Confessional Lutheran theology, hagiography, philosophy, music, culture, sports, education,
and whatever else is on the fevered mind of Orycteropus Afer
+ The Holy Prophet Elisha +
14 June, Old Testament
After the prophet Elijah
defeated the priests of Baal and then fled Jezebel's wrath, The Lord came to him on Mount Horeb. He told him to anoint new kings of Syria and Israel. He also commanded Elijah to anoint "Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah, (1 Kings 19:16
)" a member of the tribe of Issachar, to replace Elijah as the prophet of God to the northern kingdom of Israel ca. 849-786 B.C.
During Elijah's final days on earth, Elisha refused to leave his mentor's side. Elisha asked Elijah to grant him a final blessing, saying, "Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me. (2 Kings 2:9
)" Once he saw the elder prophet taken up into heaven, Elisha took up Elijah's mantle and assumed the prophetic office (2 Kings 2:1-14
Like Elijah, Elisha played an active role in political affairs. He also performed many miracles, foreshadowing the miracles of God's own son. Among these, he cured the Syrian army commander Naaman of his leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-27
), fed a multitude of hungry men (2 Kings 4:42-44
), and restored life to the son of a Shunammite woman (4:8-37
A vocal opponent of Baal worship, Elisha lived up to his name, which means "my God is salvation."
Labels: biography, christianity, commemorations, elijah, elisha, hagiography, lutheranism, old testament, prophet
The Council of Nicaea
Summer AD 325, Observed 12 June
Transferred to 13 June for Trinity Sunday and Saint Barnabas Day
The Christian Church's First Ecumenical Council was convened in Nicaea (modern Isnuk, Turkey) in the early summer of AD 325 by the Roman Emperor Constantine
. The emperor presided at the opening of the council. The major intended topic was the ongoing Arian controversy.
The council ruled against the Arians, who taught that Jesus was not the eternal Son of God but was created by the Father and was called Son of God because of his righteousness. The chief opponents of the Arians were Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, and his deacon, Athanasius
. The council confessed the eternal divinity of Jesus and adopted the earliest version of the Nicene Creed, which in its entirety was adopted at the Council of Constantinople in 381.
Other topics included celebration of the Resurrection and how the date for Easter
would correspond with Passover, the Miletian schism, validity of baptism by heretics, and the restoration lapsed Christians who renounced the Faith under persecution. The Council also established a number of new canons
(Church laws). Enumeration varies, but twenty is the number suggested by the editors of the Early Church Fathers
1. prohibition of self-castration, as done by Origen;
2. establishment of a minimum term for catechumens;
3. prohibition of the presence in the house of a cleric of a younger woman who might bring him under suspicion;
4. ordination of a bishop in the presence of at least three provincial bishops and confirmation by the metropolitan;
5. provision for two provincial synods to be held annually;
6. exceptional authority acknowledged for the bishops of Alexandria and Rome, for their respective regions;
7. recognition of the honorary rights of the see of Jerusalem;
8. provision for agreement with the Novatianists;
9-14. provision for mild procedure against the lapsed during the persecution under Licinius;
15-16. prohibition of the removal of priests;
17. prohibition of usury among the clergy;
18. precedence of bishops and presbyters before deacons in receiving Holy Communion, the Eucharist;
19. declaration of the invalidity of baptism by Paulian heretics;
20. prohibition of kneeling during the liturgy, on Sundays, and in the days of Eastertide.
(Summary from Wikipedia.)
Their version of what we now call the Nicene Creed was almost identical to what is now used in the Church until the third section, where the original ends, "We believe in the Holy Spirit." It fell to the Second Ecumenical Council (First Council of Constantinople)
to add what is now used. Therefore, the confession used in the churches may properly be called the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. The so-called filioque
(where "and the Son" was inserted after the words about the Spirit proceeding from the Father) was only later added by the Roman Catholic Church and never accepted in the East.
The Council also saw the first major collaboration between Church and state since Christianity began and signaled a rise in imperial influence in affairs of the Church. Constantine called it, presided over the initial session, and, in many respects, set its agenda. While his personal religious beliefs may have been part of his reason, most scholars agree that his main fear was that a divided Christianity would result in a divided Empire. The historical irony is that the Roman Empire fractured before any major schisms in Christendom.
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered, and was buried. And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And I believe in one holy Christian [catholic] and apostolic Church, I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life ✠
of the world to come. Amen.
Labels: arius, athanasius, christianity, christology, commemoration, constantine, creed, lutheranism, nicaea, nicene creed
+ Barnabas, Apostle +
11 June, New Testament
Transferred to 12 June for Trinity Sunday
"Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet" (Acts 4:36-37
). Here Scripture makes first mention of Saint Barnabas.
This name given by the Apostles matches what we know of his actions. When Saul of Tarsus (or Paul) came to Jerusalem after his conversion
, most of the congregation wanted nothing to do with him. They knew him only as a persecutor and an enemy of Christ's Church. Barnabas, however, willingly gave him a second chance. He sought him out, spoke with him, and brought him to meet the other Christians, vouching for him.
Later, Paul and Barnabas went on a missionary journey together, taking Barnabas's cousin Mark
along. Part way, Mark turned back and went home. When Paul and Barnabas were about to set out on another such journey, Barnabas proposed to take Mark along, and Paul was against it, saying that Mark had shown himself undependable. Barnabas wanted to give Mark a second chance, and so he and Mark went off on one journey, while Paul took Silas and went on another. Apparently Mark responded well to the trust given him by the "son of encouragement," since we find that Paul later spoke of him as a valuable assistant (2 Timothy 4:11
; see also Colossians 4:10
and Philemon 24
Acts 11:19-30; 13:1-3
Almighty God, Your faithful servant Barnabas sought not his own renown but gave generously of his life and substance for the encouragement of the apostles and their ministry. Grant that we may follow his example in lives given to charity and the proclamation of the Gospel; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: acts, barnabas, feasts, festivals, missionary, new testament, saint mark, saint paul, saint peter
The Feast of the Holy Trinity
The First Sunday after Pentecost
The Feast of the Holy Trinity, or Trinity Sunday, is a movable festival on the Church calendar
in Western Christendom. Its date of celebration depends, as do Lent
, Ascension Day
, and Pentecost
, upon the date of Easter
Often, the Church Year is divided into two approximate halves. The "festival half," sometimes (rather inappropriately, in my opinion) termed "the Lord's half year," runs from the First Sunday in Advent through the week following Pentecost. This period encompasses all of the major Christological observances. Trinity Sunday is sometimes considered the close of the festival half but is usually understood to be the beginning of the non-festival half, sometimes called "the Church's half year." Its proper liturgical color is white, but except for certain special observances, green will be used for paraments and vestments until the church year closes.
This day celebrates the mystery of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — One God yet Three Persons — a fact revealed in Scripture but apprehended only by faith, since its comprehension defies human logic. Some people with a literalistic (rather than literal) understanding of the Bible attempt to deny this doctrine since they cannot find "Trinity" or "Triune" or "Three Persons" in the pages of Scripture. However, the sum total testimony of the Old and New Testaments certainly speaks of God as One yet also as Three Persons.
Regardless of the lectionary cycle used, the appointed Scriptures for the day reflect both God's undivided unity of self and His Triune nature. While not often used by most of the Christian Church during the rest of the year, much of the Western Church uses the Athanasian Creed
as its confession of faith on Trinity Sunday.
Lection — One-year Series
John 3:1-15 (16-17)
Lection — Three-year Series, Year A
Acts 2:14a, 22-36
Almighty and everlasting God, You have given us grace to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity by the confession of a true faith and to worship the Unity in the power of the Divine Majesty. Keep us steadfast in this faith and defend us from all adversities; for You, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, live and reign, one God, now and forever.
Holy, Holy, Holy
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!
Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.
Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love, and purity.
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!
Holy God, We Praise Your Name
Holy God, we praise Your Name;
Lord of all, we bow before You.
All on earth Your scepter claim,
All in heaven above adore You.
Infinite Your vast domain,
Everlasting is Your reign.
Hark! The glad celestial hymn
Angel choirs above are raising;
Cherubim and seraphim,
In unceasing chorus praising,
Fill the heavens with sweet accord:
"Holy, holy, holy Lord!"
Lo, the apostolic train
Join Your sacred Name to hallow;
Prophets swell the glad refrain,
And the white robed martyrs follow;
And from morn to set of sun
Through the Church the song goes on.
You are King of Glory, Christ;
Son of God, yet born of Mary.
For us sinners sacrificed,
As to death a Tributary,
First to break the bars of death,
You have opened heaven to faith.
Holy Father, holy Son,
Holy Spirit, Three we name You,
Though in essence only One;
Undivided God we claim You
And, adoring, bend the knee
While we own the mystery.
Related Item: Tainted Trinitarian Theology Trouble
at Martin's Mumbles.
Tags: Holy Trinity
| Trinity Sunday
| Triune God
| Church Year
| liturgical calendar
| Christian feasts
| systematic theology
| exegetical theology
| Confessional Lutheran
Labels: athanasian creed, christianity, doctrine, father, feasts, festivals, holy spirit, holy trinity, pentecost, son, theology, trinity sunday, triune god
+ Boniface of Mainz, Bishop, Missionary, and Martyr +
5 June AD 754
The man who later became known as Saint Boniface was born around AD 670-680 at Crediton, Devonshire, England and baptized Winfrid or Wynfrith. Although he was educated, he became a monk — at that time a calling often avoided by people of learning or means. While still in England, he was ordained as a presbyter and was inspired by the example of others to become a missionary.
Upon receiving a papal commission in 719 to work in Germany, Winfrid devoted himself to starting, organizing, and reforming churches and monasteries in Hesse, Thuringia, and Bavaria. After becoming an archbishop, Boniface was assigned to the See of Mainz in 743. Ten years later he resigned his position to engage in mission work in the Netherlands.
His time of activity overlapped the period in which Pippin the Younger
reigned and his work of converting the Saxons to Christianity was seen as a boon for expansion of Frankish rule. Yet Boniface never operated as a pawn of the kingdom of the left hand. Instead, he balanced alliances among the Carolingians, Bavarian rulers, and the papacy and often consecrated bishops who were already his followers in order to keep others from meddling in ecclesiastical affairs.
History isn't clear as to exactly when people began calling Winfrid "Boniface," Latin for "good deeds." However, his entire life gives ample testimony to events which would lead to this appellation.
Among his most famous exploits was the felling of Thor's Oak
, an ancient tree believed sacred to the Nordic and Germanic god of thunder. Accounts from the period relate that when Thor (or Donar/Donner) didn't strike him dead with a lightning bolt, the locals agreed that the Christian God was supreme and agreed to be baptized. In a practical yet also symbolic gesture, Boniface used the wood of the fallen tree in the construction of a chapel in Fritzlar.
On June 5, 754, while awaiting a group of converts for confirmation, Boniface and his companions were murdered by a band of pagans in Friesland. The above picture is a commemorative statue in Dokkum
, The Netherlands — a town near where he was martyred. Erected in 2004, it commemorated the 1250th anniversary of his death. Boniface is known as a great missionary and is sometimes called the "Apostle to the Germans." According to historian Christopher Dawson, no other Englishman had any greater influence upon Europe's history.
Almighty God, who called Your faithful servant Boniface to be a witness and martyr in the lands of Germany and Friesland, and by his labor and suffering raised up a people for Your own possession, pour forth Your Holy Spirit upon your Church in every land, that by the service and sacrifice of many Your holy Name may be glorified and Your kingdom enlarged; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: biography, boniface, charlemagne, commemoration, friesland, german history, hagiography, martyrdom, missionary, saxony, two kingdoms
The Feast of Pentecost
The Fiftieth Day of Easter, New Testament
Pentecost, an Israelite festival connected to the spring harvest, was the time chosen by the Lord for the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples as they waited in Jerusalem.
With wind and fire, the Holy Spirit manifested Himself upon the apostles. Immediately, they rushed out to begin proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified for our sins and raised for our justification. The account is in Acts 2:1-41
. Such was the power of the Holy Spirit working through Law and Gospel preaching that He converted over 3000 people faith in Christ at one time.
In Christianity, Pentecost is a "movable feast." Under the Old Covenant, including among modern Jews, Pentecost was (and is) the fiftieth day of Passover. The Christian Church, as more Gentiles swelled its ranks, kept the idea of the fiftieth day but based the celebration on the date for Easter rather than for Passover. See the second question under Notes on the Christian Calendar
for a bit more on how we arrive at a date each year.
If you're preaching on the Genesis text, take a look at Upon the Plain of Shinar
, a hymn by Pastor Walter Snyder.
Lection: Three Year Cycle, Series A
Lection: One Year Cycle
O God, on this day You once taught the hearts of Your faithful people by sending them the light of Your Holy Spirit. Grant us in our day by the same Spirit to have a right understanding in all things and evermore to rejoice in His holy consolation; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: acts, apostle, christ, church history, conversion, disciple, easter, feasts, festivals, gospel, holy ghost, holy spirit, jesus, new testament, pentecost, pneumatology, translation
+ Justin, Martyr +
c. 1 June AD 167
Born in Flavia Neapolis, Palestine around AD 100, near the close of the New Testament period, Justin was the son of pagan Greek parents. He was a philosophy student who studied in Alexandria, moving from Stoicism to Pythagoreanism and then Platonism as he sought to make sense of life. He converted to the Christian faith and became a teacher in Ephesus and Rome. Justin wrote that his conversion came as he observed the steadfast faith of Ephesian martyrs and through an elderly Christian whom he met along the shore of the sea.
Justin probably wrote much more than we have preserved, but three extant works show his intellect, his never completely abandoned Platonic philosophical education, and his inclination toward apologetics — that is, an intellectual defense of the Faith.
In his First Apology
, addressed to Emperor Antoninus Pius and his adopted sons, Justin defended Christianity as the only rational creed. He included accounts of contemporary baptismal and communion rites, quite possibly designed to rebut distorted accounts from anti-Christian sources. Some of these anti-Christian writings claimed that Christians were cannibals (probably because of a distorted second hand understanding of the Lord's Supper).
He addressed his Second Apology
to the Roman Senate. It counters spurious charges of immorality and the like that were being made against Christians. He said that only those who misunderstood the Faith would accuse it of undermining Roman society and countered that Christians made good citizens.
with Trypho the Jewish rabbi shows him at his strength. He carefully defended Christian teaching while allowing that the Church would continue to welcome Jews and would let them remain faithful to the laws of the Torah. While he may have edited it to provide himself with a few good lines, the text reads as a faithful exposition of an actual conversation.
Justin was living in Rome when the cynic philosopher Crescens stirred up trouble for the Christians. After refusing to make pagan sacrifices, Justin was arrested, tried and executed, along with six other believers, including Charites, Paeon, and Liberianus. The official Roman court proceedings of his trial before Rusticius, a Roman prelate, document his confession of faith. The account of his martyrdom
became a source of great encouragement to the early Christian community.
Much of what we know of early liturgical practice comes from Justin. For example, in the First Apology
he gave this brief description of Holy Communion: "On finishing the prayers we greet each other with a kiss. Then bread and a cup of water mixed with wine are brought to the leader and he, taking them, sends up praise and glory to the Father of the Universe through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and offers thanksgiving at some length that we have been deemed worthy to receive these things. When the leader has finished the prayers and thanksgivings, the whole congregation assents, saying, 'Amen.' ('Amen' is Hebrew for 'So be it.') Then those whom we call deacons give to each of those present a portion of the consecrated bread and wine and water, and they take it to the absent."
Psalm 16:5-11 or 116:1-8
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Almighty and everlasting God, who found Your martyr Justin wandering from teacher to teacher, seeking the true God, and revealed to him the sublime wisdom of Your eternal Word, grant that all who seek You, or a deeper knowledge of You, may find and be found by You; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: apologetics, biography, church history, dialogue, hagiography, justin, liturgics, martyr, martyrdom, patristics, philosophy, platonism, trypho
The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
31 May, New Testament (Three Year Lectionary)
This major Christological feast commemorates the joyous visit Mary paid to her relative (probably her cousin) Elizabeth, following The Annunciation
. Inspired by the amazing news that she was to become the mother of the Christ and in response to the joyous word that her old and previously barren kinswoman was also pregnant, she joined Elizabeth during her sixth month of pregnancy
(see Luke 1:39-56
After Mary declared the wondrously good news, Elizabeth replied to the Virgin, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! ... Behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. (vv. 42, 44
)" She concluded by giving full credit and glory to God while also commending her young cousin's hearty faith: "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord. (v. 45
Mary responded with the Magnificat
, the beautiful song of praise beginning, "My soul magnifies the Lord. (vv. 46-55
)" It's not clear whether Mary stayed there until after the birth of John
or if she left immediately beforehand; Luke merely said that the Virgin "remained with her about three months and returned to her home. (v. 56
And so, as we encounter God sending the Forerunner and the Messiah into the world, we see a study in contrasts. Two women stand before each other. One seemingly too old to bear children now carries the final prophet of the Old Covenant. The other, youthful and as yet unwed — completely unprepared in the eyes of the world — carries the One who brings both the Advent and the Fulfillment of the New Testament. And again we see, in the fullness of time, one age passing away while another age begins — an age that has no end but which lasts unto eternity.
The reaction of Jesus' unborn cousin and the words of his mother also serve as reminders to many Christians about the sanctity of life. Christian pro-lifers point to John's celebration as clear evidence of the humanity and the consciousness of children who are still in utero
In Roman Catholicism, Vatican II changed the date of the observation from 2 July to 31 May in order to more accurately reflect the Bible's chronology regarding the life of Christ. Several other Western churches followed suit. In The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod
, today is celebrated in congregations following the Three Year Lectionary while the One Year Lectionary retains the July feast date.
Note: This illustration by Albrecht Dürer is from the Web Gallery of Art.
Almighty God, You chose the virgin Mary to be the mother of Your Son and made known through her Your regard for the poor and lowly and despised. Grant that we may receive Your Word in humility and faith, and so be made one with Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for He has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for He who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His name.
And His mercy is for those who fear Him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
He has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent empty away.
He has helped His servant Israel,
in remembrance of His mercy,
as He spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.
