German Mass (divine service)

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Martin Luther: German Mass and Order of Gotesdienst , Wittenberg 1526, title page

The German Mass is the name given to the religious service regulations of the Reformation period, which attempt to organize the Western Last Supper service in the form of the ( Roman Catholic ) mass handed down from the Middle Ages in German and according to the new knowledge of the Reformers .

Early German masses

Very soon after Martin Luther's first appearance , clergymen who were close to the Reformation were looking for new forms of worship. One wanted either to redesign them according to strictly biblical principles or at least to “cleanse” the traditional liturgical traditions of elements that were viewed as undesirable developments. Above all, the medieval sacrifice theology of the Roman mass was offensive to the reformers (see Luther's criticism of the sacrifice of the mass ). So is z. B. reports that as early as 1522/23 first attempts were made with German communion services in many places, for example by Karlstadt in Wittenberg or by Martin Bucer , Kaspar Hedio , Johann Schwebel and Johannes Oekolampad on Franz von Sickingen's Ebernburg . Often only individual parts of the service were translated into German (e.g. the biblical readings) or simply the canon prayers ( Canon Missae ) were left out.

Some of these early Protestant orders of worship were printed and, like other Reformation ideas, were quickly spread and imitated, e. B.

From other places and from other reformers it is known that they held at least parts of the mass in German or also distributed the Lord's Supper "under both guises" (that is, with bread and wine).

The divine service orders mentioned here are in part very different from one another in terms of their sequence and changes compared to the medieval mass. However, they all have the following points in common:

  • They follow the course of the medieval (Roman Catholic) mass relatively precisely.
  • You consistently use the German language.
  • They include a celebration of the sacrament with bread and wine.
  • They reject the Canon Missae, which the priest used to speak quietly and which is a special expression of the Roman Catholic sacrificial theology.

Martin Luther's German Mass 1526

Martin Luther himself initially gave in to the reform requests only very hesitantly by publishing the two writings Von ordenung gottes diensts ynn der gemeine (German) and formula missae et communionis (Latin) in 1523 , which, in contrast to the above-mentioned writings, neither of them the order of worship, but in which he merely explains how he imagines a new, Reformation worship service in the future.

The German Mass and Order of Worship Service was published by Luther in 1526. It differs from his own writings from 1523 and from the earlier attempts mentioned above in the following ways in particular:

  • Luther created new, own melodies for worship ( liturgical ) chant.
  • Luther deviates significantly more strongly in some places from the traditional order of the divine service pieces of the mass .
  • Some pieces are missing from Luther (e.g. the Gloria in excelsis and the Hallelujah ). It is unclear whether he implicitly meant these pieces or actually omitted them.

The fact that no songs are mentioned in Luther's order of worship does not necessarily mean that no songs should be sung. On the contrary, the song of the community z. B. before and after the sermon, during and after the distribution of the Lord's Supper is documented from other writings of Luther and his contemporaries.

Course of the Deutsche Messe

Luther's Recommendation for Consecration and Distribution of the Lord's Supper ( Deutsche Messe 1526)
Entrance song or introitus (entrance psalm)
Kyrie eleison
Collection prayer
Graduation song
Creed as a song
Our Father - paraphrase and preparation for the Lord's Supper
Consecration of bread (through the words of institution)
Distribution of the bread, plus the German Sanctus and / or other songs
Consecration of the chalice
Distribution of the chalice, plus the German Agnus Dei and / or other songs

Effect of Luther's German Mass

The order that Luther proposed in the German Mass did not prevail in the Protestant churches. Above all, the division of the distribution (first the word of bread is spoken, then everyone receives the bread; only then is the word from the cup and everyone communicates a second time) is not feasible in the normal Sunday service for reasons of practicality. His radical shortening and reformulation of the preparation of the Lord's Supper (including the omission of the prefation , the anamnesis and the epiclesis ) went too far for most theologians and church leaders. As a normal form of the Lutheran and Protestant communion service in general, a form has therefore established itself that remains much closer to the sequence of the original form of the mass, such as the Brandenburg - Nuremberg church ordinance from 1533 (by Andreas Osiander ) or the north German church ordinances by Johannes Bugenhagen Offer. The only exception are the south-west German Lutheran areas ( Württemberg , Baden , Palatinate ), which also follow the much simpler version of the Upper German preaching service for the celebration of the Lord's Supper , such as those contained in the Württemberg church ordinance of 1553.

In contrast, the melodies created by Luther have become widespread, especially his Kyrie eleison , his German Sanctus Isaiah, the Prophet and his Credo song We all believe in one God .

Since the time of the so-called " Liturgical Movement " in the 1920s, there have been repeated attempts to make Luther's German Mass a regular form of divine service in the present, especially the High Church Movement . The Lutheran Agende I, developed by Christhard Mahrenholz after the Second World War, is based largely on Luther's German Mass in form A, while in form B it follows the formula missae et communionis more (but in German). The Evangelical Worship Book of the EKD member churches from 1999 also allows adaptations of the Deutsche Messe as one of several possible variants.

The musicologist Konrad Küster from Friborg reconstructed the Luther Mass for Mary's Candlemas in 1546 . It is characteristic that the entire mass, with the exception of the sermon, is sung by the pastor or cantor. Church songs are of little importance. Sources of the reconstruction are printed music by the Thomaskantor Georg Rhau and process notes by the Bishop of Ribe (Denmark) Peder Jensen Hegelund .

Web links


  • Wolfgang Herbst: Protestant service. Sources on its story . Goettingen 1992.
  • Julius Smend : The Protestant German masses up to Luther's German mass . Goettingen 1896.
  • Ralf Dieter Gregorius, Peter Schwarz (ed.): Kantionale for the celebration of the Evangelical Mass. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2010, ISBN 978-3-525-57151-4 .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Reprint of most of the regulations in Smend (see below literature list), the Worms Mass 1524 in: Emil Sehling (initial): The Evangelical Church Regulations of the 16th Century. Volume XIX: Rhineland-Palatinate II. Tübingen 2008.
  2. For example For example, in the Palatinate Church Ordinance of 1557, there is no mention of songs in the description of the church service, but the appendix to the same order contains an extensive hymn book and there are official instructions from the church authorities to all pastors as to when which song is to be sung; see. Emil Sehling (first name) .: The Protestant church ordinances of the 16th century. Volume XVIII: Rhineland-Palatinate I. Tübingen 2006, pp. 30, 337.
  3. "We don't want to take it off, we want to keep it"