26 October 2006

On Absolutions

How do you say: "Ego te absolvo"?

Here are some ways across the history of the Lutheran Church that it has been said. I confess that the last, which is also one of the earliest, is my favorite:

The Absolution from the Petri Mass of 1531:

The almightiest eternal God of His incomprehensible mercy forgive us all our sins and give us grace that we may amend our sinful life and attain with Him eternal life. Amen.

The Absolution from the famous Casamiriana of 1626, authored by Johann Gerhard:

The Almighty God has graciously had mercy upon you, and through the precious merits of the all-holy sufferings, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, His beloved Son, He forgives you all your sins. And I as an ordained Servant of the Christian Church announce this forgiveness of all of your sin to all of you who are truly repentant and who through faith place all your trust upon the singular merits of Christ Jesus, and who intend to
order your life according to the command and will of God, and who intend to make frequent use of the high and most worthy Supper of the true body and blood of Christ for the strengthening of your faith and the betterment of your lives, in the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

But on the contrary I say on the basis of God’s Word and in the name of Jesus Christ to all unrepentant and unbelieving persons who despise God himself, His Word and the most holy Sacrament, that God has retained your sins and certainly will punish you with both temporal and eternal punishment if you do not turn and repent in the time of grace, which repentance we wish for you with all our heart.

The Absolution from the Saxon Agenda of Walther, 1856:

"Upon this your confession, I, by virtue of my office, as a called and ordained servants of the Word, announce the grace of God unto all of you who heartily repent of your sins, believe on Jesus Christ, and sincerely and earnestly purpose by the assistance of God the Holy Ghost henceforth to amend your sinful lives, and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of God + the Father, God + the Son, and God + the Holy Ghost. Amen."

The Absolution from Braunschweig-Wolfenbuettel 1569, authored by Chemnitz and Adnreae::

"The Almighty God has been merciful to you and through the merit of the most holy suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, His beloved Son, He forgives you all your sins; and I, as an ordained servant of the Christian church, proclaim to all you who truly repent and who through faith place your trust and minds on the merit of Jesus Christ and who order your lives after the commands and will of God, the forgiveness of all your sin in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. On the contrary, however I say to any impenitent and unbelieving, according to God’s Word and in His name, that God has held your sin against you and this certainly is punished."

The Absolution from HH (Herzog Heinrich, 1539 - ancestor of the LCMS liturgies):

The almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ would be gracious and merciful to you. He wants to forgive you all your sins, and this because his dear Son Jesus Christ has suffered for them and died for them. In the name of that same Jesus Christ, because he has mandated me to do this, in the power of his words where he said: 'Whosoever sins you forgive, they are forgiven,' I say to you that all your sins are forgiven. They cannot hold you captive. They are altogether forgiven you as abundantly and completely as was won for you by Jesus Christ through his suffering and death, and which he commanded to be proclaimed in all the world through the Gospel, and this is now said to you, to comfort and strengthen you, as I now speak this to you in the name of the Lord Christ, for you to receive it gladly, setting your conscience at peace, as with a faith that cannot be shaken, your sins are surely forgiven you, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Go forth in peace."


Rosko said...

Wow, that third one is very nice. Thanks for this gem.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting these. It is very fascinating. I find it interesting that Gerhard and Chemnitz/Andreae’s Absolution contain both the forgiving and the retaining of sins. I remember Dr. Stephenson called it the double whammy at sem. FWIW, according to the Lutheran Church of Australia’s “Church Rites,” the service for Maundy Thursday contains both the forgiving and retaining in the Absolution. Engaging stuff to think about!
Pr. David Gallas

fr john w fenton said...

Fascinating, these. Among other things, they show that early Lutheranism retained the "region" notion of liturgies, even after the codification of the Western Mass by the Council of Trent.

The dangerous thing, of course, is that letting these out, someone will probably start inserting them in place of whatever is common; or, worse yet, will set up a rotational (dare I say "A, B, C") absolution formula. Yet this too is of the beast named "adiaphronism." Sigh.

Now, a question:

Are these formulae from (a) Private Confession, (b) Confessional services, (c) general confession during the Mass, (d) the prayers the priest says quietly with his servers, or (e) another source.

William Weedon said...

Petri is from the Mass - the Swedish Mass early on replaced the priest's private devotions with a public confession and forgiveness at the start of the mass.

The others were, with one exception, I believe, all from the public mass as well, but were part of the pulpit service - following the sermon and prior to the intercessions. This also, of course, came from the common Western practice in the middle ages.

I think that Herzog Heinrich form was used in the confessional - which is why it has no retention or any sort.

And may NONE of them be used in place of what is prescribed in our official liturgy.

Susan said...

Those ones with the retaining of sins are hard on seombody who's been raised in a pietistic synod, because she'd never believe that the absolution was for her, never knowing whether she's "repentant enough" or "desiring enough to amend her life." I like the last one best of the ones listed. But the best is in the confessional, "I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost."