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

VDMA

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


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

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

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

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

31 January 2010

Candlemas (2 February) 2010. A 40 Days of Purpose.

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.

What's a mikveh? The word, also given as mikvah, means collection -- what is collected is water, 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).

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, 2 February. That is why in some years, like this one, it may happen after the transition to Lent is underway. In the Eastern Church, we saw in an earlier post that Epiphany, 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 and now in civil use most of the world falls on 7 January in the Julian calendar still in liturgical use in the East, so the 40th day 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 the candles on this day for use in the church during the year, which in turn has given the day yet another name, Candelemas.

The 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, it is also sung after Communion -- a practice continued 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 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 salvation from sin. Jesus would run into this again, to put it mildly, and Satan would even tempt him about 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?

As with Christmas, Candlemas is sometimes taken as simply a Christian version of 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 which figure, 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.

Well, 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 all that, 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, so there's your 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. This lasted well into Christian Rome, and some think Pope Gelasius in the 490s used Candlemas to replace and remove Lupercalia.

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.

25 January 2010

What's A Septuagesima? Gesimatide 2010.

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 spilled in circumcision, putting him under the Law, his blood would be spilled 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 makes him anyway so often. 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 season, this has taken various forms in various places and times but 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.

The Transition In The West And In The East.

The Western and the Eastern Churches also 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, reckoned backward from that to which they lead, Easter, which is not a fixed date 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.

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 Seventy Days, 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 day. 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 derives from the Latin for days, dies.

Seventieth day from Easter, no more complicated than that!

So, Septuagesima is 70 Days, Sexagesima is 60 Days, Quinqagesima is 50 Days. Simple.

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, and 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 and fall on, 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 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 in 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, so pre-Lent attains a nature as opposite from its Christian meaning as Advent has become the gift buying and partying season before Christmas. 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 face of all this, 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 the start of carnival season, to end just before Lent starts on Ash Wednesday. As the church prepares for the penitential season of Lent the world enjoys the flesh, in all senses of the word.

In the Western Church, if one follows the lead of the Great Whore, Rome, as unfortunately many have, the 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 novus ordo and the various adaptations of it, this significant time of transition from the Christmas cyle to the Easter cyle 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.

Actually, at first in English Lent itself followed the Gesima pattern and was called Quadragesima, meaning forty days, the duration of Lent in the West, which was also the name of the first Sunday in Lent, a word that then just meant Spring. This still survives in other languages. For example in Spanish the word is Cuaresma for Lent. No word yet on whether Rome can get languages like Spanish to quit calling Lent after a pattern it has abolished. The world, though, seems securely attached to its traditions; Carnival season will endure though Pre-Lent is done in. Who knows? Maybe the next 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.

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, 2010, it's 31 January. Join the Christian Church, East or West, in this transition, whatever your 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 our own gain first by nature and are all "unemployable" before the justice of God, who shows us mercy instead 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. (31 Jan 2010)

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. (7 Feb 2010)

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. (14 Feb 2010)

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.

18 January 2010

The Transfiguration of Jesus, 2010.

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 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.

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 isolate from, even protect against, what we are called to do in the rest of life. And are we not 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, yet 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 at that point in the progression of the life of Jesus between Advent and Christmas and Epiphany and his Baptism, and the Gesimatide preparation for Lent, Lent, Holy Week commemoration of his suffering and death, and Easter his resurrection.

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 news reached Rome that the Kingdom of Hungary had broken the Siege of Belgrade by the Ottoman Empire, which actually happened on 22 July, in honour of which 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, as the point of the church year in the life of the church is to celebrate and know the life of Jesus. There is though an interesting co-incidence (?) about the 6 August thing, 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. 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 death brought into his Creation by us.

And oddly enough, 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" in ways previously not possible. This year for example one can go to the top sidebar element on this blog and donate to our beloved synod's effort to bring relief to people in Haiti following the devastating earthquake.

Some things to ponder about transfiguration and going down into Jerusalem, whether we celebrate the Transfiguration on the last Sunday before Gesimatide, which this year is 24 January, or on 6 August. Or even if one is subjected to a wannabe version of the miserable revisionist Roman novus ordo, which does away with Gesimatide altogether (a post on what is Gesimatide and why you don't want to miss it is coming shortly here) and celebrates it as the last Sunday of a revised Epiphany Season on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, this year 14 February.

06 January 2010

Eastern Church/Empire, Western Church/Empire, 2010.

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

What if 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 state religion of the Eastern Roman Empire. 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.

This post will examine this development in twelve 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. Theodosius, Last Emperor East and West, Closes Old State Religion, 392/3.
VII. Western Empire Collapses in 476, Eastern Empire Continues to 1453.
VIII. West Makes Comeback As Holy Roman Empire, 800, Lasts Until 1806.
IX. Successor Empires East And West Last Until World War I.
X. Where Are They Now?
XI. Summation nostra aetate, In Our Time.
XII. 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 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 committe 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, 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 Octavius, or Octavian, 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, with 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, Diocletian remaining "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. Though Maximian would commit suicide on Constantine's orders and Diocletian it seems committed suicide over it, so retirement wasn't so good.

Diocletian also considered the expansion of Christianity a threat to the state and launched possibly the most violen 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 firsr 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. 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 had to divorce 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 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 Emporer after Valens the Eastern Emperor was killed in battle, then 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, Ambrose, as in "Saint" Ambrose, steering clear of whether it was murder or suicide -- became Emperor of both East and West, the last to do that.

V. Theodosius, Last Emperor East and West, Opens 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 when Theodosius I, on 27 February 380, declared Nicene Trinitarian Christianity the official, universal, or catholic, state religion of the empire. He deposed some bishops and appointed others in the new state religion, and ended state subsidy for the former state religion. So much for my kingdom is not of this world.

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

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 Emporer 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.

For that matter, he also shut down the Temple of Vesta in the Forum in Rome, put out its "eternal" fire, and disbanded the Vestal Virigins. He 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. The Olympic Games, by whatever account associated with the pagan Greek gods, became, as they say, history.

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.

Now, 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, abandoned her duties, causing famine and drought, and finally with the help of Zeus found her and thus ended the calamity 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.

Theodosius shut down the Eleusinian Mysteries too, 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 say 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.

What's of Lutheran interest about this? Well, the Games of course have their modern version, though one no longer needs to be male or Greek speaking to participate. The Mysteries, what were they? Nobody knows 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.

So 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.

VII. 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 (hence the name). 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.

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

The Eastern Empire considered itself and called itself Roman to the end. Latin was for some time its official language, 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.

VIII. 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 -- invaded and took over and called the city Eoferwic. Then the Vikings -- not more Germans exactly, but Germanic -- blew in in 866 and called in 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.

Well, once the Western Empire fell, the West attempted to come out of what are called the Dark Ages of overrun by the "Huns", those formerly outside the Empire, with the formation of the Holy Roman Empire when on Christmas 800 Leo III, the Bishop of Rome, 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). This was a conscious attempt to re-establish the Western Roman Empire -- though someone famously said it was neither Roman nor holy nor an empire -- and 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. Well, actually, his grandfather Charles Martel, which means "The Hammer", put it to-gether for him but did not take the title Emperor, or even King as his son Pepin did at Pope Zachary's nomination. Charlemagne completes the transition from his grandfather and father as Roman Emperor, Imperator Augustus to be exact, so crowned by the Roman Pope in 800.

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.

Back to the story, Charlegmagne 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, folllowing 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 on 2 February 962 by Pope John XII at St Peter's Basilica in Rome, this was 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.

For that reason, 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, Pope John XII who had crowned Otto soon turned on him, so Otto went back to Rome, deposed Otto, and had a layman elected Pope, that being Leo VII, but then 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.

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 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.

IX. 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.

X. Where Are They Now?

Yes, now. This stuff just didn't vanish. It's only been roughly 90 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.

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, who 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's a Baptist!

