There is a reason why I remain insistent on our congregation growing familiar with Luther’s Small Catechism. I know of no better way to learn the essentials of Christianity. It serves as a framework and handbook for the Scriptures. It does not take the place of the Bible, but it reliably distills the essential message of Holy Writ. It also helps to guide a faithful reading of Scripture.
You should know that the essential elements of Luther’s Small Catechism predate Luther. Dr. Luther is not being original! The essential elements of the Church’s foundational teaching had long been the Ten Commandments, The Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. The historic Church also provided instruction on the Sacraments.
Luther’s contribution was to provide simple and succinct explanations as to the meaning of the following six principle elements: the Ten Commandments; the Apostles’ Creed; the Lord’s Prayer; the Sacrament of Holy Baptism; the Sacrament of Confession and Absolution; and the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
These elements provide a comprehensive (not exhaustive) understanding of the Christian Faith, namely to come to repentance and saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Commandments preach repentance. The Creed preaches the faith that saves us from sin. The Prayer preaches the holy life. In Baptism we are regenerated and made Christians. In Confession and Absolution we keep returning to the promises of Baptism. And in Communion we are nurtured with Christ’s body and blood.
As we learn the Small Catechism by heart we will be able to speak effectively and clearly the Gospel of Christ to others. We will have a good framework for understanding the rest of Scripture. We will understand that all Scripture points to Christ, and how through his Son and in his Holy Spirit God works on our behalf for life and salvation.
The Catechism is not something we learn once and are done with it. It can form our prayers and guide us continually in God’s Word.
Since You Asked…
What is the meaning of the “KYRIE” (kir-E-A)?
KYRIE is a Latin term which is in turn is a transliteration of a Greek word meaning “Lord.” In the Latin Mass the term KYRIE was combined with the term ELESION meaning “have mercy.” In addition, the Mass included a three-fold response: KYRIE ELEISON, CHRISTE ELEISON, KYRIE ELEISON, which translated is “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.” In our Lutheran Worship Service we utilize a prayer from the Latin Mass known as a Peace Litany. A Litany is a responsive prayer. This Litany is usually led by our Assisting Minister, and the congregation response is the KYRIE ELEISON. And so the Assisting Minister begins, “In peace let us pray to the Lord,” and the congregation responds to this and each succeeding petition with, “Lord, have mercy.” (with help from the Manual on the Liturgy a companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship, publ. by Augsburg).