Morgendämmerung, oder, Wie man mit dem Hammer theologirt.
Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit id es semper esse puerum.
Orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano.
Semper idem sed non eodem modo.

VDMA

Verbum domini manet in aeternum. The word of the Lord endures forever.
1 Peter 1:24-25, quoting Isaiah 40:6,8. Motto of the Lutheran Reformation.


Fayth onely justifieth before God. Robert Barnes, DD The Supplication, fourth essay. London: Daye, 1572.

Lord if Thou straightly mark our iniquity, who is able to abide Thy judgement? Wherefore I trust in no work that I ever did, but only in the death of Jesus Christ. I do not doubt, but through Him to inherit the kingdom of heaven. Robert Barnes, DD, before he was burnt alive for "heresy", 30 July 1540.

What is Luther? The doctrine is not mine, nor have I been crucified for anyone. Martin Luther, Dr. theol. (1522)

For the basics of our faith right here online, or for offline short daily prayer or devotion or study, scroll down to "A Beggar's Daily Portion" on the sidebar.

24 March 2017

Problem Pregnancy? The Annunciation, 25 March 2017.

It's the feast of the Annunciation. OK, so what was announced? The story is related in the Gospel according to St Luke, 1:26-38. The angel Gabriel (which means "God is my hero" in  Hebrew) announced to a Jewish girl named Miriam (better known in English as Mary) that God wanted to cause her to become pregnant with the promised Messiah, and that she should name him Joshua (which means in Hebrew "God rescues", which is better known in English as Jesus, from the Latin for the Greek for the Hebrew).

Of course, if God is causing the pregnancy, God is not the parent but the father. The complication is, Mary is engaged to a man named Joseph who presumably will be taking care of causing her pregnancies, and in their culture, engagement pretty much was marriage, just the time between the promise of marriage and holding the wedding ceremony.  So, if she said yes but Joseph did not believe "It's OK God did it", which is not something a guy is inclined to believe, he would be within his rights under the Law of Moses to have her put to death. Mary knew that. How's that for a problem pregnancy?

While it's fine to get all into the miracle of a pregnancy caused by divine intervention rather than human intercourse, it might be well to spend a little more time on this -- Mary faced a real hard decision on this pregnancy, like the risk of death, it was not at all convenient for her, but, she trusted God and said yes.

Luke also records that Yes, in the famous Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55, which has become a central part of the Divine Office about which this blog recently posted, associated with Vespers or evening prayer in the Western church and Matins (which, if you mistake the Catholic Church for the catholic church, no longer exists) in the Eastern church.

Well now, how about that, the Messiah comes from a troubled pregnancy!  Let's put that in the context of troubled pregnancies as well as of the Messiah; there is only one Messiah, but we have a lot of troubled pregnancies. Far from being something shunned or ignored, Christianity and the Christian Church started with one!

And how about this, notice that the date on which the Annunciation, which would then be the date of Jesus' conception, is celebrated is exactly nine months, the period of human gestation, before 25 December, the celebration of Jesus' birth. OK, nine months, I got it -- but, there's more to it than that.

Our current way of numbering years comes from a guy named Dionysus Exiguus, which means Dennis the Short.  He introduced his calendar reform in 525 A.D.  His main goal wasn't to work out calendar details, but to fix a date for the observance of Easter, since when to celebrate it was disputed.  In the course of that, he assigned the beginning of the new year to the feast of the Annunciation, 25 March.  Why?  Because years would be dated from the time of grace, which began when Jesus' life began, In the Year of Our Lord, or anno domini (A.D.) in Latin, and since life begins with conception rather than birth, years would be counted as before or after his conception, not after his birth.

Pretty big what is now called "pro-life" statement there.  This pro-life statement is not an accident but quite intentional.  From ancient Rome the practice had been to number years from 1 January, the day the new consules took office.  So this was a change.  It became prevalent with Charlemagne, who used it as the system throughout his empire, the basis of post-Roman Europe.  The beginning of Jesus' earthly life on this date of his conception was such a big deal that it was New Years' Day, the beginning of the new year, until relatively recently, in Mother England as late as 1752.

In the calendar used now throughout the world, years are still numbered with reference to Jesus' life, but the world has erased much of the reference.  First was the move of New Years Day back to 1 January, which happened when the Gregorian (so called from Pope Gregory the Great who authorized it) calendar replaced the Julian (as in Julius Caesar) calendar used in Dennis' time. You can read more about that in this blog's New Years post, but of interest here is that this is the origin too of "April Fools". 

As the Gregorian calendar took hold across Europe, starting in 1582, not only did the start date for the year change but the "drift" of the Julian calendar was fixed, so that those who held on to 25 March as New Years Day also found 25 March in the old Julian calendar now fell in April in the new Gregorian calendar, thus making them "April Fools", with pranks being played on them.

Isn't that hilarious?  Hey, wanna know what hilarious is, where it even comes from?  Like everything else worth anything it's from or through the Romans, this time the Hilaria.  The word hilaria means cheerful ones and comes from the Greek adjective hilaris meaning "cheerful".  Hilaria could be for any joyful event, like a wedding or birth, but mainly it referred to a big feast of public games and merriment in honour of Cybele, the mother of the gods and known as Magna Mater or Great Mother in Latin.  Especially liked were masquerades where you could poke fun at anything and anyone, even important people.  All to celebrate, guess what, the arrival of better weather and more daylight and the departure of Winter on the eighth day before the Kalends of April, which is the first day after the vernal equinox.  Great, whenzat?  Guess what, on 25 March!

The second erasure has been in recent decades.  Since the Gregorian calendar is in use now throughout the world in lands with a Christian history or not, there has been a move toward calling the A.D. years (anno domini, in the year of Our Lord) the Common Era or C.E., and the B.C. years (Before Christ) Before the Common Era or B.C.E. Well, what's "common" about it, there was people around before and after Christ, but it removes the mention of him even though it's still dated from him.

Although the Western church calendar does contain provisions for moving the Annunciation should it fall in Easter, which is possible, the Eastern church moves it under no circumstances whatever, so important is the celebration of the beginning of Jesus' life, and it would be celebrated as well as, for example, Good Friday. How's that for a statement that life begins at conception?

In Mother England the Feast of the Annunciation is also known as Lady Day, the lady being Mary.  This has some echoes even in the secular world. It is the first of the four quarter days, marking the quarters of the year, when rent was due and servants were hired, and Lady Day as the first Quarter Day is also when landowners' contracts with farm workers began. 25 March in the old Julian calendar became 6 April in the new Gregorian calendar, and 6 April to this day begins the tax year in the UK.

To be complete, the Quarter Days align roughly with the solstices and equinoxes, and they are Lady Day, 25 March, Midsummer Day, 24 June, Michaelmas, 29 September, and Christmas, 25 December.

So Happy Lady Day!  But back to problem pregnancies, especially to those ladies in troubled pregnancies with tough times ahead if you go through with it. God gets it, he chose to come into the world that way. His mother gets it too. So does his church. We're all with you, and welcome you to be with us.

10 March 2017

What's A Divine Service, And Why Bother? 12 March 2017.

Festschrift for the Feast of St Gregory the Great, 12 March 2017.

Hey, Christian Freedom, Adiaphora! No NT Rules About How To Worship!


The New Testament lays down no order of service for Christian worship, and neither does Christ nor anyone else in the New Testament. Therefore we are free in these matters, there being no command from God about it. And therefore, a service is good as long as it preaches Jesus, and to take it any farther than that stomps on our Christian freedom, shows an attachment to a simply human tradition, and therefore is a barrier to preaching Jesus to all people of any tradition.  Right?

Well I'll be dipped if our Lutheran Confessions, though, aren't quite proud of the way our services preserve what Christian worship had been, and say they only seek to omit any accretions along the way which contradict the Gospel.  And not only that, they present the fact that our services pretty much are the same as the ceremonies previously in use, as evidence that our reforms are true and not some new take on things!

Now how's that?

Here's how's that. The fact is, the idea that liturgy etc are "indifferent things", sometimes called by the Greek word for that, adiaphora, things not found in Scripture and neither commanded nor forbidden in Scripture, and that therefore worship is something we are free to do as we see fit in light of what seems to work best for us, is an idea that ALSO is not found in Scripture, but comes from human philosophy, and, Scripture commands against it!

The Original Adiaphora.

For starters, "adiaphora" is not Greek for "doesn't matter" or "who cares". It actually isn't even a Christian concept. It comes from the Stoic philosophers of ancient Greece. "Stoic" itself has come to mean "indifferent" in popular usage, but that isn't what either "stoic" or "indifferent" is at all to the Stoics.  This is another example of something this blog posts about often, namely, words change, as of course they will, but sometimes in a way in which what they actually mean is lost, leading us to mean something quite different by them, which is ok in itself, the problem being that the actual meaning remains unknown by any word and that content is lost, so we think we understand something we in fact don't unless we recover that content.

The Stoics' main concern was how to live so that your inner life is not dictated by what happens to you in your outer life in the external world. They saw the world as a matter of reason, physics and ethics. These were the main things in life. They saw the study of them as the way to avoid the errors in reason which lead to disruptive and destructive emotions that make you miserable over what happens in life when in fact it may only be what you think is happening in life but really isn't.

This is not anti-emotion; rather, it was to free one from destructive emotions based on incorrect judgements so one could enjoy emotions associated with well-being and peace of mind, having corrected one's judgements by reason and brought them into alignment with reality, the totality of which is God.

Even the word for peace of mind has gotten all twisted around on this "indifferent" thing! The word for peace of mind was apatheia, yup, the ancestor of our word "apathy" and didn't mean apathy in our sense at all, but rather, being free of both pathos (plural pathe), the destructive emotions resulting from incorrect perceptions, and also free of propathos or pure instinctual reactions, to enjoy the eupathos (plural eupatheia) emotions that come from perceptions that align with reality. A-pathetic is not indifference but being free of destructive emotions whose opposite is eu-pathetic or constructive emotions.

So what was adiaphora? Those things that are not part of reason, physics and ethics and are not in and of themselves destructive or constructive, but could go either way, depending on how you're doing with what is part of reason, physics and ethics in getting free of pathos and enjoying eupathos. Like getting rich for example, neither good nor bad in itself, but can go bad in a person who is, well, pathetic, literally, or go for good in a person who is a-pathetic in the literal sense above.

How The Idea Of Christian Adiaphora Started.

It's easy to see how all this could be used by Christians. The term "logos" itself is the biggest thing, which started with Heraclitus (whom Nietzsche, the only philosopher worth reading, btw regarded as the only philosopher worth reading) who used it to denote the fundamental order of the universe.  Then, it became the idea of rational speaking in the Sophists and Aristotle, which is the root of our word logic.  Then with the Stoics logic became the divine that is immanent, present throughout the whole universe, which Philo then took into Jewish thought, and finally then became theos, God, himself, and Jesus as the Word (logos) of God in St John and early Christian apologists.

Both Stoicism and Christianity emphasise a progress from the passions of the world to something not clouded by those passions.  But, God as creator and an afterlife are not Stoic ideas, so it's not that Christianity is just Stoicism with Jesus and the Christian logos thing does not mean that either.  Arius got carried away with the idea that it did, and the church had to define how it didn't at Nicaea.

