Confessional Lutheran theology, hagiography, philosophy, music, culture, sports, education,
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+ The Holy Prophet Jonah +
22 September, Old Testament
A singular prophet among the many in the Old Testament, Jonah the son of Amittai was born about an hour's walk from Nazareth. His prophetic ministry involved a call to preach at Nineveh, capital of pagan Assyria (Jonah 1:1-2
). His reluctance to respond and God's insistence that His call be heeded is the story of the book that bears Jonah's name.
Although the swallowing and disgorging of Jonah by the great fish is the most remembered detail of his life, the book address it in only three verses (Jonah 1:17
). The important theme is how God deals compassionately with sinners. God spared sinful Nineveh — for a time. Eventually, their evil returned and brought about their eventual destruction.
The Lord also dealt mercifully with sinful Jonah who resisted God's call and fled toward Tarshish to escape it, who resented the Lord graciously saving the savage Assyrians, and who sat and sulked about their deliverance, saying, "I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. (Jonah 4:2
Jonah's three day sojourn in the belly of the fish is mentioned by Jesus as a sign of His own death, burial, and resurrection (Matthew 12:39-41
Labels: biography, christology, commemoration, fish, hagiography, jonah, ninevah, old testament, prophet, resurrection
+ Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist +
21 September, New Testament
One day Jesus was walking and saw a tax collector named Matthew sitting at a tax collection post, and said to him, "Follow Me." Matthew stood up and followed Him, becoming one of His twelve apostles (see Matthew 9:9-13
; parallels Mark 2:13-17
and Luke 5:27-32
Tax collectors in those days were social outcasts. Devout Jews avoided them because they were usually dishonest (they were expected to make their profits by cheating the people). Nationalistic Jews hated them because they were agents of the Roman government and doubly hated them if (like Matthew) they were Jews, because they had gone over to the enemy, betraying their own people for money.
Throughout the Gospels, we find tax collectors
(publicans) mentioned as a standard type of sinful and despised outcast. Matthew brought many of his former associates to meet Jesus. They — as well as social outcasts and sinners in general — were shown that the love of God through His Son extended even to them.
The word Gospel
comes from the Old English god-spell
, or good tidings. The New Testament's Greek speaks of the euangelion
(ευαγγελιον), a "good message." In English, this "Evangel" gives us words like evangelism
. From it we also received "Evangelical," which means "of or pertaining to the Gospel," via Germany. There, it was first applied to Martin Luther and his compatriots and later co-opted by the Calvinists and others.
Certainly Matthew and his companions freed of sin and guilt by Jesus experienced this Good News — as do all others who trust in the forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake. The word angel
is related, for an angelos
(αγγελος) is a messenger.
The name "Matthew" means "gift of the Lord." Mark and Luke, in the story of his calling, name him "Levi." Perhaps this was his original name, and he received a new name from Jesus when he became a disciple. Perhaps he was a member of the tribe of Levi. Of Matthew's life after Pentecost, the Scriptures tell us nothing. Later accounts vary: Some report that he was martyred, others that he died a natural death. The Christian community since early times has commemorated him as a martyr.
Matthew's symbol in religious art is often a winged man, such as shown here. This representation comes from the visions of Ezekiel and John of the four living creatures
around the throne of God (see examples in Ezekiel 1:5-14
and Revelation 4:6-11
). While there is some variation in Christendom, we most often find the man standing for Matthew since his narrative begins with Jesus' human genealogy of Jesus. Also, Matthew often quotes Christ speaking of Himself as "the Son of Man." The lion represents Saint Mark
, whose narrative begins with John the Baptist crying out in the desert, perhaps as a lion roars in the wilderness. The ox, a sacrificial animal, stands for Saint Luke
, whose narrative begins in the Temple and is woven throughout with Jesus pointing Himself toward His own sacrificial death. Finally, the eagle often represents Saint John
. John begins his narrative in Heaven with the eternal Word of God while also writing the Fourth Gospel in a soaring style.
O Son of God, our blessed Savior Jesus Christ, You called Matthew the tax collector to be an apostle and evangelist. Through his faithful and inspired witness, grant that we also may follow You, leaving behind all covetous desires and love of riches; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: apostle, christianity, christology, evangelist, feasts, festivals, gospels, hagiography, jesus, levi, matthew, new testament
+ Cyprian of Carthage, Bishop and Martyr +
14 September AD 258; Transferred to 16 September
Cyprian (Thascius Caecilius Cyprianus
) was born around AD 200 in the north African city of Carthage to a well-established pagan family. Most scholars believe that he came from either Punic or Berber stock. That he was of the privileged class may be shown, in part, from his place of death: He was martyred in his own villa.
After receiving a quality (albeit pagan) education, Cyprian became a Christian and was baptized sometime between 245 and 248. He passed quickly through the ranks of clergy, being ordained in short order as deacon, then presbyter. Election and consecration as Bishop of Carthage followed in short order, sometime during 248 or 249. This delighted the poor of the community, who'd benefited greatly from Cyprian giving away much of his wealth after his baptism, but a party in the Carthage church opposed him throughout his episcopacy.
During the persecution of Roman Emperor Decius
, Cyprian fled Carthage but returned two years later. During his absence, some accused him of cowardice or lack of faith while others defended him for remaining alive to help govern the church. His own testimony was that he acted as God willed him to do through visions and divine commands. From hiding, he remained a faithful ruler of his flock, acting through a deacon brave enough to carry his words back to Carthage.
Upon his return from exile, Cyprian had to deal with the problem of Christians who had lapsed from their faith under persecution and now wanted to return to the Church. He decided that they could be restored, but that restoration would come only after a period of penance demonstrating their faithfulness. During the following years, Cyprian also became part of the debate over the efficacy of baptism administered by heretics. While some said only the form was essential, Cyprian claimed that even if all the words and actions were correct, it was no baptism if administered outside the Church. Therefore, Cyprian directed that any who were baptized in heretical sects would be given Christian baptisms before being joined to the Church. A majority of the North African bishops agreed with him, but this rigorous interpretation of dogma was later moderated by the Church.
