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

(For what this all means scroll to the bottom of the sidebar.)


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.

01 January 2022

Happy Whatever Day This Is, 2022!

Huh? Ain't It New Years?

In the world, it's simple -- Happy New Years!

The Gregorian Calendar, the Western calendar that is pretty much the conventional standard the world over now, even when alongside traditional calendars, counts 1 January the first day of the new year. It wasn't always so, even in earlier Western calendars.  It's gone from 15 March to 1 January to 25 March and back to 1 January!  Here's the story.

In traditional calendars the world over, a new year begins in springtime, understandable in that the season suggests newness, the start of a new growth cycle, etc.  So how did 1 January come to be the start of the new year?  The answer, also including why calendars are called "calendars", comes from Rome, as does pretty much everything else.

How New Years Went From 15 March To 1 January.

New Years Day was 15 March in ancient Rome. But in 153 B.C., the date of the new year was changed to 1 January, because that is the date when the two ruling consuls were chosen.  OK great, but what's a consul and why are there two of them?  In 509 BC the Romans abolished the Roman Kingdom and established the Roman Republic, replacing the office of king with the office of consul, to be jointly held by two men so power never is concentrated in one man.  The Roman Republic lasted 482 years, until 27 BC when the Roman Empire began.  The enormous active legacy the Roman Republic left to the entire world is covered in this blog's post for 21 April, the date of the founding of Rome.  Here we'll stick to New Years and calendars.

"Were chosen" you say, that's passive voice, indicates an agent, someone who did it, so who did it? Originally they were elected. Passive voice again, who's the agent, who elected them? The Comitia Centuriata, that's who, made up of all Roman citizens and divided into centuries, which are theoretically voting groups of 100 though not in practice, which voted first within themselves and then voted as a unit in the election.

But, the consuls did not assume office until being ratified by election by the Comitia Curiata, which was made up only of members of elite families. There were two other assemblies in old Rome, the Comitia Calata and the Comitia Tributa, the former under the leadership of the pontifex maximus and concerned mostly with ceremonies, and the latter was administrative and judicial. There were two consuls, not one, and they ruled to-gether rather than a single king. The idea behind this is seen in the word itself.  The plural of consul, consules, literally means walking to-gether. However, as the Roman Republic waned and the Roman Empire emerged, while the facade of the republic remained, power moved from the people to the Emperor.

In fact, the word "calendar" comes from all this. The first day of each month was called out by the pontifex, pontiff of the state religion, at a place called the Curia Calabra where the pontiff called the Comitia Calata. Hence the first days of the months were called Kalendae, the called, and the rest of the days of the month were called from them.

Gee, curia, pontifex maximus, what was once the real deal becoming a facade with real power in a single man, elected officials giving way to appointed ones -- does that course of events in Rome sound like Church as well as Empire? Well, that's another story. Or maybe it isn't. BIG post on that coming right here in a couple of weeks. Now, back to New Years.

How New Years Went From 1 January To 25 March.

Dionysius Exiguus -- Dennis the Short, in the sense of humble -- in his tables for the dates of Easter in 525 A.D. (abbreviation for anno domini, an ablative of time in Latin meaning "in the year of our lord"; A.D. was his invention too!) came up with a new system for numbering years to replace both naming them after consuls and the system of the Emperor Diocletian, who had been a major persecutor of Christians. In his reform of the Julian (as in Julius Caesar) calendar he set the start of the new year at 25 March.  Why?  Because in his calendar that's the date that co-incides with the Feast of the Annunciation. Annunciation of what?

The announcement by the angel Gabriel to Mary that she would bear Christ and just as important, her consent to do so, that's what.  Then count 'em, nine months later, the period of human gestation, comes the celebration of Christ's birth on 25 December. The years themselves though continued to be lined up from January to December Roman style.

So why is the Annunciation celebrated on 25 March?  Well, not only the Annunciation but a lot of stuff is held in Jewish and/or Christian legend to have happened about that time, which, if you notice, is right around the vernal, or Spring, equinox, the start of the new year in traditional calendars.  The date of the creation of the world, of the creation of Adam, of the revolt of Lucifer, the parting of the Red Sea to allow the exodus from Egypt, are all assigned to this time.

All of which may be, or may not be, but rather is additional significance piously but needlessly built around this: Biblical clues suggest Jesus was conceived around Passover.  In the Law of Moses, in Exodus 12, the day that the Passover lamb is chosen for any year is 10 Nisan, which indeed can fall on what we call 25 March.  Whether or not that is when it was, the idea it was meant to express is exactly what the Christian faith holds, namely, that Jesus is the full and final Passover lamb sacrificed for the forgiveness of sins.

It's important to understand that it's not that 25 March is for sure the date of the conception of Jesus and therefore is celebrated that day and if it wasn't that day the rest of it falls apart.  It's that God become Man in Jesus to be the full and final Passover that takes our sins away and makes us not just creations but also children of God, that's the belief, so his Incarnation is celebrated on a date associated with Passover as he would suffer, die and rise again at Passover time.  The point does not depend on the association being literal or exact.

OK fine, but why New Years Day three months into the list of months of the year? Because the age of grace, the time from which God entered into human history as a human, God's Incarnation, begins when any life begins, at its conception, not its birth. Therefore dating the age of grace, the years since his coming into humanity, starts from his conception, not his birth. How's that for a "pro-life" witness!

The Incarnation, happening on the Annunciation, is of such importance that in the Eastern church it is never moved from 25 March for any reason whatsoever, even if Good Friday or Easter falls on the same day, with special liturgies celebrating both done should that occur.

Dennis btw was not a Benedictine, he was one of the so-called Scythian Monks, named after the region where they were, where the Danube meets the Black Sea, the modern Dobrogea region mostly in Romania.  But other than not being Benedictine there is only good to say about him, and on 8 July 2008 was he canonised a saint by the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church.

We English call The Annunciation Lady Day (the lady being Mary), and it was New Years Day too until 1752 when the change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar was official. In fact, the tax year in the UK still begins on 6 April, which is 25 March in the Julian Calendar adjusted to the Gregorian one.

How New Years Went Back To 1 January.

Well, that's the way it was until the Gregorian Calendar we use now came about. Who's Gregory? It's Pope Gregory XIII, who on 24 February 1582 decreed the change in the papal bull "inter gravissimas", which means "among the most serious". Ancient practice in Rome and many other places was to name a document after its first word or two (the names of the books in the Hebrew Bible are this way) and the bull starts "Among the most serious duties of our pastoral office ... ". A papal bull, btw, doesn't mean what you might be thinking, chucklesome as that is. It's a formal charter by a pope, taking its name from the bulla, a cord encased in clay and stamped with a seal, used to prevent tampering and thus ensure authenticity. Call it a low tech anti hacking device.

The new calendar, a revision of the old calendar of Julius Caesar, wasn't immediately adopted in the civil realm, although it was during this period that adoption of 1 January as the start of the new year really took hold. Not without controversy though, which has a remnant to this day. The original "April Fools" were those who, in the minds of Gregorian calendar advocates, still foolishly insisted New Years was 25 March in the old calendar, which falls in April in the Gregorian calendar, or were confused about it, and tricks were sometimes played on them.

The new calendar corrected the drift of the Julian calendar, but the original motivation had nothing to do with changing New Years but with establishing a common date for Easter throughout the Christian Church, following what it took to be the provisions of the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. It met with resistance from non Catholic countries, Protestant and Orthodox alike, seeing it as a Catholic power play, and of course had no relevance to the traditional calendars outside the Christian world of the time. In fact even in Europe the last country to adopt the Gregorian calendar, Greece, only did so in 1923, even after Japan (1873), China (1912) and the newly Communist Russia (1918)!

One thing that didn't change, we still start numbering things with 1. So it's 2020 because it's the 20th year of the 21st century, and the last year of its second decade, just like 2000 was the 100th and last year of the 20th century and the 1000th and last year of the last millennium, and 2001 was the first year of both the first decade of this millennium and the millennium itself.  2022 is the second year of the third decade of this millennium.

So the story's over, the world now has one calendar functionally, while other traditional ones can continue to be used locally. Well, almost.

What 1 January Is In The Church Calendar (None Of The Above)!

What a hoot -- the "secular" calendar is of religious origin in the Christian Church! And the church has a calendar too, which isn't really a calendar! It's better called the church year, and the new church year starts with the First Sunday of Advent in the West; Eastern Orthodoxy in most places begins the new church year on 1 September. Some of the things in the church year have a fixed date taken from the secular calendar and fall on that date every year. This is the proprium sanctorum, so named because they are usually but not always about a saint, like the Annunciation is always 25 March. Other things do not have a fixed date from year to year because they are seasons or times in the life of Christ with reference to Easter and in turn, as we saw above, to Passover, which itself does not have a fixed date. This is the proprium de tempore, of time.  For example Ash Wednesday, which will be 2 March in 2022 but was 17 February in 2021, in 2020 was 26 February, 6 March in 2019, 14 February (yeah, right on St Valentine's Day, what a buzzkill!) in 2018, 1 March in 2017, 10 February in 2016, 18 February 2015, 5 March 2014, 13 February 2013, 22 February 2012, 9 March 2011, 17 February 2010, and 25 February 2009. 

Calendars put out by churches are generally like secular calendars, with the de tempore given on the date they fall that year.  So the Annunciation, the old new year, is fixed on 25 March and Christmas on 25 December, but Easter and everything related to it is on a different date each year.

1 January falls eight days after the celebration of the birth of Jesus. OK, it's the eighth day of Christmas, let's continue our Christmas celebration as we saw in the Twelve Days of Christmas post. But guess what? In the Law -- Law of Moses -- on the eighth day after the birth a male child the boy is to be circumcised, according to the Law, to put him within the Law, and is also given his name. So on what we call 1 January now, the Church celebrates the Circumcision of Jesus, wherein he is put under the Law that he will fulfill, and his blood is first shed for us as he is put under the Law as it will be shed for us in his Crucifixion as he redeems us from the condemnation of the Law -- the good news, the Gospel!

This Jewish circumcision ceremony is called a Bris.  When you know what a Bris is, a couple of things follow from it about Jesus.  One is, a male child is named at the Bris, so Jesus being named is celebrated either on the same day as his circumcision, which is what we do, or the day after, or, if there is one, the Sunday after but before Epiphany. The name Jesus is a form of Joshua; as Joshua took over from Moses and completed the journey that Moses could not to the Promised Land of Palestine, so this Joshua takes over to complete the journey for us that due to sin we cannot make even with the Law of Moses, the journey to the promised land of eternal life with God.

The other thing is, the maternity of Mary as mother of this fully human and fully divine child who would do this for us is honoured too.  This originally stems from refuting the claim of the Patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius (386 - 450, give or take), that Mary was the mother of Jesus as a human only. The Maternity of Mary was to emphasise that Jesus born of Mary is fully human and fully divine.

So for the Christian, it's Happy Feast of the Bris of Jesus!! So the story's over, there you have it! Well, uh, just one more thing.

Rome, be it Empire or Church, is ever at the ready to tinker with stuff, and tinker they did. First, in 1931 Pope Pius XI moved the Maternity of Mary itself to 11 October. Then, at Vatican II, in replacing the traditional church calendar and lectionary in the various forms it has existed for centuries with a whole new one with three different versions of the year, guess what -- they ash-canned the Circumcision altogether too! In place of commemorating his shedding of blood at his bris to put him under the Law that points to his shedding of blood on the Cross to redeem us, they put in a local Roman practice from about 1500 years ago, the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God! Which is not exactly the old Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  And, as if that weren't enough tinkering, in 1967 they added a brand new one to be celebrated the same day, a World Day of Peace.

I'm sure Mary loved that one! She's thinking, It ain't about me, you clowns, it's about him, and by the way, he said the peace he leaves is his peace, not as the world gives peace but the Holy Spirit sent from God after he returns to the Father. Or, as she had to say to those serving the wedding at Cana, Do whatever he tells you.

And that is her message, for which we honour her this day, but above all listen to her. Happy Feast of the Circumcision -- even amid our infatuation in some circles with reworking the novus ordo, we still got it! -- and whether you include it this day, to-morrow, or next Sunday, the Name of Jesus!!

And do whatever he tells you, like his mother said.

11 November 2021

What's An Armistice? Veterans Day / St Martin's Day 2021.

Here is what the world knows about Veterans Day, although given the state of "education" these days that may be overly optimistic.  More on that later.  11 November was originally Armistice Day, from the armistice that ended hostilities in the First World War on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, GMT (or UTC), in 1918. Later, with another and even worse World War having been fought despite a War to End All Wars, in 1954 Congress changed the observance to include all veterans, hence Veterans Day.  While it's now broadened, and for good reason, from the original Armistice Day, it's not to be confused with Memorial Day, for those who died in service in uniform, or Armed Forces Day, for those currently serving.  There's a lot to be learned from how this observance came to be.

So What's An Armistice?

The English word armistice is transliterated from the Latin armistitium, which literally means a stopping of arms. It's a truce, a cessation of hostilities. Now, if you're one of those getting shot at, that's a good thing -- but, it's not a comprehensive social and political solution to what led to the hostilities, and not even necessarily a permanent cease fire, let alone that universal aspiration of beauty pageant contestants, world peace. Which means, hostilities may well resume at some point. And always have.

Here is what the world probably does not know, or care about. 11 November is the feast day of St Martin of Tours, who is the patron saint of, guess what, soldiers, and after whom Martin Luther was named! Hmm.

So Who Is St Martin of Tours and Why Is He Patron Of Soldiers?

