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    This suggested “Preface” for use at the vernacular celebration of Holy Communion, appended to a letter addressed to Nicolaus Hausmann, belongs late in the liturgical agitation period between the publishing of the Formula missae and the appearance of the Deutsche Messe. It is not to be regarded as a finished “form,” but as a suggestion or model for Hausmann’s further action.

    During this period vernacular Masses had appeared at a. number of places; the movement to change from the Latin use, even though it were “reformed” according to Luther suggestions, to German had not only gained momentum but had spread. Some of these Masses represented important contributions to the desired objective; others were open to question. Hausmann’s interest in liturgical reform is well known. In March, 1525, he sent examples of a number of these Masses to Luther; the probability is that he included among these one of his own making. He was seeking criticism and advice: whether any of these services might be acceptable or not, or considered as a model, or even be used.

    The letter herewith is Luther’s reply to Hausmann. It is dated Laetare Sunday (March 26), 1525. Accompanying the letter Was another sheet on which Luther had written the suggested “Preface.”

    It will be apparent immediately that this is not the historic, liturgical Preface, but that it is quite evidently intended to displace the historic Preface, and is an entirely new element injected into the Communion Office.

    A tendency toward a pastoral exhortation to prospective communicants connected immediately with or imbedded in the Communion Office had appeared and already had begun to take form. Luther also had felt the desirability for such an address. Here is his suggestion.

    Such an exhortation may have been due to the evangelical interpretation of and emphasis on communion, seeking expression over against the sacrificial emphasized in the Offertory and the Canon of the Mass. It may also be an example of the methods pursued in arriving at a simplification of the Mass. But one cannot help wondering whether it is not an evidence of something else, since it appears at this place and is considered the Preface.

    It is not eucharistic but preparatory. It is not liturgical but homiletical. It carries something of the feeling of being a “filler” where the excision of the Canon had left a great void and baldness, and where, one suspects, this void (removal) was felt. Might it not be an effort to satisfy this feeling of a lack especially since “simplification” removed almost all of the accustomed? But the method considered is neither harmonious, nor does it meet the principles which Luther had laid down as directive in liturgical reform.

    The Letter and the “Preface” will be found in Erlangen 53:285; 54:30 Walch 10:2776f Weimar 19:47 St. Louis 10:2256f Enders 5:144 De Wette 2:635



    To Nicolaus Hausmann, Pastor at Zwickau.

    Grace and peace. I am returning the Masses herewith, and am agreed that they shall be sung in this manner; but it does not please me at all that the Latin notes are retained over the German text. I explained to this publisher the manner in which to sing German: this I would like very much to have introduced here.

    The Catechism, as I said before, has been entrusted to its authors. I still owe a reply against The Free Will, but I am pushed and bothered so much by my tormentors, the printers, that I am compelled to put them off.

    I desire the Preface to be quite short, and, meanwhile you can use the one on the accompanying slip in case you do not want to arrange a better one.

    Take good care of yourself, and pray for me, unfortunate creature. Wittenberg, on Laetare Sunday, 1525.

    Martin Luther (On the accompanying slip) The Preface, which, as I remember, began there in Latin: Dominus vobiscum (The Lord be with you), Sursum cords (Lift up your hearts) etc. — on account of which also it was named The Preface (Foreword, Introduction), may be said in German as follows:

    Dearest Friends in Christ: You know that our Lord Jesus Christ, out of unspeakable love, instituted at the last this, His Supper, as a memorial and declaration of His death suffered for our sins. To which commemoration belongs a sure faith which makes every heart and conscience, which desires to use and partake [of this Supper], sure and certain that this death was suffered by Christ for all his sins.

    But where someone doubts this and does not experience such faith in some manner, he should realize that this Supper is no help for him but harmful, and should stay away from it. Which faith, since we cannot see it and it is known only to God, we desire to put on the conscience of him who comes, and simply allow it to rest on his asking and desire.

    But such as remain fast in open sins, such as avarice, hatred, anger, envy, usury, impurity and the like, and are not resolved to cease [these things], to these this [Supper] is herewith refused, and they are warned faithfully not to come, in order that they do not fetch a judgment and harm on their souls as St. Paul says 1 Corinthians 11:29.

    Still if someone has fallen through weakness and has shown by his acts that he earnestly desires to better himself, this grace and communion of the Body and Blood of Christ shall not be denied him. In this fashion each one must judge himself, and knows how to, and how to take good heed; for “God does not permit himself to be mocked,” Galatians 6:7; also He will not give the holy thing to the dogs, nor permit the pearls to be thrown to swine, Matthew 7:6.


    Vermahnung An Die Christen In Liefland Vom Aeuszerlichen Gottesdienst Und Eintracht


    Melchior Hoffmann is the central figure in connection with this document.

    He was a lay-preacher of great power, whole-souled in his allegiance to the Gospel, thoroughly in harmony with the Reformation, but a mystic and allegorist, — the last fostered by his many trying experiences. He was ripe to respond to the influences of the enthusiasts; but his devotion was unquestioned; he was utterly selfless.

    He had been driven out of Wolmar late in 1524 and had gone to Dorpat.

