Why Not Daily Mass?

By Graham Glover

Kissing the face of God

Next week the Church will celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ. The promised Messiah is born and the world will once again rejoice in the Good News that this birth brings. It is a day for celebration of the highest order, for God has come into our flesh, to bear our sin and be our Savior!

Fortunately, this celebration does not end on 25 December. Our Savior still lives, and His promises of forgiveness and eternal life are gifts offered to all those who trust in Him. For the faithful, these gifts are given to us by our Lord’s Holy Church in the Scriptures and Sacraments. You want Jesus? You want to continue to celebrate the miracle and joy of Christmas? Simply immerse yourself with these gifts. For only in them are we given the grace of the Christ Child born in Bethlehem. These gifts are quite literally, the gift that keeps on giving.

But where can the faithful find these gifts? Where can we regularly receive them?

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For many Christians, the Word of God is regularly accessible to them. They can, if they choose, daily engage the Holy Scriptures through a variety of means. The Holy Sacraments however are typically only accessible to the faithful when services are offered on Sunday’s and if they are fortunate, on other feast days throughout the year. In other words, the gifts and graces of the sacraments are not as accessible to the faithful as is the Word of God. For those who confess the efficacy of these sacraments, this lack of availability is not acceptable.

The gifts of our Savior should be available to His faithful on a much more regular basis. In particular, the gift of our Lord’s Body and Blood should be offered on a daily basis.

It’s not necessary in this venue to articulate the benefits of the Mass. Since the majority of the readers of this blog are Lutheran, you are well versed in the importance of it (and yes, we rightly call it the Mass, Cf. the Book of Concord). We know that in the Mass the Word of God is proclaimed in readings and sermon, prayers are offered, songs are sung, and we are given an opportunity to come face to face with Christ. On this side of eternity, we will not come closer to Jesus than when we come on bended knee to His altar, receiving into our very mouths His Body and His Blood for the forgiveness of sins.

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Why is it then that our churches only offer this gift once a week (some, only once or twice a month)? Why do we only give an opportunity to receive pardon and peace in corporate absolution when we gather for worship? Is the proclamation of God’s Word and the pastor’s explanation of it only something we ought to do for an hour on Sunday morning or perhaps another hour during some mid-week study? Ask yourself, is there anything more important the Church should do in her local congregations than offer these gifts on a daily basis? Don’t bother with the excuse of time. It’s lame and carries no merit. What could possibly be more deserving of our time? Nor is the excuse that people won’t come. For centuries they have been taught that regular reception of the Sacrament in the Holy Mass is something that doesn’t need to happen daily. Yet we sinners still sin daily. We still fall short of God’s glory daily. We still do those things our Lord commands us not to and fail to do those things He tells us to do. Every. Single. Day. We are nothing but unrighteous sinners in need of God’s grace, and yet our churches only deign fit to offer us this grace on Sunday.

I will celebrate with all of you next week the birth of Jesus. I will do so with you in spirit and in fellowship at His altar. My prayer is that this altar would be more readily available to me and to all who call on the Christ Child to be born.

It’s time. It’s time to celebrate the Mass daily. Even, and especially, for us Lutherans.

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41 thoughts on “Why Not Daily Mass?

    1. Jesse, in our hymnal are 4 settings for Mass (the Divine Service/Liturgy), Matins, Vespers, Compline, and Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. So yes, I think there is a strong historical precedent for daily services. Daily Mass, not so much.

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  1. As long as this is not a private mass where the people are not present at all or are mere passive onlookers. Let us take the council of the Augustana 24: “Now, forasmuch as the Mass is such a giving of the Sacrament, we hold one communion every holy-day, and, if any desire the Sacrament, also on other days, when it is given to such as ask for it.” But, I’d also heed the advice of Chemnitz who warned that the repetition of the mass should not either become a burden to the faithful. “Therefore, you ask, how often would be enough to have been a guest of this Supper? It is not for any man to give a specific answer to this, either with a number or with a certain measure, other than as often as a troubled conscience feels and recognizes that it needs those benefits that are offered in the Supper for comfort and strengthening. Consciences are therefore not to be forced but aroused to frequent use of this Supper by earnest admonition and by consideration of how necessary [and] likewise how salutary and profitable the use of this Supper is for us.” – Chemnitz, Ministry, Word, and Sacrament.

