Morgendämmerung, oder, Wie man mit dem Hammer theologiert.
Semper idem sed non eodem modo.


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.

27 November 2015

A Thanksgiving That Lasts An Eternity.

I remember things better by the day than the date.

For example, to me my wife Nancy died the night before Thanksgiving, 2140 hours, 1997, rather than 26 November 1997. Dates fall on different days in different years, and the night before Thanksgiving always seems more like the anniversary of it rather than 26 November, which in 2014 was also the day before Thanksgiving but in 2015 it's Thanksgiving itself.

In addition to the obvious, what amazes me about it, then, now, and all points in between, is that it has not produced a crisis of faith in me, let alone a loss of faith. Now, if you haven't gleaned it from some of my posts, crises of faith and loss of faith were pretty much constant for me from Vatican II in the 1960s to professing the faith of the evangelical Lutheran church in 1996.

Vatican II tore up and stomped on pretty much everything that was the basis of my life back then. However, the death of your wife and mother of your children, toss in that their ages were fifteen months and three months at the time, is a tearing up and a stomping on at a whole different level and place.

I've been me for a while now, and "me" no doubt about it would take that as the final insult after all the rest from a god who probably doesn't exist anyway so forget the whole thing, it's a cruel joke that ain't funny.

But it didn't happen. Not Thanksgiving Eve when she died, not the next day when I spent Thanksgiving afternoon at the funeral home picking out caskets and stuff like that before arriving late for some turkey at the family dinner like everyone else. Not in the first few weeks of not having a clue how this single working dad with two babies will work beyond just getting through each day. Not later as routines emerged that worked but obviously aren't the ones we hoped and planned for. And not later as other difficulties and challenges emerged and still emerge.

That's not me. No way I can be like that, guaranteed, take that to the bank, I cannot do that. But it happened. Since other spiritual forces and powers do not bolster faith in Jesus Christ, I think we're going to chalk this up to the Holy Spirit. When they say faith is entirely the gift and work of the Holy Spirit, believe it, they ain't kidding.

Her funeral was the following Saturday. It was right by the service book at the time, all about faith in Jesus Christ for the salvation from sins unto eternal life. You couldn't have been there without getting the message that the only dead people present aren't in caskets but dead in sin unjustified by faith in Jesus Christ through whose merits alone they are counted saved unto eternal life, a promise He extends to all including right here and now.

The sermon concluded as follows, which I hear eighteen years later as clearly as the moment the pastor said it:

A few days ago, most of us celebrated a thanksgiving that lasted one day, but Nancy began one that lasts an eternity.


May your Thanksgiving be a prequel to a Thanksgiving that lasts an eternity!

24 November 2015

Thanksgiving 2015.

Thanksgiving as such is not unique to the United States.  Celebrations of gratitude for the harvest at the end of the growing season appear in many times and places. They are found in Asia, Africa, Europe and elsewhere in the Americas.  In the Hebrew Bible (aka the Old Testament) the last of the three great festivals, Sukkot, has such themes.  Here's a little something on the US Thanksgiving. 

226 years ago this year (2015) President George Washington proclaimed a national Day of Thanksgiving in the United States for the year 1789, the year in which provisional independent government ended and a permanent federal government took effect under a document, called a Frame of Government at the time but now known as the Constitution, ratified by all the states.  74 years later, or 152 years ago, in 1863, as the country was in a civil war, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Day of Thanksgiving. Not one thing about Pilgrims or turkeys in either of those proclamations.  Or watching sports or buying stuff for Christmas, er, the holidays, either. So what was/is this US Thanksgiving holiday all about anyway?  Here's the story.  

The "first" Thanksgiving -- all three of them. 

Guess what! There were two "first" Thanksgivings before the "first" Thanksgiving in 1621 at Plymouth, Massachusetts!

The second "first" Thanksgiving before the "first" Thanksgiving was two years earlier. On 4 December 1619, English settlers arrived at Berkeley Hundred, roughly 20 miles up the James River from Jamestown, the first permanent settlement, begun 14 May 1607. The ship's captain, John Woodleaf, led a service of thanksgiving and the settlement charter directed the date to be observed thereafter. Thereafter lasted until 1622 when the native population, not so grateful for their arrival, forced their retreat to Jamestown.

