Above: Portrait of Philipp Melanchthon, by Lucas Cranach the Elder
Image in the Public Domain
PHILIPP MELANCHTHON (FEBRUARY 16, 1497-APRIL 19, 1560)
German Lutheran Theologian and Scribe of the Reformation
Philipp Melanchthon was a leader of the Protestant Reformation. Our saint, born Philipp Schwarzerd at Bretton, Baden, on February 16, 1497, was a son of Georg Schwarzerd (an armorer) and Barbara Reuter (niece of classical and humanist scholar Johann Reuchlin). Reuchlin supervised our saint’s classical and humanist education, transforming him into a classical and humanist scholar whom other classical and humanist scholars respected. Reuchlin gave our saint the surname “Melanchthon,” Greek for “Schwarzerd.” Melanchthon, who earned his B.A. degree at Heiderberg (1512), M.A. degree at Tubingern (1514), and B.D. degree at Wittenberg (1519), translated certain classical Greek works into German.
Melanchthon’s move to Wittengerg in 1518 was crucial. In August of that year our saint arrived to teach Greek at the university there. On August 29, 1518, he delivered an influential address, The Improvement of Studies, in which he proposed to renew society and education by bypassing certain secondary sources and returning to primary sources. The scholarship of Melanchthon influenced the work of Martin Luther, whose ally he became the following year. In 1520 Melanchthon married Katharine Krapp of Wittenberg. The couple had four children: Anna (1522), Philipp (1525), Georg (1527), and Magdalen (1533). Melanchthon influenced education in Germany. His educational theories led to the founding of Protestant public schools and the reorganization of universities in much of Germany. Thus he became the “Preceptor of Germany.”
Melanchthon, the scribe of the Reformation, wrote Biblical commentaries and composed the Augsburg Confession (1530) and a defense of it. Despite these facts, some Lutherans considered our saint to be insufficiently Lutheran. Melanchthon was a Lutheran diplomat and spokesman in discussions with representatives of the Reformed and the Roman Catholic Churches. For him justification by faith was essential; any point not contradicting it was nonessential. Melanchthon was even willing, for the sake of Christian unity, to accept papal government yet not supremacy.
Our saint, anguished by ecclesiastical schisms, maintained his ecumenical dialogues until he died, aged 63 years, on April 19, 1560.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
DECEMBER 4, 2016 COMMON ERA
THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A
THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN OF DAMASCUS AND COSMAS OF MAIUMA, THEOLOGIANS AND HYMNODISTS
THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE
THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER
THE FEAST OF THOMAS COTTERILL, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST
Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Philipp Melanchthon,
through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.
Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,
whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
1 Corinthians 3:11-23
–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006) page 60