Archive for the ‘Ulrich Zwingli’ Tag

Liturgies, Litanies, and Hymns: A Worship-Focused History of the Moravian Church Through 1734   12 comments

Herrnhut 1765

Above:  Herrnhut, Saxony, Germany, in 1765, by Gunter Rapp

Image in the Public Domain

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LITURGY IN THE MORAVIAN CHURCH IN AMERICA, PART I

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Faithful God, I pray again,

Give me patience in my pain,

For Christ’s sake grant soft release,

Let Thy servant pass in peace;

Then with all Thy saints above

Let me praise Thy boundless love.

–from Hymn #854, Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum) (1923); text (1661) by John Amos Comenius; translated (1903) by J. N. Libby

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I.  PREFACE AND INTRODUCTION

The Moravian missions to the mainland of North America started in 1735.  For that reason Part II of this series will commence with that year.  Before I arrive at that point in the narrative and analysis I must, if I am to cover the material properly, lay the foundation.  That is my task in this post.

You, O reader, might find my background germane.  My initial theological formation occurred in a series of United Methodist parsonages in the South Georgia Conference in the 1980s.  In 1991 I converted to The Episcopal Church, the natural denominational choice for me.  Since then my theology has gone through stages, becoming more Roman Catholic then less so then more so again then substantially Lutheran, but with Transubstantiation remaining in the mix.  To that theological stew I have added Single Predestination (a Lutheran influence), so could not, if I wanted to do so, return to The United Methodist Church and remain intellectually honest.  I left that denomination on amicable terms, not in protest against anything.  My departure was a matter of going toward my spiritual home.  At that home I intend to remain, for I was born to be an Episcopalian.

Moravianism is, as constitutional documents of that Church state, a religion of the heart.  Thus it has common ground with Evangelicalism (in the traditional American use of that word), especially the Pietistic side thereof.   Pietism originated as an alternative to overly theoretical and academic Lutheran theology.  Among the founders of Pietism was Phillip Jakob Spener (1635-1705), author of Pia Desideria (Pious Desires, 1675).  Pietism is neither all good nor bad, but I, not a Pietist, note that it, in its extreme manifestations, devolves into legalism quickly and easily.  Our Lord and Savior violated and rejected legalistic rules and got into much trouble for that fact, but many of his followers have, in his name, written new legalistic rules.  The irony of that reality astounds and dismays me.

August Hermann Franke (1663-1727), who studied under Spener, advocated turning to one’s heart for piety.  Martin Luther had contended simply:

I am baptized.  I am a Christian,

consistent with this theology of the spoken word and the faithfulness of God.  Franke, however, considered Luther’s theology on this subject inadequate and inaccurate.  He insisted on the crucial role of an experience of conversion.  Such an experience  lack, but my Christian faith is genuine.  So I, although regenerate in the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican theologies of baptismal regeneration, am “born from above” if not “”born again” (in the familiar Evangelical use of that term).

The emphasis on religion of the heart–that is, an emotional religion, leaves me quite cold, for I am more intellectual than emotional.  Thus the high level or rationalism in Anglicanism appeals to me.  And the overly individualistic nature of much of Evangelicalism (in the traditional American use of that term) –especially the Pietistic element thereof–contradicts the properly communitarian nature (inherited from Judaism) of Christianity.  Yet the Moravians, I am glad to report, have a history of a strong communal focus.  Their religion of the heart focuses not on their hearts but on the body of Jesus of Nazareth, as in the Liturgy of the Wounds.

Before I proceed I ought to define some terms, so I do so now.

  1. Unitas Fratrum, Latin for the “Unity of the Brethren,” is the official name of the worldwide Moravian Church.
  2. The Ancient Unity, or Bohemian Brethren, was the Moravian Church from its founding (officially March 1, 1457) to its disruption after the Battle of White Mountain (1620), during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).
  3. The Hidden Seed was the Moravian Church during its time in the political and cultural underground of Europe after the Battle of White Mountain.
  4. The Renewed Unitas Fratrum is the modern Moravian Church, from August 13, 1727, the Moravian Pentecost.
  5. A litany is a responsive, standardized church prayer.  Moravians have built church services around litanies, for one litany, with germane elements added, has provided the structure for many a service.
  6. Liturgy” is a trickier word to define.  This series of posts is Liturgy in the Moravian Church in America, with “liturgy” indicating a predictable pattern of worship, which is my standard definition of it, per Father Peter Ingeman, who retired recently from his position of Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia.  He insisted that even “non-liturgical churches,” which do not use a service book, are actually liturgical so long as they have a regular pattern of worship.  In narrow definitions, however, “liturgy,” in Moravian contexts, refers either to the entire worship service or to a long hymn which provides the structure for an entire service.

Now, without further ado….

II.  FROM JOHN WYCLIFFE TO THE AFTERMATH OF THE HUSSITE WARS

The Moravian Church is the oldest Protestant denomination, predating Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses (1517) by sixty years.  The Protestant movements did not spring from nothing.  No, they had deep roots.