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    1. Scott, not calling for private masses or for masses where people don’t receive. The purpose in attending is to receive the Sacrament!

      I can’t possibly comprehend how receiving Jesus would ever become repetitious.

      The goal here is to give people Christ…to deliver the goods!

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      1. Hello Graham and Scott, I think your 2 comments above highlight an important distinction between historical Catholic Christianity and the (I’m assuming) Lutheran viewpoint on the Mass. The Church from the beginning has seen the Mass as Christ’s ongoing offering of Himself to the Father through the instrument of the priest for the propitiation of our (ongoing) sin. The idea that Mass should not be offered without the presence of the faithful comes from the protestant concept of, well, the Mass being primarily about the faithful, or even an act of the faithful. It’s not – it’s an act of Christ, and is primarily about the Godhead. It’s more union than communion. Of course, there is communion, for our benefit, but it’s not primarily about us. I’ve attended a few daily Masses where it was just me, the priest, and our Lord, and it’s always a beautiful experience. My priest friends do insist on saying the Mass even with no other communicants, and I’ve come to appreciate my Lord’s offering of Himself even when I can’t be present. I love communing with my brothers and sisters in Christ, but there’s nothing the world has to offer that’s more good, beautiful, and true than the Word Himself, made flesh.

        Sadly, protestant modernism has worked it’s way into the Catholic hierarchy as well, and we even have Council documents (not dogmatic ones, but still, it’s shameful) written with underlying modernist assumptions about the Mass. I always wonder why folks can’t see the historical progress from Enlightenment anthropocentrism to Protestant doctrine (sola fide in particular, putting the burden of salvation on the individual himself – sort of an ironic works salvation) to modern liberalism, leading inevitably to either historical state fascism or state socialism. Our only hope for a just society is the slow trickle of the blood of Christ into every corner of the culture. I think that’s why daily Mass matters so much, and why I appreciate your article.

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  2. I think Malachi would agree with you Graham, verse 1:11 looks like he was anticipating a daily Mass unless you have any other ideas what a daily pure offering might be.

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    1. And herein lies the danger of Graham’s proposal. As soon as we begin to see the Lord’s Supper as our “daily pure offering,” we have moved into deep theological error. We do not make sacrifices to He who was the final sacrifice, we simply receive His gifts.

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      1. Then someone needs to have a talk with Saint Paul Scott
        Paul seems clear that there is more suffering for us and the Church to do before we “simply receive His gifts”
        The 1st chapter of Colossians seems clear about ongoing suffering. And how we are to deal with it.

        As to your term “our daily pure offering” that’s a not exactly what I said is it? It’s His daily offering that’s pure. My daily offering is mostly skubala.

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      2. If Brians is Roman Catholic he needs to take another look at his Catechism, paragraph 1368:

        “The Eucharist is also the Sacrifice of the Church. The Church which is the Body of Christ participates in the offering of her Head. Etc.”

        This is the synergism that is unacceptable to the Lutherans and a true innovation and error of the Roman communion.

        Brians’ statement (above, if I’ve guessed the formatting correctly) is actually acceptable to Lutherans (see Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics: The Lord’s Supper, by John Stephenson, p. 110-126), but rejected by the Roman Catechism.

        Welcome home, Brians.

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      3. Hello Farquad –

        A Lutheran accusing Rome of innovation? Please. I suppose I’ll have to save that for another conversation, though, in order to address the important point that you do raise. There’s a key distinction to be made here: one that has caused no little controversy in the Catholic hierarchy since the most recent council.