Christian concern about adiaphora is often held to begin with St Paul's answer in First Corinthians chapter 8 to the question of whether one can or cannot eat meat that had been sacrificed to pagan idols. That passage states that one is no better or worse for eating or not eating such meat per se.  But the matter doesn't stop there; he is far from saying "doesn't matter" or "who cares" so end of story do whatever.  St Paul also states that those who eat it should not use their freedom to do so in a way that becomes a problem for others who do not eat it. It does matter, we are to care, and the criterion is not that eating or not eating is forbidden or commanded, but what we Lutherans typically call good order in the church.

So, we see right from the beginning of the Christian adaptation of the Stoic concept adiaphora, recorded by St Paul in Scripture, that while in some matters we are neither commanded nor forbidden by Scripture, we are also commanded by Scripture not to use this freedom in disregard of good order in the church.

How Adiaphora Became A Big Deal In The Reformation.

This whole adiaphora thing really got rolling with the Reformation. Poor old Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, to whom the Confessio Augustana, or Augsburg Confession, was presented on 25 June 1530, was trying to keep a lid on things.  This was partly out of concern for good order in the church, but largely because just the year before (1529) the Islamic conquest of Europe, underway for about a century already, had been stopped with the Siege of Vienna under Suleiman the Magnificent, Caliph of Islam and Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, so Charles didn't want to spend a lot of time on religious squabbles.  The re-conquest of what was lost would last until 1699, well past the lifetime of anyone alive in 1530.

The first attempt to keep the same lid on Lutheran and Catholic alike was the Augsburg Interim.  The "interim" was to be until a church council could be called to settle the matters.  It allowed for priests to marry and Communion to be given in both kinds (meaning both bread AND the fruit of the vine, not just bread) but otherwise restoring Roman practice. Since that compromises the justification by faith alone thing, although Melancthon was willing to go along with it, pretty much everybody else was not willing to compromise an essential, THE essential, teaching for a therefore false unity.

That lead to the Leipzig Interim, which Melancthon also pursued, wherein Lutheran churches could hold their beliefs but would hold the Roman line in worship, which ticked everybody right off Catholic and Lutheran alike.  Catholics saw the measure as usurping the church's authority and Lutherans were split between those who supported it (the Phillipists, after Melancthon's first name) and the "real Lutherans" (Gnesio-Lutherans) who didn't. The whole thing resulted in armed conflict, which concluded on 25 September 1555 with the Peace of Augsburg.  Its principle is, cuius regio eius religio, whose the rule his the religion, meaning the local ruler decided what was to be followed.

This btw is not "Catholic" and "Protestant" as the terms are generally used now.  It was between the Roman Church and Lutheran princes only.  People were allowed to move to a place where the ruler practiced whichever one wanted to follow.  But no place was given to later developments then emerging, such as the Calvinistic "Reformed", a theology still seen in many "Protestant" churches, as the term is used now, or the Anabaptists.

Lutherans resolved their differences with the "second Martin", Chemnitz, in the Formula of Concord of 1577, wherein the adiaphora were identified as things like church ritual, which is neither commanded nor forbidden in Scripture, but again not in a "doesn't matter" or "who cares" sense but as distinguished from the doctrine of justification by faith alone which we believe IS laid down by Scripture.

So, if we think this adiaphora worship wars stuff is bad now, well, it is, but it's been a hell of a lot worse.

Hey, Isn't This A Post About The Divine Service?

The only reason I bring all this old stuff up is the only reason I ever bring up old stuff -- not for its own sake but for the contribution it makes to understanding what we are even talking about now, where we are and how we got there, toward understanding where we ought to go. To me, the old stuff has no other "sake" than that, which is a huge one.

Be it the example of getting rich with the Stoics, eating meat sacrificed to idols with St Paul, or church rites in the Reformation, the common thing is that these are things that can go either way, for good or bad, not essentials in themselves but completely dependent as to whether they go good or bad on the essentials, and if they go bad are a source of great harm to those essentials, therefore, though they are not essential, they are hardly a who cares or doesn't matter kind of thing. In the sense of who cares or doesn't matter, there are no "indifferent" things.

Our Lutheran principle is not "if it ain't in Scripture we ain't doing it", but rather, if it contradicts Scripture we ain't doing it. Being commanded or forbidden in Scripture is not the only source of a good idea, it is rather the only source of a good idea that is divine. The care and concern that we take about ideas that are not divine is entirely based on their effect of being for good or bad on the ideas that are divine. And this care and concern, as we said before, we typically call good order in the church.

This whole business about rites and ceremonies in the church is all about good order in the church. God commanded in the Law rites and ceremonies in the Temple. He hasn't commanded bupkis about rites and ceremonies since. But he does command care and concern for our fellows, he does speak against doing things that may be OK in and of themselves but are not helpful to the common good, good order in the church, the touchstone always being what he has commanded or forbidden.

So in and of itself, there is no rite, lectionary or calendar that is essential and any number of them are legitimately possible. The thing is, that does not mean any rite, lectionary or calendar is fine, nor that any possible one is a good idea or even OK. For about 1500 years, three fourths of its elapsed history to date, the Western church has used a lectionary and calendar that goes back to the influence of St Jerome, a rite for the Divine Service that goes back to the influence of St Gregory, and an order for the Divine Office that goes back to St Benedict, not once delivered unchangeable for all time, but in a continuous and organic development over many places and times with many variations. The Eastern church has a similar story.

And that development did not just fall out of the sky or start about 1500 years ago, but itself was a continuous and organic development from what came before it in the Jewish synagogue, something Jesus and the Apostles knew very well.

What Did Jesus And The Apostles Do?

The thing is, Jesus and the Apostles and the people around them were Jews. The NT does speak of them as participating in regular normal Jewish worship. About which it supplies no details. And why would it, everybody knew. Kind of like a birthday party invitation isn't going to include music and lyrics to "Happy Birthday", you know that stuff already. Except when it comes to what they knew already, we don't. The point of this post is to lay them out so you do.

And that's important because that is what they did, and if we don't know what they did we'll read the NT like people coming across a birthday invitation with no idea that singing "Happy Birthday" will be part of it. And that, in turn, is important because that is what the Christian communities in the NT and on from there did -- they worshipped within the forms they knew yet adapted them to what they also knew, the Gospel.

Where The Idea Of A Divine Service Comes From.

OK, there's three times of prayer traditionally in Judaism, first Ma'ariv which happens right after sundown, the start of the day in Judaism, then Shacharit which is in the morning, and then Minchah which is in the afternoon. Now, this is also where the Divine Office, the community Christian prayer of other than our Sunday services, comes from, but we'll get into that in the next post. Right now our focus is on what happens for the Sabbath service, the ancestor of our Sunday service.

Sabbath is not on Sunday. It's Saturday, which if you're lucky enough to speak Spanish you can see in the word for Saturday, sábado, and, remembering when the day starts in Judaism, actually starts in what to us is the night before, Friday after sundown. Ma'ariv, the evening prayer, like our liturgy has a lot of variation over times and places, but also like our liturgy has a basic format underneath all that variation which is always there. Shacharit, the morning prayer, has the same basic format.

Here is that basic format. There's four parts. First are some introductory prayers, then second a call to worship and the Shema and the Blessings, then third a prayer called the Amidah (aka Shemona Esrei), and on Sabbath readings from Jewish Bible with some explanation, and then fourth and finally concluding prayers.

You know what, this is the way the first part of the Divine Service is laid out too! And that's because right from the start Jesus, the Apostles and the early Christians worshipped this way too, with Christian prayers over time replacing the Jewish ones but in the same format.

The Synagogue Sabbath Service Morphs Into The Service Of The Word.

Let's look at specifics.

First and Second Parts. First are some introductory prayers, then a call to worship and the Shema and the Blessings. What's the Shema?  It's DT6:4-9, the central blessing in Judaism, which Jesus affirmed as the greatest commandment (MK12:29-31), and St Paul re-expressed in Christian terms in ICOR8:6.  In Christian usage this pattern remains, with an opening hymn, a welcome and dedication in the name of each person of the Trinity, in many places the antiphon "I will go unto the altar of God", sometimes the recitation of Psalm 43 (or 42 as numbered in the Greek Septuagint) then in the West instead of the Shema and its Blessings a confession of sin and an announcement of the blessing of forgiveness, followed by an Entrance Prayer of praise, called the Introit, and then a prayer of petition, which in the West somewhere along the line lost the petitions but kept the response, Lord have mercy (Kyrie eleison).

Third Part. Then comes the Amidah, which means "standing" because it is said standing, and is also called the Shemoneh Esrei, which means "eighteen" because it is a prayer of eighteen short prayers written by the 120 men of the Great Assembly, as in Ezra in the Bible, after the return from the Babylonian Captivity and the resumption of religious life at home. A later 19th blessing was added but the name remains. The full Amidah, said on weekdays, has a section of three blessings of praise, thirteen of petitions, and three of thanks.

But on the Sabbath one enjoys a foretaste of eternity and the fullness of God in which no petition is needed, so the Amidah for Sabbath and the great festivals goes like this:  the first three of praise, one special one for the day replacing the thirteen petitions, and the last three of thanks; all praise and thanks for Sabbath. The church evolved an exact image of this, which starts with the words of the angels at the birth of Christ in Luke 2:14, Glory to God in the highest. It began in Greek, was translated into Latin (said to be by St Hilary of Poitiers about 360), and guess what, has seven sections, a middle reference to his being the one who gave his body and blood to take away our sins, framed by three on either side of praise and thanks.  Just like the Sabbath Amidah because it is a transformation of it.

This is the prayer commonly still called from its first word in Latin, the Gloria, unmistakeably Christian and unmistakeably a Sabbath Amidah, and yeah, said standing! An organic development like the faith it expresses.  Yet these days we often count it as but one of any suitable song of praise.  Accept no substitute, insist on the real thing!  Nothing says this is the feast better than the Gloria!

After the Gloria, there is a prayer called the Collect. What does the Collect collect? The theme of the particular Sunday, whose readings we are about to hear.

Then comes the readings from Scripture and explanations of them. These too follow a clear pattern, which is, to read through the entire Law (aka the Torah, the Books of Moses, the first five books of the Bible) by portions in a year, and with each Sabbath's portion, also read a related section called haftorah from the Prophets or the Other  Writings of the Bible. (The Hebrew Bible has three distinct sections, just as Jesus called them, the Law, the Prophets, and the Other Writings; Christian Bibles use the Hebrew Bible as the "Old Testament" but mix the Prophets and Other Writings to-gether.)

Jesus of course fulfilled the Law, and gave us the Gospel. So, in place of reading through the entire Law in a year, Christians began to read through the entire Gospel in a year. But wait a minute, there's four Gospel accounts in the Bible, so how do you do that? Well, the New Testament has exactly the same structure as the Old Testament in its Hebrew order: the Gospel accounts first as the Law is first in the OT, next the letters, often called by an older word for letters, epistles, of St Paul as the Prophets are next in the OT, and last some Other Writings from other Apostles as the Writings are next in the OT.

Within the Gospels, Matthew's was put first, because while of the Greek texts we have Mark was the earliest, the Greek Matthew is a translation of the earliest Gospel, in Aramaic, the Jewish dialect Jesus spoke, which is now lost in that version. So Matthew became the primary Gospel account used in going through the Gospel, with the others here and there, with passages related to the reading for the day from primarily the epistles of St Paul, but also with the writings of the other Apostles and sometimes the OT here and there, an exact image of the synagogue pattern of torah/haftorah because it is a transformation of it.

The list of readings varies over time and place, but the pattern in the Western church was established by St Jerome about 400 or so, in what is called the Comes (Pronounced KO-mays) which in Latin means "to go with" literally, a companion, here a companion list of readings to go with the service.

This remains to this day the basic pattern of the readings for divine service, except where modern revisionists at or following the lead of Vatican II have cast it aside after about a millennium and a half and come up with a three-year cycle drawing from all the Gospel accounts and epistles generally, adding OT readings and Psalms.

They also cast aside the fact that this supposed improvement was tried centuries ago in the synagogue, where those outside Palestine came up with a three year cycle too, but as it corresponds to no human cycle of anything and flies in the face of the annual rhythm of things, vanished into the dustbin of history in favour of the one that was there, as our current misguided alternative to the historic lectionary will one day do too, and not a minute too soon so it deprives as few as possible of being connected to the centuries, even millenia, long unfolding of the worship of God.

It also casts aside the idea that a lectionary, any lectionary, Jewish or Christian, is not a Bible study to expose people to as much Scripture as possible, but a selection from Scripture to expose people to the events celebrated in worship throughout the year, the Law in the synagogue, the life of Christ in the church.

And they also cast aside the whole guiding principle of Lutheran liturgical reformation, which is, that ceremonies be retained as they have developed except where it expresses something that contradicts Scripture.  Which is not the Romantic, 19th century idea of some sort of lost noble past age of greater purity, to be re-sourced, recaptured in its greater purity.   This approach is generally known by its French name, ressourcement.  Why?  Because it began with French Jesuits at Ore Place, a seminary set up in Hastings (Sussex, not Nebraska) after they had been kicked out of France, from 1902-1926.  (It was torn down in 1987 to make way for a housing development.)  At the hands of the "liturgical movement" became the idea of making the "early church" or the patristic era the ideal, to be recaptured in its supposed purity by their scholarship and by new rites supposedly jumping over the corruptions of the intervening centuries and closer to the early purity.

Ressourcement may sound quite similar to the Lutheran watchword ad fontes.  Hey, both mean back to the sources don't they?  Yes they do, but in distinctly opposite ways.  Again, recovering what was meant is key.  The Lutheran idea is, retention of the organic forward development of the church but tested against the norm of not some "early church" or "the Fathers" but of whether it contradicts Scripture or not, assisted by the earlier witness of the early church and the Fathers who held this same ideal in their own day. The purity sought is not a late Romantic fiction of some idealised lost age, but of concordance with Scripture.  That is why the method was retention of existing rites insofar as nothing contradicts Scripture rather than the creation of new rites on the model of old ones.

Then in the third part comes an explanation of what was just read, called the D'var Torah, which is, can you see it coming, the Sermon! Among Germanic Jews, the Ashkenazi, this is also called the Drasha. So your sermon is your drash on the readings. And as in the synagogue, prayers for the sick and other needs or announcements of various kinds may be made after this.

Fourth Part. Finally the concluding prayers, which is the synagogue include the aleinu, the kaddish and a hymn. The aleinu prays for a time when the vain pursuits of Man are replaced by the universal recognition of the true God; the word aleinu means "ours", what it is ours to profess. The kaddish, while best known in the form for mourners, is not essentially about mourning at all. The word comes from the Aramaic for "holy" and expresses the belief in what the aleinu prays for, the holy future for living and dead alike and to-gether. All of which is stated in its Christian version in the Creed, which is said, yup, right here, same pattern as before, along with a hymn of the day.

So there you have it, a Christian synagogue service for the Christian Sabbath, point for point, nothing more, and nothing less, there from the start, and present throughout the history of the Christian church, except in the last few centuries with those who ignore all this and worship like going to a birthday party with no clue about "Happy Birthday".

This first part of Christian Sabbath worship has had a number of names over time, and the one that really captures best what it is all about is Service of the Word. Why?  Because in it, God serves us his Word in Scripture and in explanation of it. It's not really something we do, it's something he does; it's not called service because we serve him but because he serves us.

The Passover Seder Morphs Into The Service Of The Sacrament.

But wait, if that's all of the original Sabbath service, why is it the first part of the Christian service? What is the second part, where did it come from, and why is it there? Here's the answer. The calendar of Jewish worship had weekly things, the Sabbath services, and big things that happened once a year which in fact God did set out in some detail, the biggest of which are three major festivals and the biggest of those are the things relating to Passover.

The night before Jesus was to become our Passover in his Crucifixion, he gathered with his Apostles to celebrate the Passover meal commanded in the Law, which is called a seder.  This is sometimes called the Last Supper, but it wasn't just any supper it was the Passover seder, and it isn't "last" as in his last meal.  It's the Last Seder, the last seder supper under the Law before Jesus fulfilled and transformed it.

The outline of the seder is easily recognisable in the NT accounts of this event.  Jesus, in what must have blown the Apostles clean away, changed the age-old blessings over the bread and the fruit of the vine, saying "Take and eat, this is my body" over the bread and "Take and drink, this is my blood" over the fruit of the vine. Unmistakeable if you came for a seder!  Hewas making himself the Passover and serving it to them.

This then is nothing less than him serving us the Good News itself, his body and blood given for the sins of the world, the passing-over from bondage to sin and death to life with God here and for eternity! And, as he was about to die, and once risen shortly return to the Father, he told them to do this as his memorial. That does not mean we are just remembering Jesus real good. He did not say here is my memorial, he said do THIS, do what he had just done, offer his body and blood, a memorial unlike any the world can offer just as he offers what the world cannot.

This second part of Christian Sabbath worship has had a number of names over time, and the one that really captures best what it is all about is Service of the Sacrament. Wait a minute, what's a sacrament?  That too is a borrowed term that originally had nothing to do with Christianity.  Sacramentum, a Latin word, meant in general the pledge of a covenant between two parties, and in particular the covenant of a soldier's oath of allegiance.  If "Communion" were not exactly what our Lutheran Confessions say it is, there would have been no reason for the early Christians to appropriate this word.  Service of the Sacrament expresses this best, because in it, God serves us his body and blood as the pledge for our salvation. It's not really something we do, it's something he does; it's not called service because we serve him but because he serves us.

Which is totally connected to his resurrection from the dead. If that happened, it's a massive suspension of the ordinary operation of matter, then, though while only lately we understand that matter and energy are related across the speed of light, such a suspension in the ordinary operation of matter also must involve a temporal suspension too, and the "mass" has understood that all along, saying the Risen Christ's Body and Blood were truly present here and now, in, with, and under the appearance of bread and the fruit of the vine, the very same energy, literally and not figuratively given by him the testator to us as the heirs of his testament in the mass. We do and bring nothing, he does and gives everything.

Luther spoke of it this way, in Babylonian Captivity: Who would not shed tears of gladness, indeed, almost faint for joy in Christ, if he believed with unshaken faith that this inestimable promise of Christ belonged to him? How could he help loving so great a benefactor, who of his own accord offers, promises, and grants such great riches and this eternal inheritance to one who is unworthy and deserving of something far different.

Conclusion -- What's A Divine Service And Why Bother?

"Divine Service" is the service of the divine, God, to us, first of his Word and then his Sacrament of his Body and Blood. A Christian Sabbath service followed by a Christian Seder, that's it. "Seeker sensitive" doesn't even get right who is the seeker. We ain't the seekers.  We think we are, but we are not.  Apart from him who seeks us, we are lost and no more able to come to faith in him that a dead man can wake himself from the dead, as Walther put it. So as to being "seeker sensitive", it is he who is seeking us, and it is in our liturgy that we are sensitive to that.

Even the word liturgy shows that. What kind of a word is that, another churchy thing from the musty past that gets in the way of preaching Jesus? The word "liturgy" is the English form of an ancient Greek word that had nothing to do with church, it described the obligation that a wealthy Athenian had toward the people of Athens to do something big for their benefit at his own expense. If Christian worship were not exactly what our Lutheran Confessions say it is, there would have been no reason for the early Greek speaking Christians to appropriate this word -- here, the "wealthy Athenian", God, undertakes something for the people at his own expense, the sacrifice of the body and blood of God Made Man Jesus for our salvation from sin and its wages death!!

And that is exactly what a Divine Service is, and why we bother.

PS. Why post this for 12 March? Because it's the feast of St Gregory the Great, that's why, who for centuries was regarded as the "Father of Christian Worship". While maybe not that, his liturgical reforms were hugely influential in Western Christian worship being as it is. Gregory was bishop of Rome from 3 September 590 to 12 March 604, the day he died. It is the custom of the Christian church to commemorate its saints on the day they died, in this life, and were born as it were to eternal life. He was considered a saint immediately by popular acclaim -- the way it used to be done, and even John Calvin, who took the Reformation well beyond what the Lutheran Reformation was all about, thought Gregory was the last good pope and speaks well of him in his Institutes  -- and his memorial feast was celebrated on his day of death. Until Vatican II tinkered with that too, and thinking since the day will always fall in Lent, moved it for the Roman church to the day he was installed as bishop of Rome, 3 September (in 590).

The Eastern Church sees no problem at all with his feast being during Lent and continues to celebrate his feast on his feast day, and the Western Church didn't either until the 1960s in Rome, and neither do Western Christians not under the influence of the toxic waste that is the revisionist nonsense of Vatican II and stick to the historic calendar, and the historic everything else for that matter.

01 March 2017

What's A Quadragesima? Lent 2017. A 40 Days Of Purpose.

Happy Spring!  BTW, you're gonna die.

The word "Lent" actually just means Spring.  It derives from a Germanic root that means "long" and was applied to this time of year because the daylight hours are getting longer.  Nothing religious about it.  So how did we get a season associated with fasting, "giving up" stuff, and having ashes on your face on the first day of it?  Here's the deal.

Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.
Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.

Those are the famous words from the liturgy for the imposition of ashes in the shape of a cross on your forehead on the first day of Lent, called Ash Wednesday.  "Pulvis" in there is the Latin word for dust.  It's the root of the English word "pulverise".  To pulverise literally means to be turned into dust. Which is exactly what death does. It's going to pulverise me, you, and everyone and everything else.

Howzat for some good news?

And, that's not only living stuff, it's everything. Everything decays, everything loses its value over time. Go look at your car. Then look at its service record. Look at what you paid for it and what it's worth now. Or, speaking of paying for stuff, look at the money in your wallet or your bank statement. Both the money itself and the value given it are decaying; inflation.

Such is life. Such is even non-life. It's even measurable scientifically. That's called a half-life, which is the time it takes something to lose half its original value.

And such are the famous words from the Imposition of Ashes on Ash Wednesday, or on Aschermittwoch, as they say in the original language of our beloved synod. We are dust, and unto dust we and everything else will return. Observable fact, no belief required, and we start right there.

And go where? Is that all there is? Is there actually nowhere to go, so, we should resign ourselves to that, without illusion and without asking it to be more? Or, even so, should we go for the gusto we can get while we can still go for anything? Should we create such meaning as we can, in between the inevitable finish we don't like and the start for which we did not ask? What meaning or purpose can something that is dust to dust have anyway?

In Lent we begin with the most unflinching fact of our existence, death, and are asked to be quite clear on that -- you will die, and everything and everyone else dies or decays or passes too. Ashes signify that. Ashes are that. Ashes are in your face about that. Ashes are ON your face about that.

But ashes are also something else. Ashes are also a sign of repentance. Repentance from what? Is it not God who needs to repent, if there even is one, for supposedly creating such an inescapable joke, whose only meaning is whatever we provide it? What about all the suffering and sickness we see everywhere?  And here's this church service where you mark stuff on your face then read a Gospel passage saying not to go around looking like you're being all religious by marking stuff on your face.  What's up with that?

