Confessional Lutheran theology, hagiography, philosophy, music, culture, sports, education,
and whatever else is on the fevered mind of Orycteropus Afer
+ Theodor Fliedner +
4 October AD 1864
The early Church entrusted some women, particularly widows, with helping to carry out the "social work" of the Church, particularly caring for the sick and needy of the congregation. From reading 1 Timothy 5:1-16
, it appears that certain of these women were specially consecrated and made a lifetime commitment to works of mercy. The idea of a female deaconate or service order largely died out by the 7th Century AD, although some groups of nuns and a few informally organized groups undertook similar work.
The modern deaconess movement came mainly through the work of Theodor Fliedner, a German Lutheran. Born in Eppstein, Germany, in 1800, he became pastor of a small parish in Kaiserswerth in 1821 or 1822. Fliedner took the work of England's Elizabeth Fry
and Dutch Mennonites
as inspiration. Encountering Moravian
deaconesses, he also drew from their example.
He began serving the Düsseldorf Prison, walking to and from Düsseldorf on alternating Sundays until the appointment of a regular prison chaplain. This led to more prisons engaging chaplains and establishing regular worship and aid services for the prisoners. He envisioned and opened a nursery school; eventually it became a sort of teachers' college and a starting point for what would become his first deaconess school.
Becoming more involved in Christian social work among the disadvantaged, Fliedner convinced himself that he should revive the order of deaconesses. He opened a hospital and deaconess training center in Kaiserswerth on 13 October 1836. Florence Nightingale heard of his reputation, visited the school in the 1840s, came back to study nursing, and graduated in 1851.
The program was so successful that he could send deaconesses to other hospitals by 1838. New deaconess motherhouses grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and in Jerusalem, Paris, Berlin, and Strasbourg, and elsewhere. When he died, 30 motherhouses already stood and over 1500 deaconesses served around the world. The middle of the 20th century saw more than 35,000 deaconesses serving world-wide.
Lutherans in the United States may also want to remember William Passavant, who pioneered the American deaconess movement in 1849. He also founded missions, hospitals, orphanages, and schools. Passavant died 3 January 1894.
Additional information available from Wikipedia
and James Kiefer
Labels: american history, biography, christianity, church history, commemoration, deaconess, german history, hagiography, lutheranism, theodor fliedner, william passavant
+ Saint Andrew, Apostle +
30 November, New Testament
Today we celebrate the Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ. Most New Testament references include him on a list of the Twelve Apostles or group him with his brother, Simon Peter
. But we see him acting as an individual three times. When a number of Greeks (or Greek-speaking Jews) wished to speak with Jesus, they approached Philip
, who told Andrew, and the two of them told Jesus (John 12:20-22
). Since "Philip" and "Andrew" are Greek names, these petitioners may have sought them out. Before Jesus fed the Five Thousand, Andrew said, "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many? (John 6:9
The first two disciples whom John reports as attaching themselves to Jesus (John 1:35-42
) are Andrew and another disciple (unnamed, but commonly supposed to be John himself — John never mentioned himself by name, a widespread literary convention). After meeting Jesus, Andrew found his brother Simon and brought him to Jesus. Thus, on each occasion when he is mentioned as an individual, we see him bringing others to meet the Savior.
Just as Andrew was the first of the Apostles, so the Western Church uses his feast to mark the beginning of the Church Year. The First Sunday of Advent
is defined as the Sunday on or nearest his feast. (The way the reckoning was designed, it also means that there are always four Sundays in Advent. This year, the First Sunday in Advent was the day before Saint Andrew's Day.
Scotland considers Andrew to be its national saint. Meanwhile, George (23 April), Pádraig
(17 March), and Dewi
(1 March) fill these roles for England, Ireland, and Wales, respectively. George, a soldier, is customarily pictured as a knight with a shield that bears a red cross on a white background. This became the national flag of England.
Tradition says that Andrew was crucified on a Cross Saltire
— an "X"-shaped cross, which became his symbol and later, the national flag of Scotland. One symbol of Patrick is a red cross saltire on a white background. The crosses of George and Andrew were combined to form the Union Jack, or flag of Great Britain; later the cross of Patrick was added to create the present Union Jack.
Alas, poor Wales ... it doesn't appear on the British flag, perhaps because Dewi didn't have such a representative symbol.
Almighty God, by Your grace the blessed apostle Andrew obeyed the call of Your Son to be a disciple. Grant us also to follow the same Lord Jesus Christ in heart and life, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: advent, andrew, apostle, christ, church year, disciple, feasts, festivals, gospels, jesus, martyrdom, new testament, philip, scotland
+ The Holy Prophet Noah +
29 November, Old Testament
The world had become extremely corrupt, so God instructed Noah, the son of Lamech (Genesis 5:30
) to build an ark to provide security for his family and selected living creatures from the waters of a devastating flood that God warned was coming. Read the entire account in (Genesis 6:1-9:17
). Noah built the ark, and the flood came soon after its completion (Genesis 7
). Over the next forty days and nights
, the entire earth was flooded, blotting out "every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. (7:23
After the flood subsided, the ark rested on the mountains of Ararat. When Noah determined it was safe, and God confirmed it, he and his family and all the animals disembarked (Genesis 8
). Then Noah built an altar and offered a sacrifice to God for having saved his family from destruction. God declared a rainbow to be sign of His promise that never again would a similar flood destroy the entire earth (9:8-17
We remember and honor Noah for his faithful obedience, as he believed that God would do what He said He would. Jesus (Matthew 24:36-39
; Luke 17:22-27
), Saint Peter (1 Peter 3:18-22
; 2 Peter 2:4-10
), and the author of Hebrews (11:7
) each used Noah and the Flood as illustrations. These include God's judgment on sin, unwavering faith, a picture of Holy Baptism, and a prefiguring of Christ's suffering, death, descent into hell
, and resurrection. Luke also listed Noah in Jesus' genealogy (3:36
Genesis 7:1-5, 11-12, 17-23
1 Peter 3:18-22 or Hebrews 11:1-3, 7; 12:1-2
Lord God, heavenly Father, You kept Noah righteous in the midst of a sinful world and, through him, delivered life from the Flood's destruction, continuing also the human line of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ and foreshadowing the destruction of sin in Baptism and the preservation of new and eternal life in the Ark of the Holy Christian Church. Grant that we, the heirs of Noah by birth would likewise be heirs in faith of all Your promises, for the sake of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Labels: ark, baptism, biography, christ, christology, commemoration, faith, flood, hagiography, jesus, noah, old testament
First Sunday in Advent
29 November AD 2015
Out with the Old Year, in with the New
Today begins the solemn season of Advent, a preparatory period as Christians ready themselves for both the celebration of Christ's coming at Bethlehem and His Second Coming on Judgment Day.
has traditionally been the primary color of Advent, symbolizing repentance and fasting. Purple is also the color of royalty, demonstrating the anticipation and reception of the coming King celebrated during Advent. Today, however, many churches have begun to use blue
instead of purple, as a means of distinguishing Advent from Lent.
often replaces purple on the Third Sunday in Advent. It represents dawn, hopeful anticipation, and joy and begins a shift away from repentance toward celebration.
