Archive for the ‘John Augusta’ Tag

Feast of Michael Weisse and Jan Roh (February 12)   2 comments

Moravian Logo

Above:  Logo of the Moravian Church

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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MICHAEL WEISSE (CIRCA 1480-MARCH 19, 1534)

German Moravian Minister and Hymn Writer

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JAN ROH (1485/1490-FEBRUARY 11, 1547)

Also known as John Horn, Johann Horn, and Johann Cornu

Bohemian Moravian Bishop and Hymn Writer

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The names of Michael Weisse and Jan Roh came to my attention because of my interest in the history of the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum).  As I took notes on Roh’s life the name of Weisse kept recurring.  The best way to tell their stories, I concluded, was together.

Michael Weisse was a native of Neisse, Silesia (now Nysa, Poland).  He, born circa 1480, grew up in the Roman Catholic Church.  Weisse probably matriculated at the University of Krakow in 1504.  After he completed his studies our saint entered the Franciscan monastery at Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland) and became a priest.  In 1518, howevr, Weisse left monastic life and Roman Catholicism behind and entered the Unitas Fratrum, the Bohemian Brethren.

Jan Roh, Weisse’s contemporary, was of Bohemian origin.   Roh, a.k.a. Johann Horn, John Horn, and Johann Cornu, was a native of Domascbitz near Leitmeritz, Bohemia.  The saint, born in 1485/1490, became a presbyter in the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum) in 1518 at Jungbunzlau, Bohemia.  He became one of the three Seniors of the Unity.  Three years later, he joined the ranks of bishop.

Sometime after 1518 the lives of Roh and Weisse began to overlap.  Roh, Weisse, and John Augusta (1500-1572) represented the Bohemian Brethren in theological discussions with Martin Luther.  In 1531, the year in which Weisse became a presbyter, he edited the Unity’s first German-language hymnal.  The volume reflected Weisse’s Zwinglian theology of the Holy Communion.  Roh, who edited the Unity’s Czech hymnal of 1541, revised Weisse’s German-language hymnal in 1544, correcting the Eucharistic theology to conform to the Brethren’s position–the real presence.  In 1532 and 1535 Roh and Augusta prepared the Unity’s confession of faith in Czech and Latin.  Weisse translated the 1532 statement into German, incorporating his theological tendencies in the process.

Weisse, who joined the Unity’s Inner Council in 1532, died of food poisoning in 1534.  He had founded German-language congregations in Bohemia and Moravia.  Weisse had also, since 1531, been overseer of the German-language congregations at Lanskroun and Fulnek, Moravia (now the Czech Republic).  The saint’s original legacy in hymnody consists of hymn tunes, hymn texts, and translations of hymn texts.  I have added some of his hymn translations and original texts to my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.  The Moravian Book of Worship (1995) contains six hymn tunes Weisse composed and one he adapted.

Among Weisse’s original hymns from the hymnal of 1531 was the following, as Donald M. McCorkle (1929-1978) translated it in 1963:

To us a Child is born this night.

Behold His glorious light;

To us a Son is given,

Who Himself is our true God,

Our Life here and in heaven.

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Now wide is opening heaven’s door,

And out the light doth pour;

A gleam of majesty,

Christ the Son of Righteousness,

Who makes all people free.

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The light is Christ, our gracious Lord,

The true Immanuel,

To Christians now revealed;

And with wondrous grace and truth

Shows them what was concealed.

Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (1969)

Roh, who composed and adapted hymn tunes, wrote hymns, a few of which exist in English translations.  I have added the Catherine Winkworth translation, “Once He Came in Blessing” (1858), to my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.  I have also found “Praise God! Praise God with Singing” (translated by John Daniel Libbey, 1871, altered).  Roh’s original text dated to 1544.

Praise God! Praise God with singing!

Rejoice, thou Christian flock!

Fear not though foes are bringing

Their hosts against thy rock;

For though they here assail thee

And seek thy very life,

Let not thy courage fail thee;

Thy God shall turn the strife.

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O be not thou dismayed,

Believing little band.

God, in His might arrayed,

To help thee is at hand.

Upon His palm engraven

Thy name ever found.

He knows, Who dwells in heaven,

The ills that thee surround.

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His purpose stands unshaken–

What He hath said he’ll do;

And, when by all forsaken,

His Church He will renew.

With pity He beholds her

E’en in her time of woe,

Still by His Word upholds her

And makes her thrive and know.

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To Him belong our praises,

Who still abides our Lord,

Bestowing gifts and graces

According to His Word.

Nor will He e’er forsake us,

But will our Guardian be

And ever stable make us

In love and unity.

Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (1969)

Roh died at Jungbunzlau, Bohemia, on February 11, 1547.

NOVEMBER 1, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS

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

thank you for those (especially Michael Weisse and Jan Roh)

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 Luke of Prague and John Augusta (December 11)   4 comments

Flag of the Kingdom of Bohemia

Above:  Flag of the Kingdom of Bohemia

Image in the Public Domain

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LUKE OF PRAGUE (1458-DECEMBER 11, 1528)

Moravian Bishop and Hymn Writer

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JOHN AUGUSTA (1500-JANUARY 13, 1572)

Moravian Bishop and Hymn Writer

With this post I add two foundational figures of the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum) to the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.

