Saturday, February 26, 2011

Loehe on Worship and the Liturgy

"In public worship the Church experiences an especial nearness to God; she approaches into the very presence of the Bridegroom, and tastes the blessedness of Heaven even here below.  Public worship is the prettiest flower that can bloom on human stems.  The Order or Liturgy in which this worship is expressed ought therefore to be the image of the inner unity and harmony of the spiritual life - an ecclesiastical aesthetic in concrete form.  In the Church's inner life, as well as in the public expression of her worship,  Word and Sacrament constitute the center.  Like the waves of the sea, breaking and falling upon the rocks, the various forms of the Liturgy must be determined by this central point;  they cannot be arbitrarily chosen, but must be ordered and arranged according to the relation which they bear to Word and Sacrament.  This center determines the steps in the Plan of Salvation, and this in turn determines the Order of public worship.  A spirituality which disregards the fixed order in the Plan of Salvation is inconceivable, so also is its expression impossible in an Order of public worship which does not logically follow these same steps.

The arrangement of the parts in the Order for the Chief Service on the Lord's day may be compared to twin mountains, one of whose heights is a little lower than the other.  The former of these heights, and the lower, is the Sermon; and the other, and the higher, is the Sacrament of the Altar, without the celebration of which no public worship is complete.  In public worship the soul is engaged in an ascent, the goal of which is reached at the Table of the Lord, than which there is nothing higher - nothing diviner on earth, only Heaven remains above.  In the Holy Supper the deepest longings of the soul are satisfied, as the humble worshiper joyfully declares in the Nunc Dimittis."

--Willelm Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith,Third Edition by J. Deinzer, translated by the Rev. R.C. Longaker - 1902 (Reprinted in 1996 by Repristination Press), pages XI - XII.

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