FORMULA OF MASS AND COMMUNION FOR THE CHURCH AT WITTENBERG
[Formula Missae Et Communionis Pro Ecclesia Wlttembergensis]
Nicolaus Hausmann, pastor primarius of the Marienkirche at Zwickau and a most devoted friend of Luther, had written repeatedly to him requesting advice and direction in matters connected with church worship. One of these requests had been for an order for saying mass which would conform with the principles of the movement in which they both were so deeply concerned.
Luther had replied more or less promptly to all of Hausmann’s requests except the last, and only after repeated urging by letter, through Stephen Roth, who was studying theology at Wittenberg, and through other friends did Luther meet Hausmann’s hope and plea.
Luther sent Hausmann a copy of a pamphlet on another subject on November 13, 1523, and in the accompanying letter told him that he would send to him a copy of the form of mass which he proposed for the use of the Wittenberg church. This may have been ready for printing at the time of writing this letter, for a few weeks later, on December 4, Luther sent Hausmann a printed copy of the Formula missac et communionis pro ecclesia Wittembergensi. It reached him on December 11, and its arrival moved Hausmann to expressions of gratitude, joy, and satisfaction.
Luther inscribed this document to his cherished friend Hausmann. This was something more than a courtesy; it was an acknowledgment. Hausmann, gentle and kindly, not a leader but a faithful follower, loyal to the movement, was chief pastor of a thankless congregation located in the midst of the Munzer movement, and which showed the influence of Munzer teachings in its life.
Munzer had added a reform of the Mass and of the other services to his activities, and this had been pushed as zealously as his other interests. The effect of all this was felt in full force at Zwickau. Loyal Hausmann not only bore the burden of the heterodox teachings of these schwarmer but was forced to meet the demand for a reform in the services of his own church, inspired no doubt by the example of the radicals. This he realized had to come; but he would not, could not, model it after the Munzer example; nor was he so constituted that he could take the initiative successfully; and still more, his loyalty to Luther would not permit him to undertake action without consultation with him in every important detail. Hausmann’s own effort in preparing a “reformed” service had been submitted to Luther for criticism, but evidently did not meet with Luther’s full approval, and probably was never used. To this he added other requests from time to time, all of which Luther answered gladly and fairly.
Toward the close of 1523, reform of the cultus in general and of the Mass in particular, was not only in the air but taking definite form at many places. Carlstadt’s activities at Wittenberg, Munzer’s at a number of places, and other scattered efforts representing more or less honest endeavors had served to reveal the necessity of a straightforward consideration of the whole question and also acted as a warning, that if the matter were not met by those who were in a position to advise and control, the result would be a riot of individualism and work great injury to the cause.
This forced Luther to enter this field, and some months prior to this time he had issued his first general writing on this specific subject, the Von ordenung gottis diensts inn der gemeyne. The position taken here, at all events, according to Luther’s opinion one may imagine, was a beginning, and sufficient for the moment, since it revealed the limit to which he was ready to go at that time, — a very cautious attitude but also one ready to meet any further issue which might arise when it did arise. He said as much in this writing.
The movement for reform in cultus having grown in purpose and strength and also spread over a wider territory, and the question having demanded a detailed answer, which the Von ordenung did not give and never was expected to give, Luther again writes to meet the problem.
One may suppose that the very spirit, which seemed to possess his adversaries, the schwarmer, had an effect upon Luther in this particular situation as well. Luther’s attitude in general to the cultus of the Church was appreciative; but it also was critical and tinged with the free spirit of liberty, ready to cast away, also to make new if need be. He easily could have been both radical and revolutionary here: all seemed ready to this end.
There are many assertions and denunciations in his writings and sermons to prove this. But did this self-same spirit in others, who broke with his teachings, act much as a counter-irritant and serve to hold him, purely by a sort of contrariness, to the conservative? It is not an impossible point of view! — but it is not the whole story.
Viewed by the Romanists Luther was as much a radical and rebel as was Munzer to Luther’s point of view. In the latter situation the dislike was intense; and anything that Munzer might do, excellent though it might be, would suffer accordingly; nothing good could come from that source!
Luther might regard Munzer’s reform of the services as an exhibition of his destructive radicalism, but the Romanists put Luther’s statements and efforts in the added class of sacrilege.
But Luther’s position was the outcome of his liberty found in the Gospel, liberty safely trammeled by the Gospel; and this holy Word was the life, guide, inspiration, and norm, — not the tradition or pronunciamento of the Church. Against such things as the latter he was an honest rebel; he might be revolutionary, but after all it would be the revolution of the Word rebelling against the bondage of man-made interpretation and the shackles with which man would bind it to his own purposes. Reaction would not carry Luther any farther than the Gospel would go, — yen the “new” would be as old or as young as it was!
So he meets this issue in this spirit of liberty, and behold, he is not a revolutionary as the world defines, but a conservative, because his spirit is bound by the glorious liberty and harmony of the Word. The worshiping Church is the Church that glorifies this Word in all its grace and truth in Christ, in all its forgiving love and fellowship for man. The worshiping children of the Church are those who find their all in and take their all from the Word. When the Church or men bring and add their contributions to this, which do not spring from, center in, or glorify this Divine purpose, then the road away has been entered: man follows man, seeks man, glorifies man, and not God] But when the Church or men inspired by that Word bring their gifts and add their adoring offerings that God may truly be praised by His creature and man may be led to see Him and approach Him in that praise, then the Way is broad and fair, for it is the Way of Life in God and for God.
Luther valued the traditional worship of the Church from both of these angles. On the one side, the pure and true, the ancient, that of all time, that which glorified God in His Word, that which blessed man in his approach to God, this could not, dared not, be lost; and the vehicles which carried this, whether Liturgy, rite or form, were to be treasured for the high office they performed. On the other side that which bore the mark of man selfwilled and self-seeking and self-glorifying was veritable chaff, beautiful though it might be. To hold, preserve, the one was a continued blessing; to cast the other away was true gain! This is essentially the motivation of Luther’s “reforming” process in matters liturgical.
Luther’s Formula missae et communionis is the Ordo missae of the Roman Church “reformed” according to this process. Acquaintance with the Order of the Mass is a prerequisite to a consideration of Luther’s attitude and of the results of his work as they appear in the Formula missae.
There is something more back of a statement such as this which follows, than appears on the surface. Luther writes early in the Formula, “We assert, it is not now, nor has it ever been, in our mind to abolish entirely the whole formal cultus of God, but to cleanse that which is in use, which has been vitiated by most abominable additions, and to point out a pious use.”
This is an extremely interesting revelation of Luther’s point of view and declaration of purpose. It is not new; he had said as much some months before in the Von ordenung, only in other words; and what is more, — other evidence to the contrary, — he reiterates this in later years.
Back of this is the Luther of the old Church, against which he moves only in love that she may be cleansed and restored to the Divine plan and purpose. He recognizes the ancient glory of the Church’s Liturgy, the heritage handed on from age to age; the helpfulness of the external in expressing the spiritual, in translating this into terms easily comprehended by the common man. And with a spirit which treasures the real, the good, the helpful, — that which he had grown to love, — he seeks by careful, discriminating, and gentle touch to restore the ancient purity of this age-old worship. Further, he views that which the centuries have added, which conduce to true worship, as relative to this end and likewise to be continued. The standard is Christocentric. The form, the rite, the ceremony, these are not to be cast aside if they center in Him and from there shed their rays upon the hearts of men.
