The liturgy now in common use everywhere, like the preaching office, has a high, Christian origin. But just as the preaching office has been debased and impaired by spiritual tyrants, so also the liturgy has been corrupted by the hypocrites. Now as we do not abolish the preaching office on this account but desire to restore it again to its right and proper place, so it is not our intention to discontinue the liturgy but to restore it again to proper and correct usage.
Three great and serious misuses have entered into divine worship. The first, — God’s Word has been silenced, and only reading and singing remain in the churches. This is the worst misuse. The second, — When God’s Word had been silenced, there entered in its stead such a host of unchristian fables and lies, both in legends, songs and sermons, that it is a thing horrible to behold. The third, — Such divine service was performed as a work whereby God’s grace and salvation might be earned. The result of this was that faith disappeared and instead every one gave to churches, established foundations, and wanted to become priests, monks and nuns.
Now in order to do away with these misuses, it is necessary to know, first of all, that the Christian congregation never should assemble unless God’s Word is preached and prayer is made, no matter for how brief a time this may be. See <19A102> Psalm 101:2-3 — When the king and the people assemble for God’s grace, they are to proclaim God’s Name and praise. And Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:31 says, that in the congregation there is to be prophesying, teaching and admonishing. Therefore where God’s Word is not preached, it is better that one neither sing nor read, nor even come together.
This was the custom among the Christians at the time of the Apostles, and should also be the custom now. We should assemble daily in the early morning, say at four or five o’clock, and have God’s Word read, either by scholar or priest, or whoever it may be, in the same manner as the Lesson is still read at Matins; this should be done by one or two, or by one after the other, or by one choir after the other, as may seem most suitable.
Thereupon the preacher or whoever has been appointed, shall come forward and expound a part of the same lesson, so that all the others understand it, learn, and are admonished. The first of these Paul, in Corinthians 14:28, calls speaking with tongues. The other, he calls expounding or prophesying, or speaking with the sense or understanding.
And if this does not occur, the congregation is not benefited by the lesson, as has been the case until now in cloisters and other religious foundations, where they have only wasted their breath against the walls.
However, this Lesson should be taken from the Old Testament in this fashion: One of the books should be selected and a chapter or two, or half a chapter, should be read until all of it has been used. After that another book should be selected, and so on, until the entire Bible has been read through; and where one does not understand it, pass that by and glorify God. Thus through this daily use of, and training in, the Scriptures, the Christians will gain an intelligent knowledge of them and become familiar with them. For in this way, in former times, right excellent Christians were made, — virgins and martyrs, — and truly should continue to be made.
Now when the Lesson and its exposition have lasted a half hour or so, the congregation shall immediately unite in giving thanks to God, in praising Him, and in praying for the fruits of the Word. For this purpose the Psalms should be used and some good responsories and antiphons; but this all should be brief, so that everything may be completed in an hour, or in as long a time as may be desired; for one must not overload the souls so that they become weary and bored, in the same fashion as heretofore in the cloisters and institutions, where they loaded themselves with ass’ labor.
In like manner, gather again at evening around six or five. At this time the books of the Old Testament should be taken rip, one after another, namely the Prophets, in the same way as the books of Moses and the Histories are taken up in the morning. But since the New Testament is a book also, I use the Old Testament in the morning and the New Testament in the evening, or vice versa; and read, expound, praise, sing and pray in like manner as in the morning, also for an hour. For all this is to be done for the sake of God’s Word, to the end that it come into wide use and souls be uplifted and quickened and do not become careless and indifferent.
Should one desire to hold another such gathering once more during the day, after eating, this is entirely a matter of free choice.
Even if such daily services cannot be attended by the entire congregation, nevertheless the priests and the scholars and especially those whom one hopes will become good preachers and pastors should be present. And one should admonish them to perform this duty voluntarily, not of compulsion or with disinclination, or with the thought of meriting either temporal or eternal reward, but only to the glory of God and the neighbor’s good.
But on Sunday such gatherings shall be appointed for the entire congregation: these in addition to the daily gatherings of the smaller number; and at these times, as has been customary heretofore, Mass and Vespers shall be sung. But these services are to be so ordered that the congregation will hear preaching on both occasions, in the morning on the customary Gospel, in the evening on the Epistle, or it may be left to the choice of the preacher whether he will select one book or two for this purpose, whichever will seem to him the most profitable.
Now if anyone desires to receive the Sacrament at this time, it is to be administered to him; this can be arranged for properly in the usual order according to the circumstance of time and person.
The daily masses are certainly to be abolished, for the importance is in the Word and not in the masses. But should some desire the Sacrament on a day other than a Sunday, Mass is to be held, as devotion and time permit; for in this connection one cannot lay down either a law or a limit.
The singing in the Sunday Masses and Vespers may be retained. These parts are quite good and taken from the Scriptures; however one may lessen or increase their number. But it shall be the duty of the pastors and preachers to appoint the songs and Psalms to be used daily, morning and evening, appointing for every morning a Psalm, a good Responsory or Antiphon and a Collect, and for the evening, reading and singing by the congregation after the Lesson and its exposition. But the antiphons and responsories and collects and legends of the Saints and of the Cross, allow these to rest quietly for a while, until they have been purified; for there is a horrible amount of dirt in these.
All saints’ festivals are to be dropped, or where there is a good Christian legend, this may be added after the Gospel on Sunday as an example. But I allow the Festival of the Purification of Mary and of the Annunciation to remain; the Festivals of the Assumption and of the Nativity of Mary one must allow to remain a while longer even though the songs in them are not pure. The Festival of John the Baptist also is pure. Not one of the legends of the Apostles is pure, except St. Paul’s; therefore observance of these Apostle Festivals may be transferred to the (nearest) Sundays, or if preferred, they may be specially observed.
Further matters will be met and adjusted as the need arises from time to time. But the important thing is this, that everything be done so that the Word prevails and does not once more become a clamor or whine, and rattled off mechanically as it has been heretofore. It is better to abandon everything else except the Word. And there is no better practice or exercise than the Word; and the whole Scriptures show that this should have free course among the Christians; and Christ Himself, also, says, Luke 10:42, — One thing is needful, namely that Mary sit at the feet of Christ and hear His word daily. This is the best part, which she has chosen, and will never be taken away. It is an eternal Word; all the rest must pass away no matter how much work it gives Martha to do.
To this God help us. Amen.