        You’ll note that the Church participates in the sacrifice of the Mass only to the extent of her union with her bridegroom. The Church has always noted (and up until the 1960’s was took more care to spell out) that Christ’s giving of Himself to the Father IS the sacrifice of the Mass, efficacious for the expiation of sin, and propitiatory in nature. The sacrifice of the Church is, and can only be, secondary in nature, through her union with God the Son: the propitiatory action of the Mass is accomplished by the person and will of Christ, and the Church’s role is passive. Put another way, of course, we participate in His sacrifice by joining our sufferings to His, by taking up our cross daily, etc. The Atonement is still accomplished by His sacrifice, and the Mass is (not just symbolizes) His sacrifice.

        From the Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part II:

        …it must be unhesitatingly taught that…the holy sacrifice of the Mass is not a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving only, or a mere commemoration of the sacrifice accomplished on the cross, but a truly propitiatory sacrifice, by which God is appeased and rendered propitious to us…

        One of Archbishop Lefebvre’s valid criticisms (later echoed by the likes of Aidan Nichols, amongst many others, and earning the sympathy of Benedict XVI himself) of the Vatican 2 documents was a failure to stress the primary nature of Christ’s action of sacrifice in the Mass in favor of an undue emphasis on the (always secondary) participation of the Church, in effect, an attempt on the part of theological liberals within the Council to protestantize the Mass. To be fair, the new Catechism, in the paragraph previous to the one you mention, does, quoting Trent, note the propitiatory nature of the Mass, so it’s not a matter of a change in the doctrine of the Mass itself, but of putting the emphAsis on the wrong syllAble, leading to a great deal of confusion on the part of poorly catechised Catholics, and apparently, on protestants trying to understand the Magisterium.

        The lack of clarity and the catechetical malfeasance of the post Council era is truly shameful, and has been a pastoral disaster. Thankfully, we have the clear teaching of Benedict the XVI to help us put all the pieces back together, and get us through the muddled and mixed messages from the hierarchy while the remainder of the modernists die off.

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      4. Brians, that’s a lot of cyber-ink spilled to “de-emphasize” what your Catechism plainly teaches. It’s synergism, no matter how one emphasizes it. Imprimi Potest Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, as you know.

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      5. Not big on nuance, huh? Neither was Luther, so I guess I shouldn’t be shocked. Anyway, I’ve found Catholic soteriology to be too nuanced to be put in either category. See Aquinas, both quotes from the Summa, and both consistent with the 1994 Catechism, and the Catechism of Trent:

        “Now there is no distinction between what flows from free will, and what is of predestination . . . that which flows from free-will is also of predestination. . . .Thus we might say that God pre-ordained to give glory on account of merit, and that He pre-ordained to give grace to merit glory. . . . it is impossible that the whole of the effect of predestination in general should have any cause as coming from us; because whatsoever is in man disposing him towards salvation, is all included under the effect of predestination; even the preparation for grace.”

        And:

        “If we speak of grace as it signifies a help from God to move us to good, no preparation is required on man’s part, . . . but rather, every preparation in man must be by the help of God moving the soul to good. And thus even the good movement of the free-will, whereby anyone is prepared for receiving the gift of grace is an act of the free-will moved by God.”

        No, I don’t suppose you can call it monergism, but I think your characterisation of synergism is too simplistic too. I doubt you’ll be willing to tolerate the mystery, though. Yes to sovereignty, and yes to free will: yes to Christ’s primary action in the Mass, and yes to the Church’s secondary participation through union with Him.

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    1. Hi Joy 🙂

      Actually that’s kind of what happens in Catholic churches all over the world.

      Not every church at every hour, but yes there is basically always someone offering the sacrifice of the mass somewhere on earth every hour every day! Pretty cool don’t you think?

      The first Christians saw this as a fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy of a constant pure offering and I find their case compelling. Justin Martyr and Irenaeus come to mind of men who first recognized this.

