Archive for January 2017

Feast of Paul Couturier (March 24)   Leave a comment

paul-couturier

Above:  Paul Couturier

Image in the Public Domain

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PAUL IRENEE COUTURIER (JULY 29, 1881-MARCH 24, 1953)

Apostle of Christian Unity

Paul Couturier is one of three saints assigned to March 24 in Common Worship:  Daily Prayer (2005; Fourth Impression, 2010).  In my copy of Common Worship:  Services and Prayers for the Church of England (2000), however, his feast is absent.

Couturier, born in Lyon, France, on July 29, 1881, grew up as one of the pieds-noirs in Algeria.  In 1906 he became a Roman Catholic priest as a member of the Society of St. Irenaeus.  Next our saint studied physical science for several years before beginning to teach at the Institut des Chartreux, a parochial school in Lyon.  For most of the rest of his life Couturier taught at that school; he retired in 1951.  Couturier, as a teacher, influenced the lives of many students directly and therefore the lives of many other people indirectly.

His other work–that of ecumenism–has brought him to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, however.  That ecumenical work had its roots in the early 1920s, when Couturier worked with Russian refugees.  They broadened his horizons by introducing him to Russian Orthodoxy.  By the early 1930s our saint had become a committed ecumenist.  In 1933 he founded the Triduum for Christian Unity.  The following year he renamed it the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 18-25), an extension of the Octave for Church Unity, dating to 1908 and with Anglican origins.  In 1939 Couturier’s Octave became the Universal Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Couturier developed a network of international contacts as he pursued ecumenical efforts.  In 1936 he organized the first Reformed-Roman Catholic dialogue at Erlenbach, Switzerland.  The following to years he spent time in England as he studied Anglicanism.  His international contacts alarmed the Gestapo, which incarcerated our saint during World War II.  The prison experience damaged Couturier’s health; it was his cross to bear, he concluded.  Couturier witnessed the founding of the World Council of Churches in 1948 and stayed in contact with that organization’s leaders for the rest of his life.  In 1952 Maximus IV, the Melkite Greek Patriarch of Antioch, declared Couturier an honorary archimandrite, or monastic priest.

Couturier died at Lyon on March 24, 1953.  He was 71 years old.

predictably Couturier’s legacy has received mixed reviews.  Both traditional Catholic groups (who oppose dialogue with other Christians) and non-Roman Catholic groups who oppose dialogue with Holy Mother Church have not embraced ecumenism.  After all, if one thinks that Catholicism is the repository of truth, why should one affirm dialogue with heretics?  Likewise, if one thinks that the Roman Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon, why should one support dialogue with it?  Couturier, however, presaged the declaration of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) that non-Roman Catholic Christians are “separated brethren.”

Denominational identities and structures are frequently stubborn; inertia does much to maintain them, even long after the reason or reasons for the founding have become obsolete.  I wonder when the changing demographics of organized religion in the United States (where the fastest grown religious label is “none”) will begin to lead to the consolidation of denominations.  After all, what proportion of the devout Christian population in the United States really cares about minor theological differences?  One might point to the mergers that created the United Church of Canada (1925), the Church of South India (1947), the Church of North India (1970), the Church of Pakistan (1970), and the Uniting Church of Australia (1977).  Why not, for example, consolidate certain Reformed denominations in the United States?  [The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) + the United Church of Christ = a feasible denomination, does it not?  Portions of the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church of North America might even what to participate in a merger also.  (Parts of the CRCNA are to the left of parts of the RCA.  I wonder if segments of the RCA and the CRCNA would be comfortable merging with some conservative Reformed bodies.)]  Why not lay aside minor theological differences and merge certain Anglican and Lutheran bodies in North America? [The Episcopal Church + the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America = The Anglican Lutheran Church; the Anglican Church of Canada + the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada = the Anglican Lutheran Church in Canada.]   The Lutheran and Anglican traditions have cross-fertilized each other since the 1500s, after all.  I could continue to offer examples of possible merger partners, but I think I have made my point sufficiently.  The churches, consolidated more and working together more closely when not merged, would have a more effective witness this way.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 31, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FREDERICK MACKENZIE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CENTRAL AFRICA

THE FEAST OF HENRY TWELLS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARY LUNDIE DUNCAN, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MENNO SIMONS, MENNONITE LEADER

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Heavenly Father, whose Son our Lord Jesus Christ said to his apostles,

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you:

regard not our sins but the faith of your Church,

and grant it that peace and unity which is agreeable to your will;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Jeremiah 33:6-9a

Psalm 133 or 122

Ephesians 4:1-6

John 17:11b-23

The Alternative Service Book 1980, pages 904 and 905

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O, For the Wisdom of the United Methodists!   Leave a comment

I spent much of my youth as a preacher’s kid in the South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church.  Thus I became familiar with the mechanics of church polity regarding the process of appointing ministers.  The one-year renewable terms ran from June to June; appointments (of less than a yea) that began in other months were rare.  On mornings in certain Junes my family and I awoke in one parsonage.  By midday we were settling into another one, as my father’s successor was settling into the one we had vacated.  The process was quick, with just a few hours separating pastoral terms.  The process was not without its flaws, though; the terms should have been longer than a year.  (I have concluded that a four-year term would have been better.)  Nevertheless, the appointment system has demonstrated its virtues.

Recent events in my Episcopal parish have caused me to deepen my appreciation for the United Methodist appointment system.  In August 2015 my rector suffered a stroke.  Supply priests filled in while she remained the rector, going on disability in June 2016.  Our third supply priest continued to serve until late 2016, when our interim rector began to serve the parish.  The search process, which will include a survey leading up to the writing of a parish profile, will take at least a year.  I have not seen a survey yet.

Had I been a United Methodist parishioner, the district superintendent would have moved immediately in August 2015 to change the appointment of the pastor who had suffered a stroke to disability leave.  The district superintendent would also have moved quicklty to appoint a new pastor, to serve until at least June 2016.  There would have been no ongoing saga, with its stresses for the parish.  I know this because, a few years ago, when my father, then a retired minister serving in Americus, Georgia, became unable to serve his congregation due to the regrettable progress of dementia, my mother called the district superintendent, who retired my father fully, appointed an interim pastor immediately, and, in short order, appointed a pastor to succeed the interim pastor.

O, for the wisdom of the United Methodists!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 31, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FREDERICK MACKENZIE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CENTRAL AFRICA

THE FEAST OF HENRY TWELLS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARY LUNDIE DUNCAN, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MENNO SIMONS, MENNONITE LEADER

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Feast of Meister Eckhart (March 23)   2 comments

eckhart

Above:  Eckhart of Hochheim

Image in the Public Domain

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ECKHART OF HOCHHEIM (CIRCA 1260-1327/1328)

Roman Catholic Theologian and Mystic

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Do exactly what you would do if you felt most secure.

–Eckhart

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I conclude that certain ecclesiastical leaders chose to ignore that advice.

Eckhart, born at Hochheim, near Gotha, Turingia, Holy Roman Empire, circa 1260, was a mystic.  Like certain mystics before and after his time, he incurred the wrath of ecclesiastical authorities seeking to safeguard their power.

Eckhart joined the Order of Preachers, or the Dominicans, when he was what we would today call a teenager.  From 1293 to 1302 he studied theology at St. Jacques, Paris; he graduated as a master (meister).  Two years later he became the provincial minister of the order in Saxony.  From 1314 to 1322 our saint taught and preached in Strasbourg.  Next he preached in Cologne for years.  He was the most popular preacher in Germany.

In 1326, however, the charge of heresy fell upon Eckhart.  His theology, though, was fairly orthodox.  One of the influences on Eckhart’s theology was St. Thomas Aquinas (canonized in 1323), his favorite author.  Another major influence on Eckhart’s theology was St. Augustine of Hippo.  Eckhart’s main doctrine was the birth of God the Son (Christ) in the soul, signifying the mystical union of the divine and the human.  This union, he wrote, was the highest human goal and occurred via a union of wills.  This union of wills came about via grace, not human merit.  He always affirmed the necessity of the Church and of the sacraments.  Furthermore, in true orthodox fashion, Eckhart argued that rituals and good works were spiritually useful only when one was inclined toward God.

So what did Eckhart allegedly do wrong?  He wrote and uttered statements that seemed to undermine the authority of the Church.

Seek God and you shall find him.  Indeed, with such an attitude, you might step on a stone and it would be a more pious act than to receive the body of our Lord, thinking of yourself.

–Eckhart

That statement is orthodox, is it not?  Anyhow, Eckhart’s use of Neoplatonist language (He was in the vein of St. Thomas Aquinas, recently canonized.) opened him up to false allegations of pantheism.  He was really in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Holy Mother Church pressured Eckhart into recanting the allegedly heretical propositions in 1327.  On March 29, 1329, Pope John XXII issued a bull (an appropriate term for the document) condemning those 28 propositions and mentioning Eckhart as being deceased.  Our saint had died in the good graces of the Church, which had abused him.

