She Remains Queen in The Guise of A Beggar

The Lutheran Reformation, by distinguishing between Law and Gospel, has rediscovered with the freedom of a Christian man also the freedom of the church with respect to liturgy and constitution. It is one of the great dangers of the modern liturgical movement which goes through the whole of Christendom that we forget the liturgical freedom of a Christian church, as established by 1 Corinthians 14, and be “again entangled in the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1). The author of these pages remembers the shock he got when an outstanding young theologian of a “Lutheran” church in Germany who had discovered the beauty of Gregorian chant explained to a meeting of theologians that there was a liturgy that belonged to the very essence of the church. The church from which he hailed was so unliturgical that in its official liturgy it had no consecration of the Lord’s Supper, but used the Words of Institution only as a form of distribution in order to avoid any appearance of “catholicism.” Thus a wrong law on the one side produces a wrong law on the other side. It is time to remember that the church of the Lutheran Reformation was able to combine the freedom from liturgical laws with the freedom to retain whatever could be retained of the old liturgy without endangering the Gospel. We have to learn again from a great liturgiologist like Wilhelm Löhe who restored the old liturgy as far as possible that the church remains what she is even without the beauty of a great liturgy. “Sie bleibt Königin auch im Bettlergewande” [She remains queen in the guise of a beggar] (Drei Bücher von der Kirche, III, 9, Stuttgart, 1845), 130. Even the present pope [Pius XII] has told his clergy that the greatest services held today are perhaps the services in the countries beyond the Iron Curtain where neither liturgical vestments, nor a proper altar, nor Gregorian chant are available.

– Hermann Sasse, “Consecration and Real Presence”, written in 1957

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