Archive for the ‘Donatism’ Tag

Feast of John H. Caldwell (March 12)   2 comments

Above:  First United Methodist Church, Newnan, Georgia

Image Source = Google Earth

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JOHN HOLLIS CALDWELL (JUNE 4, 1820-MARCH 11, 1899)

U.S. Methodist Minister and Social Reformer

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We have sinned, and God has smitten us.

–John H. Caldwell, Newnan, Georgia, June 1865

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INTRODUCTION

The great Galileo Galilei warned many who were conventionally orthodox and sat in judgment on him for making shocking and revolutionary statements (such as that the Earth revolves around the Sun), that they may actually be heretics.  John H. Caldwell, in the middle of his life, concluded that he had been a heretic regarding slavery.  He chose actual orthodoxy.

Caldwell came to my attention years ago, when I was a graduate student at Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia.  I was researching Methodist history regarding slavery; my focus in graduate school was the intersection of race and religion in the U.S. South.  Slavery was the rock upon which the Methodist Episcopal Church (1784-1939) split in 1844-1845.  I knew that already, but I wanted to know more details.

I was a United Methodist from 1980 to 1991.  Then I became an Episcopalian.  I have never looked back, for I have concluded that I am on this planet to be an Episcopalian.  Besides, my theological development subsequent to my confirmation (St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Tifton, Georgia, December 22, 1991) has led me to become a Single Predestinarian Anglican-Lutheran, contrary to Methodist theology.  My increasingly liberal and inclusive social views have placed me substantially to the left of where many of the more conservative elements of society are.  So be it.  I affirm that all human beings with both a pulse and brain waves possess unalienable natural rights, including civil rights and civil liberties.  Call me a radical, if you wish, O reader, but there I stand.  I will do no other.

I write this so that you, O reader, will understand that (1) I know whereof I write, and (2) I have no animosity toward The United Methodist Church.

I recall, as early as the middle 1980s, talk of The United Methodist Church being two denominations in one.  If the General Conference 2020 plays out the way I predict it will, 2020 may echo 1844.  Even if the General Conference of 2020 does not play out the way I predict it will, The United Methodist Church will continue to live into the typographical error and Freudian slip “Untied Methodist Church.”  This is an objective statement.  To quote William Butler Yeats in The Second Coming,

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.

The big tent encompasses only those who choose to live within it.  Donatism did not die in norther Africa long ago.  No, it is alive and well, unfortunately.

As The United Methodist Church comes asunder and as the United States of America observes the Martin Luther King, Jr., federal holiday, pondering another schism–that of 1844-1845–as well as the cause of it, should lead us to sober-minded contemplation of orthodoxy and heresy, actual and alleged.

JOHN H. CALDWELL, DEFENDER OF SLAVERY

John Hollis Caldwell as a white Southerner.  He, born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, on June 4, 1820, was a son of James Caldwell (1768-1825) and Jane Wardlaw (1772-1822).  His family moved to Georgia when our saint was an infant.  He converted to Christianity and to Methodism, in particular, at the age of 16 years.  Six years later, the Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) licensed Caldwell as an exhorter.  Our saint joined the Georgia Conference as a full minister in 1844.

The Methodist Episcopal Church concluded its General Conference of 1844 with a divorce agreement.  The cause of the divorce was slavery.  In particular, the question was whether James Osgood Andrew, the bishop assigned to the Georgia Conference, should continue as a bishop, despite owning slaves, in violation of church law.  He had not owned slaves in 1832, when he had become a bishop.  Yet Andrew had received slaves as inheritances over the years.  State law forbade him from freeing his slaves during his lifetime.  Slavery was still morally wrong, of course.  The MEC had been backing away from this moral truth since just a few years after its founding, as slaveholders joined.  The denomination finally issued a firm antislavery message again in 1864, shortly before the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution went to Congress.

One week apart, in May 1845, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MECS) and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) formed, for the same reason:  slavery.  The SBC formed because Northern-controlled missions boards of the Triennial Convention did not permit slaveholders to become missionaries.  Andrew became one of the founding bishops of the MECS, and continued to preach to slaves that they should obey their masters.

Caldwell joined the MECS and rose through the ranks to become a prominent member of the Georgia Conference thereof.  He accepted the conventional wisdom of his culture and the dominant theology thereof.  Caldwell believed that God supported and ordained slavery.  He quoted the Bible chapter-and-verse to defend this position.  He preached to slaves, telling them to obey their masters.  Opponents of slavery were heretics, fanatics, and radicals, according to Caldwell.  He insisted that they sought to destroy not just slavery, but the freedoms of press, speech, religion, and thought, too.  As Mark A. Noll has written in The Civil War as a Theological Crisis (2006), support for slavery became caught up with the authority of scripture.  Many, if not most, of those who argued for slavery theologically believed they were morally correct.

Above:  Old Main Building, Andrew College, Cuthbert, Georgia

Image Source = Google Earth

Caldwell also helped to found Andrew Female College (now Andrew College), Cuthbert, Georgia, which opened in 1854.  He taught moral and mental science there.  He, a slaveholder (via inheritances), sold one of his slaves to pay the college’s debts.  Caldwell’s father-in-law, a wealthy planter, insisted that a Methodist minister should not own slaves.  Our saint owned up to four slaves at a time, though.

Caldwell, by 1860 the pastor of Trinity Church, Savannah, had moved to Newnan to by 1864.  During the Civil War he supported slavery and the Confederacy.  He assumed that God was pro-Confederate States of America.

JOHN H. CALDWELL, RELIGIOUS SCALAWAG

Then the proverbial scales fell away from Caldwell’s eyes in early 1865.  Confederate defeat threw many white Christian Southerners into a theological crisis.  They reasoned that surely God had supported slavery and the Confederacy, so how could they make sense of their reality?  Caldwell took a different position.  Over a few Sundays in June 1865 he alienated his congregation and most of the other people in Newnan by condemning slavery, secession, the Confederacy, and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  He acknowledged, as he had in 1861, that the cause of the Confederacy had been slavery.  President Jefferson Davis had said as much in his Inaugural Address.  Vice President Alexander Hamilton Stephens, speaking in Savannah in March 1861, had called slavery the cornerstone of the Confederacy.   He was proud of this cornerstone.  Caldwell surveyed the destruction of the Civil War and pronounced the judgment of God.  He also stated that the end of slavery was just.  The Confederacy had been sinful, too, the minister preached, and slavery tainted the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.

Caldwell’s time left at Newnan was brief.  The Presiding Elder (District Superintendent, in contemporary Methodist terms) removed our saint from the pulpit, at the request of the leaders of the congregation.  U.S. Army General George H. Thomas, who had authority in Georgia, reinstated him in September.  Thomas also ordered local U.S. Army personnel to to protect Caldwell.  Our saint left the Georgia Conference of the MECS in November 1865, after that annual conference voted to condemn the contents of his sermons.

Then Caldwell rejoined the Methodist Episcopal Church and helped to begin rebuilding it in the former Confederacy.  He became a charter member of the new Georgia Conference of the MEC in January 1866.  He ministered to former slaves, helping them build churches, not telling them they should have obeyed their masters.  Predictably, the new Georgia Conference of the MEC was mostly African-American; it was politically and theologically suspect, according to most Southern Methodist neighbors.  Caldwell remained in Georgia until 1871, shortly after “redemption,” of the return of the antebellum ruling class to power.  He helped to found schools for former slaves.  Our saint, a religious scalawag, favored the Radical Republicans’ ambitious civil rights platform and worked with the Freedmen’s Bureau to help his flock.  Caldwell attended the state constitutional convention (December 1867-March 1868) and served in the state legislature.  He opposed the expulsion of all his African-American colleagues from that body.  Caldwell and his fellow religious scalawags were, according to Edward H. Myers, the editor of the Southern Christian Advocate,

miserable traitors to their brethren, their church, and their country.

–Quoted in Daniel W. Stowell, Rebuilding Zion:  The Religious Reconstruction of the South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 133

JOHN H. CALDWELL OF DELAWARE

Caldwell and his family to Delaware in 1871.  He had married Elizabeth Thurston Hodnett (1826-1902) on January 2, 1849.  The couple had had five sons and four daughters from 1849 to 1869.  Our saint joined the local conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and served as a pastor, a presiding elder, and a college president.

From 1885 to 1888 Caldwell served as the President of Delaware College (now the University of Delaware), then a men’s institution.  His time as a college president was unhappy for everybody involved.  Personality clashes abounded, and his inexperience created more problems.  Our saint perceived that people were conspiring around him.  They may have been, perhaps justifiably.  Caldwell was simultaneously of his time and ahead of it.  His antiquated moral disapproval of dancing led to some conflicts; he forbade it on campus.  Yet he favored admitting women to the student body; that was progressive.

Caldwell returned to parish ministry in 1888.

He, aged 78 years, died in Dover, Delaware, on Mach 11, 1899.

EVALUATING JOHN H. CALDWELL

Caldwell may have been, as one of his adversaries at Delaware College claimed, “cranky,” but he possessed courage, too.  Our saint had enough courage to change his mind on a central issue of his time and to contradict conventional wisdom, as well as to speak up at great risk to himself and his livelihood.  He had the courage of his convictions.  History has rendered its verdict in Caldwell’s case; it has ruled in his favor.

As one should know, presenting evidence is frequently the least successful method of changing a person’s mind, especially in matters that pertain to one’s self-image.  Facts should matter, but ego protection often overrules objective reality.  Human beings are usually more irrational than rational, sadly.

By grace, Caldwell found the moral courage, starting in June 1865, to admit that he had been wrong–horribly, sinfully wrong.  Then he repented, paid the price, and made the world a better place for many of the “least of these.”

