Archive for the ‘George Frederick Handel’ Tag

Feast of Giovanni Battista Bononcini and Antonio Maria Bononcini (July 8)   1 comment

Above:  Flag of the Duchy of Modena

Image in the Public Domain

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GIOVANNI BATTISTA BONONCINI (JULY 18, 1670-JULY 9, 1747)

Italian Composer and Musician

brother of

ANTONIO MARIA BONONCINI (JUNE 18, 1677-JULY 8, 1726)

Italian Composer and Musician

The Bononcini brothers were composers whose music–much of it sacred–has survived, fortunately.  They were sons and students of Giovanni Maria Battista, a composer and musician at Modena.  Both brothers also studied at Bologna under the renowned Giovanni Paola Colonna.  The Bononcini brothers became cellists and professional musicians.

The professional lives of the brothers overlapped.  From 1690 to 1693 Antonio was a musician in the court of the Cardinal Archbishop of Bologna.  At the same time Giovanni, the maestro di cappella of San Giovanni, Monte, had built a reputation as  a composer of operas.  Giovanni, in Rome from 1692 to 1699, moved to Vienna, where Antonio lived and worked.  Antonio was the kappelmeister in the imperial court from 1705 to 1713.  Giovanni was the court composer from 1700 to 1711.

The brothers parted ways and left Vienna.  Giovanni returned to Italy in 1711; Antonio followed suit two years later.  From 1721 to 1726 Antonio was the maestro di cappella at Modena.  He died, aged 49 years, on July 8, 1726.  Giovanni went to England in 1720; the Royal Academy of Music had invited him.  There he was an artistic rival of George Frederick Handel, whose reputation has proved more enduring.  In London Giovanni saw eight of his operas produced.  He also composed chamber music and works for the harpsichord.  Giovanni’s time in London ended in disgrace.  He left for Paris in 1733, after having submitted a madrigal by Antonio Lotti to the Academy of Ancient Music as if it were a Bononcini composition.  By the late 1740 Giovanni was in Vienna again.  There he composed a Te Deum.  Giovanni died on July 9, 1747, aged 76 years.

Of the two brothers Giovanni was (and remains) the more famous composer.  Antonio composed about 40 cantatas, plus a Stabat Mater, a Salve Regina, at least one mass, and a number of operas.  Giovanni was mainly an operatic composer, with at least 28 operas to his credit.  He also wrote choruses and oratorios, among other compositions.  One of his sacred works was La Conversione de Maddelena.

These are beautiful and inspiring works of music that ennoble those who listen to them.  These are the enduring legacies of talented composers, brothers.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 9, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS STEFAN AND KAZIMIERZ GRELEWSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS,  1941 AND 1942

THE FEAST OF DIETRICH BUXTEHUDE, LUTHERAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY DAY AND PETER LAURIN, COFOUNDERS OF THE CATHOLIC WORKER MOVEMENT

THE FEAST OF THOMAS TOKE LYNCH, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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

We bless your name for inspiring

Giovanni Battista Bononcini, Antonio Maria Bononcini,

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

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

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

1 Chronicles 29:14b-19

Psalm 90:14-17

2 Corinthians 3:1-3

John 21:15-17, 24-25

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

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Feast of Dietrich Buxtehude (May 9)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Mary’s Church, Lübeck, 1890

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-00659

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DIETRICH BUXTEHUDE (CIRCA 1637-MAY 9, 1707)

Lutheran Organist and Composer

Dietrich Buxtehude came from a musical background.  He, born in Hälsingborg, Sweden, circa 1637, was son of Johann Buxtehude, organist at that city from 1638 to 1641 then at Helsingör, Denmark, from 1642 to 1671.  Johann presumably taught his son.  Our saint worked as an organist at St. Mary’s Church, Hälsingborg, in 1657-1658, at St. Mary’s Church, Helsingör, from 1660 to 1668, and at St. Mary’s Church, Lübeck, Schleswig-Holstein (now in Germany), from 1668 until his death.

Buxtehude, upon assuming his duties at Lübeck in 1668, married Anna Tunder, daughter of Franz Tunder, the previous organist.  The couple had five daughters.  Those duties were to perform service music, to compose music for weddings and funerals of members of prominent merchant families, and to compose music for public festivals.  As our saint aged, candidates for his job visited him.  In 1703, for example, George Frederick Handel sought the position yet balked at the condition that he marry one of Buxtehude’s daughters.  Two years later Johann Sebastian Bach, who walked 50 miles to hear Buxtehude play, likewise withdrew his application for the same reason.

