Archive for the ‘Hans Adolf Brorson’ Tag

Feast of Nikolai Grundtvig (September 8)   3 comments

Above:  Portrait of Nikolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig (1862), by Constantin Hansen

Image in the Public Domain

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NIKOLAI FREDERIK SEVERIN GRUNDTVIG (SEPTEMBER 8, 1783-SEPTEMBER 2, 1872)

Danish Lutheran Minister, Bishop, Historian, Philosopher, Poet, Educator, and Hymn Writer

“The Father of the Public School in Scandinavia”

Nikolai Grundtvig comes to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), and The Episcopal Church.  His Lutheran feast day (since 1978) is September 2.  His Episcopal feast day (since 2009) is September 8, shared, appropriately, with Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), his contemporary.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark, or the Danish State Church

The Enlightenment had much to recommend it–freedom of the press, liberty of conscience, constitutional government, et cetera.  The founding of my country, the United States of America, owed much to the Enlightenment.  However, the Enlightenment had limits to its virtues.  It overestimated the powers of human reason, for example.  The intellectual movement also rejected the “supernatural,” a category I consider spurious (although I accept that many of the contents of that category are real, just as natural as birds and sunsets).  Rationalism dominated Danish Lutheranism during much of Grundtvig’s lifetime.  The influence of Rationalism reduced pastors to moral instructors, truncated and rewrote the liturgy, and rejected human sinfulness.  Rationalism was what Archdeacon Claus Harms (1778-1855) of Kiel condemned in 1877 as the

papacy of reason

–strong language, coming from a Lutheran.

A competing strand of Lutheranism was Pietism, usually dated to 1675 and either credited to or blamed on, depending on one’s opinion of it, Philip Jacob Spener (1635-1705), author of Pia Desideria (Heartfelt Desire).  Pietism began as a reaction against dry, abstract orthodoxy divorced from daily life.  On the positive side, Pietism encouraged personal prayers and devotions, the study of the Bible, and much charitable work.  On the other hand, Pietism devalued grace (via a fixation on works) and the sacraments, was subjective to the point of undermining orthodoxy, frowned upon “worldly amusements” to the point of sourness, and redefined the Church as the assembly of the regenerated and reborn, not as the community of those bound together by word and sacraments.

There were also orthodox Lutherans, of course.

Young Nikolai Grundtvig

Nikolai Grundtvig, born in Udby, near Vordinborg, Denmark, on September 8, 1783, eventually offended all the above parties.  He, the youngest of five children, came from a long line of ministers.  His father sent the nine-year-old Nikolai to Jylland, to study under the Reverend L. Feld.  Two years later our saint passed his examen actium.  By the time Grundtvig graduated from the University of Copenhagen with a degree in theology in 1803, he had no faith left.

For a few years Grundtvig wandered in the spiritual wilderness.  For three years he worked as a tutor to a wealthy family in Langeland.  He, a fine poet, studied Icelandic epics and the Eddas.  In 1807 our saint wrote his first theological treatise, about religion and liturgy.  From 1808 to 1811 our saint taught history in Copenhagen.  During this time he returned to a state of faith.

Grundtvig was orthodox.  In his trial sermon, delivered in 1810, our saint asked,

Why has the Word of God disappeared from His house?

This condemnation of the dominant Rationalism delayed Grundtvig’s ordination for a year.  From 1811 to 1813 our saint served as assistant minister at Udby, under his ailing father, who died in 1813.  At Udby Grundtvig wrote Kort Begred af Verdens Kronike i Sammerhaeng (Short Concept of the World Chronicle, 1812), his first work of history from a Christian perspective.

The Wilderness Years

For much of 1813-1839 Grundtvig was unemployable as a minister.  He did not work as a pastor from 1813 to 1821 and from 1826 to 1839.  Literary work occupied much of our saint’s time.  He published a collection of poems in 1814, a volume of sermons in 1816, and an edition of Beowulf in 1820.  Grundtvig’s rejection of Romanticism foreshadowed that of Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855).

Grundtvig worked again as a pastor in 1821-1826.  King Frederick VI appointed our saint the pastor at Presto in 1821.  The following year Grundtvig became the assistant pastor of Our Savior’s Church, Kristianshavn.  He resigned that post amid a libel lawsuit five years later.  In 1825, in Kirkens Gienmaele (The Church’s Reply), Grundtvig had accused the theologian H. N. Clausen of treating Christianity as a merely philosophical idea.  Our saint argued that Christianity is actually a historical revelation handed down from generation to generation via Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.  Authorities censored Grundtvig’s writings.

