Morgendämmerung, oder, Wie man mit dem Hammer theologiert.
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.

29 October 2014

Reformation Day and All Saints Day / Reformationstag und Allerheiligen, 2014.

Yeah, everybody knows 31 October is the day Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the church door and started the Reformation. Everybody knows it's Halloween too. What does this mean?

What does "Halloween" mean?

Let's start with Halloween. The word is a contraction actually, the "een" being short for "even" which is in turn short for "evening". Evening of what? Evening before All Hallows, that's what. So what or who in the hell are the hallows? "Hallow" is the modern English form of a Germanic root word meaning "holy", which also survives in modern German as "heilige". The Hallows are the holy ones, meaning the saints.

1 November has for centuries been celebrated in the West as the Feast of All Hallows, cognate with the German word for it, Allerheiligen, which is now usually expressed in English as the Feast of All Saints. The term Hallowmas was once common for it, the mass of all hallows. Halloween then is a contraction for the Eve of the Feast of All Hallows, the night on 31 October before the feast on 1 November.

About the only other times you hear "hallow" in some form or other in modern English is its retained use in the traditional wording of the Our Father, "hallowed be thy name", or in the phrase "hallowed halls" in reference to a university or some esteemed institution. "Hallowed be thy name" literally means held holy be thy name, "thy" being the second person familiar form of address modern English doesn't use.

The Origin of All Saints' Day. Lemuralia.

So when did we start having a Feast of All Hallows on 1 November? Well, we started having a Feast of All Hallows, or Saints, before it was on 1 November! In the Eastern Church, all the saints are collectively remembered on the first Sunday after Pentecost. It really got rolling when the emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire Leo VI (886-911) built a church in honour of his wife when she died, but as she was not a recognised saint he dedicated the church to all the saints, so that she would be included in a commemoration of all saints whether recognised as such or not.

In the Western Church, the whole thing got rolling when Pope Boniface IV got permission in 609 AD from the Roman emperor Phocas -- again this would be the Eastern Roman Emperor, as the Western Roman Empire was long gone by this time -- to rededicate the Roman Pantheon to Mary and all martyrs. What's the Pantheon? A big temple built by Agrippa, Caesar Augustus' best general officer, to Jupiter, Venus and Mars in 27 BC. It was destroyed in a major fire in Rome in 80 AD. The emperor Domitian rebuilt it, but it burned again in 110 AD. The emperor Trajan began reconstruction and it was completed by the emperor Hadrian in 126 AD. That's the building that's there now.

Boniface rededicated the Pantheon to Mary and all martyrs on 13 May 609 (might have been 610) AD. Why 13 May? Because it was on that day that the old Roman Lemuralia concluded. What's a Lemuralia? The Roman poet Ovid says it originated when Romulus, one of the co-founders of Rome and from whom the city is named, tried to calm the spirit of his brother Remus, the other co-founder. Why would Remus' spirit need calming? Because Romulus killed him with a shovel to make sure he didn't name and rule the city, that's why.

At any rate, over time it became the day, or rather days, there were three of them, 9, 11, and 13 May, when the head of the household (the paterfamilias, father of the family) chased off the lemures (one lemur, two or more lemures) who were vengeful spirits of the dead ticked off at the living, for either not having been buried properly or treated well in life, or remembered well in death, and out to harm or at least scare the crap out of the living.

Because they appeared so scary, they were also called larvae (one larva, two or more larvae) meaning "masks", which is also how the "mask" of early stage life, which in some animals is nothing like the adult stage, such as the caterpillar to the butterfly, came to be called larva. Anyway, paterfamilias went out at midnight looking to one side and tossing black beans behind him saying "haec ego mitto his redimo meque meosque fabis", or "I send these (beans), with these I redeem me and mine" nine times. Then, he banged bronze pots to-gether saying "manes exite paterni" or "Souls of my ancestors, exit" nine times.

Western All Saints' Day Gets Moved By The Pope.  Way More To It Than That Though. 

In putting the Feast of All Saints on 13 May, Boniface meant to both replace the old Lemuralia and transform it into a Christian observance for all the Christian dead. The replacement anyway worked, and over time the Lemuralia were largely forgotten. So why isn't All Saints' Day still 13 May? Because Pope Gregory III (731-741) built a place in St Peter's in Rome for veneration of relics of all saints, and moved the date to 1 November.  Now, this isn't the St Peter's that's there now, it's the old one begun by Constantine  --  remember that because it's gonna be a big deal on this subject later in this post.  It stuck, and in 835 Louis the Pious, son and successor to Charlemagne (aka Karl der Grosse), with a big nudge from Pope Gregory IV, made it officially stuck, and there it is to this day.

Btw, Gregory III was a Syrian and the last pope who was not a European until the current pope, Francis.  Sort of:  Gregory was Syrian descended too, whereas Francis was born of Italian immigrants to Argentina, so, Gregory III is still the last pope both not European or European descended. 

Gregory III is also the last pope to have held off assuming office until approval by the Exarchatus Ravennatis.  Holy crap, what's that and how did it hold up papal installations?  In Gregory's time the Western Roman Empire was long gone, and the surviving Eastern Roman Empire was trying to hold Rome, and Italy generally, to-gether against the onslaught of Germanic types, mainly Lombards, by means of exarchs, direct representatives of the Eastern, and now only, Roman Emperor, in Constantinople.  The Emperor Maurice (Flavius Mauricius Tiberius Augustus, actually) established two exarchs, one in 584 in Ravenna, the last capital of the Western Empire before its collapse, and one in Carthage in 590 to administer northern Africa and Spain. 

This preserved something of the old full Roman Empire, and re popes, this preserved the approval of the "bishop" of Rome by the emperor of Rome.  The Exarchate of Africa lasted until 698 when it was defeated by forces of the Umayyad Caliphate (capital, Damascus).  The Exarchate of Ravenna lasted from 584 until 751, when the last exarch (guy named Eutychius) was killed by the Lombards, whereupon the Franks under their king, Pippin, Charlemagne's dad, took over and gave the exarchate's lands to the pope in 756, which began the Patrimonium Sancti Petri, the Patrimony of Saint Peter.  These papal states continued in one form or another until 1929, when the Lateran Treaty between the pope (Pius XI) via his secretary of state and the king of Italy (Victor Emmanuel III, the last one, he and all male members of the House of Savoy were ordered permanently out of Italy by the referendum in 1946 to establish a republic) via his prime minister, Benito Mussolini, abolished them and established as the only papal state the Vatican City State which exists to-day.

The end of the Exarchate of Ravenna in 751 didn't end the ratification of "bishops" by the "Roman" emperor btw.  The empire of the Frank general Charles Martel would evolve into The Holy Roman Empire, Imperium Romanum Sacrum, and see itself as the continuation, the transfer of rule,  translatio imperii, of the full Roman Empire --  meaning, not just from the end of the Western Roman Empire with the deposing of Romulus Augustus by Odoacer in 476, as is often noted, but the whole pie, from Caesar Augustus through Constantine VI of the Eastern Roman Empire. 

Huh?  Whozat?  OK, first Charles Martel.  He lived from 23 August 686 to 22 October 741. His name means "Charles the Hammer", from the Latin Carolus Martellus, Karl Martell in German.  Boniface said he couldn't have evangelised the Germans without him (and his army).  He was one of the greatest generals anywhere anytime.  He held off the Islamic invasion of Western Europe in October 732 (you didn't think this Islamicist thing was anything new, did you?) at Tours, defeating vastly superior forces, which is how he got the name "the Hammer".  But, he was not all hung up on being king of anything. 

His son Pippin was, and, the Eastern Empire had failed, exarchates and anything else, to protect the West against the Lombards or the Islamic Caliphate.  Plus, Emperor Constantine VI, who had become Emperor at age 9 and presided over the Second Council of Nicaea at age 16 (hey, when you're emperor with a state church you get to do stuff like that), kept losing battles, which led to a revolt he crushed severely.  Then he divorced his wife for not producing a son (happens a lot, too bad they didn't know anything about genetics) and married his mistress, which lost him what little support he had left. 

His mom Irene hadn't relinquished regent powers over him and kept the title Empress, so her supporters blinded and deposed him on 19 April 797.  So now, on top of the inability of the remainder of the Roman Empire to hold things to-gether in the West, it's gonna be led by a woman, and everybody knows that can't be!  I mean, a woman can be Empress by being the wife of the Emperor (Empress Consort), or by being the widow of an Emperor (Empress Dowager) and if she's also the mother of the current Emperor (Empress Mother), but rule in her own right (Empress Regnant), no.  So, the next big Western step was, against all this, the crowning of Charles Martel's grandson Charlemagne as Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day 800 in St Peter's (the old one, remember?), Which kinda worked both ways, as Charlemagne had just bailed old Leo out from being blinded by the Romans themselves! 

Yes this was the first Roman Emperor in the West in about 300 years, but the coronation was explicit; this wasn't just a restoration of the Western Roman Empire that ceased in 476, Charlemagne was the rightful successor to the Eastern Roman Emperor Constantine VI, so he and not Irene was straight up Roman Emperor, period.  For a while Irene thought marrying Charlemagne might fix this, but that idea never made it to first date, although Charlemagne's fourth and last wife, Luitgard, had died 4 June 800, so he was eligible.

So now there were two "Roman" emperors, but not West and East, but each claiming rightful rule over the whole thing in continuous succession.  Neither one of them actually Roman, but hey.  Now it's kinda hard to preserve an empire when you gotta split it up among your kids, so things bobbled for a century or so, until 2 February 962, when the German king Otto became der Große, the Great.  Having overcome all opposition from anybody, he was crowned King of Germany in Aachen, Charlemagne's old capital, on 7 August 936, and on 2 February 962 was crowned Romanorum Imperator, Emperor of the Romans, in Rome at St Peter's (still the old one) by Pope John XII -- whose control over the Papal States (remember that, I told you this stuff all hangs to-gether eventually!) he had just secured.  John though soon sent emissaries to the Eastern Empire, Otto got wind of it, went back to Rome and had a pope more suitable to him selected (that's Leo VIII).  Poor old John went off with one of his mistresses and died of a heart attack during sex, though other accounts say her jealous husband killed him.  Apostolic succession, indeed.  BTW, "Pope Joan" legends come from one of his mistresses who had a real influence on him.

