Stop whatever you’re doing and listen to J.S. Bach’s B-minor Mass (BWV 232). All of it. Right now. You’ll need a couple of hours and you might need to take a break, so grab your favorite recording, send the kids to your neighbor’s house, and get going! Perhaps you can start with the nine movements that set the text of the Nicene Creed (Symbolum Nicenum.) These nine miraculous movements exist in a symmetrical structure with the crucifixion at the center. How’s that for a theological statement? The creed has always been central to Lutheran worship. In fact, Singing the creed as a congregation used to be common practice.
Bert Drop will be providing special music for us during worship this coming Sunday. Along with his desire to contribute some beautiful interpretations of music by J.S. Bach, Bert expressed some interest in having the congregation sing LBW 374, We All Believe In One True God, instead of speaking the creed together this coming Sunday. To say this practice is deeply rooted in our Lutheran heritage is an understatement - it’s one of the foundational liturgical practices established by Martin Luther through his Deutsche Messe. The structure of Luther’s Deutsche Messe (German Mass) is similar to that of the Roman Mass, but rather than listening to a choir or religious leaders “perform” the parts of the mass, the congregation sings each part of the mass together. Luther believed it was also important to sing the lessons and the gospel, so even though we now hear readings of the lessons and gospel each Sunday, they were commonly chanted by the congregation. Through the practice of singing, we become active participants in worship rather than mere spectators; a belief that motivated Luther to construct the Deutsche Messe in the first place. You may not know it, but you are already familiar with the Mass ordinary, or the Ordinarium parts of the mass. The latin names for the Mass ordinary are listed below on the left, with the text you sing or say each Sunday on the right.
Kyrie Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy
Gloria Glory to God
Credo I believe/we believe
Sanctus Holy, holy, holy
Agnus Dei Lamb of God
This Sunday, we will sing Wir glauben all an einen Gott (We All Believe In One True God) from the “old green book” and hear music of J.S. Bach during the prelude and postlude. Bach, Luther, and you are wonderfully interconnected. Consider the implications of singing the Nicene Creed together as our Lutheran brothers and sisters did for the first time in the early 1500’s. I encourage you to introduce yourself to Bert after worship on Sunday; stay and listen to the postlude, then thank him for this reminder of our heritage and connection to the great J.S. Bach!