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.

30 September 2010

St Jerome. 30 September 2010.

Now here's a hell of a guy.

Let's start where I started, long ago in a galaxy far far away -- by which I mean, the preconciliar Roman Catholic Church, which, there having been lots of councils to be pre- to, means pre-Vatican II.

Here's what I recall from those days. We used an official Bible in Latin, and our English versions were made from the Latin, and that Latin Bible was the Latin translation of St Jerome, often called the Vulgate. Protestants didn't do that. They had the King James Bible, translated from Hebrew and Greek, not translated from a translation into Latin, and, it was claimed by those who claimed it, therefore more accurate.

Not so, we were told, or at least I remember being told. St Jerome, for one thing, was a saint, a term not at least as yet applicable to modern Biblical scholars. And, he was much closer in time to the Biblical, particularly the New Testament, authors, which meant his understanding of the languages was more immediate and not from scholarly studies centuries later. And also, he worked from better sources than we have, including texts that no longer exist. Therefore, in using Jerome's Latin Bible, we are using a source altogether more trustworthy than the much later sources and scholarship of the Protestant Bibles translations.

What's ironic is, in his own day, Jerome was highly controversial for using the Hebrew text of the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, as the Jewish translation into Greek called the Septuagint was considered the normative and inspired text for centuries going back to the Greek-speaking early church, and whose longer canon was the basis for the Old Testament canon.

Fact is, Jerome was controversial for a hell of a lot more than that and was run out of Rome! Holy crap, people jumped all over Jimmy Swaggart for getting caught with a prostitute, but that ain't nuttin compared to this story. Here it is.

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

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

But in 382 he goes back to Rome again, this time as assistant to Pope Damasus I. Now there's another hell of a guy. Man, papal elections just ain't what they used to be. Twice over actually. Once upon a time, they were a matter of the clergy and people of the area choosing a bishop, or overseer, with overseers from nearby areas confirming it. But by this time we have Constantine, and Christianity attaining respectable state-recognised status, and the Emperor confirmed newly elected bishops. That's helpful because sometimes more than one guy claimed to be elected, sometimes in more than one election!

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

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

Damasus was "pope" from 366 until he died on 11 December 384. During which time, we have to remember to really get what was going on here, the Emperors East and West made the church as headed by Damasus, and Peter in Antioch, the official state church and the one recognised as "catholic", in the Edict of Thessalonica on 27 February 380, the birthday of the Catholic Church, as distinct from the catholic church. It was during Damasus' papacy that the Emperor Gratian. one of the signatories to the Edict of Thessalonica, refused the traditional title of pontifex maximus, which then became associated with the bishop of Rome as the chief priest of the Roman state religion. In sum, this is the era of the beginning of the Babylonian Captivity of the Church (Babylon of course being a figure for Rome).

So in 382, when Damasus calls Jerome back to Rome to help him shape things up, what was being shaped up was the new Catholic Church, which by Imperial edict was the only church entitled to the name, all others were heretics and deserving of such punishment as the Empire should choose to inflict, and this "Catholic Church" the official state religion. The Western Roman Empire was just decades away from falling apart, so a lot of this had to do with staving off that.

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

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

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

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

Well, it would also be about a thousand years or so until THAT message got out, little thing called the Lutheran Reformation, by a fellow survivor of the remnants of all this nonsense, guy named Martin Luther. Sorry if this stuff isn't in the sanitised reductive biographical sketches that turn up in treasuries of prayer and stuff like that, but them's the facts. It's a disgusting pagan mess, massacres, murders, politics, scandals and all, and from the time of Jerome's life on, the official religion of the state held to be right from the Apostles, which remained in the East, and remained in the West after it reconstituted itself as the Holy Roman Empire, and remains to this day in the former state churches that survive these empires.

This is the world of Augustine, Jerome, Damasus, etc -- the Western Roman Empire, which contains Rome, once the centre of the whole thing, in utter turmoil between its classic philosophy, art, culture and religion and the new religion, in attendant civil turmoil, and under assault from Germanic forces outside it. The sack of Rome came in 410, 24 August to be exact, by Alaric, King of the Visigoths. The efforts to synthesise Rome's past and present failed utterly to preserve Rome. But it created a state religion which survived the death of the state that created it, became the one remaining link upon which the new state would be built, the Holy Roman Empire, and survives to this day in the West as the Roman Catholic Church as well as other state churches, some of them with the word Lutheran in them, and most having now severed the connexion to their modern state as mandatory, and in the East as the various Eastern Orthodox churches.

And all of it based entirely on the characteristics of this age, not in the least on the Gospel, as a dying empire tried to redefine itself for survival -- hence "true" churches, "apostolic succession", "bishops" who were as well state officials and political powers, and all the other nonsense by which the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches try to justify themselves and their pagan accretions which would hold the catholic church in captivity until the Lutheran Reformation, the need for which was so strong amid all this horse dung and bullroar that later "reforms" blew right past the Lutheran Reformation to an opposite but equally bad extreme, which to-day but not originally travels under the name Protestant or Evangelical.

A pope supported by the wealthy Roman class in their twilight who kills his opponents and becomes by edict of the Emporer the true recipient of the true faith; a holy man whose I'd better inflict all this on myself asceticism is funded by more wealthy Roman class money and kills the daughter of his main supporter and disgusts even the Romans.

So what do we do then, forget about all this as an unholy mess we can ignore and just get back to the Bible, the "New Testament" church? No. And hell no. Judas H Priest, the New Testament church did not have the New Testament, so how ya gonna do that? You ain't.

Because here's the thing, the Babylonian Captivity was just that, a captivity, not an extinction. The catholic church survived and continues to survive even the invention of the Catholic Church by the Roman Empire. And why is that? Because of the truth expressed in the motto of the Lutheran Reformation, which motto is simply Scripture itself, both New and Old Testament.

VDMA. Verbum Domini manet in aeternum. The Word of the Lord endures forever. It cannot be overcome, and on its central truth about Jesus Christ is built the church against which the gates of hell itself cannot prevail, let alone the Roman Empire. It can survive power mongers like Damasus and pathological lunatics like Augustine and Jerome.

Particularly Jerome. His new Latin translation really did, even if the work of a nut case whose nuttiness was fatal and supposed self-denial based on the wealth of others, establish a better text of the Bible in the most widely understood language of its time and remained key in the availability of the Bible for centuries to come, as that language became the language of learning, and really did introduce, to a thoroughly Gentilised Christianity with the barest of understandings of the Jewish faith it fulfilled that had replaced it with reworkings in Christian dress of its classic philosophy, a more Jewish understanding of the texts, admired to this day by Jews, not to mention the Hebrew itself.

Not only that, but Jerome set in motion a tradition of selections from Scripture for reading at the preaching part if the Divine Service which would continue for about 1,500 years, and still continues as what we now call the "historic" lectionary. And why is it historic, because it's, well, old, you know, historic. Hell no. Because there's another one now, a product in the 1960s of that part of the church still in Babylonian Captivity, a product of the last council there, Babylon II, er, Vatican II.

The Western Roman Empire, under its new Germanic leaders, managed after a few hundred years known as the Dark Ages to more or less reconstitute itself as the Holy Roman Empire, and the old state church of the old Roman Empire, the Catholic Church, was right there to take its place in the whole set up. Some consider the HRE to have begun with the coronation -- by the "pope" of course -- of Charlemagne, Karl der Grosse, in 800, as Emperor of the Romans, and some consider it to have begun with the coronation -- by the "pope" of course -- of Otto on 2 February 962. But in any case it lasted for about another 1,000 years, and formally ended on 6 August 1806 at the hands of Napoleon, with the newly deposed last HRE, Francis II, who however continued as Francis I, Emperor of Austria. Francis hell, it was Franz dammit, the only Doppelkaiser in history. Kaiser, that's a Germanisation of guess what, Caesar. Doppel is double.

But by about 100 years after that, the underpinnings of the Roman Catholic Church seemed even to many within it as wearing a bit thin, the Roman Empire being long gone and now the Holy Roman Empire being long gone too, and movements began in various circles, some Scriptural, some doctrinal, some liturgical, to re-express this whole deal in terms not so connected to things long gone. So they set about coming up with something more attuned to the existentialism and phenomenology then all the rage.

A couple of problems with that. Once again, just as in the time of Jerome, Augustine, Damasus, et al, we have an entity trying to preserve itself by merging its past with its present and future of different origin. But, that past was exactly the product of what was once the different origin the last time around. IOW, that church's Empire, both of them, were gone and now their church had to go it alone in another emerging new world and once again it sought to reinvent itself as a synthesis, hybrid, reconciliation, something like that, of the two. This culminated at Vatican II, when the old Imperial church reinvented itself for a new post-Imperial age.

Problem is, the old Imperial church was just that, the old Imperial church, not the catholic church or the church of Jesus Christ, and one of the two elements being synthesised into a new synthesis was itself a previous synthesis of Christianity and the old empire. Christianity, the catholic church, the church of Jesus Christ, thought by the proponents of this movement to be re-emerging after centuries of being obscured, was in fact being yet further obscured; the Babylonian Captivity deepened, only re-expressed in terms of the new Babylon that no longer had it as its church, or had a church at all.

In this way it only superficially resembled the real reformation of the church, which had happened nearly five centuries before already, with such things as vernacular languages, free standing altars. And so the Whore of Babylon thoroughly remodelled the brothel, with a new order of liturgy (yeah, literally, a novus ordo) complete with new calendar of observances and new lectionary of readings, replacing the one that had grown for centuries.

Now that's not surprising, that's what you do when you're the Whore of Babylon, and the Babylon that formed you and kept you as its whore is gone and there is a new Babylon

But these came about on an entirely different basis than the reforms of the Reformation, which did not run from the march of history nor wish to discard or disparage it for all its warts and blemishes, but accept it and move on, not reinventing anything but continuing in continuity, discarding only that which contradicted Scripture.

So what is surprising is that the churches of the Reformation generally, and even those of the Lutheran Reformation, jumped on board with this insanity, took the novus ordo and revised and reworked their own versions of it! And now we have an "historic" lectionary right alongside a Vatican II For Lutherans Lutheranised version of this novus ordo, even leading the Whore herself in this regard because we didn't have to wait a generation or so for a Roman Imperial official with only a church of the former state left -- a "pope", in case you were wondering -- to say it's OK with a motu proprio! Utter madness.

So on this feast of St Jerome, let us remember that, you know what, he really was closer to the authors and sources of the Bible than our vaunted modern scholars working removed by centuries, and really did, nut case and all, contribute to the church which even he and his contemporaries and times and subsequent times could put in captivity but not extinction, a thing of great value in the Vulgate Bible and the tradition of the historic lectionary.

And let us remember that the Reformation has already happened and not at all on the basis that fuelled Babylon II, er, Vatican II, and we continue as the catholic church where the Word is rightly proclaimed and the Sacraments rightly administered, no new faith, no new doctrine, no new anything, and sure as hell no new orders of worship, based on the scholarship emerging from the dissolution, not just politically but in every way, of the Holy Roman Empire, in which there is no "hermeneutic of continuity" whatever but a pathetic old whore trying to still work the streets, but rather the organic continuity of the catholic church normed by its very own book, the Bible, rejecting only what contradicts it.

26 September 2010

New Addition To Daily Read Lutheran Blog List.

Lately I've seen some videos reposted on the blogs I read that are amazing.

They come from a blog called Worldview Everlasting, by Pastor Jonathan Fisk.

I would encourage any and all readers of this blog to jump over there and check out Pastor Fisk's videos on Worldview Everlasting. Some real, solid stuff. Real solid stuff.

Now I know readers of Past Elder may find the jump from printed posts to video posts a bit of a, well, jump. Not to mention the jump from the staid, academic, measured prose associated with this blog to the brash, media culture, unconventional approach of that blog. Not to mention not to mention a nontraditional style of presenting a traditional message. Not to mention not to mention not to mention an air that may seem breezy and irreverent as distinct from the shrinking violet air here.

But Judas H Digital Priest, don't let that stop you. These short videos are terrific. Don't miss them! You can start with this link, and always find the link on the Daily Read Lutheran Blog List on the sidebar.

22 September 2010

Jonas, And I Don't Mean The Brothers' Band. (Jonah)

A really excellent post on Pastor McCain's really excellent blog Cyberbrethren got me going.

Jonah is one of those Eastern observances that we have well added to our calendar. Although our current calendar unfortunately adds Vatican II novus ordo style revisionist nonsense along with preserving the Christian calendar which grew out of the Jewish one, it also adds, commendably, some observances of Old Testament figures the Eastern Christian calendar has that the Western historically hasn't. Jonah is one of them, which is on 22 September. In the Gregorian Calendar; for those in the East following the Julian Calendar liturgically, it's 5 October.

Growing up, in that preconciliar RCC time, I was taught that Jonah -- or Jonas as we said then following the Septuagint, or Greek, form of the name -- prefigured Christ with the three day thing and all, the great fish prefigured the tomb of Christ, his coming out of the fish the ressurrection of Christ, the water the water of Baptism, etc.

But how much more there is! Where Jonas was the "reluctant prophet", Jesus is not! Jonah wanted judgement, especially on Nineveh, which was not only not part of the Chosen People, but one of its enemies. He was called; he just didn't like what he was called to! His reluctance was to a message of repentance, and forgiveness that it brings, to all people. Teshuva, the Hebrew for repentance, is extended to all Man, not just the people chosen to bear the message.

He doesn't like that. But the book makes God's insistence on it clear. The pagan sailors' piety and desire to do what's right before God, as best they could understand it by their own incomplete lights, is contrasted with Jonas' reluctance and the problems it brings them. And after the message is delivered to Nineveh, God takes him to task for being more concerned about a gourd given for his help than the fate of the people -- and animals -- of Nineveh! But they do repent, and yes, fast.

Nineveh, btw, was the capital of Assyria, a threat to the Jews which would later conquer them and a centre of the worship of Ishtar. Regardless, God offers them repentance, and with no insistence that they undertake observance of the Law of Moses. You may have heard of its location in the news lately, in case you think this is more musty Past Elder stuff. Its ruins are across the river Tigris from Mosul, Iraq. And what for sure isn't musty is the message that God offers repentance and forgiveness unto all Man, even the wicked and those who oppose God, everyone.

For which reason the Book of Jonah is read in its entirety on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which is the precursor of Christ the Atonement, as the haftorah, which is the reading from the Prophets to expand on the reading from the Law that is the precursor to the "Epistle" reading to expand on the Gospel reading, at mincha, which is the afternoon service corresponding to the afternoon Temple sacrifice that is the precursor of Vespers.

20 September 2010

St Michael's Day / Michaelmas / Michaelistag 29 September 2010.

This was a pretty big day for centuries, and still is contained in our LCMS calendar. Phillip Melanchthon even wrote a poem for the day which became a hymn, "Lord God, To Thee We Give All Praise", or "Dicimus grates tibi summe rerum" in his Latin original, yes, Latin, which is hymn 254 in The Lutheran Hymnal, or, I suppose it won't hurt to say, 522 in LSB.

Here's why the big deal.

Michael in the Bible.

Michael is one of the angels, and is mentioned by name in three books of the Bible, Daniel, Jude and Revelation aka the Apocalypse. His name means in Hebrew "Who is like God?"

In Daniel, Gabriel, another leading angel, tells Daniel that Michael is his helper in defending the Jews, this wrt Daniel's prayer that the Jews be able to return to Jerusalem (Daniel 10), and later (Daniel 12) Michael is again identified as he who stands up for "the sons of thy people", the Jews, who will do so in the final battle at the end of time. This is the only time he is mentioned by name in the Hebrew Bible.

It is not the only time he appears, depending on who you listen to. Some say he is the "captain of the host of the Lord" in the Book of Josue, or Joshua, 5:13-15, but some say this cannot be since he accepted worship and only God can do that. So some then say the figure was actually a disguised appearance of God himself, and some say (like my historical-critical Scripture profs in college) that that is what "angels" are anyway, not separate beings but muted references due to piety for God himself so Man can stand the interaction.

Rabbinic tradition variously credits him with being the angel who rescued Abraham from Nimrod's furnace, who protected Sarah from being defiled as Abraham's sister as Abraham tried to protect her by calling his sister and not wife, who told Sarah she would have a son, who brought the ram provided by God for Abraham to substitute for that son Isaac in sacrifice, who was the angel who wrestled with Jacob, with being the angel who spoke to Moses in the burning bush and later taught Moses the Law, on and on, including things in writings not in the Hebrew Bible such as protecting Adam and Eve after the Fall and teaching him how to farm.

This role of protector and defender was passed on to the early Christian church, among so much else in Judaism, not just in these stories, but he is mentioned twice in the New Testament.

In the Letter of Jude, verse 9, he argues with Satan over Moses' body, also a Jewish theme, keeping the Moses' body hidden so reverence would be directed to God and not misplaced hero worship (saint veneration?). In the Book of Revelation, or The Apocalypse, chapter 12, Michael is given a similar role in the last battle at the end of time as he had in the revolt of the angels in heaven at the beginning, as military leader of the forces of good.

Michael in Later Stories.

There are many other legends of Michael's intervention on behalf of Christians in history, of which we will mention two as particularly noteworthy. He is said to have worked with the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, and a celebration on 8 November became the main feast of St Michael in the Eastern Church. Also he is said to have appeared over the mausoleum of Hadrian in Rome to answer the prayers of Pope St Gregory the Great in 950 that a plague in Rome stop, after which the mausoleum, destroyed by the Visigoths and Goths but rebuilt as a papal fort and residence, was called Castel Sant'Angelo, Church of the Holy Angel, and still is to this day.

It was connected by a fortified covered passage, the Passeto di Borgo, to St Peter's Basilica by Pope Nicholas II (pope from 25 November 1277 to 22 August 1280), to provide an escape route for the popes, which turned out handy for Pope Clement VII.

There's a story. Clement had allied with French forces to offset the power of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, he to whom the Augsburg Confession was presented, and Charles' army had defeated them in Italy. However, there was no money to pay the soldiers, and it is never ever a good idea to mess with military payroll then, now, or ever. In this case, the troops figured well hell, there's all these riches in Rome, let's go there and take them, which is exactly what they did, about wiping out the Swiss Guards on 5/6 May 1527, the "Sack of Rome". Clement made it out to Castel Sant'Angelo but became a prisoner there and eventually surrendered on 6 June.

Neither the HRE Charles nor Martin Luther approved of this, but it did have the practical effect of curbing papal power, with a lot of money and land changing hands, over the Holy Roman Empire. Luther saw Christ's providence in this, saying that the Emperor who persecuted the Lutheran Reformation for the Pope ends up himself having to destroy the Pope. Might just be something to that. To commemorate the fight put up by the Swiss Guards, new ones have their swearing-in on 6 May to this day.

The Passeto and Castel sant'Angelo still exist, the latter now as an Italian national museum, and has a HUGE statue of St Michael on top of it. Not surprisingly, so much intrigue having played out in it historically, it is the headquarters of the "Illuminati" in the fictional "Angels and Demons", a recent movie by Dan Brown of da Vinci Code fame.

St Michael has thus become the patron of guardians of various kinds, from policemen to the sick. Western church writings speak of his feast from at least the 6th century, and other observances based on other appearances and legends arose elsewhere. But 29 September as the Feast of St Michael is among the oldest observances in the Western calendar.

The Feast of St Michael the Archangel, and All Angels.

Why is that? Not to mention, how is that? The custom in the church is to take the date of a saint's death, that being the day he was born to eternity as it were, as his feast day, or if that is unknown, the date of something else he did or is associated with him. Now Michael being an angel and all, ain't dead, so it can't be his date of death, so what is that something else?

Here's what. The feast isn't actually the Feast of St Michael, but the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St Michael. The Leonine Sacramentary, from the Sixth Century (the 500s) gives a feast Of the Birth of the Basilica of the Angel on the way to Salaria; the The Gelesian Sacramentary, from the Seventh Century, gives a Feast of St Michael the Archangel, but both of these were on 30 September. Then in the Eighth Century, the Gregorian Sacramentary gives a Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St Michael the Archangel, but puts it on 29 September.

That's just as well -- gonna need 30 September for the Feast of St Jerome, who died on that day in 420. So we have a feast on 29 September of the dedication of a church to St Michael, howdya like that? Two things about that. For one thing, church, didn't it say basilica, what the hell is that? A basilica originally was not a church at all, but a meeting place for merchants and mercantile justice, but as they were pretty nice big buildings, they got taken over as churches, with the state church and all, and later such churches were called basilica from the get-go.

For another, the specific basilica whose dedication established the feast on 29 September hasn't existed for over a thousand years! One thing's for sure though. 29 September sure in the hell ain't what Vatican II made of it in the novus ordo, where it's now the Feast of Michael, Gabriel and Rafael. Utter revisionist bullroar. 29 September has been about Michael, and the whole company of angels by extension, since it started, and even if the basilica disappeared a thousand years ago, why in the hell a thousand years later does the Whore of Babylon mess with it?

Because that's what the Whore of Babylon does, mess with things. Gabe has his own feast day, which is 24 March, and in the Eastern church his day is 8 November in the Julian Calendar, which is 21 November in the Gregorian Calendar, and two other days as well (26 March and 13 July if you wanna know, the first for his role in the Annunciation and the other for all his other stuff). Rafe has his own feast day too, which is 24 October.

It's interesting the both these feast were only put in the General Roman Calendar in 1921, however, in the sanctoral calendars at lexorandi.org, the 1731 Lutheran Almanac, on the 200th Anniversary of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession, has Gabe's but not Rafe's, and "The Calendar", which I believe is Loehe's, has Rafe's but not Gabe's, and my "Manual of Prayers", ordered prepared by the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore with Imprimatur 17 May 1889 by James Cardinal Gibbons no less (it was my dad's), has Rafe on 24 October and Gabe but on 18 March, so 1921 didn't start anything but standardise it for Rome.

To its credit, among the many things to its credit, The Lutheran Hymnal -- you know, THE Lutheran Hymnal -- doesn't jack around with any of that, but simply retains The Feast of St Michael and All Angels, and to its credit, Lutheran Service Book, while it does often follow the novus ordo model of jacking around with stuff, doesn't jack around with this one. And given that the dedication thing has kind of lost its significance, the basilica being dedicated being gone a millennium now, it's still worth mentioning since originally that is why 29 September.

And yes, it's kind of like an All Angels Day too. Which is just fine. St Michael being the commander of the angelic forces, like any good commander, he doesn't forget his men.

Various Michaelmas Observances.

We ain't done! Michaelmas has all sorts of stuff attached to it. For centuries, it was a holy day of obligation -- you gotta go to Mass. As the Germans were Christianised, St Michael took the place of Wotan, and you will find St Michael chapels in the mountains, previously sacred to Wotan, there to this day. Michaelmas is also one of the four Quarter Days in Mother England: Lady Day 25 March, Midsummer Day 24 June, Michaelmas 29 September, Christmas 25 December.

What the hell is a Quarter Day? These are four days roughly equivalent to the two equinoxes and two solstices, when business and legal dealings need to be settled -- rents and bills are due (the rent thing is still often followed in England), judges had to visit outlying areas to make sure no matters go on unresolved, servants and labourers are hired so employment isn't up in the air, stuff like that. This is big stuff, coming from the Magna Carta itself of 1215, when the barons secured against the king, John at the time, the principle that no-one's right to justice will be sold, denied, or delayed.

Ever gone to a job fair resume in hand to meet prospective employers? You're right in the tradition of Michaelmas! At harvest's end, on the day after Michaelmas labourers would assemble in the towns for just that purpose with a sign of the work they do in their hands to get employment for the next year. Such events came to be called Mop Fairs, from those seeking employment as maids showing up with a broom in hand, like a resume to show the prospective employer what work they could do.

Pay your taxes due in April? You're right in the tradition of the Quarter Days! Hell, Lady Day was the first day of the calendar year until the change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in 1752, and when taxes were due. The English tax year still starts on "Old" Lady Day, 6 April.

Oh btw, the lady in Lady Day is Jesus' mother Mary, and the day is more widely known as the Feast of the Annunciation, commemorating the announcement by Gabriel to Mary that if she consented she would bear Jesus, nine months before his birth 25 December, and Julian refers to Julius Caesar who set the old calendar, and Gregorian refers to Pope St Gregory who modified it into what we use to-day.

In England, the modified more accurate Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1752, and on 3 September in the old Julian Calendar it became 14 September in the new Gregorian calendar. Many were confused by this, thinking they had lost 11 days of their lives, leading to protests in the streets. Michaelmas was the first big deal to happen after the change, leading some to say that since we lost 11 days, Michaelmas is really 10 October in the new calendar, which is then "Old" Michaelmas Day.

A lot of the resistance to the Gregorian calendar came from it being done by a pope. It was actually the work of Aloysius Lilius, and Gregory made it official 24 February 1582 in the papal bull "inter gravissimas". It's named as is the custom in many places from its first couple of words, which here mean "among the most serious", and changing to it was taken in many Protestant countries as a deference to papal power.

Michaelmas was also the start of winter curfew, which lasts until Shrove Tuesday, with bells being rung at 2100 hours (that's 9pm) to signal the curfew, which is literally lights out, "curfew" meaning "cover the fire", put out the household fires and lamps.

Michaelmas is also called Goose Day, because goose is eaten for the meal, coming from the practice of those who couldn't pay their rent or bills on the Quarter Day offering a goose instead to the landlord. There's an old rhyme -- He who eats goose on Michaelmas Day, shan't money lack his debts to pay.

It also started the new term, Michaelmas term, at Oxford and Cambridge. Still does!

It is also the day when peasants on manors elected their new reeve. What the hell is a reeve? A serf elected by the other serfs to manage the land for the landowner nobleman, the lord. A reeve of an entire shire was a shire-reeve. What the hell is a shire? That's what counties were called before the Norman Conquest, county being the name of the land controlled by a count in continental Europe where the damn Normans came from. Bunch of old stuff lost in history? Got a sheriff in your county? It's exactly why the chief law enforcement officer of your county is called a sheriff, a contraction over time of shire reeve.

Now.

So there's stuff from this all around our modern life. And now, maybe, one more. Back to the legends about St Michael, one of them is, when he kicked Satan out of heaven, which was on 29 September story goes, Satan fell to earth and landed in a bunch of blackberry thorns, which totally ticked him off so he cursed the fruit of the bush, stomped on them, breathed fire on them, spat on them and just generally went nuts. This curse renews every Michaelmas Day, so, what ever you do, DO NOT pick or eat blackberries after Michaelmas!

Which in our digital age opens a whole new question -- if you have a Blackberry phone, can you use it after Michaelmas Day?

Aren't saint's days just a riot? A little bit of something real -- there really is a St Michael the Archangel and he really is the military commander of God's forces, stands ready with all the faithful angels to help and protect you, and will function as such on the End Time -- and a whole lot of legend, leading to some pretty amazing history, both of which have left common elements large and small on life to-day.

Happy Michaelmas! And have some goose, but before 2100. And touch up that resume, if you're looking for a job. Been there and it's tough. Put your trust in God, in this and in all things, I mean who is like God, just like Michael's name means, and, you got people -- and angels.

16 September 2010

Wheel-Of-Fortune. Rota For-tuna.

Trying to capture the phrase like the start of the TV show, not sure if it works.

While we're on my namesake Terence, there's quite a story behind the fact that an apparently purely entertainment -- OK some might say mindless -- TV game show actually references one of the more important topics in philosophy with a history back to ancient Rome and an influence for centuries thereafter.

It all comes from the Latin phrase "Fortes fortuna adiuvat" which is usually translated "fortune favours the brave" and generally taken to mean than those who take risks, or at least action, are going to be luckier, or at least get more results, in life than those who don't.

There's a bit more to it than that. Here it is.

First, the phrase itself. I think I learned it "Fortuna fortes adiuvat". OK, "adiuvat" is the verb and verbs go at the end of a sentence in Latin, so at least that part's right. It means "helps" or "assists" or "aids", and you can see it in the English word "adjutant", which means a helper, or assistant, or aide. So what's "fortes"? The direct object of the verb, the one helped or assisted or aided, and means "the brave" or "the strong", and you can see it in the English word "fortitude" for courage aka guts or grit.

So, the generally accepted Latin form is "fortes fortuna adiuvat" and the generally accepted English translation is "fortune favours the brave", and it was widely used as a proverb and first appears in a play by Terence, namely, line 203 of Phormio. End of story? Oh hell no.

For one thing, the first of many, some Latin scholars contend that it should be fortis fortuna adiuvat. Huh? Well, Latin is an infllected language, which means that the function of words is shown by differences in how the word ends rather than by prepositions and word order as in English. These differences are classified into typical uses of words, called cases, and direct objects, which are that to which the action of the verb is applied, go in what is called the accusative case.

Some say that while "fortes" is the overall ending of the word in the plural accusative in Latin generally, in Terence' time, which was the era of the Roman Republic, before the Roman Empire -- Terence lived from either 195 or 185, depending on which ancient source got it right, to 159 BC, which according to some ancient sources was when he was lost at sea, making him either 26 or 36 when he died -- the accusative plural was then fortis, not fortes, and so in his play it's actually fortis fortuna adiuvat. I ain't got a copy of the Latin text so maybe Father Hollywood can jump in and check that out for me.

The next thing is, fortes literally means the strong, as in physically powerful, not the brave, but just like "strength" itself, the word took on a figurative meaning of brave or courageous from the associated connotation of those characteristics with the physically strong -- like we may say "Be strong" meaning to man up and get through it rather than start working out. So that makes it literally "fortune favours the strong".

Next thing, about the verb. "Favours" is a little different than "aids' or "assists". "Favours" is more a general reference to your overall chances, but "aids" or "assists" or "helps" means that someone or something is actually actively helping or assisting you. That's a real big difference, and that's where "fortuna" comes in. The word is obviously the root of the English words "fortune", "fortunately" and the like, but while now it's like random chance or good luck or something like that, in Latin and to the ancient Romans it wasn't just that but the goddess Fortuna in charge of it. So that makes it more like the goddess "Fortuna helps the strong".

That was a real big deal. Fortuna's sacred day was 11 June -- holy crap, that's the day before my damn birthday, and holy crap again the later state church of the Roman Empire, which still survives in an RC or EO parish near you, has holy days for its "saints" still! -- and the cult of Fors Fortuna (hey, there's that "strong" thing again) was found all over the Roman world and was a festival on 24 June.

Now Fortuna was known as Tyche to the Greeks, from whom the Romans took much of their original state religion, and as Tyche was all over the Greek world before the Roman world. The Roman name comes from Vortumna, which means "she who spins the year" and if you're paying attention, there you go with a "wheel of Fortuna" as she spins the year and what happens to you shakes out. Thing is though, you don't get to buy any damn letters to move things in your, uh, favour, so instead, you'd better hit her temple and make her happy or else just say she's a fickle whore who does what she damn well pleases, both opinions and behaviours common in the ancient world.

Now is this just some more musty old stuff from Past Elder? Hey why do you think books with titles like "Purpose Driven Life" and "Man's Search For Meaning" are best sellers for years? Why do you think people say "shit happens"? Judas H Priest, the whole question of is life just a bunch a random stuff that happens without any meaning or any ability to change it much or does it have a meaning, maybe even a reason or purpose, and you can get in there and affect it, has been bugging Mankind since there's been Mankind. It's the biggest question of all -- Why?

So we've got the wheel of the goddess Fortuna, and the original Wheel of Fortune, which is Rota Fortuna in Latin. As she spins the wheel, bad things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people, stuff just seems to happen, and here we are wondering if there's any rhyme or reason to it, to life. A lot people still wonder like that.

Another guy from Carthage, good old Augustine, took her on in De civitaitis Dei contra Paganos (On the City of God Against the Pagans). By his time the phrase was commonplace and had been used and/or quoted by heavyweights of Roman literature. Pliny uses it in his Epistles (don't freak, no lost works of the Bible here, just means "letters"). Cicero referred to it as a proverb. Virgil used it in the Aeneid (Book Ten, Line 284) as audentis fortuna iuvat. Audentis is where English gets audacious, iuvat is just plain helps, the "ad" intensifies the intention toward (that's what ad is, toward) someone, so you get the idea. And Ovid topped that in his Metamorphoses (10/86), saying not just Fortuna but God himself helps the bold. Well OK he actually wrote audentes deus ipse iuvat.

Gus wrote The City of God right after the Visigoths trashed Rome in 410. The Romans were wondering if maybe that happened because the state had abandoned traditional Roman religion for the new state Catholic Church, established by the co-emperors Theodosius in the East and Gratian and Valentinian II in the West with the Edict of Thessalonica on 27 February 380, as we saw in the post a few days ago here. As part of making the case that this is not so, he says Fortune, since she brings good things to good and bad people alike is unworthy of worship -- his answer to why good things happen to bad people I guess, along with why abandoning stuff like that didn't bring down the whole damn Empire.

But Boethius, writing over a century later, about 524, as he was waiting to be executed, took a different slant on Fortuna. Holy crap, executed for what? Well, more Goths, this time of the Ostro kind. Visigoths were from what is now Spain, Ostro or East Goths were from the Balkans. The Western Roman Empire was gone by then, the last Western Emperor, Romulus Augustus, having been deposed by Odoacer, of uncertain origin though his name is Germanic, on 4 September 476. Theodoric and Odoacer's forces slugged it out all over Italy. Both these guys were Arian Christians. Anyway, a treaty was signed and a celebration arranged, at which Theodoric proposed a toast then killed Odoacer personally.

Theodoric was interested in keeping the culture and institutions of the Roman Empire going, and appointed Boethius his Master of Offices (magister officiorum), the head of the government bureaucracy. Theodoric was educated in Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Empire, and kind of worked out a deal where the defeated Roman could continue their thing under his rule while the Goths continued the Goth thing. As part of this, Theodoric, though an Arian, was pretty favourable toward the Pope, head of the Catholic Church, about the only major institution of the Roman Empire in the West to surivive. Theodoric was effectively but unofficially the new Western Roman Emperor.

Boethius, a Roman, was a Trinitarian, or Nicene, Christian, which is to say Christian in the usual sense now, and eventually Theodoric, the Arian Christian, came to distrust him, thinking he might be more in sympathy with the effective AND official emperor of the surviving Eastern Roman Empire, Justin, also a Nicene Christian. So he ordered him tried and executed for treason. Thing is, while he is awaiting execution, he writes this book, one of the most influential books ever and for some time THE most influential book in philosophy, as a consolation, but it's not the Consolation of Christianity but the Consolation of Philosophy. Well, De consolatione philosophiae, actually. Christianity is never mentioned or treated by name, but it sounds a lot like Christianity, and that's because since Augustine Christianity sounded a lot like Plato.

The basic idea of the Consolation is pure Platonism -- even if everything looks like it's going right straight to hell it ain't. Now you might say well hell, don't Christians believe that too, and yes they do but with a different idea about why that is. For Christians it's not just a matter of an ideal world that is truly real beyond the mess we see, old Fortuna spinning her wheel, here in what appears to be real.

But Boethius, and this is typical of everything about him, blended Christianity and Roman/Greek philosophy to-gether, so that while Fortuna may indeed spin her wheel, apparently at random and pretty much indifferent to the results, nonetheless, distinct from Gus' take that therefore she is unworthy of worship, she is herself subject to God and her effects and any other such effects all bend to the unseen plan of God, so it's all good even when it looks like pure crap. So the Consolation is kind of like the Book of Esther, in which as the rabbis pointed out God is not mentioned yet he is everywhere present in it.

OK full disclosure, some read him yet, including me. I like the dude. He was on a mission, and the mission was, to pass on the learning and wisdom of the Greek/Roman world falling apart to the new world emerging from it. In which he translated in the new language of learning, Latin, the great works of classic learning in Greek.

Hell, I wrote my damn doctoral dissertation on him, specifically his attempt to pass on the system for organising and teaching knowledge outlined in De arithmetica, which you may have heard of as the Seven Liberal Arts, and more specifically on his four-fold division of one of those arts, called musica but it means a hell of a lot more than we do by that, what we mean by music being the lowest level of it and best left to the uneducated. Well hell, you didn't think the future Past Elder was gonna write another music theory dissertation in which some obscure piece or musical relationship is analysed into further obscurity while putting everyone who isn't into such things, which is nearly everyone, to bloody sleep, now did you? Hell no.

Boethius succeeded in his mission. His works would form the backbone of the learning system for centuries in the new world that emerged from the ancient. The Consolation was one of the bedrocks of education and formation for hundreds and hundreds of years to come. King Alfred of old England, Chaucer, and Queen Elizabeth (not the current one the first one, Judas) all translated it, it's all over Dante and Chaucer's original works, Shakespeare too, and students read and studied it for a thousand years after.

The Wheel of Fortune was, and endures as, an allegory. You can get all hung up in why bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people and whether there's anything to life but a bunch of stuff that happens and then you die, but what you gotta see is that the wheel keeps on turning. Big wheel keeps on turning, proud Mary keeps on burning, just like Tina Turner said. Things change, and you can't get all hung up on one point in the process. The mighty fall, the lowly rise. Riding high in April, shot down in May, like the Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon song written for Sinatra says. Hey, that made it into the Tony Hawk video game Underground 2.

Stay in the process, not one point of it, and that applies equally to when things look good as to when things look bad. You can't put your trust in any one point, whether you like that point or not, in the process, because the process is gonna keep right on processing. There ain't no Fortuna, and the process itself ain't God either. And just like Boethius -- not to mention St Paul -- said, there is a God and while things aren't all good all things do work to-gether for the good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Fortune does favour the brave. And as Ovid tweaked it, God himself's gonna help ya. Except Ovid didn't know how. None of us (Mankind) do, did, or can, which is why the whole life thing bugs us so much and we come up with all sorts of answers to it. God himself helps you with finding out how too. He reveals it, first in the Law of Moses, then in the Gospel, or Good News, of Jesus Christ. The wheel stops there even if it keeps on turning in the world. Sooner or later the world is gonna stop too. But the good news is, you're free even when you remain here, Jesus paid your price on the cross, he gives you new life in him in Baptism, his Law and Gospel are proclaimed to you in preaching by the Office of Holy Ministry, and he gives you his body and blood in Holy Communion that he gave for you at Calvary as his sure pledge.

Besides, Vanna is way better looking than any representation I ever saw of Fortuna. It didn't occur to me while it was happening, but it's kind of a wild ride that a guy who doesn't start out with the name Terence says something that goes right into Boethius, the major force in the intellectual transition from the ancient world to the modern one, then as the postmodern one is emerging from that another guy who doesn't start out with the name Terence becomes a Philosophiae doctor writing about it for the postmodern world.

So take it from Terence, either one of us -- Fortuna fortes adjuvat. Yeah I know I wrote adiuvat above but since I'm saying it as I remember being taught it I'm writing it with the spelling more common to ecclesiastical Latin as I was taught to write and pronounce it. But more importantly, take it from God how that works out, as he revealed it to us in the Law and Gospel of Scripture.

15 September 2010

My Name Is Terence, And I'm A Blogger.

Got into a name thing with a Facebook friend (Iggy Antiochus if you gotta know) and decided to post about it.

The English name Terence comes from the Roman playwright Terentius. It wasn't my birth first name, Douglas is, but I got it when adopted at about six months old. Well hell, it wasn't Terentius' birth name either, how about that. Wasn't even his first name, ever! Hell he wasn't even Roman!

Here's the deal. My namesake was born around 185 or 195 BC, in or around Carthage, or else to a woman in Greek speaking Italy (yeah, they spoke more Greek than Latin in Rome back then, it was the cultural language) who was sold into slavery in or around Carthage. He himself was sold as a slave to a Roman senator named Publius Terentius Lucanus, who brought him to Rome, gave him an education, and then, apparently impressed with the result, freed him.

