04 February 2006

Lutherans and the Canon

It is universally known that Martin Luther excised the Roman Canon from his revisions of the Mass. There are other changes he makes, but that excision coupled with the allowance or even promotion of the vernacular, are the most noticable.

It is also universally known that, until 1930, one cannot find a single Lutheran Kirchenordnung (a legal document containing, among other things, the specifics on the celebrating Mass) or hymnal/missal that contains anything that resembles an historic Canon or Eucharistic Prayer. (For the moment, let's side-step the intriguing Edwardian Prayerbook, which was accused of being Lutheran.)

What is not commonly acknowleged is that the 1580 Book of Concord does not condemn all anaphora, canons or eucharistic prayers. Rather, in several places it condemns only the Roman Canon. This make senses since the Roman Canon was the only Canon in use in the West at the time of the Reformation.

The curious thing, however, is that the Reformers--and particularly Philipp Melanchthon in the Apology--go out of their way to commend one anaphora or canon in particular. In the Apology of the Augsburg Confession (XXIV.88, 93), the Confessions praise the anaphora used in the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and prefer it to the Roman Canon.

What I conclude from this, then, is that the Reformers did not oppose the use, per se, of every anaphora, canon or eucharistic prayer; they simply opposed the Roman Canon in use in their day. (Why they opposed the Roman Canon, understanding that opposition and its theological legitimacy is for another day.)

1 comment:

William Weedon said...

Actually, there WAS one that skated close to the Roman Canon. The King John Red Book in the Church of Sweden. Even used the same opening phrases (Te igitur, etc.). Of course, it didn't take the Swedish Lutherans long to dispense with it!