Hey, it's Lent. This is not going to be pretty. Or very nice either. It gets a little rough. And on Ash Wednesday the two most basic facts of Man come to-gether in a jarring way. One is the fact that you came from nothing and you're going back there. We can see that.  The other fact we cannot see, which is, God doesn't want it that way, didn't and doesn't intend it that way, so if it's that way it is now, that is Man's doing, not God's.  Hence the repentance.  So what's God gonna do about that?  More on that shortly.

The double message of the ashes is clear.  It runs through the readings on Ash Wednesday at mass, also known as divine service and not to be confused with Mass: turn to God and you will be delivered, stick to ashes and you will be, well, ashes.

A Purpose Driven Life?

Rick Warren says, whenever God wants to prepare someone for something, he takes forty days. His forty days for either churches or individuals has the same basis, two passages from Matthew, the one  the Great Commandment in Matthew 22, and the other the Great Commission in Matthew 28. From that he abstracts five principles, or purposes for Man.

Love the Lord with all your heart … (Worship)
Love your neighbour as yourself. (Ministry)
Go and make disciples … (Mission)
Baptising them … (Fellowship)
Teaching them … (Discipleship)

OK, but guess what? The church in its liturgy -- supposedly the dismal domain of those who only care about maintaining the musty museum of such things -- for most of its two millennia existence has been offering a five-point forty days of purpose to prepare for God's answer to Man's problem, the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, the Christian Passover. This period of preparation for it in both the Eastern and Western Church is a period of forty days in imitation of Christ’s forty days in the desert before he began his way to the cross.

The Eastern church's forty days starts on a Monday called Clean Monday and runs forty consecutive days until Friday of the sixth week, then celebrates Lazarus Saturday as a pointing toward Jesus' Resurrection, then proceeds with Holy Week where his way to the cross is told.

The Western church starts on a Wednesday and does not include Sundays in the count, each Sunday being a "little Easter", and concludes with Holy Saturday, which is also the end of Holy Week.

Same idea, different ways of setting it up.

For the five Sundays in Lent before Holy Week, the Western Church offers the five point plan of preparation. Lent will start with the starkest facts of human existence, right from looking like there is no meaning or purpose to it, in your face, ON your face, then see why that is and what God has done about it, and end by actually inviting, welcoming, not dreading, the judgement of God.

Originally in English, what we now call Lent was called by the Latin word Quadragesima, meaning fortieth, from its duration of 40 days, and "Lent" as we saw just meant "Spring".  As time went on, since Quadragesima always happens at this time of year, "Lent" became associated with that, and the season was more called Spring, from a Germanic root meaning just that, to spring up, since that's when plants start to spring up.  This transition, where the word for Spring gets associated with Quadragesima and a new word appears for Spring, in English was complete by about the 14th Century.  Other languages kept the Latin name but adapted it, for example in Spanish the word for Lent is Cuaresma.

In our sister language German, what we now call Lent is called die Fastenzeit, which means "the fasting time".  Spring, the season, is der Frühling or das Frühjahr, "early year" literally, or poetically, der Lenz, which harks back to "long".  And in the Eastern Church, the season is known (in English) as Great Lent, or Great Fast.  So what's up with the fasting, where does that come from?  The idea has a basis in Scripture but is nowhere commanded in Scripture at this time of year, so the basis is human, not divine.  The basis is, the forty days fasting in the desert that the synoptic (Matthew, Mark and Luke) Gospel accounts relate Jesus having done before beginning his public ministry.

What's Up With Lenten Fish Frys?

The whole idea of anything about the church year is to get into the life of Christ -- who he is and why we think that's God's answer to Man's problem.  This part of the church year is to prepare to celebrate the culmination of his life, his Death and Resurrection, which will happen in what is called Holy Week and Easter.  Not originally, but rather early on, by the 300s (4th Century) or so, people began to attach to Quadragesima (Lent) penitential practices to be part of this preparation, of which a fast in imitation of Christ's fast was a major element.  It takes various specifics in various places and time, but the common factor is self-denial.

Meat is pretty universally the big thing to go, but other animal products like eggs and milk often go too, and while the West generally allowed fish, not finding it as tasty and pleasing as meat, the East generally banned fish too.  There's fasting, but there's abstinence too.  Abstinence means no intake of something, fasting greatly restricts intake.  So, you reduce the amount of everything, and eliminate some things altogether.  While things are greatly relaxed since say the Middle Ages, the form this had when I was a kid is typical.  One full meal a day, and two lighter meals, called collations, not to equal another full meal, are allowed, and no meat on some days.  Now, that's only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Thing is, these are all human ideas of stuff to do.  They ain't in the Bible.  Which doesn't make them bad ideas.  And, Lutherans aren't a "If it ain't in the Bible we ain't doing it" bunch, but rather, we're a "if it contradicts what's in the Bible we ain't doing it" bunch.  As with all our human things in response to God, from pious personal practices to a community practice like liturgy, they are just that, human, and not actions we take to please God or make ourselves more godly.  In fact, trying to please God or become more godly through our own actions stands the Gospel right on its head.  The Gospel, which means good news, is, that God has already made us pleasing to him despite ourselves, through the Death and Resurrection of Christ, his action, not ours.

Which is not at all to say OK then eat like a pig, Christ died for you so it's all good.  Bodily discipline, moderation, not being wasteful, etc is a good idea and a proper response to God all the time, not just during Lent.  Self-induced early stage glucose deprivation, which is the physiological effect of fasting, need not be theologised into a "hunger" for Christ.  These things are fine for voluntary outward observance and training, but easily descend into works-righteousness, and that ain't Gospel.

Pious personal practices may, or may not, aid in Lenten devotion.  Either way, with them or without them, the point is the same, and there is no point, literally, in pious practices if the point of them is lost or they themselves become the point.

BTW, you know why they call those light meals collations?  Ain't a collation a collecting or gathering of something?  Yes it is, so how did a meal come to be called a collation?  Monks, that's how.  In a monkery, I mean monastery, having withdrawn from life in the world, when you eat a meal you listen to somebody read spiritual stuff (called lectio divina, divine reading).  During light meals Benedictines would often use a collection by John Cassian of conversations he had with desert monks on the spiritual life called Collationes patrum in scetica eremo (Conferences of the Desert Fathers), and the word "collation" from that Latin book title came to be the name of the meal too.  Monk stuff.  Do you live in a monkery, withdrawn from the life of the world?  No?  Skip the collation and have a decent meal and some human interaction with those having it with you.

Quadragesima/Lent.

Here's how Lent/Quadragesima works. The church has a definite pattern it uses to take us through the life of Christ and our life in Christ. It's an annual (not a three year) cycle. It arranges readings from the book it says you can rely on, the Bible, followed by a sermon based on these readings, in the same pattern every day.

Here's the pattern.

The church begins its liturgy with an introductory verse called the Introit.  The word derives from the Latin word for entrance (introitus).  That sets the tone for the day, is usually taken from the Psalms, with a verse response to it. In fact, the Sunday often takes its nickname from the first word or two of this introductory verse, the Introit. Then, the church has a prayer before the Scripture readings each Sunday that collects the thoughts of the day, called, oddly enough, the Collect. Then, for Scripture readings, the church continues the synagogue practice of two readings from Scripture, but replaces the synagogue's Torah, or Law, readings with Gospel ones, and replaces the related haftorah, a related reading usually from the Prophets, with ones usually but not always from the Epistles.

Let’s see how that lays out for Ash Wednesday and the Sundays in Lent. We'll get to Holy Week, the thing for which all this is preparation, in later posts.

Ash Wednesday / Aschermittwoch.  1 March 2017.

Introit. Wisdom 11:24,25,27. Thou has mercy upon all, O Lord, and hatest none of the things which Thou hast made, overlooking the sins of men for the sake of repentance and sparing them, because Thou art the Lord our God. Verse, Psalm 56:2.
Collect. Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that Thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitient, create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of Thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness.
Epistle. Joel 2:12-19.
Gospel. Matthew 6:16-21.

Invocavit -- He shall call to Me.  5 March 2017.

Introit. Psalm 91:15,16. He shall cry to Me, and I shall hear him; I will deliver him and I will glorify him; I will fill him with length of days. Verse, Psalm 91:1.
Collect. O Lord, mercifully hear our prayer and stretch forth the right hand of the majesty to defend us from them that rise up against us.
Epistle. 2 Cor 6:1-10 Not to receive grace in vain. Now is the acceptable time, now it the day of salvation.
Gospel. Matthew 4:1-11 Jesus' forty days and nights, tempted to be a false Messiah.

Reminiscere – Remember, O Lord.  12 March 2017.

Introit. Psalm 25:6,3,22. Remember, O Lord, Thy compassions, and Thy mercies that are from the beginning of the world, lest at any time our enemies rule over us: deliver us, O God of Israel, from all our tribulations. Verse, Psalm 25:1,2.
Collect. O God, who seest that of ourselves we have no strength, keep us both outwardly and inwardly that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul.
Epistle. 1 Thess 4:1-7 Progress in sanctification, holiness.
Gospel. Matthew 15:21-28 Jesus heals the Canaanite woman’s daughter. Great is thy faith, let it be done.

Oculi -- My eyes are ever toward the Lord.  19 March 2017.

Introit. Psalm 25:15-16. My eyes are ever toward the Lord: for He shall pluck my feet out of the snare; look Thou upon me, and have mercy on me, for I am alone and poor. Verse, Psalm 25:1,2.
Collect. We beseech Thee, almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of Thy humble servants and stretch forth the right hand of Thy majesty to be our defence against all our enemies.
Epistle. Eph 5:1-9 Walk, then, as children of light.
Gospel. Luke 11:14-28 Jesus’ lesson after casting out a demon. Blessed are they that hear the Word and keep it.

Laetare – Rejoice, O Jerusalem.  26 March 2017.

Introit. Isaiah 66:10,11. Rejoice, O Jerusalem, and come to-gether all you who love her: rejoice with joy, you who have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation. Verse, Psalm 122:1.
Collect. Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of Thy grace may mercifully be relieved.
Epistle. Gal 4:22-31 Children of Agar, bondage, slave, Sinai; children of Sarah, promise, free, Jerusalem.
Gospel. John 6:1-15 The loaves and fishes. Passover is near, the bread king.

Judica -- Judge me, O God.  2 April 2017.

Introit. Psalm 43:1,2. Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy: deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man: for Thou are my God and my strength. Verse, Psalm 43:3.
Collect. We beseech Thee, almighty God, mercifully to look upon Thy people, that by Thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore in body and soul.
Epistle. Heb 9:11-15 Christ the High Priest, blood of the new covenant blots out sins under the old covenant.
Gospel. John 8:46-59 If anyone keep my word, he will never see death. Before Abraham came to be, I am.

27 February 2017

Readin', Writin', and Absolute Multitude. Academics 2017. 25 Feb

What's up with that? Don't I mean 'Rithmetic?

Festschrift on the Anniversary of the University of Iowa, 25 February 1847.
Or, Back To School -- Oy!

When it's almost back-to-school time, along with all the sales in the  stores, there's also all the usual stuff "for sale" too about the value of education. Trouble is, there's about as much of that stuff, as many ideas of what is an education, not to mention of what is its value, as there are kinds of pens, notebooks and clothes in the stores.

So let's start with the good old liberal arts education. We'll look at:

I. How and Where It Started
II. What the Seven Liberal Arts Actually Are
III. The Modern University
IV. How It Fell Apart
V. Where We Are Now
VI. Where We Could Be
and a little concluding note you might enjoy.

