Holy Week


holy-week

Holy Week

The week before Easter is called Holy Week and culminates the preparation time of Lent. During these days, we focus on the events of Jesus’ life from His entrance into Jerusalem until His glorious resurrection from the dead. Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week, commemorates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:9). Because the complete account of the Lord’s Passion from Matthew, Mark, or Luke is often read, this Sunday is also called the Sunday of the Passion.

This week begins on Palm Sunday and ends on Holy Saturday.

On Maundy Thursday, the Church gives thanks to Jesus for the institution of the Lord’s Supper. The Maundy Thursday service closes with the stripping of the altar while Psalm 22-a prophecy of the crucifixion-is read or sung. This reminds us of how our Lord stripped to the waist to wash His disciples’ feet-and how He was stripped and beaten before His crucifixion.

Good Friday is the most solemn of all days in the Christian Church, yet a note of joy remains, as the title of the day indicates. On Good Friday, as we remember that on account of our sin the Lord was crucified and died, we give joyful thanks to God that all sin and God’s wrath over sin falls on Jesus and not on us, and that by His grace we receive the benefit of this most sacrificial act.

Where can unity be found?


God has two messages. He speaks Law and he speaks Gospel. The Law is God’s message of judgment against my sin. The Gospel is God’s word of forgiveness in Christ. It is his gracious response to my guilt.

The Law differentiates. It distinguishes. It says that I have failed God and I have failed you, my brothers and sisters. You might have something against me, as well. The Law forces me to measure myself against the standard of the Ten Commandments. And the Law has the nasty ability of making me better or worse than you.

cross_lawThe Gospel makes us all the same. When I am serving my neighbor then I am different and unique. But when I am being served by the Gospel, then I am just like every other sinner. I am equally as sinful as you. And I am equally as forgiven as you. We are the same. We are identical. Of course my sins might be more profound, more heinous, and more creative than yours. But in Christ both you and I are declared righteous, clothed and covered in the righteousness of the heavenly Bridegroom and cleansed in the blood of the Lamb. Sin, which makes us different and which divides, is forgiven. Good works, which distinguish and divide us, are irrelevant when it comes to salvation. So we are the same. The Divine Service reflects this.

If we are all the same, the services we attend should be pretty much the same. And if all the Christians in the world are the same, if the church is really “catholic,” then the worship services throughout the world should be pretty close to the same. If the saints from age to age are the same, and they are, then the worship services from age to age reflect our oneness and sameness in Christ.

But, if worship is primarily me serving God, then my worship will be different than yours because we are different in our good works. Worship will then be far from uniform. If we get the direction of the communication right in worship then we will also understand that uniformity in worship is good.

Paul addressed the problem of divisions in the church in his letter to the Ephesians. The Christians of Jewish descent felt that they were closer to God than the Gentile Christians. They thought they were more advanced in the law and where therefore better Christians. What a divisive attitude. Christian people have always had the same temptations toward disunity. Today we hear the same. Some Christians are considered more advanced, more dynamic, more mature, more committed, more engaged, more vital, more something. How did God create unity according to the apostle Paul? Continue reading

How Lutherans Worship – 10: Excursus: What is Lutheran Worship?


Another part of my ongoing answer to the one who wanted to know about Lutheran worship. First let’s define the essence and dynamic of worship and then we’ll take a look at how the Lutheran Confessions talk about worship and the role of faith and works in the Divine Service.

What is worship?

I think Dr. Norman Nagel captured the essence of the Lutheran Gottesdienst (roughly translated as “worship”) best when he wrote in the 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”

What is worship as defined by our Lutheran confessions?

St. John Lutheran Church, Jefferson WI

From the Book of Concord. Citations are given in the following form Symbol:Paragraph

Athanasian Creed:3, 28 –that our worship is catholic
And the Catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity.
For the right faith is, that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man.

Apology XXIV:27 -that we worship in spirit and in truth
Christ says, John 4, 23. 24: True worshipers shalt worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. This passage clearly condemns opinions concerning sacrifices which, they imagine, avail ex opere operato [“on account of the work having been performed”], and teaches that men ought to worship in spirit, i.e., with the dispositions of the heart and by faith.

