rite of each church has been approved by the holy Roman Church, the mother and teacher of all churches, and has been retained everywhere, lest the sheep of Christ suffer hunger, and "little ones ask for bread and there is none to break it unto them" [cf. Lam. 4:4], the holy Synod commands pastors and everyone who has the care of souls to explain frequently during the celebration of the Masses, either themselves or through others, some of the things which are read in the Mass, and among other things to expound some mystery of this most holy Sacrifice, especially on Sundays and feast days.

Chap. 9 [Preliminary Remarks on the Following Canons]

947 Because various errors have been disseminated at this time, and many things are being taught and discussions carried on by many against this ancient faith founded on the holy Gospel, on the traditions of the apostles, and on the doctrine of the holy Fathers, the holy Synod, after long and grave deliberations over these matters, has resolved by the unanimous consent of all the fathers, to condemn and to eliminate from the holy Church by means of the following canons whatever is opposed to this most pure faith and to this sacred doctrine.

Canons on the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass*

948 Can. 1. If anyone says that in the Mass a true and real sacrifice is not offered to God, or that the act of offering is nothing else than Christ being given to us to eat: let him be anathema [cf. n. 938 ].

949 Can. 2. If anyone says that by these words: "Do this for a commemoration of me" [ Luke 22:19;1 Cor. 11:24], Christ did not make the apostles priests, or did not ordain that they and other priests might offer His own body and blood: let him be anathema [cf. n. 938 ].

950 Can. 3. If anyone says that the sacrifice of the Mass is only one of praise and thanksgiving, or that it is a mere commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the Cross, but not one of propitiation; or that it is of profit to him alone who receives; or that it ought not to be offered for the living and the dead, for sins, punishments, satisfactions, and other necessities: let him be anathema [cf. n. 940].

951 Can. 4. If anyone says that blasphemy is cast upon the most holy sacrifice of Christ consummated on the Cross through the sacrifice of the Mass, or that by it He is disparaged: let him be anathema [cf. n. 940 ].

952 Can. 5. If anyone says that it is a deception for Masses to be celebrated in honor of the saints and to obtain their intercession with God, as the Church intends: let him be anathema [cf. n. 941 ].

953 Can. 6. If anyone says that the canon of the Mass contains errors, and should therefore be abrogated: let him be anathema [cf. n. 942].

954 Can. 7. If anyone says that the ceremonies, vestments, and outward signs, which the Catholic Church uses in the celebration of Masses, are incentives to impiety rather than the services of piety: let him be anathema [cf. n.943 ].

955 Can. 8. If anyone says that Masses in which the priest alone communicates sacramentally, are illicit and are therefore to be abrogated: let him be anathema [cf. n. 944].

956 Can. 9. If anyone says that the rite of the Roman Church, according to which a part of the canon and the words of consecration are pronounced in a low tone, is to be condemned, or that the Mass ought to be celebrated in the vernacular only, or that water should not be mixed with the wine that is to be offered in the chalice because it is contrary to the institution of Christ: let him be anathema [cf. n. 943, 945 f.].

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