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

VDMA

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


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

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

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

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

24 February 2015

25 Feb Readin', Writin', and Absolute Multitude. Academics 2015.

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

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

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

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

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

I. How and Where It Started.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

II. What the Seven Liberal Arts Actually Are.

Here is the structure of the Seven Liberal Arts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

III. The Modern University.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IV. How It Fell Apart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

V. Where We Are Now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VI. Conclusion. Where We Could Be.

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

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

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

Oh Yeah, an Addendum.

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

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

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

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

And what's an "alma mater"? Hoo boy. It's Latin for "nourishing mother". In the Roman Empire it meant the Mother Goddess, Venus, the Roman version of Aphrodite, who was called Venus genetrix, Mother Venus. In the Roman Church this morphed into Mary, Jesus' mother, Mater dei genitrix. As an academic reference it comes from the phrase "alma mater studiorum", which means nourishing mother of studies. In 2000 it was adopted as the motto of, guess who, the oldest modern university, the University of Bologna, right on the heels of the 1999 signing of the Bologna Declaration signed there by the ministers of education of 29 European countries, which while aiming at a greater standardisation of European higher education, seems to do so from the standpoint of corporations and the World Trade Organisation (WTO)-- cutting costs, getting a job. getting competitive -- read, winning against or at least getting your slice of the pie with other players -- etc.

Oy.

Textual Note: This post is a complete revision of my original similarly titled one, incorporating additional material from 2009 and new material in 2010, then revised for 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

17 February 2015

What's A Quadragesima? Lent 2015. A 40 Days Of Purpose.

Happy Spring!  BTW, you're gonna die.

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

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

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

Howzat for some good news?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The double message of the ashes is clear.  It runs through the Introit, echoed in the Collect, through the prophecy of Joel, to the words of Jesus, which are all read at mass, also known as divine service, on Ash Wednesday: turn to God and you will be delivered, stick to ashes and you will be, well, ashes.

A Purpose Driven Life?

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

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

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

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

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

Same idea, different ways of setting it up.

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

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

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

What's Up With Lenten Fish Frys?

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

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

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

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

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

BTW, you know why they call those light meals collations?  Ain't a collation a collecting or gathering of something?  Yes it is, so how did a meal come to be called a collation?  Monks, that's how.  In a monkery, I mean monastery, having withdrawn from life in the world, when you eat a meal you listen to somebody read spiritual stuff (called lectio divina, divine reading).  During light meals Benedictines would often use a collection by John Cassian of conversations he had with desert monks on the spiritual life called Collationes patrum in scetica eremo (Conferences of the Desert Fathers), and the word "collation" from that Latin came to be the name of the meal too.  Monk stuff.  You live in a monkery, withdrawn from the life of the world?  Skip the collation and have a decent meal and some human interaction with those having it with you.

Quadragesima/Lent.    

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

Here's the pattern.

The church begins its liturgy with an introductory verse called the Introit.  The word derives from the Latin word for entrance (introitus).  That sets the tone for the day, is usually taken from the Psalms, with a verse response to it. In fact, the Sunday often takes its name from the first word or two of this introductory verse, the Introit. Then, the church has a prayer before the Scripture readings each Sunday that collects the thoughts of the day, called, oddly enough, the Collect. Then, for Scripture readings, the church continues the synagogue practice of two readings from Scripture, replacing the synagogue's Torah, or Law, readings with Gospel ones, and replacing the related haftorah, a related reading usually from the Prophets, with ones usually from the Epistles.

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

Ash Wednesday / Aschermittwoch.  18 February 2015.

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

Invocavit -- He shall call to Me.  22 February 2015.

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

Reminiscere – Remember, O Lord.  1 March 2015.

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

Oculi -- My eyes are ever toward the Lord.  8 March 2015.

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

Laetare – Rejoice, O Jerusalem.  15 March 2015.

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

Judica -- Judge me, O God.  22 March 2015.

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

14 February 2015

"Precious Lord". A Love Story, For St Valentine's, 14 Feb 2015.

THE BIRTH OF THE HYMN "PRECIOUS LORD"

Back in 1932, I was a fairly new husband. My wife, Nettie and I were living in a little apartment on Chicago's south side. One hot August afternoon I had to go to St. Louis where I was to be the featured soloist at a large revival meeting. I didn't want to go; Nettie was in the last month of pregnancy with our first child, but a lot of people were expecting me in St. Louis. I kissed Nettie goodbye, clattered downstairs to our Model A and, in a fresh Lake Michigan breeze, chugged out of Chicago on Route 66.

However, outside the city, I discovered that in my anxiety at leaving, I had forgotten my music case. I wheeled around and headed back. I found Nettie sleeping peacefully. I hesitated by her bed; something was strongly telling me to stay. But eager to get on my way, and not wanting to disturb Nettie, I shrugged off the feeling and quietly slipped out of the room with my music.

The next night, in the steaming St. Louis heat, the crowd called on me to sing again and again. When I finally sat down, a messenger boy ran up with a Western Union telegram. I ripped open the envelope. Pasted on the yellow sheet were the words: YOUR WIFE JUST DIED. People were happily singing and clapping around me, but I could hardly keep from crying out. I rushed to a phone and called home. All I could hear on the other end was "Nettie is dead. Nettie is dead.'"

When I got back, I learned that Nettie had given birth to a boy. I swung between grief and joy. Yet that same night, the baby died. I buried Nettie and our little boy together, in the same casket. Then I fell apart. For days I closeted myself. I felt that God had done me an injustice. I didn't want to serve Him anymore or write gospel songs I just wanted to go back to that jazz world I once knew so well.

But then, as I hunched alone in that dark apartment those first sad days, I thought back to the afternoon I went to St. Louis. Something kept telling me to stay with Nettie. Was that something God? Oh, if I had paid more attention to Him that day, I would have stayed and been with Nettie when she died. From that moment on I vowed to listen more closely to Him.

But still I was lost in grief. Everyone was kind to me, especially a friend, Professor Frye, who seemed to know what I needed. On the following Saturday evening he took me up to Madam Malone's Poro College, a neighborhood music school. It was quiet; the late evening sun crept through the curtained windows. I sat down at the piano, and my hands began to browse over the keys.

Something happened to me then. I felt at peace. I felt as though I could reach out and touch God. I found myself playing a melody, one I'd never heard or played before, and the words into my head -- they just seemed to fall into place:

'Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand,
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn,
Through the storm, through the night, lead me on, to the light,
Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.'

The Lord gave me these words and melody, He also healed my spirit. I learned that when we are in our deepest grief, when we feel farthest from God, this is when He is closest, and when we are most open to His restoring power. And so I go on living for God willingly and joyfully, until that day comes when He will take me and gently lead me home.

-Rev Thomas A Dorsey (1 July 1899 - 23 January 1993)
published in Guideposts in 1987
http://www.snopes.com/music/songs/precious.asp


05 February 2015

What's A Gesimatide? 2015.

The Change From Christmas Season To Easter Season.
 
There's been some joyous events these last few weeks -- the birth of Jesus, his naming and circumcision, the first Gentiles to find him, and his baptism. On various dates and combinations, from place to place through the ages, the Christian Church has offered its members celebrations of these things in its church year.

But a change is coming, one already present amid the joy. We know as we celebrate his birth that he was born for us so he could die for us. We know as his blood was spilt in circumcision, putting him under the Law, his blood would be spilt on the Cross, to redeem us from under the Law. We saw that the Gentiles who found him had to return by a different way, as the way of all who find him is different afterward. And after his baptism, Jesus will spend forty days in the desert before beginning his public ministry, wherein he will be tempted to make himself into the various false Messiahs into which Man so ofter makes him anyway. We will soon imitate those forty days for our own devotion with the season of Lent, on the way to the Cross, without which Easter is but another metaphor or myth. A change is coming.

So the church provides a transitional time between the first and second of its three great seasons, as the joyous events, from preparing for his birth to his baptism (Advent-Christmas-Circumcision-Naming-Manifestation-Baptism), now turn to the literally deadly serious reason why they happened, sin and our redemption from sin. Just like with the Christmas-related preparation season of Advent, this has taken various forms in various places and times but always within the same general pattern, and the universal practice of the Christian Church since ancient times (well, until 1960s Rome messed with it, but we'll get to that) has been to provide a transition from the beginnings of Jesus' earthly life to the end of it.

It's not just more Lent on top of Lent.  It's a transition, and for us Lutherans especially helpful in that its focus is what we call the "solas" -- by grace alone, by Scripture alone, by faith alone.  Yet, while the world's gross parody and perversion of this season, Carnival ("Mardi Gras" is just the last day!), continues unabated, the church either chucks liturgy altogether or adopts a contemporary version that omits this longstanding transition.  Huh?  Let's take a look.

The Transition In The West And In The East.

The Western and the Eastern Churches calculate Easter, and thus the forty days before it, differently, but the overall pattern is the same, as is a transitional period between what leads to Easter and the Christmas season just past. In the Eastern Church this transitional period is framed by five Sundays, after the last of which Great Lent begins on Clean Monday; in the Western Church it is a little over three weeks with Lent starting on Ash Wednesday. Either way, it is there.

Candlemas is the last feast dated with respect to Christmas. The 40 days of purpose, from Jesus' birth to his mother's purification in the mikveh and his presentation in the Temple, end then. Those 40 days are fixed, reckoned forward from Christmas, from 25 December through 2 February. The next 40 days of purpose are not fixed, and are reckoned backward from that to which they lead, Easter, which is not a fixed date either and reckoned differently in the West and in the East. In the West, Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, will never be earlier than 4 February, so that always works out even if by just two days after Candlemas.

But, the transitional period, Gesimatide, can overlap with the concluding Epiphany part of the Christmas season. For the West, adding three weeks to forty days is approximately seventy days, and even with the earliest possible Easter will fall no earlier than 18 January, so Gesimatide will still always fit between the end of the Christmas cycle itself on 14 January, after the octave of the Epiphany and the Gospel portion relating the baptism of Jesus is read, and whenever Easter falls, early or late, in any given year.

What The Names Literally Mean.

Septuagesima is simply another word for seventieth, that's all. The modern English word is derived from Middle English, in turn from Old French, in turn from the actual Late Latin word septuagesima meaning seventieth. The septua- part is the same prefix for seven or multiples by ten of seven seen in other English words -- septet, an ensemble of seven; septuagenarian, someone in his 70s; the Septuagint, the translation into Greek of the Hebrew Scriptures by seventy scholars -- and the -gesima part is the Latin -tieth suffix.

OK seventieth what?  Day, that's what.  So, Septuagesima is 70 Days, Sexagesima is 60 Days, Quinqagesima is 50 Days. Simple.

OK, so seventieth day of what, or from what?  Easter, that's what.  Except it's not exactly seventy days.  Don't freak, there's a reason behind all this, and it's simple too.  Like everything else about Christianity, it all stems from Easter.

Gesimatide is a transition to what we call Lent, but at first in English the word Lent just meant Spring, and what we now call Lent was called Quadragesima, meaning forty days, the duration of Lent in the West, and it's also the name of the first Sunday in Lent. This still survives in other languages. For example in Spanish the word for Lent is Cuaresma. Quadragesima (Lent) is forty days from Easter -- the Western Church does not include Sundays in the count, since every Sunday is a "little Easter".  The Sundays in the Gesima season leading up to Lent just follow that pattern.

There's various theories as to why.  One says that the "seventy" was to represent the Babylonian Captivity (of the Jews, not the church).  It was actually Amularius of Metz (in modern NE France not too far from Trier!), a liturgist who died about 850, who said it in one of his books.  Another theory says the names were to give the Sundays an easily recognisable numerical order by tens.  Another theory says it came from a way to fudge on the Lenten fast but still have a fast -- if you exclude Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays in Lent from fasting but add them on earlier you get seventy days.  Personally, I'd bet on that theory -- probably some Benedictines scamming a way to fast but not make it so burdensome.  "Pastoral reasons" is the current Roman phrase for such efforts.

In any case it doesn't really matter which theory is correct, the important thing is, the Gesima season is not a numerical count but derives, name and all, from Lent, fka Quadragesima.  Simple.

Septuagesima Itself.

With the Seventieth Day, or Septuagesima, the change is apparent on various levels. The white vestments of Christmastime joy give way to purple or violet of repentance.  The joyful exclamation Alleluia and other joyful expressions like the Te Deum and the Gloria (there ain't no This Is The Feast) are not used.  The readings, especially if one follows the hours of prayer, the Divine Office, begin their way through the sorry history of Man, from his creation then fall then going forward, which the Holy Saturday liturgy will recapitulate.

On Septuagesima itself, the Gospel reading is Matthew 20:1-16, the story of the workers in the vineyard, wherein we see Man the same as ever from the start in Eden, trying to impose his ideas of what is right on to God's, this time arguing over whether the same wage is fair for those who worked all day, those hired at the last, and everyone in between, as if we deserved anything from God and it were not his to give and not ours to presume or demand anyway. So we argue with God and each other over the denarius rather than taking it in gratitude from him who owed us nothing! Kind of the whole problem in a nutshell.

The Eastern Church uses the following on its five Sundays in the Pre Lenten Season: 1) the story of Zacchaeus, 2) the Publican and the Pharisee, 3) the Prodigal Son, 4) the Last Judgement, and 5) the Sunday of Forgiveness.

The World Has Its Own Transition Too.

The world, which has ever had its early Spring celebrations, has in many lands timed them on Lent too.  But this worldly pre-Lent attains a nature as opposite from its Christian meaning as the worldly gift buying and partying season before Christmas has become from Advent. At the beginning of Lent, fasting in some form is observed, usually involving abstaining from meat, and the most likely origin of the the name for the worldly pre-Lent, Carnival, is a farewell to meat (flesh), from the Latin root carne- for meat or flesh (as in carnivore) and vale, good-bye (as in valedictory). In most but not all places, Septuagesima is also the start of Carnival season, which ends on the Tuesday just before Lent starts on Ash Wednesday.   Often known by its French name, Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday.  So, as the church prepares for the penitential season of Lent the world enjoys the flesh, in all senses of the word.

But now in the Western Church, if one follows the lead of the Great Whore, Rome, as unfortunately many have, this transitional pre-Lenten period has been abolished altogether! And not only is this important transition dropped, the period of time it formerly took is simply counted as Ordinary Time. That would be bad enough if ordinary here meant what ordinary ordinarily means. Ordinary here means the literal meaning of ordinary, which is, something that has no particular name or identity but is simply numbered. So in the Vatican II novus ordo this significant time of transition from the Christmas cycle to the Easter cycle simply ceases to exist, in numbered anonymity, in the face of nearly two millennia of Christian observance in varying forms, and the continuing observance of those who do not follow suit. Well, when you're the Whore of Babylon, you do stuff like that, maybe even have to do stuff like that. Not a lead for the church of Christ to follow.  In adaptations of the novus ordo, such as ours, the season disappears as a numbered Sunday after Epiphany. 