Grundtvig was out of the pulpit again.  He traveled to England several times in 1829-1831 to study old Anglo-Saxon documents.  In so doing he pioneered a field of research.  Sang-Värk til den Danske Kirke (Songs for the Danish Church), his hymnal published in 1837, was popular.  Grundtvig, a lecturer at Borsch’s College in 1838, returned to parish work, at Vartov, Copenhagen, in 1839.  There he remained for the rest of his life.

Grundtvigianism

During the 1820s Grundtvig developed Grundtvigianism, the movement that reshaped Danish Lutheranism and, to a lesser degree, influenced Norwegian Lutheranism.  Grundtvig rooted his orthodoxy in the liturgy and the sacraments.  He emphasized

the living word,

the locus of which he identified as the Apostles’ Creed, used in baptisms.  Only “the living word,” Grundtvig argued, could fulfill the need for

the great natural law of the spiritual life,

that is,

the necessity of the spoken word for the awakening of life and the transmission of the spirit.

Grundtvig rejected the position of orthodox Danish Lutherans at the time that the Bible was the sole source and standard of faith.  According to our saint, the Bible was

the dead word.

It was vital, but the word of God, broadly speaking, was the message of God, not the contents of a book.   As Luther wrote,

Printed words are dead, spoken words are living.  On the printed page they are not so forcible as when uttered by the sound of man through his mouth.

In context Grundtvig was not far afield from Martin Luther and John Calvin.  Luther, who understood Sola Scriptura narrowly, to mean that nothing outside the Bible is necessary for salvation, emphasized the power of the spoken word in the liturgy.  Grundtvig, therefore, stood in line with Luther.  Furthermore, Reformed theology has long recognized the created order as a second “book,” alongside the Bible, in which to encounter God.  Another portion of Reformation theology has been the distinction between the “word of God” (the Bible) and the “Word of God” (Jesus), a reference that reaches back to the Gospel of John.  As far as I have been able to discern, Grundtvig’s primary innovation was identifying the locus of the spoken word of God in the Apostles’ Creed.

Grundtvigianism was, according to its orthodox and Pietistic critics, heretical and lax.  The Grundtvigian openness to the possibility of postmortem conversion did more than arch eyebrows.  It allegedly encouraged, for lack of a more precise term, “loose living.”  Furthermore, Grundtvig’s Christian humanism and love of Danish culture led him to value many “worldly amusements,” thereby alarming and offending Pietists.  He, for example, enjoyed the theater and encouraged folk dancing.  Danish Pietists, or “Sad Danes,” avoided such alleged sins, which Grundtvigians, or “Happy Danes” accepted.

Many of Grundtvig’s critics within Lutheranism would have accused Luther of heresy, for Grundtvig channeled Luther well.

The Public Citizen

Grundtvig became “the Father of the Public School in Scandinavia” via his folk school movement.  He opened the first folk school in Rödding, Denmark, in 1844.  The movement spread across Denmark and to Norway, Sweden, and Finland.  In residential high schools young people came together across social class lines and educated each other.

Grundtvig, from 1839 to 1872, was pastor in Vartov, Copenhagen, and, courtesy of King Frederick VII, a bishop from 1861 to 1872, was a major figure in Denmark.  In 1848, for example, Denmark was turning into a constitutional monarchy.  Our saint was a member of the constitutional assembly.

The Great Hymn Writer

Grundtvig was the greatest Scandinavian hymn writer of the nineteenth century.  He wrote more than 1000 hymns, mostly from 1837 to 1860.  (I have added a few of these texts, in English, of course, to my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.)  Grundtvig’s peers in the elite club of greatest Scandinavian hymn writers included Hans Adolf Brorson (1694-1764) and Thomas Hansen Kingo (1634-1703).  Grundtvig composed hymns for the entire church year, but his favorite theme was the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Death and Legacy

Grundtvig died in Copenhagen on September 2, 1872, six days prior to what would have been his eighty-ninth birthday.  He had preached his last sermon on September 1.

Grundtvig’s influence extended beyond Scandinavia.  When Danish immigration to Canada and the United States of America began in earnest in the late 1800s, the immigrants were not of one mind regarding religion.  Many of them, indifferent to religion in Denmark, remained indifferent to it in the New World.  Grundtvigians and Pietists also immigrated.  The Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (DELCA), initially a “big tent,” became a smaller tent via the Pietistic schism of 1894.  No such schism disrupted the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark, however.

Evaluating Grundtvigianism

I find much to admire and little to question in Grundtvigianism.

