Archive for the ‘Eivind Josef Jensen Berggrav’ Tag

Feast of Eivind Josef Berggrav (January 14)   1 comment

Above:  Eivind Josef Berggrav

Image in the Public Domain



Lutheran Bishop of Oslo, Hymn Translator, and Leader of the Norwegian Resistance During World War II

Born Eivind Josef Jensen

Also known as Eivind Josef Jensen Berggrav (1907-1917)


Mighty God, to thy dear Name be given

Highest praise o’er all the earth and heaven.

All saints distressed,

All men oppressed,

Their voices raising,

United in praising

Thy glory.


God is God, though all the earth lay wasted;

God is God, though all men death had tasted.

While nations stumble,

In darkness fumble,

By stars surrounded,

Countless aboundeth

God’s harvest.


Highest hills and deepest vales shall vanish,

Earth and heaven both alike be banished.

As in the dawning

Of every morning

The sun appeareth,

So glorious neareth

God’s kingdom.

–Petter Dass (1647-1707), translated by Eivind Josef Berggrav; quoted in Service Book and Hymnal (1958), #357


Bishop Eivind Josef Berggrav comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).  January 14 is his feast day, according to the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006).

Philip H. Pfatteicher and Carlos R. Messerli, Manual on the Liturgy:  Lutheran Book of Worship (1979) inform me that the correct pronunciation of our saint’s surname is BEAR-grahf.

Eivind Josef Berggrav was originally Eivind Josef Jensen.  He, born in Stavanger, Norway, then under Swedish rule, on October 25, 1884, was a son of Marena Christine Pederson (1846-1924) and Otto Jensen (1856-1918).  Otto was a minister in The Church of Norway, as well as  a teacher.  The father served as the Minister of Education and Church Affairs in 1906-1907, at the dawn of Norwegian independence.  He went on to serve as Dean of Kristiania (now Oslo) (1912-1917) the Bishop of Hamar (1917-1918).  Our saint legally changed his surname to Jensen Beggrav (in 1907) then to Berggrav (in 1917).  “Berggrav” had been his grandfather’s surname.

Our saint followed in his father’s footsteps.  He studied theology at the University of Kristiania (now Olso), starting in 1903.  Ordained in 1908, Jensen Berggrav taught until 1918.  He also worked as a newspaper correspondent during World War I.  Berggrav’s early political involvement in linguistic controversy entailed advocating for the integration of East Norwegian (Østnorsk) and the national written form of Norwegian.  In 1924 Berggrav became a prison chaplain in Oslo and a parish minister in Hurdal.  From 1928 to 1937 he served as the Bishop of Hålogaland.  Our saint became the Bishop of Oslo and the primate of The Church of Norway in 1937.

Berggrav became the Bishop of Oslo during challenging times.  Nazism, on the ascendancy to the south, ascended to the north, also; the Third Reich invaded Norway in April 1940 and occupied the country until May 1945.  For a few months in 1940, Berggrav led the national Administrative Council, which sought to save lives by discouraging interference with German rule.  Before the end of the year, though, our saint became the leader of the Norwegian resistance.

Berggrav, as the primate of The Church of Norway, was in a special position to lead the resistance.  All clergymen of The Church of Norway were civil servants, so when the state church resisted the Nazis and the Norwegian puppets, that action carried more weight than when ministers of other denominations did.  Resistance from the state church constituted rebellion within the Norwegian government.  Berggrav led the ecumenical Christian Council for Joint Deliberation, formed in 1940.  The Bishop of Oslo defied orders from the Nazi overlords that interfered with the state church.  One of these orders mandated changes to the liturgy.  On February 1, 1942, Nazis invaded Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim; an unauthorized service followed.  A crowd gathered outside the cathedral and sang “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”  Soon thereafter, all the bishops of the state church resigned in protest against the invasion of the cathedral.

Berggrav, the main author of the resistance movement’s declarations, spent much of the war as a prisoner.  Authorities arrested him on Good Friday in 1942.  He was not the only prominent church-based prisoner; other members of the Christian Council for Joint Deliberation were also inmates at a concentration camp.  Our saint, nearly executed, spent the rest of the occupation in solitary confinement north of Oslo, in a wooded setting.  His guards, however, helped him escape periodically, to meet with members of the resistance.

Katherine Seip (b. 1883), Berggrav’s wife, died in 1949.

Berggrav remained active after the liberation of Norway.  He, leader of the Norwegian Bible Society since 1938, continued in that role until 1955.  He retired as the Bishop of Oslo in 1950.  Our saint was a leader of the Lutheran World Federation and the World Council of Churches until his death in Olso on January 14, 1959.

Berggrav had to make difficult decisions and endure hardships during the occupation of Norway.  We who have never been in such circumstances have been fortunate.  May we draw positive lessons from Berggrav’s example and do our duty in circumstances better than those in which he labored faithfully.





Almighty God, you have raised up faithful bishops of your church,

including your servant Eivind Josef Berggrav.

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 34:11-16 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), 60