That is sufficient reason to honor him.

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God of justice, we thank you for the example of your servant, John H. Caldwell,

who turned his back on the sins of slavery and, in the face of hostility,

labored for the civil rights of former slaves, his neighbors.

May we, by grace, confront our prejudices and, when necessary and proper to do so,

expose the foolishness of “received wisdom” and other ubiquitous assumptions,

for your glory and for the benefit of all people.

May the Church be on the vanguard of the struggle for social justice,

never on the side of the oppressors,

regardless of the price she will pay for standing with the “least of these.”

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

Amos 2:6-8

Psalm 71:1-6

Galatians 3:23-29

Luke 6:20-26

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 20, 2020 COMMON ERA 

THE FEAST OF SAINT FABIAN, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR, 250

THE FEAST OF SAINTS EUTHYMIUS THE GREAT AND THEOCRISTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF GREVILLE PHILLIMORE, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF HARRIET AUBER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RICHARD ROLLE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC SPIRITUAL WRITER

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Feast of John Hines (July 19)   1 comment

Above:  The Flag of The Episcopal Church

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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JOHN ELBRIDGE HINES (OCTOBER 10, 1910-JULY 19, 1997)

Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and Witness for Civil Rights

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Justice is the corporate face of love.

John Hines, 1981

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John Elbridge Hines will probably receive his pledge on The Episcopal Church’s calendar eventually.  The appendix to A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016) lists him as one of those

people worthy of commemoration who do not qualify under the “reasonable passage of time” guideline.

–Page A3

That makes sense as a denominational policy.  Nevertheless, more than a reasonable amount of time has passed for inclusion on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.

John Elbridge Hines was a prophet, in the highest sense of that word.  He, born in Seneca, South Carolina, on October 10, 1910, graduated from The University of the South then from Virginia Theological Seminary.  Our saint, ordained during the Great Depression, served in the Diocese of Missouri for a few years, during which he imbibed deeply of Social Christianity.  He also married Helen Orwig (1910-1996).  The couple had five children.  As the Rector of St. Paul’s Church, Augusta, Georgia, from 1937 to 1941, Hines was an outspoken critic of racial segregation.  Our saint’s final parish (from 1941 to 1945) was Christ Church, Houston, Texas.

Hines was a bishop most of his life.  From 1945 to 1955 he was the Bishop Coadjutor of Texas; then he was the Bishop of Texas for another nine years.  In Texas Hines helped to found the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the West, in Austin, in 1953.  He also integrated schools.  Then, in 1965, at the age of 54 years, Hines became the Presiding Bishop of the denomination.

Change was in the air, and much of that change was morally correct yet no less jarring and offensive to many.  Civil rights for African Americans were difficult for many white Americans to accept, for racism ran deeply.  Likewise, feminism was challenging patriarchy, which also ran deeply.  The Episcopal Church, long known as “the Republican Party at prayer,” was engaging the winds of change.  Many of the leaders were liberal–pro-civil rights, pro-equal rights for women.  Elements of the church resisted these changes, however.  Hines, with his social conscience fully engaged with regard to race, gender, and economics, had to contend with much strong opposition within The Episcopal Church.  He built on the legacies of his two immediate predecessors–Henry Knox Sherrill (1947-1958) and Arthur Carl Lichtenberger (1958-1964).

Much of what was revolutionary in 1965-1974 became mainstream subsequently.  The new Presiding Bishop marched at Selma, Alabama, in 1965; that was a controversial decision.  In 1971 Hines led a campaign to divest from South Africa, a proposition that aroused much opposition in much of U.S. Right Wing as late as the early 1990s.  In the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan, who told Archbishop Desmond Tutu that the dark-skinned majority of South Africa would have to wait for their rights, Reagan opposed divestment.  Yet, according to Tutu, divestment was crucial to ending Apartheid.  Hines also favored expanding roles for women in the church–including as lectors, as delegates to the General Convention, and as deacons, priests, and bishops.  He retired in 1974, just as the dispute over the ordination of women as priests became more of an issue.  Also, there were no female bishops in The Episcopal Church or the wider Anglican Communion until 1989.  for a few years after that the election and consecration of a female bishop was a major story in the ecclesiastical press.  As of 2018, however, it has become routine.  Hines also presided over the early stages of liturgical revision, early steps toward The Book of Common Prayer (1979), a volume objectionable to many conservatives at the time, as now.  Some of them found all or much of this change so offensive that they committed schism from The Episcopal Church.  Then many of them committed schism from each other, hence the confusing organizational mess that is Continuing Anglicanism in the United States.  Many of the allegedly theologically pure were apparently purer than others of their number.  Donatism ran amok and became cannibalistic.  (I, an ecclesiastical geek, have a long attention span and a tendency to pay attention to minor details, but even I find divisions in Continuing Anglicanism confusing.  Most of the divisions are over minor theological points, actually.  Collegiality, one of the great traditions of Anglicanism, is in short supply.)

Hines, invoking hindsight, was honest about the lofty goals and mixed legacy of the General Convention Special Program (GCSP), created in 1967.  The GCSP awarded grants, with the purpose of fostering racial justice, economic justice, and self-determination.  One of the conditions for a grant was not to advocate for violence.  The initial lack (in 1967-1970) of veto power by the local bishop was an especially controversial point.  In 1970 the establishment of that veto power, with a mechanism for overriding it, meant that no grants led to embarrassing headlines, as during the first three years of the program.  The GCSP, cut back in 1973, did not survive the 1970s.  After 1973, however, funding for work among Hispanics and Native Americans increased.  Nevertheless, the damage from 1967-1970 was done.  Many people had left The Episcopal Church in protest, and many parishes and some dioceses had, for a few years, withheld funding from the national church.

Hines, who understood that the institutional quest for justice was important than complacent, oblivious tranquility and internal reconciliation, retired three years early, in 1974.  He and Helen moved to North Carolina before relocating to Texas in 1993.  She, aged 85 years, died on May 17, 1996.  Our saint, aged 86 years, died in Austin on July 19, 1997.

The legacy of John Elbridge Hines should remind us of the moral necessity of applying Christian principles to pressing social issues, of creating justice, and of recognizing our individual, collective, and institutional complicity in injustice.  His legacy should also remind us that strong opposition to confronting injustice exists even within the church, and that doing the right thing will often come at a high cost.  We must still do the right thing, though.  The legacy of Bishop Hines should teach us these lessons.  Whether it does is up to us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE DAY OF PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, ABBOT OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS COLUMBA OF RIETI AND OSANNA ANDREASI, DOMINICAN MYSTICS

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELIOT, “THE APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROSE HAWTHORNE LATHROP, FOUNDRESS OF THE DOMINICAN SISTERS OF HAWTHORNE

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant John Elbridge Hines,

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 (2006), 60

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Gratitude for Athens, Georgia   Leave a comment

Above:  The Dome of the City Hall, Athens, Georgia, August 5, 2009

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-04138

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Seeking reasons for gratitude to God is a daily activity; it is an easy one, fortunately.

During the last few days I have been thinking deeply about a subset of those reasons; I have been pondering reasons I am blessed to live in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia.  Many such reasons–too many to enumerate in a succinct blog post–have come to mind.

A few follow.

A visit to relatives in Americus, Georgia, followed shortly by a lecture at The University of Georgia (UGA), started me down this path.  Last Tuesday night I attended a lecture by Dr. Richard B. Miller, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Religious Ethics at The University of Chicago Divinity School.  Miller spoke about St. Augustine of Hippo‘s concept of the common good and of its implications for today.  The full explanation of St. Augustine’s definition of sin as disordered love proved especially helpful.  As I listened and learned, I also thought about how fortunate I was to live in the town in which that event happened.  UGA, my relationship with which has been both positive and tumultuous, at different times, since 2005, made that lecture possible.

Indeed, I have may reasons to be grateful for and to UGA.  It creates a wonderful intellectual environment in Athens.  I care nothing about the athletics of a university, for the purpose of such an institution is supposed to be primarily educational, is it not?  The presence of UGA in Athens not only makes Athens what it is, but also makes me feel at home in this town, a colony of members of the intelligentsia.

I grew up in a series of United Methodist parsonages in small towns and communities in southern Georgia.  The intellectual atmosphere (not in the parsonage, of course) was generally lackluster, even anti-intellectual.  (Nevertheless, I do recall that sometimes even my father angrily rebuffed some of my attempts at academic discussions, especially of the Bible.  There was no good reason to fear Higher Criticism.  No philosophical meat grinder will grind up the truth, after all; the truth will break the meat grinder.)  I usually felt like an intellectual outcast and the resident heretic.  (Today I wear the label “heretic” with pride.  As churchy as I am, given the option of avoiding church or facing allegations of heresy in a congregation, I would choose the former.)  Politically and socially most of the neighbors were or seemed to be beyond conservative–reactionary, actually.  Many were openly and unapologetically racist.

Of course I gravitated toward the left side of the spectrum.  I have remained a man of the left, although I have, with greater frequency, found myself in rooms with people to my left–sometimes far to my left.  I have shifted slightly to the right in some ways, and far to the left (relative to my former position) in others.  Overall, I have continued to occupy a center-left position.  (I tend to be center-right in liturgical matters and to the left politically, socially, and theologically.  My unapologetic Western Classicism in music is prominent in my daily life.)  I have ceased to be the resident heretic, for (1) I worship with people, many of whom are to my left, and (2) I worship in a faith community where nobody accuses me of heresy.  Charges of heresy have usually come from the right, not the left, after all.  (This is why most ecclesiastical schisms occur to the right and the majority of church mergers happen on the left.  Tolerance and acceptance are antidotes to Donatism.)

St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church has been my spiritual home since August 2005.  The parish has saved my life (in 2007) and become a means by which I offer gifts and talents to God.  I have, for years, curated a movie series, functioned as the librarian, and taught adult Sunday School, for example.  For nearly a decade I sang in the choir.  (I have many fond memories of that time.)  Although some people roll their eyes when I obsess over the proper arrangement of chairs, hymnals, and prayer books in the worship space, tending to that matter has long been something I have offered to God.  (I have come to long wistfully for pews.)  Also, the music has long been mostly excellent in the parish.  Last Sunday, for example, a string quartet performed at the 10:30 service and accompanied the choir during a performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart‘s Ave Verum Corpus.

As much as I enjoy visits to relatives in Americus, Athens is my place.  As much as I visit Calvary Episcopal Church, Americus, occasionally, and find my spot in a pew there comfortably, St. Gregory the Great Church is my place.  As much as I enjoy visiting Americus, I also enjoy returning to Athens.

I am also grateful for friends and acquaintances. all of whose privacy I respect in this post by preserving in this post by naming none of them.  Some of them have saved my life and seen me through difficult times.  I have also performed my sacred duty and helped one friend to the point of self-sacrifice.  If necessary, I would do it again, without hesitation.

I hope to reside in Athens for long time.  The possibility of leaving eventually remains, of course; I admit that doing so might be proper one day.  That hypothetical day is one I hope is far off, if it is extant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR; AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, APOSTLE OF CHRISTIAN UNITY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC”

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Feast of Joachim Neander (May 30)   1 comment

Above:  Joachim Neander

Image in the Public Domain

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JOACHIM NEANDER (1650-MAY 31, 1680)

German Reformed Minister and Hymn Writer

“First Poet of the Reformed Church in Germany”

A hymnal can be a wonderful source of names for a calendar of saints.  Thus Joachim Neander finds a place on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.

The Ecumenical Calendar has a few rules, including the following one:  With few exceptions, whenever a Bible-related feast falls on a day, I reserve that day for that feast, instead of following my usual custom of stacking commemorations on top of each other.  (As of the writing of this post, the maximum number of feasts per day is four.)  Thus December 25 is just the First Day (of twelve) of Christmas, January 6 is only the Feast of the Epiphany, and May 31 (on which Neander died) is exclusively the Feast of the Visitation.  However, January 1 is both the Feast of the Holy Name and the World Day of Peace and March 25 is both the Feast of the Annunciation and the Feast of St. Dismas, a Biblical figure.  Since May 31 is the Feast of the Visitation, the commemoration of Neander moves to an adjacent day.

Joachim Neander began his life in Bremen, where his father, Johann Joachim Neander, served on the faculty of the Gymnasium Illustre.  Our saint, born in 1650, converted in 1670.  He had once been a rowdy student who attended church to make fun of it.  Pastor Theodore Under-Eyck of St. Martin’s Church, Bremen, presided over Neander’s conversion, however.

Neander spent part of his life as an educator.  For several years (1671-1674) he was a tutor, first in Heidelberg then in Frankfurt.  During this stage of life our saint plunged into his newfound Pietism.  In 1674 he became the Rector of the Reformed grammar school at Duesselforf.  Our saint’s responsibilities included teaching and serving as assistant minister.  Three years later local politics led to his suspension from all those duties.  Neander had offended too many people for his own good by (1) altering the academic schedule unilaterally, (2) making other education-related decisions the same way, and (3) persistently refusing to take the Eucharist with allegedly unconverted people.  After a two weeks’ suspension he promised to change his ways and found himself restored as Rector of the school yet not as assistant minister.  The experience of suspension, followed by demotion, humiliated him.

Neander returned to Bremen in 1679.  There he became an assistant to Pastor Under-Eyck at St. Martin’s Church.  Again our saint proved controversial.  Under-Eyck had plans, however; he intended to arrange a pastorate for Neander.  That never came to pass because our saint died of tuberculosis at the age of 29 or 30 on May 31, 1680.

Regardless of any errors (such as Donatism) Neander manifested, he left a fine legacy in the realm of hymnody.  He composed many hymn tunes and 60 hymn texts, some of which exist in English-language translations.  I have added some of them to my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.  Other texts included those translated as “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” and “All My Hope on God is Founded.”  Neander, whose love of nature was evident in many of his hymns, earned his reputation as the greatest Reformed hymn writer in Germany.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; FATHER OF MARKUS BARTH, SWISS LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GEORG FRIEDRICH HELLSTROM, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MUSICIAN, COMPOWER, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER FOURIER, “THE GOOD PRIEST OF MATTAINCOURT;” AND SAINT ALIX LE CLERC, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF NOTRE DAME OF CANONESSES REGULAR OF SAINT AUGUSTINE

THE FEAST OF SAINT WALTER CISZEK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST AND POLITICAL PRISONER

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Dear God of beauty,

you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to

Joachim Neander and others, who have composed hymn texts.

May we, as you guide us,

find worthy hymn texts to be icons,

through which we see you.

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

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-3a, 5-15

Psalm 147

Revelation 5:11-14

Luke 2:8-20

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH

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Feast of Charles Henry Brent (March 27)   Leave a comment

charles-henry-brent

Above:  Charles Henry Brent 

Image in the Public Domain

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CHARLES HENRY BRENT (APRIL 9, 1862-MARCH 27, 1929)

Episcopal Bishop and Ecumenist

The Feast of Charles Henry Brent falls on March 27 in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.

Brent was a native of New Castle, Ontario.  He, born on April 9, 1862, studied at Trinity College, Toronto.  Our saint, ordained an Anglican priest in Canada in 1887, served first as the assistant at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, Buffalo, New York.  From 1888 to 1901 he lived and worked in Boston, Massachusetts.  There, as the Assistant Rector of St. John the Evangelist Church, with the responsibility for the African-American congregation of St. Stephen’s Church, our saint worked in the slums and came under the influence of the Social Gospel movement.

In 1901 the Episcopal House of Bishops selected Brent to become the Missionary Bishop of the Philippines, a position he held from 1902 to 1919.  There he built up The Episcopal Church, not by “stealing sheep,” but by focusing on evangelism.  He famously refused to compete with the Roman Catholic Church; he would not, in his words, “set up one altar against another.”  Brent did, however, seek to convert people to Christianity.  He also established ecumenical relations with the new Philippine Independent Church, founded by a former Roman Catholic priest.  In the Philippines Brent also became involved in the movement to oppose opium trafficking.  He served as the President of the Opium Conference at Shanghai in 1909 and represented the United States on the Narcotics Committee of the League of Nations in 1923.

From 1917 to 1919 Brent doubled as the Senior Chaplain of the American Expeditionary Forces.  At the request of General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing, he organized and supervised the chaplaincy.

In 1918 Brent accepted election as the Bishop of Western New York, with Buffalo as his see city.  He began his duties the following year and remained the bishop of that diocese for the rest of his life.

Brent was an ecumenical leader in The Episcopal Church and one of the founders of the modern ecumenical movement.  In 1910 he attended the World Missionary Conference at Edinburgh, Scotland.  The pioneering ecumenical conference increased cooperation among missionary societies.  Our saint, a convinced ecumenist, became a leader of the cause in his denomination.  Later that year the General Convention of The Episcopal Church proposed what became the First World Conference on Faith and Order (1927) at Lausanne, Switzerland.  At that gathering, over which Brent presided, representatives of about 90 denominations–from the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox to Quakers and some Baptists–discussed doctrine.  The purpose of the conference was to promote doctrinal unity.  Nevertheless, doctrinal differences became apparent quickly, but the gathering did encourage subsequent ecumenism.

Brent died at Lausanne on March 27, 1929, while traveling in Europe.  He was 66 years old.

In 1907 Brent published a certain prayer, one included in his original language in Daily Morning Prayer, Rite One, in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).

Lord Jesus Christ, who didst stretch out thine arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of thy saving embrace:  So clothe us in thy Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know thee to the knowledge and love of thee; for the honor of thy Name.  Amen.

–Page 58

Morning Prayer, Rite Two, in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a modern-language version of that prayer.  So does Daily Morning Prayer in Texts for Common Prayer (2013), of the Donatist (in the broad definition of that term) Anglican Church in North America.  Any form of the prayer is absent from the corresponding ritual in The Book of Common Prayer (1928).

Brent’s legacy includes not only a meaningful prayer in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) but the World Council of Churches (founded in 1948) and The Episcopal Church in the Philippines (an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion since 1988).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 5, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF JAPAN, 1597-1639

THE FEAST OF SAINT AVITUS OF VIENNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT JANE (JOAN) OF VALOIS, COFOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF THE ANNUNCIATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILEAS AND PHILOROMUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Heavenly Father, whose Son prayed that we all might be one:

Deliver us from arrogance and prejudice, and give us wisdom and forbearance,

that, following your servant Charles Henry Brent,

we may be united in one family with all who confess the Name of your Son Jesus Christ;

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

Isaiah 56:6-8

Psalm 122

Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13

Matthew 9:35-38

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 293

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Feast of Sts. Sylvia of Rome, Emiliana of Rome, Trasilla, and Gregory the Great (March 12)   4 comments

st-gregory-the-great

Above:  St. Gregory the Great

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT SYLVIA OF ROME (CIRCA 515-CIRCA 592)

Ascetic

Also known as Saint Silvia of Rome

Her feast transferred from November 3

mother of

SAINT GREGORY I “THE GREAT” (CIRCA 540-MARCH 12, 604)

Bishop of Rome

His feast day = March 12

Alternative feast day = September 3

nephew of

SAINT EMILIANA OF ROME

Ascetic

Her feast transferred from September 3

sister of

SAINT TRASILLA 

Ascetic

Her feast transferred from December 24

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Pope St. Gregory I “the Great” was a pious man and a major saint whose vocation overlapped with difficult times in Italy.  His piety, which served him and many others well, grew out of his family.