    There he assumed the work of an Evangelical pastor who, too, had been driven from his parish. Hoffmann was well received. His straightforward preaching drew the opposition of the Roman episcopal authorities, who strove to expel him from the city; but Hoffmann’s followers rose in his defense. This took the form of riotous excesses which culminated on January 10, 1525, in attacks on churches and cloisters in which altars, pictures, etc., were ruthlessly destroyed. As soon as this turbulent state of affairs had been calmed, the Evangelical Council determined to organize and harmonize external conditions in Evangelical circles, — conditions which in themselves presented a sad state of disharmony. Hoffmann’s commanding position made him the leading personality to be considered in making this reform effective; his co-operation at least was necessary. But the Council was not satisfied as to his theological fitness. In order to meet this requirement Hoffmann sought the recommendation of nearby men prominent in the Reformation Movement. After his first efforts had proven unsatisfactory, he went to Wittenberg, arriving in June, 1525, in order to obtain Luther’s assistance.

    In response to this, Luther wrote the letter here translated. To it, Bugenhagen, who was well acquainted in Livonian circles, added a letter of his own; and Hoffman was permitted to add a “pastoral” letter to these two.

    It is interesting to note how Luther entered this situation. His letter is not a commendation of Hoffmann but an exhortation to the clergy and people concerned, dealing with their worship practices. In it he exhorts them to a unity of purpose which is selfless and to a conformity of practice in church worship which makes unto the edification of the whole body.

    Luther had expressed himself frequently in the past on these matters, and had clung faithfully to his ideal, which he was convinced was thoroughly the Christian teaching. But the results of this teaching had risen to vex him in scandalizing situations in more than one place.

    Externalities in worship, — forms of worship, rites, ceremonies, the whole category, — were non-essentials. Freedom in such matters was more than a Christian privilege; it was a Christian right! One could take them, or leave them; adopt one thing now, change to another at will. Here could be one practice, there another. It is not the form that commends us to God.

    But when this all is demonstrated in the life of the Church, when men begin to use their liberty and the wide variety of practice results when one personality asserts his right to do thus and so over against another’s opinion and his doing so and thus, — then the state of disorder and disunity which results is a cause of scandal and distress. Such a state of affairs existed in Livonia to an intense degree. Men failed the ideal; the ideal had not failed. The true objective had been displaced; mutual edification had been enshrouded by personal opinion and will.

    Without retracting his former statement regarding the freedom of the Christian in externalities of worship, Luther attacked the problem with a further development of his original teaching. The ideal can meet the challenge of the practical. How? By the very fullness of the ideal!

    He dismisses the question of control in these matters by Church and canon and points out the ill effect of such a law-controlled practice. The opposite state of affairs, — nothing ordained or established, — works out just as injuriously. But disunion in these practices is unchristian, because it confuses and unsettles the people whose edification must be considered.

    Therefore he appeals, that each will surrender his own opinion gladly, freely, and seek a common ground of practice so that “the practice will be the same and uniform among you throughout your district.” “For even if the external uses and regulations are free and, taking faith into consideration, may with good conscience be changed at all places, at all hours, by all persons; still, taking love into consideration, you are not free to use such liberty, but are in duty bound to consider how matters may be made bearable and better for the common people.” Here is his bid for uniformity and its basis; but it is not to be accomplished unless the people be first instructed not to regard these matters as required commands. “One is to tell them that it is only done in this fashion in order that they may be edified thereby and preserved in orderly practice, so that the unity of the Christian people may be made stable by means of such external things, which, indeed, in themselves are not necessary.” “Therefore make and hold Mass; sing and read uniformly, according to a common use, the same in one place as in another; because you see that the people so desire and need it, so that they are not disturbed on account of you but are the rather edified.”

    This all is quite a different story from Luther’s previous free attitude, — Luther advising a “common use,” a common practice everywhere! It is not his “churchly” feel that inspires this, but his recognition of the age-old fact, that such a situation can be mended only in one practical way, but the method can be, must be, inspired and controlled by the ideal, the spiritual.

    The text of the letter, and of the Bugenhagen and Hoffmann letters also, will be found in Weimar 18:412, 417ff. See this Introduction, also Weimar 19:47, for further historical references.

    Erlangen 53:315ff Walch 10:286ff Enders 5:198 De Wette 3:3 Realencyc . 38:222 for an excellent biography of Hoffmann.


    Vermahnung An Die Christen In Liefland Vom Aeuszerlichen Gottesdienst Und Eintracht


    JUNE 17, To all beloved Christians in Livonia, together with their pastors and preachers, grace and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

    We should thank God, the Father of all mercy, greatly and at all times, on account of you, dear Sirs and Friends, who, according to the unsearchable riches of His grace, has brought you to the treasure of His Word, in which you possess the knowledge of His dear Son, which is a sure pledge of your life and salvation which awaits you in heaven and is prepared for all who persevere faithfully in true faith and fervent love unto the end. Even as we hope and pray that the merciful Father will preserve you and us, and perfect us in one mind, according to the likeness of His dear Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

    However I have heard through credible witnesses how faction and disunion have arisen among you also, in this way, that some of your preachers do not teach or act concordantly but according to whatever each one thinks is the best-according to his own judgment and will. And I do not want to believe evil about this, because we must remember that it will not be any better with us than it was with the Corinthians and other Christians at the time of St. Paul, when divisions and dissension arose among Christ’s people. Even as St. Paul, himself, acknowledges and says, 1 Corinthians 11:19, “There must be divisions and sects, so that those who are approved become known.” For Satan is not satisfied with being the prince and god of the world, he also wants to be supreme among the children of God, Job 1:9, and “goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8.

    Thence arise the complaint and differences among the people, so that one says: “Hardly anyone knows what he should espouse or with whom he should side;” and this notwithstanding, all still want instruction given and maintained everywhere according to one method and in one manner. For which reason the Councils were held in times gone by and a variety of orders and canons were established, so that one could force and keep the whole group of people to one common observance, as a result of which nothing but burdens to the soul and dangerous offenses to the faith resulted, so that there is great danger on both sides and need of good spiritual teachers who are able to conduct themselves in this matter with wisdom and discretion and to direct the people.

