Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Of the Mass

Article 24: Of the Mass

This is a long article which I hope we will take in parts. This article, belonging to the section of abuses, treats the reforms instituted in the churches. This article comes at the end of a long journey for Luther and other reformers. It is a truism to say that the Lutherans did not set out to create a new church but it also is true that Luther did not wake up one day and have all of something called "evangelical doctrine" in his head. I have just finished a book by Wolfgang Simon, Die Messopfertheologie Martin Luthers. Simon shows the development of Luther's ideas of Eucharistic sacrifice.

Luther's exegetical work in Hebrews combined with his previous reflection on faith and righteousness led him to see "the Mass" as a human work and not divine. This is as an example of how Scripture functions for him. Depending upon several factors in medieval theology, he came to see the Verba, the Words of Institution, as the center of the mass. These Verba function as Christ's testament, his last will and testament. With this comes all sorts of challenges to preparations needed for the mass, the demand for both cup and bread given, and so on.

Only when other theologians and monks in Wittenberg took up some of Luther's ideas did the order of the mass change. And the order of the mass was not finalized until much later. Luther composed his own orders of service. I don't know what happened to these proposals.

It seems like the center of this article differs from Luther's theology of the mass:

"But Christ commands us, Luke 22, 19: This do in remembrance of
Me; therefore the Mass was instituted that the faith of those
who use the Sacrament should remember what benefits it
receives through Christ, and cheer and comfort the anxious
conscience. For to remember Christ is to remember His
benefits, and to realize that they are truly offered unto us."

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