LUTHER’S CATECHISMS “catechism” – an instruction in the essentials of the faith ENCHIRIDION D: 41 & 42
MOTIVATION Visitation of Saxon parishes, winter of 1528-1529 Conditions among the clergy and people –Devotional materials –Clerical illiteracy –ignorance, apathy, intransigence
PREPARATION The medieval inheritance: texts and sermons on three chief parts Luther’s use of the inheritance –Annual sermons on chief parts, 1516-1528 –Expositions of chief parts: 1519, 1520, 1523, etc. –1528: three sermon series: 5:18-30; 9:14-25; 11:30-12:19 This work furnished Luther with the vocabulary for quick composition of the catechisms.
Excerpts from the final series of 1528 3 rd Commandment: Do not despise the preaching and do not neglect the Word of God. See to it that you speak of it seriously, hear it, sing it, read it, use it, and learn it. 1 st Article: I believe that God has given to me body and soul, the five senses, clothing, food, shelter, wife, child, cattle, land. It follows from this that I should serve, obey, praise, and thank him. 2 nd Article: What a price he paid for it, namely, not with gold, silver, or an army of knights, but with his own self, that, with his own body. Baptism: Baptism is water comprehended and sanctified with God’s commandment and Word, that is, a divine and holy water because of God’s commandment.
PRODUCTION The catechisms were written simultaneously. 1.Five chief parts of Small Catechism in form of charts for hanging in homes and classrooms, by March 16, 1529 “Enchiridion” – a booklet small enough to be “carried in the hand.” 2.Large Catechism completed about April 10, 1529; Small Catechism in May. 3.Second edition of catechisms: pictures are added, taken chiefly from Bible stories 4.Section on Confession added later in 1529 as another chief part 5.Office of Keys section (not written by Luther) added in 1531 6.Table of Duties wipes out the medieval double standard for Christian life, as if the priesthood and monastic life were superior to other social classes.
MERITS OF THE ENCHIRIDION 1.No militancy or polemics 2.Evangelical quality, e.g. we fear and love God as Christians 3.Mastery of language: much alliteration facilitates memorization 4.Invites the attitude of prayer 5.The catechisms are Luther’s great gift to strong, loving, devotional family life.
The Small Catechism: Preface “…what misery I beheld!” 1.Avoid changes or variations in the text 2.Teach understanding 3.Then take up a longer catechism Preach so people compel us to give them the sacrament.
The Large Catechism: Preface “Each morning I do as a child and recite the catechism.” The Psalms are exercises based on the First Commandment.
The First and Second Commandments “A god is the term for that to which we are to look for all good…” The First Commandment is the fountainhead of all the commandments. An oath in court is in praise of God and is proper. “…this lovely virtue that whenever we commit a wrong we like to cover it…” D: 43
The Third Commandment “According to its outward meaning the (Third Commandment) does not concern us Christians.” The New Testament repeats all the commandments and tells us to keep them, but does not require rest on the Sabbath. “We Christians ought to make every day such a holy day… and occupy ourselves daily with God’s Word…” D: 44 & 45
The Fourth Commandment Not only to love parents but to honor them. “The Commandment is the golden chain around the neck, yes, the crown on the head, which shows me how and why I should honor this particular flesh and blood.” The promise refers to having things that contribute to a long life, such as peace and happiness. When families are strong society is strong. “We must not think only of amassing money and property for (our children).”
The Seventh and Eighth Commandments Luther considers commandments 5 to 8 as protection commandments. “The whole world… is nothing but a big, wide stable full of great thieves.” A good name is the immediate jewel of the soul. Jealousy is the green-eyed monster. A person in authority must investigate sin in an official capacity. “Honor and good name are easily taken away but not easily restored.” In our private dealings, often silence is the most powerful.
The Ninth and Tenth Commandments and the Conclusion “No one wants someone else to have as much as he or she does.” These commandments are addressed “to people who wish to be commended as honest and virtuous because they have not offended against the preceding commandments.” There is so much to do in the Ten Commandments that we don’t need to invent more. The conclusion is attached to the First Commandment but is intended to apply to all. “The First Commandment is to illuminate and impart its splendor to all the others.”
The Creed “I believe that there is on earth a holy little flock and community of pure saints under one head, Christ.” (404:51) “When we hear the word Fleisch we think no farther than the butcher shop.” (405:60)
The Lord’s Prayer We forgive in spite of our sinfulness. If this is possible, let that be an assurance that God forgives us. (419:92)
Baptism “It is not simply plain water, but water placed in the setting of God’s Word and commandment and made holy by them.” 424:14 “God himself has honored (the water) by both words and deeds and has confirmed it by miracles from heaven.” 425:21 “Baptism is not a work that we do but it is a treasure that God gives us and faith grasps.” 427:37
“My faith does not make baptism; rather, it receives baptism.” 428:53 “We bring the child with the intent and hope that it may believe, and we pray God to grant it faith. But we do not baptize on this basis, but solely on the command of God. Why? Because we know that God does not lie.” 429:57 “Those who fall out (of the ship) should immediately see to it that they swim to the ship and hold fast to it.” 431:82
The Sacrament of the Altar “What shall I do if I cannot feel this need… for the sacrament?” 439:75 Put your hands to your bosom and “determine whether they are made of flesh and blood…if you cannot feel the need, at least believe the Scriptures… Again, look around you and see whether you are also in the world. If you do not know, ask your neighbors about it…”