This whole deal was so about being the Roman Empire that the "holy" thing didn't get added until a couple hundred years after Otto, with Frederick the Red Beard (ok Barbarossa), crowned, as it's done, King of the Germans (ie Romans) in Aachen on 9 March 1152 then Emperor in Rome (where else?) by the pope (who else?, this time Eugene III) on 18 June 1155.  Fred btw asked for and got an annulment of his marriage to his wife, Adelheid, in 1153, on the grounds that they were too closely related (that's called consanguinity) to be married; they were only fourth cousins but the consanguinity became suddenly an issue after she kept not having kids, imagine that, then he tried to get a wife from somebody at the Eastern Empire court in Constantinople to further express the whole one Rome thing, but that didn't work out, so on 9 June 1156 he married a nice French girl, well countess actually, when became Empress Consort (remember what that is) and they had 12 kids, one of whom became the next "Roman" Emperor (Henry VI).

Btw, ever wonder why it's called the Vatican?  Because it's on the Vaticanus Mons, that's why.  OK but what is that?  The hill (mons) where the Vates (that's VAH-tays) hang out, that's what.  OK but who are they?  They were prophets and oracles of pre-Christian Rome.  The name originally applied to the Janiculum, a hill across the Tiber from Rome itself and its "seven hills" founded by the god Janus, according to Roman religion.  Eventually it came to include the plain in front of it, where Nero built a circus, that became the supposed site of the martyrdom of St Peter, over which supposed site Constantine began construction of a big church, St Peter's.  Remember that?  All this stuff does tie to-gether!

Samhain.

Thing is, there already was another non Christian celebration about this time. The Celts had something called Samhain, which means "Summer's end" and is still the word for November in Irish, as two other of their big celebrations, Bealtaine and Lunasa, are the Irish words for May and August. It was a harvest festival, but also included the realisation that Winter is coming and thus grain and meat for the season for people and livestock alike is prepared, the bones of the slaughtered animals thrown into bone fires, which is now contracted to bonfires, from which the whole community lighted its individual home fires. Also it was thought the world of the living and the dead intersected on this date, and the dead could cause damage to the living, so the living wore costumes to look like the dead or appease them or confuse them and minimise the potential damage. Your original trick or treat.

So a feast that started out to replace or transform one pagan observance involving the dead ends up on another, first Roman then Celtic. So whadda we got? A supposedly Christian celebration that's just a non-Christian one with a Christian veneer over it? Well, to some extent, yes. The mistake would be to see this as the whole story. Judas Priest, we ain't even got to the Reformation yet, howzat figure into all this? And how come Luther's out there nailing stuff to the church door on Halloween? Was he trick or treating or something?

As to the general idea, guess what, people die, Christian or non Christian, and the people they leave behind feel the loss and want to remember them. Hardly surprising that Christians would want to do that, hell, everybody does, and that's why there's remembrances of various kinds in cultures all over the world. Given the Christian knowledge of salvation from sin and death by the merit of the death and resurrection of Jesus, a commemoration of those who have passed from this life to the joy of that salvation in God's presence would even more suggest itself, and show the fulfillment of a universal human inkling with all its folklore in the revelation of the Gospel. IOW, if anyone ought to commemorate their dead, it's Christians who know God's revealed truth as to what death, and life both here and beyond, is all about.

But, as we've seen, it's easy to get confused again, get drawn back into the folklore, begin to evolve a sort of hybrid of truth and the guesswork expressed in the folklore, and confuse that for Christianity itself. As an example, remember old Gregory III setting up a place to venerate relics in St Peter's? Why would one venerate something from the body of a dead Christian? Is there even the slightest suggestion of such a practice, or it having any merit, in the Bible? No. Luther mentioned there are many things which even if they began with a good intent originally become so clouded with the sort of thing we manufacture for ourselves in folklore that the intent is long since lost.

What Is An Indulgence?

What is an indulgence anyway? It has nothing to do with forgiveness of sin, and we'll see in a minute doesn't have bupkis to do with Purgatory either. In Roman Catholic thinking, a sin may indeed be forgiven, but, consequences remain for punishment. Some sins are so serious that, if one does them knowing they are serious yet freely deciding to do it anyway, the rejection of God is so complete that it is mortal to the life of the soul, for which reason they are called mortal sins, and the punishment and consequence is eternal if there is no repentance.

But, even if one repents and is forgiven for a mortal sin, it's still like most sins which aren't so serious, called venial sins, where the punishment is not eternal loss of life but temporal, the sin reflects an attachment to some part of God's creation over God himself, and one must undertake the removal of that attachment to creatures rather than the Creator through works of mercy, charity, penance, prayer and the like; one must undertake the sanctification, the making holy, of himself, and the problem is, while this may be done over time, you may die before you have enough time here. Hence Purgatory, where the process begun here is completed if you die before completing it here and "walk right in" as they used to say.

But good news! Not good news as is the Gospel; if that were understood we wouldn't even be into this nonsense, but guess what, you don't actually have to do all this cleansing and sanctifying yourself. There's a whole treasury of merit from Jesus and the saints, and just as one's sins affect others, so since we're all members of the body of Christ the church, the merit of Christ and the saints can affect others too, and the church, given the power to bind and loose on Earth and it will be bound or loosed in Heaven, can apply that merit to other members, not to forgive the sin but reduce the temporal consequences needing sanctification, and that application is tied to various pious things you do, like say venerating a relic.

Holy crap that's a lot of thinking! I guess the message that by HIS stripes, meaning the marks of his suffering, we are healed, that he redeemed us like a coupon, paying the price, taking the punishment we are due for us, is just too good to really be true, so we tack all these human thinkings-through onto it to make it more palatable to our understanding.

St Peter's, Luther, and Tetzel.

Well back to this church that's been standing in Rome for over 1000 years through lots of stuff good and bad and is in pretty bad shape, but given as Constantine started it you kind of don't demolish stuff like that, so whaddya do? Pope Nicholas V (1447-1455) was the first guy to think yeah maybe you do either completely rebuild it or tear it down and build a new one. He had some plans drawn up but died before much was actually done. Finally Pope Julius II (1503-1513), the one just before Leo X to whom Luther addressed "The Freedom of the Christian", laid the cornerstone for the new St Peter's in 1506.

Costs a lot of money, and Julius liked building stuff. The project was begun 18 April 1506 and wouldn't be completed until 18 November 1626 when Pope Urban VIII dedicated the church. Funding was to be provided in part by selling indulgences. Facilitating this was Albrecht, or Albert. von Hohenzollern, who became archbishop of Magdeburg at age 23 in 1513 and bought himself election to the powerful post of archbishop of Mainz in 1514. To pay for it he got a HUGE loan from Jakob Fugger. Don't laugh at the name, he was a serious, serious dude, banker to everyone who mattered. He loaned Charles V, he to whom the Augsburg Confession was presented, most of the money to buy being elected Holy Roman Emperor, for example.

Albrecht then got permission from Pope Leo X to sell indulgences to pay the loan off as long as half was sent to Rome to pay for St Peter's. A Fugger agent tended the money, and Albrecht got his top salesman in a damn Domincan (friars are always suspect; if they were up to any good they'd have been proper monks like the Benedictines, everybody knows that) named Johann Tetzel.

When the gold in the coffer rings,
the soul from Purgatory springs.

Sobald das Geld im Kasten klingt,
Die Seele aus dem Fegefeuer springt!

Not even RCC theology, as Cardinal Cajetan later said. Now, it would be overly simplistic to the point of just plain false to ascribe Luther's posting of the 95 Theses to Tetzel and that famous jingle. The sources, the depth, the background of what led to the Reformation go much deeper than that -- which is why I spent all that time on all that ancient stuff. This had been coming for a long, long, time, centuries of it. Tetzel died a broken man, shunned by all sides, and while Luther fought him strenuously, as he lay dying Luther wrote him a personal letter saying the troubles were not of his making, that that child had a different father, as Luther put it.

For us Lutherans to-day to not understand what that different father was would be false to our Lutheran Reformation and to Luther himself. What do we really have here? A misunderstanding (Luther) in reaction to a misunderstanding (Tetzel and indulgences and the late mediaeval papacy) which once the misunderstandings are cleared up, maybe issue a joint declaration on the doctrine of justification or something, the whole thing is resolved and we're one big happy family again? No, and in the words of the great theologian Chris Rock, hell no.

Reformation.

Theologians like to call the problem one of justification versus sanctification. What does this mean? Sanctify, to make sanctus, which is the Latin word for holy, right back where we started. Justify, to make justus, which is the Latin word for just. How can a person be just before God if he is not holy? Well, he can't. It gets worse. Not only can he not be just before God if he is not holy, there is no amount of time and works that will make him holy enough to be just before God. It gets worse yet. That's even when God calls out a people and gives them his Law to show them exactly what he wants, and sends prophet after prophet to get them back on course.

But having shown us that with the Law, it gets better with the Gospel, which is just a contraction of old English words for good news. And the good news is this, that he has himself done for us what we could not do for ourselves, which is, fulfill the Law on our behalf, taking the punishment we deserve on himself and paying our debt, thus literally redeeming us. Turns out those human inklings were on to something but couldn't grasp what. Salvation is by works, but the works of Jesus, not us; our salvation is by faith in the merit of Jesus, that as he took our sin and it was credited to him though sinless, we take on his holiness and it is credited to us though we are unholy.

It's so utterly simple. What then, we are to do no works at all? Not in the least. We are to do good works; we are not to trust in them for our salvation in any part but to trust wholly in his. This too is utterly simple. It's our sinfulness that wants to make it complicated, figure our works have just got to have something to do with it, and mix that in with the good news of salvation through faith in the works of Jesus, his death and resurrection, and come up with a sort-of good news where it's all him, except that it's you in there too with some punishment to work off and holiness to attain.

Thus do indulgences become a corruption of the Gospel and obscure it, whether they are sold or not. Thus does so much else become a corruption of the Gospel and obscure it -- the office of holy ministry becomes a priesthood, celebration of those who have gone before us in faith become another spirit/ancestor thing, the church itself becomes a part of the state, doing good works because we are saved becomes doing good works in order to be saved, on and on.

