Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Of "Father" and "Mass"

Since its inception Gottesdienst has included the title Father for clergymen and the term Mass for, well, for the Mass, as part of its style guide. This, along with the chasubles, chanting, and genuflecting will sometimes provoke the charge of "too Catholic" or "weirdos" or even things less complimentary. In the past some well meanings folks have suggested that we just drop all the Catholic lingo: we'd get way more traction in our goals of restoring Lutheran worship if we just referred to clergymen as Pastor and the Mass as the Divine Service.

However, Gottesdienst is a journal of the Lutheran liturgical tradition - a tradition that includes all of the above. To set those terms aside to curry favor with the unconvertable champions of innovation would be to undo the whole point of the journal.

Nevertheless, from time to time it is good to review why we use these terms and how they are indeed part of the Lutheran tradition.

First, Mass. Does anyone seriously not know that this is the chief term used in the Lutheran Confessions for the Sunday Communion Service? If you don't believe me, just go to and do a search. It's right there, for example, in AC/Ap XXIV "we don't abolish the Mass but keep it religiously." Yup, that's us.

Second, Father. Let's start with Johan Gerhard's Theological Commonplaces: On the Ministry section 26:
And, likewise, [ministers] are called "fathers" (2 Kings 6:21). This title is repeated in the New Testament (I Cor. 4:15; Gal. 4:19) not merely for the sake of honor but also because through the Word they beget spiritual children to God - instrumentally, that is; and in this sense and respect they are said to save both themselves and their hearers (I Tim. 4:16). 

Or again, how about the Large Catechism:
Besides these there are yet spiritual fathers; not like those in the Papacy, who have indeed had themselves called thus, but have performed no function of the paternal office. For those only are called spiritual fathers who govern and guide us by the Word of God;159] as St. Paul boasts his fatherhood 1 Cor. 4:15, where he says: In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel. Now, 160] since they are fathers they are entitled to their honor, even above all others. But here it is bestowed least; for the way which the world knows for honoring them is to drive them out of the country and to grudge them a piece of bread, and, in short, they must be (as says St. Paul, 1 Cor. 4:13) as the filth of the world and everybody's refuse and footrag.

Shucks, even Fr. Walther himself was known to use the term. And in our day of so many denominations ordaining women, might not a title that directly confesses the manner in which Jesus instituted the ministry have some worth?

I serve in rural Illinois. Folks call the Mass "Church" and they call me "Pastor," or "Reverend," or "Preacher."   And that's just fine - those are all part of our tradition as well, but they are in no danger of being lost. The terms "Mass" and "Father" each have something unique to confess and have fallen into disuse and calumny. So we use them at Gottesdiesnst and encourage our readers to get reacquainted with them. Where I serve that means we talk about them in Bible Class - these are good conversations that lead the people into the richness of the Lutheran heritage.



  1. There is nothing wrong with guys choosing to call each other special nicknames in their own collegial circles. It can become an issue if they burden the consciences of the Grandma Schmidts out there by expecting to be addressed as such or drop the "mass" bomb on groups of unsuspecting laymen without having a serious, focused regimen of catechesis, within which such terminology could be used as a didactic device.

    1. I know of no pastor who has ever insisted his congregation use any specific title when addressing him. Do you?


  2. I have been suggesting lately that we call ourselves Lutheran Catholic, as opposed to Roman Catholic, or Greek Catholic.

    Or Catholics of the Lutheran rite.

    Thus a church would be named: St. Matthew Lutheran Catholic Church.

    Or St. Matthew Catholic Church of the Lutheran Rite.

    Or St. Matthew Catholic Church - Lutheran Rite.

    I've run it up the flagpole. Will anyone salute?

    1. I like Lutheran Catholic as opposed to Roman or Greek Catholic.

      I don't think Lutheran rite will fly simply because Lutheranism is not a rite, but a confession. We in the LCMS, for example, seemingly have no rite at all when it comes to worship or ministry!


  3. I'd prefer a proper term for the liturgy, rather than a Latin slang word. And in the BOC I'm often baffled about what they mean by Mass, sometimes it seems they only mean the sacrament of the altar, and not the whole liturgy. Anyway, when we go back to basics this close to the egg (ab ovo), I'd prefer the term prescribed by the Roman Emperors of the Chritian Ecumene, We will all call it the Divine Public Service. You know, once you get back before like 750 AD, you Germans really got no say in what the Roman Imperial Church called anything, much less church terms.