The first "first" Thanksgiving before the "first" Thanksgiving was 54 years earlier. Spanish settlers celebrated thanksgiving for their safe arrival 8 September 1565 at what is now St Augustine, Florida. This the first recorded thanksgiving in America, but, as this was Spaniards in a Spanish colony, La Florida, which didn't pass to English control until 1763 or become a state until 1845, it doesn't get much airplay among Anglos.

Thanksgivings were held at various times and places in the English colonies, after the harvest, but as days of prayer, not eating! The provisional Continental Congress proclaimed the first national thanksgiving, which was Thursday 18 December 1777, so I guess that's some sort of "first" too although the United States as constituted (literally) now didn't exist until 1789.

The United States Day of Thanksgiving. 

The first national day of Thanksgiving in the United States as such was proclaimed by President Washington for Thursday 26 November 1789. Presidents and governors proclaimed thanksgivings off and on after that.  Then starting with President Lincoln's designation in 1863 of the last Thursday of November that year as a day of national thanksgiving, for the next 76 years each subsequent president had year by year designated the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. Until FDR.

In 1939 the last Thursday in November would be the 30th, and President Roosevelt was persuaded by business leaders that a longer Christmas shopping season would help the economy out of the Depression with more sales. Gotta remember, once upon a time but not so long ago it was considered inappropriate to start the Christmas season before Thanksgiving.  So, he declared Thanksgiving the next to last Thursday in November that year.

The new Thanksgiving was widely derided as "Franksgiving" -- Roosevelt's first name being Franklin -- and had no force of law, some states observing the new "Democrat" Thanksgiving and some the old "Republican" Thanksgiving. A Commerce Department report in 1941 found no significant difference in sales from the change, but, nonetheless, Congress passed a law designating the fourth Thursday in November, which some years is the last and some the next to last Thursday, as Thanksgiving Day every year. 1942 was the first Thanksgiving under the current law, by which time we were not in the middle of a civil war but the second of two world wars.

So the march to "Black Friday" began with a move to increase store sales on the day after Thanksgiving by moving Thanksgiving itself, a logical choice since many businesses gave the day after off too and then there's a week-end.  The name "Black Friday" originated in Philadelphia somewhere in the 1950s to describe the pandemonium of all the shoppers, and by the 1970s the term was in general use in the US.  Stores would open earlier than usual, like around 0600.  Then, as the 21st Century came, with a worsening economy it crept earlier by an hour or two to capture even more sales, and in 2011 major retailers opened at midnight, the first second of Friday, in 2012 some began opening Thanksgiving night and in 2014 it was extended into Thanksgiving afternoon.  Who knows, by decade's end maybe it'll be just Black Thanksgiving.

You know what, Washington had no more to say about sales, Christmas, Christmas sales, food or football than he did about Pilgrims and turkeys regarding Thanksgiving, when "Washington" referred to a man and not a city. Neither did President Lincoln, whose example, as to a proclamation anyway, had been followed since. Below are the original proclamations of the first United States Thanksgiving Day by President George Washington in 1789 and the 1863 proclamation by President Lincoln that was followed annually until modified for commercialism under FDR in 1939. Amazing stuff. Beautiful stuff. Our stuff.

Thing is, yes we don't find food and sports and shopping frenzies spoken of in that stuff, and, we also don't find now among our stuff that of which Washington did speak.  Such as:
- a duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of, to be grateful for the benefits of, and humbly to implore the protection of, Almighty God;
- a duty to observe a day of public thanksgiving and prayer for his favour, particularly in being able to form our kind of government;
- service of a great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all good;
- joining in prayers to the great Ruler and Lord Of Nations to pardon our wrongs, to enable us to perform our duties, to make our government a blessing of wise, just and constitutional law, to guide all Sovereigns and Nations in good government, to promote true religion and virtue, to increase science and such prosperity as he knows best among all mankind.