I. How and Where It Started.

These days, you may or may not hear that the ideas of liberal arts education, like those of democracy, originated in Greek antiquity.  What you really don't hear these days is that those ideas were not at all what we mean by them now.  In those societies, democracy didn't mean everyone participates, it meant that to participate in democracy, and to have an education adequate to do that, one must not be burdened by having to work; that was done by a slave class. Leisure, not work, is the basis of culture and society; "liberal" comes from the Latin for free, which translated the Greek for not what we think of now, but learning appropriate to the free and non-working class, not the slave class.

"Academy", "academic" and like words come from the school Plato founded in a sacred grove dedicated to Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, called the Akademia. Hekademia originally, actually. It lasted from about 387 BC to 83 BC. Its most famous graduate is a guy named Aristotle.

The Academy was refounded on Platonic philosophy in 410 AD and lasted until closed by the Roman Emperor Justinian I in 529. Well, Eastern Roman Emperor, but the Western Empire was gone, having collapsed in 476. Justinian was out to stamp out anything in the Empire but the state religion, the Catholic Church, defined and established by the Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius and the Western Gratian and Valentinian II in the Edict of Thessalonica on 27 February 380. Which he pretty much did, the Second Council of  Constantinople in 553 saying nothing happens in the church without the emperor. For which reason the 529 closing of the refounded Academy is often called the End of Antiquity.

The scholars of The Academy sought haven in the Persian Sassanid  Empire, then when the Persian and Byzantine empires made peace in 532, some of the scholars removed to Harran in what is now southeast Turkey. After the Sassanids lost to the Arabs, by then Islamic, in 651, Harran became the first great centre of Islamic learning as the knowledge of classical antiquity was translated from Greek to Syriac to Arabic.  Meanwhile Europe, where all this stuff came from, was a complete mess. So knowledge that began in Europe was forced out and wouldn't make its way back for a few hundred years.  Helluva guy that Justinian, huh. The Eastern Orthodox think he's a saint, which I suppose makes sense for what's left of his old state church, but unfortunately so do some of us Lutherans.

So The Academy. Its best graduate Aristotle in turn founded the Lyceum in Athens in 335 BC, right beside the temple of Apollo of Light, Apollo Lykeios, hence the name. The Romans trashed it in 86 BC, and at an unknown point thereafter it ceased to be. Its location was rediscovered in 1996, just east of modern downtown Athens. The word Lyceum survives in modern European languages for roughly what we call high school in the US.

Here's how these ideas passed from the end of the ancient world with the fall of the Western Roman Empire to later times in the West. First was a guy named Martianus Capella, who sometime after Alaric, King of the Visigoths (Germanic types), trashed Rome in 410 wrote a book called De Nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii et de septem Artibus liberalibus libri novem, which means "On the Wedding of Philology and Mercury, and the Seven Liberal Arts, in Nine Books". The first two books are an allegorical love story about how Mercury, the pursuit of learning, actually learns by way of Philology, communicated information, and the remaining seven are textbooks in each of the seven arts we will detail below. The books were largely based on existing ancient works, and the whole thing was pretty much an encyclopaedia of its time, but later, when the knowledge in that system began to show itself lacking, the whole thing started to appear lacking, and scholars now routinely diss him, when what is needed then as now is separating the system itself from its content at any given time.

Which is pretty much what the rest of this post is trying to establish.

Second was a guy named Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius, who lived shortly thereafter. His best known work is On the Consolation of Philosophy (De consolatione philosophiae), written while awaiting execution by the Arian Western Roman Emperor Theodoric for supposed treason with the Catholic Eastern Roman Emperor Justin. Boethius translated a bunch of ancient Greek works into Latin. In his rather free translation of Nicomachus' book on arithmetic he also set out the liberal arts, giving them the trivium and quadrivium names. In his On Music set out the three-fold division of music we shall detail below. His books remained standard authorities in universities for hundreds of years, and the Consolation is one of the most influential books ever written. While not part of the church's general calendar, in some places he is commemorated as a saint, St Severinus, with feast day 23 October.

You might hear that the liberal arts were originally seven, the first three being grammar, rhetoric and logic, also known as dialectic, a three-part way known in Latin and consequently to the West as the Trivium (from which our word trivial comes, trivial matters originally being not minor details but what you learn in order to get on to the heavy lifting of reality itself), and the last four being arithmetic, music, geometry and astronomy, the four-part way called the Quadrivium.

Nice to know, but doesn't tell you a damn thing about what this was all about, though it looks like it does, which is most of the problem understanding this stuff.

II. What the Seven Liberal Arts Actually Are.

Here is the structure of the Seven Liberal Arts.

The Three Part Way, the Trivium.
1. Grammar.
2. Rhetoric.
3. Logic (dialectic).

The Four Part Way, the Quadrivium.
4. Arithmetic. (Absolute Multitude)
5. Music. (Related Multitude)
6. Geometry. (Stationary Magnitude)
7. Astronomy. (Mobile Magnitude)

Again nice to know, but again doesn't tell you a damn thing about what this was all about, though again it looks like it does.The Trivium was not grammar, rhetoric and logic exactly as we mean them now, nor even something learned for its own sake. Rather, it was learning the tools by which one learns anything at all, just as a tradesman learns the tools of his trade before learning how to use them in the trade itself. Basically, Grammar was the study of how thought is written down in symbols (language), Rhetoric was the study of how thought is communicated from one person to another, and Logic was the study of how to think to reach supportable conclusions. Thus a person will be able to write down or speak his own thoughts rather than just let them rattle around in his head (Grammar), evaluate whether the written or spoken thoughts of others are well written down or written to hide or disguise things (Rhetoric), and evaluate his and others thoughts as to whether the content is supportable or based on unsupportable assertions and/or hidden assumptions which are deceptive (Logic).

Here's what the names of the liberal arts in the Quadrivium mean. Once you learned how to study anything at all, the stuff to be studied was divided into two big categories, things that are what they are as combinations of units, and things that are what they are as units that divide into further units. The former were called Multitudes, and further divided into those that are not applied to anything but abstract, which was called Arithmetic, and those that are applied to something, and that is called Music. The latter were called Magnitudes, and further divided into those that do not move, called Geometry, and those that do, called Astronomy.

Arithmetic then simply meant the study of number in the abstract, not applied to anything, just how numbers can be combined and used -- what is generally called math to-day. Music was using numbers to understand a phenomenon, and was further grouped into three areas: musica mundana, using number to quantify and understand the world outside ourselves, thus including what we generally call to-day physics, chemistry, and the like; musica humana, using number to quantify and understand the world inside ourselves, thus including what we generally call to-day biochenistry, psychology and the like; and finally and at the lowest level, musica instrumentalis, using number to understand the tones and combinations of tones produced by the instruments that produce them, including the human voice, which is what we generally now only mean by music -- except, it includes only the understanding part, the actual making of this kind of music being simply a skill and not included for its own sake but left to the uneducated. Ironic: from a skill left to the uneducated, these days, being able to strum a few chords on a guitar and belt out a few words seems to immediately confer that status of prophet, revelator,  visionary, and authority on whatever one belts out about.

Education had nothing whatever to do with earning a living. When the idea began, work did not ennoble, it debased.  Work was done by a class that, precisely because it had to work, could not possibly have time to learn what one needed to know to participate in democracy or high positions. Later, trades, something that is learned for the purpose of making a living, were learned in guilds, not universities, with the interesting twist that the guilds formed first, and universities began by borowing their ideas of how to organise from them! So show a little respect to the repairman that shows up next time you need one.

So, it's a system, first for learning how to learn, then for classifying what is to be learned, in order to be educated to fulfill the responsibilites of democracy and high office.

III. The Modern University.

In the original universities, a person who had completed a course of   studies in the Seven Liberal Arts, and passed final examinations by his masters (teachers), was awarded the degree Bachelor of Arts.

What does this mean? Not what you would think based on the ordinary current meanings of these words -- the same problem again. "Arts" does not mean painting or sculpture or whatever, but the Seven Liberal Arts. "Bachelor" does not mean an unmarried male, but comes from the Latin baccalaureus, and originally referred to the lowest class of knight, a squire, or apprentice, to a knight, or a knight in the service of another knight. The word itself seems to have come from baccalaris, a man employed on a dairy farm. Bacca was a variant of late Latin vacca, which still survives in Spanish as vaca -- cow. The progress is similar to that of learning a trade in a guild.

A Bachelor could then go on to further study, and then participating in and moderating disputations (disputationes). These were highly formalised debates on the truth of specific propositions, usually based on arguments from appropriate authorities, called argumentum ad verecundiam.  These are inappropiate to syllogistic logic, in which the syllogism is true or false based on its on its correct process and not who does it.  But they are common in informal logic, where, since no-one can be an expert on everything one relies on those who supposedly are experts on this or that thing.  This is the origin of the ad hominum (against the man), which is not name-calling, but refuting a statement on the basis that the authority cited is no authority at all. On such further study and activity, a person would be awarded the degree Master of Arts, the Arts being the Seven Liberal Arts, and "master" deriving from the Latin magister, which looks like master but actually means teacher; one may now teach the Arts.

Luther's so-called "95 Theses" were an invitation to exactly such a Disputation.

A degree was simply a step, in Latin gradus, to becoming a teacher or master, hence the term "graduate", a progression again similar to the trade guilds and still seen in the apprentice, journeyman and master structure of qualification in the trades. Since the masters were teachers, they were also called doctors, from the Latin for "to teach". Over time, since the three higher fields of study were Law, Medicine and Philosophy, masters who went into these fields earned a final doctor degree in them, and the doctoral degree in these higher faculties came to be regarded higher than the master teachers/doctors, eventually becoming the present Bachelor, Master, Doctor hierarchy, with later fields coming under the division of philosophy along with philosophy itself.

The story of the modern universities begins with the schools attached to monasteries, generally Benedictine, real monking monks, not just monked over, preserving some light against the darkness of the times, which times are known as the Dark Ages. Karl der Grosse, known to some as Charlemagne, who forged the first more or less unified state in Europe since the Roman Empire, was crowned Imperator Augustus by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day 800 at St Peter's Basilica (the old one; the current one is on the same site) to re-establish a Western entity against the still standing Eastern Roman Empire, and thus is considered the Father of Europe. Among his many accomplishments, he encouraged education. With the reforms of Pope St Gregory (died 12 March 604) for learning to include more than liturgy but also theology and  canon law, bishops began to establish schools in their cathedral parishes to teach things beyond the monastery schools. Then, with demand far in excess of supply, plus the original town and gown tensions between students and townspeople, which were not pretty with rape and murder not uncommon and often protected by clerical immunity, schools gravitated to big cities.

The word university comes from the Latin phrase "universitas magistrorum et scholarium" which described and denoted these institutions, associations of students and teachers chartered by civil and/or ecclesiastical powers that be in their cities, with degrees granted by the institution itself, at bachelor, master and doctor levels rather than licences or certificates from individual teachers as before, which adapted from the trade guilds the advancement stages of apprentice, journeyman and master onto a model drawn from the madrasahs of the Islamic world. (Notice how all this stuff, from Plato's Academy to the modern university, begins with schools attached to houses of worship? Hmm.)

The first of the modern degree-granting universities, growing out of  existing centres of higher education, was established in Bologna (1088), followed by Paris (1160), Oxford (1167) and Cambridge (1209). The final step was recognition by papal bull of a university's autonomy from the city, the church, and each other, meaning non-interference from the state and/or the church (this is what "academic freedom" means) and also that a graduate from one could teach anywhere jus ubique docendi, with no further examination.

