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


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

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

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

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

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19 August 2010

On St Bernard, Sacred Heads, and Other Stuff.

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

OK, for starters, the feast of St Bernard of Claivaux is actually 20 August. That's the day he died, and traditionally, the date of a person's death, faith seeing it as the date they were born to eternity, is used as their feast day, if known. You die on 20 August, your feast day is 20 August. Pretty simple. It's a Christian version and continuation of Yahrtzeit, meaning "time of year" in Yiddish, when relatives remember a family member on the date of their death.

So what possessed the compilers of our Commemorations list to move it up one day? Hell if I know. I also do not know what possessed them to create several commemorations for Old Testament figures, but one of those is for Samuel, which they put on 20 August, so I guess they needed the day.

Anyway, Bernard, especially for a rip roaring kick-ass let's get serious about this Rule of St Benedict for monasteries type, has a pretty good rep among notable non-Catholics, including Martin Luther. In spite of, say, choosing the "right" pope when two were elected -- hey, what if he got the Innocent/Anacletus thing wrong? -- he does show some signs of knowing it all comes down to faith in Christ and what he did for us.

That can happen, even in the RCC, and in all fairness I gotta say old Bernard was one of those. As a Benedictine never-was, the only thing worse than a has-been, lemme tell ya a little reform wouldn't hurt those guys at all.

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

Unfortunately Bernard was not involved in it.

The text to the hymn comes from the last part of a long mediaeval poem called Salve mundi salutare (I ain't translating, ask Father Hollywood) which mediates on a number of Christ's body parts as he suffered on the Cross. The last part meditates on his head and is called Salve caput cruentatum. It dates from the 14th Century; Bernard lived in the first half of the 12th Century (1091-1153 to be exact).

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

But hey what the hey, our national anthem's tune was originally a drinking song.

So what's the point? Bernard didn't have a damn thing to do with O Sacred Head, neither as tune or text. And for that matter, being thoroughly Roman Catholic, makes a hell of a lot better Roman Catholic saint than Lutheran commemoration.

The point is, the power of the Gospel, well meditated on in O Sacred Head, is such that the hymn does not depend on or even need pious legends and myths about its earthly authorship. And that the power of the Gospel, of which Bernard shows signs of being aware, is such that it can penetrate even the largely pagan accretions laid over it by the RCC. Thank God for the Lutheran Reformation, that we no longer live in times like Bernard, where church and state alike were choked by these accretions, and the Gospel can be rightly preached and the Sacraments rightly administered in our churches openly.


Father Robert Lyons said...

Past Elder,

August 20th is Samuel's feast on the Eastern Orthodox calendar. I suppose that is why the date is bumped - precident given to the Biblical figure over the non-Biblical.


Past Elder said...

Thank you, Father Rob. That makes sense. Greeking up the Western Rite was a major part of the agenda of the "liturgical movement" so it fits that Eastern dates were borrowed for the OT figures and as you say Biblical trumps non-Biblical.

Our DSI and II are Greeked up real good with a mini First Litany from the Eastern Rite, "In peace let us pray to the Lord" and all. We bested the Romans on that, who tried the same thing in the novus ordo and got the Kyrie all jacked around into a penitential rather than a petitionary prayer. For the times we have (insert sin of choice), Lord have mercy. Oy.

Father Robert Lyons said...

Myself, I have never been a fan of litanies at that point in the Liturgy, particularlly in light of Justin Martyr's description of the liturgy. I also happen to be a bit of a nitpick about doing things multiple times for non-sensical reasons in liturgy. Having two general intercessions in one liturgy is a bit annoying.

For the times we have violated liturgical good taste, offending the sensibilities of those who know better... Kyrie eleison! ;)

Father Robert Lyons said...

I forgot to mention another example of festal transfer (like there is only one!). Dominic died on August 6th, but the Transfiguration's observance on that day sees him moved around on various calendars to various dates.

Interestingly, though, even on the few calendars that do not keep Transfiguration on August 6, it is rare to find Dominic restored to his actual date of death.


Past Elder said...

Well how about this, Father Rob -- we (LCMS) could restore Dominic to 6 August, since our synodical calendar puts the Transfiguration before Lent, the last Sunday after Epiphany, to place in more in the time line of Jesus' earthly life, however Dominic was not restored because he is not "stored" at all!

Now one could say a person with ties, variously disputed, to the Inquisition and founder of an order famous for its preaching against non-Roman Catholics might be a bit of a stretch for a Lutheran calendar.

But, the sanctoral calendar of the great Loehe, one of my heroes and among other things a champion of authentic Lutheran liturgy, not only gives the Transfiguration on 6 August but Dominic on 4 August too, the traditional dates for both!

If I'm not sure what he would think of being on a Lutheran calendar, I am even less sure what this guy who refused to sleep in beds and walked on trips barefoot would think of his head being a big gold reliquary in the Catholic Basilica di S. Domenico!

Father Robert Lyons said...

Interesting, Past Elder, that NLM just posted (FWIW) that in the old Roman Martyrology, today is also the feast of the Prophet Samuel...

Past Elder said...

Thank you again, Father Rob! I apologise for my tardy response -- the office/store I manage participated in a convention here in town so I worked all week and the week-end too!

I don't have a problem with commemoration of OT major figures, nor am I one of those who thinks the calendar should never be changed, nor, as some Lutheran bodies do, do I hold that only Biblical figures should be retained in a sanctoral calendar.

Where I do have a problem is when we (we being LCMS specifically) appropriate the revisions of the novus ordo calendar for figures already in the calendar, just as the heterodox bodies have done.

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So what's the point? Bernard didn't have a damn thing to do with O Sacred Head, neither as tune or text. And for that matter, being thoroughly Roman Catholic, makes a hell of a lot better Roman Catholic saint than Lutheran commemoration.