The story begins in the late 1340s and early 1350s, when the Black Death (most likely a combination of agents, including the Bubonic Plague), devastated Europe.  Some estimates of the death toll exceed half of the population, but conservative educated guesses are closer to one-third or two-fifths.  Even the cautious estimate range (about 33-40%), within less than five years, speaks of economic and societal trauma.  Urban workers became more assertive, peasants rebelled, and traditional power structures felt threatened.  The Marxian Conflict Theory I learned in college tells me that those structures, given their exploitative and corrupt nature, deserved all the rebellion with which they had to contend.  Among the most powerful and scrutinized institutions was the Roman Catholic Church, which has had its ups and downs over nearly two thousand years.

John Wycliffe

John Wycliffe (circa 1330-1384) was an English Roman Catholic priest and professor of philosophy and theology at Oxford.  He espoused some then-radical positions, which included the following:

  1. Each Christian should have a direct and unmediated relationship with God.  Priests and the Church were not necessary as mediators; Christ is the only mediator.
  2. No national Church should have to endure or tolerate Papal interference.
  3. The Holy Scriptures should be available to the people in their vernacular language.  Thus Wycliffe began the project (1380-1397) of translating the Latin Vulgate of St. Jerome into English.  From Wycliffe came to the tradition of English-language Bibles.
  4. The doctrine of Transubstantiation of the bread and wine at the Mass lacks Scriptural support and is false.

Wycliffe, who condemned the corrupt Papacy (headquartered at Avignon, France,  not at Rome), under the influence of the French monarchy, had to retire from Oxford in 1381.  There was no Inquisition for him, but authorities had scapegoated him for the Peasants’ Revolt that year and forced him out of office.  In the next century, however, on Papal orders, officials exhumed his bones and burned them.  Wycliffe was officially a heretic.

Yet ecclesiastical authorities failed at killing Wycliffe’s ideas, which Jan Hus and Martin Luther credited as influences.  Then there were the Lollards, an English group which expanded upon Wycliffe’s theology.  They sounded very much like Protestants (a word which did not exist until 1539) for they rejected the entire Roman Catholic sacramental system and refuted the doctrine of Purgatory.  The Lollards, composed mostly of artisans and merchants, were a theological minority group.  They, like many other minorities over time, were quite unpopular.

Heretic Shirt July 29, 2014

Above:  My “Heretic” Shirt, Draped Over a Desk Chair

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Jan Hus

Jan (Anglicized as John) Hus (1372-1415), a Bohemian (Czech) priest and scholar of peasant origin, read and translated works of John Wycliffe and Lollards.  Hus, from 1401 the Dean of the philosophy faculty at the University of Prague, lived during the Great Schism of the Papacy (1378-1417), when more than one man claimed the Papal office simultaneously.  The Roman line was:

  1. Urban VI (r. 1378-1389),
  2. Boniface IX (r. 1389-1404),
  3. Innocent VII (r. 1404-1406), and
  4. Gregory XII (r. 1406-1417).

The Avignon line, officially Antipapal after the fact, consisted of:

  1. Clement VII (r. 1378-1394) and
  2. Benedict XIII (r. 1394-1417).

There was a third line, also officially Antipapal after the fact.  The Council of Pisa (1409) deposed (or claimed to depose) Gregory XII and Benedict XIII (both of whom remained in office anyway) and created the line of Council Popes:

  1. Alexander V (r. 1409-1410) and
  2. John XXIII (r. 1410-1415), whom I hope nobody will confuse with “Good Pope John” XXIII (r. 1958-1963), a great and holy man.

The Council of Constance deposed Gregory XII and Benedict XIII (for real this time) as well as the first John XXIII, replacing them with Martin V (r. 1423-1431).  There remained unfinished business from the Great Schism, however, for there was one Clement VIII (r. 1423-1429), who reconciled with Rome and spent his last years as the Bishop of Majorca.  And there was one Benedict XIV (r. 1425-?), who disappeared from history.  The Papacy was, however, back in Rome without serious question of that fact.

During the Great Schism of the Papacy the kingdoms, empires, and principalities of Europe lined up in support of one Papal claimant or another, creating a mess which did not cover the Roman Catholic Church in glory.  This was a theological question of the utmost importance for many people, for many people thought that following the wrong Pontiff might lead them to damnation.  Meanwhile, the list of Roman Catholic martyrs become longer and questions regarding ecclesiastical authority became more widespread.

Hus, who made the University of Prague a hotbed of Wycliffian and Lollard thought, ran afoul of the Council Popes.  Alexander V forbade Hus from preaching and ordered the Archbishop of Prague to burn copies of Wycliffe’s books.  Hus remained defiant.  The first John XXIII excommunicated Hus fully and an interdict on his followers.  Hus remained defiant.  The Church, on the authority of the Council of Constance, burned copies of his writings and the man himself on July 6, 1415.  Among the forty-seven charges of heresy were denying Papal infallibility, supporting the right of priests to marry, and condemning indulgences.