In the Formula Luther confines his effort entirely to the Order of the Mass, — the Service for the Celebration of Holy Communion; generalizations such as those found in the Van ordenung, or consideration of other matters of liturgical character unless they are related specifically to the Mass find no place in this writing. This is the worship of the Church, The Liturgy; and it is brought into harmony with the teaching he has been inculcating; and it is primarily intended for the uplift, and, finally, for the intelligent participation of the common man. Wittenberg will test the experiment; those interested may follow and try it out likewise, or if they are better able, improve on this: there is no compulsion to follow Luther’s lead. This in the face of the fact, that the many diverse attempts at ordering the Evangelical Mass brought Luther into this work, and that he stands out for a unity of practice as preeminently desirable!
The method in which Luther considers this matter is illustrative of his fundamental attitude.
He begins, after the introductory paragraphs, with a statement of our Lord’s Institution and the observance of the Holy Supper under the Apostles, — “most simply, piously, and without additions.” Here is the pristine Mass, — the supposition being that it was without formal liturgy or external rite. Then he writes of the early entrance into this “observance” of certain additions, — actions or formal functions, such as prayers, psalms, kyrie, epistles, gospels, etc. Clearly this is a reference to and an acceptance of the evolution of the Liturgy of the Mass and also an acknowledgment of what man contributed to its development. But he grants such things place gladly; they are “commendable,” because they serve to holy purpose and are “pure.” Throughout he asserts the standard whereby he is judging, “ancient purity.” These things are the treasures bequeathed by the Fathers.
But there carne a time when men departed from the ancient simplicity and began to change and add and build according to their own selfish purpose.
It was then that the abomination entered the Temple of God: this is the highly organized Mass with all of its mechanical and ceremonial furnishings, in particular that abomination of abominations, the Canon.
Man had done violence to the ancient Divine purpose and forced the man- made Mass to serve base ends. The light of the Gospel reveals all such abominations. “We will test all things; what is good, we will retain.”
This standard of judgment is made effective immediately; for Luther proceeds to consider the Ordo missae part after part, in the process of formulating the Liturgy which becomes his recommendation, eventually a formal Order of Worship, but not a new liturgy but the traditional Liturgy of the Church simplified, purified, restored.
In utter silence Luther passes by the Preparation of the Priest, which precedes the Introit in the Ordo. This means rejection; for it could not by any chance pass muster with its evident tinge of sacerdotalism; further it did not measure up to the standard of antiquity.
Then, starting with the Introit and going as far as the beginning of the Canon, Luther considers every step in the progress of the Ordo individually, subjecting these one after the other, to the test of the principles which he had laid down, and commenting upon them accordingly.
The proper Introits for Lord’s Days and the Greater Festivals are agreeable and therefore continued. These were scriptural. But preference is expressed for the use of the entire Psalm, — (this was the original use of the ancient Church), — from which the Introits were developed.
Here some comments relative to the Church Year enter. A strong desire to get away from and to simplify the multiplicity of observances due to the many saints’ days and to centralize all worship in the great Center of all, Christ, is evident in the method observed at Wittenberg. “If there is anything worthy in them (the saints’ days) we think they should be referred to in the Lord’s Day preaching.” This quite a departure from the customary liturgical “commemoration.” Further such Festivals of the Virgin as the Purification and the Annunciation are observed as Festivals of Christ.
Another interesting and centralizing use, which also tends to greater simplification, is suggested in repeating the Nativity propers on the Days of St. Stephen and St. John, which follow immediately in the Christmas Octave, instead of the customary propers of those Days. But this is suggestion only, not rule; and one must regard the sensibilities of those to whom great and sudden changes in observances to which they have been long accustomed might be harmful, lest they be offended thereby and their spirit of, and joy in, worship be disturbed. However, observances which are purely of human invention are abrogated without ceremony.
The Kyrie, according to its customary use and melodies and much beloved by the common people, and the Gloria in excelsis are continued. The latter is to be used uninterruptedly throughout the Church Year, although the “bishop” is free to interrupt its use at certain times as in the past. The proper Collect, “if it is pious,” is preserved, but other “commemorations” are discontinued at this place.
The liturgical lessons, the Epistles and the Gospels, while satisfactory to a certain degree, seem to present some difficulties to Luther, even while he favors their continuance. There should be some revision here sometime, in order to emphasize “faith” and get away from the predominating, present emphasis on “works.” The hope is that this will come in the future when the Mass shall be celebrated entirely in the vernacular; meanwhile vernacular preaching safeguards the situation.
Luther favors the retention of the simple Gradual and the Alleluia in connection with these liturgical lessons. The longer Graduals or Tracts are to be discontinued; nor are there to be ceremonial variations here, such as in themselves distinguish one day from another or one season from another. The idea seems to be to have uniform rites — a uniform service Liturgy except for the varying major propers, — throughout the entire year. Here again is another contribution toward simplification, and once more the emphasis is laid on the reason, pure worship and edification.
Ceremonial accompaniment to the reading of the Gospel, lights and incense, is left free.
Following the Gospel comes the Nicene Creed. This “is not displeasing.”
The Sermon may then follow here, or it may precede the Introit. Over against the former place, which is historic, Luther favors the innovation of Sermon before Mass, because the “Gospel is the voice calling in the wilderness and bidding unbelievers to faith.”
Up to this point in the Mass, i.e., the Sermon after the Creed, complete freedom prevails. This is the “human” contribution! — but one unto edification; it is not binding. The further progress, the celebration itself, centers in the Divine Institution. Here, too, the ancient distinction between the Missa catechumenorum and the Missa fidelium is unconsciously shown.
The first emphatic outburst against any part of the Ordo comes on reaching the Offertory. Now follows “that complete abomination”; — “everything sounds and reeks of oblation.” The Offertory and the entire Canon are repudiated. According to Luther’s principles this could not be otherwise; but observe how Luther proceeds to winnow and preserve what he judges pure and ancient and to be centered in the one and all important tradition, the Divine Institution.
Before he writes of this in detail he notes directions concerning the Preparation of the Elements, which is to take place during the Creed or after the Sermon. Connected with this is a short discussion on whether the wine should be mixed with water or be used pure. Luther’s inclination is to use pure wine and he states his reasons. But this, however, seems to be a rather hesitating break with ancient custom and tradition.
Then follows the Order of the Communion Office proper. The Salutation, Sursum corda and Vere dignum remain, but the Proper Preface is omitted.
Immediately after the Vere dignum come the Words of Institution. These are quoted according to the Gospel (Vulgate) and not according to the Missale Ramanum. After the Verba the Sanctus is sung, and at the Benedictus qui venit the Bread and Chalice are elevated. This, the Elevation, is retained “chiefly on account of the infirm who might be greatly offended by the sudden change.” Specifically, the Verba are the Consecration; although their immediate union with the Preface can be interpreted as making the Eucharistic Thanksgiving and the Verba the form of consecration. The Lords Prayer, introduced by the customary Introduction, is then prayed; but the Embolism and the Fraction and Commixture and the incidental signings with the Cross are to be omitted.
The Pax is said immediately after the Lord’s Prayer by the bishop facing the people, as in ancient times; for the Pax is “the Gospel voice announcing remission of sins.” This interpretation permits the deduction, that the Pax acts as the absolution prior to communion. Agnus dei is then sung; the while the bishop communicates himself first, then the people. Preceding the Administration, the celebrant may say one of the ancient prayers of the Mass (first words quoted) but the pronoun referring to the celebrant is to be made plural referring to all communicants. At the Distribution, the ancient Form of Administration is preserved; but this likewise is to have the plural pronoun.
In concluding the Office the customary Communion (chant) may be sung if the bishop desires, but the varying Post Communion (Collect) is displaced by two collects of the Mass, the latter having the complete Termination.
Mass is then concluded with the Salutation, Benedicamus with Alleluia and the customary Benediction. Variant forms of this last, which may be used, are the Aaronitic Benediction and one composed of Psalm verses.
This is Luther’s simplified, purified Order of the Mass and Communion.
The departures from the current Roman Ordo are comparatively few; probably not as many as one might be led to expect; but those that are made are positive and all-important. The accumulated mists and clouds are driven away to reveal the Sacrament for You surrounded with thanksgiving, adoration, prayer, and final thanksgiving and benediction.
It is to be noted that Luther’s effort is not centered in either destruction or construction. Some may say “Destruction” when his determined action at the Offertory and the Canon is met; others may say “Construction” when they point to a changing about of certain integral parts of the original structure. But neither of these entered into the situation as primary or as definite purposes later on. Luther did not have any desire to construct a new Liturgy; such a thing was utterly out of harmony with both his spirit and feeling. His Formula is the Roman Ordo simplified, purified, reformed, — and he felt he had every right to do just this, for it was the Church’s expression that he was seeking, not the Roman Church’s. And his confessed, purposeful trend backward to the purity of ancient uses is the triumphant forward going of the living Gospel into the lives of men, carrying the guarantees of faith’s union with the ever-present, living Christ.
It is sacramental and sacrificial; but sacrificial in the spirit of pure devotion, not in the Roman sense; what there is of sacrifice is the prayer, praise, and thanksgiving of man to the Dispenser of the Sacramental Gift. Luther held himself strictly to this, — to glorify Christ and make him the triumphant All-in-all and to bring to man the blessed privilege of joyful communion with Him in His instituted action for this end. That the Liturgy which was theirs met this purpose, he demonstrated; for is not the Liturgy one of the most practical expressions of doctrine? That it could be thus demonstrated solved the problem of worship itself and saved the situation among people who were not ready for the introduction of innovations of his proposing, — provided he was disposed so to do! — in order to replace customs he condemned.
Naturally Luther viewed the Liturgy only from his point of view, — not as a liturgical document; — it must be the vital expression of faith and its approach; it dare not be mere form or rite or even a “spiritual” mechanism.
Here he faced the building which the worship-spirit of the Church had erected through the ages, mighty in its accumulated deposits, mighty in its well-nigh world-wide use. He faced a structure built age after age into a harmony and unity which it would be folly to disturb save to preserve it and express it in a better, purer way than men were now expressing it.
Could this be done? Could this be made to express again what the Church had lovingly, joyfully confessed therein the pure teaching of the Gospel?
His Formula is his attempt to demonstrate that it can be done; and in doing so, he also sought to preserve the unity and harmony of the structure even though at times he leaves but the barest framework.
This is particularly true at the Consecration, where his reaction is most marked and his hand falls the heaviest. Did he follow blindly the formula ascribed to St. Augustine, “The Word is added to the Element and makes the Sacrament,” and then accept the dictum of Pope Gregory that the Consecration is effected by and in the Verba? At all events, to Luther the Verba alone are all that is required to “consecrate” the Elements for communion and to “validate” the Sacrament to the response of the believing Church to her Lord’s “This do.” Further, this much, and perhaps, this much only, is Apostolic!
That uncertainty of just what to do here existed in his mind seems to be borne out by the transference of the Sanctus to a place after the Verbs and by the paring down of the Preface to the barest possible introduction to the Verba; for introduction it is more than eucharistic thanksgiving. Yet he seems to feel that this “action” is formal, ceremonial in the highest, purest sense, on the part of the believing Church; not in the sense of a magnificent celebration but in the sense of profound adoration in all humble simplicity of communion with the Lord. The innigkeit of the spiritual, the personal, — believing and joyful, — is seeking expression here, and yet he strives to clothe this historically! Something must take the place of the abhorred Canon!
The problem was more than difficult; it was one that held grave dangers, — because of Luther’s utter abomination of the Canon; and again one is astonished to find that the determined swing away from the accustomed, inspired by such deep-set, conscientious and at times violently expressed feelings and opinions, has left as much remaining as this which is still preserved in his Formula!
That this is so was not because Luther feared or hesitated to change, but because he recognized dangers into which false moves would lead immediately. The greatest safety-check, next to the all-inspiring, allcontrolling Word, remained sure and true: Luther still felt the reality of the historic Church, — the Church of all ages, Christ’s Church, his Church, not the Roman!
After the outline of the Mass has been completed, Luther considers a number of practical matters related to its celebration. First comes the method of consecrating and receiving the species; whether both elements are to be consecrated at once and administered, or the one element consecrated and administered immediately and then the other element, — “after which manner Christ seems to have acted,” — is left as a matter of individual choice.
Then there is a careful discussion of rites and ceremonies. The one thing indispensable is the “Words of Consecration uncorrupted;” other matters are wholly free and may be changed at will! But all such things may be observed voluntarily; they dare not be made a law or be required as established indispensable forms. The Ancient Church affords the true example here. Luther even goes so far as to say that “if they have appointed something as a law in this matter, it shall not be observed.” Nor are others to be judged when their rites differ from ours; each may abound in his own opinion, but each must strive to understand the other and yield to him in that understanding. The external rite does not commend us to God, but the inner unity of faith and love does!
Use of the customary Mass vestments is left free, with the caution that “pomp and excess of splendor be absent.” If used, these vestments are not to be “consecrated” in the former ritualistic fashion, but they may be blessed “by that general benediction, by which it is taught that every good creature of God is sanctified through word and prayer.” This last established a new principle of practice in the Church of the Reformation; over against the perfunctory ceremonialism of Rome is placed the Evangelic benediction in its simplicity and spirituality.
With this the major portion of the writing ends; the concluding part carries the title “Concerning the Communion of the People” and discusses a variety of practical matters, most of which are related to the celebration of the Holy Supper.
Private masses are to be discontinued; a celebration is not to be held without communicants: this would be as ridiculous as preaching the Gospel without a congregation present, to the rocks and trees and empty air!
Notification of intention to commune is required. The reason for this is something more than good order; for the bishop or ministrant is to use this opportunity to inquire into the prospective communicants’ knowledge and understanding of what he desires to do and as to his fitness to do so.
Should he not give satisfactory evidence of this he is to be excluded; and while moral conditions must be considered he is not to be excluded if he shows repentance; for the Holy Supper is for just such as these.
