Michaelmas? Huh, What?

Yesterday was, in the traditional Catholic calendar, the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Michael, in Italy. In short: Michaelmas.

So what? I hear you ask? Well, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf tells us:

As a “mere” Archangel, Michael belongs to one of the lower choirs.  But such are God’s might and plan, that Michael is the one who restrained Satan, highest in the hierarchy and mightiest of all the angels before his fall.  Michael it will be who chains the great “red dragon” of Revelation 12.

OK, a lot of this strikes me, and maybe you, as Catholic mumbo jumbo and a diminution of the Faith in Christ onto a whole (heavenly) multitude of other characters. And maybe it is. But it also presents in a popular form the many facets of our Faith – here the faith (or Church) Militant defending itself from evil. Something that does appear in short supply these days.

Part of the reason we take note is this is because as Fr Gavin Ashenden tells us:

“After Leo XIII had celebrated a morning Mass, he went to a meeting with the Cardinals. Suddenly he collapsed into unconsciousness. The doctors who came to his aid found no cause for the collapse, although his pulse almost ceased. Suddenly he awoke and was fresh as ever. He reported that he had seen a terrible vision. He was granted to see the devil’s seductiveness and ravaging for the coming ages in all lands. In this distress St. Michael the Archangel appeared and cast Satan with all his demons back into the infernal abyss. Leo XIII thereupon ordered, shortly after 1880, the Common Prayer to St. Michael.”

Pope Leo was so shocked by his vision of the unleashing of evil in the Church and in the world in the 20th Century, he asked all Catholics to pray this prayer after celerbrating the Eucharist.

He then provides us with the prayer Leo taught us:

O glorious Prince of the Heavenly Host, St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in the battle and in the fearful warfare that we are waging against the principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against the evil spirits. Come thou, to the assistance of men, whom Almighty God created immortal, making them in His own image and likeness and redeeming them at a great price from the tyranny of Satan. Fight this day the battle of the Lord with thy legions of holy Angels, even as of old, thou didst fight against Lucifer, the leader of the proud spirits and all his rebel Angels, who were powerless to stand against thee.

Neither was their place found anymore in Heaven. And that apostle Angel, transformed into an Angel of darkness who still creeps about the earth to encompass our ruin, was cast headlong into the abyss together with his followers.

But, behold, that first enemy of mankind, and a murderer from the beginning, has regained his confidence. Changing himself into an Angel of light, he goes about with the whole multitude of the wicked spirits to invade the earth and blot out the Name of God and of His Christ, to plunder, to slay, and to consign to eternal damnation the souls that have been destined for a crown of everlasting life. This wicked serpent, like an unclean torrent, pours into men of depraved minds and corrupt hearts the poison of his malice, the spirit of lying, impiety, and blasphemy, and the deadly breath of impurity and every form of vice and iniquity. These crafty enemies of mankind have filled to overflowing with gall and wormwood the Church, which is the Bride of the Lamb without spot. They have laid profane hands upon her most sacred treasures.

Make haste, therefore, O invincible Prince, to help the people of God against the inroads of the lost spirits and grant us the victory.
Amen.

Now mind, I’m a fairly good Lutheran, I  can’t countenance praying to archangels and such, although I have found it efficacious to ask Jesus’s Mom to intercede with him for me on occasion. But given the way the world currently is, it could do no harm to ask Jesus and his heavenly father to unleash such a doughty champion on our behalf.

Saints and Sinners

Pastor Hans Fiene.

There something interesting going on lately, particularly in conservative blogging. There are suddenly a certain number of the best writers going who write from a Christian, specifically Lutheran, perspective. A surprising number of them get highlighted here, not specifically because they are Lutheran, but because they are so good.

One of them is Rev Hans Fiene, a pastor in the LC Missouri Synod. Thos of you who know the Lutheran synods will know that the LCMS is pretty conservative, which means essentially that they teach the theology that Rev Dr Luther taught. And so Pastor Fiene does. Sound dry boring, and hard doesn’t it? Well, yeah, No. One of the things he does is Lutheran Satire. Here’s another sample that I don’t believe I’ve used before.

He’s very productive so you can find many on YouTube, it’s one of those places where I can spend days, and will if I’m not careful.

In any case, what Pastor Fiene teaches is pure Christian orthodoxy, and in most cases, he does it by making reasonably gentle fun of heterodoxy. All good and well. But he, like any good pastor, can bring it home when it needs to. And after Sutherland Springs he needed to.

I do my best to avoid the most sewer like areas on Twitter but sometimes they flood over like the Mississippi in spring, and this was one of them. Stuff like this.

or this:

Lovely, eh?

Well, Pastor Feine wasn’t amused either, and he thought a bit of a sermon might be in order. So, he wrote this.

However, we should all recognize that pointing to a couple dozen warm corpses and saying, “Fat lot of good your Jebus-begging did you” is an act of profound ugliness.

It’s also an act of profound ignorance. For those with little understanding of and less regard for the Christian faith, there may be no greater image of prayer’s futility than Christians being gunned down mid-supplication. But for those familiar with the Bible’s promises concerning prayer and violence, nothing could be further from the truth. When those saints of First Baptist Church were murdered yesterday, God wasn’t ignoring their prayers. He was answering them.

“Deliver us from evil.” Millions of Christians throughout the world pray these words every Sunday morning. While it doesn’t appear that the Lord’s Prayer is formally a part of the worship services at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, I have no doubt that members of that congregation have prayed these words countless times in their lives.

Evil Isn’t Just Temporal

When we pray these words, we are certainly praying that God would deliver us from evil temporally—that is, in this earthly life. Through these words, we are asking God to send his holy angels to guard us from those who would seek to destroy us with knives and bombs and bullets. It may seem, on the surface, that God was refusing to give such protection to his Texan children. But we are also praying that God would deliver us from evil eternally. Through these same words, we are asking God to deliver us out of this evil world and into his heavenly glory, where no violence, persecution, cruelty, or hatred will ever afflict us again.

We also pray in the Lord’s Prayer that God’s will be done. Sometimes, his will is done by allowing temporal evil to be the means through which he delivers us from eternal evil. Despite the best (or, more accurately, the worst) intentions of the wicked against his children, God hoists them on their own petard by using their wickedness to give those children his victory, even as the wicked often mock the prayers of their prey.

During Christ’s crucifixion, for example, the same chief priests, scribes, and elders who conspired to put Jesus to death mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God’”

Yet God proved his son’s divinity by, three days later, lifting him up out of the death those men gave him. Despite the chief priests, elders, and scribes doing all they could to silence the one who claimed to be the savior of the world, God turned their hatred into the catalyst of the world’s salvation.

Well, as is normal for Christians these days, especially orthodox ones, he pinned a great big target on his back, as I suspect he intended to.

Kim Quade, another one of us Lutherans out here described the shitstorm that enveloped Hans in her article, Lutheran Pastor Sets Off Storm with Article About Texas Massacre. It’s a good article, as well.

And, because Hans Fiene is a pastor with a German name in a German heritage Lutheran church body, someone blew the Nazi dog whistle:

There is absolutely no doubt that the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) – the ‘mainline’ strand of Lutherdom – would never condone such a remark by this right-wing Lutheran pastor. indeed, this right-wing Lutheran pastor happens to be a member of LCMS (Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod). . . Whereas the membership of the LCMS is predominantly German-American, the membership of the ELCA is primarily Scandinavian-American and Finnish-American. . .

And they went on and on. As my husband said, the intellectual wattage demonstrated in that comments thread couldn’t power a 40-watt bulb.

Hans Fiene himself said, in a podcast on the controversy released on Tuesday, that this sentiment is part of ‘outrage addiction,’ which ‘makes us all stupider.’ These people are ‘chasing a dopamine release.’ Fiene also adds that ‘outrage addiction’ exists on the right, as well. Neither camp is exempt.

Sadly, for the hearer of dog whistles, unlike Pastor Fiene and Kim, I’m an ELCA Lutheran, and have been for 30+ years. Much of what the ELCA has temporized out of the basic doctrines of Christianity is pretty bad, just as it is in the Episcopal Church, but the basic doctrine is exactly the same as taught here. Do I personally have problems with a lot of the revisionism in the ELCA? Yep, but not quite enough, yet anyway, to change.

Frankly, I think  Pastor Frank Pomeroy of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, TX, who lost his 14-year-old daughter in the massacre, said it best.

“I don’t understand, but I know my God does.”

“Whatever life brings to you, lean on the Lord rather than your own understanding.”

It’s enough for me, anyway. And I am reminded that Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, long before the Nazis hanged him.

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

 

Feast Day of Our Lady of Walsingham

pic_old-mapSo, today is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Walsingham. Seems strange, even to me, that a hard-headed old Protestant like me would care. Like many of you, I was raised that the veneration of Saints and such tended very close to idolatry. And it can, Martin Luther, himself, warned of it but, he also venerated Mary, the Theotokos, all his life.

In truth, many of us venerate soldiers, sports heroes, even politicians, in much the same way. In essence, it strikes me as little more than a desire to emulate an exemplary person. The Christian overlay provides an opportunity for us to ask them to intercede with God for us, is all.

But, being raised when and how I was, none of this penetrated my thick skull, and I know I was hardly alone. But if we are wise we learn, and we grow as we age. At least for me this is true.

I was introduced to Our Lady of Walsingham by my coauthor, Jess, not long after we met, she made the pilgrimage to Walsingham a few years ago, not long after we were brought together.

With my love of history, I was fascinated by the history and have written some about it, as has Jess. But that is not the point, today, while she was there, she lit a candle and prayed for me (yes, I know, not the kind of thing we Lutherans, or in truth most Anglicans) do. The thing is, I felt a peace go through me at almost the moment she lit it, and sundry other effects as well.

Today, Jess’ coauthor on her blog is commemorating Jess’ writing on Walsingham (in truth, so am I), with a repeat of her first post on her pilgrimage to Walsingham a few years ago, and links to the rest. We both think it a fine occasion to acquaint some of you newer friends with her writing, and it’s power. The story moved us then, and it moves us now. Jess has a knack for persuasive writing, in truth much of the basis of our friendship, and yes love, will be found in the series of posts, he links. It’s called Our Lady of Walsingham, so go there already, I’ll wait.

It fired our friendship, and it especially did so in three areas, our love of God, a shared passion for history, and my renewed love of poetry. How can one not be moved by Eliot’s

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.

For here, at Walsingham is one of the places they are made very true.

Jess also tells us about the sprinkling service, and how moved she was, and I’ll add how moved I was by her telling of it. And now I will also always remember that shortly before she received last rites last fall, before her miracle cure, she was again sprinkled with Walsingham water.

There may be other explanations, I suppose, but I haven’t stumbled across them, and it is from that moment that she became my dearest friend, a moment shared across the ocean and half a continent. There are more chapters to tell of this story, but not today, they will have to wait.

An interesting note is that the first Roman Catholic service at the shrine since the Reformation was performed by US Military personnel on 17 may 1945, just after VE day. They certainly had something to commemorate.

But in general, as Jess has always said, as you draw closer to Christ, His Mother has a very great appeal, and why wouldn’t She.

In truth, I think there is definitely simply Something about Maryas the linked article will tell you.

Although not really linked in history, this was the period when we adopted some of Julian of Norwich’s words as related by Eliot as a catchphrase, for me, for Jess, and for our blogs, and our lives:

WhOur_Lady_of_Walsinghamatever 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.

Today is the day that I will merely note and ask Our Lady of Walsingham to continue to watch over us, and those we love.

O Mary, recall the solemn moment when Jesus, your divine son, dying on the cross, confided us to your maternal care. You are our mother, we desire ever to remain your devout children. let us therefore feel the effects of your powerful intercession with Jesus Christ. make your name again glorious in the shrine once renowned throughout England by your visits, favours, and many miracles.

Pray, O holy mother of God, for the conversion of England, restoration of the sick, consolation for the afflicted, repentance of sinners, peace to the departed.

O blessed Mary, mother of God, our Lady of Walsingham, intercede for us.
Amen.

Feast Day of Our Lady of Walsingham

pic_old-mapSo, today is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Walsingham. Seems strange, even to me, that a hard-headed old Protestant like me would care. Like many of you, I was raised that the veneration of Saints and such tended very close to idolatry. And it can, Martin Luther, himself, warned of it but, he also venerated Mary, the Theotokos, all his life.