In Bologna, the students ran things, hiring the teachers; in Paris, the church hired and paid the teachers who ran things, and in Oxford, the crown did. These differences had major consequences.  All four are still around, but in different ways.  Bologna was not a comfortable place for teachers and fell into decline; Paris became the leading university and really the great granddaddy of the modern university but was abolished as such in the French Revolution centuries later though parts survive with historical ties; government sponsorship of Oxford and the later Cambridge (1209) allowed them to survive the replacement of the church with the state Church of England.

A student entered the university at about age 15, and after a six year curriculum in the Liberal Arts, usually with an emphasis on logic, if they passed they graduated a Bachelor of Arts. Courses were not by subject so much as by the authoritative book studied, often from Aristotle, the Bible, or the Thoughts (often called the Sentences, from the Latin title Quattuor libri sententiarum, or Four Books of Thoughts, still reflected in the idea that a "sentence" should express a complete thought) of Peter the Lombard, who taught in the cathedral school at Paris. Having graduated from the Faculty of the (Seven Liberal) Arts one could go into the world, or continue in one of the three other, further, fields of Law, Medicine or Theology, which would take another 12 years or so.

IV. How It Fell Apart.

So what's the point of all this -- I'm into old stuff that isn't the way it is any more and think you should be too? No, and hell no. For as much "old stuff" as I post on this blog, I wouldn't consider any of it worth a ginger snap if it didn't do two things for us now: make where we are a little clearer and more understandable by seeing how we got here, and make where we are a little clearer and more understandable by seeing what was the idea of where we were supposed to be going in the first place.

Here's what happened. New knowledge did not replace invalidated knowledge in the system as it should have, but was confused with the system itself and brought the system down, and thus we have the start of our fragmented knowledge and view of learning to-day. This began when difficulties in reconciling Aristotle with Christian doctrine became more and more apparent, and the bishops of Paris issued a series of formal Condemnations, most notably those of 1277 by bishop Etienne Tempier, which had the effect of allowing scientific investigation to proceed without reference to Aristotle the  great authority.

Beautifully ironic, especially in view of the nonsense peddled in so many contemporary universities, that scientific freedom from existing authorities in investigation resulted not in spite of the church and its doctrine but from bishops responding to the inherent problems in expressing doctrine in terms of the prevailing science of the time.

Which was great for science, also great for Aristotle since he never thought he wrote the last word on everything, but, it also had the effect of making everything previously held now seem possibly wrong or soon to be found out to be wrong.

A new direction in thought arose, best summed up in the maxim of the English Franciscan William of Occam, entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem, or no more things should be thought to exist than necessary. This was a lex parsimoniae or law of parsimony that brought about a new way of thinking that was skeptical to agnostic.  This new way consciously saw itself as a new way and called itself such, the via moderna or modern way, as opposed to the trivium and quadrivium which became by default the via antinqua or old way. This turned up in every field, in music (as we use the term now) it was called the Ars nova, a term first used by the theorist Phillippe de Vitry in a book by the same name of in 1322.

Music that was not monophonic chant but polyphonic, with secular themes being placed over a base of a piece of chant, music in duple time rather than triple reflecting the perfection of the Trinity, music written this way for religious purposes -- such things were utterly revolutionary, and part of the shift in the times that was happening from the arts to theology itself. What a modern irony that some to-day will perform the motets of Machaut, the greatest of ars nova composers, and be thought to be real fuddy duddys, but Machaut himself in his day was thought of as an affront to everything right and proper for worship!

It was into this world turned upside down and inside out that Martin Luther, having graduated from schools that focussed on the trivium, enrolled at 17 in University of Erfurt in the first year of the 16th century, 1501, graduated with a Master degree in 1505, and went on to the Law school following his father's wishes and the usual pattern. He soon dropped out. Questioning everything, positing as little as possible, and so on was all fine, but at what point did it yield reliable results, also known as answers, which is particularly upsetting regarding the claims of Christian doctrine which have some pretty extreme claims of salvation and damnation.

There being no answers, he sought one in what was available, the rigours of the actions of monastic life, to the extent that his superior, Johann von Staupitz, Vicar General of the Augustinian Order in Germany, had him continue an academic career in theology to take his mind off his own salvation, and also spoke to him about the Means of Grace and salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ, which, though Staupitz was no Lutheran and lamented the breaking of visible church unity, got him put on Rome's Index of Forbidden Books!

V. Where We Are Now.

Seems long ago and far away, but it is into exactly this same world turned upside down and inside out than we are born now, just with better means of communication. Each age along the way seems to think it has started a new age, a new way, a modern way, an Age of Aquarius, an Enlightenment, or whatever, all just simply repeating the confusion of the via moderna with better technology. Likewise our supposedly enlightened modern world, where graduates can't count back change in their minimum wage jobs, or reliably point on the map to where the people came from toward which they have been taught warm inclusive fuzzies, or hear a news report with an ear to whether or not it contains unexamined assumptions from which supposed conclusions are drawn.

Of the four original universities, three are still around right now, namely Cambridge, Oxford and Bologna.  The fourth, Paris, was abolished by the French Revolution, but a number of institutions with historical links to it survive. More remarkably than that, all of these are routinely ranked as among the very best universities in the world.  Cambridge and Oxford always rank in a superclass by anybody's rankings, always in anybody's top ten.  The other superclass members btw are Harvard, MIT, Stanford and U California-Berkeley.  Harvard has roots in Cambridge and is named for its original benefactor, John Harvard, a Cambridge alumnus.  Bologna regularly places in the #150-300 range.

In fact, there are even older continuously existing institutions which exist now as modern universities but were not founded that way.  Al-Azhar University, in Cairo, much in the news in recent years, was founded as a Shia madrasah by the Fatimid dynasty in 975, became Sunni under the Ayyubid daynasty (the great Jewish philosopher Maimonides taught there in the 12th century) and became a university in 1961 under President Nasser of Egypt.  Arguably the oldest degree-granting institution in the world is the University of al-Qarawiyyin (sometimes given as al-Karaouine) in Morocco, founded as a Sunni madrasah by Fatima (yes, a woman) al-Fihri in 859, when Europe was largely a bloody mess barely held to-gether educationally by the grand and glorious hard-working and uproarious Benedictines, but became a university in 1963 following the independence of the Kingdom of Morocco in 1956 (from France, but hey the Romans ruled it for about 400 years, under the name Mauretania, not the same as the modern Mauritania).

And, topping it all off, Nanjing University was founded in China in 258 by the emperor Sun Xiu (Jing of Wu) as a school for the Confucian Six Arts (man am I tempted to go on about those in comparison/contrast to the Seven Liberal Arts!), and after a TON of bumps along the way became a university in the 20th century, and you know what, STILL hangs in there ranked among the top universities in the world by all major rankings!

"All major rankings" means the QS World University Rankings (QS), the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (THE), both British, and the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) from Shanghai, with US News & World Report lately jumping in with a revised QS ranking.

Recent decades have seen an astounding increase in the ability of thoughts and information to be communicated, starting with mass printing some time ago but exploding first with the coming of radio, then TV, and now the Internet and other forms of digital media; and at the same time have seen an alarming decrease in the apparent ability of people to form, communicate and evaluate thoughts and information. Where the ability to smarten up exists to an unprecedented extent, the fact of dumbing down is seen everywhere.

Amid an unprecedented ability to communicate information, people seem to have less information and less ability to critically evaluate information than ever. And this largely not because people are any more smart or stupid than before, but because educators themselves have nearly totally lost sight of this, that the magnificent increase in the media of communication does not invalidate but in fact makes more needed than ever the basic tools for forming, setting forth, and understanding what is communicated.

This general dumbing down of society is not new, it was noticed decades ago, but it has assumed warp speed as the very means of communication develop at warp speed too. One of the earliest, and still best, more applicable to-day to the means that did not exist when it was written than ever, is an essay called "The Lost Tools of Learning" by Dorothy L Sayers in 1947. She was best known for her detective novels, a genre generally considered "low brow", and that such a magnificent and magnificently educated mind as hers should equally well write best selling detective novels exemplfies what this is all about.

Her essay is online now. You can read it here.

Another, and more recent, modern exposition of these tools of learning is by Sister Miriam Joseph of the Sisters of the Holy Cross at St Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana, called, guess what, "The Trivium". Philadelphia: Paul Dry Books, 2002. Available through Amazon easily.

VI. Conclusion. Where We Could Be.

So, again, the Liberal Arts are a system for first learning how to learn, the Trivium, then for classifying what is to be learned in order to be educated to fulfill the responsibilities of democracy and high office, the Quadrivium. This is not at all about going back to the "Music of the spheres", in which the mathematical ratios in tones and in the orbits of the sun and planets around the earth were though to be the same, or about reading Aristotle, learning Latin, and things like that -- though there's good reason to read Aristotle and learn Latin -- or about going back to earlier social structures. What happened was, as some of the knowledge taught within the system was later found to be either incomplete or just false, like what orbits around what, the system itself, and more importantly the overall unity of things which it expressed, also came into question.

In religion, the point of the Lutheran Reformation was not to create a new church or even split the one there was, but to bring back to front and centre the Means of Grace through which salvation is communicated and the message of salvation through the blood of Christ itself -- to paraphrase Luther, making the most clear things about the church what had become the most obscure amid the Roman confusion. The direction in which the later more general Reformation went, which began even in Luther's lifetime, was as opposed by Luther and Lutherans as the errors of Rome.

In education, perhaps another reformation is needed, not a religious but an educational one.  One where besides what one learns to earn whatever living one earns and has whatever career one has, that in order for society to function, ESPECIALLY in one where all and not just some classes participate, there is a skillset and a basic body of knowledge needed by all, where the tools of learning are actually taught (there's the trivium), where a person is then taught how to handle abstact operations, operations applied to things as they add up, how complicated things break down and how that is applied to things (there's the quadrivium). That would be education, the basics for participating in our society, open to all now, rather than the latest theories of what is "enlightened" this week, which are handed down as so modern, but amount to no more than secular articles of faith handed down "ex cathedra" from an authority which, when it takes itself to be such, violates the very parsimony and science it thinks it passes on, as it neither guarantess a correct conclusion nor prevents a false one and may not even be applicable to a particular field, and, if applied to all fields as a universal principle, violates its very definition!

Oh Yeah, an Addendum.

There was this second cousin of Martianus Capella, with a variant spelling of the last name, Antonius Cappella, who wrote thousands of pieces of music, in a wide array of styles but all vocal, that are still performed to this day. You can spot them easily. They are all identified by the way he signed his name, A Cappella.

OK, I'm just jacking around now. A cappella actually means "from the chapel" and was used to designate purely vocal Renaissance polyphony generally for the church from the later Baroque concertato style which featured alternating vocal and instrumental parts in a piece of music. Oddly enough, we now know those "vocal" motets were often doubled on instruments, but the first modern "musicologists" didn't know that, so singing "a cappella" has come to mean pretty much any music that is singing only, no instruments.

Except for a small school of hard cores, in a city named for its big reeds, Acapulco de Juarez in Mexico, who wouldn't use the reeds for instruments, so the style is also called singing Acapulco. OK I'm jacking around there too.

But for real, I'm happy to say my alma mater, the University of Iowa, from which I got my MA and PhD degrees, ranks #121 in the USNWR rankings, 175 in THE, 269 in QS, and in the 151-200 band in ARWU.  Not too shabby for a relative newcomer only organised 25 February 1847 in what had just become a state only 59 days before! It is also listed among the "Public Ivies", a list of 30 public US institutions considered to offer an educational level comparable to the "Ivy League" schools. And I'm also happy to say that Luther thought the plays of Terence, after whom I was named IRL, were excellent for children's learning.