Continuance or discontinuance of Private Confession is left to the decision of the bishop; and the customary rule of preparation by fasting and prayer is to be considered a matter of liberty. The inner spirit longing for the blessing, the repentant spirit seeking consolation and strength, these are far more vital and necessary. These suggestions relative to a pastoral, personal ministration are a complete turn away from the old, formal, definitely ordered requirements, and they emphasize the intimate, helpful contact which is to obtain between pastor and communicant. It is now to be soulcure under the ministration of the blessed Gospel of the forgiving, welcoming Christ, not a hair-splitting, soul-burdening, penitential system.
Luther then discusses the question of the administration of both forms, i.e., the elements, in his own typical way and at quite some length. Both forms are to be administered. It is not a matter of argument, but of the Scripture; nor is this to be postponed any longer. One is not to wait for a council to determine this matter; it has been determined by highest Authority. And if men will not accede to that, and must wait for the decree of a council, thus preferring and honoring the opinion of man more than the Divine instruction, then the council is to be ignored. And then under such circumstances should the council say, “Both forms,” then we will use one!
But the authority of the Word is supreme, and therefore there is no necessity to wait longer or require man’s opinion.
The question of celebrating Mass in the vernacular arises only incidentally in this document; there are no definite expressions, save a hope expressed, interjected in passing. At one place vernacular preaching is mentioned, and here vernacular songs. Apparently Latin continues to be the language of the Mass. Of course the hope is to have Mass, all services, in the language of the people in order that all may know and understand in what they are engaging. An important change such as this could not be hurried nor accomplished quickly. Luther realized, probably better than many others, how much was needed to this end. Here he writes of singing vernacular songs after certain Latin parts of the Mass. This is to be done by the congregation; and certain well-known hymns are suggested. Such as these must serve until gifted poets could provide others. This, too, would have to serve as a beginning; it was, at least, a promise of what was to come in fuller measure in time.
Luther recognized outstanding educational values in the services, in addition to the spiritual. He recommended the continuance of the Daily Hours, in particular Matins and Vespers, because these afforded excellent opportunity for the active participation of the youth, especially the boys.
They were to read the Lessons and the Psalter, and to sing the Orders as well. But here again matters were to be simplified; the bishop is to be responsible for the needed weekly appointments.
The Formula is then brought to a close with a personal word to Hausmann.
The Formula is the most important of the three documents dealing with Divine Worship which Luther issued. It carried weight, coming from him, which no other document of similar purpose could equal; and its influence was far-reaching, continuing even after the appearance of the very popular Deutsche Messe. Its historicity and conservative spirit in themselves served to check the marked tendency to looseness and a complete break with the past. It had its defects, but it had its outstanding accomplishments; and it revealed Luther as a quiet, appreciative workman, holding his strong feelings well in check and not permitting them to wreck the beauties of the heritage which belonged to all by biased or intemperate action. It will ever remain a silent witness to the positive claim of the Church of the Reformation, — that the Movement was not to institute a new Church, but was a consecrated cleansing and reforming of the Church — a continuance of the pure and true! Here, through his pen, the historic past continued to live in the present.
Hausmann soon expressed the wish that this Formula, which had been published in Latin only, might be available in German also. Luther commissioned Paul Speratus to translate it. This translation appeared in the course of a few months, and was accepted as the authorized German version of this important document. Almost at the same time a second translation, this one anonymous, was issued by a Nurnberg press. Allowing for the difference in the personalities of the translators, the two German texts are very close to the original. These texts are important to any student of the Formula in that the translation will many times be interpretative of the Latin.
It was to be expected that the opposition, Rome, would not remain silent over this proposal of Luther. Emser was the first to attempt a reply, and issued his pamphlet in 1524. This was typical both of Emser’s spirit and methods. The second reply was a well prepared and well written pamphlet by Clichtoveus; this appeared in 1526. Neither of these writers admitted any principle of Luther to be correct or that his motive or purpose was devout and honest. Rome could not admit any of this without betraying her own position and admitting the truth of the assertions of the leaders in the Reformation Movement.
The example and influence of the Formula live in the Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church in America today. f4 The translation has been made from an original print, the property of the writer. Constant reference was made to the texts appearing in the original Jena edition and in the Weimar edition, and to originals of the German translations also in the writer’s library.
PAUL ZELLER STRODACH
Bibliography — Original; — First Edition, Wittenberg, 1523, quarto, Italian cursive type.
Title page and end-piece, woodcuts by Hans Cranach; printed by Nic.
Schirlentz, Writer’s library.
Edition , Wittenberg, 1524, 32 mo, printed in cursive text.
Krauth Memorial Library, Matthew Airy, Philadelphia.
Jena edition, (1556), Vol. II, p. 556ff Weimar edition, 12: 197ff. Text 205ff Erlangen , Op. Lat., 7:lff Clemen , 2:427ff Daniel , Codex Liturgicus, 2:80ff Richter , Kirchen Ordnungen, 1:2ff Sehling , Kirchen Ordnungen, I-4 Hering , Hfilfsbuch, Lietzmann , Kleine Texte, No. 36, p. 11ff Rietschel Lehrbuch d. Lit., 1:399ff Jacoby , Die Liturgik der Reformatoren (1871), I, 1121, p. 256ff.
Paul Speratus’ German translation of the Formula missae, Ein weyse Christlich Mess zu halten vnd zum tisch Gottes zu gehen.
Original ; — 1st Edition, Wittenberg, 1524; printed by L. Cranach.
Jena (1560) III:269 Erlangen , 7:11 ff Walch , 10: 2743ff St. Louis , 10:2230ff An anonymous translation originating at Nurnberg: Die weysse der Messz, vnnd geniessung des Hochwirdigen Sacraments.
Englished by H. E. Jacobs, The Lutheran Church Review, Vol. 8, July 1889, p. 226ff; Vol. 9, January, 1890, p. 72ff.
Richard and Painter, Christian Worship, p. 164ff.
In reply to the Formula missae Emser wrote: Missae christianorum contra Lutheranam Missandi formulam assertio. 1524.
Clichtoveus wrote: Propugnaculum ecclesiae adversus Lutheranos. 1526. P.Z.S.
FORMULA MISSAE ET COMMUNIONIS PRO ECCLESIA WITTEMBERGENSIS VENERABILI IN CHRISTO D. NICOLAO HAUSMAN EPISCOPO CYGNEAE ECCLESIAE IN CHRISTO SANCTO MART. LUTHER FORMULA OF MASS AND COMMUNION FOR THE CHURCH AT WITTENBERG By Martin Luther Wittenberg MDXXIII f15 To the Venerable in Christ D. Nicholas Hausman Bishop of the Church at Zwickau in Christ blessed.
Grace and peace in Christ he wishes (him). Thus far I have tried by means of books and sermons among the people to call their hearts away from godless opinions of ceremonies, thinking I would be doing something Christian and salutary if I would be the cause whereby the abomination, which Satan has set up in the holy place through the man of sin, might be removed without violence. Therefore, I have undertaken nothing either by force or command; nor have I changed old things for new, always being hesitant and fearful on account of those souls weak in the faith from whom the old and accustomed is not to be taken away suddenly or among whom a new and untried method of worshiping God is to be introduced; and especially on account of those light and fastidious spirits who, without faith, without reason, like unclean swine, rush wildly about and rejoice only in the novel, and as soon as the novelty has worn off forthwith become disgusted with it. A species of men than whom, as in other things, nothing is more troublesome than their sort; so, too, in sacred things they are most troublesome and intolerable. Nevertheless, even though I am moved with wrath, I am compelled to suffer them unless I would desire to have the Gospel itself taken away from the public.
