Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent/Session XXII/Sacrifice of the Mass

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the Council of Trent2171288Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent — Session XXII. Doctrine touching the Sacrifice of the Mass1851Theodore Alois Buckley


Being the sixth under the Sovereign Pontiff Pius IV., celebrated on the seventeenth day of September, 1562.


The sacred and holy, œcumenical and general Synod of Trent, lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost,—the same legates of the Apostolic See 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, touching the Eucharist, in as far as it is a true and singular sacrifice.


On the Institution of the most holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Inasmuch 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;[1] it behoved God, the Father of mercies, so ordaining, that another priest should rise, after the order of Melchisedech,[2] our Lord Jesus Christ, who might perfect, and lead unto what is perfect, as many as were to be sanctified. He, therefore, our God and Lord, although 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;[3] 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, to the end that He might leave to His own beloved spouse the Church, a visible sacrifice, such as the nature of men 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 unto the remission of those sins which we daily commit, declaring Himself constituted a priest for ever, after the under of Melchisedech,[4] 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 [them] to be received by His apostles, whom He then constituted priests of the New Testament; and by those words, This do in remembrance of me,[5] He commanded both them and their successors in the priesthood, to offer [them], 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 departure out of Egypt, He instituted the new passover, to wit, namely, that Himself should be immolated, under visible signs, by the Church through the 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.[6] And this indeed is that pure oblation, which cannot be defiled by any unworthiness, or malice of those that offer it; which the Lord foretold by Malachi was to be offered in every place, pure unto his name, which was to be great amongst the Gentiles;[7] and which the apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, has not obscurely intimated, 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;[8] 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; inasmuch 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 as well for the Living as the Dead.

And inasmuch as, in this divine sacrifice which is performed in the mass, that same Christ is contained and immolated in a bloodless 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 convenient aid, if we draw nigh unto God, contrite and penitent, with a true heart and upright faith, with fear and reverence. For the Lord, appeased by the oblation thereof, and granting the 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 most plentifully received through this bloodless 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 alive, but also for those who are departed in Christ, and who are not as yet fully purified,[9] is it rightly offered, agreeably to a tradition of the apostles.


On the Mass in Honour of the Saints.

And although the Church hath been accustomed at times to celebrate certain masses in honour and memory of the saints; she does not, therefore, however, teach that sacrifice is offered unto them, but unto God alone, who hath crowned them; whence neither is the priest wont to say, "I offer sacrifice unto thee, Peter, or Paul;" but, returning 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.


On the Canon of the Mass.

And whereas it is beseeming that holy things be administered in a holy manner, and whereas this sacrifice is the most holy of all holy things; to the end that it might be worthily and reverently offered and received, the Catholic Church instituted, many ages since, the sacred canon, so pure from every error, that nothing is therein contained which does not in the highest degree savour of a certain holiness and piety, and raise up the minds of those that offer unto God. For it is composed both out of the very words of the Lord, and the traditions of the apostles, and the pious institutions also of holy pontiffs.


On the Ceremonies and Duties of the Mass.

And whereas such is the nature of man, that, without external helps, he cannot be easily upraised to the meditation of divine things; on this account has holy Mother Church instituted certain rites, to wit that certain things be pronounced in the mass in a softened, and others in a raised tone. She has likewise made use of ceremonies, such as mystic benedictions, lights, fumigations of incense,[10] 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 these visible signs of religion and piety, to the contemplation of those most sublime things which lie hidden in this sacrifice.


On the mass wherein the Priest alone communicates.

The sacred and holy synod would wish 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 of this most holy sacrifice might be derived unto them: but nevertheless, if this be not always done, it doth not therefore condemn, as private and unlawful, but approves of, and therefore commends, those masses in which the priest alone communicates sacramentally; since those masses ought also to be considered as truly common; partly because in them the people communicate spiritually; partly also because they are celebrated by a public minister of the Church, not for himself only, but for all the faithful, who appertain to the body of Christ.


On the Water to be mixed with the Wine to be offered in the Chalice.

The holy synod in the next place observes, that it hath 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 our Lord did so, as also because from His side there came out blood and water;[11] which sacramental mystery[12] is renewed by this mixture; and, whereas in the Revelation of the blessed John, the peoples are called waters,[13] the union of that faithful people with Christ their head is hereby represented.


The Mass shall not he celebrated everywhere in the Vulgar Tongue. Its Mysteries shall 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 celebrated everywhere in the vulgar tongue. Wherefore, the ancient rite of each church, and [the rite] approved by the holy Roman Church, the mother and mistress of all churches, being in every place retained; and, that the sheep of Christ may not suffer hunger, nor the young children ask bread, and there he none who shall break it unto them,[14] the holy synod charges pastors, and all those 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 the mass, and that, amongst the rest, they explain some mystery of this most holy sacrifice, especially on the Lord's days and festivals.


Preliminary Remark on the following Canons.

But because that many errors are at this time spread abroad, and many things taught and maintained by many persons, in contradiction to this ancient faith, based upon the sacred Gospel, the traditions of the apostles, and the doctrine of the holy fathers; the holy synod, after many and grave deliberations maturely held touching these matters, has resolved, with the unanimous consent of all, to condemn, and to eliminate from the Holy Church, whatsoever is opposed to this most pure faith and sacred doctrine, by means of the canons subjoined.


Canon i. If any one shall say, that in the mass a true and proper sacrifice is not offered to God; or, that to be offered is nothing else but that Christ is given unto us to eat; let him be anathema.

Canon ii. If any one shall say, that by those words, Do this in remembrance of me,[15] 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 shall say, that the sacrifice of the mass is only a sacrifice of praise and of thanksgiving; or, that it is a bare commemoration of the sacrifice offered on the cross, but not a propitiatory sacrifice;[16] or, that it avails him only who receiveth; and that it ought not to be offered for the living and the dead for sins, punishments, satisfactions, and other necessities; let him be anathema.

Canon iv. If any one shall say, that, by the sacrifice of the mass, a blasphemy is thrown upon the most holy sacrifice of Christ offered on the cross; or, that it is thereby derogated from; let him be anathema.

Canon v. If any one shall say, 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 shall say, that the canon of the mass contains errors, and is therefore to be abrogated; let him be anathema.

Canon vii. If any one shall say, that the ceremonies, vestments, and outward signs, of which the Catholic Church makes use in the celebration of masses, are incentives to impiety, rather than offices of piety; let him be anathema.

Canon viii. If any one shall say, that masses, in which the priest alone communicates sacramentally, are unlawful, and therefore to be abrogated; let him be anathema.

Canon ix. If any one shall say, that the rite of the Roman Church, whereby a part of the canon and the words of consecration are pronounced in a softened tone, is to be condemned; or, that the mass ought only to be celebrated in the vulgar tongue; or, that water is not to be mixed with the wine to be offered in the chalice, in that it is contrary to the institution of Christ; let him be anathema.

  1. Heb. vii. 11, 18.
  2. Ibid. vs. 11.
  3. Heb. ix. 12.
  4. Ps. cix. 4 (cx. 4).
  5. Luke xxii. 19.
  6. Coloss. i. 13.
  7. Malach. i. 11.
  8. 1 Cor. x. 21.
  9. Literally, "purged."
  10. Thymiamata.
  11. John xix. 34.
  12. Sacramentum.
  13. Rev. xvii. 15.
  14. Lam. iv. 4.
  15. 1 Cor. xi. 25.
  16. Propitiatorium.