“We are obliged to yield many things to the Papists (Catholics)–that they possess the Word of God which we received from them, otherwise we should have known nothing at all about it.” Martin Luther–Commentary on St. John, ch. 16
Historically, the Catholic Church used the authority given to her by Christ to infallibly determine which books would be included in the canon of Sacred Scripture. The canon of scripture was not officially recognized until 400 years after the birth Jesus. To put that in perspective, it has been 400 years since the Pilgrims landed in America. So, for nearly 400 years the Christian Church evangelized the known world. And, all this was done without a complete canonized Bible.
And, due to the fact that there were no printing presses (until 1440 A.D.) most Churches did not probably even own all four gospels let alone all of the epistles. Even if each church had most of what eventually was canonized as sacred scripture, most people could not read and so faith and the pursuit of holiness could not possibly have been dependent upon personal Bible study. If Martin Luther, born in 1483, had been born 50 years earlier, long before the proliferation of printing presses, his theories of Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide would never have gotten any traction.
The Gospel has always been proclaimed, from the earliest times until now, by those ordained to the Apostolic Succession of the Diciples of Jesus. The celebration of Holy Mass teaches through every word and action about the holiness of God, the sacrifice of Christ and our calling to worship God, repentence, forgiveness of sin and the pursuit of holiness. And, precisely because most of the faithful could not read scripture for themselves, it was read to them at every mass.
Christian liturgy draws our souls to Christ through all five senses. Because, in addition, to hearing, the faithful see the stories of the Old Testament and the life of Christ depicted in sacred art in the churches. We also smell the incense and best of all touch and taste the Body of Christ in Holy Communion.
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