But now since there is hope that the hearts of many have been enlightened and strengthened by the grace of God, and since the matter itself demands that the scandals be removed from the Kingdom of Christ, something must be dared in the name of Christ. For it is right that we provide for the few, lest while we fear constantly the levity and abuse of some others we provide for none at all, and while we wish to guard against the future scandals of such as these, we strengthen all of their abominations.
Therefore, most excellent Nicolas, since you have requested it so frequently, we will busy ourself concerning some pious form of saying mass (as they say) and of administering communion. And thus will we do: we will no longer rule hearts by word of doctrine only, but we will put our hand to it also, and make that effective in the public administration; nevertheless, prejudicing no one, nor forbidding any one to embrace or follow some other method. Indeed we beg through Christ, from the heart, if something better shall be revealed to those who are in advance of us in these things, that they command us to be silent so that by common work we may aid the common cause. f17 In the first place we assert, it is not now, nor has it ever been, in our mind to abolish entirely the whole formal cultus of God, but to cleanse that which is in use, which has been vitiated by most abominable additions, and to point out a pious use. For this cannot be denied, that masses and the communion of bread and wine are a rite divinely instituted by Christ, which was observed, first under Christ Himself, then under the apostles, most simply and piously and without any additions. But so many human inventions have been added to it in course of time, that nothing of the mass and communion has come down to our age except the name.
Now the additions of the early fathers, who are said to have prayed one or two psalms in a subdued voice before blessing the bread and wine, were commendable: such Athanasius and Cyprian were thought to have been. Then they who added Kyrie Eleison, these also pleased; for we read that under Basil the Great Kyrie Eleison was in public use by the whole people. Now the reading of the Epistles and Gospels was and is necessary, unless it be a fault to read them in a language which is not understood by the common people. Afterward when chanting began, the psalms were changed into the Introit: then the Angelic Hymn was added, the Gloria in excelsis et in terra pax; also the Graduals and Alleluia and Nicene Creed, the Sanctus, Agnus dei and Cornmunio. All these are such as cannot be censured, especially those which are sung as de tempore or Lord’s Day uses. These days only testify to ancient purity, the Canon excepted.
But when there was license to add and to change as it suited anyone, then because of the tyranny of avarice and sacerdotal ambition, those altars and images of Baal and all gods began to be placed in the temple of the Lord by our impious kings, that is, the bishops and pastors (shepherds). Here impious Ahaz took away the brazen altar and erected another brought from Damascus. But I am speaking about the Canon, that mangled and abominable thing gathered from much filth and scum. Then the Mass began to be a sacrifice; the Offertories and paid for prayers were added; then Sequences and Proses were inserted in the Sanctus and the Gloria in excelsis. Then the Mass began to be a priestly monopoly, exhausting the wealth of the whole world, deluging the whole earth like a vast desert with rich, lazy, powerful and lascivious celebates. Then came masses for the dead, for travelers, for riches, and who can name the titles alone for which the Mass was made a sacrifice?
Nor do they cease to add to the Canon today: now it is for these feasts, then for others; now these actiones, then other communicantes are approved. And I will keep quiet about the memores, the commemoration of the living and of the dead, not yet brought to its end.
And what shall I say of the external additions, vestments, vessels, candles, palls; then the organ and everything musical; images? There is scarcely one of the handicrafts in all the world, which does not contribute a great part of its activity to, and derive its gain from, the Mass. f43 Therefore, let these be passed by, and also let them pass, — all such abominations being revealed by the Gospel, — until they be entirely abolished. In the meanwhile we will test all things; what is good, we will retain. But in this book we omit saying that the Mass is (not) a sacrifice or a good work, because we have taught about it sufficiently at other places. We accept it as Sacrament, or Testament, or Blessing as in Latin, or Eucharist as in Greek, or the Table of the Lord, or the Lord’s Supper, or the Lord’s Memorial, or Communion, or by whatever pious name you please, so long as it be not polluted by the name of sacrifice or work; and we will set forth the rite according to which, as it seems to us, it should be used.
In the first place, we approve and preserve the introits for the Lord’s Day and for the Festivals of Christ, such as Easter, Pentecost, Nativity, although we prefer the Psalms from which they were taken as of old; but now we agree to the received usage. But if any desire to approve the introits for Apostles’ Days, for Feasts of the Virgin and of other saints, we do not condemn this, if they have been chosen from Psalms and other Scriptures. We, of Wittenberg, seek to celebrate only on Lord’s Days and on Festivals of the Lord, abrogating completely the festivals of all of the saints; or if there is anything worthy in them we think they should be referred to in the Lord’s Day preaching. We regard the Festivals of the Purification and of the Annunciation as Festivals of Christ, like the Epiphany and the Circumcision. In place of the Festivals of St. Stephen f50 and of St. John, the Evangelist, it pleases us to use the office of the Nativity. Let the Festivals of the Holy Cross be anathema. Let others act according to their own consciences, or according to the infirmity of others, — whatever the Spirit may suggeSt. In the second place, we accept Kyrie Eleison as it has been used customarily, with the various melodies for the different seasons, together with the Angelic Hymn, Gloria in excelsis, which follows; nevertheless its use rests on the judgment of the bishop, or, how often he desires its omission. f56 In the third place, the Oratio (prayer), or Collect which follows, if it is pious, (and those appointed for the Lord’s Days usually are), should be preserved in its accustomed use; but there should be but one. After this the Epistle lesson. Certainly the time has not yet come to attempt revision here, as nothing ungodly is read. But something seems to be needed, since those parts of the Epistles of Paul in which faith is taught are rarely read, but most frequently those parts dealing with morals and exhortations. While the originator of the Epistles seems to have been a singularly unlearned and superstitious friend of works, the office required the rather that, for the greater part, those sections in which faith in Christ is taught, be appointed. This certainly may be seen more frequently in the Gospels, whoever has been the originator of those lessons. But in the meantime vernacular preaching will supply this lack. If it shall come to pass in the future that Mass shall be celebrated in the vernacular (which may Christ grant!), attention must be given so that Epistles and Gospels, chosen from the best and more weighty parts of these writings, be read in the Mass.
In the fourth place, the Gradual of two verses, likewise with the Allehuia, or both, should be sung as the bishop decides. But the Quadragesima Graduals and the like, which are longer than two verses, any one who wishes may sing these in his own home. In church, we do not wish to extinguish the spirit of the faithful with tedious things. It is not fitting to distinguish the Quadragesima, or the Greater Week, or the Feria Sexta, with rites other than those customary elsewhere, lest we seem to banter and ridicule Christ further with half a mass and the one part of the Sacrament. For A11eluia is the perpetual voice of the Church, just as the memorial of His (Christ’s) passion and victory is perpetual. f72 In the fifth place, we allow no Sequences or Proses, unless it please the bishop to use the short one for the Nativity of Christ, Grates nunc omnes. Nor are there hardly any which are redolent of the Spirit save those of the Holy Spirit: Sancti Spiritus and Veni Sancte Spiritus, f78 which one may sing after breakfast or at Vespers or at Mass (if the bishop pleases).