You may call God love, you may call God goodness.  But the best name for God is compassion.

–Eckhart

Pope John XXII and others who condemned Eckhart should have paid attention to that piece of wisdom.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 28, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ALBERT THE GREAT AND THOMAS AQUINAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIANS

THE FEAST OF CHARLES KINGSLEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST, NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BARNBY, ANGLICAN CHURCH MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF RICHARD FREDERICK LITTLEDALE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

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Almighty God, you gave to your servant Meister Eckhart

special gifts of grace to understand and teach the truth as it is in Christ Jesus:

Grant that by this teaching we may know you, the one true God,

and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent;  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Proverbs 3:1-7

Psalm 119:89-96

1 Corinthians 3:5-11

Matthew 13:47-52

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 721

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Feast of Blessed Metodej Dominik Trcka (March 23)   Leave a comment

trcka

Above:  Icon of Blessed Metodej Dominik Trcka

Image in the Public Domain

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BLESSED METODEJ DOMINIK TRCKA (JULY 6, 1886-MARCH 23, 1959)

Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr

Metodej Dominik Trcka, born at Frydlant nad Ostravici, Ostravski, Austro-Hungarian Empire (now the Czech Republic), on July 6, 1886, died as a martyr in an isolation cell in Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia) on March 23, 1959.  His religious vocation led to his death behind the Iron Curtain.  Trcka joined the Redemptorist order in 1904, at the age of 17 years.  Six years later, at Prague, he became a priest.  In 1946 he rose to the rank of vice-provincial of the order.  The government of Czechoslovakia outlawed religious communities on April 14, 1950.  This placed our saint in peril.  After a brief show trial in April 1952 the court sentenced Trcka to prison for 12 years.  Guards tortured him frequently for the remainder of his life.  In March 1959 the 72-year-old saint died of pneumonia in an isolation cell where guards had sent him for singing a Christmas carol.

Pope John Paul II declared Trcka a Venerable then a Blessed in 2001.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 28, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ALBERT THE GREAT AND THOMAS AQUINAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIANS

THE FEAST OF CHARLES KINGSLEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST, NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BARNBY, ANGLICAN CHURCH MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF RICHARD FREDERICK LITTLEDALE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

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Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyr Blessed Metodej Dominik Trcka

triumphed over suffering and was faithful even to death:

Grant us, who now remember him in thanksgiving,

to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world,

that we may receive with him the crown of life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 51:1-12

Psalm 116 or 116:1-8

Revelation 7:13-17

Luke 12:2-12

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 714

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Feast of Sts. Gregory the Illuminator and Isaac the Great (March 23)   1 comment

Armenian Apostolic Church Logo

Above:  Flag of the Armenian Apostolic Church

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR (CIRCA 257-CIRCA 332)

His feast day (The Episcopal Church) = March 23

His other feast day = September 30

and his descendant

SAINT ISAAC THE GREAT (CIRCA 345-SEPTEMBER 439)

Also known as Saint Sahak the Great

His feast transferred from February 10 and September 9

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Patriarchs of Armenia

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Although St. Bartholomew (a.k.a. St. Nathanael) introduced Christianity to Armenia, sources list both St. Gregory the Illuminator and St. Isaac the Great as founders of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Traditional accounts of the life of St. Gregory the Illuminator blend the objective reality of his life with legends.  We can, however, be reasonably sure of certain details.  He, a native of Armenia, grew up and studied in Cappadocia, in Asia Minor, in the Eastern Roman Empire.  There he converted to Christianity.  Eventually St. Gregory returned to Armenia.  He became the “Apostle of Armenia,” converting even King Tiridates III “the Great” (reigned 287-330), once a persecutor of Christianity, circa 301.  The following year the monarch, who made Christianity the official religion of the realm, appointed St. Gregory the Patriarch of Armenia and Catholicos of the See of St. Echmiadzin and All Armenians.  St. Gregory retired to a monastery in 325.  There he died seven years later.   His successor as Patriarch and Catholicos was a son, St. Aristakes I (in office 325-333), who attended the Council of Nicaea (325).