Apology IV:49 -the Divine Service is objective and subjective
And the difference between this faith and the righteousness of the Law can be easily discerned. Faith is the Gottesdienst [divine service], which receives the benefits offered by God; the righteousness of the Law is the Gottesdienst [divine service] which offers to God our merits. By faith God wishes to be worshiped in this way, that we receive from Him those things which He promises and offers.

Apology IV:307-310 (186-189) -the Divine Service delivers to us God’s good gifts
But because the righteousness of Christ is given us by faith, faith is for this reason righteousness in us imputatively, i.e., it is that by which we are made acceptable to God on account of the imputation and ordinance of God, as Paul says, Rom. 4:3, 5: Faith is reckoned for righteousness. Although on account of certain captious persons we must say technically: Faith is truly righteousness, because it is obedience to the Gospel. For it is evident that obedience to the command of a superior is truly a species of distributive justice. And this obedience to the Gospel is reckoned for righteousness, so that, only on account of this, because by this we apprehend Christ as Propitiator, good works, or obedience to the Law, are pleasing. For we do not satisfy the Law, but for Christ’s sake this is forgiven us, as Paul says, Rom. 8:1: There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. This faith gives God the honor, gives God that which is His own, in this, that, by receiving the promises, it obeys Him. Just as Paul also says, Rom. 4:20: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God. Thus the worship and divine service of the Gospel is to receive from God gifts; on the contrary, the worship of the Law is to offer and present our gifts to God. We can, however, offer nothing to God unless we have first been reconciled and born again. This passage, too, brings the greatest consolation, as the chief worship of the Gospel is to wish to receive remission of sins, grace, and righteousness.

Apology IV:154-158 (33-37) -through the Divine Service we recieve remission of sins and reconciliation
The woman [Luke 7:36-50, a sinful woman forgiven] came with the opinion concerning Christ that with Him the remission of sins should be sought. This worship is the highest worship of Christ. Nothing greater could she ascribe to Christ. To seek from Him the remission of sins was truly to acknowledge the Messiah. Now, thus to think of Christ, thus to worship Him, thus to embrace Him, is truly to believe. Christ, moreover, employed the word “love” not towards the woman, but against the Pharisee, because He contrasted the entire worship of the Pharisee with the entire worship of the woman. He reproved the Pharisee because he did not acknowledge that He was the Messiah, although he rendered Him the outward offices due to a guest and a great and holy man. He points to the woman and praises her worship, ointment, tears, etc., all of which were signs of faith and a confession, namely, that with Christ she sought the remission of sins. It is indeed a great example, which, not without reason, moved Christ to reprove the Pharisee, who was a wise and honorable man, but not a believer. He charges him with impiety, and admonishes him by the example of the woman, showing thereby that it is disgraceful to him, that, while an unlearned woman believes God, he, a doctor of the Law, does not believe, does not acknowledge the Messiah, and does not seek from Him remission of sins and salvation. Thus, therefore, He praises the entire worship, as it often occurs in the Scriptures that by one word we embrace many things; as below we shall speak at greater length in regard to similar passages, such as Luke 11:41: Give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you. He requires not only alms, but also the righteousness of faith. Thus He here says: Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much, i.e., because she has truly worshiped Me with faith and the exercises and signs of faith. He comprehends the entire worship. Meanwhile He teaches this, that the remission of sins is properly received by faith, although love, confession, and other good fruits ought to follow. Wherefore He does not mean this, that these fruits are the price, or are the propitiation, because of which the remission of sins, which reconciles us to God, is given. We are disputing concerning a great subject, concerning the honor of Christ, and whence good minds may seek for sure and firm consolation, whether confidence is to be placed in Christ or in our works. Now, if it is to be placed in our works, the honor of Mediator and Propitiator will be withdrawn from Christ. And yet we shall find, in God’s judgment, that this confidence is vain, and that consciences rush thence into despair. But if the remission of sins and reconciliation do not occur freely for Christ’s sake, but for the sake of our love, no one will have remission of sins, unless when he has fulfilled the entire Law, because the Law does not justify as long as it can accuse us. Therefore it is manifest that, since justification is reconciliation for Christ’s sake, we are justified by faith, because it is very certain that by faith alone the remission of sins is received.

