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Lutheran Aardvark

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

31 March 2016
  + 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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27 March 2016
  The Resurrection of Our Lord
Easter Sunday, New Testament

Resurrection Easter Sermon from John Chrysostom

Are there any who are devout lovers of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Are there any who are grateful servants?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!
If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first.
To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!
First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry.
Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!
Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.

He destroyed Hell when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said, “You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below.”
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, O Death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

Lection (Series C)

Easter Sunrise

Psalm 118:15-29
Job 19:23-27
1 Corinthians 15:51-57
John 20:1-18

Easter Day

Psalm 16
Isaiah 65:17-25
1 Corinthians 15:19-26
Luke 24:1-12

Easter Evening

Psalm 100
Exodus 15:1-18 or Daniel 12:1c-3
Acts 10:34-43 or 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8
Luke 24:13-35 (36-49)

Lection (One Year)

Easter Sunrise

Psalm 16
Isaiah 25:6-9 or Exodus 14:10-15:1
1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or 1 Corinthians 15:12-25
John 20:1-18

Easter Day

Psalm 118:15-29
Job 19:23-27
1 Corinthians 5:6-8 or 1 Corinthians 15:51-57
Mark 16:1-8

Easter Evening

Psalm 100
Exodus 15:1-18
Acts 10:34-43
Luke 24:13-35


Easter Sunrise

Almighty and most merciful God, pour out on us Your abundant blessing that all who in true faith share this time in joyful celebration of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead may be filled with Your heavenly benediction. Once we were in darkness, but now we are in the Light, even Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Easter Day

Almighty God the Father, through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, You have overcome death and opened the gate of everlasting life to us. Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of our Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by Your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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26 March 2016
  God Rested
Holy Saturday

"On the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. (Genesis 2:2 ESV)"

Christ in the Tomb
Ask the Pastor posted in 2006 on Christ's Sabbath in the tomb as He moved from His state of humiliation into His eternal exaltation at the right hand of the Father. We anticipate with quiet joy the first celebration of His resurrection during tonight's Vigil and, should God allow us the morrow, the fullness of the Feast of the Resurrection in Scripture, sermon, psalms, prayers, and hymns of gladness.


Psalm 16
Daniel 6:1-24
1 Peter 4:1-8 (Three Year Lectionary Cycle) or 1 Peter 3:17-22 (One Year Lectionary Cycle)

The Holy Gospel

"When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

"Next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, 'Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, "After three days I will rise." Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, "He has risen from the dead," and the last fraud will be worse than the first.' Pilate said to them, 'You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.' So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. (Matthew 27:57-66 ESV)"


Abide with us, Lord, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. Abide with us and with Your whole Church. Abide with us in the end of the day, in the end of our life, in the end of the world. Abide with us with Your strength and blessing. Abide with us when the night of affliction and temptation comes upon us, the night of fear and despair when death shall come. Abide with us and with all the faithful through time and eternity.

Painting of The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb by Hans Holbein the Younger at the Web Gallery of Art.

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25 March 2016
  The Annunciation of Our Lord
25 March, New Testament
Transferred to 4 April AD 2016

NOTE: Regarding the transfer of this major feast, the Lutheran Service Book: Altar Book states on page 960, It is appropriate to observe this feast day in all its fullness during Lent. However, according to historical precedent, when the Annunciation falls during Holy Week or on Easter Day (or also on the Fifth Sunday in Lent in the one-year series), it should not be observed at those times but may be transferred to a weekday following the Second Sunday of Easter. In most of Eastern Christendom, rather than transferring the Annunciation, it is celebrated fully. In Orthodoxy, this normally means the celebratory Liturgy of John Chrysostom.

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.


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


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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  Good Friday
Friday in Holy Week, New Testament

Good Friday The Father chose to sacrifice His Son rather than banish sinful mankind to an eternity of suffering. Also, Christ died because the Scriptures which point to the coming Savior "require" his suffering and death.

The most noted of these prophecies is probably Isaiah 52:13-53:12. Through the prophet, the Lord predicts what would happen to His faithful Servant: "He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities. (53:5)" He was "like a lamb that is led to the slaughter (53:7)" and "was cut off out of the land of the living. (53:8)" Finally, "They made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. (53:9)"

God cannot go back on His Word. From Creation's dawn, He warned that sin always results in death. Someone had to die, either one innocent Man or millions and billions of guilty people. Through Paul, God said, "The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a)"

However, God applied the life-giving "wages" earned by His sinless Son as payment in full on our accounts and credited us with Jesus' perfection. Likewise, the deadly wages that were our due were paid in full to Jesus in His suffering and death. Because of this, "the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (23b)" (Adapted from Jesus' Death at Ask the Pastor; used by permission.)