In the sixth place, the Gospel lection follows, where we prohibit neither candles nor censing. But we do not demand this; let this be free.
In the seventh place, the custom of singing the Nicene Creed is not displeasing. Likewise concerning vernacular preaching, we are of the opinion that it does not matter whether this is done after the Symbolum or before the Introit of the Mass, although there is a reason why it might be more aptly done before Mass, because the Gospel is the voice calling in the wilderness and bidding unbelievers to faith.
The Mass indeed should be the use of the Gospel and also the Communion of the Table of the Lord, which certainly belongs to the faithful and is fitting to be celebrated privately; but nevertheless that reason does not bind us who are free, especially because all things which are done in the Mass up to the Symbolum are ours and are free, not exacted by God, on which account they do not necessarily pertain to the Mass.
In the eighth place, there follows that complete abomination, into the service of which all that precedes in the Mass has been forced, whence it is called Offerforium, and on account of which nearly everything sounds and reeks of oblation. In the midst of these things those words of life and salvation have been placed, just like in times past the ark of the Lord was placed in the temple of idols next to Dagon. And there is no Israelite there who is able either to approach or lead back the ark, until it has made its enemies infamous, smiting them on the back with eternal shame, and has compelled them to send it away, which is a parable for the present time. Therefore repudiating all those things which smack of sacrifice and of the Offertory, together with the entire Canon, let us retain those things which are pure and holy, and then we will order our Mass in this fashion.
I. During the Creed or after the Canon, let bread and wine be prepared in the customary way for consecration. Except that I am not yet fixed in my mind as to whether or not water should be mixed with the wine, f91 although! rather incline to the preparation of pure wine, because the indication strikes me as wrong which Isaiah advances in chapter I, “Your wine,” he says, “is mixed with water.” For pure wine symbolizes beautifully the purity of the teaching of the Gospel. Then, too, nothing has been poured out for us save the blood of Christ only, unmixed with ours, of which we make commemoration here. Neither can the dream of those stand who say that our union with Christ is here symbolized, the commemoration of which union we do not make here. Nor are we united before the shedding of His blood, otherwise at the same time we would be celebrating the pouring out of our own blood with the blood of Christ for ourselves. Nevertheless in opposition to liberty, I will not introduce a superstitious law. Christ will not care very much about this, nor are these matters worthy of contention. Enough foolish contention over this has been engaged in by the Roman and Greek Churches as also in many other matters. And because some assert that blood and water flowed from the side of Christ, that does not prove anything. For that water signifies something other than what they wish to be signified by that mixed water.
Nor was that mixed with the blood. Moreover the figure proves nothing, and the example does not stand; hence as a human invention it is held to be free. f93
II. The bread and the wine having been prepared, then let the order be in this manner: The Lord be with you. Response: And with thy spirit. Lift up (your) hearts. Response: Let us lift them to the Lord. Let us give thanks unto our Lord God. Response: It is meet and right. It is truly meet and right, just and salutary for us to give thanks to Thee always and everywhere, Holy Lord, Father Almighty, Eternal God, through Christ our Lord.
III. Then. …Who the day before He suffered took bread, giving thanks, broke and gave to His disciples, saying, Take, eat. This is my body, which is given for you.
Similarly also the cup, after He supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood which is poured out for you and for many in remission of sins. As often as ye shall do this, do it in memory of me. f100 I wish these words of Christ, allowing a moderate pause after the Preface, to be recited in the same tone of voice in which the Lord’s Prayer is sung at another place in the Canon; so that it will be possible for those standing by to hear, although in all these things liberty is allowed to pious minds to recite these words either silently or audibly. f104
IV. The Consecration ended, let the choir sing the Sanctus, and when the Benedictus is sung, let the bread and chalice be elevated f108 according to the rite in use up to this time, chiefly on account of the infirm who might be greatly offended by the sudden change in this more noted rite in the Mass, especially where they have been taught through vernacular sermons what is sought by this elevation. f109
V. After this the Lord’s Prayer is read. Thus: Let us pray: Taught by thy saving precepts, etc., omitting the prayer following: Deliver us, we beseech, with all signs, which they were wont to make over the host and with the host over the chalice; nor shall the host be broken f116 or mixed in the chalice. But immediately after the Lord’s Prayer shall be said, The Peace of the Lord, etc, which is, so to speak, a public absolution of the sins of the communicants, truly the Gospel voice announcing remission of sins, the one and most worthy preparation for the Lord’s Table, if it be apprehended by faith and not otherwise than though it came forth from the mouth of Christ Himself. On account of this I wish it to be announced with face turned to the people, as the bishops were accustomed to do, which is the sole vestige of the ancient bishops left among our bishops.
VI. Then let him communicate himself first, then the people; in the meanwhile let the Agnus dei be sung. But if he should desire to pray the prayer, O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who according to the will of the Father, etc., before communing, he will not pray wrongly, only change the singular number to the plural, ours and us for mine and me. Likewise the prayer, The Body of the Lord, etc., guard my soul, or thy soul unto life eternal. And the Blood, of our Lord, guard thy soul unto life eternal. f123
VII. If he desires to sing the Communion let it be sung. But in place of the ad complendam or final collect which so frequently savors of sacrifice, let this prayer be read in the same tone: What we have taken with the mouth, O Lord. This one also may be read: Thy Body, O Lord, which we have received, etc., changing to the plural number. Who livest and reignest, etc. The Lord be with you, etc. In place of the he missa, let Benedicamus domino be said, adding Alleluia f132 according to its own melodies where and when it is desired; or Benedicamus may be borrowed from Vespers. f133
VIII. Let the customary Benediction be given. Or take that from Numbers 6:24, which the Lord Himself arranged and ordered: f136 The Lord bless us and guard us: May He show us His face and be merciful to us; The Lord turn His face ,to us and give us peace. Or that in Psalm 96, May God, our God, bless us: May God bless us and all the ends of the earth fear Him. Amen. I believe Christ used something of this kind when, ascending into heaven, He blessed His disciples.
