Now this forthcoming book looks interesting: He Alone is Worthy! (PDF) by Naomichi Masaki.
It remains to be seen whether I dare to add it to my groaning shelves of not-yet-read books, but the blurb alone has some fascinating points to make about the distinctive nature of Lutheran liturgy, and its influence on other parts of the church (as we’ll see in a moment).
In this book Dr. Naomichi Masaki highlights the liturgical thinking of Theodor Kliefoth (1810–95). Kliefoth served as Oberkirchenratspräsident in Schwerin, Germany, and found his liturgical ideal in the Reformation era liturgy. Fundamental for him were the interaction in the liturgy between the Lord’s giving and our receiving, between sacramentum and sacrificium, and His service to His people in the means of grace through the means of grace office.
This idea, of our worship (in particular, though not only, the Lord’s Supper) as being about God’s service to us, rather than the other way round, was fundamental to Luther’s understanding of the liturgy. As I posted on some years ago, Luther:
made a distinction between worship as sacrificium – a sacrifice offered to God – and worship as beneficium – a gracious gift of God to His people.
Luther regarded the medieval church’s understanding of worship as sacrificium to be one of its greatest errors. As Bard Thompson (quoted at more length in that post) put it, for Luther:
All of worship, and the Mass in particular, must be viewed as a beneficium of God, “who gives but does not take” – who gives freely out of pure mercy for the undeserving, asking only to be confessed and glorified.
It sounds from the first paragraph of his book’s blurb, though, as if Dr Masaki sees the Lutheran position as being slightly more nuanced than an outright rejection of sacrificium. The point is that our sacrificium is our response to the beneficium that has already been bestowed upon us (concretely, in the word and sacraments) by a gracious God. This is captured well in Norman Nagel’s introduction to Lutheran Worship:
Our Lord speaks and we listen. His Word bestows what it says. Faith that is born from what is heard acknowledges the gifts received with eager thankfulness and praise. Saying back to him what he has said to us, we repeat what is most true and sure. Most true and sure is his name, which he put upon us with the water of our Baptism. We are his. The rhythm of our worship is from him to us, and then from us back to him. He gives his gifts, and together we receive and extol him. We build each other up as we speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Our Lord gives us his body to eat and his blood to drink. Finally his blessing moves us out into our calling, where his gifts have their fruition.
This understanding of the liturgy is expressed concretely in how Lutheran liturgies treat the words of institution in the Lord’s Supper: not as part of a prayer directed towards God, but as words spoken by Christ, through his minister, to the congregation. Christ gives, we receive. This is one of the distinctives of the Lutheran liturgy that I appreciate the most.
One other interesting point from the blurb to Dr Masaki’s book:
When the thinking of Kliefoth in the 1850s started to influence the liturgical thinking in Sweden, one consequence was that the culmination point of the Lord’s Supper’s Preface should no longer be formulated as Det är rätt och tillbörligt (“It is right and proper” or “It is meet and right so to do”), but instead as Allena han är värdig tack och lov! (“He alone is worthy of thanks and praise!”). This acclamation becomes the prism through which Dr. Masaki studies how a number of Swedish theologians drew consequences of Kliefoth’s theology and eventually let them have their way into the liturgy of the 1894 Kyrkohandbok / Church Agenda.
It would seem that the Swedish liturgy has influenced contemporary
Anglican liturgies here. One of my favourite parts of the Church of England’s communion service in the Alternative Service Book was its rendering (taken from the ICET texts) of the end of the Sursum Corda and the start of the preface:
P: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
C: It is right to give him thanks and praise.
P: It is indeed right, it is our duty and our joy…
The Swedish Lutheran influence can perhaps be seen in the wording of that response: “It is right to give him thanks and praise” having clear echoes of “He alone is worthy of all thanks and praise!” (Though see the first comment to this post.)
The Lutheran Service Book uses the same response (“It is right to give him thanks and praise”) in its first communion setting, Divine Service 1. The more traditional setting, Divine Service 3, has “It is meet and right so to do”. Similarly, the response in the new translation of the Catholic mass is the rather pedestrian “It is right and just”.
As for the phrase “it is indeed right, it is our duty and our joy”, this is surely one of the finest expressions ever of what should motivate us as Christians, not only in the liturgy, but in our private prayer, our vocations, and in every other area of life: our sacrificium in response to God’s beneficium.