Buxtehude died, aged 69 or 70 years, at Lübeck on May 9, 1707.  He had written many compositions, both sacred and secular.  Many of these works remained lost until the twentieth century.  Others have remained lost, unfortunately.  Our saint’s compositions, which influenced J. S. Bach, ranged from the liturgical to the civic.  There were works for voices and for various instruments, such as the organ and the harpsichord.  More than 100 cantatas, some of them sacred, have survived.

Hopefully more compositions by Buxtehude will surface.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 12, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN DOBER, MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER; JOHANN LEONHARD DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; AND ANNA SCHINDLER DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDITH CAVELL, NURSE AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF SCOTLAND, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT NECTARIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ARCHBISHOP

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Almighty God, beautiful in majesty and majestic in holiness,

who teaches us in Holy Scriptures to sing your praises and who gave your

musician Dietrich Buxtehude grace to show forth your glory in his music:

Be with all those who write or make music for your people,

that we on earth may glimpse your beauty and know the

inexhaustible riches of your new creation in Jesus Christ our Savior;

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

2 Chronicles 7:1-6

Psalm 150

Colossians 2:2-6

Luke 2:8-14

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 491

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Feast of George Frederick Handel (April 15)   4 comments

Above:  Handel

Image in the Public Domain

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GEORGE FREDERICK HANDEL (FEBRUARY 23, 1685 OLD STYLE/MARCH 5, 1685 NEW STYLE-APRIL 14, 1759)

Composer

Also known as Georg Friedrich Handel and George Frideric Handel

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I should be sorry if I only entertained them. I wish to make them better.

–Handel

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The feast day of this saint in The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is July 28.  The Episcopal Church adds Johann Sebastian Bach and Henry Purcell to that feast.  The ELCA/ELCIC version of the feast is Heinrich Schutz, J. S. Bach, and G. F. Handel.  My strategy in this matter is to break those two feasts apart, as I have begun to do.

Handel was a child prodigy.  He was a child of the 63-year-old Georg Handel (a barber-surgeon) and Dorothea Taust, of Halle.  Our saint, born on February 23, 1685 (Julian Calendar)/March 5, 1685 (Gregorian Calendar), played the organ at the ducal court at Weissenfells at the tender age of eight years.  The following year Handel began to study composition and various instruments under Friedrich Wilhelm Zachau, an organist at Halle.  By the age of ten years Handel had at least six sonatas for oboe and continue to his credit.

Georg Handel, who died in 1697,  wanted our saint to become an attorney.  So it came to pass that young Handel studied law at the University of Halle.  Our saint completed that course of study, per the wishes of his late father, although he had begun to support himself as a church musician.  Handel, although a Lutheran, was organist at a Reformed church.

Handel became a musician and composer.  Among his friends was composer Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767), whom he met in college.  From 1703 to 1706 Handel worked in Hamburg, a center of German opera.  He played the violin and the harpsichord in the opera orchestra there.  Our saint also wrote the St. John Passion and this first two operas (Almira and Nero) at Hamburg.

Handel spent 1706-1710 in Italy.  There he visited Florence, Rome, Naples, and Venice, met major Italian composers, and composed major works, including operas.

After completing his Italian tour Handel went to work as the musical director for Georg Ludwig, the Elector of Hanover (and, starting in 1714, King George I of Great Britain).  Our saint visited London, where he debuted his opera Rinaldo, in 1711.  The following year he settled in that city.  In 1726 he became a naturalized British subject.

Handel was a great composer.  He and J. S. Bach, who was unlike him in many ways, wrote much of the best music of the Baroque Era.  The great Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), citing Messiah (1741), declared that Handel was “the master of us all.”  Handel’s vast catalog of compositions included instrumental and vocal music, from the Water Music to operas to oratorios on Biblical topics (Messiah, Judas Maccabaeus, Samson, Esther, Israel in Egyptet cetera).

Handel, a lifelong bachelor, enjoyed life and lived it well.  The man who demonstrated the ability to speak three languages in the same sentence was generous of spirit and gave liberally to charities; he had much to share with the less fortunate.  He, although a solitary figure, enjoyed parties, good food, and fine wine.  He did not hold grudges and, when he realized that he had caused offense, was quick to apologize.