Jan Hus was dead, but his ideas and those he found and spread abroad remained alive.  They continue to live, of course.  And the Moravian and Episcopal Churches observe the feast of Jan Hus on July 6.

The Hussite Wars and Their Aftermath

Among the strengths of Roman Catholicism is centralized authority (except during the Great Schism of the Papacy, of course).  This facilitates abuses (such as the Inquisitions) sometimes, but does provide for order.  Such order was sorely lacking in the nascent Hussite movement immediately after the martyrdom of Jan Hus, hence the Hussite Wars (1420-1431) and subsequent violence.  Related to theological disputes was the politics of monarchy in Bohemia, a thicket in which I refuse to become lost in this post.  Another thicket I choose to avoid is the complexity of Hussite factionalism during those early decades.  The two major factions, however, were the Calixtines/Utraquists and the Taborites.

Terms such as “radical,” “revolutionary,” “liberal,” “conservative,” and “reactionary” are inherently relative to the center, wherever that is in any given context.  So I hope that you, O reader, will understand what I mean when I write that the Calixtines/Utraquists were revolutionaries and radicals, for they were Hussites in mostly Roman Catholic Europe, but they were, by the standards of other Hussites, conservatives.  They, based out of the University of Prague, considered partaking of the Holy Eucharist crucial to salvation.  The sacrament, they insisted, must be in both kinds–bread and wine–as opposed to the traditional practice of giving the laity bread alone.  The Calixtines/Utraquists also favored civil courts alone, meaning the abolition of special eccleasiastical courts for the clergy.  And they opposed political activity by members of the clergy.  The Calixtines/Utraquists, with aristocratic support, were the established Hussite faction.  Many of them, being relatively conservative in their political-religious milieu, returned to Holy Mother Church.

In contrast were the Taborites.  They borrowed a page from Acts of the Apostles 4:32-37 and lived communally, without private property.  They were closer to the Lollards than to the Calixtines/Utraquists, rejecting the Roman Catholic sacramental system, accepting only two sacraments, and embracing iconoclasm (in its original meaning).  The Taborites also rejected “worldly amusements” and called for violence against aristocrats, such as those who supported the Calixtines/Utraquists.  Many of the Taborites expected Jesus to return in 1420.  That prediction proved as inaccurate as did all other prognostications of dates for the Second Coming.

The Adamites split off from the Taborites.  The Adamites not only committed violence against people (such as Roman Catholics) who disagreed with them, but considered themselves the elect of God.  And they practiced nudism and considered marriage sinful.  One goal of the Adamites was to return to the pre-Fall Edenic state of human innocence.  They failed, and Taborites all but exterminated the sect in 1421.

Violence between the Calixtines/Utraquists and the Taborites continued for years, even after the official end of the Hussite Wars.  It was literally a bloody mess.

III.  THE ANCIENT UNITY/BOHEMIAN BRETHREN AND THE HIDDEN SEED (1457-1722)

Gregory the Patriarch

The official date of the founding of the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum) from the ashes of the Hussite Wars is, according to official hymnals and calendars, March 1, 1457.  J. E. Hutton, in a footnote in his History of the Moravian Church (1909), argued that this date is arbitrary and “only a pious imagination.”  He continued:

We are not quite sure of he year, not to speak of the month.  If the Moravian Church must have a birthday, March 1st, 1457, will do as well as any other; but the truth is that on this point precise evidence has not yet been discovered.

Regardless of the state of discoveries in Moravian history since 1909, one does find a consensus regarding the identity of the founder of the Unitas Fratrum.  He was Gregory the Patriarch (circa 1420-1473), nephew of John Rockycana, the Calixtine/Ultaquist Archbishop-Elect of Prague since 1448.  Gregory, a former monk and the son of a knight, found Peter of Chelcic (circa 1390-circa 1460), a Taborite preacher, influential.  Thus the Unitas Fratrum emerged from the mixing of Calixtine/Ultaquist and Taborite influences.  Strong Wycliffian and communal strands came via the Taborite influences, but the initial settlement in the Kunwald Valley had support from King George Podiebrad and Rockycana, who interceded on behalf of the Moravians with the monarch.

Thus, O reader, we find an early example of the willingness to disagree on much while maintaining unity.  This is one of the best aspects of the Moravian Church.  As a traditional motto of the Unitas Fratrum older than that denomination says:

In essentials unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, love.

Moravians have disagreed about what is essential, but their denomination has traditionally been one of the more tolerant Christian bodies.  Thus they have been fine witnesses for Christ amid the notoriously fractious and schismatic branch of Christianity called Protestantism.  Many of these schisms have occurred for legalistic reasons.  Just over a century old, for example, is the Church of God (Guthrie, Oklahoma), which formed in protest against perceived liberalism in the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana).  That alleged liberalism consisted of deciding that men wearing neckties to church were not violating Biblical standards.  Neckties remained ungodly in the Guthrie denomination.