And worst of all in that the mass, or Divine Service as we often call it, becomes no longer first his gift of his word to us through the transformed synagogue service of prayer, Scripture reading and preaching and then his gift of the same body and blood given for us now given to us as the pledge of our salvation and his testament to us his heirs, but a work to be done and effective not through the power of his word to do what it says by simply by having worked the work.

Reformation Day. Reformationstag.

And so on 31 October 1517 Father Martin Luther posted his document on the door of a church in Wittenberg. The title was Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum, If that sounds like Latin it's because it is. It was an invitation to a formal moderated academic event called a Disputation, in which a statement or statements are argued to be true or false by reference to an established written authority, such as, in religion, the Bible.

The church was All Saints Church in Wittenberg -- hey, the all saints thing again! -- which was and is commonly called the Schlosskirche, or castle church, as distinct from the Stadtkirche, or town church, of St Mary. It was built by Frederick III, called The Wise, who was the Elector of Saxony, one of the seven who elected Holy Roman Emperors. He also founded the University of Wittenberg in 1502, in which Luther was a professor of theology, and attached the castle church to it as the university's chapel.

Luther was awarded the Doctor of Theology degree by the university on 19 October 1512 and two days later became a member of the theological faculty there with the position Doctor In Bible. The "95 Theses" as they are commonly called were written therefore in the academic language, Latin, rather than the language of the land, German, because it was an academic document calling for the academic event called a disputatio, or Disputation.

So he wasn't out trick or treating, All Saints Church had a huge collection of relics of the saints, thousands of them, collected by Frederick, and veneration of them was one way to earn an indulgence, for which purpose they were put on display once a year. You get 100 days indulgence per relic. By 1520 Frederick had over 19,000 of them, and taking that as a round number, (19K x 100)/365 is 5,205 years and some change. Now, the "days" are not, as is often thought, time off from Purgatory; it is time off from what would otherwise have to be punishment here on Earth, therefore shortening one's stay in Purgatory, where there are no earthly days, to complete what was not completed here in earth.

Holy crap that's a lot of thinking! Oh yeah, we've been there before. Now we see how out of hand it was, and also see that the out of hand thing isn't the worst part, you can curb the out of hand stuff, and it is now largely curbed even in the RCC, but the worst part remains, the near total eclipse made of the good news of salvation in the Gospel, getting justification and sanctification all mixed up.

So, the power and efficacy of indulgences was the surface of a much deeper problem, the obscuring of the Gospel and the perversion of the church's mission to spread it and minister its sacraments, those gifts of grace, grace coming from the Latin for "free", gratis, from Christ himself, in Baptism and the Eucharist.

A Quick Look East.

BTW, the Eastern Church isn't off the hook here; while this indulgence thing was a Western thing and there is no equivalent to the remission of temporal punishment for sin in the Eastern Church, there was the practice of absolution certificates, which in some places did lift punishments but primarily were issued by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem to pilgrims there and were distributed abroad, which absolved the sins of whoever bought them -- as distinct from an indulgence which does not absolve sin but remits punishment due to forgiven sins, which if they're forgiven then why is there still punishment, holy crap brace yourself for a lot of thinking -- and the proceeds paid for the heavy costs, including taxes, of maintaining the shrines in the Holy Land. Even worse than indulgences, or at least just as bad, technical differences regardless.

Conclusion.

You know what? The Disputation the 95 Theses called for was never held. Something much better happened. It's called the Lutheran Reformation, in which no new church was started, but the one church, the church that has been there all along, the church that will be there all along, the only church there will ever be, was reformed where the Gospel is rightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered after the institution of Christ rather than that plus a hell of a lot of thinking that added all sorts of emendations by Man.

This reformation was at the risk of life in the beginning from the powers that be. Thankfully those times are over, but as with the indulgences themselves, it is not that itself which is the main thing, but the Gospel for which it was done. We celebrate this great working of the Holy Spirit, in reforming the church against both pressures to maintain the old errors and pressures to take the Reformation into further errors, on 31 October, Reformation Day.

Reformation Day, whether it's Sunday or not, until recently. As if something for which our Lutheran fathers risked literally everything needs to be moved for the convenience of us who benefit from it to the nearest Sunday to make it easier and therefore get more numbers. Any of us need police protection to safely move about as Lutherans that moving it to Sunday will change?

Thanks be to God for the reformation of his church!

And Happy Halloween while you're at it. Happy All Saints Day (Allerheiligen) too!

23 October 2014

Boethius, Terence, Wheel of Fortune. 23 October 2014.

Festschrift for the feast of St Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius, 23 October.

Now whoda thunk that an apparently purely entertainment TV game show actually references one of the more important topics in philosophy, with a history back to ancient Rome and an influence for centuries thereafter, including why there's Lutherans and what we think we're doing here.

It all comes from the Latin phrase "Fortes fortuna adiuvat" which is usually translated "fortune favours the brave" and is generally taken to mean that those who take risks, or at least take action, are going to be luckier, or at least get more results, in life than those who don't.

It was first written by a Roman playwright named Terence, which is also my first name.

There's just a bit more to it than that. Here it is.

About Terence, or, My Name Is Terence and I'm a Playwright.

The English name Terence comes from the Roman playwright Terentius. It wasn't my birth first name, Douglas is, but I got it when adopted at about six months old. Well it wasn't Terentius' birth name either, how about that? And it wasn't even his first name ever! Hell, he wasn't even Roman, nor was I of the ethnic descent of the people who adopted me!

Here's the deal. My namesake was born around 185 or 195 BC, depending on which ancient source got it right.  He was born in or around Carthage, or possibly to a woman in Greek-speaking Italy (yeah, they spoke more Greek than Latin in Rome back then, it was the cultural language) who was sold into slavery and then taken to in or around Carthage. He himself was sold as a slave to a Roman senator named Publius Terentius Lucanus, who brought him to Rome, gave him an education, and then, apparently impressed with the result, freed him.  Ancient sources indicate he was lost at sea in 159 B.C., making him either 36 or 26 at the time of his death.

So why do we call him Terence?  Well, Romans actually had three names. First comes the praenomen, which means your first name, or given name as it is called. Second comes the nomen, aka the nomen gentile or sometimes the gentilicium, which by whichever term designates the clan, or gens, from which one came. Third and last comes the cognomen, which designates your family within the clan. This structure is even older than the Romans, who got it from the Etruscans before them.

But that's Romans, not slaves or kids of slaves who become slaves themselves. Nobody knows what Terentius' birth name was, but it wasn't Terence, sure as hell. His name reflects his status as a Roman citizen, upon being freed. So he took the praenomen Publius, meaning "public", which was one of the relatively few first names, and was also his former master's first name, and took the clan name of his master, Terentius, and for a last name to distinguish his family within the clan, took Afer, since he was not a blood Terentius but from Afer.

Afer, what the hell is that, sounds like Africa. Yeah it does and for good reason. Africa now means the whole continent, but in Terence' lifetime it meant the land of the Libyan tribe the Afri, who hung in and around Carthage, which is in modern Tunisia but was founded as a Phoenician colony in 814 BC, or so the Romans said. But when the Romans trashed Carthage in 146 BC, by which time Terence had been dead several years, the Carthaginians themselves were called Punic, a reference to Carthage's Phoenician origin, and Afri came to mean the Libyan Berbers around them.

So hard telling. He may have been a Berber, although that use of Afri is just a little later than his lifetime.  Or, he may have been Afri, who were descendants of Abraham's grandson Epher, hence the name Afri, according to Titus Flavius Josephus, the great Roman historian  --  who btw was another non-Roman who got a Roman name on being made a Roman citizen, and is there ever a story to that.  Or, he may have been none of the above and who knows what, since when you're a slave you don't get a hell of a lot of choice about where you end up.

Afer as a Roman cognomen meant people who whatever else were from in or around Carthage, but that doesn't clarify whether he was from there originally, and if so was he Afri or something else, or was he something else and got brought there.

So we got a guy whose birth name and people are not known, who was sold as a slave but treated well and educated, and when freed took his former master's praenomen or given name, his clan name, within which he was distinguished by his Carthaginian/Tunisian origins at least with regard to the Roman world.

About Terence, or, My Name Is Terence and I'm a Blogger.

Now, when I was adopted, my new mom wanted to name me Cornelius Steven, but my new dad wanted Terence James. Dad won. Which is unusual twice over. For one thing generally moms get naming rights, and for another the usual RC practice in those days was to name a kid after one of the saints. So here's my dad naming me after a pagan Roman playwright and the RCC allowed it, and so I was baptised at Holy Name By God Cathedral in Chicago.

My adoptive parents were of Irish-American stock, which completes both the irony and the fittingness of the name Terence for me. I learned later, from seeing the adoption papers among my parents' stuff after they died, my original name. Douglas John Clutterham.  The last name is English, from the Suffolk area specifically, making me an Angle by descent.

So I get a first name from a guy whose first name it wasn't! Which is OK, you don't hear Publius much these days. And neither that Terence nor this one started out with the name, or came from the people who gave him that name (he wasn't Roman and I ain't Irish), but got names that look like it by, as they say in insurance, major life event. He by being freed from slavery and made a Roman, me by being adopted. I doubt Dad was thinking of all that, but he did know the correct spelling to give me, which, the original being Terentius, is Terence. No double damn r.

Which was totally in tune with what was to come, namely, the great gift of the Christian faith, as revealed in Scripture and accurately confessed in the Book of Concord. Luther admired the plays of Terence and quoted them a lot, and thought they were good for kids to learn in their educational formation.

Ain't that a kick? My first Lutheran pastor once said -- not sure if he was joking or not -- that my growing up in Minnesota and going to a Bavarian Benedictine founded school and picking up German and the whole German thing was God's way of getting me to be ready to be Lutheran, so I could lapse into German when ranting. But right there at the RC baptismal font, I was given the name of a Roman playwright Luther admired!

About the Saying, or, What the Translations Can't Translate.

