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Ash Wednesday

(110 words)

Author(s): Bieritz, Karl-Heinrich
[German Version] is the beginning of the pre-Easter penitential season (Lent). Ash Wednesday owes its name to the institution of public penitence: the penitent receives penitential clothing and is sprinkled with ashes. According to the missal of 1970, blessing and application of the ashes – in the form of a cross on the forehead – are performed following the Gospel and the homily. In Protestant congregations, Ash Wednesday is considered the beginning of the passion season; it is recommended that it be performed in a penitential service or the celebration of congregational confession. Ka…

Sacred Times

(1,513 words)

Author(s): Baudy, Dorothea | Metzger, Marcel | Bieritz, Karl-Heinrich
[German Version] I. Religious Studies Sacred times are ritually observed periods of time of varying duration that serve to modulate life within a community through reference to an exceptional shared experience. Someone who prays at an appointed hour knows that he or she is united with like-minded others even when alone. When people live close to nature, the necessary cooperation requires adaptation to the environment’s seasonal changes. There the ritual organization of temporal caesuras addresses bot…

Church Year

(2,193 words)

Author(s): Bieritz, Karl-Heinrich | Grethlein, Christian | Richter, Klemens | Plank, Peter
[German Version] I. General Background and History – II. Practical Theology – III. Orthodox Church I. General Background and History The church year – like church art, architecture, etc. – is one of the great cultural products of the Christian faith. It attempts to give cultural form to the gospel by means of the human perception of time. It thus stands alongside other attempts to cultivate the experience and perception of time, and to structure it meaningfully. As a sign of salvation…

Reformation Day

(308 words)

Author(s): Bieritz, Karl-Heinrich
[German Version] To commemorate Luther’s posting of his theses on the eve of All Saints’ Day in 1517, the continental churches of the Reformation and the Lutheran churches in the United States observe Oct 31 (or the following Sunday) as Reformation Day (officially Gedenktag der Reformation, “Commemoration Day of the Reformation”). The choice of this date goes back to the sesquicentennial celebration of the theses in 1667 as decreed by John George II of Saxony. Previously the Reformation had often been commemorated on the anniversary of its…

Apostles, Feasts of the

(214 words)

Author(s): Bieritz, Karl-Heinrich
[German Version] Initially liturgical commemoration of the apostles, like that of the martyrs, was only local. The earliest commemorations at Rome were on Jun 29 (Peter and Paul) and Feb 22 (death of Peter?). Because these feasts were biblical, the Lutheran churches continued to observe most of them; when one fell on a workday, it was often observed as a “semi-holiday.” The new Roman Calendar of 1969 lists the following feasts of the apostles, which – with the exception of the Chair of Peter on Feb 22 –…

All Souls' Day

(130 words)

Author(s): Bieritz, Karl-Heinrich
[German Version] The annual remembrance of the deceased, has its roots in ancient commemoration of the dead. Originally related to the Easter celebration, the 2nd day of November (earliest witness, between 1015 and 1033) finally prevailed over other dates. First widespread in Gaul and England, All Souls' Day became customary in the 14th century in Rome and in …

World Council of Churches

(2,923 words)

Author(s): Guder, Darrell | Geldbach, Erich | Bieritz, Karl-Heinrich | Heller, Dagmar
[German Version] I. History and Programs The modern missionary movement generated a growing concern for church cooperation and unity, for which the term “ecumenical” (Ecumene) began to be used in the 19th century. The World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh (1910) gave expression to these concerns and spawned the initiatives that have coalesced in the course of the 20th century as the “Ecumenical movement” (II). Both the Faith and Order and the Life and Work movements established patterns of ecumenic…

Holiday Observance

(429 words)

Author(s): Bieritz, Karl-Heinrich
[German Version] 1. In the early period of the church, participation in worship was an obvious sign of the Christian life (but see Heb 10:25). It is not attested, however, that the Lord's Day was understood in analogy to the Jewish Sabbath as a work-free day of rest. Tertullian seems to be the first to advise deferring business on Sunday and during ¶ Pentecost in order to be able to participate in worship ( De oratione 23). The situation changed when the church assumed the role of the imperial church in the 4th century. Constantine decreed rest from work “on the estima…


(20,376 words)

Author(s): Dondelinger, Patrick | Auffarth, Christoph | Braulik, Georg | Reif, Stefan C. | Johnson, Luke T. | Et al.
[German Version] I. Terminology The German word Gottesdienst (“worship,” lit. “service of God”) is attested since the 13th/14th century as a German translation of Latin cultus (Cult/Worship). It came into common use in the 16th century, especially in Luther’s works. Starting with an ethical understanding of the word, Luther himself used it as a technical term for the common celebration of the Word of God, as it evolved from the evangelical reform of the Catholic sacrifice (IV) of the mass. For centuries the term Gottesdienst remained limited to this specific form of worship of …

Wrath of God

(3,658 words)

Author(s): Jödicke, Ansgar | Achenbach, Reinhard | Herzer, Jens | Volkmann, Stefan | Bieritz, Karl-Heinrich
[German Version] I. Religious Studies As with other divine attributes, the wrath of God (cf. Wrath/Anger) is an anthropomorphism that is encountered in iconography (I; e.g. of Thangkas [ tʾaṅ Ka] in Tibet), but especially in the mythology of many religions, where it leads to various entanglements within the plot. In Greek mythology, for instance, the enraged god Zeus sends Pandora’s box to humanity after having being deceived by Prometheus, thereby bringing evil into the world. Depending on the situation, the wrath of God can illustrate the capriciousness or predictabil…