And where now among our stuff does one find that of which Lincoln spoke?  Such as:
- the fruits of our efforts being due not to ourselves but to God whose gifts they are, who though he punishes us for our sins remembers mercy too;
- that wherever we are, we offer praise and thanksgiving to our beneficient Father who dwelleth in the Heavens;
- that as we do, we also, with penitence for our perverseness and disobedience, ask the intervention of his Almighty Hand to heal the wounds we have caused ourselves, when it is consistent with His purposes.

Where do you find this sort of stuff now?  You don't.  Even though this is what Thanksgiving is meant to be.  And it's characteristic of our other founding stuff.  And not as a matter of Lutheran belief, or any other belief as no religion is specified, but as just being American, our stuff. Yet one does not find such talk in the public discourse now.

Instead, one finds:
- those who think such talk has no place in our stuff, and have pretty well succeeded in removing all such talk from our stuff, as part of being "politically correct", speech and therefore presumably thought control, once dreaded for a dystopian future but now ok;
- those who think this is a specifically Christian nation though no such mention is made, and try to restore things that were never there;
- those who see that there is nothing specifically Christian about Thanksgiving and thus deride it as American "civic religion".

All of them, equally in their different ways, miss what our stuff is all about.  Just as do those who make Thanksgiving about a big meal, football on TV, and heading to the stores to buy stuff for Christmas, er, "holiday", presents.

May we find something of Presidents Washington and Lincoln in our national celebration in 2015 as we did 226 years ago at the first one in 1789, and as we did 152 years ago at what became the first annual national one in 1863.

President Washington's Proclamation of the First U.S. Thanksgiving.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789

President Lincoln's Proclamation of Thanksgiving 1863.

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.  The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union. 

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State

05 November 2015

What's An Armistice? Veterans Day / St Martin's Day 2015.

Here is what the world knows about Veterans Day, I hope. 11 November was originally Armistice Day, from the armistice that ended hostilities in the First World War on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, GMT (or UTC), in 1918. Later, with another and even worse World War having been fought despite a War to End All Wars, in 1954 Congress changed the observance to include all veterans, hence Veterans Day.

What's An Armistice?

The English word armistice is transliterated from the Latin armistitium, which literally means a stopping of arms. It's a truce, a cessation of hostilities. Now, if you're one of those getting shot at, that's a good thing -- but, it's not a comprehensive social and political solution to what led to the hostilities, and not even necessarily permanent, let alone that universal aspiration of beauty pageant contestants, world peace. Which means, hostilities may well resume at some point. And always have.

Here is what the world probably does not know or care about. 11 November is the feast day of St Martin of Tours, who is the patron saint of, guess what, soldiers! Hmm.

Who Is St Martin of Tours and Why Is He Patron Of Soldiers?

Martin was born a pagan around 316 in what is now Hungary, and was what is now called a military brat. Then as now, military families move a lot, and Martin grew up where his father was stationed, at Ticinum, which is now Pavia, Italy. His father was a tribune, which is roughly equivalent to a modern colonel, in the crack Roman unit the Imperial Horse Guard (equites singulari Augusti). Being a military kid, he was named Martin, from Mars, the Roman god of war.

The year of his birth, 316, was also the year it became legal to be a Christian in the Roman Empire, but it was a decidedly minority religion, and in the army the cult of Mithras was common. When Martin was ten, he ticked off his parents by starting to go to church and taking instruction as a catechumen (you know, the Sunday School, mid-week, etc of the time). However in 331 at 15 he joined the army, as sons of senior officers did, in a provincial cavalry unit (ala, or wing) and about 334 was stationed at Samarobriva, the Roman name for Amiens, in northern France.

One day, by the city gate of Amiens, he passed a man freezing on the road, tore his military issue cloak in half and gave half to him. That night, he had a dream seeing Jesus wearing the half a cloak. This shook him up, and he got baptised that year, 334, at 18. He remained in the army, but in 336 when it looked like the army and the local Gauls were about to engage at Worms, he declared he was a soldier of Christ and could not fight. He was thrown in the brig (military jail) and charged with cowardice. He offered to be in the front lines but unarmed, and the army was going to do just that with him, but the Gauls made peace with Rome and the battle did not happen.

