Opening the Windows of Heaven so Grace Showers Down on us Again: 1% versus the 99%
I use the backs of my many dissertation drafts for scratch paper. Running off my new German book of 140 pages on them I came across this note that was not included in my dissertation:
“Here the source is opened through which new creation in terms of human nature pours into our existence from the open windows of heaven. Luther touches this source of all being and new creation twice.”
I thought I should try to find out what I was referring to, because I have dreamt of animals and all creation ascending out of an abyss at corners of a square in a mystical kind of way.
I found it via a footnote, number 333 on page 274 of my dissertation, Sword of the Spirit, Sword of Iron, and it comes from Luther’s reformation of the mass:
Szo hastu nit alleyn die kleynen tropff fruchtlin der mesz/ szondern auch den heubt brünnen des glaubēs/ ausz wilchem quillet und fleusset allis gut/ (Otto Clemen 1: 309:12) (Flugschrift Biv) WA 6:363.30-32
So now you don’t have only a little droplet of the fruit of the mass, but the fountainhead of faith, out of which everything good springs forth and flows. (My translation, cf. LW 35, page 92.)
Page 274 in my dissertation reads as follows:
“The mediating role of priests negated God’s gift in the Mass, by redefining the Mass as their sacrifice. In this way only droplets of grace became available, where a fountainhead of blessings should flow. Not only did the priestly sacrifice interfere with the divine gracious gift, but also with the offerings of the people. Confusing the divine gift with the priestly sacrifice short-circuited the offering of the people from becoming a circulation of grace in the form of spiritual gifts and material benefits for all. The sacrifice of the priest justified channeling the people’s offerings to the spiritual estate, while they should have circulated through the whole community. Where they were given for the needs of the poor, they were received by the churches, monasteries, foundations, and “hospitals,” and now the wrath of God made a war imminent.”
(CL 1:312:2-17) (pamphlet signature Civ – Cii) WA 6:366.33-367.12
Luther saw the words of institution, “This is my body, this is my blood, given and shed for you” as the circulation of God’s gifts for the whole community, which one class had detoured so that the lion-share came to them. That is the significance of the mass not being a sacrifice of the priests, but of Jesus Christ for all people. While Holy Communion has been very much compartmentalized and marginalized from the symbolic heart of what should characterize our whole society today, it was still very central to the society of Luther’s day.
Thus my dissertation continues:
In “The New Testament or the Holy Mass,” a very popular pamphlet, Luther is able to express justification-by-faith implications for the Mass, in very simple words, that in the particular historical context of that day became comprehensible to the common people. What could be more understandable than to write that God serves the people, not the people, God; that the Mass is God’s work, and not the good works or sacrifice of the priests; and that the Mass should include a collection for the poor, as well as a distribution of food and goods, so that “There should be no beggars among Christians.” Thus Luther claims that a spiritual offering is in order, and not the bodily offerings [to the priests] which have gone and become changed into churches, monasteries, “hospitals,” and the wealth of the spiritual estate. This kind of critique was certainly as radical as it was popular, if the numbers of editions of these pamphlets is such an indication, as well as the inability of Luther’s opponents, even to get their pamphlets published.
Just another note I found on the scratch paper:
“Gerald Strauss might have considered that the Reformation did take a very central institution, that is, the church and at least intend a universal democratization of the laity. The Reformation represents an inroad toward democracy, not at all able to fulfill modern expectations. But Strauss gives the impression that Luther’s opponents were more democratic than he and that is very much not so.”
Strauss criticizes Steven Ozment for his intellectual approach to the Reformation implying that the people of the day could not understand what it was about. Luther, however, a priest, committed class-treason, and spoke directly to the people and they understood perfectly well, to put it into today’s language: 1% were commandeering what needed to circulate through the whole community, the 99%. Then the “windows of heaven open” (Malachi 3:10) and not only for the tithe of the church but the taxation of the society for God’s grace to flow into the common-wealth.
Luther exclaimed, “There should be no beggars amongst us!” We have not said, “There should be no homeless amongst us!” and now even millions of middle class people are losing their homes.
May God’s gift, the life of Christ sacrificed for us, fill us with love and sharing so God once again opens the windows of heaven.
Praise God from whom all blessing flow! All creatures here below!