First, the phrase itself. I think I learned it "Fortuna fortes adiuvat". OK, "adiuvat" is the verb and verbs go at the end of a sentence in Latin, so at least that part's right. It means "helps" or "assists" or "aids", and you can see it in the English word "adjutant", which means a helper, or assistant, or aide. So what's "fortes"? It's the direct object of the verb, the one helped or assisted or aided, and means "the brave" or "the strong", and you can see it in the English word "fortitude" for courage aka guts or grit.

So, the generally accepted Latin form is "fortes fortuna adiuvat" and the generally accepted English translation is "fortune favours the brave".  It was widely used as a proverb and first appears in a play by Terence, namely, in line 203 of Phormio. End of story? Oh hell no.

For one thing, the first of many, some Latin scholars contend that it should be fortis fortuna adiuvat. Huh? Well, Latin is an inflected language, which means that the function of words is shown by differences in how the word ends rather than by prepositions and word order as in English. These differences are classified into typical uses of words, called cases, and direct objects, which are that to which the action of the verb is applied, go in what is called the accusative case.

Some say that while "fortes" is the usual ending of the word in the plural accusative in Latin generally, in Terence' time  --  which was 195 or 185 to 159, which was the era of the Roman Republic, before the Roman Empire -- the accusative plural was then fortis, not fortes, and so in his play it's actually fortis fortuna adiuvat. The Latin texts available online give it both ways.

The next thing is, fortes literally means the strong, as in physically powerful, not the brave, but just like "strength" itself, the word took on a figurative meaning of brave or courageous from the associated connotation of those characteristics with the physically strong.  Like we may say "Be strong" meaning to man up and get through it rather than start working out. So that makes it literally "fortune favours the strong".

Next thing, about the verb. "Favours" is a little different than "aids' or "assists". "Favours" is more a general reference to your overall chances, but "aids" or "assists" or "helps" means that someone or something is actually actively helping or assisting you. That's a real big difference, and that's where "fortuna" comes in. The word is obviously the root of the English words "fortune", "fortunately" and the like, but while now it's like random chance or good luck or something like that, in Latin and to the ancient Romans it wasn't just that, but the goddess Fortuna who was in charge of that.

So altogether, that makes it more like the goddess "Fortuna helps the strong".

That was a real big deal. Fortuna's sacred day was 11 June.  Holy crap, that's the day before my birthday, and holy crap again the later state church of the Roman Empire, which still survives in an RC or EO parish near you, has holy days for its "saints" still! The cult of Fors Fortuna (hey, there's that "strong" thing again) was found all over the Roman world and was a festival on 24 June.

Now Fortuna was known as Tyche to the Greeks, from whom the Romans took much of their original state religion, and Fortuna, as Tyche, was all over the Greek world before the Roman world. The Roman name comes from Vortumna, which means "she who spins the year" and if you're paying attention, there you go with a "wheel of fortune". But, just like with the saying from Terence, wheel of fortune isn't all there is to it. It's rota Fortuna in Latin, the wheel of the goddess Fortune.  As she spins the year what happens to you during the year shakes out. Thing is though, you don't get to buy any damn letters to move things in your, uh, favour, so instead, you'd better hit her temple and make her happy, or else just say she's a fickle whore who does what she damn well pleases. Both opinions and behaviours were common in the ancient world.

About Augustine's Answer, or, So What?

Now is this just some more musty old stuff from Past Elder? Hey, why do you think books with titles like "Purpose Driven Life", "Your Best Life Now" and "Man's Search For Meaning" are best sellers for years? Why do you think people say "shit happens"? Judas H Priest, the whole question of whether life is just a bunch a random stuff that happens without any meaning or any ability to change it much and then you die, or does it have a meaning, maybe even a reason or purpose, and you can get in there and affect it, has been bugging Mankind since there's been Mankind. It's the biggest question of all -- Why?

So we've got the wheel of the goddess Fortuna, and the original Wheel of Fortune, Rota Fortuna. As she spins the wheel, bad things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people, stuff just seems to happen, and here we are wondering if there's any rhyme or reason to it, to life. A lot people still wonder that about life.

Terence's phrase became a commonplace saying and had been used and/or quoted by heavyweights of Roman literature. Pliny uses it in his Epistles (don't freak, no lost works of the Bible here, just means "letters"). Cicero referred to it as a proverb. Virgil used it in the Aeneid (Book Ten, Line 284) as audentis fortuna iuvat. Audentis is where English gets audacious, iuvat is just plain helps, the "ad" intensifies the intention toward (that's what "ad" is, toward) someone, so you get the idea. And Ovid topped that in his Metamorphoses (10/86), saying not just Fortuna but God himself helps the bold. Well OK he actually wrote audentes deus ipse iuvat.

Another guy from Carthage, good old Augustine, took Fortune on in De civitaitis Dei contra Paganos (On the City of God Against the Pagans). Gus wrote The City of God right after the Visigoths trashed Rome in 410. The Romans were wondering if maybe that happened because, thirty years before it, the state had not only abandoned traditional Roman religion for the new state Catholic Church, which was established by the co-emperors Theodosius in the East and Gratian and Valentinian II in the West with the Edict of Thessalonica on 27 February 380, but also had destroyed the sites and institutions of the old Imperial religion. As part of making the case that this is not so, he says Fortune, since she brings good things to good and bad people alike, is unworthy of worship.  That's his answer to why good things happen to bad people I guess, along with why abandoning stuff like that didn't bring down the whole damn Empire.

About What Sets Up Another Answer, or, Everything Falls Apart.

But Boethius, writing over a century later, about 524, as he was waiting to be executed, took a different slant on Fortuna. Holy crap, executed -- for what? Well, more Goths, this time of the Ostro kind. Visigoths were from what is now Spain, Ostro or East Goths were from the Balkans.

The Western Roman Empire was gone by then, the last Western Emperor, Romulus Augustus, having been deposed by Odoacer, a non-Roman Roman officer of uncertain origin though his name is Germanic, on 4 September 476. Odoacer's army proclaimed him the first "King of Italy" though he was a "barbarian". At first the Roman Senate thought it would be fine to just continue under the remaining of the two Roman Emperors, the Eastern one, Zeno at the time. Zeno made Odoacer a Patrician but also thought he should restore emperor Julius Nepos, whom Romulus Augustus had overthrown. Well actually his father Orestes, Julius Nepos' military chief of staff (magister militum) overthrew him, then named him emperor.

Odoacer declined to do so, and as his power increased, Zeno determined to get rid of him and promised Theodoric, King of the Ostrogoths, that he and the Ostrogoths could have Odoacer's Italian kingdom if they would get rid of him. Theodoric and Odoacer's forces slugged it out all over Italy. Now both these guys were Arian Christians btw. Anyway, a treaty was signed and a celebration arranged, at which Theodoric proposed a toast then killed Odoacer personally. And that's the real story of the real "Dietrich von Bern". (OK you Lutherans oughta be laughing like hell right now, if not, go read the preface to the Large Catechism.)

Which far from being a "useless story" here shows that the century between Augustine and Jerome, both of whom we saw in recent posts on each's feast days, and Boethius, was one hell of a century. Quick time line for review:

380, the Roman Empire both East and West constituted the Catholic Church and made it the state religion on 27 February with the Edict of Thessalonica; pope, after killing supporters of a rival, is Damasus, proclaimed to have the true faith from Peter, emperor Gratian refuses title of pontifex maximus, head of the state Roman religion, established by Numa Pompilius, second king of Rome, elected by the Senate after the death of the first king and co-founder of Rome (21 April 753 BC) Romulus; the Babylonian Captivity of the Church begins;
382, Jerome called to Rome to help Damasus, run out of town after Damasus dies;
390, the Roman Empire destroys the Temple of Apollo at the Oracle of Delphi;
391, the Roman Empire destroys the Serapeum and Great Library of Alexandria;
392, the Roman Empire ends the Eleusinian Mysteries after 2,000 years;
393, the Roman Empire ends the Olympic Games for Zeus, begun 776 BC, after that year's;
394, the Eastern Empire crushes classic Roman resistance to the Catholic Church on 6 September at the Battle of The Frigidus;
394, the Roman Empire disbands the Temple of Vesta, established by Numa Pompilius, second king of Rome (715-673 BC) , and puts out its eternal flame;
395, Augustine becomes Bishop of Hippo;
410, the Visigoths under Alaric sacked Rome on 24 August;
420, Jerome died on 30 September;
430, Augustine died on 28 August at 75;
455, Rome was sacked again this time by the Vandals;
476, Romulus Augustus was deposed becoming the last Western Roman Emperor on 4 September by Germanic foederati (non-Roman allies) of Rome under Odoacer;
475 to 480, somewhere in there, Boethius was born.

The entire world these guys knew changed completely during these decades. Jerome himself said of it, that the city which had conquered the world had now itself been conquered. Augustine and Jerome lived at the end of the Western Roman Empire, which is also to say at the end of the full Roman Empire either divided into East and West or undivided, whereas Boethius was born right about the time the last Western Roman Emperor was deposed leaving only the Eastern Roman Empire.

As the Western Roman Empire approached its end, at the same time as its state Catholic Church was busy destroying the institutions of the classic Roman religion, its theologians were busy incorporating and synthesising the state church's faith with classic Roman philosophy -- which religion and philosophy were derived from ancient Greece before them -- and the bishop of Rome increasingly became a symbol of stability that the emperor of Rome no longer was.

Goes like this.  "Pope" Leo himself met with no less than Attila the Hun in 452 and averted a sacking by the Huns, due to the grace of God, or just maybe the one helluva lot of gold he brought along to buy them off, and then on 2 June 455 met with Genseric, King of the Vandals, to try to repeat his performance with Attila, which this time did not prevent a sacking but did hold its severity down somewhat with less physical destruction than the Goths did in 410.

But the Vandals, like the Goths Germanic types who were Arian Christians and who by then were operating out of North Africa, made off with so much loot, and people to be sold as slaves, that centuries later the religious and social order destruction following the French Revolution was described as "vandalisme" by the bishop of Blois Henri Gregoire in 1794, the year the Reign of Terror ended, and that quickly became a name for any notable destruction -- vandalism.