In truth, many of us venerate soldiers, sports heroes, even politicians, in much the same way. In essence it strikes me as little more than a desire to emulate an exemplary person. The Christian overlay provides an opportunity for us to ask them to intercede with God for us, is all.

But, being raised when and how I was, none of this penetrated my thick skull, and I know I was hardly alone. But if we are wise we learn, and we grow as we age. At least for me this is true.

I was introduced to Our Lady of Walsingham by my coauthor, Jess, not long after we met, she made the pilgrimage to Walsingham a few years ago, not long after we were brought together.

With my love of history, I was fascinated by the history, and have written some about it, as has Jess. But that is not the point, today, while she was there, she lit a candle, and prayed for me (yes, I know, not the kind of thing we Lutherans, or in truth most Anglicans) do. Thing is, I felt a peace go through me at almost the moment she lit it, and sundry other effects as well.

There may be other explanations, I suppose, but I haven’t stumbled across them, and it is from that moment that she became my dearest friend, a moment shared across the ocean and half a continent. There are more chapters to tell of this story, but not today, they will have to wait.

Today is the day that I will merely note and ask Our Lady of Walsingham to continue to watch over us, and those we love.

O Mary, recall the solemn moment when Jesus, your divine son, dying on the cross, confided us to your maternal care. You are our mother, we desire ever to remain your devout children. let us therefore feel the effects of your powerful intercession with Jesus Christ. make your name again glorious in the shrine once renowned throughout England by your visits, favours, and many miracles.

Pray, O holy mother of God, for the conversion of England, restoration of the sick, consolation for the afflicted, repentance of sinners, peace to the departed.

O blessed Mary, mother of God, our Lady of Walsingham, intercede for us.
Amen.

Legitimate Government, Evangelical Lutheran Style

‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: Hermann Sasse.

‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: Hermann Sasse. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 I will shortly be posting an article at All Along the Watchtower (Jess’ site) on Luther’s Two Kingdoms doctrine. [It is now up, and is here.] In it I am talking about the interference we are currently seeing in our churches, both here and in the UK, from the secular authorities. I think you should read it. I will update with a link when it is available.

In any case, while researching that article, I came across an essay by Hermann Sasse entitled: THE SOCIAL DOCTRINE OF THE AUGSBURG CONFESSION AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE FOR THE PRESENT This essay was originally published in the Kirchlich-soziale Blätter in 1930. In April 1928 he was called to be pastor at St. Marienkirche, Berlin, and Sozialpfarrer in Innere-mission (“social pastor in inner mission”).

[…]The assertion “The power of the state arises from the people” is false according to Lutheran doctrine, if it would be more than a formal description of the proceedings in a modern state, by which a government is formed. The power of the state proceeds from God. One last reminder of this lives on in the religious formulas and forms with which modern peoples still surround the state and civil life.

Any political power which has arisen out of anarchy may become a God-given governing authority, if it fulfills the tasks of the office of governing authority. This task is the assurance of peace and the maintenance of law through external power, the symbol of which is the sword. The governing authority is a “Servant of God, the avenger for those who do evil.” [Rom 13:4] Legal governing authority is distinguished from religious power in that it not only (as does the latter) possesses power [Macht] but uses its power in the service of law. Both belong to the essence of the state; Power and law [Macht und das Recht]. A governing authority which bears the sword in vain, which no longer has the fortitude to decisively punish the law-breaker, is in the process of burying itself [gräbt sich selbst das Grab]. A state which removes the concepts “right” and “wrong” from jurisprudence, and replaces them with “useful” and “injurious”, “healthy” and “ill”, “socially valuable” and “socially inferior”, [a state] which in the place of the principal of remuneration places the principal of inoculation [Unschädlichmachung] a state which in its civil law dissolves marriage and family, ceases to be a constitutional state and thus the governing authority.