Grundtvig’s encouragement of a positive form of Christianity that embraces the positive elements of society and culture, thereby eschewing serial contrariness and rejecting sourness in religion, in the name of God, was wonderful.  Pietistic and Puritanical hostility to “worldly amusements” has never been a spiritually or physically healthy attitude.  Much of what these Christians weaned on dill pickles have condemned–from tea, with its antioxidants, to chess, with its therapeutic uses, especially for patients suffering from cognitive decline–science has proven to be beneficial.  Art, especially those forms of it involving acting, has enriched the lives of many people.  And has there every been anything wrong with folk dancing?

Grundtvig’s liturgical and sacramental focus, in the context of Christian community, was laudable.  He stood well within Christian tradition in that and other matters.  His liturgical and sacramental focus has long had the ring of truth with me, even before I knew he had lived.  I grew up a United Methodist in rural southern Georgia, U.S.A.  We usually took Holy Communion every three months.  I wanted it more often, however, for I felt closest God in that sacrament.  That reality contributed greatly to my decision to convert to The Episcopal Church, which I did at St. Anne’s Church, Tifton, Georgia, on December 22, 1991.

My only reservation regarding Grundtvigianism relates to the unusually high status of the Apostles’ Creed.  That is a fine creed, but the identification of it as the locus of “the living word” is too narrow and specific.  The “word of God,” in my thought, is the message of God.  I can encounter in the Bible, in nature, in fine literature, in fine music, in the spoken words of another person, in the silence, in prayer, in contemplation, in the sacraments, in the liturgy, et cetera.  The canon is fixed at 73 books, per the Council of Trent, but the word of God is available from many sources.

My disagreement with Grundtvig is quite minor.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 7, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF COLBERT S. CARTWRIGHT, U.S. DISCIPLES OF CHRIST MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT GUGLIELMO MASSAIA, ITALIAN CARDINAL, MISSIONARY, AND CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN SCRIMGER, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, ECUMENIST, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTRICIUS OF ROUEN, ROMAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR AND ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Almighty God, you built your Church upon a rock:

Help us remember with your hymn writer Nikolai Grundtvig,

that though steeples may fall and buildings made by hands may crumble,

Jesus made our bodies his temple through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Help us to recognize Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life,

that we may join our voices to the eternal alleluia;

through the same Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Proverbs 3:1-2, 5-8

Psalm 86:1-12

Romans 5:1-5

Matthew 8:5-10

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 567

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Feast of Ditlef Georgson Ristad (November 22)   2 comments

Flag of MinnesotaFlag of Wisconsin

Above:  The Flags of Minnesota and Wisconsin

Images in the Public Domain

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DITLEF GEORGSON RISTAD (NOVEMBER 22, 1863-SEPTEMBER 20, 1938)

Norwegian-American Lutheran Minister, Hymn Translator, Liturgist, and Educator

Ditlef Georgson Ristad entered the world at Overhallen, Norway, on November 22, 1863.  His parents, George Ristad and Johanna Bergitte Ristad, were farmers.  Our saint graduated from the Klabu Normal School, taught in a school, tutored privately for three years, and served in the army.  Then, in 1887, he emigrated to the United States of Army.

Ristad’s destiny was the ordained ministry, but that was not obvious in 1887 and 1888.  He worked in various industries for two years before matriculating at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, an institution of the Synod of the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (SNELCA) (1853-1917), in 1889.  He graduated three years later, became an ordained Lutheran minister, and served as the pastor of the church at East Koskonong, Wisconsin, from 1892 to 1900.  During this time our saint traveled to Europe (in 1894), took courses at the University of Chicago (in 1896 and 1897), and edited the Lutheran Sunday-School Hymnal (1897).

Then academia beckoned.  Ristad served as the President of Albion Academy, Albion, Wisconsin, from 1900 to 1905, traveling in Europe again in 1904.  Our saint’s next position was President of Park Region Luther College, Fergus Falls, Minnesota, from 1905 to 1916.  During this time he served on the commitees for The Lutheran Hymnary (1913) and the Lutheran Hymnary Junior (1916).  A few years (1916-1919) as the President of the Lutheran Ladies’ Seminary at Red Wing, Minnesota, followed.

Ristad pursued other ventures from 1919 to 1922.  He established a trade journal, the Wisconsin Tobacco Reporter, at Edgerton, Wisconsin, in 1919, and worked as a correspondent for other trade journals.  Our saint also published a volume of Norwegian poetry in 1922.

From 1923 to the end of his life (in 1938) Ristad was active in parish ministry again.  He served as the pastor of the First Lutheran Church, Manitowoc, Wisconsin, during that time.  In 1930 the Norwegian government made him a Knight of St. Olaf in honor of his active role in Norwegian-American cultural organizations.  Ristad received the LD.D. degree from St. Olaf’s College, Northfield, Minnesota, in 1935, capping off a productive life.

Ristad, the family man, was the husband of Sara Moltzau (1869-1957) of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the father of George Rolf Ristad (1905-1954) and Robert Nicholas Ristad.

Among our saint’s hymn translations was a rendering (from 1908) of a text by Hans Adolf Brorson (1694-1764) from 1734.  “I walk in danger all the way,” it began.  Stanzas #2, 3, and 6 follow:

I pass through trials all the way,

With sin and ills contending;

In patience I must bear each day

The cross of God’s own sending;

Oft in adversity

I know not where to flee;

When storms of woe my soul dismay,

I pass through trials all the way.

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Death doth pursue me all the way,

Nowhere I rest securely,

He comes by night, he comes by day,

And takes his prey most surely;

A failing breath–and I

In death’s strong grasp may lie

To face eternity for aye:

Death doth pursue me all the way.

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My walk is heavenward all the way,

Await, my soul, the morrow,

When thou shalt find release for aye

From all thy sin and sorrow;

All worldly pomp, begone,

To heaven I now press on;

For all the world I would not stay,

My walk is heavenward all the way.

Ristad died on September 20, 1938.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 23, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DESIDERIUS/DIDIER OF VIENNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT GUIBERT OF GORZE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN BAPTIST ROSSI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS COPERNICUS, SCIENTIST

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

thank you for those (especially Ditlef Georgson Ristad)

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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Feast of Hans Adolf Brorson (June 20)   3 comments

Ribe Cathedral

Above:  Ribe Cathedral, Ribe, Denmark

Image in the Public Domain

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HANS ADOLF BRORSON (JUNE 20, 1694-JUNE 3, 1764)

Danish Lutheran Bishop, Hymn Writer, and Hymn Translator

Bishop Hans Adolf Brorson was among the greatest Danish Lutheran hymn writers and translators.  Not only did were his texts of great quality, but they were also of impressive quantity–in the hundreds.

Brorson’s family had been prosperous prior to his birth, but he entered the world at a time when they struggled with debts.  His father, Broder Broderson, a Lutheran pastor, died when our saint was ten years old.  Brorson’s mother, Catherine Clausen, eventually stabilized the family by remarrying.  Her second husband and our saint’s stepfather was another Lutheran minister, Ole Holbech, who died in 1721.

Brorson was studious and intelligent.  He graduated from the Latin school at Ribe before, from 1712 to 1717, studying theology, philology, history, and philosophy at the University of Copenhagen.  Bad health forced him to leave the University, so he became a tutor in the home of his maternal uncle, a superintendent in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark.  After four years of that our saint completed his final exams at the University in 1722.  That year he also became a minister in the state church and married his first wife, Catherine Steenbeck Clausen (d. 1741), who gave birth to thirteen children.

Brorson rose from the office of parish minister to bishop in nineteen years.  From 1722 to 1729 he served at Ronderup.  Then he joined the pastoral staff of the German-Danish parish at Tonder.  He worked closely with Pastor and hymn writer Johan Herman Schrader and wrote Danish-language hymns to supplement the German-language ones the congregation sang.  In 1737 Brorson became a superintendent.  Four years later he became the Bishop of Ribe, a position he held for the rest of his life.

Brorson published hymns in a volume, The Rare Jewel of the Faith (1739).  In his later years, beset by various afflictions, he composed more than seventy hymns, which a son published in 1765, the year after our saint died.

Brorson was a faithful Christian, but he was also a Pietist, unfortunately.  Pietism has several faults, including downplaying the efficacy of the sacraments, as in the first stanza of a Brorson hymn which George Alfred Taylor Rygh (1860-1942) translated in 1908:

O Father, may Thy word prevail

Against the gates of hell!

Behold the vineyard Thou hast tilled

With thorns and thistles filled.

‘Tis true, Thy plants are there;

But, ah, how weak and rare!

How slight the power and evidence

Of word and sacraments!

The Lutheran Hymnary (1935), hymn #245

For obvious theological reasons Confessional Lutheran hymnals exclude that Brorson text.  I, a ritualistic Episcopalian, make common cause with my Confessional Lutheran brethren in opposing the heresy of Pietism.

On a happier note, Brorson wrote well-crafted, theologically dense hymns, many of which exist in English translations.  I have added some of them to my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.

Brorson’s earthly pilgrimage ended at Ribe on June 3, 1764.  He would have celebrated his seventieth birthday seventeen days later.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 13, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILARY OF POITIERS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HUBERT HUMPHREY, UNITED STATES SENATOR AND VICE PRESIDENT

THE FEAST OF KENTIGERN (MUNGO), ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF GLASGOW

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Dear God of beauty,

you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to

Hans Adolf Brorson and others, who have composed and translated 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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