And what's an "alma mater"? Hoo boy. It's Latin for "nourishing mother". In the Roman Empire it meant the Mother Goddess, Venus, the Roman version of Aphrodite, who was called Venus genetrix, Mother Venus. In the Roman Church this became adapted to Mary, Jesus' mother, as Mater dei genitrix. As an academic reference it has been used since the 1600s and comes from the phrase "alma mater studiorum", which means nourishing mother of studies. It's from this that we get the Latin term "alumnus" (male) or "alumna" (female), plural "alumni", meaning "one(s) who is/are nourished", as in educated.

In 2000 it was adopted as the motto of, guess who, the oldest modern university, the University of Bologna, right on the heels of the 1999 signing of the Bologna Declaration signed there by the ministers of education of 29 European countries, which while aiming at a greater standardisation of European higher education, seems to do so from the standpoint of corporations and the World Trade Organisation (WTO)-- cutting costs, getting a job. getting competitive -- read, winning against or at least getting your slice of the pie with other players -- etc.

Oy.

Textual Note: This post is a complete revision of my original similarly titled one, incorporating additional material from 2009 and new material in 2010, then revised here and there in 2011 and 2013 - 2016.

20 February 2017

22 February. The Confession of St Peter. On Chairs Too.

Huh?  Didn't we have The Confession of St Peter on 18 January?

Well, yes we did, but it's a really bad idea.  The current LCMS listing in Feasts and Festivals for 18 January as the Confession of St Peter rightly celebrates that the Rock is the Confession, not Peter and not an office.  But, the feast is not and never has been of the confession but of the chair of St Peter in Rome, a completely different idea to be explored in this post, and the correct emphasis on a confession rather than a chair is not well served by revisionism.  Here's why 22 February is a much better choice for the confession.

On Chairs.

OK, what's up with "chair" and "confession".  First, chair.  The Latin original word is cathedra.  Hey, that's close to "cathedral".  Yes it is, because a cathedral is a church where the cathedra (chair) of the local presiding overseer is located.

OK, what's a presiding overseer?  In many church bodies these overseers are called "bishops".  The German cognate (English being a Germanic language basically) is Bischoff.  That comes through earlier forms as a vernacular use of a late Latin corruption, "biscopus", of the Latin word episcopus, which transliterates the same word in Greek and means an overseer or supervisor.  Originally it referred to civic officers with responsibility for watching over something.  The NT used the word to refer to those with similar responsibility for Christian communities.

So the cathedra (chair) is where the episcopus (overseer) sits for formal proceedings, and is a sign and symbol of his authority as overseer.  Thus a bishop's chair is the seat, literally and figuratively, of his authority.  Every bishop has a formal chair (cathedra) in a chair-church (cathedral).  So, a church called "cathedral" that is not the location of a bishop's chair is no cathedral at all but just using the name because it sounds impressive.

There's another word for chair in Latin, and that is sedes, from the verb "to sit".  We get the English word "sedentary" from that, and also the word "see", meaning the place or area of authority of the sitter on the chair.  So the area of a bishop's jurisdiction is called his "see", that to which his authority from his "chair" extends.

You may have heard the phrase "ex cathedra", which means "from the chair".  This is associated with the bishop of Rome, whose nickname is "pope".  That word derives from "papa" as the spiritual father of the flock entrusted to his care.  The term is applied to several bishops actually, but most famously to the bishop of Rome.  This is where all this confession and chair stuff gets confused.

On Peter.

The Catholic Church, which is the entity defined by, and made the state religion of, the Roman Empire with the Edict of Thessalonica in 380 AD, and not to be confused with the catholic church of the creeds, holds that in Matthew 16:18-19 Christ establishes Peter and his successors as the ones with visible earthly headship of the church.  Mark 3:16 and 9:2, Luke 22:32 and 24:34, John 21:15-17 and I Corinthians 15:5 are also cited in this regard.  Here is the Matthew passage in the English Standard Version:

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[b] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[c] shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed[d] in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

The ESV footnote to verse 18 explains the word-play here:  "The Greek words for Peter and rock sound similar".  More exactly, "Peter" comes from the Latin Petrus, which transliterates the Greek Petros, which makes a proper name of petros, which means a stone or rock.  "Peter" was not at the time a personal name in Greek; that came later in veneration of Peter, who was the first so named.  But, the Greek word in the next part is not petros, but petra.  This is why the footnote says they sound similar and does not say they are the same word.

So petros, petra, what's the difference?  Well, petros means a stone or rock; petra means a rock formation like a ridge or cliff or ledge, AND, a stone that is used in building.  And that's where the controversy begins.  What's the rock formation, or building stone -- Peter, because he was first to confess, and because he was the first one to whom it was revealed that Jesus is the Anointed One (Christ) of God, or is it the confession itself?

After Jesus' death (and resurrection) Peter eventually left Jerusalem and went to Antioch, a major city at the time, in what is now the southern tip of Turkey just off the Mediterranean Sea.  After leading the church there, he went to Rome itself to lead the church there, and was executed under Emperor Nero.  All the pious biographical summaries tell you that.  There was a lot more going on though, and when you know what that is, it makes a difference.  Here's what's usually left out.

Nero didn't have Peter executed only because he was a bad guy who hated Christians.  Peter was executed by Emperor Nero in 64 AD following the great fire that destroyed most of Rome.  There's a reason for that.  Nero had become emperor in 54 and was coming up on his ten year anniversary in power (called dies imperii) when the fire broke out.  Most Romans thought Nero had the fire started himself, to clear land on the Palatine Hill to have a big gold house built for himself, but Nero blamed the despised Christians (we're a couple three hundred years away from the Empire adopting Christianity) and accordingly executed lots of them, including Peter and Paul, who was there too. 

And he did build that gold house!  It's called the Gold House, well ok, Domus Aurea, and it was spectacular.  But like Nero himself, it came to a bad end.  Nero's excesses were too much for even the Romans, who never did anything on a small scale, and a damnatio memoriae (damnation of memory) was issued in which physical signs of his existence were destroyed or altered.  WRT the Domus Aurea, just 40 years after it was built, it was filled with earth and built over: the Baths of Titus, Vespasian's Flavian Amphitheatre (which you may know as the Colosseum), the Baths of Trajan and Hadrian's Temple of Venus and Rome were all built on the grounds. 

Somewhere in the 15th Century a guy fell through a cleft into something and found himself right in the middle of all these frescoes in the place, which on the one hand had a profound effect on later Renaissance art but on the other brought exposure to moisture leading to decay.  The visible ruins are still there but keep falling apart.  It closed due to safety problems in 2005, reopened in 2007, closed again in 2008, then a huge dining room with a rotating ceiling like the sky (powered by slaves) was found in 2009 but more stuff collapsed in 2010. 

One enduring irony is that Nero was the first to put mosaics on ceilings instead of floors, which when discovered in the Renaissance became a feature of church decoration.  Another enduring irony: many lower class Romans liked Nero, because he spent tons of money on food and entertainment on them despite the economic effect, and after his suicide in 68 AD a popular legend arose that someday he would return (Nero Redivivus) and give stuff away again.  At least three fake "Neros" tried to assume power that way.  The legend persisted for centuries; Augustine mentions it as current in his City of God in 422 AD. 

This effect is exactly the sort of thing Juvenal (Latin:  Decimus Junius Juvenalis) decried in his Satire X around 100 AD, about 30 years after Nero's death, in the famous phrase "panem et circenses", bread and circuses.  It's from this that the country in The Hunger Games is called Panem.  Circus, as meant now, derives from but is not what it meant then.  Circus was more than a Barnum and Bailey sort of a thing, but it was the greatest show on earth at the time.  The word circus derives from circle.  The "circle" is the performing area, not actually circular but oblong.  Huge spectacles were staged in them, even recreated naval battles, for public entertainment.  So, translating Juvenal's phrase for meaning, it's food and entertainment. 

This was also about 125 years after the end of the Roman Republic on 16 January 27 B.C. when the Senate proclaimed Octavian, the adopted son of Julius Caesar, as the new title Augustus.  The root word means one who increases, and is thus venerable or majestic; it's where we get our adjective "august".  Also the name of the Roman sixth month, which was renamed after him.  His full title was Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus. 

Huh?  OK, means "commander Caesar son of the deified one".  "The deified one" was Julius Caesar.  The Senate had declared him a god on 1 January 42 B.C, after his death by assassination on 15 March 44 B.C. the first such action by the Senate.  "Son" is because he was the adopted son of Julius Caesar.  "Commander" (imperator) was a title given victorious Roman generals, but it became a title for ruling; it's where we get our words emperor, imperative, imperial etc.  Though many features of the Republic continued, real power was not in them.  The Romans had traded the dignity and freedoms of the Roman Republic for the Empire, based on who would give them stuff ("food and entertainment") for free, i.e., paid for with someone else's money via the government. 

Gee, isn't it great politicians no longer campaign for office based on what they'll have the government give you free, that is, paid for with money the government takes from someone else? (Cough.)

No surprise that later in the same Satire Juvenal says rather than the wrong, or wrongly exaggerated, desires expected from one's own efforts or appropriated from the efforts of others, such as power and wealth, one should desire mens sana in corpore sano, a sound mind in a sound body.  And no surprise he warns in another Satire (VI, to be exact) of the dangers of a government so powerful.  Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?  -- who guards the guards themselves, or, who watches the watchers?

Holy crap, watchers -- didn't we talk about watchers at the start, maybe all this stuff is going to tie to-gether and not be just Past Elder poking around in old stuff!  Maybe it'll come full (wait for it) circle!

Oddly enough, the phrase in Juvenal is in the context of those watching over the marital fidelity of women -- those who watch may be corrupted themselves, so who watches them?  Maybe they keep quiet about things, being paid off; maybe they themselves are the corrupters so of course they keep quiet.  It's not known for sure if the lines are from Juvenal or were later interpolated, and it really doesn't matter since the context is clear, and, beyond the specific matter of marital fidelity, is used to express a problem known all the way back to Plato's Republic, namely, what prevents the abuse of power, what prevents power from being abused even when originally exercised for good?

Plato's answer was, the guardians will be their own guardians against abuse and corruption by what is called the "noble lie" in politics and the "pious fiction" in religion.  That is, a myth of a religious or political (or both) nature told by an elite that doesn't actually believe it but uses it for the purpose of establishing or maintaining the greater good.

On Chairs of Peter.

18 January is actually one of two feasts of chairs of St Peter.  22 February is the other one and it's older.  The Calendar of Philocalus, done in 354 and starting with 311, lists it but not the January one.  The Martyrologium Hieronymianum, from the 800s, lists both but, in what appears to be a later interpolation, assigns the February one to Antioch, where Peter first had a chair before he went to Rome.  Both were celebrated in or around Rome with actual chairs.

22 February was celebrated in Rome.  St Ennodius, Bishop of Pavia (Magnus Felix Ennodius, died 17 July 522), in his "Libellus pro Synodo" describes in some detail the use of the chair Peter used by the Bishop of Rome, popularly called "Pope" and held to be the successor of Peter, when conferring Confirmation on recently baptised converts on 22 February.