His position in the matter of heretic baptisms places him squarely among many North African theologians of the period. He seems to be a way station between the strictness of Tertullian
and the even more extreme doctrinal interpretations of the Donatists
, who concerned themselves with the efficacy of the Lord's Supper being administered by a priest who lapsed or recanted the faith during times of persecution.
During persecution under Emperor Valerian
, Cyprian first went into hiding and later gave himself up to the authorities. He was beheaded for the faith in Carthage in the year 258. According to witnesses, his only words upon hearing the death sentence pronounced were, "Thanks be to God!"
Besides fulfilling his pastoral and episcopal obligations, Saint Cyprian gave himself to theological writing. His most noted work was De unitate ecclesiae
, where he professed belief in one episcopate — not that of Rome, but of the Church at large — as the foundation of the Church. In this treatise he wrote, "He can no longer have God for his Father who has not the Church for his mother; ... he who gathers elsewhere than in the Church scatters the Church of Christ." In the same work, he also said, "Nor is there any other home to believers but the one Church." Unlike some of his contemporaries, especially those who may have acted out of jealousy over his popularity, most modern scholars and average Christians who study him are left with a quite favorable impression of the man.
Note: The liturgical calendar of The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod transfers the commemoration of Saint Cyprian to this day since 14 September is Holy Cross Day. This is in line with the practice of much of the Christian Church.
1 Peter 5:1-4, 10-11
Almighty God, who gave Your servant Cyprian boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world and courage to die for this faith, grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: african history, biography, carthage, christianity, church history, commemoration, cyprian, hagiography, martyrdom, patristics
Holy Cross Day
14 September AD 335
During the reign of Constantine the Great
, the first Roman Emperor to profess the Christian faith, his mother Helena
went to Israel, hoping to find the places especially significant to Christians. Having located, close together, what she believed to be the sites of the Crucifixion and of the Burial (at locations that many modern archaeologists think may be correct), she then had built over them the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
, which was dedicated on 13 September 335.
On the next day, the purported section of the cross was brought outside the church for others to view. Thus began a day for recognizing the cross of Christ in a festal atmosphere that would be inappropriate on Good Friday. It stands as a symbol of triumph, as a sign of Christ's victory over death, and a reminder of His promise, "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. (John 12:32
The day is known by different names in various parts of Christendom. The Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholic Churches know it as "Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross" while the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church calls it the "Triumph of the Cross." Most other liturgical churches simply call it "Holy Cross Day."
The Christian custom of tracing the sign of the cross on people and things as a sign of blessing is very old. Some think that it goes back to the very origins of Christianity and earlier. In Ezekiel 9
, we read that Ezekiel had a vision of the throne-room of God, in which an angel was sent to go through Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of the faithful few who mourned for the sins of the city. Afterwards, other angels were sent through the city to destroy all those who had not the mark.
We find similar visionary material in Revelation 7:2-4
; and 14:1
, where the mark on the forehead again protects the faithful few in the day of wrath. There, it is said to be the name of the Lamb and of His Father.
What is the significance of the sign of the cross? In the first place, we often place our initials or other personal mark on something to show that it belongs to us. The cross is the personal mark of Our Lord Jesus Christ, often traced upon our foreheads and hearts at our baptisms. We mark it on ourselves as a sign that we belong to Him, just as in the book of Revelation, as noted above, the servants of God are sealed or marked on their foreheads as a sign that they are His.
One pastor noted that, if you were telling someone how to make a cross, you might say, "Draw an 'I' and then cross it out." As we make the sign, we first draw a vertical stroke, as if to say to God, "Lord, here am I." Then we cancel it with a horizontal stroke, as if to say, "Help me, Lord, to abandon my self-centeredness and self-will; make Yourself the center of my life instead. Fix all my attention and all my desire on You, Lord, that I may forget my self, cancel my self, abandon myself completely to Your love and service."
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Collect of the Day
Merciful God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, was lifted high upon the cross that He might bear the sins of the world and draw all people to Himself. Grant that we who glory in His death for our redemption may faithfully heed His call to bear the cross and follow Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: christianity, christology, church history, constantine, crucifixion, feasts, festivals, good friday, helena, holy cross
+ Zechariah and Elizabeth +
5 September, New Testament
Zechariah (or Zachariah) and Elizabeth were "righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. (Luke 1:6
)" The angel Gabriel greeted Zechariah, a priest in the temple in Jerusalem, announcing that Zechariah and Elizabeth would become parents of a son. Initially he didn't believe Gabriel because of their old age. For this, Zechariah became unable to speak.
After their son
was born, Elizabeth named the boy John, which means "Yahweh (the Lord
) is gracious." As friends and relatives sought to change her mind, thinking that he should be named for someone in their family, they asked Zechariah to write down what the boy's name should be. Suddenly, his voice returned and he confirmed his wife's choice.
In response to receiving his son and the return of his voice, Zechariah sang the Benedictus
. This canticle beautifully summarizes God's Old Testament promises and predicts John's work as forerunner to the Messiah, who would be born in three more months (Luke 1:68-79
We remember the faithful and pious examples of Zechariah and Elizabeth and honor them for raising the last great prophet of the coming Christ, Saint John the Baptist
Those familiar with older English language Bibles might remember them slightly differently. That's because the Authorized Version (King James) and some other translations use the Greek form of their names, calling them Zacharias and Elisabeth.
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our father Abraham,
to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Labels: benedictus, biography, commemoration, elizabeth, gabriel, gospels, hagiography, jesus, john the baptist, new testament, zechariah
+ Moses, Prophet and Deliverer +
4 September, Old Testament
Today we commemorate Moses, who was born in Egypt several generations after Joseph brought his father Jacob and his brothers there to escape a famine in the land of Canaan. Although Joseph certainly delivered Egypt from the effects of the famine, at some later time, a change in regimes brought a change in Egyptian attitude toward the Hebrews in their midst. As this happened, the sons of Israel began to know affliction.
