28 July 2016

That Page 15 Confession and Absolution

Doing a bit of research for a colleague on the Confession and Absolution that appears in TLH, p. 15 and consequently in LSB in DS 3. This is a peculiarly Saxon prayer. It was inserted into the Common Service for the first time in TLH. It came from the Saxon Agenda, where it fell after the sermon. Here it is in the form used in Synod's first English version of the liturgy (1881):

Having heard the Word of God, let us now humble ourselves before the supreme Majesty of God, and make a confession of our sins, saying:

O Almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto Thee all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended Thee and justly deserve Thy punishment in time and eternity; but I am heartily sorry for them and greatly repent of them, and I pray Thee, by Thy boundless mercy, and by the holy, innocent, bitter suffering and death of Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor sinful being. Amen.

Upon this your confession, I, by virtue of my office, as a called and ordained servant 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, God + the Holy Ghost. Amen.

The provisions that are in that absolution are absent in TLH and in LW and in LSB. What is interesting is that the first use of this confession that I'm aware of, is given in Sehling I:557. It is from the use of the Church in Dresden in the 16th century. I assume that from that city it spread to others, but it may be that what is recorded in Sehling is just witness to a practice that arose elsewhere and spread to Dresden. In any case, it made its way into the Saxon liturgy already in the 16th century (Sehling lists it between items from 1578 and 1558).

Here we find:

82. Form der allgemeinen Beichte and Absolution.

Eine offene beichte und absolution auf der kanzel nach gethaner predigt. (A public confession and absolution from the pulpit after the conclusion of the sermon)

Ermahnung zum Volk. (Exhortation to the people)

Geliebte in Christo, dieweil wir allhie versammelt sind im namen des allmächtigen gottes und haben sein heiliges, seligmachendes wort gehöret, so wollen wir auch uns gegen seiner hohen göttlichen majestät demütligen, und ihm von herzen alle unsere sünde bekennen, beichten und mit einander also sprechen. (Beloved in Christ, since we have come together in the name of almighty God and have heard his holy, saving word, let us then humble ourselves before his high divine majesty and from the heart acknowledge our sins, confess and speak together:


O allmächtiger, gnädiger gott, barmherziger vater, ich armer, elender sünder bekenne dir alle meine sünden und missethat, damit ich dich jemals erzömet und deine strafe zeitlich und ewiglich verdienet. Sie sind mir alle herzlich leid und reuen mich sehr und bitte dich, durch dein grundlose barmherzigkeit und durch das heilige, unschuldige, bittere leiden und sterben deines lieben Sohnes Jesu Christi, du wollest mir armen sünder gnädig und barmherzig sein. Amen. (Confession as above).


Auf solch euer bekenntnus verkündige ich euch, kraft meines ampts, als ein berufener und verordneter diener des worts, die gnade gottes und vorgebe euch anstadt und aus befehl meines herrn Jesu Christi alle eure sünde im namen gottes des vaters, sohnes und heiligen geists. Amen.
(Upon this your confession I announce to you all by the power of my office, as a called and ordained servant of the Word, the grace of God and forgive you all in the place and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ all your sins in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen)

Beschluss. (Conclusion)

Weil uns der gnädige, barmherzige gott unsere Sünde und missethat vorgeben, so wollen wir ihm auch nun ferner die not der ganzen Christenheit vortragen und mit einander also beten: allmächtiger etc. (Since the gracious and merciful God has forgiven us our sins and iniquities, let us also bring before him the needs of all Christendom and so pray together: Almighty... introducing the General prayer).

This free and joyous form of confession and absolution was not an invention of the 20th century. It was simply a piece of the Lutheran liturgical heritage in 16th century Saxony, modified in the age of pietism, but then restored to its original form (though not its original place) in The Lutheran Hymnal of 1941.


Matt Carver (Matthaeus Glyptes) said...

How interestin it would have been if we had not inherited a Saxon liturgy which famously lacks the Retention paragraph, compared to which this seems trivial indeed!

Unknown said...

I should probably know this--what do you mean by "the Retention paragraph"?

Thank you for sharing for findings, Fr. Weedon.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Pastor Weedon, for providing a history for this practice in Lutheranism. I have been concerned about corporate Absolution since it caught my attention that other Christian communions, past and present, don't seem to have it. In fact, I got the notion that early Lutherans advocated a stricter discipline of private confession before taking the Lord's Supper than we seem to keep today: "for it is not usual to give the body of the Lord, except to them that have been previously examined and absolved." (Augsburg Confession, Article 25). "However, if you want to despise it and proudly continue without Confession, then we must draw the conclusion that you are no Christian and should not enjoy the Sacrament either." (Luther's Exhortation to Confession).



At least the "Retention paragraph" reminds us that the absolution only applies to those "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."

I'm probably just overthinking and nitpicking, as I do too often.

William Weedon said...

The retention is such as we have here in the second paragraph of the Absolution from the Cassimiriana (edited 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.

Rev. John Frahm said...

I think the confession from Loehe's agenda is more free from Pietism than TLH. I know Korby raised a concern about TLH a while back.

Rev. John Frahm said...


P: Almighty and everlasting God, our Maker and Redeemer, I confess unto You that I am by nature sinful and unclean, and that I have sinned against You by thought, word and deed, being thus brought under condemnation and made worthy of everlasting death. Wherefore I flee for refuge to Your infinite mercy, seeking and imploring Your grace. O Lord have mercy upon Me a sinner.

The congregation then prays with the pastor as follows:

C: O merciful God, have mercy upon and forgive us all our sins; and grant unto us Your Holy Spirit; that through Him we may be obedient to Your most holy will, and come to everlasting life. Amen.

William Weedon said...

That is a fine confession. Of course, I'm partial to the one in DS 3 from long use. I remember Korby disliked the lingo heartily sorry and sincerely repent. The adverbs were what drove him crazy! Am I heartily sorry or just sort of sorry? Etc. Yet the thing I really like about the Saxon form is that the absolution doesn't have any proviso.

Rev. Karl Gregory said...

This confession and absolution is also found in the 1917 Liturgy and Agenda, The Order of Morning Service. (Second Form) Also right after the Sermon.

Christopher D. Hall said...

I am disturbed by the language, "I am by nature sinful and unclean," given that the Epitome states, "We believe, teach, and confess also that this distinction should be maintained with the greatest care, because this doctrine, that no distinction is to be made between our corrupt human nature and original sin, conflicts with the chief articles of our Christian faith concerning creation, redemption, sanctification, and the resurrection of our body, and cannot coexist therewith." (Ep. 1.3) and so on.

I didn't know it came via Loehe

Christopher D. Hall said...

Oh, and apparently according to Resolution 12-07A I am not supposed to have typed my last response. Sheesh.