The Divine Service (German: Gottesdienst) is a title given to the Eucharistic liturgy as used in the
various Lutheran churches. It has its roots in the pre-Tridentine Mass as revised by Martin Luther in his Formula missae ("Form of the Mass") of 1523 and his Deutsche Messe ("German Mass") of 1526. It was further developed through the Kirchenordnungen ("church orders") of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that followed in Luther's tradition.
In the parts of North American Lutheranism that use it, the term "Divine Service" supplants more usual English-speaking Lutheran names for the Mass: "The Service" or "The Holy Communion." The term is a calque of the German word Gottesdienst (literally "God-service" or "service of God"), the standard German word for worship.
As in the English phrase "service of God," the genitive in "Gottesdienst" is arguably ambiguous. It can be read as an objective genitive (service rendered to God) or a subjective genitive (God's "service" to people). While the objective genitive is etymologically more plausible, Lutheran writers frequently highlight the ambiguity and emphasize the subjective genitive. This is felt to reflect the belief, based on Lutheran doctrine regarding justification, that the main actor in the Divine Service is God himself and not man, and that in the most important aspect of evangelical worship God is the subject and we are the objects: that the Word and Sacrament are gifts that God gives to his people in their worship.
Although the term Mass was used by early Lutherans (the Augsburg Confession states that "we do not abolish the Mass but religiously keep and defend it") and Luther's two chief orders of worship are entitled "Formula Missae" and "Deutsche Messe"—such use has decreased in English usage except among Evangelical Catholics and "High Church Lutherans". Also, Lutherans have historically used the terms "Gottesdienst" or "The Service" to distinguish their Service from the worship of other protestants, which has been viewed as focusing more on the faithful bringing praise and thanksgiving to God.
Preparatory Service Edit
- Processional hymn is sung.
- The people stand. During this hymn, the pastor and those assisting him (such as the acolytes) process into the sanctuary from the narthex.
- The Invocation begins the Divine Service.
- For the Invocation and the Preparatory Service, the pastor is to stand at the foot of the altar steps, advancing to the altar at the Introit. He speaks the Trinitarian formula, as the Sign of the Cross is made by all.
- The Confession (Confiteor) follows
- "In the Confession (Lat. "Confiteor"), we kneel humbly before our God, acknowledging our sin and seeking purification of our Spirit. In the Declaration of Grace that follows, we receive from God Himself the assurance of God's mercy and grace that enables us to focus on our loving God." Both the congregation and the pastor kneel as the following is said:
Service of the Word Edit
Martin Luther celebrating the Divine Service (predella of the 1547 altar by Lucas Cranach the Elder and Younger inSt. Mary's, Wittenberg).
- The Introit is sung.
- "The Introit (Lat. "entrance") marks the actual beginning of the Service of the Day. It strikes the keynote theme of the entire Service, recognizing the glory of God and announcing God's grace using pertinent verses, usually from the Psalms. The Introit consists of an Antiphon, followed by a Psalm verse, followed by the Gloria Patri. The Antiphon is then repeated for emphasis." It is during the Introit that the choir, ministers (bishop, pastors (presbyters), deacons), and celebrant process to the chancel. Bowing to the altar, they move to their seats. The celebrant approaches the altar and bow to kiss it. All remain standing.
- The Kyrie is chanted by a deacon.
- "In the Kýrie Eléison (Gr. "O Lord, have mercy"), we pray to God for grace and help in time of need. It expresses our humility and appreciation of our own weakness and need in a sinful world."
- The Gloria in Excelsis Deo follows.
- "The Gloria in Excelsis (Lat. "Glory to God in the highest") is the angelic hymn announcing the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ to the shepherds. In it, we join in the hymn of the angels in celebration of the Father's gift of His Son." During Advent and Lent the Gloria in Excelsis is omitted. In its place in Advent, "O come, O come, Emmanuel" is commonly sung. In Lent, "Vexilla Regis" commonly takes its place.
- Next is the Dominus Vobiscum and the day's Collect.
- "The Dominus Vobiscum is a reciprocal chanted prayer of the Pastor for his people and of the congregation for its Pastor before we together offer our petitions to God. It reflects the special relationship of love between the Pastor and congregation... The Collect sums up, or "collects", all the prayers of the church into one short prayer and suggests the theme of the day or season." After the collect, all may be seated.