Apology XXIV:27
In short, the worship of the New Testament is spiritual, i.e., it is the righteousness of faith in the heart and the fruits of faith.

Apology VII, 35-36 -our works are not necessary for righteousness before God
Paul clearly teaches this to the Colossians, 2:16-17: Let no man, therefore, judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy-day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days, which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. Likewise, 2:20–23 sqq.: If ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances (touch not; taste not; handle not; which all are to perish with the using), after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have, indeed, a show of wisdom in will-worship (Geistlichkeit) and humility. For the meaning is: Since righteousness of the heart is a spiritual matter, quickening hearts, and it is evident that human traditions do not quicken hearts, and are not effects of the Holy Ghost, as are love to one’s neighbor, chastity, etc., and are not instruments through which God moves hearts to believe, as are the divinely given Word and Sacraments, but are usages with regard to matters that pertain in no respect to the heart, which perish with the using, we must not believe that they are necessary for righteousness before God. [They are nothing eternal; hence, they do not procure eternal life, but are an external bodily discipline, which does not change the heart.]

Summary of the citations:

· Rites and ceremonies are not used as works to satisfy the law of God. That is what God prohibits. On the contrary, the (Gottesdienst) is the righteousness God delivered to us.

· When humanly-invented customs like gathering on the Lord’s Day for divine service (to hear God’s Word, to receive the Lord’s Supper, to praise God and to pray) are useful innovations for assisting people toward faith and a life of service to God, they should be continued and be interpreted in a Gospel way.

· A service like the Service of Holy Communion does not confer God’s grace ex opere operato or merit remission of sins as some kind of sacrifice to God. It is rather a “liturgy,” that is, a public ministry offering the forgiveness of sins, won by Christ, which is conveyed through the means of grace and received by faith.

From the Confessions we learn:

The Lutheran Confessions address central questions about worship (Gottesdienst), teaching what worship is, what it is not and how human traditions can be used in the worship of God.

The Lutheran Confessions teach that worship is a spiritual act, not an outward act. This spiritual worship is a trusting in God and a desiring of the forgiveness, grace and righteousness of God. The righteousness of faith truly honors and obeys God for through the Gospel (Word and Sacrament) the Holy Spirit overcomes distrust and creates faith. The Spirit does not come directly (subjectively), through an inner experience or by one’s own efforts, but through this ministry of the Gospel in teaching the Word of God and rightly administering the sacraments (objectively). Reliance on one’s own works as a way of making peace with God has no place in this kind of faith; Christ has earned salvation for us and God freely and graciously gives it to us. Without faith there can be no worship nor can there be any fruits of faith.

Human traditions are no divine worship yet when they contribute to order and tranquility and are used in love, without offense or confusion, they may be profitably used. They are not necessary to salvation; they are not essential to the unity of the church. However, it may be that in times of persecution, for the sake of confessing Christ, it is necessary not to give them up. When used properly, rites and ceremonies contribute to the public ministry of conveying forgiveness of sins that is received by faith. This faith also bears fruit, thanking and serving God.

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Next: How Lutherans  Worship – 11: Prayer and the Collect of the Day

The Divine Service


These are the parts of the Divine Service, that is the chief worship service by which we celebrate Holy Communion. They are basically the same in all orthodox Lutheran hymnals. This order of service is not unique to Lutherans. We did not invent it. It is the ancient form of worship that has been developed among Christians the world over from the very beginning of the New Testament era. It is based exclusively on scripture and is focused completely on Jesus Christ and His saving grace on the Cross of Calvary.

Because of our sin, we cannot come to God, but God must come to us. This is what takes place in the Divine Service. Through the Word and Sacraments God speaks to His people. He reminds us of our sinfulness and failure to love completely and He then forgives us and assures us of the grace we have in Jesus Christ.

This grace is central to our lives as Christians and we must treat it with all reverence and respect. It was not of our doing and it is not ours with which to tamper. Therefore worship is not a matter of novelty or entertainment, much less a matter of attempting to please the masses. For this reason we choose hymns that are doctrinally sound and theologically significant to round out our worship. Hymns, like the Divine Service, must reflect this Christo-centric “God coming to man” theology or else they are unfit for the service. May our worship always be pure and always emphasize this Biblical Christo-centric attitude.

The Preparation

INVOCATION: Since we are Trinitarian we call upon the Triune God to bless. The Trinitarian invocation also recalls our Baptism. The Invocation is addressed to God, so the pastor will face the altar. Facing the altar, the sign of the cross connected to the invocation is a personal signature, and it is appropriate that all may join in this act as a remembrance of their baptism.

CONFESSION AND ABSOLUTION: As Christians, our lives are to be lives of continual repentance as God promises eternal forgiveness. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 2:9.

Service of the Word

The Service of the Word is the second part of our Divine Service. The purpose of the Service of the Word is to present Christ to the assembled congregation as they prepare to meet him in his Supper.

INTROIT: The Introit is a collection of passages from scripture that set the tone for the service. The verses chosen are different each Sunday and reflect the theme of the Gospel reading to come. It is itself scripture.

KYRIE: As we draw toward the reading of God’s Word we join with all the faithful through the ages and ask the Lord for mercy. The Kyrie (from the Latin Kyrie, eleison, “Lord, have mercy”), is a litany, the first prayer of the gathered congregation.

GLORIA IN EXCELSIS OR HYMN OF PRAISE:  The Pastor begins with the angelic hymn in Luke 2: 14.:Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth. The congregation follows with the earthly confirmation of the praise.

SALUTATION and COLLECT: The Collect is the pastor’s first prayer in the name of the people; he speaks for the congregation. The Collect “collects” in a concise and beautiful manner the theme for the day

The Collect is preceded by the Salutation. The Salutation is indicative of the special relationship between the congregation and its representative before God – their called Pastor.

OLD TESTAMENT and EPISTLE READING: Selected portions of the Word are appointed to be read according to the arrangement of the church year. It has been traditional for the congregation to be seated for the reading of the Old Testament and Epistle Readings, because these are seen as instruction in contrast to the Gospel which is an account of the life and words of Jesus, the Lord of the Church.

VERSE: In response to the Epistle we sing the appropriate verse.

GOSPEL READING:  The Gospel is properly announced and read by the pastor or an ordained assistant, as part of his work in the holy ministry of Word and Sacrament to proclaim the person and work of Christ to all..

CREED: The Creed is a solemn confession and response of faith to the Word which has just been proclaimed and heard. The Nicene Creed is the proper Creed for Sunday and festival celebrations of Holy Communion because of its expanded confession of the person and work of Jesus, the Christ.

HYMN OF THE DAY: also sometimes known as the Sermon Hymn;  it highlights the theme of the day and/or the theme of the Sermon which follows.

SERMON: The preacher “says what the Word says” to those whom the Word has gathered here and now, to hear it with open hearts and receive it in faithful hearts

OFFERING:  The gifts that are shared represent the gifts of creation and are offered as a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord that by means of them he might accomplish his purpose to bless his people.

PRAYERS: Here we pray that what we have heard from God may be taken to heart. We also ask God to take care of our needs. We give Him thanks, praise and honor as well.

OFFERTORY: The Offertory allows us to accompany our gifts to the Lord with praise for his many benefits in our lives, the very benefits from which our gifts were taken.

Service of the Sacrament

In the Service of Holy Communion God joins His act and deed to His Word; He gives us the body offered and the blood shed for the forgiveness of our sins and for strength for Christian living.

PREFACE: There is little in the liturgy of the Evangelical church that is older than the versicles and responses, the dialogue between the Pastor and the people, known as the Preface.

PROPER PREFACE: During the major Festival seasons of the Church year the Proper Preface gives glory to God recalling the specific mercy emphasized during that season and leads into a united praise of the Church on earth, the saints above, and all the heavenly hosts, worshiping the Holy Trinity in the Sanctus.

SANCTUS: The people’s response to the Proper Preface is the Sanctus. The text is built on the opening verses of Isaiah 6 and John 12:41.