      Honestly I don’t know beans about Luther or his ideas on the frequency of mass but this idea goes way back to the men who studied under the men who studied under the master himself!

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    2. Joy, there has never been a precedent for hourly Mass (that is, one receiving the Sacrament hourly). There is certainly a precedent for daily Mass. Is there some theological reason you think such an offering would be objectionable?

      As for the Luther quote, Luther said this as a MINIMUM. Remember, many people during the time of the Reformation were not receiving, were scared to receive, were unable to receive.

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  3. ” Everywhere and always a pure sacrifice will be offered” . and then Christ says “… As often as you do this… Get with Lutherans. Daily Mass is available if you know where to look. The Old Testament prophecy has been fulfilled.

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  4. i wonder if there is a danger of offering the sacrament daily as opposed to weekly. might it turn the church service into sort of a fast food restaurant instead of the gathering of the saints. are the saints really gathering every day? gottesdienst on steroids. are they able to? is holy communion to be treated the same way as confession/absolution?

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    1. Is reading the Scriptures daily too much? If one does that does it become a fast-food read?

      I have no idea if our people are able to. They certainly have never been asked to. It would obviously be a monumental task to do this. It could take several generations to make it regular practice/polity.

      My question is, why not try? Where is the harm?

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  5. I would enjoy this opportunity and would know the exact reason I am going is for forgiveness of sins. Many in Christendom do not appreciate what a great gift this is and many do not have the same respect for Word & Sacrament.
    It may have a positive affect for those needing to partake of the Word more often and the Sacrament as it is offered.

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  6. There is so little appreciation for the liturgy and the sacraments because it is just too Catholic. The idea is to be authentically catholic not Roman Catholic. The fact that many have run form the label of catholic has created the unfortunate monster of Protestantism. LUTHERANS PROTESTED BUT ARE NOT PROTESTANTS.

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  7. Do you mean to say that mass should be made available and mandate attendance or simply make the mass available more often? In light of freedom, I think it should be available daily and the believer free to attend as desired. Disciplines such as daily prayer or daily reading are very beneficial: a daily mass would strengthen believers in a powerful way. When do we start?

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    1. Santiago, I’m not calling for required attendance. I/We have a hard enough time getting all of our people to attend services now!

      Happy you see the value in offering the Sacrament to the faithful. I think there are a handful of LCMS parishes around the US that do this now. Perhaps others will consider it too!

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    1. There is a danger in what Graham has purposed. But what he is purposing is not in and of itself wrong. But, I can barely drag my sorry butt back once a week (ha… like I make it once a week).

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  8. Thanks. I’ve enjoyed browsing through your site. I was directed here by a chaplain colleague of yours. Lots to think about.

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    1. Brian, welcome to The Jagged Word. Hope you enjoy the site. I publish on Wednesday’s. Be sure to check out the other authors too. Every column is worth your time.

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  9. Just one more thought on this. It is an awful lot of work for the pastor though as so many do have little respect for what is going on at Church. With such ignorance about what the church has done and what it is to do and people’s preoccupation with their material lives, this may not be realistic for today.
    However, I think having at least a daily missal with communion available if you want to take the opportunity and receive the Word and Sacrament is good and may benefit those who want to attend on Sunday yet can’t.

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  10. Pastor Glover,

    Your post has many salutary points, and I am grateful that my family is in a congregation that was planted with an explicit commitment to living out, in liturgical and sacramental practice, the confessional doctrine that is found in the Lutheran Symbols, which includes the Eucharist on every Lord’s Day and major feasts on the Western Calendar. I do have one concern with your post. It centers on the following quote:

    Don’t bother with the excuse of time. It’s lame and carries no merit. What could possibly be more deserving of our time?