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 he remains Crown Prince and pretender to the throne, and lives in Bavaria. Archduke Karl, born 11 January 1961, was also a member of the European Parliament and serves as director of the non governmental organisation (NGO) UNPO, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation.

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's also 152nd in line for the British throne.

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. 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 181st in line Christoph is 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, not to mention Queen Sofia of Spain, who may queen there because she married Juan Carlos the king but is the sister of the unpopular last king of Greece, the Oldenburg Constantine II, deposed in 1973 and now living in London. 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 btw is not an Oldenburg but from the House of Bernadotte, set up by the French to be a client monarchy to Napoleon. The Church of Sweden (Lutheran) only became independent of the state in 2000.

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 where I got my university education, or if not that spent a hell of a few years, started in the New World. The current head of the house is Franz, Duke of Bavaria, born 14 July 1933 in Munich, active in many civic 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 the south pavillion of which, King Ludwig assembled Die Schoenheitengalerie (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". Oh, and some 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, monarch, but as Franz doesn't get into that, I won't either. And hey, who of us doesn't have a Gallery of Beauties on the south pavillion of his mind?

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, claims headship as the senior male heir. And God bless me sideways if Maria isn't also in line for the British throne, at #112.

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".

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 85, 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.

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

XI. 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. The current Pope Benedict hasn't crowned any emperors. 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.

XII. 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).

Textual Note. This post first appeared as an entirely new entity in 2009. It consisted of new material and material rewritten from four earlier posts, "A Wonder of the World and Forest Fires" on 27 August 2007, "Eastern Church/Empire, Western Church/Empire" on 1 September 2007, " 25 July A.D. 306 in Eboracum, Britannia" on 25 July 2008, and "More Twelve Days of Christmas, 2008" on 27 December 2008. About the most consistently hit page on this blog is the Eastern/Western one, but so much else related to it is in the other three or wasn't included in them, so the format was to assemble all the material from the prior posts and the new material within the structure of the Eastern/Western post. Additional new material is included for the 2010 version.

04 January 2010

What's A Divine Office, And Why Bother?

What's a Divine Office -- where God goes to work?

The divine office is along with the mass the public worship of the church. Oh man, hey, just give me Jesus, we're free aren't we, why bother with all this set stuff? One hears that a lot about liturgy these days. Well, here's why and how all this set stuff is part of giving you Jesus, or rather, part of Jesus giving himself to you.

Pre Messiah, there were no particular set times for prayer for hundreds of years. Not that prayer wasn't prayed at set times in various places, but there was nothing normative about it. That came at the end of the Babylonian Captivity (the one that happened to the Jews, not the Church!) with the return of the Jews to the Holy Land and the reconstruction of the Temple, ie the Second Temple. As part of that restoration, Ezra and the 120 Men established set times for prayer in essentially the form they are still used in the synagogue, which was adapted and continued by the church.

Established, not originated. These were not new, but were codified into three times of prayer during the day. These times were set to correspond to the three times of sacrifice in the Temple: morning (shaharit), afternoon (minha) and evening (arvit or maariv). On top of that, in Jewish tradition they trace themselves to the times of prayer Scripture records for each of the three great Patriarchs: Abraham in the morning (Gen19:27), Isaac at dusk (Gen24:63) and Jacob in the evening (Gen28:10).

This pattern was adapted by the Church in light of the Christ having come, and is the basis of the three major times of prayer in the Divine Office we know as Matins, Vespers and Compline. Just as in the Divine Service, or mass, we have essentially a Christian synagogue service followed by a Christian seder, a service of the word followed by the sacrament of the altar, so in the Divine Office we have a series of daily Christian synagogue services whose main ones are:

1. Matins, a Christian shaharit going back through the history of the New Israel the church to the pre-Messianic morning synagogue service which Jesus and the Apostles knew, and aligned with morning sacrifice in the Temple and on back to the morning prayer time of Abraham;

2. Vespers, a Christian minha going back through the church to the afternoon synagogue service known to Jesus and the Apostles, and aligned with the afternoon sacrifice in the Temple and on back to the afternoon prayer time of Isaac;

3. Compline, a Christian arvit or maariv going back through the church to the evening synagogue service Jesus and the Apostles knew, and aligned with the evening sacrifice in the Temple and on back to the evening prayer time of Jacob.