    For if one espouses and ordains a universal custom or use, then one centers one’s effort in that and makes out of it a necessary law which is in opposition to the freedom of the faith. But if one ordains and establishes nothing, then one is likely to act rashly and make as many factions as there are heads, a situation which fights against Christian simplicity and unity about which St. Paul and St. Peter teach so frequently. But one must speak about such things in the best way one can, even if matters do not work out the way we speak and teach.

    And first of all I hope that the teaching concerning faith, love and crossbearing, and the summary or principal things in the faith and knowledge of Christ are still pure and undamaged among you, so that you know what things you should hold in your consciences in your relation to God. And certainly this simplicity of the teaching will not remain unassailed by Satan; indeed he seeks to slip in by means of external divisions in the matter of ceremonies, and bring about factions both in spirit and in faith, which is just his style, and certainly has been experienced heretofore in so many heresies.

    Therefore in the manner in which St. Paul treated his factions, we also will deal with ours. He could not check these with force; nor did he want to coerce them by means of commands; but entreated them with friendly exhortations. For he who will not give up such a matter willingly when exhorted to, will be far less willing to give it up when commanded. But he says in Philippians 2:1,2,3,4: “Is there now among you exhortation in Christ, is there comfort of love, is there fellowship of the Spirit, is there fervent love and mercy, then fulfill my joy, so that ye be of one mind, have the same love, be of one accord and one mind, do nothing through faction or through vainglory but through humbleness. Let each one amongst you consider the other higher than himself, and let not each one look upon his own but on the things of the other.” Then add thereto the example of Christ: how He made Himself the servant of everyone, in order to be obedient to the Father.

    Accordingly then, in the first place, I exhort your preachers with the same words of St. Paul, that they would regard all the good which we possess in Christ, the comfort, exhortation, Spirit, love and mercy, and in addition the example of Christ, and conduct themselves only to His honor and praise; that they be and remain single-minded, and of one mind and spirit, and recognize the crafty inroad of the devil through vainglory, which is especially dangerous and attacks those chiefly who possess the Office of the Word, which they cannot administer well unless each one despises himself the most and considers himself the lowest but holds the others as the highest, as Christ teaches in the Gospel, — Luke 14:8, “to seat oneself in the lowest place among the guests at the wedding.”

    Now even if the external regulations in the services, — -such as masses, singing, reading, baptizing, — o not add any’-thing to salvation, nevertheless, it is unchristian to be disunited over such things and thereby confuse and unsettle the common people, and not the rather to consider the edification of the people to be more important than our own thought and opinion. Therefore I pray all of you, my dear Sirs, let each one surrender his own opinions and get together in a friendly way and come to a common decision as to how you can unitedly regard these external matters, so that the practice will be the same and uniform among you throughout your district and not so divergent and disordered, — a different thing being done here and a different thing being done there, thereby displeasing and confusing the people and making them unhappy.

    For, as has been said, even if the external uses and regulations are free and, taking the faith into consideration, may with good conscience be changed at all places, at all hours, by all persons; stilt, taking love into consideration, you are not free to use such liberty, but are in duty bound to consider how matters may be made bearable and better for the common people; as St. Paul says, 1 Corinthians 14:40, “Let all things be done orderly and honorably among you.” And 1 Corinthians 6:12, “I have power over all things, but all thing do not profit.” And <4610801 1 Corinthians 8:1, “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.” And also how he speaks of those who have the knowledge of the faith and of liberty, and yet do not know how they should possess this knowledge, because they do not use it to the edification of the people, but to the praise of their own opinion.

    Now when your people are offended in that you practice so many different customs and rites and are disturbed thereby, it does not help you any when you are wont to assert: “Yea, the external thing is free; here in my own place I am going to do as pleases me.” But you are in duty bound to consider what the effect will be on others and to keep such freedom of faith in the conscience before God, and yet, at the same time, keep it captive for service unto the neighbor’s good and edification, just as Paul says in Romans 15:2, “Let each one conduct himself amongst us in this way, that he please his neighbor unto his good, unto edification.” For we should not please ourselves, since Christ also did not please Himself, but us all.

    Still in addition to this, the preacher must, none the less, be watchful and admonish the people and instruct them diligently so that they do not accept such common uses as required commands, as though it had to be just so, or as though God would not have it any other way; but that one tell them that it is only done in this fashion in order that they may be edified thereby and preserved in orderly practice, so that the unity of the Christian people may be made stable by means of such external things, which, indeed in themselves, are not necessary. For since ceremonies or usages are not a necessity, as far as conscience or salvation is concerned, and yet are useful and necessary to govern the people outwardly, one should not force them further than this, or permit them to be established further than that they serve to maintain unity and peace among the people. For faith makes peace and unity between God and men.

    This is said to the preachers in order that they regard love and their obligation toward the people, and do not employ faith’s liberty but love’s servitude or submission toward the people, but keep faith’s freedom toward God.

    Therefore make and hold mass, sing and read uniformly, according to a common use, the same in one place as in another; because you see that the people so desire it and need it, so that they are not disturbed on account of you but are the rather edified. For you are here for their edification, as St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:23. Authority has been given to us, not for destruction, but for improvement. If you do not need such unity, thank God for that; but the people need it. But what are you other than the servant of the people, as St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:24. “We are not lords of your faith, but your servants for the sake of Jesus Christ.” Corinthians 4:5.