His great-grandfather (through his father’s side of the family tree) was Pope St. Felix II (sometimes listed as St. Felix III), who reigned from 483 to 492.  St. Felix had to contend with the monophysite heresy (that Jesus had only a divine nature), intertwined with the politics of the (Eastern) Roman Empire shortly after the gradual demise of the Western Roman Empire, complete in 476.  According to J. N. D. Kelly, author of The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (1986), St. Felix was intransient, harsh, and authoritarian (page 47).

565

Above:  The Roman (Byzantine) Empire in 565

Image Source = Florida Center for Educational Technology, College of Education, University of South Florida

Image used in accordance with licensing rules at the website of FCIT, which requests that I include this link

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St. Gregory I’s father was Gordianus, a Roman senator.  (Emperor Justinian I “the Great” had presided over the temporary reconquest of portions of the former Western Roman Empire.)  St. Gregory I’s mother was St. Sylvia of Rome (circa 515-circa 592).  The family resided in a mansion in Rome.  Then household included the future Pope’s aunts–sisters of Gordianus–St. Trasilla, and St. Emiliana of Rome at least.  According to some sources, there was a third sister, Gordiana.  The holy sisters/aunts had devoted their lives to God and chosen to live as ascetics in their brother’s household.  St. Gregory I also had a brother, whose name has not survived.  St. Sylvia, as a widow, joined her sisters-in-law in the ascetic life at the estate.

St. Gregory I, who served as the Prefect of Rome in 573 and 574, sold his property, donated the proceeds to the poor, lived ascetically, and became a monk at the estate in 574.  He also founded seven monasteries.  Pope Pelagius II removed St. Gregory I from the monastery in 578 and ordained him to the diaconate.  The following year the Supreme Pontiff dispatched him to Constantinople, the imperial capital, to request military aid in defending against incursions of the Lombards, who were building a kingdom in Italy.  Emperor Tiberius II (reigned 574-582) offered little help in defending his own territory in Italy, for he had other borders to defend too.  He recommended that the Italians seek help from the Franks and bribe the Lombards.  Our saint knew that he could not expect much help from Constantinople in the present time and in the future.  He returned to Rome and his monastery/estate in 585.  There he served as abbot while functioning as an advisor to Pope Pelagius II.

Pope Pelagius II died on February 7, 590.  Much to his chagrin St. Gregory I won election–unanimously, too–to the papal office.  The deacon would have preferred to continue as an abbot.  Despite all his attempts to evade the papacy, St. Gregory I became the Bishop of Rome on September 3, 590.  The 50-year-old saint, who was not in the best of health for much of the ensuing nearly 14 years, tended to his duties.  He, for example, enforced the celibacy of priests, established new rules for electing bishops, upheld papal supremacy, encouraged the veneration of authentic relics, established a school for singers, resisted Donatism in northern Africa, and wrote sermons and biblical commentaries.  Also, in 596, he sent St. Augustine of Canterbury and his retinue to England.  St. Gregory also found himself forced to perform civil functions, due to the breakdown of government and the negligence of imperial officials.  He, for example, negotiated treaties, appointed generals, paid soldiers, and coordinated the feeding of starving masses in war zones.  He was the de facto ruler of much of Italy.  St. Gregory I, unable to walk at the end of his life, died on March 12, 604, during a siege of Rome.  His canonization was immediate and a matter of public acclamation.

What might St. Gregory I have been without the influence of his family?  And, had he not accepted his responsibilities, how might the lives of many others been worse?  Perhaps another person would have stepped forward and acted at least as capably.  Perhaps not.

Sometimes one’s duty includes dealing with a bad situation and improving it, without making it good.  That description certainly applies to the circumstances with which St. Gregory I had to contend.  May we, like this great saint, rise to the occasion whenever presents itself.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACRINA THE ELDER, HER FAMILY, AND SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE YOUNGER

THE FEAST OF CIVIL RIGHTS MARTYRS AND ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF KRISTEN KVAMME, NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT SAVA I, FOUNDER OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH AND FIRST ARCHBISHOP OF SERBS

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Almighty and merciful God, you raised up Gregory the Great to be a servant of the servants of God,

and inspired him to send missionaries to preach the Gospel to the English people:

Preserve in your Church the catholic and apostolic faith they taught,

that your people, being fruitful in every good work,

may receive the crown of glory that never fades away;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

1 Chronicles 25:1a, 6-8

Psalm 57:6-11

Colossians 1:28-2:3

Mark 10:42-45

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 269

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Feast of Sts. Callixtus I, Anterus, Pontian, and Hippolytus (October 14)   1 comment

Atlas of the Historical Geography of the Holy Land by George Adam Smith and J. G. Bartholomew

Atlas of the Historical Geography of the Holy Land by George Adam Smith and J. G. Bartholomew

Above:  Map of the Roman Empire in the Third Century

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT CALLIXTUS I (DIED IN 222)

Bishop of Rome

Also known as St. Callistus I

His feast day = October 14

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SAINT ANTERUS (DIED JANUARY 3, 236)

Bishop of Rome

His feast transferred from January 3

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SAINT PONTIAN (DIED CIRCA 236)

Bishop of Rome

His feast transferred from August 13

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SAINT HIPPOLYTUS (DIED CIRCA 236)

Antipope

Feast transferred from August 13

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INTRODUCTION

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This is a story of theft, self-righteousness, schism, false witness, forgiveness, repentance, and martyrdom.  Repentance, as I tire of having to explain, is far more than saying that one is sorry.  No, repentance is turning around or changing one’s mind.  To repent is literally to turn one’s back on sin.  That definition applies well to Sts. Callixtus I and Hippolytus.

Roman Catholic writer Thomas J. Craughwell notes the value of being honest about the dark episodes in the lives of the saints.  He states:

The point of reading these stories is not to experience some tabloid thrill, but to understand how grace works in the world.  Every day, all day long, God pours out his grace upon us, coaxing us, to turn away from everything that is base and cheap and unsatisfying, and turn toward the only thing that is eternal, perfect, and true–that is, himself.

Saints Behaving Badly:  The Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men, and Devil Worshippers Who Became Saints (New York, NY:  Doubleday, 2006), page xii

Some of the most forgiving people have been those who have known of their need of much mercy and received it.  They, having received forgiveness in abundance, have become practitioners of forgiveness–sometimes to the consternation of others, many of whom have thought of themselves as pious and orthodox, as pure.  That summary applied well to St. Hippolytus for much of his life.

Roman Catholic tradition tells the stories of two of these men–Sts. Pontian and Hippolytus–together, for they share the same feast day, August 13.  I have found that I cannot tell their stores properly without recounting that of St. Callixtus I and, in passing, what little we know of St. Anterus.  Each of these two saints has his own feast day on the Roman Catholic calendar.  I, for the sake of convenience, have moved three of the four saints to the date for the feast of St. Callixtus I.  After all, the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days is my project; I answer to nobody else with regard to it.

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SAINT CALLIXTUS I

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St. Callixtus I was a slave, a bad investor, an embezzler, and an inciter of needless violence before be became a deacon, a pope, and a martyr.  As a young man he was the slave of one Carpophorus, a Christian of Rome.  Circa 190 Carpophorus founded a bank for the Christians of Rome and made St. Callixtus, who had experience managing money, the administrator thereof.  Many of the depositors were of modest means and there was no ancient equivalent of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (F.D.I.C.).  St. Callixtus proved to be a bad investor and an eager embezzler, so the bank failed, much to the financial detriment of many of the depositors.  The perfidious slave fled Rome and got as far as Portus, where his master captured him.  Back in Rome, Carpophorus sentenced St. Callixtus to the hard labor of turning a large stone wheel at a grist mill daily.  Nevertheless, some of the defrauded depositors were merciful.  They convinced Carpophorus to liberate St. Callixtus, on the condition that the slave try to recover some of the lost funds.

St. Callixtus remained a troublesome character.  He attempted to recover some of the lost funds by interrupting a Jewish worship service, demanding money from investors present, and thereby starting a brawl.  Legal charges of disturbing the peace and desecrating a holy place ensued.  Carpophorus lied in court when he denied that St. Callixtus, a baptized person, was a Christian.  (Christianity was not yet legal in the Roman Empire.)  The prefect sentenced St. Callixtus to scourging then to hard labor in the salt mines of Sardinia.  That was effectively a death sentence.

Marcia, a Christian and the mistress of the Emperor Commodus (reigned 180-192), used her influence to aid her coreligionists.  She asked Pope St. Victor I (reigned 189-198; feast day = July 28) for a list of Christians sent to Sardinia.  He gave her that list, minus St. Callixtus, whose name he omitted on purpose.  Marcia interceded with the governor of Sardinia, who freed all the listed prisoners plus St. Callixtus, who begged his way into freedom.  St. Victor, not convinced that St. Callixtus had ceased to be a scoundrel, sent him to live outside the walls of Rome and gave him an allowance.  Eventually the pontiff concluded that St. Callixtus, who had remained out of trouble for some time, had indeed repented.  St. Victor permitted him to assist St. Zephyrinus, the priest who managed the assignments of priests and deacons in Rome.