In the BENEDICTUS, we join with the angels, archangels and all the company of heaven in singing.

THANKSGIVING: Before the altar, the presiding pastor offers the Prayer of Thanksgiving on behalf of the assembled congregation. This sets the proper framework for our “remembering” – participation in the worship that God has established and blessed through Word and Sacrament.

LORD’S PRAYER: The Lord’s Prayer, is the “Prayer of the Faithful” children of the heavenly Father who tenderly invites them to call upon Him as his beloved children. This is the family prayer of the Church of Christ.

WORDS OF INSTITUTION: In the Words of Institution, the Pastor recites the Words of Jesus Himself. In these words Christ Himself assures us that He is indeed bodily present in the sacrament of Holy Communion and that through it our sins are forgiven.

THE PEACE: In anticipation of the blessings to be received through the Body and Blood of our Lord in, with , and under the bread and wine, the Pastor and the people announce the peace of God to one another; as did Christ Himself on that first Easter.

AGNES DEI  serves as a hymn of adoration to the Savior who is present in the Body and blood. For this reason it has not been seen in the liturgies of the Reformed churches.

THE DISTRIBUTION: In communion, we receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through it our sins are forgiven because we have been given faith in the words “Given and shed for you” in our baptism. At this, the climax of the second half of the Divine Service, we are reminded of the way in which we began, reminiscent of our baptism.

POST-COMMUNION CANTICLE and PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING: Following reception of our Lord’s forgiving Body and Blood, we join in singing a hymn of thanks.”Amen…” We add our own and the Church’s undying gratitude in this Collect of Thanksgiving–a prayer that the gifts now received from the Lord may accomplish His purpose in His people.

BENEDICTION: also known as the “Aaronic Blessing,” or the “Priestly Blessing,” is the blessing the Lord directed Moses to use when he blessed the people in the Lord’s name.

+ SOLI DEO GLORIA +

How Lutherans Worship

A fuller treatment of the parts of the Divine Service can be found under the CATEGORY: How Lutherans Worship.

WWAA book coverAnother very accessible presentation of the Divine Service, both in its theology and its practice is:
Worshiping with Angels and Archangels:
An Introduction to the Divine Service

by Scot A. Kinnaman
available from Concordia Publishing House

THE DAILY OFFICE


pantocrator_aChristian prayer is rooted in the revelatory Word of God. We hear the voice of God addressed to us and to the Church through the Holy Scriptures. As we receive this Word from God, the heart of faith desires to respond. It is out of this receiving of God’s Word and the desire to respond, that the conversation with God, which is prayer, happens.

The ancient form of structured prayer through the day, often called the Daily Office and the Liturgy of the Hours, is not simply a vehicle by which Christians are brought to prayer, rather it is a tool developed by the Church to instruct us in prayer and faith, and a means to keep our conversation with God rooted in His Word.

Praying at appointed times during the day can be traced back to the Old Testament practice of praying at fixed hours of the day. God commanded the Israelite priests to offer morning and evening sacrifices (Exodus 29:38-39, Exodus 30:6-8). Psalm 1:2 instructs: “but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” When sacrifices were outlawed during Israel’s forced exile in Babylon prayer services were developed in the synagogues as sacrifices of praise. Upon the return of the Jewish people to judea, those prayer services were brought into the Temple. In addition to the prayers accompanying ht morning and evening sacrifices, there was prayer at the third, sixth, and ninth hours of the day (Psalm 119:164). Much evidence suggests that this structured schedule of prayers, a feature of liturgical life at the time of Christ, was passed on as a legacy to the Early Church, providing the form, if not the content, for the daily prayers.

Although the Christians no longer shared the Temple sacrifices–for they had been fulfilled in Jesus Christ–they were devoted to “the prayers” (Acts 2:42) and continued to pray at the customary hours (Acts 10:9), and even frequent the Temple to pray (Acts 3:1) Continue reading

How Lutherans Worship – 8: Kyrie & Hymn of Praise


KYRIE

As we move toward the reading of God’s Word we join with all the faithful through all the ages and ask the Lord for mercy. The Kyrie is a litany, or a prayer recited in parts.

kyrie
Latin Kyrie, eleison, Lord, have mercy.