OK Romans had three names. First comes the praenomen, which means your first name, or given name as it is called. Second comes the nomen, aka the nomen gentile or sometimes the gentilicium, which by whichever designated the clan, or gens, from which one came. Third and last comes the cognomen, which designates your family within the clan. This structure is even older than the Romans, who got it from the Etruscans before them.

But that's Romans, not slaves or kids of slaves who become slaves themselves. Nobody knows what Terentius' birth name was, but it wasn't Terence, sure as hell. His name reflects his status as a Roman citizen, upon being freed. So he took the praenomen Publius, meaning "public", which was one of the relatively few first names, which was also his former master's first name, and took the clan name of his master, Terentius, and for a last name to distinguish his family within the clan, took Afer, since he was not a blood Terentius but from Afer.

Afer, what the hell is that, sounds like Africa. Yeah it does and for good reason. Africa now means the whole continent, but in Terence' lifetime it meant the land of the Libyan tribe the Afri, who hung in and around Carthage, in modern Tunisia but which was founded as a Phoenician colony in 814 BC, or so the Romans said. But when the Romans trashed Carthage in 146 BC, by which time Terence had been dead several years, the Carthaginians themselves were called Punic, a reference to Carthage's Phoenician origin, and Afri came to mean the Libyan Berbers around them.

So hard telling. He may have been a Berber, although that use of Afri is just a little later than his lifetime, or he may have been Afri, who according to Flavius Josephus, the great Roman historian, were descendants of Abraham's grandson Epher, hence the name, or he may have been none of the above and who knows what, since when you're a slave you don't get a hell of a lot of choice about where you end up.

Afer as a Roman cognomen meant people who whatever else were from in or around Carthage, but doesn't clarify whether he was from there originally, and if so was he Afri or something else, or was something else and got brought there.

So we got a guy whose birth name and people are not known, who was sold as a slave but treated well and educated, and when freed took his former master's praenomen or given name, his clan name, within which he was distinguished by his Cathaginian/Tunisian origins at least with regard to the Roman world.

Now, when I was adopted, my new mom wanted to name me Cornelius Steven, but my new dad wanted Terence James. Dad won. Which is unusual twice over. For one thing generally moms get naming rights, and for another the usual RC practice in those days was to name a kid after one of the saints. So here's my dad naming me after a pagan Roman playwright and the RCC took it, so I was baptised at Holy Name By God Cathedral in Chicago.

My adoptive parents were of Irish-American stock, which completes both the irony and the fittingness of the name Terence for me. I learned later, from seeing the adoption papers among my parents' stuff after they died, my original name. Douglas John, and the last name, Clutterham, is English, from the Suffolk area specifically, making me an Angle by descent.

So I get a first name from a guy whose first name it wasn't! Which is OK, you don't hear Publius much these days. And neither that Terence nor this one started out with the name, or came from the people who gave him that name (he wasn't Roman and I ain't Irish), but got names that look like it by, as they say in insurance, major life event. He by being freed from slavery and made a Roman, me by being adopted. I doubt Dad was thinking of all that, but he did know the correct spelling to give me, which, the original being Terentius, is Terence. No double damn r.

It's all good. Later in life, when I fell in with the Puerto Rican student community at university and they, saying I thought like them (which is crap English btw, should be, thought as they), culturally adopted me, so to speak, well, there ain't no Terence in Spanish, so I was dubbed with an honorific neologism, El Teraco.

And totally in tune with what was to come, namely, the great gift of the Christian faith, as revealed in Scripture and accurately confessed in the Book of Concord. Luther admired the plays of Terence and quoted them a lot, and thought they were good for kids to learn in their educational formation.

Ain't that a kick? My first Lutheran pastor once said -- not sure if he was joking or not -- that my growing up in Minnesota and going to a Bavarian Benedictine founded school and picking up German and the whole German thing was God's way of getting me to be ready to be Lutheran, so I could lapse into German when ranting. But right there at the RC baptismal font, I was given the name of a Roman playwright Luther admired!

06 September 2010

6 September. Happy Sorta Birthday, Western Catholic Church.

Nah, 6 September is not the birthday of the Catholic Church. 27 February 380 is. It just took 14 years for resistance in the Western Empire to be crushed militarily, which happened 6 September 394, so it's kind of like a birthday for the Western Roman Imperial Church.

Huh?

On 6 September 394 the Eastern Emperor Theodosius I defeated the Western Emperor Eugenius at the conclusion of the two-day Battle of The Frigidus.

Judas H Priest, never heard of it and why should I have heard of it, and where and what in the hell is the Frigidus?

OK about the river. The Frigidus is a river, the Latin name means "cold" as its English descendant "frigid" suggests. It is in northeastern Italy and Slovenia and is now called the Vipacco in Italian and the Vipava in Slovene, and of course I gotta tell ya it is called the Wipbach in modern German, or, as b and p get sort of interchangeable in German sometimes, the Wippach.

So why was there a battle there and why should I care to know? Goes like this. On 27 February 380, the Eastern Emperor Theodosius, in concert with his Western co-Emperor counterparts Gratian and Valentinian II, issued the Edict of Thessalonica, which made Nicene Christianity the official state religion of the Roman Empire overall, that all subjects of the Empire must hold this faith as delivered to Rome and preserved by then current Pope Damasus I and then current Bishop of Alexandria Peter, that these alone shall be called "Catholic Christians", the universal faith of the Empire, and all others are heretics and not even churches, subject to such punishment as the Empire should choose to visit upon them.

So, 27 February 380 is the birthday of the "Catholic Church", as distinct from the catholic church. The then new Imperial state church is still around, and still reflects the divisions between the Eastern and Western Roman Empire as Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. The Eastern version took hold earlier but it was a little more unsettled in the Western Empire, which is why, though both have the same birthday, 6 September 394 is a sort of Western birthday, since that is when resistance to it in the Western Empire was crushed by military power from the Eastern Empire, no co-incidence at all that this was at the hands of Theodosius, who would be the last Emperor both East and West.

A Roman citizen, from what are now called Berbers, named Augustine is teaching in Carthage in 380, seven years away from being baptised by the state bishop, Ambrose, of the state church in the state's Western capital by then, Milan. Emperor Diocletian, the last of an undivided Roman Empire, had made Milan, then called Mediolanum, the Western capital in 293 and Nicomedia, now Izmit Turkey, the Eastern capital in 286, and called his new provincial units diocese, after himself. Constantine moved the Eastern capital to Byzantium, renamed it Constantinople, which is now Istanbul Turkey.

The Roman Senate, still in Rome, was not shall we say comfortable with this new state religion in the two capitals of the Empire, and lots of academic disputes and apologetics on both sides went back and forth, but no violence. During this unsettled time Augustine gets appointed to the most prestigious professorship in his world, at the Western capital Milan in 384, and is all caught up in the swirling controversy between the old religion and classic philosophy and the new state church.

He also gets caught up in his mother Monica's designs for his career. Now with a prestigious academic position, his longstanding relationship with a woman he never names but called "the one", of some 14 years complete with son, called Adeodatus, meaning "given by God", hasta go according to mom. So he caves and sends her away, she saying she will never be with another man, he finding a new concubine to tide him over until the proper social marriage his mom, "Saint" Monica, arranges with a then 11 year old girl can happen.

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

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

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

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

Anyhoo, Gus reads this in 386, and on the Easter Vigil of 387, Ambrose baptises Gus and his son. The next year, 388, he determines to return home to North Africa. Which he did, but along the way both his mother and his son died, so he arrives alone in the world, and understandably unsure of himself once again. Next he sells the family stuff and gives the money away, except the house which he turns into a sort of lay monastery. I guess that's what you do when you read about dudes in the desert, rather than go through the grief and live on in the world of people. Then he gets ordained presbyter or priest in 391 in Hippo, now Annaba, Algeria.

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

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

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

The next year, 395, Augustine becomes religious head, which is called bishop, of the Roman Imperial administrative unit called a diocese, in Hippo. Guess Gus knew on which side his bread is buttered.