And this, too, should be free to the bishop, namely, by what order he may desire either to receive or to administer both species. For assuredly he may consecrate both bread and wine consecutively before he receives the bread; or between the consecration of the bread and wine he may communicate with the bread both himself and as many as desire it, and thereupon consecrate the wine and at length give to all to drink of it. After which manner Christ seems to have acted, as the words of the Gospel reveal, where He commanded to eat the bread before He blessed the cup. Then is said expressly: Likewise also the cup after He supped. Thus you perceive the cup was blessed only after eating the bread. But this quite new rite will not permit the doing of those things following the Consecration about which we spoke above, unless they should be changed. f138 This is the way we think about the Mass, but at the same time taking care in all such matters lest we make binding things which are free, or compel those to sin who either would do some other thing or omit certain things; only let them keep the Words of Consecration uncorrupted, and let them do this in faith. For these should be the usages of Christians, that is of children of the free woman, who observe these things voluntarily and from the heart, changing them as often as and in whatever manner they might wish. Wherefore it is not right that one should either require or establish some indispensable form as a law in this matter, by which he might ensnare or vex consciences. Whence also we find no complete example of this use in the ancient fathers and in the primitive Church, save only in the Roman Church. But if they have appointed something as a law in this matter, it should not be observed; because these things neither can nor should be bound by laws. Then, even if different people make use of different rites, let no one either judge or despise the other; but let each one abound in his own opinion, and let them understand and know even if they do differently; and let each one’s rite be agreeable to the other, lest diverse opinions and sects yield diverse uses, just as happened in the Roman Church. For external rites, even if we are not able to do without them, — just as we cannot do without food and drink, — nevertheless, do not commend us to God, just as food does not commend us to God. But faith and love commend us to God. Wherefore let this word of Paul govern here: The kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Thus no rite is the Kingdom of God, but faith within you, etc. f139 We have passed by vestments. But we think about these as we do about other uses; we permit them to be used without restraint, only let pomp and the excess of splendor be absent. For neither are you the more acceptable if you should consecrate in vestments; nor are you the less acceptable if you should consecrate without vestments. For vestments do not commend us to God. But I do not wish them to be consecrated or blessed, — as if they were about to be something sacred as compared with other garments, — except by that general benediction, by which it is taught that every good creature of God is sanctified through word and prayer; otherwise it would be an utter superstition and impiety, introduced through the abominations of the pontiffs, as also other things.
CONCERNING THE COMMUNION OF THE PEOPLE
We have said these foregoing things about the Mass and the office of the minister or bishop; now we will speak about the custom of communicating the people, on account of whom chiefly this Supper of the Lord was instituted and is called by that name. For as it is most absurd for a minister of the Word to act so foolishly as to publish the Word in public ministration where there is no hearer, and to cry aloud to himself alone amid rocks and woods and in the open air, so it is most wrong if ministers make ready and adorn the common Supper of the Lord where there would be no guests who would eat and drink, and they alone, who ought to minister to others, would eat and drink at an empty table and in an empty sanctuary. Wherefore if we wish truly to prize the institution of Christ, no private Mass should be left remaining in the Church, unless in this connection either infirmity or necessity should be tolerated for a time.
Moreover the custom is to be preserved here which is observed in connection with baptism; namely, that notice must first be given to the bishop, by those who are about to commune, that they request to be communicated with the Lord’s Supper, so that he may be able to know both their names and manner of life. Then let him not admit those seeking, unless they should give a reason for their faith; and being questioned, should answer, whether they understand what the Supper of the Lord is; what it stands for; and of what they wish to become partakers by its use; to wit, if they are able to recite the Words of Consecration from memory and explain that they come because of the consciousness of sin, or the fear of death, or, troubled by some other evil of the temptation of the flesh, of the world, of the devil, they hunger and thirst for that word and sign of grace and salvation from the Lord Himself through the ministry of the bishop by which they may be consoled and comforted, such as Christ out of priceless love gave and instituted in this Supper when He said: Take and eat, etc. f148 But I think it will be sufficient if this questioning and investigation of him who seeks to be communicated is done once a year. Indeed it is possible that the one who seeks may be so understanding that he should be questioned either once only in his entire life, or in fact never. For through this custom we desire to guard against this: that the worthy and unworthy do not rush blindly to the Supper of the Lord, as we have seen done in the Roman Church hitherto, where nothing else is sought but to be communicated. Of faith, of comfort, of the whole use and fruits of the Supper absolutely neither mention nor consideration of these has had a place. Indeed they have concealed the very Words of Consecration, that is, the Bread of Life Itself, forcing this with vast zeal, yea, with highest frenzy, in order that communicants should perform a good work by their own merit, and that they should not nourish and strengthen faith through the goodness of Christ. But those who are not able to answer after the manner mentioned above, we desire such wholly excluded and banished from the communion of this Supper, as being without the wedding garment.
Then when the bishop has perceived that they understand these things, he should also watch this, whether they evidence this faith and knowledge in life and conduct; — -for Satan also both perceives all these things and is able to talk about them; — that is, if he should see some fornicator, adulterer, drunkard, gamester, usurer, slanderer, or one made infamous by some manifest crime, let him be excluded absolutely from this Supper, unless by evident proof he shall have witnessed that his life has been changed. For the Supper should not be denied those who sometimes fall away and return, sorrowing over the lapse; indeed we should realize that the Supper was instituted especially on account of just such as these so that they may be refreshed and strengthened; for we all offend in many things; and we carry each other’s burdens while we also mutually burden ourselves. But I am speaking of those contemptuous ones who sin shamelessly and without fear, yet, nevertheless, boast glorious things about the Gospel. f149 Then when Mass is celebrated, it is fitting that those about to be communicated gather together by themselves in one place and in one group. For to this end the altar was invented, also the choir. Not that standing here or there matters anything with God or adds anything to faith, but that it is necessary that they be seen and known openly, both by those who commune and those who do not commune; thus then their lives may be the better observed and proven and made known. For participation in this Supper is part of the confession by which they confess before God and angels and men that they are Christians. Therefore care must be taken lest they carry off the Supper stealthily, and then mingled with others it is not known whether they live well or badly. However, I do not wish this to be made a law here, but to point out this, — what honorable and fitting (thing) may be performed freely by free Christians.
Now concerning private confession before communion. I still think as I have taught heretofore, namely, that it is neither necessary nor to be demanded; nevertheless it is useful and not to be despised, since the Lord neither required this Supper as necessary or established it by law, but left it free to everyone, saying, As often as you do this, etc. So concerning the preparation for the Supper, we think that preparing oneself by fasting and prayers is a matter of liberty. Certainly it behooves us to approach in soberness of mind and earnestly and diligently, whether you fast nothing at best or pray ever so little. In truth, I say, moderation in drinking, not that superstitious practice of the papists; but moderation, lest you belch drunkenly and become sluggish and dull from a distended belly. For the best preparation is, as I have said, a soul moved and vexed by sins, death, temptations, and hungering and thirsting for healing and strength.
Whatever of these things is true, these are the concern of the bishop and it rests with him that he may teach the people.
This now remains to be considered, whether both forms, as they call them, should be ministered to the people. So here I say, Now that the Gospel has been inculcate among us these two whole years, at the same time sufficient indulgence also has been granted to infirmity. Hereafter one must act according to that saying of Paul: He who is ignorant, let him be ignorant. For it does not matter, if they, who for so long a time have not known the Gospel, do not receive again neither of the two forms, lest perchance bearing with infirmity perpetually may nourish obstinacy and result in proscription contrary to the Gospel. Wherefore simply according to the institution of Christ, let both forms be both sought and ministered.
Those who do not desire this, let them have their way; and let nothing be ministered to them. For we point out this form of the Mass to those to whom it is known in some part. But those who have not heard as yet, or who have ability to know, it is not yet possible to offer them any counsel concerning this matter.
Nor should this matter be delayed at all in order that they may call together a Council, in which this may again be sanctioned as allowable. We have the law of Christ and we do not want either to be hindered by or to hear a Council in those matters which manifestly are of the Gospel. Yea, we say more. And if by chance a Council would decide and permit this, then least of all do we want to partake of both forms; nay, on the contrary, then first in contempt both of the Council and its statute, we would wish to partake either of one or neither, but never of both; and we would hold those to be wholly anathema who would partake of both on the authority of such Council and statute. Do you wonder at this and ask the reason? Hear! — if you know the bread and wine were instituted by Christ, and both are to be received by all, as the Gospel and Paul testify most clearly, and as the adversaries themselves are forced to admit; nevertheless you do not dare to believe and trust Him so that you receive, but you dare to receive if men decide this in a Council: — then are you not preferring men to Christ?