- The first reading (commonly an Old Testament passage) is read.
- During Easter and its season a passage from the book of Acts of the Apostles is read. After the reading the person chants "The Word of the Lord", to which the congregation replies "Thanks be to God". Today the common practice is that the readings (excluding the Gospel) are read by lay people.
- Next, the Gradual is sung by the cantor and/or choir.
- "The Gradual, so-named because it was originally sung from a step (Lat. "gradus") of the altar, provides a musical echo to the passage just read and a transition to the next lesson."The gradual is psalm that is sung in meditation on the first reading.
- The Epistle reading is announced and read.
- "The Epistle (Gr. "letter") is usually taken from the letters of the Apostles. Frequently, this lesson does not relate directly to the Gospel. Usually, it bears practical and serious thoughts for daily living."
- The Alleluia and verse is now sung by cantor and people.
- "The Alleluia (Heb. "Praise the Lord") is a song of joy at the hearing of the Word of God. The accompanying verse usually reflects the mood of the day." During Lent, the Alleluia is omitted and is replaced with a tract. All rise at the singing of the Alleluia and remain standing while the Gospel is read. The practice of the Gospel procession is used frequently in churches where the "Word of God" is brought into the nave and read among the faithful people of God. A Gospel procession includes the crucifer, two candlebearers, the assistant holding the Bible and the celebrant-pastor. On major feasts (such as Christmas or Easter) the Book of Gospels is censed by the pastor to show our high regard for God's Word.
- The Gospel reading is chanted or spoken. Traditionally the role of a deacon.
- "At the announcement of the Gospel, we sing the Gloria Tibi, Domine (Lat. "Glory to you, O Lord"), joyfully affirming our recognition of the real presence of Christ. After hearing our Savior's Good News, we respond with words of praise in the Laus Tibi, Christe (Lat. "Praise to you, O Christ")." Note: Lutherans confine the reading of the Gospel to ordained clergy (not including deacons).
- The Hymn of the day is sung next.
- This hymn outlines the theme of the day and is the chief hymn of the Divine Service, so it is chosen very carefully. Following, the people may be seated.
- Sermon (also called "homily" or "postil").
- "In the Sermon, the preacher "rightly divides (or interprets) the Word of truth." The Sermon contains elements of the two great doctrines of the Bible: the Law, which tells us how we are to live, and the Gospel, which proclaims forgiveness of our sins, by grace, through faith, for Christ's sake. The Gospel predominates in the Sermon. The Sermon usually relates to the lessons of the day." After the sermon the people stand and the pastor says the Votum (Lat. "we desire"): "The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
- The Nicene Creed is spoken.
- "The Creed (Lat. "I believe") is our individual, public confession of faith, spoken with the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church". It is a statement of Christianity's most basic and fundamental beliefs, witnessing to the unity and universality of the Church. It does not specifically mean "The Roman Catholic Church"
- The Collection and Offertory follow.
- After the offerings have been collected they are given to the pastor, who presents it at the altar. "We joyfully offer to God a portion of His gifts to us, as an outward response of our faith in Him." After the collection, the Offertory is sung. "In the words of David, we ask God to cleanse our hearts, to keep us in the one true faith and to grant us the full joy of salvation."
- The Prayer of the Faithful is next, with petitions offered by a deacon.
- "In the Prayer of the Faithful, the Church performs its priestly role (which is communal and not individual) by representing the people of the world before God in prayer. The "Prayer of the Church" is therefore not the prayer of individuals for themselves nor the congregation for itself but is indeed the prayer of the Church for the world, the work of the Church, and the Church itself."
Service of the Sacrament Edit
Main article: Eucharist in the Lutheran Church
- The Preface is chanted.
- "The Preface begins the Office of Holy Communion. It begins with a simple but powerful dialogue between the pastor and the congregation, which unites the whole body of believers in reverence, adoration, joy and thanksgiving in anticipation of the Sacrament. This is followed by the Common Preface, which begins "It is truly good, right and salutary" and ends with "Therefore with angels and archangels," thus uniting the Church with angelic host. In between is the Proper Preface, which is variable."
- The Sanctus is sung.