By the time Jacob's descendants had lived in Egypt for 400 years, they were in slavery. Because they were worried about a rapidly expanding population of Hebrews, the Egyptians ordered the Israelites to kill their male children. When Moses was born, his mother had his elder sister put him in a basket and set it afloat among the reeds in the Nile River. Pharaoh's daughter found him and raised by her as her own son (Exodus 2:1-10
). At age forty Moses killed an Egyptian taskmaster and fled to Midian, where he worked as a shepherd for most of his exile. There he married Zipporah, daughter of Jethro the priest of Midian (2:11-22
After another 40 years had passed, the Lord called him through the burning bush to go back to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to release Israel from its bondage (Exodus 3
). The Lord appointed his brother Aaron to assist him before Moses came to Pharaoh and told him that the Lord said, "Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness. (5:1
)" After a series of plagues, the Israelites celebrated the first Passover, the Lord struck down the first-born males throughout Egypt, Pharaoh capitulated, and Moses led them out. Often, Moses and Aaron were aided by their sister Miriam.
At the Red Sea the Egyptian army was destroyed and the Israelites passed to safety on dry land (Exodus 12-15
). At Mount Sinai they were given the Law and then erected the Tabernacle (19ff.
). Because of disobedience, they had to wander in the wilderness for forty years. Moses himself was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of his own sin of failing to uphold the Lord "as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel" (see Numbers 20:10-13
), although God allowed him to view it (Deuteronomy 34
Before Moses' death, the Lord appointed his faithful assistant Joshua
to assume the mantle of leadership for Israel. It was he who led Israel into Canaan and directed the conquest of many of the hostile peoples who occupied Palestine.
In the New Testament Moses is referred to as lawgiver and prophet. Before his death, Moses promised Israel that the Lord would "raise up for you a prophet like me from among you. (Deuteronomy 18:15
)" This prophecy found fulfillment in Jesus Christ. The first five books of the Bible, sometimes called the Pentateuch
, are attributed to Mosaic authorship.
Q: Who is the world record-holding chiropractor?
A: Moses. He dealt with a million stiff-necked people.
Labels: biography, christology, commemoration, exodus, hagiography, israel, joshua, moses, old testament, pentateuch, pharaoh, ten commandments, torah
+ Gregory the Great, Doctor of the Church +
Consecrated Bishop of Rome on 3 September AD 590
Living at a time when political and religious leadership in Europe often depended upon force of arms or strength of will more than the rule of law, Gregory became one of the continent's greatest leaders in both the secular and sacred arenas of his era. Born around AD 540, he became Prefect of Rome. In this capacity, he restored economic vitality to his native city following years of political upheaval and invasions by various Germanic tribes.
He later sold all his properties, donated the proceeds to help the poor, he entered into full-time service in the Church as a monk. Although he seemed content with the monastic life, his intellectual abilities and theological acumen led him on to ordination, which finally climaxed with his election on 3 September 590 as Bishop of Rome.
In this office, he oversaw growth in church music and liturgical development; the style of liturgical music known as Gregorian Chant
is still used in much of Western Christendom. He also established a church-year calendar still used by many churches in the western World today. His concern for the poor continued and he oversaw the construction of a hospital that served dinner to the underprivileged next to his home.
A chance encounter led to his championing of missionary outreach to northern Europe: After meeting English prisoners in a Roman slave market, he directed a monk and prior of the Monastery of Saint Andrew named Augustine to begin mission work in the British Isles. This man, later known as Saint Augustine of Canterbury
(not to be confused with the better-known Augustine of Hippo
), did much to spread Christianity throughout Britain.
Gregory was the first pope of the Roman Church to come from a monastic background. His book Liber Regulae Pastoralis
(The Book of the Pastoral Rule
) was a standard text until the 20th Century. Church historians consider Gregory to be the last of the Latin Church Fathers and count him among the Doctors of the Church (see the commemoration of Saint Ambrose
for the list of the eight great doctors). The Eastern Church remembers him as Gregory Dialogus in honor of the Dialogues
Gregory died on 12 March AD 604. Rather than keeping the commemoration on his death date (or "heavenly birthday"), the LCMS moved it to the date of his consecration in order to avoid its observation during the penitential season of Lent
Psalm 57:6-11 or 33:1-5, 20-21
1 Chronicles 25:1a, 6-8
Almighty and most merciful Lord, who raised up Gregory of Rome to be a servant of the people of God and inspired him to send missionaries to preach the Gospel to the English people, preserve in Your Church the catholic and apostolic faith he confessed, that Your people, being fruitful in every good work, may receive the crown of glory that never fades away; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: biography, christianity, church history, commemoration, doctors of the church, european history, gregory, hagiography, music, papacy, patristics
+ Hannah +
2 September, Old Testament
Hannah was the favored wife of Elkanah the Ephraimite. For many years she remained barren, suffering the insults of Elkanah's other wife, Peninnah — even though he said what he could to try comforting Hannah.
Finally the Lord relieved her of her bitterness (1 Samuel 1:6-8
). After she poured herself out in prayer before the Tabernacle, the priest Eli sent her on the way with the promise that the Lord would hear and answer her prayer.
While Scripture gives no indication that Eli even knew the specifics of her petitions, his promise to the distraught woman came to pass and she bore a son, whom she named Samuel
("Heard by God"), "for she said, 'I have asked for him from the Lord
.' (vv. 9-21
After weaning him, Hannah expressed gratitude by returning Samuel for a life of service in the House of the Lord with Elkanah's consent and blessing (1:24-28
). Her prayer of thanksgiving (2:1-10
) foreshadows the Magnificat, the Song of Mary which would be sung centuries later during the Visitation
to her cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1:46-55
The name Hannah comes from the Hebrew word for "grace" or "favor," the same root as the name John. We remember Hannah for joyfully keeping the vow she made before her son's birth. We also praise our God who lavished His favor upon a childless woman and upon the Children of Israel — both through the gift of Samuel.