18 January was celebrated on the Via Salaria.  What's a Via Salaria?  The name means Salt Way (as in road).  The path of the road predates the road itself and even Rome itself, starting as a trade route for the pre-Roman Sabines looking for salt at the mouth of the Tiber.  This was a key element in what emerged as Roman, as the Sabines, some sooner, some later in the Republic, blended with the locals.  Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome and successor to Romulus the legendary founder of Rome (and from whom it is named) was a Sabine.  In rural areas parts of the road, and ruins of several bridges along it, are still there!

On the Via Salaria is the Catacomb of Priscilla.  The site was originally a quarry.  Early sources describe this as where Peter baptised (ubi Petrus baptizabat).  It became a cemetery for Christians, its remote location suiting what were then outcasts.  Who's Priscilla?  A common Latin name, here that of a woman from the gens Acilia married to the consul Acilius, who after she became Christian was ordered executed by Emperor Domitian, the 11th Roman emperor, assassinated 18 September 96 A.D.  The site continued to be burial grounds for some time, including popes, and, containing much artwork to adorn it, including the first known paintings of Mary, from the early 200s.  In one of them she's breastfeeding infant Jesus btw.

Around 600 Pope Gregory the Great, who commissioned work on the calendar we use now, also commissioned an Abbot Johannes to gather oils from lamps that burned at the burial sites of early Christian martyrs, and the list of them at the cathedral at Monza says one of them has oil from the chair "ubi prius sedit sanctus Petrus", from the chair where St Peter first sat, and the Martyrologium Hieronymianum says the same of the site, "qua primo Rome petrus apostolus sedit".

So both these feasts were all about with Peter and his chair, both literally and as a sign of his authority.  Tertullian, writing in about 200 in "De praescriptione baereticorum", says to visit the churches founded by the Apostles in many of which their chairs are still there, and mentions Rome specifically.  OK I translated:  it's Percurre ecclesias apostolicas, apud quas ipsæ adhuc cathedræ apostolorum suis locis præsident. Si Italiæ adjaces habes Romam.  About 50 years later, after Pope Fabian died, St Cyprian describes the situation as both the authority and chair itself of Peter being vacant:  Cum locus Fabiani, id est locus Petri et gradus cathedrae sacerdotalis vacaret.

So yeah, it's all about chairs and authority, not confession.  So where are these chairs now?  That's where the fun starts.  The one at the Via Salaria is gone.  The Goths trashed Rome in 410, and on the way there trashed everything leading to Rome, and the Via Salaria was one of the routes there.  Which was also the case when Germanic types similarly trashed Rome in the 500s and 600s.  Somewhere in there, that chair took the gas.

The other chair is said to be enclosed in a reliquary (place where relics are held) designed to encompass it by the great artist Bernini and finished in 1653.  It's in St Peter's Basilica in Rome.  Is the chair inside the reliquary the actual chair St Peter used?  Well there is a beat up wooden chair in there, that is clearly not just a regular chair but a carrying chair used by a person in authority.  It was taken out and photographed in 1867.

Story is, this is the chair used by Peter himself.  It was preserved in a church built on the site of the home of the couple Paul mentions as co-workers in his letters (epistles), Priscilla and Aquila.  Holy crap, lots of Priscillas!  Well it was a common name.  It's the diminutive form of Prisca.  Christian services were held in their home, including baptisms, with Peter.  She was Roman, Jewish in background, converted to Christianity, was tortured and executed under Emperor Claudius, the fourth emperor and the one before Nero, who was his grand nephew and adopted son and who along with the Senate ordered him considered a god after his death.  Nearly all sources contemporary with him say his death was by poisoning from his current wife, but may have been a consequence of the many symptoms contemporaries also noted, often thought to have been polio but more recently cerebral palsy.  This is the Claudius of the famous Robert Graves books.

There is a church on the site of their home, called Santa Prisca.  Supposedly her remains are in the church.  The site, whether it was or was not their home, was indeed the site of a temple to Mithras, whose cult was popular in Rome, and the temple was built about 200 A.D. on the site of Emperor Trajan's town house built about 95 A.D.  The Mithraeum was not excavated until the 1950s.  There was indeed a Christian place of worship alongside it.  Story is, with Christianity now OK, Pope Damasus moved a chair believed to be the chair of St Peter from that location to Rome.

OK who's Damasus?  You can read more about him in other posts on this blog, here we'll only say he was "pope" at the time the Roman Empire issued the Edict of Thessalonica in 380 AD, which said that in the Empire's clemency and moderation all nations which it rules should hold to the faith brought to Rome by Peter and faithfully conserved in Damasus and that only those who do may be called Catholic Christians and those who don't shall not even be called churches but heretics and are subject to such consequences as God and/or the Empire shall choose to inflict.

Noble lie, pious fiction?  In any case, a magnificent reliquary for what was held to be the chair of St Peter was designed and built by the great sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini.  When a Barberini family member became Pope Urban VIII in 1623, Bernini was put in charge of architecture for the new basilica  -  you know, the one being subsidised in part by the sale of indulgences to which this loudmouth German friar loudly objected -- to replace the old St Peter's Emperor Constantine (aka the Great) had built.  Much of how the Vatican looks now is the result, including the reliquary for the chair.

In its own time the renovation of the Vatican was controversial.  Among other things, the new stuff was in part built by raiding material from the ruins of the real Roman stuff, so much so that a saying was common -- quod non fecerunt barbari fecerunt Barberini, what the barbarians didn't do the Barberinis did.

In one part of the reliquary is an image of Charles the Bald (Karolus Caluus).  Whozat?  A "Roman" emperor, from the later "Roman" Empire whose resurrection was begun by Charlemagne in 800.  Charles the Bald was Charlemagne's grandson.  He ruled as Charles II as Holy Roman Emperor from 875 to 877 when he died at age 54.  He wasn't bald btw.  No contemporary references describe him that way, nor as particularly hairy either so it wasn't an ironic name.  The reference was to this:  all the land available was already promised by his dad (Louis the Pious, Charles the Great's son) to his older brothers so he was "bald", but through civil wars and treaties he ended up emperor.

Know why that image is there?  Because the chair that's in there is not the chair used by St Peter at all, but one given as a gift by Emperor Charles II (the "bald") to Pope John VIII in 875!  Well, old Charles was known to cozy up to bishops as a hedge against the corruption of secular rulers, and who better than the successor to St Peter the rock on whom the church is built and all.

Are You KIDDING Me?  Oh Yeah, Confession.

What?  After ALL this chairs stuff and the authority based off it, the one's been gone for hundreds of years and the other, the only actual chair around, well, the original is gone too and something else has been there since 875 as if it were the original!?!?! 

Is Past Elder just bashing Rome again?  Well,  the Vatican even says the chair in there is a gift from Charles the Bald right on its site!
http://www.vaticanstate.va/content/vaticanstate/en/monumenti/basilica-di-s-pietro/interno.paginate.2.html   And in a huge ornate church, the new St Peter's Basilica, to replace the old one built by Emperor Constantine the Great, the whole renovation project financed in part by the sale of indulgences, and that as Rome's part of the take for Albrecht von Brandenburg being allowed to sell them to pay off the huge loans he took from the Fuggers, the pre-eminent money and power brokers of the time, who took over from the Medicis, to pay his way into being made the Elector and Archbishop of Mainz (the electors elected the Holt Roman Emperor)!

Noble lies, pious fictions and who's watching the watchers all over the place!  Just the sort of thing that got that loudmouth German friar loudmouthing (that's Martin Luther, in case you missed it).  This Catholic Church is not at all the catholic church of the creed it professes, and a reformation was needed.

You can read much more about that on other posts on this blog, but in the context of this post, why, in view of the scandalous to bogus history of the whole chair thing, would the church reformed preserve either of these feasts, both of them bound up from the start with the authority of the "bishop" of Rome?

Because underneath the crap is the confession, you are the Christ, the son of the living God.  This is the petra, the foundation stone, on which Christ's church is built, and, just as with the first guy Simon, who got renamed after it, "flesh and blood"  does not reveal this to a person, but the Father who is in heaven.  IOW, faith is the work of the Holy Spirit and not human effort of thought or action; or as we say, sola fide, by faith alone, sola gratia, by grace alone, sola Scripture, by scripture alone.

Accordingly Loehe, so influential in the formation of our synod, left St Peter's Chair at Rome on 18 January and St Peter's Chair at Antioch on 22 February, without attempting a "correction" and unrevised from what it had been for a millennium.  The text stands on its own, and as so often, the "Lutheran" difference with Rome being not so much in what we do but in how and why we do it.

Or one could do what THE Lutheran Hymnal (1941) did, which is, list neither.

But get this.  Pope John the Destroyer, aka John XXIII, removed the Chair of Peter at Rome feast on 18 January altogether in 1960, and also demoted the 22 February Antioch one. These changes survive in the hunk of dung 1962 Roman Missal, which is now the "extraordinary form" of the Roman liturgy, as bogus a sham of the Roman liturgy up to the 1960s as the "ordinary form" the novus ordo is after it.  Speaking of which, the novus ordo of Vatican II did  away with the feast, and combined it with the feast of St Peter's Chair at Antioch on 22 February.

So Rome, having missed the point about the confession altogether, eliminates the feast in one of its calendars and combines it with a similar feast in which it similarly misses the point in its other calendar!  How typically RCC.  But what of us?  In our current worship book, which in so many ways adopts and adapts the novus ordo for Lutheran use, much like the co-wo crowd also tries to adapt and adopt another non-Lutheran form and give it a Lutheran substance, we list the 18 January one Rome dropped, but as the "confession" not the chair, though the only reason the feast exists at all was about the chair, and we don't even list the 22 February one they kept.

You know what?  There's real good reason to keep the 22 February one, but as usual, not exactly what the RCC thinks it is.  You know where that 22 February date came from and why it's the date for the older and original of these two chair-feasts?  Here's why, it's because tradition has it that 22 February is -- ready for this -- the day on which Peter, what, sat on a chair of authority somewhere?  No, the date he made the confession!

Do we know 22 February was the day Simon spoke his confession of faith and got renamed Peter?  No.  Is it in the Bible?  No.  Does that mean drop it?  No.  Why not?  Because again, we Lutherans aren't a "If it ain't in the Bible we ain't doing it" bunch, but "If it contradicts the Bible we ain't doing it" bunch.  Peter's confession is in the Bible.  The day it happened is human legend, yes, but, that the commemoration of it was on 22 February is demonstrable.

What a magnificent irony, that he who was born in the reign of one the government declared the son of a god is actually the Son of God!  And unlike Nero, will return, not to distribute food and entertainment from the government, not just to restore the freedom and dignity of the Roman Republic or any other government, not just to attain a sound mind in a sound body, not just to establish a "people of God" or even a church as "body of Christ", but to complete the dignity of children and heirs of God in eternal life with Him!

The entire effort and meaning of the Lutheran Reformation, as distinct from "the Reformation", is not to form a new church but to reform the only church there is, the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, from the accretions laid on and over it, both historically and presently, by the Catholic Church created by the Roman Empire.  And there is no more telling example of those accretions, making what should be the most obvious things about the church the most obscure, than the obscuration of the confession of Peter by all this pious nonsense about his chairs and authority.

And no better way to do it by celebrating the confession on the day when it was actually part of the celebration, actually in there all along amid all the accretions of which we are now free.

Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God.  Revealed first to Simon, but then to each and every one in exactly the same way, this confession that is the founding stone of the church, not by "flesh and blood", human effort to attain it, but by God the Father in heaven.  Sola gratia sola fide sola scriptura.  By grace alone, by faith alone, by Scripture alone.