    So when did the western church start using late Latin slang to refer to the Divine Public Service? Was it around 800 when they crowned the successful German warlord a fake Emperor in Rome just to spite the reigning Empress Irene? Just how dark did the dark ages have to get before peoples started using unauthorized terminology in barbaric configurations as shorthand for the DPS?

    1. "you Germans really got no say...unauthorized terminology in barbaric configurations"? Those poor, dark age, simple-minded Confessors of the BOC. If only you had been there to teach Luther, Chemnitz and the like.

      I was comforted with the word usage, if you go to wiki for "Mass" you'll see a picture of Father Petersen there celebrating the Mass, you just can't get closer to orthodoxy that this.

    2. The Lutheran Reformation and especially the BOC are products of the German Renaissance and its academia. A far cry and hundreds of years (perhaps a 1000 years) after the time Missa, Massa, Messa began its usage. I've no qualmes with our Gnesio Lutheran heros, but if they spoke to the origines of the word and its usage, I'm open to hear what they say. If your focus is on the history of the Roman Empire of the Christian Ecumene, the Reformation seems like it only happened yesterday.

    3. Our concern around these parts is to preserve our Lutheran heritage, not repristinate anything. So we're all for Divine Service, Divine Public Service, the Mass, the Liturgy, the Holy Communion, etc. But only one of those terms has been neglected for uniquely American reasons. So we focus on recapturing that term.

      As to the cause and effect relationships betwixt and between the Reformation and the Renaissance. . . well, much ink has been spilled.


    4. I think of the German Renaissance as a time period in which many things happened. I think of humanism as one of the ideas that gained a great deal of purchase at that time and place. Around Luther we have great humanists like Pirkheimer and Erasmus. Probably the most accomplished Renaissance men among the Saxons were Cranach the Elder and Frederick the Wise who founded a University and then had a library to build for it.

      You'll find an interesting thread running between all these people, the printing press of Aldus Manutius near Venice. You have the colony since 1453 of Orthodox Greek scholars and Emigre Imperial (Roman Empire)nobility settled in Venice without conversion to western ways (they were allowed their own church). The Venetian Greeks were invaluable at getting their works into print.

      Erasmus as a young man worked in Aldus printing workshop for several years getting his Greek text book printed. It was here we begin to hear of Erasmus idea that the pronunciation of Greek had changed since antiquity. And Frederick the Wise had agents in Venice with orders to buy books for his new University Library, but especially everything printed by Aldus.

      And then there was the greek library of Metropolitan come Cardinal Bessarion of Trebezond, still packed in crates on the second floor of an unused palace. A gift, oddly, to Venice when Bessarion, who lived in Rome, died. Until you turn a pile of books into a library you have no access to what is there, and that actually saved the now named, Marciana, from pilfering. At Aldus time, a manuscript being used to make a print copy was usually pulled to pieces and destroyed in the process.

      And it was the Greek (Roman Imperial) scholars from the east though now in Venice who convinced Aldus that the art used in the calligraphy of their written works needed to be carried over into the printed version, which meant thousands of types for a typesetter to select from when compositing a page.

      I like to imagine that Frederick and Staupitz arranged for Luther, on his way back from Rome in 1511, to stop at Mantua for 2 years of study, where he and Erasmus worked on the Greek texts together, with Aldus at his press. I can clearly hear Luther saying, that thousands of types is rediculous, we will print these Greek works in simple Greek uncials, just like you see carved on ancient monuments. Luther would have wanted learning and understanding first, above saving the hand-writing art of the originals.

      Today we might have a famous Luther Greek Uncial type. I imagine these things because of how close Luther did pass right by these places, people and things and how much pride would his Prince have in him if he also had a degree from Mantua? My imagination takes flight.

      But, in reading about Luther's trip to Rome, he was in a sour mood on the way back and longed only to get home to Saxony. Two years at Mantua might have burst his homesick heart. And, that trip to Rome was arranged in Erfurt and was not in the purview of either the Prince nor of Staupitz. Staupitz was actually on the side that opposed the petition. So it was not theirs to make extra use of Luther's time in Italy to round off his pointy corners a bit or to inform his sense of diplomacy in church politics.