The Ancient Unity created its ministerial orders–the priesthood and the episcopate–in 1467.  The present Moravian bishops stand in succession with the earliest bishops of the Unitas Fratrum.

Luke of Prague

Among the most influential bishops of the Ancient Unity was Luke of Prague (circa 1458-1528), who joined the Bohemian Brethren in 1481.  He was the young Church’s most influential theologian and writer, especially of hymns.  And what else are hymns but sung theology, especially for a denomination for which congregational singing is a hallmark?  Luke might have been one of the editors of the Czech hymnal of 1501, the first Protestant hymnbook.  Information about this volume of eighty-nine hymns is sketchy, for no known copy of the book exists.  We do know, however, that Luke edited the Czech hymnal of 1505, the first proper Moravian hymnbook.  Again, no known copy survives, but sources indicate that it contained about 400 hymns.  And Luke edited the Czech hymnal of 1519, of which no known copies survive.  (I detect an unfortunate pattern regarding the lack of availability of primary sources.)  This volume contained Roman Catholic texts translated into Czech, indicating the editor’s receptiveness to the best of that tradition at the dawn of the Protestant Reformation.

Various Hymnals

The lineage of Moravian hymnals continued after Luke’s death:

  1. The first German-language hymnbook of the Brethren debuted in 1531.  Michael Weisse, the editor, provided a book of 157 hymns with tunes.  (In fact, all of the early Moravian hymnals, starting with that of 1505, contained words and music.)  Weisse, however, included hymns with a Eucharistic theology which rejected the real presence of Christ and favored the Zwinglian position of a purely symbolic act.  Thus, in 1544, Jan Roh (Anglicized as John Horn) (circa 1485/90-1547) revised this hymnal, replacing certain texts and changing the Eucharistic theology to indicate the real presence.  Three known copies of the 1544 hymnal remain.  Roh/Horn was qualified to evaluate theology, for he had worked on the official Moravian confession of faith in 1532 and 1535 and, like Luke of Prague before him, engaged in theological dialogue with Martin Luther.
  2. Roh/Horn had also edited the 1541 Czech hymnal, a revision of the 1501 hymnbook, of which no known copies exist.
  3. There were also Polish-language hymnals before the Polish Brethren merged with the Polish Lutherans in 1570.  The first hymnbook was that of 1554.  The second, revised and enlarged from the first, debuted in 1569.
  4. Jan Blahoslav (1523-1571), a bishop from 1557, wrote Musica (1558), a book about how to sing hymns properly.  Three years later he finished editing the Czech hymnal of 1561, which contained 761 texts and more than 450 melodies.
  5. Kirchengesang, the German-language Moravian hymnal of 1561, contained 348 hymns plus an appendix of 108 Lutheran hymns.  This volume was as much about politics as it was about theology in a setting in which the separation of church and state was a novel idea.  This book, reprinted in 1580, remained in print in the subsequent editions of 1606, 1639, 1661, and 1694.

Religious persecution had been a reality for the Moravian Church since 1461.  By the early 1600s, however, the situation had become dire.  Evidence of this comes via the Czech hymnal of 1618, some copies of which survive.  The annotator, whose job was to identify the authors of texts, stopped by the middle of the volume.  His fate remains a mystery, but one might surmise reasonably that it had something to do with the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).  After the Protestant defeat in the Battle of White Mountain (1620), Roman Catholic forces drove the Moravian Church underground, seized Moravian church buildings, and nearly extinguished the Brethren.  Yet a “hidden seed” survived for about a century.

John Amos Comenius

The Moravian Church weathered a severe storm for about a century.  One reason for its survival was Jan Amos Komensky (Anglicized as John Amos Comenius) (1592-1670), a bishop who wrote a history of the Unitas Fratrum, reprinted the catechism and the confession of faith, maintained the continuity of the episcopate, and spent two periods in exile.  His written legacy proved crucial to maintaining the Church.  Indeed, in the 1720s, when Moravian fortunes were brighter, the faithful depended greatly on the works of this great man.  And, at that time, there was still an episcopal line because had passed the torch before he died.

Comenius, whom contemporaries recognized as an expert and pioneer in the field of education, edited the last Czech hymnal (that of 1659) of the Brethren.  He did this in exile in Amsterdam and designed the volume accordingly, for it was sufficiently small to fit inside a pocket.

Comenius had done much to preserve the hidden seed of the Moravian Church.  The work of facilitating its renewal fell to another man.

IV.  HERRNHUT AND THE RENEWED UNITAS FRATRUM (1722-1734)

Count Zinzendorf and the Renewal

That man was Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760), who owned a large estate at Berthelsforf, inside the current borders of the Federal Republic of Germany.  Zinzendorf, a Lutheran, proved to be the most influential figure in the Unitas Fratrum in the 1700s.  Not only did he provide a safe haven for Moravians at his estate (starting in 1722), but he, a Lutheran minister from 1735 and a Moravian bishop from 1737, wrote sermons, Bible commentaries, and more than 2000 hymns.