Martin was born a pagan around 316 in what is now Hungary, and was what is now called a military brat. Then as now, military families move a lot, and Martin grew up where his father was stationed, at Ticinum, which is now Pavia, Italy. His father was a tribune, which is roughly equivalent to a modern colonel, in the crack Roman unit the Imperial Horse Guard (equites singulari Augusti). Being a military kid, he was named Martin, from Mars, the Roman god of war.

The year of his birth, 316, was also the year it became legal to be a Christian in the Roman Empire, but it was a decidedly minority religion, and in the army the cult of Mithras was common. When Martin was ten, he ticked off his parents by starting to go to church and taking instruction as a catechumen (you know, the Sunday School, mid-week, etc of the time). However in 331 at 15 he joined the army, as sons of senior officers did, in a provincial cavalry unit (ala, or wing, the root of our word aileron) and about 334 was stationed at Samarobriva, the Roman name for what is now Amiens in northern France.

One day, by the city gate of Amiens, he passed a man freezing on the road, tore his military issue cloak in half and gave half to him. That night, he had a dream seeing Jesus wearing the half a cloak. This shook him up, and he got baptised that year, 334, at 18. He remained in the army, but in 336 when it looked like the army and the local Gauls were about to engage at Worms, he declared he was a soldier of Christ and could not fight. He was thrown in the brig (military jail) and charged with cowardice. He offered to be in the front lines but unarmed, and the army was going to do just that with him, but the Gauls made peace with Rome and the battle did not happen.

After that Martin was discharged from the service. He went to Tours, and began to study with the renowned, even in his own time, St Hilary. Hilary was a convert too, and he vigourously opposed the Arian "Christianity" of the Visigoths.  He was elected by the faithful of Poitiers as their first bishop (they did that then), married with a daughter and all (they did that then too). Martin, thinking he was God's soldier now, set about combating the Arian heresy too, which about did the church in at the time.

He and Hilary were both forced into exile by persecution. Martin lived as a hermit but when Hilary was restored in 361 Martin joined him. He started a monastery in nearby Liguge, which is still there as the now Benedictine (of course) St Martin's Abbey, from which he preached Christianity all around the area. Later, the people of Tours made him their third bishop when the old one died in 371 and he was finally persuaded to accept. From there he soldiered on to preach the true Gospel in Gaul, and, to get away from the attention of his office, he established another monastery, Marmoutier, which also later became Benedictine, on the other side of the River Loire in Tours, about 372, which lasted until the French Revolution in 1799 and is largely in ruins now.

A good insight into Martin is something that happened in 385.  Remember that 385 is just five years since the Imperial Edict of Thessalonica defined what is and is not the Catholic Church, and made the Catholic Church the state religion, which makes heresy a state offence punishable by the Empire.  In 385 Priscillian, bishop of Avila in Spain, and his followers were brought before the Emperor, Magnus Maximus, on charges of false doctrine, heresy, stemming from their severe asceticism, and the penalty was beheading.  But Martin, though he was quite opposed to Priscillian, hurried to Trier, where the Imperial court held forth at the time, not Rome, to protest the sentence as both unjust in itself and an unjust imposition of civil power in a church matter. The Emperor relented, but, after Martin left the court beheaded them anyway. This was the first time ever that a Christian executed another Christian for heresy, and Martin was absolutely disconsolate after he heard the news and urged mercy toward Priscillian's followers.

Martin died 8 November 397 and was buried 11 November, which became his feast day, though the date of death is the usual practice for determining a feast day. He was widely venerated for centuries, which I will not go into except for this -- soon after his death it became the custom to begin a 40 day fast in preparation for Christmas, the quadragesima sancti Martini or St Martin's Fast, (forty days of St Martin, literally) with his feast day being the last non-fasting day until Christmas. This original Advent eventually got shortened into what we know as Advent now. More on that in the "Advent" post coming up.

An Armistice on St Martin's Day 1918.

So, 11 November, feast of the patron of soldiers for centuries, is the date of Armistice Day, now Veterans Day? Hmm. Coincidence, or one of those little things that pokes through from what is beyond the surface? That's not all. there's something else just a little too co-incidental? The military campaign that led to the armistice is the Hundred Days Offensive, aka the Grand Offensive, from 8 August to 11 November 1918. Guess where the Hundred Days Offensive started. With the Battle of Amiens, where the Roman officer Martin had given the freezing beggar the cloak. Hmm.

Yeah but that was a long time ago, right?  Yes it was, and that's part of the point of all this.  The armistice of 11 November 1918 turned out to be just that, a cessation of hostilities. What was fought as The War to End All Wars would become World War One, as hostilities resumed in an even worse World War Two. Along with the millions of lives lost, millions more lives were forever changed, and, something changed in what might be called the spirit of Man too. The great sense in the age leading into these cataclysms that Man was on an upward spiral of progress toward an enlightened future lay rotting like the wreck of that great expression of the age the aptly named RMS (Royal Mail Steamer) Titanic.

Why aptly named?  The Titanic was one of three ships, built to be the most luxurious ever at sea.  They were called the Olympic class, after the ancient Olympians, and were the Olympic, which began began service 14 June 1911, the Titanic, which began service 19 April 1912, and the Britannic, which began service 23 December 1915.  The Britannic was requisitioned as a hospital ship and sunk 21 November 1916 off the coast of Greece after striking a mine.  The Titanic sunk 15 April 1912 after hitting an iceberg.

The "Titans" had lost, but unlike the mythological battle, in which the Olympians were the victors and established a new world order, this time, who would be the victorious Olympians, or if there even were victors or Olympians, was not clear. Even the surviving Olympic-class ship, the original Olympic herself, did not survive the economic realities of the post WWI age and was sold for scrap in 1935.  The old world order, and its certainties both temporal and eternal, was gone. Man began to speak of life as absurd, and amid an apparently essentially meaningless existence the search for "meaning" was on.

One could respond to this new situation in various ways.  One could deny the whole thing and remain "irrelevant" and "inauthentic", either by holding on to a religious faith from the old order's certainties, or equally by holding on to the secular faith in the progress and perfectibility of Man or to hoping for the restoration of the old political order.  Or, one could simply accept that life is absurd and meaningless and ask nothing more of it.  Or, one could understand that meaning is not objective but something Man, meaning human society, creates for itself, or each man creates for himself.  (I know, too many ors.)

This last idea seems so modern but is actually as ancient as anything held to be a "certainty", an absolute truth, from the old order.  It just seems new because it re-appears in different formulations.  Lately, it's usually in phrases like "social construct" etc.  After WWII, Sartre's famous "existence precedes essence", which comes from a lecture he gave in 1945 just after WWII ended, was often heard.  Thing is, Protagoras, who lived before Socrates (hence the term "pre-Socratic") taught that Man  first exists then creates what he takes to be truth, essence, etc. even before Plato, Aristotle, Christianity and much else held to be foundational in tradition came to be.

Protagoras' statement is usually given as "Man is the measure of all things".  As often happens, that isn't the full statement, and the full statement supplies clarifying context the partial statement doesn't.  The full statement is, "Man is the measure of all things, of the things that are, that they are, and of the things that are not, that they are not".  Protagoras wrote many works but little to nothing survives of them.  The famous statement actually comes from Plato, quoting Protagoras in the dialogue Theaetetus, line 152a.

As what was to end all cataclysms (WWI) only led to further and worse cataclysms (WWII), Man spoke increasingly not just of absurdity and meaningless in life, but of Angst, existential anxiety, in which Man on the one hand yearns for the certainties and meanings of the old world order but on the other knows they are but lost illusions that no longer work since we know them to be illusions of our own making.

The resolution? There isn't one.  That embodiment of the old order, the Titanic, sank 15 April 1912, just over a century ago.  The spark that would light the keg of the War To End All Wars, the assassination of Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand along with his wife Herzogin Sophie, on 28 June 1914, is also just over a century ago. 2018 was century since the armistice, in our time hostilities continue amid the wreckage of the arrangements worked out nearly a century ago following the War to End All Wars, in Southeast Europe, the Middle East and the Asian subcontinent.

And now, the situation is not just one of absurdity, meaninglessness and Angst.  One hundred years on, more or less, from the collapse of the old world order and its temporal and eternal certainties, their loss has now become normal, and what was once sensed as a loss or void, is no longer sensed as such, because they were never known anyway.  Angst, anxiety, is the norm and no longer experienced as anxiety, and, though the void which produced the Angst remains, the void is not sensed as any void at all.  And in recent years, the former certainties, orders, values, meanings etc. insofar as they are known at all, which isn't very far, are characterised as systemic problems whose ill effects we must make conscious efforts to remove.  

Thus we become as a people like a person with Alzheimer's, prisoners of the present, no longer recognising the world and our relation to it, and rejecting any information about what that is outside of our own thoughts.

This is exactly what Cicero described as the Roman Republic he tried so hard to preserve was transformed in the Roman Empire which he tried so hard to prevent:  Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit id est semper esse puerum, which in English is, To not know what happened before one was born, that is to be always a child.

Children.  Alzheimer's patients.  Trapped in a present they do not understand, and thus think it is not understandable, nor that there is such a thing as understanding anyway beyond norms of human, not objective, origin.  There is no fact, only feeling, only lived experience, and no need to examine if our understanding of that experience is flawed, because that idea is itself a product of a systemically flawed system.

So in the legend the Twelve Titans fell to the Twelve Olympians, but in the reality now not only are no Olympians going to show up, but also any emerging new order must not be based on anything from any previous order since it's all bad. If Genesis isn't witness to Man as fallen, the world history of Man surely is. A history filled with the universal intuition that Man is less than he is meant to be or can be, a history filled with however many religious, philosophical, social and political programmes and movements to accomplish this fulfillment -- and a history filled with the dashing of all of them.

There's twelve something else who had something to say about that. The Twelve Apostles. They got told to go into the world with the message.  The message is:
- that Man just isn't going to get himself out of his self-constructed mess,
- that God has seen that, and became Man in Jesus to die to pay for all that and rise again, so that Man can by the gift and power of God repent of his own self-destructive efforts and start over, be reborn in faith in the One God has sent,
- that because of Him one can be washed clean by being covered in his sacrificial blood, and even amid the brokenness of this world live in partial experience of that which is beyond it, dying with him to rise with him.
That message continues to-day as God calls and feeds Man in the church wherever his Word is properly preached and his Sacraments properly administered.

Interesting that in that context, on 11 November, St Martin's Day, in 1483, Mr and Mrs Luther brought their day old baby boy to be baptised, and following the traditional custom he was given the name of the saint of the day -- Martin Luther, who like his namesake would devote his life to preaching the true Gospel against false doctrine and corruption from state control of the church.


So on 11 November, Armistice Day now Veterans Day and also St Martin's Day, as we rightly remember and celebrate in gratitude those who have served to preserve and defend our temporal freedom, let us also remember that armistice is the best we can do, the hostilities cease for a while only to resume, and let us remember and celebrate in gratitude Him who gained our true freedom for now and all eternity, who gives peace not as the world gives peace, but for real and for ever.

Pacem relinquo vobis, pacem meam do vobis, non quomodo mundus dat ego do vobis non turbentur cor vestrum neque formide.  Peace I leave you, my peace I give you, not as the world giveth give I unto you, let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27, used in the liturgy after the Agnus Dei before Communion)

Here is the Collect from the mass propers for the feast of St Martin of Tours:

Lord God of hosts, who clothed Your servant Martin the soldier with the spirit of sacrifice, and set him as a bishop in Your Church to be a defender of the catholic faith: Give us grace to follow in his holy steps, that at the last we may be found clothed with righteousness in the dwellings of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.

31 October 2021

Reformation Day and All Saints Day / Reformationstag und Allerheiligen, 2021. (Halloween too!)

Yeah, everybody knows 31 October is the day Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the church door and started the Reformation. Everybody knows it's Halloween too. What does this mean?

What does "Halloween" mean?

Let's start with Halloween. The word is a contraction actually, the "een" being short for "even" which is in turn short for "evening". Evening of what? Evening before All Hallows, that's what. So what or who in the hell are the hallows? "Hallow" is the modern English form of a Germanic root word meaning "holy", which also survives in modern German as "heilige". The Hallows are the holy ones, meaning the saints.

1 November has for centuries been celebrated in the West as the Feast of All Hallows, cognate with the German word for it, Allerheiligen, which is now usually expressed in English as the Feast of All Saints. The term Hallowmas was once common for it, the mass of all hallows. Halloween then is a contraction for the Eve of the Feast of All Hallows, the night on 31 October before the feast on 1 November.

This in turn is part of a triduum.  Huh, ain't that in Holy Week?  Well, yes, that's the best known one, and these days about the only known one, but there's actually several tridua in the liturgical year, and this is one of them, called Allhallowtide.  It's comprised of the Eve of All Hallows, All Hallows (Saints) Day on 1 November, and All Souls Day on 2 November.

About the only other times you hear "hallow" in some form or other in modern English is its retained use in the traditional wording of the Our Father, "hallowed be thy name", or in the phrase "hallowed halls" in reference to a university or some esteemed institution. "Hallowed be thy name" literally means held holy be thy name, "thy" being the second person familiar form of address modern English doesn't use.

The Origin of All Saints' Day. Lemuralia.

So when did we start having a Feast of All Hallows on 1 November? Well, we started having a Feast of All Hallows, or Saints, long before it was on 1 November! In the Eastern Church, all the saints are collectively remembered on the first Sunday after Pentecost. It really got rolling when the emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire Leo VI (886-911) built a church in honour of his wife when she died, but as she was not a recognised saint he dedicated the church to all the saints, so that she would be included in a commemoration of all saints whether recognised as such or not.

In the Western Church, the whole thing got rolling when Pope Boniface IV got permission in 609 AD from the Roman emperor Phocas -- again this would be the Eastern Roman Emperor, as the Western Roman Empire was long gone by this time -- to rededicate the Roman Pantheon to Mary and all martyrs. What's the Pantheon? A big temple built by Agrippa, Caesar Augustus' best general officer, to Jupiter, Venus and Mars in 27 BC. It was destroyed in a major fire in Rome in 80 AD. The emperor Domitian rebuilt it, but it burned again in 110 AD. The emperor Trajan began reconstruction and it was completed by the emperor Hadrian in 126 AD. That's the building that's there now.

Boniface rededicated the Pantheon to Mary and all martyrs on 13 May 609 (might have been 610) AD. Why 13 May? Because it was on that day that the old Roman Lemuralia concluded. What's a Lemuralia? The Roman poet Ovid says it originated when Romulus, one of the co-founders of Rome and from whom the city is named, tried to calm the spirit of his brother Remus, the other co-founder. Why would Remus' spirit need calming? Because Romulus killed him with a shovel to make sure he didn't name and rule the city, that's why.

At any rate, over time it became the day, or rather days, there were three of them, 9, 11, and 13 May, when the head of the household (the paterfamilias, father of the family) chased off the lemures (one lemur, two or more lemures) who were vengeful spirits of the dead ticked off at the living, for either not having been buried properly or treated well in life, or remembered well in death, and out to harm or at least scare the crap out of the living.

Because they appeared so scary, they were also called larvae (one larva, two or more larvae) meaning "masks", which is also how the "mask" of early stage life, which in some animals is nothing like the adult stage, such as the caterpillar to the butterfly, came to be called larva. Anyway, paterfamilias went out at midnight looking to one side and tossing black beans behind him saying "haec ego mitto his redimo meque meosque fabis", or "I send these (beans), with these I redeem me and mine" nine times. Then, he banged bronze pots to-gether saying "manes exite paterni" or "Souls of my ancestors, exit" nine times.

Western All Saints' Day Gets Moved By The Pope.  Way More To It Than That Though. 

In putting the Feast of All Saints on 13 May, Boniface meant to both replace the old Lemuralia and transform it into a Christian observance for all the Christian dead. The replacement anyway worked, and over time the Lemuralia were largely forgotten. So why isn't All Saints' Day still 13 May? Because Pope Gregory III (731-741) built a place in St Peter's in Rome for veneration of relics of all saints, and moved the date to 1 November.  Now, this isn't the St Peter's that's there now, it's the old one begun by Constantine  --  remember that because it's gonna be a big deal on this subject later in this post.  It stuck, and in 835 Louis the Pious, son and successor to Charlemagne (aka Karl der Grosse), with a big nudge from Pope Gregory IV, made it officially stuck, and there it is to this day.

Btw, Gregory III was a Syrian and the last pope who was not a European until the current pope, Francis.  Sort of:  Gregory was Syrian descended too, whereas Francis was born of Italian immigrants to Argentina, so, Gregory III is still the last pope both neither European nor European descended.

Gregory III is also the last pope to have held off assuming office until approval by the Exarchatus Ravennatis.  Holy crap, what's that and how did it hold up papal installations?  In Gregory's time the Western Roman Empire was long gone, and the surviving Eastern Roman Empire was trying to hold Rome, and Italy generally, to-gether against the onslaught of Germanic types, mainly Lombards, by means of exarchs, direct representatives of the Eastern, and now only, Roman Emperor, in Constantinople.  The Emperor Maurice (Flavius Mauricius Tiberius Augustus, actually) established two exarchs, one in 584 in Ravenna, the last capital of the Western Empire before its collapse, and one in Carthage in 590 to administer northern Africa and Spain, which were also having trouble holding off Islamic forces.  You didn't think this Islamicist thing was anything new, did you?

This preserved something of the old full Roman Empire, and re popes, this preserved the approval of the "bishop" of Rome by the emperor of Rome.  The Exarchate of Africa lasted until 698 when it was defeated by forces of the Islamic Umayyad Caliphate (capital, Damascus).  The Exarchate of Ravenna lasted from 584 until 751, when the last exarch (guy named Eutychius) was killed by the Lombards, whereupon the Franks under their king, Pippin, Charlemagne's dad, took over and gave the exarchate's lands to the pope in 756, which began the Patrimonium Sancti Petri, the Patrimony of Saint Peter.  These papal states continued in one form or another for 1,173 years, until 1929,  when  the Lateran Treaty between the pope, Pius XI, via his secretary of state, and the king of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III, (the last one, he and all male members of the House of Savoy were ordered permanently out of Italy by the referendum in 1946 to establish a republic) via his prime minister, Benito Mussolini, abolished them and established as the only papal state the Vatican City State which exists to-day.

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

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

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

His mom Irene hadn't relinquished regent powers over him and kept the title Empress, so her supporters blinded and deposed him on 19 April 797.  So now, on top of the inability of the remainder of the Roman Empire to hold things to-gether in the West, it's gonna be led by a woman, and that's a bit much!  I mean, a woman can be Empress by being the wife of the Emperor (Empress Consort), or by being the widow of an Emperor (Empress Dowager) and if she's also the mother of the current Emperor (Empress Mother), but rule in her own right (Empress Regnant), another story.  So, the next big Western step was, against all this, the crowning of Charles Martel's grandson Charlemagne as Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day 800 in St Peter's (the old one, remember?).  Which kinda worked both ways, as Charlemagne had just bailed old Leo out from being blinded by the Romans themselves!

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

So now there were two "Roman" emperors, not West and East, but each claiming rightful rule over the whole thing in continuous succession.  Neither one of them actually Roman, but hey.  Now it's kinda hard to preserve an empire when you gotta split it up among your kids, so things bobbled for a century or so, until 2 February 962, when the German king Otto became der Große, the Great.  Having overcome all opposition from anybody, he was crowned King of Germany in Aachen, Charlemagne's old capital, on 7 August 936, and on 2 February 962 was crowned Romanorum Imperator, Emperor of the Romans, in Rome at St Peter's (still the old one) by Pope John XII -- whose control over the Papal States (remember that, I told you this stuff all hangs to-gether eventually!) he had just secured.  John though soon sent emissaries to the Eastern Empire, Otto got wind of it, went back to Rome and had a pope more suitable to him selected (that's Leo VIII).  Poor old John went off with one of his mistresses and died of a heart attack during sex, though other accounts say her jealous husband killed him.  Apostolic succession, indeed.  BTW, "Pope Joan" legends come from one of his mistresses who had a real influence on him.

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

Btw, ever wonder why it's called the Vatican?  Because it's on the Vaticanus Mons, that's why.  OK but what is that?  The hill (mons) where the Vates (that's VAH-tays) hang out, that's what.  OK but who are they?  They were prophets and oracles of pre-Christian Rome.  The name originally applied to the Janiculum, a hill across the Tiber from Rome itself and its "seven hills" founded by the god Janus, according to Roman religion.  Eventually it came to include the plain in front of it, where Nero built a circus, that became the supposed site of the martyrdom of St Peter, over which supposed site Constantine began construction of a big church, St Peter's.  Remember that?  All this stuff does tie to-gether!


Thing is, there already was another non Christian celebration about this time. The Celts had something called Samhain, which means "Summer's end" and is still the word for November in Irish, as two other of their big celebrations, Bealtaine and Lunasa, are the Irish words for May and August. It was a harvest festival, but also included the realisation that Winter is coming and thus grain and meat for the season for people and livestock alike is prepared, the bones of the slaughtered animals thrown into bone fires, which is now contracted to bonfires, from which the whole community lighted its individual home fires. Also it was thought the world of the living and the dead intersected on this date, and the dead could cause damage to the living, so the living wore costumes to look like the dead or appease them or confuse them and minimise the potential damage. Your original trick or treat.

So a feast that started out to replace or transform one pagan observance involving the dead ends up on another, first Roman then Celtic. So whadda we got? A supposedly Christian celebration that's just a non-Christian one with a Christian veneer over it? Well, to some extent, yes. The mistake would be to see this as the whole story. Judas Priest, we ain't even got to the Reformation yet, howzat figure into all this? And how come Luther's out there nailing stuff to the church door on Halloween? Was he trick or treating or something?

As to the general idea, guess what, people die, Christian or non Christian, and the people they leave behind feel the loss and want to remember them. Hardly surprising that Christians would want to do that, hell, everybody does, and that's why there's remembrances of various kinds in cultures all over the world. Given the Christian knowledge of salvation from sin and death by the merit of the death and resurrection of Jesus, a commemoration of those who have passed from this life to the joy of that salvation in God's presence would even more suggest itself, and show the fulfillment of a universal human inkling with all its folklore in the revelation of the Gospel. IOW, if anyone ought to commemorate their dead, it's Christians who know God's revealed truth as to what death, and life both here and beyond, is all about.

But, as we've seen, it's easy to get confused again, get drawn back into the folklore, begin to evolve a sort of hybrid of truth and the guesswork expressed in the folklore, and confuse that for Christianity itself. As an example, remember old Gregory III setting up a place to venerate relics in St Peter's? Why would one venerate something from the body of a dead Christian? Is there even the slightest suggestion of such a practice, or it having any merit, in the Bible? No. Luther mentioned there are many things which even if they began with a good intent originally become so clouded with the sort of thing we manufacture for ourselves in folklore that the intent is long since lost.

What Is An Indulgence?

What is an indulgence anyway? It has nothing to do with forgiveness of sin, and we'll see in a minute doesn't have bupkis to do with Purgatory either. In Roman Catholic thinking, a sin may indeed be forgiven, but, consequences remain for punishment. Some sins are so serious that, if one does them knowing they are serious yet freely deciding to do it anyway (full animadversion is the term for this if you want to impress somebody), the rejection of God is so complete that it is mortal to the life of the soul, for which reason they are called mortal sins, and the punishment and consequence is eternal if there is no repentance.

But, even if one repents and is forgiven for a mortal sin, it's still like most sins which aren't so serious, called venial sins, where the punishment is not eternal loss of life, but temporal. The sin reflects an attachment to some part of God's creation over God himself, and one must undertake the removal of that attachment to creatures rather than the Creator through works of mercy, charity, penance, prayer and the like; one must undertake the sanctification, the making holy, of himself.  The problem is, while this may be done over time, you may die before you have enough time here. Hence Purgatory, where the process begun here is completed if you die before completing it here and "walk right in" as they used to say.

But good news! Not good news as is the Gospel; if that were understood we wouldn't even be into this nonsense, but guess what, you don't actually have to do all this cleansing and sanctifying yourself. See, there's a whole treasury of merit from Jesus and the saints, called the thesaurus ecclesiae.  Huh?  Ain't a thesaurus a list of synonyms?  Yes, and no.  "Thesaurus" is borrowed by English direct from Latin which borrowed it direct from Greek, and it means a treasury or storehouse.

So what's up with a list of synonyms?  Well, on 29 April 1852 a retired physician named Peter Mark Roget published a book called "Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases Classified and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition".  Man, they just don't give books titles like that any more!  He meant the word as it stands, a treasury or storehouse of English words etc.  It was a huge hit, went through twenty eight printings before he died at 90 on 12 September 1869, was continued and expanded by his son then grandson and continues to this day in later editions as a standard reference work, so much so that "thesaurus" has come to mean, well, a thesaurus, from this particular thesaurus as a treasury of synonyms.

So why does a physician make a treasury list of synonyms?  It wasn't just a retirement project.  He began the list in 1805, when he was 26, a young physician.  His mother was a paranoiac, his father died young, his sister and daughter had significant mental health issues, his wife died young, so from both nurture and nature he had problems with depression and the list-making helped him find relief.  Then thirteen years into it, in 1818, his uncle, despondent over the death of his own wife, slit his throat and Dr Roget tried to prevent then save him but couldn't.  Dr Roget published a number of scientific research papers as well, even invented a slide rule that works for logarithms of logarithms, so one can use roots and exponents in calculation, which take their place in the development of human knowledge, but his enduring contribution "Roget's Thesaurus" we should note is the work of a man overcoming his own internal struggles, a monument and inspiration to such efforts.   

So, this thesaurus or treasury of the church works like this:  just as one's sins affect others, so since we're all members of the body of Christ the church, the merit of Christ and the saints can affect others too, and the church, given the power to bind and loose on Earth and it will be bound or loosed in Heaven, can apply that merit to other members, not to forgive the sin but reduce the temporal consequences needing sanctification, and that application is tied to various pious things you do, like say venerating a relic.

Holy crap that's a lot of thinking! I guess the message that by HIS stripes, meaning the marks of his suffering, we are healed, that he redeemed us like a coupon, paying the price, taking for us the punishment we are due, is just too good to really be true, so we tack all these human thinkings-through onto it to make it more palatable to our understanding.

St Peter's, Luther, and Tetzel.

Well back to this church that's been standing in Rome for over 1000 years through lots of stuff good and bad and is in pretty bad shape, but given as Constantine started it you kind of don't demolish stuff like that, so whaddya do? Pope Nicholas V (1447-1455) was the first guy to think yeah maybe you do either completely rebuild it or tear it down and build a new one. He had some plans drawn up but died before much was actually done. Finally Pope Julius II (1503-1513), the one just before Leo X to whom Luther addressed "The Freedom of the Christian", laid the cornerstone for the new St Peter's in 1506.

Costs a lot of money, and Julius liked building stuff. The project was begun 18 April 1506 and wouldn't be completed until 18 November 1626 when Pope Urban VIII dedicated the church. Funding was to be provided in part by selling indulgences. Facilitating this was Albrecht, or Albert, von Hohenzollern, who became archbishop of Magdeburg at age 23 in 1513 and bought himself election to the powerful post of archbishop of Mainz in 1514. To pay for it he got a HUGE loan from Jakob Fugger. Don't laugh at the name, he was a serious, serious dude, banker to everyone who mattered. He loaned Charles V, he to whom the Augsburg Confession was presented, most of the money to buy being elected Holy Roman Emperor, for example.

Albrecht then got permission from Pope Leo X to sell indulgences to pay the loan off as long as half was sent to Rome to pay for St Peter's. A Fugger agent tended the money, and Albrecht got his top salesman in a damn Domincan (friars are always suspect; if they were up to any good they'd have been proper monks like the Benedictines, everybody knows that) named Johann Tetzel.

When the gold in the coffer rings,
the soul from Purgatory springs.

Sobald das Geld im Kasten klingt,
Die Seele aus dem Fegefeuer springt!

That's not even RC theology, as Cardinal Cajetan later said. Whozat?  The Dominican (them again!) who was papal legate to the Diet of Augsburg to examine Luther's works.  So, it would be overly simplistic to the point of just plain false to ascribe Luther's posting of the 95 Theses to Tetzel and that famous jingle. The sources, the depth, the background of what led to the Reformation go much deeper than that -- which is why I spent all that time on all that ancient stuff. This had been coming for a long, long, time, centuries of it. Luther knew that.  Tetzel died a broken man, shunned by all sides, and while Luther fought him strenuously in life, as he lay dying Luther wrote him a personal letter saying the troubles were not of his making, that this "child" had a different father, as Luther put it.

For us Lutherans to-day to not understand what that different father was would be false to our Lutheran Reformation and to Luther himself. What do we really have here? A misunderstanding (Luther) in reaction to a misunderstanding (Tetzel and indulgences and the late mediaeval papacy) which once the misunderstandings are cleared up, we can maybe issue a joint declaration on the doctrine of justification or something, the whole thing can be resolved and we're one big happy family again? No, and in the words of the great theologian Chris Rock, hell no.


Theologians like to call the problem one of justification versus sanctification. What does this mean? Sanctify, to make sanctus, which is the Latin word for holy, right back where we started. Justify, to make justus, which is the Latin word for just. How can a person be just before God if he is not holy? Well, he can't. It gets worse. Not only can he not be just before God if he is not holy, there is no amount of time and works that will make him holy enough to be just before God. It gets worse yet. Even when God calls out a people and gives them his Law to show them exactly what he wants, and sends prophet after prophet to get them back on course, we still can't do it.

But having shown us this is the case through the Law, it gets better with the Gospel, which is just a contraction of old English words for good news. And the good news is this, that he has himself done for us what we could not do for ourselves, which is, fulfill the Law on our behalf, taking the punishment we deserve on himself and paying our debt, thus literally redeeming us. Turns out those human inklings were on to something but couldn't grasp what it is. Salvation is by works, but the works of Jesus, not us; our salvation is by faith in the merit of Jesus, that as he took our sin and it was credited to him though sinless, we take on his holiness and it is credited to us though we are unholy.

It's so utterly simple. What then, we are to do no works at all? Not in the least. We are to do good works; we are not to trust in them for our salvation in any part but to trust wholly in his works. This too is utterly simple. It's our sinfulness that wants to make it complicated.  This happens in two opposite directions.  Among Lutherans it happens when to keep clear on justification we mention sanctification little if at all, as if once justified sanctification will take care of itself.  It doesn't.  Justified is the adjective, sinner is the noun.  We are justified sinners; we remain sinners.  Simul justus et peccator is the Latin for this.

The other direction is to figure our works have just got to have something to do with it, and mix that in with the good news of salvation through faith in the works of Jesus, his death and resurrection, and come up with a sort-of good news where it's all him, except that it's you in there too with some punishment to work off and holiness to attain.

Thus do indulgences become a corruption of the Gospel and obscure it, whether they are sold or not. Thus does so much else become a corruption of the Gospel and obscure it -- the office of holy ministry becomes a priesthood, celebration of those who have gone before us in faith become another spirit/ancestor thing, the church itself becomes a part of the state, doing good works because we are saved becomes doing good works in order to be saved, on and on.

And worst of all in that the mass, or Divine Service as we often call it, becomes no longer first his gift of his word to us through the transformed synagogue service of prayer, Scripture reading and preaching, and then his gift of the same body and blood given for us now given to us as the pledge of our salvation and his testament to us his heirs, but it becomes a work to be done, and effective not through the power of his word to do what it says, but by simply by having worked the work (ex opere operato).

Reformation Day. Reformationstag.

And so on 31 October 1517 Father Martin Luther posted his document on the door of a church in Wittenberg, right? Well, no. What he did that day was send a cover letter with his document to Albrecht, mentioned above, since it was by his authority that the indulgences were being sold.  That's what happened on 31 October 1517.  Albrecht got them in late November (and we complain about snail mail now!), conferred with theologians on faculty at the University of Mainz, and forwarded them to Rome.

OK. so what about the church door thing?  Here's the deal.  The title of the document is Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum. A Disputation, disputatio in Latin, is a formal moderated academic event, in which a statement or statements are argued to be true or false by reference to an established written authority, such as, in religion, the Bible. This kind of argumentation is called argumentum ad verecundiam, argument from authority, in which the authority is cited in support of the argument's conclusion.  It is one kind of what is called defeasible reasoning.  Great Caesar's Ghost, what is that?  It simply means reasoning that is rational but not demonstrated by logical deduction from a prior statement.  Musty late mediaeval stuff?  Defeasible reasoning is a major player in the development of AI (artificial intelligence) these days.

Luther was awarded the Doctor of Theology degree by the university on 19 October 1512 and two days later became a member of the theological faculty there with the position Doctor In Bible. The "95 Theses" as they are commonly called were written therefore in the academic language, Latin, rather than the language of the land, German, because it was an academic document calling for the academic event called a disputatio, or Disputation.  Neither the document nor the posting of it was intended to start a popular movement, it was a university, academic matter.

The church was All Saints Church in Wittenberg -- hey, the all saints thing again! -- which was and is commonly called the Schlosskirche, or castle church, as distinct from the Stadtkirche, or town church, of St Mary. It was built by Frederick III, called The Wise, who was the Elector of Saxony, one of the seven who elected Holy Roman Emperors. He also founded the University of Wittenberg in 1502, and attached the castle church to it as the university's chapel.

So why All Saints Church to build a story?  Huge reason.  All Saints Church, unlike the town church, had a huge collection of relics of the saints, thousands of them, collected by Frederick, and veneration of them was one way to earn an indulgence, for which purpose they were put on display once a year. You get 100 days indulgence per relic. By 1520 Frederick had over 19,000 of them, and taking that as a round number, (19K x 100)/365 is 5,205 years and some change. Now, the "days" are not, as is often thought and was noted above, time off from Purgatory; it is time off from what would otherwise have to be punishment here on Earth, therefore shortening one's stay in Purgatory, where there are no earthly days, to complete what was not completed here in earth.

Holy crap that's a lot of thinking! Oh yeah, we've been there before. Now we see how out of hand it was, and also see that the out of hand thing isn't even the worst part, you can curb the out of hand stuff, and it is now largely curbed even in the RCC, but the worst part remains, the near total eclipse made of the good news of salvation in the Gospel, getting justification and sanctification all mixed up.  Luther as a priest saw the effect of this first hand, with parishioners skipping right over the repentance and changing lives, the sanctification mentioned above, to a financial transaction that takes care of everything, when in fact the indulgences themselves presuppose such repentance and emendation of life and only affect temporal punishment, not forgiveness.

Luther preached on this earlier in 1517, wrote an academic treatise on indulgences, and followed correct church procedure, contacting his ordinary (that means his ecclesiastical supervisor, a "bishop") the Bishop of Brandenburg Hieronymus Schultz, and finally the archbishop on 31 October in hopes that they would take corrective action. 

So what's up with a story about nailing stuff to a door when that isn't what happened?  Just more spurious legends about religious stuff that ought to be left in the past where they belong?  No, and here's why.

The corrective action for which Luther hoped never happened, and neither did the disputatio. University documents are not private documents, and the Latin document was soon printed in Basel, Leipzig and Nuremberg and widely distributed, and in Nuremberg a city official named Kaspar Nützel translated them into German around Christmas and distributed them, so those outside of academia could read them. So how'd he get them if they weren't posted?  Universities at that time were in transition, from the Scholastic mode of the Middle Ages to the Renaissance mode of humanism.  One feature of that was discussion societies to promote classical ideas, called sodalitas litteraria.  One such fellowship was the Staupitzkreis, or sodalitas Staupitziana, around Luther's mentor and dean, Johann von Staupitz, and Nützel was a member.

Academic custom calls for a disputation document to be published by the university press, and there is no evidence that the University of Wittenberg ever did so.  Of course not, things never got that far.  Rules also called for posting on every church door, so, for one thing such a posting would not be unusual or draw a crowd, and also, only one church is mentioned in the account from which the legend grew, that of Phillip Melanchthon, who wasn't there and took a post in Wittenberg the following year, in his book Historia de vita et actis Lutheri in 1548, 31 years later.

Albrecht's advisers in Mainz suggested local action to silence Luther but Albrecht wanted action from Rome, and he got it.  In January 1518 Tetzel had theologian Konrad Wimpina write theses against Luther, which Tetzel defended in a Disputation at the University of Frankfurt.  By February 1518 the pope (Leo) tried to get authorities in the religious order to which Luther belonged, the Order of St Augustine, to shut him up, and appointed a then-renowned theologian, Silvestro Mazzolini (another bleeding Dominican!) to prepare a formal case against him, which he did, side-stepping the spiritual aspects to focus on papal authority.  In April 1518 Luther published a popular work, thus, in German, a "Sermon on Indulgences and Grace", stressing the case for repentance and good works rather than indulgences with money going to build the new St Peter's Basilica rather than help the local poor.  It circulated throughout the Holy Roman Empire and this, not a posting on Halloween, is where a large audience beyond academia heard of these things.  Then in August 1518 Luther was summoned to Rome.  In preparation, Luther wrote an "Explanations" on his theses, showing this was not an attack on the pope.  His defence before Cardinal Cajetan was in Augsburg in October 1518.  The Explanations were rejected, as was Luther's request to have the matter reviewed by theologians, and Luther appealed to the pope directly.

Luther didn't see any of this coming in his activities of 1517.  He was not out to begin a Reformation.  But as 1518 unfolded, with the Explanations, the Sermon, the various formal proceedings, he could see that the matter of indulgence abuse was but the tip of the iceberg.  The power and efficacy of indulgences was the surface of a much deeper problem, the obscuring of the Gospel and the perversion of the church's mission to spread it and minister its sacraments, those gifts of grace, grace coming from the Latin for "free", gratis, from Christ himself, in Baptism and the Eucharist.  A reformation of the church, not a founding of a new church, was indeed underway.  Ten years later, 31 October 1527, Luther, now excommunicated from the Roman Cathoic Church, and company toasted the sending of the theses to Albrecht as the beginning, 21 years before Melanchthon wrote his story about nailing stuff to a church door.

The imagery of the church door story may be just a story, but it expresses something quite real.  So well that even by the 100 year anniversary of the Reformation (let's call it centenary, that's the Latin-derived name for such things) in 1617 it was celebrated as such.

A Quick Look East.

BTW, the Eastern Church isn't off the hook here; while this indulgence thing was a Western thing and there is no equivalent to the remission of temporal punishment for sin in the Eastern Church, there was the practice of absolution certificates, which in some places did lift punishments, but primarily were issued by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem to pilgrims there and were distributed abroad, which absolved the sins of whoever bought them -- as distinct from an indulgence which does not absolve sin but remits punishment due to forgiven sins, which if they're forgiven then why is there still punishment, holy crap brace yourself for another lot of thinking -- and the proceeds paid for the heavy costs, including taxes, of maintaining the shrines in the Holy Land. Even worse than indulgences, or at least just as bad, technical differences regardless.


So we see that Luther had a specific purpose on a specific day in a specific place for specific reasons.

You know what? Though the Disputation the 95 Theses called for was never held, something much better happened. It's called the Lutheran Reformation, in which no new church was started, but the one church, the church that has been there all along, the church that will be there all along, the only church there will ever be, was reformed where the Gospel is rightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered after the institution of Christ rather than that plus a hell of a lot of thinking that added all sorts of emendations by Man.

This reformation in the beginning was at the risk of life from the powers that be. Thankfully those times are over, but as with the indulgences themselves, it is not that itself which is the main thing, but the Gospel for which it was done. We celebrate this great working of the Holy Spirit, in reforming the church against both pressures to maintain the old errors and against pressures to take the Reformation into further errors, on 31 October, Reformation Day.

Reformation Day, whether it's Sunday or not, until recently. As if something for which our Lutheran fathers risked literally everything needs to be moved for the convenience of us who benefit from it to the nearest Sunday to make it easier and therefore get more numbers. Do any of us need police protection to safely move about as Lutherans that moving it to Sunday will change?

Thanks be to God for the reformation of his church!

And Happy Halloween while you're at it. Happy All Saints Day (Allerheiligen) too!