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.

26 August 2015

Augustine and Happy Birthday, Western Catholic Church. 6 September 2015.

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. And fits right in with the Feast of St Augustine, 28 August, who was a pagan professor in 380 and about to be named Bishop of Hippo in the new state church in 394.

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?

About the River and Why the Battle.

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, required 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, and declared 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. That's 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 Renowned Professor Get Caught Up In This.

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. Diocletian, the last emperor of an undivided Roman Empire, had made Milan, then called Mediolanum, the Western capitol in 293 and Nicomedia, now Izmit Turkey, the Eastern capitol in 286, and called his new provincial units diocese, after himself. Constantine moved the Eastern capitol to nearby 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 new capitols 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 capitol 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 gets passed off as merely lustful and the son as "illegitimate".

Take, Read -- This Christian Bestseller!

No wonder the dude was confused! His whole world is swirling in unsettled controversy and mom is 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. It's a Life of St Anthony of the Desert, written by St Athanasius about 360 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.

The Famous Professor Converts.

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, a Frank named 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.

A Digression, but a Damned Important One.

What's a Frank? Not a hot dog, that comes from Frankfurter, and originally meant Frankfurter Würstchen, which means "little sausages from Frankfurt" served on a bun. They originated in the 13th Century and became the peoples' food for coronations of the Holy Roman Emperor starting with Maximilian II, a Habsburg and nephew of Emperor Karl V, he to whom the Augsburg Confession was presented, on 25 July 1564. About 1800 or so, a butcher named Johann Georg Lahner from Coburg, Bavaria, introduced the Frankfurter Würstchen to Vienna. Now Vienna had its own sausages, which were a mixture of pork and beef called Wiener, from Wien, which is "Vienna" in German. Lahner modified his product by mixing the original pork with beef like the Viennese and calling the result simply a Frankfurter. German immigrants brought the product to the US at Coney Island, and at St Louis where the German American owner, Chris von der Ahe, of the St Louis Brown Stockings, now the Cardinals, started selling them at baseball games, and also at a stand in what is now Paul T McCain's back yard. OK just jacking around on that last bit --the inter-relation of hot dogs, Lutheranism, St Louis and the Cards is clear enough without it. There, toldya it was important! The name got shortened to "Frank", they're hot, and the "dog" thing came from rumours that the makers actually used dog meat. Myself, I like kosher beef hot dogs, not at all the original!

Oh yeah, the Franks -- comes from the Roman name gens Francorum for these Germanic barbarians who threw their axes (the franks), whose own ethnic history says they were Trojans under Priam who ended up on the Rhein, oh sorry, Rhine, after the fall of Troy in Homeric times.

Back To the Story.

On 22 August 392, Arbogastes, who being a Frank and not Roman could not be Emperor, names a Roman Christian named Eugenius the Western Emperor. Eugenius though Christian was sympathetic to traditional Roman religion and started replacing Western officials sympathetic to the Eastern Empire. 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, on a real roll -- having destroyed the Temple of Apollo at the Oracle of Delphi in 390, the Serapeum and Great Library in Alexandria in 391, the year Augustine was ordained a priest in the official church, 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.

It All Comes To-gether, It All Falls Apart.

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. So Augustine, by then 56 and still Bishop of Hippo, writes more Platonism to assure the shocked Romans that though the joint was a mess, the real and ideal City of God was the real winner.

Yeah right. Back here in reality the "City of God", Rome, first sacked 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 Rome would be sacked 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.

Still, warts and all, Augustine at least did not hold a six 24 hour day creation to be the "literal" understanding of Genesis without which the rest of revelation falls apart.

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 it's De civitate Dei contra Paganos, I translated). Pagan is another term reinvented by the new church. It 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, pagan came to mean someone adhering to the old religion which hung on more in the countryside.

The Aftermath.

That Platonic idealism guided and fuelled the West as it struggled through centuries of chaos and tried to reinvent its former glory with the Holy Roman Empire, which, as has been famously remarked, was not holy, not Roman, and not much of an empire. Hell, it was Frankish, the new Romans! Old Arbogastes would have liked that! And it by God had the Roman 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 Augustine's Platonic idealism turned into Christian monastic asceticism, 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. Which is bad enough, but equally false but opposite reactions to the Babylonian Captivity arose and continue in later Reformation churches. The guideline of the Lutheran reformation was, if it contradicts Scripture it must go but what doesn't is retained, since the power of the Gospel and Word and Sacrament is such that not even the Roman Empire could entirely keep it out. But with these guys the guideline became, if it ain't in Scripture it goes -- depending on whose version of what is in Scripture one buys -- thus 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 original state, seem intoxicated with a Rousseau-like Romantic fiction, which is 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, a noble church, of Rousseau's "noble savage". And it must be said some of these anachronisms have the word "Lutheran" in their names. Thus the equal but opposite errors of the old state church and the later Reformers, equally condemned in the Lutheran Confessions, continue as well.