St. Zephyrinus became the mentor to St. Callixtus.  St. Victor died in 198; St. Zephyrinus succeeded him as pontiff.  The new pope ordained St. Callixtus to the diaconate and placed him in charge of the Christian cemetery (now the Catacomb of St. Callixtus) on the Appian Way.  St. Callixtus became a powerful figure in the Roman Catholic Church during the papacy of his mentor.  Predictably, he succeeded St. Zephyrinus as the Pope upon the death of the latter in 217.

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SAINTS CALLIXTUS I AND SAINT HIPPOLYTUS

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The election of St. Callixtus displeased St. Hippolytus, a priest, theologian, and author of treatises and Biblical commentaries.  St. Hippolytus, born before 170, practiced a rigorous form of Roman Catholicism.  Pope St. Zephyrinus, he was convinced, held heretical views regarding the Holy Trinity.  (Ironically, in the context of the Council of Nicaea, 325 C.E., St. Hippolytus was heretic avant le lettre regarding the Holy Trinity, for he held to a subordinationist position.)  St. Hippolytus not only spoke out but did something; he became the antipope first to St. Callixtus I (reigned 217-222) then to St. Urban I (reigned 222-230) then to St. Pontian (reigned 230-235) then to St. Anterus (reigned 235-236) and possibly then briefly to St. Fabian (reigned 236-250).  St. Hippolytus led a schismatic group as he condemned St. Callixtus for everything from his past crimes to this eagerness to forgive sinners.  The latter indicated doctrinal laxity, the antipope argued.  St. Hippolytus fumed whenever St. Callixtus forgave an errant and penitent bishop who had committed fornication, for example.  The antipope complained whenever St. Callixtus welcomed former members of schismatic sects back into the fold of Holy Mother Church enthusiastically and without requiring any sign of penance.  Furthermore, St. Hippolytus falsely accused St. Callixtus of being a modalist.

Modalism is a heresy pertaining to the Holy Trinity.  It is, actually, a form of Unitarianism whose proponents argue that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not persons but are really modes of God’s being.  God, in modalist thought, is united and indivisible.  As Praxeas argued circa 210 C.E., God the Father entered the womb of St. Mary of Nazareth, suffered, died, and rose again.  This is false doctrine, as Tertullian (circa 155-225) knew well.  He retorted that Praxeas had

put to flight the Holy Spirit and crucified the Father.

–Quoted in Linwood Urban, A Short History of Christian Thought–Revised and Expanded Edition (New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1995), page 58

St. Callixtus was no modalist.  In fact, he excommunicated Sabellius, a prominent modalist.  St. Hippolytus replied that the Pope had done that to cover up his own modalism, however.

The life and papacy of St. Callixtus ended in 222, when a pagan mob murdered him.  Members of that mob then threw his corpse down a well in Rome.

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SUBSEQUENT POPES AND SAINT HIPPOLYTUS

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The persecution of Christianity in the Roman Empire was not continuous.  Certain emperors engaged in the practice; others did not.  Few persecutions were empire-wide; most were regional and sporadic.  For most of the tenure of Pope St. Pontian (July 21, 230-September 28, 235) imperial persecution was not a problem.  Other issues dominated the reign of the son of Calpurnius.  St. Pontian presided over the synod that ratified the decision of St. Demetrius of Alexandria (126-231) to banish Origen (185-254), to refuse to recognize his priestly ordination, and to excommunicate him.  (Nevertheless, Origen found refuge with sympathetic bishops and persuaded heretics to turn to orthodoxy.)  In March 235 Maximinus I became emperor.  He ended his predecessor’s policy of toleration of Christianity and targeted leaders of the faith first.  Authorities arrested Sts. Pontian and Hippolytus, convicted them, and sent them to die in the salt mines of Sardinia.  St. Pontian, recognizing the need of continuous leadership of the church, became the first pope to resign.  He stepped down on September 28, 235.

The next pope, St. Anterus, of whom we know little, much like his predecessor once removed, St. Urban I (reigned 222-230), took office on November 21, 235.  Contrary to the tradition that he died a martyr, St. Anterus seems to have died of natural causes.  His pontificate was brief, ending on January 3, 236.

Pope St. Fabian (reigned January 10, 236-January 20, 250) had a longer pontificate.  He became one of the first victims of the Decian persecution, one of those empire-wide persecutions of Christianity.

Sts. Pontian and Hippolytus died on Sardinia circa 236–the latter of the hard labor and the former by means of a beating by guards.  The antipope renounced schism, reconciled with the Church, and urged his followers to do the same while in prison in Rome or on Sardinia.  (The available sources disagree on that point.)  In 236 or 237 Pope St. Fabian interred the remains of these two men in Rome.  Holy Mother Church forgave him and recognized him as a saint.  To paraphrase Thomas J. Craughwell, writing in Saints Behaving Badly, the Church was more like St. Callixtus I than St. Hippolytus.

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CONCLUSION

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St. Hippolytus, prior to his repentance, thought of the Church as the assembly of saints, not as the hospital for sinners.  He was not the last person to hold that opinion and to start a schismatic movement based on that premise.  For example, just a few decades later, in the wake of the Decian persecution, Donatism (in its narrow definition) arose and persisted for centuries, dividing the Church in northern Africa.  Donatism, in its broad definition, has never ceased.  It has, in fact, led to many ecclesiastical schisms.  My studies of church history have revealed that most ecclesiastical schisms have occurred to the right and most ecclesiastical mergers (unions and reunions) have occurred to the left.  The self-identified pure of theology have long argued not only with those in the institutions from which they departed but also among themselves.  Thus schisms have frequently begat schisms.  (I can recall examples of this generalization easily.  I think for example, of the formation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1936, of the subsequent split in that body almost immediately, and of the rending asunder the group that broke away from it.)  In that process of bickering and breaking away one casualty has frequently been forgiveness.

I spent the most recent Good Friday in Americus, Georgia, away from home.  While in that town I attended the Noontime service at Calvary Episcopal Church.  The Rector said in the homily that we Christians stand in the need of forgiveness, at the foot of the cross of Christ.  Nevertheless, many non-Christians perceive us as standing in the place of judgment, much like Pontius Pilate.  That statement was sadly accurate.  I have concluded that the main cause of the perception that we are judgmental is the fact that many of us are indeed judgmental, that many of us seem not to know that we really stand in the need of forgiveness, at the foot of the cross of Christ.

St. Callixtus I knew where he stood.  St. Hippolytus eventually learned where he stood.  St. Pontian knew where he stood and extended mercy to the antipope.  All three men died as martyrs.

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Holy God, in whom judgment and mercy exist in balance,

thank you for the lived example of Jesus of Nazareth, our Savior and Lord.

May we know that we stand not in the place of judgment

but in need of forgiveness, at the foot of the cross of Christ,

and, by grace, nurture the habit of forgiveness of others and ourselves.

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

Isaiah 30:15-26

Psalm 130

Romans 12:1-21

Luke 17:1-4

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BROOKE FOSS WESTCOTT, ANGLICAN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND BISHOP OF DURHAM; AND FENTON JOHN ANTHONY HORT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN HENRY BATEMAN, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHAN NORDAHL BRUN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN BISHOP, AUTHOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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Feast of St. Alipius (August 16)   Leave a comment

Carthage Ampitheater

Above:  Ruins of the Amphiteater at Carthage

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT ALIPIUS (CIRCA 360-429/430)

Roman Catholic Bishop of Tagaste and Friend of Saint Augustine of Hippo

Also known as Saint Alypius

His feast transferred from August 15

The Roman Catholic feast day for St. Alipius is August 15.  I have, however, reserved that date on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days for St. Mary of Nazareth, Mother of God.  Therefore I have transferred his commemoration to August 16.

St. Alipius had much in common with St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430).  Both men were natives of Tagaste, Numidia, Roman Empire (now Souk Ahras, Algeria).  St. Alipius came from a noble family.  He studied grammar under St. Augustine at Tagaste then rhetoric under him at Carthage, sometimes to the great displeasure of his (St. Alipius’s) father.  At Carthage St. Alipius became a fan of the bloody sports of chariot racing and gladiatorial fighting.  Once he, under the influence of St. Augustine, who disapproved of such entertainment, ceased to attend those events briefly.  Then he returned to them with zest.  St. Alipius also became a Manichean and followed his teacher to Milan.  There he also came under the influence of St. Ambrose of Milan (337-397), the bishop.  St. Alipius, who found chastity easier to practice than his longtime teacher did, was among the people baptized with St. Augustine and Adeodatus (372-388) at the Easter Vigil in 387.  St. Alipius abandoned bloody sports forever.  The following year he joined St. Augustine’s monastic community at Tagaste.  He and his famous friend became priests at Hippo Regius in 391.  The friends worked together for a few years.  St. Alipius made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and befriended St. Jerome (347-450).  In 393, upon his return from the Holy Land, St. Alipius began his 30-year-long tenure as the Bishop of Tagaste before St. Augustine became the Bishop of Hippo Regius.  The two bishops cooperated in efforts to refute Manicheism, Donatism, and Pelagianism.  The two men also died at about the same time.

It would be easy to forget or ignore St. Alipius.  After all, he seemed to dwell in the shadow of St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the most influential theologians in Western Christianity.  I am certain, however, that many members of St. Alipius’s flock, the Diocese of Tagaste, testified in their time with regard to his abilities as a bishop.  He was no mere second banana.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DUNCAN MONTGOMERY GRAY, SR., EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MISSISSIPPI

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN FRIEDRICH HASSE, GERMAN-BRITISH COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF OSTIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT, CARDINAL, AND LEGATE; AND DOMINIC OF THE CAUSEWAY, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

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Almighty God, you have raised up bishops of your church, including your servant St. Alipius.