Luke of Prague (1458-1528) became a great leader of the young church during the period of Moravian Church history scholars refer to as the time of the Bohemian Brethren, or the Ancient Unity.  Luke graduated from Charles University (the University of Prague) in 1481.  Shortly thereafter he joined the Bohemian Brethren; a friend had introduced him to the young church, founded circa 1457.  Our saint became the most influential theologian and writer of the Unitas Fratrum at the time.  He provided it with stability and identity.  Luke’s leadership bore many fruits, including the following:

  1. In 1495 each of the 200 congregations had a school attached to it;
  2. The Bohemian Brethren had founded several institutions of higher learning by 1495;
  3. Luke made worship more formal, introducing embroidered corporals and golden communion cups;
  4. He led the Ancient Unity during a time (the 1490s-1516) of persecution by the Roman Catholic Church;
  5. Luke, a bishop since 1500, increased the number of bishops;
  6. He wrote a catechism (which John Augusta kept in circulation) for children in 1501 or 1501; and
  7. Luke edited the Moravian hymnal of 1519.  He might also have edited the hymnal of 1501 (the first Protestant hymnbook) and the hymnal of 1505.

Luke wrote religious texts.  He composed hymns, few of which exist in English translations.  He also wrote commentaries on the Book of Psalms, the Gospel of John, and 1 Corinthians 11.

Luke was an ecumenist.  He had established contact with Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic leaders in the 1480s.  After 1517 he maintained a correspondence with Martin Luther (1483-1546).  The leader of the Moravian Church disagreed with Luther’s theology of salvation by faith alone, arguing that Luther’s position contradicted scripture and underestimated the importance of good works as a fruit of faith.  (Luke did not think that James was an epistle of straw, did he?)

Reading the early history of the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum) reveals a process of sorting out major theological questions.  Such processes require much time, as a study of the first five centuries of Christianity confirms.  In the Moravian case the positions regarding celibacy of the clergy and the number of sacraments have changed.  Luke affirmed the celibacy of the clergy and the existence and efficacy of seven sacraments, making him more Catholic than the contemporary Moravian Church.

Luke died on December 11, 1528.  His great successor as leader was John Augusta (1500-1572), who suffered much due to the general lack of religious toleration.  (Liberty of conscience has long been among my favorite ideals of the Enlightenment.)

Augusta, like Luke of Prague before him, converted to the Bohemian Brethren.  Augusta had been a Utraquist.  The Utraquists, who were irregular Catholics, gained their name because they received the Communion in both kinds, instead of the normative wafer only.  Utraquism had influenced the Moravian Church at the beginning of the Ancient Unity’s existence.  Augusta, a hatter and the son of a hatter, had grown up despising the Bohemian Brethren, but he changed his mind and joined it, becoming a minister.  In 1532 he became a bishop.

Augusta favored ecumenism.  He proposed the union of the Utraquist Church with the Unitas Fratrum in 1547.  That never came to fruition, but he held out hope.  Our saint also corresponded with Martin Luther (1483-1546) and John Calvin (1509-1564), earning their respect for the Bohemian Brethren, whose discipline the reformers praised.

Augusta also wrote hymns, two of which I have found in English translations.  That legacy survives in the Moravian Church and beyond.

The Ancient Unity and Bishop Augusta had to contend with the political reality of the general lack of religious toleration.  Augusta enlisted the aid of Baron Conrad Krajek to intercede on behalf of the Bohemian Brethren with Ferdinand I, King of Bohemia (reigned 1526-1564), later the Holy Roman Emperor (reigned 1558-1564), in 1535.  Ferdinand I agreed to grant religious toleration to the Brethren, whom he recognized as loyal subjects.  Eleven years later, however, the monarch faced a Protestant uprising.  The Moravians, as loyal subjects, prayed for their king.  Yet the triumphant Ferdinand I, having vanquished his foes in 1547, became convinced that the Brethren were traitors and that Augusta had led the rebellion.  Thus, in May 1548, the monarch ordered the Brethren to emigrate or to convert to Roman Catholicism.  Many of the members of the Unitas Fratrum became fugitives; others emigrated to Poland, where they started the Polish branch of the Moravian Church.  Augusta spent 1548-1564 as a prisoner.  During that time his health broke, as did his ecclesiastical authority.  Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II (reigned 1564-1576) freed the old bishop on the condition that he not preach in public.

Augusta died at Jung-Bunzlau, Bohemia, on January 13, 1572.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILL CAMPBELL, AGENT OF RECONCILIATION

THE FEAST OF SAINT LIPHARDUS OF ORLEANS AND URBICIUS OF MEUNG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MORAND OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND MISSIONARY

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servants Luke of Prague and John Augusta,

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), page 60

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