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

28 July 2008
  + Johann Sebastian Bach, Kantor +
28 July AD 1750

J. S. BachJohann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is acknowledged as one of the most famous and gifted of all composers past and present in the entire western world. Orphaned at the age of ten, Bach studied with various family members but was mostly self-taught in music.

He began his professional career as conductor, performer, composer, teacher, and organ consultant at age 19 in the town of Arnstadt. He traveled wherever he received good commissions and steady employment, ending up in Leipzig, where the last 27 years of his life found him serving as Kantor, responsible for all music in the city's four Lutheran churches.

Acclaimed more in his own time as a superb keyboard artist, the majority of his compositions fell into disuse following his death, which musicologists use to date the end of the Baroque Period and the beginning of the Classical Era. However, his compositional ability was rediscovered, in large part due to the efforts of Felix Mendelssohn. The genius and sheer magnitude of Bach's vocal and instrumental compositions remain overwhelming. Also, whether due to nature or nurture, he was but one of the giants in, perhaps, the most talented musical family of all time.

Orycteropus Sebastian AardbachChristendom especially honors J. S. Bach, a staunch and devoted Lutheran, for his lifelong insistence that his music was written primarily for the liturgical life of the Church, glorifying God and edifying His people. For an overview of the Christological basis of his work and a strong argument that he was among the theological giants of Lutheranism, please read J. S. Bach: Orthodox Lutheran Theologian?.

Today we remember his "heavenly birthday," for it was on 28 July AD 1750 that the Lord translated Mr. Bach to glory.

Soli deo gloria — To God alone the glory! These words appear on most manuscripts of Bach's compositions as testimony to his faith and his idea of music's highest, noblest use.

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25 July 2008
  + Saint James the Elder, Apostle +
25 July, New Testament

Saint JamesJames, son of Zebedee, and his brother John were among Our Lord's twelve disciples. Together with Peter, these two were privileged to behold the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1; Mark 9:2; Luke 9:28). They witnessed the healing of Peter's mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-31) and the raising of the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51). Jesus called them aside to watch and pray with Him in the garden of Gethsemane on the night before His death (Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33).

James and John may have been from a higher social level than the average fisherman. Their father could afford hired servants (Mark 1:20), and John (assuming him to be identical with the "beloved disciple") had connections with the high priest (John 18:15).

Jesus nicknamed the brothers Boanerges — Sons of Thunder — (Mark 3:17), probably commenting upon their headstrong, hot-tempered, and impulsive natures. So they seem to be in two incidents reported in the Gospels. Once, Jesus and the disciples were refused the hospitality of a Samaritan village, and James and John proposed to call down fire from heaven on the offenders (Luke 9:51-56). On another occasion, they asked Jesus for a special place of honor in the Kingdom, and were told that the place of honor is the place of suffering (Matthew 20:20-23; Mark 10:35-41).

Saint JamesIn about AD 42, shortly before Passover (Acts 12:1-2), James was beheaded by order of Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great (who tried to kill the infant Jesus; see Matthew 2), nephew of Herod Antipas (who killed John the Baptist — Mark 6:14-29 — and examined Jesus on Good Friday — Luke 23:6-16), and father of Herod Agrippa II (who heard the defense of Paul before Festus — Acts 25:13-26:32). James was first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom, and the only one whose death is recorded in the New Testament.

James is often called "James Major" (also "the Greater" or "the Elder") to distinguish him from other New Testament people named James. Tradition has it that he made a missionary journey to Spain, and that after his death his body was taken to Spain and buried there at Compostela. His supposed burial place there was a major site of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, and the Spaniards fighting to drive their Moorish conquerors out of Spain took "Santiago de Compostela!" (Saint James of Compostela) as one of their chief war-cries. (The Spanish form of "James" is Diego or Iago. In most languages, "James" and "Jacob" are identical. Where an English Bible has "James," a Greek Bible has Iakobos.

The sword (the instrument of his death) and the scallop shell are both traditional representations of the apostle.

Lection

Psalm 16 or Psalm 103:19-22
1 Kings 19:9-18
Romans 8:28-39 or Acts 11:27-12:3a
Matthew 20:20-28 or Mark 10:35-45

Collect

Grant, O Lord, that as Saint James the apostle readily followed the calling of Your Son Jesus Christ, we may by Your grace be enabled to forsake all false and passing allurements and follow Him alone; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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