Conclusion.

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.

St Monica and Vatican II For Lutherans. 27 August 2015.

We Lutherans -- "we" being the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, insofar as the name has not been removed or hidden so people don't think we're some kind of frozen chosen, maintenance rather than missional mentality, or wannabe Catholics stuck in a Eurocentric liturgical straight-jacket for worship rather than ablaze to bring you to a critical event and get you all on fire with our praise band -- are about to celebrate the Feast of St Monica on 27 August.

Thing is, the Feast of St Monica is 4 May.  Has been since there's been such a feast, the Lutheran Reformation didn't have an issue with it until Vatican II did and moved it, so of course we follow suit as if Vatican II were held in St Louis.

Huh? Who cares? What difference does that make? And who is and why bother about this Monica anyway? The last Monica anyone heard about was Lewinsky! Besides, it's all adiaphora, right, why trample on my Christian Freedom with all this dead weight from the past?

OK, Monica was the mother of St Augustine. Geez, whozzat? Well, arguably the most influential Christian theologian ever. We'll leave whether that was for better or worse, as well as biographies of Augustine or Monica, aside here.  You can check that out in our next post, or at Section VIII of Eastern Church/Empire, Western Church/Empire, posted on 16 January annually on this blog. Except for this: Augustine was quite non-Christian, anti-Christian really, held the most prestigious professorship in his time, and his conversion was brought about in part by the example and prayers of his Christian mother, Monica, which is why the church honours her.

When the church sets up a day in honour of someone, the traditional practice is to choose the day on which the person died, if known, since that is the day they were born into eternity. St Augustine's date of death, his heavenly birthday, is 28 August 430, so 28 August is his feast.  St Monica's date of death is not known, and when that happens, some other date of significance is chosen.  Here's the story on hers.

St Monica's feast day was not a part of the overall observance of the Western Church for about three-fourths of its elapsed history to date, until about the time of the Council of Trent in the Sixteenth Century. However, it was long observed by the Augustinian Order. Geez, whazzat?

The "Augustinian Order" is a rather motley assortment of religious associations rather than a clear cut single entity, all of them tracing their origin to St Augustine and his rule of life, or regula in Latin. That's what it literally is to be regular -- you live under a regula, or rule. Readers here may have heard of one such Augustinian. Guy named Martin Luther. Anyway, in the Augustinian Order but not the church as a whole there was, besides the observance of the feast of St Augustine on 28 August, another one whose focus was his conversion to Christianity, which conversion in turn influenced the entire church.

This Augustinian feast, the Feast of the Conversion of St Augustine, was and still is celebrated on 5 May. So they celebrated the single biggest human factor in bringing about that conversion, the example and prayers of his mother, St Monica, on the day before, 4 May. The Conversion feast never did make it into the overall Roman Calendar, but when St Monica's did, since her date of death is not known, the traditional Augustinian date was retained, 4 May. Simple.

And was retained in the Lutheran Reformation for centuries. Until the Revolution, er, Vatican II.

One of the stated aims of the "liturgical reform" at Vatican II was to pare down the historical hodgepodge of stuff into something more straightforward and accessible. So they effectively banned the old order and came up with an entirely new order (novus ordo), sporting four "Eucharistic Prayers", several new options for other key parts of the Mass, a new lectionary of readings spread out over three years, and a new calendar -- a new hodgepodge crafted from an even wider spread of historical sources than the old hodgepodge that was supposed to be pared down! Oh well, it was the 1960s after all. I guess you gotta make allowances for that.

One small item in this was relocating the Feast of St Monica to 27 August, the day before the feast of her son. There's a logic to that. And as far as the institution of Christ and fidelity to Scripture goes, you can celebrate the Feast of St Monica on 4 May, 27 August, any other day, or not at all.

However, it's not the 1960s any more. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to learn or be taught that we honour St Monica not because of her physical motherhood of St Augustine but because of her example in the conversion of her pagan son, who went on to be one of the church's greatest saints, and that we do so on 4 May because in the religious order that looks to her son as their patron saint they had long celebrated Monica on 4 May, the day before they celebrated the conversion of their patron on 5 May.

See?  Takes a short paragraph tops, even for me.