May the memory of his life be a source of joy for us and a bulwark of our faith,

so that we may serve and confess your name before the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 3411-16 or Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84

1 Peter 5:1-4 or Ephesians 3:14-21

John 21:15-17 or Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Feast of St. Ambrose of Milan, St. Monica of Hippo, and St. Augustine of Hippo (August 28)   24 comments

Basilica of St. Ambrose, Milan

Above:  Basilica of St. Ambrose, Milan, Italy, Between 1860 and 1890

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT AMBROSE OF MILAN (337-APRIL 4, 397)

Roman Catholic Bishop of Milan

His feast transferred from December 7

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SAINT MONICA OF HIPPO (331-387)

Mother of Saint Augustine of Hippo

Her feast transferred from May 4 and August 27

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SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO (NOVEMBER 13, 354-AUGUST 28, 430)

Roman Catholic Bishop of Hippo Regius

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The Donatists in North Africa upheld the ancient image of the church as a gathered elite, a foreign body in the midst of a secular society and an apostate church.  Defenders of the orthodoxy agreed at the Council of Nicaea (325) sometimes denounced emperors such as Constantius II as heretics, and repudiated the authority of secular rulers over the church.  Others, like Ambrose, bishop of the imperial city of Milan (d. 397), were determined to subject the exercise of imperial power to the spiritual authority of bishops.  But until Augustine’s City of God (413-427) most Christians unquestioningly accepted the Roman political and social order as the earthly form of the Christian society.

–Robert A. Markus in The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity (1990), edited by John McManners, page 71

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INTRODUCTION

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The three saints on which I focus in this post have separate commemorations on ecclesiastical calendars.  Nevertheless, I have chosen to combine those commemorations here at this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  Their three stories flow into one easily, after all.  Furthermore, recounting their lives this way functions to argue a point, which is that rugged individualism plays no part in a healthy Christian spiritual journey.  Each of us needs, at different times, encouragement or prodding on the part of others to pursue the proper path and to remain on it.

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SAINTS MONICA AND AUGUSTINE

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Saint_Augustine_and_Saint_Monica

Above:  Saints Augustine and Monica, by Ary Scheffer

Image in the Public Domain

In the beginning of this composite story there were Patricius and Monica (sometimes called Monnica), of Tagaste, Numidia, Roman Empire.  (Tagaste has become Souk Ahras, Algeria.)  Patricius was a pagan and a municipal official.  His wife, St. Monica, was a Christian.  The couple had three children.  Navigius and his sister Perpetua grew up as Christians and entered the religious life.  St. Augustine, however, had a winding road of a spiritual pilgrimage.

St. Monica sought to bring her husband and her errant son to Christ.  She succeeded, but only after much prayer and effort.  Patricius converted shortly before he died in 370.  St. Augustine underwent baptism 17 years later.  The fact that he made the transition from apostate to Christian had much to do with his faithful and persistent mother, who had taught him religion and theology when he was a child.  St. Augustine, born at Tagaste on November 13, 354, began his studies in other topics in that city.  The schoolmaster beat him severely, though, and the young saint, having learned to dislike Greek, never mastered it.

St. Augustine became an apostate.  At age 11 or 12 (365 or 366) St. Augustine went to study at Madauros, about 25 kilometers from Tagaste.  Madauros was a center or pagan thought.  There he soaked up the pagan milieu and learned Latin literature.  In 370 St. Augustine moved to Carthage.  There he took a mistress, whose name he did not reveal in his writings.  They had a son, Adeodatus (372-388).  At Carthage St. Augustine also converted to Manicheism, a dualistic religion.  He taught grammar at Tagaste starting in 373.  Then, for seven years, he taught rhetoric at Carthage, where he lost his Manichean faith and became an agnostic.  In 383, over St. Monica’s strong objections, he moved to Rome.  Then, in the following year, St. Augustine accepted a position teaching rhetoric at Milan.  Along the way he regained his Manichean faith.

St. Monica had followed her errant son around for years, so she could influence him positively and locally.  She had managed to find a young woman who would, in time be of age to marry St. Augustine and be a suitable wife.  He dismissed his longtime mistress, who returned to northern Africa and joined a religious community.   As St. Augustine struggled with his sexuality he famously prayed,

Give me chastity, but not yet!

Then he took a second mistress.  At Milan St. Monica found the right man to help end her son’s time of spiritual rebellion.  She persuaded St. Augustine to listen to and meet St. Ambrose, the bishop there.

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SAINT AMBROSE OF MILAN (I)

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St. Ambrose

Above:  St. Ambrosius, by Francisco de Zurbaran

Image in the Public Domain

St. Ambrose of Milan (born in 337) traveled an interesting spiritual path to his destiny.  The native of Treves (now Trier, Germany) was a son of a Roman prefect and a pious and educated mother.  He grew up a Christian.  His widowed mother raised him in Rome, where he received a liberal arts education.  St. Ambrose became a lawyer.  In 371, at age 34, he received an appointment as governor of the province of Liguria and Aemilia, a job he performed well.  In 374 the governor presided over the election of the next Bishop of Milan.  He became not only a candidate but the favored one, much to his shock and displeasure.  St. Ambrose, who was neither baptized nor trained in theology, did not think himself qualified for the post.  Nevertheless, even going into hiding did not change destiny.  In one week in December 374 St. Ambrose became a baptized Christian, a priest, and the Bishop of Milan within a week, his consecration taking place on December 7.

St. Ambrose took his responsibilities seriously.  He donated his lands to the Church, gave his possessions to the poor, fasted daily, took communion daily, and spent much time studying, writing, and meditating.  Among his theological influences was Origen (185-254), who favored the allegorical reading of Scripture.  St. Ambrose also argued forcefully against the Arian heresy, which stated that God the Son was a created being.

[Aside:  Unfortunately, Arianism continues to thrive, especially among the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons.]

The Arian-Orthodox Christian controversy divided the Church and became a factor in imperial politics.  Some emperors were Orthodox.  Members of the faction out of imperial favor frequently suffered, for the concept of the separation of church and state was centuries of away from becoming commonplace and widely accepted.  The Emperor Gratian (reigned 375-383) was Orthodox.  Magnus Maximus (reigned 383-388), the usurper who murdered him, was an Arian.  While Magnus Maximusreigned in the western portion of the Roman Empire, Valentinian II, Gratian’s half-brother, theoretically ruled in the East.  Actually, however, Valentinian II’s mother, Justina, served as his regent from 383 to 388.  She and her son were Arians.  In 383 Justina asked St. Ambrose to intercede with Magnus Maximus.  The bishop traveled to Treves, where he remained to meet with the murderous usurper and with local priests responsible for the execution of Priscillian heretics, but he did succeed in distracting the usurper, to the benefit of forces of Valentinian II, who seized the alpine pass.  The grateful emperor honored St. Ambrose’s request that he not restore the pagan altar of Victory in the Senate.  Justina, also grateful, promised not to use her position to advance the cause of Arianism.

She either lied or changed her mind.  In 385 Justina demanded that St. Ambrose hand over a church building in Milan for use by Arians.  He refused.  She sent troops to enforce her demand, but had to back down after a crowd (including St. Monica) filled the cathedral, with the soldiers surrounded.  The following year the imperial government issued a decree favoring Arian worship and condemning to death those who objected.  St. Ambrose refused to keep silent, of course.  Justina sent soldiers again, but had to back down again.

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SAINTS AMBROSE, MONICA, AND AUGUSTINE

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St. Ambrose, who encouraged women to become nuns (rather than to marry), also advocated for missionary work, wrote hymns (such as Veni Redemptor Gentium, or “Come, Thou Redeemer of the Earth“), and confronted imperial authorities, found time to mentor St. Augustine.  From St. Ambrose St. Augustine learned, among other things, aspects of Neo-Platonism, as well as Origen’s allegorical exegesis of Scripture, both of which aided him in his spiritual journey.  Next St. Augustine read the Pauline Epistles and studied the Desert Fathers.  He resigned as teacher of rhetoric and focused on preparation for baptism.  On Holy Saturday 387, at the Easter Vigil, St. Augustine and his son accepted baptism and joined the Roman Catholic Church.  St. Monica was present.

Later that year St. Monica died at the port of Ostia, Italy.  She and her family were planning to return to northern Africa.  She was about 56 years old when she died.

St. Monica is the patron saint of Christian wives and mothers and of victims of abuse.  She has two feast days, May 4 being the traditional date and August 27 being the date on the revised Roman Catholic calendar.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, The Anglican Church in Canada (in The Book of Common Prayer of 1962), and The Episcopal Church, among others, celebrate her life on May 4.  The Anglican Church in Canada (in the Book of Alternative Services of 1985); The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia; The Church of England; and The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, among others, do so on August 27.

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SAINT AMBROSE OF MILAN (II)

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The traditions of the Scriptures are his [Christ’s] body; the Church is his body.

–St. Ambrose of Milan

St. Ambrose, who defended claims that St. Mary of Nazareth is the Mother of God, continued to defy imperial authority, even to assert his power over it.  Emperor Theodosius I “the Great” (reigned 379-395), the sole emperor from 392 to 395, made Christianity (already legal) the official religion.  He also suppressed Arianism and paganism.  In 388 St. Ambrose confronted Theodosius I over an order to spend state funds to build a structure for non-Christian worship, forcing the Emperor to back down.  Two years later, in Thessalonica, a popular charioteer attempted to rape a male servant of Butheric, the Roman master of soldiers in the region.  Butheric ordered the charioteer arrested, an action to which a mob objected.  Butheric and some other officers died during ensuing riots.  The angry Theodosius I ordered soldiers to surround the amphitheater in Thessalonica and to slaughter the spectators at a chariot race.  Whether any person killed was innocent was not an issue for the Emperor.  He reversed the order, but not before about 7000 people died.  St. Ambrose excommunicated Theodosius I, lifting the discipline after the Emperor had done several months of penance and issued a proclamation stating that no execution would occur less than 30 days after the issuing of the death sentence.

