Easter morning is an especially wondrous time at Moravian churches across the Northern and Southern Provinces. For many, Easter morning means greeting the rising sun in a God’s Acre or sanctuary with a service that speaks to the core of Moravian belief.
“The Moravian Easter morning service is an old tradition, rich in spiritual significance,” says the Rev. Dr. Nola Reed Knouse, director of the Moravian Music Foundation. “It originated in Herrnhut in 1732, when a group of the Single Brothers met by appointment on God’s Acre (the graveyard) to sing appropriate hymns and to meditate upon Christ’s death and resurrection. Their experience that morning was one of deepening appreciation of the truth and wonder of the resurrection. Their experience led others to want to join them, and thus a new and cherished tradition was born.”
According to Nola, the Easter Morning Liturgy in today’s Moravian Book of Worship is remarkably similar to that included in the 1778 German Moravian Hymnal (except, of course, ours is in English!) and to the one in the 1789 English Moravian Hymnal. The text is taken in large part from Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, with which Zinzendorf and his household, being Lutheran, would certainly have been familiar.
Over the years, the Easter Morning Liturgy has come to represent the Moravian Church’s profession of faith—a statement of what we believe. Through the words recited by worship leaders on Easter Sunday morning, Moravians declare their belief in “the one only God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who created all things by Jesus Christ, and was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself…”
While it has evolved over the years, the essence of the Easter Morning Liturgy has remained consistent with those printed in earlier versions, including the 1969 and 1920 hymnals. “Since this liturgy has often been looked upon as the Moravian Church’s primary profession of faith, hymnal revision committees over the years have been very careful in making any changes in the texts or the hymns, being always careful not to change the actual meaning of the words,” says Nola.
While many will have the opportunity to hear this liturgy and declare their faith come April 5 of this year, we’re reprinting the words of the Easter Morning Liturgy here for all to read. (Note: although the hymns are an integral part of the service, for space reasons they are not included here.) We invite you to revisit these words throughout the year as a touchstone of Moravian belief.
Easter Morning Liturgy
The Lord is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed!
We believe in the one only God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who created all things by Jesus Christ, and was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. We believe in God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world; who has rescued us from the power of darkness and has brought us into the kingdom of his beloved Son; who has blessed us in Christ with all spiritual blessings; who has made us worthy to share in the inheritance of the saints, having destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of God’s will, to the praise of his glorious grace.
This we truly believe.
We thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and self-assured, and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. Father, glorify your name.
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
We believe in the only Son of God, by whom all things in heaven and on earth were created. We believe that he became flesh and lived among us, taking the form of a servant. Since we are flesh and blood, he himself became a human being. By the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, he was conceived of the Virgin Mary. He was born of a woman; and, being found in human form, was in every respect tempted as we are, yet without sin. For he is the Lord, the messenger of the covenant, in whom we delight. The Spirit of the Lord sent Jesus to proclaim the time of the Lord’s favor. He spoke of what he knew and testified to what he had seen. To all who receive him, who believe in his name, he gives power to become children of God. We believe in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in the same way as he was seen going into heaven.
The Lord will descend from heaven with a shout of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of God’s trumpet. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
This we truly believe. This is my Lord, who redeemed me, a lost and condemned human creature, from sin, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood, and with his innocent suffering and dying. Christ has done this so that I may be his own, live in his kingdom, and serve him in eternal righteousness, innocence, and happiness, since he, being risen from the dead, lives and reigns forever and ever.
Lord Jesus Christ, who came at the first in great humility as our Redeemer, grant, we pray, that when you come again in glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead, we may be regarded worthy to stand before you.
Hear us, gracious Lord and God.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, who comes from the Father, and whom our Lord Jesus Christ sent, after he went away, to be with us forever; to comfort us as a mother comforts her children; to help us in our weakness and intercede for us with sighs too deep for words; to bear witness with our spirit that we are children of God and teach us to cry, “Abba Father”; to pour God’s love into our hearts and make our bodies God’s holy temple; and to work in us the will of God, allotting gifts to each one individually, just as the Spirit chooses.
We believe that by our own reason and strength we cannot believe in Jesus Christ our Lord, or come to him; but that the Holy Spirit calls us through the gospel, enlightens us with gifts of grace, dedicates us to God, and preserves us in the true faith, just as the Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and dedicates to God the whole church on earth, which he keeps with Jesus Christ in the only true faith. In this Christian church God daily and completely forgives us and every believer all our sin.
This we truly believe.
Spirit of truth, direct our hearts to the love of God and to patient waiting for Christ. Establish us in the true faith, that we may abound in thanksgiving; and keep us as God’s own until the day of redemption.
To you be glory, with the Father, and with the Son. Amen.
We believe that by holy baptism we are made members of the church of Christ, which he has loved, and for which he gave himself, in order to make it holy, cleansing it by water and the word.
In this communication of saints, we believe in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who died for us, and shed his blood on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, and who has given us his body and blood in the Lord’s Supper, as a pledge of grace. As the Scripture says, Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, gave it to his disciples and said: Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. In the same way, after supper our Lord Jesus Christ took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it to his disciples saying: Drink from this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sin. Do this, whenever you drink it, in memory of me.
This we truly believe.
We shall never taste eternal death, but shall attain the resurrection of the dead; for this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. Thus our bodies rest in hope. And the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, will also give life to our mortal bodies if the Spirit of God has dwelt in us.
We poor sinners pray: hear us, gracious Lord and God.
Keep us in everlasting fellowship with those of our brothers and sisters who, since last Easter Day, have entered into the joy of their Lord, and with the whole Church Triumphant in heaven, and let us rest together in your presence from our labors.
Hear us, gracious Lord and God.
Glory be to Jesus Christ, who is the Resurrection and the Life. He was dead, and behold he is alive forever and ever. Those who believe in him, even though they die, yet shall they live. Glory be to Christ Jesus, in the church which waits for him on earth, and in the church which is around him in heaven, from everlasting to everlasting.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.
Liturgy reprinted from the 1995 Moravian Book of Worship. ©1995, IBOC Moravian Church. Used with permission.
From the March 2015 Moravian Magazine