For more on this part of the Church Year, the so-called "three-fold coming of Christ," and Advent as a tonic for improper celebration of Christmas, please see Happy New Year!
at Ask the Pastor
Series A Lectionary
Romans 13:(8-10) 11-14
Matthew 21:1-11 or Matthew 24:36-44
One Year Lectionary
Romans 13:(8-10) 11-14
Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: advent, christ, christmas, christology, church year, jesus, lectionary, second coming, series a
+ Clement of Rome, Bishop and Theologian +
23 November AD 100
Saint Clement (ca. A.D. 35–100) is remembered for establishing the pattern of apostolic authority that governed the Christian Church during the first and second centuries. He insisted on keeping Christ at the center of the Church's worship and outreach. In a letter to the Corinthian Christians, he emphasized the centrality of Jesus' death and resurrection: "Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ, realizing how precious it is to His Father, since it was poured out for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to the whole world" (1 Clement 6:31).
Early accounts claim that he suffered a martyr's death by drowning — specifically, he was said to have been tied to an anchor, hence his normal symbol is an anchor. Before his death, he displayed a steadfast, Christ-like love for all of God's redeemed people, serving as inspiration for future generations to continue building the Church on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, with Christ as the one and only cornerstone. His Epistle to the Corinthians addresses what he considered to be the improper dismissal of a bishop. It works both for good order and for abounding charity among the Corinthian Christians.
Here follows an excerpt from his Epistle to the Corinthians
Let the one truly possessed by the love of Christ keep his commandments. Who can express the binding power of divine love? Who can find words for the splendor of its beauty? Beyond all description are the heights to which it lifts us. Love unites us to God; "it cancels innumerable sins," has no limits to its endurance, bears everything patiently. Love is neither servile nor arrogant. It does not provoke schisms or form cliques, but always acts in harmony with others. By it all God's chosen ones have been sanctified; without it, it is impossible to please him. Out of love the Lord took us to himself; because he loved us and it was God's will, our Lord Jesus Christ gave his life's blood for us — he gave his body for our body, his soul for our soul.
See then, beloved, what a great and wonderful thing love is, and how inexpressible its perfection. Who are worthy to possess it unless God makes them so? To him therefore we must turn, begging of his mercy that there may be found in us a love free from human partiality and beyond reproach. Every generation from Adam's time to ours has passed away; but those who by God's grace were made perfect in love and have a dwelling now among the saints, and when at last the kingdom of Christ appears, they will be revealed. "Take shelter in your rooms for a little while," says Scripture, "until my wrath subsides. Then I will remember the good days, and will raise you from your graves."
Happy are we, beloved, if love enables us to live in harmony and in the observance of God's commandments, for then it will also gain for us the remission of our sins. Scripture pronounces "happy those whose transgressions are pardoned, whose sins are forgiven. Happy the one," it says, "to whom the Lord imputes no fault, on whose lips there is no guile." This is the blessing given those whom God has chosen through Jesus Christ our Lord. To him be glory for ever and ever.
. . .
Let us fix our attention on the blood of Christ and recognize how precious it is to God his Father, since it was shed for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to all the world.
If we review the various ages of history, we will see that in every generation the Lord has "offered the opportunity of repentance" to any who were willing to turn to him. When Noah preached God's message of repentance, all who listened to him were saved. Jonah told the Ninevites they were going to be destroyed, but when they repented, their prayers gained God's forgiveness for their sins, and they were saved, even though they were not of God's people.
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the ministers of God's grace have spoken of repentance; indeed, the Master of the whole universe himself spoke of repentance with an oath: "As I live," says the Lord, "I do not wish the death of the sinner but the sinner's repentance." He added this evidence of his goodness: "House of Israel, repent of your wickedness. Tell my people: If their sins should reach from earth to heaven, if they are brighter than scarlet and blacker than sackcloth, you need only turn to me with your whole heart and say, 'Father,' and I will listen to you as to a holy people."
In other words, God wanted all his beloved ones to have the opportunity to repent and he confirmed this desire by his own almighty will. That is why we should obey his sovereign and glorious will and prayerfully entreat his mercy and kindness. We should be suppliant before him and turn to his compassion, rejecting empty works and quarreling and jealousy which only lead to death.
We should be humble in mind, putting aside all arrogance, pride, and foolish anger. Rather, we should act in accordance with the Scriptures, as the Holy Spirit says: "The wise must not glory in wisdom nor the strong in strength nor the rich in riches. Rather, let the one who glories glory in the Lord, by seeking him and doing what is right and just." Recall especially what the Lord Jesus said when he taught gentleness and forbearance. "Be merciful," he said, "so that you may have mercy shown to you. Forgive, so that you may be forgiven. As you treat others, so you will be treated. As you give, so you will receive. As you judge, so you will be judged. As you are kind to others, so you will be treated kindly. The measure of your giving will be the measure of your receiving."
Let these commandments and precepts strengthen us to live in humble obedience to his sacred words. As Scripture asks: "Whom shall I look upon with favor except the humble, peaceful one who trembles at my words?"
Sharing then in the heritage of so many vast and glorious achievements, let us hasten toward the goal of peace, set before us from the beginning. Let us keep our eyes firmly fixed on the Father and Creator of the whole universe, and hold fast to his splendid and transcendent gifts of peace and all his blessings.
Tradition dating back to at least the 3rd Century AD associates him with the man mentioned by Paul in the Epistle to the Ephesians: "Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (4:3 ESV
Psalm 78:3-7 or 85:8-13
2 Timothy 2:1-7
Almighty God, who chose Your servant Clement of Rome to recall the Church in Corinth to obedience and stability, grant that Your Church may be grounded and settled in Your truth by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and may evermore be kept blameless in Your service; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: biography, church history, clement, commemoration, hagiography, martyrdom, patristics, rome
+ Elisabeth of Hungary +
19 November AD 1231
Also known as Saint Elizabeth of Thuringia
— Szent Erzsébet in her native tongue — Elisabeth was born in Sárospatak
in 1207, the daughter of King András II
and his wife Gertrude of Merania
. When only four years old, she was betrothed by parental arrangement to Ludwig (Louis), son of Hermann I, Landgrave of Thuringia, and Duchess Sophia. At this tender age, the child moved to the Thuringian court. She married him in 1220, when just fourteen. He was only twenty and had been ruling as Ludwig IV
Her spirit of Christian generosity and charity pervaded the home she established for her husband and three children in the Wartburg Castle
at Eisenach. Their abode was known for hospitality and family love.