It is right here that the doctrine of "Petrine" supremacy becomes established. Petrine, what the hell is that?  Nothing to do with St Peter, but with the popes, the bishops of Rome, who had come from being proclaimed by the Roman Empire as conservators of the true Apostolic faith in 380 to just 70-some years later meeting with leaders of powers about to kick Rome's ass. But in the face of that oncoming destruction Leo asserted a religious authority complementary to his civil influence, with the bishop of Rome assuming the significance of the long-gone undivided emperor of Rome, the last emperor of an undivided Roman Empire being Diocletian, who retired (about the only one to do so without being killed into retirement) 1 May 305.

So from an edict issued during the reign of the last Roman Emperor of both the Eastern and Western Empire, Theodosius in 380, Leo just decades later harks back to the last Roman Emperor of an undivided Roman Empire. Just as "Rome" became more a concept than a place as new imperial seats of power (Trier, Milan, etc) emerged, as Herodian put it "Rome is where the Emperor is" (OK that's an English translation of his Latin words), so now Rome asserts itself as the seat of power, and not just a concept, and that is where Peter is, meaning Peter's supposed successor the bishop of Rome, and he heads the whole Christian church, with the heads of local churches valid insofar as they are "in communion" with him.

None of which has the faintest justification in Scripture, but when the entire world about you is swirling down the tubes politically and culturally it looks pretty good, and when this pontifex maximus, now the Roman pope rather then the Roman emperor, is about all that's left it looks damn good. Unfortunately it still looks damn good to many looking for the Kingdom of God to have the same external signs of visibility and continuity as a Kingdom or State of Man.

About Boethius' Answer, or, So What Revisited?

Theodoric, though Germanic, was interested in keeping the culture and institutions of the Roman Empire going, and appointed Boethius his Master of Offices (magister officiorum), the head of the government bureaucracy. Theodoric was educated in Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Empire, and kind of worked out a deal where the defeated Romans could continue their thing under his rule while the Goths continued the Goth thing. As part of this, Theodoric, though an Arian Christian, was pretty favourable toward the Pope, head of the Catholic Church, about the only major institution of the Roman Empire in the West to survive. Theodoric was effectively but unofficially the new Western Roman Emperor.

Boethius, a Roman, was a Trinitarian, or Nicene, Christian, which is to say Christian in the usual sense now, and eventually Theodoric, an Arian Christian, came to distrust him, thinking he might be more in sympathy with the effective AND official emperor of the surviving Eastern Roman Empire, then Justin, also a Nicene Christian. So he ordered him tried and executed for treason. Thing is, while he is awaiting execution, he writes this book, one of the most influential books ever, and for some time THE most influential book in philosophy, as a consolation, but it's not the Consolation of Christianity but the Consolation of Philosophy. Well, De consolatione philosophiae, actually. Christianity is never mentioned or treated by name, but it sounds a lot like Christianity, and that's because since Augustine Christianity sounded a lot like Plato.

The basic idea of the Consolation is pure Platonism -- even if everything looks like it's going right straight to hell it ain't. Now you might say well hell, don't Christians believe that too? Well yes they do but with a different idea about why that is. For Christians it's not just a matter of an ideal world that is truly real beyond the mess we see, old Fortuna spinning her wheel, here in what appears to be real.

But Boethius, and this is typical of everything about him, blended Christianity and Roman/Greek philosophy to-gether, so that while Fortuna may indeed spin her wheel, apparently at random and pretty much indifferent to the results, nonetheless, distinct from Gus' take that therefore she is unworthy of worship, she is herself subject to God and her effects and any other such effects all bend to the unseen plan of God, so it's all good even when it looks like pure crap. So the Consolation is kind of like the Book of Esther, in which as the rabbis pointed out God is not mentioned yet he is everywhere present in it.

Boethius was on a mission, and the mission was, to pass on the learning and wisdom of the Greek/Roman world falling apart in his time to the new world that would emerge from it. So he translated in the new language of learning, Latin, the great works of classic learning in Greek.

Specifically, he attempted to pass on the system for organising and teaching knowledge outlined in his book De arithmetica.  You may have heard of this system, it's the Seven Liberal Arts.  And within that system, for example, he attempted to pass on the three-fold division of one of those arts, called musica --  but, musica means a hell of a lot more than we do by "music".  What we mean by music was the lowest level of it and best left to the uneducated. All that stuff was the subject of my doctoral dissertation, and a lot of it is summarised in the post "Readin, Writin and Absolute Multitude" posted in February on this blog.

What's "absolute multitude" and didn't I mean arithmetic?  I ain't gonna tell you here since it's in the post and no I didn't mean arithmetic, which too was more than the word means now.  Well hell, you didn't think the future Past Elder was gonna write another music theory dissertation in which some obscure piece or musical relationship is analysed into further obscurity while putting everyone who isn't into such things, which is nearly everyone, to bloody sleep, now did you? Hell no.

You can read a rather good summary about Boethius by "Pope" Benedict XVI, given at a general audience on 12 March 2008, here.

Boethius succeeded in his mission. His works would form the backbone of the learning system for centuries in the new world that emerged from the ancient. The Consolation was one of the bedrocks of education and formation for hundreds and hundreds of years to come. King Alfred of old England, Chaucer, and Queen Elizabeth (not the current one the first one, Judas) all translated it, it's all over Dante and Chaucer's original works, Shakespeare too, and students read and studied The Consolation for a thousand years after.

About Time, or, Conclusion.

Ironic, isn't it, that Theodoric, the non-Roman Arian Christian Germanic type who became effectively the new Roman Emperor, in the West anyway, and Boethius, the Roman Nicene Christian that Theodoric had executed for suspected Eastern sympathies, were both concerned that Roman, and thus classical Greek along with it, learning and culture survive into the new world just beginning to emerge from the destruction of the Western Roman Empire.

They succeeded. 

The Eastern Roman Empire survived until it fell to the Islamic Ottoman Empire in 1453. Whereupon the Russian regime of Ivan III (no, not the "Terrible", that was Ivan IV, his grandson) of the Grand Principality of Moscow took up the mantle: Czar, or Tsar, is a Russianisation of "Caesar", Ivan married the niece (Sophia Palaiologina) of the last Eastern Roman Emperor (Constantine XI), and Moscow established itself as the "Third Rome".  The state church of the Roman Empire survives in the East in the various churches known as Eastern Orthodoxy.  I might mention that the Eastern Roman double-headed eagle, adopted by the Russian Empire, survives in the coat of arms of the Russian Federation, after an interruption by the Soviet Union.  Then again, I might not.

In the West, the state church of the Roman Empire survives in what is known as, though this is not its actual name, the Roman Catholic Church. It would be joined by what its participants understood to be a transfer of rule, translatio imperii in Latin, of the authority of the Roman Empire in what would later become known as the Holy Roman Empire, sacrum romanum imperium in Latin, which survived until Napoleon dissolved it in 1806.

As the Empire was falling apart and the Western Empire fell in 476, the idea that this fall happened because of abandoning traditional Roman religion for the then 96-year-old state Catholic Church that Augustine wrote a huge volume generally known in English as The City of God to say that wasn't so.  It was so.  Not as a matter of the truth or falsity of any religion.  Believe what one will about why it happened, there is no disputing that it happen that:
1) in the West, although the translatio imperii is defined in terms of political entities, these entities brought with them the culture and learning evolving through the Romans since the ancient Greeks, and this survived and grew throughout the Holy Roman Empire, and
2) in the East, though the Eastern Empire survived nearly a thousand years after the Western it fell to the Islamic Ottoman culture and the mantle passed to Russia.

The Roman Empire did not survive the abandonment of its traditional religion for its then-new state church, but its state church survived the loss of the Empire, and around it, both East and West, new entities carried on the culture and learning.  This is why Boethius' answer is to be preferred over Augustine's, which is actually no answer at all.

Marcus Tullius Cicero, the great orator and statesman of the Roman Republic, once said "Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit, id est semper esse puerum."  Yeah, yeah, what does this mean?  To not know what happened before one was born, that is to be always a child, that's what it means.  Godfrey once said to me that institutions have memories too, and an institution that loses its memory functions much like a person who does -- institutional Alzheimer's.

We ourselves are products of that evolution.  But with a difference.  The outcome of the world war that began one hundred years ago this year brought an end to the last remnants of those political entities that continued the evolution of classic culture and learning.  We are now in a period much like those which followed both the fall of the Western Empire and the fall of the Eastern Empire.

The difference is, whether than culture and learning will continue in the order which is still emerging one hundred years later is yet to be seen.  That century saw two of the most disruptive regimes in all of human history, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and an even worse world war after the first one that was supposed to "end all wars" but didn't and only led to worse.  Win the war, lose the peace.  Even now our headlines are daily full of events from states imposed on what is now called the Middle East after the first, and in the case of Israel, second, world war.  And the peace to many is characterized by a full scale retreat from the culture and learning that went before, seeing it as part of the package that was the problem, and from which we have moved on.  Moving on, or cultural Alzheimer's?

The Wheel of Fortune was, and endures as, an allegory. You can get all hung up in why bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people and whether there's anything to life but a bunch of stuff that happens and then you die, but what you gotta see is that the wheel keeps on turning. Big wheel keeps on turning, proud Mary keeps on burning, just like Tina Turner said. Things change, and you can't get all hung up on one point in the process. The mighty fall, the lowly rise. Riding high in April, shot down in May, like the Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon song written for Sinatra says. Hey, that song made it into the Tony Hawk video game Underground 2.

Stay in the process, not one point of it, and that applies equally to when things look good as to when things look bad. You can't put your trust in any one point, whether you like that point or not, in the process, because the process is gonna keep right on processing. There ain't no Fortuna, and the process itself ain't God either. And just like Boethius -- not to mention St Paul -- said, there is a God and while things aren't all good all things do work to-gether for the good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Fortune does favour the brave. And as Ovid tweaked it, God himself's gonna help ya. Except Ovid didn't know how. None of us (Mankind) do, did, or can, which is why the whole life thing bugs us so much and we come up with all sorts of answers to it. God himself helps you with finding out how he's gonna help ya too. He reveals it, first in the Law of Moses, then in the Gospel, or Good News, of Jesus Christ. The wheel stops there even if it keeps on turning in the world. Sooner or later the world is gonna stop too. But the good news is, you're free even when you remain here, Jesus paid your price on the cross for your disconnect with the "wheel", he gives you new life in him in Baptism, his Law and Gospel are proclaimed to you in preaching by the Office of Holy Ministry, and he gives you his body and blood in Holy Communion that he gave for you at Calvary as his sure pledge of that.