The Battle of The Frigidus effectively ended any Western resistance to the new state church. But those old Roman families knew a thing or two about survival and before long they were papal families, eventually supplying Pope Gregory, made Pope 3 September 590, who ruled the state church like a real Roman indeed. This enormous civil war though left the Western Empire greatly weakened, and it collapsed a thousand years before the Eastern Empire did, with the Visigoths sacking Rome in 410 and Augustine, by then 56 and still Bishop of Hippo, then writing more Platonism to assure the shocked Romans that though the joint was a mess, the real and ideal City of God was the real winner.

Yeah right. Back here in reality the "City of God", sacked first by the Gauls in 387 BC, after the 410 sack by the Visigoths, got sacked again by the Vandals in 455, but Gus died at 75 on 28 August 430 so he missed it, and again by the Ostrogoths in 546, and again by the Arabs in 846, and again by the Normans in 1084, and last by soldiers of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, but not on his orders, in 1527.

Anyway, that's the famous book The City of God, which is actually only the first part of its title, which is On The City Of God Against The Pagans (OK De civitate Dei contra Paganos, I translated). Pagan is another term reinvented by the new church; once meant someone from the country, or a civilian, but with the Imperial Catholic Church firmly in the cities, and their faithful thinking they were a church militant, soldiers of Christ, which the state military having kicked the crap out of the former religion for the state church I guess kind of fits, came to mean someone adhering to the old religion which hung on more in the countryside.

Which Platonic idealism guided and fuelled the West as it struggled through centuries of chaos and tried to reinvent its former glory in the Holy Roman Empire, which, as has been famously remarked, was not holy, not Roman, and not much of an empire. But it by God had a state Catholic Church with popes and bishops and diocese and all the Platonism reinvented as Christianity you can shake a stick at, complete with justification as the City of God.

Which wholesale hijacking of the catholic church as the Catholic Church, one might say its Babylonian Captivity, lasted for a thousand years. Then a poor guy in a screwed up world with a screwed up life, and a barbarian to boot, a German named Martin Luther from outside the old Roman boundaries, seeks solace in a religious order modelling itself after the Platonic idealism turned into Christian monastic asceticism of Augustine, and discovers none of this crap is gonna save you but simply faith in the Son sent by God to be the sacrifice which takes away our sins, just like Scripture, which is supposed to be the church's book, says.

And so begins the disentanglement of the catholic church from the Catholic Church of the Roman and Holy Roman Empires. They tried like hell to make the catholic church, the pillar and ground of truth, the bride of Christ, into the Whore of Babylon. The vestiges of Theodosius' state Imperial Catholic Church continue in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, plus the equally false but opposite reactions to the Babylonian Captivity continue in later Reformation churches, who went beyond the guideline of what contradicts Scripture must go but retaining what doesn't, since the power of the Gospel and Word and Sacrament is such that not even the Roman Empire could entirely keep it out, to if it ain't in Scripture it goes, depending on whose version of what is in Scripture one buys, losing his Divine Service of his body and blood for our salvation, and in some cases even Baptism as well.

And lately all of these anachronisms, state churches that survived their states, seem intoxicated with a Rousseau-like Romantic fiction, some sort of resurrection of an imagined pure church of the Apostles and Church Fathers, rediscovered by their scholarship of course, a sort of ecclesiastical version of Rousseau's "noble savage". And it must be said some of these anachronisms have the word "Lutheran" in their names. And the equal but opposite errors equally condemned in the Lutheran Confessions continue as well.

But while all of this rages about us, and even infects the Lutheran Reformation, thanks be to God for the Lutheran Reformation and its confession of the true teaching of Scripture, the book that is the church's own measure and norm, while yet retaining what does not contradict it.

01 September 2010

It's Fall --What Happened to the High Holydays and Sukkoth? 2010.

OK what's up with this? If it's really so as Past Elder, the blog, has been saying since it started that Christian liturgy is essentially a transformed, Messianic Jewish one, then how is it that in Fall when Judaism is about to begin a whole bunch of major observances, the Christian calendar ain't got nuttin major until Christmas?

Some background. Past Elder, the blog, commenced operations 22 February 2007. In my first posts about Holy Week, Easter and Pentecost, I mentioned that the Christian pattern of yearly worship derives from the Jewish one. In my second year, I took to posting a few posts again, revised here and there, that relate to our cycle of observances of major parts of our faith in the church year, and also the civil calendar, calling it the "blogoral cycle" as a play on terms like "sanctoral cycle" for the saint's days in the church year.

The Blogoral Cycle takes particular note of how our church year comes from and fulfills the cycle of observances in the Jewish calendar. However in Fall, where the Jewish calendar is FULL of stuff, the Christian church calendar has -- NOTHING, precisely where, if it indeed comes from and fulfills the Jewish cycle, one would expect it to be full of stuff too!

So what's up with that? Here's the 2010 version of my post about it.

I. About Fall.

In the US, Labor Day is the unofficial start of Fall, or Autumn if you insist. The official start is 0309 hours GMT on 23 September 2010. GMT means Greenwich Mean Time, aka, which means also known as, UTC, which means Universal Time Co-ordinates. That will be 2209 hours, or 1009pm CDT, 22 September 2010 here in Omaha. Well, that's one of the official starts. Holy crap, what's up with that -- two official starts? And to a season with two names! What's up with THAT, before we even get to this post's What's Up With That?

The first thing is, there's two Falls, the astronomical one and the meteorological one. Astronomical Fall is determined by the relative amount of light and dark in a day. Just like the word Man, which can mean either all human beings or just the male ones, the word Day is used sometimes for the whole 24 hour period or just the light part of it.

Astronomical Fall is from the day, as in 24 hour period, with equal amounts of light and dark in it, called the autumnal equinox ("equal night" in Latin), to the day with the least amount of day light in it, called the winter solstice ("sun stand still", solstitium, sol or sun and sistere or to stand still in Latin). And some think Latin is not still with us! But we all note these daylight changes do not align exactly with the air temperature changes. That is because of the thermal latency of land and sea.

Judas H Priest, what is thermal latency? How many what's up with thats can we have? Don't freak. "Thermal latency" are simply more Latin derived words for the phenomenon that while as the earth rotates toward and then away from the sun, thereby giving more and then less heat, it takes both land and water a while to warm up or cool off.

Meteorological Fall is determined by the changes in air temperature. Huh, if it's meteorology why ain't it about meteors? Holy crap another What's Up With That! Now ain't you glad you read Past Elder so you can know all this stuff? Meteorology comes from the Greek meteoros or "up in the sky" and -ology or the study of something. Matter of fact, although weather forecasters take flak for having the only job where you get paid to be wrong, and TV has gone through phases where the weather segment was done by somebody just reading stuff, a comedian if male or a stacked babe if female, meteorology was started by Aristotle in a book by that name he wrote in 350 BC in which, with no modern instruments whatever but just being a keen observer and smarter than all hell, described what is now called the hydrologic cycle.

Don't freak, more Greek derived words, here meaning water cycle, in which water is not just distinct from land but interacts with land in changing cycles in various forms; liquid, otherwise known as rain, vapour, otherwise known as fog, and solid, otherwise known as ice. Think that's just some musty ancient stuff, who cares? Guess what? Our planet, though we call it Earth, is mostly actually water, and a planet with a lot of water over long periods of time loses hydrogen, which is part of water (H2O, remember?), which in turn leads to what is called the "greenhouse effect", which leads to more hydrogen loss, which leads to more greenhouse effect, which natural cycle can be accelerated by what Man's activities put in the air, and while we don't know exactly how the two affect each other everybody is worried as hell about that now or ought to be.

Sound musty now? Old Ari was sharp as a tack, wish we had more like him now with modern instruments. Which doesn't mean you can't be a comedian or a stacked babe while you're doing that. Which is also why besides Blogoral Calendars and stuff like that Past Elder goes on about musty ancient stuff -- because it helps us understand where in the hell we are right now and what where we are right now even is.

So meteorological seasons are determined by average air temperatures, which lag behind the astronomical events of solstices and equinoxes that determine astronomical seasons, due to thermal water latency. Fall in this definition is from 1 September to 30 November. Well, in the northern hemisphere that is. Our planet being a sphere, when one side rotates toward the sun the other rotates away, so Fall in the southern hemisphere happens when our Spring does, and vice versa.

