Council of Trent
THE TWENTY-SECOND SESSION, Sept. 17, 1562
ON THE SACRIFICE OF THE MASS.
The sacred and holy, ecumenical and general Synod of Trent--lawfully
assembled in the Holy Ghost, the same Legates of the Apostolic
Sec presiding therein--to the end that the ancient, complete,
and in every part perfect faith and doctrine touching the
great mystery of the Eucharist may be retained in the holy
Catholic Church; and may, all errors and heresies being repelled,
be preserved in its own purity; (the Synod) instructed by
the illumination of the Holy Ghost, teaches, declares; and
decrees what follows, to be preached to the faithful, on the
subject of the Eucharist, considered as being a true and singular
I. On the institution of the most holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Forasmuch as, under the former Testament, according to the
testimony of the Apostle Paul, there was no perfection, because
of the weakness of the Levitical priesthood; there was need,
God, the Father of mercies, so ordaining, that another priest
should rise, according to the order of Melchisedech, our Lord
Jesus Christ, who might consummate, and lead to what is perfect,
as many as were to be sanctified.
He, therefore, our God and Lord, though He was about to offer
Himself once on the altar of the cross unto God the Father,
by means of his death, there to operate an eternal redemption;
nevertheless, because that His priesthood was not to be extinguished
by His death, in the last supper, on the night in which He
was betrayed,--that He might leave, to His own beloved Spouse
the Church, a visible sacrifice, such as the nature of man
requires, whereby that bloody sacrifice, once to be accomplished
on the cross, might be represented, and the memory thereof
remain even unto the end of the world, and its salutary virtue
be applied to the remission of those sins which we daily commit,--declaring
Himself constituted a priest for ever, according to the order
of Melchisedech, He offered up to God the Father His own body
and blood under the species of bread and wine; and, under
the symbols of those same things, He delivered (His own body
and blood) to be received by His apostles, whom He then constituted
priests of the New Testament; and by those words, Do this
in commemoration of me, He commanded them and their successors
in the priesthood, to offer (them); even as the Catholic Church
has always understood and taught.
For, having celebrated the ancient Passover, which the multitude
of the children of Israel immolated in memory of their going
out of Egypt, He instituted the new Passover, (to wit) Himself
to be immolated, under visible signs, by the Church through
(the ministry of) priests, in memory of His own passage from
this world unto the Father, when by the effusion of His own
blood He redeemed us, and delivered us from the power of darkness,
and translated us into his kingdom.
And this is indeed that clean oblation, which cannot be defiled
by any unworthiness, or malice of those that offer (it); which
the Lord foretold by Malachias was to be offered in every
place, clean to his name, which was to be great amongst the
Gentiles; and which the apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians,
has not obscurely indicated, when he says, that they who are
defiled by the participation of the table of devils, cannot
be partakers of the table of the Lord; by the table, meaning
in both places the altar. This, in fine, is that oblation
which was prefigured by various types of sacrifices, during
the period of nature, and of the law; in as much as it comprises
all the good things signified by those sacrifices, as being
the consummation and perfection of them all.
That the Sacrifice of the Mass is propitiatory both for the
living and the dead.
And forasmuch as, in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated
in the mass, that same Christ is contained and immolated in
an unbloody manner, who once offered Himself in a bloody manner
on the altar of the cross; the holy Synod teaches, that this
sacrifice is truly propitiatory and that by means thereof
this is effected, that we obtain mercy, and find grace in
seasonable aid, if we draw nigh unto God, contrite and penitent,
with a sincere heart and upright faith, with fear and reverence.
For the Lord, appeased by the oblation thereof, and granting
the [Page 155] grace and gift of penitence, forgives even
heinous crimes and sins. For the victim is one and the same,
the same now offering by the ministry of priests, who then
offered Himself on the cross, the manner alone of offering
being different. The fruits indeed of which oblation, of that
bloody one to wit, are received most plentifully through this
unbloody one; so far is this (latter) from derogating in any
way from that (former oblation). Wherefore, not only for the
sins, punishments, satisfactions, and other necessities of
the faithful who are living, but also for those who are departed
in Christ, and who are not as yet fully purified, is it rightly
offered, according to a tradition of the apostles.
III. On Masses in honour of the Saints.
And although the Church has been accustomed at times to celebrate,
certain masses in honour and memory of the saints; not therefore,
however, doth she teach that sacrifice is offered unto them,
but unto God alone, who crowned them; whence neither is the
priest wont to say, "I offer sacrifice to thee, Peter,
or Paul;" but, giving thanks to God for their victories,
he implores their patronage, that they may vouchsafe to intercede
for us in heaven, whose memory we celebrate upon earth.
IV On the Canon of the Mass.
And whereas it beseemeth, that holy things be administered
in a holy manner, and of all holy things this sacrifice is
the most holy; to the end that it might be worthily and reverently
[Page 156] offered and received, the Catholic Church instituted,
many years ago, the sacred Canon, so pure from every error,
that nothing is contained therein which does not in the highest
degree savour of a certain holiness and piety, and raise up
unto God the minds of those that offer. For it is composed,
out of the very words of the Lord, the traditions of the apostles,
and the pious institutions also of holy pontiffs.