    Again, I also beseech the people to accustom themselves to these matters and not to be astonished if factions and divisions, uses or teachings make a rupture. For who is able to fight the devil with his own [weapons]? One must remember that tares always grow amidst the good seed, the truth of which fact is shown in every field of God’s work and confirmed in the Gospel of Christ, Matthew 13:25. Again, on every threshing-floor there cannot be only dean corn, but there must be also the hulls and the straw.

    And St. Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:20, “In a house there are not only vessels of honor but also vessels of dishonor.” Out of some one eats and drinks, with others one carries and deans out the rubbish and filth.

    Therefore there must also be factions and discordant spirits among the Christians, who pervert faith and love and bewilder the people. Now should a servant become disturbed over the fact that all the cups in the house are not silver and should find some common vessels for ordinary necessities and could not endure such a discovery, what would you make of such a thing? Who can keep house without common vessels?

    The same thing is true in Christendom. There are not merely honorable vessels there, but we must suffer the dishonorable vessels also to remain among us, as St. Paul says, 1 Corinthians 11:19, “There must be factions.” And indeed fight here in this you are to realize, my dear Friends, that God has given you the true Word and knowledge of Christ when you discover factions and disunion among you. For when you were papistic Satan certainly left you in peace, and if you still had nothing but false teachers he would not assault you very much with discord and faction. But now that the true seed of God’s Word is with you, he cannot leave it alone; he must sow his seed there also, even as he does this to us by means of the fanatics. And God tests you thereby to discover whether you want to stand firm.

    Nevertheless, both you and your preachers should use all diligence to the end that everything go harmoniously and unitedly and such work of the devil be opposed and checked. For the reason why God destined the devil to do such things is that we may have cause to exercise ourselves in unity and through that those who are tested may become known. For even if we apply the greatest diligence to this matter, nevertheless factions and disunion will remain. Thus, too, St. Paul, when he says, 2 Timothy 2:20, “Now if someone cleanse himself from such people, he will be a sanctified vessel to honor, useful to the householder, and prepared for all good work.”

    This sincere exhortation of mine, my dear Friends, receive kindly, and add thereto, as much as you are able, that you do as exhorted. This is both profitable and needful as far as you are concerned, and to the honor and praise of God who has called you to His light. But may our Lord Jesus Christ, who has begun His work in you, increase the same with grace, and fulfill it to the day of His glorious return, so that you, together with us, may go to meet Him with joy and remain with Him eternally. Amen. Pray for us.

    At Wittenberg on the Saturday after Trinity Sunday in the year 1529.


    Deudsche Messe Vnd Ordnung Gottis Diensts


    That Luther was fully aware of the general movement in the direction of the introduction of German into the public services we well know. In large measure this was but the working out of principles he had proclaimed, the attempt to realize in a practical manner what he had long declared desirable. But now that the movement is well under way, he is far from enthusiastic about it. He counsels moderation and delay, criticizes severely some of the forms which were introduced, and even opposes violently the idea that Services must be entirely in the vernacular.

    The mystical Luther felt that true Christians ought to be able to worship in spirit without forms or ceremonies. The eminently practical Luther took men as they were, and fully appreciated the necessity of rites and ceremonies in public worship, and, in truth, himself found great pleasure in certain features, e.g. the music. The two Luthers were constantly struggling with each other. The practical and historically grounded, esthetic Luther always triumphed over the mystical Luther in matters connected with public worship. This was indeed fortunate, as it assured a subsequent healthy development which kept its feet on the ground, maintained historic continuity, and accepted the ministry of art in worship. The victory of mysticism would have meant the strengthening of Quakerism, as we now know it, and fanaticism, and the weakening of Protestantism in general.

    But the struggle was one cause of delay and of seeming lack of enthusiasm.

    Admitting the necessity and value of some form and order in worship, Luther dreaded absolute uniformity. He reacted so strongly from medieval ideas of a uniformly imposed order which must be kept, that he inclined to the other extreme He feared the creation of another rigid system as a substitute for the Roman system. He would have no new shibboleth as a test for ecclesiastical regularity. He would have no one think that true evangelical Christianity consisted in using a German Mass instead of the Roman Mass. Liberty, not law, must rule in worship as in other things.

    Luther never admitted the absolute necessity of vernacular worship, however desirable he felt it to be. Writing against the fanatics in 1525 he had said that if those who heard Mass understood what the Latin Words of Institution meant, that would be “deutsch oder deutlich in herzen,” even if they sung in Latin. The general Renaissance and humanistic movement had developed a strong impulse toward the cultivation of the German language, not only as over against the Latin, but as against the Italian and French languages as well. There was danger in making the introduction of German into public worship simply a part of this humanistic or nationalistic program. German Services alone would not bring the millennium, as so many seemed to expect.

    And if, in spite of all these things, vernacular Services must be prepared, Luther realized, as did few others, the greatness of the task. For, at least so far as he was concerned, the new Services must not be something new, a substitute for the historic Service, but the historic Service itself, with as much as possible of its finest features preserved, but in a form fully suited to the genius of the German language and the German people. Mere translation, which in itself would have been a great task, was not sufficient.

