Of The Etymology, Derivation, And Signification, Of The Word Mass: And From What Tongue The Same Was First Derived

WEYDEN, Rogier van der 
Crucifixion Triptych (central panel) 
c. 1445 


Of The Etymology, Derivation, And Signification, Of The Word Mass: And From What Tongue The Same Was First Derived

To proceed orderly. in the exposition of the holy Sacrifice of the Mass: it is convenient that we begin at the Etymology, or signification of the word.

First therefore it is very probable, that the word Mass, is neither Greek nor Latin, but pure Hebrew; the Apostles who were of the Hebrew Nation, having promulgated the same in that language, and named Missah, drawn and taken of this Hebrew word, Mas, which signifies Oblation, Tax, or Tribute, as is manifestly to be gathered out of Deut.16 and 20. and 3.Reg.8.and Esay 13. And in many places of holy Scripture, it signify the Sacrifices, and Oblations, of the old Law, made of Lambs, Oxen, Turtles, Pigeons, and the like Num.6.Judg.6. Ezech.45. &c. For which cause the Catholic Church, does most willingly retain this name, as finding none other more convenient and proper, to signify this most excellent Oblation and Sacrifice, representing that other, which was the Tax or Tribute, paid by Jesus Christ, unto God his Father, for the price and ransom of our redemption.

2. Others will have it to be of the Latin word Missa, sent, because in the Mass, principally we send up our prayers and oblations to almighty God, Hug.Vict. l.2. de Sacram p.9.cap.14. which some explicate in this manner: that this Host was first sent by God the Father, when he sent us his only Son, to be incarnate, and to take flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Marie, and afterwards to offer up that bloody Sacrifice upon the Altar of the Cross, for our Redemption,in remembrance whereof , this Sacrifice is celebrated, and is by us again, sent and presented to the eternal Father, for as much as we daily offer it up to his divine Majesty. Innocent.3.lib.3.de Sacrificio Missae, cap.12.&Bon.op.de misterio Missae.

3. Again. others think it to be so called of dismissing the people, and so to signify the same that Mistio, which signify, a sending away, or dismission. as Bellar.lib.1.de Missa. But howsoever this be, and whether the word be Hebrew, Greek or Latin, or whether it be contained in the new Testament, or in the old: it is sufficient for us, that in the Scripture is expressed, that which this word most truly signify. As in the like case and difficulty, St. Aug told the Arian heretic Pascentius, Epist.194 that he was not to ground his disputation, upon the bare word Homusion, which the Catholics only used, thereby to give to understand, that God the Son was consubstantial with God the Father, but that he should argue against that which it signified And the like may be said of many other terms still retained by Catholics, as Trinity, Humanity, Person, Incarnation, Transubstantiation, and the like.

John Heigham
A Devout Exposition Of The Holy Masse 1622