St. Ambrose died at Milan on April 4, 397.  He was about 60 years old.

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SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO

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Perhaps St. Augustine of Hippo was the greatest legacy of St. Ambrose of Milan.  Certainly aspects of the teacher’s philosophy echoed in that of the attentive pupil.

St. Augustine eventually made his way back to Tagaste, where he remained for a few years.  After spending a year in Rome he arrived in his hometown.  There he sold his inheritance, gave the money to the poor, and retained a house, which he converted into a monastery in 388.  St. Augustine might have spent the rest of his life thusly, but, in 391, St. Valerius, the Bishop of Hippo Regius, ordained him to the priesthood at Hippo Regius.  Four years later our saint became the bishop coadjutor, with the right of succession.  In 396 he succeeded as the Bishop of Hippo Regius, a minor port in northern Africa.

There St. Augustine remained.  More than 400 sermons and 200 letters, have survived.  By 427, according to his count, he had written 237 books and 93 other literary works, not counting sermons and letters.  Many of these volumes of St. Augustine’s oeuvre have survived, fortunately.

Theological controversies defined St. Augustine’s output.  He lived, thought, argued, and wrote during a time of theological formation.  He helped to define the tradition upon which we Christians of 2016 stand and became one of the greatest and most influential theologians of Western Christianity.  Nevertheless, even the Roman Catholic Church, which has no difficulty recognizing him as a saint, has not accepted all of his theology as worthy of inclusion in the catechism.  St. Augustine came from a particular time and a certain place, the circumstances of which defined his context.  In that context, in the judgment of Holy Mother Church, he went too far on occasion.  That did not detract from his influence, however.

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Against Heresies

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Manicheism

Opposing Manicheism, Donatism, and Pelagianism occupied much of St. Augustine’s time.  He had, of course, been a Manichean, leaving that religion twice.  The founder of the religion was Mani (215/216-276/277), of Babylonian origin.  He taught dualism.  Manicheism meshed easily with Gnosticism, with which many early Christian leaders had to content.  Manicheism spread rapidly throughout the Roman Empire from 280 to 330, attracting adherents from gnostic sects and people of haute culture and the intelligentsia.  The religion, with its dualistic and gnostic elements, rejected the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth.  It also made a strong case for human free will, offered an optimistic ethos of human freedom and agency.

Donatism

Donatism (300s-700s) defined the Church as the assembled spiritual elite–the self-identified pure of heart and orthopraxy who separated themselves from the cosmos and the corrupt, old ecclesiastical structure.  (The spirit of Donatism has never ceased to exist, unfortunately.)  During the Diocletian persecution (303-305) many Christians in northern Africa had committed apostasy.  Afterward many of them expressed remorse and requested readmission to the Church.  The Roman Catholic Church, being willing to forgive, agreed, so long as the remorse was genuine.  The election of the successor of Mensurius, the Bishop of Carthage, who died in 311, functioned as the flash point of the Donatist schism.  Mensurius had been conciliatory toward remorseful apostates.  Two men contended to succeed him.  Caecilian was conciliatory; Majorinus, who died in 315, was a Donatist.  Donatus Magnus, from whose name the word “Donatist” came, succeeded as Bishop of Carthage in 315.

Donatism divided the Church in northern Africa for centuries.  Donatism defined the Church as the society of holy people and stated the holiness of the Church depended upon the exclusion of those who had committed mortal sin.  In contrast Roman Catholicism argued that the holiness of the Church depended upon the Holy Spirit and the communication of divine grace via priests.

St. Augustine was a staunch Roman Catholic.  The four marks of the Church, he wrote, were oneness, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity.  Furthermore, our saint insisted, there is and can be only one Church.  St. Augustine, echoing St. Paul the Apostle and St. Ambrose of Milan, defined the Church as the Body of Christ.  The Church, the Bishop of Hippo Regius wrote, is the unity of faith and love, and schism and heresy are antithetical to unity, the principle of which is the Holy Spirit.  Our saint argued that the Church will contain impure elements until the end times, when God will remove them.  Meanwhile, the members of the Church were spiritual pilgrims in constant need of reform.

Furthermore, St. Augustine wrote, Christ exists in three modes–the eternal Word, the God-man, and the Church.  The emphasis on organic unity mattered to the bishop, who supported Papal primacy.  Donatists and other schismatics hampered the goal of unity.

Pelagianism

St. Augustine also objected to Pelagianism, named after Pelagius (c. 360-c. 420), a Roman British theologian.  Pelagianism, which the Roman Catholic Church declared heretical quickly, argued for the inherent moral neutrality of people at birth, thereby repudiating the doctrine of original sin.  Pelagianism therefore contended for the complete freedom of human will to choose good or evil–to save or to condemn oneself.  This heresy eliminated grace from salvation.  St. Augustine refuted Pelagianism without teaching salvation by faith alone.

Augustine’s doctrine of grace led to deep issues that are still a matter of dispute in Western Christian tradition.  He insisted with Paul that we are justified by faith, but does not each the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone.  For Augustine, our journey to God, our salvation really is like a journey along a road.  When we’ve converted to the faith, that’s like getting on the right road.  What moves us along the road is love for God.  But Christian faith is just the beginning of the journey, and is not sufficient to bring us home.

Augustine insists on the necessity of grace if we are to do any good work, but does not teach the Protestant doctrine that we are saved by grace alone, because when our wills co-operate with grace our works of love have merit.  By grace we come to love God, though we never do so perfectly in this life.  Because believers pray for grace and forgiveness, their sins are not imputed to them.  Gifts of grace, called “co-operative grace,” work together with our good will to produce meritorious works of love.  Although all our good works are outgrowths of grace, our salvation requires merit as well as grace.  This is possible because the initial gift of grace, called “operative grace,” works a change in our hearts, turning our wills toward the end.

Augustine taught that grace and free will were compatible, but not everyone agrees that his doctrine of grace really is compatible with an adequate concept of free will.  He insists that this is not coercion, for it does not mean overcoming the unwilling but inwardly causing the unwilling to become willing.  Hence on Augustine’s view, God can cause us to will freely in a different way than we had before.  This view of free will is deemed inadequate in its own control.

–Phillip Cary, The History of Christian Theology Course Guidebook (Chantilly, VA:  The Great Courses, 2008), pages 40-41

For St. Augustine grace was essential and original sin was real.  He linked original sin with sexuality, agreeing with St. Paul the Apostle (in 1 Corinthians 7) that virginity is superior to marriage and that being married is better than committing sin.  St. Augustine agreed that sexual desire resulted from the fall of the human race at Eden and that the act of procreation was therefore impure.  Thus infants entered into the world already tainted by original sin and therefore deserving of damnation, hence infant baptism for the baptism of sins.  Not surprisingly, St. Augustine favored the mandatory celibacy of the clergy.

St. Augustine, in refuting Pelagianism, argued for Double Predestination, the idea that God predestines everyone–some to Heaven and others to Hell.  The official position of the Roman Catholic Church since the Council of Orange (529), guided by St. Caesarius of Arles (468/470-543), has been Semi-Pelagianism.

Simply put, this is the semi-Pelagian position:  We are all unworthy, undeserving sinners.  We not only leave undone many things we ought to have done; even the good we do is corrupted by sinful motives, desires, and goals.  We are totally dependent on the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ for our salvation.  But although it is true that we are not free and able to save ourselves by our good works, we are free and able to do one thing.  We can acknowledge our need for God’s grace and turn to God to ask for the deep, abiding faith, hope, and love we cannot achieve for ourselves.  We can confess Christ as Lord and Savior and show our willingness to receive the salvation made available to us in him.  We can allow the transforming power of God’s Holy Spirit to come into our hearts.  We can go to church in order to express our desire for the help and salvation we know comes only from God.  We cannot save ourselves, but we can do that much if we really want to.  And if we choose God and turn to God in this way, God will choose us, love, help, and save us.  If some do not receive this saving grace, it is not because God has rejected them; it is because they have rejected God.  Salvation is by God’s grace alone, available to all who sincerely ask for it and want it.

–Shirley C. Guthrie, Jr., Christian Doctrine, Revised Edition (Louisville, KY:  Westminster John Knox Press, 1994), pages 127-128

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Other Matters Theological

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St. Augustine became an influential theologian.  God occupied the center of Augustinian thought.  The saint argued that one can discern the existence of God, the preferred name for whom is Truth, via reason.  He also wrote that the image of God is evident in the soul, which is immortal and imperishable, not an aspect of the body.  Furthermore, St. Augustine contended, the human powers of memory, understanding, and will reflect the Holy Trinity.  He also affirmed transubstantiation while making a distinction between the sign or sacrament and the thing of which the sacrament was a sign, or between what one sees and what one understands, or what between the bread and wine and the body and blood of Christ.  He argued that the bread and wine and the body and blood of Christ are identical after the prayer of consecration, for they become substantially the same.

St. Augustine argued that, although not all wars are just, some of them are.  He established four standards for a just war:

  • lawful authority,
  • a just cause,
  • a right intention, and
  • war as the last resort.

