Bare Ruined Choirs

In Sonnet LXXIII Shakespeare wrote

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long

Not one of his happiest, but it accords well with my feelings, this fall. It hasn’t been a year I would wish on anybody, but this is the season when I understand why All Hollow’s is sometimes called Totenfest by those of German heritage. Tomorrow is the Feast day of Our Lady of Walsingham, and for me, that has significance as well. Six years ago, I had never heard of Walsingham, let alone this representation of Mary, but One summer day in 2012, Jessica became my dearest friend at almost the moment she lit a candle for me at the shrine. The main part of the story begins here. I have ever since found Mary a worthwhile conduit for my prayers. But for me, it’s specifically the Walsingham representation. Earlier this year,  Fr Matthew Pittam wrote in the Catholic Herald about his feeling for the Shrine.

 

Whilst visiting this year I met some other pilgrims who were unfavourably comparing Walsingham to other well-known European Shrines that they had visited. It is true Walsingham is no Lourdes or Fatima but for me that is part of the appeal of the place. It seems right that the English National Shrine is understated, reflecting the character of the English themselves.

The story of Our Lady’s Shrine and the meaning of its message demand a much tenderer charism than Walsingham’s more flamboyant European cousins. Above all Walsingham is a memorial to the Annunciation. The whole place speaks softly of Our Lady’s ‘Yes’ to God. Mary’s encounter with the Angel Gabriel was abundantly full of humility, generosity and peace. The quieter pace and rhythm of our National Shrine really can take us to the heart of this life changing and life-giving moment.

The location of Walsingham is also understated. It is not set amidst mountain grandeur but nestles within the pleasant rolling meadows of the Stiffkey Valley, echoing the gentleness of the shrine’s own spirituality and Our Lady. The whole place seems to be set apart for peaceful encounter.

He nails it for me. Without the slightest intention to be offensive, much of Roman Catholicism is too ornate, too baroque, and the decoration, like some of the verbiage, is over extravagant for me. That’s not a knock on it, it simply doesn’t fit with this working guy of Lutheran Scandinavian heritage. I’m no iconoclast, but enough is enough. Both the Roman Catholic and the Anglo-Catholic shrines at Walsingham have a northern European feel about them, which I find comforting. I’m still of my roots, I have found it comforting to talk with Our Lady, as Jessica once said, it feels rather like talking to Mom, which in a sense it is.

And then there is the relief, that I have felt on several occasions, after talking with Her, usually not the formal Rosary, although I do that sometimes as well, mostly sitting here, meditating silently directed towards Her. The old man’s knees aren’t really up to kneeling much anymore, anyway. 🙂

Strangely, it is only 3 years, nearly to the day, since the Abbess from Walsingham came to Jessica’s hospital bed to pray over her and sprinkle her with Walsingham water, giving her some ease, and then again a mere two weeks later, just after she received the last rites, she again prayed over her and sprinkled her. Two days later she was out of her coma, without pain and cancer free. A remarkable testimony to the power of prayer.

A year after that Mary Katherine Ham lost her husband,  Jake in a bicycle accident while pregnant with their second child. It was one of those things that shocked many of us, this young vibrant couple, and him suddenly gone. She wrote about it this week at The Federalist.

I love the idea of the divine spark. It crosses a lot of cultures and religions, the idea that you carry a bit of the Creator inside you, that it animates your life.

Jake’s life always brings to mind a spark and then some. Jake’s soul, to me, was a bonfire. He was here and he was in your face and he was warm and bright. He roared with enthusiasm at the beginning, even the hope of something new, sometimes a little too much. His glow was infectious, throwing sparks into the night air, silhouetted against a dark sky before they landed on everyone in his vicinity. He mellowed to embers as the night wore on, usually over a glass of bourbon or a beer.

I lived seven years of my life looking into a bonfire. I warmed my hands and found comfort in its flame. There were times when I damn near burnt myself or got a giant waft of smoke at exactly the wrong time.  Because that’s life. And that’s fire. It’s not all s’mores and sweetness.

