Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cyriacus Spangenberg, Luther’s Harp on the Catechism

Cyriacus Spangenberg, Cithara Lutheri zum Katechismus (Erfurt: 1581; reprint, Berlin: Enslin, 1855).

Cyriacus Spangenberg (1528–1604) sided with Matthias Flacius in the debate on original sin that arose after Luther’s death (see Formula of Concord, article I). As a Lutheran pastor, he had the duty not just of teaching the “Holy Catechism,” but of preaching it. In this work, Spangenberg uses Luther’s catechism hymns as the framework for his catechism sermons. He gives 12 sermons on the Ten Commandments, 3 sermons on the Creed, 9 sermons on the Our Father, 1 sermon on Baptism, and 3 sermons on the Sacrament of the Altar. (The other parts of the Catechism are omitted.)

From the first verse of “These Are the Holy Ten Commands” (cf. Lutheran Service Book 581) he derives six points:

1. What kind of a teaching the Law is.

2. Wherein God’s Law is summarized and comprehended.

3. To whom the Law was given.

4. Who gave it.

5. Through whom.

6. Where, or in which place.

The Law predominates in this sermon. I suppose that could be expected, since it's about the Law. Let's go on to the 6th commandment. Here he derives two points:

1. How one should rightly live in the estate of marriage.

2. How it can come about that this takes place more easily.

Every point has many subpoints, each a short paragraph long. He's obviously preaching from an outline. Besides preaching against unchastity, he also handles gluttony and drunkenness. He does mention Jesus in this one, but since it's a sermon on a commandment, the Law predominates.

Let’s go on to one of the hymns on the sacraments. From the hymn “Jesus Christ, Our Blessed Savior” (cf. LSB 627), he derives two points:

1. The institution of this sacrament.

2. Its true use.

He divides these two into two sermons. In the sermon on the first point he deals with these topics:

a. Who the founder of this sacrament is. (And this is subdivided into "name" and "work.")

b. Why He instituted it.

c. What He distributes and gives in it.

Spangenberg preaches on these hymns actually by using them as springboards to list and subdivide various aspects of the catechetical teaching. He brings in Scripture passages and deals with objections of opponents, just as you would expect when teaching or learning the catechism. This is basic Christian teaching, and it demonstrates how to impart teaching and doctrine to one’s hearers in a way that, hopefully, engages them.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this outline to what looks to be an interesting work. It does seem engaging. I also found it quoted in a book of Luther anecdotes from 1885, where it is referred to as "Harp of Luther":

    "We do not find in his hymns a single superfluous or useless word. Everything flows so sweetly and purely, so full of spirit and truth, that nearly every word is a sermon, or at least conveys something salutary and instructive. All pious hearts must confess with me that in Luther's hymn-book God has granted us a gift of extraordinary excellence, for which we can never sufficiently thank Him."