- "In the Sanctus (Lat. "Holy"), we join with the "Angels, Archangels and all the company of heaven" in proclaiming the glory of the Father (first sentence), praising Christ our Savior (second sentence) and singing the song of the children of Jerusalem as they welcomed the Messiah on the first Palm Sunday (third sentence)."
- The Anaphora follows.
- "The reverent, unadorned use of the Anaphora focuses all our thoughts on the acts and words or Christ and expresses the Real Presence of Christ's body and blood in, with and under the bread and wine. Here, God is dealing with us in a loving manner, reminding us that Christ died for our sins." Below is an example form:
- The Lord's Prayer follows.
- "As children, we address our God as "Our Father", praying as our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us to pray."
- Next is the Pax Domini.
- "The Pax Domini (Lat. "Peace of the Lord") is the same greeting spoken by the risen Christ to His disciples on Easter evening. It is the final blessing before we approach the altar to receive the gift of Christ's body and blood."
- The Agnus Dei follows.
- "The Agnus Dei (Lat. "Lamb of God") is our hymn of adoration to our Savior Jesus Christ who is truly present for us in the Sacrament. The Agnus Dei recalls the testimony of John the Baptist when he pointed to Jesus and proclaimed: "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.""
- The Distribution is next.
- The congregation is to remain kneeling in adoration during the distribution. The pastor first receives communion and then "those who will be assisting him". "By Christ's own words, "Given and shed for you for the remission of sins", in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper God offers, gives, and seals for us forgiveness of sins, life and salvation." The manner of receiving the Eucharist differs throughout the world. Sometimes there is a cushioned area at the front of the church where the congregation can come to the front to kneel and receive this sacrament. Typically, the pastor distributes the host and an assistant (the deacon) then distributes the wine. The congregation departs and may make the sign of the cross. In other Lutheran churches, the process is much like the Post-Vatican II form used in the Catholic Church, the eucharistic minister (most commonly the pastor) and his assistants/deacons line up, with the eucharistic minister in the center, holding the hosts, and the two assistants on either side, holding the chalices. The people process to the front in lines and receive the Eucharist standing When a person receives the bread, the eucharistic minister may say "The Body of Christ, given for you." When a person receives the wine, the assistant/deacon may say "The Blood of Christ, shed for you." Following this, the people make the sign of the cross (if they choose to) and return to their places in the congregation.
In dismissing the communicants, the pastor commonly says, "The body and blood of our Lord strengthen and preserve you steadfast in the true faith to life everlasting." The communicants may say "Amen". Silent prayer is appropriate after being dismissed. "The Dismissal reassures communicants of the efficacy of the Lord's Supper in creating life-saving faith in Christ."
- The nunc dimittis is sung next as a postcommunion canticle
- "In singing the Nunc Dimittis, (Lat. "Now you dismiss"), we stand with Simeon as he looked upon the baby Jesus, in awe of the profound mystery that the Father would give His only Son in the flesh for the salvation of our souls. Having just received the Lord's Supper, we have truly seen Thy Salvation, which [God] prepared before the face of all people."
- The postcommunion collect follows.
- "The Versicle calls us to give thanks and introduces the Thanksgiving Collect. In the Collect, we thank God for His life-saving Sacrament and pray that His gift of faith offered therein causes us to change our life and enables us to love God and love others."
- The Benediction (from Numbers 6:24) and the Amen is chanted.
- "More than a prayer for blessing, the Benediction imparts a blessing in God's name, giving positive assurance of the grace and peace of God to all who receive it in faith. The words of the Benediction are those that the God gave to Moses (the Aaronic Blessing) and those used by Christ at the Ascension. The final word that falls on our ears from our gracious God is "peace", affirming our reconciliation to God through the blood of Jesus Christ... We conclude the Divine Service with a triple Amen, that is, "Yea, yea, it shall be so", which expresses our firm faith in the forgiveness of sins by God's grace through Jesus Christ as heard and experienced in the Word and Sacrament of the Divine Service just ended."
- The recessional hymn is sung.
- The pastor and his assistants process into the narthex.
- The ite missa est concludes the Divine Service.
- Before the congregation departs, the deacon walks back into the sanctuary and says, "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord" (or similar words) as the people respond, "Thanks be to God."