BACH AND LUTHER…. THE PROTESTANT REVOLUTION
In general, this is what the Protestant Revolution was all about:
“First, it can be said that many devout Christians were finding the Roman Catholic Church’s growing emphasis on rituals unhelpful in their quest for personal salvation. Indeed, what we are witnessing is the shift from salvation of whole groups of people, to something more personal and individual. The sacraments had become forms of ritualized behavior that no longer “spoke” to the people of Europe. They had become devoid of meaning.. Second, the papacy had lost much of its spiritual influence over its people because of the increasing tendency toward secularization. In other words, popes and bishops were acting more like kings and princes than they were the spiritual guides of European men and women. The poor resented the wealth of the papacy and the very rich were jealous
of that wealth. At the same time, the popes bought and sold high offices, and
also sold indulgences. ... Some Church officials held several offices at once and lived off their income. The clergy had become lax, corrupt and immoral and the people began to take notice that the sacraments were shrouded in complacency and indifference. Something was dreadfully wrong.”
“At the age of 21, in 1505, Luther tells us that he experienced the “first great event” of his life. In that year he experienced a conversion…. He cried out, “Help, St. Anne, I will become a monk.” He had been touched by the hand of God, but he felt doubt within himself . He simply could not reconcile his faith with his worldly ambitions…To relieve his anxiety he
joined the Order of the Hermits of St. Augustine. There he fasted, prayed , and read the Holy Scriptures. One day, as he sat reading, he pointed to a Bible passage at random. It was from the Epistles of St. Paul: “For the justice of God is revealed from faith to faith in that it is written, for the just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)”
The Ninety Five Theses are nailed to the cathedral door by Luther.
One opposition to the Church by Luther had to do with the selling of indulgences for forgiveness of sins. He called this a false doctrine. “By attacking the issue of the indulgences, Luther was really attacking the entire theology and structure of the Church. By making salvation dependent on the individual’s faith, Luther abolished the need for sacraments as well as clergy to administer them. For Luther, faith alone, without the necessity of good works, would bring salvation. Good works did not guarantee salvation. Faith did not guarantee salvation. God alone grants salvation or damnation.”
Changes in music also followed the Protestant Reformation. Would you believe that some of the most famous music was originally bar room music of the day?
“The most prominent Lutheran composer in history was Johann Sebastian Bach. He lived 200 years after Martin Luther.
During and before Bach’s time, the Lutherans took bawdy drinking songs and put sacred words to them. Bach composed very few hymn tunes of his own, but he wrote masterful harmonization of existing hymn tunes.
The song “O Sacred Head Now Wounded,” otherwise known as “The Passion Chorale,” is a beer-drinking song by Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612), fit with sacred words by the Lutherans, and harmonized by Bach. Bach also harmonized some hymns written by Martin Luther himself, including “A Might Fortress is Our God.”
Enjoy the video of some of Bach’s beautiful music and the history of these two famous men: