Aardvark Alley

Lutheran Aardvark

Confessional Lutheran theology, hagiography, philosophy, music, culture, sports, education, and whatever else is on the fevered mind of Orycteropus Afer

23 April 2014
  + Johann Walter, Kantor +
24 April AD 1570

Organist Johann Walter (also Johannes Walther) was born in 1496 and began serving at the age of 21 as a composer and bass singer in the court chapel of Frederick the Wise. In 1524, he published a collection of hymns arranged according to the church year. It was well received and served as the model for numerous subsequent hymnals.

In addition to serving for 30 years as kantor (church musician and choir director) in the cities of Torgau and Dresden, he also assisted Martin Luther in the preparation of the Deutsche Messe of 1526, a setting of the Liturgy in the German language using hymn tunes.

Walter is remembered as the first Lutheran kantor and composer of church music. Among his most cherished works is Der Bräut'gam wird bald rufen (The Bridegroom Soon Will Call Us). Information on Walter, including some texts and music samples, may also be found through Hymnuts, Here of a Sunday Morning, and the Cyber Hymnal.

NB: Do not confuse this Johann Walter, whose output was largely hymns and other church music with the later Johann Jakob Walther (1650 - 1717), a Baroque composer best known for his violin works, or with Johann Gottfried Walther (1684 - 1748), also from the Baroque Period, who was a church organist and composer.

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21 April 2014
  + Anselm of Canterbury +
21 April AD 1109

Anselm of Canterbury Known as the father of medieval Scholasticism, Anselm was born in Italy in 1033. Most closely associated with England, he first served as prior and abbot of the Benedictine Abbey in Bec, Normandy, later becoming Archbishop of Canterbury for many years.

A brilliant scholar and writer who loved the works and followed in the way of Augustine, Anselm used his political skills with the British kings on behalf of the established Christian Church, affirming that it is the leadership of the Church and not the state which has the responsibility of establishing structure and maintaining order among the clergy.

Anselm's book Cur Deus homo (Why God Became Man) expresses his thoughts on Christ's atonement and taught that the reason for the incarnation was that Jesus, the Son of God, would suffer and die in place of sinners. His Monologium shows the beginnings of his ontological argument for the existence of God. He further developed this philosophical argument in the Proslogion (also spelled Proslogium).

He was canonized in 1494 by Pope Alexander VI.

More at the Christian Cyclopedia, Wikipedia, and James Kiefer's Hagiographies.

Lection

Psalm 139:1-9 or 37:3-6,32-33
Romans 5:1-11
Matthew 11:25-30

Collect

Almighty God, who raised up Your servant Anselm to teach the Church of his day to understand its faith in Your eternal Being, perfect justice, and saving mercy, provide Your Church in every age with devout and learned scholars and teachers, that we may be able to give a reason for the hope that is in us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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20 April 2014
  + Johannes Bugenhagen +
20 April AD 1558
Not Observed This Year Because of Easter

Bugenhagen Johannes Bugenhagen (1485-1558), was from Pomerania in northern Germany. Because of his ancestral region, he took the Latin name Pomeranus and Martin Luther often called him "Doctor Pommer."

He was appointed pastor of Wittenberg in 1523 through the efforts of Luther and thus served as the reformer's pastor and confessor. One of the greatest scholars of the Reformation era, he helped translate the New Testament into Low German and wrote a commentary on the Psalms. He also worked to organize the Lutheran Church in northern Germany and Denmark, journeying to Copenhagen where he crowned both King and Queen and consecrated seven men to the offices of superintendent and bishop.

For those who think that their pastors preach too long, you share that complaint with Luther, who described Pomeranus' preaching as "whatever comes to mind, much like a maidservant chatting with another at the market." One story says that Luther recommended Bugenhagen cut his sermons in half and preach no more than an hour, lest all minds wander.

More information is available through the Christian Cyclopedia and Wikipedia.

Lection

Psalm 46
Isaiah 55:6-11
Romans 10:5-17
John 15:1-11

Collect

O Lord God, heavenly Father, who called Johannes Bugenhagen as pastor and confessor of the Faith, grant us faithful pastors in our time; pour our Your Holy Spirit on 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.

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13 April 2014
  Palm Sunday
also Sunday of the Passion
13 March AD 2014

Palm Sunday The Sunday before His crucifixion, our Lord Christ rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Accompanied by His disciples, He heard the people crying, "Hosanna!" This ancient petition translates, "Save now!" It stems from the same root as does the name "Jesus."

Palm Sunday thereby reminds us of the Annunciation, when Gabriel told Mary what to name the Child. Even more so, it recalls the angel's visit to Joseph, who heard the angel tell him of Mary's Son, "You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21)" and also The Circumcision and Name of Jesus.

Jesus heard this prayer and answered according to His Father's will. Their salvation — and our salvation — was nigh, for in a few short days, He would gift His Church with a new meal of His own body and blood and would then be betrayed and would suffer and die to forgive us all our sins. All four evangelists record the events of this day. However, only Saint John included mention of palm branches being cut as part of the apparent victory parade, yet this one mention gave this day its classic title.

Good Friday More recently, many liturgical churches have begun using "Passion Sunday" or "Sunday of the Passion" instead. This name emphasizes less the triumphal entry at the week's beginning but points more to the blood-stained exit on Friday as Jesus went to Golgotha.

Actually, as some of the Church's hymnody points out, both titles have their place and both exist well in relationship to each other. For expanded commentary on palms, Passion, and hymns, see Hosannas and Palm Branches at Ask the Pastor.

The traditional color for this day is purple, as it has been throughout Lent. However, many church bodies have gone to using scarlet as the preferred color for Holy Week, either until Holy Thursday or Good Friday. White is the other appropriate color for Maundy Thursday while Good Friday's paraments and vestments should be black — or they should not be used at all.

Lection — Three Year Cycle: Series A

John 12:12-19 (Palm Sunday Procession)

Psalm 118:19-29 or 31:9-16
Isaiah 50:4-9a
Philippians 2:5-11
Matthew (26:1-27:10) 27:11-66 or John 12:20-43

Lection — One Year Cycle

Matthew 21:1-9 or John 12:12-19 (Palm Sunday Procession)

Psalm 118:19-29 or 31:9-16
Zechariah 9:9-12
Philippians 2:5-11
Matthew 26:1-27:66 or Matthew 27:11-54

Collects

Most merciful God, as the people of Jerusalem, with palms in their hands, gathered to greet Your dearly beloved Son when He came into His Holy City, grant that we may ever hail Him as our King and, when He comes again, may go forth to meet Him with trusting and steadfast hearts and follow Him in the way that leads to eternal life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (Collect for the Palm Sunday Procession)

Almighty and everlasting God, You sent Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to take upon Himself our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross. Mercifully grant that we may follow the example of His great humility and patience and be made partakers of His resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (Collect of the Day for the Sunday of the Passion)

Paintings by Pietro Lorenzetti from the Web Gallery of Art.

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01 April 2014
  Saint Fere Verus
1 April AD 1582?

Fere Verus By most accounts, almost nothing stood out about young Fere. Indeed, the birth of this seventh son of one Septimus Filius is lost completely to history. Only apocryphal accounts remain, all of partial completion and dubious veracity. They disagree about almost every aspect of his life, work, and death — not only the years but even the century in which he lived remain open to speculation.

Consensus seems certain that he was a man (although one Cretan account claims that he was either a woman or that he underwent some divine transformation from girl to man in his thirteenth year, but you know what Paul said about the Cretans). Also, most stories claim that he was a pious man to whom several nearly miraculous occurrences can be attached.

Evidently, concerns over consanguinity never plagued his ancestors. Therefore, tradition maintains that Fere's family tree held precious few branches yet bore an inordinate crop of nuts. While this remains to be proven, several early records claim that his uncle Filbertus Demens claimed to be legitimate heir of Caligula many years after the latter's death.

Baptismal records would certainly be helpful in pinning down the correct dates for his life, but part-time Verus scholar Franz Bibfeldt claims that the missing infant baptismal record is due to the fact that Fere's family was functionally pagan and that the lad converted and was baptized only after a frightening brush with death.

Fere ran with a rough crowd of peasant boys who one day thought they'd amuse themselves by overturning the royal privy of Prince Albertus of Weisenheim. The scream issuing from said privy alerted the lads that they'd overturned, if not a kingdom, at least a prince and they quickly absconded. However, Fere sought to continue the joke and hired a half-wit boy from a neighboring village to carry a message to the castle, asking if Prince Albertus were still in the can.

Tipped Outhouse Thus alerted, the Weisenheimer retainers rushed to rescue Albertus, who promptly sent the messenger to his torturers. He quickly confessed to receiving two copper coins from young Verus in exchange for the delivered message. When the Prince's soldiers arrived at his home, Fere rushed out and was almost captured, but his poorly made cape tore as the captain grabbed it and he rushed into the neighboring woods as a thick fog settled over the area. Screened by the mist, he escaped the Weisenheimer borders and went to live with an uncle in Warsaw. He believed that the fog came by divine intervention, forsook his lawless past, and sought baptism.

Fere later got word of Albertus' death and returned to his ancestral home. There, he discovered that Uncle Filbertus, while certainly not the sanest of men, had died as one of the wealthiest and had left his entire estate to his brother Septum. Verus' aforementioned father greeted his prodigal son with this news but while continuing his story suddenly slumped in his chair and died before he struck the floor.

Normally, a seventh son wouldn't have expected any great inheritance, but the six older brothers had all died by this time. The three oldest evidently suffered death at the hands of tainted meat while the next three lost their lives in Albertus' dungeons. Scholars had for many years thought that the Weisenheimer prince had struck them down since he couldn't reach the actual villain who'd sullied his dignity but recent evidence points to a failed confidence game against his royal personage as the actual cause of their demise.

Unfortunately, Septum had begun bestowing lavish gifts on his wife — many of them likely peace offerings to make up for the lavish gifts he'd been bestowing upon a series of mistresses. Thus, Fere found himself holding on to only a fraction of the large estate he'd so recently discovered. This was, however, enough to support him comfortably in the life of traveling scholar and he became a discipulus perpetuus who never had to write home for more funds.

During the course of his travels, he made many boon companions, especially among scientists engaged in the study of fermentology. His own specialty was in the field of unsolicited advice, of which he was an avid dispenser. Because of the already-mentioned shoddy record keeping during his days, we're not sure just who received his recommendations and which accounts are as queer as a three florin coin.

Nevertheless, Fere was nearly credited with several accomplishments in science, religion, and the arts. Some sources say that he almost discovered a cure for smallpox but that his swine pox exposure theory didn't quite hit the mark. He likewise nearly developed a process for vulcanization after spilling sulfur atop a burning stove. Sadly, this occurred before latex was discovered in the New World and brought to Europe, so all he did was ruin that day's dinner.

Many great minds are said to have sought him out, especially as they dealt with difficult theoretical problems. They left his presence cheered by knowing that they could be almost certain that they were on the right track when Fere's opinion differed radically from their own.

Pope Leo X For those who chose to listen to his advice, the situation was often much more perilous. Some historians credit him with advising Pope Leo X to ignore the "monks' squabble" in Germany. Others say that he served as matchmaker to English King Henry VIII. Those who argue for much earlier birth and death dates say that he wrote the final position paper for the Arian party at the Council of Nicea or that his influence nearly single-handedly ended bathing in much of Gaul to this day.

Several sources say that Fere Verus's ability to misunderstand and misapply essential information made him a darling of the Avignon popes during the Great Schism of the Western Church. It was one of these, many believe, who canonized him following his death (if, indeed, he'd even been born by this time). Thus, only scattered portions of Western Christendom ever recognized him as a saint.

Fere Verus has the patron saint concession for false starts, fudged research, and sufferers of festering sores. Bibfeldt protégé Katz N. Jammer believes that he was the subject of Girolamo Fracastoro's 1530 poem Syphilis, sive Morbus Gallicus.

Up to modern days, many claim that his intercession on their behalf has greatly influenced the results of their lives. For instance, some say that noted aviator Douglas Corrigan had a statue of Fere Verus in his airplane during his famous 1938 flight. Several people claim that they saw his image in the clouds of smoke that billowed up during Apollo 13's launch. These and other accounts keep his legend alive.

Fere Verus Day may be celebrated with any of the works of P. D. Q. Bach. He is best eulogized by these immortal lines from the Robert Burns poem To a Mouse: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft a-gley."

Please consult Wikipedia or snopes.com for more information.

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31 March 2014
  + Joseph +
31 March, Old Testament

Joseph and Potiphar's Wife Joseph was the son of the patriarch Jacob and Rachel — and was his father's favorite son. He incurred his older brothers' jealousy and anger (both through Jacob's favoritism and by his own attitude toward them, particularly regarding his dreams) so they sold him into slavery in Egypt and told their father he was dead (Genesis 37). In Egypt he became the chief servant in the home of Potiphar, a military official. Joseph refused to commit adultery when his master's wife tempted him. In retaliation, she unjustly accused him of attempted rape and he was imprisoned (Genesis 39).

Years later, he interpreted dreams for Pharaoh, who then freed him from prison and placed him in charge of the entire country. When his brothers came from Canaan to Egypt in search of food, they did not recognize him. He eventually revealed his identity, forgave them, and invited them and his father to live in Egypt. We remember and honor him for his moral uprightness (Genesis 39) and for his willingness to forgive his brothers (Genesis 45 and 50). We also celebrate his role in saving the family of Israel (Jacob), thus also playing an important part in God's plan to bring Messiah to His people and to all mankind.

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25 March 2014
  The Annunciation of Our Lord
25 March, New Testament

The Annunciation Luke 1:26-38 tells us how the angel Gabriel announced to Mary of Nazareth that she had been chosen to be the mother of the Christ and her response. Mary, a virgin pledged to marry Joseph, briefly wondered how this could be, since she had not had sex with any man.

Once Gabriel told her that the Child was conceived by the Holy Spirit, she humbly accepted this sacred obligation: "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word. (v. 38)"

Nothing prevents us from supposing that Our Lord was conceived immediately after this. Since the Church from early days observed 25 March as the date of the Annunciation, the celebration of the Christ's Nativity is observed on 25 December, nine months later.

For centuries in vast parts of Europe, 25 March also marked the change to the new year. While it seems somewhat odd and abrupt to change years in the middle of a month, we can imagine that those accustomed to that calendar easily made the adjustment. Furthermore, they could take to heart the reminder that God's chosen time, that most special time when He sent His Son into human flesh, merited such a "strange" circumstance.

Even though the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth took place six months later (see Luke 1:39-56) — as Elizabeth neared the end of her own pregnancy with the child who would grow to become John the Baptizer — Mary's song of celebration at that time is also appropriate to remember on the Feast of the Annunciation. In the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) the virgin mother of God celebrated God's gift to her, to Israel, and to all people.

Martin Luther wrote a commentary on this canticle. About verse 49, he said, "The 'great things' are nothing less than that she became the Mother of God, in which work so many and such great good things are bestowed upon her as pass man's understanding. For on this there follows all honor, all blessedness, and her unique place in the whole of mankind, among whom she has no equal, namely, that she had a child by the Father in Heaven, and such a child.

"She herself is unable to find a name for this work, it is too exceedingly great; all she can do is break out in the fervent cry: 'They are great things,' impossible to describe or define. Hence men have crowded all her glory into a single word, calling her the Mother of God.

"No one can say anything greater of her or to her, though he had as many tongues as there are leaves on the trees, or grass in the fields, or stars in the sky, or sand by the sea. It needs to be pondered in the heart, what it means to be the Mother of God."

The Annunciation is such an important Christological feast that it takes precedence over even the Sundays in Lent in much of Christendom. See Looking Ahead at Weedon's Blog for details.

Lection

Psalm 45:7-17
Isaiah 7:10-14
Hebrews 10:4-10
Luke 1:26-38

Collect

O Lord, as we have known the incarnation of Your Son Jesus Christ by the message of the angel to the virgin Mary, so by His cross and Passion bring us to the glory of His resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Luther quote from Luther's Works, Vol. 21, p. 326, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, Concordia Publishing House © 1956.

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23 March 2014
  + Gregory the Illuminator +
23 March AD 332

Gregory the Illuminator Christian pastor, evangelist, and bishop Gregory the Illuminator (or Enlightener; Armenian: Գրիգոր Լուսաւորիչ, transliterated Grigor Lusavorich) was born sometime between AD 240 and 260 and lived until around AD 311 or 312. He is the patron saint of Armenia and was first official head of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

The Armenians were the first people to adopt Christianity as their state religion. Tertullian and Eusebius of Caesaria suggest that Christianity was practiced in Armenia as early as the 2nd Century AD.

Sometime before AD 301, the Lord used Gregory as his instrument to convert King Tiridates (or Trdat) III. For some twelve to fourteen years previously, he'd been imprisoned in a deep pit and possibly tortured. This was likely due in part to his father's participation in a plot against Khosrov II, Tiridates' father, and partially because of his steadfast refusal to participate in pagan rites. His recall came around the year 297, when he was asked to restore to sanity Tiridates III, who lost his mind after being betrayed by Diocletian.

In 302, Gregory was ordained bishop. He founded the Cathedral of Etchmiadzin, near Mount Ararat in 303. This remains the seat of the supreme patriarch (catholicos) of the Armenian Church. Gregory went on to evangelize several other Caucasian nations and baptized the kings of Iberia (Georgia), Lazes, and Albania.

Sometime before his death he retired to a solitary life in the wilderness. He is remembered in both the Eastern and Western Church.

As an aside, legend claims for this relatively small nation the graves of four apostles: Bartholomew, Matthias, and Simon and Jude.

Lection

Psalm 119:153-160
Job 42:10-12
Acts 17:22-31
Matthew 5:11-16

Collect

Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in Your saints, You raised up your servant Gregory the Illuminator to be a light in the world, and to preach the Gospel to the people of Armenia. Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also may show forth Your praise, who called us out of darkness into Your marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
 
19 March 2014
  + Saint Joseph, Guardian of Our Lord +
19 March, New Testament

The Angel and St. Joseph All that we know of Saint Joseph we learn from the first two chapters of Matthew and of Luke. Otherwise he is mentioned only in passing (see Luke 3:23; John 1:45; John 6:42) as the supposed father of Jesus of Nazareth.

Matthew shows Joseph's compassion for his betrothed wife: When the Virgin Mary revealed her pregnancy to him he sought to avoid a public rebuke, which may have resulted in her being stoned. Then after the Lord sent His angel and revealed Himself as the cause of this extraordinary circumstance, Joseph submitted to God's will, just as had his wife.

St. Joseph and Jesus The Heavenly Father thus graciously allowed this unassuming man to bear the responsibility of protecting and providing for the Incarnate Word and the Theotokos. How could Joseph possibly have imagined the extraordinary events that awaited them, including the visits of shepherds and wise men, as well as Herod's wrath and their subsequent flight to Egypt?

Joseph was a pious Jew, a descendant of David, and a carpenter by trade. (The Gospels use the Greek word tekton, which may be translated "builder" or "architect.") Some scholars suggest that he may have been a mason, a metalworker, or a building contractor.

Because of the silence of the Gospels — and because Jesus entrusted Mary to the care of John — it is generally believed that Joseph died a natural death after the visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve (Luke 2:41-51) but before His baptism (Matthew 3:13-17), probably around His thirtieth year. We can only wonder what influence Jesus' earthly father had on Him during His early years on earth.

Lection

Psalm 127
2 Samuel 7:4-16
Romans 4:13-18
Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

Collect

Almighty God, from the house of Your servant David You raised up Joseph to be the guardian of Your incarnate Son and the husband of His mother, Mary. Grant us grace to follow the example of this faithful workman in heeding Your counsel and obeying Your commands; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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17 March 2014
  + Pádraig of Ireland, Bishop and Missionary +
17 March AD 466

St. Patrick Pádraig (Patrick, Padraic), one of the best-known missionary saints, was born to a Christian family in southwest Britain around the year 389. While he was a teenager, raiders captured and took him to Ireland. There, he was forced to serve as a herdsman.

After six years he escaped and found his way, home, and then traveled to a monastery community in France. Imagine the surprise of those who knew him — even by his own reckoning, he left Britain as one who cared little for God.

With his new trust in the Lord, Patrick threw himself wholeheartedly into monastic life. Ordained a bishop in 432, he made his way back to Ireland, where he spent the rest of his long life spreading the Gospel and organizing Christian communities.

He staunchly defended the doctrine of the Holy Trinity during a time when it was not popular to do so. His writings include his spiritual autobiography, the Confessio, and several prayers and hymns still used in the church today.

St. Patrick's Cross Pádraig died around the year 466. Many people attribute the Lorica (see below) to him. One of the symbols used for Patrick in ecclesiastical art is a red Cross Saltire on a white background. This was added to the overlaid crosses of Saint George and Saint Andrew to form the current Union Jack of the United Kingdom.

The legendary account of Patrick driving snakes off of the Emerald Isle is just that — a legend. There's no evidence that snakes ever slithered across Irish soil. Much more likely is the story that he used the shamrock or some other type of clover to roughly illustrate the Holy Trinity to the unconverted folk of Ireland.

If he were to return to earth in present day, one can only imagine the disdain with which this hero of the faith would view the drunken celebrations in many places which are held to "honor" his memory.

Lection

Psalm 97:1-2,7-12 or 96:1-7
1 Thessalonians 2:2b-12
Matthew 28:16-20

Collect

Almighty God, in Your providence You chose your servant Pádraig to be the apostle of the Irish people, to bring those who wandered in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of You; grant us so to walk in that light, that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now forever.

The Lorica or Saint Patrick's Breastplate

Shamrock Trinity I bind unto myself today
     the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
     the Three in One, and One in Three.

