Narrowing the Field

If we attempted to include every extant pre-Reformation missal in the pool of sources for the The Lutheran Missal, our grandchildren would likely be the ones to finish the task. In the Latin missals available to us, the combined index of sanctoral masses yields a staggering 100,000 entries—one for each mass.

It was immediately clear that we needed to narrow the focus of our research. First of all, we chose to limit ourselves to missals of German origin. Like it or not, we are the children of the German Reformation. We can’t escape this, nor should we try. It is in our DNA, so to speak, as Lutherans. Second, we chose the time period between 1475 and 1550, roughly coinciding with the lifetime of Luther and the first generation of Reformers. This is not due to blind Luther worship. Rather, the missals of this period represent the last liturgical publications of unified Western tradition, before the departure of the Roman sect from the catholic faith.

Even with this Gideon-esque reduction of our source pool, we were still left with thirty-four German missals published between 1479 and 1547. To these we will add a select number of post-Reformation Lutheran publications, such as the Spangenberg and Ludecus missals and the 1613 Magdeburg Cathedral Book. With God blessing our efforts, the careful study and comparison of these historic texts will result in the publication of the first missal in the history of English-speaking Lutheranism. Considering that the editors of the Common Service had access to only three German sources, this missal will truly be an historic and unprecedented undertaking.

List of pre-Reformation sources

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