Handel died in London on April 14, 1759, aged 74 years.  The site of his burial was Westminster Abbey.

I intend no disrespect to lawyers when I write that it is fortunate for the world that Handel became a composer, not an attorney.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 28, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HUGH THOMSON KERR, SR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST; AND HUGH THOMSON KERR, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLUTARCH, MARCELLA, POTANOMINAENA, AND BASTILDES OF ALEXANDRIA, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF RANDOLPH ROYALL CLAIBORNE, JR., EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF ATLANTA

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Almighty God, beautiful in majesty and majestic in holiness,

who teaches us in Holy Scriptures to sing your praises and who gave your

musician George Frederick Handel grace to show forth your glory in his music:

Be with all those who write or make music for your people,

that we on earth may glimpse your beauty and know the

inexhaustible riches of your new creation in Jesus Christ our Savior;

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

2 Chronicles 7:1-6

Psalm 150

Colossians 2:2-6

Luke 2:8-14

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 491

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Feast of Johann Sebastian Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, and Johann Christian Bach (March 21)   4 comments

st-thomas-church-leipzig

Above:  St. Thomas’s Church, Leipzig

Image in the Public Domain

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

father of

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

half-brother of

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

Composers

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

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

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JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH (1685-1750)

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johann-sebastian-bach

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

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CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH (1714-1788)

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cpe-bach

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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JOHANN CHRISTIAN BACH (1735-1782)

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johann-christian-bach

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 24, 2017 COMMON ERA

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

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

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF PODLASIE, 1874

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

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

We bless your name for inspiring

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

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

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

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

1 Chronicles 29:14b-19

Psalm 90:14-17

2 Corinthians 3:1-3

John 21:15-17, 24-25

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

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Feast of George Berkeley and Joseph Butler (June 16)   1 comment

British Flag 1707-1801

Above:  The British Flag, 1707-1801

Image in the Public Domain

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GEORGE BERKELEY (MARCH 12, 1685-JANUARY 14, 1753)

Irish Anglican Bishop and Philosopher

and

JOSEPH BUTLER (MAY 18, 1692-JUNE 16, 1752)

Anglican Bishop and Theologian

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INTRODUCTION

These two men come to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days via The Church of England and The Episcopal Church.  Common Worship:  Services and Prayers for the Church of England (2000) lists June 16 as the feast day for Joseph Butler.  Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010) sets aside June 16 to commemorate the lives of Joseph Butler and George Berkeley.  Celebrating these two saints on the same day makes sense.  Yes, they had some major differences, but they had much more in common than not.  I, after taking notes on both men, have noted the following similarities, among others:

  1. They were contemporaries;
  2. They were great intellectuals;
  3. They, like John Locke, were empiricists;
  4. They criticized aspects of Locke’s philosophy;
  5. They influenced major subsequent philosophers;
  6. They were philosophers and theologians;
  7. They defended the truth of Christianity against assumptions of Deism;
  8. They were published authors;
  9. They were Anglican bishops; and
  10. They rejected speculative philosophy and theology in favor of practical theology.

The God of Deism was a non-interventionist figure.  He was like a watchmaker, for he, to follow the analogy, created the watch, wound it up, then left it alone.  The God of Deism was not the God to whom Psalmists in distress called out for help.  Deism was a theological system grounded in reason, not in reason and revelation or in revelation.  Its existence and prominence in the 1600s and 1700s fed a long-running debate in which our saints participated.  Another debater was the composer George Frederick Handel (1685-1759), whose Messiah (1742) argued against Deism.

I respond favorably to Christian intellectuals.  Christianity has an ancient and venerable tradition of reconciling science, reason, and philosophy with theology.