Where can you find this stuff? There's been all kinds of versions over time in both the Eastern and Western church. The history of this development is beyond our scope here. What is important here is three main points: 1) community gathering for prayer, preaching and Scripture reading throughout the day continued in the church from the synagogue from Apostolic times, for example Acts chapter 20; 2) amid the great variation in details over time and place a consistent pattern is clear; 3) the three major times of prayer came to feature canticles, hymns setting parts of Scpripture, usually known from their first words in Latin, the Te Deum for Matins, the Magnificat for Vespers, and the Nunc dimittis for Compline.

The Te Deum is the only canticle that is not directly from Scripture. Traditionally it is said to have been spontaneously composed as St Ambrose baptised St Augustine in 387. It proclaims the Creed in the context of a heavenly liturgy and concludes with verses from the Psalms. You want some praise music -- this is it!

The Magnificat quotes Mary's words to Elizabeth at the Visitation, Luke 1:46-55, which in turn reflects and fulfills the Song of Hannah, 1 Samuel 2:1-10, considered in Judaism the example of how to pray and as such the haftorah for Rosh Hoshannah or New Years, not to mention Mary's mother's name was Ana, or Anne, a variant of, guess what, Hannah! Want some more praise music -- this is it!

The Nunc dimittis quotes Simeon's words to Mary when Jesus was presented in the Temple to fulfill the Law, Luke 2:29-32. Our Common Service -- would that it were our common service -- also uses it as a thanksgiving after Communion. Want still more praise music -- this it it!

Also worth mentioning is the Benedictus, which quotes the words of Zacharias, a Temple priest and husband of Elizabeth and father of St John the Baptist, said in praise of the coming Messiah, Luke 1:68-79, which with the Magnificat and the Nunc dimittis are the three evangelical, because they come from Luke, canticles said every day. The Benedictus is associated with the office Lauds, meaning praise, which fits here because originally Lauds was Matins, but as the night vigil came to be said right before Lauds, the name Matins passed to the Vigil (hence the oddity of a morning name for a night service) and the original Matins became Lauds. In the Eastern Church Lauds is still at the end of Matins, which they call Orthros.

More praise. Looks like we don't have to go hunting for praise stuff, the church has had it all along in the Divine Office! And you hardly have to undertake some sort of monastic regimen. All this stuff started with parishes, not monasteries! Any of the hymnals in use by our beloved synod contains material for use, sometimes combining Vespers and Compline into one. Or, given that the Divine Office like the Divine Service is public communal prayer, you can just follow what is set out for personal or home Morning and Evening Prayer in the Little Catechism! That's what I do, with the "whatever your devotion may suggest" part being the daily reading from Walther in God Grant It from Concordia Publishing House.

Absolutely, not commanded by Scripture. But we Lutherans aren't an "If it ain't in Scripture we ain't doing it" crowd. Our Confessions are explicit -- though unfortunately sometimes our parishes aren't -- that we happily accept the observances and ceremonies that those who came before us in faith brought about and hand on to us, rejecting not what isn't in Scripture but only what contradicts it that crept in here and there over time.

And what a great gift has been handed to us! In the Divine Office as in the Divine Service we not only have a magnificent gift from those who came before us, but we take our place with them in the forward motion toward the final fulfillment of the promises of God, and do so in a vehicle that is itself an expression and product of the unfolding through all its points so far of the coming of salvation and leading on to that great and final Coming of the Omega drawing all Creation to its convergence in God in Jesus his Christ!!

