The Lutheran Missal project aims to make available to the English-speaking church of today the lectionary, prayers, and other accompanying rites and resources that were available to and used by the Lutheran Church in the first century following the Reformation.
This striving for liturgical restoration is not a new instinct among English-speaking Lutherans, and several other such efforts have been made, most notably the effort culminating in the Common Service of 1888, which aimed to make available an ordered liturgy on the basis of the “common consent of the pure Lutheran liturgies of the Sixteenth Century.” In many respects, this Common Service was a great success. Published in 1888, it was in use by the vast majority of Lutherans in this country who worshiped in the English language until 1978, when it was largely displaced by the liturgical innovations and new lectionaries that came about, in part, from the influence of the Roman Church and the Second Vatican Council.
This project continues in the trajectory of the Common Service. The text of the Divine Service printed in the Missal will be the Order of Holy Communion as found in the Common Service of 1888, most familiar to today’s Lutherans as page 15 from The Lutheran Hymnal or Setting Three from Lutheran Service Book. Taking the Common Service as its basis, the intention of this project is to expand on that work in providing a more thorough analysis of the late medieval and Reformation-era liturgies in use in Germany. The backbone of this project is an expanded lectionary, one which provides not only for Sundays, major feasts of Christ, and those of the apostles, but also provides for weekdays, minor feasts, and other occasions. The combined effect of these restorations will be at least a fourfold increase in the number of texts appointed in the lectionary. There is no intention of modifying the service itself, save only to allow for the substitution of historic proper and seasonal texts, such as post-communion collects, as an alternative to the present texts.
In order to accomplish these goals, we are surveying and cataloging approximately 40 sources, primarily from fifteenth and sixteenth century Germany, in partnership with Usuarium, a project in Hungary whose ambitious goal is cataloging liturgical usages from across late medieval Europe. Every single text in these 40 sources, each ranging from 500-1200 pages, has been cataloged in a database that now has over 200,000 entries. Once the research and cataloging has concluded, it is our intent to make all of the data available online in a searchable and interactive format for any and all who might find it useful.
While the bulk of our sources are from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, we have also included some of the earliest extant Western lectionaries from the eighth and ninth centuries, most likely reflecting the use of one or two centuries prior. We have been happy to find, thus far, a great deal of continuity in the lections for Sundays, feasts, and even weekdays from these early lectionaries to the Reformation era, and while the lections for Sundays and feasts largely continue in this ancient trajectory, we look forward to restoring the readings for weekdays and minor feasts into usage once again.
The missal project as it currently stands will culminate in the production of several books: an altar missal, a lectionary, a gospel book, a desk edition, and hand missals for the laity.