In 1520, Luther launched an impassioned campaign against the Roman Catholic Mass.' The high point of the Catholic Mass has always been the Eucharist,20 also known as "Communion" or "the Lord's Supper."
Durant, Caesar and Christ, 599-600, 618-619, 671-672; Durant, Age of Faith, 1027. Durant, Caesar and Christ, 595. Ibid., 618-619.
The modern Mass has changed little since the 1500s (James F. White, Pmtestant Worship: Traditions in Transition (Louisville: Westminster/ John Knox Press, 1989), 17). The form used today was issued in the Roman Missal, Sacramentary, and Lectionary of 1970 (Senn, Chr/stian Liturgy, 639). Even so, the Mass of the sixth century strongly resembles the present-day Mass (Jungmann, Early Liturgy, 298). This campaign was articulated in Luther's radical treatise, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church. This book was a bombshell dropped on the Roman Catholic system challenging the core theology behind the Catholic Mass. In The Babylonian Captivity, Luther attacked the following three features of the Mass: (1) the withholding of the cup from the laity, (2) transubstantiation (the belief that the bread and the wine turn into the actual body and blood of Christ), and (3) the concept that the Mass is a human work offered up to God as a sacrifice of Christ. Although Luther rejected transubstantiation, he nevertheless believed that the "real presence" of Christ's body and blood is in, with, and under the elements of bread and wine. This belief is called "consubstantiation." In Captivity, Luther also denied the seven sacraments, accepting only three: baptism, penance, and the bread (Senn, Christian Liturgy, 268). Luther later dropped penance as a sacrament. ■'J The word Eucharist is derived from the Greek word eucharisteo which means "to give thanks." It appears in 1 Corinthians 11:23-24. There we are told that Jesus took bread, gave thanks, and broke it. Postapostolic Christians referred to the Lord's Supper as the "Eucharist."
Everything centers on and leads up to the moment when the priest breaks the bread and gives it to the people. To the medieval Catholic mind, the offering of the Eucharist was the resacrificing of Jesus Christ. As far back as Gregory the Great, the Catholic church taught that Jesus Christ is sacrificed anew through the Mass."
Luther railed (often uncouthly) against the miters and staffs of the Roman Catholic leadership and its teaching on the Eucharist." The cardinal error of the Mass, said Luther, was that it was a human "work" based on an inaccurate understanding of Christ's sacrifice." So in 1523, Luther set forth his own revisions to the Catholic Mass.' These revisions are the foundation for worship in most Protestant churches.' The heart of them is this: Luther made preaching, rather than the Eucharist, the center of the gathering.'
Accordingly, in the contemporary Protestant worship service, the pulpit, rather than the altar table, is the central element." (The altar table is where the Eucharist is placed in Catholic, Anglican, and Episcopal churches.) Luther gets the credit for making the sermon the climax of the Protestant service.' Read his words: "A Christian congregation should never gather together without the preaching of God's Word and prayer, no matter how briefly". . . "the preaching and teaching of God's Word is the most important part of Divine service.'
Luther penned his liturgical revisions in a treatise called Form of the Mass (Gonzalez, Story of Christianity, 247). Note that for the past seventy years, most Catholic theologians have said that the Mass is a representation of the one sacrifice rather than a new sacrifice, as did the medieval Catholic church.
The miters (caps) and staffs were the symbolic decor that the bishops wore, which represented their authority and separated them from the laity.
The Eucharist was often referred to as an "oblation" or "sacrifice" in the third through fifth centuries. James Hastings Nichols, Corporate Worship in the Reformed Tradition (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1968), 25. See also Senn, Christian Liturgy, 270-275. Loraine Boettner critiques the medieval Catholic Mass in chapter 8 of his book Roman Catholicism (Phillipsburg, NI The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1962). The Latin name for it is Formula Missae. s White, Pmtestant Worship, 36-37.
Ibid., 41-42. While Luther had a very high view of the Eucharist, he stripped the Mass of all sacrificial language, only keeping the Eucharist itself. He was a strong believer in both Word and sacrament. So his German Mass assumed both Holy Communion and preaching.
Some "liturgical" churches in the Protestant tradition still have the altar table somewhere near the pulpit. Before the medieval age, both the sermon and the Eucharist had a prominent place in the Christian liturgy. However, the sermon fell into serious decline during the medieval period. Many priests were too illiterate to preach, and other elements crowded out the preaching of Scripture. Maxwell, An Outline of Christian Worship, 72. Gregory the Great sought to restore the place of the sermon in the Mass. However, his efforts failed. It was not until the Reformation that the sermon was brought to a central place in the worship service (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 4:227, 399-402).
These Luther quotes are from "Concerning the Order of Public Worship," Luther's Works, LII(, 11 and "The German Mass," Luther's Works, LIII, 68. Luther arranged for three services on Sunday morning. They were all accompanied by a sermon (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 7:488). Roland Bainton counted 2,300 extant sermons preached by Luther in his lifetime. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1950), 348-349.
Luther's belief in the centrality of preaching as the mark of the worship service has stuck till this day. Yet making preaching the center of the church gathering has no biblical precedent." As one historian put it, "The pulpit is the throne of the Protestant pastor."' For this reason ordained Protestant ministers are routinely called "preachers.""
But aside from this change, Luther's liturgy varied little from the Catholic Mass," since Luther tried to preserve what he thought were the "Christian" elements in the old Catholic order." Consequently, if you compare Luther's order of worship with Gregory's liturgy, it is virtually the same.35 He kept the ceremony, believing it was proper."