      I am, and I apologize for it, just spilling ink, simply because Luther's world fascinates me when one starts pulling the threads together.

  4. What about "Lord's Supper". I think it was Chemnitz's preferred term (if I can judge by his "de Coena domini").

    1. "Lord's Supper" is mostly used by Baptists. It really sounds like stupid Baptists.

      Why not Mass? I don't really understand the goofy ideas of German & American Lutherans. Look at the Scandinavian & Baltic Lutherans. They have been maintaining the apostolic succession, the three-fold ministry, the historical terms "Mass" & "Father", etc. Why not Americans? American Lutherans are becoming Calvinists more and more. With this, there is no hope!

    2. I don't understand your point. So, the mark of Lutheranism is having apostolic succession, three-fold ministry, and using such terms? Do such things need to be the same everywhere? "And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and 3] the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike." (AC VII.2)

      To claim that these terms are inherently Calvinist is a bit trouble since the term "Lord's Supper" is used frequently among historic Lutherans and the several authors of the Book of Concord. Chemnitz' long work on the Lord's Supper is short handed to just that "De Coena Domini." Article VII of the Formula of Concord is also entitled "De Coena Domini". And frankly, if you want to reject the Formula's title due to the "Scandavian" differences on the Formula, it's also the title for Article X of the Augsburg Confession. "LOrd's Supper" may be used by Baptists, but it has also been used by Lutherans from the very beginning. Baptists use other theological terms as well, does that mean our use of them makes us baptist? Really?

      With a legalistic attitude about terms and traditions there really is no hope. Our only hope is in the preaching of Christ and Him crucified.

  5. When it comes to the use of terms and nomenclature within the church, I think too often we spend to much time arguing about such things. Terms are very important and without them we couldn't confess, nor could we hear the Gospel. The real question, I think, revolves around what the substance of the matter is, and that whatever term used should hearken, draw, and give voice to whatever the substance of the thing is. Now, I have no problem with any of the terms used heretofore—all of them are great terms used by some of our Lutheran Theologians of blessed memory. However, I think that sometimes we miss the forrest through the trees. When it comes to "Mass" and "Father" I just don't see what the point is of getting all bent out of shape about their use or lack thereof. The Confessions use both of them, which is great, but why do we want to use them? Is it for the mere sake of using them? Do we just want to use them so we can claim our "Lutheran Heritage?" What does that term even mean? Don't get me wrong, I'm known to sometimes use the word Mass on occasion, but such a term has no scriptural backing (unlike the term "father"). Now, I'm not against using none scriptural terms—please don't misunderstand—I gladly use terms like "Mass", "homoousios" (Nicene Creed), "epiousion" (Mt. 6:11), even "trinity."

    So what's the problem? Up to this point, where's the Gospel? Where's Jesus? The substance of the "Mass", "Gottesdienst", "Lord's Supper", "Public Divine Service", etc. is the forgiveness of sins. The heart and soul of what takes place on a Sunday morning is Jesus giving His body and blood. Does the term "Mass" get you there? I guess, in a round about way, if you know what's going on. I'm not quite sure what else to say about that, except that the term may not be the most helpful. We've received this term from our fathers of holy memory and we receive it as a gift, of course, but what about now?

    The church changes how she speaks. It's not that the substance ever changes, but the terms used may change. The early fathers used to speak about Christology in terms that we no longer use because of a differing situation, of a heresy that caused us to be more careful in our language. Could the same be said for the term "Mass". Again, just food for thought.

    When it comes to the term "father," I don't necessarily have the same concern. I've used it from time to time, and don't have a problem if anyone uses it. It confesses something very important about the office as Dr. Luther shows—as does St. Paul. It confesses something about Christ and the Gospel especially in an increasingly pluralistic environment, vis-a-vis women's ordination. Again, I'm just not sure you can say the same thing about the term "Mass." In my understanding doesn't it come from the dismissal? "Ite missa est" Not that, that's bad. It's just what I've come to understand as the history of the term. Words have history, but that doesn't exclude them from being used as "homoousios" shows.