Sorry, Roman dudes. There already was a liturgical reform. It was to pare down all right, but in view of what contradicts Scripture, not our ideas of what makes something more "accessible", and to zealously guard and defend the worship of the church's existing order, not invent a new one. It's called the Lutheran Reformation. You're a few centuries late to the party. If the Roman hierarchy and associated academics are going to busy themselves with something other than preaching Christ and him crucified, and along the way explain the history of this movement, let them put off the period clothes, get married and raise a family and learn something of real benefit to their fellow man, like heating and air conditioning repair.

Yet, we and other Christian bodies now fall in line with them as if there had been no Reformation! The 1960s Roman novus ordo, with emendations and adaptations, is now the common property of pretty much all other heterodox Christian denominations with liturgical aspirations, rather than the traditional order of the Western Church.

And "our beloved synod" falls into line too, even those parts of it trying to remain true to our Confessions in the Book of Concord. We moan and groan why other parts of our beloved synod seem to be heading off on all sorts of tangents, or rather, variations on the tangent of chasing after the success in attracting numbers of the American suburban "evangelical" megachurches.

We wonder how our people could be taken in by these false hopes and promises.  Yet, why should our people not wonder why these are not also valid options that we can Lutheranise, when we set Lutheranised "options" modelled after 1960s Rome before them as confessional, side by side with our common catholic history -- this historical mass and that Vatican II For Lutherans mass, this historical lectionary and that Vatican II For Lutherans lectionary, this historical calendar and that Vatican II For Lutherans calendar. Why not listen to Willow Creek and Saddleback and Lakewood too with their false hopes and promises when we adopt and adapt the stinking filth of the Whore of Babylon as it toys with our catholic heritage? Why should they not think it's all about options, personal preference, all OK? We let something in through the back door then wonder why it comes knocking at the front!

Even in a small matter like when a saint's day is observed the whole rotten Roman mess in the church is revealed, and its adoption/adaptation by other church bodies!

St Monica gave St Augustine physical birth, but her greatness for which we honour her is not that but in her role in his spiritual birth, his conversion, in this life. Therefore she is better honoured by leaving her day where it is for the reason it is there, or better yet finally inserting the Conversion into the Calendar, rather than moving her feast day from a day which does have inherent reference to her to the day before her son's feast, which does not.

Jacking around with the feast of St Monica is a small example but typical of a big issue. Once again, the calendar, lectionary and ordo of Vatican II all miss the mark, even of its own intended reform. They are the products not of the Christian church, but one denomination, and that headed by an office bearing the marks of Anti-Christ -- regardless of its current occupancy by a nice guy of Italian descent from Argentina -- and now are the common property of all heterodox liturgical churches in the West, utterly irrelevant to Christ's Church and therefore should be utterly irrelevant to Lutherans.

Right along with Saddleback, Willow Creek and Lakewood, Rome no less than they offers "contemporary worship" whose forms derive from and express a content that is not ours and rejects ours, derived from an agenda that is not ours and rejects ours, and therefore into which our content does not fit nor should we try to make it fit, and when we do, we abandon that part of our mission which is to zealously guard and defend the mass, for the most part retaining the ceremonies previously in use.

19 August 2015

On St Bernard, Sacred Heads, ATMs and Other Stuff. 20 August 2015.

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

Thing is, the feast of St Bernard of Clairvaux is actually 20 August.

Whyzat? That's the day he died, and traditionally, the date of a person's death, faith seeing it as the date they were born to eternity, is used as their feast day, if it's known and not taken by a saint who already died that day or by something of more importance. You die on 20 August, your feast day is 20 August. Pretty simple. It's a Christian version and continuation of Yahrtzeit, meaning "time of year" in Yiddish, when relatives remember a family member on the date of their death.

So what possessed the compilers of our Commemorations list to move it up one day? Hell if I know. I also do not know what possessed them to import several commemorations for Old Testament figures from the Eastern Orthodox calendar, but, one of those is for Samuel on 20 August, so I guess they needed the day and had to boof Bernard. But to the day before, when he was still alive and not born unto eternity? Scholars. Oy.