Moravian exiles formed a village, Herrnhut (“the watch of the Lord”) on Zinzendorf’s estate in 1722.  For five years substantial differences among the Brethren remained, but the Count formulated the “Brotherly Agreement,” which the Moravians adopted on May 12, 1727, to settle these disagreements.  Three months later, at a Wednesday service in preparation for the Holy Communion at Herrnhut, the congregation found a sense of unity.  The date was August 13, 1727, the official date of the founding of the Renewed Unitas Fratrum.  The event, according to Zinzendorf, was the Moravian Pentecost.

Developments in Worship

Moravians developed liturgical practices in the safe environment of Herrnhut:

  1. Among the oldest Moravian forms is the Church Litany, based on a text which Martin Luther wrote, in turn based on a Roman Catholic litany.  The rather lengthy Church Litany constitutes the basis of a separate, non-preaching service.  Baptisms and ordinations are among the optional elements one might plug into it.
  2. Moravians have used the Daily Texts since 1728.  These function well as either congregational or individual devotions.  They draw from the Bible and hymns, for hymns function prominently in Moravian theology.  Lutherans emphasize their core doctrines in written confessions of faith, such as those in the Book of Concord.  But the Moravians, who have original and secondhand confessions of faith (even from the Lutherans), use hymns to emphasize core doctrines more than Lutherans do.  One may purchase each year’s copy of the Daily Texts from Moravian provincial publishing houses and read each day’s Daily Texts at official websites, such as this one.  Related to the Daily Texts are the watchwords, which also started in 1728.
  3. The now-traditional baptismal service dates to 1730.
  4. The now-traditional Communion service dates to 1731.
  5. The now-traditional Easter dawn service dates to 1732.
  6. The now-traditional Watchnight service for New Year’s Eve dates to 1733.

Other traditional Moravian services came later.

Early Missions

Moravian missions began in 1732.  (The Moravian Church Desk Calendar and Plan Book 2014 lists August 21 as the anniversary of that event.)  The mission to St. Thomas started in 1732.  The Greenland mission followed on January 19, 1733.  And the missions to the mainlands of South America (at Suriname) and North America (at Georgia) began in 1735.  Thus Part II of this series will begin with 1735.

V.  CONCLUSION

Ecumenism has long been one of my priorities.  Yes, I have staked out my ground (generally socially and theologically liberal yet somewhat liturgically conservative, consistent with much of early Anglican Catholicism), but I do not pretend or presume that everyone ought to be like me.  I have opinions, by which I stand, but Christian traditions other than my own enrich my spiritual life.  The best of Moravianism overlaps significantly with the best of my adopted Anglicanism; collegiality is a shared value.

I have, from time to time in this post, made some critical comments also.  I hope that my readers will have sufficiently thick skins to accept without offense the objective reality of shameful periods in church history (many of which the Roman Catholic Church and  other denominations have acknowledged frankly, to their credit) as well as the existence of differing opinions.  The truth is that I like both the Roman Catholic Church and the Moravian Church:

  1. Rome is Holy Mother Church; I respect her while admitting my disagreements with her.  And the Vatican has admitted and apologized for shameful periods of church history, such as the Crusades and the Inquisitions.  It has even rehabilitated Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), whose alleged heresy was stating that the Earth revolves around the Sun, thereby calling into question centuries of bad theology predicated upon an erroneous understanding of the solar system.  He also placed the words of the Pope in the mouth of a blathering idiot in the Dialogues, an impolitic action.  And, at the time, many Protestant leaders were as dubious of the Copernicus-Galileo hypothesis as Rome was.  Pope Francis has done much to bring glory to the name of Christ; may the Holy Father continue to succeed in that effort.  His Papacy is possibly the best thing to happen to the Roman Catholic Church and the rest of Christianity in a long time, despite much persistent anti-Roman Catholic bias in the right and left wings of Protestantism.
  2. The Moravians do not constitute an ecclesiastical presence in my vicinity, so geography is one factor which keeps me separate from them.  Certain theological differences would have the same effect if geography were not an issue, however.  Nevertheless, the Moravians, I am convinced, have contributed much that is positive to the Universal Church and continue to do so.  The world is a better place due to their presence.

During much of the researching and drafting of this post I played (again and again) a compact disc of early American Moravian music to get into the proper intellectual and cultural context.  It is lovely music with a distinctly European classical sound–just the kind of genre I like.  So, if you are interested, O reader, I encourage you to seek out by means both legal and ethical Lost Music of Early America:  Music of the Moravians (1998), by the Boston Baroque, Martin Pearlman, Director.  The number is Telarc CD-80482.

Until Part II, O reader….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 29, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARY AND MARTHA OF BETHANY, FRIENDS OF JESUS

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BIBLIOGRAPHY OF HARDCOPY SOURCES

Ackroyd, Peter.  Foundation:  A History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors.  New York, NY:  St. Martin’s Press, 2011.