I bind this day to me forever,
     by power of faith, Christ's Incarnation;
his baptism in the Jordan river;
     his death on cross for my salvation;
his bursting from the spiced tomb;
     his riding up he heavenly way;
his coming at the day of doom:
     I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
     of the great love of cherubim;
the sweet "Well done" in judgement hour;
     the service of the seraphim;
confessors' faith, apostles' word,
     the patriarchs' prayers, the prophets' scrolls;
all good deeds done unto the Lord,
     and purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
     the virtues of the starlit heaven,
the glorious sun's life-giving ray,
     the whiteness of the moon at even,
the flashing of the lightning free,
     the whirling wind's tempestuous shocks,
the stable earth, the deep salt sea,
     around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
     the power of God to hold and lead,
his eye to watch, his might to stay,
     his ear to hearken to my need;
the wisdom of my God to teach,
     his hand to guide, his shield to ward;
the word of God to give me speech,
     his heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
     the vice that gives temptation force,
the natural lusts that war within,
     the hostile men that mar my course;
of few or many, far or nigh,
     in every place, and in all hours
against their fierce hostility,
     I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan's spells and wiles,
     against false words of heresy,
against the knowledge that defiles
     against the heart's idolatry,
against the wizard's evil craft,
     against the death-wound and the burning
the choking wave and poisoned shaft,
     protect me, Christ, till thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
     Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
     Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
     Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
     Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
     the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
     the Three in One, and One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation,
     eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
praise to the Lord of my salvation,
     salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Translation by Cecil Francis Alexander

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11 March 2014
  + Matthias Flacius Illyricus +
11 March AD 1575

Matija Vlačić Ilirik Croatian reformer Matthias Flacius Illyricus (Matija Vlačić Ilirik) was born on 3 March 1520 in Labin (Albona in Latin). At that time, the region was under control of the Venetian Republic. He left home at age 16 to study in Venice. Baldo Lupetina a relative and Franciscan superior on the nearby island of Cres (who was later executed as a heretic) encouraged Matthias to continue studying in Germany.

Flacius traveled to Augsburg, arriving in 1539. He stayed only a short time before moving to Basel, where he enrolled at the university and studied Hebrew and Greek. There he also acquainted himself with many of the day's noted Protestant intellectuals. He moved on to Tübingen to continue his studies.

Traveling on, Flacius headed for the birth place of the Lutheran Reformation. He received his Master's degree from the University of Wittenberg at the age of 24 and lived for most of the 1540s in that town. His degree led to an immediate promotion to professor of theology.

Following Wittenberg, Matthias moved to Magdeburg. Between 1549 and 1557 and under his leadership, this city became a center of opposition to first the Augsburg and then the Leipzig Interims. These were forced truces between the Catholics and the Lutherans and certain other Protestants. During this period, Flacius began openly opposing Philipp Melanchthon and the theological and political compromises he was making with Rome and certain non-Lutheran reformers. Flacius believed that he was a faithful follower of Martin Luther and his theology and saw Melanchthon as one who would destroy much of what Luther had struggled so mightily to obtain.

Matthias Flacius Illyricus His time in Magdeburg was productive otherwise, as well. While there, he commenced work on on the 13-volume Ecclesiastica Historia (poplularly known as the Magdeburg Centuries) with Johannes Wigand and other scholars. He also wrote numerous tracts and pamphlets on various theological topics.

In 1557, Flacius was invited to head the newly founded theological faculty at the University of Jena. He served in this capacity until the end of 1561, when he was released due to his position in a controversy over original sin. He then moved to Regensburg, living there from 1562-1566. He was unable to achieve two great desires. First, he wanted to open a school for Southern Slavs and also hoped to relocate the Protestant printing press from Urach. Neither happened because Regensburg cancelled his asylum on the orders of Emperor Maximilian II.

At the invitation of the City Senate of Antwerp, Flacius moved there for a brief time, staying long enough to write a confession of faith for the Lutherans of the Low Countries. He was then in Strasbourg from 1567 to 1573. There he completed his final large work, the Glossa compendiaria, a commentary on the New Testament. He died at Frankfurt-am-Main in 1575.

Many would call Matthias Flacius' hermeneutical works his most important achievements and he certainly was a pioneer in the field. His Clavis Scripturae Sacrae (Key to Sacred Scripture) established that any passage of the Bible should be interpreted considering the purpose and the structure of the whole chapter or a given book. It also declared the rule that the literal sense of the text should have a priority over allegories and metaphors. He also contributed much to Church history and dogmatics. As overall proof of his learning and scholarship, we note that Flacius likely owned the single largest private collection of books during the 16th Century.

Matija Vlačić Ilirik As a theologian Flacius tried to stay loyal to Luther, particularly the Reformer's emphasis on the bondage of the will. Unfortunately, his often abrasive style and his extreme position on original sin alienated many other staunch Lutherans. Because of this, his name fell into neglect and an undeserved degree of disrepute among many confessional Lutherans, even to the present day.

