Reformation Day – What is it?
Reformation Day, also known as The Festival of the Reformation, recognizes the start of the Protestant Reformation. It commemorates the act where Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenburg Church in 1517.
The holiday has been celebrated since 1567, but the exact dates have varied. In 1717, October 31 was set at the official day to commemorate the event, but churches often apply the Sunday prior to October 31 as Reformation Sunday.
Reformation Day and Martin Luther
Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a revolutionary of his time, serving as a priest and professor of theology. He wrote his 95 Theses as an expression of his concern with corruption within the Roman Catholic Church. His ideas served as the catalyst for an eventual break from the Roman Catholic Church.
One of the major issues Luther had with the Roman Catholic Church involved indulgences. In 1517, before Luther wrote his Theses, Pope Leo X offered indulgences to those who gave alms to rebuilt St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Johann Tetzel was the commissioner for these indulgences and was confronted by Luther.
Indulgences were full or partial remission of temporal punishment due for sins which have already been forgiven. In other words, a person could buy an indulgence, which would release him from having to exact penitence for his sins. An indulgence could also be purchased to reduce the amount of time a loved one spent in purgatory. Luther interpreted this practice as a way to buy salvation from sin and somehow purchase God’s favor. He denounced such transactions and called out the greed and corruption of such practices.
Instead, Luther taught: