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


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.

17 August 2017

On St Bernard, Sacred Heads, ATMs and Other Stuff. 20 August 2017.

Well here comes 19 August and our Commemorations list says it's the Feast of St Bernard of Clairvaux.

Thing is, the feast of St Bernard of Clairvaux is actually 20 August.

Whyzat? That's the day he died, and traditionally, the date of a person's death, faith seeing it as the date they were born to eternity, is used as their feast day, if the date is known and not taken by a saint who already died that day or by something of more importance. You die on 20 August, your feast day is 20 August. Pretty simple. It's a Christian version and continuation of Yahrtzeit, meaning "time of year" in Yiddish, when relatives remember a family member on the date of their death.

So what possessed the compilers of our Commemorations list to move it up one day? Hell if I know. I also do not know what possessed them to import several commemorations for Old Testament figures from the Eastern Orthodox calendar, but, they did and one of those is for Samuel on 20 August, so I guess they needed the day and had to boof Bernard. But to the day before, when he was still alive and  not born unto eternity? Scholars. Oy.

Anyway, Bernard has a pretty good rep among notable non-Catholics, including Martin Luther and John Calvin. Which is pretty amazing considering:
1) he was a rip roaring kick-ass let's get serious about this Rule of St Benedict for monasteries type; in 1113, at age 23, he entered monastic life at the abbey at Citeaux, which was a reform movement of Benedictines founded on 21 March (the real feast of St Benedict) 1098, called the Cistercians from the Latin name of Citeaux, Cistercium, and was so into it that two years later he became abbot of a daughter abbey in 1115 at Claire Valee (Clear Valley), Latin clara vallis, later Clairvaux for short, hence his name.
2) he chose the "right" pope when two were elected (hey, what if he got the Innocent/Anacletus thing wrong?).
3) he saw one of his students, Bernardo da Pisa, elected Pope (Eugene III) largely on the basis of Bernardo's connexion to him, though he thought Bernardo too naive for the job, then used that naivete to function as a shadow pope.
4) his student-now-pope proclaimed a Second Crusade in reaction to the County of Edessa, a state established by the First Crusade, getting its butt kicked by the Muslims, then he got Bernard to promote it, whereupon the two main takers, Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany, got their butts thoroughly kicked, which completely tarnished the rest of Bernard's life though he insisted the failure was due to the Crusaders being a bunch of sinners.
5) at the Council of Troyes in 1129 he championed the Knights Templar, which secured their endorsement by the Roman Catholic Church and their transformation from a poor monastic military order, that provided security for those on pilgrimages to Jerusalem after it was retaken in 1099 in the First Crusade, into a multimillion dollar multinational banking and holding company, the world's first such company.
6) in 1139 Pope Innocent II declared the Knights Templar could go anywhere and be exempt from all authority or taxation except the pope's.
7)  Bernard's pathological asceticism -- a redundancy, as all asceticism is pathological -- gave rise to one of the more extreme forms of Mariolatry; given the mediaeval misconception that milk was blood in processed form, and given the mediaeval custom among the upper classes that breastfeeding was done for them by others ("wetnurses"), the Madonna lactans, which is paintings of Mary/Madonna nursing Jesus, became an analogue to the blood of Christ, and Bernard is said to have been hit by a blast of milk as he prayed before a Madonna lactans, and was given either wisdom or cured or an eye infection, depending on to which legend one listens.
8) his pathological asceticism -- a redundancy, as all asceticism, oh wait, we covered that -- also gave rise to the whole ideal of Christian knighthood, in particular his De laude novae militia (In praise of the new knighthood) of 1129, written for the first Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Hugues de Payens, which in turn gave rise to the late addition of Sir Galahad to the Arthurian legend, coming from the Old French so-called Vulgate Cycle, which then transformed the existing English legend into a quest for the Holy Grail by the celibate, ascetic, therefore "pure" knight, against the unworthiness of regular knights.

He does, despite all that and more, show some signs of knowing it all comes down to faith in Christ and what he did for us. Well that can happen even in the RCC, and in all fairness I gotta say maybe old Bernard was one of those. And me being a Benedictine never-was, the only thing worse than a has-been, lemme tell ya a little reform wouldn't hurt those guys at all.

Clairvaux was built on a tract of land known as a hangout for robbers, donated by Count Hugh of Champagne.  Apparently the land is well suited to retreat from society, whether said retreat is one's own decision or society's.  Since the French Revolution, Napoleon, etc, the abbey was abolished and made into a high security prison, which it still is.  Hideout to monastery to prison, you know I want to have fun with that, but the utter ironic ridiculousness should be sufficiently obvious with no help from me.  Clairvaux Prison is the current residence of Ilyich Ramirez Sanchez of Venezuela, whom you may know as "Carlos the Jackal".

Bernard is best known among non-Catholics because the hymn "O Sacred Head" is attributed to him. Now, let me be clear, O Sacred Head -- which everybody knows God sings as O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden -- is among the greatest hymns ever written by anybody, any time, any where.

Thing is, Bernard didn't have a damn thing to do with it.

The text to the hymn comes from the last part of a long mediaeval poem called Salve mundi salutare (Hail, salvation of the world) which meditates on a number of Christ's body parts as he suffered on the Cross. The last part meditates on his head and is called Salve caput cruentatum. It dates from the 14th Century; Bernard lived in the first half of the 12th Century (1091-1153 to be exact).

The tune is even later. It was written originally as a love song by Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612). When Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), one of the great contributors to our magnificent Lutheran hymn heritage (no clowning around here, he was great and it is magnificent) translated Salve caput cruentatum into German as O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden (the aforementioned version God now uses, OK that's clowning around) Hassler's love song got used as the tune (there is no textual reason for this parenthetical comment except to make three in one sentence and thus reflect the perfection of the Trinity; that's a monkish thing and I'm completely clowning around).

So, Bernard had nothing to do with O Sacred Head, and all this "attributed to" stuff is just crap that should be dropped.  What ought to be pointed out instead is that Salve mundi salutare, the source of O Sacred Head, was the basis for the first Lutheran oratorio, Membra Jesu nostri patientis sanctissima.  Don't freak, I'll translate, it means "most holy members (as in limbs) of our suffering Jesus".  It was composed by Dietrich Buxtehude in 1680.

So what to make of this? Bernard had absolutely nothing to do with O Sacred Head, either as tune or text, and for that matter, being thoroughly Roman Catholic as we saw above, makes a hell of a lot better Roman Catholic saint than Lutheran commemoration.  Rather than indulging in dressing up Catholic fantasies in a Lutheran version, just like some dress up megachurch fantasies in a Lutheran version, we make this of it:  the power of the Gospel, well meditated on in O Sacred Head, is such that the hymn does not depend on or even need pious legends and myths about its earthly authorship. And that the power of the Gospel, of which Bernard showed some signs of being aware, is such that it can penetrate even the largely pagan accretions laid over it by the RCC, in which Bernard was deeply involved. Thank God for the Lutheran Reformation, that we no longer live in times like Bernard, where church and state alike were choked by these accretions, and the Gospel can be rightly preached and the Sacraments rightly administered in our churches openly.

And hey, next time you write a cheque or use a debit card to draw money somewhere else on your bank deposits back home, rather than carry your stash with you and thus make yourself more attractive to thieves and robbers, thank the Knights Templar, who in 1150 created a system of letters of credit based on deposits that is the low tech forerunner of banking as we know it now!

07 August 2017

The Dormitory of Mary, 15 August 2017.

Yeah I know, it's the Dormition of Mary, aka the Assumption.

Dormition, dormitory -- all from the Latin for "to sleep". One of the dormitories where I went to university was called St Mary Hall, formally. It was just "Mary Hall" otherwise. Everyone went there whether they had a room there (I didn't) or friends there (I did) or not. Reason being, St Mary Cafeteria, or "Mary Caf" as we called it (the culture may include tendencies which may strike those unfamiliar with it as unduly familiar, even slightly irreverent). Thing is, it wasn't a cafeteria at all but an on-campus restaurant and gathering place.

What's up with that? Mary Caf was not the regular school cafeteria where those with a meal plan ate, which being a rural campus not in any town was just about everyone. Rather, it was where one ordered burgers and fries and stuff like that on one's own time, and dime. So why is a restaurant called a cafeteria when it really isn't? Well, the regular cafeteria wasn't called a cafeteria either, but a refectory, so the word was available. And the restaurant did have trays and a line.

Holy crap, what's a refectory? Comes from the Latin reficere, to restore, which gave rise to the word refectorium, a room where you get restored, ie eat. It's a monk thing, and being a Benedictine institution we were all about that. Now, in a real refectory, according to the Rule -- yeah I know, what's "the Rule", ok without modifiers that's the Rule of St Benedict for monasteries, geez do I have to explain everything? -- meals are eaten in silence, one guy reads from Scripture or writings of the saints (that's called lectio divina, or divine reading) and no meat from mammals except if you're sick.

However, true to the very heart of the most venerable tradition, Benedictine in particular and Catholic in general, that's how it is but it ain't really like that. As more and more "feasts" came in to the church calendar, the meals got better, and, by the time it took four digits to write the year, aka 1000 AD, the obvious solution was to eat the other, better, food in another room, and keep up appearances in the refectory.  So, not have your cake in one room, then eat it in another. Perfect.

And in a student refectory, where the teaching monks ate too, as distinct from the monking refectory of the monkatorium itself, there ain't no lectio divina, and ain't much of anything done in silence either.

So it don't get no more Benedictine than to have the refectory and Mary Caf, the official restoring room and the other one on the side. Hey, don't laugh, the Eastern Orthodox, as usual, amp it up even more. In their monkeries the refectory is called the Trapeza, always with at least one icon and sometimes a ruddy church unto itself, altar, iconostasis and all.

And they got this Lifting of the Panagia to end the meal too. What in all monking monkery is a Panagia? It's the prosphoron from which you take a chunk in honour of the Theotokos. What the hell izzat? The former is the loaf used in the Eucharist, the latter is Mary. After the service, the refectorian (don't freak, it's the monk who runs the refectory) cuts a triangle out of it, cuts the rest in half, puts it on a tray, the boys go over to the refectory with the tray in the lead.  Then after the meal there is a ceremony in which the refectorian says "Bless me, holy fathers, and pardon me a sinner" and the assembled holy fathers say "May God pardon and have mercy on you" (as if he had not already done so at Calvary, but I digress).  Then he says echoing the liturgy "Great is the name" and the boys chime in with "of the Holy Trinity", then comes "O all-holy Mother of God help us" and the reply "At her prayers, O God, have mercy and save us" (as if he had not already ..., oh well).  Then accompanied by a dude with censer he offers it, each, uh, holy father then taking a piece between thumb and forefinger, running it through the incense, and eating it.

Now that's some serious monking. Judas H Priest OSB, we're a bunch of Bavarians, or at least the joint was founded by them.  Hell, the closest we came to anything like that was to make sure you went back before they ran out for more of the good dark bread they bake. Closest I'm gonna come to any Lifting of the Panagia now is the lifting of the Panera. Besides, Panera's got wi-fi too I think -- for some digital lectio divina of course. I still don't like white bread, though, and will take a wheat or dark bread every time. Every time. And still call a dining room a refectory once in a while too. It's a spiritual thing of course.