(442 words)

Author(s): Bieritz, Karl-Heinrich
[German Version] I. On Nov 17, 1816 Frederick William III of Prussia issued a cabinet order specifying that the last Sunday of the church year was to be set aside as a nationwide church feast in memory of the deceased (Memorials to the dead). This had been preceded, on Jul 4, 1816, by a “ceremony in memory of the soldiers who fell on the battlefield.” In addition to commemorating those who had lost their lives in the wars of liberation, the decision in favor of the new feast was influenced by mour…

Liturgical Studies

(4,045 words)

Author(s): Meyer-Blanck, Michael | Bieritz, Karl-Heinrich
[German Version] I. History – II. Liturgical Studies Today I. History The German term Liturgik (“liturgics”) was first used by the 16th-century Catholic mediation theologian G. Cassander; in the 19th century, Catholics began to use it for the historical, critical, systematic, and practical theory of Christian worship. The Oxford English Dictionary traces the use of liturgics in this sense to the mid-19th century. The term Liturgiewissenschaft (“liturgical studies”) was introduced by C.A. Baumstark in 1919 and R. Guardini in 1921, modeled on W. Dilthey's term Geisteswissenschaf…


(4,168 words)

Author(s): Freiberger, Oliver | Podella, Thomas | Böcher, Otto | Bieritz, Karl-Heinrich | Troickij, Aleksandr | Et al.
[German Version] I. History of Religions – II. Old Testament – III. Christianity – IV. Ethics – V. Judaism – VI. Islam I. History of Religions “Fasting” is a universally attested cultural technique to produce an expansion of mental and social control, power, or awareness (Asceticism) by restricting the intake of food. Many different types of and reasons for fasting can be found in the history of religions, and they are combined in various ways. Several studies have been produced with regard to individual religions …


(400 words)

Author(s): Bieritz, Karl-Heinrich
[German Version] 1 As generally understood, holidays are characterized by the fact that they interrupt everyday (work) life and open up a space for self-determined activity or leisure beyond vocational and other duties. As a rule, they are implemented to mark special occasions or are celebrated in a regular sequence. It is common to distinguish holidays terminologically from the weekly recurring days of rest, although this is questionable with regard to the ¶ Jewish Sabbath and the Christian Sunday and their clear (salvation) historical references. It is important to…


(204 words)

Author(s): Bieritz, Karl-Heinrich
[German Version] Probably under Eastern influence (longer Lent because of different fasting [III] practice), in the mid-6th century Lent (Quadragesima) came to be preceded in Rome by a season of Pre-Lent, with the Sundays of Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima (also called Estomihi). The development may also have been influenced Gallican practice and greater felt need for penitence in the face of invasions by the Goths and Lombards, with supplicatory processions to the churches of the Roma…

All Saints' Day

(104 words)

Author(s): Bieritz, Karl-Heinrich
[German Version] unified feast for all saints of a specific region, originally grew out of the need to incorporate the remembrance of the martyrs in the annual Easter celebration. The custom of associating the remembrance of the saints with the beginning of the Celtic year on Nov 1 spread from Ireland in the 8th/9th centuries. Promoted by Gregory IV (828–844) and Louis I, the Pious (814–840), this date finally prevailed in the West and is often also adopted in the festival canon of Reformed church orders. Karl-Heinrich Bieritz Bibliography A. Adam, Das Kirchenjahr mitfeiern, 1979; ET: The …


(1,697 words)

Author(s): Bieritz, Karl-Heinrich | Hofhansl, Ernst W. | Rinderspacher, Jürgen P.
[German Version] I. History 1. Sunday (Lat. dies solis, Ger. Sonntag, Dutch zondag, Danish Søndag) is the second day of the Greco-Roman planetary week, which displaced the original Roman eight-day week in the 2nd century ce. Influenced by the model of the Jewish seven-day week but also by astrological notions from the Near East, it associated the days of the week with the seven known “planets” (including the sun and moon). As Mithraic religion and the cult of sol invictus (celebrated on Dec 25; introduced by the emperor Aurelian in 274 ce) gained influence, Sunday took on special sign…

Feast Day Calendar

(458 words)

Author(s): Bieritz, Karl-Heinrich
[German Version] The Christian calendar of feast days can be understood as a series of overlapping cycles of time. A first cycle consists of the Sundays recurring in the rhythm of the seven-day week. They provide the foundation stones for the Christian feast day calendar and determine its basic form. The second cycle begins with Easter, the oldest Christian annual feast (Feasts and festivals). Like the Passover (Pesach; Feasts and festivals) feast it is linked to the lunar cycle and today stretche…


(7,716 words)

Author(s): Roll, Susan K. | Köhle-Hezinger, Christel | Plank, Peter | Bieritz, Karl-Heinrich | Hermelink, Jan | Et al.
[German Version] I. History – II. Christian Liturgy – III. Practical Theology – IV. Art History – V. Music I. History 1. Origins. “Christmas,” the nativity feast or birthday celebration of Christ on Dec 25, comes from Middle English Christmesse, Christ's Mass; cf. Dutch Kerstmis. The German Weihnachten, “holy nights,” refers to the twelve days between Dec 24 and Jan 6. The Lat. natalis, dies nativitatis, or nativitas domini nostri Jesu Christi is reflected in Span. navidad, Ital. natale. Gk ἡ γενέθλιος ἡμέρα τὰ γενέθλια, ἡ κατὰ σάρκα γέννησις τοῦ κυρίου/ hēgenéthlios h…