Additionally, he was a Croatian with Italian manners and mannerisms whose German was never good enough for those among whom he worked. In other words, Matthias Flacius Illyricus failed to fit in among his contemporaries in almost every way imaginable. However, we cannot underestimate his influence in preserving, promoting, and expounding the theology of the Lutheran Reformation.

In 1878, biographer Johann Wilhelm Preger eulogized Flacius: "A man of resolute courage, insuperable strength, possessing a wide-ranging knowledge one rarely encounters, with a broad vision and an industrious spirit."

Notes: See the Matthias Flacius Illyricus Memorial Collection for an extensive resource of things Flacius. Magdeburg Press sells How to Understand the Sacred Scriptures, a translated portion of the Clavis Scripturae Sacrae. Illyricus comes from the name of the former Roman province of Illyricum, which included his homeland. I also recommend Oliver K. Olson's book Mattias Flacius and the Survival of Luther's Reform. Flacius is not on the LCMS calendar of commemorations but is part of my ongoing addition of noted Lutherans and other Christians to a list of those I consider worthy of the Church's remembrance.
 
07 March 2014
  + Perpetua and Felicitas, Martyrs +
7 March AD 203

The Arena At the dawn of the Third Century, Roman emperor Septimus Severus banned conversions to Christianity. Among those disobeying that edict were Vibia Perpetua, a young noblewoman, and her maidservant Felicitas. Both were jailed at Carthage in North Africa along with three fellow Christians, Saturus and his pupils Revocatus and Saturninus.

Perpetua and at least some of the others had not completed catechesis and weren't yet baptized when arrested. Evidently, they received Holy Baptism before being taken to prison. She was also a new mother and a fairly recent widow. Felicitas (or Felicity) was near the end of her own pregnancy when arrested.

During their imprisonment, Perpetua and Felicitas witnessed to their faith with such conviction that the officer in charge became a follower of Jesus. For some time, doubts remained about their fates, but Perpetua had a vision of a golden ladder guarded by a fierce dragon. She climbed it, stepping on the dragon's head to do so. At the top, she found a green meadow with many white-robed figures. In their midst stood a Shepherd, who welcomed her and gave her cheese from the sheep's milk. She awoke understanding that martyrdom was assured but that she would triumph.

Kiss of Peace Perpetua's father came to plead that she recant her confession of faith and renounce Jesus Christ. This she steadfastly refused.

Roman law forbade the execution of pregnant women and Felicitas feared that Perpetua and the men being held at the same time would face martyrdom but leave her behind. However, she gave birth two days before the scheduled execution and was allowed to join her companions in the arena on 7 March.

The women first made arrangements for the well-being of their children. This was possible because the imperial decree only concerned recent converts to Christianity (or Judaism). Since those entrusted with their children's care were believers of long standing, they were safe from persecution, at least for the time being.

The accounts say that the five were first scourged at the crowd's urging. Then the men faced a boar, a bear, and a leopard while a wild cow was set against the women. After they were all injured, Perpetua and Felicity exchanged the kiss of peace before the Romans put them to the sword. One tradition holds that Perpetua showed mercy to her captors by guiding the sword of a trembling young gladiator to her own heart because he could not bear to put her to death.

The martyrs were interred in Carthage in North Africa and the story spread throughout Christendom. Later, a basilica was erected over their tomb. The story of the martyrdom of Saint Perpetua, Saint Felicitas, and their faithful companions has served for centuries as encouragement to persecuted Christians.

Lection

Psalm 34:1-8 or 124
Hebrews 10:32-39
Matthew 24:9-14

Collect

O God the true Emperor of Your saints, who strengthened Your servants Perpetua and Felicitas and their companions to make a good confession, staunchly resisting, for the cause of Christ, the claims of human affection, and encouraging one another in their time of trial, grant that we who cherish their blessed memory may share their pure and steadfast faith, and win with them the palm of victory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

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05 March 2014
  Ash Wednesday
The Lenten Season Begins

The entire Christian life celebrates Christ's victorious Resurrection on Easter morning. However, from Christianity's earliest days, the actual Paschal season has received special emphasis. The Church has traditionally prepared for this, the greatest Feast of our Lord, through the season of Lent.

