A fairly major Vatican document has been released, Redemptionis Sacramentum. It addresses the ‘proper’ celebration of the sacraments in the Roman Catholic Church. It has a number of interesting statements, many of which would be excellent “blog fodder,” but this one was most interesting:
[129.] “The celebration of the Eucharist in the Sacrifice of the Mass is truly the origin and end of the worship given to the Eucharist outside the Mass. Furthermore the sacred species are reserved after Mass principally so that the faithful who cannot be present at Mass, above all the sick and those advanced in age, may be united by sacramental Communion to Christ and his Sacrifice which is offered in the Mass.” In addition, this reservation also permits the practice of adoring this great Sacrament and offering it the worship due to God. Accordingly, forms of adoration that are not only private but also public and communitarian in nature, as established or approved by the Church herself, must be greatly promoted.
And a little later:
[134.] “The worship of the Eucharist outside the Sacrifice of the Mass is a tribute of inestimable value in the life of the Church. Such worship is closely linked to the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.” Therefore both public and private devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist even outside Mass should be vigorously promoted, for by means of it the faithful give adoration to Christ, truly and really present, the “High Priest of the good things to come” and Redeemer of the whole world. â€œIt is the responsibility of sacred Pastors, even by the witness of their life, to support the practice of Eucharistic worship and especially exposition of the Most Holy Sacrament, as well as prayer of adoration before Christ present under the eucharistic species.”
There was a day, not too long ago, when you could assume that just about every well-read, theologically concerned “evangelical” would read those words with nothing but utter disdain and deep sadness for anyone who would believe such teaching. At least I thought most of us had some idea of what Rome means by “Sacrifice of the Mass” and what is involved in seeing people bowing before a tabernacle or monstrance or ciborium. Even if people were not fully aware of all of the details of Roman theology regarding the Mass, transubstantiation, and the like, there was a general recognition that the sacrifice of Christ is so sacred, the gospel so holy, that to engage in this kind of activity, which is so plainly based upon human tradition and unbiblical teaching, is to bring great offense to God. The language of the Westminster Confession is anything but “eirenic” when it addresses this topic:
In this sacrament, Christ is not offered up to His Father; not any real sacrifice made at all, for remission of sins of the quick or dead; but only a commemoration of that one offering up of Himself, by Himself, upon the cross, once for all: and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God, for the same, so that the popish sacrifice of the mass (as they call it) is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one, only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of His elect. (29:2)
Private masses, or receiving this sacrament by a priest, or any other, alone, as likewise, the denial of the cup to the people, worshipping the elements, the lifting them up, or carrying them about, for adoration, and the reserving them for any pretended religious use; are all contrary to the nature of this sacrament, and to the institution of Christ. (29:4)
That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ’s body and blood (commonly called transubstantiation) by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant, not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense, and reason; overthroweth the nature of the sacrament, and hath been, and is, the cause of manifold superstitions; yea, of gross idolatries. (29:6)
Such terminology has not only become foreign to our post-modern world, but, sadly, has become foreign to many who claim to be “Reformed” as well. “Popish sacrifice,” “abominably injurious,” “repugnant,” “cause of manifold superstitions” and “gross idolatries” are not phrases born of compromise or a spirit that finds anything in the source of such teachings a ground for “getting along” and “dialoguing” about our “perspectives.” Such descriptions assume that the truth about the sacrifice of Christ is knowable and known; that to pervert that truth is to separate oneself from the very gospel of Christ; and that to refuse to speak boldly in defense of the very death of Christ on the cross is to show oneself a friend of the world and an enemy of the faith. On a simple gut level, a person who loves the redemptive message of the cross cannot possibly sit idly by when someone begins promoting Rome’s doctrine of the never-truly-propitiatory, never-truly-finished, always on-going, non-perfecting sacrifice in the Mass. You might as well say it is manly to sit by while someone insults your wife while smiling and nodding and saying, “I appreciate your perspective.” When I read the above cited Roman Catholic document blithely quoting Hebrews 9:11 while ripping it completely out of its context and, in fact, attaching it to a teaching that is a direct and unmitigated repudiation of the precious truth of Hebrews 9:11-12, I am offended. If you are not, and you are not a Roman Catholic, and you understand the basic issues involved, may I ask why not? If your entire hope rests solely in the finished work of Christ, in the sufficiency of His sacrifice, the completion of His atonement, the all-encompassing perfection of Him as Prophet, Priest, and King—how can you see those words, realize how they impact hundreds of millions of people adversely by driving them away from the truth, and not have a visceral, holy reaction of indignation? I confess, given how people can get all passionate about sports teams, fashions, eschatologies, periods of history, or any number of other such things, I truly wonder how someone can truly be trusting in the gospel and yet not have passion about its denial and perversion!
One answer, these days, seems to be found in a simple line of reasoning: “Triune baptism joins you to the new covenant. Hence, objectively it makes you a Christian. Therefore, Roman Catholics are Christians. Therefore, ecumenical dialogue within the ‘church’ is healthy, so let’s all chat about our perspectives and viewpoints and see if we can’t increase the level of unity in professing Christianity.” Sounds good, right? Except, one little thing is missing: the gospel of Jesus Christ. Triune baptism, without the gospel, and especially in the context of a denial of the very work of the Triune God, is a mockery of the words being spoken and the Christ-commanded ordinance to which it is but a shadow and empty shell. Without faith in God’s truth, there is no Christian baptism, no creation of this “big tent church” that includes within its boundaries the kind of Christ-dishonoring, soul-destroying teaching as that cited above from the new Vatican document. Paul no more made room for the false brethren who, likewise, sought to bring believers into bondage in his day than we should in ours. The irony is, the very ones who refuse to follow the Apostolic example provided by Paul are the very ones who speak of “apostolic succession” and begin playing around with buzz-words like “tradition” and “the development of doctrine.” If you start feeling the pressure to compromise, to douse the flames of your passion for the truth of the gospel in exchange for the empty husks of a Christ-denying ecumenism or a deformed catholicity, remember what is most important, and ask yourself a simple question: do I fear the face of men, or of God?