Now topping that all off are school boards, who as any kid or parent knows, are God and determine when Summer ends by when school starts, which unlike when I grew up when it was after Labor Day, the unofficial start of Fall, and after 1 September, the official start of meteorological Fall, now start in August sometime when you oughta still be swimming in the damn city pool, probably because they don't want no lawsuits so they have "snow days" in the Winter, which unlike when I grew up simply meant you got up earlier, shovelled the crap outta the way and went about your business, leaving early because you drive slower, or should.

Oh yeah and on the two names for the same season thing, so we can clear up all the What's Up With Thats before we get on to the main What's Up With That. Guess what? More Latin. The original name was the Latin autumnus, and the modern languages derived from Latin all have similar words for it. But English isn't totally Latin derived, the Latin and Greek stuff is an overlay onto basically a form of German. Now in German itself autumn is Der Herbst, which means harvest, and that is what the season was called in English too, Harvest, and it wasn't until the 1500s, when people were tending to live more in towns than in the country, that "harvest" in English became more the activity of harvesting and the season began to be called Autumn and Fall.

OK we saw the derivation of "autumn" from autumnus but where did this fall thing come from? Because the leaves are falling, and the amount of daylight is falling, and the year is drawing to its close. In the 1600s English colonisation of the Americas was in full swing, and both terms came over, but back in Mother England by the 1700s "fall" fell to "autumn" in usage, and that is why now Autumn is used in both places but Fall in mostly heard here.

Sukkoth is the easy part of this Fall stuff. It begins at sunset, the start of the Biblical day, on 15 Tishrei in the Jewish calendar, which in 2010 falls on sunset of 22 September. God's pretty straight up about what he wants. Speaking of which, let's see what the real God, not the school board, wants regarding observances through the year.

II. Here's What God Wants For A Festival Calendar.

In the religion God delivered to the Jews in the Old Testament, he commands three major festivals: 1) Pesach or Passover; 2) Shavuot or Pentecost, also called Weeks; 3) Sukkot, called Tabernacles or Booths. These three are the Shalosh Regalim, the Three Pilgrim Festivals where all Jews go to Jerusalem.

And in the Fall, in addition to Sukkot, before it there is the High Holidays, more properly the Yamim Noraim or Days of Awe, which are the Ten Days of Repentance from Rosh Hashanah, the so-called Jewish New Year, through Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year, commanded in the Law of Moses, then Sukkoth itself, which runs seven days, then the Eighth Day, Shemini Atzeret, when normal living indoors (huh, what's up with that, hang on, we'll get to it below, or as we say, vide infra, Latin for "see below", a term once common in the scholarly apparatus -- you know, footnotes and stuff -- of scholarly works and which I damn straight would use if I ever resume writing like a PhD) resumes and Simchat Torah, Rejoicing in Torah, is held with the conclusion of the annual reading through of Torah and starting it right over again and dancing that often goes on for hours.

In some of the other posts, we saw Passover transformed by Christ at the Last Supper, or Last Seder, into what we call Holy Communion, the new and eternal testament of his body and blood, and ratified by his Death and Resurrection which we celebrate as an event in time on Good Friday and Easter. Then we saw God himself count the commanded Omer and transform the celebration of the giving of the Law at Sinai at Pentecost by the giving of the promised Holy Spirit to the Apostles, which we celebrate as an event in time on the day also called Pentecost.

Then, what -- the whole thing seems to, uh, fall apart!! Where's the transformed Rosh Ha-Shanah, where's the transformed Days of Awe, where's the transformed Yom Kippur, where's the transformed Sukkoth, where's the transformed Eighth Day and Rejoicing in Torah? And where's the dancing?

Nowhere, it seems. The Christian calendar is entirely absent of such things. Fall, full of observances in Judaism, comes and goes with nothing until the secular Thanksgiving and then Advent which is a time of preparation for Christmas. So does the parallel fall apart here, or perhaps show itself to be irrelevant anyway if it exists at all? Just give me Jesus, man.

No. Consider how Jesus gives himself. Christ has himself become our atonement, that to which the Day of Atonement led. The "Day of Atonement" is the historical Good Friday, once for all. Rosh Ha-Shanah too, the day on which creation was completed and God judges each person for the coming year, has been fulfilled in God's having re-created lost Man by making justification possible because of the merit of Christ's sacrifice. That is how we are now inscribed, not just for the coming year but for eternity. So these two are absent because they have served their purpose and been fulfilled.

But what of Sukkot? At Sukkot, one lives, or at least takes one's meals, in a temporary structure called a sukkah in Hebrew -- a booth, a tabernacle, not in one's actual home. This is to remember the passage of the people after the Passover and Pentecost to the Promised Land. Zechariah (14:16-19) predicts that in the time of the Messiah the feast will be observed not just by Jews but by all humanity coming to Jerusalem for its observance. That would be a pretty big event. It ain't happening. And a transformed Sukkoth in the Christian calendar ain't even happening either. So what is the deal here?

III. Here's The Christian Sukkoth.

Consider. Christ is our Passover, in whose blood we are washed and made clean, and the Holy Spirit has empowered the spread of this Good News beginning on that Pentecost recorded in Acts. But the end of the story, unlike the arrival in the Promised Land, has not happened. The real Promised Land is not a piece of geography but heaven itself, the ultimate Jerusalem. So, there cannot be a Christian Sukkoth because we are still in our booths, as it were, not in our permanent homes, still on our pilgimage to the Promised Land, and what Zechariah saw is happening as "the nations", all people, join in this journey given first to the Jews and then to all Man, the Gentiles.

Our Sukkot is our life right now, in our "booths" or temporary homes on our way to heaven! So this feast awaits its transformation, and that is why it is absent. The first two of the "pilgrimage festivals", the Shalosh Regalim, have been transformed, into the basis of not just our calendar but our life and faith itself, but the third will be heaven itself, toward which we journey as we live in our booths here on the way.

While we do not, therefore, have a certain observance of a transformed Sukkot in our calendar, being in our booths presently, we do have something of it as we go. Our nation, and others too, have a secular, national day of Thanksgivng at the end of harvest time, preserving that aspect of thankfulness for our earthly ingathering of the fruits of our labour. And in the final weeks of the Sundays after Trinity, we focus on the End Times in our readings, the great ingathering that will be for all nations when our Sukkoth here is ended, not just at death personally but finally at the Last Day.

As a comment to an earlier version of this post, "orrologion", an Orthodox blogger, observed that "In the Orthodox Christian tradition the Transfiguration fills the place of Sukkot. Fruits are blessed and it commemorates Peter's offer to build three booths for Christ, Moses and Elijah". In the Eastern observance the "Blessing of the First Fruits" does give it a harvest connexion, but, Sukkoth is not about first but last fruits. And, in the Transfiguration we see Jesus' fulfillment of the Law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah), and the appearance of all three persons in God, as he is about to go to Jerusalem for the Crucifixion, Death, and Resurrection.

Related to that, the Feast of the Transfiguration is celebrated in both the Eastern and the Western church on 6 August. The West had the feast, but only settled on this date in 1456, when the Kingdom of Hungary broke the Siege of Belgrade and forced the Islamic Ottomans back. News of the victory made it to Rome on 6 August, and in view of its importance Pope Callixtus III put the Transfiguration in the general Roman church calendar on this date.

We Lutherans do not follow this, but follow a tradition which places the Transfiguration on the last Sunday after Epiphany, placing the event where it is in the course of Jesus' life followed by the Gospel readings of the traditional church cycle. The military connexion of 6 August would be odd for a harvest feast. In our times however it has found a significance which is altogether spooky, which I have never heard anyone East or West mention.

6 August is also the anniversary of the first use of nuclear weapons, Hiroshima. It puts in stark contrast the world and God: one can approach a transfiguration by God shown in this event, or one can approach a transfiguration by Man shown in Hiroshima -- salvation is of the Lord.

IV. Conclusion.

At my wife's funeral, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the secular Sukkoth, in 1997, the pastor concluded the sermon by saying: A few days ago most of us celebrated a thanksgiving that lasted one day, but Nancy began one that lasts an eternity.

So is the promise to us all. And that's what happened to Sukkot. And also to the rejoicing and dancing, not for hours, but eternity!