    1. None of the above is meant to start an argument about terms or nomenclature. When that takes place, it really is an exercise of the Law (setting things within bounds, dividing). Such a thing, however, can be a great service to the Gospel. As the church speaks she confesses Christ and Him crucified. Terms that she uses bespeak that. We don't use the terms just for the sake of using them, or just because someone before us used them. That would be to run them in the way of the law. We use the terms because of how they confess Jesus. I can't say it enough, but this is not meant to start an argument. All of this is really just musing on the article, the comments, and ultimately the ramblings of someone who has received both terms as a gift and even uses them from time to time.

  6. A quick thought (don't run). It does occur to me that the German Lutherans called their confessor, their Beichtvater. And he called his confessee his Beichtkind. Since private confession lasted as late as the 1780s in Leipzig, there should be information there somewhere about Lutheran practice in what they called the clergy. As I read, there was rarely only one clergyman at the main services at the main churches in Leipzig. You know we may be discussing the same thing only in one situation how it would happen in a large city church (different names for different clergy as they function in the service), and in another situation how it would happen in a small village church, that would never see more than one clergyman at a service who would always have the lowest of clergy titles?

    We do know that the Superindendent was the big cheese, I don't think they had any title higher than that. (Speaking of non-biblical words, you'd think they'd have called him the Overseer if Bishop was out.) (You don't really need to read this part, it's just silly. But, would another way to say Overseer be The Grand Vizier? Just looked up the etymology, nevermind. Spilling ink.)

  7. Go! You are dismissed (it is dismissed). I believe it was said right before the Service of the Sacrament began. The Priest is telling all the strangers and especially the catecumens to leave so we can start the part of the service which is only for the initiated believers. That's why people with only a loose grasp of Latin began to call the part after the GO AWAY, the dismissal. Or the dismiss, or the missa. If this was only a prayer service, that really would be the end and everybody left. If the Service of the Sacrament was said directly afterwards, the strangers (and catecumens) needed to go.

    We know that at some time the laity in the West began to take the sacrament very infrequently, till at Luther's time the laity only took the sacrament at Easter. Some congregations complained bitterly when the reformers wanted the whole congregation to commune every Sunday; that was just too much because of all the prep they had been taught to do to received the sacrament.

    So you just watched and everyone believed that just being there, close enough, as if in Peter's Shadow, they would benefit. Perhaps they could touch or kiss one of Paul's kerchiefs while there, and then watch the priest take communion, then they could go. When he began the part to take the bread and wine, he dismissed them, but nobody left, so they just called that part of the latin sing-song the missa, mass, messe.... Then they called the whole unintelligeable thing that. The west had more of a laity and lost roots problem than did the east. And if the nobility said it was the missa, messe everybody said that, and what do you think the ruling German warlords call it?

  8. I don't mean to be annoying on what we should call our Sunday service, but a couple years or more ago, I decided I needed to know more about the Greek word liturgy and how it was used before it became connected to the Christian religion.

    All the reference books said it meant "public service," and that still did not give me the context of how it was used, so I searched some scholarly article databases and came up with a couple on how the word was used in Roman Egypt where a cache of papyrus delt with taxes in the Thebiad.

    The Romans of course used Greek to communicate with the local landowning class and had continued most of the Ptolomaic customs and practices as per taxation. The cache was the acceptance of an offered liturgy by a local lord. If he were to, at his own expense, dredge-out the canal from the town to the river and make it usable again, the Roman tax collectors would accept that liturgy (public service) as payment of his land taxes for so many years.

    The author went on to talk of other instances of local lords performing liturgies in lew of paying taxes. In a situation where the government was not able to do much public building or development of some kind in a particular area, they and the whole community would praise the local lord for his community spirit, and probably name the canal, or whatever, after the lord, and it would be blessed and consecrated to the lord's special gods by an elaborate priestly activity. Thus the developments/constuctions that a liturgy created would always result in religious activity.

    The little people who will actually use the canal to make their miserable livings, were more than pleased that the canal was usable again. To them it was a gift from the local lord and ultimately the Roman Governor of Egypt who would have had to sign off on any large (lots of tax exception) liturgies. He would send a representative to read a very cordial and appreciative letter at the religious ceremonies when the canal was opened for use.

    And thus for perhaps 50 years (silting was rapid in the sandy land) all the locals referred to the Lord Apollonios Liturgy Canal as a great blessing to their village. Then perhaps his grandson would dredge it again if the taxing regime still needed contruction more than money.

    So, there you have it. The big religious celebration of the liturgy canal, was a religious celebration of the liturgy. At least in Roman Egypt.


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