*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 29th of October 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
Today we are going to 1) talk a little about the history of Christian corporate worship 2) tie it to this day in history and 3) use 3 foreign words and phrases to do it all.
The first word is greek. It is “liturgy”. You’ve probably heard this word before- we usually mean “the order of worship” or “the things we sing or say” etc… but the Greek word tells us a little more. Liturgy literally means “the work of the people” when broken down etymologically. It makes sense that a greek word would help us understand the early church not only because Jesus lived in a Hellenized world (that means “all greeked out”) but also because of Constantine. If you listened yesterday you know that it was this guy who unified church worship with more uniform “liturgies”. Now this “work of the people” can work in two senses- it is work by or for the people? It can mean both. Think of the word “service” we use today. Is it our service to God? God’s service to us? Both?
The second phrase is Latin- of course, it was the Roman church and Charlemagne in the west who Latinized the church. And it's from them we get... wait for it… you know it’s coming… “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi”. That is, the law of prayer/worship is the law of belief. We believe similar to how we worship. Is this true for you? If it is the case why might a centralized church pay special attention to liturgy? We know that before the Constantinian shift in the church worship was diverse. Constantine and then Charlemagne would streamline church practices as it would help unify doctrine, and this was seen as unifying the empire. But, of course, streamlining and making uniform can become a top-down approach that stifles change. Moreover, people who worship differently could be identified as troublemakers at best and heretics at worst. Worship mandates could become a binding law where God hadn’t made binding laws.
And so we get to our last foreign phrase- it is “Deutsche Messe” or German Mass. This was Martin Luther’s attempt to reform the unified liturgy of the Catholic Church and it just so happens that his Deutsche Messe or German mass was first introduced on this day in 1526. Of everything that the Protestant reformers did it may be that the changing of the liturgy, because we know “Lex Orandi Lex Credendi, and thus the Deutsche Messe represents one of the most important church reforms in the west of all time.
The Deutsche Messe was a modified version of the Latin Catholic mass. It was in the vernacular and followed the Kyrie, collect, epistle, hymn, etc… it removed the eucharistic prayers which were done in Latin wherein the Priest turned his back to the congregations and the prayer offered up the eucharist as a sacrificial mass. The emphasis for Luther was not on the individual’s service or sacrifice to God, but rather the service of God to his people.
This was, of course, a crack in the wall and soon new liturgies were developed, and “worship wars” have ensued. In light of that let’s finish with Luther’s own words about his Deutsche Messe (or German Mass) which was published on the 29th of October in 1526.
“Above all things, I most affectionately and for God's sake beseech all, who see or desire to observe this our Order of Divine Service, on no account to make of it a compulsory law, or to ensnare or make captive thereby any man's conscience; but to use it agreeably to Christian liberty at their good pleasure as, where, when and so long as circumstances favor and demand it.”
The reading comes from Ephesians 4:
Therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. 2 Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, 3 and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. 4 You are one body and one spirit, just as God also called you in one hope. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 29th of October 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man curious as to why there is a “Kyrie” Irving on the Brooklyn Nets. He is Christoper Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a veteran of the Worship Wars of the late 90s and early 2000s. I am Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.