Lection — Three Year Cycle

Psalm 22 or Psalm 31
Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
John 18:1-19:42 or John 19:17-30

Lection — One Year Cycle

Psalm 22 or Psalm 31
Isaiah 52:13-53:12
2 Corinthians 5:14-21
John 18:1-19:42


Almighty God, Your Son Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross so that He might draw the whole world to Himself. Grant that we who glory in His death for our salvation may also glory in His call to take up our cross and follow Him; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Almighty God, graciously behold this Your family for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, to be given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death on the cross; through the same Jesus Christ, who now lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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24 March 2016
  Holy Thursday
or Maundy Thursday, New Testament

Last Supper The Church uses this fifth day of Holy Week to remember the institution of the Lord's Supper. From the account of the Upper Room in John 13:1-15, some have called it the Day of Foot Washing.

"Maundy" may come from the Latin Bible's rendering of John 13:34, where Jesus gave the disciples a new mandatum (commandment) in the upper room: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another."

Another idea is that it grew out from an ancient custom of carrying gifts to the poor in hand baskets (known as "maunds" or "maund baskets") on that day.

Of much more importance than the name of the day is the gift Jesus gave. For on this night on which He was betrayed, our Savior gave first to His disciples His very body and blood for them to eat and to drink. Under bread and wine, He continues to give this gift, that we also might eat His flesh, drink His blood, and receive forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

Lection — Three Year Cycle

Option I

Psalm 116:12-19
Jeremiah 31:31-34
Hebrews 10:15-25
Luke 22:7-20

Option II

Psalm 116:12-19
Exodus 12:1-14
1 Corinthians 11:23-32
John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Lection — One Year Cycle

Psalm 116:12-19
Exodus 12:1-14 or Exodus 24:3-11
1 Corinthians 11:23-32
John 13:1-15 (34-35)


O Lord, in this wondrous Sacrament You have left us a remembrance of Your passion. Grant that we may so receive the sacred mystery of Your body and blood that the fruits of Your redemption may continually be manifest in us; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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22 March 2016
  + 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.


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


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.

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20 March 2016
  Palm Sunday
also Sunday of the Passion
20 March AD 2016

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 C

John 12:12-19 (Palm Sunday Procession)

Psalm 118:19-29 or 31:9-16
Deuteronomy 32:36-39
Philippians 2:5-11
Luke 22:1-23:56 or Luke 23:1-56 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


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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19 March 2016
  + 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.

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?

St. Joseph and Jesus Joseph was a pious Jew, a descendant of David, and — as normally translated — a carpenter by trade. Actually, the the Greek word τέκτων (tekton) that is used in the Gospels can mean "builder" or "architect." Scholars suggest that Joseph may have been a repairman, a general craftsman, or a building contractor. And while other words are used in classical Greek, it's possible that tekton had a broader meaning in the Greek of the Scriptures and that Joseph may have been a metalworker, a stoneworker, or a mason.

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 likely before His baptism in the Jordan (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.


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


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 2016
  + 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.


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


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 2016
  + 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 Silesian and Swabian pastors asked Matthias to refute Caspar Schwenckfeld, who taught that "the inner word of the spirit must be differentiated from the external word spoken by the preacher; that the living Word of God is not the Scriptures but Christ, and that the Scriptures must be interpreted spiritually." This appeal to a subjective understanding and acceptance of an inner word hidden in the hearts of believers rather than the divinely inspired and clearly stated external Word went against all he'd learned from the reformers on the literal sense of the text. Of Schwenckfeld's spiritualizing of the Bible, Flacius said, "Spiritual exegesis [explanation] fits Scripture like a fist fits into an eye."

In all of his theology, 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 on the Internet Archive 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.

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07 March 2016
  + Perpetua and Felicitas and Their Companions +
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.


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


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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03 March 2016
  + John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony +
3 March AD 1554

Johann Friedrich I John Frederick (Johann Friedrich), eldest son of John the Steadfast and nephew of Frederick the Wise of Saxony, was born in Torgau on 30 June 1503. He earned the appellation "John the Magnanimous" (der Grossmütige) because of his generous spirit and gracious bearing during trials.