Cantor, Norman F.  In the Wake of the Plague:  The Black Death and the World It Made.  New York:  The Free Press, 2001.  Reprint, paperback, 2002.

Cary, Phillip.  The History of Christian Theology Course Guidebook.  Chantilly, VA:  The Teaching Company, 2008.

Frank, Albert H.  Companion to the Moravian Book of Worship.  Winston-Salem, NC:  Moravian Music Foundation, 2004.

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints.  New York, NY:  Church Publishing, 2010.

Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church.  Bethlehem, PA:  Moravian Church in America, 1969.

Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum).  Bethlehem, PA:  Moravian Church in America, 1923.

Hutton, J. E.  A History of the Moravian Church.  London, England:  Moravian Publication Office, 1909.  Reprint.

Kelly, J. N. D.  The Oxford Dictionary of Popes.  New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1986.

Knouse, Nola Reed, ed.  The Music of the Moravian Church in America.  Rochester, NY:  University of Rochester Press, 2008.

Metzger, Bruce M., and Roland E. Murphy, eds.  The New Oxford English Bible with the Apocrypahal/Deuterocanonical Books–New Revised Standard Version.  College Edition.  New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1994.

Moravian Book of Worship.  Bethlehem, PA:  Moravian Church in America, 1995.

Moravian Church Desk Calendar and Plan Book 2014.  Bethlehem, PA:  Interprovincial Board of Communications, 2013.

Moynihan, Brian.  The Faith:  A History of Christianity.  New York, NY:  Doubleday, 2002.

Stearns, Peter N., ed.  The Encyclopedia of World History:  Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Chronologically Arranged.  New York, NY:  Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001.

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“That We Might Be Accepted of God, and Never Forsaken of Him”: Early American Dutch Reformed Liturgies, 1628-1814   4 comments

RCA Crest

Above:  The Crest of the Reformed Church in America

A Scan from the Cover of Our Reformed Church, by Howard G. Hageman and Revised by Gregg A. Mast (New York, NY:  Reformed Church Press, 1995)

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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U.S. DUTCH REFORMED LITURGY, PART II

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That we might be accepted of God, and never forsaken of him:  and finally confirmed with his death and shedding of his blood, the new and eternal testament, that covenant of grace and reconciliation, when he said, it is finished.

–The Liturgy of the Lord’s Supper, 1789 and 1814

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I.  PREFACE AND INTRODUCTION

In the previous post I set the stage and wrote of U.S. Dutch Reformed history through the Secession of 1857, which resulted in the formation of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA or just CRC).  That approach was necessary and proper.  Now, however, to zoom in and explore more details is also necessary and proper.

My purpose in this post is to examine U.S. Dutch Reformed liturgies and their antecedents through 1814, the year that the Reverend John H. Livingston (1746-1825), the Father of the Reformed Church in America, edited The Psalms and Hymns, successor to The Psalms of David (1789), which he had also edited.  Livingston, as a liturgist, stood firmly in his tradition while departing from it in some ways.

II.  EUROPEAN ROOTS

Dutch Reformed liturgies stood in the lineage of Lutheran and Reformed rites of the 1500s.  Of particular relevance was the Palatinate service book, the Kirchenordnung, or Church Order (1563), a companion to the Heidelberg Catechism (1563).  Zacharius Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus wrote them at the behest of Elector Frederick III “the Pious.”  The Palatinate form for Holy Communion borrowed from various Calvinistic forms and drew from the Heidelberg Catechism.  The Palatinate liturgies, being companions to the Heidelberg Catechism, not only contained echoes of it but came with a rubric requiring the minister to identify the questions from that Catechism germane to his Sunday sermon.

The Reverend Peter Datheen (1531-1588), a former Carmelite friar who had converted to Protestantism in 1550, relocated with his congregation from London, England, to Frankental (near Worms), in Germany, in 1562, under the protection of Elector Frederick III.  There Datheen, whose Latinized name was Petrus Dathenus, encountered the Palatinate Communion ritual.  In that setting the sacrament took place once a month in cities, once every other month in villages, and on Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas.  There was a service of preparation on the Saturday before each Communion Sunday.  Only those who had attended the preparation service could partake of the sacrament.

Both the Heidelberg Catechism and the Church Order of 1563 influenced Datheen greatly.  He combined much of the latter with Lutheran and other Reformed forms as well as his Dutch translation of the Psalter to forge a new service book, which he published in 1566.  The volume also contained the Heidelberg Catechism and rituals and prayers.  There one found rituals for Baptism, the Lord’s Supper,funerals,  and marriage, as well as prayers for morning, evening, the sick, and opening and closing church council meetings.  This service book has proven influential in Dutch Reformed circles to this day.

Datheen’s Eucharistic rite incorporated parts of 1 Corinthians 10 and 11.  The ritual featured a prayer, a creed, and an exhortation to lift up hearts to Christ, not to pay attention to earthly bread and wine.  Reformed Eucharistic theology was prominent.