Labels: biography, commemoration, eli, hagiography, hannah, judges, magnificat, old testament, prophet, samuel
+ Joshua, Son of Nun +
1 September, Old Testament
Joshua, the son of Nun, was first mentioned in Exodus 17:8-16
. The Lord chose him through Moses
to fight the Amalakites, whom he defeated in a brilliant military victory. According to Exodus 24
, Joshua became close to Moses and accompanied him when he went up Sinai with "Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. (v. 9
)" We know this since Scripture says that after he sent the others down the mountain, "Moses rose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. (v. 13
He was devoted to the Lord's Presence in the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 33:11
) and was a member of the tribal representatives sent to survey the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:8
). He and Caleb were the only two "spies" who provided honest reports which fully trusted in the Lord to deliver the Promised Land to His people (Numbers 14:6-9
God later appointed him to succeed Moses as Israel's leader. First, "Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, 'Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lord
has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it.' (Deuteronomy 31:7
)" Shortly thereafter, "The Lord
commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, 'Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you.' (v. 23
Joshua eventually led the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land, directing the capture of Jericho (Joshua 6
), during which he commanded that the lives of the prostitute Rahab and her family be spared (v. 17
). We also remember him for his final address to the Israelites, in which he challenged them to serve God faithfully (24:1-28
), declaring, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord
No Israelite should have been at all surprised with Joshua's successes. That's because Joshua is a shortened form of Jehoshua, which means "Yahweh (the Lord
) saves." Through Joshua, the Lord defeated many armies and enemies, established His people in the promised land, and prepared them for their new life as a nation. This name becomes even dearer to Christians when we realize that the name of Jesus
comes from the Greek transliteration of Joshua, "for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12
Labels: biography, christianity, christology, commemoration, exodus, hagiography, israel, jericho, jesus, jordan river, joshua, moses, old testament
+ The Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist +
29 August, New Testament
According to the structure of the Christian calendar, the feast commemorating the death of St. John the Baptist comes only two months after the celebration of his nativity
. His birth is observed by the liturgical color of white, standard for the principal Christological feasts since, as the Forerunner, John prepared the way for the coming Messiah. This day, however, is colored red, emblematic of the blood of the martyrs.
While all four Gospels mention John, only the three Synoptics tell of his beheading at the command of Herod Antipas. These accounts tell us that Herod imprisoned John because he strongly rebuked the king for divorcing his wife Phasaelis and then entering into an unlawful marriage with Herodias, who had been married to Herod Antipas's brother Philip I.
Mark makes it clear that Herodias held a stronger grudge than her new husband: "Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly. (6:20
)" However, when Herodias's daughter (traditionally named Salome*) danced for the king on his birthday, Herod was so pleased that he foolishly promised to give her anything she wanted, up to half of his kingdom. Her mother told her to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Although Herod was "exceedingly sorry" at her request, he reluctantly agreed "because of his oaths and his guests. (6:27
Herod had John beheaded in the prison. The executioner then placed the head on a platter and delivered it to the girl, who passed it on to her mother. John's followers then came and asked for his body, which they buried before going to tell Jesus. It was at least in part Jesus' sorrow over the death of John that led him to leave the crowds in Galilee: "He withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. (Matthew 14:13
)" However, the crowds followed Him, leading him to show compassion by healing the sick and then feeding the crowd of "five thousand men, besides women and children. (14:21
While Scripture is silent, some ancient traditions say that Herodius had John's head buried in a dung heap. These accounts claim that Joanna, wife of Herod's steward and a follower of Jesus, later retrieved the head and reburied it on the Mount of Olives. Later stories tell of three separate findings of his severed head. The first two later led to it being lost again for extended periods of time after being hidden. The third purported finding came in AD 850 and led to the head being transferred to a court church in Constantinople.
Jewish historian Flavius Josephus
also tells of Herod's beheading of John the Baptist in his Jewish Antiquities
. However, the reason he gives is different. Josephus wrote that the king killed John "lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into [John's] power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise), [so Herod] thought it best [to put] him to death." Josephus also said that many Jews believed that Aretas (Herod's father-in-law) dealt Herod a severe military defeat as divine punishment for his wickedness.
While not the first regularly observed Christian feast honoring a saint, the commemoration of the Martyrdom of John the Baptist is one of the earliest. It has been observed in both the Eastern and Western Church nearly as long as the celebration of his Nativity. Because of the differences in calendars, much of the East celebrates on the same date, but a different day. Also, many devout Eastern Christians remember keep John's feast by refusing to use a knife, eat from a flat plate, or eat any food that is round.
Josephus wrote extensively on the entire Herodian family. It is from the Antiquities that we are fairly sure that Salome was, indeed, the girl who danced and who asked for the Baptist's head. Ironically, the root of her name in Hebrew is "shalom"
(שלם), that is, "peace."
Almighty God, You gave Your servant John the Baptist to be the forerunner of Your Son, Jesus Christ, in both his preaching of repentance and his innocent death. Grant that we, who have died and risen with Christ in Holy Baptism, may daily repent of our sins, patiently suffer for the sake of the truth, and fearlessly bear witness to His victory over death; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: biography, christology, elijah, feasts, festivals, gospels, hagiography, herod, jesus, john the baptist, martyrdom, new testament, prophet
+ Bartholomew, Apostle +
24 August, New Testament
The name "Bartholomew" appears in the New Testament only on lists of the names of the twelve apostles. John gives no list of the Twelve, but refers to more of them individually than do any of the Synoptic writers. He doesn't name Bartholomew, but early in his account (John 1:43-50
) he tells of the call to discipleship of one Nathaniel who is supposed to be the same person.
The reasoning is as follows: John's Nathanael is introduced as one of the earliest followers of Jesus, in terms suggesting that he became one of the Twelve. He is clearly not Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Thomas, Judas Iscariot, or Judas (not Iscariot), all of whom John names separately.
He isn't Matthew, whose call is described differently. This leaves Bartholomew, James the son of Alpheus, and Simon the Zealot. Of these, Bartholomew is the leading candidate for two reasons: (1) "Bar-tholomew" is a patronymic
(a father-based name), meaning "son of Tolmai (or Talmai)." Thus, it's quite likely that he had another name. (2) Nathanael is introduced in John's narrative as a friend of Philip. Since Bartholomew is paired with Philip on three of our four lists of Apostles, it seems likely that they were associated.