Elisabeth often supervised the care of the sick and needy, even giving up her bed to a leper at one time. Unlike many medieval men, particularly the rulers, Louis encouraged her efforts and contributed directly to them. This seems due, in large part, to a faith that depended much upon works in order to guarantee eternal reward — or, at least, to avoid Purgatory.
When she was widowed at 20, circumstances drastically changed. Already possessed of a charitable heart, Elisabeth increased her work on behalf of others — her confessor, the inquisitor Konrad von Marburg
, encouraging (or pushing) her growing spiritual discipline. Some accounts say that Konrad not only enforced his will through a strong personality but that he also resorted to beatings and separating her from her children.
Later, she arranged for her children's well-being and entered into life as a nun in the Order of Saint Francis. Her self-denial, quite possibly abetted by harsh treatment at the hands of her confessor, led to failing health and an early death in 1231 at age 24. Remembered for her self-sacrificing ways, Elisabeth is commemorated through the many hospitals named for her around the world.
She was laid to rest in a gold shrine in Elisabeth Kirche
in Marburg. The second illustration above is a scene of her helping the poor from that church's Elizabeth Window
. Her popular cultus, aided in large part by political considerations, led to a rapid canonization. In 1235, Pope Gregory IX
named her St. Elisabeth. Her official canonization ceremony was Pentecost (28 May), only about three and a half years after her death. The lasting effect she had on individuals, the Church, and on health care has led many to call her "the greatest woman of the German Middle Ages." In honor of Elisabeth and her contributions to Church and society, the city of Erfurt chose her as its 2007 "cultural theme."
For Lutherans, Wartburg Castle holds special significance because of events happening some three hundred years later. It was to the Wartburg that friends moved Martin Luther
in 1521 to escape enforcement of the imperial ban and possible death. Hiding under the name Junker Jörg (Knight George), Luther employed himself by continuing his doctrinal and polemical writing and translating the New Testament.
Psalm 146:4-9 or 112:1-9
Matthew 25:31-40 or Luke 12:32-34
Almighty God, by whose grace your servant Elisabeth of Thuringia recognized and honored Jesus in the poor of this world, grant that we, following her example, may with love and gladness serve those in any need or trouble, in the name and for the sake of through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: biography, charity, church history, commemoration, elisabeth, elizabeth, erzsébet, european history, german history, hagiography, health, hungary, thuringia
+ Justinian, Christian Ruler +
14 November AD 565
Justinian, Christian Ruler and Confessor of Christ, was emperor of the East from A.D. 527 to 565, during the time of decline of the Roman Empire. Aided by his beautiful and capable wife, Theodora, he restored majesty to the Byzantine court and is considered by historians to be the last true "Roman" emperor. During his reign the Empire experienced a renaissance, due in large part to his ambition, intelligence, and strong religious convictions.
His beginnings rival most any tale of rags to riches. Born into a peasant family, he was adopted by his uncle Justin, his mother's brother. Justin went from being a member of the imperial guard to Emperor and even, before reaching this pinnacle of power, was in a position to provide the best education possible for his nephew cum son. Justinian partially repaid his uncle's kindness by supporting Justin's selection as emperor.
Perhaps due in part to his own family's peasant members, Justin decreed that differences in social class were no longer barriers to marriage. Some time later, Justinian found a woman to claim as his bride. Since Justin had removed class barriers, Justinian made full advantage of the changes by taking Theodora as his wife. Here was a truly disparate set of individuals: While the emperor in waiting had ascended from peasant stock to ruling class, his bride came from a background considered lower than peasant — perhaps even lower than slave, for she was an actress and a courtesan.
Despite such unsavory beginnings, Theodora proved herself a worthy companion for the Emperor. Throughout her life she was Justinian's staunchest supporter and one of his most trusted advisers. Many historians believe that without her intellect and decisiveness, Justinian might have been deposed and the empire torn apart in the Nika riots.
Although he was responsible for a considerable number of civil and military accomplishments, Christians chose to remember Justinian for his religious contributions. He was a champion of orthodox Christianity. From this confessional position, he attempted to unite a sharply divided Church, seeking agreement among the parties in the Christological controversies of the day. He was particularly eager to bridge the gap between Chalcedonian Christians and the Monophysites. These parties disputed the relationship between the divine and human natures in the Person of Christ. His special interest likely because a large number of Monophysite Christians lived within the empire — including, at least in her younger years, his own wife. The Fifth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in AD 533 addressed these disagreements but a full solution never presented itself.
Both Justianian and Theodora accomplished much. However, as with many other renowned champions of the faith, the emperor sometimes exhibited less than exemplary behavior. He often fostered overzealous attempts to forward or defend Christianity by fiat or force of arms. The list of those he suppressed, condemned, and sometimes killed is considerable. He set Athens' Neoplatonic Academy under state control, ending its teaching of unchristian Hellenistic philosophy. He suppressed Paganism. He halted the worship of Amun at Augila in the Libyan desert and that of Isis on the island of Philae.
Justinian's government restricted the civil rights of Jews and the emperor actively interfered with the synagogues, going so far as to forbid the use of the Hebrew language in worship. Resistance might be met with corporal penalties, exile, and property confiscation. The empire likewise persecuted the Manicheans. They, too, faced punishment and threats including exile and capital punishment. The incident that probably leaves the darkest stain on his reputation occurred at Constantinople. There, after severe questioning, a number of Manicheans were executed in his presence. Some were burned, others drowned.
The other side of his enthusiasm for God's Word and orthodox Christianity exhibited itself in his missionary zeal. Missionary ventures that Justinian sponsored helped to lead thousands in Africa and Asia Minor to the Christian Faith. For example, John of Ephesus claimed to be involved in the the conversion of some 70,000 pagans in Asia Minor. Others led to Christianity included Huns dwelling near the Don, the Abasgi, the Heruli, and the Tzani of Caucasia. A mission to the Nabataeans was led by Julian the Presbyter and the Bishop Longinus. Justinian also tried to strengthen Christianity in Yemen by sending a bishop from Egypt to that region.