So we had our refectory and our "cafeteria" named for Mary. Later, the food service would open a more night oriented spot, Der Keller, which means the cellar or basement in German, in the cellar of the old main building, though it took a new food service director who was a Baptist from Alabama to come up with the idea. Now that's my kind of Baptist! Also my kind of refectorian. Hell, with the secular and ecclesiastical sides of the 1960s both raging, he was more German and Benedictine at heart than the German Benedictines.

And Mary? Just as Gabriel said, full of grace, the Lord was with her; blessed is she among women and blessed is the fruit of her womb, Jesus. And if you're looking for an example, if your cost of discipleship is seeming a little high, there is no better example than her submission in faith to God, which she for all she knew at the time ran her the risk of execution as an adulteress, only to survive that only to see her son executed as a criminal. And if you're looking for direction, there is no better direction, rather than quasi-pious speculation about dormitions and assumptions, than she herself gave to those wanting her to sort things out one time at the wedding in Cana -- "Do whatever he tells you".

28 July 2017

Robert Barnes, DD, Martyr. 30 July 2017.

I like this guy. There aren't a whole lot of English Lutherans. I'm not one either. Huh?  Well, my ancestors are from Suffolk, and I professed the Lutheran faith, taught in Scripture and correctly stated in the Book of Concord, when I was 46. Close enough. At least to really admire Robert Barnes.  Not just for what he did but moreso for what we can learn from it now for us.  To see what that is, let's get into what he did and his times.  It's quite a story!

I. Who Is Robert Barnes And Who Are The English?

Robert Barnes was born about 1495 in Lynn, formally Kings Lynn, Norfolk, England. Norfolk, Suffolk -- that's the North folk and the South folk of East Anglia, once its own kingdom, named after ourselves, the Angles, who are named in turn from where we came, Angeln, or Anglia in the international language of the day, Latin, in the modern state of Schleswig-Holstein in Germany, way up North damn near, er, just South of, Denmark.

Before us, a Brythonic tribe called the Iceni lived in the area. Who are the Brythons? A Celtic tribe whose land it was before we, the Saxons, the Danes, the Vikings and yet more starting piling in. It's from the Brythons that we get the words Britain, British, etc. The Romans invaded Britain in 43 BC, called the place Brittania after the Brythons, and as they did in many places, left the local stuff pretty much alone so long as they obeyed the Roman governors. Despite revolts here and there, including the great one by the Iceni queen Boudica, they held out until about 400 AD. That's when the Saxons from Germany moved in, uninvited, the bleeders.

We were invited. The Iceni ended up pretty much wiped out, but in 433 the Brythons asked us if we'd like to come over and settle since things were getting a bit sparse, and help against the Picts too. How  about that -- in a world history of pretty much conquer and re-conquer everywhere, we were invited to come! We Angles are all like that -- just look at the irenic tone, the stepping back from controversy, the staid measured writing style, for which I am known throughout the Lutheran blogosphere. Anyway, about 520, the North folk and the South folk united to form the Kingdom of East Anglia, one of seven kingdoms that emerged in what would become the United Kingdom, literally.

East Anglia is called such to this day as a region of England, generally also including Cambridgeshire  to the West and often Essex to the South too. Anglia is the root of the words England and English for the whole thing and its language, East Anglian or not.

Lynn, in Norfolk, shows its Celtic origins in that the name simply means "lake" in Celtic. Robert Barnes was born there, and went to Cambridge for the university there, where he was associated with the Augustinian friars, same as Luther. Ah Cambridge.  Seems that in 1209, some Oxford scholars got upset at the hanging of two Oxford scholars by the town for murder and rape of locals, so they went to the school at Cambridge and turned it into a university, the second oldest in the English speaking world. Ah, the pure pursuit of learning, when academic freedom also included no prosecution for murdering and raping locals. Call it academic immunity. Talk about town and gown!  Well, at least there actually is a bridge over a river Cam.

II. So How Does An English Guy End Up Reading A German Reformer?

Anyway, Barnes also hung out at the White Horse Tavern, aka White Horse Inn, in Cambridge where starting about 1521 groups met to discuss Luther and his thought, including Thomas Cranmer, Miles Coverdale, William Tyndale, and others. Because of their interest in the ideas coming from Germany, the group got the nickname "the Germans". Damn, wish I was there.

In 1523 he graduated Doctor of Divinity, or Divinitatis doctor, from Cambridge. At Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve 1525, Barnes preached an openly Lutheran sermon, at St Edward's church in Cambridge. He was brought up on charges, examined by Thomas Cardinal Wolsey -- a Suffolk boy, from Ipswich -- Lord Chancellor to the King, Henry VIII, and ended up being sent to jail in 1526.

He escaped two years later, made his way to Antwerp and then Wittenberg, where he met Luther and was his house guest. I'm guessing they spoke Latin to each other. Maybe he learned German, like me,  hanging around with the fellas. Damn, wish I was there too. While there, as Luther noted in his work to be mentioned below, he used neither his title nor his name, enrolling simply as Antonius Anglus (there's the Angle thing again).

In 1536 he was able to return to England, working as a liaison between the English government and Lutheran rulers and churchmen in Germany. In 1535 they sent him back to Germany, to get Lutheran support for Henry's efforts to get a divorce from Catherine of Aragon and Henry's vision of reformation in England. He didn't get it, and Henry never forgot it. Catherine of Aragon was really Catalina de Aragon. What does this mean? (If you're Lutheran and ain't laughing, oh well.)

III. So Why Was An English Guy Reading A German Reformer A Big Deal?

Oh boy here we go. Now Catalina was married to Henry's older brother Arthur, who was supposed to become king, being the first son of Henry VII, but he died before his dad (predeceased him, if you like it put that way) so Henry became the heir. This was a big deal. Henry VII claimed descent from the legendary King Arthur and said his son would restore the glory days of the equally legendary Camelot, and thus named him Arthur. And to bolster his kingdom against the French by an alliance with Spain, just recently united under Isabela I de Castilla and Fernando II de Aragon, a marriage was arranged when Arthur was 2 between him and their daughter Catalina.

Henry VII had another problem too. None of the other European monarchs recognised him as a real king -- you know, by birth. He became king by his victory over Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Hill in the "War of the Roses", between the House of Lancaster, which he as Henry Tudor led, and the    House of York, of which Richard III was the last English king, since he not only lost the battle but was killed in it. Well hell, Richard had become king by taking power from his nephew King Edward V, who was just twelve and, um, disappeared after Richard took power, but they were born to this stuff so it's OK. Henry Tudor wasn't.

Not only that, his great grandfather on his mother's side, guy named John Beaufort, was a bastard. No, not that kind, born out of wedlock. Now John's dad, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, was indeed the third son of Edward III, but he did not lock in wed with John's mother, Katherine Swinford, his mistress of some 25 years, until after John and three other kids were born, and even at that she was his third wife. Which made the kids legitimate, but not eligible for the throne because they were not legitimate by birth.

So here's Henry Tudor with his claim to the throne, all other claimants from the House of Lancaster dead in battle, murdered, or executed, so his claim rests on military victory, with an illegitimate ancestor by birth, and not on the male side of his ancestry. All the wrong stuff.  That's why all the stuff about jumping over all that to the legendary King Arthur. And also why Catalina as queen would make the House of Tudor accepted as for real by all the other kings and queens. Catalina was actually of descent from the House of Lancaster, and was named after Catherine of Lancaster, her great grandmother and a legitimate daughter of John of Gaunt and his wife Constance of Castile, who was his second wife but that's OK as his first, Blanche, died of the Bubonic Plague two years before they were married, so there's a wrap on that.

Catalina had all the cards to make everything OK. Not only that, she was enormously well thought of in all respects: highly educated, devoutly Catholic, privately critical of many of the moral abuses and superstitions the Lutherans condemned but nonetheless had no time for Luther or the Lutherans, and was a lay member of the Franciscan Order.  That's what's called a secular tertiary, meaning a lay member of the third order, the first order being friars (OFM, Order of Friars Minor, there ain't no friars major, the phrase is from "little brothers" or fraticelli translated into Latin) and the second nuns (OSC, Ordo Sanctae Clarae or Poor Clares, from St Clare, a female follower of St Francis).  She was praised by such notables as Erasmus, who called her a defender of the faith, and Thomas More, who said she was also a complete and total babe, or words to that effect.

After a long-distance relationship by mail, Arthur and Catalina finally met on 4 November 1501 and were married 14 November 1501 at St Paul's Cathedral in London. He didn't know Spanish and she didn't know English, and even when they tried the international language of the day, Latin, that didn't work due to differences in pronunciation! Then they both get sicker than hell, most likely from the deadly "sweating sickness" that swept England from 1485 to 1551 and hasn't come back since. She recovers, but he dies on 2 April 1502 and that blows the whole thing all to hell.

IV. I'm Henery The Eighth I Am.

It gets worse. Now Henry VII has two more problems! One is, with Arthur dead after not even five months of marriage, he would have to pay back Catalina's dowry, but he needed the cash! What's a dowry? Serious stuff in those days. No it was not part of a woman being bought and sold like a commodity. Quite the opposite, a dowry was meant to insure her well being and provide an incentive against mistreatment of her. It provided money toward the establishment and maintenance of the new household, and, there being no "life insurance" at the time, provided for their support should he die, since the dowry remained hers, not his. A woman without a dowry might have a problem getting a husband, and you know what, that is what the original Santa Claus, St Nicholas, was all about -- tossing money into stockings to provide poor girls a dowry that their fathers could not, so they would find husbands and not end up prostitutes or in the slave trade; it wasn't just for something fun to open on 25 December!

Plus there's the legitimacy that Catalina's descent brought, but, when her mother died, Castilla (Castile) passed to her older sister, Juana la Loca (Johanna the Mad) so that diminished somewhat Catalina's desired cred since she was now just a king's daughter. Nonetheless it was decided that she would marry the new heir, Arthur's younger brother Henry, five years younger than she, though Henry VII had second thoughts. The marriage was put off, officially to allow young Henry to grow up a bit, hell he was only 10 at the time, but really because it solved the giving back the dowry problem. Henry VII died on 21 April 1509, and Henry VIII and Catalina were married 11 June 1509.

But more problems. In Roman Catholic canon law (church law) a man cannot marry his brother's widow. For you canon law freaks, and others uncomfortable with my sometimes offhand style of discourse, this is called the impediment of affinity. But given sufficient power and money, and church laws being church laws but not divine laws, one can get what one wants; like Sister Sarah said in Two  Mules For Sister Sarah, by Clint Eastwood, the pre-eminent theologian of our time, "The church has dispensations". The Pope at the time was Julius II, who gave himself some unofficial dispensations, shall we say, having illegitimate children, one who survived being Felice, after whose birth he married her mother (Lucrezia) off to the majordomo of his cousin's (a Cardinal) household. All quite openly, hell, she's in a painting by Raphael. Well, like Sister Sarah said...

Henry VII got the dispensation from Julius II, mostly because Catalina's mom La Reina Isabela was also leaning on Pope Julius to give it.  In support of the case for it, Catalina said she and Arthur never bopped (oh sorry, said that the marriage was never consummated). Actually Henry, being at this point  a widower, could have married her himself, and did give some thought to marrying somebody and having more male heirs.

Now whyzat, what's wrong with the younger Henry? The thing is, Henry-soon-to-be-VIII was not brought up to be king, Arthur was, and Henry was educated for a church career, to probably end up Archbishop of Canterbury -- you didn't think being a bishop in state churches from the old Roman Empire, the Roman Catholic Church in the West and the Eastern Orthodox in the East, had a damn thing to do with being an overseer (translated bishop) in the Christian church, or was anything more than a state office, I hope.

So Catalina and Henry, now 17 and she 23, were married 11 June 1509, and on 24 June 1509 (Midsummer's Day, btw) were crowned king and queen (queen consort actually, meaning a queen who is queen by being married to the king but the king is the ruler) of England in Westminster Abbey.  King Henry VIII.

V. How the Catalina Thing Played Out.

Catalina proved an exceptional queen. Even before her marriage, she had been the Spanish ambassador to England, the first woman in Europe ever to hold an ambassadorship. In 1513 Henry made her regent (ruling in his absence) when he went to France on a military campaign, and Catalina went downrange herself, leading the army though pregnant against the invading Scots (holy crap, over a millennium before, the Brythons asked us to move in and help them with the Picts, and they're still invading, persistent bleeders!) and won. She also commissioned a book, The Education of Christian Women, it being a novel idea at the time that women, Christian or otherwise, be educated. And she was conversant with the great scholars Erasmus and Sir Thomas More. Even Cromwell, who hated her, said if she weren't a woman she could have gone up against any of the great heroes of history.

But that wasn't good enough. Catalina was pregnant six times: a stillborn daughter in 1510; a son, even named Henry, who died in 1511 after 52 days; another son who died at birth in 1513; yet another stillborn son in 1514; then in 1516 a healthy baby but who was a girl (this would be Queen Mary, oh hell ya); and in 1518 another girl who died though. Looked like she couldn't even give birth to the wrong sex right.

Henry began to think his marriage was cursed because it had been wrong in the first place. Leaning on Leviticus 20:21 he began to think the prohibition in the Law against a man marrying his brother's wife, with the consequence that they be childless, was the basis of what was happening, and therefore old Julius II even though pope could not legitimately grant a dispensation. So he took the case to the then current pope, Clement VII.

Well, there's some problems with that. For one thing, Catalina always maintained her marriage to Arthur was not consummated. She rejected appeals to quietly become a nun. To top it all off, the pope, Clement VII, following the Sack of Rome, the one in 1527, was the prisoner of Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, yes, the same one to whom the Augsburg Confession was presented in 1530, but who also doubled, as Carlos I, as king of Spain, and was Catalina's nephew. So there was some doubt he would side with Henry against Aunt Cathy, shall we say, or allow the pope to do so.

Not to mention, though I am about to, that about 1521 Henry started bopping Mary Boleyn, one of Catalina's maids of honour and otherwise Mrs William Carey. No, not Anne, Mary. Right along with all the Biblical high principles and stuff. Hey, used to be only kings and royalty and bishops got to do this kind of stuff and get away with it, now we all do, so no finger-pointing!

In 1535 Barnes (remember him, this post is actually about him!) was sent back to Germany in hopes he could get his Lutheran friends to side with Henry about the annulment. Didn't work. Emperor Charles sided with Aunt Cathy, and so for that matter did Luther himself. So did such otherwise different men as More and Tyndale. Hell, even Henry's sister Mary Tudor sided with the queen! So Henry turned to him whom he had earlier avoided, Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, for the appeal.

Old Tom, Archbishop of York and Lord Chancellor to the king and created cardinal by Pope Leo X in 1515, worked like hell to get the annulment. He argued that the pope could not overrule the Bible, assuming of course Henry's case fit the Bible's scenario, back to the whole consummated thing. He argued the wording of the dispensation was faulty, but, guess what, a properly worded version turned up in, guess where, Spain! Finally he argued that the decision, he being papal legate in England and all, should be made in England, and of course he knew which side he would take. The pope took that one, in 1528, but said he would send a second legate too from Rome, who took his sweet time getting there and getting things going.

Wait, there's more! Remember Mary Boleyn? She was at the royal court and began an affair with Henry about 1521 and it lasted about 5 years. She was already good at affairs, having had several in France including one with the King of France, Francis. Somewhere along the line her sister, less attractive but more ambitious and intelligent, Anne, caught the king's eye, but Anne was not about to be any old mistress like her sister had been, she held out for the whole pie, queen. Which made getting the annulment all the more imperative. Man, would to-day's diocesan RC marriage tribunals been handy then!

Well after all the delays the pope decides Henry may not marry until the Great Matter, as it was called, was settled in Rome, not England. Wolsey took the fall for that decision, Anne getting him ousted from government office in 1529. But old Tom fought back, and tried secret arrangements with Catalina and the pope to have Anne forced into exile from England. But he was found out and, though he remained Archbishop of York, was arrested for treason and would have been executed except he got sick and died in 1530 on his way to London to face trial.

Wolsey was replaced as Lord Chancellor by Sir Thomas More, Catalina gets banned from the court and her rooms given to Anne, and when the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, William Warham, died, in the finest tradition of apostolic succession, Anne had the Boleyn family priest Thomas Cranmer, made the new Archbishop of Canterbury. The pope wasn't too keen on this, but after the King of France leaned on him a bit -- more apostolic succession -- he relented and gave the pallium, a  sign of a bishop's special affinity with the pope, to Cranmer.

VI. Next?

It all went downhill pretty fast after that. Cromwell gets the Law of Supremacy, which recognised the final authority of the king over the church in England, passed in Parliament, More resigns over it, Henry and Anne wed secretly, Henry meets with the King of France to get his support for the marriage, Anne gets pregnant, the couple is publicly married 25 January 1533, on 23 May 1533 Cranmer in church court rules the marriage between Henry and Catalina was no marriage at all because it was invalid (that's what annulment is, not divorce, a recognition that no marriage in the sacramental sense ever took place because the marriage rite was done under invalid conditions, hence  null, hence the term annulment) and on 28 May rules Henry and Anne are validly therefore truly married, on 1 June Anne is crowned Queen of England and on 7 September Queen Anne gives birth! To a daughter, oh MAJOR oops!

Nonetheless Parliament enacts the Act of Succession of 1533 (hell of a year, that) recognising Anne's,  not Catalina's, children as legitimate and heirs, and in a sign of things to come, repudiates any appeal to any foreign authority of any kind (guess who that means) and high treason punishable by death to publish any such things. Yeah, my kingdom is not of this world indeed!

Judas, Parliament even made it a matter of praemunire facias -- holy crap what's that?  Well, it's bogus mediaeval Latin for a bogus mediaeval English idea that it is treason to appeal to any authority beyond the king re the church in England, from which acts the sheriff does (that's facias) a warning (that's praemunire). Praemunire actually means to fortify, but the word was mistaken for the correct Latin for warning which is praemonere, the ancestor of the word premonition. Bad Latin for a bad idea.

Henry warn't no Lutheran. In 1521 Henry VIII published Assertio septem sacramentorum, A Defence  of the Seven Sacraments, which he had shown to Wolsey and then expanded as an attack on Luther's De captivitate babylonica of 1520, a key influence on me, and dedicated it to Pope Leo X, who in turn named Henry Fidei defensor, Defender of the Faith, on 17 October 1521. But after Henry decided he was head of the church in England in 1530, Pope Paul III revoked the title and Henry was excommunicated, but the English Parliament restored it, and the English monarch to this day remains Supreme Governor of the Church of England, formally above the "Archbishop" of Canterbury.

Prince Charles said in 1994 he wants the title changed to Defender of Faith, not the Faith. Well, rock on Church of England/Anglican Communion.

Hell, Pope Clement blew a gasket at that, excommunicated Henry and Cranmer, said Cranmer's annulment decision was itself null and broke off relations with England. Anne miscarries in 1534 and by year's end Henry is trying with Cranmer and Cromwell to figure a way to dump Anne without having to go back to Catalina. Then what the hell but Catalina dies, Henry and Anne rejoice, since death breaks the bond of marriage, Anne's pregnant, and -- MAJOR MAJOR oops, miscarries with a baby boy on, guess what, 29 January 1536 the very day of Catalina's funeral. I ain't making this up and didn't read it in a Dan Brown novel either. Who needs that when the truth is way weirder!

VII. And Next?

Well hell Henry is bopping a lady in waiting at court named Jane Seymour (no, not the actress) anyway, and hell yes, death ends any claim of marriage, so whadya know but charges of infidelity and treason are brought against Anne, she's arrested along with five guys, including her brother, accused of schtupping her, they are executed and five days later, 19 May 1536, so is Queen Anne. The next day, Henry and Jane are engaged, and ten days after that, are married. Wow. Another Act of Succession says now Jane's kids are first in line for the throne. Jane gets pregnant and gives birth to, guess what, a baby boy (who will be Edward VI)!  Problem solved!

Well no.  She also gets an infection in childbirth and dies on 24 October 1537. Henry gets his long desired son but loses his queen, whom he always afterward thought of as his true wife and next to whom he is now buried in Windsor Castle.

Now it would be easy to put this all down to attitudes towards women, but that would be to read it as if it were happening now. Yes, that was part of it, but only part. We saw above, at least I hope we did, I went on about it enough, that civil war and legitimate occupancy of the throne had kept England in a state of civil war at home and in problems abroad for years and years, and we saw that Henry had that situation much on his mind, and also that he not leave such a situation behind when he died. Having an unquestioned heir and ruler, at home and abroad, was a really big deal. Henry had exactly the same problems his dad did, just with different details.

Of course they were centuries from knowing it is the father who determines the sex of the child!

VIII. Number Four and The End For Barnes.

Well a guy's gotta move on, right? So Cromwell starts thinking this Anne of Cleves would be a hell of a good idea as his next wife, even gets a guy to go paint a portrait of her to convince Henry. Why her? Well, Anne of Cleves is really Anna von Juelich-Kleve-Berg. That's near Düsseldorf.  Wherezat?  It's the dorf -- village -- near the delta of the river Düssel for crying out loud, a tributary of the Rhein, oh sorry, Rhine. Anna was the daughter of the Duke there, John II, and was promised at age 12 to be the wife of Francis I, Duke of Lorraine, but Cromwell thought she'd make this hell of a wife for Henry since Protestant German allies would help if the Catholics invaded England, so Barnes, with his German connexion, was involved in helping with that, and it happened.

Henry was not all that into the idea, hoped Cromwell could find a way out, but there was too much at stake in alliances with the Germans for that, so they were married 6 January 1540 by bleeding Cranmer himself, but there was no consummation of the marriage and by Summer Henry wanted out.  The Duke had ticked off the Holy Roman Emperor and Henry did not want to get into that either. So Barnes was asked to help in the annulment of Henry's marriage to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, and an annulment was granted on the basis of the contract with Francis and there having been no consummation, which, in more contemporary language, means no sex. Anna went along with it all and fared pretty well in contrast to Henry's other wives, and for going along with annulment she lived out her life relatively well, not to mention in the former home of the Boleyns, Hever Castle, which was given to her.

But those involved with setting the marriage up didn't fare so well. Henry already had refused to accept Lutheran theology, the Six Articles of 1539 effectively renounced Lutheranism and affirmed Roman practices considered abuses by Lutherans. The Six Articles affirmed 1) transubstantiation, 2) communion in host only, 3) clerical celibacy, 4) vows of chastity, 5) private masses, 6) auricular confession, private confession of sins to a priest.

Then the annulment in 1540 also worked against Barnes. He preached against Bishop Stephen Gardiner (another Suffolk boy), active in the enforcement of Catholic doctrine, in the Spring, was forced to recant, then recanted his recant and professed the Lutheran faith, for which he and two others were burnt alive for heresy under the Six Articles, along with three others for treason for denying royal supremacy over the church, on 30 July, 1540.

In Germany, Lutherans and Catholics alike were shocked and outraged. Luther took Barnes' final confession of faith, translated or had it translated into German, wrote a preface to it himself, and published it later that year (1540) as Bekenntnis des Glaubens.

IX. What Happened To The Other Guys and Everyone Else.

Cromwell was executed 28 July 1540, two days before Barnes, by beheading in the Tower of London. Thomas Cranmer, who would become the first non-Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, who believed in the right of the king to determine the faith of the nation and all its people, which makes it hard when you go back and forth between Catholic and "Anglican" monarchs, recanted his recantation of his recantation, whatever, and was burnt at the stake 21 March 1556 under the Catholic Queen Mary.

Remember Mary, that's Catalina's daughter! Wanna know the kicker? After all this long story coming from an enormously complicated matter of the legitimacy of and succession to the Tudor line of kings of England, Henry ruled for just short of 38 years and left only three heirs of either sex, and within about ten years of his death on 28 January 1547 all three of them came to the throne -- Anne Boleyn's daughter becoming Elizabeth I and as we saw Jane Seymour's son becoming Edward VI -- and not a one of them left an heir! Not a one! Elizabeth I was the last Tudor on the throne. And she never even married! All that for nothing.

Through secret negotiations Elizabeth arranged for the House of Stuart (or Stewart) to take over a combined England and their original Scotland. Man, the Scots again. And we (Angles) were asked to come there and keep them out way back when. Now they're gonna be the royal line of the whole damn place! Well, not really, the Stuarts aren't real Scots, they're Normans from Brittany in France who arrived in Scotland after the Norman Conquest of England. The last Stuart was Queen Anne, who died 1 May 1707, and the English again turned to the Germans to solve things, with the House of  Hanover taking over and lasting until the death of Queen Victoria in 1901.

Victoria's son, by patrilineal (from the father) descent, which rules in such things, Edward VII, is of the house of his father, Prince Albert, the house of Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha, Englished to Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, but which adopted the much more English sounding name Windsor during World War I, German descended monarchs on a throne in a war against Germany being too weird. His cousin, who was on the German throne, Kaiser Wilhelm II, thought that was a riot and said he looked forward to seeing Shakespeare's new play The Merry Wives of Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha.

The current English royal family is the House of Windsor. There's still Hanovers though, the current head of that bunch being Ernst August V Prinz von Hannover (I ain't translating, it's not hard to work out) who is also the current, that being the third, husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco, so maybe he'll end up with a throne or something. I mean, his titles are not recognised in modern England or Germany, but they are in Monaco! Caroline got an annulment (yeah annulment again, it's a Catholic line) of her first marriage, and her second husband died in an accident, but the Prince on marrying her married a Catholic and so, under the Act of Settlement of 1701 which allows neither Catholics nor spouses of Catholics on the throne, boofed himself out of the line of succession for the British throne, which at 385th in line at the time was a bit of a long shot anyway.

The heir to the English throne, Charles, is through his father of the House of Gluecksburg, short for the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Gluecksburg (Schleswig-Holstein, current name of where we Angles came from!) in turn a branch of the biggest baddest ones of the all the House of Oldenburg, who have been or are on the thrones of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Russia (yeah the Romanovs), Greece and looks like the British Commonwealth one of these days.

After Charles will come the absolutely delightful William and Catherine, currently the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, dear old Cambridge.  Their first child, Prince George, is now third in line.

X. What We Can Learn From This Now.

Notice something? Ain't no reformation going on here, just getting the church to baptise, as it were, matters of state, the church and the state being all part of one thing. From the Assertio of 1521 to the Six Articles of 1539, it's Catholic as all hell, just with a little jurisdictional modification so the king can get an annulment when he needs one.

One of the most enduring enticements of the descendants from the state church of the Roman Empire   --  in the West, the RCC and those non-Catholic national churches, generally Anglican or Lutheran, which consider themselves to have taken over Rome's function within their jurisdictions, and in the East the Orthodox churches  --  is the apparent solidity of their continuous existence, presumably then with a connexion to the catholic church of the creeds, the Apostles, and Christ himself.

For a person of a faith not solidly grounded in Christ and the Gospel, and often troubled by tumult in their churches, this enticement is so strong as to solve or resolve all doubt. It produces many converts  for this reason.  For a famous example, the ridiculous John Henry Newman, to the point that his deus-ex-ecclesia, shall we say, solution to his indecision led him to declare that really there are only two real possibilities, atheism or Catholicism, and that those not in either camp are either on their way "home to Rome" or have not thought through the implications of not going to Rome.

While faith in Christ can exist in such an environment, what an unnecessary, distracting and complicating encumbrance to it.

Our foray about into the situation in which Robert Barnes lived and by which was ultimately killed is but one of any number of such situations which show this apparent solidity and continuity is but the most appalling and grotesque of shams, rooted in NOTHING WHATEVER of Christ, his Word or his Sacrament, all of that being a self-justifying veneer over which affairs of state played out. Miserable blasphemous parodies of the catholic church which have survived the passing of the states as then constituted which created them.

We needed Barnes then, and we need him now. Happily we no longer live under the idea that rulers are agents of God with the right to choose the religion of their people. Barnes himself struggled to find his way between the political reality of this idea in his time and spreading the Gospel in reforming Christ's church. In England, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England, with which the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod is in fellowship in the International Lutheran Council, is the heir of Barnes' work in England.

Yet, in this freedom now, Christianity, the church in general, and our beloved synod in particular veer between the same two poles of those times, namely, on the one hand the attractive exterior in which the errors of Rome and the Orthodox are couched, and on the other, the different but no less attractive  exterior in which the errors of Calvinism and the Reformed are couched, most recently in American "evangelicalism".

Our beloved synod is greatly beset by this. May the works and example of Robert Barnes help and strengthen us as they did Luther in our Bekenntnis des Glaubens, our confession of faith, holding to the Word rightly preached and the Sacraments rightly administered, and steering our course so as not to crash on the rocks under the influence of either of these siren songs, which unlike those of Greek mythology, are quite real.

From the last words of Robert Barnes, DD, martyr, on 30 July 1540:

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.

(Quoted from "The Reformation Essays of Dr Robert Barnes", Neelak S Tjernagel editor. Eugene OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1963. Republished 19 October 2007.)

17 July 2017

A Different St Nicholas - and Alexandra. 17 July 2017.

17 July 2017 is the 99th anniversary of the murder of Nicholas II, Emperor of all the Russias, with his wife, Alexandra Feodorovna, who began life as Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, a Lutheran, and their children in 1918 in Yekaterinburg, Russia.  They are now saints of the Russian Orthodox Church.  And there's Lutherans in Russia, then and now.  Here's the story.

The Chilling Legacy of These Murders.

The brutality of these murders would in time to come be visited upon millions of Russians, as the regime which ordered and carried them out blossomed into a world power. While we hear much about the six million victims of one group specifically targeted by Nazi Germany, that was only roughly half of the total number of the victims of Nazi Germany. And if relatively little is said about the other half, even less is said about the total number of Nazi victims, and even less yet about the great number murdered under our ally against Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia under Stalin.

By the most conservative estimates, that number would be 4 million from direct repression and 6 million from the results of enforced economic theory, namely, collectivisation, for a total of 10  million. That is roughly equal to total estimates of Nazi victims, and nearly twice the number of the specifically targeted group. However more recently available material generally indicates a total of around 20 million, nearly twice by our ally of what Nazi Germany managed to attain in toto, and over three times the 6 million of their specifically targeted group.

The Soviet Union itself passed into history on 26 December 1991. On 17 July 1998, the 80th anniversary of their murders, the bodies of Tsar Nicholas and Tsaritsa Alexandra and the three of their children then found were buried with state honours in the Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul in St Petersburg. Why there?  The city was founded 27 May 1703 by Tsar Peter the Great and named by him after his patron saint St Peter. It was the capital of Russia until the Communist revolution, then known as Leningrad under the Soviet regime, and its name was restored in 1991. All Russian Emperors since Peter the Great are now buried there.

At the burial, the then-president of post Communist Russia, Boris Yeltsin of the Russian Federation, attended along with members of the House of Romanov, the Russian royal family. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia had declared them saints and martyrs in 1981. On 14 August 2000 the Russian Orthodox Church itself declared them saints, of a type called Passion Bearers. These are people who were killed but not specifically for their faith, and who met their deaths with Christian humility and dignity. This is not a judgement on his rule, rather universally regarded as weak and incompetent at best, but rather on the why and the manner of his death.

On 16 June 2003 Russian bishops consecrated the "Church on the Blood" in Yekaterinburg, the city in which the Tsar and family were murdered in the Ipatiev House, on whose site the "Church on the Blood", whose full name is Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land, now stands.  Seeing "Catherine" in the city's name? It's there, named at its founding 18 November 1723 after St Catherine, name saint of Catherine I (Yekaterina), Tsarina and wife of then ruling Tsar Peter I the Great, who died 8 February 1725, after which she became ruler like the next Peter and Catherine duo (III and II/the Great).  That's right, Catherine the Great, who also began life as a German Lutheran princess. Lots of stuff comes full circle in the cycle that includes Nicholas and Alexandra.

The regime which killed them has passed into history, but, there is still a Russian Orthodox Church, there is still a House of Romanov, and there is still a Russia -- The Russian Federation.

About 70% of Russians count themselves Orthodox Christians, though few regularly participate in church. Of Orthodox churches, 95% are Russian Orthodox, the traditional Russian religion overall. There are Lutherans in Russia, in large part due to the open immigration policies of Catherine the Great, the first German Lutheran princess to end up Empress of Russia.

Yeah, the Empress of Russia is actually a German Lutheran princess in origin.  Happened twice actually, both times pretty big deals with effects that endure now.  Here's the story.

How a German Lutheran Princess Ends Up Empress of Russia.  The Second Time.

Alexandra was born 6 June 1872 in Darmstadt in Das Großherzogtum Hessen und bei Rhein.  Don't freak, I'll translate, it's The Grand Duchy of Hesse and by Rhine.  OK but where izzat?  In west central modern Germany, that's where.  Its biggest and probably best known city is Frankfurt, on more correctly Frankfurt am Main (that's pronounced like "mine" in English) which means Frankfurt on the Main.  OK but what is the Main?  It's a river, a major tributary of the Rhine (Rhein).  Darmstadt was the seat of the grand dukes of the Grand Duchy, which is why Alexandra, as the daughter of the then-current ruling one, was born there. The current capital of the current German state of Hesse is Wiesbaden.

Anyway, the baby girl was given her mother's name.  So her mom's name was Alix? Well actually it was Alice, as in Princess Alice of the United Kingdom, a daughter of Queen Victoria.  That's right, Queen Victoria was Alix' grandma.  This we'll shortly see influenced both the beginning of her life and the end of it.  Her childhood nickname was Alicky, which would become a favourite term of endearment with her husband Nicholas too.  Alice was a remarkable woman, a huge fan of Florence Nightingale and worked to involve women in health care.  Ironically she died pretty young, at age 35 in 1878 in Darmstadt, of diphtheria which was overtaking the whole ducal house.

Alix died relatively young too, at 46, but her career as a noblewoman was not to be like her mother's.  Alice was much loved in both her native and her married lands -- they lovingly put a Union Jack over her coffin at her funeral in Darmstadt -- but Alix was never accepted as really Russian by nearly everyone from peasants to royalty alike.  The whole Russian thing with this German Lutheran princess, which would alter all subsequent history, started with her attraction to the heir to the Russian throne, Nicholas, and his to her.

So how would they even meet, you know, German, Russian?  You gotta understand that European nobility and royalty are mishpocha (don't freak, that's Yiddish for "extended family").  Nicholas and Alexandra are second cousins, and also third cousins, depending on which ancestral line you go through.  They met in 1884 and it was mutual from the start, and when they met again in 1889 there was no denying it.  Neither family wanted the match.  Grandma (Queen Vic) wanted someone else for Alix, and Nicholas' dad Tsar Alexander III, was dead set against any German or Lutheran marrying into the royal family.  But Alix stood up to Grandma, who actually kind of liked it that she did, and as Alexander's health declined he eventually gave in.

They got engaged in Germany (Coburg, to be exact) in April 1894 and Alexander died on 1 November 1894.  The Russians first saw their new empress-to-be (he became emperor on his father's death, she would become empress consort on marriage to him) as she came to St Petersburg with the family for the funeral.  "She comes behind a coffin" was heard everywhere.  Things were off to a bad start.  She and Nicholas were married right after, on 26 November 1894.  Alix at first was not too sure about having to become Russian Orthodox, but she eventually became an enthusiastic convert, and got a new name in the process, Alexandra Feodorovna.  Then things went right straight to hell.

During the coronation ceremonies a riot broke out when it seemed there wouldn't be enough to go around of the food provided for the public, and several thousand were killed in the stampede.  The French had a gala ball scheduled in honour of the coronation.  Nicholas and Alexandra were reluctant to attend given what had happened, but they were persuaded by court advisers to go through with it so as not to offend the French.  Which ended up offending their own people, who took it as a sign that their royalty cared nothing about what happened to them.  Then there's the matter of producing an heir.  Alexandra was having daughters, and under court protocol of the time the heir must be male.  Then when she finally had a son, he was born with haemophilia, a deadly disease for which there was no treatment at the time.

And, haemophilia was known to be passed on in, guess what, Grandma's (that's Queen Vic) line, so she was further thought a disaster for having brought the "English disease" as some called it to the Russian line.  Neither all her works of prayer and devotion, nor any available medical treatment, helped, and Alexandra became pretty much a recluse making sure her son had no injury.  In time she turned to this itinerant Russian Orthodox "holy man" and healer, Rasputin, and guess what, her son got better, and Rasputin gained influence at the court.

Rasputin was a supposed mystic, a type of religious lunacy.  Yes, her son got better, but as usual a little science clears up all the "mystical" bullroar.  The doctors attending her son were using a new drug widely thought at the time to be a new wonder drug.  Aspirin.  Yeah, aspirin.  It actually is a pretty good mild analgesic (pain reliever) but it also, and this was not known at the time, is an anti-coagulant.  Now, retarding the coagulation of the blood is exactly what you don't want to do in treating a haemophiliac!  So of course when she turned away from medical treatment and followed Rasputin's advice her son got better -- she quit giving him an anti-coagulant, nothing mystical or spiritual about it.

Rasputin's advice unfortunately began to extend to other matters too, and he supposedly had a revelation that Nicholas should go to the front -- the Great War, the War To End All Wars, which it didn't and is now just the first of "world wars" -- and personally take command of the military.  This left Alexandra to run the internal affairs of state, for which she was completely unsuited by both training and temperament.  So, all sorts of incompetent officials further made a mess of things.  Between the shortages due to the war effort and the Russian Winter everyone was miserable and many thought Alexandra was actually sabotaging things, being German and all.

Riots ensued, and the soldiers who were supposed to put down the rebellion joined it, and the next day, 13 March 1917, they established a provisional government called the Petrograd Soviet.  No, not communists or the Soviet Union.  Petrograd because this happened in St Petersburg, the capital of the Russian Empire, and soviet because that's the word for council in Russian.  This is known as the February Revolution.  Huh, you just said it was in March!  Yeah, in our calendar now but in what is now called the Old Style calendar used there and then, it was February.  The Tsar was told he must abdicate, and he did, first being kept with his family in the palace, then, for their safety the provisional government sent them to Siberia.

Things changed.  The provisional government was itself overthrown by the communists called Bolshevik (the word means "majority") under Vladimir Lenin on 7 November 1917 in the October Revolution (same deal about the calendars, it was 26 October in the Old Style calendar).  Their promises of "peace, land and bread" attracted many.  Alexander Kerensky, the major figure in the provisional government, was exiled and ended up living out his life in New York City.  The royal family did not fare so well, and at 0215 on 17 July, Bolsheviks, having disarmed their guard, shot the entire royal family to death, then smashed the rib cages of the tsar and tsarina with bayonets, stripped the bodies, burned the clothes, and threw the bodies in a mine shaft 12 miles away, then the bodies were pulled out, their faces smashed, dismembered, burned with sulphuric acid, and reburied.  There they remained until after the fall of the Soviet Union decades later.

(A personal aside -- my French teacher as a kid in the 1950s was an old Russian woman who was a young woman in a family at court through all of this.  They were among the exiles, and French being the language of the court, she earned a living as a translator in embassies and ended up in an apartment in her daughter's home.  French lessons came with tea and all the decorum of her youth.)

How a German Lutheran Princess Ends Up Empress of Russia.  The First Time.

Now there's a story too. Tsarina Alexandra wasn't the first German Lutheran noblewoman to end up Tsarina. Catherine the Great was originally the noble-born raised-Lutheran Sophie Friederike Auguste, nicknamed Figchen, or Little Frederica. Her father was the devout Lutheran Prince Christian August of Anhalt-Zerbst, who as a Prussian general was governor of Stettin, Pomerania, then part of Prussia, then part of the Holy Roman Empire.  Her birth city (Stettin) is in a part of Pomerania that in now part of Poland and called Szczecin.

Huh? How does Figchen end up Empress of Russia? Because her mother, Johanna, loved court intrigue and wanted it for her daughter, but she really ticked off Tsarina Elisabeth who threw her out of the country for spying for Prussia. The Big E liked Figchen though, and apparently liked the family, hell, she was going to marry Johanna's brother Karl but he died from smallpox before it could happen. Figchen ended up married to E's nephew and heir, Peter III, who was also Figchen's second cousin. But first she learned Russian, and on 28 June 1744 she converted to the Russian Orthodox Church -- against her father's orders, who went ballistic over it -- and was given the name Catherine. Then she marries Peter on 21 August 1745, and after Elisabeth died on 5 January 1762, Peter takes the throne.

He didn't last long. He pulled Russia out of the Seven Years War -- remember that, left Mother England in huge debt, to pay for which they taxed the hell out of the American colonies who ended up revolting and becoming the United States -- got friendly with Prussia, admired the Western Europeans, tried to make the Russian Orthodox Church more Lutheran, and had a mistress for whom Catherine was afraid he would divorce her. So he pissed off everybody, and when he went to his paternal ancestral Schleswig-Holstein (the area from which my ancestors the Angles left for Mother England, but hey), Catherine with her lover (fair is fair I guess) staged a military coup and Peter was arrested 14 July 1762. He wasn't too upset really, he just asked for an estate and his mistress, also named Elisabeth.

But three days later he was killed by one of the conspirators while in custody, though Figchen/Catherine does not seem to have been behind that part of things. So after Peter being Tsar for six months, his wife succeeds him. Some say she should have been Regent until her son, Paul, was old enough to become Tsar, but what the hell, the first Tsarina Catherine (Catherine the Great is technically Catherine II) succeeded her husband Peter I (aka the Great) in 1725, and anyway Catherine no longer Figchen ruled until she died, which was 17 November 1796, at which time George Washington was in his second term as President of the United States. Got all that? No wonder George didn't want anything resembling royalty here.

Why Eating Runzas Is a Spiritual and World-Historical Experience.

And a damn good eating experience too.

In 1762, the year she came to power, Catherine issued a manifesto inviting non-Jewish Europeans to settle in Russia and farm using more modern European methods. It got few results, French and English preferred to emigrate to America, and another manifesto with more benefits was issued in 1763, attracting Germans since they were allowed to maintain their language, religions and culture, and were exempt from military service. This last was particularly attractive to Mennonites, but many German Lutherans, Catholics and Reformed also came, settling along the Volga River, hence the name Volga Germans, or Wolgadeutsche.

However these benefits, particularly the exemption from military service, were eroded and many Wolgadeutsche, especially the pacifist Mennonites, left for the midwestern United States, Canada, and South American places of German emigration. The midwestern US immigrants have given us people as different as US Senator Tom Daschle and and big-band leader Lawrence Welk. But most importantly, it has given us the Runza, a magnificent pocket sandwich of beef, onion and cabbage -- thank you Catherine!!

In 1949 Alex Brening and his sister Sally Everett opened a drive-in in Lincoln NE offering food of Wolgadeutsche derivation, which has since expanded to a regional chain, including one close to Concordia-Seward (NE) as every grad of there knows.  Besides the fantastic runza (get the cheese runza, Combo #1) they have one of the best burgers, fries and OR in the whole "fast food" industry, right up there with Five Guys. You can have a great meal, be a part of history back to Catherine the Great, proclaim your solidarity with ethnic self-determination and praise God for religious freedom as a Lutheran (or anything else) all at the same time! Makes me wanna go to the one a few blocks from me right now!

Lutherans In Russia Now.

Anyway, in this heavily Russian Orthodox land with notable German-born raised-Lutheran Tsarinas, there are Lutherans. Not a lot, but even so, not all in the same group (just like here). There is the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia, which is a member of the International Lutheran Council (founded 1993), as are we ("we" being LCMS).  There's the Evangelical Lutheran Church - "Concord", a member of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (founded 1996), whose American members are WELS and ELS.  And there's the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia and Other States, a member of the thoroughly heterodox Lutheran-in-name-only Lutheran World Federation (founded 1947),whose American member is the similarly characterised ELCA, and to which the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia also belongs.

Also there's the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church.  It began with a Siberian named Vsevolod Lytkin, who converted from Soviet era atheism to Lutheranism in Estonia, then part of the Soviet Union, at age 20 in 1987.  In 1991 as the Soviet Union was passing into history Estonia became independent and Lytkin began missionary work back in Siberian, with support from our beloved synod (that's LCMS).  In 2003 the result of his efforts, the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church, became independent of the more liberal WLF-affiliated Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Pastor Lytkin now serves as the bishop of the SELC.  While it is not affiliated with larger Lutheran bodies, in 2010 full recognition and fellowship was established between the SELC and LCMS.

Kind of all comes full circle, huh? That's what's cool about history.  It makes the circle clearer, sometimes even gives one a clue there is a circle, an interrelation, at all, amid all this stuff of life that otherwise seems like so much dust from the past.  And it makes where we are now clearer, which is why I get into all this stuff.

2014 was the 100th year since the start of the world war whose aftermath saw the end of the Russian Empire and rise of the Soviet Union (not to mention the end of the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire and pretty much the world as it had been known).  2014 is also the year in which the Crimea, which Catherine the Great had won back from the Ottoman Empire in 1783, was restored to Russia itself 60 years after the Soviet Union under Khrushchev made it part of the Ukraine in 1954.

You wonder what a different world would be now had Alicky listened to Grandma or Nicholas listened to dad.  Or, if Alicky had decided confessing Lutheran faith was more important than literally anything else.

Nicholas' and Alexandra's feast day, following the church's longstanding custom of using the date of earthly death as the feast day of the person, being the date of birth to eternity, is 17 July.

03 July 2017

The Fourth Of July. 2017.

We did not actually declare independence from Mother England on the Fourth of July. What happened was, on the Fourth of July the Second Continental Congress approved a formal declaration explaining the Lee Resolution adopted on the Second of July which actually declared the independence. Here's the story.

I. Hostilities Break Out.

When the Revolutionary War began in April 1775 in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, independence was a minority opinion, and not the goal of the fighting. Most here hoped to remain under the English Crown.  The objection, rather, was to the acts of Parliament re the colonies, who were not represented in Parliament, especially those acts exacting taxes.  OK, so why did Parliament want taxes from the colonies?  The biggest reason was to pay the huge war debt from The Seven Years War.  That had concluded twelve years earlier in Europe, with England and Prussia and other German states (there was no Germany in the modern sense) against France, Russia, Sweden, Austria, Saxony and later Spain.

Our French and Indian War, which broke out in 1754, was actually a part of the Seven Years War, though the Seven Years War is dated from its European outbreak in 1756. It lasted another seven years until 1763, hence the name.  Winston Churchill called it really the first world war, because hostilities happened not just in Europe or over just seven years, but in North America, India and West Africa in the combatants' colonies as well.. England won, more or less; things didn't change much in Europe per se, but England emerged the world's dominant colonial power.

But it left Mother England in huge debt. To pay for the war debt, all kinds of taxes were enacted by Parliament, particularly to bring in revenue from the colonies. England saw it as the colonies' fair share of being fought for; but the colonies thought that since they were not represented in Parliament that body had no right to tax them. England was stingy with currency in the colonies anyway, and many took to using the Spanish currency the dolar from La Florida, now a state but then a Spanish colony South of us, which is why we have "dollars" to this day.

The beef was with Parliament, not the Crown. Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and others, proposed something like what is now the British Commonwealth, preserving unity with the English Crown but leaving Parliament the legislative body for England only, elsewhere being under legislative bodies where they were represented. It was even hoped that the Crown would intervene with Parliament for the colonies.

II. Tom Paine and Common Sense.

But unfolding events did not go that way, and brought more and more over to the cause of independence even if remaining under the Crown would have been their preference. A major boost came on 10 January 1776, when Thomas Paine published a 48 page pamphlet called Common Sense. It was published anonymously, for obvious reasons, and royalties went to support General Washington's Continental Army. It was signed, By An Englishman, which he was, from Thetford, Norfolk. He emigrated on the suggestion of Benjamin Franklin, and arrived in Philadelphia on 30 November 1774, too sick from the typhoid fever that plagued the ship to get off the boat without the assistance of Franklin's physician.

In making the case for independence, Paine intentionally avoided the Enlightenment style, which used much philosophy from ancient Greece and Rome, and wrote more like a sermon, using Biblical references to make his case, so as to be understood by everyone, not just the educated. Now don't go thinking he was some sort of Christian founding father. Paine had no use for Christianity, be it Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox, or for any other religion either. In later works he specifically rejected claims about Jesus as Son of God and Saviour as fabulous, literally, fables, nothing more than reworked sun worship, and advocated Deism, "by which I then meant, and mean now, the belief of one God, and an imitation of his moral character, or the practice of what are called moral virtues".

"Then" and "now" refer to the first and second of the three separately written parts of his The Age of Reason; the quotation is from the second part. Paine and Common Sense though were not much on the minds of the Continental Congress, which was more concerned about how a declaration of independence would affect the war for it.  For that matter John Adams thought Common Sense "a crapulous mass", which we might express as a piece of, well you get the idea.

Paine himself spent much time abroad, back in England, and eventually in France where he became part of the French Revolution too, but ran afoul of Robespierre, and was imprisoned 28 December 1793. He was scheduled to be guillotined, but the door to his cell was open to let a breeze in, and when his cell mates closed it the marking on the door faced inside. After the fall of Robespierre, 27 July 1794, he was released in November. He later became friendly with Napoleon, advising him on how to conquer England, but noting Napoleon's increasing dictatorship, although Napoleon though a gold statue of Paine should be in every city everywhere, Paine called Napoleon "the completest charlatan that ever existed".

He did not return to the US until 1802, at the invitation of President Jefferson. His support of the French Revolution then Napoleon, his disdain for religion of any kind, his antagonism to George Washington, and his distinctly un-Federalist views made him deeply unpopular. When he died, 8 June 1809 at 72 in Greenwich Village New York, his obituary, originally in The New York Citizen and reprinted throughout the country, said he "lived long, did some good and much harm" and only six people came to his funeral.

III. Independence.

It went a little differently for our revolution. The Virginia Convention on 15 May 1776 instructed the Virginia delegates to the Continental Congress to propose to that body a declaration of independence. Richard Henry Lee, General Lee's great uncle, so proposed on 7 June 1776, hence the name Lee Resolution. It was seconded by John Adams of Massachusetts. Here is the text:

Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances.

That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.

Not all of the colonial conventions had so instructed their delegates to vote for independence, so support was rallied and debate put off. Meanwhile, a Committee of Five was formed to draft a formal declaration. The five were, John Adams (Massachusetts), Roger Sherman (Connecticut), Robert Livingston (New York), Benjamin Franklin (Pennsylvania), Thomas Jefferson (Virginia). Jefferson was given the job of writing the draft by the other four, who reviewed it. The declaration was proposed to the Congress 28 June 1776.

Congress approved the Lee Resolution on 2 July 1776. It was not unanimous. New York abstained from the vote, as their colonial convention had given them no instructions, which assent came on 9 July. Then on 4 July the Declaration of Lee's Resolution was approved, adding Lee's Resolution at the end. However, the delegates did not all sign it right then, most of them signing 2 August 1776! But the image of everybody signing endured and even the elderly Jefferson and Adams remembered it  so, though it wasn't. Although John Adams thought 2 July would be Independence Day, from the outset 4 July has been celebrated as Independence Day.

IV. The Declaration of Independence.

In my humble opinion, The Declaration of Independence, explaining passage of the Lee Resolution, is one of the towering accomplishments of the mind of Man. Consider its famous words:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

We now sometimes cynically say how could it be that someone who could write words like "all men are created equal" could also own slaves. We have it backwards. When the concept of democracy arose, in ancient Greece, there was nothing about all men are created equal to it. Democracy was a function of the free class, those with the leisure to devote to becoming informed enough to participate in democracy; those who work do not have this leisure and cannot participate. Even by that great ancestor of our Constitution, the Magna Carta, in 1215, the first time ever that subjects forced concessions from a ruler and placed subject and ruler alike under law rather than the ruler's divine right to rule, there was nothing about all men are created equal to it. The subjects were themselves rulers, lower ranking nobility.

The wonder is not then that someone who wrote "all men are created equal" could also own slaves; the wonder is that someone who owned slaves as part of the warp and woof of his time and economy could also envision "all men are created equal". And no-one was more aware of the untenable tension between the two, and the untenable nature of slavery, than the man who wrote those words. It is no discredit to him that it would fall to later leaders to work out the implications he knew full well; it is to his credit that these words were even there for later leaders to work out.

And while we're noting things, we may also note that equality of all men is not stated as just the way it is, or the way Man is. It says all men are created equal, which means there is a Creator, and that all men have rights not because that's just the way it is, but because all men have been endowed with certain rights by their Creator.  It is because those rights are the endowment of their Creator and not the state that therefore they may not be taken away, which is also why the function of government to secure, not grant, these rights. The Creator is essential to this, and is the source of this, and that role is not diminished by our freedom to understand the Creator as we, not a government, or a government's state church, will. No Creator, no equality.

V. The Celebration of Independence.

The next year, 4 July 1777 -- the war was still on, btw, that didn't end until 1783 -- Bristol, Rhode Island, which had refused to supply the English army and got bombarded for it, fired off 13 cannon, one for each colony, at dawn and sunset to commemorate the first anniversary of the Declaration. The next year the British had taken Bristol, but in 1785, independence secured, Bristol established the Bristol Fourth of July Parade, the longest running Independence Day commemoration in the US.

The country's largest Independence Day thing is Macy's Fireworks Spectacular, which began with the bicentennial year 1976. And cities throughout the country do much the same on a smaller scale, not to mention in streets and backyards all over.

Maybe old John Adams wasn't so far off. The Fourth of July is indeed itself Independence Day, and has survived the lunacy of Day and Day (Observed) of the Uniform Holidays Bill of 1968, changing four Federal holidays from what they are to Mondays to create a three day week-end, a spirit which has infected the church calendar in modern revisions too. But I guess a Fourth of July and a Fourth of July (Observed) is too absurd for even the modern mind.

But it is not at all uncommon in those years when the Fourth falls on a work-week day as we now know it, which was along time coming in 1776, for fireworks etc to be done on the nearest week-end.

And get this though -- on the third Fourth of July ever, in 1779, the Fourth fell on a Sunday, for which reason it was celebrated the next day, Monday. How about that -- the original Monday week-end was because of the Lord's Day, Sunday! Guess old Paine wasn't the main force here. At least then.

Judas H Priest, now if the Fourth falls on a Sunday we want Monday off, not because Sunday is a Lord's Day, a little Easter each week, but because we didn't get a three day week-end! Not to mention our churches making Saturday Sunday now too, so we can get church "out of the way", er, increase participation, as if most people don't get it out of the way by just not going, either day!

Sunday is still Sunday, and the Fourth of July is still the Fourth of July. After independence was declared on 2 July, the next day John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail the following, though he thought it would be for the Second of July, the day independence was actually declared, but regardless, it stands as an enduring statement of what our commemoration of independence is all about, and that ain't three-day week-ends:

"I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more."

Roger that. Happy Fourth Of July!

28 June 2017

28 June 2017. Franz Ferdinand und Sophie.

"Sopherl! Sopherl! Sterbe nicht! Bleibe am Leben für unsere Kinder! 
28 June 1914, about 1045.
Within minutes of this picture, both would be dead, assassinated.  To be sure, the events of 103 years ago this day in 1914 did not just up and start World War One all by themselves.  The major causes had been building for 100 years before that.  As war broke out in 1914, what were called the Central Powers (Mittelmaechte, middle powers, between France and Russia) were entities that didn't even exist in 1814.  That's the German Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, both of which were founded out of the rise and fall of Napoleon's French Empire (1803-1815) and considerable social upheaval associated with that.

And by war's end, they would all be gone, after a "war to end all wars", as it was called at the time.  It didn't.  The aftermath of what was to be The War To End All Wars only set the stage for another even worse world war involving new and worse powers, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, both of which in turn were long gone by 2014.  But their fall left a horrible aftermath, compounded by the fact that their rise never resolved the aftermath of the War To End All Wars, so there's that still there too.  For example, the disposition by the victors of WWI of the Ottoman Empire -- ironically for most of its history a threat to Europe, but which had joined the Central Powers on 2 August 1914, having been founded 27 July 1299, defeated the surviving Eastern Roman Empire in 1453 and replaced it as the dominant power between the West and the East -- set the stage for the conflicts we read about daily now, 100 years on.  And, all of this transformed the United States from an alternative to and respite from Europe's and the world's conflicts into a major player in them.  In reality, the war to end all wars is not a relic of history; it continues to this day.

The German Empire was founded in 1871, eventually emerging from Napoleon's satellite confederation of German speaking lands after his dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire.  The Austro-Hungarian Empire was founded in 1867, although Franz II, the last Holy Roman Emperor,on 11 August 1804, shortly before the demise of the HRE, sensing what was to come, became also the first Emperor of Austria, thus continuing an unofficial Hapsburg monarchy.

Napoleon had attempted to model his French Empire after the Roman Empire.  The French Empire in turn dissolved and displaced a general order that had existed in one form or another for 1000 years, the so-called Holy Roman Empire.  And that in turn saw itself as the re-institution, in 800, of the Roman Empire, which had collapsed in the West in 476.

The Ottoman Empire resulted in modern Turkey, and its lands in southeastern Europe and the Middle East were partitioned into countries intentionally drawn without respect to cultural, religious and natural boundaries, thinking that such counties would be too unstable to solidify into a threat again but that instability instead resulted in conflicts to this day in southeastern Europe and the Middle East.

The events of 28 June 1914 were the match struck, which kindled a series of declarations of war, based on alliances, that would entirely remove a world order that had existed for millennia, and whose replacement has been the subject of even worse wars and social upheaval since and has yet to emerge if it ever does, even as new entities -- the European Union, the Russian Federation, the Commonwealth of Nations, etc -- emerge.

We are still in this period 100 years on --  everything controversial in world affairs now has its roots in the aftermath of World War One.  We seem to want to congratulate ourselves on having moved on, from a past most of which ought never have happened that we ought never repeat and can now largely ignore, to a future that will of course be better.  The problem is, that's the same illusion they had right after the war that began in 1914 years ago; the same illusion they had each time the human social order changes.

They?  No, the "they" is us, humanity.  Man's consistent record has been ever more spectacular accomplishments AND ever more spectacular failures.  And always thinking his latest spectacular accomplishments mean no more spectacular failures.  We say lex semper accusat (the law always accuses), but you know what, historia semper accusat (history always accuses) too.  That's why we like to ignore it.  Unless we learn from either the Law or history that Man cannot save himself, individually or collectively, we will have no ears for the Gospel.

RIP Franz Ferdinand und Sophie.

25 June 2017

The Augsburg Confession, 487 Years On, 25 June 2017.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

So we say every Sunday. Well, a lot of us Lutherans mean to say that, but we say "Christian" instead of "catholic", though the word in the original, and we're supposed to be so big on what's in the original, is katholike, which means whole, complete, entire, universal. So does the cognate word in English, catholic. But, there's this very large and well-known church that uses the word in its name, and we wouldn't want to seem to be saying we believe in IT, now would we? And too, some of us say it on Saturday late afternoon as if we did mean IT, since we follow their new custom since Vatican II of Saturday Sunday services, so hey.

Our essay is in nine short sections, detailing the drift of the post from a few days ago, "When In Rome ... ", on the challenges and dangers of presenting the faith of the Augsburg Confession in our time:

I. The Lutheran "Worship Wars"
II. The Nature of Roman Catholic "liturgical reform"
III. So Why Did We Reform the Liturgy First, Not Them?
IV. The Nature of Lutheran Liturgical Reform
V. The Nature of Catholic Liturgical Reform - Trent
VI. The Nature of Catholic Liturgical Reform - Vatican II
VII. The Difference Between Catholic and Catholic Liturgical Reform
VIII. What's the Point of All This Catholic Stuff? We're Lutherans!
IX. Conclusion. Why Catholic Liturgical Reform Has No Place In Lutheran Liturgy

I. The Lutheran "Worship Wars".

Much is said these days about Lutheran church bodies abandoning classic Lutheran doctrine, and also doctrine in motion, otherwise known as liturgy, for things that supposedly will bring greater attendance and to which we can add Lutheran content. Why would one want to infuse a form that evolved as it did to omit the content one seeks to put back in, or think that any numbers gained thereby represent a gain for the Gospel rightly preached and the Sacraments rightly administered?  It cannot be explained by anything but mistaking mission for marketing.

But even where the adoption and adaptation of American "evangelical" worship, which we might call Willow Creek For Lutherans, is opposed, little if anything is said about how we have let in the back door what we try to keep out the front, in the adoption and adaptation of Roman Vatican II worship, which we might call Vatican II For Lutherans. And the unintended influence of the latter on the former, one way of dropping our worship for a Lutheranised other way opening the door to dropping our worship for yet other Lutheranised ways, goes largely unrecognised. And the damage continues from Vatican II For Lutherans and Willow Creek For Lutherans alike.

On the face of it, one might indeed wonder whether there is not much a Lutheran can appreciate about the changes in the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church since Vatican II. For example, using an Old Testament passage along with the Epistle and Gospel, praying the Canon out loud so the Verba are heard by the congregation, using the local language rather than Latin, for restoring intercessions and petitionary prayer of the people, and not in a fixed form but one that can be adapted to what is going on. Are those things so bad? Do they not return to an older and better tradition than what was set in the Tridentine Rite? While there is much that may be questionable about Vatican II liturgical reform, must we then ignore it altogether or not find in it good things we can use too? Let's look and see.

II. The Nature of Roman Catholic "liturgical reform".

It may, at first, seem so from a Lutheran standpoint. I don't, now, have any problem with the "blessings" mentioned. But a Catholic, which I once was, ought to have tons of pixels of reasons why those "blessings" are a few of the things that are neither necessary nor even desirable, and obscure other things that are necessary. But Catholics don't anymore. For example, the "silent canon". Used to be a good thing, as The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass reflected the life of Christ, wherein he taught first, then acted for our salvation. Therefore the first part of the mass is Scripture and preaching, verbal, but in the second the focus is the action, not the words, which are silent, let alone congregational "memorial acclamations", as in the novus ordo, which destroy the whole idea. The RCC taught something, then started teaching something else, but said nothing really changed; I still believed what they taught me before, so I left thinking the whole thing must be screwed up both before and after.

That was then. It isn't now. When I first read the BOC along with Adult Information Class, I would see in my mind the implementation of what is said there in contrast to the implementation that I actually did see before me during and after Vatican II. WOW. Throw in Babylonian Captivity, and I'm on board!

III. So Why Did We Reform the Liturgy First, Not Them?

So here's the deal -- WE didn't get those blessings just listed from Vatican II, THEY did! So what to us then is their catching up? With the exception of the OT reading, which kind of jacks with Jerome's model of Torah/Haftorah from the synagogue lectionary to Gospel/Epistle, but adds on without destroying it, WE ALREADY HAD THEM, four hundred and some years before they started playing catch-up! And they sure as hell didn't produce the ESV.

Our problem is when we DON'T use our version of the pre-V2, and for that matter pre-Trent, historic liturgy, and instead start to worship after their new ones. It's when we DON'T add an OT reading to the historic lectionary going back to Jerome, but instead use their new one which was a conscious intended break with that tradition and the preaching associated with it. It's when we rehash their stuff, or worse rehash our stuff in the manner that they rehash their stuff, either way no different than others of us rehash American "evangelicalism" and Willow Creek or stuff like that.

So let 'em play catch-up. For THEM, not us. We don't need to start playing catch-up to their catch-up!

In short, the things from Vatican II which we cheer, WE ALREADY HAVE and a Catholic should deplore, and if they are now cheering them and doing them, something changed, and it wasn't us.

OK, well then that's a good thing, right? Well, again, from our point of view, yes. So, with all this good stuff happening, maybe we can even look at getting back to-gether, going "home to Rome", huh?

Just a second though. Something doesn't quite add up. If Rome has this divinely instituted guarantee in the bishops in succession from the Apostles in communion with the successor to St Peter, the Pope, where the church will always conserve the true faith of Christ, and we don't, we deny it and live outside it, and we therefore aren't even church in the strict sense of the word, then how is it that we do all this stuff 400 some years before without this guarantee, and how is it if it's such a good idea that is was held up with the guys with the guarantee for 400 some years?

Seems like it oughta be the other way around; it's the guys without the guarantee and all who oughta be catching up, so if there were changes here lately with them, they must have been a different sort of change than the sort of change we did centuries ago.

IV. The Nature of Lutheran Liturgical Reform.

And indeed it was. Which is our whole point here.

What was our intent? Whether we achieved it or not is another matter; what was our intent? Our Book of Concord makes it clear again and again our intent was not to come up with anything new, but quite the opposite, to preserve what was already there.

This is meant across the board; here, since the matters mentioned above are liturgical, let's look at how this works out liturgically. Just as we aim to teach no new doctrine, but the constant doctrine of the church pruned of later accretions, so also we seek no new order of worship, but the same order, corrected of abuses.

From the Augsburg Confession:
1) in the Mass, nearly all the usual ceremonies are preserved, the only thing new being throwing in some German hymns among the sung Latin (ACXXIV)
2)and we stick to the example of the church, taken from Scripture and the Fathers, which is especially clear in that we retain the public ceremonies for the most part similar to those previously in use, only differing in the number of masses (ACXXIV),
3) and even though the observance of holy days, fasting days and the like has been the basis of outrageous distortions of forgiveness of sins by Christ's merit, nonetheless the value of good order in the church, when accompanied by proper teaching, leads us to retain the traditional order of readings in the church and the major holy days (ACXXVI).

What is the intent here, what sort of change and by what means is confessed here? Is it to make our worship more authentic by remodelling it closer to that of the early church? Is it to make our worship more authentic by remodelling it taking into account other rites of earlier origin? Is it to make our worship more authentic by coming up with a new set of readings to offer more Scripture especially more moral teaching and less miracle stories? Is it to make our worship more authentic by offering options throughout the same rite, to make our worship more authentic by regarding abuses and distortions along the way as invalidating the way itself and the rite developed along the way? Is it to then, part stepping back in history, part stepping across in other rites, and part creating new things altogether, to step forward with a grand pastiche of a new order of mass, new lectionary, new calendar, to show we have gone beyond the abuses and distortions of the past and are now ready to address the future?

Nothing of the sort! In fact, the opposite of the sort! It was to accept and preserve the constant liturgy of the church, right along with the faith it expresses, pruned of excesses and accretions. It was not to do something new, or something new made by jumping back centuries to earlier, presumably purer, times.

V. The Nature of Catholic Liturgical Reform - Trent.

We ought remember too, that when the Augsburg Confession was presented in 1530, the Tridentine Rite, as it is called now, was 40 years in the future, and when the Book of Concord was complete in 1580, it was only 10 years old. The "Tridentine Rite" was precisely Rome's effort to both address the legitimate concerns of the Reformation and at the same time guard against its doctrinal errors from Rome's point of view, establishing one norm to effect both aims for the Western Church as a whole, allowing other rites to be observed locally or by religious orders only if they were no less than two hundred years old, which is to say, before 1370, the Tridentine Rite being promulgated in 1570, and therefore untainted by the Reformation.

The 1570 typical edition would have five revisions: 1604 by Pope Clement VIII, who had also revised Jerome's Vulgate (Latin) Bible and the two needed harmonising; 1634 by Pope Urban VIII; 1884 by Pope Leo XIII; 1920 by Pope Benedict XV, mostly making official the work of the late Pius X; 1962 by Pope John XXIII, mostly making official the work of the late Pius XII.

