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

VDMA

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


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

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

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

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

23 June 2017

The Nativity of St John the Baptist. 24 June 2017.

This feast, which passes largely unnoticed now, is one of the oldest in the Christian church year. The Council of Agde, held 10 September 506 and presided over by Bishop St Caesarius of Arles, places it among the major feasts of the church, and it had, just like the Nativity of Jesus, three distinct liturgies -- a vigil, a dawn and a day one.

This isn't just a regional or even Western thing; in the Eastern Church, where he is more commonly known as St John the Forerunner (maybe that would be good for those thinking his customary Western name makes it seem like he was a Baptist in the denominational sense), his birth is also celebrated on 24 June, and has a vigil and an afterfeast the day after.

So why 24 June? Well, the details come only from St Luke, who says that when Gabriel announced to Mary she would bear the Messiah if she agreed, that her cousin Elisabeth was already six months pregnant. But hey, if Jesus' birthday is celebrated 25 December, shouldn't it be 25 June?

In our calendar yes, but they didn't have our calendar. In the Roman  Imperial calendar, days of one month were counted backwards from the first, called the kalends, from which our word calendar comes btw, of the next month. Christmas is eight days before the kalends of January, so St John's birthday was put eight days before the kalends of July, but, due to our present Germanic way of counting days now, that makes it fall on 24 June.

No-body, btw, supposes these are the actual birthdays of either Jesus or John, but only that it puts them correctly relative to each other.

Either way, it puts the Nativity of St John around the time of the Summer Solstice. Some suppose that therefore this feast is just a Christian cultural appropriation of the solstice from pagan culture in the process of evangelisation. Not likely, since the feast is centuries old and in the Julian calendar that was in use in mediaeval Europe until 1582 the Summer solstice is earlier, in mid-June!  Not to mention the date of the feast of St John is calculated from when Jesus' birth is celebrated, not the Summer solstice.

Nonetheless the coincidence with the approximate time of the solstice is clear and did have influence.  Though people had no idea it was because of the tilt of the Earth's axis toward or away from the Sun, they could see that daylight hours in a day increased and decreased through the year. The Summer Solstice is the so-called longest day of the year;  while all days have 24 hours it has the most sunlight hours, and sunlight hours begin to decrease until the Winter Solstice or so-called shortest day of the year with the fewest sunlight hours.

In pre-Christian Europe, the beginning of shorter daylight during the day was marked in many and varied ways, the common element being bonfires.  Why bonfires?  The idea was, that with more and more darkness during the day, evil spirits and/or other not so well-intentioned factors may move about more easily, so light was lit to ward them off.  Bonfires, and the jumping over thereof, are still a feature in northern European countries.

The Christian version of all that has more to do with the relation of St John to Christ.  Right after the feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist, sunlight hours begin to decrease, even as John said of Jesus "He must increase and I must decrease" (John 3:30).  Many period documents reflect the tension between earlier non-Christian observances of solstice with the Christian observance of the birth of St John.

The Summer solstice is still called Midsummer (Sommersonnenwende in German, gotta throw that in) from its solstice observances.  One of Shakespeare's most popular and enduring plays, A Midsummer Night's Dream, is named from it. The play is loosely based on antics from Ovid's Metamorphoses (Publius Ovidius Naso, Books of Transformations, 8 A.D.), ending with the suggestion that it's all a dream.  It may have been written for Queen Elizabeth I in celebration of the feast of the Nativity of St John, though there is no conclusive documentation of that.

In between the two solstices are the two equinoxes, with about equal daylight and dark hours, and these four formed the Quarter Days, the four days marking the turn of the seasons. In the olden times in Mother England, the Quarter Days were when rents were due, worker contracts were made, and magistrates had to complete tours of even the most outlying areas of their jurisdictions to assure that none went unduly long without a hearing and resolution. Justice delayed is justice denied, as we say.

This last was one of the provisions the barons got from King John in the Magna Carta on 15 June 1215. The Magna Carta, meaning Great Charter in English, was the first time that subjects -- though these subjects were themselves local ruling land owners, barons, the original "free men" (in German, Freiherren) -- got from a king certain rights and limitations of royal power as a matter of law.

This set in motion a development of rule of law rather than a king's or ruler's will, one of whose descendants is the Constitution of the United States.  2015 was the 800 year anniversary of the Magna Carta.  We shouldn't be so surprised that the rule of law doesn't always take so well, as if it just takes naturally, when we try to export it to other places.  Have they been working this out for 800 years?

The "Robin Hood" movie of 2010 takes its context in the beginning of this development, specifically, the Carta de Foresta, or Charter of the Forest, of 1217, hammered out after numerous violations of the 1215 document.  In fact it was with this charter that the first charter of 1215 began to be distinguished as the magna carta, or great charter.  The Magna Carta version of 1297, which includes amendments, is still part of English law.

The Quarter Days are:

25 March. Called Lady Day, also known as the Feast of the Annunciation, and until 1752, New Years Day. In Mother England 6 April is still tax day, which you may hear echoed in our 15 April. Hold on, wasn't that 25 March? Calendar change, remember -- 25 March in the old Julian calendar became 6 April in the now current Gregorian one.

24 June. The Nativity of St John the Baptist, also known as Midsummer Day, with reference to the Summer Solstice.

29 September. Michaelmas, the mass on the Feast of St Michael the    Archangel, for which this blog (as with all the Quarter Days, actually) posts.

25 December. Christmas, the mass on the Feast of the Nativity of Jesus.

Saints are usually commemorated in the church calendar on the day of their death, that being the day of their birth into eternity, but Jesus, his mother Mary, and St John the Forerunner are the only three whose births into this life are also commemorated.

So lots to celebrate -- John, and even more importantly his whole significance, Jesus whose forerunner he was; the development of our present form of governance; Summer and all the daylight and warmth! And a really cool movie to see!

And may you have a pleasant, uh, Midsummer Night's dream too!

19 June 2017

When In Rome ... 2017.

do as the Romans do. Yeah, yeah, a common phrase, whyrya posting about that?

Here's why.  Three reasons.

1.  Guess what? This often heard and used phrase actually first came from a resolution to a controversy over proper observances in the Christian church. Yeah, really, it comes from the "worship wars" but hardly anyone even knows that.
2.  It's only half of what was originally said, and once the other half is known, it puts a whole different meaning to both the first half and to the whole.
3.  The whole matter leads nicely into the upcoming post on the commemoration of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession later this month, giving important lessons on confessing that confession now.

About "Saint" Ambrose, the Guy Who Said It.

Here's the deal. The guy who first said it was "Saint" Ambrose, Bishop of Milan. Ambrose lived from about 337 AD or a little later until 4 April 397. He was born in Augusta Treverorum, Praefectura Praetorio Galliarum. What in the hell is that, and where?

OK, Augusta Treverorum is still around.  That is its Roman name.  These days it's called Trier, in Germany.

So what's a Praefectura Praetorio Galliarum?  A prefecture (praefectura) was one of four large administrative areas set up in the Roman Empire on the death of Constantine the Great on 22 May in 337, the same year Ambrose was likely born. So a prefecture is the highest unit under the Empire itself, and it is governed by a prefect (praefectus). Galliarum means "of the Gauls", and the Praetorian Prefecture of Gaul included basically what is now England, France, the western part of Germany, Spain, and Mauritania in Africa. What's this Praetorio thing? A Praetorian Prefect (Praefectus praetorio) was originally the commander of the Praetorian Guard, an elite military special forces unit that guarded the Emperor, but Constantine disbanded the Guard, and the adjective "praetorian" was applied to the four prefects who as it were guarded the four prefectures of the Empire for the Emperor.

OK, takes care of Praefectura Praetorio Galliarum, it's the Praetorian Prefecture of Gaul. And Ambrose's father was the Praetorian Prefect of the Praetorian Prefecture of Gaul. One of the four top officers of the Empire. A major player. Which is also why Ambrose was born in Trier -- that was the capital of the prefecture, and also by that time an Imperial residence in the West and a functional capital of the Western Roman Empire rather than Rome itself.

I gotta digress here a minute. I've been to a hell of a lot of places, but Trier is absolutely the most captivating, enchanting and wonderful place of them all, and maybe one day again I will have dinner outside the Porta Nigra, the "Black Gate", the only surviving of the four gates the Romans built to guard each side of the city, against most likely some of my ancestors before we moved to England. I have never felt like I felt in Trier anywhere else, and that was forty eight years ago as of 2017.

The Governor Of The Imperial Diocese of Milan Becomes Its "Bishop".

Well back to the story. Ambrose's father was a Roman bigwig and Ambrose was sent to Rome for his education. He rose through the governmental and political ranks to become what we would call a Governor-general, but they called vicarius, vicar, meaning representative.  A vicar represented the Praetorian Prefect who in turn represented the Emperor, in this case to the diocese of Milan. Hey, aren't diocese run by bishops? No they're not originally, and the church had nothing to do with them. A diocese is an administrative unit of the Roman Empire set up by Diocletian.  Hey, diocese, Diocletian -- yeah, he named his new units "diocese" after himself. And Milan was also by then the official capital of the Empire.

The same Diocletian, ruling from Milan, in July 285 had split the unwieldy Empire in two, to try to hold it-together, and set up a system where each half would have its "Augustus" and its "Caesar", a system called the Tetrarchy. Diocletian was the last Emperor of an undivided Roman Empire.  He designated Nicomedia, in modern Turkey, as the Eastern capitol in 286, and in 293 designated Milan, then called Mediolanum, which had been a functional capital as was Trier, the official Western capital.

Diocletian became the Augustus in the East with his fellow general officer Maximian as the Augustus in the West. The Romans themselves weren't real happy with the Empire no longer seated at Rome btw. (Short aside:  I've been to Milan and Rome too and beautiful as they are, give me Trier any day.) Diocletian then became the only Roman Emperor ever to retire from office, on 1 May 305. Whereupon the Tetrarchy fell apart amid the schemes of Maximian's kid Maxentius and a guy named Constantine. Diocletian, racked with despair at this and illness, died on 3 December 311, possibly by suicide.

Ambrose was the Governor-general of the diocese of Milan for a couple years when in 374 the "bishop",  the head religious figure of the diocese, a guy named Auxentius and an Arian Christian, died, and a great uproar ensued over whether the next "bishop" would be an Arian or a Trinitarian Christian. When Governor Ambrose intervened to calm things down, everybody said Hey, YOU be the bishop. He fled but the guy hiding him got a letter from the Emperor (Gratian) saying it was OK for Ambrose to be "bishop" so he was turned in.

Little problem here though. Ambrose was not only not clergy, not trained in the faith, he wasn't even baptised. But hey, not a problem when the Empire says OK. Within a week he was baptised, ordained, and made bishop. I'm not making this up! And we bitch about SMP being a fast track! Think that's wild, hell, six years later when the "Catholic Church" was defined by the co-Emperors (Gratian again, Valentinian II and Theodosius), and became the state religion for the whole Roman Empire on 27 February 380 with the Edict of Thessalonica, you got a state church so entrenched that it's still around over 1500 years after the state whose religion it was, the Roman empire, collapsed in the West (476) and over 500 years after it collapsed in the East (1453).

Yup, the RC and the EO. Who still maintain the name for their administrative units that they had when their "bishops" were the chief religious figures of the Imperial units the diocese.

So here's Ambrose, from an imperial residence and functional Roman capital in Trier, "bishop" in Milan, the official Western capital of the Roman Empire since Emperor Diocletian made it so in 293, and guess what, he gets the holder of the most prestigious professorship in the world of its time, guy named Augustine from Carthage who got the gig in Milan, as a convert and baptises him in 387, seven years on into the "Catholic Church"!

I ain't getting into Augustine's career here, that's in another post in the Past Elder Blogoral Calendar, but he ends up in this new state religion, basically morphing the neoPlatonism dominant in philosophy at the time into Christianity, then goes back to North Africa and ends up as, you guessed it, "bishop" in Roman Imperial diocese of Hippo Regius (now Annaba, Algeria).

How the Phrase Came About.

So here it is. Amid all the turmoil of the age -- which again, I ain't getting into here, it's in that same post, "Eastern Church/Empire, Western Church Empire", revised and posted each year on 16 January, founding day of the Roman Empire -- there's a controversy about what are the correct days on which to fast. None, if you ask me. Anyway, fasting was done on different days in different places, so Augustine asks Ambrose for his advice on settling the matter.

Well, Ambrose was known to be, as we put it in SEPs for call candidates now, flexible in his worship preferences. So he writes to Augustine: "When I'm in Rome I fast on Saturdays (the local Roman custom) and when I'm in Milan I don't. Follow the custom where you are."

Anyway his advice eventually crystallised as a proverb in mediaeval Latin as si fueris Romae, Romano vivito more; si fueris alibi, vivito sicut ibi. OK OK, I'll translate -- if you are in Rome, live in the Roman way; if you are elsewhere, live as they do there. Which has come into English, though only the first half of it, as "When in Rome, do as the Romans do".

So there, now you can impress the hell out of people at your next cocktail party, fund raiser, reception, winkel, or whatever the case may be. But that was not my point in going through all this stuff. The reason I bother with, and bother you with, this kind of stuff at all, both in this post and all the others on this blog, is what does it show us about things now.

Guess What? We Ain't In Rome!

So what does the advice of Ambrose to Augustine about the correct days to fast show us about things now?

As we saw, our modern English descendant of that advice leaves out half of it. It's not just when in Rome do as the Romans do, but also, when someplace else do as they do there. Which means, the Roman church way does not have to be imposed on anywhere else, and also, how they do it in other places is just as fine too and does not have to be imposed on Rome.

What does this mean? Or for our non-Lutheran readers, what does that mean?  (If you're a non-Lutheran reader and don't get it, don't worry, just having fun with the usual English rendering of the phrase "Was ist das?" which Luther puts before each explanation of things in his Small Catechism.)

Several things to note.  First:  Ambrose is not telling Augustine to chose what seems right to him, but to stick with existing customs in the places they are found. Ambrose is also not telling him to come up with a new custom.  He is also not telling him to decide which is right and impose one place's custom on another.  He is also not telling him to come up with a new and better custom.  And, he is also not telling him hey, why not put a synthesis or pastiche to-gether from both customs thus presenting the wider rich heritage to everyone everywhere.

IOW, he is not telling him to act in any of the ways our "liturgical movement" scholars, or is it liturgical movement "scholars", do in coming up with liturgical service books, but quite the opposite.

Second:  What are the right days to fast is not a question on the same level as what is the right way to celebrate the Divine Service.  The controversy addressed by "when in Rome ..." was about when to have fasting days, not whether to have fasting days or what they are.  Fasting days per se were not in question, just when to do them, so when in Rome do them when they are done there and when someplace else do them when they are done there.

IOW, "Christian Freedom" does not mean "Do What You Want" and "adiaphora" is not Greek for "whatever".  Some differences in practice do not alter what is practiced, for example, fasting on this day or fasting on that day does not change what fasting is.  But, some differences do reflect a difference in what is being practiced, for example, differences in what is said at and around the consecration of the bread and wine at communion services reflect differences as to what exactly is happening -- is it an action we do or an action Christ does, is this actually his body and blood or rather a symbol or memorial of it, etc.  Ambrose is not referring to differences as to what is done, just differences of how or when.  Everything is not ok.

The validity of Lutheran liturgical reform included both kinds of difference, that Rome does not have to authorise and control liturgy and impose its way throughout the church and ceremonies may be different in different places, as well as difference with Rome as to the nature of what is happening.  That was a major issue in the Reformation.

Yet now, having established that, and, our forefathers in LCMS having come to the US to escape a government imposed synthesis of Lutheran worship with Reformed (Calvinist) worship, what do we do?  We turn around and impose both Roman and other worship on ourselves, that's what. We escape the forced Prussian Union of Lutheran with other German Protestant worship, then here seek to combine Lutheran and other American Protestant worship ourselves. And when we are not doing that, we seek to combine Lutheran worship with Rome's latest, the novus ordo of Vatican II.  All of such efforts false to Ambrose's advice!

Si fueris alibi, vivito sicut ibi.

Do as the Romans do when in Rome. We are not in Rome any more than we are in Willow Creek. Walther knew this, and in his day founded LCMS with like minded pastors to counter the efforts to recast Lutheran worship with what were called "new measures" drawn from churches with big attendance, supposedly taking forms that better address people now, as evidenced by bigger attendance, and endowing them with Lutheran content.  Hey, that's just what they do now -- never mind that those forms are as they are precisely so as not to express the beliefs we have about worship.

Yet over a century later so many of us fall for the same siren call of the new measures of our day, trying to adopt them, in hopes of getting the numbers the churches from which they are taken, and imbue them with a Lutheran content. And so many others try to counter that with a tradition that is no tradition at all but simply taking another non-Lutheran new measure, the novus ordo of Vatican II, and making it our own, joining the bandwagon of liturgical heterodox churches whose common property such adaptations have become.

And in neither case remaining true to Ambrose's advice, not to mention to what our Confessions say -- "nearly all the usual ceremonies are also preserved", "we keep many traditions that are leading to good order (1Cor. 14:40) in the Church, such as the order of Scripture lessons in the Mass and the chief holy days." Not revised, not adapted, not to be recast as soon as Rome makes a move, not to locate ourselves within developments in the wider Christian community, but to PRESERVE, to KEEP, except only that which, not that is not found in the Gospel, but that contradicts the Gospel.

In these two equal but opposite departures from the basis of our liturgical reform we find the greatest challenge, which is not external but internal, to the presentation of the faith of the Augsburg Confession now.

This is a prolegomenon, an introduction, and after the post for the Feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist, we shall take this up in more detail in the post for the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession.

Si fueris alibi, vivito sicut ibi. We are not in Rome, we are elsewhere, let us live like where, and who, we are.

05 June 2017

St Boniface, OSB. 5 June 2017.

Or, How an Englishman became the patron saint of Germany, and how a Benedictine monk set in motion what would lead to the Lutheran Reformation. Festschrift for his festival day.

What a guy! For starters, the patron saint of Germany is an Englishman. Now how did that happen? Here's the story, starting with what an Englishman is anyway.  Then, how it lead, had to lead, to a reformation.

What's an Englishman?

Well, Winfred -- that's his real name -- was born to a wealthy family (funny how that happens a lot in what become "great" saints) in Wessex around 672 or so. What's Wessex? We English love contractions for stuff; Wessex is a contraction for West Saxons. Great geographic Judas, isn't Saxony in Germany? Yeah, it is. We English are basically a German people, with some Roman stuff mixed in from before, and a bunch of stuff mixed in from later, largely French. Although the main kind of French, Normans, are basically German too.

So are the Vikings who were always raiding and conquering stuff.  Those Vikings were probably looking for some decent food, if you've ever had lutefisk or other Scandinavian food. Unfortunately our food isn't that great either, which is probably why the coastal raids were so fierce -- they were ticked, came all this way and the food is still crap, so they trashed the place.

Anyway, a bunch of us German types came in about the time the Romans were losing their grip and the original peoples were losing what was left of theirs too. So, you had Wessex, the Kingdom of the West Saxons in the western modern United Kingdom (which really is a union of formerly separate kingdoms), Sussex, the Kingdom of the South Saxons, and Essex, the Kingdom of the East Saxons. Essex is just South of East Anglia, which is where my people came -- hey, we were invited, the locals were having trouble holding off the Scots after the Romans left -- from Anglia, in modern Schleswig-Holstein, a state in modern Germany.

Just for the record, there's seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, and eventually they became a united Kingdom of England.  "England" comes from us, it's a contraction of Angle-land.  Told you we love contracting stuff.  The seven kingdoms are: Wessex; Sussex; Essex; East Anglia; Mercia (they were some bad dudes, but I ain't getting into that now); Northumbria (that's where the Venerable Bede is from); Kent. Collectively, they are traditionally called the Heptarchy.

The Missionaries Are Coming!

Anyway, here's Winfrid in Wessex. Against his father's wishes, he takes off to a Benedictine monkatorium -- one extreme to another. In 716 he sets out to convert the Frisians, since his language, which we now call Old English, wasn't all that different than theirs. OK, what's Frisia? Well, it's die deutsche Bucht.  Oh for the cat's sake, what is THAT?  Well, it means the German Bay, or cove or bight; it's the German coastal area on the southeast corner of the North Sea.

Trouble is, there was a war on between Charles Martel and the King of Frisia, so he and his company went back home. They came back though. This time he had the support and protection of Charles Martel. Whozat, came up twice now? Well, Charles Martel,  Latin name Carolus Martellus or Charles the Hammer, Karl Martell in German, was King of the Franks.  Well, in effect he was king; he himself never assumed the title "king" and turned down the Roman title "consul" from the Pope too, sticking with the Latin title dux (duke, leader, a military role) et (and) princeps (prince, a ruling role) of the Franks.

The war with Frisia was part of his larger effect of pretty much setting the course for all later European history.  Amid his conquests in Europe (Bavarians, Saxons, Frisians etc) itself, he also held off the Islamic invasion of Europe (you didn't think this sort of stuff was anything new did you?) after 21 years of nobody else being able to at the Battle of Tours in 732.  There, with no cavalry against arguably the finest military in the world at the time, the Umayyad Caliphate (Sunnis, hq Damascus), he defeated them with such decisiveness that he got the nickname "Hammer".

This consolidated with his son Pippin and grandson Charlemagne, aka Carolus Magnus, aka Karl der Grosse, whose Carolingian Empire would become the Holy Roman Empire (Imperium Romanum Sacrum, or das heiliges römisches Reich) with the blessings of the bishops of Rome, some of them in turn put there by the empire, call it a symbiotic relationship, which lasted from 962 until 1806 (we'll get to that in a bit here). Wanna spice it up at your next let's-impress-each-other cocktail party? Call France West Francia and Germany East Francia, which is pretty much what they are.

Anyway, the object of the game involving Winfrid (in case you thought we forgot about the subject of the post!) was for the Christian Carolingians to conquer the non-Christian Saxons, which of course meant making them Christian too. Now just a bleeding minute, didn't we just go over Saxons being in England? Yes we did, but, two things. For one, some of them stayed home, and for another, it's often hard telling in accounts from those times whether "Saxon" means literally people from Sachsen or is a reference to Germans generally.

Winfrid Takes On Thor.

So, in 723, under royal and military protection, a famous thing happened. Winfrid -- who was not yet known by his Benedictine (everybody who's anybody is a Benedictine, you know that) name Boniface, from the Latin Bonifacius, meaning well-made -- thinking of Elijah in the Bible story, goes up to a sacred tree, near Fritzlar in the modern German state of Hesse, that was a major religious site to Thor in the native German religion, and chops the bleeder down, saying if Thor were real he could strike him dead.

Which didn't happen, and the story is that on seeing that all these Germans, from outside the former Roman Imperial boundaries, became Christian. Then the next year (724) he builds a chapel from wood from the oak. Then he set up a bishop -- guess you didn't need a papal appointment -- and established a Benedictine monastery in Fritzlar, and its first abbot, Wigbert, built a cathedral on the site of Boniface's chapel on the site of Thor's Oak. The bishop died and it became part of the bishopric of Mainz, which is the old Roman Imperial provincial capital called Moguntiaticum.

Thor Loses Big Time, Boniface Becomes First Of Germans Via The "Pope".

There had been bishops in Moguntiaticum since Crescens around 80AD, although the first one with any verifiable record is Marinus in 343. But when Boniface, by now an "archbishop" becomes bishop in 745, the place really took off. Boniface made several (three, I think) trips to Rome and was granted the pallium (we'll get to what that is next paragraph). The archbishops of Mainz became the Primas Germaniae, First of the Germans, the Pope's legatus natus (representative by virtue of his office) north of the Alps.

Holy crap what's a pallium then? It's a wool scarf worn by the pope as a symbol of his supposed authority, which the popes later also gave to some regional bishops to show their support of, and support from, papal authority. Silly enough, but these things were sold and the right to wear them brought in millions to the papal fortune, and that's serious business! So Pope Gregory II in 732 gives Boniface the pallium and also authority over what is now Germany, whereupon Charles Martel started setting up bishoprics all over with Boniface over them. Pope, king, what the hell, all "apostolic succession". Boniface himself said he couldn't have done it without the military and political power of Charles Martel. He said it to Daniel of Winchester, but Godfrey was there by institutional memory and told me about the whole thing, plus it's in all the history books if that isn't good enough for you.

But there was still these frigging Frisians, who still weren't converted. Bloody coastal areas anyway. So in 754 he sets out to get them after all, but they weren't so hot to be gotten, and he ended up getting killed. His remains were taken to Utrecht, and then to Fulda, where Boniface's disciple Sturm -- hey, didn't he have a brother named Drang (if you're laughing, a special welcome to Past Elder) -- started a Benedictine monastery on 12 March 744, which lasted until Napoleon shut it down in 1802, in what we call in German -- are you ready for this -- Reichsdeputationshauptschluss.

What Is THAT?

Relax, that's just the nickname! Its real name is Hauptschluss der ausserordentlichen Reichsdeputation, howzat, which means the Main Conclusion of the Extraordinary Imperial Delegation, which was the last thing the Reichstag of the Holy Roman Empire really did, on 25 February 1803, before the HRE ended in 1806. Basically, caved to Napoleon and secularised religious stuff.

If you're thinking continuity, or hermeneutics thereof, forget it. Fulda started up again as an episcopal see, meaning a bishopric, in 1829. The German Catholic bishops still have their conferences there, but this is not the old Fulda. Likewise, the current Catholic Diocese of Mainz is not the old Archbishopric of Mainz; the latter ended and the new one began in 1802 too and they ain't the Kurfuerstentum Mainz no more either. Who the hell were they? One of the seven guys who elected Holy Roman Emperors, that's who.

For the record, the other six electors besides the Prince-Archbishop of Mainz were 1) the Prince-Archbishop of Trier (man I love Trier, Judas Priest even Constantine was there, that's where he ditched his wife and married another, whom he later had killed along with their son, in a power deal as part of becoming "Great" and "Equal of the Apostles", the whole bleeding Empire was run from there at times, I haven't been able to get that utterly captivating city out of my mind since I was there in 1969, man I love Trier), 2) the Prince-Archbishop of Köln (Cologne, couldn't understand bupkis of the local dialect there), 3) the King of Bohemia (a Habsburg since 1526, think Austria), 4) the Count Palatine of the Rhine (always a Wittlesbach, the royal family of Bavaria, yay!, whose money started the Benedictine place in Minnesota where I, well, I don't know exactly what the hell I did there), 5) the Duke of Saxony (a Wettin since 1423) and 6) the Margrave of Brandenburg (a Hohenzollern since 1415, think Prussia).

Conclusion.

Oh yeah, Boniface. His body is still there in the Fulda cathedral. Before we get all misty about the "Apostle to the Germans" and all, we should remember that the spread of Christianity through the Apostles took no such course as the one described above. Demonstrating that was the whole point in describing the above.  The Apostles' course was anything but the increase of the state church right along with the increase of the state to which it belonged. The above is not a story of the triumph of the Gospel, because as Boniface himself said, it would hardly have been possible without the triumph of the state. To get misty about some triumph of the Gospel one must also get misty about the triumph of the, specifically that, state. And its prince-bishops. And the "pope" of Rome, who still bears the title of the chief priest of the pagan Roman Imperial religion, pontifex maximus, a title held by the Roman Emperor.

The head of state no longer carries that title, the church of Christ knows neither such a title nor regional versions. The spread of Christianity brought with it the same things that would later make the Reformation necessary. As the church had become deformed, so it would need to be reformed. And so it was. While we might, and should, admire the zeal, Christianity should never be spread in this way, and the Christianity that is spread in this way is a deformed Christianity that will eventually need to be reformed.

Thanks be to God that it was. This deformed Christianity came about where, 800 some years later, it would be reformed, bringing the good Boniface brought that we celebrate to-day to its true nature. Or rather, IS being so reformed. The Lutheran Reformation is a process, not a past historical fact. It's now 500 years and counting since the Lutheran Reformation began.  The authentic Gospel of Christ and his Church is for all people, not just us Germanic types. And ironically to-day it's as needed by some church bodies with "Lutheran" in their names as it is by those state churches now without their state, the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

PS. Old Boniface didn't totally get rid of the Thor, or in German Donner, thing. The sacred oak may be gone, but we still have his day, Thor's Day, or Thursday -- we English love contractions. In German it's Donnerstag, same thing. And, the 2011 movie "Thor" was a box office smash hit as was the sequel "Thor: The Dark World" in 2013, and a third one is scheduled for release in the UK on 27 October and in North America 3 November 2017! That will be "Thor: Ragnarok".

Holy crap, what's a Ragnarok?  BIG stuff, eschatology, which is the big English word derived from the Greek words meaning "study of the last stuff".  In both the Poetic and the Prose Eddas (13th century; 1200s) the end of the present age is described as a huge war resulting in the deaths of major gods, Odin and Thor among them, all sorts of natural disasters resulting in a worldwide flood, after which the surviving gods get to-gether and the earth is repopulated by the surviving human couple, whose names in English are Lift, from the Norse word for "life" so that's the female, and Lifthrasir, which means "lover of life".  Twilight of the Gods!  Yep, the source of Wagner's great work.  Should be all sorts of special effects in this one, and they say the Hulk's gonna show up in it, but no worries, Wagner took a lot of liberties with the story too.  And anyway Thor appears in other movies based on Marvel characters, such as the Avengers series.

Hey, after you wow 'em with the East/West Francia thing, hit 'em with why you must see "Thor" movies on a Thursday!

02 June 2017

Pentecost / Shavuot / Pfingstfest. 2017.

So why does the "birthday of the church" have the Greek prefix for fifty in it?

Because Pentecost wasn't originally the "birthday of the church", but something else, that's why, which is also why the account of Pentecost speaks of it as something already there.  Just as Passover was transformed into the Eucharist, Pentecost was about to be transformed too.  Here's the deal.

What was already there is an observance commanded by God in the Law of Moses which is to be held fifty days after the second day of Passover, with each day formally counted.  The name for this feast in the Bible is Shavout, which means "weeks" in Hebrew, so it is called the Festival of Weeks in English, but when the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek, since that's what most Jews spoke at the time (that's the Septuagint, the version of the OT the NT quotes), it was called Pentecost, meaning fifty days, the length of the count from Passover.

The Original Pentecost In The Law Of Moses.

The counting is called the Counting of the Omer. What's an omer? Omer are the sheaves of a harvested crop. During the days of the physical Temple, the priests would offer newly harvested barley on the second day of Passover, which represents the start of the seven week harvest season. Which is why Pentecost is also called the Feast of Weeks. In the Law, Shavuot is called Hag ha-Katzir, the Holiday of Harvest's End.

Ah, so we have a harvest festival, taking its place among the various harvest festivals in world culture and religion. Well, yes and no. Yes, it's another harvest festival, another instance of a human cause for celebrating a human milestone, the end of the harvest, particularly in a pre-industrial society. But there's something a little different about this one.

The Talmud (what's a Talmud? -- ancient rabbinical writings; for more, look it up, Wikipedia is linked at the bottom of the sidebar) says it was on the 6th of Sivan (a month in the Jewish lunar calendar), which is the first night of Shavuot, that God gave the Ten Words, better known among Gentiles as the Ten Commandments. Consequently, a popular observance has been an all night Bible study at home or in the synagogue, breaking for the morning service, called shakharit, the ancestor of our, well, morning service. This all nighter is called tikkun.

Traditionally only dairy foods are eaten on Shavuot, and while no-one knows why for sure, the thinking is that on the first Shavuot they had slaughtered all these animals for food but after the Law was given it turned out they were not kosher so they only ate dairy foods.

In the liturgy of the synagogue, the readings for the service for the first day of Shavuot are: Torah portion Exodus 19:1 - 20:23 and Numbers 28:26-31; haftorah Ezechiel 1:1-28 and 3:12. In case you're a little rusty, this is the Exodus account (actually the first of two Exodus accounts, the other being Chapter 34, and there's another account in Deuteronomy) of the giving of the Law, specifically the Ten Words, and Ezechiel's account of the chariot of fire -- you know, the flying saucer.

This is the feast that Acts 2:1 (in the Epistle for Pentecost, which even the Vatican II three year lectionary couldn't overturn) refers to when it speaks of Pentecost arriving, and why there were men from all over everywhere in Jerusalem for it. It's to celebrate the giving of the Law, the reception of which is the whole reason why there was a Passover and a deliverance, the most important event in Judaism. And like Passover just had been, it was about to be transformed!

The Original Pentecost Transformed!

For God himself had become Man in Jesus Christ, suffered the condemnation for our sins in his death, and then rose again. Now, if this were all to the story, why didn't he just stick around, proof positive that he had risen? If the whole point were "All you need is Jesus", "I am saved because Jesus died for my sins and rose again", "Jesus first, as long as you believe that the rest isn't that important", then what would make that point better, what would make that point more irrefutable, than if he had stayed right here, so you could see him, talk to him face to face, hear him teach, and say to those who don't believe "Look, there he is right there, doing pretty well at age roughly 2000, go ask him yourself".

But it didn't happen that way, because that is not the whole point and not all to the story. Just as the Passover and exodus from bondage in Egypt had been not for its own sake but in order to gather with God so he could give his people his Law, so the Passover of the full paschal lamb Jesus had been not for its own sake but in order to gather with God so he could give his people his Spirit! Just as God had commanded the counting of the Omer, the fifty days connecting Pesach, aka Pascha, and Shavuoth, Pentecost, so now God himself counts the Omer from the Pascha of the Lamb he provided, his Son, to the Shavouth or Pentecost so that on the very day where his people once celebrated only the giving of the Law, they still celebrate that and added to it is the giving of the Spirit!

And what happened as a result of that? The Apostles were men who knew all you need is Jesus, men who knew for a physical fact that Jesus had died and risen again, men who knew Jesus is first.  They had all that, but on that basis alone were scared and afraid and huddled around each other in the comfort of others who had all that, tending to their prayers and the internal matters of their little band.  "All that" is not all, and not sufficient, neither for the Apostles nor for us.  The rest came on this day of celebrating the giving of the Law -- they gave the Law, and then the Gospel, and were no longer scared and afraid. Not only that, each one there heard it in his own language, addressed directly to him!

And what did the people do after this amazing event? Everybody just up and believed?  No.  They did the same as the Apostles had done when the women told them the tomb was empty and he had risen. They did NOT believe them. Some thought this is just a foolish wishful story, others sought to figure out what this means, others thought they're just crazy, probably drunk, out of their minds. That's what happened first. That's what STILL happens when people hear the mighty works of God told to them -- when WE hear the mighty works of God told to US. Some form of the same three reactions:  1) it's a really nice story stemming from our deepest wishes; 2) let's talk about this and dialogue as to what it all means; 3) those guys are crazy.

That's what happened first. The amazing event wasn't the amazing event.  It wasn't and isn't about the languages.  After the languages was nothing but unbelief.  The rest didn't happen until something else happened, and THAT'S the amazing event and the big deal about Pentecost.

The Biggest Sign and Wonder Of Pentecost.

Peter then stood with his brothers in the Office of Holy Ministry and laid it right out for them, clean and clear. He said this is what Joel and David had spoken about, Jesus delivered by the plan of God to us, whom we in our sinfulness abandoned the Law and in turn delivered him to the power and law of the world to be killed, Jesus delivered by the power of God from the power of death and our sinfulness which inflicted that on him, Jesus risen again and now placed on the throne of David at the right hand of God, Jesus having been given the promise of the Spirit so that now you see and hear this: Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord  and Christ.

That's the Law. And when they heard the Law, given now for the first time in its fulfillment on this day of celebrating the giving of the Law long ago, they were cut to the heart. People by nature want a religion of works, stuff they can do to make it all right, stuff they can do to feel OK with God, with each other, and within themselves. And the world offers all sorts of versions of that. Some of them go by the name Christianity. And the feelings and purpose they impart are utterly false.

God himself has shown us in the Law exactly the stuff he wants us to do, and we showed ourselves absolutely incapable of it by our own reason and strength, even in a scenario where there are but two people and one commandment, even when a people is called and set apart to do the full Mosaic Law and be an example to the nations who are only expected to keep seven of the laws, to the extent that we handed his prophets and finally the One he sent over to the power of our own ideas and law to be killed, and still reject their message to this day.

So much for a religion of works. We can't do it even when God himself shows us exactly how, no matter how hard we try in purpose driven living or to attain our best life now. What's worse, just like those on this Pentecost, and just like those delivered from Egypt in the first one, we don't get it even when the mighty works of God are directly addressed to us even with wondrous signs, preferring instead to think it over or think they're just nuts!

Pentecost came to-gether not in the signs and wonders, which can still leave us in unbelief, but when Peter and his brothers in the Office of Holy Ministry laid it out clean and clear. It still does. It was then, when Peter had given the Law in its horrible consequences, that they, we, thought not about what it all means, not let's think this over, not maybe there's some good ideas here, not maybe these guys are nuts, but instead were cut to the heart by the fruitlessness of their, our, own reason and strength, and asked Peter and his brothers, Men and brethren, what shall we do? It was then and only then that they could tell them the Good News, the Gospel.

Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

What happened then? Same thing that happens now. They that gladly received his word were baptised, and they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

The Holy Ghost Church.

Guess what! There's an emerging church all right. Not just lately, not out of some marketing scheme supposedly crafted to the taste of the times, but ever since the outpouring of the Spirit on that Pentecost whose historical happening we celebrate every feast of Pentecost.

We may not be in Jerusalem, the Temple is not physically there to go to in one accord, and Peter and the other Apostles are not personally our preachers. And it makes not the slightest difference. The taste of our or any time has no taste for the Gospel and it is worthless to pander to it thinking that will produce a taste for the Gospel. That will produce only what it always produces -- a religion of works, stuff to do to catch the God buzz in a quest after one's own feeling better, on the surface all about Jesus or God but really all about me, or, a lot of discussion about what it all means, or, a rejection of it as wishful thinking at best and lunacy at worst.

What produces a taste for the Gospel is the Law. That's why the Spirit was given to proclaim the Gospel on the feast celebrating the giving of the Law! And we have the reality of Pentecost before us no less than they. Huh? The Temple is in ruins and Peter and the Apostles are gone. So how's that, how is Pentecost not just another thing you read in a book that supposedly comes from God, maybe it does, maybe it doesn't.

Because the true Temple Jesus has been raised again on the third day, and has taken his place with the Father, and has sent his Spirit as he promised. And that Spirit speaks the same message to us now as it did that day in unbroken continuity and succession, which is not that Peter and the Apostles are still physically here, not that other men are still here in a succession of corporate hierarchy, not in those who produce signs and wonders or miracles of church growth and attendance in his name, but that the clean and clear laying out of Law and Gospel as was heard that Pentecost continues to be heard in the faithful preaching of those in the Office of Holy Ministry unto the ends of the earth despite sin, the world and the gates of hell itself.

And when this happens, the same thing follows as did then. Those who receive this proclamation of Law and Gospel are baptised, they continue steadfastly in the Apostles' teaching handed on in the church, especially in those books upon which the church has said you can absolutely rely as the inspired word of God without error, the Bible, and in preaching by those called to do so of that Word, they continue steadfastly in fellowship and community and gathering with each other, they continue steadfastly in the breaking of the bread, the mass, the church's liturgy, wherein Jesus was only fully discerned for who and what he is even when he was bodily here for forty days after he rose, and they continue steadfastly in prayer.

Conclusion.

That is the gift of the Holy Ghost, and every bit of it is as available here and now as it was on that day we read about in Acts, in the Epistle or Christian haftorah for Pentecost, every bit of what was pointed to in Ezechiel's chariot of fire we read about in the original Pentecost haftorah. Pentecost comes to-gether, despite all our vain and sinful efforts to make it happen in some other way more to our liking, the same now as then as ever. Accept no substitute! There is no substitute, even if it claims his name or produces signs and wonders and warm feelings in his name, as true and false teachers and even Satan himself alike can do!

Pentecost is about the one thing they cannot produce and only the true Spirit of God can. As the Little Catechism explains:

I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Christian church; the communion of Saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting.

Amen.

What does this mean? I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian church He daily and richly forgives all sins to me and all believers, and will at the Last Day raise up me and all the dead, and give unto me and all believers in Christ eternal life.

This is most certainly true.

26 May 2017

Memorial Day Is Not All Saints Day Or Veterans Day, 2017.

Nor is it Armed Forces Day, which we just had.  It isn't even Memorial Day any more, really. And, it wasn't to start with, either!  Huh??

So where did it come from? Unlike many holidays, there is no centuries-old background here. The background there is will help not only understanding Memorial Day for what it is and isn't, but our secular holidays as a whole, and provide some eye-openers on the political scene.

The Original Memorial Day.

On 5 May 1868 General John A Logan, commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, designated 30 May 1868 "for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion". Not only for that, but also to "renew our pledge to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon the Nation's gratitude—the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan". The designation was for 1868 only, but it expressed "the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades".

What does this mean?

The above words, from the proclamation itself, General Orders No.11 from G.A.R. headquarters, make it clear that the reference is to the Civil War. So who is Logan and what is the G.A.R.?

The G.A.R. was not a unit in the Civil War. It was a group founded 6 April 1866 by Benjamin F Stephenson MD in Decatur IL for veterans of the U.S. Army who had served in the Civil War. He himself had served as surgeon of the 14th Illinois Infantry with the rank of Major. The unit was a regiment with the Union Army of the Tennessee, not to be confused with the Confederate Army of Tennessee, and the former was named for the river, the latter for the state.  He served for a three year term ending 24 June 1864, after which he returned to Springfield IL, the state capital, to resume medical practice.

Among the notable commanding officers of the Army of the Tennessee are its first, Ulysses S Grant, and its second, William T Sherman, who arranged for John A Logan to be its fifth and last after the war was actually over. There's a story there. The third commander, James B McPherson, was killed in action 22 July 1864 during the Battle of Atlanta, and Logan temporarily replaced him, but command went to another, Oliver O Howard from the Army of the Cumberland. Howard, like Sherman, was West Point; Logan wasn't. However, Sherman arranged for Logan to become commander so he could lead the army in the Grand Review to kind of make up for being passed over. It disbanded 1 August 1865.

And what was the Grand Review? An event on 23 and 24 May 1865, whose full name is Grand Review of the Armies, in Washington DC to celebrate the end of the war. On 23 May, Major General George Meade of the Army of the Potomac, who had won over General Lee at Gettysburg, led about 80,000 of its men in a six hour parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, and the following day Sherman led about 65,000 men combined from the Army of the Tennessee and the Army of Georgia in another six hour parade, Howard riding with Sherman and Logan leading the Army of the Tennessee.

Post Civil War Memorial Days.

General Logan served as a 2nd Lieutenant with the 1st Illinois Infantry during the Mexican-American War -- during which he learned to speak Spanish -- graduated in law from the University of Louisville in 1851, practiced law and rose in a political career from county clerk to the Illinois state house of representatives and was serving as a member of the US House of Representatives, Democrat from Illinois, at the outset of the war. He was a volunteer at Bull Run, or Manassas, after which he resigned his congressional seat and organised the 31st Illinois Volunteers, with the rank of Colonel. After the war he switched parties, was a Representative and then Senator from Illinois, and ran as the Vice Presidential candidate on the Republican ticket with James G Blaine in the election of 1884, which lost to Democrat Grover Cleveland.

There's another story. Cleveland, whose Civil War service was paying a Polish immigrant to serve in his place when he was drafted -- legal under the Conscription Act of 1863 -- was a classic liberal, "liberal" being as unrelated to what the term means now as "Democrat". He opposed taxes, supported the gold standard and lowering tariffs imposed on imports to protect domestic products, worked for reduction and limitation of government, and opposed government intervention in the welfare of individuals. In vetoing a measure to provide a "bail out" for Texas farmers ruined by drought, he said the veto was " to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the Government, the Government should not support the people. The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood". Not a lot of that kind of talk from Democrats lately.

The election was hard fought. The Democrats accused Blaine of influencing legislation to benefit railroads whose bonds he owned, which was long denied until letters were discovered making it a little harder to deny, some of them ending "Burn this letter", which in turn gave rise to the campaign slogan "Blaine, Blaine, James G Blaine, the continental liar from the state of Maine". The Republicans in turn tried to sully Cleveland's image when a woman named him the father of her illegitimate child, and Cleveland admitted he did pay her child support. She however was known to have, so to speak, played the field, including with Cleveland's law partner, for whom the child was named, and while Cleveland himself actually did not know who the father was, being the only bachelor among the possibilities, took responsibility, leading to the campaign slogan "Ma, Ma, where's my Pa?"

And you thought politics only got rough and dirty lately! It gets worse. Blaine, whose mother was Irish Catholic, was hoping for support from that community, not typically known for supporting Republicans, but then one of Blaine's supporters denounced the Democrats as the party of "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion" (the party of Lincoln not being popular in the South) which lost him a ton of votes in swing states to Cleveland, who won the popular vote by less than 1%, though being swing states the electoral college vote was decisive. After Cleveland won, the slogan was turned around to "Ma, Ma, where's my Pa, gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha!".

It gets worse yet. In 1888 he was renominated and ran again, and the Republicans ran Benjamin Harrison, Republican Senator from Indiana, against him instead of Logan -- oh yeah, Logan, we'll get back to him -- for high tariffs and big government -- yes, you read it right, that was the Republican position, big government -- and while Cleveland did not win all the swing states as before, what did him in was, guess what, vote fraud by the Republicans in, guess where, Indiana, where Cleveland narrowly lost, however, it gave Harrison the electoral votes to win although he lost the national popular vote. And you thought politics only got rough and dirty lately!

Cleveland came back though. Harrison's high tariffs, and his big budgets -- he was the first President to have a billion dollar budget, yes Republicans for a big budget -- and his support for backing currency with silver as well as gold -- why was that a problem, because silver wasn't worth as much as its legal gold equivalent -- with taxpayers paying in silver, cheap money to "help the poor", but the government's creditors required payment in gold, all sent the economy right straight to hell. With the Republicans losing supporters of free silver to the new Populist Party, Cleveland was elected President again in 1892. He thus became the only President (so far) to serve non-continuous terms, and will, btw, therefore have two coins in the Presidential Dollar series, though you likely won't see one as the series stopped production for circulation with Chester Alan Arthur, the president just before him.

Oh yeah, Logan. Had the Blaine/Logan ticket won, he would have died in office. He died 26 December 1886. Staunchly Republican, he became Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic in 1868 and continued in that position until 1871 when he became a US Senator. He was always active in veteran's affairs, and public education -- the non West Pointer. A GAR endorsement was essential to winning a Republican nomination for President for decades. The GAR also was influential in the establishment of Old Soldiers' Homes, which became the basis for the present US Department of Veterans Affairs. At its peak in 1890, the GAR had 490,000 members, but, realising numbers must eventually decline, in 1881 the GAR founded the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) to eventually carry on.

And so they did: the last encampment, as national meetings were called, was in 1949, and the last surviving member, named Albert Woolson, died 2 August 1956 at age 109, it was thought, though census records now indicate 106. There's a story there too. He was from New York state. His father was wounded at the Battle of Shiloh and taken to a military hospital in Windom, Minnesota, where he and his mother moved, though his father later died of his wounds. Whereupon Albert enlisted in Company C of the 1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery Regiment as a drummer, which is not just for parades and stuff like now. Then, as for centuries before, there was no motorised transport, and drummers were key in both setting marching pace and boosting morale during combat. Albert enlisted 10 October 1864 just months before the war's end and the unit did not see action. He returned to Minnesota, lived out his life as a carpenter, and died in Duluth.

General Eisenhower, President at the time said of his passing " "The American people have lost the last personal link with the Union Army ... His passing brings sorrow to the hearts of all of us who cherished the memory of the brave men on both sides of the War Between the States". The recognition of both sides was not new; at the first Memorial Day graves from both sides were decorated.

Modern Memorial Day Evolves.

With his death, the GAR ceased to exist. Memorial Day did not. More or less. The original name was Decoration Day, from the original proclamation for the decorating of veterans' graves of the Civil War, which also, in 1868, envisioned its existence until the last survivor was gone, which was 1956, 88 years later. It's expanded a bit. After World War One, it had become a Federal holiday observed on the original date, 30 May, and was expanded to included the decoration of the graves of all who died in any US military engagement. The alternate name for Decoration Day, Memorial Day, was first used in 1882, and after World War Two, which gave many more to be remembered and whose graves to be decorated, became the more common name, and was made the official name in 1967.

The following year, the Uniform Holidays Bill changed its observance along with Veterans' Day (11 November, on which this blog also posts annually) and Washington's Birthday (22 February) to create three three-day-long weekends to take effect in 1971. Thing is, none of these observances had been instituted to give people a three-day week-end, with an extra day off and cook-outs and sports and big sales at the stores, but to remember as a nation particular people and things.

Washington's Birthday was chosen to commemorate the commander of the Continental Army in the war for independence and the unanimous choice of the Electoral College to be the first President, a unifying figure for the new nation and model for its future Presidents, often called "the father of his country", on his, well, birthday, 22 February. Veterans Day is now called that to commemorate all veterans, and was originally to commemorate the armistice which ended World War One starting on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 11 November. Decoration Day was chosen to commemorate Civil War dead on 30 May precisely because that date is not connected with any particular battle or other event of the Civil War, not because the flowers are in full bloom as some (the current immediate past President for example) have said.

The dates mean something, closing up shop for a particular commemoration of a particular something on a particular date, not an opportunity to take the 3rd Monday in February, the 4th Monday of October, and the last Monday in May off from work to do other things, or stay at work to boost business from big sales attracting those off work. The outcry over this loss of the meaning of the day, and acquiring meanings unrelated to it, was enough that Veterans Day was moved back to its original date in 1978, but with the provision that if that date fell on a Sunday it could be observed the following Monday, or if on a Saturday either on that Saturday or the Friday before.

In the 1980s advertisers began the push to boost sales on the new day for Washington's Birthday as "Presidents Day" including Lincoln whose birthday is 12 February. So now we have Washington's Birthday, which is still the official name of the holiday, not on Washington's birthday, not altogether about Washington, not generally known under its name but an advertising  nickname, and not really about presidents either but time off work and buying stuff.

As to Memorial Day, it is for no other purpose than to take time from our normal pursuits to commemorate those who gave their lives in the armed forces of this country that we might have the freedom to go about those pursuits. It's not for the dead per se -- the church provides that with All Saints Day on 1 November, and other religions have similar observances for the dead -- not for living veterans and current service members, both of which groups have their own commemorations, which are observed on this blog, and certainly not to provide a three day kick off for Summer.

Conclusion.

For us Lutherans, and for all others, their sacrifice has given us a country where we need not wrestle with local, regional and national  governments to hold our beliefs, or have our services in the only place where services are going to be, the state church, or at least be tolerated by it. We are free to form our churches according to our understanding of God, as are others according to their understandings, as are others who choose not to participate. Nor do we need to re-create here church structure that emerged in the old countries where that was not the case and church officials were state officials too. What an incredibly precious gift.

The VFW noted in its Memorial Day statement of 2002: "Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day." Efforts continue to return Memorial Day to its original date of observance.

But we can return the observance itself to what it is, as General Logan said, to commemorate those who have died defending their country, AND to renew our pledge to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon the Nation's gratitude—the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.

12 May 2017

Armed Forces Week And Day, 2017.

This blog posts annually about Veterans Day, which celebrates all veterans of service in the U.S. military whether living or dead, and Memorial Day, which celebrates those who died while in that service.  Therefore, it also posts about the day for those currently serving.  Neither Veterans Day nor Memorial Day is about those currently serving in the armed forces -- that is the purpose of Armed Forces Day, and, it's actually not a day but a full week, beginning the second Saturday in May and ending the third Sunday in May, with Armed Forces Day itself the third Saturday in May.

Originally, each branch of the military held its own day, and weren't branches of a unified military either. After World War Two, the US armed forces were unified in a new, single branch of government, the Department of Defense. Armed Forces Day was created to reflect that change, which was announced on 31 August 1949 and celebrated for the first time on 20 May 1950.

Some information on the original separate days will help toward one of the goals of Armed Forces Day, a better understanding by the general public of the armed forces.

Army Day. 6 April. The first Army Day was 1 May 1928. The day was chosen to offset the Communist Worker's Day also on 1 May. The next year it was changed to 6 April, the date of the US entry into World War One, and stayed there. The military history of the United States begins with colonial militias of citizen-soldiers originally working with the British military, which later became state militias and since 1903 the National Guard, with some units on state status and some also reserve units of the United States Army. The Army itself began on 14 June 1775, when the Continental Congress formed the Continental Army. It disbanded in  1783 after the Treaty of Paris formally ended the Revolutionary War, and was re-created by Congress as the United States Army on 14 June 1784.

Navy Day. 27 October. First celebrated in 1922. 27 October was chosen because it is both the birth date of Theodore Roosevelt, who was a very strong voice as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and the date in 1775 when a committee of the Continental Congress issued a report to begin a navy with the purchase of ships from merchant lines. The Navy considers 13 October 1775, the date of the Continental Congress resolution to form that committee, its inception, though there was no naval force after the Revolutionary War other than the Revenue Cutter Service, now the Coast Guard, until 1794 when, to defend against pirates, Congress mandated building six frigates. They were launched in 1797, one of which, the USS Constitution, is still a frigate in the United States Navy.

Air Force Day. 1 August. This day was established in 1947 when the Air Force was still part of the Army, as the recently concluded world war had demonstrated air as an essential frontier to be protected. The date comes from the date of the establishment of the first unit of what would become the Air Force, the Aeronautical Division in the Office of the Chief Signal Officer of the Army, in 1907. The Air Force became a separate branch on 18 September 1947.

Marine Corps Day. 10 November. The Marine Corps was established by Congress on 11 July 1798 to serve under the Department of the Navy. Marine Corps Day was celebrated on 11 July by the Corps from its first birthday in 1799 until 1921. The date was changed in 1921 to 10 November to reflect the original establishment of the Marine Corps on 10 November 1775 to assist the navy during the Revolutionary War, after which the Corps was disbanded. The Marine Corps still observes this day, while participating in Armed Forces Day as well.

Coast Guard Day. 4 August. On that day in 1790 the Treasury Department under Alexander Hamilton established the Revenue Cutter Service, to enforce the first US tariff laws. The Revenue Cutter Service has been in service ever since, becoming the Coast Guard on its merger with the Lifesaving Service in 1915. The day is still observed in the Coast Guard, which also participates in Armed Forces Day. The Coast Guard is unique among the military's five armed services in that it is both military and law enforcement; in 1967 it was transferred from Treasury to the then new Department of Transportation, then on 25 February 2003 it was transferred again to then recently created Department of Homeland Security, but as before, at the direction of the President, or by Congress in declaration of war, it can be transferred to the Navy under the Department of Defense.

What's this got to do with the Lutheran faith? Among the many other benefits, our armed forces have secured a country where we are free to form our congregations and church bodies, and not, unlike the countries from which many of our ancestors came, have to fight over what will be the church funded by the state or fight to be allowed to be part of the state church.

President Truman's Proclamation of the first Armed Forces Day states a goal that has become more telling as the years have passed:

"Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 20, 1950, marks the first combined demonstration by America's defense team of its progress, under the National Security Act, towards the goal of readiness for any eventuality. It is the first parade of preparedness by the unified forces of our land, sea, and air defense."

05 May 2017

C.F.W. Walther. 7 May 2017.

What if the times were like this: Lutherans are saying that while there may have been historic merit in the Lutheran Confessions, the fact is the old doctrines and practices no longer make sense to people in our day, and the church must change to fit the times, adopting new measures if it is to draw people to Christ, and leave the old things to former times, things like liturgy and sacraments and concern for doctrine.

Huh? Aren't the times exactly like this? Well, thing is, the times I was describing are two centuries ago, Lutheranism in the US in the 1800s! If they sound just like our times, and they do, that is because, to borrow Bishop Sheen's phrase, there are no new errors, just old errors with new labels, so they look new to us and take us in.

The fact is, the circumstances and condition of Lutheranism at the time of the formation of our beloved synod are exactly those of our own. And now, there's the added twist that in our times even within our beloved synod one hears the very same old errors, now with their new labels, that the synod was formed to counter.  Yes, the same errors that our beloved synod was formed to counter with solid, orthodox Lutheranism grounded in the Confessions of the Lutheran faith, our Concordia (aka the Book of Concord), so that not only the book but the synod may present the faith of Christ correctly stated in Concordia in our teaching and liturgical practice with one heart, as the name Concordia means.

So on this "feast day" of CFW Walther, our first synodical president, instead of offering something about him, I'm offering his own words about that which he was all about offering. Well, his own words translated from German, with a few notes from me indicated like [this].  They are so timely they could have been written this morning.

We know and firmly hold that the character, the soul of Lutheranism, is not found in outward observances but in the pure doctrine. If a congregation had the most beautiful ceremonies in the very best order, but did not have the pure doctrine, it would be anything but Lutheran. We have from the beginning spoken earnestly of good ceremonies, not as though the important thing were outward forms, but rather to make use of our liberty in these things. For true Lutherans know that although one does not have to have these things (because there is no divine command to have them), one may nevertheless have them because good ceremonies are lovely and beautiful and are not forbidden in the Word of God. Therefore the Lutheran church has not abolished "outward ornaments, candles, altar cloths, statues and similar ornaments," [AP XXIV] but has left them free. The sects proceeded differently because they did not know how to distinguish between what is commanded, forbidden, and left free in the Word of God. We remind only of the mad actions of Carlstadt and of his adherents and followers in Germany and in Switzerland. We on our part have retained the ceremonies and church ornaments in order to prove by our actions that we have a correct understanding of Christian liberty, and know how to conduct ourselves in things which are neither commanded nor forbidden by God.

We refuse to be guided by those who are offended by our church customs. We adhere to them all the more firmly when someone wants to cause us to have a guilty conscience on account of them. The Roman antichristendom enslaves poor consciences by imposing human ordinances on them with the command: "You must keep such and such a thing!"; the sects enslave consciences by forbidding and branding as sin what God has left free. Unfortunately, also many of our Lutheran Christians are still without a true understanding of their liberty. This is demonstrated by their aversion to ceremonies.

It is truly distressing that many of our fellow Christians find the difference between Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism in outward things. It is a pity and dreadful cowardice when a person sacrifices the good ancient church customs to please the deluded American denominations just so they won’t accuse us of being Roman Catholic! Indeed! Am I to be afraid of a Methodist [on what "Methodist" means here, see the note below], who perverts the saving Word, or be ashamed in the matter of my good cause, and not rather rejoice that they can tell by our ceremonies that I do not belong to them?

It is too bad that such entirely different ceremonies prevail in our Synod, and that no liturgy at all has yet been introduced in many congregations. The prejudice especially against the responsive chanting of pastor and congregations is of course still very great with many people — this does not, however, alter the fact that it is very foolish. The pious church father Augustine said, "Qui cantat, bis orat–he who sings prays twice."

This finds its application also in the matter of the liturgy. Why should congregations or individuals in the congregation want to retain their prejudices? How foolish that would be! For first of all it is clear from the words of St. Paul (1 Cor. 14:16) that the congregations of his time had a similar custom. It has been the custom in the Lutheran Church for 250 years [this is now about 400  years]. It creates a solemn impression on the Christian mind when one is reminded by the their joy in such a lovely manner.

We are not insisting that there be uniformity in perception or feeling or taste among all believing Christians-neither dare anyone demand that all be minded as he. Nevertheless, it remains true that the Lutheran liturgy distinguishes Lutheran worship from the worship of other churches to such an extent that the houses of worship of the latter look like lecture halls in which the hearers are merely addressed or instructed, while our churches are in truth houses of prayer in which Christians serve the great God publicly before the world.

Uniformity of ceremonies (perhaps according to the Saxon Church order published by the Synod, which is the simplest among the many Lutheran church orders) would be highly desirable because of its usefulness. A poor slave of the pope finds one and same form of service, no matter where he goes, by which he at once recognizes his church.

With us it is different. Whoever comes from Germany without a true understanding of the doctrine often has to look for his church for a long time, and many have already been lost to our church because of this search [just as true now of those born right here but also without such an understanding]. How different it would be if the entire Lutheran church had a uniform form of worship! This would, of course, first of all yield only an external advantage, however, one which is by no means unimportant. Has not many a Lutheran already kept his distance from the sects because he saw at the Lord’s Supper they broke the bread instead of distributing wafers?

The objection: "What would be the use of uniformity of ceremonies?" was answered with the counter question, "What is the use of a flag on the battlefield? Even though a soldier cannot defeat the enemy with it, he nevertheless sees by the flag where he belongs. We ought not to refuse to walk in the footsteps of our fathers. They were so far removed from being ashamed of the good ceremonies that they publicly confess in the passage quoted: "It is not true that we do away with all such external ornaments".

(C.F.W. Walther, Explanation of Thesis XVIII, D, Adiaphora, of the book The True Visible Church, delivered at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, beginning August 9, 1871, at the 16th Central District Convention, translated by Fred Kramer, printed in Essays for the Church [CPH: 1992], I:193-194).

Note. His reference to "Methodist" should not be confused with the present United Methodist Church, a body formed in 1968 from the union of the Evangelical United Brethren and the The Methodist Church, which itself was formed in 1939 from a reunion of three groups originating in the Methodist Episcopal Church. However, the conflation of the Holiness Movement with the Social Gospel is characteristic throughout, with the emphasis on personal feeling of sanctification in living still prominent in "evangelical" churches to-day and Pietism in our own history.

Hat tip to Pastor Paul T McCain, on whose excellent but now defunct blog Cyberbrethren I saw this excerpt.