Many of the earliest Patriarchs of Armenia and Catholicoses of the See of St. Echmiadzin and All Armenians belonged to a hereditary lineage, that of the Arsacid Dynasty.  After St. Aristakes I came St. Vrtanes I (in office 333-314), succeeded by his son, St. Husik I (in office 341-347).  His grandson was St. Nerses I “the Great” (in office 353-373).  St. Nerses I was a martyr, for a monarch he had rebuked poisoned him.  St. Nerses I’s son and eventual successor was St. Isaac (a.k.a. Sahak) the Great.

Armenia was in a geopolitically difficult position, for it bordered the Eastern Roman Empire on the west and the Sassanian (Persian) Empire on the east.  In terms of religion the Eastern Roman Empire had been influential in the kingdom for most of the period following the time of St. Gregory the Illuminator.  In 387 the Eastern Roman and Sassanian Empires partitioned Armenia.  The Eastern Romans gained Western Armenia.  Eastern Armenia became a Sassanian vassal state, which it remained until 428, when it became a province.

St. Isaac, of royal origin and born in 354, wed, but entered a monastery after his wife died.  He became the Patriarch of Armenia in 390.  As the Patriarch, St. Isaac established the independence of the Armenian Apostolic Church.  Also, he stopped the practice of married bishops, enforced Byzantine canon law, resisted Persian religious influences, built churches and schools, and encouraged monasticism.  Furthermore, Patriarch St. Isaac the Great supported the creation of an Armenian alphabet and translated part of the Bible into Armenian in cooperation with St. Mesrop (died 441).  St. Isaac also initiated the development of an Armenian liturgy.  Sassanian Persians forced St. Isaac to retire as Patriarch in 428, after 38 years in office.  Yet he returned to his post two years later, holding it for the last decade of his life.

Sts. Gregory the Illuminator and Isaac the Great did much to glorify God in their times and left enduring legacies for the Armenian people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 26, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TIMOTHY, TITUS, AND SILAS, COWORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Heavenly Father, Shepherd of your people, we thank you for your servants

Saint Gregory the Illuminator and Saint Isaac the Great,

who were faithful in the care and nurture of your flock;

and we pray that, following their examples and the teaching of their holy lives,

we may by your grace grow into the stature of the fullness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 34:11-16

Psalm 23

1 Peter 5:1-4

John 21:15-17

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 718

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Feast of St. Dismas (March 25)   2 comments

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Above:  Statue of St. Dismas

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT DISMAS

Penitent Bandit

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One of the criminals hanging there taunted him:

Are you not the Messiah?  Save yourself, and us.

But the other rebuked him:

Have you no fear of God?  You are under the sentence as he is.  In our case it is plain justice; we are paying the price for our misdeeds.  But this man has done nothing wrong.

And he said,

Jesus, remember me when you come to your throne.

Jesus answered,

Truly I tell you:  today you will be with me in Paradise.

–Luke 23:39-43, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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There is a fountain filled with blood

Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;

And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,

Lose all their guilty stains.

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The dying thief rejoiced to see

That fountain in his day;

And there may I, though vile as he,

Wash all my sins away.

–William Cowper (1731-1800), circa 1771

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March 25 is the Feast of the Annunciation.  On the Roman Catholic calendar of saints that date is also the Feast of St. Dismas.

All four of the canonical Gospels mention the two bandits (a better translation than “thieves”) crucified with Jesus.  John 19:18 reads:

…there they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in between.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

The account in the Fourth Gospel does not mention them saying anything.  Mark 15:32 and Matthew 27:44 use nearly identical wording; even the other two men crucified with Jesus “taunted” him, to quote The Revised English Bible (1989).  Luke 23:39-43, however, has one of the men rebuke the other and receive salvation from Jesus.

Why does the Gospel of Luke tell the story this way?  I respect the integrity of the Gospels of Matthew and Mark sufficiently not to try to make them say something they do not.  As for the Gospel of John, I conclude that the author may have simply omitted yet another detail so that he could focus on what he considered most important.  In the Gospel of Luke, however, two (at least) major aspects of the work help to explain why the text tells the story the way it does.  Doing so emphasizes the innocence of Jesus and therefore the injustice of his crucifixion.  After all, that is a theme in that Gospel.  It is also a theme in the Gospel of John, which makes it clear in 11:47-53.  Another major theme in the Gospel of Luke is reversal of fortune; there are Beatitudes and Woes, the first will be last and the last will be first, et cetera.  The case of the penitent bandit finding salvation fits nicely into that theme.