Theodora, born about twenty years after her husband, died about twenty years before he did. Meanwhile, Justinian died in his eighties, without seeing the completion of his desire for a solidly orthodox Christian empire. Due to his ongoing championing of the faith, the Eastern Church counts him as a saint, as it also does Theodora.
Labels: biography, byzantine empire, church history, commemoration, european history, hagiography, justinian, roman empire, theodora
+ Saint Martin of Tours +
11 November AD 397
Martin of Tours, pastor and bishop of the Church, was born into a pagan family in what is now Hungary around the year AD 316. He grew up in Lombardy (a region in Italy) and came to the Christian faith as a young man. He then began a career in the Roman army. But sensing a call to a church vocation, Martin left the military and became a monk, affirming that he was "Christ's soldier."
According to early stories, the change came about when Martin was about 21 years old. It was said that he passed the gates of Amiens and saw a man freezing on the side of the road. Taking pity on him, Martin ripped his army issue cloak in half and gave it to the man to help comfort him. That night, Martin dreamt of Jesus Christ wearing that half cloak. This vision shook Martin to the core. No longer wanting to be part of the army, he succeeded in attaining a discharge from service.
Martin journeyed to the city of Poitiers where he met Bishop Hilary
. As was not uncommon at the time, even though Martin already considered himself a Christian, he was not yet baptized. Therefore, Hilary administered the sacrament before Martin left Poitiers.
Returning to Gaul, Martin found that the Arian heresy
had taken a firm hold. He spoke out against it and was singled out for persecution and forced to flee. The same happened shortly thereafter to Saint Hilary. Martin fled to an island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, living as a hermit. In 361, Martin discovered that Hilary had regained his seat in Pontiers; this news moved Martin to return to Gaul.
Hilary sent Martin to Leguge, a Benedictine
monastery, to continue his ways as a hermit; there Martin spent the next ten years. In 371, the Bishop of Tours died and Martin was asked twice to assume that seat — he respectfully refused both times. Martin was tricked into coming to Tours to administer the Anointing of the Sick to a friend's wife. This time Martin was persuaded to accept the responsibility as Bishop of Tours. We remember him for his simple lifestyle and his determination to share the Gospel throughout rural Gaul, as well as his work as bishop in successfully staving off numerous heresies.
Hilary was named as a Doctor of the Church
by Pope Pius IX in 1851. However, both he and Martin were already acclaimed as saints
by general consensus before any official system of canonization was established.
Over a millennium later, on St. Martin's Day 1483, the one-day-old son of Hans and Margarette Luther was baptized and given the name Martin
. Coincidentally, much of the world commemorates the armistice ending World War I
and honors veterans on 11 November. Thus we also note that St. Martin is a traditional patron saint of soldiers.
Lord God of hosts, You clothed Your servant Martin the soldier with the spirit of sacrifice and set him as a bishop in Your Church to be a defender of the orthodox, catholic, and apostolic Faith. Give us grace to follow in his holy steps, that at the last we may be found clothed with righteousness in the dwellings of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.
Labels: arius, biography, charity, church history, commemoration, european history, german history, hagiography, heresy, hilary of poitiers, martin of tours
Happy Birthday, Martin Luther
10 November AD 1483
After celebrating the birth of the Second Martin
, we immediately turn to the natal anniversary of of the original Martin
. Yes, on this date in 1483, a baby boy was born in the Saxon town of Eisleben to Hans and Margarette Luther. On the morrow, they would have the child baptized and given the name of that day's saint, Martin of Tours
The rest, as they say, was history, of which you can read a bit more at the commemoration of his death
If you celebrate the day with (German chocolate) cake and candles, I suggest baking a couple extra in order to hold all the lights. Then leave a window open so as not to deplete the oxygen supply. Finally, you might also want to contact the local fire marshal.
Labels: biography, birthday, church history, commemoration, german history, hagiography, lutheranism, martin luther
+ Martin Chemnitz, Pastor and Theologian +
9 November AD 1522 – 8 April AD 1586
Today marks the birthday of Martin Chemnitz, Pastor and Confessor. We regard him as, after Martin Luther
, the Lutheran Church's most important theologian. He possessed a penetrating intellect and an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Scripture and the Church Fathers combined with a genuine love for the Church.
Doctrinal quarrels after Luther's death in 1546 led Chemnitz to give himself fully to the restoration of unity in the Lutheran Church. He became the leading spirit and a principal author of the 1577 Formula of Concord
, which settled the doctrinal disputes on the basis of the Scriptures and largely succeeded in restoring unity among Lutherans. Work on the Formula
led Chemnitz and others to gather all the normative doctrinal statements confessed by the Lutherans, from the ancient creeds through the Evangelical writings of the 16th Century, into one volume, the Book of Concord
Chemnitz also authored the four volume Examination of the Council of Trent
(1565-1573). This monumental work saw him rigorously subjecting the pronouncements of this Roman Catholic Council to judgment by Scripture and the Church Fathers. The Examination
is the definitive Lutheran answer to the Concilium Tridentinum
and an outstanding exposition of the faith of the Augsburg Confession
While he was an outstanding academic, Chemnitz also ably served in church administration. He joined the Wittenberg University faculty in January 1554 and was ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry by Johannes Bugenhagen
in November of that same year. Then, after several years as co-adjutor of the churches in the region of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, he became Superintendent (ecclesiastical supervisor), holding the post until his death. In this capacity, he worked diligently to balance the congregations' autonomy, particularly in calling pastors, with input and oversight by the the area ministerium.
As theologian and a churchman, "the Second Martin" was truly a gift of God to the Church. This is why the expression was coined, Si Martinus non fuisset, Martinus vix stetisset.
("If Martin [Chemnitz] had not come along, Martin [Luther] would hardly have survived.")
For a thorough yet highly readable biography, I recommend The Second Martin
by J. A. O. Preus
. And even though it spans four thick volumes, I found myself sailing through Fred Kramer's translation of the Examination of the Council of Trent
. Believe it or not, Dr. Kramer caught Chemnitz's sense of humor to such a degree that I regularly chuckled to myself — and even laughed aloud a few times. I also recommend Two Natures in Christ
and just about anything else he wrote.
As sometimes happens with other noted Christians, Chemnitz's commemoration was transferred from his death date to that of his birth in order to move it away from Holy Week and Eastertide. This also puts him in proximity with Luther's birthday and with the commemoration of Saint Martin of Tours
, for whom Luther and Chemnitz both were named. Their shared names illustrates the practice of naming people for saints commemorated on their baptismal days.
