Category Archives: Wilhelm Löhe

The Inner Life of the Congregation

This is from Löhe’s Agenda, translated by David Ratke. This is the reading in Treasury of Daily Prayer for January 2, the commemoration of the falling asleep of J.K. Wilhelm Löhe on this date in 1872.

In worship the congregation experiences its Lord most intimately. Here it lives in nearest proximity to its Groom in a heavenly life on earth, an earthly life in heaven. Worship is the most beautiful flower of earthly life. Just like land in the middle of an ocean, the Word and the Sacraments stand in the inner life and worship of the congregation. You have one week behind you, a new week lies in front of you. Between these two weeks is the day of Communion Sunday. You desire to draw near to God with the congregation. What do you, whether you are a shepherd or a sheep, have to do first? You do what all religions say is necessary for the soul: you cleanse it like feet that have become dirty from the activity of daily life. In other words, you prepare yourself for worship by confessing your sins and receiving absolution. Being cleansed from sin, you enter into the joys of the particular festival day or Sunday. But the worshiper finds that earth still has other burdens and sorrows, both present and future. Life, death, and eternity, with all of their bitter fruits and consequences, threaten you as you journey to the heavenly kingdom. Worries burden you and keep burdening you. But no longer does sin torture you, no longer do you fear evil, no longer do you sigh longingly, but joyful confidence fills your soul. You sit beneath the face of the Lord. In the sermon you begin to experience the blessed communion of the saints who rejoice in the Lord. The worshiping congregation experiences itself as the Bride of the Lord, rich not only in and through Him but also in and through one another. The congregation, in its fullness, thinks of the special needs and miseries upon the earth, delights in all good things, and goes before the altar of the Lord with intercessions, petitions, and prayers. All worshipers are blessed and approach the throne of blessing knowing they are worthy. The worshipers realize that the Church is one unit both here and everywhere. Pilgrims are one in their prayers and are cleansed with all of the blessed saints in heaven.

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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