For instance, Luther retained the act that marked the high moment of the Catholic Mass: the elevation of the bread and cup to consecrate them, a practice that began in the thirteenth century and was based mostly on superstition." Luther merely reinterpreted the meaning of this act, seeing it as an expression of the grace Christ has extended to God's people." Yet it is still observed by many pastors today.
In like manner, Luther did drastic surgery to the Eucharistic prayer, retaining only the "words of institution"" from 1 Corinthians 11:23ff. (WEB)—"That the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread . . . and said, 'Take, eat. This is my body." Even today, Protestant pastors religiously recite this text before administering Communion.
Acts 2:42 (NLT tells us that "the believers devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching." In this passage, Luke is describing the apostolic meetings, which took place over four years and were designed to lay the foundation for the Jerusalem church. Because the church was so large, these meetings were held in the Temple courts. However, the believers also met for regular open-participatory worship in homes (Acts 2:46).
Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 7:490. White, Protestant Worship, 20.
J: Luther still followed the historic Western Ordo. The main difference was that Luther eliminated the offertory prayers and the prayers of the Canon after the Sanctus that spoke of offerings. In sum, Luther struck from the Mass everything smacking of "sacrifice." He, along with other Reformers, removed many of the decadent late-medieval elements of the Mass. They did so by rendering the liturgy in the common vernacular, including congregational songs (chants and chorales for the Lutherans; metrical psalms for the Reformed), the centrality of the sermon, and allowing the congregants to participate in Holy Communion (Senn, Christian Worship, 84, 102).
" Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 7:486-487. The German Reformer Carlstadt (1480-1541) was more radical than Luther. During Luther's absence Carlstadt abolished the entire Mass, destroying the altars along with the pictures. Frank Senn includes the early Catholic liturgy in his book (Christian Liturgy, 139). Luther even retained the word mass, which came to mean the entire worship service (p. 486).
Luther pointed to the ceremonial in the courts of kings and believed this should be applied to the worship of God (Senn, Christian Worship, 15). See chapter 2 of this book for how imperial protocol made its way into the Christian liturgy during the fourth century with the reign of Constantine. Senn, Christian Worship, 18-19.
When the Catholic priest held up the sacrament, he was doing so to inaugurate the sacrifice. 15 White, Protestant Worship, 41-42; Maxwell, Outline of Christian Worship, 75.
In the end, Luther's liturgy was nothing more than a truncated version of the Catholic Mass." And the Lutheran order of service contributed to the same problems: The congregants were still passive spectators (though they could now sing), and the entire liturgy was still directed by an ordained clergyman (the pastor had replaced the priest). This was in stark contradiction to the glorious, free-flowing, open-participatory, every-member-functioning church meetings led by Jesus Christ that the New Testament envisions (see 1 Corinthians 14:26; Hebrews 10:24-25).
In Luther's own words, "It is not now nor ever has been our intention to abolish the liturgical service of God completely, but rather to purify the one that is now in use from the wretched accretions which corrupt it."' Tragically, Luther did not realize that new wine cannot be repackaged into old wineskins.' At no time did Luther (or any of the other mainstream Reformers) demonstrate a desire to return to the practices of the first-century church. These men set out merely to reform the theology of the Catholic church.
In sum, the major enduring changes that Luther made to the Catholic Mass were as follows: (1) he performed the Mass in the language of the people rather than in Latin, (2) he gave the sermon a central place in the gathering, (3) he introduced congregational singing," (4) he abolished the idea that the Mass was a sacrifice of Christ, and (5) he allowed the congregation to partake of the bread and cup (rather than just the priest, as was the Catholic practice). Other than these differences, Luther kept the same order of worship as found in the Catholic Mass.
Worse, although Luther talked much about the "priesthood of all
Luther retained the basic order of the medieval Mass along with the ceremonial aspects of lights, incense, and vestments (Maxwell, Outline of Christian Worship, 77). Luther, Luther's Works, LIII, 20.
Ironically, Luther insisted that his German Mass should not be adopted legalistically, and if it became outdated it should be discarded (Christian Worship and Its Cultural Setting, 17). This never happened.
A lover of music, Luther made music a key part of the service (White, Protestant Worship, 41; Hinson, "Worshiping Like Pagans?" Christian History 12, no.1 (1993): 16-19. Luther was a musical genius. So powerful was his gifting in music that the Jesuits said that Luther's songs "destroyed more souls than his writings and speeches." It is not surprising that one of the greatest musical talents in church history happened to be a Lutheran. His name was Johann Sebastian Bach. For details on Luther's musical contribution to the Protestant liturgy see Senn, Christian Liturgy, 284-287; White, Protestant Worship, 41, 47-48; Will Durant, Reformation (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1957), 778-779.
believers," he never abandoned the practice of an ordained clergy.' In fact, so strong was his belief in an ordained clergy that he wrote, "The public ministry of the Word ought to be established by holy ordination as the highest and greatest of the functions of the church."" Under Luther's influence, the Protestant pastor simply replaced the Catholic priest. And for the most part, there was little practical difference in the way these two offices functioned.' This is still the case, as we will consider in chapter 5.
What follows is Luther's order of worship." The general outline should look very familiar to you—for it is the taproot of the Sunday morning church service found in most Protestant denominations."
Admonition to the people Lord's Supper Singing'
Post-Communion prayer Benediction
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