  1. One might consider, for example, St. Clement of Alexandria (circa 150-circa 210/215), the “Pioneer of Christian Scholarship,” who melded pagan Platonism with Christianity.  Truth is truth, St. Clement, insisted, regardless of its origin.  His star pupil, Origenes Adamantius (185-254), Origen, for short, carried on the good work.
  2. Pope Sylvester II (lived circa 945-1003; reigned 999-1003), unlike some of his contemporaries, did not fear technology (such as the abacus and the telescope) or classics of Greco-Roman literature and philosophy.  He did not care if valid knowledge and useful technology came from Muslims or ancient pagans.  For this reason many in the anti-intellectual wing of the Roman Catholic Church accused him of being in league with Satan.
  3. St. Thomas Aquinas (circa 1225-1274), who reconciled faith with reason, and Aristotelian philosophy with Christianity.
  4. St. Albert the Great (1200-1280), a Dominican priest and Roman Catholic Bishop, was also a scientist.
  5. The birth of modern science in the 1500s overlapped with the Protestant Reformation, the proper context in which to consider the Church’s shameful treatment of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), a faithful Catholic who preferred good science to bad theology.
  6. The Society of Jesus has a mixed record regarding science, for many Jesuit priests have been scientists yet one of their greatest members, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), labored under a Vatican-imposed gag order because of his synthesis of theology, reason, philosophy, and evolutionary science.
  7. The Roman Catholic Church has, fortunately, been more accepting of science since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), than it was during the period immediately Vatican II.

Unfortunately, anti-intellectualism persists in much of Christianity.  According to an old joke, a fundamentalist says to a liberal,

I will agree to call you a Christian if you agree to call me a scholar.

That witticism is, due to its genre, necessarily an exaggeration, but it contains such truth.  Although some of the greatest Christian scholars have been Evangelicals, Calvinist (with ties to the Christian Reformed Church in North America and the Evangelical Presbyterian ChurchMark A. Noll, who has joined the faculty at the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, found ample material to research and write The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (1994).  And Dr. Francis S. Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health since 2009, is an Evangelical Protestant who has led the Human Genome Project.  He wrote The Language of God (2006), in which he criticized Intelligent Design as failing to hold its own under scientific scrutiny.  He as received much condemnation for that last point.

I recall an awkward lunch I ate at home some years ago.  My father was pastor of Warwick United Methodist Church, Warwick, Georgia, U.S.A., in the borderlands of rural Worth and Crisp Counties.  One day I accompanied him to have lunch with two of his parishioners.  One of our hosts, a man I would never mistake for an intellectual, made a much too-broad comment about educational attainment and piety.  Well-educated people, he insisted, had a different (and implicitly inferior) type of faith than did others.  Both my father and I, aside from being well-educated, were also tactful in the moment.  Nobody created an unfortunate scene.

Now, without further ado, I proceed to summarize then lives and part of the thought of two saints who belied that man’s stereotype more than my father and I did.

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Bishop George Berkeley

Above:  Bishop George Berkeley, by John Smybert

Image in the Public Domain

GEORGE BERKELEY (MARCH 12, 1685-JANUARY 14, 1753)

Berkeley, a native of County Kilkenny, Ireland, was an empiricist and a metaphysical philosopher.  Our saint, of English ancestry, studied at Kilkenny school then at Trinity College, Dublin (1700-1704), from which he graduated.  He maintained an association with his alma mater until 1724, serving as a fellow (lecturing in the subjects of Greek, Hebrew, and theology) from 1707 to 1724.  He took some leaves of absence during that time, touring in Europe in 1713-1714 and 1716-1720, as well as spending time in London, where he associated with Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Alexander Pope, and Joseph Addison.

Berkeley, a clergyman since 1709, served as the Dean of Dromore in 1721-1722.   In 1724 he resigned his fellowship at Trinity College, Dublin, to become the Dean of Derry, a post he held until 1733.  He sought unsuccessfully to found a college for colonists and Native Americans in Bermuda.  He married Anne Forster in 1728 then moved to Newport, Rhode Island.  There he encouraged higher education in North America until he left for Ireland in 1731.  He donated his library to Yale College (now University), New Haven, Connecticut, hence Berkeley College and Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University.  Another namesake is the city of Berkeley, California.

In 1734 Berkeley became the Bishop of Cloyne.  He retired in late 1752 and retired to Oxford, England.  There he died a few months later, on January 14, 1753, shortly after securing the admission of his son, George, as an undergraduate at Christ Church, Oxford.

Berkeley was a man of his time, responding to issues contemporary to him.  One issue was materialism, meaning not the accumulation of material goods but matter, that is, the stuff of which physical reality consists.  As a student at Trinity College, Dublin, Berkeley had studied the Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), by John Locke (1632-1704).  Locke argued for the following propositions:

Ideas originate in one’s brain because of the influence of the universe, a material system in which the universe’s “bodies” act mechanically, that is, by “impulse,” upon each other and upon human senses.