With regard to sin and evil, St. Augustine understood evil to be not only the result of free will but the lack of good and sin to be disordered love, the turning away from things eternal.

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The End of Saint Augustine and the Western Roman Empire

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St. Augustine spent his final years mourning the crumbling of the Western Roman Empire.  (The Eastern Roman Empire survived until 1453.)  Among the traditional justifications for persecuting Christians had been the idea that Gentiles needed to honor pagan deities as a patriotic duty.  If too many Gentiles neglected this duty, the reasoning went, the gods would abandon the Roman Empire.  In 410, at the end of the reign (395-423) of the Emperor Honorius, Rome fell to the Visigoth chief Alaric (c. 370-410).  The Western Roman Empire limped along (at least de jure, until September 476, when Flavius Odoacer (Odovacer), an army officer of German origin, deposed Romulus Augustus, the last emperor in the west.  Actually, though, that event was a formality.  The Western Roman Empire did not fall; it faded away.  St. Augustine wrote The City of God to, among other things, argue against the blaming of Christians for the sorry state of the Western Roman Empire.  He died at Hippo Regius on August 28, 430, during the siege of that city by the Vandals.  Our saint was 75 years old.

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CONCLUSION

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One need not agree completely with someone entirely to acknowledge his or her sanctity and greatness.  Indeed, collegiality is a virtue in relation to both the living and the dead.  If I were to make total agreement with someone a requirement for inclusion on the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, the Ecumenical Calendar would not exist.

These saints were spiritual giants upon whose figurative shoulders my fellow Christians and I stand.  Their biographies remind us that we have an obligation to influence one another positively, for the glory of God and the benefit of each other.  The issues with which we must contend might differ from theirs, but the call of Christ to follow him remains constant.  Fidelity to Christ will look different from one person to another, depending on who, where, and when one is.  May we who follow Christ honor that diversity of discipleship.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DUNCAN MONTGOMERY GRAY, SR., EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MISSISSIPPI

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN FRIEDRICH HASSE, GERMAN-BRITISH COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF OSTIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT, CARDINAL, AND LEGATE; AND DOMINIC OF THE CAUSEWAY, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

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Loving God, we praise you and give thanks to you for the examples of your servants

St. Ambrose of Milan, St. Monica of Hippo, and St. Augustine of Hippo,

who, in the late Western Roman period, contended for the faith courageously.

May we who follow you support each other in our spiritual pilgrimages,

be one with you and each other, and leave a legacy that honors you and

brings glory to you; in the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

–Kenneth Randolph Taylor, May 10, 2016 Common Era

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 2:7-11, 16-18

Psalm 87

Galatians 7:11-17

John 16:20-24

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), pages 107, 359, and 545

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Feast of John Caspar Mattes (November 8)   1 comment

Mason City Globe-Gazette, June 18, 1945, page 5

Above:  A Clipping from the Mason City Globe-Gazette, Mason City, Iowa, June 18, 1945, Page 5

Accessed via newspapers.com

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JOHN CASPAR MATTES (NOVEMBER 8, 1876-JANUARY 27, 1948)

U.S. Lutheran Minister and Liturgist

My research for adding some one to the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days often entails consulting hymnal companion volumes.  These, I find, are of mixed value, due to frequently incomplete and occasionally inaccurate information.  I am, nevertheless, not overly critical of such books, for, via the wonders of technology, I can conduct research at home easily much of the time.  Much of this research would have been difficult, if not impossible, for the editors and authors of hymnal companion volumes decades ago.  (The oldest such volume in my library dates to 1935, although I have electronic copies of older hymnal companions.)  For example, in preparation for this post, I consulted newspapers via newspapers.com and old journals which Google has digitized.  I did this at my desk at home in Athens, Georgia.  I write these statements to explain the existence of information which contradicts certain information I read in Lutheran hymnal companions dating as far back as 1942.

This post is my attempt to write an accurate and concise account of the life of John Caspar Mattes (1876-1948), a man who was to my theological right. (And yes, many people are to my theological left.)  He was a Confessional Lutheran.  I am, however, a collegial Episcopalian, so I acknowledge the difference in opinions while dismissing their importance.  He was a giant for Christ.  Our saint’s liturgical work and hymn translations have survived him.  Some of his translations of hymns have enriched my spiritual life.  Such a man deserves recognition.

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Trenton Evening Times, November 13, 1908, Page 1

Above:  A Clipping from the Trenton Evening Times, Trenton, New Jersey, November 13, 1908, Page 1

Accessed via newspapers.com

John Caspar Mattes entered the world at Easton, Pennyslvania, on November 8, 1876.  His parents were Henry Louis Mattes (1825-1908) and Adelaide Havemann Mattes, who died, aged 91 years, in March 1927.  (She had lived with her son and his family for a long time by then.)  The Mattes family was staunchly Lutheran.  Henry Louis Mattes, a church organist, had helped to found the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America (1867-1918), which broke away from the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the U.S.A. (1820-1918).  (I like to refer to Taylor’s Law of Denominational Schisms, which is that most of them occur to the theological right, usually out of a quest for doctrinal purity.  The result, more often than not, is the propagation of Donatism.  The study of religious history confirms this conclusion.)  Our saint graduated from Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania, with his B.A. degree in 1898.  His next stop was the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Mount Airy (near Philadelphia), Pennsylvania, from which he graduated in 1901.  Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pennsylvania, granted him an honorary D.D. degree in 1925.

Mattes Article 1915 01

Mattes Article 1915 02

Mattes Article 1915 03

Above:  An Article from The Scranton Republican, Scranton, New Jersey, July 26, 1915, Page 4

Accessed via newspapers.com

Stability characterized our saint’s ministerial career.  Mattes, ordained in the old Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States (1748-1918), served as the pastor of St. Michael’s Church, Allentown, Pennsylvania, briefly (1901) before accepting a call to the Church of the Savior, Trenton, New Jersey.  He remained there until 1915.  During his tenure the congregation grew substantially.  During that time Mattes made a name for himself as a translator of hymns, especially German ones.  In April 1915 our saint joined the committee for the Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church (1917), which became the official service book-hymnal of the United Lutheran Church in America, or ULCA (1918-1962).  Mattes created a new arrangement of the History of the Passion (for use during Holy Week) and contributed six hymn translations.

Scranton Republican May 28, 1927, page 28

Above:  A Clipping from The Scranton Republican, May 28, 1927, Page 28

Accessed via newspaper.com

Mattes served in Scranton, Pennsylvania, from 1915 to 1938.  At first he was the pastor of Holy Trinity Church.  1927 proved to be an eventful year for our saint.  First, in March, his mother, Adelaide, died at the age of 91.  Four months later a son, John, died by drowning in a lake.  Between those two deaths Holy Trinity Church merged with Zion Lutheran Church (also in town) to form St. John’s Lutheran Church.  Mattes became the assistant pastor of St. John’s Church.  In time the word “assistant” dropped from his title.

Pittston Gazette, October 31, 1938, page 3

Above:  A Clipping from the Pittston Gazette, Pittston, Pennsylvania, October 31, 1938, Page 3

Accessed via newspapers.com

Mattes resigned his pastorate in late 1938 to become a professor of systematic theology at Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, an institution of the more conservative American Lutheran Church (1930-1960).

Pittston Gazette, December 30, 1938, page 3

Above:  A Clipping from the Pittston Gazette, Pittston, Pennsylvania, December 30, 1938, Page 3

Accessed via newspapers.com

Mattes, a product of a leading family of the old General Council (1867-1918), complained–frequently in writing–about the United Lutheran Church in America, or ULCA (1918-1962).  He was a Confessional Lutheran, and one of the bases of the merger had been flexibility in theology.  (This helps to explain why most denominational mergers occur to the theological left.)  The ULCA permitted more theological flexibility than our saint liked.  Thus Mattes, who had served as the President of the Wilkes-Barre Conference of the ULCA and helped to create the Common Service Book, left for the American Lutheran Church (1930-1960) in 1939.

The American Lutheran Church (1930-1960) was the result of the merger of three denominations:

  1. The Joint Synod of Ohio and Other States (1818-193o), which refused to join the General Synod (1820-1918);
  2. The Synod of Iowa and Other States (1854-1930), which separated from the Missouri Synod (1847-present); and
  3. the Buffalo Synod (1845-1930), which was of Prussian immigrant origin and strict doctrinal standards, out of reaction against the forced merger of the Lutheran and Reformed churches back home.

One consequence of the mergers which produced the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America (1917-1960), which renamed itself The Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1946, and the United Lutheran Church in America (1918-1962) was to inspire the three-way union which created the American Lutheran Church (1930-1960), whose ecclesiastical relations with the Missouri Synod irritated both the right wing of the Missouri Synod and the Missouri Synod’s more conservative ecumenical partners.  (I have been spending much time studying U.S. Lutheran denominations.)

Mattes taught at Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, from 1939 to 1948.  He died in that city on January 27, 1948.  Caroline Niedt Mattes, his wife, survived him, as did six of their children:  Henry, Alfred, Dorothea, Olga, Emma, and Charles.  Other legacies survive.  I think of his contributions to the Common Service Book (1917), the imprints he left in lives during nearly four decades of parish ministry, the influences which have passed down through his family, and the effects he had on students, and therefore on those whose lives they affected.

Mattes is a fine addition to my calendar of saints.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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Holy God, whose majesty surpasses all human definitions and capacity to grasp,

thank you for those (especially John Caspar Mattes)

who have nurtured and encouraged the reverent worship of you.

May their work inspire us to worship you in knowledge, truth, and beauty.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 25:1-8

Psalm 145

Revelation 15:1-4

John 4:19-26

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN

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