Anyway, Bernard has a pretty good rep among notable non-Catholics, including Martin Luther and John Calvin. Which is pretty amazing considering: 
1) he was a rip roaring kick-ass let's get serious about this Rule of St Benedict for monasteries type,
2) he chose the "right" pope when two were elected (hey, what if he got the Innocent/Anacletus thing wrong?), 
3) he saw one of his students, Bernardo da Pisa, elected Pope (Eugene III) largely on the basis of Bernardo's connexion to him, though he thought Bernardo too naive for the job, then used that naivete to function as a shadow pope, 
4) his student-now-pope proclaimed a Second Crusade in reaction to the County of Edessa, a state established by the First Crusade, getting its butt kicked by the Muslims, then he got Bernard to promote it, whereupon the two main takers, Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany, got their butts thoroughly kicked, which completely tarnished the rest of Bernard's life though he insisted the failure was due to the Crusaders being a bunch of sinners, 
5) at the Council of Troyes in 1129 he championed the Knights Templar, which secured their endorsement by the Roman Catholic Church and their transformation from a poor monastic military order providing security for those on pilgrimages to Jerusalem after it was retaken in 1099 (First Crusade) into a multimillion dollar multinational banking and holding company, the world's first,
6) in 1139 Pope Innocent II declared the Knights Templar could go anywhere and be exempt from all authority or taxation except the pope's,
7)  his pathological asceticism -- a redundancy, as all asceticism is pathological -- gave rise to one of the more extreme forms of Mariolatry, which is, given the mediaeval misconception that milk was blood in processed form, and given the mediaeval custom among the upper classes that breastfeeding was done for them by others ("wetnurses"), the Madonna lactans (paintings of Mary/Madonna nursing Jesus) became an analogue to the blood of Christ, Bernard is said to have been hit by a blast of milk as he prayed before a Madonna lactans, and was given either wisdom or cured or an eye infection, depending on to which legend one listens,
8) his pathological asceticism -- a redundancy, as all asceticism, oh wait, we covered that -- also gave rise to the whole ideal of Christian knighthood, in particular his De laude novae militia (In praise of the new knighthood) of 1129, written for the first Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Hugues de Payens, which in turn gave rise to the late addition of Sir Galahad to the Arthurian legend, coming from the Old French so-called Vulgate Cycle, which transformed the existing English legend into a quest for the Holy Grail by the celibate, ascetic, therefore "pure" knight, against the unworthiness of regular knights.

He does, despite all that and more, show some signs of knowing it all comes down to faith in Christ and what he did for us. That can happen, even in the RCC, and in all fairness I gotta say maybe old Bernard was one of those. And me being a Benedictine never-was, the only thing worse than a has-been, lemme tell ya a little reform wouldn't hurt those guys at all.

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

Thing is, Bernard didn't have a damn thing to do with it.

The text to the hymn comes from the last part of a long mediaeval poem called Salve mundi salutare (Hail, salvation of the world) which meditates on a number of Christ's body parts as he suffered on the Cross. The last part meditates on his head and is called Salve caput cruentatum. It dates from the 14th Century; Bernard lived in the first half of the 12th Century (1091-1153 to be exact).

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

So, Bernard had nothing to do with O Sacred Head, and all this "attributed to" stuff is just crap that should be dropped.  What ought to be pointed out instead is that Salve mundi salutare, the source of O Sacred Head, was the basis for the first Lutheran oratorio, Membra Jesu nostri patientis sanctissima.  Don't freak, I'll translate, it means "most holy members (as in limbs) of our suffering Jesus".  It was composed by Dietrich Buxtehude in 1680. 

So what to make of this? Bernard had absolutely nothing to do with O Sacred Head, either as tune or text, and for that matter, being thoroughly Roman Catholic as we saw above, makes a hell of a lot better Roman Catholic saint than Lutheran commemoration.  Rather than indulging in dressing up Catholic fantasies in a Lutheran version, just like some dress up megachurch fantasies in a Lutheran version, we make this of it:  the power of the Gospel, well meditated on in O Sacred Head, is such that the hymn does not depend on or even need pious legends and myths about its earthly authorship. And that the power of the Gospel, of which Bernard showed some signs of being aware, is such that it can penetrate even the largely pagan accretions laid over it by the RCC, in which Bernard was deeply involved. Thank God for the Lutheran Reformation, that we no longer live in times like Bernard, where church and state alike were choked by these accretions, and the Gospel can be rightly preached and the Sacraments rightly administered in our churches openly.

And hey, next time you write a cheque or use a debit card to draw money somewhere else on your bank deposits back home, rather than carry your stash with you and thus make yourself more attractive to thieves and robbers, thank the Knights Templar, who in 1150 created a system of letters of credit based on deposits was the low tech forerunner of banking as we know it now!

17 August 2015

The Dormitory of Mary, 15 August 2015.

Yeah I know, it's the Dormition of Mary, aka the Assumption.