  1. Ideas are the only things of which people can be directly aware.
  2. Ideas of “primary qualities” represent accurately the real character of material things.
  3. Ideas of “secondary qualities” do not represent accurately the real character of material things.
  4. We humans mistakenly “attribute reality” to smell, taste, sound, and color.
  5. There are also “immaterial substances,” but Locke admitted that he did not know how to prove this point.
  6. Consciousness might be nothing more than a property of matter, one rooted in memory.

Berkeley argued against these points, preferring immaterialism.  He countered that the physical world exists only in experiences of it.  He found no good reason to accept the existence of matter, as Locke understood it.  Rather, the principle of

Esse is percipi,

or

to be is to be perceived,

held sway in Berkeley’s thought.  Ergo:

For the mind of God is present always and everywhere; all ideas are always in the mind of God, and it is by direct communion with His mind that human beings are supplied with the ideas that make up their experience.  It is literally true that “in Him we live, and move, and have our being.”  Thus, the reality of the everyday world is secured by being made directly dependent upon the mind of God, and the notion of “matter,” the very foundation of the scientific world view, is simply rejected.

Encyclopedia Americana (1962), Volume 3, Page 554

Berkeley, true to his Anglicanism, rejected abstract speculations in favor of practical theology.  He affirmed one of the core principles of the Law of Moses–complete human dependence upon God.  As for Berkeley’s rejection of the basis of modern science, that point is up for debate.  (I favor science and theology.)

Berkeley’s philosophical theory of immaterialism became influential after he died.  Thomas Reid (1710-1796) criticized it in Inquiry into the Human Mind (1764).  The theory influenced subsequent philosophers such as David Hume (1711-1776), Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), and Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860).  Another critic was John Stuart Mill (1806-1873).

Berkeley was a varied thinker and an excellent literary stylist.  Major works included the following:

  1. Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710) and its counterpart for the mass audience, Three Dialogues Between Hyles and Philonus (1713);
  2. An Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision (1709), a work of psychology;
  3. De Motu (1721), a work in Latin on the philosophy of science;
  4. Aleiphron, or the Minute Philosopher (1732), a defense of morality and religion against Deism;
  5. The Analyst (1734), a critique of Isaac Newton’s differential calculus;
  6. The Querist (1735-1737), regarding economic problems in Ireland; and
  7. Sirus (1744), regarding science and philosophy.

The author of the article about Berkeley in the Encyclopedia Britannica (1968), Volume 3, on page 508:

The most patent features of his style are precision, economy and a seemingly inevitable grace; with here and there salty satire and teasing wit; the roots of it are a natural logicality, a rare purity of sentiment and a deep philanthropy.

Archive.org provides copies of Berkeley’s works.  Examples include the following:

  1. The Works of George Berkeley, D.D., Late Bishop of Cloyne in Ireland; To Which is Added, an Account of His Life; and Several of His Letters to Thomas Prior, Esq., Dean Gervais, Mr. Pope, Etc. (1820)–Volumes I and II;
  2. The Works of George Berkeley, D.D., Formerly Bishop of Cloyne; Including Many of His Writings Hitherto Unpublished; With Prefaces, Annotations, His Life and Letters, and an account of His Philosophy (1871), by Alexander Campbell Fraser–Volumes I, II, III, and IV; and
  3. The Works of George Berkeley, D.D., Bishop of Cloyne (1897), edited by George Sampson–Volumes I, II, and III.

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Joseph Butler

Above:  Bishop Butler

Image in the Public Domain

JOSEPH BUTLER (MAY 18, 1692-JUNE 16, 1752)

Butler, a native of Wantage, Berkshire, England, was an empiricist thinker.  He differed from Berkeley by accepting science.  Butler’s rational orthodoxy stood in contrast to the Methodist enthusiasm of John Wesley (1703-1791), his fellow Anglican.  Our saint understood correctly that we humans act based on probabilities.  He also grasped that actions, not certainties, are the bases of religion.  Thus he rejected the quest for certainty, that idol of fundamentalism, and defended Christianity as a “rational probability.”

Butler, who came from a Presbyterian family, became a great Anglican theologian.  He was the youngest of eight children of a wealthy linen and woolen draper.  Our saint, educated at Gloucester then Tewkesbury, had once intended to become a Presbyterian minister, but he came to prefer Anglicanism instead.  He converted in 1714 and matriculated at Oriel College, Oxford, the following year.  He studied philosophy, one of his favorite subjects, if not his favorite subject.  Our saint found himself disenchanted with the conservatism of the course of study, for he noticed defenses of Aristotelian thought against Newtonian physics and the thought of Francis Bacon (1561-1626) and John Locke.  Butler complained:

Our people have never had any doubt in their lives concerning a received opinion.