From ancient times, Ash Wednesday has marked the first day of Lent. There are forty days from Ash Wednesday until Easter. Sundays are not counted because the Sundays in Lent are not fast days; rather, each is a celebration of the Resurrection. The forty days of Lent are reminiscent of the forty days in which rain fell during the Flood, our Lord's forty days and Israel's forty years in the wilderness, Christ's forty hours in the tomb, and related periods of judgment, testing, and completion of divine activities. The Gospel readings of Lent focus on the temptation and trials that Christ underwent on his way to His suffering and crucifixion.

Many people observe Lent by fasting. This can take place in many ways: Physically, we may deny ourselves various foods and pleasures; liturgically, we may omit parts of the Divine Liturgy, such as Alleluias and songs of praise. The Fast increases in depth and seriousness as we move from Ash Wednesday to Holy Week. During the Sundays following Ash Wednesday, we follow our Savior as he puts himself "in harm's way" and prepares for his passion and death. As we continue through the Church Calendar, it is then during Holy Week that we fully focus on his suffering and death.

Along with fasting, two other traditional activities of the early Church remain part of many people's Lenten observance. These are increased prayer and almsgiving. All three of these are mentioned together in the Sermon on the Mount. A portion of this discourse in Matthew is the appointed Gospel in the three-year Lectionary cycle.

Ash Wednesday Ash Wednesday receives its name from the ancient custom of rubbing oneself in ashes during a fast or period of penance as a sign of humility and sorrow. In Scripture, we observe this happening among people as varied as Job, the king of Ninevah and the rest of the city, Daniel, and Mordecai.

These days, most believers don't cover themselves in burlap and ashes. Instead, in congregations that follow the old custom, ashes are placed on the believers' foreheads as their pastors say, "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return." The ashes remind us that we still daily sin and that all our grand and glorious deeds are nothing in God's sight. This is especially illustrated when they are taken from the burning of the previous year's branches used on Palm Sunday. The praises of the people, their "Hosanna to the Son of David" and "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord," have fallen silent and are consigned to the burn pile of good intentions not followed through.

There are others who argue well that ashes are not only unnecessary but counter to the Gospel. It isn't that they deem repentance unnecessary but rather that receiving the ashes often leads people to think that they have done something extra to merit God's favor. Today's Gospel lends credence to this argument, since Jesus tells His hearers, "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.... And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others.... But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others.... (Matthew 6:1, 16a, 17-18a)"

However we observe Lent, we must take care to not assume a false piety by focusing on self. The believer keeps Lent extra nos (outside of self), following the lead of Hebrews 12:2 and "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."

Yes, Lent is a time of reflection and repentance. However, it's not intended to keep us looking within. Instead, upon viewing our sins, we then focus on the One who takes them away.

Along with readings and collect, I also include the Litany, a responsive prayer appropriate to days and seasons of penitence.

Lection

Psalm 51:1-13 (14-19)
Joel 2:12-19
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, You despise nothing You have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create in us new and contrite hearts that, lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, we may receive from You full pardon and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Litany

God the Father, in heaven,
      have mercy.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
      have mercy.
God the Holy Spirit,
      have mercy.
Be gracious to us.
      Spare us, good Lord.
Be gracious to us.
      Help us, good Lord.
By the mystery of Your holy Incarnation;
   by Your holy Nativity;
   by Your Baptism, fasting, and temptation;
   by Your agony and bloody sweat;
   by Your Cross and Passion;
   by Your precious Death and Burial;
   by Your glorious Resurrection and Ascension;
   and by the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter:

      Help us, good Lord.
In all our time of tribulation;
   in all our time of prosperity;
   in the hour of death; and in the day of judgment:

      Help us, good Lord.
We poor sinners implore You
      to hear us, O Lord.
To prosper the preaching of Your Word;
   to bless our prayer and meditation;
   to strengthen and preserve us in the true faith;
   to give heart to our sorrow and strength to our repentance:

      We implore You to hear us, good Lord.
To draw us to Yourself;
   to bless those who are instructed in the faith;
   to watch over and console the poor, the sick, the distressed,
   the lonely, the forsaken, the abandoned,
   and all who stand in need of our prayers;
to give abundant blessing to all our works of mercy;
   and to have mercy on us all:

      We implore You to hear us, good Lord.
To turn our hearts to You;
   to turn the hearts of our enemies, persecutors, and slanderers;
   and graciously to hear our prayers:

      We implore You to hear us, good Lord.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
      we implore you to hear us.
Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,
      have mercy.
Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,
      have mercy.
Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,
      grant us Your peace.
O Christ,
      hear us.
O Lord,
      have mercy.
O Christ,
      have mercy.
O Lord, have mercy.
      Amen.

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