Labels: biography, book of concord, church history, commemoration, formula of concord, german history, hagiography, lutheran confessions, lutheranism, martin chemnitz, martin luther, reformation
+ Johannes von Staupitz +
ca. AD 1469 - 28 December 1524
Today we remember Johannes von Staupitz, vicar-general of the Augustinian Order
in Germany. He befriended the spiritually troubled Martin Luther
on numerous occasions, serving as father confessor for the young monk and sending Luther deeper into the Scriptures while attempting to calm his troubled conscience.
Staupitz was born in Saxony, studied at the universities in Leipzig and Cologne, and served on the faculty at Cologne. In 1503 Frederick the Wise
called him to serve as dean of the theological faculty at the newly founded University of Wittenberg. There, Staupitz encouraged Luther to attain a doctorate in theology and appointed him as his successor to professor of Bible.
During Luther's early struggles to understand God's grace, it was Staupitz who counseled Luther to focus on Christ and not on himself. In later years, Luther said, "If it had not been for Dr. Staupitz, I should have sunk in hell."
Staupitz died on 28 December 1524 but the LCMS commemoration was moved away from the Nativity season and linked to this time in November immediately preceding the birthdays of reformers Martin Chemnitz
Labels: biography, church history, commemoration, european history, german history, hagiography, lutheranism, martin luther, staupitz
+ Gustavus Adolphus, King and Confessor +
6 November AD 1632
Throughout history, God has raised up and blessed many wise kings, wily generals, and heroic fighting men. In Gustav II Adolf, He did all three — and to that mix He added passionate faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and unswerving confidence that the Lutheran Reformation had restored proper Biblical teaching.
Born on 9 December 1594, Gustav was the oldest son of Charles (Karl) IX
of Sweden and his second wife, Christina of Holstein-Gottorp. His grandfather Gustav I was the first of the House of Vasa to reign as King of Sweden. Through his mother, he was descended from German nobility, including Philip I, Landgrave of Hesse
, who is remembered both for his support of the Reformation and for his bigamy which caused Luther and the other reformers much grief.
From his earliest childhood, Gustav was immersed in the art of governing. He played in Charles' study while a little boy as his father conducted affairs of state. At six, he accompanied the army on campaign. By the time he was ten, he was allowed to sit at the council table and voice his own opinions. As a teen, he received ambassadors. He knew at least a bit of ten languages, carried a life-long interest in learning, and held a passion for philosophy, especially of a practical nature. As an adult, he was seldom found without a volume of Grotius nearby and while he rejected the philosopher's Arminian theology, he embraced much of his apologetic and his theories on government.
Gustav ascended to the throne in 1611 as a seventeen year old but his claim was challenged by his cousin Sigismund III of Poland. The two engaged in intermittent dynastic struggle which led to open combat in the Polish-Swedish War (1625-29).
When Gustavus Adolphus brought Sweden into the Thirty Years' War
, he did so both to defend German Lutheran states from the Catholic forces of the Holy Roman Empire and to extend Sweden's territory and international influence. Living at a time when Cardinal Richelieu
was standard-bearer for statecraft, the king out-maneuvered the cardinal and turned French aid into Swedish domestic and military might. And because he strongly espoused both religious and political reasons for Swedish involvement in the affairs of lower Europe, particularly Germany and the Empire, Gustavus Adolphus could appeal to both the faith and the patriotism of his subjects.
Gustav II customarily placed himself in the midst of combat, not only to inspire his troops but because his tactics often depended upon fast analysis of and reaction to battlefield conditions. However, it was the king's leading from the front that cost him his life. He'd already been wounded in other battles and had adopted what he thought a better suit of armor. At Lützen
, during a crucial point in the battle, he led a cavalry charge into the powder smoke and fog. He became separated from his troops and was killed.
After he died, his widow initially kept his body (later only his heart) in the castle of Nyköping for over a year. His remains, including his heart, now rest in Stockholm's Riddarholmskyrkan
, the burial site of Swedish monarchs. The German Protestants remembered him as "The Lion of the North" or "Der Löwe von Mitternacht"
("The Lion of Midnight") while the Riksdag named their fallen king "Gustaf Adolf den Store"
("Gustaf Adolph the Great"), a title bestowed on no other Swedish monarch before or since.
We sometimes speak of "winning the battle but losing the war." Lützen approached that level of calamity but the Swedish, Lutheran, and Protestant causes were not completely obliterated. Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar assumed command and completed the victory. Still, Gustavus Adolphus' death meant that France would assume a leading role among the anti-Hapsburg forces. The Lutherans would lose some territory but the gains of the Reformation would not be completely undone. And Sweden would still have some influence in European politics for years to come, although not to the degree enjoyed under their greatest king.
Although born after that historical era ended, Gustav II Adolf was a prototypical Renaissance man. He was well-versed in the Bible and in other literature. He understood both the art of war and the art of peace. A staunch aristocrat and monarch, he was able to keep his nobles in check and give them true ownership in Sweden's government. At the same time, he could also inspire the allegiance of the common people. Military historians and strategists often herald Gustavus Adolphus as the father of modern war. Later military geniuses, including Napoleon Bonaparte
and Carl von Clausewitz
, consider him as one of history's greatest generals, a thought continued in more modern times by George S. Patton
Gustavus Adolphus pioneered the use of fast-firing musketeers and extreme mobility of troops and flexibility in engagements. His artillery was much more mobile than others' and he treated all branches of his army equally, refusing to favor cavalry over infantry or musketeers over pikemen. Indeed, he cross-trained as many of his soldiers as possible, so much of his infantry could ride and his pikemen could also use muskets.
Yet we Christians, in particular we Lutherans, most of all remember and give thanks for a man who used his intellect and leadership in political and military defense of the religious gains of the Reformation. And while not all in Sweden, Germany, or elsewhere continue to staunchly believe in justification by grace through faith, or to trust in Scripture's veracity and the truth of the Lutheran Confessions, it's nowhere the fault of godly King Gustavus Adolphus Magnus.
See also the biographical information at Wikipedia
, Three Hierarchies
, Biography Base
, and eDigg
*At the time of Gustavus Adolphus' death, Sweden still used the Julian Calendar. The nation kept the traditional death date for their most revered monarch rather than moving it to 16 November on the Gregorian Calendar.
Almighty and everlasting God, who kindled the flame of Your love in the heart of Gustav Adolf, who inspired his kingship under Jesus, the King of kings, and who led him to bold confession and humble service, grant to us, Your people, like faith and humble service, that we who rejoice in his triumphs may profit by his example; 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, european history, gustav adolf, gustavus adolphus, hagiography, lutheranism, reformation, sweden
Commemoration of the Faithful Departed
Also known as All Souls' Day, this commemoration goes hand in glove with yesterday's remembrance of All Saints' Day
. In the early Church, feasts of apostles and evangelists were soon celebrated, especially those of Peter and Paul, although John and James were also early favorites.