Datheen presided at three influential Synods–Wesel in 1568 and Dordrect (Dort) in 1574 and 1578.  The 1568 Synod recommended the use of Datheen’s Psalter in The Netherlands.  The Synods of 1574 and 1578 required the use of that Psalter and permitted the singing of hymns.  The Synod of Dort (1574) established a pattern for the Sunday service:

  • A scripture reading and the singing of a psalm,
  • The Votum (Psalm 24:8),
  • Prayer;
  • Singing,
  • The sermon,
  • Prayer again,
  • The Creed,
  • Singing again, and
  • The Blessing.

The frequency of the Lord’s Supper was once a month.

The Synod of Dort (1578) established other rules:

  • The Gospel reading would come from a lectio continua (continual reading plan), not a complementary lectionary.
  • Sunday worship would be central.  Thus there would be no weekday evening prayer.
  • There would be only preaching, not singing, at a funeral, so to honor only God.
  • Baptism and Confirmation would occur only in community settings.
  • Congregational leaders would investigate a parishioner’s behavior prior to the monthly observance of the Lord’s Supper.  Only those who passed the test could partake of the sacrament.

The Synod of Dort (1618-1619) was more famous than the preceding Synods held in that city.  The 1618-1619 Synod reversed the earlier, permissive attitude toward hymns, permitting instead only the singing of Psalms.  That gathering also prohibited the use of organs in churches.  This fact explained the great scandal which a Dutch Reformed congregation in New York City caused in 1727 by installing a pipe organ.

The Synod of The Hague (1586) expanded Datheen’s influence.  It required strict adherence to his order of the Lord’s Supper, one which heightened the emphasis on sin, a fixation which was already a major point in the Palatinate liturgy.  Indeed, one could not use Datheen’s rituals without hearing about how one had been born into sin and was therefore incapable of doing anything good.

III.  IN THE NEW WORLD

Colonial Worship Patterns

Datheen’s liturgy, being official, normative, and mandatory in the Dutch Reformed Church in The Netherlands and her colonies, set the pattern for Dutch Reformed worship in the New World for nearly two centuries.  The services were in the Dutch language in the territory of the future United States for a long time, for the first English-language services (using a translation of the Datheen rites) occurred in the 1700s.  There were two Sunday services in the time of New Netherland.  The morning and afternoon services followed the same order or worship.  The afternoon sermon related to the Heidelberg Catechism.

Enter John H. Livingston

The Reverend John H. Livingston (1746-1825) worked from Datheen’s blueprint when editing two service books-hymnals, The Psalms of David (1789) and The Psalms and Hymns (1814), links to which I have provided already in this post.  (I also covered them partially in the first post in this series.   Thus the following content stands beside that section of that post.)  The two Livingston-edited service books-hymnals deviated from Datheen’s model in certain crucial ways and differed from each other.  They were, however, more alike than not.  The two volumes reflected the influence of preceding rites and service books, such as those I have explained in this post.  The past was prologue.

Preparation for the Lord’s Supper

Both the 1789 and 1814 books contained A Compendium of the Christian Religion for Those Who Intend to Approach the Holy Supper of the Lord, a catechism for use in the Saturday preparatory services.

The Liturgy:  Public Prayer

The Liturgy came in six parts.  The first section was Public Prayer, which consisted of the following:

  • The pre-sermon and post-sermon prayers,
  • The prayers for before and after explaining the catechism,
  • A Morning Prayer and an Evening Prayer,
  • Prayers for opening and closing church meetings,
  • Graces before and after meat, and
  • Prayer for Sick and Tempted Persons.

The Liturgy:  The Administration of the Holy Sacraments

The second section of the Liturgy was the Administration of the Holy Sacraments–Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  There were rites for baptizing infants and adults.  The rituals emphasized that all people were

conceived and born in sin

and were therefore children

of wrath by nature, incapable of doing any good, and prone to all evil.

Yet, the language said, there was grace.  The rites challenged the baptized to make

firm resolution always to lead a Christian life.

Livingston, while editing the 1789 and 1814 books, omitted a crucial prayer from the Palatinate and Datheen liturgies.  That prayer had deep roots, for Martin Luther had written the original version, Ulrich Zwingli had revised it, and Zacharius Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus had modified if further at Heidelberg in 1563.  The English translation of that prayer read:

O almighty and eternal God,

who in thy severe judgment didst punish the unbelieving and impenitent world with the Flood,

and didst of thy great mercy save and preserve eight souls to faithful Noah,

who didst didst drown the hard-hearted Pharoah with all his host in the Red Sea,

and didst lead thy people Israel through the same with dry feet,

by which baptism was signified,

we beseech thee, that thou wilt be pleased of thine infinite mercy graciously to look upon these children,

and incorporate them by thy Holy Spirit into thy Son Jesus Christ,

that they may be buried with him into his death,

and be raised with him in newness of life;

that they may daily follow him, joyfully bearing their cross,

and cleave unto him in true faith, firm hope, and ardent love;

that they may with a comfortable sense of thy favor,

leave this life, which is nothing but a continual death,

and at the last day, may appear without terror before the judgment seat of Christ thy Son,

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Ghost,

one only God, lives and reigns forever.  Amen.