    It must have “eine rechte deutsche Art.” And this included the music as well as the text. For Luther was not in sympathy with such efforts as produced the first German Service in Strassburg, which, for a time, were held only at side altars without music. He had said, “I do not forbid that one should translate the Latin text into German and retain the Latin music (Ton oder noten), but it does not work out artistically or properly. Both, — text and notes, accent, neumes, and form, — must proceed from mother tongue and voice; else all is mere imitation like the apes.” But this was a work for years, and for a host of translators and musicians. f204 These were some of the reasons why Luther did not rush rashly, as did some others, into the preparation of a German order of worship. He preferred to proclaim principles rather than to prepare forms, and he earnestly desired that ample time should be given for the gradual solution of the problem. But the times and the tides of popular feeling would not wait even for Luther. The importunities of those who looked to him for positive leadership could no longer be denied. He also could not fully approve what others had attempted, and he feared that the liberty he preached might run into license and destroy all reverence for holy things among the people. So, fully eight years after the publication of his Theses, he feels himself called to this work and enters upon it.


    Luther called Bugenhagen and Jonas to aid him in the preparation of his German Service. He declared that he would not attempt the music of the Service alone, and the Elector sent him Johann Walther and Conrad Rupff, who assisted him in this part of the work. The new Service was introduced in the parish church at Wittenberg, October 29, 1525. The next Sunday, the Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity, Luther had the following to say about it to the congregation: “We have begun to attempt to establish a German Mass. You are aware that the Mass is the chief external office appointed for the comfort of the true Christian. Therefore I beg you Christians to beseech God that this may please Him. — If one does not himself order and establish, he may know that it pleases God. One should not fall into the idea that if he does not begin a thing himself, nothing will come of it. Therefore I have also so long restrained myself with reference to the German Masses, that I might give no cause to the evil spirits who thoughtlessly jump in without concern as to whether God wishes it. Now, however, since so many from all countries beseech me with letters and writings, and even bring worldly force to bear upon me, we can no longer excuse ourselves and protest, but must believe that it is God’s wish. If we produce something of our own, it shall perish and smell, even if it have the appearance of being beautiful and great. If, however, it be something of God’s, it must succeed, even though it appear foolish. All things which God does, even if they please no one, must have the right of way.

    Therefore I beseech you that you pray God, that if it be a rightly ordered Service, it may go forth to His praise and honor.” f206


    Luther now completed the new Service, and beginning with Christmas, 1525, it was used, at least in parts, at the parish church at Wittenberg on Sunday mornings, “on account of the uneducated lay-folk.” The Latin Service according to the Formula missae was continued in use on week days as before. The German Service appeared from the press early in 1526.

    For notice of editions, etc., see W. A. 19.

    Following is a summary of its contents:

    The first half is devoted to a “Preface,” which discusses the general situation. The following extracts indicate its tenor. “I kindly beseech all who desire to follow this our order in divine service, that they, by no means make a necessary law out of it. We do not publish it with the intention to control anyone therein, or to rule with laws, but because everywhere the German Mass and Divine Service are insisted upon, and great complaint and scandal exist concerning the manifold forms of the new Masses.” “We should in love, as Paul teaches, endeavor to be of one mind, and in the best way possible to be of like forms and ceremonies, just as all Christians have one baptism, one sacrament, and to no person is given of God a special one.” “Yet I will not ask those who already have their good Order of Service, or who through God’s grace can make a better one, to let it go and yield to us. For it is not my intention, that all Germany should accept precisely our Wittenberg Order. But it would be excellent if in every principality Divine Services were conducted in the same form, and the surrounding towns and villages directly shared with a city.” “We must have such Order of Service for the sake of those who are yet to become Christians or to become stronger, just as a Christian does not need Baptism, the Word and sacraments as a Christian, (for he already has all things,) but as a sinner. But most of all it is done on account of the simple and the young, who are to be and must be exercised daily and educated in the Scripture and God’s Word.” “There is a threefold distinction in worship and the Mass. First a Latin Order, which we have before published and which is called the Formula missae. This I do not herewith wish to have abrogated or changed; but as we have hitherto observed it among us, so it shall be free to use the same, where and when we please or occasion requires; for I in no way wish to banish the Latin language from Divine Service. For it concerns me to do everything for the young; and if I were able, and the Greek and the Hebrew language were as familiar to us as the Latin, and had as much fine music and hymnology as the Latin has: then should Mass be celebrated, sung and read one Sunday after another in all four languages, German, Latin, Greek and Hebrew. I do not at all agree with those who give themselves to only one language and despise all others.” “Secondly, there is the German Mass and Divine Service, of which we now treat, which are to be arranged on account of the uneducated laity.” “The third form, which the right kind of evangelical service should have, must not be celebrated so publicly before all sorts of people; but those who mean to be Christians in earnest, and to confess the Gospel with hand and mouth, must register their names and assemble somewhere in a house alone for prayer, to read, baptize, receive the sacrament, and to perform other Christian works. Here there would be no need of much elaborate singing. Here also baptism and the sacrament might be celebrated in a short, good form, and everything be directed to the Word, and to prayer and to love. But I cannot yet, nor do I like to order or establish such a congregation or assembly. For I have not yet the people and persons for it; and I do not see many who insist upon it. f207 Meanwhile I will only insist upon the aforesaid two orders.” “For the first thing, a good, simple, plain, easy catechism is necessary in German worship.

    The way in which instruction can be given is then developed at some length.

    The Preface concludes with a fanciful idea concerning the “faith purse” and the “love purse,” as containing the treasures of the Christian. “And let no man think himself too wise and despise such child’s play. Christ, when He wished to draw men, was obliged to become man. If we are to draw children, then we must also become children with them.”