We have no certain information about his later life. Some writers, including the historian Eusebius
, say that he preached in India. The majority tradition, with varying details, is that Saint Bartholomew preached in Armenia, and was finally skinned alive and beheaded in Albanus or Albanopolis on the Caspian Sea, as shown above. His emblem in art is, therefore, a flaying knife or knives. Michelangelo also followed this tradition but imposed his own face on Bartholomew in his "Last Judgment" fresco, as shown in a previous commemoration
2 Corinthians 4:7-10
Luke 22:24-30 or John 1:43-51
Almighty God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, chose Bartholomew to be an apostle to preach the blessed Gospel. Grant that Your Church may love what he believed and preach what he taught; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: apostle, bartholomew, biography, disciple, feasts, festivals, gospels, hagiography, jesus, martyrdom, nathaniel, new testament
+ Samuel, Judge and Prophet +
20 August, Old Testament
Samuel was the final Old Testament judge. Besides Deborah and an anonymous man in Judges 6:7-10
, he is the first prophet mentioned after Moses
, although we could consider some of the other judges among the prophets. He lived during the 11th century B.C. Samuel's mother Hannah was unable to have children and she prayed desperately before the tabernacle that the Lord would grant her to bear children to her husband Elkanah, an Ephraimite. Because the Lord heard and answered, Hannah called her son "Samuel," which can be translated "heard by God." This account is in the first chapter of 1 Samuel
In response to God's love for them, Samuel's parents dedicated him to the Lord's service: "And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the house of the Lord
at Shiloh. And the child was young. Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli [the priest in the Lord
's house]. And she said, 'Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord
. For this child I prayed, and the Lord
has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord
. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord
)" He entered sacred service and trained in the house of the Lord at Shiloh under Eli.
God called Samuel to speak for Him in a series of night messages and established him as His prophet. One of Samuel's most difficult assignments came immediately after his call. Eli was allowing his sons to abuse their priestly offices and through the young man, the Lord condemned their behavior and pronounced God's judgment upon them (see chapter 3
Samuel's own life didn't always go smoothly. Just as Eli's sons had betrayed their sacred trust as priests, so also "Joel and ... Abijah ..." the sons of Samuel, became unrighteous judges who "took bribes and perverted justice. (8:1-3
)" Perceiving this as a problem in God's leadership as well as that of Samuel, Israel demanded that they be given a king such as the surrounding nations had. Samuel warned them that this would lead to even more problems and woes, but when they kept insisting, the Lord told him to do as the people requested.
Samuel anointed Saul to be Israel's first king (10:1
). Because of Saul's continuing, flagrant disregard for God's Word, Samuel repudiated Saul's leadership and traveled to the house of Jesse, where he anointed David
to be king in place of Saul (16:13
Samuel's loyalty to God, his spiritual insight, and his ability to inspire others made him one of Israel's great leaders. When he died, "all Israel assembled and mourned for him, and they buried him in his house at Ramah. (25:1a
For more on this man of God, see an earlier post that focuses on a series of deceiving appearances
in his life.
Labels: biography, commemoration, david, eli, hagiography, hannah, judges, old testament, prophet, samuel, saul
+ Bernard of Clairvaux +
Died 20(?) August AD 1153
ernard of Clairvaux
, a leader in Christian Europe in the first half of the 11th century A.D., is honored in his native France and around the world. Born into a noble Burgundian (Fontaines, near Dijon) family in 1090, he was drawn toward the Church by his own nature and encouraged by his mother's desire. His family opposed His desire to enter a monastery and sent him to study at Châlons in order to qualify him for higher ecclesiastical office. However, Bernard left his affluent heritage, entering the monastery of Citeaux at age 22. He persuaded four of his brothers, an uncle, and 26 other men, mainly the sons of nobles, to join him.
After two years he and several others were sent to a new monastic house at Clairvaux, where Bernard soon became its abbot. His work there was blessed in many ways. The monastery at Clairvaux grew in mission and service, eventually establishing some 68 daughter houses.
During the disputed papal elections between Anacletus II and Innocent II, he took the side of Innocent. From 1130-38, Bernard worked to solidify the papal claim through ecclesiastical and secular politics. He battled against the "New Teaching" espoused by Pierre Abélard at the University of Paris, resisting a broad-based liberal arts education using the philosophy of Aristotle. Instead, Bernard insisted that such an education was only to be used in preparation for the priesthood.
At the command of Pope Eugenius III in 1146, Bernard preached in favor of a new effort to free the Holy Land from the Mohammedans. This gave life to the previously moribund Second Crusade. While the results of the campaign were certainly mixed, events during it served to enhance Bernard's perception among non-Christians: When a monk named Radulf (or Raoul) incited the populace of Mainz against the Jews, Bernard vigorously opposed him, calling the monk arrogant, without authority, a preacher of mad and heretical doctrines, a liar, and a murderer. Radulf slipped away, the riots ended, and Bernard became known as a "righteous gentile." His reputation among Rhine valley Jews remained so good that his name is still given to some of their descendants. The most famous of these would probably be American businessman and presidential advisor Bernard Baruch.
Certainly, we remember St. Bernard for his charity and political abilities. Even more, we honor his preaching ability and, especially, his poetry and hymn writing (cf. NetHymnal
): The texts of O Jesus, King Most Wonderful
audio) and O Sacred Head, Now Wounded
audio), as well as others, remain vital parts of our Christian heritage.
cited Saint Bernard in a number of his writings. When Bernard spoke of justification by grace through faith, Luther commended the teaching. For example, in his commentary on
, the reformer wrote, "This is the kind of joy and comfort St. Bernard had in his heart, so that he could say, on the basis of this article: 'How can I ever become sad and mournful or discouraged? After all, my flesh and blood sits in heaven above. I expect He will not be my enemy.' For St. Bernard to apply this to himself and to boast this way is certainly a genuinely spiritual, heavenly, and divine thought, derived from his faith. For he had also amounted to something in the world. He had been rich enough, noble, learned, and holy. But before God St. Bernard knows no other boast or comfort than this Lord. (LW 13:245)"
Where Bernard lapsed into exalting the office of the papacy or waxed eloquent on the merits of the saints — particularly Mary — Luther condemned these works as false and misleading. Yet the reformer appreciated and held close the monk's death-bed confession of personal unworthiness and total reliance on Christ's merits: "That is how St. Bernard was saved. He was an exemplary monk; he observed the rules of his order scrupulously, and he fasted so assiduously that his breath stank and no one could abide his presence. But on the threshold of death he exclaimed: 'Oh, I have lived damnably! But heavenly Father, Thou hast given me Thy Son, who has a twofold claim to heaven: first, from eternity, by reason of the fact that He is Thy Son; secondly, He earned heaven as the Son of man with His suffering, death, and resurrection. And thus He has also given and bestowed heaven on me. [Sermones in cantica
, Sermon XX, Patrologia, Series Latina, CLXXXIII, 867]' Thereby St. Bernard dropped out of the monastic role, forsook cowl and tonsure and rules, and turned to Christ; for he knew that Christ conquered death, not for Himself but for us men that all who believe in the Son should not perish but have eternal life. And so St. Bernard was saved. (LW 22:360)"
In case you're wondering, the Saint Bernard dog
named for Bernard of Clairvaux but indirectly for Bernard of Montjoux
(or Menthon), an earlier monk who founded a travelers' hospice and monastery in the Pennine Alps and another hospice in the Graian Alps. Both of these passes were later named for him and and the large rescue dogs for these places where they were stationed.