Labels: christ, christology, elizabeth, feasts, festivals, gospels, incarnation, jesus, john the baptist, magnificat, mary, nativity, new testament, visitation
The Formula of Concord
28 May AD 1577
After Martin Luther's
death, political changes altered the face of the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church. Emperor Charles V exercised control over all of southern Germany and most of the north. The Augsburg Interim, a capitulation disguised as a compromise, denied justification by grace through faith alone. It also officially recognized seven sacraments, confessed transubstantiation, and re-instituted the Mass as a sacrificial thank offering. Most of the defeated Lutheran princes went along with the Interim.
Although Philipp Melanchthon
initially opposed the Augsburg Interim, some combination of fear and his conciliatory nature led him to accept its demands. The damage continued with the Leipzig Interim, which continued to compromise justification by faith while also restoring Catholic rites to Baptism, reintroducing Corpus Christi processions, and otherwise granting favor to Roman practice.
During the same period, a number of doctrinal controversies intruded among the Lutherans. Some grew out of Melanchthon's ongoing compromises with either Rome or the Reformed. Others sprang from the reactionary excesses of his opponents, including Matthias Flacius
. Almost two dozen confessions ranging widely across the doctrinal spectrum were composed between 1546 and 1577, variously appealing to the Augsburg Confession for support of often contradictory positions.
In the early 1570s, Jakob Andreae
published Six Christian Sermons against the Philippist party and other Crypto-Calvinists
. Meanwhile, Elector Augustus of Saxony
, a staunch Lutheran who had been deceived by the Crypto-Calvinists and had actively opposed Lutheran theologians, came to his senses when confronted with Joachim Cureus's refutation of the Evangelical understanding of the Lord's Supper. He imprisoned many of those who'd misled him and began active support and encouragement of a uniting Lutheran confession.
urged Andreae to revise and edit his Six Sermons into a formal statement of harmony. Andreae responded with the eleven articles of the Swabian Concord. Chemnitz and David Chytraeus
added further revisions, producing the Swabian-Saxon Concord. Meanwhile Balthasar Bidembach and Lukas Osiander the elder had also composed a proposed uniting document, the Maulbronn Formula. Andreae, Chemnitz, David Chytraeus, Nikolaus Selnecker, and others met in Torgau from 28 May-7 June 1576 and drew the Swabian-Saxon Concord and the Maulbronn Formula together into the Torgau Book.
Elector Augustus received and passed along suggestions and criticisms of the Torgau Book to its authors, hoping that one more round of work would complete the task. Chemnitz, Andreae, Selnecker, Chytraeus, Andreas Musculus, and Christophorus Cornerus joined to complete the Bergen Book, which became known as the Solid Declaration or the Thorough Declaration. As this was being done, Andreae also worked on an Epitome or summation of the same doctrinal articles. The six men's work was completed by 28 May 1577.
These two works were included together as the Formula of Concord in the Book of Concord
of 1580, along with the three Creeds and the Unaltered Augsburg Confession
, the Apology to the Augsburg Confession, the Small and Large Catechisms, the Smalcald Articles, and the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope. The Epitome
briefly summarizes each controversy, confesses true doctrine, and rejects and condemns false teaching. The Solid Declaration
is less rigid in structure, instead delving into each topic in much greater length.
Labels: book of concord, church history, david chytraeus, formula of concord, jakob andreae, lutheran confessions, lutheranism, martin chemnitz
The Ascension of Our Lord
The Fortieth Day of Easter, New Testament
† Psalm 110
(1-year Lectionary) or Psalm 47
† 2 Kings 2:5-15
(1-year) or Acts 1:1-11
† Acts 1:1-11
(1-year) or Ephesians 1:15-23
† Mark 16:14-20 or Luke 24:44-53
(1-year) or Luke 24:44-53
Almighty God, as Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, ascended into the heavens, so may we also ascend in heart and mind and continually dwell there with Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
An Ascension Hymn
Alleluia! Sing to Jesus
Alleluia! Sing to Jesus; His the scepter, His the throne;
Alleluia! His the triumph, His the victory alone.
Hark! The songs of peaceful Zion Thunder like a mighty flood:
Jesus out of every nation Has redeemed us by His blood."
Alleluia! Not as orphans Are we left in sorrow now;
Alleluia! He is near us: Faith believes, nor questions how.
Though the cloud from sight received Him When the forty days were over,
Shall our hearts forget His promise: "I am with you ever-more"?
Alleluia! Bread of heaven, Here on earth our food, our stay;
Alleluia! Here the sinful Flee to You from day to day.
Intercessor, Friend of sinners, Earth’s Redeemer, hear our plea
Where the songs of all the sinless Sweep across the crystal sea.
Alleluia! King eternal, Lord omnipotent we own;
Alleluia! Born of Mary, Earth Your foot-stool, heaven Your throne.
As within the veil You entered, Robed in flesh, our great high priest,
Here on earth both priest and victim In the eucharistic feast.
Alleluia! Sing to Jesus; His the scepter, His the throne;
Alleluia! His the triumph, His the victory alone.
Hark! The songs of peaceful Zion Thunder like a mighty flood:
"Jesus out of every nation Has redeemed us by His blood."
Labels: acts, ascension, christology, church year, easter, feasts, festivals, gospels, jesus, luke, new testament
+ The Venerable Bede +
25 May AD 735
Today marks the heavenly birthday of Bede (pronounced BĒD). Since his commemoration often falls near the end of Eastertide, it's quite likely that many Christians have close familiarity with one of Bede's best known (and one of this Aardvark's favorite) hymns, the Ascension anthem "A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing."
Bede (673-735) was the last of the early church fathers and the first person to compile a history of the English church. Born in Northumbria, Bede was given by his parents to a monastery in Northern England at the age of seven. He was ordained when he was thirty.
Probably the most learned man of his time, he was a prolific writer of history and his careful use of sources provided a model for historians in the Middle Ages. His skill in both history and theology gave him the ability to complete a synthesis between the older Celtic
monasticism and the later Rule of Saint Benedict
Known best for his book Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum
(The Ecclesiastical History of the English People
), he was also a profound interpreter of Scripture; his edition of the Vulgate was the standard in Catholicism until 1979 and his commentaries still provide fresh insights for today's readers.
Bede also popularized the use of Anno Domini Nostri Iesu Christi
("in the Year of Our Lord Jesus Christ") in speaking of the time since our Savior's birth. This is usually shortened to Anno Domini
His most famous disciple, Cuthbert, reported that Bede was working on a translation of John's Gospel into English when death came. He also said that Bede died with the words of the Gloria Patri
on his lips.