The story of the two crucified bandits has fascinated figures in Christianity since the early decades of the faith.  Tradition has provided them with various names; Dismas and Gestus seem to have had much staying power.  Thus the name on this post is Dismas.

I will not pretend to have concluded that the Lukan account is historically accurate and that the story in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew is not; Biblical inerrancy and infallibility are not part of my theology anyway.  I am comfortable living with texts that occupy space in the Bible and contradict each other.  I am, however, certain of one conclusion regarding Luke 23:39-43:  we can learn a valuable spiritual lesson from it.  Many (or most) or us (including me) are too quick (at least some of the time) to write certain people off as being beyond redemption.  We ought to admit that God knows better than we do.  We should acknowledge that such matters are in the purview of God, in whom both mercy and judgment exist, and whose mercy frequently exceeds ours.

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God of grace, we thank you for saving live that beckons us pursues us all the days of our lives.

May we welcome it with joy and live, redeemed by grace,  as children of the light.

May we rejoice with others who have accepted your grace and

hold out hope for the seemingly irredeemable to come to you.

In the Name of God:  the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Joshua 6:22-25

Psalm 23

2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2

Luke 23:39-43

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 26, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TIMOTHY, TITUS, AND SILAS, COWORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Posted January 26, 2017 by neatnik2009 in March 25, Saints of the Bible

Tagged with ,

Feast of Emmanuel Mournier (March 22)   2 comments

emmanuel-mournier

Above:  Emmanuel Mournier

Image in the Public Domain

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EMMANUEL MOURNIER (MAY 1, 1905-MARCH 22, 1950)

Personalist Philosopher

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I am very concerned that we discover a means of entering into the suffering and struggle of the workers….We have vainly tried to work for truth and justice, but we are not entirely with Christ so long as we do not take our place alongside those outcasts.

–Emmanuel Mournier, defending the worker priests movement; quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York, NY:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), page 129

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Emmanuel Mournier, while seeking the truth and good social ethics, managed to alienate some people to his right and to his left.  Both populations misrepresented him.

Mournier, born at Grenoble on May 1, 1905, matriculated at the University of Grenoble.  At first he studied medicine; later he changed his major to philosophy.  He continued his study of philosophy at the Sorbonne, in Paris.  Our saint, a devout Roman Catholic, found himself threatened by the secular atmosphere of the Sorbonne and put off by the complacency and individualism of the Church establishment.  Mournier began to develop Personalism, a political and mystical variety of religious socialism in which the human person has the highest value.  He argued that each person possesses both spiritual and temporal dimensions–in relationship with others and open to divine transcendence.  Both atheistic totalitarianism and bourgeois materialistic capitalism deny this reality, our saint wrote.  (Martin Luther King, Jr., seems to have been familiar with Personalism.)  Christianity, Mournier wrote, has become infected by the bourgeois spirit and has come to prop up “the established disorder,” which our saint devoted his life to opposing.

In 1932 Mournier left his position as a professor of philosophy and founded L’Esprit, a Personalist journal.  In the pages of L’Esprit our saint challenged Marxism, capitalism, and the Church establishment.  He called for the Church to embrace the values of the gospel of Jesus Christ and to transform culture by infusing it with Christian values.

In 1940 Nazi forces occupied much of France.  The rest of the country was under the control of the French State, or Vichy France, which collaborated with the Third Reich.  Mournier left Paris for Lyons.  There he became involved in the resistance.  For this activity authorities arrested him in January 1942.  Our saint spent 11 months in prison.  The experience left him physically debilitated.

After the liberation our saint revived L’Esprit.  He argued against seeking revenge against those who collaborated with the Nazis.  Mournier also supported the worker priests movement, in which priests identified with industrial workers by becoming industrial workers.  (The Roman Catholic establishment opposed the worker priests movement.)  The Communist journal L’Humanite, unimpressed with Mournier, accused of being an ally of fascists.  On the other hand, some conservative Roman Catholics, ignoring his strong critique of Marxism, accused him of being a communist.

Mournier died of a heart attack at Chatenay-Malabry, France, on March 22, 1950.  He was 44 years old.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 25, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE CONVERSION OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Emmanuel Mournier,

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.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, page 60

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Feast of James De Koven (March 22)   Leave a comment

james-de-koven

Above:  James De Koven

Image in the Public Domain

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JAMES DE KOVEN (SEPTEMBER 19, 1831-MARCH 19, 1879)

Episcopal Priest

The feast day for James De Koven is March 22.  Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010) and A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016) spell his name with a space separating “De” and “Koven.”  Nevertheless, some of the histories of The Episcopal Church in my library omit the space, spelling his name “DeKoven.”  “De Koven” is consistent with my research at newspapers.com, where I have found articles from the 1870s using the space.

The native of Middletown, Connecticut, graduated from Columbia College (1851) and the General Theological Seminary (1854).  He, ordained a deacon in 1854, went westward.  The following year the great missionary bishop Jackson Kemper (1789-1870) ordained De Koven to the priesthood.  Our saint taught church history at Nashotah House, administered a preparatory school, and worked as assistant priest at the Church of St. John Chrysostom, Delafield, Wisconsin.  In 1859 he became the Warden of Racine College, Racine, Wisconsin.  He remained in that post for the rest of his life.

De Koven was a ritualist at a time when the Oxford Movement was controversial in The Episcopal Church.  Candles on altars caused major theological arguments, oddly enough.  The issue of ritualism reached the General Conventions of 1871 and 1874.  De Koven came to prominence in The Episcopal Church as a defender of ritualism.  The broadness of the denomination, he argued, should allow for ritualism and transubstantiation.

The General Convention of 1874 amended Canon 20 (Of the Use of the Book of Common Prayer“) as follows:

If any Bishop have reason to believe, or if complaint be made to him in writing by two or more of his Presbyters, that within his jurisdiction ceremonies or practices not ordained or authorized in the Book of Common Prayer, and setting forth or symbolizing erroneous or doubtful doctrines, have been introduced by any Minister during the celebration of the Holy Communion (such as

a.)  The elevation of the Elements in the Holy Communion in such a matter as to expose them to the view of the people as objects toward which adoration is to be made.

b.)  Any act of adoration of or toward the Elements in the Holy Communion, such as bowings, prostrations, or genuflections; and

c.)  All other like acts not authorized by the Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer):

It shall be the duty of such Bishop to summon the Standing Committee as his Council of Advice, and with them to investigate the matter.

If, after investigation, it shall appear to the Bishop and Standing Committee that ceremonies or practices not ordained or authorized as aforesaid,…have in fact have been introduced as aforesaid, it shall be the duty of the Bishop, by instrument of writing under his hand, to admonish the Minister so offending to discontinue such practices or ceremonies; and if the Minister shall disregard such admonition, it shall be the duty of the Standing Committee to cause him to be tried for a breach of his ordination vow.

–Quoted in James Thayer Addison, The Episcopal Church in the United States, 1789-1931 (New York, NY:  Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951), page 210

Only one trial resulted from the amendment.  The trial of Oliver S. Prescott of St. Clement’s Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ended in an admonition, which did not change the ritual practices in that parish.  The General Convention of 1904 repealed the amendment of 1874 unanimously.

De Koven’s ritualism prevented him from becoming a bishop.  In the 1870s he was a candidate for bishop in several dioceses and came closer to being a bishop of two more dioceses.  He was not alone in experiencing difficulty in becoming a bishop due to the politics of ritualism.  At the General Convention of 1874, for example, George F. Seymour did not receive consent to become the Bishop of Illinois.  Four years later, however, he did become the first Bishop of Springfield.

De Koven turned down non-episcopal opportunities to leave Racine College and to go to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Cincinnati, Ohio; Boston, Massachusetts; and New York, New York.  He died at Racine on March 19, 1879.  He was 47 years old.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 24, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ORDINATION OF FLORENCE LI TIM-OI, FIRST FEMALE PRIEST IN THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANGELA MERICI, FOUNDER OF THE COMPANY OF SAINT URSULA

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF PODLASIE, 1874

THE FEAST OF SAINT SURANUS OF SORA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MARTYR

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Almighty and everlasting God, the source and perfection of all virtues,

you inspired your servant James De Koven to do what is right and to preach what is true:

Grant that all ministers and stewards of your mysteries may impart to your faithful people,

by word and example, the knowledge of your grace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Exodus 24:1-8

Psalm 132:1-7

2 Timothy 2:10-15, 19

Matthew 13:47-52

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 283

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Feast of Johann Sebastian Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, and Johann Christian Bach (March 21)   10 comments

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Above:  St. Thomas’s Church, Leipzig

Image in the Public Domain

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JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH (MARCH 21, 1685-JULY 28, 1750)

father of

CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH (MARCH 8, 1714-DECEMBER 14, 1788)

half-brother of

JOHANN CHRISTIAN BACH (SEPTEMBER 5, 1735-JANUARY 1, 1782)

Composers

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Johann Sebastian Bach is an officially recognized saint on several calendars.  The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and The Lutheran Church–Canada assign him the feast day of July 28, without any other composers.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada designate July 28 as the feast day for not only J. S. Bach but also Heinrich Schutz and George Frederick Handel.  The Episcopal Church, in A Great Cloud of Witnesses (2016), assigns July 28 to J. S. Bach, George Frederick Handel, and Henry Purcell.  Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), celebrates the life of J. S. Bach on March 21.