(I changed the formatting to make the text more easily readable.)

The “flood prayer,” which pointed to Baptism as a corporate sign–one sealed one person at a time–was absent from the 1789 and 1814 books.  This absence indicated that the Reformed Church in America was moving into American Evangelicalism, with its excessive individualism, and away from European Calvinistic roots, which took the community more into account.

(P.S.–In 1994 the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America sent to the Classes (the plural form of Classis) a baptismal rite, which they approved the following year.  That ritual contains an abbreviated form of the “flood prayer.”  One can access that rite here.  As I write this sentence there are Provisional Orders on Baptism and Profession and Reaffirmation of Faith which also use a form of that prayer.)

The Eucharistic rites of the 1789 and 1814 remained close to the Datheen model.  The service opened with 1 Corinthians 11:23-30 then continued with an exhortation for those present to examine their consciences.  Next came a congregational prayer for grace, followed by the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’s Creed.  Then came this very Reformed prayer:

That we may now be fed with the true heavenly bread, Christ Jesus,

let us not cleave with our hearts unto the external bread and wine,

but lift them up on high in heaven, where Christ is our advocate, at the right hand of the heavenly Father,

whither all the articles of our faith lead us;

not doubting, but we shall as certainly be fed and refreshed in our souls through the working of the Holy Ghost,

with his body and blood, as we receive the holy bread and wine in remembrance of him.

(I changed the formatting to make the text more easily readable.)

The distribution of the elements followed.  Then prayers of thanksgiving concluded the rite.

The Liturgy:  The Administration of Church Discipline

The Administration of Church Discipline was the third part of the Liturgy.  This part consisted of Excommunication and Readmitting Excommunicated Persons Into the Church of Christ.

The Liturgy:  The Ordination of Church Officers

The fourth section of the Liturgy, the Ordination of Church Officers, contained rites for ordaining ministers, elders, and deacons.

The Liturgy:  Marriage

Section number five of the Liturgy was the Confirmation of a Marriage Before the Church.

The Liturgy:  The Consolation of Sick and Dying Believers

The final section of the Liturgy consisted of verses of scripture For the Consolation of Sick and Dying Believers, arranged topically.  The 1789 book contained the texts, but the 1814 volume just listed the citations.

The Nicene and Athanasian Creeds

Both books ended with the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds.

The Psalter

The Psalter was prominent in the 1789 and 1814 books.  The Psalms of David (1789) did not Christianize the Psalms to the extent The Psalms and Hymns (1814) did.  In 1814 Psalm 21, the Third Part, verse 1, read:

David rejoic’d in God, his strength,

Rais’d to the throne by special grace;

But Christ, the Son appears at length,

Fulfills the triumph and the praise.

The punctuation was slightly different in 1789, as was the use of “f” for “s.”

Then there was the case of Psalm 22.  The 1789 Psalms of David rendered the text mostly in a straight-forward way, without much Christianization.  The 1814 Psalms and Hymns, however, Christianized the text extensively.  Verse 1 of the Second Part read:

Writhing in pain, our Saviour pray’d

With mighty cries and tears:

In that dread hour, his Father heard,

And chas’d away his fears.

The 1814 book, unlike its 1789 predecessor, pegged the Psalms to the Heidelberg Catechism.

The Hymns

The Psalms of David (1789) included 100 hymns, but The Psalms and Hymns (1814) had 270.  The latter volume, however, removed 161 hymn and Psalm texts from the repertoire of the Reformed Church in America.  Both books, however, pegged the hymns to the Heidelberg Catechism.  Some of the new hymns expanded the range of funerary hymns, consistent with Livingston’s 1812 funeral liturgy, which replaced the sermon with the singing of hymns, in a break with Dutch Reformed tradition.

Looking Ahead

The 1789-1814 Liturgy fell into widespread disuse during the first half of the nineteenth century, as the denomination moved away from its roots and toward American Evangelicalism.  This fact concerned certain prominent people in the Reformed Church in America.  Their efforts led to the next period of liturgical revision, 1853-18

That is a story for a subsequent post.

IV.  CONCLUSION

As the Reformed Church in America (RCA) adjusted to changing circumstances it moved away from its European Calvinistic roots and in the direction of informal and more individualistic American Evangelicalism.  The denomination bore the stamp of personal Pietism.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY OF HARDCOPY SOURCES

Brumm, James Hart, ed.  Liturgy Among the Thorns:  Essays on Worship in the Reformed Church in America.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 57.

Wainwright, Geoffrey, and Karen B. Westerfield Tucker, eds.  The Oxford History of Christian Worship.  New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 2006.

Worship the Lord:  The Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America.  Reformed Church Press, 2005.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF MALTBIE DAVENPORT BABCOCK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ERIK IX OF SWEDEN, KING AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF TAMIHANA TE REUPARAHA, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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