A governing authority which knowingly or unknowingly makes the interests of social position or class the norm for the formation and definition of law, or which allows the norms of the law to be dictated by the so-called “legal consciousness” of the time, sinks to the level of raw power. This danger exists now—and this is not addressed by the Augustana—for all governing authorities, and shall for all time. It exists especially in the modern democratic forms of government and in the dictatorship. For the result of the secularization process of the last century has been that the consciousness of eternal legal norms which are not determined by man, has nearly perished. But where this consciousness ceases to exist, there God-given power is changed into demonic power, resulting in its ruin among peoples and states. But wherever on earth a governing authority—irrespective of which form—is conscious of a [civil] righteousness independent of its will, exercises the power of its office, upholds the law and guards the peace, there it is “God’s good gift”, there it is “by the grace of God.”

The essay (PDF) is available here. The paragraphs and emphasis are mine.

The German statement of where legitimate power comes from may be jarring to Anglo-American readers, after all we have been taught that the people are sovereign. I don’t find them mutually exclusive, however. God established the family for man before the fall, and government after the fall, to provide a semblance of justice in the world. It’s easy enough to see how, under God’s direction, families got together to form first cities and then states to protect themselves. It is also important for us to remember that all the revolutions in the English-speaking world (and only there, strangely) have been more counter-revolutions, than anything else, always the goal has been the restoration of “The Good Old Law“. That is also why we have never gone into the stage of anarchy that has followed all the other (French, Russian, et al) revolutions. We were going back.

The other thing here is that you see how Weimar manged to delegitimize itself. How close are our governments coming to doing the same? I’d say very close, indeed.

Lutheran FAQs

The Martin Luther window at St. Matthew's Luth...

This is sort of a follow-on to yesterday’s post about traditional worship and it shows why for me the Lutheran Church has become home. Is it possible that say the Episcopal Church could have fulfilled this role? Perhaps, but in America it has become a rather liberal church, and may not have suited me as well.

And so some Lutheran FAQs from Steve’s Lutheran Pages


My Lutheranism FAQ

After leaving Pentecostalism, I continued to participate for a while on a Web discussion board run by people from one of the Pentecostal churches of which I was once a member. I wasn’t shy about posting my reasons for returning to the Lutheran church. The participants there were likewise not shy about, to put it politely, asking me a lot of questions in return about Lutheranism, so as a result I developed some stock answers to the questions with which I was most frequently challenged by Pentecostals. These are given further below.

The questions below are in fact pretty much the same questions that led me out of the Lutheran church more than thirty years ago. At that time, I was not patient or mature enough to investigate, or even to seek, whatever answers to those questions Lutheran teaching might have held for me; I instead accepted at face value the answers given (either explicitly or implicitly) by various Pentecostals I encountered in person or in my reading. After nearly twenty years, after life had very thoroughly taught me the inadequacy of the Pentecostal approach, I finally became willing to go back to investigate the answers Lutheran teaching could have given me. The fruit of that effort was eventually a very gratifying return to membership in the Lutheran church.

These questions have been taken nearly verbatim from Web discussions I have had with Pentecostals. The answers are expanded versions of my postings in reply to those questions. (Click on the questions to go to my answers futher below on the page.)

    1. The Lutheran church does not fully understand the Bible—it’s a church 500 years out of date. For instance, it’s completely at a loss as to what 1 Corinthians 12-14 means; so do you really think that what Luther taught in the 1500’s is the end all and be all of Biblical doctrine?
    1. The Greek word used for “to baptize” (baptizo) in the scriptures means only “to immerse.” Why do Lutherans disobey Jesus’ command by instead using sprinkling or pouring to baptize?
    1. How can Lutherans believe both in salvation by faith and in infant baptism? How can an infant have faith?
    1. Isn’t Lutheran theology Calvinistic? I heard that they don’t believe in free will.
    1. I grew up in a Lutheran church and never even knew a person could be born again and have a personal relationship with Jesus until I heard it at a revival another church was having in our town. Then I went forward in response to an altar call to accept Jesus, and my life has completely changed! Why don’t Lutheran churches teach people to be born again?
    1. Good grief. With Lutheranism, one settles for a lifeless, dead “churchianity.” Can’t you see that Lutheran theology results in whole churches full of people who do nothing, but who think they’re saved anyway just because they were baptized as infants?
  1. In Luther’s time, his followers persecuted and put to death Anabaptists. Blood was shed in the name of the doctrine you defend. How can you possibly justify that?

Answers and explanations at Steve’s Lutheran Pages.

Enhanced by Zemanta
%d bloggers like this: