This article first appeared in the January 1, 1962 issue of the Standard Bearer (Vol.38, #7) and was written by the editor, Rev. Herman Hoeksema.
We must still prove and that, too, from the decrees of the Roman Church themselves as contained especially in the Decrees and Canons of the Council of Trent, that what the Heidelberg Catechism states about the Mass is true, namely? that it is a denial of the one sacrifice of Christ and an accursed idolatry.
That Christ is really and daily offered by the priest in the Eucharist and in the Mass is inseparably connected with the doctrine of Transubstantiation, as I have already said before. And by this doctrine of Transubstantiation the Roman Church teaches that, after the formula of consecration is expressed by the priest upon the signs of the Lord's Supper, the signs are no more mere bread and wine but are changed into the very body and blood of the Lord. This is clearly expressed in the "Decree Concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist." In chapter I of this decree we read:
"In the first place, the holy Synod teaches, and openly and simply professes. that, in the august sacrament of the holy Eucharist, after the consecration of the bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and man, is truly really and substantially contained under the species of those sensible things. For neither are these things mutually repugnant, that our Savior himself always sitteth at the right hand of the Father in heaven, according to the natural mode of existing, which, though we can scarcely express it in words, yet can we, by the understanding illuminated by faith, and that, nevertheless, he be in many other places, conceive, and we ought most firmly to believe, to be possible unto God: for thus all our forefathers, as many as were in the true Church of Christ, who have treated of this most sacramentally present to us in his own substance, by a most holy Sacrament, have most openly professed, that our Redeemer instituted this sacrament at the last supper, when, after the blessing of the bread and wine, he testified, in express and clear words, that he gave them his own very body, and his own blood, which, recorded by the holy Evangelists, and afterwards repeated by Saint Paul, whereas they carry with them that proper and most manifest meaning in which they were understood by the Fathers, it is indeed a crime the most unworthy that they should be wrested, by certain, contentious and wicked men, to fictitious and imaginary tropes, whereby the verity of the flesh and blood of Christ is denied, contrary to the universal sense of the Church, which, as the pillar and ground of truth, has detested as satanical these inventions devised by impious men; she recognizing, with a mind ever grateful and unforgetting, the most excellent benefit of Christ."
I may note here that it is true, of course, that our Lord Jesus Christ can, after his exaltation, be present in many places at the same time. But when, at the last supper, He said "this is my body" and "this is my blood" He was still in the flesh. His body had not yet been broken and His blood had not yet been shed. Besides, the theory of transubstantiation teaches that the substance of the bread and wine is changed into the substance of the body and blood of the Lord. And this is not true, not only because Jesus was still present when He said "this is my body" and "this is my blood" but also because even after His exaltation, thesubstance of His glorified body is not changed into any other substance. When, therefore, the Roman Church worships the signs of the Lord's Supper on the supposition that these signs are the very Christ Himself, the Heidelberg Catechism is quite correct when it characterizes this as "an accursed idolatry."
There is, in this chapter of "The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent" a separate article on "Transubstantiation" which reads as follows:
"And because that Christ, our Redeemer, declared that which he offered under the species of bread to, be truly his own body, therefore has it ever been a firm belief in the Church of God, and this holy Synod doth now declare it anew, that, by the consecration of the bread and of the wine, a conversion is made of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood; which conversion is, by the Holy Catholic Church, suitably and properly called Transubstantiation."
The priest, therefore, has, by pronouncing the formula of consecration, the power to convert the signs into the substance of the body and blood of the Lord. Moreover, the Romish Church also teaches that the signs in the Lord's Supper must be worshiped. We read:
"Wherefore, there is no room left for doubt, that all the faithful of Christ may, according to the custom ever received in the Catholic Church, render in veneration the worship of latria, which is due to the true God, to this most holy sacrament. For not therefore is it the less to be adored on this account, that it was instituted by Christ, the Lord, in order to be received; for we believe that same God to be present therein, of whom the eternal Father, when introducing him into the world, says: And let all the angels of God adore him; whom the magi, falling down, adored; who, in fine, as the Scripture testifies, was adored by the apostles in Galilee."
Moreover, in the Canons that follow this Decree, the Romish Church curses or calls accursed anyone:
1. That denies that in the Eucharist the signs are not really changed into the body and blood of Christ.
2. That teaches that in the Lord's Supper "the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Lutheranism), and denies that the substance of the signs is changed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ.
3. That in the Lord's Supper Christ is not to be worshiped.
4. That teaches that in the Lord's Supper Christ is eaten spiritually only and not really.
Finally, we must still call attention to the mass as a daily sacrifice offered by the priests. For the Heidelberg Catechism teaches us in Lord's Day XXX that the mass is not only an accursed idolatry, but also in the mass Christ is daily offered and must be so offered for the remission of sins in the following words: "but the mass teaches, that the living and dead have not the pardon of sins through the sufferings of Christ, unless Christ is also daily offered for them by the priests."
That this is, indeed, the doctrine of the Roman Church is clearly evident from the "Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent" in the chapters on the "Doctrine on the Sacrifice of the Mass." From this we quote the following: ". . . 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 . . . 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 . . . ."
And in chapter II under the same heading:
"And forasmuch as, in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the mass, the 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 . . . 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 . . . Wherefore, not only for the sins, punishments and satisfactions, and other necessities of the faithful who are living, but also for those who are departed in Christ, and who are not yet fully purified, is it rightly offered, agreeably to the tradition of the apostles."
And in the Canons under this same chapter we read:
"I. If any one saith, that in the mass a true and proper sacrifices is not offered to God; or, that to be offered is nothing else but that Christ is given us to eat: let him be anathema." And again:
"II. If any one saith, that by these 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." And once more:
"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 bare commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross, but not a propitiatory sacrifice; or that it profits him only who received; 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."
This is sufficient to prove that the Heidelberg Catechism is correct when it states that the mass is nothing but a denial of the one sacrifice of Christ offered on the cross and an accursed idolatry.
It is also sufficient to show that the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century is not a relative matter but a radical return to the truth of Holy Scripture; and we should regard it as such, not only on Reformation Day, but always.
Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965) was born in Groningen, the Netherlands on March 13, 1886 and passed away in Grand Rapids, MI on September 2, 1965. He attended the Theological School of the Christian Reformed Church and was ordained into the minitry in September of 1915.
"H.H." is considered one of the founding "fathers" of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. He and his consistory (Eastern Ave. Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI) were suspended and deposed from their offices in 1924-1925 because of their opposition to the "Three Points of Common Grace" adopted by the Christian Reformed Church in the Synod of Kalamazoo, MI in 1924. He, together with Rev. George M. Ophoff, Rev. H. Danhof and their consistories continued in office in the "Protesting Christian Reformed Church" which shortly thereafter were named the "Protestant Reformed Churches in America."
Herman Hoeksema served as pastor in the 14th Street Christian Reformed Church in Holland, MI (1915-1920), Eastern Ave. Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI (1920-1924), and First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI (1924-1964), He taught in the Seminary of the Protestant Reformed Churches from its founding and retired in 1964.
For an enlarged biography, see: Herman Hoeksema: Theologian and Reformer