The Kyrie is the first prayer of the gathered congregation.

Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord have mercy upon us.

The Kyrie, then, is not a confession of our sins but an expression of our emptiness without God and our need for him to be present and fill us with his grace. The Kyrie is the heartfelt cry for mercy that our Lord and King hear us and help us in our necessities and troubles. This most basic prayer is encountered frequently in Scripture, for example, the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15: 22) and the Ten Lepers (Luke 17: 13).

Mark 10:47
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

The ancient three-fold Kyrie is often omitted and in its place one finds the litany form of the Kyrie.

In peace let us pray to the Lord.
Lord have mercy.

For the peace from above and for our salvation let us pray to the Lord.
Lord have mercy.

For the peace of the whole world, for the well-being of the church of God, and for the unity of all let us pray to the Lord.
Lord have mercy.

For this holy house and for all who offer here their worship and praise let us pray to the Lord.
Lord have mercy.

Help, save, comfort and defend us gracious Lord.
Amen.

This form of the Kyrie, found in many of the more contemporary orders of Divine Service, acknowledges the gift that will be received as Christ comes to us in his Word—the gift of peace—peace from above, peace for the whole world, peace that brings wholeness and well-being, peace that bring unity. We have this peace on account of the all-sufficient atoning death of Jesus.

HYMN OF PRAISE

John 1:29
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

The cry for mercy and acknowledgment of God’s gracious peace is answered in the traditional Hymn of Praise, the Gloria in Excelsis. The Lord has had mercy upon us—he has sent his Son to meet our need. Confident that the Lord is merciful, we join the whole Church and all the angels in singing Glory to God.

gloria in excelsis
Latin Glory to God in the highest

The Pastor begins the Gloria with the angelic hymn in Luke 2: 14: “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth.” The congregation follows with the earthly confirmation of the praise. In this way the Divine Service commemorates the inaugural event in the life of Christ.—his birth. This ancient and incomparable hymn of praise spells out the whole plan of salvation to us, and we, along with the shepherds, are invited to go and see Jesus in the Scripture Readings that follow.

Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly king, almighty God and Father: We worship You, we give You thanks, we praise You for Your glory. Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God: You take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us. You are seated at the right hand of the Father; receive our prayer. For You alone are the Holy One, You alone are the Lord, You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Attached to the angel’s song is a Trinitarian hymn that proclaims that the peace prayed for in the Kyrie is answered in the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The Gloria announces what will be experienced by the people of God gathered in worship, that is the presence of the Lamb who died and rose again and is now seated at the right hand of the Father, the Lamb who is the host of the ongoing Feast in heaven, of which our Supper is a foretaste. We join Gabriel in rightly calling the Lamb of God holy, and by so doing we declare that the very space in which we have gathered for the Divine Service is holy because of presence of the Holy One of God.

While it is difficult to be exact about the origins of the Gloria in Excelsis, we can assume that it was established throughout Christendom as part of the Divine Service since before the fourth century. There is some who would claim its origins go back to about A.D. 136 as a Christmas hymn.

Contemporary settings of the Divine Service offer a second option for the Hymn of Praise, “Worthy is Christ,” often referred to as “This Is the Feast.”  This Easter hymn to the crucified and risen Savior is based on passages from Revelation 5 and 19. Because of its resurrection theme, this hymn is used more frequently during the Easter season and on the festivals of Christ celebrated throughout the Church Year.

Refrain: This is the feast of victory for our God. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Worthy is Christ, the Lamb who was slain, whose blood set us free to be people of God. Refrain

Power, riches, wisdom, and strength, and honor, blessing, and glory are His. Refrain

Sing with all the people of God, and join in the hymn of all creation:
Blessing, honor, glory, and might be to God and the Lamb forever. Amen. Refrain

For the Lamb who was slain has begun His reign. Alleluia. Refrain

Revelation 5:12–13; 19:5–9

Dr. Arthur A. Just, in his book Heaven on Earth: The Gifts of Christ in the Divine Service, has an excellent entry on the background of “Worthy is Christ” and its use in the Divine Service (pp. 194–197).

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