Catholic apologist, John Martignoni, in his latest newsletter asks his readers (of which I am one) to respond to an email he received from a non-Catholic. The email Mr. Martignoni received was rather brusque and only offered someone else’s article as a response to his earlier newsletter. Martignoni’s objection to his challenger’s email was that it did not address the Scripture references he cited in his previous newsletter on the sacrifice of the mass. So my response will be to address those references in this and forthcoming blog posts.
The Scripture references Mr. Martignoni cited are: Malachi 1:11, 1 Cor 10:16-18 and various passages in Hebrews. This post will answer to Mr. Martignoni’s assertions regarding Malachi’s prophecy. The newsletter to which I am responding can be read at http://www.biblechristiansociety.com/newsletter_details.php?id=181
Malachi 1:11 reads,
“For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.”
In his attempt to make this passage a prophecy of the Catholic mass, Mr. Martignoni asks, “How many churches do you know of that offer incense at any of their worship services?”
Answer: not many.
Question in response: How many churches in the Ante-Nicene period offered incense in their services?
Why? Because the early church understood, as do most churches today, that the burning of incense is a metaphor for the offering of prayers. This is clearly seen in Psalm 141:2:
“Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” (Psa. 141:2)
This one verse blows Mr. Martignoni’s entire argument out of the water. Not only do we find incense being a metaphor for prayer, we also find sacrifice to be synonymous with prayer. Mr. Martignoni, however, sees Malachi’s “pure offering” as something entirely different.
“This verse from Malachi is telling us that from the rising of the sun to its setting (all day long) some sort of worship service will be taking place among the nations (the Gentiles) in which they offer incense and the only pure offering that has ever been made – Jesus Christ.” (Martignoni)
If that were true why would the author of Hebrews say this:
“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” (Heb. 13:15)
This could not be more relevant to Malachi’s prophecy, so why did Mr. Martignoni not mention it? Well, the answer is obvious, because it is in complete disagreement with his exegesis.
The early church also understood Malachi’s prophecy as offering prayers of thanksgiving. The second century apologist, Justin Martyr, stated the following to Trypho the Jew with regards to Malachi’s prophecy.
“Now, that prayers and giving of thanks, when offered by worthy men, are the only perfect and well-pleasing sacrifices to God, I also admit. For such alone Christians have undertaken to offer, and in the remembrance effected by their solid and liquid food, whereby the suffering of the Son of God which He endured is brought to mind…” (Dialog with Trypho 117)
The solid and liquid food is, of course, the bread and wine of the Eucharist. And what is the Eucharist? The Eucharist is exactly as Justin describes it; it is the offering of thanks in remembrance of Christ’s holy sacrifice and our participation in it. This is summed up well in Justin’s description of a typical Christian gathering in the second century.
“On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president [Bishop] verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons.” (First Apology, 67)
This description solidifies the fact that the early church considered the sacrifice to be the giving of thanks over the elements that represent Christ’s atoning sacrifice at Calvary, and participation in that sacrifice by partaking of those elements. As Justin said, “prayers and giving of thanks, when offered by worthy men, are the only perfect and well-pleasing sacrifices to God.”
About the only thing John Martignoni might accomplishing with his newsletter is setting his readers up to be embarrassed when they attempt to apply his arguments in their own discussions with non-Catholics. But then again, maybe it will provide opportunity for them to learn things Catholic apologists will never reveal.