–Quoted in Gibbs, The Middle Way (1991), page 48

Butler graduated with his B.A. degree in 1718.  Subsequent degrees from the same institution were Bachelor of Law (1721) and Doctor of Law (1733).

Our saint, ordained in 1719, found his niche in The Church of England.  From 1719 to 1725 he preached at Rolls Chapel, London.  He became the Rector of Stanhoppe in 1725 and maintained that title and received its income for 15 years.  From 1733 to 1736 Butler doubled as the Chaplain to Lord Chancellor Charles Talbot.  In 1736 he became the Clerk of the Closet to Queen Caroline of Ansbach (1683-1737), consort of King George II (reigned 1727-1760).  Butler and Queen Caroline became friends and engaged in theological discussions.  She spoke highly of him to King George II and recommended Butler for promotion.  (The monarch was the titular head of The Church of England.)  In 1738 Butler became the Bishop of Bristol, in charge of a poor see.  He remained as Rector of Stanhoppe until 1740, when be began to double as the Dean of St. Paul’s, London.  From 1746 to 1750 he did triple duty as the Clerk of the Closet to King George II.

As the Bishop of Bristol (1738-1750) Butler locked horns with John Wesley.  The founder of Methodism was preaching without authorization to miners in the Diocese of Bristol.  Wesley was not canonically resident in the Diocese of Bristol.  Butler ordered Wesley to go home and stated that he (Wesley) should cease to pretend to have received special revelations from the Holy Spirit.

Butler refused an offer to become the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1747.  According to an apocryphal story, he said,

It is too late for me to try to support a falling Church.

–Quoted in Gibbs, The Middle Way (1991), page 50

Our saint had complained about the “decay of religion” in England.  Certainly part of that decay was the influence of Deism.  His preferred method of supporting the “falling Church” in his final years was ritualism.  Thus Butler foreshadowed the Oxford Movement of the 1800s.  Critics accused him of having succumbed to Papism, an allegation tantamount to accusing one of being bound for Hell.

Butler, translated to the wealthy Diocese of Durham in 1750, died of stomach and intestinal disorders at Bath, Somerset, England, on June 16, 1752.  He never married, thus he lived in a manner consistent with his opposition to the marriage of the clergy.  He also lived simply and gave away the vast majority of his money.

Ernest Campbell Mossner, author of Bishop Butler and the Age of Reason:  A Study in the History of Thought (1936), wrote:

In the history of eighteenth century English culture, what Locke is to philosophy, what Newton is to physics, what Burke is to politics, Butler is to theology…And the spokesman is by no means unworthy of his distinguished associates.

–Quoted in Gibbs, The Middle Way (1991), pages 47-48

Butler affirmed science, reason, and orthodox Christianity.  He shared many yet by no means all of the points of Deism, for he argued against that system.  Our saint affirmed among other things, miracles, human sinfulness, the Incarnation of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, and the Atonement.  He also accepted scientific developments and knowledge, and had a high opinion of human reason.  Scripture, tradition, and reason–Richard Hooker’s Three-Legged Stool–defined Butler’s theology.

Butler rejected speculative thought in favor of practical theology.  He insisted that religion is a matter of practice, not certainty.  In his theology probability, not certainty, is the grounding of human knowledge and actions.  Furthermore, Butler wrote, nature contains much mystery, perplexity, and obscurity; reason and order do not rule supreme there.  Via experience one can discern facts upon which to infer probable truth.  Ergo, theological and natural forms of knowledge are equally indispensable and probable.  Simply put, the grounding of Christianity is divine revelation, not nature.  One can access much of truth via science and reason, but one cannot perceive other aspects of truth by those methods.  There is more than one way to perceive truth correctly.

Butler also thought deeply about psychology.  He criticized John Locke’s theory of psychological continuity, based in memories.  Our saint opposed blind obedience to “received wisdom,” but he also evaluated alternatives critically, as he should have done.

Butler also critiqued the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), who argued that self-love directs all human actions.  That is simplistic, our saint thought.  He countered that benevolence is a second influence, benevolence, is also at work in human nature and in harmony with self-love.  Related to benevolence, Butler wrote, is conscience, which he understood to mean the voice of God inside one’s head.  According to Butler, therefore, the conscience is sovereign, to follow one’s conscience is to behave virtuously, and to obey the will of God, and conscience is consistent with reason.

Lee W. Gibbs wrote of Butler, who, like Berkeley, influenced David Hume and Immanuel Kant, that;

In short, the life and work of Bishop Joseph Butler was thoroughly representative of the middle way.  He exemplified that perennial Anglican openness to the changing historical circumstances of his day, while maintaining at the same time that continuous body of traditional beliefs held to be essential to the Christian faith.

The Middle Way (1991), pages 58-59

Archive.org makes available works by and about Butler.  They include the following:

  1. The Works of the Right Reverend Father in God Joseph Butler, D.C.L., Late Bishop of Durham; To Which is Prefixed, an Account of the Character and Writings of the Author, by Samuel Halifax, D.D. Late Lord Bishop of Gloucester (1828)–Volumes I and II;
  2. The Whole Works of Joseph Butler, LL.D., Late Lord Bishop of Durham (1852);
  3. The Works of Joseph Butler (1897), edited by William Ewart Gladstone (Prime Minister, 1868-1874, 1880-1885, 1886, and 1892-1894)–Volumes I, II, and III;
  4. Bishop Butler (1901), by William Archibald Spooner; and
  5. Bishop Joseph Butler (1923), by Albert Edward Baker.

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CONCLUSION

My Ecumenical Calendar of Saint’s Days and Holy Days recognizes a wide range of saints.  I imagine that, if by means of a time machine, I could gather all of them in one place and, via a universal translator, they could all understand each other, some fascinating discussions–even arguments–would occur.  I would, in such a fanciful and hypothetical situation, engage in some arguments.  If agreeing with me across the board were a criterion for inclusion on my Ecumenical Calendar, it would not exist.

I admit that I disagree with Berkeley and Butler on certain points.  That is fine, for they disagreed with each other.  They also share the same commemoration on the calendar of saints of The Episcopal Church.  Anglican collegiality permits such unity in the midst of differences.

I also admit that despite my attempts to understand that, despite my attempts to understand some of the philosophical arguments of Butler, I remain uncertain regarding the objective definition of what he wrote sometimes.  For example, the contents of his critique of Locke’s theory of personality and consciousness remain a mystery to me.  That is fine, for that fact has no bearing on my opinion of Butler as a saint and a seeker of God.  I still recognize him as one who engaged his intellect vigorously, thought deeply, and did so for the glory of God.  Butler, true to his convictions, avoided the opposite errors of idolizing “received wisdom” on one hand and more recent developments in science and technology on the other hand.  I respect that.

The process of taking notes, processing them, and drafting this post has taken parts of several days and constituted a workout for my intellect and my right hand, for the draft is lengthy.  Typing this post has given my fingers a workout also.  I am better informed for the process of creating this post.  May you, O reader, be better informed after reading it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ONESIMUS, BISHOP OF BYZANTIUM

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Holy God, source of all wisdom:

We give thanks for your servants George Berkeley and Joseph Butler,

who by their life and work strengthened your Church and illumined your world.

Help us, following their examples, to place our hearts and minds in your service,

for the sake of Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit

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

Isaiah 6:6-10

Psalm 119:89-96

Acts 13:38-44

John 3:11-16

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 431

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Feast of John Byrom (September 26)   1 comment

Manchester Cathedral 1903

Above:  Manchester Cathedral, 1903

Image in the Public Domain

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JOHN BYROM (FEBRUARY 29, 1692-SEPTEMBER 26, 1763)

Anglican then Quaker Poet and Hymn Writer

John Byrom was an intriguing man.  He might have been a Jacobite or a double agent for the British government.  The skilled poet with a sharp pen coined the phrase “Tweedledum and Tweedledee” as a satire on the disagreement between composers George Frederick Handel and Giovanni Battista Bononcini.  His literary legacy has survived in everyday speech even as his political tendencies have remained mysterious.