Besides, Vanna is way better looking than any representation I ever saw of Fortuna. It didn't occur to me while it was happening, but it's kind of a wild ride that a guy who doesn't start out with the name Terence says something that goes right into Boethius, the major force in the intellectual transition from the ancient world to the modern one, then as the postmodern one is emerging from that, another guy who doesn't start out with the name Terence becomes a Philosophiae doctor writing about it for the postmodern world.

So take it from Terence, either one of us -- Fortuna fortes adjuvat. (Yeah I know I wrote adiuvat above but since I'm saying it as I remember being taught it I'm writing it with the spelling more common to ecclesiastical Latin as I was taught to write and pronounce it.) But more importantly, take it from God how that works out, as he revealed it to us in the Law and Gospel of Scripture.

07 October 2014

It's Fall --What Happened to the High Holydays and Sukkoth? 8 October 2014.

OK what's up with this?  Past Elder, the blog, has been saying since it started that Christian liturgy is essentially a transformed, Messianic Jewish liturgy, but if that's really so, then how is it that in Fall, when Judaism is about to begin a whole bunch of major observances, the Christian calendar ain't got nuttin major until Christmas?

Some background. Past Elder, the blog, commenced operations 22 February 2007. In my first posts about Holy Week, Easter and Pentecost, I mentioned that the Christian pattern of yearly worship derives from the Jewish one. In my second year, I took to posting a few posts again, revised here and there, that relate to our cycle of observances of major parts of our faith in the church year, and also the civil calendar, calling it the "blogoral cycle" as a play on terms like "sanctoral cycle" for the saint's days in the church year.

The Blogoral Cycle takes particular note of how our church year comes from and fulfills the cycle of observances in the Jewish calendar. However in Fall, where the Jewish calendar is FULL of stuff, the Christian church calendar has -- NOTHING, precisely where, if it indeed comes from and fulfills the Jewish cycle, one would expect it to be full of stuff too!

So what's up with that? Here's the 2014 version of my post about it.

I. About Fall.

In the US, Labor Day is the unofficial start of Fall, or Autumn if you insist. In 2014, the official start in the U.S. is 2229 EDT on 22 September.  That's 2129 CDT here in Omaha.  Worldwide it starts on 23 September at 0229 hours GMT.  Huh? 

OK 2229 is often called 1029pm, but now what's GMT?  It means Greenwich Mean Time, aka, which means also known as, UTC, which means Universal Time Co-ordinates.   To get GMT from CDT you add six hours, five during "daylight savings time", five, or four in DST, for EDT; to get CDT from GMT you do the reverse.  GMT never goes on "daylight" time and is always the same as a worldwide point of common reference.  Greenwich of course is in Mother England, but GMT is not necessarily local time there since it does have "daylight" time too -- BST, or British Summer Time -- as does the EU, so even in London, which is in the GMT timezone, you gotta add an hour for local time during "daylight" summer hours.

Well actually, that's just one of the official starts of Fall. Holy crap, what's up with that -- two official starts and an unofficial one too? And to a season with two names! What's up with THAT, before we even get to this post's What's Up With That?

A. About the Two Starts.

The first thing is, there's two Falls, the astronomical one and the meteorological one. Astronomical Fall is determined by the relative amount of light and dark in a day. Just like the word Man, which can mean either all human beings or just the male ones, the word Day is used sometimes for the whole 24 hour period or just the light part of it.

Astronomical Fall starts on the day, as in 24 hour period, with equal amounts of light and dark in it, called the autumnal equinox ("equal night" in Latin), and goes to the day with the least amount of day light in it, called the winter solstice ("sun stand still", solstitium, sol or sun and sistere or to stand still in Latin). And some think Latin is not still with us! But we all note these daylight changes do not align exactly with the air temperature changes. That is because of the thermal latency of land and sea.

Judas H Priest, what is thermal latency? How many what's up with thats can we have in one post? Don't freak. "Thermal latency" are simply more Latin derived words for the phenomenon that while as the earth rotates toward and then away from the sun, thereby giving more and then less heat, it takes both land and water a while to warm up or cool off.

Meteorological Fall is determined by the changes in air temperature. Huh, if it's meteorology why ain't it about meteors? Holy crap another What's Up With That! Now ain't you glad you read Past Elder so you can know all this stuff? Meteorology comes from the Greek meteoros or "up in the sky", and -ology or the study of something. Matter of fact, although weather forecasters take flak for having the only job where you get paid to be wrong, and TV has gone through phases where the weather segment was done by somebody just reading stuff, a comedian if male or a stacked babe if female, meteorology was started by Aristotle in a book by that name he wrote in 350 BC in which, with no modern instruments whatever but just being a keen observer and smarter than all hell, he described what is now called the hydrologic cycle.

Don't freak, more Greek derived words, here meaning water cycle, in which water is not just distinct from land but interacts with land in changing cycles in various forms; liquid, otherwise known as rain, vapour, otherwise known as fog, and solid, otherwise known as ice. Think that's just some musty ancient stuff, who cares? Think again, because our planet, though we call it Earth, is actually mostly water, and a planet with a lot of water over long periods of time loses hydrogen, which is part of water (H2O, remember?), which in turn leads to what is called the "greenhouse effect", which leads to more hydrogen loss, which leads to more greenhouse effect, and this natural cycle can be accelerated by what Man's activities put in the air, and, while we don't know exactly how the two affect each other, they do interact, and everybody is worried as hell about that now or damned well ought to be.

Sound musty now? Old Ari was sharp as a tack, wish we had more like him now with modern instruments. Which doesn't mean you can't be a comedian or a stacked babe while you're doing that. Which is also why besides Blogoral Calendars and stuff like that Past Elder goes on about musty ancient stuff -- because it helps us understand where in the hell we are right now and what where we are right now even is.

So, meteorological seasons are determined by average air temperatures, which lag behind the astronomical events of solstices and equinoxes that determine astronomical seasons, due to thermal water latency. Fall in this definition is from 1 September to 30 November. Well, in the northern hemisphere that is. Our planet being a sphere, when one side rotates toward the sun the other rotates away, so Fall in the southern hemisphere happens when our Spring does, and vice versa.

Now topping that all off are school boards, who as any kid or parent knows, are God and determine when Summer ends by when school starts. When I grew up when it was after Labor Day, the unofficial start of Fall, and after 1 September, the official start of meteorological Fall.  Now it starts in August sometime when you oughta still be swimming in the city pool and stuff like that, probably because they don't want any lawsuits so they have room for "snow days" in the Winter, which unlike when I grew up simply meant you got up earlier, shovelled the crap outta the way and went about your business, leaving early because you drive slower, or should.

B. About the Two Names.

Oh yeah and on the two names for the same season thing, so we can clear up all the What's Up With Thats before we get on to the main What's Up With That. Guess what? More Latin. The original name was the Latin autumnus, and the modern languages derived from Latin all have similar words for it. But English isn't totally Latin derived, the Latin and Greek stuff is an overlay onto basically a form of German. Now in German itself autumn is Der Herbst, which means harvest, and that is what the season was called in English too, Harvest.  It wasn't until the 1500s, when people were tending to live more in towns than in the country, that "harvest" in English became more the activity of harvesting and the season began to be called Autumn and Fall.

OK we saw the derivation of "autumn" from autumnus but where did this fall thing come from? Because the leaves are falling, and the amount of daylight is falling, and the year is drawing to its close. In the 1600s English colonisation of the Americas was in full swing, and both terms came over, but back in Mother England by the 1700s "fall" fell to "autumn" in usage, and that is why now Autumn is used in both places but Fall in mostly heard here.

Sukkoth is the easy part of this Fall stuff. It begins at sunset, the start of the Biblical day, on 15 Tishrei in the Jewish calendar. But, expressing this in the secular calendar, which actually is religious in origin being commissioned by Pope Gregory, in 2014 this is sunset of 8 October.  Remember the Jewish calendar is a lunar one so things move, and the "day" starts at sundown.  It was sunset of 18 September in 2013, 30 September in 2012, of 12 October in 2011, and of 22 September in 2010. God's pretty straight up about what he wants. Speaking of which, let's see what the real God, not the school board, wants regarding observances through the year.

II. Here's What God Wants For A Festival Calendar.

In the religion God delivered to the Jews in the Old Testament, he commands three major festivals: 1) Pesach or Passover; 2) Shavuot or Pentecost, also called Weeks; 3) Sukkot, called Tabernacles or Booths. These three are the Shalosh Regalim, the Three Pilgrim Festivals where all Jews go to Jerusalem.

And in the Fall, in addition to Sukkot, before it there is the High Holidays, more properly the Yamim Noraim or Days of Awe.  These are the Ten Days of Repentance, from Rosh Hashanah, the so-called Jewish New Year, through Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year, commanded in the Law of Moses.  Then comes Sukkoth itself, which runs seven days.  Then comes the Eighth Day, Shemini Atzeret, when normal living indoors resumes (huh, what's up with that; hang on, we'll get to it below, or as we say, vide infra, Latin for "see below", a term once common in the scholarly apparatus -- you know, footnotes and stuff -- of scholarly works and which I damn straight would use if I ever resume writing like a PhD).  We're not done yet; then comes Simchat Torah, Rejoicing in Torah, with the conclusion of the annual reading through of Torah and starting it right over again, and dancing that often goes on for hours.  LOTS of stuff in the Fall.  Or Autumn.

In some of the other posts, we saw Passover transformed by Christ at the Last Supper, or Last Seder, into what we call Holy Communion, the new and eternal testament of his body and blood, and ratified by his Death and Resurrection which we celebrate as an event in time on Good Friday and Easter. Then we saw God himself count the commanded Omer and transform the celebration of the giving of the Law at Sinai at Pentecost by the giving of the promised Holy Spirit to the Apostles, which we celebrate as an event in time on the day also called Pentecost.

Then, what -- the whole thing seems to, uh, fall apart!! Where's the transformed Rosh Ha-Shanah, where's the transformed Days of Awe, where's the transformed Yom Kippur, where's the transformed Sukkoth, where's the transformed Eighth Day and Rejoicing in Torah? And where's the dancing?

Nowhere.

The Christian calendar is entirely absent of such things. Fall, full of observances in Judaism, comes and goes with nothing until the secular Thanksgiving and then Advent which is a time of preparation for Christmas. So does the parallel fall apart here, or perhaps show itself to be irrelevant anyway if it exists at all? 

No. Consider how Jesus gives himself. Christ has himself become our atonement, that to which the Day of Atonement led. The "Day of Atonement" is the historical Good Friday, once for all. Rosh Ha-Shanah too, the day on which creation was completed and God judges each person for the coming year, has been fulfilled in God's having re-created lost Man by making justification possible because of the merit of Christ's sacrifice. That is how we are now inscribed, not just for the coming year but for eternity. So these two are absent because they have served their purpose and been fulfilled.

But what of Sukkot? At Sukkot, one lives, or at least takes one's meals, in a temporary structure called a sukkah in Hebrew -- a booth, a tabernacle, not in one's actual home. This is to remember the passage of the people after the Passover and Pentecost to the Promised Land. Zechariah (14:16-19) predicts that in the time of the Messiah the feast will be observed not just by Jews but by all humanity coming to Jerusalem for its observance. That would be a pretty big event. It ain't happening. And a transformed Sukkoth in the Christian calendar ain't even happening either. So what is the deal here?

III. Here's The Christian Sukkoth.

Consider. Christ is our Passover, in whose blood we are washed and made clean, and the Holy Spirit has empowered the spread of this Good News beginning on that Pentecost recorded in Acts. But the end of the story, unlike the arrival in the Promised Land, has not happened. The real Promised Land is not a piece of geography but heaven itself, the ultimate Jerusalem. So, there cannot be a Christian Sukkoth because we are still in our booths, as it were, not in our permanent homes, still on our pilgimage to the Promised Land, and what Zechariah saw is happening, as "the nations", all people, join in this journey given first to the Jews and then to all Man, the Gentiles.

Our Sukkot is our life right now, in our "booths" or temporary homes on our way to heaven! So this feast awaits its transformation, and that is why it is absent. The first two of the "pilgrimage festivals", the Shalosh Regalim, have been transformed, into the basis of not just our calendar but our life and faith itself, but the third will be heaven itself, toward which we journey as we live in our booths here on the way.

While we do not, therefore, have a certain observance of a transformed Sukkot in our calendar, being in our booths presently, we do have something of it as we go. Our nation, and others too, have a secular, national day of Thanksgivng at the end of harvest time, preserving that aspect of thankfulness for our earthly ingathering of the fruits of our labour. And in the final weeks of the Sundays after Trinity, we focus on the End Times in our readings, the great ingathering that will be for all nations when our Sukkoth here is ended, not just at death personally but finally at the Last Day.

As a comment to an earlier version of this post, "orrologion", an Orthodox blogger, observed that "In the Orthodox Christian tradition the Transfiguration fills the place of Sukkot. Fruits are blessed and it commemorates Peter's offer to build three booths for Christ, Moses and Elijah". In the Eastern observance the "Blessing of the First Fruits" does give it a harvest connexion, but, Sukkoth is not about first but last fruits. And, in the Transfiguration we see Jesus' fulfillment of the Law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah), and the appearance of all three persons in God, as he is about to go to Jerusalem for the Crucifixion, Death, and Resurrection.

Related to that, the Feast of the Transfiguration is celebrated in both the Eastern and the Western church on 6 August, not at all the time of Sukkoth. The West had the feast, but only settled on this date in 1456, when the Kingdom of Hungary broke the Siege of Belgrade and forced the Islamic Ottomans back. News of the victory made it to Rome on 6 August, and in view of its importance Pope Callixtus III put the Transfiguration in the general Roman church calendar on this date.

We Lutherans do not follow this, but follow a tradition which places the Transfiguration on the last Sunday after Epiphany, placing the event where it is in the course of Jesus' life followed by the Gospel readings of the traditional church cycle. The military connexion of 6 August would be odd for a harvest feast. In our times however it has found a significance which is altogether spooky, which I have never heard anyone East or West mention.

6 August is also the anniversary of the first use of nuclear weapons, Hiroshima. It puts in stark contrast the world and God: one can approach a transfiguration by God shown in this event, or one can approach a transfiguration by Man shown in Hiroshima -- salvation is of the Lord.

IV. Conclusion.

At my wife's funeral, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the secular Sukkoth, in 1997, the pastor concluded the sermon by saying: A few days ago most of us celebrated a thanksgiving that lasted one day, but Nancy began one that lasts an eternity.

So is the promise to us all. And that's what happened to Sukkot. And also to the rejoicing and dancing, not for hours, but eternity!

30 September 2014

St Jerome. 30 September 2014.

Now here's a hell of a guy.

Let's start where I started, long ago in a galaxy far far away -- by which I mean, the preconciliar Roman Catholic Church, which, there having been lots of councils to be pre- to, means pre-Vatican II.

The Jerome Of My Younger Days.

Here's what I recall from those days. We used an official Bible in Latin, and our English versions were made from the Latin, and that Latin Bible was the Latin translation of St Jerome, often called the Vulgate. Protestants didn't do that. They had the King James Bible, translated from Hebrew and Greek, not translated from a translation into Latin, and, it was claimed by those who claimed it, therefore more accurate.

Not so, we were told, or at least I remember being told. St Jerome, for one thing, was a saint, a term not at least as yet applicable to modern Biblical scholars. And, he was much closer in time to the Biblical, particularly the New Testament, authors, which meant his understanding of the languages was more immediate and not from scholarly studies centuries later. And also, he worked from better sources than we have, including texts that no longer exist. Therefore, in using Jerome's Latin Bible, we are using a source altogether more trustworthy than the much later sources and scholarship of the Protestant Bible translations.

The Historical Jerome versus The Jerome Of Faith.

What's ironic is, while famous in our day for translating the Bible into the dominant language of the people of his place and time, in his own day Jerome was highly controversial for using the Hebrew text of the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, because the Jewish translation into Greek called the Septuagint was considered the normative and inspired text for centuries going back to the Greek-speaking early church, and whose longer canon was the basis for the Old Testament canon.

Fact is, Jerome was controversial for a hell of a lot more than that and was run out of Rome! Holy crap, people jumped all over Jimmy Swaggart for getting caught with a prostitute, but that ain't nuttin compared to Jerome's story. Here it is.

Jerome was born a pagan in a town called Stridon, which was in the Roman territory called Dalmatia. The town no longer exists because the Goths trashed it in 379, and no-body knows exactly where it was, except that it was in Dalmatia, which was more or less modern Croatia and Bosnia and Slovenia. As a young man he went to Rome to pursue classical education, and by his own account pursue the various extra-curricular activities often found in student life then as now. Somewhere along the line he converted to Christianity and was baptised.

After some years in Rome he set out for France, well, Gaul, and ended up in Trier, which is among the most magnificent and enchanting places it has been my good fortune to visit, ever, anywhere. Here in this most wonderful place he seems to have taken up theology. Then about 373 or so he sets out for what is now called the Middle East, particularly Antioch, in what is now Turkey and one of the oldest centres of Christianity. It was there that he came to give up secular learning altogether and focus on the Bible, learning Hebrew from Jewish Christians, and, apparently seized with remorse for his past behaviour, got into all sorts of ascetic penitential practices. Always a danger -- the Good News just isn't news enough, gotta have works!

The Ladies' Ear Tickler Enters the Story.

But in 382 he goes back to Rome again, this time as assistant to Pope Damasus I. Now there's another hell of a guy. Man, papal elections just ain't what they used to be. Twice over actually. Once upon a time, they were a matter of the clergy and people of the area choosing a bishop, or overseer, with overseers from nearby areas confirming it. But by this time we have Constantine, and Christianity attaining respectable state-recognised status, and now the Emperor confirmed newly elected bishops. That's helpful, sorta, because sometimes more than one guy claimed to be elected, sometimes in more than one election!

So when Pope Liberius, whom the Emperor Constantine had thrown out of Rome, died on 24 September 366, one faction supported Ursinus, the previous pope's deacon, while another, which had previously supported a rival pope, Felix II, supported Damasus. The patrician class, the old noble families of Rome, supported Damasus, but the plebian class, the regular folks, and the deacons supported Ursinus. Each was elected, in separate elections. Some real apostolic succession there, oh yeah.

It gets worse. There was outright rioting between supporters of the two, each side killing the other, so bad that the prefects of the city had to be called on to restore order. Damasus got formally recognised, and then his supporters commenced a slaughter of 137 of Unsinus' supporters, right in a church. Damasus was accused of murder, and hauled up on charges before a later prefect, but, being the favourite of the wealthy class, they bought the support of the Emperor and got Damasus off. He was known as Auriscalpius Matronarum, the ladies' ear scratcher.

Damasus was "pope" from 366 until he died on 11 December 384. During which time, we have to remember to really get what was going on here, the Emperors East and West made the church as headed by Damasus, and Peter in Antioch, the official state church and the one recognised as "catholic", in the Edict of Thessalonica on 27 February 380, the birthday of the Catholic Church, as distinct from the catholic church. It was during Damasus' papacy that the Emperor Gratian. one of the signatories to the Edict of Thessalonica, refused the traditional title of pontifex maximus, which then became associated with the bishop of Rome as the chief priest of the Roman state religion. In sum, this is the era of the beginning of the Babylonian Captivity of the Church (Babylon of course being a figure for Rome).

Back to the Historical Jerome.

So in 382, when Damasus calls Jerome back to Rome to help him shape things up, what was being shaped up was the two-year-old Catholic Church, the new official state religion, which by Imperial edict was the only church entitled to the description "catholic"  (whole, complete, entire, universal), all others were defined as heretics and deserving of such punishment as the Empire should choose to inflict. The Western Roman Empire at this time was starting to fall apart and was just decades away from falling apart, so a lot of this had to do with trying to prevent that.

Jerome was no slouch at matronly ear tickling himself, and once back in Rome soon had a little group of wealthy patrician widows around him, whose money supported him, a Paula in particular. And he had this ascetic works-righteousness thing going, into which he got them all. Nothing like having lots of someone else's money to support you if you want a monastic ascetic life. Hell yes.