The world, though, is securely attached to its pre-Lenten traditions.  Carnival season endures, Rome and those following its lead ashcan the Gesimas.  Who knows? Maybe the next Roman council can get Ash Wednesday moved to the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, for "pastoral reasons" of course, like they jacked around the date of Epiphany, or move it to the Monday after and call it reclaiming our ancient Greek roots. Cuaresma. No word yet on whether Rome can get languages like Spanish to quit calling Lent after a pattern it has abolished.

The Eastern Church still has its Pre Lenten Season.

The Start Of The Church's Transition East And West.

In the Western Church, the earliest Septuagesima can fall is 18 January and the latest 22 February. This year, 2015, it's 1 February. Join the Christian Church, East or West, in this transition, whatever your church or church body may have chosen to do, as we turn to the preparation for Lent, the observance of that for which he whose birth we recently celebrated came to die and then rise again, and the Easter and Pentecost joy to follow in anticipation of the eternal joy of heaven!

We start with learning from the workers in the vineyard not to haggle over the denarius but understand whose it is and that it is a gift, or, from the call of Jesus to Zacchaeus, who collected taxes for the foreign oppressors, that he doesn't have to climb a tree to see him, that he is coming to his very house -- which btw produced more grumbling about what is right and just -- after which Zacchaeus repented and made restitution to his brethren. The Son of Man has indeed come to seek and save the lost -- don't worry about being seeker-sensitive, HE is the seeker -- whether that be those who cast aside their own people for power or those who are idle because they are not hired, as we all seek first our own gain by nature and are all "unemployable" before the justice of God, who instead shows us mercy in Christ Whom He has sent.

The Plan Of The Western Transition, Gesimatide.

Here are the readings for the three Sundays of Gesimatide. This is particularly of value for us Lutherans, because the readings for each of the three Sundays of Gesimatide correspond with what came to be called the three "solas" in the Lutheran Reformation!

Septuagesima Sunday, "70 Days". By Grace Alone. (1 February 2015)

Introit.
Psalm 18:5,6,7. Verse Psalm 18:2,3.
Collect.
O Lord, we beseech Thee favourably to hear the prayers of Thy people that we, who are justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by The goodness, for the glory of Thy name, through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Our Saviour, who liveth etc.
Epistle.
1 Cor 9:24 - 10:5.
Gospel.
Matthew 20:1-16. The Workers in the Vinyard. Sola gratia, by grace alone.

Sexagesima Sunday, "60 Days". By Scripture Alone. (8 February 2015)

Introit.
Psalm 44:23-26. Verse Psalm 44:2.
Collect.
O God, who seest that we put not our trust in anything that we do, mercifully grant that by Thy power we may be defended against all adversity, through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Our Lord, who liveth etc.
Epistle.
2 Cor 11:19 - 12.9
Gospel.
Luke 8:4-15. The Sower and the Seed. Sola scriptura, by scripture alone.

Quinquagesima Sunday, "50 Days". By Faith Alone. (15 February 2015)

Introit.
Psalm 31:3,4. Verse Psalm 31:1.
Collect.
O Lord, we beseech Thee, mercifully hear our prayers and, having set us free from the bonds of sin, defend us from all evil, through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Our Lord, who liveth etc.
Epistle.
1 Cor 13:1-13.
Gospel.
Luke 18:31-43. Healing the Blind Man. Sola fide, by faith alone.

[Textual note: many thanks to Matthew Carver, translator of Walther's Hymnal, published by CPH, for earlier comments on etymology.  I have tried to incorporate those improvements in this year's version.  Any remaining need for improvement is due to me.]

02 February 2015

Candlemas (2 February) 2015. A 40 Days of Purpose.

What's a Candlemas, and why should I bother with it or care to know about it? Here's what and why.

The Law Of Moses Observed.

In the Law of Moses, when a woman gives birth to a boy, she is ritually unclean for seven days, then in the "blood of purification" for another thirty three days, total of forty days, at which time she goes to the mikveh for a ritual bath of purification.  Also, the Law of Moses requires a first-born male, not first born to the father necessarily, but the one who opened his mother's womb, to be presented in the Temple to be redeemed.

Huh?  Redeemed from what?  Hey, this is Jesus and he's the redeemer so really, redeemed from what?  And purified from what?  And anyway, isn't this religion about Jesus, not Mary?  OK, here's the deal.

First, what's a mikveh? The word, also given as mikvah, means collection.  Collection of what?  Water, that's what, but not just any water, but water from a natural source, such as rain, or better yet "living water" from a spring or well, which must be naturally transported, not pumped or carried. Total immersion in the water of a mikveh -- anyone thinking Baptism? -- is considered so important, restoring ritual purity after ritually impure things have happened, such as childbirth, that a Jewish community must provide a mikveh even before it builds a place of worship (synagogue).

Next, before we get to redeemed from what, what is to be redeemed anyway?  One hears the word a lot but what does it literally mean?  To buy back, that's what, to pay something to get something else.  Just like redeeming a coupon.  You turn in the coupon to get what it promises.  Under the Law of Moses, the first born, or bekhor in Hebrew, is required to be dedicated to the service of the Lord.  Originally this was to be the priesthood, but after the Golden Calf episode, that was given to the sons of Aaron, the cohens (yes, the name Cohen and variations thereof derives from that), but nonetheless the requirement for redemption remained.  This is called the pidyon haben, and is a sum of five silver coins to be paid to the Cohen, though the Law provides other options for poor families, which Luke records is the option Joseph and Mary took.

Of course Jesus did not need to be redeemed.  For himself.  But he wasn't sent here for himself.  He didn't need to be baptized either, or circumcised.  He was here for us, and to be put under the Law so he could fulfill the Law for us, all needed to be fulfilled, just like he told John the Baptist.  And that's the enormous significance here.  Without these key events in fulfilling the Law, he wouldn't have fulfilled the Law, which in part required an action by his mother, and that's why we celebrate them -- it's part of what makes Jesus the Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah.

So, to observe and fulfill the Mosaic Law, Mary was purified in a ritual bath in a mikveh, after which her first-born Son was presented in the Temple to dedicate him to God. In the Western Church, since the birth of Jesus has been set on 25 December for its celebration, the celebration of the Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple is fixed forty days later as required by the Law, 2 February. Easter, however, does not have a fixed date, thus Holy Week, and the preparation for it, Lent, and the transition to it, Gesimatide, are reckoned backward from Easter's date in any given year. That is why in some years, like 2013 or 2015, Candlemas may happen after the transition to Lent, Gesimatide, is underway. Or like in 2012 when it happened only three days before Gesimatide began with Septuagesima on 5 February.

In the Eastern Church, as we saw in an earlier post that Epiphany, on 6 January (at least until 1960s Rome got a hold of it), originally contained all the events of the early life of Jesus including his birth. And, 25 December in the Gregorian calendar of the West, now in civil use in most of the world, falls on 7 January in the Julian calendar still in liturgical use in the East, so, the 40th day after it falls on Gregorian 15 February in the East, and is called The Meeting of the Lord.

Either way, either part of the church, either calendar, forty days after Jesus' birth celebration.

The Gospel Fulfillment Of The Law.

The Gospel account of it is Luke 2:22-40, the Gospel reading for the day. Part of it relates Simeon the Elder, who had been promised that he would not die before seeing the Messiah. When Mary brought Jesus for the meeting, Simeon saw him and recognised him as the Messiah, saying what is now called the Canticle of Simeon, or, from its first words in Latin, nunc dimittis: Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel. This reference to light gave rise to the custom of blessing on this day the candles for use in the church during the year, which in turn has given the day yet another name, Candelemas, or mass of the candles. Some observances include a procession with candles to the church.

Simeon's nunc dimittis has also become a feature of the Office of Compline, the completing church office of prayer for the day. In the Lutheran Common Service, that most wonderful version of the Western liturgy, in its current edition known as Divine Service Setting III in Lutheran Service Book, the nunc dimittis is also sung after Communion. A practice which continues even in our Vatican II wannabe services of late, though of course with the Vatican II-esque option of doing something else instead. 1960s Rome downplays the candles and Mary stuff for the Simeon thing. Simeon did no such thing. He got it about the purpose about Mary and light to the people.

The Prophecy of Simeon.

Simeon said something else too, and it should not be forgotten. The joy of the Messiah cannot be separated from the reason why he came, which isn't all that pretty. Saviours are great, as long as it's not about being saved from sin. Jesus would run into this again, to put it mildly, and Satan would even tempt him about it during another forty days the church is about to celebrate in imitation of his forty days in the desert, Lent. Simeon said:

Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be spoken against -- yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also (this to Mary) -- that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

The cross, the crucifixion, the payment for redemption from sin, is present here too, as the central event in the life of Jesus, the life of Man, and the life of each man. Bishop Sheen once remarked that the crucifix is the autobiography of every Christian.

Ain't It Just A Christianised Groundhog Day Or Other Pagan Stuff?

As with Christmas, Candlemas is sometimes taken as simply a Christian version of pre-existing observances. Well there are pre-existing observances.  2 February is the date of Imbolc, a Celtic observance of the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. It was associated with the goddess Brigit, where sacred fires were maintained by 19 consecrated women in Kildare -- sort of an Irish Vesta -- some of whose legends seem to have been passed to the Christian St Brigit. And Brigit, through mingling of Irish and African slaves in the New World, may be the source of Maman Brigitte in Voodoo. Imbolc was also a time of weather forecasting, with Spring coming on, when snakes or badgers or other animals were watched to see if they would come out of their Winter hibernation, indicating a short Winter, or not, indicating a longer one.  See something familiar in that?

Howere, as with superficial similarities with pre-Christian Winter solstice observances, the content of fulfilling the Mosaic Law by the newborn Messiah is rather different than simultaneous pagan observances, including the references to light. But, as to watching animals for a clue to the length of the remaining cold weather -- hello, Groundhog Day, which is also, guess what, 2 February!

And then there's the Roman Lupercalia, the Wolf Feast, honouring the she-wolf who raised Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, celebrated this time of year too. In it, the Luperci, the priests of the wolf (lupus in Latin) sacrificed, well, originally people, but then two male goats and a dog, whose blood was put on the foreheads of other Luperci, then there was a feast, then the Luperci cut thongs from the animal skins -- called februa, from which comes our month name February! -- and put on the rest, running around town, with women coming forward to be lashed by the thongs to insure both fertility and easy childbirth.

Hey, this lasted well into Christian Rome and beyond, and some think Pope Gelasius in the 490s -- after the sack of Rome by the Visigoth under Alaric in 410 and by the Vandals under Geiseric (aka Genseric or Gaiseric) in 455 and the deposing of the last Roman Emperor in the West, Romulus Augustus, by the Arian Germanic-Italian King Odoacer on 4 September 476 -- used Candlemas to replace and remove Lupercalia.

The feast is among the oldest in Christian observance.  Sermons for it survive from as early as the 300s.  It took on wider celebration starting with a plague.  Yeah, a plague.  In 541 an outbreak of the bubonic plague devastated the Byzantine Empire (the old Eastern Roman Empire, the only one left by then).  It came from rodents with the fleas carrying the disease aboard merchant ships from Egypt, from which Constantinople bought lots of grain and other goods, and the spread of those goods spread the bubonic plague too and wiped out about half the population to which it spread all over the Empire.  This was during the reign of Justinian, who got it too, but he recovered under such treatment as they had at the time, which was, eat a good diet, get plenty of rest, and go somewhere where it hadn't spread to avoid the bad air they thought carried it.  In 541 Justinian ordered fasting and prayer at this time that the plague be lifted.  It did, though plagues lift anyway, and the mortality rate for untreated bubonic plague is about 50% anyway, so hey.  But Justinian ordered the observances to continue in thanksgiving.  This outbreak is the first one clearly documented in history, and is now named after him, the Plague of Justinian.

BTW, the world-wide custom of saying "Bless you" or "Health" or "Gesundheit" (which is "health" in German) or some such thing when someone sneezes comes from the plague, since for most of human history sneezing might be an indication you won't be around in a few days.  These days, antibiotics, streptomycin in particular, are effective against bubonic plague and I'd recommend that.  While we're at it, what is "bubonic" anyway?  Comes from the Greek word for groin -- the swelling from infected lymph nodes turns up in the groin, among other places, but that one really gets your attention so the whole thing got named after it.

The first-born thing has been the source of other pious bullroar too.  In imitation of it, first born sons were often "encouraged" to be priests, resulting in all kinds of not-so-suited "priests" and monks.  On the brighter side, the assumed survival of childbirth by women is a fairly recent phenomenon, thanks to modern  medicine, was for centuries celebrated as the "churching of women", and still is in some places.  There is no purification per se, but the Biblical thing was the model for it, a blessing and celebration of the women's health and ability to return to usual activities. 

So What's A Candlemas? This.

So what do we have here? Later, Christianed-over versions of universal themes, or, universal themes that derive from natural knowledge of God, and therefore have something to them, but could never even have guessed the Law and Gospel in the revealed word of God in Scripture.

Well, as we saw with Christmas and will see with Easter, both. You got your choice. Yeah, there is 2 February as modern and presumably more civilised and less superstitious observances that Winter will end sooner or later and nice weather come back -- Groundhog Day, which also has the advantage that you're way less likely to have the cops called on your Groundhog Day party than if you try to have a Lupercalia.

And, there's 2 February as something to which these things have only the crudest of inklings in the fallen heart of Man -- The Presentation of Our Lord and the Purification of Mary.

Collect for Candlemas, to collect our thoughts for the day. (From The Lutheran Hymnal)

Almighty and ever-living God, we humbly beseech Thy majesty that, as Thine only-begotten Son was this day presented in the Temple in the substance of our flesh, so we may be presented unto Thee with pure and clean hearts; by the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with the Father and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.

23 January 2015

The Transfiguration of Jesus, 25 January 2015.

There are many miracles recorded in the New Testament, but this one is different in that it is the only of those miracles which happens to Jesus himself.

The Gospel accounts of this event are Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36. 2 Peter 1:16-18 and John 1:14 may also refer to this event.

There is much to be learned from this miracle. For one thing, it gave the Apostles, and now us as we read Scripture, something of a preview of the glorified and complete life in heaven. For another, it shows Jesus as the Messiah, he to whom the Law, represented by Moses, and the Prophets, represented by Elijah, point.

Those two things tell us much about Jesus, but there is something about us we can learn too. What was the Apostles' reaction to this event? They wanted to stay there, and devote themselves to basking in this event. But they were told not to, that there was work ahead in Jerusalem, and not only that, they were told to not even speak of it until after the Resurrection which they did not yet even understand.

Are we not also like that? We want to preserve sublime moments in this life and create conditions to produce them, either in literal Monasteries or in monasteries of the mind, and thus isolate and exempt ourselves from, even protect against, what we are in fact called to do in the rest of life. And are we not also told that we cannot remain in these mountain-top experiences but must now go into the Jerusalem of our own lives where there is much to be done, some of it endured? And though we live after the Resurrection, do we not also not fully understand what lies ahead in our own lives?

Jesus both calls us to these sublime moments, and also calls us to go forth from them.

There's more, which relates to all three points and drives them further home. In Lutheran observance, the commemoration of this event is located within the church year where it falls in the progression of the life of Jesus. Which is, between Advent and Christmas and Epiphany and his Baptism, and the Gesimatide preparation for Lent, Lent itself, the Holy Week commemoration of his suffering and death, and Easter his resurrection.

But in the Roman rite and Eastern Orthodoxy, it is celebrated on 6 August. This was always one of several dates on which it was celebrated. But, on 6 August 1456 the news reached Rome that the Kingdom of Hungary had broken the Siege of Belgrade by the Ottoman Empire.  The siege had been broken on 22 July. In honour of hearing the news, Pope Callixtus III made the Transfiguration a feast to be celebrated in the Roman rite on 6 August. In Eastern Orthodoxy it is the 11th of the Twelve Great Feasts, and also the middle of the Three Feasts of the Saviour in August.

We of course are not bound by that, and there is good reason to locate it where we have, in the order of events in the life of Jesus, since the point of the church year for the life of the church is to celebrate and know the life of Jesus. There are though a couple of interesting co-incidences (?) about the 6 August thing.

One co-incidence (?) is, centuries later, on 6 August 1945, another type of transfiguration would happen. About 70,000 people died instantly and tens of thousands died later from the effects of the transfiguration, so to speak, of the first use of atomic weapons, in Hiroshima, Japan.  Thus the date of the news of one key military victory becomes the date of another. Point is, even if either or both of these victories are seen as a turning point for the right side, Jesus calls us to another type of bodily transfiguration altogether, one not brought about by breaking a siege or nuclear radiation, and not a turning point in worldly events, but the final triumph of God over the sin and its wages spiritual death brought into his Creation by us.

The other coincidence (?) is, 6 August 1991 was the start of the World Wide Web, a service available to the public on the Internet, which allows us to go down into "Jerusalem", where there is much to be done, in ways previously not possible. Now, for example, it would not be two weeks or so before news reached you that defences had held and you are not about to be overrun, now you would see it as it happens.  For another, one can go to the top sidebar element on this blog and donate to our beloved synod's efforts to bring relief to people in the aftermath of disasters both in the U.S. and around the world.

Some things to ponder about transfiguration and going down into Jerusalem, whether we celebrate the Transfiguration in the traditional Lutheran way on the last Sunday before Gesimatide, or on 6 August, or some other day, or not at all. Or even if one is subjected to a wannabe Protestant version of the miserable revisionist Roman Catholic Vatican II novus ordo contemporary worship calendar and lectionary and has the worst of both worlds, doing away with Gesimatide altogether (a post on what is Gesimatide and why you don't want to miss it is coming shortly here) and celebrating it as the last Sunday of a revised Epiphany Season on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday.

See you in "Jerusalem".

16 January 2015

Eastern Church/Empire, Western Church/Empire, 2015.

Festschrift on the Anniversary of the Roman Empire, 16 January 27 BC.

Preface.

Judas H blogging Priest, who writes a blog post THIS long then calls it a Festschrift and starts it with a Preface?

Well, me.  There's a little explanation then of how this post came about as a "textual note" at the end.

Introduction.

This is the keynote post, as it were, of this entire blog. Long as it is, this post demonstrated a simple point.

Which is, what we have in Western Christianity is simply the continuation of the state religion of the Western Roman Empire and in Eastern Christianity the continuation of the sl religion of the Eastern Roman Empire. Both of them the continuation of the state church created mutually by both halves of the Roman Empire in the Edict of Thessalonica in 380. The reformation of the faith and church to its true self would then need to happen outside the former empire, which it did in the Lutheran Reformation, originating in Germany, restoring the faith and church of Jesus Christ from its "Babylonian Captivity" while retaining those later developments that do not contradict the Gospel, and not mistaking some of the former for the latter and rejecting them, as did the later Reformation.

Plus some pretty amazing stuff that you'd think was a sensational novel but it's what happened, and, explains why and what things are now.

This post will examine this development in fifteen sections.

I. The Founding of the Roman Empire on 16 January, 27 BC.
II. Diocletian Splits the Empire into East and West, July 285.
III. Constantine, 306.
IV. Constantine is Emperor both East and West, 325,
V. Theodosius, Last Emperor East and West, Opens New State Religion, 380.
VI. Who Is Damasus?
VII. The New State Religion, The Catholic Church, Tries To Shore Things Up. Jerome.
VIII. Elsewhere in 380, The New Church Gets A New Guy Named Gus.
IX. Theodosius, Last Emperor East and West, Closes Old State Religion, 392/3.
X. Western Empire Collapses in 476, Eastern Empire Continues to 1453.
XI. West Makes Comeback As Holy Roman Empire, 800, Lasts Until 1806.
XII. Successor Empires East And West Last Until World War I.
XIII. Where Are They Now?
XIV. Summation nostra aetate, In Our Time.
XV. Conclusion.

I. The Founding of the Roman Empire on 16 January, 27 BC.

Rome was founded from early settlements on 21 April 753 BC by the twin brothers Romulus (hence the name) and Remus. Romulus was the first of seven kings, the remaining six being elected. He divided the men into those fit for military service and those not, then from those not, he established the Senate as an advisory council of 300 men, 100 from each of the three Roman tribes, the Ramnes or Latins, the Tities or Sabines, and the Luceres or Etruscans, from the best men as he saw it. The word senate comes from the same root as senile, btw, meaning old man, take that as you will, and he called its members patres, fathers, their descendants being patricians. He also established a legislative body, the Comitia Curiata. If you're hearing modern English words committee and curia, you're right: it literally means a co-meeting of an assembly of men. There were 30 curiae, 10 for each tribe. The Senate proposed the new king to the Comitia Curiata, then the people voted and if successful the candidate would be determined by an augur to see if it was God's will, and if so he would then ask the Curia to grant him imperium, rule. The new king (rex) was pretty much everything -- top executive, lawmaker, judge, and king of sacred rites or rex sacrorum.

In 510 BC, the Senate and people of Rome changed this and established Res publica romana, the Roman Republic. The Senate governed, and the king's power was split, held by two consules (singular, consul) for a one year term, and the rex sacrorum as well as other chief priests and the virgins of Vesta were run by a new office, pontifex maximus, the supreme bridge builder literally, and in emergencies a dictator could be chosen for a six month term. Yes, there's still a pontifex maximus in Rome.

Some consider the Roman Empire to have begun with Julius Caesar's appointment by the Senate as dictator in perpetuity in 44 BC. Julius accepted this position in the Temple of Venus Genetrix, and the denarius was minted with his image and "dictator perpetuus" on one side and the goddess Ceres -- goddess of growth, agriculture and maternal love, the Roman version of the Greek Demeter -- and the title "augur pontifex maximus", high priest of the college of pontiffs, the highest position in the Roman religion, on the other. He did not rise to accept his position, and Senators fearful that he would make himself king assassinated him in the Senate on the Ides, aka the 15th, of March 44 BC.

Others consider the Roman Empire to have begun 2 September 31 BC when Octavian defeated his rival Marc Antony and his ally Cleopatra of Egypt at the naval Battle of Actium in the Ionian Sea, and also ordered the execution of Cleopatra's son Caesarion, who was 17 and was held to be, and very likely was, the son of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar, though Julius had named Octavian, actually his grand nephew, his son and heir.

Others yet, and these are the guys who are right, consider the Empire to have begun with the Senate giving Octavian, or Octavius, the title augustus (honoured, or august, one) on 16 January 27 BC. With any rival claimants dead by suicide, execution or military defeat, Caesar Augustus, Octavian, was the undisputed ruler, and became pontifex maximus in 13 BC. And the rest is history, as they say.

Caesar Augustus was the first real Roman Emperor, though for some time the facade of the Roman Republic continued. Despite frontier fighting with those outside the Empire, the Empire itself enjoyed a peace, the pax augustana or pax romana, that would last from 27 BC to 180 AD, attaining its greatest extent under the emperor Trajan (98-117).

But by the third century, things became unworkable. The sheer size of the empire, the lack of any clear method of succession of power, and consequently frequent civil war, and the inability of the military to preserve internal order since they were concentrated on the borders to preserve external order, which in turn became impossible to maintain against invaders, about destroyed the empire.

II. Diocletian Splits the Empire into East and West, July 285.

Diocletian put a band aid on things, and in July 285 in Milan, then called Mediolanum, split the Empire in two, making his friend and fellow general officer Maximian first as "Caesar" of the West, then on 1 April 286 Maximus as "Augustus" of the Western half too, and Diocletian  remained  "Augustus" of the Eastern part. Diocletian set up Nicomedia, in modern Turkey, as the Eastern Roman capital in 286, and Milan as the Western Roman capital in 293, though Maximian largely ruled from Trier, then called Augusta Treverorum, in modern Germany. However, Maximian would commit suicide on Constantine's (we'll get to him) orders, and Diocletian it seems committed suicide over that, so retirement wasn't so good.

Diocletian also considered the expansion of Christianity a threat to the state and launched possibly the most violent persecutions in history, certainly the most violent since Nero.

The arrangement yielded no new pax romana, although the persecutions would end with Galerius in 311. The underlying problems remained. Running such a far flung empire would be a big job to-day, but then there was no Internet, no TV, no radio, no phones, no air travel, no railroads, no motor vehicles, etc. The split of the empire to manage it better resulted in an arrangement called the Tetrarchy: each half would have its Augustus, with a Caesar as an assistant. Diocletian was the last Emperor of an undivided Roman Empire. Going forward, Diocletian was Augustus in the East, with Galerius the Caesar, and Maximian was Augustus in the West, with a guy named Constantius the Caesar.

On 1 May 305, Diocletian and Maximian retired as Emperors simultaneously in Milan and Nicomedia -- the first to leave power voluntarily. This left the Caesars to become the Augusti, Galerius ruling the East and Constantius ruling the West.

Now, this Constantius had this wife Helena. Well, maybe. I mean, he had this Helena, but whether she was wife or concubine is not documented. Anyway, they had this son in 272 and he was named Constantine. But, in 293 when Diocletian named Constantius as Western Caesar, part of the deal was he divorce Helena and marry Theodora, the step-daughter of Maximian, the Augustus whose Caesar he was to be. Which he did. Helena did not remarry and lived afterward in obscurity, though her son Constantine was very devoted to her, and also wanted to become Caesar, but a military officer named Severus got the nod instead at the insistence of Galerius, the Eastern Augustus.

III. Constantine, 306.

Constantine served with his father's military campaigns in England, where he was trying to solve part of the mess described above, which historians call the Third Century Crisis. Their base of operations was a town called Eboracum.

Eboracum was the name of a city founded by the Romans in AD 71 in England. The Romans began conquering what is now England in AD 43. A group called the Brigantes originally collaborated with the Romans but became more troublesome and eventually the Roman Ninth Legion under General Quintus Petillius Cerialis was sent to put and keep them in order. This accomplished, a fort was established and given a Latinised version of the native Celtic name for the place, "field of yew trees". General Cerialis was named Governor of Britain by Roman Emperor Vespasian, who ruled from 69 until he died in 79, and was himself a distinguished military officer and had participated in the original Roman invasion in 43. Eboracum was a centre of Roman power in England for some time to come.

When Constantius died there on 25 July 306, his army immediately proclaimed Constantine his son Augustus, but, Galerius said Severus had the job. Constantine notified Galerius, and Galerius got so mad he about burned the portrait Constantine had sent. In the end, he gave him the title Caesar, not Augustus, which still went to Severus.

Constantine conquered his way back toward Rome, showing an ever more clear disgust for the "barbarians" beyond the Empire's frontiers. In Rome he was put down as the son of a harlot, a reference to Helena's unclear status, and Maxentius, son of Maximian, claimed the title Emperor. Maximian proposed a deal -- his daughter Fausta would be Constantine's wife, though he already had one, but hey, and he gets the title Augustus and will lay off Maxentius.

Constantine took the deal, dumped his wife and married Fausta in Augusta Treverorum (Trier) in 307. The next year Galerius was so concerned about the West's inability to settle down that he called a council with himself, Maximian and the retired Diocletian, whose compromises no-body accepted. By 310 Maximian was in open revolt, said Constantine was dead, took back the royal purple, but the army remained true to Constantine, who was of course very much alive. In July 310, captured at Massilia (now Marseille, France), Maximian hanged himself. At first Constantine said it was a personal tragedy, but then said it was the result of a conspiracy to kill him and he was offered suicide rather than be tried and executed, then issued a damnatio memoriae, a damnation of memory, sort of the original airbrushing out of the photos, where all coins, statues, inscriptions etc with a person's name were defaced or destroyed, against him.

When Diocletian, in retirement in a palace he had built in his native Dioclea (hence his name) near Salona, Dalmatia (modern Split, Croatia), heard of this he went into a deep despondency, and seeing the Tetrarchy once hailed as bringing order to the whole world in ruins through the actions of Constantine and his longtime friend and colleague Maximian dead, he died on 3 December 311, most likely by suicide too. So retirement didn't work out too well for either retired emperor.

This though left Constantine without the prop of legitimacy through Maximian, whose son Maxentius was ready to take up the fight, and on 25 July Constantine began to appeal to a supposed ancestry and a vision from Apollo as the authority for his rule rather than the tetrarchy and councils. Constantine won over Maxentius' forces throughout Italy and took Rome.

Constantine went to Milan, the Western Roman capital, to forge an alliance with the new guy in the East, Licinius. That was the marriage of Constantine's sister to Licinius. Supposedly this meeting is the origin of the Edict of Milan, granting tolerance to Christianity. Actually, it wasn't an edict, wasn't from Milan and wasn't the granting of tolerance. Galerius had done that just before his death in 311, and the Edict of Milan is actually a letter to the governor of Bithynia, a Roman province in what is now Turkey containing a town named Nicaea, by Licinius granting tolerance to all religions and restoration to Christians of property taken from them during persecutions, and signed by both emperors. The "Edict" was more of a middle ground from tolerance per se into a favoured status with special provisions for Christians, leading to the eventual proclamation of Christianity as the state religion.

But the alliance fell apart. War broke out between the two, Constantine in the West and Licinius in the East, and by 320 Licinius began persecuting Christians again, allied with Goths of the native pagan religions, and by 324 full scale civil war was underway. Constantine's forces won, sporting a symbol said to have been revealed to him, the labarum, or chi-rho. Licinius surrendered, on a deal that his life be spared, but Constantine had him killed the next year anyway.

IV. Constantine is Emperor both East and West, 325.

That next year, 325, was a big one. From that point on, Constantine was the emperor both West and East. He began to rebuild Byzantium, close by Nicomedia, as the second or New Rome (Nova Roma), later renaming it Constantinople, Constantinopolis actually, meaning Constantine's City, imagine that. The ceremony of dedication on 11 May 330 was partly Christian and partly pagan -- and you thought Yankee Stadium was syncretism! He also, though not a bishop, not a priest, not even a baptised Christian, called a church council to settle correct theology about Jesus against primarily the Arians. Well, it just might have helped him politically to have one religion for his realm too. You get to do that when you rule your known world.

To top that, next year in 326 he did something even more amazing than calling a council of the Christian church when you're not a Christian -- that is, if you believe Baptism is a means of grace uniting one to the life of Christ rather than through a personal decision -- namely, he had his son and wife killed, with his mother's prodding. Exactly what that was all about will probably never be known, but it was one of two things. Supposedly Fausta his wife was raped by Crispus his son (how classically Greek) or the two were having an affair, and either he discovered this and had them both killed, or, Fausta lied that it happened to keep Crispus, who was not her son, from being named emperor over her sons, he believed it and had his son killed, then found out she lied and had her killed. Either way, wow.

Days Of Our Lives and then some more. Crispus was the son of Constantine and his wife Minervina, whom Constantine divorced to marry Fausta to get on with his upward career mobility. And here's Helena his mother, who got dumped by gramps Constantius for exactly the same reason. How bizarre is that? Fausta won though -- Crispus was executed but her three sons all became Roman emperors. Oddly, none of them revoked the damnatio memoriae of her enacted by Constantine. At any rate, the whole thing changed Constantine forever, and he never set foot in the Western Empire again.

So he who was first proclaimed emperor in a far flung northwest outpost of the Western Empire by an authority that had no authority to do it, the army, ends up solidifying the Roman Empire in the East as the West slowly crumbles. By 337 Constantine was wearing out from being Great and all, and he finally sought Baptism on 22 May just before he died, from not one of the victorious Trinitarians at the Council of Nicaea he called, but from Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, long a court favourite despite a brief exile and chief apologist for Arius. Really. I'm not making this up.

Not to mention Constantine retained the title pontifex maximus, the title of Roman emperors as head of the pre-Christian Roman pagan state religion priesthood. Maybe that's why there's no pope in the East. Well, actually there are "popes" in the East, but in the pontifex sense, not in the pontifex maximus sense of the one in Rome. After Constantine's death, the Western Empire was split between two of his sons, and the East went to his middle son, all three having variants of his name. Constant power struggle from within and invasions from without destabilised everything.

Eventually, a Spanish military officer in the Roman army named Theodosius became Augustus/Emperor in the East in August 378 by Gratian the Western Emperor after Valens the Eastern Emperor was killed in battle. Later, when Valentinian II, the remaining Western ruler, was found hanged on 15 May 392 -- the preacher at his funeral in the Western capital Milan, the bishop thereof, who had been its territorial governor before he changed jobs, Ambrose, as in "Saint" Ambrose, steering clear of whether it was murder or suicide -- he became Emperor of both East and West, the last to do that. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

V. Theodosius, Last Emperor East and West, Opens A New State Religion, 380.

While the end of the persecutions was welcome per se, the favoured status of Christianity also transformed the religion from one for whose truth one would rather die than betray to a religion one joined for political and social gain. The transformation of Christianity's status was complete on 27 February 380, when the Eastern Emperor Theodosius, in concert with his Western co-Emperor counterparts Gratian and Valentinian II, issued the Edict of Thessalonica, which declared that Nicene Christianity is the official state religion of the Roman Empire overall, that all subjects of the Empire must hold this faith as delivered from the Apostles to Rome and preserved by then current Pope Damasus I and then current Bishop of Alexandria Peter, that these alone shall be called "Catholic Christians", because they alone would be of the catholic, meaning universal, faith of the Empire, and that all others are heretics and not even churches, subject to such punishment as the Empire should choose to visit upon them. He deposed some bishops and appointed others in the new state religion, and ended state subsidy for the former state religion. Goodbye my kingdom is not of this world, hello apostolic succession in communion with the Roman state pope. Goodbye catholic church, hello Catholic Church.

VI. Who Is Damasus?

So who's this Damasus dude in Rome? Man, papal elections just ain't what they used to be. Twice over actually. Once upon a time, they were a matter of the clergy and people of the area choosing a bishop, or overseer, with overseers from nearby areas confirming it. But by this time we have Constantine, and Christianity attaining respectable state-recognised status, and the Emperor confirmed newly elected bishops. That's helpful because sometimes more than one guy claimed to be elected, sometimes in more than one election!

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

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

Damasus was "pope" from 366 until he died on 11 December 384. It was during this "papacy", we have to remember to really get what was going on here, the Emperors East and West made the church as headed by Damasus, and Peter in Antioch, the official state church and the one recognised as "catholic", in the Edict of Thessalonica on 27 February 380. That date, and not the words "tu es Petrus" in the Gospel, not Pentecost, or any sort of succession from the Apostles but simply from the Roman Empire, is the birthday of the Catholic Church, as distinct from the catholic church. It was also during Damasus' papacy that the Emperor Gratian. one of the signatories to the Edict of Thessalonica, refused the traditional title of pontifex maximus, which then became associated with the bishop of Rome as the chief priest of the Roman state religion. In sum, this is the era of the beginning of the Babylonian Captivity of the Church (Babylon of course being a figure for Rome).

VII. The New State Religion, The Catholic Church, Tries To Shore Things Up. Jerome.

In 382, Damasus called a guy named Jerome back to Rome to help him shape things up. What was being shaped up was the new Catholic Church, which by Imperial edict was now the only church entitled to the name, all others being heretics and deserving of such punishment as the Empire should choose to inflict and this "Catholic Church" the official state religion. The Western Roman Empire was falling apart and just decades away from going under, so, as with Constantine, a lot of this was politically motivated and had to do with staving that off.

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

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

But in 382 he goes back to Rome again, this time as assistant to Pope Damasus I. Jerome was no slouch at matronly ear tickling himself, and once back soon had a little group of wealthy patrician widows around him, whose money supported him, a Paula in particular. And he had this ascetic works-righteousness thing going, into which he got them all. Nothing like having lots of someone else's money to support you if you want a monastic ascetic life. Hell yes.

In fact, the daughter of Paula, a lively young woman named Blaesilla, after just four months of having to live this way, died! Yeah, died. On top of which Jerome tells Paula not to mourn her daughter. This got the Romans really pissed, there was an inquiry into just what was really going on between Jerome and Paula, and then when Damasus died in 384, with that support gone, Jerome was forced out of Rome!

So where's he go? Where else, the Eastern Empire, where they really get into all this monkery and fasting and stuff. Paula and her money follow. The whole sham of a works based sparse life funded by patrician wealthy-class money. There's some real apostolic stuff for you. Lemme tell ya, if somebody wants to convince you of their mistaking the physiological effects of self induced glucose denial for some sort of spiritual state of attainment, you'd be better off running right to the nearest McDonald's and ordering a double quarter pounder, which, if memory serves, is combo 4 on the menu. Personally I like Burger King or Arby's or our Nebraska favourite Runza better.

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

VIII. Elsewhere in 380, The New Church Gets A New Guy Named Gus.

A Roman citizen, from what are now called Berbers, named Augustine is teaching in Carthage in 380, seven years away from being baptised by the state bishop, Ambrose, of the state church in the state's Western capital by then, Milan. Remember, Emperor Diocletian, the last of an undivided Roman Empire, had made Milan, then called Mediolanum, the Western capital in 293 and Nicomedia, now Izmit Turkey, the Eastern capital in 286. And, btw, called his new provincial units diocese, after himself. A secular unit, not a church one, and the modern church diocese is but an echo of the religious part of the Roman Imperial state unit.

Constantine moved the Eastern capital to Byzantium, renamed it Constantinople, which is now Istanbul Turkey. The Roman Senate, however, still in Rome, was not shall we say comfortable with this new state religion in the two capitals of the Empire, and lots of academic disputes and apologetics on both sides went back and forth, but no violence. During this unsettled time Augustine gets appointed to the most prestigious professorship in his world, at the Western capital Milan in 384, and is all caught up in the swirling controversy between the old state religion and classic philosophy and the new state Catholic Church, just four years old.

He also gets caught up in his mother Monica's designs for his career. Now with a prestigious academic position, his longstanding relationship with a woman he never names but called "the one", of some 14 years complete with son, called Adeodatus, meaning "given by God", hasta go according to mom. So he caves and sends her away, she saying she will never be with another man, he finding a new concubine to tide him over until the proper social marriage his mom, "Saint" Monica, arranges with a then 11 year old girl, can happen. I'm not making this up!

And about concubines. Ain't what you think. A concubine in ancient Rome was simply a wife that Roman law forbade you to marry due to your or her social class. These marriages denied legality by Imperial law were rather common, and the church didn't come down on them since it wasn't the couple's fault they weren't legally married. Something to keep in mind when "the one" gets called concubine in the modern sense, their relationship passed off as merely lustful, and the son as "illegitimate".

No wonder the dude was confused! His whole world swirling in unsettled controversy and mom's running his life like a beauty pageant mom. And then, as he's all upset about his life, he has this really weird experience where he hears a kid's voice saying "Take, read" (the famous tolle, lege). Now what he was told to take and read you won't likely find in your local Christian bookstore, but was among the most widely read books, first in the Imperial Christian state church and then through the Middle Ages, being a Life of St Anthony of the Desert, written by St Athanasius about 360, the original in Greek but best known in a Latin translation made about ten or so years later.

Hoo-boy, old Tony. He was a wealthy Egyptian who became Christian at about age 34, so far so good, sold everything and took up with a local hermit. Tony in NO way was the "Founder of Monasticism", as religious hermits of various religions were common on the outskirts of cities; Philo the Jewish-Egyptian writer mentions them all, sharing the Platonic idea of having to get out of the world to get into an ideal. Pure Platonist Idealism. Sure glad Jesus didn't do that or let his Apostles do it either when they wanted to, but went back to Jerusalem where real life had things for them to do.

But old Tony went the other direction, and left even the outskirts for the desert itself to get away from it all to get into it all. But the crowds followed -- everybody loves an exotic "holy man" -- and Tony took on the more advanced cases of this mania and left the rest to his associates, a Christian Oracle of Delphi, which "guidance" was later variously collected as the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, or Apophthegmata, if you want a word to impress somebody in a combox or something.

Anyhoo, Gus reads this in 386, and on the Easter Vigil of 387, Ambrose baptises Gus and his son. The next year, 388, he determines to return home to North Africa. Which he did, but along the way both his mother and his son died, so he arrives alone in the world, and understandably unsure of himself once again. Next he sells the family stuff and gives the money away, except the house which he turns into a sort of lay monastery. I guess that's what you do when you read about dudes in the desert, rather than go through the grief and live on in the world of people.

Meanwhile, the struggling Roman Empire and its new state Catholic Church are on a roll. The Imperial state Catholic Church destroys the Temple of Apollo at the Oracle of Delphi in 390 and the Serapeum and Great Library in Alexandria in 391, in which same year Augustine was ordained presbyter, or priest, in the official state church, in 391 in Hippo, now Annaba, Algeria.

This mostly academic and political controversy, in which Gus' unsettled life had its context and of which it is typical, changed when Western Emperor Valentinian II was found hanged in his home on 16 May 392, as we saw above. His half brother and co-Emperor Gratian was already dead, killed 25 August 383 in Lyon France by forces of Roman generals who thought he was losing his grip. The official word was Valentinian was a suicide, but his wife and others though he was done in by his military power behind the throne, the Frank Arbogastes, and the Imperial Milan court church's bishop, Ambrose, as we saw left the question open, suicide being a no-no for a Christian Emperor held up as a hero.

IX. Theodosius, Last Emperor East and West, Closes Old State Religion, 392/3.

On 22 August 392, Arbogastes, who being a Frank and not Roman could not be Emperor, names a Roman Christian named Eugenius Western Emperor, who though Christian was sympathetic to traditional Roman religion and started replacing officials sympathetic to the Eastern Empire in the West. The Eastern Empire put off recognition of the new Western regime, and finally in January of 392 Theodosius declared his two-year-old son Honorius as Western Emperor and begins preparing an invasion of the Western Empire, which began in May 394 and concluded in the victory at The Frigidus 6 September 394. Arbogastes commits suicide and Eugenius is beheaded by the Catholic forces of Theodosius.

Also in 392, Theodosius and his Roman Empire and its Catholic Church shut down the Eleusinian Mysteries. Huh? What the hell were they and why is shutting them down a big deal? The Eleusinian Mysteries were one of the two great foundational rituals of Rome dating actually from ancient Greece before it, the other being the Olympic Games (yeah, they get shut down too, but we'll get to that shortly).

The basis for the Eleusinian Mysteries was the story about Hades seeing Persephone out one day picking flowers, went nuts for her and took her away to, well, Hades, the realm of death, with the OK of Zeus, her dad. Her mom Demeter, aka Ceres by the Romans, goddess of life, therefore fertility and agriculture, went looking for her and abandoned her duties, causing famine and drought, and finally with the help of Zeus found her and thus ended the calamity of the first Winter with the first Spring. However, Persephone had to abide by certain terms. She had to spend four months with Hades in the Underworld, four months with Demeter, and the last four she could choose, and she chose Demeter. The four months with Hades are the hot, dry Greek Summer, prone to drought and forest fires, during which the saddened Demeter neglects her duties until Persephone comes back.

So what were The Mysteries? Nobody knows the details for sure. They were secret initiation rites into the deal about Demeter and Persephone, thought to unite the initiate with the gods, with divine power and a good outcome in the afterlife. Nobody knows exactly how they started, but they drew from all over, open to all, free and slave, male or female, as long as you hadn't murdered anyone and weren't a barbarian, which is not what you may think, it's someone who can't speak Greek and instead makes stupid sounds like bar-bar, literally. There were Greater and Lesser Mysteries, the Lesser being done every year around March, when Summer is just around the corner, and the Greater every five years in late Summer, when the Fall rains and planting come and the new year (in the local calendar) begins.

Next, in 393, Theodosius, his Roman Empire and its Catholic Church, shut down the Olympic Games? OK, what the hell were they and why was shutting them down a big deal?

The Olympic Games began in 776 BC. The Greek city states were almost constantly at war, but for the Games, there was peace. In addition to athletic qualification, one had to be male, of the free class, and Greek speaking to participate. There are several myths as to why the games began, but why the games ended is clear. The Emperor Theodosius I, aka Theodosius the Great, the last Emperor of both the Eastern and Western Roman Empire, outlawed them after the games of 393 AD as part of the establishment of Christianity as defined at the Council of Nicea as the state religion, as we saw.

This also ended a practical effect of the games -- time was counted in Olympiads, the four year interval between games, giving a unity to the various calendars of the city-states, and this of course ended with the games no longer being held. The site remained, however, until it was destroyed in an earthquake in the Sixth Century. In the 2004 modern Olympic Games, the shot put contest was held in the ancient stadium. What's a stadium? Where the stade (stadion) race is run, the original single event of the Olympics, a sprint of somewhere around 200 metres, the exact length unknown. Over time other events were added, and the games were one of the two great rituals of ancient Greece, the other being the Eleusinian Mysteries.

The Games of course have their modern version, though one no longer needs to be male or Greek speaking to participate. Or wait for Summer -- there's Winter Games now too! So we now can have something like neither the Greeks nor the entire ancient world ever had, the incomparable Katarina Witt. Beyond her many accomplishments in the Olympics and since, the free programme at the 1994 Winter Olympics to "Sag mir wo die Blumen sind" (Where Have All The Flowers Gone) was not only a stunning accomplishment of art and athletics, an expression of a Germany re-united from the latest of its many sad episodes throughout history, a message of peace and hope to Sarajevo, then torn by war and the site of her first Olympic gold medal, but, Sarajevo being the match for the fire that consumed the remnants of the Holy Roman Empire made from the remnants of the Roman Empire that had emerged from the Greek and Roman antiquity before it resulting in two horrific world wars and the emergence of the contemporary world from the ruins of all that, connects to and is expressive of the enduring human spirit through the entire march of events we are covering here.

You might say, this post is exactly about where the flowers went.

Theodosius, as we saw, shut down the Eleusinian Mysteries too the year before in 392 There were a few holdouts from the Nicene Christian end, but they were stomped out four years later by Alaric, King of the Goths, who was an Arian Christian. So, between Nicene and Arian Christianity and an earthquake, the more or less thousand year era of the Olympic Games and two thousand year era of the Eleusinian Mysteries came to an end.

And speaking of forest fires, in Persephone's four months with Hades, aka Summer, of 2007, massive forest fires nearly destroyed the site of the ancient Olympics, which hosted one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the twelve metre tall ivory and gold Statue of Zeus, but thanks to modern firefighting, unless you think Zeus relented to save what's left and let Persephone come back and then Demeter got active again, what's left is still left and made it through this most recent threat.

On 6 September 394 the Eastern Emperor Theodosius I defeated the Western Emperor Eugenius at the conclusion of the two-day Battle of The Frigidus. Judas, more stuff, what the hell is that? It's the conclusion of Theodosius' preparation to stamp out Western resistance the Edict of Thessalonica. The Frigidus is a river, the Latin name means "cold" as its English descendant "frigid" suggests. It is in northeastern Italy and Slovenia and is now called the Vipacco in Italian and the Vipava in Slovene, and of course I gotta tell ya it is called the Wipbach in modern German, or, as b and p get sort of interchangeable in German sometimes, the Wippach. At the end of which, remember, Arbogastes commits suicide and Eugenius is beheaded by the Catholic forces of Theodosius.

Right after that, the same year, 394, the Imperial state Catholic Church, still on a roll -- having destroyed the Temple of Apollo at the Oracle of Delphi in 390 and the Serapeum and Great Library in Alexandria in 391, the year Augustine was ordained a priest in the official church, and having ended the two great rituals of ancient Greece, the Eleusinian Mysteries in 392 and the Olympic Games after the ones in 393 -- puts out the fire considered essential to Rome's survival at the Temple of Vesta, and disbands the women who were personally selected by the pontifex maximus, when that meant the head of the traditional Roman religion rather than the head of the new state Catholic religion.

Hey, Vestal Virgins, I've heard of that! Well, there's more that just the pop culture reference and the jokes. The Temple of Vesta. So who was Vesta, why build her a temple and who did it. Vesta, though she resembles somewhat the Greek goddess Hestia, is a real Roman thing moreso than the Olympic Games and the Eleusinian Mysteries. Vesta is the goddess of hearth and home, but, not just one's own hearth and home, but the whole Roman thing too, and her sacred fire was the connexion to life itself, and the gods.

The original temple, called Aedes Vestae in Latin, was built by Numa Pompilius, the second King of Rome, from 715 to 673 BC. The fire was tended by women specially selected by the pontifex maximux and bound to celibacy for 30 years. One of the early ones, Rhea Silvia, according to Livy in Ab Urbe Condita -- which means "from the city (Rome, of course) having been founded" -- was found by the god of war Mars in the forest, had sex, and gave birth to the twins Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, but, as she wasn't supposed to be doing stuff like this, and when her uncle Amulius heard of it ordered a servant to kill the boys, but the servant instead put them in a basket in the River Tiber, whereupon they were discovered by a wolf, who, having just lost her own cubs, raised them.

So this whole thing goes right to the heart of Rome's self-concept, individually and corporately. To shut it down is to shut down Rome, people, city, empire, the works. So when Theodosius shut it down, what with his Catholic Church he himself proclaimed and all as the new Roman religion, this was either the end of everything, or a last step in the victory of the new religion over its pagan past.

Theodosius had started out fairly tolerant of pagans, whose support particularly among the ruling class he needed, but got himself excommunicated by St Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, in 390. His governor in Thessalonica had been assassinated, and he ordered massacres in retaliation, but after excommunication did public penance for months and his orders against pagan institutions probably were an extension of this.

Guess what? The next year, 395, Augustine becomes religious head, which is called bishop, of the Roman Imperial administrative unit called a diocese, in Hippo. Guess Gus knew on which side his bread is buttered. You damn well better believe because of the authority of the "Catholic Church" when it has the authority to pull off stuff like this!

The Battle of The Frigidus effectively ended any Western resistance to the new state church. But, this enormous civil war though left the Western Empire greatly weakened, and it collapsed a thousand years before the Eastern Empire did, starting with the Visigoths, under their King Alaric, an Arian Christian, sacking Rome on 24 August 410. Augustine, by then 56 and still Bishop of Hippo, then writes more Platonism to assure the shocked Romans that though the joint was a mess, the real and ideal City of God was the real winner despite the total mess. Ideal behind the apparent real, neo Platonic junk like that, rather than one reality, some of which we see and some we don't, but all one thing, and none of it to be despised because God made it all.

What's of Lutheran interest about this? Well, whaddya think, on Sunday morning do we have a toned down Greek mystery religion filtered through Nicene Christianity and the new Imperial state religion, loosely based on a fundamental misunderstanding of Jewish messianism that would have passed into history long ago were it not so reinvented through Greek mythology, or, do we have the revealed religion of God through Jesus Christ, completing and fulfilling the incomplete hints of it found in human religion in Greek antiquity and everywhere and in the previously revealed religion of the Old Covenant?

I'll go with the latter. And I'm glad the site of the classic Games made it through the 2007 fires.

But those old Roman families knew a thing or two about survival and they became papal families, eventually supplying Pope Gregory (another Great), made Pope 3 September 590, who ruled the state church like a real Roman indeed though the state whose church it was, was in ruins.

X. Western Empire Collapses in 476, Eastern Empire Continues to 1453.

The Western Empire continued until 4 September 476, when Romulus Augustus (what a name, combining one of the traditional founders of Rome with Octavian its first emperor!) was deposed deposed by the Germanic king Odoacer and never succeeded. So he was the last Western Roman Emperor. Well, sort of. His father, Flavius Orestes, was appointed by Julius Nepos as a senior general officer, magister militum, working with the Germanic foederati. The foederati -- see the word federal in there? -- were non-Roman tribes bound by a treaty (foedus) where though they weren't citizens they weren't colonies either. But they had to supply troops to Rome, and by this time the Western Roman military relied heavily on them. Orestes struck a deal with a Germanic foederati king, Odoacer, to overthrow Julius Nepos, which they did on 28 August 475 in Ravenna, which had become the Western capital in 402. Nepos fled to, guess where, Dalmatia, same as old Diocletian. Orestes put his son Romulus Augustus on the throne though he was barely a teen. But then Odoacer turned on Orestes and captured and killed him on 28 August 476, then deposed Romulus on 4 September 476, though letting him live in consideration of his young age. The Roman Senate, acting for Odoacer, asked the Eastern Emperor Zeno to reunite the Empire, but Zeno said Julius Nepos was the rightful ruler, yet allowed Odoacer to rule in Zeno's name though Nepos was recognised as Emperor.

So, you could say Julius Nepos was the last Western Emperor too. Nepos, btw, was killed in exile by his own soldiers, caught in the middle of his own efforts to retake power from Odoacer and the efforts of the Emperor before him, Glycerius, to exact revenge. Glycerius was not a rightful Emperor, having been appointed by a previous magister militum, Gundobad, rather than the rightful appointer, the Eastern Emperor Leo I, who eventually appointed his nephew Nepos (from which we get out word nepotism). Glycerius surrendered to him without a fight, Gundobad having abandoned him, in consideration for which Nepos made him bishop of Salona, Dalmatia. When Nepos was killed 25 April 480, Odoacer, who wasn't even a Nicene Christian but an Arian, made him bishop of Milan, Ambrose's old seat. Helluva deal.

Ah yes, bishops in a direct line of succession from the Apostles.

Didn't go so well for old Odoacer though. His popularity with what was left of the Romans and his treaties with the Franks and Visigoths (more Germans) got the Eastern Emperor really worried. So he started a political campaign against Odoacer in 488, which in the end got the Ostrogoths (East Goths, more Germans) under Zeno convinced they had to get rid of Odoacer. So, the king of the Ostrogoths, Theodoric (another Great), a vassal of the Eastern Emperor, takes up arms against Odoacer, also a vassal of the Eastern Emperor, with the promise he would get Italy if successful, which would conveniently too get rid of the Ostrogoths for Zeno. By 490, Theodoric had defeated Odoacer in three major battles, and laid seige to Odoacer's capitol Ravenna, which lasted three years, but neither side could totally defeat the other. So, on 2 February 493 the two signed a treaty to share rule, and a banquet was arranged to celebrate peace. At the banquet, Theodoric proposes a toast, then personally kills Odoacer, becoming the sole ruler in the West, based in Ravenna! Both these guys were Arian Christians btw.

Theodoric, though technically a vassal of the Eastern Empire, in effect was the new if unofficial Western emperor. But the tensions between the old Roman culture and the new Roman culture imposed from the East remained. Being an Arian, he was not an insider with the Nicene East, and became suspicious of his Western Nicene subjects, to the extent that he had his own magister officiorum, director of government services, a Roman named Boethius, who was a man of great learning and largely responsible for the passing of ancient learning to the Middle Ages, executed in 525. Many other similar but lesser Romans followed. All of them, Roman and Germanic types alike, were real big on preserving the old Roman world (Rome is in the West after all!) but now modified by its new synthesis with Christianity, to carry on into the future.

With the Western Roman Empire gone, the surviving Eastern Roman Empire tried to hold Rome, and Italy and the old Western Empire generally, to-gether against the onslaught of Germanic types, mainly Lombards, and the Islamic Caliphate, by means of exarchs, which were direct representatives of the Eastern, and now only, Roman Emperor, in Constantinople.  The Emperor Maurice (Flavius Mauricius Tiberius Augustus, actually) established two such exarchs, one in 584 in Ravenna, the last capital of the Western Empire before its collapse, and one in Carthage in 590 to administer northern Africa and Spain.

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

But the East/West, Arian/Nicene, Roman/Germanic tensions were enormous, and it would take several centuries for the effort to preserve and or reconstruct the old Roman Empire to come to fruition, which story we shall see below, with the coronation of Charlemagne in 800, and then of Otto and the Holy Roman Empire in 962, as the final transfer of imperial succession from the old to the new Rome, with "apostolic succession" in the state church part of the imperial succession.  But, this successor had a pretty long run, about 1000 years, until 1806, outlasting the Eastern Empire which fell in 1453, and the state churches of both still survive without their states!

The Eastern Empire considered itself and called itself Roman to the end. Latin was for some time its official language, as we saw in Emperor Maurice's official name, though Greek was used outside the court and eventually became official. Yet in Rome, the elite spoke Greek, though in time that passed too. Each half, while sharing many common elements, took on its own culture even though the Roman borrowed much from the Greek, and the eventual prominence of each's language both symbolises and contributes to the outcome.

The East outlasted the West by about a thousand years. It continued until its defeat by the Ottomans in 1453. The Ottoman Empire itself lasted from 1299 to 1922 when the British Empire, having won World War I, partioned it into the Middle Eastern countries that are in the news almost daily right now.

After the Eastern Empire fell, Czarist Russia, having long since become Eastern Orthodox from the Eastern Roman Empire, considered itself the "third" Rome -- Rome itself being the first and Constantinople being the second. Constantinople, the Eastern Empire capital itself a rename of Byzantium by Constantine after Constantine, got renamed again as Istanbul on 28 March 1930 by the secular Republic of Turkey, which would no longer deliver mail addressed to "Constantinople" and had moved the capital of Turkey to Ankara, the new name for Angora.

XI. West Makes Comeback as Holy Roman Empire, 800, Lasts Until 1806.

Hey, whatever happened to Eboracum, where his father's army had proclaimed Constantine Emperor? It's still there! After the Western Empire fell in 476, the Angles -- more Germans (and my ancestors) -- invaded and took over and called the city Eoferwic. Then the Vikings -- not more Germans exactly, but Germanic -- blew in in 866 and called it Jorvik, probably a re-pronunciation easier on Viking ears. Then in 1066 the Normans -- not a bunch of guys named Norman but people from Normandy just across the English Channel -- really blew in and took over, William the Conqueror sacking the place, and in time the name morphed from Jorvik to York, with variant spellings. And that's what it is to-day -- York, England. And everyone knows about the new York in, well, New York. Guess what, there's a York here in Nebraska too!

So what's that all about, a French smoothing over of rough Germanic edges? Some see it that way, but that's not really the deal. The Normans themselves result from Vikings -- there you go, more Germanic types -- raiding the area, joining up with the locals, providing a hedge against yet more Vikings raiding the area, taking on the local culture and adding their original one, and becoming The Northmen, from which the names Norman and Normandy derive.

So it's Frenched-over Vikings on top of Vikings on top of Germans on top of Romans on top of Celts on top of, some say, the Old Ones. That's where my ancestors came from. And they say the US is a melting pot! True that, but where we came from is a melting pot too.

Back on the European continent, the end of the Exarchate of Ravenna in 751 didn't end the ratification of "bishops" by the "Roman" emperor btw.  The empire of the Frank general Charles Martel would evolve into The Holy Roman Empire, Imperium Romanum Sacrum, and see itself as the continuation, the transfer of rule, translatio imperii, of the full Roman Empire, by which they meant not just from the end of the Western Roman Empire with the deposing of Romulus Augustus by Odoacer in 476, as is often noted, but of the whole pie, from Caesar Augustus on 16 January 27 BC through the deposing of Emperor Constantine VI of the Eastern Roman Empire in 797.

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

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

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

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

So now there were now two "Roman" emperors, not as in West and East, but rather each claiming rightful rule over the whole thing in continuous succession.  Neither one of them actually Roman, but hey.  Nonetheless, with this, the West had finally emerged from what are called the Dark Ages, starting from the Fall of Rome in 476 until the coronation of Charlemagne in 800.  This happened on Christmas Day 800 when Leo III, the Bishop of Rome, the office popularly called pope, an office which to this day bears the title pontifex maximus, crowned the King of the Franks Charlemagne Holy Roman Emperor (imperator augustus, to be exact; yes, it was in Latin).

This conscious attempt to re-establish the Western Roman Empire -- though someone famously said it was neither Roman nor holy nor an empire -- lasted about a thousand years, until the last Holy Roman Emperor, Francis II, dissolved it in the Napoleonic Wars in 1806.

Things were off to a roaring good start, with the chief religious functionary of the state religion crowning the head of state and all. Charlemagne put to-gether a pretty good empire, emphasising -- in case you thought this was a new idea with the current European Union -- a pan-European identity. This was so about being the Roman Empire that, while now we generally call it the Holy Roman Empire, the "holy" thing didn't get added for about 350 years, it was just straight up Roman Empire.

But we all die, even emperors, and Charlemagne died 28 January 814 in Aachen (Germany), his capital. He was buried the same day in Aachen Cathedral -- hell, call it right, the Kaiserdom, Imperial Cathedral -- which he had begun as his palace chapel and was consecrated in Mary's (as in Jesus' mother) honour by Pope Leo III in 805. In 1978 it was among the 12 places designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. An eyewitness account says when Emperor Otto III opened the vault in 1000, Charlegmagne was sitting upright as if still ruling, only the tip of his nose having decomposed. It's been opened since without similar report.

Now it's kinda hard to preserve an empire when you gotta split it up among your kids, so things bobbled for a century or so.  Charlemagne, the year before he died, had named his only surviving son who wasn't a bastard -- not what you think, I mean in the technically correct sense of not the legitimate offspring of a husband and wife -- his successor. Well, sort of. It's always "sort of" when it's "Roman". Charlemagne was actually married to Desiderata, princess daughter of the Lombard (a Germanic tribe in northern Italy) king Desiderius as part of a peace with him, in 770, but the next year the marriage was annulled, Pope Stephen III having said Pepin said he was to be married to someone Frankish, and she went home to her dad's court and war came in 774. This getting rid of inconvenient first wives is sort of a pattern, isn't it -- right along with the church finding it OK, in case you thought Henry VIII started it. But, there were no kids and the next year he married the 13 year old daughter of Swabian (Southern Germany) Count Gerold, Hildegard. There were nine kids, though he appears to have had this Himiltrude in there somewhere as a wife or concubine, so maybe Hildegard was Wife #3. Oh well.

Anyway, this son and successor is Louis, known as the Pious. Originally, following the usual custom, Louis was to share his father's rule divided with his brothers, and such were Charlemagne's provisions in the Divisio regnorum (Division of the Rule) of 806, but by 814 his two brothers who also weren't bastards were dead so Louis got the whole pie. He rushed to Aachen and crowned himself, though on 5 October 816 Pope Stephen IV, who followed after Leo III who had crowned his father, crowned him officially in Rheims. Then ordered everyone to be loyal to Louis.

Louis tried real hard, but most of his rule was plagued by continual frontier wars with those outside his realm and civil wars, three of them, with those inside his realm. Starting to sound like the problems that always get Roman Empires -- running a big realm with no modern communications or travel, keeping the lid on externally and internally, and specifically re internally providing for an orderly succession, Gets 'em every time. Louis had his unmarried sisters and bastard brothers enter convents and monasteries, to avoid power brokering marriages -- he also ordered all cloisters to follow the Rule of St Benedict, kick ass Louis! -- and provided for an orderly succession in his ordinatio imperii of 817, which both followed the custom of dividing among sons and also the custom of the first-born taking pride of place, that being Lothair who would be Emperor.

But there were problems. His nephew Bernard was also in on the succession deal, but when he revolted and wanted more, Louis had him blinded, from which he died two days later. So in 822 he does public penance before the Pope (Paschal I this time), and let his relatives out of their monastic orders, both of which lost him his cred with the nobles and pretty much everyone. On top of that, his wife Ermengarde died in 818, whom he seems to have genuinely loved, and in 820 he marries Judith, daughter of Count Welf of Altdorf (way southern Germany, called Weingarten since 1865 from the name of the wealthy abbey, Benedictine of course, founded there in 1065), which leads to a son Charles in 823. Which led to the civil wars, the existing sons of the deceased wife having none of this new guy horning in on what's theirs. Louis died on 20 June 840 and war over who got what continued for three years until the Treaty of Verdun in 843 settled things among the three surviving sons and pretty much set the Europe we know now, along with its conflicts. Lothair got the Emperor title and the Middle Frankish Kingdom, Louis "the German" got the Eastern Frankish Kingdom which is pretty much Germany now, and Charles "the Bald" got the Western Frankish Kingdom which is pretty much France now.

But no real empire emerged. The Middle Frankish Kingdom fell apart and the other two and about anyone else with some money and an army were at it all the time, including the damn Vikings from the North. The guy who really re-established things was Otto I, son of Heinrich der Vogler (Henry the Fowler) out of East Francia, Louis the German's third. Heinrich ensured the recognition of West Francia by East Francia which was still under Carologian rulers. But when his son Otto was crowned with the title Emperor the translatio imperii, the transfer of rule, in which this German empire was considered -- especially by those who ran it and/or hoped to benefit from it -- as the new Roman Empire in direct succession from the old Roman Empire, though of course the actual Eastern Roman Empire was still up and running at the time, was complete.

This happened on 2 February 962, when the German king Otto became der Große, the Great.  Having overcome all opposition from anybody, he was crowned King of Germany in Aachen, Charlemagne's old capital, on 7 August 936, and on 2 February 962 was crowned Romanorum Imperator, Emperor of the Romans, in Rome at St Peter's (still the old one) by Pope John XII -- whose control over the Papal States (remember that, I told you this stuff all hangs to-gether eventually!) he had just secured.  John though soon sent emissaries to the Eastern Empire, Otto got wind of it, went back to Rome and had a pope more suitable to him selected, a layman in fact, who became Pope Leo VIII.  Poor old Pope John went off with one of his mistresses and died of a heart attack during sex, though other accounts say her jealous husband killed him.

Apostolic succession, indeed.  BTW, "Pope Joan" legends come from one of Pope John's mistresses who had a real influence on him.

Anyway, with this, Otto is considered by some the real first Holy Roman Emperor. The Holy Roman Empire -- Das Heiliges Roemisches Reich in German, or Sacrum Romanum Imperium in Latin -- earned the quip of not being holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire by largely being held to-gether by the same three forces Otto put it to-gether. One was his control over bishops and abbots and their investiture into office not to mention selection for office; Two was proprietary churches, meaning they belonged to the ruler who owner the land on which they stood unless otherwise agreed by charter; Three was the use of an appointed rather than hereditary advocatus, or Vogt in German, to run church properties and estates. Power was a balance of concessions to local rulers for support in order to have power over local rulers, with the Pope in the balance too.

For example --  as if Pope John XII who had crowned Otto turning on him, Otto going back to Rome, deposing John and having a layman elected Pope as Leo VII weren't example enough -- later John attempted a comeback, but died and was followed by Benedict V, so Otto heads back to Rome again, to get rid of Benedict and make them promise to quit electing popes without the Emperor's approval!

Silver and gold have I none indeed.

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

So on it goes, back and forth. Eventually, the Golden Bull of 1356, passed by the Reichastag, the legislature of the HRE, and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, fixed the election of "Roman Emperors" to be by seven electors who would elect a "King of the Romans" (rex romanorum, roemischer Koenig) in Frankfurt in the old East Francia. Emperor-elect was sufficient for rule, but the Pope would then officially crown the King of the Romans Holy Roman Emperor. The electors are: the Archbishops (who were also temporal rulers, hence the term Princes of the Church) of Cologne, Mainz, and Trier, the Count Palatine of the Rhine, the King of Bohemia, the Duke of Saxony, and the Margrave of Brandenburg. The papal coronation was not specified, and the last HRE to be crowned by a Pope was Charles V, crowned HRE by Pope Clement VII in Bologna in 1530.

Charles V, he to whom the Augsburg Confession is addressed? Yes, the same. He was Spanish too -- yay -- the son of Felipe I and Joanna (sometimes called The Mad) of Castille, though he was born and raised in Ghent, Flanders (modern Begium then under Spanish control) and never did speak Spanish very well despite being King of Spain too, as Charles I. He is said to have said "I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse".

Charles' reign would have been peaceful except for a few things: by his time the Eastern Roman Empire had collapsed in defeat to the Ottomans in 1453, who were then threatening to conquer Europe itself; colonisation of the Americas and the Pacific had opened up an entirely new world to manage, literally, and the combination of Christian, non-Christian, and political elements from the state religion of the Roman Empire through the same state religion of the Holy Roman Empire had finally sparked an effort to recall the church to its nature and mission as established by Christ, not by Romans of varying descriptions. And that effort is called the Lutheran Reformation.

Charles more and more left dealing with the Reformation to his brother Ferdinand. He hoped the Council of Trent would solve everything and put everything back to-gether. It didn't. How to handle the worldwide empire, and the wealth that flowed from it, in the Americas (including Nebraska where I am right now) and the Pacific, almost continual war with France, and almost continual war with the Ottoman Empire -- led by Suleiman the Magnificent, no less -- was an enormous job, and eventually took its toll, not to mention lifelong health problems such as epilepsy, arthritis, and an inability to eat well due to an enlarged lower jaw. Charles abdicated all his titles on 16 January 1556, leaving his son Felipe II King of Spain and its empire and his brother Fernando Holy Roman Emperor, and retired -- not as you or I do, but with an entourage of fifty or so to special apartments -- to the monastery of Yuste in Spain, not a Benedictine one but of the Hieronymites, the Order of St Jerome, a Spanish order which took St Jerome as its patron saint and lived under the Rule of St Augustine, like the Augustinians of whom Martin Luther was a member. He died there 21 September 1558.

16 January. Remember that? 16 January 27 BC, when the Roman Senate make Octavian Emperor, Augustus. 16 January 1556, Charles to whom the Augsburg Confession is addressed as a statement of Christian teaching abdicates everything.

The Holy Roman Empire continued until Napoleon. Francis II was the last Holy Roman Emperor, and after his defeat by Napoleon at Austerlitz abolished the HRE on 6 August 1806. Ironically, the monastery of Yuste, where Charles V, also a Hapsburg, had retired was also destroyed in the Napoleonic Wars.

XII. Successor Empires East And West Last Until World War I.

Francis II though, thinking the HRE was about at an end, set up shop as Franz I, Emperor of Austria in 1804, "emperor" being "Kaiser", a Germanisation of "Caesar" expressing the idea of continuity with the HRE and the Roman Empire itself. This became the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1867 during the reign (1848 - 1916) of the third Kaiser, Franz Joseph I and this Habsburg dynasty lasted until Karl I, the fourth and last Kaiser, when it was defeated in the First World War. On 11 November 1918, Armistice Day, he relinquished the throne, but he did not say abdicate, hoping to be recalled. He never was, the Austrian parliament enacted a law 3 April 1919 banning any Hapsburgs from Austria unless they accepted simple status as citizens, and he died in poverty in forced exile in Madeira, an island off Portugal, 1 April 1922.

Total span of this empire, 1804 - 1918.

The Germans per se went through decades of disunity and unrest before the establishment of the German Empire on 18 January 1871, under the leadership of the Kingdom of Prussia through the efforts of Otto von Bismarck, with the coronation of the King of Prussia of the House of Hohenzollern as Kaiser -- same deal on the word -- of the German Empire (Deutsches Kaiserreich). This lasted until the third and last German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, officially abdicated on 29 November 1918, though did not formally renounce his titles, fleeing to the neutral Netherlands, hoping to return someday. He never did, not even in death though the new German ruler, Hitler, who hated him, wanted his funeral in Germany to lend credence to the Nazi state as heir to the Kaiserreich, though his wish that no Nazi symbols be used was ignored at his Dutch funeral.

Total span of this empire, 1871 - 1918.

As to the Russians, we saw above that when the Eastern Roman Empire fell to the Ottoman Empire Moscow began to see itself as the "Third Rome" replacing it, even adopting the Eastern Empire's double headed eagle as its coat of arms. Peter the Great, Tsar of the Tsardom of Russia, sometimes called the Tsardom of Muscovy (as in Moscow) proclaimed the the Empire on 22 October 1721, if you use the Gregorian calendar, or 11 October if you use the older Julian calendar (and I ain't going into all this calendar stuff again, see the New Years post for that). Tsar, where did that word come from? A Russianisation of, guess what, Caesar! It lasted until the Bolshevik October Revolution overthrew it on 7 November 1917 -- how do you have an October Revolution in November, same calendar stuff, the day is 25 October in the old Julian calendar. The last Tsar, Nicholas II of the House of Romanov (hear "Rome" in there?) itself part of the north German House of Oldenburg, was executed with his family 16 July 1918.

Total span of this empire, 1721 (or 16 January 1547 if you include the Tsardom of Russia) - 1917.

As to the Ottoman Empire, after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire and its allies in World War I -- an irony in itself, the Ottoman Empire allied with, along with the Kingdom of Bulgaria, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the German Empire, the then current version of two powers it had scared the living hell out of for centuries -- the surrendering Sultan, Mehmed VI, hoped to preserve the sultanate by co-operating with the victors, and the caliphate too. However the Ottoman lands of the Middle East and Balkans had been structured into new countries by the Allies, the British in the lead, the countries we have to-day, and the Turkish National Assembly abolished the Sultanate, the imperial head of state, on 1 November 1922, Mehmed VI left the country on 17 November 1922, on 24 July 1923 the Assembly was internationally recognised by the Treaty of Lausanne, and it proclaimed a republic 29 October 1923 with Ankara the new capital, which was the end of the Ottoman Empire after 700 years but not the Ottoman Caliphate.

That happened when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, very Westernised in his thinking (he invited American educational reformer John Dewey to advise the reform of public education in the new country, for example) and the father of modern Turkey, had the National Assembly abolish the caliphate on 3 March 1924, sending the last caliph, Abdul Mejid II, along with any remaining members of the royal Ottoman family, the Osmans, into formal exile. This was despite appeals from other Islamic sources to retain the caliphate for the sake of Islam, which only fuelled opposition as foreign intervention and helped seal the fate of the caliphate. Although various efforts have been made to agree on a new caliphate, there has been no consensus to date.

Total span of this empire, 1299 - 1922/3, depending on which event one takes as final.

2014 marked a significant date in all this.  At 1045 on Sunday 28 June 1914, Erzherzog (Archduke) Franz Ferdinand, heir presumptive to the throne of Austria-Hungary, was assassinated along with his wife Sophie in Sarajevo, in what is now Bosnia but then part of Austria-Hungary.  That didn't start "World War One" by itself, but set a series of things in motion that did, at the end of which an order that had been evolving for centuries ended, and we are still working out what's next.

XIII. Where Are They Now?  Sag' mir wo die Blumen sind. 

Yes, now. This stuff just didn't vanish. It's only been not yet quite 100 years since the whole thing fell apart, not a long period in terms of the whole of human history. We'll get to the main point, the religious implications, in the next section but for now, the current state of these ruling houses.  Basically, winners kept theirs, losers lost theirs.  But there's more to it than that.  Here it is.

United Kingdom.  The House of Windsor.

England hasn't figured much in this post, but as its monarchy is arguably the most visible in the world, here's the deal.  There's been kings and some queens in the British Isles for bloody ever.  For a time we (I'm of English descent, so "we") were part of the Roman Empire, hey, London is a Roman town, Londinium, but the various English kingdoms more or less came to-gether under Alfred the Great of the House of Wessex in the 880s.  It's been the houses of Wessex, Denmark, Wessex again, Denmark again, Wessex again again, then the damn Normans (1066), then the Blois, the Anjou, the Plantagenets (all the rivalry between the cadet branches, Lancaster and York), the Tudors, the Stuarts, then from 1707 with the Acts of Union (this is where you get the United Kingdom) the Stuarts until 1714 when Queen Anne died leaving no heirs, then the Hanovers from 1714 in a deal for the closest non-Roman Catholic to take the throne rather than a Catholic relative of Anne, until 1901 on the death of Queen Victoria, who left no heirs.  There's still Hanovers in Germany; the current head of the house is Ernest Augustus, age 31.  Hey, England, Germany, war -- right. 

Hereditary kingdoms -- important point; kingdoms are not necessarily hereditary, from ancient Rome, some are elected, the question then being, elected by whom -- are usually reckoned through male descendants in birth order.  This is called agnatic primogeniture, or Salic Law, from the Latin legal term terra salica, not Roman but in Latin from its first codification around 500 by Clovis, King of the Franks.  A variation of agnatic primogeniture is called semi-Salic law, wherein if their is no male heir, the nearest female in kinship succeeds.  It should be noted that there is also uterine primogeniture, which is inheritance based on the mother, not the father.  This was known in Roman law (Rome, always Rome), the principle being "mater semper certa est pater semper incertus est", the mother is always certain (and) the father is always uncertain.  Uncommon in Europe, it is found among some African dynasties.  In contemporary times, in-vitro fertilisation and DNA testing renders this principle inapplicable, but, the practice of reckoning from female, not male, descent does not depend on the principle.  The opposite of agnatic primogeniture is cognatic primogeniture, in which kinship and heirs are determined male or female.  For a time a variant form, male-preference cognatic primogeniture, as sort of a hybrid, in that preference was for a male heir, but, in the absence of one, a female may succeed, was most common in Europe.  Now, what is called absolute primogeniture, no preference either male or female, was first established in constitutional monarchies by Sweden in 1980, followed by the Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Denmark, and by Spain, by royal edict though it is a constitutional monarchy, in 2006, and both the United Kingdom and the entire Commonwealth of Nations, for those nations that are themselves monarchies, as of 2011 will practice absolute primogeniture as soon as all 16 members of the Commonwealth to whom it applies pass legislation in their respective legislatures.  Essentially, then, all modern major monarchies are constitutional, a body of law above everyone including the sovereign, and practice absolute primogeniture.

That said, for its own sake as part of "where are they now" following, also places background for the relatively recent royal house of Britain.  Queen Victoria, the last British monarch of the House of Hannover, was succeeded by Edward VII, who was the second child but eldest son of Victoria and her husband (and cousin), Albert, German-born of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (German:  Haus Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha) so under the laws of the time Edward was reckoned from his father's house.  High anti-German sentiment was prominent during WWI in England as well as the US, and in response to that, and no doubt seeing his cousin the Tsar of Russia deposed, Edward's son and successor, George V, by royal decree on 17 July 1917 renounced all German titles and changed the name of the house in England to Windsor, which is how it is known now.  Another cousin, Kaiser Wilhelm II, though this funnier than hell, and joked that he thought Shakespeare's play should be called The Merry Wives of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.  Doubly ironic: not only would absolute primogeniture avoid all this, but also, even so Victoria in her long reign saw much intermarriage with the various houses of Europe, a long-standing way so try to secure peace, and was called "the grandmother of Europe".  The current monarch is of course Elizabeth II, to be followed, assuming no premature deaths, by her son Charles, his son William, and his son George.  Had George been a girl instead, she would succeed under current law.

Austria.  The House of Habsburg.

As to the Austrians, on 3 October 2004 Karl I was beatified, one step before being declared a saint, by Pope John Paul II on the basis of the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints 2003 conclusion of his heroic virtue and one miracle through is intercession.  He earnestly sought peace, and was the only leader to ban the use of then-new chemical warfare, poison gas at the time.  JPII also declared 21 October, the date in 1911 of his marriage to Princess Zita, as his feast day. On 31 January 2008 a second miracle (one won't do it for sainthood) was formally certified, the miraculous cure through his intercession of a woman in Florida -- who was Baptist at the time!  She has since converted to Catholicism.

His oldest son, Otto, headed the family for many years, opposed Hitler, who sentenced him to death, and was active as a Member of the European Parliament of the European Union until 1999, and in January 2007 passed the torch of head of the House of Hapsburg to his oldest son, Karl, though remaining Crown Prince and pretender to the throne. He lived in Bavaria until he died on 4 July 2010. Archduke Karl, born 11 January 1961, was also a member of the European Parliament, and served as director of the non governmental organisation (NGO) UNPO, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation.  Since 2008 he has served as president of Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield, which is dedicated to preserving cultural heritage from wars and disasters, He is also active in business, a co-founder of a Vienna based private investment firm.

Germany.  The House of Hohenzollern.

As to the Germans, the current head of the House of Hohenzollern is Georg Friedrich, great-great grandson of Wilhelm II, born 10 June 1976 in Bremen, Germany. He became head of the house on 26 September 1994 when the previous pretender, his grandfather Louis Ferdinand I died, and survived lengthy legal challenges by his uncles in German courts for the role. He is quoted as saying he sees no need for change of the current political system in Germany, and as thinking he is probably happier than many of his ancestors. He was married on 27 August 2011, the 950th anniversary of the founding of the House of Hohenzollern. He works for a company helping academic institutions bringing their innovations to the market, and also directs the Princess Kira of Prussia-Foundation, a charitable organisation founded by his grandmother.  The House of Hohenzollern website:  www.hohenzollern.com/

The House of Oldenburg.

The House of Oldenburg has had kings on the thrones of Russia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Greece and Iceland, as well as dukes of all sorts of duchies all over the place, including the land from which my ancestors the Angles moved to England, now known as Schleswig-Holstein. The current head of the ducal house as well as the whole House of Oldenburg is Christoph, born 22 August 1949, living in Schwansen, Schleswig-Holstein, with extensive business interests in agriculture and real estate, and is a founding member and chairman of the advisory board of GLC Glücksburg Consulting Group, a marketing and communications firm.  Website: http://www.glc-group.com/  By a bunch of stuff I'm not even going to get into, except to say they result from Queen Victoria being among their ancestors, both he and Georg Friedrich are technically in line for the British throne too, though at 150+ in line (no official list is maintained to this extent) they are a bit of a long shot.

Matter of fact, there's Oldenburgs still on thrones, Margrethe II of Denmark and head of the state Lutheran church, and Harald V of Norway and head of the state Lutheran church, both of a cadet branch of the House of Oldenburg, the House of Glücksburg.  Interesting how some of the most liberal countries in Europe, like Denmark, Norway and Sweden, also have monarchs and liberal state "Lutheran" churches. The King of Sweden, Carl XVI Gustaf, though, is not an Oldenburg but from the House of Bernadotte, set up by the French to be a client monarchy to Napoleon, and The Church of Sweden (Lutheran) only became independent of the state in 2000.

And, there's Queen Sofia of Spain, who may be queen there because she married Juan Carlos who became the king, but is the sister of the unpopular last king of Greece, the Oldenburg Constantine II, who was deposed in 1973, lived in exile in London for many years (Prince Charles is his second cousin), and was able to return to Greece in 2013.  On 19 June 2014, Juan Carlos abdicated in favour of their son Don Felipe, and his wife, Doña Letizia, became queen, but the former monarchs retain the titles of king and queen.

The Netherlands.  The House of Orange-Nassau.

The Dutch royal family is not Oldenburg either, but the House of Orange-Nassau.  Not as in the Bahamas, though it is indirectly named after it, but in what is now Rheinland-Pfalz in modern Germany.  The constitutional monarch is King Willem-Alexander, who took office on 30 April 2013 after his mother, Queen Beatrix, after 33 years as queen and at age 75, abdicated in his favour. His wife, Queen Maxima, shares some characteristics with another monarch taking office in 2013, Pope Francis:  Argentine birth and Italian descent, though unlike Francis she also has Spanish and Basque ancestry.  The predominant church formed on 1 May 2004, the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, as a liberal union of the longstanding Dutch Reformed Church and other non-Catholic bodies including "Lutheran".

Belgium.  The House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. 

Belgium is also a modern constitutional monarchy, and in 2013 also got a new monarch along with the Netherlands and the Vatican, here King Philippe.  This monarchy is fairly recent, as is Belgium itself.  It's a very new country with a very old name.  Gallia Belgica was the Latin name for the Roman (everything always traces to Rome eventually) province established about 100 AD, drawing the name from the Belgae, the Latin name for tribes living in the area that nobody, from Julius Caesar who fought them to present-day historians, really knows who they were, sort of a Celtic and Germanic hybrid.  After the Roman Empire fell apart, they were kicked around among the Spanish, French and Austrians, eventually ending up as the southern part of the Netherlands.  When they became independent of the Netherlands after a revolution in 1830, Leopold of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, same guys who changed the name to Windsor in England, was made the first king.  Lutherans, sorta kinda.  The current Dutch and Belgian kings are relatively young as monarchs go:  the Dutch being 46 and the Belgian being 53 at the time of taking the throne.

Bavaria.  The House of Wittlesbach.

And in Bavaria, good old Bavaria, the kingdom of which has been kicked around a bit, the House of Wittlesbach was the ruling house from 1180 to 1918, including good old King Ludwig whose money got started in the New World where I got my university education, or if not that spent a hell of a few years. The current head of the House is Franz, Duke of Bavaria, born 14 July 1933 in Munich.  Because of Wittlesbach opposition to the Nazis, he (age 11 at the time, 6 October 1944) and his family were arrested and put in concentration camps where they remained until liberated by the US Third Army in April 1945.  He went to the school at Kloster Ettal in Bavaria, which is Benedictine so you know he's ok.  He is active in many civic, charitable and religious organisations, and lives in an apartment in the former Summer palace of the monarchy, Schloss Nymphenburg (Nymph's Castle), which is also where, on its south pavillion, King Ludwig assembled Die Schönheitengalerie (The Gallery of Beauties), a collection of 36 portraits of what Ludwig considered the most beautiful women of his, um, acquaintance in varying degrees, including the actress Lola Montez, who inspired the catch phrase "Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets".  Hey, who of us doesn't have a Gallery of Beauties on the south pavillion of his mind?  Oh, and some (called Jacobites, from James II the last Stuart king of England) say he's heir to the House of Stuart and thus the true King of England instead of the House of Windsor, which is from Hanover in Germany, but as Franz himself doesn't get into that, I won't either.

Russia. The Romanovs.

As to the Russians, wow. There is dispute as to who, and if anyone, heads the house now. When the Grand Duke Vladimir died in Miami on 21 April 1992, a huge dispute ensued. His daughter and only child, Maria Vladimirovna Romanova, born 23 December 1953 in Madrid, claimed pretence to the Russian throne, with Vladimir the last male heir and her cousins invalid as the children of marriages with commoners, not nobility. However, Nicholas Romanov, her cousin, born 26 September 1922 in France, claimed headship as the senior male heir. He died 15 September 2014.  And God bless me sideways if they all aren't also in line for the British throne, but way down the list way past any official count.

Complicating all this is the fall of the Soviet Union, the Communist regime that emerged from the overthrow of the Russian Empire, in 1991 and Russia's re-emergence as the Russian Federation. On 17 July 1998, the 80th anniversary of their murders, the bodies of Tsar Nicholas II and the Tsaritsa Alexandra, and the bodies of their children then discovered, were reburied with full state honours in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in the imperial capital city known again by its name St Petersburg. Nicholas led the Romanov family members at the funeral, with the then president of the Russian Federation, Boris Yeltsin, there too. Maria had written to him, protesting that her cousins are not even legitimate family members, and did not attend. On 14 August 2000 the Russian Orthodox Church declared Nicholas and family saints, and on 16 June 2003 Russian Orthodox bishops consecrated what is known as the Church of the Blood on the site of their executions. So the "Third Rome".

Presently, Maria is recognised as the true heir by most monarchists, by the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.  It should be noted that the current RO patriarch, Kirill I, in 2013 made it clear that recognition of succession is not the same as advocacy of restoration of the monarchy.  By contrast, most notably at the 1998 St Petersburg ceremony mentioned above, the Romanov Family Association has the recognition of the Russian state at the few historical memorials where the former royal family might have a role.  With the death of Nicholas Romanov late last year, who heads the house is not decided as of early this year, and at any rate they too are clear that succession applies only to the house and is not advocacy of restoration of the monarchy. 

A third and more recent factor emerged on 20 July 2011, when Anton Bakov, prominent businessman, politician, inventor and Doctor of Philosophy, formed the Sovereign State Imperial See, out of far-flung islands abandoned by their Russian Imperial discoverers, and on 7 April 2012 formed the Monarchist Party, which does advocate the restoration of the monarchy and the empire as well, but, on a modern constitutional democratic basis.  Their determination, in 2013, of the rightful successor to the Russian throne was neither Maria nor Nicholas but Karl Emich of Leiningen.  (Leiningen is in Germany, in the same general area as Trier, magnificent Trier.)

There's real ironies here.  1)  He converted from Lutheranism to Russian Orthodoxy on 1 June 2013, and while unlike other such German converts from Lutheranism to Russian Orthodoxy, he does have Romanov descent, such converts have been spectacular in Russian history, see my post on the "other" St Nicholas for that.  2)  The Romanovs are relatively recent in Russian history.  The foundation of "Russia", or Rus', dates from 862 with Prince Rurik, and the House of Rurik ruled until 1598, after which the Romanovs came along, and still survives in cadet branches, with modern Russia, Ukraine and Belarus tracing themselves to it.  More on that in a bit.

Turkey.  The House of Osman. 

As to the Turks, on 23 September 2009, at age 97, as our media were all abuzz about upcoming speeches at the UN by Middle Eastern leaders, Ertugrul Osman died. Were there still an Ottoman Empire, he would have been known as Osman V, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and Caliph of Islam. He will be now the last pretender to the throne to have been alive when the throne was abolished by the modern secular Turkish state on 19 November 1922, and the last to have been born in the Ottoman Empire.

The current head of the House of Osman, the 44th, and pretender to the throne, Bayezid Osman, was born 23 July 1924 in Paris, the first to be born in exile. He moved to the United States in 1941, even serving in the US Army. Were there still an Ottoman Empire, he would be known as Sultan Bayezid III and Caliph of Islam (or at least the Sunni part of it). He's 90, is not married and has no children, and heir will be Duendar Aliosman, born in Damascus, Syria on 30 December 1930. He married, but has no children.

Italy.  The House of Savoy.

This house (Casa Savoia) was the Italian royal family.  Thing is, Italy as a nation is pretty recent too.  The house was founded in 1003 by Umberto I (Humbert) in the Alpine region called Savoy in English, "Italy" as such was centuries away from existing, when a unified Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed in 1861 with Victor Emmanuel II of the House of Savoy as king.  The house's relatively short duration as the royal house of Italy (1861-1946) was not particularly distinguished: the second of the four kings was assassinated in 1900 by the brother of a woman killed in a state-sponsored massacre in Milan in 1898, who came back from the United States to do it; the third king was weak in opposing the rise of Mussolini and his abdication for the fourth and last king was not enough to save the monarchy, which was abolished in 1946 and the house banned from the new republic, which was lifted in 2002 as long as no claims to the throne were made.  Headship of the house now is unclear, and one of the two cousins claiming it was arrested on prostitution charges in 2006.

Spain.  The House of Borbón.

Hey, dontcha mean Bourbon?  Yes I do and no I don't.  The Spanish House of Borbón derived from the French House of Bourbon, itself derived from the House of Capet, founded by Hugh Capet, elected by French nobility to be king of France and installed on 3 July 987, with Hugh's ancestors documented to his great grandfather Robert the Strong, who died 2 July 866.  From little influence beyond the "Island of France" (Ile de France), basically Paris, over centuries it became one of the two most powerful European dynasties on (continental) Europe, the other being the House of Habsbutg.  The Capetians, in one branch or another, ruled France from 987 to 1848.  The Bourbon Capetians began rule in 1268, were overthrown by the French Revolution in 1792, given the simple surname "Capet", then Louis XVI was executed by beheading in the French manner called guillotine on 21 January 1793 and his wife the queen consort Marie Antoinette, guillotined on 16 October 1793.  BTW, Marie Antoinette was herself a Habsbug(!), the name "Marietta" in American names originates with a nickname for her in honour of their support for the American Revolution, and, she never said "Let then eat cake", the phrase coming from a popular assumption that a line applied to her in the notoriously inaccurate autobiography, Les Confessions, of that monumental idiot, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and at any rate, it's brioche, not cake, in that line.  The Bourbons were restored after the "first empire" fell in 1814/5, then overthrown again in 1830 for a cadet branch (House of Orleans) who were overthrown in 1848.  There is more than one pretender to the throne, depending on which branch one holds to be the valid claimant.

The first Bourbon to become King of Spain is Felipe V, on 1 November 1700.  He was a grandson of Louis XIV of France, the "sun king", admired even by Napoleon, who despised the monarchy, and called him the only king worthy of the name.  When the previous king (Carlos II) died without any clear heir according to the laws of succession, Felipe had the strongest case and became king.  However, as the same house on two major thrones (France and Spain) would create problems, it was agreed by all sides that the Spanish side became distinct.  Philippe became Felipe (he did not speak Spanish, but later learned).  The Borbóns have had an up and down history, being overthrown and restored three times, most recently in 1975, after Franco.  The current king of Spain, Felipe VI, is a Borbón and thus a Capetian.

The European Union.

Belgium, created toward the end of the old order, has been at the forefront of what has emerged so far for a new order.  The idea of what we call Europe as a single entity is ancient, but such efforts, from the Romans on, were either by force of conquest or intermarriage of ruling dynasties.  Belgium, along with The Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Italy and West Germany began a process which has resulted in the European Union. Look at the list:  six nations who were either losers, or winners too small to defend themselves by themselves, in WWII.  The process started with treaties to make sure coal and steel production necessary to heavy armament production would be under international control and supervision so that no-one could unilaterally re-arm, especially Germany.

That, combined with later agreements, resulted in the present European Union of 28 countries, whose capitol is Brussels, Belgium.  Presently, the EU seems intent on incorporating former satellite countries of the Soviet Union, putting it right on the doorstep of the western side of Russia, the physically largest country in the world, whose origins as a distinct entity are in 882, with Prince Rurik (Roderick) who established Rus' ruled from Novgorod and whose successor Oleg moved to Kiev.  Yeah, Ukraine, recently a Soviet satellite, with over a thousand years of complicated history of disputed who's what before that.  You didn't think the current Russian/EU/Ukraine thing just blew up, did you?

Well -- this is the fourth century now where Europe in whole or part has tried to re-invent itself by eradicating what it saw as the cause(s) of its problems.  In the 18th Century, France executed its king and a good many of its nobles as enemies of "the people", read the new government, the "Republic", which led to the same man (Robespierre) who said "liberty, equality and fraternity" having a bloody Reign of Terror against any suspected of opposing it, in turn leading in the 19th Century to a dictatorial empire under Napoleon that engulfed Europe in war once again.  In the 20th Century, Russia executed its emperor (tsar) and family and banished or executed other nobles and people attached to the court, as enemies of the "people" with a short-lived republic leading to a dictatorial regime, the Soviet Union, which murdered millions more internally than Hitler and Nazi Germany.  Austria banned its emperor (Karl I) from ever entering Austria, and all of his house unless they specifically accepted ordinary citizen status, and abolished all nobility: Otto, mentioned above, represented Germany, not Austria, in the European Parliament.  Germany exiled its emperor (Kaiser), abolished all royalty and nobility and gives no legal recognition to any titles, under the new republic, which was followed by arguably the most infamous dictatorial regime in all human history, the "Third Reich" (counting the HRE as the first and the German Empire as the second), or Nazi Germany as it is often called in English.

Herein we see one of, perhaps the, supreme irony of human history: that republican or democratic movements designed to eradicate what was seen as the cause of past miseries led in turn to regimes that brought about even greater miseries, requiring another and worse world war and then a "cold" war to be rid of them, and no-one held the old order in more contempt than the most notorious author of misery, Hitler. The European Union has its basis in an attempt to make sure Germany can never re-arm, and Germany's strong and vibrant economy has become the driving force of the European Union.  Whether another attempt based on removing what it saw as any possible resurrection of previous national disasters will work, this time, remains to be seen.  Peace is something more than the absence of war, though short term, the absence of war will do until peace comes along, so far in the long term it never has.  Ever.    

Thus the disposition of the royal houses and their current heads, but now on to the disposition of their churches.

XIV. Summation nostra aetate, In Our Time.

The Roman Empire, the Eastern and the Western Roman Empire, and the Holy Roman Empire, spanned over 1,800 years, and are now gone. Great guys like Otto and Karl, Georg Friedrich, Christoph and Franz, seem worlds removed from the carryings-on of some of their ancestors. We all seem worlds removed. Recent popes haven't crowned any emperors --  although the Prayer for the Holy Roman Emperor that concludes the Exultet (no s; I don't use Rome's recent spelling) at the Easter Vigil hadn't been said since 1806 when Napoleon abolished the HRE but still was on the books until Pope Pius XII removed it as part of his 1955 liturgical revisions. So what has this we've gone through above to do with anything at all now?

The state religion of the Roman Empire, the Eastern Roman Empire and the Western Roman Empire, Czarist Russia and the Holy Roman Empire after them, respectively, has outlasted the empire which created them, and is still with us in their respective churches. Tu es Petrus, thou are Peter, Christ said to Peter in the phrase often cited for their legitimacy. Legitimacy? Who in their right minds looking at all we've looked at find the slightest thing about Thou art Peter about it? Who in their right minds would find such fleshly goings-on at all related to God become Man in the flesh? Yet this perversion of the Incarnation from a truth and an event into a theological and ecclesiastical principle, a fabrication for the benefit of those who would benefit from it by those who would benefit from it, is a captivity from "Babylon" that continues to captivate many. Until it is recognised as such.

What one finds is Christian elements mixed up with pagan elements of the old state religion, largely focussed on matters of succession, the longstanding bane of the empires, with generous helpings of political necessity and expediency thrown in too, into a hybrid or synthesis continuing to this day.

This is not at all to say that the faith of Jesus Christ delivered to the Apostles disappeared. It is to say that Christianity took on much, some of which it would regard as essential and not cultural, from the state which adopted it as its new state religion, the Roman Empire East and West.

Tertullian first applied the pagan Roman religious term pontifex to a "bishop" about 225 when the Roman bishop, aka pope, Callistus relaxed the penance for adulterers -- as a derogatory reference, not a good thing, describing him as acting like a pagan religious leader. Pope Damasus (366-384) is said to have been the first to use the term, though others say this is unsubstantiated. Nonetheless, Theodosius, he who ended the Olympic Games etc, called him pontifex, and the term became a reference to a bishop, summus pontifex or the original phrase pontifex maximus for the bishop of Rome, the pope. Leo I and Gregory I are also cited in this regard.

And behave like the officers and head of the old pagan religion they did, for centuries, as we saw. The idea of a bunch of pontifices in a collegium pontificum headed by a pontifex maximus/summus derives not at all from the institution of Christ but from the morphing of leadership and ministry in the church after the Roman Imperial state religion appropriated the model for its pastors as Christianity took on the role of state religion, then further took on its Eastern and Western characters due to the collapse of the Western Empire and its subsequent history centuries before the collapse of the Eastern Empire.

The differences between Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism as a religious image of the differences between the culture of the Eastern and Western Roman Empire. The Western Church, complete with a pontifex maximus, inherited Rome's administrative and legal bent, and the Eastern Church inherited Constantinople's more philosophical and artistic bent. The formal schism between the two in 1054 had immediate theological causes, but was culturally inevitable, bound to happen theology or not.

Remember, in the East, the Eastern Empire still existed at this time, but the Western Empire was gone, with the intended reincarnation as the Holy Roman Empire in its place, and the recognition of the bishop of Rome as "first among equals" at world-wide, called ecumenical from the Greek, church councils was then also extended to the bishop of Constantinople, the new Rome. In the lands of the former Western Empire the modern languages spoken are derived from Latin, which remained its liturgical language, whereas in the lands of the former Eastern Empire the languages are not derived from Greek, which was not its liturgical language other than for Greeks.

Thus the primary remains of this in the West is the Roman administrative, legalistic flair, and in the East the philosophical, mystical flair. In Roman Catholicism, even with the moderating and revisionist slant given it by Vatican II, one hears the religion of the Western Roman Empire, and in Eastern Orthodoxy one hears the religion of the Eastern Roman Empire.

While the Roman Empire, as a unified whole and as a divided empire, has passed into history, their eventual religions have not. And so the reformation of the church, the freeing of it from the accretions of Imperial culture East and West, was to happen from outside the Empire, had to happen from outside the Empire. And so it did, the Reformation being then not an event in the Western Church surviving the Western Empire, but an event in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church from outside the Empire, undivided, Eastern, or Western.

And about those accretions. They aren't necessarily bad. What's bad is if they contradict the books the church has said we can rely on, the Bible. Not if they are not found in the Bible, if they contradict the Bible. Big difference. What's also bad is, whether they do or don't contradict the Bible, if they are made into essentials. On these points, the Reformation would go well beyond the Lutheran Reformation to a near eradication of them, and then a replacement of them with other forms of righteousness before God through works rather than Jesus Christ, either way confusing justification before God with santification, personal growth in faith and grace -- confusing participation in the sacraments, personal decisions for Christ, avoidance of immorality and doing good works in general, with justification before God through faith given by the Holy Spirit apart from any external or internal work or act on my part in the saving Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This post- and non-Lutheran Reformation resulted first in new state churches, sometimes forcibly including Lutheran ones (the Prussian Union comes to mind) and later in churches influenced by the "Enlightenment" political and theological theories which have become the unofficial state religions of the modern Western secular liberal states, abandoning even their prior confessions of faith, one broad group representing the religious Left and another the religious Right.

XV. Conclusion.

So, confessional Lutheran churches uphold and teach the faith of Jesus Christ taught in the Bible and accurately stated in the Book of Concord, and uphold and maintain the usual customs, rejecting only what contradicts the Gospel and recognising that the rest are customs, not Gospel or even Law. We are the churchly echo of neither the ancient empire nor the contemporary liberal state. And we worship accordingly, in the historical liturgy of the Divine Service, where God the Divine serves us his Word and Sacrament, not the other way around.

And after all this stuff, the great thing is, all you really need to know is laid out in the Little Catechism. The thing I like in poking around in all this stuff is that you appreciate ever more fully that all you really need to know is laid out in the Little Catechism, and that, in view of all this stuff that happened, what a miracle of the Holy Spirit it is that we have it!

Some asides. You pick up some interesting tidbits along the way too. Like the Roman goddess of agriculture, Ceres, a figure of which tops the capital of Nebraska, is why we call it cereal. Or that July is for Julius Caesar and August for Caesar Augustus. You get to have your own month when you're a founding emperor and then proclaimed a god, otherwise we'd call the old fifth and sixth Roman months Quintember and Sextember, as we still do the remaining months September (7th), October (8th), November (9th) and December (10th). So besides all the big stuff we just waded though, this stuff is still in our lives right down to what's for breakfast and what we call what day it is.

Textual note.  This post first appeared on 1 September 2007. It became the most consistently hit page on this blog. As time went on I posted material related to it in "A Wonder of the World and Forest Fires" on 27 August 2007, "25 July A.D. 306 in Eboracum, Britannia" on 25 July 2008, and "More Twelve Days of Christmas, 2008" on 27 December 2008. And there was more stuff not included in any of the four.

So, in 2009 this post appeared as an entirely new entity, consisting of the new material and material rewritten from the four earlier posts, within the structure of the original Eastern/Western post, and published on 16 January, the date of the founding of the Roman Empire. For 2010, additional new material on the current state of the old secular powers was included. For 2011, the post was expanded yet again within the original format, to include related material from posts on Jerome, Augustine, and Boethius and their times that I posted in 2010. The 2012 - 2015 versions have only slight revisions, mostly updates on "where are they now".