24 August 2023

The cultural diversity in New Apostolic divine services has been enriched by a new facet:congregations in Luxembourg can now celebrate the liturgy in their native tongue. And the impulse for this came from the country’s national government.

Am Numm vu Gott, dem Papp, dem Jong an dem Hellege Geescht.” This is how divine services in the New Apostolic congregations of Esch/Alzette, Lamadelaine-Differdange, Luxembourg-Ville, and Wiltz will from now on begin. Up to now, the Trinitarian opening formula and the other liturgical texts have been spoken in German. This changed in July 2023.

Luxembourgish has been the national language of Luxembourg since 1984. Together with French and German, the language will now also be used in administrative and judicial matters. It is a mixed language that has emerged from around one thousand years of multilingualism in the country.

Switch between languages

Already since the late 1990s, the sermons and prayers have been in Luxembourgish. For the sacramental part of the service, however, the officiant had to switch. The Lord’s Prayer as well as the absolution and the consecration of Holy Communion were spoken in German.

The reason was simple: until some time ago, there was no standardised Luxembourgish spelling. As a matter of fact, for some words there was not even an authoritative translation. The fact that this has now changed is due to the initiative of the national government.

Binding translations published

For the first time in autumn 2022, the government of Luxembourg published a dictionary of the national language, compiled by linguists and also available online at lod.lu. The New Apostolic Church took this opportunity to translate the liturgy of the divine services into the national language.

A working group consisting of Evangelist Alain Clement (district rector of Luxembourg), Evangelist Clément Wampach, and the retired Apostle Clément Haeck was responsible for the project. They worked intensively on the texts, including those from the two currently existing Luxembourgish editions of the Bible. However, the Bible is not completely available in the national language and the other churches in the country do not yet use uniform translations. In addition, a linguist was consulted who checked the texts and approved them for use.

Finding the right words

An additional challenge was finding alternatives for certain terms. The word “forgive”, for example, does not exist in Luxembourgish, nor does “Holy Communion”. So “forgiving debts” was eventually transformed into “remitting debts”.

“For the concept of Holy Communion we do not have an alternative,” the retired Apostle Haeck says. So eventually it was agreed to adopt the term into the national language. Now the people refer to it as Hellegen Abendmahl. At the same time, the Church applied to the country’s linguists to have the term “communion” included in the dictionary. “Language has to be alive and develop,” Apostle Haeck says.

Introduction in July 2023

The new liturgy was introduced by District Apostle Rainer Storck after the midweek service on 23 July 2023. Prior to this, introductory events for the ministers and members had taken place.

In this service the congregation prayed the Lord’s Prayer in Luxembourgish. And the service ended with the final blessing in Luxembourgish: “D’Gnod vun eisem Här Jesus Christus, d’Léift vu Gott an d’Gemeinschaft vum Hellege Geescht sief mat iech all. Amen” (2 Corinthians 13: 13).

Bishop Pascal Strobel, who is responsible for Luxembourg, is delighted with this development: “The use of the mother tongue, among other things, helps our youngest members as well as our guests to connect better with the divine service event.”

There is more work ahead

Next on the working group’s to-do list are the liturgical texts for special occasions, which have to be translated. “We are now busy with the surrendering of the body and the blessing at funerals, the texts for Holy Baptism, as well as the wording for various acts of blessing,” Apostle Haeck reports.

And once this is finished, the divine services are still not fully Luxembourgish. In the absence of a complete and universally recognised translation of the Bible, only the German Luther Bible of 2017, the French Bible Louis Segond, and the English New King James Version are considered authentic for divine services and use at the altar.

Photo: NAK Westdeutschland