In fact, the daughter of Paula, a lively young woman named Blaesilla, after just four months of having to live this way, died of it! Yeah, died. On top of which Jerome tells Paula not to mourn her daughter. This got the Romans really pissed, there was an inquiry into just what was really going on between Jerome and Paula, and then Damasus dies, and with that support gone, Jerome is forced out of Rome.

So where's he go? Where else, the Eastern Empire, where they really get into all this monkery and fasting and stuff. Paula and her money follow. The whole sham of a works-based sparse life funded by patrician wealthy-class money. There's some real apostolic stuff for you. Lemme tell ya, if somebody wants to convince you of their mistaking the physiological effects of self induced glucose denial for some sort of spiritual state of attainment, you'd be better off running right to the nearest McDonald's and ordering a double quarter pounder, which, if memory serves, is combo 4 on the menu. Personally I like our Nebraska favourite Runza better, which also makes a helluva burger, and it's Wolgadeutsch too, but being a regional chain may not be available where you are.

This sort of stuff is not self-denial, it's life denial. Utterly pathological. It is no curb whatever to excess and greed, but is rather an equally odious extreme reaction to it, both extremes equally devoid of the Gospel altogether. It comes rather from an empire about to collapse under the tension of its classic past and Christian present and efforts to reconcile them within, with huge civil unrest in its wake, and threats from without in the West. Which was bad enough, but in the East, where it did not collapse for another thousand years or so, it continued unabated, which is equally bad. The opposite of greed and excess is not this pathological repression, but Judas H Priest, just eat a normal balanced diet and go about a life of use to God and your fellow Man, stay in your parish where you find everything that made the saints saints, the Word, the Word preached, the Sacrament, and your fellow Christians.

The Word of the Lord Endures Forever -- Despite the "Church".

Well, it would also be about a thousand years or so until THAT message got out, little thing called the Lutheran Reformation, by a fellow survivor of the remnants of all this nonsense, guy named Martin Luther. Sorry if this stuff isn't in the sanitised reductive biographical sketches that turn up in treasuries of prayer and stuff like that, but them's the facts. It's a disgusting pagan mess, massacres, murders, politics, scandals and all, and from the time of Jerome's life on, the official religion of the state held to be right from the Apostles, which remained in the East, and remained in the West after it reconstituted itself as the Holy Roman Empire, and remains to this day in the former state churches that survive these empires.

This is the world of Augustine, Jerome, Damasus, etc -- the Western Roman Empire, which contains Rome, once the centre of the whole thing, in utter turmoil between its classic philosophy, art, culture and religion and the new religion, in attendant civil turmoil, and under assault from Germanic forces outside it. The sack of Rome came in 410, 24 August to be exact, by Alaric, King of the Visigoths. The efforts to synthesise Rome's past and present failed utterly to preserve Rome. But it created a state religion which survived the death of the state that created it, and became the one remaining link upon which the new state would be built, the Holy Roman Empire.  It survives to this day, in the West as the Roman Catholic Church as well as other state churches, some of them with the word Lutheran in them, and most having now severed the connexion to their modern state as mandatory, and in the East as the various Eastern Orthodox churches.

And all of it based entirely on the characteristics of this age, not in the least on the Gospel, as a dying empire tried to redefine itself for survival -- hence "true" churches, "apostolic succession", "bishops" who were as well state officials and political powers, and all the other nonsense by which the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches try to justify themselves and their pagan accretions which would hold the catholic church in captivity until the Lutheran Reformation, the need for which was so strong amid all this horse dung and bullroar that later "reforms" blew right past the Lutheran Reformation to an opposite but equally bad extreme, which to-day but not originally travels under the name Protestant or Evangelical.

So we have a pope supported by the wealthy Roman class in their twilight who kills his opponents and becomes by edict of the Emperor the true recipient of the true faith, and holy man whose "I'd better inflict all this on myself" asceticism is funded by more wealthy Roman class money and kills the daughter of his main supporter and disgusts even the Romans.

So what do we do then, forget about all this as an unholy mess we can ignore and just get back to the Bible, the "New Testament" church? No. And hell no. Judas H Priest, the New Testament church did not have the New Testament, so how ya gonna do that? You ain't.

Because here's the thing, the Babylonian Captivity was just that, a captivity, not an extinction. The catholic church survived and continues to survive even the invention of the Catholic Church by the Roman Empire. And why is that? Because of the truth expressed in the motto of the Lutheran Reformation, which motto is simply Scripture itself, both New and Old Testament.

VDMA. Verbum Domini manet in aeternum. The Word of the Lord endures forever. It cannot be overcome, and on its central truth about Jesus Christ is built the church against which the gates of hell itself cannot prevail, let alone the Roman Empire. It can survive power mongers like Damasus and pathological lunatics like Augustine and Jerome.

The Word of the Lord Endures Forever -- Despite Translators.

Particularly Jerome. His new Latin translation really did, even if the work of a nut case whose nuttiness was fatal and whose supposed self-denial was based on the wealth of others, establish a better text of the Bible in the most widely understood language of its time and remained key in the availability of the Bible for centuries to come, as Latin became the language of learning, and really did introduce, to a thoroughly Gentilised Christianity with the barest of understandings of the Jewish faith it fulfilled that had replaced it with reworkings in Christian dress of its classic philosophy, a more Jewish understanding of the texts, admired to this day by Jews, not to mention the Hebrew itself.

Not only that, but Jerome set in motion a tradition of selections from Scripture for reading at the preaching part if the Divine Service which would continue for about 1,500 years, and still continues as what we now call the "historic" lectionary. And why is it "historic"?  Because it's, well, old, you know, historic?  Hell no. Because there's another one now, a product in the 1960s of part of the church still in Babylonian Captivity in its last council, Babylon II, er, Vatican II.

The Western Roman Empire, under its new Germanic leaders, managed after a few hundred years known as the Dark Ages to more or less reconstitute itself as the Holy Roman Empire, and the old state church of the old Roman Empire, the Catholic Church, was right there to take its place in the whole set up. Some consider the HRE to have begun with the coronation -- by the "pope" of course -- of Charlemagne, Karl der Grosse, in 800, as Emperor of the Romans, and some consider it to have begun with the coronation -- by the "pope" of course -- of Otto on 2 February 962. But in any case it lasted for about another 1,000 years, and formally ended on 6 August 1806 at the hands of Napoleon.  The deposed last HRE, Francis II, however continued as Francis I, Emperor of Austria. Francis hell, it was Franz dammit, the only Doppelkaiser in history. Kaiser, that's a Germanisation of guess what, Caesar. Doppel is double.

But by about 100 years after that, the underpinnings of the Roman Catholic Church seemed even to many within it as wearing a bit thin, the Roman Empire being long gone and now the Holy Roman Empire being long gone too, and movements began in various circles, some Scriptural, some doctrinal, some liturgical, to re-express this whole deal in terms not so connected to things long gone. So they set about coming up with something more attuned to the existentialism and phenomenology then all the rage.

A couple of problems with that. Once again, just as in the time of Jerome, Augustine, Damasus, et al, we have an entity trying to preserve itself by merging its past with its present and future of different origin. But this time, that past was itself exactly the product of what was once the different origin the last time around. IOW, that church's Empire, both of them (Roman and Holy Roman), were gone and now their church had to go it alone in another emerging new world, and once again it sought to reinvent itself as a synthesis, hybrid, reconciliation, something like that, of the two. This culminated at Vatican II, when the old Imperial church reinvented itself for a new post-Imperial age.

Problem is, the old Imperial church was just that, the old Imperial church, not the catholic church or the church of Jesus Christ, and one of the two elements being synthesised into a new synthesis was itself a previous synthesis of Christianity and the old empire. Christianity, the catholic church, the church of Jesus Christ, thought by the proponents of this movement to be re-emerging after centuries of being obscured, was in fact being yet further obscured; the Babylonian Captivity deepened, only re-expressed in terms of the new Babylon that no longer had it as its church, or had a church at all.

In this way it only superficially resembled the real reformation of the church, which had happened nearly five centuries before already, with such things as vernacular languages and free standing altars. And so the Whore of Babylon thoroughly remodelled the brothel, with a new order of liturgy (yeah, literally, a novus ordo) complete with new calendar of observances and new lectionary of readings, replacing the one that had grown for centuries.

Now that's not surprising, that's what you do when you're the Whore of Babylon, and the Babylon that formed you and kept you as its whore is gone and there is a new Babylon.

But these "reforms" came about on an entirely different basis than the reforms of the Reformation, which did not run from the march of history nor wish to discard or disparage it for all its warts and blemishes, but instead accept it and move on, not reinventing anything but continuing in continuity, discarding only that which contradicted Scripture but otherwise, as the Augsburg Confession states, retaining the ceremonies and readings previously in use.

So what is surprising is that the churches of the Reformation generally, and even those of the Lutheran Reformation, jumped on board with this Roman insanity, took the novus ordo and revised and reworked their own versions of it! And now we have an "historic" lectionary right alongside a Vatican II For Lutherans Lutheranised version of this novus ordo.  We even lead the Whore herself in this regard, because we didn't have to wait a generation or so for a Roman Imperial official with only the church of the former state left -- a "pope", in case you were wondering -- to say it's OK with a motu proprio! Utter madness.

Conclusion.

So on this feast of St Jerome, let us remember that, you know what, he really was closer to the authors and sources of the Bible than our vaunted modern scholars working removed by centuries, and really did, nut case and all, contribute to the church which even he and his contemporaries and times and subsequent times could put in captivity but not extinction, a thing of great value in the Vulgate Bible and the tradition of the historic lectionary.

And let us remember that the Reformation has already happened and not at all on the basis that fuelled Babylon II, er, Vatican II, and we continue as the catholic church where the Word is rightly proclaimed and the Sacraments rightly administered, no new faith, no new doctrine, no new anything, and sure as hell no new orders of worship, based on the scholarship emerging from the dissolution, not just politically but in every way, of the Holy Roman Empire, in which there is no "hermeneutic of continuity" whatever but a pathetic old whore trying to still work the streets, but rather the organic continuity of the catholic church normed by its very own book, the Bible, rejecting only what contradicts it.