Attested hymns include Hymnum canentes martyrum
("The Hymn for Conquering Martyrs Raise"), Hymnum canamus Domino
(translated variously as "A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing," "The Hymn of Glory Sing We," and "Sing We Triumphant Hymns of Praise"), and Praecursor altus luminis
("The Great Forerunner of the Morn"). He also wrote vernacular poetry.
Bede received the title "Venerable" within two generations of his death and is buried in Durham Cathedral as one of England's greatest saints.
Lection — ESV Except as Noted
Heavenly Father, who called your servant Bede, while still a child, to devote his life to Your service in the disciplines of religion and scholarship, grant that as he labored in the Spirit to bring the riches of Your truth to his generation, so we, in our various vocations, may strive to make You known in all the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing
A hymn of glory let us sing New songs throughout the world shall ring
Christ, by a road before untrod Ascendeth to the throne of God.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
The holy apostolic band Upon the Mount of Olives stand
And with His followers they see Jesus' resplendent majesty
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
To Whom the angels drawing nigh, "Why stand and gaze upon the sky?"
"This is the Savior," thus they say. "This is His noble triumph day."
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
"Again ye shall behold Him so, As ye have today seen Him go."
"In glorious pomp ascending high Up to the portals of the sky."
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
O grant us thitherward to tend And with unwearied hearts ascend,
Unto Thy kingdom's throne, where Thou As is our faith, art seated now,
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
Be Thou our Joy and strong Defense, Who art our future Recompense,
So shall the light that springs from Thee Be ours through all eternity,
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
O risen Christ, ascended Lord, All praise to Thee let earth accord,
Who art, while endless ages run, With Father and with Spirit One,
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
More on Bede's hymns and related information from NetHymnal.
Labels: bede, biography, church history, commemoration, english history, hagiography, historiography, hymnody, medieval history, patristics, the venerable bede, translation
+ Esther +
24 May, Old Testament
Esther is the heroine of the biblical book that bears her name. Her Jewish name was Hadassah
, which means "myrtle." Her beauty, charm, and courage served her well as queen to King Ahasuerus. In that role she was able to save her people from the mass extermination that Haman, the king's chief adviser, had planned (2:19-4:17
Esther's efforts to uncover the plot resulted in the hanging of Haman on the very same gallows that he had built for Mordecai, her uncle and guardian. Then the king named Mordecai minister of state in Haman's place. This story is an example of how God intervenes on behalf of his people to deliver them from evil, as here through Esther he preserved the Old Testament people through whom the Messiah would come.
Even though the book nowhere bears the name of the Lord (Yahweh), it is included in the canon of Scripture because it shows His providential protection of His covenant people and His preservation of the line of the Messiah.
Labels: ahasurus, bible, biography, commemoration, esther, hagiography, haman, mordecai, old testament, providence
+ Nicolaus Copernicus +
24 May AD 1543 — Transferred to 23 May
Mikołaj Kopernik was born in Poland in 1473. His parents died when he was twelve and his uncle Lucas Watzenrode
assumed responsibility for him and his three siblings. The uncle, soon to be Bishop of Ermland, sent him to the University of Cracow, where Mikołaj studied astronomy. He then matriculated at Bologna (Greek, mathematics, Plato), Padua (law and medicine), and Ferrara (Doctor of Canon Law). At some point during his studies he Latinized his name to the now familiar Nicolaus Copernicus.
He returned home after being elected a canon of Frauenberg Cathedral. There he assisted his uncle until Watzenrode's death. After this, he then opened a free medical clinic for the poor.
Nicolaus's varied interests included theology, poetry, and the natural and social sciences. He seems to have been the first person to formulate what is now known as Gresham's Law
, "Bad money drives out good." This means that if there are two kinds of coins in circulation having the same legal or face value, but one is more valuable in terms of its content, consumers will tend to hoard the more valuable coins and spend the less valuable. Soon only the cheaper coins will be in circulation. This idea has been proven out many times, including in the United States, as base metal coins chased their silver equivalents from circulation during the 1960s and beyond.
Above all else, we remember Nicolaus Copernicus as an astronomer. In his day, the common view of the world was the geocentric model
— the earth was motionless and all the heavenly bodies revolved around it. However, others held a heliocentric
view, believing that the earth moved about the sun. Already a century before Galileo's birth, Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa wrote, "When we say that the earth does not move, we mean simply that the earth is the point with reference to which man makes his observations of celestial phenomena."
However, this view was much in the minority and most thought that the science proved that the earth sat still amidst all Creation. At the same time, the notion that medieval Christians believed the earth flat has been largely disproved. Among those who never held this view were Dante
, who referred to the earth as a sphere in the early 1300's and Thomas Aquinas
in the opening portion of his Summa Theologica
. Other early "round earth" Christians included the Venerable Bede
, already in the late 100s AD. At issue was the motion, not the shape, of the earth.
A unified theory of the cosmos remained a major stumbling block. Because the geocentric model was interwoven with related theories in philosophy, chemistry, physics, music, natural theology, and the like, it seemed that rejecting any single part endangered the whole theory. Ever more accurate measurements ot the celestial bodies, however, imposed ever more increasing burdens upon the defenders of geocentrism. The patches applied by astronomers and mathematicians couldn't cover all the old theory's holes
Copernicus proposed an elegantly simple solution — suppose that the sun, not the earth, was at the center. His first summary of this theory came in 1530 in a paper called the Commentariolus
("little commentary") and received papal approval. He spent the next thirteen years revising it and expanding his heliocentric theory to book length, all the while rechecking his calculations. As he continued, he constantly rewrote his arguments and delayed publication until absolutely certain that he'd not overlooked a thing.
When satisfied that he need add or change nothing, Copernicus entrusted the final draft to Georg Rheticus
, a former student who became a professor at Leipzig. Rhaeticus published it there. Lutheran pastor Andreas Osiander
added an unauthorized preface stating that the heliocentric model was only a device to simplify computations. He said that Copernicus wrote his heliocentric account as a mere mathematical hypothesis, not as anything containing truth or even great probability. Copernicus received delivery of the printed book, De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium
("On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres"), only a few hours before his death in 1543.
His work originally found little opposition. Perhaps it would have slowly entrenched itself throughout Western thought, but De Revolutionibus
ran into trouble because of Galileo Galilei
. When Galileo quarreled
with the Italian University establishment and then with the Pope, the whole geocentric model came into question. Because of this, Copernicus's book was placed on the Index donec corrigetur
("until it be corrected") from 1616 to 1758.
Some of Copernicus's ideas didn't stand the test of time. Because the circle was considered a much more elegant — even perfect — form, he resisted the notion of eliptical orbits (as did Galileo), settling instead for a much more cumbersome system of epicycles
. Even after Johannes Kepler
insisted that the ellipse was the only orbit that made sense of the data, acceptance of his thought took a number of years.
Almighty God, who made the heavens to tell Your glory and the firmament to proclaim Your handiwork, we thank You for placing us in a universe governed by Your will according the to laws of Your creation and we bless You for giving us mind capable of studying Your creation and spirits capable of wonder at its majesty; today we praise you especially for the gifts of intellect that You pour out upon your servants Nicolas Copernicus and others, by whom our understanding of the nature of Your creation has been advanced, for our good and Your glory, who live and reign, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: astronomy, biography, commemoration, copernicus, galileo, geocentrism, heliocentrism, polish history, renaissance, rheticus, science
+ Johannes Quenstedt, Theologian +
22 May AD 1688
After Martin Chemnitz
and Johann Gerhard
, Johannes Andreas Quenstedt may have been the ablest theologian of the Lutheran church in the period following the death of Martin Luther
. A shining light during the period of Lutheran orthodoxy, Quenstedt still offers much to the Church of our day.
Born on 13 August 1617 in Quedlinburg, Germany (modern Bundesland Saxony-Anhalt), Quenstedt was nephew to Johann Gerhard. His mother was the noted theologian's sister.
During his early school days, Quenstedt hoped to study under his uncle at the university at Jena. Unfortunately for young Johannes, Gerhard died before he could enroll at the university. Because of this, Quenstedt's mother changed plans and sent her son to Helmstedt. Many Lutherans had doubts about the overall orthodoxy of Helmstedt. However, its fifty mile distance from Quedlinburg allowed his mother to keep him closer to home.
Quenstedt spent six years in his university studies before moving on to Wittenberg in 1644 to continue his education. In spite of his new school's misgivings over his time at Helmstedt, Quenstedt excelled in Wittenberg. As various faculty members began to support and encourage him, he became ever more convinced of the correctness of Lutheran doctrine and gradually developed his own personal style of theological teaching.
As he delved into the Scriptures, the Confessions, and other Lutheran writings, Quenstedt publicly asserted the claims of Lutheran orthodoxy. Therefore, as he began his own career as author and lecturer, he was no mere parrot of his famous uncle. He set forth and defended his own convictions, firmly convinced that they rested on Biblical truth.
Quenstedt received an appointment from Wittenberg University as a lecturer in October 1644. At various times during his career he served as professor of theology, logic, and metaphysics. During his early years as lecturer, he continued his studies and received his Doctorate in Theology in 1650.
Despite the seeming ease with which Quenstedt's career progressed, much of his life was difficult. From childhood, he suffered ongoing illnesses and various physical ailments. Joined in marriage in 1651, he saw his wife die before their first wedding anniversary. He remarried in 1653 but his second wife died after only three years. Soon thereafter, Quenstedt married Anna Sabina Scharf. This 1556 union was long and successful, blessed by God with 12 children.
Friedrich August Tholuck
referred to Quenstedt as the "bookkeeper and secretary" (Buchhalter und Schriftführer
) of Lutheran orthodoxy. This verdict, however, disagrees with the facts and sells a great man short. Although he did much to catalog, organize, and disseminate that which came before him, he also expanded the scope of Lutheran teaching. Well-read and devout, he lived the life that his works espoused, ever displaying a keen intellect and deep understanding of Holy Scripture and Lutheran theology. For all his bold confession, Quenstedt was a quiet, pious, and somewhat private man.
Without question, Quenstedt's Theologia Didactico-Polemica Sive Systema Theologicum
(Didactic-Polemic Theology or Systematic Theology) remains his great contribution to the Church. The Systema
is no tidy compendium but a massive volume. When published, it would have cost most pastors several weeks' salary — if not more.
Despite the cost, the Systema
underwent several printings, testifying to the book's value and the strong demand from clergy and university instructors. Unfortunately, most of the volume remains unavailable in English translation.
carefully outlines and expounds upon almost all debated and controverted doctrines from the period. Each section is divided into two portions, one didactic, the other polemic. Quenstedt's "polemic," however, differs from many others stemming from the period of Orthodoxy or elsewhere during Church history. Neither harsh or bombastic, his polemics thoughtfully and gently respond to contemporary critics of Lutheranism.
Since the attacks of earlier ages vary little from those of subsequent times, the Systema
remains a valuable resource for present-day Lutherans beset by misguided assaults on our teachings and practices.
O Lord God, heavenly Father, pour out Your Holy Spirit upon Your faithful people, keep them steadfast in Your grace and truth, protect and comfort them in all temptation, defend them against all enemies of Your Word, and bestow on Christ's Church Militant Your saving peace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word!
(written by Caleb Bassett)
(Lueker, Poellot, Jackson, eds.)
Labels: biography, church history, commemoration, european history, german history, hagiography, johann gerhard, lutheranism, martin chemnitz, martin luther, polemics, quenstedt, theology
+ Constantine the Great and Helena +
Emperor Constantine, 21 May AD 337
Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus served as Roman Emperor from AD 306 to 337. During his reign the persecution of Christians was forbidden by the Edict of Milan
in 313. Ultimately, the faith gained full imperial support.
Constantine took an active interest in the life and teachings of the church. He called the First Council of Nicaea
in 325 at which Saint Athanasius
and others defended and defined orthodox Christianity. Among the fruits of this council was one of Christendom's major confessions of faith, the Nicene Creed.
Some argue that Constantine may not have been true believer since he wasn't baptized until his death bed. However, he actively supported Christianity in his later life and even preached upon occasion. Other scholars speculate that he delayed baptism for the same reason as did many others during portions of the Church's history, that of a general misunderstanding of Holy Baptism.
Many theologians spoke of the need for "satisfaction" — making amends for sins committed during one's life — and warned about time that would be spent in Purgatory
by those who didn't make full satisfaction while still living. Indeed, some even taught that unless proper penance was done, one might find himself forever barred from Heaven!
Since Baptism truly washes away all sin — both that of our birth nature and any transgressions committed later — some thought the best way to avoid Purgatory (or Hell) was to be baptized when one was at death's door. In so doing, people believed that there would be no unrepented, unsatisfied sins remaining that would leave one waiting for eternal bliss or forever denied its blessings.
I'll not argue here the reasons why Lutherans reject the notion of satisfaction or the idea of Purgatory. I'll merely say that if Constantine had such worries, he wasn't alone during his day, and his decision to delay would be understandable in light of such teaching.
Saint Helena, ca. AD 255-329
Constantine's mother Helena strongly influenced her son throughout his life. Her great interest in locating the holy sites of the Christian faith led her to become one of the first Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land. Her research led to the identification of Biblical locations in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and beyond, which are still maintained as places of worship today. One of Christianity's annual festivals, Holy Cross Day
, has its origin in her explorations of Palestine.
O Lord, our God, King of the universe, who raises up earthly rulers to work Your will in this life, You called Constantine to the imperial throne and ended wide-spread persecution of Your Son's Church; grant that as he served You by fulfilling his vocation, so we would continue to receive from You rulers who allow the Church to proclaim the saving Gospel of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Almighty God, who called your servant Helena to an earthly position of authority so that she might advance your heavenly kingdom, filling her with zeal for your Church and love for Your people, grant that we may be fruitful in good works and steadfast in our faith in Your Son, and finally by your mercy attain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: athanasius, biography, church history, commemoration, constantine, edict of milan, european history, hagiography, helena, holy cross, nicaea, nicene creed, patristics, roman empire
+ Erik IX of Sweden +
18 May AD 1160
Erik Jedvardsson (Edward's Son) ruled much of Sweden from 1150 to 1160. He headed a Christian kingdom bordered by various pagan realms, all of which shared an ancient tradition of fighting with each other. During the middle of his reign, about 1155, he led a Swedish expedition into Finland, which was then loosely under Swedish rule. The objects were the consolidation of Swedish authority and the establishment of a protected Christian mission. This latter was headed by the English-born Henry of Uppsala
, considered by many the founder of the Church in Finland.
Erik also gained renown for measures designed to to provide Sweden with fair laws and just courts, including steps designed to assist the poor and the infirm. One story of his death goes as follows: On 18 May 1160, the day after Ascension Day, while worshiping in an Uppsala church, word came that a pagan Danish army was approaching to kill him. He replied, "Let us at least finish the sacrifice. The rest of the feast I shall keep elsewhere." As he left the church, the pagans rushed upon him and killed him.
Other accounts claim that he was assassinated by Emund Ulvbane, who worked for the rival house of Sverker. Still another story says that the rival claimant Magnus Henriksson either caused or arranged Erik's death. The history of his recognition and official canonization is somewhat blurred. Regional fervor favored him but church politics seemingly denied him papal recognition. Indeed, Pope Alexander III, using the pretext that Erik was a boozer who died in a drunken brawl, censured his cult in 1172. Although no sources say anything officially, one must wonder if Swedish nationalism following this slight might have helped the Reformation later gain rapid inroads in Sweden.
Erik was honored both as an upholder of the Christian faith and as a national hero, the ancestor of a long line of Swedish kings. His bloodline also spread by marriage into the courts of Norway and Denmark. Within thirty years of his death, he was listed on the Swedish sanctorial calendar. He remains honored as the patron of the city of Stockholm and his likeness is on the city's coat of arms (above). He is also held as the principal patron of Sweden. His silver casket still sits in Uppsala's cathedral.
O God, who called Your servant Erik of Sweden to an earthly throne and allowed him to advance Your heavenly kingdom, giving him zeal for Your Church and love for Your people, mercifully grant that we who commemorate him this day may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown of Your saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: biography, church history, commemoration, erik, erik ix, european history, hagiography, lutheranism, patron saint, sweden
A Mother's Day Essay
The second Sunday of May is Mother's Day
here in these United States. From its origins in 19th Century feminism and pacifism, the day grew into a general celebration of motherhood — and a bonanza for greeting card companies, florists, and gift sellers looking to make a few bucks on others' holiday zeal (or guilt). I won't belabor any of these points, although if you and your mom are
somehow estranged, you have no day like today to start getting in touch with her.
No, the "Mom" in the apologetic title is another mother — the Mother of all Believers. And every
Sunday is chock-full of kids who should be sorry about their neglect of her the day, the week, the month, or the year(s) before. Yeah, that
Mother ... Holy Mother Church, the Bride of Christ, the woman of Revelation 12
whose offspring are borne in her womb and birthed in her font.
Mom doesn't want the kids just to visit on Christmas, Easter, and maybe Mother's Day. She'd like to have every one of us around all the time. All the good our Father brings home — reconciliation, protection, guidance, and direction — she readily shares with her family. She sets the table with the wonderful meal provided by her Firstborn Son and invites the rest of us to eat and drink. She misses the kids when they're too busy with other stuff to even drop by for a couple hours each week.
Like any good parent, Mother wants us to grow up. Unlike most parents, she doesn't want us to move out. Instead, she wants us to bring up our own families within the family the she's been raising with our Father. Another mouth to feed? No problem! Huge loads of soiled linens? Bring 'em on! Like Father, like Mother: She insists you behave yourself, yet she's always ready to forgive you when you don't.
So, how are you and Mom getting along? Even if it's been a while, she's always glad to see you. Just don't try to fool yourself into thinking that as long as you and Father are on good terms, you can forget about her. You see, they go together. Disrespect and neglect of Mother is disrespect and neglect of Father.
Our Mother's place is our Father's house, and He warns us not to be "neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some" but rather to cherish and seek out every opportunity to join the rest of the family in encouraging "one another to love and good works. (Hebrews 10:24-25
)" Unlike our American secular holiday, the Lord's Day comes around every week — and each new Lord's Day also brings a fresh Mother's Day. With it comes a fresh opportunity to join with our Mother — and all our brothers and sisters — to celebrate our family, to have our dirty clothes replaced with the clean robes of righteousness, to have our spiritual hunger nourished and our need for communion and community met.