    Then follows a chapter “Concerning Divine Worship,” in which Luther’s characteristic pedagogical view is emphasized. “The principal part is to preach and teach God’s Word.” On Sunday there are three sermons on the usual Epistle and Gospel Lessons. The first Service, at five or six, is chiefly for servants, and the greater part of the Matin order is used. The Mass is at eight or nine, with a sermon on the Gospel. At Vespers the sermon is on the Old Testament. The Gospels and Epistles are retained, because “we find nothing particular to blame in such an arrangement,” and “since many are in Wittenberg to learn to preach where this custom still prevails.”

    Monday and Tuesday there is instruction in German in parts of the Catechism at the early Service. On Wednesday, early, the Gospel of Matthew is explained; and Saturday afternoon, St. John’s Gospel. On Thursday and Friday there are Lessons from the Epistles. “We thus have Lessons and Sermons enough to keep God’s Word in full swing, without the lectures in the University for the learned.” In towns where there are schools, Latin Psalms are sung by the boys daily before the Lesson to exercise the youth in the Latin Scriptures, and several chapters are read in Latin by different boys, after which another reads the same chapter in German, “To exercise them and to benefit any layman who may be present and listening.”

    Then follows a chapter on “Sunday for the Laity.” “We there allow Mass vestments, altar, and lights still to remain, until they are no longer serviceable or it pleases us to change. But whoever wishes in this to proceed otherwise, we allow it to be done. But in the true Mass, among the real Christians, the altar must not remain so, and the priest must always turn himself to the people, as without doubt Christ did at the Last Supper. But, let that bide its time.”

    The order of the Sunday Service is as follows: (a) “In the beginning we sing a hymn, or a German Psalm, in the First Tone.” This is a substitution of German hymns for the Latin Introits, such as Luther and others had begun to publish a year before, or of an entire German Psalm sung antiphonally. It is not clear who is to sing this. Liliencron is convinced that only a practiced choir could have sung the Psalm and the Kyrie which follows in the First Gregorian Tone. f209 (b) The Kyrie, in the same Tone, but threefold instead of ninefold, as in the Roman Use.

    The Gloria in Excelsis is not mentioned. This may be as Rietschel surmises, because Luther thought of it as belonging to the Kyrie, and took its use for granted. Liliencron (p. 28) mentions Schumann’s Hymn Book of 1539 in which Luther’s Order of Service is given with a German translation of the Gloria included. In the Formula missae, however, Luther suggests the possible omission of the Gloria if the pastor desires. (c) The Collect, read (intoned) in F, facing the Altar. The text given appears to be a translation of the Collect for the Third Sunday after Trinity. (d) The Epistle, in the Eighth Tone, facing the people. The passage 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 is given, set to notes. (e) A German hymn (as Gradual), e.g., “Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist” with the whole choir. (f) The Gospel, in the Fifth Tone. John 1:19-28 is given, set to music. (g) Luther’s German translation of the Nicene Creed, — “Wit glauben all an einen Gott,” — sung by the entire congregation. (h) A Sermon on the Gospel. Luther thinks if there were complete German Postils (collections of sermons on the Gospels for the Church Year), it would be well to read these to the people, “Not alone for the sake of the preachers, who cannot do any better, but also to guard against enthusiasts and sects. Otherwise,. it will finally come to pass that each one will preach as he pleases, and instead of the Gospel and its exposition, men will preach again about blue ducks.” (i) A free (offentliche) Paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer, and an Exhortation to the communicants. These are read either from the pulpit, or at the altar, as the pastor may choose. Luther gives forms of each, not as binding, but as illustrations of what he desires. He begs that, whatever form is used, it be adhered to regularly in the same congregation, so as not to confuse the people. f210 Then follows the Office (Amt) and Consecration. All the prayers of the Mass are omitted and the Order proceeds at once to (j) The Words of Institution, according to 1 Corinthians 11:23ff, with phrases from the Synoptists, being a slight expansion of the form given in the Formula missae, and precisely the form given in the Common Service Book. The Words were said silently by the priest in the Mass, but are now sung aloud to a melody which Luther gives.

    Luther suggests that it would be “in accord with the Lord’s Supper if the Sacrament were administered immediately after the consecration of the Bread, before one blesses the Cup,” and that the German Sanctus, or another hymn, might be sung, with the German Agnus Dei, or the remainder of the other hymn, during the administration of the Cup. Also that the men and the women should stand in separate places, and the men receive the Sacrament first, and after them the women. f211 (k) The Elevation of the Elements, Luther specifically retained, for the curious reason that “it well agrees with the German Sanctus,” and as an act of faith and devotion to the Lord, Who “is not seen,” but yet “remembered and exalted.” Luther was doubtless influenced by popular feeling with regard to the importance of the Elevation and also particularly by Carlstadt’s fanatical determination to make its abrogation compulsory. Although abolished in the Augustinian cloister, as early as 1524, it was retained in the parish church in Wittenberg, probably in deference to Luther’s wishes, until 1542, when Bugenhagen, who had omitted it in all his Church Orders, finally dropped it in Wittenberg also, with Luther’s consent. The latter, however, reserved his freedom to reintroduce it if necessary “because of heresy or other reasons.” Just the year before his death he approved the desire of the Lutheran bishop, George you Anhalt, to retain it. f212 (l) The German Sanctus, “Jesajai dem Propheten das geschah,” a versification which Luther composed, and one of the poorest he ever made, is to be sung during the distribution. (m) The Collect of Thanksgiving, “We give thanks to Thee, Almighty God, etc.” as in the Common Service Book, p. 23. f213 (n) The Aaronitic Benediction (“The Lord bless thee and keep thee, etc.”) Then follow examples of the Epistles and Gospels, set to notes for choral reading. “But with the festivals, as Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, Michaelmas, Purification of Mary, and the like, it must continue as hitherto in Latin, till we have enough German hymns for them. For this work is in its beginning, consequently not everything is ready that belongs to it.” “The fasts of Palm-Day and Holy Week we allow to remain; not that we compel any one to fast, but that the Passion and the Gospels, which are set for this time should remain; yet not in such a manner that one observes the black cloth over the altar, palm processions, covering pictures and other jugglery, or sing four Passions, or have to preach eight hours on Good Friday on the Passion; but Holy Week shall be like other weeks, except that one preach the Passion one hour a day through the week, or as many days as desired, and as many as desire may receive the Sacrament.

    For among Christians everything in worship is to be done for the sake of the Word and Sacraments.” “In short, this order and all others are to be used in such a manner that where an abuse is made of them, one may straightway abolish them and make another. just as when a good coin is counterfeited, it is taken up and changed on account of the abuse; or as when new shoes become old and pinch, they are no longer worn, but thrown away and others bought.”


    The German Mass, even more than Luther’s Latin Service, is a treatise rather than a formula. In its preparation Luther seems to have been influenced but little, if at all, by the work of others. Strassburg and Switzerland, and indeed southwest Germany in general, effected Wittenberg but slightly. The German Masses already published, while they may have slightly influenced Luther in the direction of simplicity, probably confirmed him in his conviction that if provision must be made for Services in German throughout, these must be the historic Order of the Mass and nothing else, simplified and adapted to the limited capacities of the laity of the time.

    The use of German throughout, and the emphasis upon German hymns, are its outstanding features. In general, the historic Order is retained, with the traditional appointments and ceremonies, e.g., the altar, vestments, lights, orientation, and even the Elevation. Every part of the Service is in the vernacular, except the Kyrie. Certain elements, formerly sung in Latin by the choir, e.g., Introit, Gradual, Creed, Sanctus, etc., are made congregational hymns. In the Communion itself, nearly all the parts of the Service found in the Formula missae are retained, but in different form and order. The Preface, the oldest and most universal part of the Christian Liturgy, is omitted, and only absolutely scriptural elements are retained, e.g., The Words of Institution (sung aloud), the Lord’s Prayer and the Sanctus. The Lord’s Prayer is transformed into a simple Paraphrase, which concludes with an original Exhortation to the communicants, and is placed before the Words of Institution. Nothing is said concerning formulas of distribution. The Collects and Prayers, etc., are fixed forms, and not left to the spontaneous inspiration of the pastor. The pedagogical purpose overtones the devotional throughout, and in spirit, as well as in form, the writing reveals the fact that, in the mind of the author, it possesses limited rather than universal significance. f214


    Estimates of the German Mass differ greatly according to the point of view. Those who regard the German Service as the climax of the labors of the Reformation, see in it the long looked-for stroke of freedom; those who desire an Order of Worship with some historic features, but with as many departures from the old forms as possible, give it extravagant praise.

    Those who believed that evangelical worship must depart from the historic order altogether, and be built upon other foundations, find Zwingli and the Strassburgers more original than Luther, and credit the latter with liturgical incompetency; those who exalt the earlier attempts to provide German Services, charge Luther with egotism and selfish desire for leadership in bringing out his own Service and ignoring the others.

    The German Mass clearly is not Luther’s greatest liturgical work. Luther himself never so regarded it. The Elector desired to introduce it everywhere by authority, but Luther would not agree. He never gave up the general type of service he had outlined in the Formula missae. He never intended the Deutsche Messe as a universal substitute for this, but simply as a Service for the uneducated laity, the historic order indeed, but simplified and adapted to the needs and abilities of a part of the people, at a particular time in their development. If we wish to know Luther’s mature ideas on worship, we can find them in the later orders for Wittenberg (1533) and Saxony (1539), and in less direct manner, in the other Church Orders prepared by his colleagues in the Wittenberg faculty, undoubtedly with his constant advice.

    The report of his travels which Wolfgang Muskulus, pastor in Augsburg, published, gives a complete account of the Services in the parish Church in Wittenberg on Exaudi Sunday in the year 1536. The Introit, Gloria in Excelsis and Agnus Dei were all sung in Latin, the choir and the organ alternating according to an old church custom. The minister, in full vestments, and the clerk (Kuster) knelt before the altar and said the Confiteor. The minister then ascended the altar steps. The Service Book, as in pre-Reformation practice, was on the south side of the altar and was moved to the north side for the reading of the Gospel. The minister intoned the Salutation, Collect, Epistle and Gospel, all in Latin. Bucer preached the Sermon. Luther, Melanchthon, Bugenhagen, and Fabricius Capito were present. The Lord’s Prayer and the Words of Institution (facing the altar), as well as the Thanksgiving and the Benediction,. were intoned in German, and German hymns were sung by the congregation. Luther was seized with a “schwindel” during the Service, and left the Church, followed by Melanchthon. Bugenhagen, Capito and Bucer received the Sacrament.

    Luther preached at Vespers on the Epistle for the day. f216 The pedagogical purpose is evident throughout the entire Deutsche Messe.

    It meets a certain class of the people on their own level, and endeavors to instruct and edify them; to make the non-Christians, Christians, and the weak Christians stronger Christians; and to furnish the youth with Christian truth. It seeks to promote congregational participation, and in order to do this, and also to preserve as much of the historic Service as possible for use in the villages, etc., where there were no capable choirs, it provides numerous German metrical versifications. This we must think of largely as an experiment, an effort to take advantage of a popular movement, and to put to churchly use the recently awakened enthusiasm for German hymns.