NB: I followed the LCMS Calendar of Commemorations and listed Bernard on 19 August, even though his death date is normally remembered as 20 August and occasionally as the 21st. Roman Catholicism celebrates his feast on the 20th.
Psalm 139:1-12 or 19:7-11
O God, by whose grace Your servant Bernard of Clairvaux, kindled with the flame of Your love, became a burning and a shining light in your Church, grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, walking before You as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Be Thou my Consolation, My Shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy Passion When my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, Upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfold Thee. Who dieth thus dies well!
(P. Gerhardt; from Bernard's Salve caput cruentatum)
Hymn texts and MIDI audio linked from the Lutheran Hymnal Project
Martin Luther quotes from Volume 13: Luther's Works, Selected Psalms II
, © 1956 by Concordia Publishing House and Volume 22: Luther's Works, Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4
, © 1957 by Concordia Publishing House.
Labels: biography, christianity, church history, commemoration, crusades, hagiography, hymns, medieval history, monasticism
+ Johann Gerhard, Theologian +
17 August AD 1637
Born 17 October 1582, Johann Gerhard, a Lutheran theologian in the tradition of Martin Luther
(1483-1546) and Martin Chemnitz
(1522-86), was the most influential 17th Century dogmatician. Many still consider his Loci Theologici
in 23 large volumes to be the most definitive statement of Lutheran orthodoxy. Born in Quedlinburg, Germany, Gerhard was stricken with a life-threatening illness at age 15.
Following this experience, coupled with with guidance from his pastor, Johann Arndt
, Gerhard experienced a turning point: He devoted the rest of his life to theology, serving many years as the Superintendent of Heldberg and, later, of the Duchy of Coburg. Eventually he become a professor at the University of Jena. With a sharp, critically trained mind, Gerhard also possessed deep evangelical piety and love for Jesus.
He wrote exegetical and theological works, devotional literature, history, and polemics. Many of his sermons remain in publication, still exercising wide influence upon confessional Lutheran thought. Since its writing and subsequent translation, his Sacred Meditations
probably outsold every book in the Western world except the Bible and The Imitation of Christ
by Thomas à Kempis
His son Johann Ernst Gerhardt was also a Lutheran theologian and professor. An even more noted relative was his nephew, Johannes Andreas Quenstedt
For more detailed information, see the Studium Excitare
, and the Christian Cyclopedia
Partial List of Works
† Exegesis: Commentarius in harmoniam historiae evangelicae de passione Christi
(A comentary harmonizing the Gospel accounts of Christ's Passion, 1617)
† Exegesis: Comment, super priorem D. Petri epistotam
† Exegesis: Commentaries on Genesis
(1637) and Deuteronomy
† Theology: Confessio Catholice
, 1633-1637), a defense of the evangelical and
catholic nature of the Augsburg Confession
† Theology: Loci communes theologici
† Devotional: Meditationes sacrae
O Lord God, heavenly Father, pour out Your Holy Spirit upon Your faithful people, keep them steadfast in Your grace and truth, protect and comfort them in all temptation, defend them against all enemies of Your Word, and bestow on Christ's Church Militant Your saving peace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word!
Labels: biography, christianity, church history, commemoration, german history, hagiography, johann gerhard, lutheranism, martin chemnitz, martin luther, theology
+ Isaac, Patriarch +
16 August, Old Testament
If any part of Scripture besides the Resurrection clearly indicates that God gets the last laugh, it must be the story of Isaac.
After giving new names to Abraham
, the Lord promised a them a son. At the time, Abraham was 99 and Sarah was 90 (see Genesis 17
). When Abraham heard the news, he "fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, 'Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?' (v. 17
In response to the laughter and doubting, the Lord said, "Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. (v. 19
)" Isaac means "He Laughs."
To reiterate His point, the Lord allowed Sarah to overhear Him repeat His promise to Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre (see Genesis 18
). "So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, 'After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?' The Lord
said to Abraham, 'Why did Sarah laugh and say, "Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?" Is anything too hard for the Lord
? At the appointed time I will return to you about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.' But Sarah denied it, saying, 'I did not laugh,' for she was afraid. He said, 'No, but you did laugh.' (vv. 12-15
Sure enough, things happened not as Abraham and Sarah may have expected, but as the Lord had planned and promised. When Abraham was 100 years old, Sarah gave birth and "Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac. (21:3
)" Sarah likewise reveled in the irony: "God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me. (v. 6
When Isaac was a young man, Abraham took him to Mount Moriah. There, Abraham, obeying God's command, prepared to sacrifice his son as a burnt offering. But God intervened, sparing Isaac's life and providing a ram as a substitute offering (22:1-14
In so doing, God also pointed to the substitutionary sacrifice of His own Son Jesus Christ for the sins of the world. When the author of Hebrews expounded on the faith of Abraham (11:8-19
), he made special note of Abraham's belief that, in order to accomplish His purposes, "God was able even to raise [Isaac] from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. (v. 19
Abraham sent a faithful servant back among their kinfolk in order to find a bride for Isaac. There, the servant found Rebekah, who gladly traveled with this stranger to a new land, where she was given in marriage to Isaac (Genesis 24
). They had twin sons, Esau and Jacob (25:19-26
In his old age, Isaac became weak and blind. Before he died, he desired to give his blessing and the chief inheritance to Esau, his elder and favorite son, even though the Lord had promised Rebekah that their birth order would be reversed in the blessing and Jacob
would be the favored son (25:23
). However, Rebekah showed her
favorite, Jacob, how to deceive his father and gain the blessing for himself (27:1-40
). Of course, this resulted in years of bitter family strife, although Jacob and Esau later reconciled (Genesis 33
Isaac lived to the age of 180 and was buried by his sons in the family burial cave of Machpelah (35:28-29
Labels: abraham, biography, christianity, christology, commemoration, hagiography, isaac, jacob, old testament, rebekah, sacrifice, sarah
+ Saint Mary, Mother of God +
15 August, New Testament
The honor paid to Saint Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus Christ our Lord, God, and Savior goes back to the earliest days of the Church. Indeed, it goes back farther: Even before the birth of her Son, Mary prophesied, "From now on all generations will call me blessed. (Luke 1:48
ESV)" Confessing her as "Mother of God" also confesses that the One whom she bore was and is, indeed, true God.