One last thing to consider — I remember asking my dad, "If you get Father's Day and Mom gets Mother's Day, why isn't there a Kids' Day?" Echoing who knows how many parents before him, Dad said, "Every day is Children's Day." For the Christian, this is especially true. Every day we live in our Father's grace is a blessed day for us. All our days are extra special when we spend them with our Heavenly Father, our Holy Mother, and all the rest of the family.
So this Mother's Day — and every
Sunday — don't forget Mother. Bring a gift if you want; it's not required and she's happy if you just bring yourself. Come back home and rediscover how much she and Father love you.
A friend who regularly wrote love letters to and about our Mother is Emily Carder of Quicunque Vult
. She teaches and regularly reminds us that all Christians — men and women, boys and girls — are "Momma's Boys." Back in 2007, she posted Celebrating Mothers
. Along with it, you might also check out 2005's False Momma's Boys
Labels: baptism, birth, church, communion, family, father, holy mother church, life, lord's supper, mother, mother's day, worship
+ Nikolaus von Amsdorf, Theologian and Reformer +
14 May AD 1565
Nikolaus von Amsdorf was one of the members of the German nobility who came to follow Martin Luther
and to support his reforms. While some questions remain, it's likely that he was born in Torgau on the Elbe River. As he left childhood, he came first to study in Leipzig in 1500. However, he left there two years later and went to the newly established University of Wittenberg. As one of the school's first students, he fell under Luther's influence and quickly abandoned the medieval scholasticism into which he'd been previously educated.
He soon became an intimate friend of Luther and held tightly to the Reformer's teachings. When Luther attended the Leipzig Disputation (1519), Amsdorf accompanied him. He also followed with him to the Diet of Worms in 1521, and was one of the few who knew of Luther's whereabouts during his time at the Wartburg.
He became pastor and superintendent of the church Magdeburg in 1524 and actively introduced and championed the Reformation in that city. His church order closely paralled that of Wittenberg. He went on to similar positions in Goslar and Einbeck, where he continued to support reform. He participated in the Schmalkald discussions in 1537 and, in 1539, strongly opposed Philip of Hesse's bigamy.
His theological position, once firmly established, stayed in strict adherence with that of Luther. This led to dogmatic and ferocious opposition to Philipp Melanchthon
, Martin Bucer, and others who represented a policy of conciliation and compromise both among other reformers and toward Roman Catholicism. Amsdorf's opposition was largely credited for the conciliatory Regensburg Conference of 1541. In that same year, and against strong opposition, Elector John Frederick
appointed him Bishop of Naumburg-Zeitz.
The Battle of Mühlberg (1547) led him to seek refuge in from the Duke of Weimar. Seeing Wittenberg turn in a Melanchthonian direction, he worked under the Duke of Weimar to establish a new university at Jena in 1548. Theological differences likewise led him to take charge of compiling and editing the Jena Edition of Luther's works, as he sought to correct errors and omissions which Luther's staunchest followers claimed had crept into the Wittenberg edition.
In 1552, he was made superintendent at Eisenach. There he joined with Matthias Flacius
against the Philippists and Adiaphorists. Amsdorf's support led Jena to call Flacius to head its theological department.
Amsdorf deserves much of the credit — or blame, in the minds of some — for precipitating a formal and complete break between the Gnesio-Lutheran (orthodox) party and followers of Melanchthon at the colloquy of Worms (1557). Throughout much of his later career, he argued against those who claimed that good works were in any way responsible for salvation. Among the conflicts of this ongoing war were the Majoristic Controversy
, the Osiandrian Controversy
, and the Synergistic Controversy
During these struggles, his theology and his personality led Amsdorf espouse the extreme position that good works are actually detrimental to the welfare of the soul. He seems to have meant those works that man thinks are good, God-pleasing, and done in order to attain salvation. However, other Lutherans judged that he and others of like mind had gone beyond (and even against) Scripture in this matter.
Flacius allowed his distrust of good works to become an extreme position regarding Original Sin
. This led to his expulsion, along with others, from Jena in 1561. However, Amsdorf was spared because of his advanced age, his great service to Lutheranism, and the general opinion that he'd overreacted but likely didn't profess the same understanding of original sin as espoused by the Flacian party.
Nicolaus von Amsdorf died at Eisenach in 1565 and was buried in the Church of Saint George
. There his effigy remains, showing a well-knit frame and sharp-cut features.
Labels: biography, commemoration, flacius, hagiography, john frederick, lutheranism, martin luther, philipp melanchthon, reformation
+ Saints Cyril and Methodius +
Cyril: AD 826-869 — Methodius: c. AD 815-885
Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius were missionaries to the Slavs. The brothers Constantine and Methodius came from a Greek family in Thessalonica. Younger brother Constantine took the name Cyril when he became a monk in 868. After ordination, Cyril became librarian at the Church of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia
) in Constantinople.
In 862, Emperor Michael III and the Patriarch Photios
sent the brothers as to what is now the Czech republic, where they taught in the native Slavic tongue. While the fact of their sending may have included the emperor's political designs, the brothers seem to have focused only upon the spiritual aspect of their task.
Cyril is said to have invented the alphabet known today as Cyrillic
, which provided a written language for the liturgy and Scriptures for the Slavic peoples. Slavic alphabets include characters from Greek with extra symbols devised for sounds not expressed in Greek.
Their use of the vernacular established an important principle for evangelical missions. People could be taught directly without needing to first instruct them in the language of the Bible before teaching them what it said about their salvation.
Note: Cyril is traditionally celebrated in many places on 14 February, his date of death, and Methodius is often combined with him. I'm following the lectionary from the Lutheran Service Book, which moved the brothers' commemoration to 11 May, evidently because so much of the Western Church associates 14 February with Saint Valentine.
Almighty and everlasting God, who by the power of the Holy Spirit moved your servant Cyril and his brother Methodius to bring the light of the Gospel to a hostile and divided people, overcome all bitterness and strife among us by the love of Christ, and make us one united family under the banner of the Prince of Peace; who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: biography, church history, commemoration, constantine, cyril, hagiography, methodius, missionary, patristics, slavic history, translation