Revised typical editions don't just happen out of the blue. They codify and formalise specific papally mandated changes made in the years before. For example, when I was an altar boy, the 1920 typical edition was in force, but Pius XII had made extensive revisions to the Holy Week liturgy binding in 1955, which were controversial then. I remember older people grousing about this new stuff that changed what Holy Week was even like. They remain controversial now, in the larger context that some advocates of the Tridentine Rite do not accept the 1962 edition which incorporated them, and/or John XXIII's later revisions to the edition, but none advocate the original 1570 edition as some sort of purity. Rome insists upon the 1962 edition where the Tridentine Rite is allowed.

The point is, when we speak of how we've "always worshipped", nobody, absolutely nobody, takes that to mean that nothing ever changed, any where, any time, and never will -- it has, it does, and it will, change not being the question, but rather what kind of change and change into what.

VI. The Nature of Catholic Liturgical Reform - Vatican II.

The Tridentine Rite was replaced entirely by the novus ordo missae, the New Order of Mass, promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969 and coming out in 1970. It too did not just happen, bam, but was a codification, a finalising and formalising, of things introduced prior to it, this time during and after the Second Vatican Council. The new rite was a NEW rite, with a new calendar, a new series of readings over three years replacing the one that stood and grew for about 1500 years, and unlike anything before it in the same rite, different options for doing one thing such as confession and absolution, not to mention four different eucharistic prayers for the heart of the mass itself.

The old rite was not declared invalid, but replaced, with certain exceptions granted for its use. The motu proprio of 2007, Summorum pontificum, did not change that at all, but rather made simpler the conditions for exceptions. And then went one better -- while the novus ordo remains the lex orandi, the rule of prayer, for the church, now, in addition to the new multiform lex orandi, the 1962 edition of the Tridentine Rite will be considered an other-than-ordinary (the word extraordinary meant literally) expression of that same lex orandi! All the same thing, of course -- implying too, one must recognise the novus ordo as the normal use of the Roman Rite to use the Tridentine Rite as its extraordinary use, which does not in the least address the entire reason why some Catholics from the get-go continued with the Tridentine Rite, namely, that the new order was false to prior orders.

Thus, if it is true that for Catholics the new mass was a great step forward, and continued steps forward consist in being faithful to the new mass rather than endless departures from it in its supposed "spirit", then this is at best an unneeded step and at worst a step backward from that reform, and if it is true that for Catholics the new mass was the step backward, indeed a step away, from the true mass, then this requires an acceptance of the invalid new rite as valid.

So, change everywhere. Indeed. But again, change is not the issue. The issue is, what kind of change and change into what.

The fact is, the liturgical reforms of Vatican II, no less than those of  Trent, proceed from a basis completely different than, and completely foreign to, the liturgical reforms of the Lutheran Reformation. Yes, there are points of similarity in the results, certainly. There are large areas of similarity across the board. But the totality, and the underlying agenda, are an entirely different effort than ours, and in fact utterly hostile to the very thing our reform set out to reform and pass on.

VII. The Difference Between Catholic and Catholic Liturgical Reform.

The late Neuhaus, in his writings about his conversion to the post-conciliar RCC, expresses better than anything I have read in some time the utter disgust and rejection of the traditional Catholic Church by the Catholic Church put in its place at Vatican II. All very politely expressed, so Neuhaus doesn't even recognise it in himself as he expresses it! An entirely new church, containing nothing of anything before it, which it clearly despises. The violent caricature -- borrowing from Maritain, yet another who constructed, like Newman, his partly Protestant partly pagan "Catholic Church" to address his own needs -- that mindset offers of anything before Vatican II is as much the actual church before the Vatican II as the "spirit" of Vatican II is Vatican II, and is utterly obscene in its gross falseness (again, unintended and unrecognised) and in its disconnect from the Catholic Church (and again, unintended and unrecognised) that is more radical than anything in the entire range of the "Reformation".

Just as there is a "spirit" of Vatican II and Vatican II itself, there was a "spirit" of Trent and Trent itself too. Then, as now, this confusion of the two is seen in primarily two places, one being popular piety, where things are done thinking they are based in the real thing whereas they are based in the grossest of misunderstood caricatures of it, the other being the actions of priests and bishops who do essentially the same thing but with far greater implications due to their position.

How utterly ironic that, as the post-conciliar RCC attempts to address the confusion of Vatican II with the "spirit" thereof by some sort of "reform of the reform", the real Vatican II itself is based on a confusion of Trent with the "spirit" thereof.

The things which, as a Lutheran now thank God, I am happy to see seem to indicate the RCC is in the early stages of catching up with where the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church has been for some centuries now, and are largely the same things which, as a Catholic, indicate the RCC is in the final stages of becoming a Protestant church but with the pope at the top, as my dad, a 1941 RCC convert, used to put it.

Newman, Bouyer, Maritain, on and on, Protestants all, constructed a "Catholic Church" intellectually that allowed them to remain essentially Protestant but with the external validity supplied by the institutional RCC church, which at Vatican II was crystallised and codified and made official by the institutional RCC church itself. These theologians were collectively called the Nouvelle Theologie, the New Theology, and in the decades leading up to Vatican II were repeatedly warned against by popes up to and including the last pre-conciliar pope, Pius XII.

de Lubac in 1946 was forbidden to publish by the Catholic Church; de Lubac was a peritus (theological expert and adviser) at the Council and was made a cardinal by John Paul II.
Chenu's book Le Saulchoir was put on the Index of Forbidden Books by Pius XII; Chenu was a peritus at the Council.
Urs von Balthasar in 1950 was banned from teaching by the Catholic Church; JPII named him a cardinal.
Congar was banned from teaching or publishing by the Catholic Church; after the Council, JPII, greatly influenced by him, made him a cardinal.

Chenu and Congar, along with Rahner, Schillebeeckx and Kueng, were part of the founding of the journal Concilium, begun in 1965 during the Council as a scholarly journal of the thought behind the reform. Urs von Balthasar and de Lubac, along with Bouyer, Walter Kasper and Joseph Ratzinger, were part of the founding of the journal Communio, founded after the Council in 1972 thinking Concilium though on the right direction had gone too far.

The direction was not the issue; it is the same for both, the question being only how far it goes. The more conservative answer is Vatican II Catholicism as officially taught by the hierarchy collectively and the post-conciliar popes, the more liberal answer being the "spirit" of Vatican II, the "excesses" etc. from which the conservatives think a "reform of the reform" will deliver that church.

VIII. What's the Point of All This Catholic Stuff? We're Lutherans!

All of them, along with Rahner, Kueng, Schillebeeckx, Bouyer, Gilson, and Danielou, were the Nouvelle Theologie, warned against not by name but by description by Pius XII in Humani generis (1950). And three years earlier, in Mediator Dei, Pius XII specifically rejected a liturgical archaeology, as he called it, as a model for liturgical change, as if there were no organic development of liturgy by the Holy Spirit, and as if validity were to come from scholars uncovering earlier therefore purer or better sources which become current models.

All of that is dissent, and was recognised as such by the Catholic Church prior to Vatican II. That has one kind of consequences within the Roman Catholic Church, which amount to this: what is now normative Catholicism was prior to Vatican II dissent from Catholicism. A more conservative version of that dissent won, and now maintains supremacy over the more liberal version of the same dissent. The direction of Mediator Dei and Humani generis was left in the dust.

As Lutherans we may note indeed that liturgical reform at Trent specifically sought to remove any taint of the Reformation. But we must also -- and this is the point of going through all this "Catholic stuff" -- note that the liturgical reform at Vatican II absolutely did not accept Lutheran ideas expressed in our Confessions, but rather proceeded on a basis of "liturgical archaeology" that is foreign to both our Confessions and the Roman Catholic Church, a basis which rejects the common element of organic growth accepting and  treasuring its results.

Sasse wrote in We Confess the Sacraments (Concordia 1985, the particular passage quoted on Pastor McCain's excellent but now defunct blog Cyberbrethren for 18 June 2010) that if the right relationship of liturgy and dogma can be known in Rome, as seen in Mediator Dei, then how much moreso among us who also make the right understanding of the Gospel a criteria of liturgy.

IOW, what was lacking in Mediator Dei and in the liturgical reforms of Trent is the same thing that was lacking that led to the Lutheran Reformation, namely, a right understanding of the Gospel.  At Trent, steps were taken to ensure that no taint of what were, in their minds, our incorrect and novel understanding of the Gospel would influence the liturgy, but the organic growth process itself rather than liturgical archaeology was not in dispute, just Rome's stranglehold on the process as well as on the catholic church itself.

What was lacking in Vatican II and its novus ordo is the common element not in dispute between us and Rome, the participation in that organic process, accepting what has been handed on to us rather than recreating it based on liturgical archaeology of a Romantic ideal of a lost pure Apostolic or Patristic age. In so doing, as the banned theologians of one decade became the conciliar theological experts (periti) and Cardinals of the next, Rome in no way came closer to us with a right understanding of the Gospel as a criteria of liturgy, but in fact turned its back on the right relationship of dogma however understood and liturgy that was not in dispute at the Lutheran Reformation.

Yet we (we being LCMS, not only just Lutherans in general) follow right after them, "them" being now not just Rome but the other liturgical church bodies, such as the Anglican Communion, the ECUSA and ELCA here, and the EKD in the "old country", all of them predictably doctrinally heterodox too, in either or both of adopting and adapting Rome's novus ordo liturgy, including its lectionary and calendar, and applying the principles of liturgical archaeology to our own liturgical past.

And so we place the results on an equal basis with the historic liturgy, then wonder why others wonder why yet other things, or no liturgy at all, cannot also be placed on that equal footing!

IX. Conclusion. Why Catholic Liturgical Reform Has No Place In Lutheran Liturgy.

What is important for us Lutherans about that is this: both Trent and Vatican II resulted in new Roman missals, but neither effort sought what our reforms seek and therefore neither are the models to which we turn and neither produce a lex orandi consistent with our lex credendi. In the novus ordo, while on the surface it may seem to move closer to our reforms, we see an order of service that resulted from entirely different ideas and objectives than our reforms, ideas and objectives which in fact are contradictory to ours and reject their entire basis. Ours seek to retain the usual ceremonies except where contraindicated by the Gospel, theirs seek to replace the usual ceremonies with new ones based on the concepts of Nouvelle Theologie.

The fruit of their effort has nothing to contribute to ours, and, in seeking to "Lutheranise" this manner of worship we are no less attempting to make Lutheran a kind of worship based on a kind of belief that is not ours, attempting to make a lex orandi from something based on a lex credendi that is not ours, than those who go to Willow Creek et al seek to "Lutheranise" a content and a lex orandi also derived from a belief and a lex credendi that is not ours.

If the latter has become popular and in many eyes not only permissible but desirable, why should that surprise us when we have done the same thing in the former, since either way the result is "contemporary worship" rather than the conservation of the ongoing liturgy of the church?

Concilium, Communio, Nowayio!

Textual Note: This is a revision of my post "On being catholic, on being Catholic" from 18 March 2009. Understanding the nature of "catholic" as distinct from "Catholic" seems more urgent than ever on this anniversary of the presentation of our most fundamental confession.