Our saint’s father was Edward Byrom, a linen-draper of Manchester, England.  The future poet studied at Trinity College, Cambridge (B.A., 1711; M.A., 1715) and became a fellow of the college in 1714.  Two years later, however, he resigned because he could not take Holy Orders in good conscience.  From 1716 to 1718 our saint studied medicine in Montpelier, France.  He immersed himself in mystical texts on the side.  He returned to England in 1718 and chose not to practice medicine.  No, he invented and taught a system of shorthand instead.  Byrom taught that system of shorthand to many people and, in 1742, received from Parliament the exclusive right to teach it for twenty-one years.  Among his pupils were John and Charles Wesley, whom he met in 1738 and through whom he converted to Christianity.

Our saint, who inherited the family estates in 1740, when his brother, Edward, died, wrote and published many poems, some of which became hymns.  His nom de plume in The Spectator was “John Shadow.”  The posthumous two-volume collection, Miscellaneous Poems, rolled off the presses in 1773.  His friend, John Wesley, commented on Byrom’s verse, writing that it consisted of

…some of the finest sentiments that ever appeared in the English tongue–some of the noblest truths, expressed with the utmost energy of language and the strongest colors of poetry.

Byrom’s religious life changed over time.  He remained a mystic, but he switched from being a non-juring Anglican (hence the suspicion of being a Jacobite) to being a Quaker later in life.

Byrom’s hymns included “My Spirit Longs for Thee” and a famous Christmas text, “Christians, Awake! Salute the Happy Morn” (1749), which he wrote as a present for his daughter, Dolly.  The full version had fifty-two lines, but The Church Hymnary–Revised Edition (1927) printed only six of them.

Our saint died at Manchester on September 26, 1763.  His grave is in the Byrom Chapel of Manchester Cathedral.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DONALD S. ARMENTROUT, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF CALVIN WEISS LAUFER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMNODIST

THE FEAST OF ROGER WILLIAMS, FOUNDER OF RHODE ISLAND

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PENNEFATHER, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS WIFE, CATHERINE KING PENNEFATHER, HUMANITARIAN AND HYMN WRITER

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Dear God of beauty,

you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to

John Byrom 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 William Croft (August 14)   Leave a comment

4a24718v

Above:  Westminster Abbey, Between 1910 and 1920

Copyright Claimant = Detroit Publishing Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number =  LC-D4-73196

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WILLIAM CROFT (BAPTIZED DECEMBER 30, 1678-DIED AUGUST 14, 1727)

Anglican Organist and Composer

William Croft was one of the greatest composers of English church music.  He wrote hymn tunes (including “St. Anne,” the tune for “O God, Our Help in Ages Past;” and Hanover, the tune for “Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim”), services, odes, anthems, and sonatas–even some incidental music–and influenced the cantatas of George Frederick Handel.  Croft’s Musica Sacra (1724) contained thirty of his anthems and his setting of the burial service from The Book of Common Prayer (1662).

Croft’s musical career began in the Chapel Royal, where, when he was quite young, he sang in the choir.  Later he became a church organist–first at St. Anne’s Church, Soho; then at the Chapel Royal (1704-1708, jointly with Jeremiah Clark through 1707); then at Westminster Abbey, beginning in 1708.  Croft divided his time between Westminster Abbey and the Chapel Royal, where he was a composer.  And Oxford University bestowed the Mus.Doc. degree upon him in 1713.

Croft died of an illness

occasioned by his attendance on his duty

at the coronation of King George II (reigned 1727-1760).  Our saint’s epitaph reads in part:

In his celebrated works, which for the most part he dedicated to God, he made a diligent progress; nor was it by the solemnity of the numbers alone, but by the force of his ingenuity; and the sweetness of his manner, and even his countenance, he excellently recommended them.  Having resided among mortals for fifty years, behaving with the utmost candor (not more conspicuous of any other office of humanity than a friendship and a love truly fraternal towards all whom he instructed), he departed to the heavenly choir,…that, being near, he might add his own Hallelujah to the concert of angels.

–Quoted in Robert Guy McCutchan, Our Hymnody:  A Manual of The Methodist Hymnal, 2d. ed. (Nashville, TN:  Abingdon Press, 1937, page 217)

I, as a lover of refined church music, appreciate William Croft’s contributions to the field.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS SELNECKER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALDHELM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT MADELEINE SOPHIE BARAT, MOTHER SUPERIOR OF THE SOCIETY OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF VENERABLE BEDE OF JARROW, HISTORIAN AND ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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

We bless your name for inspiring William Croft and all those

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

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

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

1 Chronicles 29:14b-19

Psalm 90:14-17

2 Corinthians 3:1-3

John 21:15-17, 24-25

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