    Generally speaking, the Lutheran Church as a whole, in its normal and best development in all lands, with occasional exceptions as to this or that feature, particularly in southern and southwestern Germany, has rejected most of the peculiar, and largely experimental features of the Deutsche Messe, such as the omission of the Gloria in Excelsis (which even Zwingli retained), the omission of the Preface, the versifications of the Creed and the Sanctus, the paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer, (which opened the way for grave abuses in the period of Rationalism), the impracticable division of the Verba, and twofold administration of the Elements, and the retention of the Elevation.

    The transfer of the Lord’s Prayer to a place before the Verba was one of the few distinctive features to gain general acceptance, though some Orders of the first rank never adopted it. But this, certainly, was a mistake, due to the impulse of the moment to introduce a catechetical feature, viz., the Paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer. It created permanent confusion in all subsequent Lutheran Orders of Service. Luther’s approval and use of an Exhortation to the communicants doubtless kept that feature in most Lutheran Services, though the earlier Nurnberg form generally appears in the Church Orders instead of Luther’s form. Later Lutheran development (as in the Common Service Book), while appreciating the didactic and devotional value of such an Exhortation, felt its unliturgical character in the Service proper, and has given it a more appropriate place in the Service of Public Confession preparatory to the Holy Communion.

    The judgment of the Church, as expressed in the subsequent development of worship, has positively approved the principle of Services in the vernacular throughout, the conservative and churchly type of worship, with its adherence to historic elements and order and to fixed forms of expression, the great development of congregational hymns, and the extension of active congregational participation in worship to include a very large part of the Service. These important features, which are now the commonplaces of Protestant worship, were very largely established, not only for Lutheran Services but for many other Communions in all lands, by the principles and forms first laid down, or first gaining general acceptance, in Luther’s German Mass.


    Bibliography Texts — See General Introduction, p. 168.

    Comments — Rietschel, Lehrbuch der Liturgic Fendt , Luth. Gottesdienst d. 16 Jahrh.

    Church Review 10:217ff Jacoby , Liturgik der Reformatoren Memoirs of the Lutheran Liturgical Association, 4:29.


    Despite the pressure upon Luther to give the people an order of service in the vernacular he proceeded very slowly, particularly since the radical “prophets,” Munzer and Karlstadt, made it a matter of conscience.

    Karlstadt had introduced a German version of the Mass in Wittenberg in 1521 during Luther’s absence at the Wartburg; on his return Luther promptly restored the Latin Mass.

    There was a genuine demand for the Service in the language of the people.

    Here and there a German liturgy was introduced as early as 1522. Such cities as Nuremberg and Strassburg changed to the German service in 1524. Zwingli in Zurich and Oekolampadius in Basel gave the people the service in their own tongue in 1525.

    Luther expressed his thoughts in the treatise “Against the Heavenly Prophets,” published toward the end of 1524, as follows: “That the Mass is now held in German, pleases me, but when he (sc. Karlstadt) would make it a law, that it must be so, he goes too far. “I really want to have the Mass in German now, and I am working on it, but I also want it to be cast in a true German mould. Text and music, accent, mode and manner must be thoroughly suited to the mother-tongue and idiom, or it will be mere ape-like imitation. “Since they press me for it, I will take my time about it.” The following year Luther gave himself to the task and sent an outline of his proposed “German” Mass to the Elector of Saxony who had added his persuasion to that of others to induce Luther to undertake it. The Elector sent Conrad Rupff and Johann Walther to Wittenberg to assist in the musical notation.

    There is still extant a sheet from Luther’s hand which he had probably sent to Walther to illustrate his ideas on the adaptation of the Gregorian melodies to the German words. f218 On October 25, 1525, Luther wrote to Johann Lang: “We ourselves outlined a form of worship and sent it to the Elector and by his command it is now elaborated. Next Sunday it will be given a public trial in the name of Christ. “There will be a German Mass for the laity, but the daily services will be in Latin with German Scripture lessons, as you may see in brief when the printed copies are out. Then, if you choose, you can make your worship conform to ours, or you can use your own. In the meantime keep on with what you are doing.” f219 On October 29, 1525, the twentieth Sunday after Trinity, the trial took place in the Parish Church at Wittenberg.

    At the conclusion of the sermon Luther addressed the congregation, stating that one must be sure of doing God’s will in beginning or ordering anything new, and that since he had received many letters petitioning for such an Order in German and had been pressed by the temporal powers for it, he could no longer make excuses and must look upon it as God’s will.

    On Christmas Day, 1525, the new Order became the official Order for the Wittenberg Church.

    The chief difference between this Order and the Formula missae of 1523 is its omission of the Gloria in excelsis after the Kyrie. The Roman liturgy provided for its omission during Advent and Lent. Bugenhagen in the Brunswick Order of 1528 prescribed it with the proviso that it “may be omitted at times.” The Wittenberg Order of 1533 reintroduced it for festival days.

    The musical notation is not given with this translation. It would be unintelligible for the modern reader without considerable adaptation. The service as written is choral throughout, including the Epistle and Gospel, and the musical text is written on a four line system, with change of key whenever the melody goes beyond the four lines. The Weimar Edition reproduces the original; a modernized version is given in the Berlin Edition and a further modification in adaptation to the English words would take us quite a distance from the original. It has never been determined just how much of the musical notation is Luther’s own.

    The Deutsche Messe is found in Weimar Ed. 19, 44ff.; Erl. Ed. 22, 226ff.; Berlin Ed. 7, 159ff.; Clemen Ed. 3, 294ff.

    New York.



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