After that Martin was discharged from the service. He went to Tours, and began to study with the renowned, even in his own time, St Hilary. Hilary was a convert too, and he vigourously opposed the Arian "Christianity" of the Visigoths, and was elected by the faithful of Poitiers as their first bishop (they did that then), married with a daughter and all (they did that then too). Martin set about combating the Arian heresy too, which about did the church in at the time, thinking he was God's soldier now.

He and Hilary were both forced into exile by persecution. Martin lived as a hermit but when Hilary was restored in 361 Martin joined him. He started a monastery in nearby Liguge, which is still there as the now Benedictine (of course) St Martin's Abbey, from which he preached Christianity all around the area. Later, the people of Tours made him their third bishop when the old one died in 371 and he was finally persuaded to accept. From there he soldiered on to preach the true Gospel in Gaul, and, to get away from the attention of his office, he established another monastery, Marmoutier, which also later became Benedictine, on the other side of the River Loire in Tours, about 372, which lasted until the French Revolution in 1799 and is largely in ruins now.

A good insight into Martin is something that happened in 385.  Remember that 385 is just five years since the Imperial Edict of Thessalonica defined what is and is not the Catholic Church, and made the Catholic Church the state religion, which makes heresy a state offence punishable by the Empire.  In 385 Priscillian, bishop of Avila in Spain, and his followers were brought before the Emperor, Magnus Maximus, on charges of false doctrine, heresy, stemming from their severe asceticism, and the penalty was beheading.  But Martin, though he was quite opposed to Priscillian, hurried to Trier, where the Imperial court held forth at the time, not Rome, to protest the sentence as both unjust in itself and an unjust imposition of civil power in a church matter. The Emperor relented, but, after Martin left the court beheaded them anyway. This was the first time ever that a Christian executed another Christian for heresy, and Martin was absolutely disconsolate after he heard the news and urged mercy toward Priscillian's followers.

Martin died 8 November 397 and was buried 11 November, which became his feast day, though the date of death is the usual practice for determining a feast day. He was widely venerated for centuries, which I will not go into except for this, soon after his death it became the custom to begin a 40 day fast in preparation for Christmas, the quadragesima sancti Martini or St Martin's Fast, with his feast day being the last non-fasting day until Christmas. This eventually shortened into what we know as Advent now. More on that in the "Advent" post coming up.

An Armistice on St Martin's Day 1918.

So, 11 November, feast of the patron of soldiers for centuries, date of Armistice Day, now Veterans Day? Hmm. Coincidence, or one of those little things that pokes through from what is beyond the surface? Wanna know something else just a little too co-incidental? The military campaign that led to the armistice is the Hundred Days Offensive, aka the Grand Offensive, from 8 August to 11 November 1918. Guess where the Hundred Days Offensive started. With the Battle of Amiens, where the Roman officer Martin had given the freezing beggar the cloak. Hmm.

The armistice of 11 November 1918 turned out to be just that, a cessation of hostilities. What was fought as The War to End All Wars would become World War One, as hostilities resumed in an even worse World War Two. Along with the millions of lives lost, millions more lives were forever changed, and, something changed in what might be called the spirit of Man too. The great sense in the age leading into these cataclysms that Man was on an upward spiral of progress toward an enlightened future lay rotting like the wreck of that great expression of the age the RMS (Royal Mail Steamer) Titanic.

The "Titans" had lost, but unlike the mythological battle, in which the Olympians were the victors and established a new world order, this time who would be the victorious Olympians, or if there even were victors or Olympians, was not clear. The old world order, and its certainties both temporal and eternal, were gone. Man began to speak of life as absurd, and the search for "meaning" was on, amid an apparently essentially meaningless existence. One could simply accept that life is absurd and meaningless; one could understand that meaning is something Man, or each man, creates for himself; one could deny the whole thing and remain irrelevant and inauthentic, either by holding on to a religious faith from the old order's certainties, or equally, by holding on to the secular faith in the progress and perfectibility of Man or the restoration of the old political order.

Increasingly, as what was to end all cataclysms only led to further and worse cataclysms, Man spoke of Angst, anxiety, in which Man on the one hand yearns for the certainties and meanings of the old world order but on the other knows they are but lost illusions that no longer work.

The resolution? There isn't one.  That embodiment of the old order, the Titanic, sank 15 April 1912, 103 years ago.  The spark that would light the keg of the War To End All Wars, the assassination of Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand along with his wife Herzogin Sophie, on 28 June 1914, was 100 years ago last year. And, 97 years after the armistice, in 2015 hostilities continue amid the wreckage of the arrangements worked out nearly a century ago following the War to End All Wars in Southeast Europe, the Middle East and the Asian subcontinent. 

One hundred years on, more or less, from the collapse of the old world order and its temporal and eternal certainties, their loss has now become normal, and what was once sensed as a loss or void, is no longer sensed as such, because they were never known anyway.  Angst, anxiety, is the norm and no longer experienced as anxiety, and, though the void which produced it remains, the void is not sensed as any void at all.  We become as a people like a person with Alzheimer's, prisoners of the present, no longer recognising who and what we are.

So the Twelve Titans fell to the Twelve Olympians, who this time apparently aren't going to show up. If Genesis isn't witness to Man as fallen, the world history of Man surely is. A history filled with the universal intuition that Man is less than he is meant to be or can be, a history filled with however many religious, philosophical, social and political programmes to accomplish his fulfillment -- and a history filled with the dashing of all of them.

There's twelve something else who had something to say about that. The Twelve Apostles. They got told to go into the world with the message.  The message is:
- that Man just isn't going to get himself out of his self-constructed mess,
- that God has seen that and became Man in Jesus to die to pay for all that and rise again, so that Man can by the gift and power of God repent of his own self-destructive efforts and start over, be reborn in faith in the One God has sent,
- that because of Him one can be washed clean by being covered in his sacrificial blood, and even amid the brokenness of this world live in partial experience of that which is beyond it, dying with him to rise with him.
That message continues to-day as God calls and feeds Man in the church wherever his Word is properly preached and his Sacraments properly administered.

Interesting that in that context, on 11 November, St Martin's Day, in 1483, Mr and Mrs Luther brought their day old baby boy to be baptised, and following the traditional custom he was given the name of the saint of the day -- Martin Luther, who like his namesake would devote his life to preaching the true Gospel against false doctrine and corruption from state control of the church.


So on 11 November, Armistice Day now Veterans Day and also St Martin's Day, as we rightly remember and celebrate in gratitude those who have served to preserve and defend our temporal freedom, let us also remember that armistice is the best we can do, the hostilities cease for a while only to resume, and let us remember and celebrate in gratitude Him who gained our true spiritual freedom for now and all eternity, who gives peace not as the world gives peace, but for real and for ever.

Pacem relinquo vobis, pacem meam do vobis. Peace I leave thee, my peace I give thee. (John 14:27, used in the liturgy after the Agnus Dei before Communion)

Here is the Collect from the mass propers for the feast of St Martin of Tours:

Lord God of hosts, who clothed Your servant Martin the soldier with the spirit of sacrifice, and set him as a bishop in Your Church to be a defender of the catholic faith: Give us grace to follow in his holy steps, that at the last we may be found clothed with righteousness in the dwellings of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.

27 October 2015

Reformation Day and All Saints Day / Reformationstag und Allerheiligen, 2015.

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 neither European nor 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!


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 for us the punishment we are due, 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!

That's not even RC 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 in life, as he lay dying Luther wrote him a personal letter saying the troubles were not of his making, that this "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, we can 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.


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. Eeven 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, we still can't do it.

But having shown us this is the case through 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 it is. 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 works. This too is utterly simple. It's our sinfulness that wants to make it complicated, and 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 it becomes a work to be done, and effective not through the power of his word to do what it says, but by simply by having worked the work (ex opere operato).

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.


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 against 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 2015

Boethius, Terence, Wheel of Fortune. 23 October 2015.

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 than 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 did 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) does, 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.