Later, martyrs and many other canonized saints were commemorated on 1 November (All Saints' Day). The departed in purgatory were remembered on 2 November (November 3, if November 2 fell on Sunday).
Although the unbiblical idea of purgatory was rooted out of the Lutheran Church, our forefathers saw much good in a day set aside to remember those who departed in the Faith and who await the resurrection of all flesh. Many who grew up in the German language remember the day as Totenfest
In much of Latin America, All Saints' and, especially, All Souls' Day morphed somewhat into the Day (or Days) of the Dead
(Dia de los Muertos
). This is more of a secular festival with religious (and often superstitious) overtones which especially remembers departed family members, friends, and even pets with special altars and much feasting.
Perhaps due to an unwillingness to categorize some saints as "special" and others as "ordinary," the newest LCMS lectionary no longer lists the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed. The "quiet" saints who raised, educated, baptized, or confirmed us are now remembered on All Saints' Day along with the biblical heroes of the Faith and the martyrs, missionaries, and theologians who followed them.
However, I'm of the mind that it's not "hero-worship" to give special thanks to God for the giants of the Faith and then spend the following day giving thanks for those who followed the trail blazed by them and who, in various ways, were God's instruments in imparting and strengthening our faith.
2 Peter 3:8-14
Almighty God, in whose glorious presence live all who depart in the Lord and before whom all the souls of the faithful who are delivered of the burden of the flesh are in joy and felicity, we give You hearty thanks for Your loving-kindness to all Your servants who have finished their course in faith and now rest from their labors, and we humbly implore Your mercy that we, together with all who have departed in the saving Faith, may have our perfect consummation and bliss, in both body and soul, in Your eternal and everlasting glory; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
See the Christian Cyclopedia
for more information.
Labels: all souls, christianity, church history, commemoration, day of the dead, dia de los muertos, faithful departed, hagiography, purgatory, totenfest
The Feast of All Saints
On All Saints' Day, we thank God for the faith of our fellow saints and for their example in the Christian life. But most of all, we praise God for His faithfulness to His saints, for keeping them in His merciful favor. God promises to be faithful to us just as He has been faithful to our fellow saints before us.
The day came about in large part because of a glut of canonized saints, including many of the martyrs of the early centuries, in the Roman Catholic Church. So many had been established that the calendar overflowed with saints' days. Therefore, the Church combined many of the "lesser" saints and moved them to the joint commemoration we still celebrate on 1 November.
Until recent times, much of Lutheranism kept a multi-tiered approach to the remembrance of the saints. Some, such as the apostles and evangelists, retained their traditional feast days. Others were also listed, not with major feasts but by various commemorations. All Saints' Day remained a catch-all for some of the special heroes of the faith, both biblical and in later history.
The following day, the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed
, was reserved as a time of remembering and thanking God for the saints who had lived among us and who had direct influence upon our lives. The current LCMS calendar drops this distinction in favor of one celebration.
For more on why we continue these special celebrations, see Remembering the Saints
at Ask the Pastor
Revelation 7:(2-8) 9-17
1 John 3:1-3
Almighty and everlasting God, You knit together Your faithful people of all times and places into one holy communion, the mystical body of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Grant us so to follow Your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living that, together with them, we may come to the unspeakable joys You have prepared for those who love You; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: all saints, christianity, church history, feasts, festivals, hagiography, martyrdom, saints
31 October AD 1517
The beginnings of the Reformation came well before its birth date. Renaissance Humanism
ushered in an age of classical studies, including the teaching of Greek and Hebrew. This paved the way for in-depth study of the Scriptures in their original languages. Theological errors and moral abuses were rife in the Western Church and certain individuals had already been moved to challenge and resist these errors.
By the time Martin Luther was born, John Hus
and Girolamo Savonarola
had been killed for their efforts at reform and the remains of John Wycliffe
had been exhumed and burned. Wycliffe and Hus, especially, tried to bring the Bible into the vernacular. Nationalism and territorial pride, pressure from the Turks, and a general restlessness all joined into making the early 16th Century a time to foment change — even violent change and revolt.
Into this mix stepped Augustinian
friar and university professor Martin Luther
. Stricken for years by an active conscience and a false understanding of Jesus Christ as a terrible judge, he was driven to the Scriptures by the work of the Holy Spirit, especially through the strong but gentle guidance of Johann von Staupitz
. His studies led him to the understanding that grace, not wrath, is Scripture's central theme and that justification by grace through faith in Christ is Christianity's cardinal doctrine.
As he began looking without himself more than within, Luther saw that his misunderstanding of the Gospel came not only from inside, by the resistance of his Old Adam to God's Word. Instead, he more clearly perceived how far from Scripture many teachings and practices were. Therefore, he resolved to address certain abuses based upon his enlightened understanding. Triggered by the sale of indulgences by Johann Tetzel
, he composed ninety-five topics for theological debate, many of which focused directly on matters of God's grace versus human works.
Luther's prince, Elector Frederick III
of Saxony, didn't involve himself in crassly selling escape from punishment after death. However, he did have a large collection of religious relics which he would display annually on the Feast of All Saints
. People would come to view them, trusting that looking, praying, and leaving an offering would greatly reduce the time they would spend in Purgatory following their deaths.
According to many contemporary sources, Luther took his debate topics to the community's main bulletin board, the doors of Wittenberg's castle church, on All Hallows' Eve
and nailed his 95 Theses
to them. On the same day, he mailed copies to friends, other universities, the Archbishop of Mainz, and the pope.
Luther apparently intended for the initial discussion to take place within the confines of the Church, especially among trained theologians and academics. Therefore, he wrote them in Latin, the Church's official language of teaching and communication. This intent was thwarted by others — printers sensed a huge story and quickly translated, published, and widely disseminated them so their content soon became also food for the common people's thoughts.
Luther never intended to foster a revolt or to found a new church; both happened because his teaching on salvation was so at odds with the organized church. As noted above, this theological fault line then felt other forces, including nationalism's increasing resistance to foreign popes and emperors. With all these pressures, the fracture between the followers of Luther and those who clung to Roman Catholic dogma widened. The pope excommunicated Luther and the break was complete. He who'd hoped to clean up the mess clinging to his mother church was forced instead to continue his life, studies, and exercises of the Faith in a new, Evangelical confession that later became known as Lutheranism
The Reformation spread through much of Northern and Western Europe and Evangelical Christianity largely filled Germany and Scandinavia. Subsequent wars and treaties later shifted some of the boundaries. However, the basic division from Luther's day remains in Europe. Following the ejection of the Lutheran party from the Roman Catholic Church, others who disagreed with Rome began their own Reformation movement.