Textual Note: This discussion of the Divine Office joins this year my "Blogoral Calendar", a series of posts aligned with the Church Year. My original post on the Office was part of something for the O Antiphons of Advent, then posted separately, and later more fully treated re the Office itself. It will be henceforward be published on the traditional feast day of the man who more than anyone else allowed this continuous song of praise of the church to survive the fall of the Roman Empire and its wake of destruction and pass to us. That is the holy father in faith St Benedict of Nursia, whose feast is celebrated, as is the custom with feasts, on 21 March, the date of his death, or rather birth unto eternity, regardless that it was moved to 11 July by the ecclesiatical vandals in their 1960s Sack of Rome called Vatican II that left its own wake of destruction. Abolished the term Matins too btw! For them. Luckily, the catholic church ain't the Catholic Church.

03 January 2010

Happy Epiphany / Theophany / Los Tres Reyes 2010!

Huh? Ain't The Holidays Over?

Gee whiz. Everyone took down their Christmas trees already because everyone knows Christmas is over. So what's an Epiphany, what's a Theophany, and who are these three kings, or los tres reyes as one says if one has the good fortune to speak Spanish.

Well, guess what, we're not sure they were kings and we don't know for sure that there were three of them -- that's inferred from there having been three gifts in the Biblical story. All we know is the Christian Church has for over 1,500 years celebrated a major feast on 6 January, but not always celebrating the same things. Man, sounds like one of those things we can just leave to the dustbin of history and stick to the Gospel, just preach Jesus, huh?

What's An Epiphany?

Maybe not. Consider. The word epiphany is an English form of a Greek word meaning appearance or manifestation. The word theophany is more specific, coming from the Greek for an appearance or manifestation of God. The former is more common in the Western Church, and the latter in the Eastern. The earliest known reference to the feast comes from a non Christian source, the soldier and historian Ammianus Marcellinus, a Roman of Greek descent, who in his later years wrote a history of the Roman empire to continue the work of Tacitus. His Res Gestae Libri XXXI covers the years we know as 96 to 378, but, of the thirty one books only the last eighteen, covering 353 to 378, are still around, or extant, as they say. His reference in 361, still in his lifetime, is the earliest known reference to a Christian feast celebrated on 6 January. OK, so we've nailed down that from at least the fourth century Christians were celebrating something that had to do with the manifestation of God, which, being Christians, would have to do with Jesus, on 6 January.

Actually the original feast was a combination of all the events of the young Jesus, from his birth, to his circumcision, the visit from whoever it was that visited from the East, his naming, his baptism, and his first public miracle changing water to wine at the wedding in Cana. From there, various local churches in various places spun off some of these events, or didn't, on to their own days, resulting in a celebration on this day but not of the same things. So we can nail this down too, that 6 January is among the oldest and most important of the Christian church's celebrations, which over time took on varying significance in various places.

Unfortunately, we can also nail down that, in the West anyway, even among those who have a liturgical calendar 6 January now passes relatively unnoticed. Even more unfortunately, if one follows the Roman Church, ever ready to act like the state religion of the Roman Empire that it is, and even more unfortunately yet followed into the abyss by other Christian bodies willingly even with no state forcing it to do so, 6 January isn't even the feast day any more, after over a millennium and one half of observance!!!

The mitred monkeys made the feast to fall on the Sunday after the first Saturday in January, bumping what was the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus on that day, poor guy -- which in years where there was no Sunday between the Circumcision on the 1st and Epiphany on the 6th was celebrated on 2 January, btw -- in the 1970 novus ordo, a new mass with a new calendar and lectionary to fit, all in the service of the new religion re-invented from the old at Vatican II. Well, I guess when you're the Whore of Babylon you can pretty well do what you want, you will do pretty well what you want, but why those of us out here in the ecclesial unions -- Rome's term for churches that aren't really churches, not being in union with the one church, themselves of course, but preserve some truth along with their respective errors in churchy associations -- would have the slightest inclination to follow this madness either exactly or in adaptations for own use defies all explanation since it makes us brothelial unions following the Whore in its further retreat from the Gospel of Christ.

Who Are These Three Kings Or Magi Or Whatever?

Now, back to Epiphany, in the Western Church (not to be confused with the Roman Church) 6 January has come to celebrate the arrival of the Magi. OK, so what's a Magi and where did they arrive. Well, we don't know for sure. Great -- after all the above, we actually do find more dustbin of history stuff, let's just preach Jesus?

Maybe not. Consider. What's a Magi? The word Magi -- did you notice it's pretty close to the word magic? -- comes from a Latin version of the Greek plural of a word they derived from the Persian word for the priests of Zoroaster. These guys are sometimes called astrologers, but that can be misleading because then the term had no reference at all to storefront fortune tellers and the like, but rather to the application of astronomy and mathematics to phenomena in the best science of the time, which later lead to the term being applied to all sorts of occult religion and what came to be called magic.

Now, Matthew is the only one of the four Gospels that records the visit of the Magi. Interesting that he does not record the birth of Jesus itself where Luke does but does not record the Magi, and Mark doesn't bother with any of it, starting with Jesus' Baptism. In my scripture classes at a Catholic university, also attended by pre-seminarians, we learned that this of course shows the evolution of the story by writers of the Christian community as a pious expression of their faith rather than anything to be taken literally or written as some kind of accurate record as we now understand accurate.

Yeah, well, getting back to the Christian faith and church, Matthew only says they were from the East, which means they weren't Jews, like the shepherds in nearby fields who also came.So here is the next thing we can nail down. The Magi represent the manifestation of Jesus the incarnation of God to the Gentiles, non Jews, for the first time. These men, whatever their origin, were not followers of the religion God revealed to the the Jews, but of the best wisdom and science of their own place. So in the visit of the Magi we see two things: one is that God became Man in Jesus for all people, not only his own, and the wisdom of all people, even apart from the revelations of the Law and the Prophets, both leads to Jesus and is completed in Jesus.

St Paul would later preach accordingly to Gentiles, not first instructing them in the Law and the Prophets, but taking their own religious ideas and pointing out how it both leads to Christ, but is not able to be complete without Christ, and is fulfilled and made complete in Christ. Being a Gentile, that Jesus' birth from the outset showed this is from God for Jews and Gentiles alike is a pretty big deal to me, certainly on that alone worth celebrating in a major way.

Where Did They Come From?

In the West, the names of the Magi are traditionally given as Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. Not Biblical but fairly well settled on by the eighth century. The Eastern Church has other names for them, not the same ones in all places, and with the exception of the Syrian ones none of them show any clear Persian derivation. Here's something I find fascinating: among some Chinese Christians, it is believed that one of the Magi was Chinese. Liu Shang was an astrologer (in the sense above) in the Han dynasty at the time of Jesus' birth and discovered a star that was supposed to indicate the birth of a king, whereupon he was absent from the imperial court for about two years -- about enough time to follow the Silk Road (man, I gotta post about the Silk Road some time) and make it to Palestine!

On the other hand, Marco Polo said he was shown the tombs of the three Magi about 1270 south of modern Tehran. On the other hand (yeah, I know, that makes three hands) St Helena supposedly found the remains of the Magi on her trip to Palestine -- Helena being the mother of Constantine, and 80 at the time of this trip -- and took them to the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, which were later taken to Milan, then by order of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I in 1164, before Marco Polo, taken to the cathedral at Cologne, where they are, or something is, to-day.

Interesting indeed, but not something to get all caught up in, because the significance of the Magi isn't their names or where their remains are, but the manifestation of God to all people of which they were the first example.

Where Did They Go To?

One interesting custom follows from the Western names for them. At the New Year there is the custom of writing the initials of the three, CMB, above the door to one's house to ask for blessings in the new year. Now, this follows the idea of the Magi coming to Jesus' home, but we represent them usually at the manger, not his home, and this custom probably reflects the tradition that they arrived some time later after the Holy Family had either returned home or were staying elsewhere around Jerusalem after the birth itself. So there is some variation in just where they arrived, as well as when they arrived and who they were.

But again, the point isn't in the details, it's in that they visited the Holy Family where they were living at the time. CMB, their initials, is then an acronym for Christus mansionem benedicat, may Christ bless this house. This is done by Sternsinger, German for star singers, a reference to the star which guided the Magi, children who carry a star and dress like the Magi, who write the initials and collect donations for charitable work. The custom of house blessings continues to this day -- at least Pastor Weedon blogged about doing some, though I don't remember he mentioned any sternsinger.

Got Your Epiphany Shopping Done?

Also, in many places, especially those of Spanish derived culture, Epiphany is the gift giving day, after the example of the gifts of the Magi. This is Los Tres Reyes, the three kings. You put your shoes out, and if you're smart put a little hay in there for the camels, in some places (like PR) it's a box of hay under the bed, and you can leave a little note for the present you'd like, and on Epiphany you wake up and there's your presents, brought by the three kings! How about that, no clown in a red suit jumping down the fireplace, but the Magi coming by with presents for you just like they did for Christ.

I read in Spain there have been demonstrations against Santa Claus, a McWorld displacement of bringing gifts to children by the Magi. Jolly good show, I say! The whole world doesn't have to follow the secular Christmas customs of the United States, and, the Magi are considerably less removed from their Biblical character than Santa Claus is from St Nicholas.

But apart from these customs in other places, Epiphany isn't going to be much of a deal here in the US. However, there are signs of hope! Epiphany may be saved from cultural invisibility by the same commercialisation that has saved Christmas. Yes, you read it right, saved Christmas -- think how Christmas would disappear entirely in the secular "politically correct" world were if not for the revenue it generates for the economy and business. And, as the Latin presence in the US continues to expand, many retailers are finding that by making more of Epiphany with its gift giving traditions they can extend the harvest of the season!

Yes, that will come at the expense, so to speak, of the "real meaning of Epiphany" just as with Christmas, but it keeps it visible in a world that doesn't really want to hear the meaning of any of this, and that's where the church can come in, you know, preaching the Word and stuff like that.Myself, though of English descent, and later culturally adopted by the Puerto Rican contingent at university, I was adopted by a couple of Irish descent, and Dad always called Epiphany "Little Christmas" following Irish custom, and there was one more present on Epiphany. I continue that with my own boys, though we don't do the whole box of hay thing -- they don't even speak any Spanish! Yet. But the idea is to tie it to the Magi, the manifestation of God to all people, the giving of what one has to Christ, the giving to each other as he gave to us, and most of all, his giving himself to us and for us. On 6 January.

What's A Theophany?

Finally, what's this Theophany stuff? In the Eastern Church, while in some places it is still along the multifaceted lines of its original observance, 6 January is not associated with the Magi at all but usually a celebration with focus on the Baptism of the Lord in the River Jordan by John. Theophany is a wonderful name for this feast, being as we saw more specific than Epiphany -- specifying who is being manifest here, God. And on the event of Jesus' Baptism, we have the only time when all three Persons of the Trinity were manifest to Man at the same time: God the Father speaking from the heavens, God the Son in Jesus, and God the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descending from the heavens.

The West has come to celebrate the Baptism separately from the coming of the Magi, but this beautiful celebration of the Eastern Church has much to show us about the Baptism of Jesus, whether we celebrate it this day or separately.Theophany and Epiphany both celebrate manifestations of God, though different ones, and both are on 6 January. However, the Eastern Church liturgically uses the older Julian calendar, in which 6 January falls on what is 19 January in the Gregorian calendar in secular use pretty much everywhere now.

So, between the Great Schism of 1054 and Vatican II, equally disastrous splitting events in Christianity, ain't nobody gonna be in church for nothin on Gregorian 6 January unlike hundreds and hundreds of years of those who came before us in faith and thought they were passing it on -- except for the years when it falls on a Sunday anyway, or if you're a red hymnal or die type (I raise my hand here), or if you follow that part of the LSB that follows the Christian Church rather than Vatican II, or belong to groups in other churches attempting to maintain the faith amid the onslaught of revisionism and Vatican II wannabeism.

Conclusion.

Whatever their names, wherever they came from, whoever they were, whenever they got there, and wherever that was, and whether it's the coming of the Magi or the Baptism of the Lord, let us celebrate and rejoice in the appearance of God, the manifestation of God to Man in Jesus Christ, 6 January and every other day too!!