3 - Liturgy

The sola gratia principle led to a re-evaluation of the theological presuppositions undergirding worship in general and the Mass in particular . Traditional Catholic teaching referred to the Mass in terms of sacrificium, opus bonum, and meritum (sacrifice, good work, and merit), concepts that focused on human activity, the offering of the Mass to God by the priest on behalf of the church. In contrast, the sola gratia principle meant that the Eucharist was seen, especially by Luther, in terms of beneficium, testamentum, and donum (favor, bequest, and gift), concepts that express divine activity, God’s gracious gift of forgiveness offered and given to God’s gathered people.

It was necessary to reform existing orders of worship, especially the Mass, so that they were consistent with evangelical theology. Luther laid the groundwork for this reform in his two primary liturgical documents, the Formula missae (1523) and the Deutsche Messe (1526). The Magdeburg Enchiridion therefore includes not only hymns but also the liturgical forms for weekday and Sunday worship: the orders for Vespers, Compline, Matins, and the Mass. The order of the Mass is a slightly modified version of Luther’s Deutsche Messe. As was the case with Luther’s High German Mass, this Low German Mass calls for hymnic versions of most of the Ordinary, except that some of the hymns are different from those suggested by Luther. The Kyrie follows Luther’s Deutsche Messe and is given in a simple three-fold form. The Gloria is Nikolaus Decius’s Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr, which became the classic Gloria-hymn of the Lutheran church—and, indeed, still is. Instead of giving the text of the credal hymn, the Enchiridion has a cross-reference to Luther’s Wir glauben all an einen Gott, which appears elsewhere in the hymnal. In place of Luther’s German version of the Sanctus, Jesiah dem Propheten, the Enchiridion has Nikolaus Decius’s hymnic Sanctus, Heilig ist Gott der Vater. Similarly, instead of Luther’s German Agnus Dei, Christe, du Lamm Gottes, Decius’s version is preferred: O Lamm Gottes unschuldig. Here is a clear indication of the liturgical differences between High German and Low German liturgies . Both use hymnic versions of the ordinary, but whereas High German Lutheran churches employed Luther’s texts, Low German Lutheran churches used those of Decius. The other hymns sung at the evangelical Mass follow the provisions of Luther’s Deutsche Messe —after the Alleluia, in between the Epistle and Gospel (Speratus’s Es ist das Heil is suggested)—and distribution hymns referred to by Luther in the Deutsche Messe are also noted here (e .g., Jesus Christus unser Heiland).