For generations certain members of the Bach family were distinguished in creative endeavors, mostly in music.  I have chosen to focus on three of these Bachs–a father and two of his sons.

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JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH (1685-1750)

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Image in the Public Domain

Johann Sebastian Bach, born at Eisenach on March 21, 1685, was the youngest child of Elizabeth Lammerhirt (1644-1694) and Johann Ambrosious Bach (1645-1695), a string player.  In 1695 the orphaned J. S. Bach moved in with his eldest brother, Johann Christoph Bach (1671-1721), the organist at St. George’s Church, Eisenach, and a former pupil of Johann Pachelbel.  Johann Christoph Bach also taught his youngest brother to play keyboard instruments.  J. S. Bach, who joined the boys’ choir at St. Michael’s Church, Luneburg, in 1700, studied music in the school library there.  By 1702 he was apparently a skilled organist at Sangerhausen.  Johann Sebastian did not get that job, but he did join the ducal orchestra at Weimar the following year.  Later he became the organist at St. Boniface’s Church, Arnstadt.

Life changed for J. S. Bach in 1707.  That year he became the organist at St. Blasius, Muhlhausen.  He also married Maria Barbara Bach (1694-1720).  The couple went on to have seven children, including Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788).  J. S. Bach resigned his position at Muhlhausen in 1708 and accepted a new job as the court organist at Weimar.  In 1714 J. S. Bach became the concert master, with the responsibility of composing a cantata each month.  Two years later, a less qualified man became the kappelmeister, a position J. S. Bach wanted, at Weimar.  Our discontented saint departed the court in 1717.  He became the kappelmeister at Kothen, serving until 1723.  Maria Barbara died suddenly on July 4, 1720.  J. S. Bach married his second wife, Anna Magadalena Wilcken (1701-1760), on December 3, 1721.  The couple went on to have 13 children, including Johann Christian Bach (1735-1795).

In 1723 J. S. Bach accepted the position of cantor at Thomas’s Church, Lepizig.  His responsibilities included composing, teaching, and leading music, as well as providing musicians for that and three other congregations (New Church, St. Peter’s Church, and St. Nicholas’s Church).  From 1729 to 1737 and 1739 to 1741 J. S. Bach directed the Collegium Musicum, founded by Telemann in 1704, at Leipzig.  In 1736 he became the court composer at Leipzig.  Later in life J. S. Bach spent much time traveling; some of the time he was in the court of Frederick II “the Great” of Prussia, in Berlin.

J. S. Bach died, nearly blind and aged 65 years, at Leipzig on July 28, 1750.  His final act was to dictate “Before Thy Throne I Come.”

For J. S. Bach composing music, whether overtly sacred or not, was an act of praising God, not of glorifying himself.  He composed thousands of works yet saw only ten of them published.  Some of his compositions, unfortunately, have not survived to today.  J. S. Bach, a Lutheran church musician, became engaged in arguments regarding music with some Pietistic Lutherans, who thought that his music was too elaborate.  (Pietists!)  Most of our saint’s compositions remained forgotten until the 1800s.  In 1829 Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) started a J. S. Bach revival.  J. S. Bach’s compositions included cantatas, motets, Latin liturgical works, Passions, oratorios, chorales, chamber music, orchestral music, canons, works for keyboard instruments, and works for the lute.  Among his greatest sacred works were the St. Matthew Passion, the St. John Passion, the Christmas Oratorio, the Mass in B Minor, and the Cantata #80. (I prefer a modern performance of the latter work; period instruments do not blow the roof off the building, so to speak.)

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CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH (1714-1788)

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Image in the Public Domain

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, born at Weimar on March 8, 1714, was Emanuel to those who knew him well.  Georg Philipp Telemann was his godfather.  C. P. E. Bach, who learned music from his father, studied law at Frankfurt, graduating in 1735.  From 1740 to 1767 C. P. E. Bach was the harpsichordist to Frederick II “the Great” of Prussia.  Frederick II’s insistence upon subservience in musicians bothered our saint, who was finally able to resign and become the kappelmeister at Hamburg, succeeding Telemann.  Meanwhile, C. P. E. Bach had married Johanna Maria Dannemann in 1744.  Three of their children survived childhood.

C. P. E. Bach, worthy to be his father’s successor, was a renowned composer, teacher, and performer of the harpsichord and the clavichord.  His Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments (Part I, 1753; Part II, 1762) influenced Franz Joseph Haydn (who called it “the school of schools”), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig von Beethoven.  C.  P. E. Bach’s compositions included symphonies, concertos, chamber music, sonatas, fantasias, dances, fugues, and sacred music.  His sacred music included a Magnificat and 21 Passions.

C. P. E. Bach died, aged 74 years, at Hamburg on December 14, 1788.

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JOHANN CHRISTIAN BACH (1735-1782)

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Image in the Public Domain

Johann Christian Bach, born at Leipzig on September 5, 1735, was a half-brother of C. P. E. Bach.  J. C. Bach, trained in music by his father’s cousin, Johann Elias Bach (1705-1755), went to work with C. P. E. Bach in 1750, after the death of J. S. Bach.  Five years later J. C. Bach left for Italy; there he studied at Bologna.  His conversion from Lutheranism to Roman Catholicism offended much of his family.  From 1760 to 1762 he was the organist at the Basilica-Cathedral of the Nativity of St. Mary, Milan.

J. C. Bach spent most of the last two decades of his life in England.  There he preferred that people call him “John Bach.”  In 1762 he became the composer to the King’s theatre in London; he wrote Italian operas for it.  Later John Bach became the music master to Queen Charlotte (consort of King George III) and her children.  In 1773 John Bach married Italian singer Cecilia Grassi.  The couple experienced severe financial difficulties toward the end of his life; they were the victims of embezzlement.  The composer died, aged 46 years, in London, on January 1, 1782.  Queen Charlotte paid his estate’s debts and provided Cecilia with a pension.

J. C. Bach’s compositions included sonatas, polonaises, minuets, chamber quartets, symphonies, concertos, operas, oratorios, and various sacred works, including a Requiem and settings of the Magnificat, the Salve Regina, the Dies Irae, the Gloria, and the Te Deum.

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The music of these great composers has enriched the lives of many people, including me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 24, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ORDINATION OF FLORENCE LI TIM-OI, FIRST FEMALE PRIEST IN THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANGELA MERICI, FOUNDER OF THE COMPANY OF SAINT URSULA

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF PODLASIE, 1874

THE FEAST OF SAINT SURANUS OF SORA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MARTYR

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Eternal God, light of the world and Creator of all that is good and lovely:

We bless your name for inspiring

Johann Sebastian Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, and Johann Christian Bach,

and all those who with music have filled us with desire and love for you;

through Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 29:14b-19

Psalm 90:14-17

2 Corinthians 3:1-3

John 21:15-17, 24-25

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 728

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Spoilers!   1 comment

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Above:  The Sled, Burning in Citizen Kane (1941)

A Screen Capture

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The admonition to avoid spoilers is valid for only a brief period of time; it expires, as far as I am concerned, well before a decade after the release of the material in question.  I watch a weekly YouTube series covering Babylon 5 (1994-1998) episode by episode.  The host keeps stating that commenters ought to refrain from making comments about subsequent episodes.  I do not make comments on YouTube videos, but I do consider the admonition to be ridiculous.  The last filmed (yet not aired) episode of the series is nearly 20 years old!  Besides, one can read full details of all episodes on numerous websites and in a set of five books.  By the way, Jeffrey Sinclair is Valen.

In other old news, Rosebud was Charles Foster Kane’s sled and a symbol of his lost childhood (Citizen Kane, 1941).  Also, Leonard Vole committed murder and ultimately got what he deserved (Witness for the Prosecution, 1957), Luke Skywalker blew up the first Death Star (Star Wars, 1977), and Darth Vader was Luke’s father (The Empire Strikes Back, 1980).  Furthermore, Captain Spock died (Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan, 1982) and rose from the dead on the Genesis Planet (Star Trek III:  The Search for Spock, 1984).  If that were not enough, the Bruce Willis character did not know that he was dead in The Sixth Sense (1999).  Finally, water has long been wet.

Shall we relax regarding spoilers, especially regarding content more than a decade old?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 23, 2017 COMMON ERA

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