    Evangelical catholic doctrine has always stressed the right relationship between faith and love and the way our reception of God’s gifts in the divine service, that which creates, sustains, and strengthens our faith, drives us out into our vocations to serve our neighbor in love. These vocations require time, they require our presence, and they rightly require our attention and diligence. There may well be moments in our life when the “excuse of time” is in fact a valid consideration in whether we spend time at Church or with our neighbor, and it won’t be lame or without merit. It may well be that God-pleasing service to our neighbor would preclude something that might be perceived as more spiritual.

    I am not trying to be contentious, and I am certainly not encouraging anyone to despise the word of God or His gifts by making an idol out of their neighbor or the golf course, nature, the Sunday paper, etc. etc. The third commandment instructs us in such matters, and my comments pertain to activities or services in addition to the weekly Mass. However, I believe there ought to be great care when encouraging a Christian to avail himself of God’s gifts that these means of salvation do in fact remain a gift and not become a task. Language such as you use in the quote above seems to carry some unnecessary freight. If a steward of the mysteries of God has taught his flock about the Sacrament and has the ability to offer it daily, then he may in freedom offer it daily, and whoever desires to receive the Supper will come joyfully, while those with pressing duties in their vocations may fulfill them with equal joy in Christ.

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    1. Paul, thank you for you comments. I appreciate your insight!

      Were I making the argument that everyone must attend Mass daily then I think your comments would be spot on. However, I’m simply asking for the pastor/congregation to offer it daily. I’m under no illusion that most would/could make a daily service, but if it were offered daily do you think the congregation could benefit? The service need not be our typical Sunday morning 60-90 minute service. It can be spoken, with no hymns, a short (5 minute) sermon, etc.

      This is asking a lot of clergy, I know, especially in congregations with only one pastor. But I still haven’t been heard a compelling reason not to try…

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  11. Aside from all the nit-picking on this thread, I have to ask why this is such a devisive topic among Lutherans?

    Most Catholic churches have daily Mass and nobody raises an eyebrow in dissent.

    I’m a daily communicant when work allows and it’s magnificent!

    As far as I can tell daily Mass was just part and parcel for Catholics the first 1500 years of Christiandom.

    The idea of a day without Mass appears to be novel and peculiar to everyone but Catholics and Eastern Orthodox.

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    1. Jesse, I think it is important to understand the history of the Reformation on this topic. The central article of faith to Lutheranism is “Justification by grace through faith”. According to our Confessions and our understanding of Holy Scripture, this is the article on which the Church stands or falls.

      That being said, the Lutherans saw the Mass (especially during the time of the Reformation) being used not as a gift for the people, but as a work that the priest must do, that the people could have the priest do on their behalf or their loved ones in purgatory, and most importantly, as something that was not accessible to the people (Latin, which most could not understand and denial of the Cup, if they even received the Host…). The Mass was a work, not a gift.

      This attitude has stood the test of time and still lingers. I’m happy that many Lutheran congregations follow the historic Liturgy and offer the Eucharist on a weekly basis. In many respects, Lutheranism (at least in America) is returning to some of these catholic roots.

      I would challenge you however on the prevalence of daily Mass in the East. I do not think this is the case.

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      1. Hi Graham

        I am grateful to be learning so much about Lutheranism! I grew up SDA :\ but went to a couple of Lutheran schools, so I’m eternally grateful for an introduction to Bach and liturgy.

        You have backed Luther as the model of reform and I have chosen Francis of Assisi 🙂 both men found a church in need of repair and took different paths; one of assent and the other descent. We disagree for now.

        I had a feeling there would be a question about the Eastern Orthodox statement I made but I didnt mean it was prevelant outside of their monistaries its just not a theological barrier in that community because of their tradition.

        To tell you the truth I’m disappointed the more I hear what’s going on in the East. There seems to be a lot of pomp and circumstance around the Eucharist during the liturgy but after that no one spends time with Jesus in the tabernacle, or genuflects or basically adores. But like I said that’s just what I hear from priests who spend time in that community, I have no first hand knowledge. So basically I’m gossiping now. Sorry.

        If you get up to Atlanta once in a while please let me know.

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