Everyone who’s loved someone knows that light and warmth. Everyone who’s lost someone knows the feeling when it goes dark and cold one day.

When that happens at any time, it’s jarring. When it happens without warning, even more.

The light went out. This fire I’d stood next to for seven years just went out, like a flood light on a switch. Boom. Imagine staring into a fire, and then suddenly turning 180 degrees to survey the woods behind you. I couldn’t see. I was standing in what otherwise was my life, and I knew all the other parts of it were there, but I couldn’t understand its contours anymore. I was standing in my own life, blinded, blinking away those disorienting shimmery green spots.

Brilliant, simply brilliant. But you know when we lose someone we love, not even always to death, it’s like that as well. It was for me when my marriage broke up, and even though my sisters, parents and brothers-in-law lived full lives, in truth as much as could be expected, they have left a hole, that cannot be filled.

And so it was for me, a year ago today, when I received the last email from  Jessica, who as far as I know is healthy, happy, and busy. Too busy or some other unexplained reason, to maintain the friendship that turned to love on my part, more than I ever felt for another human being. And get your mind out of the gutter, yes she is beautiful, but I loved her before I knew that, far more a case of Agape than Eros. She was my friend, the best one I’ll ever have. And even Our Lady of Walsingham has found no way to comfort me. I’m reconciled that I must go on more alone than I have ever been, but have little appetite for it. Which is why that sonnet speaks loudly to me.

Walsingham, and Our Lady are her legacy to me, and I thank God for them everyday. But it does make me think of another poem.

Weepe, weepe O Walsingham,
Whose dayes are nightes,
Blessings turned to blasphemies,
Holy deeds to dispites.

Sinne is where our Ladie sate,
Heaven turned is to hell,
Sathan sittes where our Lord did swaye,
Walsingham oh farewell.

But it is true that while Eliot was writing of Little Gidding, I’ve always thought that this applied as well to Walsingham

           If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.
Here, the intersection of the timeless moment
Is England and nowhere. Never and always.

We merely have to trust God that Dame Julian of Norwich was correct.

‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’

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Charlie Gard: The Saga Continues

Time to speak again about Charlie Gard, that brain damaged British child whom the British health care system thinks needs to die, against his parents’ wishes, and in the face of possible treatment. We’ve spoken of this before, here, here, and here. The hearing has happened, and his parents left appearing rather distraught.

No surprise there. From the Catholic Herald.

They said that Judge Nicholas Francis had misquoted their earlier statements

The parents of a baby with a rare disease stormed out of a London court hearing in an emotional outburst Thursday, as the couple tried to convince a judge to let them take their critically ill child to the United States for medical treatment.

Charlie Gard’s parents are challenging the view of the Great Ormond Street Hospital, arguing that treatment abroad is in the best interest of the 11-month-old suffering from a rare genetic condition.

A succession of judges has backed specialists at the hospital who argue experimental treatment in America won’t help and may cause suffering for Charlie. The parents hoped to present fresh evidence to alter that view.

Two hours into the High Court hearing, questions from Judge Nicholas Francis prompted tensions to boil over. Charlie’s mother, Connie Yates, accused Francis of misquoting her earlier statements about Charlie’s quality of life.

In other words, they think they are being railroaded, and it’s quite likely they are. Catholicism Pure and Simple adds this.

The case of 11-month old Charlie Gard is bringing out the worst in the “Death with Dignity Movement.” By appointing Victoria Butler-Cole, a death with dignity advocate, as the lawyer representing Charlie in court against his parents, the death with dignity movement has crossed the line from advocating for individuals’ wishes to projecting its views onto innocent children who are too young to have indicated that “death with dignity” is something they want.

Charlie Gard, an 11-month-old living in the UK, has an extremely rare mitochondrial disorder. An experimental treatment exists that has a chance—although a small chance—at recovering his muscle function and allowing him to have a happy life. His parents will be in court Thursday asking the court to allow him to receive this experimental treatment. His hospital and others argue that the treatment is too experimental—that it has only been tested in a lab—but the same hospital has used equally-experimental treatment before.

From the CH article:

“Unlike the US, English law is focused on the protection of children’s rights,” said Jonathan Montgomery, professor of health care law at University College London. “The US is the only country in the world that is not party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; it does not recognise that children have rights independent of their parents.”

Yeah, and maybe there is a reason the United States hasn’t signed on to that convention. It avoids having the state appoint a pro death attorney to oppose the parents’ wishes.

Look, none of us, most especially those of us without expertise, and full knowledge have a complete understanding here. It’s quite possible that, objectively, it would be better for the parents to let him go. But you know, it’s not my decision, it’s not your decision, most assuredly it is none of the state’s business, especially a state like the UK that encourages mothers to commit abortion for almost no reason at all. It is, as it has always been, the parents’ responsibility. And they want to continue treatment.

In an article on The Conservative Woman yesterday about this matter, a friend of mine commented.

A source close to the parents told The Daily Telegraph: “The family find it astonishing that the quango that appointed the barrister to act in the interests of Charlie Gard is the chairman of Compassion in Dying, the sister body of Dignity in Dying, formerly known as the Voluntary Euthanasia Society. The implication is obvious. It looks like a profound conflict of interest.”

This is part of a comment I made on that same article. I can’t improve on what I said there.

But the real point here is this. Whose child is it? Is he the parent’s child? Or is he the property of the state? That is the real determination to be made. If he belongs to his parent’s, they have a right to have him treated, at their own expense. If he is the property of the state, it has the right to deprive him of his life. It’s a very simple question, really, and a very serious one, for us all. Because it applies to us all.

Culture of Death, indeed.

Do also understand that in large measure, this case has been driven by the American right-to-life groups, who have done so much to point out the horrors of abortion as well. The British groups are getting on board, especially the truly conservative groups and Catholic ones, but the support for these parents has come overwhelmingly from the States. It is still another mainfestation of the healthy distrust of government that Americans feel, something our British cousins largely lack, to their detriment. They are learning, Brexit was a sign of that, but it will take time. Time Magazine, of all places, said this:

The twist in the legal case comes as a movement to bring Charlie to the U.S. has become an international campaign, bolstered by the involvement of conservative groups from the United States led by Catholics and evangelicals . Major attention on the case first picked up outside the U.K. when Pope Francis said in a Vatican statement that he was following the case “with affection and sadness” and prayed that Charlie’s parents’ “wish to accompany and treat their child until the end isn’t neglected.”

The following day President Donald Trump tweeted to his 33.7 million followers that he would be “delighted” to help Charlie, and the saga reached an entirely new audience. Suddenly, the case of Charlie Gard was being discussed in churches and by socially conservative groups across the U.S. On July 6, the Susan B. Anthony List, March for Life, Concerned Women of America and Americans United for Life — all socially conservative groups active in opposition to abortion — held a joint press conference in Washington D.C., where they announced the launch of a campaign to ‘Save Charlie Gard,’ including a petition and a “social media push” to raise awareness and support for Charlie and his parents.

“Who do we think we are [to] decide who gets to live and who doesn’t, whose life is valuable and whose is not?” Penny Nance, CEO and president of Concerned Women for America, told attendees during the event. “This is way above our pay grade. This is a matter for God.”

And so it is.

 

The Feast of Bede the Venerable

The first great English historian, patron of writers and historians, writer of what is still the standard history of Anglo-Saxon England in his Historia Ecclesiastica, the only English-born Doctor of the Church, and the first to translate the Bible into English. He was born about 672 and died on 26 May 735, which, as it is this year, was the feast of the Ascension.

From A Clerk of Oxford:

[…]This is a lovely coincidence (or occasional mercy, rather) because the feast of the Ascension and the words of its liturgy were in Bede’s mind, and on his lips, as he lay dying. We know this because a moving account of Bede’s death was recorded by a monk named Cuthbert, a former pupil of Bede’s and later abbot of Wearmouth-Jarrow. Cuthbert was present at Bede’s deathbed, and this is how he describes his death.

For nearly a fortnight before the Feast of our Lord’s Resurrection he was troubled by weakness and breathed with great difficulty, although he suffered little pain. Thenceforward until Ascension Day he remained cheerful and happy, giving thanks to God each hour day and night. He gave daily lessons to us his students, and spent the rest of the day in singing the psalms so far as his strength allowed. He passed the whole night in joyful prayer and thanksgiving to God, except when slumber overcame him; but directly he awoke, he continued to meditate on spiritual themes, and never failed to thank God with hands outstretched. I can truthfully affirm that I have never seen or heard of anyone who gave thanks so unceasingly to the living God as he.

O truly blessed man! He used to repeat the saying of the holy Apostle Paul, ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’, and many other sayings from holy scripture, and in this manner he used to arouse our souls by the consideration of our last hour. Being well-versed in our native songs, he described to us the dread departure of the soul from the body by a verse in our own tongue, which translated means: ‘Before setting forth on that inevitable journey, none is wiser than the man who considers – before his soul departs hence – what good or evil he has done, and what judgement his soul will receive after its passing’.

The English translation of John’s Gospel which Bede was working on at his death has not survived, and nor have any of Bede’s other English writings (it’s not clear whether his ‘Death Song’ was of his own composition, or if he is quoting a poem he knew). But a century or so after Bede’s death, an Anglo-Saxon poet composed a poem on the Ascension which must be one of the greatest poems ever written on that subject. I quoted it at length here, but this is my favourite part:

Swa se fæla fugel flyges cunnode;
hwilum engla eard up gesohte,
modig meahtum strang, þone maran ham,
hwilum he to eorþan eft gestylde,
þurh gæstes giefe grundsceat sohte,
wende to worulde. Bi þon se witga song:
‘He wæs upp hafen engla fæðmum
in his þa miclan meahta spede,
heah ond halig, ofer heofona þrym.’
…Wæs se siexta hlyp,
haliges hyhtplega, þa he to heofonum astag
on his ealdcyððe. þa wæs engla þreat
on þa halgan tid hleahtre bliþe
wynnum geworden. Gesawan wuldres þrym,
æþelinga ord, eðles neosan,
beorhtra bolda. þa wearð burgwarum
eadgum ece gefea æþelinges plega.

So the beautiful bird ventured into flight.
Now he sought the home of the angels,
that glorious country, bold and strong in might;
now he swung back to earth again,
sought the ground by grace of the Spirit,
returned to the world. Of this the prophet sang:
‘He was lifted up in the arms of angels
in the great abundance of his powers,
high and holy, above the glory of the heavens.’
…The sixth leap,
the Holy One’s hope-play, was when he ascended to heaven
into his former home. Then the throng of angels
in that holy tide was made merry with laughter,
rapt with joy. They saw the glory of majesty,
first of princes, seek out his homeland,
the bright mansions. After that the blessed city-dwellers
endlessly delighted in the Prince’s play.

Here is where English, British, and American written history begins, where it ends depends, in large part in our diligence in studying what has come before.

Also: Bede’s death — NEWMAN LECTURES.

Julian of Norwich

Today is the Feast day of Mother Julian of Norwich in the Anglican and Lutheran traditions. She’s one of my favorite what? (not sure, she’s not a formal saint, but far more than merely the first published woman author in English). Mystic will perhaps do. I’ve written about her before, of course, here’s a bit.

“Her theology is interesting, she comes fairly close to being an Universalist, although some of it appears to be based somewhat on St. Augustine, and her thinking is such that I have heard her called a Proto-Lutheran because it does somewhat parallel Luther’s beliefs.”

It’s true enough, although she uses different terms and conditions she unmistakeably (at least to me) read as a “Theologian of the Cross”, in Lutheran terms. There are echoes too of Wycliffe and Langland’s Pier Plowman here as well. In sum, I find her firmly on the road that would lead to the Reformation, but not stridently enough to concern the church in her lifetime.

She also, while enclosed as an Anchoress, gave advice to many who came to her cell, including Margery of Kempe, the author of the first autobiography in English, from (what we would call) nearby Bishop’s (now King’s) Lynn. Margery rather sounds like she was a “bloody and difficult woman”, a trait not unknown amongst Englishwomen in any age. In fact, she got herself tried for heresy several times.

But Julian lived a quieter life. Susan Abernethy gives the best write up I know of it.

From her writings, we know that Julian was most likely born in 1342. She lived in Norwich or nearby and may have been from a privileged family. Her real name is not given in her texts. She may have taken her name from the parish church of St. Julian at Conisford in Norwich where she had a cell and lived as an anchoress or perhaps her real name was Julian or Juliana which was a common name at the time. We don’t know if she married or if she had children or even if she was a nun. We don’t know how she got the education that allowed her to write her books. Julian may have learned reading and writing from her mother or from the priests in her parish. Throughout her writing it is evident she sought teachings and preaching from her local priests. Everyday medieval life was inextricably linked to the church.

Norwich at the time of Julian’s life was a vibrant town whose wealth came from sheep breeding and wool production. There was trade with the Low Countries, Zeeland and France. At the time of Julian’s birth, Norwich had a population of about ten thousand and it was the second largest city in England. She and her family would have spoken English. Latin was spoken in the churches and the merchants and upper classes spoke French. A decade after her birth, the King made English the official language of his court.

When Julian was six years old, Norwich was visited by the pestilence known as the Black Death for the first time. Julian herself survived but within a year, three quarters of the population of the city was dead. It persisted for three years. The city itself came to a standstill. There were no workers to repair roads or shepherd the sheep. The wool trade ceased. Slowly, slowly life came back to the city.

When Julian was nineteen, the steeple of Norwich Cathedral fell to the ground in the storm. It seemed to be an omen. A few months later the Black Death returned and this time it targeted infants and small children. Medieval people believed the plague was sent by God as punishment for man’s sins. But everyone from all walks of life and all classes died from the plague. It was a confusing and perplexing time. The plague returned once again in 1368 along with a cattle plague and a bad harvest the next year.

I wrote a bit about her theology in Julian of Norwich: The ‘Sharpness’ of Sin. But hey, Mondays are bad enough, let’s have a conversation between Mother Julian and Rev. Dr. Luther, shall we?

NARRATOR: I came early this morning to set up, and no one was here. I was tired so I sat down on the chancel steps, and fell asleep. And I had the strangest dream: Julian of Norwich had a conversation with Martin Luther …..

ANGEL: (singing, from the balcony) “I want Jesus to walk with me, I want Jesus to walk with me, all along my pilgrim journey, Lord I want Jesus to walk with me.” (ELW #325)

LUTHER: (appearing from behind the pulpit, holding a large Bible, opened, in one hand, his feather ink pen in the other) “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect!” (Matthew 5:48, Gospel for Epiphany 7A) What does this mean?

JULIAN: (appearing in her cell, sitting on a stool, leaning upon the reading desk) What does this mean to you?

LUTHER: Who are you?

JULIAN: Julian of Norwich.

LUTHER: Are you one of those uber-enthusiasts, I call Schwaermer in my native German tongue? Julian of Norwich, that’s hardly the way to relate to the Lord.

ANGEL: (singing) “I want Jesus to walk with me; I want Jesus to walk with me; all along my pilgrim journey, Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me.”

JULIAN: How did you learn that you couldn’t be perfect as God is perfect, by your efforts alone? What did you do?

LUTHER: At first, I rubbed the tips of my fingers raw washing the floors in the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt. That didn’t help my conscience. So, in 1510 I decided to go off to Rome. I crawled devoutly up the stairs of the Scala Santa, as millions of other pilgrims did.

JULIAN: Life, itself, Martin offers its own penance: disappointments, failures, sickness, betrayals. Life, if we but allow it, purges us of all the things for which our habits and affections grasp. Why on earth did you do all those things?

LUTHER: I laboured and sacrificed so much in order to purge myself of sin. It was up to me, I believed, to make myself right before God. It all depended on how hard I worked and the more penitential I became. I tried to impress God. I once believed my good works were the gateway to my salvation; only then, could I be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect.

JULIAN: What happened to change your understanding?

LUTHER: It was on the Scala Santa in Rome as I made my wearisome, guilt-ridden way up those holy stairs, I heard God’s voice saying to me: ‘The just shall live by faith, not by doing penance.’ It was like scales fell from my eyes. I stood up, walked back down, and stalked out to ignite the Reformation!

JULIAN: You heard God’s voice speak to you! How do you know that it was God who spoke? Was it the only time you heard the voice of God speak to you? It seems quite an experience, no? Did you not criticize the ‘Schwaermer’ — as you call them — those ‘fanatics’ who relied on experience alone to express their Spirit-filled faith?

LUTHER: Well, yes .. and no, not just experience alone. I was suffering severe cramps in my room one evening, reading through Paul’s letter to the Romans, when I came across the verse from chapter 3: “Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, we are now justified by God’s grace as a gift, through Jesus Christ” (v.23-24). This word of God is external, and comes to us quite apart from any experience we might have.

JULIAN: But you are not denying that God comes to us and speaks to us through our experiences?

LUTHER: Only when mediated through the Word.

JULIAN: I see, “Only when mediated by the Word.” And what, for you Martin, is the “Word’?

LUTHER: The spoken word, preached and proclaimed. The words in the bible. And, most importantly, the living Word made flesh, Jesus Christ.

Do continue with Martin Luther & Julian of Norwich.

Mother Julian wrote, and it is important for us to remember…

“If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.”

And that is important, we are, none of us, perfect and the world shall trouble us. but she also reminds us that in the next world if not this one (in Elliot’s words)

Sin is Behovely, but
All shall be well, and
All manner of thing shall be well.
If I think, again, of this place,
And of people, not wholly commendable,
Of no immediate kin or kindness,
But of some peculiar genius,
All touched by a common genius,
United in the strife which divided them;

[…]

Whatever we inherit from the fortunate
We have taken from the defeated
What they had to leave us—a symbol:
A symbol perfected in death.
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
By the purification of the motive
In the ground of our beseeching.

 

 

Reformation Sunday

The Martin Luther window at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Charleston, SC

The Martin Luther window at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Charleston, SC

Today,  499 years ago, a priest (and a monk) by the name of Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to the door of the Slosskirche in Wittenberg, All Saints Church. Some say this started the Reformation, and in a way it did. But these were things he thought the church should discuss, and this was the normal method of bringing them to the authorities attention.

And see that’s the thing, the Reformation didn’t really get going until the Roman Church excommunicated Luther, that’s when he decided he had no more choice. And I note that the Roman Church also reformed along the same line quite soon as well. Even in churches, competition is a good thing, it seems. But there were some bad consequences as well of this schism 500 years ago, such as the 30 Years War which devastated Germany.

Some people have told me that every 400 years the laity have to reform the church, and you know it does sort of seem like it. At Chalcedon in 451 we lost the Copts, In the Great Schism in 1054 the Orthodox split off from Rome, and in 1517  the Reformation got started. Well, it’s 2016 now, and all our churches seem riven by strife, What’s next? I doubt anyone knows, but I think we’d be well advised to stick pretty close together, or Islam or cultural relativism might inherit the earth. Perilous times, indeed.

So maybe it’s a good time to reiterate what it really means to be a Lutheran since Rev. Dr. Luther started this whole Reformation thing going. Mostly, we think Rome just got too involved with what we call “The Kingdom of the Left” as opposed to the “Kingdom of the Right”. To us, you were the schismatics. This article is by  writing in ”believe, teach, and confess”it is one of the best summaries of what it really means to be a Lutheran that I have every read. Enjoy.

Over the past three decades I am often asked what it means to be Lutheran. What do Lutherans believe? What is most important? How does that work out in practice? This is just a brief introduction to those questions. Despite “popular” views, Lutherans do not follow Martin Luther. Rather, we confess the same Christian faith he did; hence we do not support everything he wrote. Martin Luther appeared at critical time in church history and had a significant influence on the entire Christian Church, but we do not “follow him,” rather Jesus Christ and him crucified. The name “Lutheran” was originally a derogatory term used by Luther’s enemies. Later, it became a term to distinguish itself from Reformed (Zwingli, Calvin, and later Arminius) as well as from the radical reformation.

Historic Continuity: “The Church has always taught…”

The Lutheran Church sees itself in continuity with the historic Christian Church throughout the ages, not something invented in the 16th century. That is, in most of our official writings (called the Lutheran Confessions), we often use the phrase “As the Church has always taught” to show that what Luther and others publicly were teaching was consistent with the historic church. We frequently use the term “catholic” (meaning “universal”) to denote the true Church throughout the ages, not in reference to the specific church body known as the Roman Catholic Church headed by the pope. This phrase is critical in understanding Lutherans, because while sometimes we look like Roman Catholics, we see the papal church deviating in the Middle Ages and onward from that historic faith. At the time of the Reformation, Luther and others continued what was done that was consistent with the Bible and the Church through the ages, but ridded itself of false teachings (especially in worship). In that sense Lutherans were “conservative” keeping that which was solid and discarding other elements. They could and did keep paintings, statures, icons, as aids to help people learn the stories of the Bible. On the other hand, Zwingli, Calvin and other Reformed leaders wanted to distance their churches from anything that looked Roman Catholic. For them, in regard to worship, they made significant alterations to the order of service and even destroyed what appeared in churches. The Reformed tended to get rid of paintings, statues, and icons. Lutherans use the phrase “believe, teach, and confess” to denote those statement which reflect accurately what the Bible teachings. In line with that, Lutherans accept the three Ecumenical Creeds as accurate statements of the Christian faith from the Bible (Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed). You can find them here.

Continue reading What does this mean… to be Lutheran? « ”believe, teach, and confess”.

One thing we should note in these times when so many try to restrict the availability of the internet and social media. One of the main factors in the success of the Reformation was the availability of a new social medium: The printing press, that spread the word of what was happening all over Europe within a few months, instead of years (if ever) as formerly.

Of course, we must have this, as well

We would also be wise to keep in mind some of the words of Pusey:

Many things will combine to wrest it from you, my younger brethren. Through one thing only can you hold it, the grace of God. New, though false, lights dazzle at the outset of life; novelty attracts ; the old faith may be pictured to you as antiquated ; a strict oneness of faith as illiberal ; the very Love of God is set in array against the Revelation of God, as though God could not mean what yet He has said ; belief in God, as He has revealed Himself, may be pictured to you as derogatory to God. “Go not after them, nor follow them,” is your Saviour’s warning as to those who shall come in His Name, and whom He hath not sent. Old must the faith be, since as soon as man needed redemption, the Redeemer was promised, and the truths of the Gospel lay implicitly involved in the revelation to Adam; and He Who eighteen hundred years ago, more fully declared it as the power of God unto salvation, changeth not. “One” must it be, for contradictories cannot both be true, and He has said, there is “One Faith,” as there is “One God ” and “One Lord.”

And since tomorrow is Halloween, maybe we should talk about that a bit as well

 

and

 

Saturday Stuff

A couple for you today, just because.

Pretty picky, I’d say, but then so am I, I suppose

For a Wife…
Great good nature, and a prudent generosity,
A lively look, a proper spirit, and a cheerful disposition
A good person, but not perfectly beautiful.
Of a moderate height.
With regard to complexion, not quite fair, but a little brown.
Young by all means, though there are exceptions.
A decent share of common sense, just tinctured with a little seasonable repartee, and a small modicum of wit; some learning, enough to make leisure hours agreeable, but not to interrupt domestic duties.
Well, but not critically, skilled in her own tongue.
No deficiency in spelling or pointing, and a good legible hand.
A proper knowledge of accounts and arithmetic, but no skill in vulgar fractions.
A more than tolerable good voice, and a little ear for music; and a capability for singing a canzonet, or a song, in company, but no peculiar and intimate acquaintance with minims, crotchets, quavers, &c.

via Qualifications for A Georgian Wife or Husband, do read it all.

Then perhaps a little Lutheran Satire.

Makes sense to me.

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