Some joined the Lutherans for a time but later split over doctrine. Later, some of these splintered into still other bodies. England, which was protected by water from threats of force, had a bit of direct Lutheran influence, particularly through Robert Barnes
. However, the English Reformation began following other teachings and soon went its own way. Soon, this English (Anglican) Reformation also divided for both doctrinal and political reasons.
Since it began with Luther, and since Lutherans were the original Protestants
, we traditionally celebrate the day with more zeal than does any other part of Christendom. Our annual commemorations may carry a strong, positive influence, reminding us of the core reason why it all happened: Martin Luther, convinced that the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ was being obscured by legalism and empty, unchristian ceremonialism, restored the doctrine of justification to its central position. Therefore, gathering to receive and confess salvation by grace through faith in Christ marks such celebrations as good.
However, when we use the the day to bash Catholicism
, to boast upon ourselves, to almost worship Luther, or to attack other believers in a mean and petty fashion, we ignore our heritage and risk returning to the legalistic bondage from which the the Reformation brought escape. Also, we misunderstand both the purpose and the methods of the Luther's Reformation if we callously reject and stray from the ancient and good ceremonies and traditions that the reformers kept, just because some think of them as being "too old-fashioned" or "too Catholic." Luther sought no novelty. He wanted to restore the centrality of God's grace in Christ Jesus to the Church rather than radically altering her theology and practice.
See also Lutheran-Catholic Differences
at Ask the Pastor
Notes on the Illustrations
Regarding what is often called the "Luther Rose," Martin Luther said of the emblem he chose for himself, "I shall ... tell you my original thoughts and reason about why my seal is a symbol of my theology. The first should be a black cross in a heart, which retains its natural color, so that I myself would be reminded that faith in the Crucified saves us. 'For one who believes from the heart will be justified' (Rom. 10:10
). Although it is indeed a black cross, which mortifies and which should also cause pain, it leaves the heart in its natural color. It does not corrupt nature, that is, it does not kill but keeps alive. 'The just shall live by faith' (Rom. 1:17
) but by faith in the crucified.
"Such a heart should stand in the middle of a white rose, to show that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace. In other words, it places the believer into a white, joyous rose, for this faith does not give peace and joy like the world gives (John 14:27
). That is why the rose should be white and not red, for white is the color of the spirits and the angels (cf. Matthew 28:3
; John 20:12
"Such a rose should stand in a sky-blue field, symbolizing that such joy in spirit and faith is a beginning of the heavenly future joy, which begins already, but is grasped in hope, not yet revealed. And around this field is a golden ring, symbolizing that such blessedness in Heaven lasts forever and has no end. Such blessedness is exquisite, beyond all joy and goods, just as gold is the most valuable, most precious and best metal. This is my compendium theoligae
[summary of theology]. I have wanted to show it to you in good friendship, hoping for your appreciation. May Christ, our beloved Lord, be with your spirit until the life hereafter. Amen."
Martin Luther, "Letter to Lazarus Spengler," July 8, 1530, as included in the translation by Amy Marga from "Luthers Siegel: Eine elementare Deutung seiner Theologie," in Luther 67 (1996):66–87. Translation printed in Lutheran Quarterly, Vol. XIV, Num. 4, Winter 2000, pg. 409-410.
The "Reforween" illustration was spurred by a brother pastor in my circuit. He noted that Luther gets the credit for the widespread popularity of the Christmas tree. He figures that with this picture we might also be able to promote a folk belief that he introduced the Halloween jack o' lantern. This could have the collateral benefit of providing our church youth groups with a new source of income, October pumpkin sales.
John 8:31-36 or Matthew 11:12-19
Almighty and gracious Lord, pour out Your Holy Spirit on Your faithful people. Keep us steadfast in Your grace and truth, protect and deliver us in times of temptation, defend us against all enemies, and grant to Your Church 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.
Labels: church history, commemoration, european history, faith, feasts, festivals, german history, gospel, grace, justification, lutheranism, martin luther, reformation
+ Saint Simon and Saint Jude, Apostles +
28 October, New Testament
On the various New Testament lists of the Twelve Apostles (Matthew 10:2-4
; Mark 3:16-19
; Luke 6:14-16
; Acts 1:13
), the tenth and eleventh places are occupied by Simon the Zealot (or Simon the "Cananean," which is the Aramaic word meaning "Zealot") and by Judas the son of James, also called Thaddaeus or Lebbaeus.
Simon is not mentioned by name in the New Testament except on these lists. If he was of the Jewish religio-political organization known as the Zealots, he would have been part of an effort to overthrow Roman rule. However, the title might only be descriptive of his personality.
Judas (often called Jude in English) is variously named, but this is not surprising. Before the Crucifixion, there would be a need to distinguish him among the apostles from Judas Iscariot, and after the Crucifixion there would be an additional reason for being emphatic about the distinction.
After the Last Supper it was Jude who asked Our Lord why he chose to reveal Himself only to the disciples. He received the reply: "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (see John 14:22-31
As misguided Christians began to invoke the saints, the apostles became particularly popular targets for their petitions. Since little was known about Jude and because his name was forever tied to the betrayer, people wouldn't pray to him until they'd exhausted all other resources. This led to his being titled the "Saint of Last Resort," since he was the last saint remaining.
Jude enjoys several patronages, the most notable being lost or desperate causes. Perhaps being the last resort played into this, but more likely the association came because of the encouragement in the Epistle of Jude
to remain faithful no matter how harsh the circumstances.
Jude's invocation during desperate situations drew special attention from the sick and injured, especially those "hopeless" who saw no improvement or were close to death. As medicine advance and seriously ill people gathered together for treatment, it was natural to grant patronage of hospitals and hospital workers to the apostle.
The most noted connection in this area is St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
. Founder Danny Thomas
wanted no child to die at the dawn of life. Recognizing the desperation of families when the children faced critical, life-threatening situations, he also wanted to remind them that as long as life remains and as long as prayers are prayed, we should never give up hope.
