Luther's Final Years
In 1525, Luther married Katharina von Bora, one of the nuns he helped escape in herring barrels from the Nimbschen Cistercian covenant. Luther's marriage was a surprise to many, especially himself. A year earlier, Luther had written that he did not expect to ever get married because "I daily expect the death of a heretic." While some former priests and monks had already married, Luther's wedding set the seal of approval for clerical marriage.
By 1526, Luther found himself occupied with organizing a new form of church. He established a supervisory church body, a new form of worship service, composed many hymns, and wrote two catechisms to summarize this new and revolutionary faith that centered on the cross. Luther even wrote a “German Mass” for simple people “to believe and become Christians.” This mass was different from the Latin Mass in that it became a celebration where everyone received the wine as well as the bread. When he completed a German translation of the Old Testament in 1534, the German people now had access to a complete Bible in their language.
One of the key tenants of the new church was the “priesthood of all believers.” Martin Luther thought that “this word priest should become as common as the word Christian.” He believed all Christians are priests, and that everyone could do priestly work. He said the clergy were no more important than those who milked cows. Each person is gifted from God and is called to use those gifts to honor Him.
After suffering from ill health for years, in late 1545 Luther returned to Eisleben, the city of his birth, on some family business to mediate a land dispute between two brothers, the Counts of Mansfeld. While in Eisleben, he preached at St. Andrew’s Church his last four sermons.
Luther died on February 18, 1546, of an apparent heart attack at the age of 62. He was buried in the Castle Church in Wittenberg, beneath the pulpit.