Dormition, dormitory -- all from the Latin for "to sleep". One of the dormitories where I went to university was called St Mary Hall, formally. It was just "Mary Hall" otherwise. Everyone went there whether they had a room there (I didn't) or friends there (I did) or not. Reason being, St Mary Cafeteria, or "Mary Caf" as we called it (the culture may include tendencies which may strike those unfamiliar with it as unduly familiar, even slightly irreverent). Thing is it wasn't a cafeteria at all but an on-campus restaurant and gathering place.

What's up with that? Mary Caf was not the regular cafeteria, where those with a meal plan ate, which being a rural campus not in any town was just about everyone. Rather, it was where one ordered burgers and fries and stuff like that on one's own time, and dime. So why is a restaurant called a cafeteria when it really isn't? Well, the regular cafeteria wasn't called a cafeteria either, but a refectory, so the word was available. And it did have trays.

Holy crap, what's a refectory? Comes from the Latin reficere, to restore, which gave rise to the word refectorium, a room where you get restored, ie eat. It's a monk thing, and being a Benedictine institution we were all about that. Now, in a real refectory, according to the Rule -- what's "the Rule", without modifiers that's the Rule of St Benedict for monasteries, geez do I have to explain everything? -- meals are eaten in silence, one guy reads from Scripture or the saints (that's called lectio divina, or divine reading) and no meat from mammals except if you're sick.

However, true to the very heart of the most venerable tradition, Benedictine in particular and Catholic in general, it ain't really like that. As more and more "feasts" came in to the church calendar, the meals got better, and, by the time it took four digits to write the year, aka 1000 AD, the obvious solution was to eat the other, better, food in another room, and keep up appearances in the refectory. Not have your cake in one room, then eat it in another. Perfect.

And in a student refectory, where the teaching monks ate too, as distinct from the monking refectory of the monkatorium itself, there ain't no lectio divina, and ain't much of anything done in silence either.

So it don't get no more Benedictine than to have the refectory and Mary Caf, the official restoring room and the other one on the side. Hey, don't laugh, the Eastern Orthodox, as usual, amp it up even more. In their monkeries the refectory is called the Trapeza, always with at least one icon and sometimes a ruddy church unto itself, altar, iconostasis and all.

And they got this Lifting of the Panagia to end the meal too. What in all monking monkery is a Panagia? It's the prosphoron from which you take a chunk in honour of the Theotokos. What the hell izzat? The former is the loaf used in the Eucharist, the latter is Mary. After the service, the refectorian (don't freak, it's the monk who runs the refectory) cuts a triangle out of it, cuts the rest in half, puts it on a tray, the boys go over to the refectory with the tray in the lead.  Then after the meal there is a ceremony in which the refectorian says "Bless me, holy fathers, and pardon me a sinner" and the assembled holy fathers say "May God pardon and have mercy on you" (as if he had not already done so at Calvary, but I digress).  Then he says echoing the liturgy "Great is the name" and the boys chime in with "of the Holy Trinity", then comes "O all-holy Mother of God help us" and the reply "At her prayers, O God, have mercy and save us" (as if he had not already ..., oh well).  Then accompanied by a dude with censer he offers it, each, uh, holy father then taking a piece between thumb and forefinger, running it through the incense, and eating it.

Now that's some serious monking. Judas H Priest OSB, we're a bunch of Bavarians, or at least the joint was founded by them.  Hell, the closest we came to anything like that was to make sure you went back before they ran out for more of the good dark bread they bake. Closest I'm gonna come to any Lifting of the Panagia now is the lifting of the Panera. Besides, Panera's got wi-fi too I think -- for some digital lectio divina of course. I still don't like white bread, though, and will take a wheat or dark bread every time. Every time. And still call a dining room a refectory once in a while too. It's a spiritual thing of course.

So we had our refectory and our "cafeteria" named for Mary. Later, the food service would open a more night oriented spot, Der Keller, which means the cellar or basement in German, in the cellar of the old main building, though it took a new food service director who was a Baptist from Alabama to come up with the idea. Now that's my kind of Baptist! Also my kind of refectorian. Hell, with the secular and ecclesiastical sides of the 1960s both raging, he was more German and Benedictine at heart than the German Benedictines.

And Mary? Just as Gabriel said, full of grace, the Lord was with her; blessed is she among women and blessed is the fruit of her womb, Jesus. And if you're looking for an example, if your cost of discipleship is seeming a little high, there is no better example than her submission in faith to God, which she for all she knew at the time ran her the risk of execution as an adulteress, only to survive that only to see her son executed as a criminal. And if you're looking for direction, there is no better direction, rather than quasi-pious speculation about dormitions and assumptions, than she herself gave to those wanting her to sort things out one time at the wedding in Cana -- "Do whatever he tells you".