John Frederick studied under George Spalatin and through him became an early supporter of Martin Luther. In 1530, he traveled to the Diet of Augsburg and joined his father in signing the Augsburg Confession. In 1532, he and his half-brother John Ernest (Johann Ernst) succeeded John the Steadfast He became sole Elector of Ernestine Saxony 1542, ruling until 1547.

Impulsive by nature, he lacked the foresight and forbearance of many politicians and he often ignored the wise counsel of Chancellor Brück, who had also worked under his father. Because of his staunch Lutheranism, he couldn't abide Philip of Hesse's desire to extend the Schmalkaldic League to include Swiss and Strasburg reformers. His personal piety also recoiled at Philip's bigamy and he insisted that the League retain a strict Evangelical (Lutheran) theology.

John Frederick set aside the 1541 election of Julius von Pflug to the see of Naumburg-Zeitz, promoting avowed Lutheran Nicholas von Amsdorf in his stead. In 1542, he unilaterally attempted to introduce the Reformation to the city of Wurzen, a city under the joint protection of Electoral and Ducal Saxony. This antagonized Maurice, Duke of Saxony. Only the efforts of Luther and Philip of Hesse were able to avert war between the two Saxonies.

His suspicious nature led him to doubt the efficacy of councils and colloquies and he neglected to attend diets and other meetings where he might have gained support and built alliances.

As Charles V prepared his attack on the Schmalkaldic League, John Frederick was misled and reacted slowly to the Emperor's threat. When the Schmalkaldic War broke out in July 1546, he took his army from Saxony to engage the imperial forces but returned when Maurice, who had joined with Charles V, invaded Electoral Saxony. He was able to repel Maurice and retake most of his lost lands but then suffered defeat at the hands of imperial forces at Mühlberg on 24 April 1547.

Charles V initially condemned him to death for his part in the rebellion against the Holy Roman Empire. However, the sentence was commuted to life in prison when Wittenberg surrendered. Maurice released him in 1552 after he defeated and drove off Charles V. However, his title remained in Maurice's hands.

To the end, John Frederick refused under any circumstances to renounce or compromise his Evangelical understanding of Scripture and his complete adherence to Lutheran doctrine.

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01 March 2016
  + Saint Dewi of Mynyw +
1 March AD 601

Saint David of Wales Dewi Sant (also Degui or David), Bishop and Confessor and patron of Wales, is usually represented standing on a little hill, with a dove on his shoulder. From ancient times, the Welsh have worn a leek on St. David's Day in memory of a battle against the Saxons. There, it is said they wore leeks in their hats at St. David's advice, to distinguish them from their enemies. The Welsh honor him not only as their patron saint but as special evangelist of their land, just as Pádraig holds that honor for Ireland.

The earliest mention of St. David is found in a tenth-century manuscript, the Annales Cambriae, which assigns his death to AD 601. Many other writers, from Geoffrey of Monmouth down to Father Richard Stanton, hold that he died about 544; their opinion is based solely on data given in various late "lives" of St. David, and there seems no good reason for setting aside the definite statement of the Annales Cambriae, which is now generally accepted.

Speculation that he was born at Henvynyw (Vetus-Menevia) in Cardiganshire is not improbable. He was prominent at the Synod of Brevi (Llandewi Brefi in Cardiganshire). Dewi was active in refuting heresy in Wales and in promoting Nicene Christology and the orthodox Christian faith.

Flag of Saint DavidAccording to tradition, Saints Dubricius and Deiniol sought him out, calling him to the Synod of Brevi "against the Pelagians."* Only with great difficulty was Dewi persuaded to accompany them, since he preferred the quiet monastic life. However, once he arrived at the Synod, he preached so loudly and so eloquently that all the heretics were confounded. Shortly afterwards, in 569, he presided over another synod held at a place called Lucus Victoriae.

David is the only one of the four patron saints of the British Isles not to be represented on the British Union Jack flag. The Alley's biography for Saint Andrew touches upon each of these and their respective emblems.

*For more information on Pelagianism, please see Pelagius, Part 1 and Pelagius, Part 2 by Pastor Alex Klages.


Psalm 16:5-11 or 96:1-7
1 Thessalonians 2:2b-12
Mark 4:26-29


Almighty God, who called your servant Dewi to be a faithful and wise steward of your mysteries for the people of Wales, mercifully grant that, following his purity of life and zeal for the gospel of Christ, we may with him receive the crown of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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