Reformation Sunday

Reflections on "Ein' Feste Burg" Zeitler

(The remaining music supplied by bagpipes.)

The 'Reformation' was about reforming much more than theology: Martin Luther (1483–1546) introduced quite a number of non-theological reforms as well (e.g. priests could marry). Many of his reforms fall under the general category of reducing the gap between the "1%" (the nobility and the Church hierarchy) and the rest of society. Latin—the language of the learned few—had to go: let's worship in German. And the Bible only in Latin had to go—Luther and colleagues did one of the early translations of the Bible into a modern language. (Luther's German Bible still has the stature in the German speaking world that the King James Bible has in the English speaking world. And it certainly helped that the relatively new technology called the printing press (1439) put owning Luther's translation within reach of ordinary people.) Also, before Luther there was no congregational singing—virtually all the music in worship was provided by professional musicians, and the congregation just passively listened. Luther wanted the congregation to actively participate—to SING in particular. So he needed something for them to sing, and set about compiling a ‘hymnal’. Luther wrote both the words and the tune for "Ein Feste Burg" ("A Mighty Fortress") around 1528, and it is probably his most famous hymn.