1 Peter 1:3-9
Almighty God, You chose Your servants Simon and Jude to be numbered among the glorious company of the apostles. As they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so may we with ardent devotion make know the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: apostle, christianity, feasts, festivals, gospels, hagiography, jesus, jude, new testament, simon, zealot
+ Nicolai, Heermann, and Gerhardt, Hymn Writers +
The Lutheran Church was recognized from early on as "the singing church." Here are three who helped to establish, maintain, and enhance that appellation.
Philipp Nicolai: 26 October AD 1608
Nicolai was born in Waldeck, Germany 10 August 1556, the son of a Lutheran pastor. He entered the University of Erfurt and in 1576 he went to Wittenberg. For four years after his graduation, he lived at Volkhardinghousen and frequently preached for his father. In 1583, he was appointed Lutheran preacher at Herdecke, but because of a Roman Catholic town council, he found many difficulties there Following an invasion by Spanish troops in April 1586, a colleague re-introduced the Mass and Nicolai resigned his call.
In the end of 1586 he was appointed diaconus
at Niederwildungen, near Waldeck and became pastor in 1587. In November 1588, he became chief pastor at Altwildungen, court preacher to the widowed Countess Margaretha of Waldeck, and tutor to her son, Count Wilhelm Ernst. He found himself in disagreement with Calvinists on the meaning of the Lord's Supper and worked toward having principality's clergy adopt the Formula of Concord
. These and subsequent writings and actions led people to label him the "Arch Foe of Calvinism." Indeed, most of his scholarly works are criticisms of Calvinism, some making interesting comparisons with Islam.
He went to Unna in Westphalia in 1596 which led to more controversy with the Calvinists. Unna fell victim to the plague in 1597 and 1598, which took the lives of 1,300 of its inhabitants. From the parsonage which overlooked the churchyard, Nicolai was saddened by the continual burials. On one day thirty graves were dug.
In the midst of this distress he wrote a series of meditations which he titled, Freudenspiegel deß ewigen Lebens
(Joyful Mirror of Eternal Life). In these writings Nicolai looked to the hope of eternal life in Christ. On 27 December 1598, he fled before the invasion of the Spaniards, not returning until the end of April 1599. During this time Nicolai completed his Freudenspiegel
In April 1601, he was elected chief pastor of Saint Katherine's Church, Hamburg, beginning his duties on 6 August. Life passed without many recorded incidents until 22 October 1608, when he participated in an ordination and returned home feeling ill. He developed a violent fever, dying 26 October 1608.
While in Hamburg, Nicolai gained fame for his preaching and was hailed at times as a "second Chrysostom
." Still, we remember him most for his hymns, of which only three seem to have been published. A fourth hymn appearing in Mirror
was written by a brother. These "Jesus hymns" began a new era of hymn writing in the 17th Century. Published only a few years before Arndt's True Christianity
, they show a similar devotional feeling toward Jesus. However, Nicolai's theology never softened along the lines of Johann Arndt
and his successors.
Johann Heermann: 17 February AD 1647
Johann Heermann, considered the greatest Lutheran chorale writer between Luther and Gerhardt, was influenced by Valerius Herberger
, writer of the hymn, Valet will ich dir geben
. Heermann was born in Silesia, studied in Leipzig, Jena, and Strasbourg, and was called to be pastor in Köben in 1611. He contracted tuberculosis in 1634 and resigned his pastorate in 1638 because of declining health. He moved from there to Lissa, Poland, dying nine years later.
Many of Heermann's hymns were written for family devotions
, so much of his output was based on Johann Arndt's Paradies Gärtlein
("Garden of Paradise"). His life was filled with suffering and sadness. During the Thirty Years War, he lost everything he owned three times. His first wife died young, he developed chronic sinusitis and bronchitis, rendering him unable to speak any length without terrible coughing. In spite of this, he helped his parishoners deal with their own difficulties as they, along with him, lost everything in war, pestilence and plague. After moving to Poland on the advice of his doctor son-in-law, he was built a small home. However, his sufferings overwhelmed him more and more. By the end of his life, he could neither sit or lie down, and slept while leaning against a wall.
In spite of his afflictions, he continued writing hymns of praise and comfort. Many consider his famous "Ah! Holy Jesus" to be among the finest of all passion hymns. His writing, rooted in the Jesus mysticism of the Middle Ages, is thought to have been one of the sources for the Pietist movement.
Paul Gerhardt: 27 May AD 1676
Paul Gerhardt was dubbed the "sweet singer of Lutheranism." He was born on 12 March 1607 in Gräfenhaim, near Wittenberg and lived during the religious wars of the 17th century. He received training as a Lutheran pastor at Wittenberg, where Martin Luther
had taught a century before. However, Gerhardt didn't receive a call to a church until 1651, when he was ordained to serve the congregation in Mittenwalde, southeast of Berlin.
While awaiting a call, he taught the children of Andreas Barthold — one of whom, Anna Maria, he later married. During that time he met Johann Crüger
, the kantor
and organist of Saint Nicholas Church, Berlin. Together they produced some of the greatest Lutheran chorales, including "Awake, My Heart with Gladness," (Auf, auf, mein Herz
), "Now All the Woods Are Sleeping," and "All My Heart this Night Rejoices," among others.
Gerhardt's hymns combine a strong, objective faith in justification as a free gift from God with his own warm, subjective experience of that gift. In all, he wrote more than 120 hymns, many of which are still known and loved throughout the world.
His life, however, was difficult. He suffered greatly because of the religious wars. When asked to refrain from preaching against Calvinism by Elector Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia, conscience would not allow him to compromise his Lutheran beliefs. He was soon deposed from office and barred from holding services even in his own home. During this time his wife and one son died, leaving him alone with a boy of six.
In May 1669, the congregation in Lübben, near the southeastern border of Germany, called him as pastor. He served there until his death on 27 May 1676. The Lübben congregation commissioned a life-sized painting of him for the church and in 1930, following renovation, the church was renamed Paul-Gerhardt-Kirche
in his honor. The painting still hangs there. Beneath it is inscribed a fitting epitaph: "A theologian sifted in Satan's sieve."
Thank you to brother pastor and fellow blogger Charles Lehmann, who provided additional details on Nicolai's life and work.
Almighty God, through your holy apostle You taught us to praise You in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs; we give You thanks this day for the gift of hymn writing which confesses the Faith and inspires the faithful which You gave to Your servants Philipp Nicolai, Johann Heermann, and Paul Gerhardt, and we pray that Christ's Church may never lack those with the gifts of writing words and music to Your praise. May the Church be ever filled with the desire to praise and thank You for your grace, mercy, and faithfulness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: biography, christianity, church history, commemoration, european history, gerhardt, german history, hagiography, heermann, hymns, lutheranism, music, nicolai, reformation