Do you not extol sinful men above Him who is named and worshiped, God? Do you not trust in the words of men more than in the words of God? Nay rather, do you not utterly distrust the words of God and believe only the words of men? Moreover, how great is such hatred and denial of the most high God? What idolatry then can equal your religious obedience of a Council of men? Should you not the rather die a thousand times?
Should you not the rather receive one or no form, than receive under such sacrilegious obedience and apostasy from the faith?
Therefore let them stop talking about their councils continually; but let them do this first, let them replace their sacrilege with the divine glory; let them confess that with Satan their master they have held back one form; that they have lifted themselves up above God; that they have condemned the Word, and destroyed so many people through so many ages; and let them do penance for this unspeakable tyranny of inhumanity and impiety.
Then let them solemnly declare that we have done right when on our part and even against their dogmas we have taught and received both forms and have not waited for their Council, and let them give thanks because we refused to follow their perdition and abomination. After they have done this, we will be willing and well-disposed to honor and welcome their Council and ordinance. In the meantime should they not do this, but continue to demand that we await their authorization (for our action), we will listen to nothing; but we will continue both to teach and to do things which are opposed to them; in particular, those things which we know are especially displeasing to them. For what do they exact by this diabolical demand save that we exalt them above God, their words above His words, and erect the abominable monsters of their specters as idols in the place of God, when we want the whole world to be put under God and made subject to Him.
I also wish as many of the songs as possible to be in the vernacular, which the people should sing during Mass either immediately after the Gradual, and immediately after the Sanctus and Agnus dei. For who doubts that once upon a time all the people sang these, which now only the choir sings or responds when the bishop is consecrating? But these songs may be ordered by the bishops in this manner, they may be sung either right after the Latin songs, or on alternate days, now Latin, now the vernacular, until the entire Mass shall be made vernacular. But poets are wanting among us, — or they are not known as yet, — who can put together pleasingly pious and spiritual songs, as Paul calls them, which are worthy to be used by all the people in the Church of God. In the meantime it is proper to sing this after communion: Gott sey gelobet und gebenedeyet der uns setbet hatt gespeyset, etc.; omitting this small part: Und das heylige sacramente, an unserm letsten ende, aus des geweyeten priesters hende, which was added by someone of the cult of St. Barbara, who, holding the sacrament during his whole life as of little value, in death hopes, without faith, by this good work to enter into life. For both the meter and the manner of the music prove this part of the song is superfluous. In addition to that, this is good: Nu bitten wyr den heyligen geist. Also: Eyn kindelin so 1obelich. For you will not find many, which in some respect taste of a dignified spirit. I say this, so that if there are any German poets, they may be moved to and work out, pious poems for us.
Let these things said concerning the mass and communion suffice for the time being; other matters, use and the thing itself will teach; only let the Word of God be announced in the church actively and faithfully. For that which some require so strongly, namely, that all these things be proved by the Scriptures and the example of the fathers, does not disturb us greatly; because we have said above, that in these matters liberty ought to rule, and it is not allowable to captivate Christian consciences either by laws or orders. For this reason the Scriptures define nothing of these things but permit the liberty of the spirit to abound according to its own perception in the matter, according to the fitness of places, times, and persons. Indeed the examples of the fathers are in part unknown; those which really are known are so varied that nothing definite can be established about them, evidently because they themselves used their own liberty. And even if they would be altogether definite and simple, nevertheless they could not impose upon us either law or necessity of imitating them.
In connection with the rest of the days, which we call feriae, I see nothing which cannot be continued, only discontinue the Mass; for Matins of three lessons and the Hours, including Vespers and Compline de tempore, excluding the feriae of saints, are nothing other than words of divine Scripture. And it is fitting, nay necessary, that the boys be accustomed to reading and hearing the Psalms and lections of Holy Scripture. But if anything here ought to be made new, the prolixity of things can be changed according to and at the will of the bishop; however after this fashion, that three Psalms be appointed for Matins, three for Vespers, together with one or two Responsories. These matters cannot be ordered better than at the will of the bishop whose duty it is to choose the best of the Responsories and Antiphons and to appoint their use from Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day throughout the week, so that neither excessive repetition of the same things cause aversion, nor too much variety and multitudinous singing and reading generate weariness of spirit. But let the entire Psalter, divided in parts, remain in use and the entire Scriptures, divided into lections, let this be preserved in the ears of the Church. f173 Here, too, must be noted what I have suggested elsewhere, in order that this singing may not be a matter merely of tongue and of speech, or without sense like the sound of a pipe or harp. Therefore, daily lections must be appointed, one for the morning in the New or Old Testament, another for Vespers in one or the other testament with vernacular exposition. This rite is an ancient one, as is proven by both the custom itself and the word Homilia in Matins, and Capltulum in Vespers and the other Hours, namely, that the Christians, as often as they gathered together, read something and then it was interpreted in the vernacular, after the custom which St. Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 14. Then when more evil times came, when prophets and interpreters were wanting, only this voice was left remaining after the lections and capitula, Deo gratias.
Then in place of the interpretation, lections, psalms and hymns were multiplied and other things also in this wearying verbosity and superabundance. Although the hymns and Te deum laud amus bear testimony to this as does Deo gratias also, namely, that after the expositions and homilies they praised God and gave Him thanks for the true revelation of the Word of God. Such also I wish our vernacular songs to do.
This much, 0 best Nicolas, I have for you in writing about the rites and ceremonies of our Wittenberg church, already partly instituted and, Christ willing, to be completed at an early day; which example, if it pleases you and others, you may imitate. If not, we will give place to your wisdom, f179 being prepared to accept what is more fitting from you and any others. Let it not frighten either you or any others because that sacrilegious Tophet still persists in our Wittenberg, which is impious and wretched gain to the princes of Saxony; I speak of the Church of All Saints. For by the mercy of God there is antidote aplenty among us through the abundance of the Word of God, so that the pest, weary and faint in its own corner, may not be a pestilence to any save itself. And there are scarcely three or four swine and gourmands in that same house of perdition who worship that wealth; to all others and at the same time to all the people, it is a notable cause of loathing and an abomination.
Nor is it allowed to proceed against them by force or command, as you know it is not fitting for Christians to fight save with the power of the sword of the Spirit. For in this way I hold the people back daily, otherwise that house, now, for a long time, the House of All Saints, — nay rather the House of All Devils, — would be known by some other name in the earth.
But I have not exercised the power of the Spirit, which God has given us, against that, patiently bearing that reproach, if perchance God may give them penitence; meanwhile I am content, because our house, which more truly is the House of All Saints, may reign here and stand as a tower of Lebanon against the House of All Devils. Thus we torment Satan with the Word, although he simulates a laugh; but Christ will grant that his hope will fail him and that he will be overthrown with all beholding. Pray for me, O holy one of God.
Grace be with you and with all yours. Amen.