TABOR - Tradition and Contemporaneity in the Romanian Orthodox Church
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The influence of the Reformation on the Romanian Church in Transylvania in the 16th century
Because the Saxons of Transylvania had continuous cultural and commercial ties with their German brothers, Luther’s teachings and writings soon spread into Transylvania. The one who worked harder and best for their application to the life circumstances of the Transylvanian Saxons was John Honterus. Honterus wrote a book entitled, “The Reformation of the Church in Braşov and the Bârsa Country,” insisting on the importance of preaching and of having the divine service in the believers own language, of abandoning superstitious customs, combating the abuses of priests with the mystery of repentance and the afflictions. What Honterus did for the Saxons, Gaspar Heltai did, shortly after, for the Hungarians of Cluj. He was of Saxon origin from Cisnădie, but became Hungarian and priest in Cluj in 1544. The Romanians in Transylvania being always in contact with the Calvinists and the Lutheran Saxons of Hungary, the religious reformation had to have some influence on their church life. The Saxons first tried to urge the Romanians to receive Luther’s teachings. That is why in 1544 in Sibiu they printed a catechism of such teachings. It is the first book printed in Romanian. There are writers who assert that the Romanians would not accept anything from the cultural trend of the reform, and that their priests and archbishops would have resisted everywhere even to the introduction of the Romanian language into the church. This statement is only partially in accordance with the historical truth, namely that the Romanian people never turned away from their religious ceremonies and dogmas of the faith. However, the renewal brought by the introduction of the Romanian language was gladly received by many priests and illuminated rulers. There is also a positive result of the reform in Transylvania: the church service in Romanian and a significant current of national literature.