V. On the solemn ceremonies of the Sacrifice of the Mass.
And whereas such is the nature of man, that, without external
helps, he cannot easily be raised to the meditation of divine
things; therefore has holy Mother Church instituted certain
rites, to wit that certain things be pronounced in the mass
in a low, and others in a louder, tone. She has likewise employed
ceremonies, such as mystic benedictions, lights, incense,
vestments, and many other things of this kind, derived from
an apostolical discipline and tradition, whereby both the
majesty of so great a sacrifice might be recommended, and
the minds of the faithful be excited, by those visible signs
of religion and piety, to the contemplation of those most
sublime things which are hidden in this sacrifice.
VI. On Mass wherein the priest alone communicates.
The sacred and holy Synod would fain indeed that, at each
mass, the faithful who are present should communicate, not
only in spiritual desire, but also by the sacramental participation
of the Eucharist, that thereby a more abundant fruit might
be derived to them from this most holy sacrifice: but not
therefore, if this be not always done, does It condemn, as
private and unlawful, but approves of and therefore commends,
[Page 157] those masses in which the priest alone communicates
sacramentally; since those masses also ought to be considered
as truly common; partly because the people communicate spiritually
thereat; partly also because they are celebrated by a public
minister of the Church, not for himself only, but for all
the faithful, who belong to the body of Christ.
VII. On the water that is to be mixed with the wine to be
offered in the chalice.
The holy Synod notices, in the next place, that it has been
enjoined by the Church on priests, to mix water with the wine
that is to be offered in the chalice; as well because it is
believed that Christ the Lord did this, as also because from
His side there came out blood and water; the memory of which
mystery is renewed by this commixture; and, whereas in the
apocalypse of blessed John, the peoples are called waters,
the union of that faithful people with Christ their head is
VIII. On not celebrating the Mass every where in the vulgar
tongue; the mysteries of the Mass to be explained to the people.
Although the mass contains great instruction for the faithful
people, nevertheless, it has not seemed expedient to the Fathers,
that it should be every where celebrated in the vulgar tongue.
Wherefore, the ancient usage of each church, and the rite
approved of by the holy Roman Church, the mother and mistress
of all churches, being in each place retained; [Page 158]
and, that the sheep of Christ may not suffer hunger, nor the
little ones ask for bread, and there be none to break it unto
them, the holy Synod charges pastors, and all who have the
cure of souls, that they frequently, during the celebration
of mass, expound either by themselves, or others, some portion
of those things which are read at mass, and that, amongst
the rest, they explain some mystery of this most holy sacrifice,
especially on the Lord's days and festivals.
IX. Preliminary Remark on the following Canons.
And because that many errors are at this time disseminated
and many things are taught and maintained by divers persons,
in opposition to this ancient faith, which is based on the
sacred Gospel, the traditions of the Apostles, and the doctrine
of the holy Fathers; the sacred and holy Synod, after many
and grave deliberations maturely had touching these matters,
has resolved, with the unanimous consent of all the Fathers,
to condemn, and to eliminate from holy Church, by means of
the canons subjoined, whatsoever is opposed to this most pure
faith and sacred doctrine.
THE SACRIFICE OF THE MASS.
CANON I.--If any one saith, that in the mass a true and proper
sacriflce is not offered to God; or, that to be offered is
nothing else but that Christ is given us to eat; let him be
CANON II.--If any one saith, that by those words, Do this
for the commemoration of me (Luke xxii. 19), Christ did not
institute the apostles priests; or, did not ordain that they,
and other priests should offer His own body and blood; let
him be anathema.
CANON III.--If any one saith, that the sacrifice of the mass
is only a sacrifice of praise and of thanksgiving; or, that
it is a [Page 159] bare commemoration of the sacrifice consummated
on the cross, but not a propitiatory sacrifice; or, that it
profits him only who receives; and that it ought not to be
offered for the living and the dead for sins, pains, satisfactions,
and other necessities; let him be anathema.
CANON IV.--If any one saith, that, by the sacrifice of the
mass, a blasphemy is cast upon the most holy sacrifice of
Christ consummated on the cross; or, that it is thereby derogated
from; let him be anathema.
CANON V.--If any one saith, that it is an imposture to celebrate
masses in honour of the saints, and for obtaining their intercession
with God, as the Church intends; let him be anathema.
CANON VI.--If any one saith, that the canon of the mass contains
errors, and is therefore to be abrogated; let him be anathema.
CANON VII.--If any one saith, that the ceremonies, vestments,
and outward signs, which the Catholic Church makes use of
in the celebration of masses, are incentives to impiety, rather
than offices of piety; let him be anathema.
CANON VIII.--If any one saith, that masses, wherein the priest
alone communicates sacramentally, are unlawful, and are, therefore,
to be abrogated; let him be anathema.
CANON IX.--If any one saith, 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 vulgar tongue only;
or, that water ought not to be mixed with the wine that is
to be offered in the chalice, for that it is contrary to the
institution of Christ; let him be anathema.