The New Testament records several incidents from the life of the Virgin: her betrothal to Joseph
, the Annunciation
by the angel Gabriel that she was to bear the Messiah, her Visitation
to Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist, the Nativity of our Lord, the visits of the shepherds and the magi, her Purification
and the Presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple at the age of forty days, the flight into Egypt, the Passover visit to the Temple when Jesus was twelve, (Matthew 1:16, 18-25
; Matthew 2
; Luke 1:26-56
; Luke 2
); the wedding at Cana in Galilee and the performance of her Son's first miracle (at Mary's intercession, see John 2:1-11
), the occasions when observers basically said of Jesus, "How can this man be special? We know his family!" (Matthew 13:54-56
; Mark 6:1-3
; Luke 4:22
; see also John 6:42
); an instance when she came with others to see Him while he was preaching (Matthew 12:46-50
; Mark 3:31-35
; Luke 8:19-21
); and her presence at His crucifixion, where Jesus commended her to the care of His Beloved Disciple (John 19:25-27
). Mary was also present with the apostles in Jerusalem following the Ascension, waiting for the promised Spirit (Acts 1:14
). Thus, we see her present at many of the chief events of her Son's life.
Besides Jesus, only two people are mentioned by name in the Creeds. One is Pontius Pilate, Roman procurator of Judea from 26 to 36 AD. Knowing that Jesus was crucified by Pilate's order pins down the date of His death within a few years, certifying that we are not talking "once upon a time," like worshipers of some mythical god. His death is an historical event, something that really happened.
The other name in the Creeds is that of Mary. They say that Christ was "born of the virgin Mary." That is, they assert that he was truly and fully human, born of a woman and not descended from the skies like an angel. Jesus was not a spirit temporarily cloaked in a robe of human-seeming flesh.
Telling us that His mother was a virgin excludes the theory that Jesus was an ordinary man who was so virtuous that he eventually, at His baptism, became filled with a "Christ Spirit" by God. His virgin birth attests that He was always more than merely human, always one whose presence among us was in itself a miracle, from the first moment of His earthly existence. In Mary, Virgin and Mother, God gives us a sign that Jesus is both truly God and truly man. Emphasizing this point, the Council of Ephesis
in AD 431 officially titled her Theotokos
(God-bearer) and rejected and condemned the title Christotokos
(Christ-bearer). Ask the Pastor
comments on the distinction in Blessed Virgin Mary: Mother of God
We know Little of Mary's life except as it intersects with the life of her Son; this is appropriate. The Scriptures record her words to the angel Gabriel, to her kinswoman Elizabeth, and to her Son on two occasions. The only recorded saying of hers to "ordinary" hearers is her instruction to the servants at the wedding feast: "Do whatever he [Jesus] tells you. (John 2:5
ESV)" Perhaps this should be the summation of her message to the world. To this day, she reminds us, "Listen to Jesus. Pay attention to my Son. Do as He says."
She didn't seek the regard of others on her own behalf. If our honor for the Blessed Virgin doesn't turn our attention from her to the One whom she bore and suckled, to the Word made flesh, then we may be certain that it is not the blessing that she seeks. A right regard for Mary always directs us to Him who made her womb His first earthly dwelling-place.
In different parts of the Church, the date is remembered in various ways. Roman Catholicism celebrates the Assumption of Mary
and claims that she was taken, body and soul, to heaven. However, I've found contradictory teachings in the Roman Church, arguing whether she was translated in the manner of Enoch
, if she died and was resurrected on earth and then taken to heaven, or if her dead body was taken and then rejoined with her soul in heaven.
Meanwhile, Eastern Orthodoxy celebrates the Dormition of the Theotokos
. It claims that Mary certainly died but that when Thomas visited three days later, her body was gone from the tomb. As to whether the body will be kept in heaven until the general resurrection on the Last Day or already rejoined with her spirit, Orthodoxy will not make a final dogmatic pronouncement.
In the rest of Christendom that follows a sanctorial calendar, the general belief seems to be that she likely died and awaits the resurrection with all others who departed in the Faith.
Luke 1:(39-45) 46-55
Collect of the Day
Almighty God, You chose the virgin Mary to be the mother of Your only Son. Grant that we, who are redeemed by His blood, may share with her in the glory of Your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Grant, we humbly pray, O Lord, to Your servants the gift of Your heavenly blessing that, as the Son of the Virgin Mary has granted us salvation, we may daily grow in Your favor; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: acts, assumption, biography, christianity, creed, dormition, feasts, festivals, gospels, hagiography, jesus, mary, new testament, theotokos, virgin
+ Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr +
10 August AD 258
, a gulf
, and a seaway
are named in his honor. A number of Christian congregations and almost anyone known as "Larry" likewise owe their names to this martyr of the ancient Christian Church.
Early in the third century A.D., Lawrence (Latin, Laurentius
, also often known as "Lorenz," "Laurence," or "Lorenzo"), who was most likely born in Spain, made his way to Rome. There he was appointed chief of the seven deacons and was given the responsibility to manage church property and finances.
The emperor at the time, thinking that the church had valuable things worth confiscating, ordered Lorenz to produce the "treasures of the church." Saint Lorenz brought before the emperor the poor whose lives had been touched by Christian charity. He was then jailed and eventually executed in the year 258. Many accounts tell of his being roasted on a gridiron until dead. However, some scholars think that this tradition came about due to a faulty transcription and that the phrase assus est
(he roasted) should have been rendered passus est
His martyrdom left a deep impression on the young church. Almost immediately, the date of His death, 10 August, became a permanent fixture on the commemorative calendar of the early Church.
Psalm 65:1-8 or 34:1-10
Deuteronomy 33:1-3 or Isaiah 26:1-4, 8-9, 12-13, 19-21
Revelation 7: 2-17 or 21:9-11, 22-27; 22:1-5
Stir up, O merciful Father, Your people to true brotherly affection that we may gladly do good and serve our neighbor, as did Your servant Saint Lawrence, when he emptied the treasure of the Church to help the poor; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: biography, christianity, church history, commemoration, feasts, hagiography, lawrence, lorenz, martyrdom
+ Hermann Sasse, Theologian and Confessor +
9 August AD 1976
Lutheran pastor and theologian Hermann Otto Erich Sasse was born on 17 July 1895 at Sonnewalde, Lower Lusatia (Lausitz), Germany. He was the eldest of five children born to pharmacist Hermann Sasse and his wife Maria, née Berger. In 1913,he began reading theology and ancient philology at the University of Berlin. In later years, he claimed that his tutor in practical theology was war, as he was one of only six survivors from his battalion after engaging in trench warfare in Flanders.
After the war, he continued his studies and was ordained in 1920 in St Matthew's Church, Berlin. He served in several Brandenburg parishes took the licentiate in theology in Berlin in 1923. Sasse came to Hartford Seminary, Connecticut in 1926, where he earned a master's degree.
Hermann Sasse married Charlotte Margarete Naumann (d. 1964) on 11 September 1928 in St. Nicolai's Church, Oranienburg, Germany. Their union was blessed with three children.
During the tough economic times of the Great Depression, During the Depression, Sasse was made a Sozialpfarrer
(pastor with social duties). As such, he reached out to those in need in the community, particularly to factory workers in Berlin.
Although remembered as one who resisted the watered-down theology of unionism, Sasse participated in the Ecumenical Movement and was a delegate and interpreter during the first world conference of the Faith and Order Movement in Lausanne, Switzerland (1927). He also attended the 1932 disarmament conference in Geneva.
Among German theologians, he ranks as one of the the earliest to speak out against Nazism. While criticizing some of its theology, he participated actively in the Confessing Church Movement that had emerged under Martin Niemöller
and others. Sasse and Dietrich Bonhoeffer
were among the small but growing church opposition to Hitler. In 1933, they were the primary authors of the Bethel Confession
. This strongly trinitarian document also clearly condemned discrimination against the Jews. Rejecting an all-Aryan German Church, the Confession stated, "Instead of giving up, either willingly or unwillingly, in one area the ecclesial fraternity with the Jewish Christian that is created by word and sacrament, the Gentile Christians should rather expose themselves to persecution."
Although he'd been working hand-in-hand with its members, Sasse left the synod that produced the Barmen Declaration
. He objected to Karl Barth and others leading the Confessing Movement to wrongly arrogate church authority for itself. During this time, he continued as professor in church history at the University of Erlangen, Bavaria, a position he received in 1933. The German government withdrew his passport in 1935 but his popularity as a lecturer and protection from the dean of the faculty helped him to retain his university post through the Nazi era.
Uncomfortable with its theological compromises, Sasse protested at the 1948 formation of the Evangelical Church in Germany
. His opposed its policy of restoration rather than renewal and expressed disquiet over state-supported university faculties of theology. This led him to join the Lutheran Free Church.
After receiving a call to teach at Immanuel Seminary
(now Australian Lutheran College) in North Adelaide, South Australia, he migrated in 1949. There, he worked mightily to unite Australia's divided Lutheran churches, devoting much energy to this cause. Exercising his considerable teaching and writing skills, he helped to formulate and forge new doctrinal bases of agreement and was rewarded by seeing the 1966 church union occurred in 1966.
Sasse stayed active in the German Lutheran communities of Adelaide and Melbourne. Through his many contacts, he assisted immigrants with pastoral advice and care.
Sasse also retained his global Lutheran connections — many in the United States knew him as "Mr. Lutheran." He maintained world-wide correspondence through regular doctrinal and pastoral "Letters to Lutheran Pastors." He continued to encourage ongoing theological research, particularly in the areas of Scripture as Word of God and the Eucharist. While maintaining his justly deserved reputation for strongly defending confessional and conservative positions, Sasse also kept active personal contacts across denominational boundaries.
From its inception, Sasse involved himself in Australian Roman Catholic-Lutheran dialog. He finally retired from the seminary in 1969 but stayed active in the affairs of the Church. The Federal Republic of Germany honored him with the Order of Merit in 1972.
Sasse saw over 450 of his works published. Included among them are Here We Stand (Minneapolis, 1946) and This is My Body (1959). A fire in his North Adelaide home claimed his life on 9 August 1976. Survived by two sons, he was buried
in Centennial Park, Pasadena, South Australia. One obituary declared Sasse "Australia's most distinguished acquisition from the Continental theological scene."
Hermann Sasse was one of many who stood steadfast in confession of the Evangelical, Orthodox, Catholic, and Apostolic Faith. For a sampling of some of the others in Lutheranism, please see The Meanies of Grace
. For more on and by Sasse, I recommend What Sasse Said
and Hermann Sasse and the Liturgical Movement
as possible starters. You can also find plenty of Sasse to read through this CPH search
O Lord God, heavenly Father, we pray that, as You raised up Hermann Sasse to resist the evils of Nazi philosophy and through him led Lutherans in Germany, Australia, and around the world into renewed appreciation of their confessional heritage and trust in the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ, so You would continue to provide Your Church with faithful pastors and leaders, keeping them steadfast in Your grace and truth, defending them against all enemies of Your Word, and bestowing 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.
Labels: australia, biography, christianity, church history, commemoration, ecumenical movement, german history, germany, hagiography, lutheranism, sasse, theology