Archive for the ‘John Calvin’ 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 John Wycliffe and Jan Hus (July 6)   1 comment

Above:  Dawn with Mountain Landscape

Image in the Public Domain

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JOHN WYCLIFFE (CIRCA 1320-DECEMBER 31, 1384)

English Theologian and Church Reformer

“Morning Star of the Reformation”

Also known as John Wiclif, John Wickliffe, and John Wyclif

Episcopal feast day = October 30

Church of England feast day = December 31

influenced

JAN HUS (1371-JULY 6, 1415)

Czech Theologian, Church Reformer, and Martyr

Also known as John Huss and John Hus

Moravian, Episcopal, and Lutheran feast day = July 6

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It is better to die well than to live wickedly.  One should not sin in order to avoid the punishment of death.  Truth conquers all things.

–Jan Hus, 1415, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), 292

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INTRODUCTION

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One of my purposes in renovating my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days is to emphasize relationships and influences.  Therefore I, citing the latter, merge the Feasts of John Wycliffe and Jan Hus.

The Moravian Church, founded by Hussites, has long commemorated Hus, who has been a saint in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), and their predecessors since the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978).  The Episcopal Church added Hus and Wycliffe to its calendar in 2009.  Meanwhile, Wycliffe, with separate feast days in The Church of England and The Episcopal Church, has remained absent from all Lutheran calendars I have consulted.

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THE “MORNING STAR OF THE REFORMATION”

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Above:  John Wycliffe

Image in the Public Domain

The fourteenth century was a difficult time for much of Europe.  During five years in the late 1340s and early 1350s the Black Death killed no less than two-fifths (and probably more) of the population of Western Europe, upending civilization there and helping to give rise to the modern world.  The tumult of that time called authorities and institutions into question as, for example, many peasants revolted, many urban workers asserted their rights, and the Church restaffed with substandard personnel.  The devastating death toll called the legitimacy of the Church into doubt in the minds of many people, some of whom favored apocalyptic understandings of recent events.

Meanwhile, the Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy (1309-1377) at Avignon, France, a great scandal, was a self-inflicted wound for Holy Mother Church.  Another great scandal and self-inflicted wound, the Great Schism of the Papacy (1378-1417), ensued promptly.

John Wycliffe lived during those times.  He, born near Richmond, Yorkshire, England, circa 1320, was a priest.  Wycliffe was also an academic at Oxford University.  He matriculated at Baillol College in 1344, became master of that college by 1360, and resigned in 1361.  He held overlapping portfolios:

  1. Rector of Fillingham (1361-1368);
  2. Prebend of Aust, Bristol (1362-1384);
  3. Warden of Canterbury Hall, Oxford (1365-1367); and
  4. Rector of Lutterworth (1374-1384).

Meanwhile, Wycliffe was also a lecturer at Oxford until his forced retirement in 1381.

Wycliffe, a popular lecturer and preacher, became a radical.  He, interested in science, theology, local history, canon law, and philosophy, earned various degrees, culminating in his Doctor of Theology degree in 1372.  His move away from affirming the status quo began in 1374, at the start of the last decade of his life.  (Not everyone grows more conservative with age.)  Wycliffe served as a royal envoy to a conference with papal representative at Bruges.  The topic was provisions, or papal appointments to posts not yet vacant.

By 1376 Wycliffe became a committed reformer of the Church.  He criticized papal taxation, fees, and appointments, perhaps more out of political considerations than theological ones.  Our saint, who affirmed the Divine Right of Kings, became convinced that in terms of both doctrine and life the Church had strayed from its apostolic roots.  He argued that the clergy should not hold secular power, so no Pope should exercise power over the English Church.  Furthermore, Wycliffe wrote, Christ is the sole Head of the Universal Church, the Bible is the Law of God, and the true Church consists solely of the predestined Elect.  Wycliffe also affirmed the priesthood of all believers, questioned the theology of purgatory and transubstantiation, opposed the veneration of relics and statues, inveighed against the invocation of saints, criticized the celibacy of the clergy, and insisted that the state (with the monarch as the head of the state church) had an obligation to seize church lands for the benefit of the poor.  Certainly the Great Schism of the Papacy (1378-1417), a time of competing Supreme Pontiffs, influenced and reinforced Wycliffe’s criticism of the Papacy.

Wycliffe alarmed Popes, bishops, and leaders of religious orders, but had protectors in the royal family and among the nobility.  Nevertheless, after he became a scapegoat for a peasant revolt and Oxford authorities declared him a heretic in 1381, forced retirement became his fate.

Wycliffe was fortunate; he got to live and to retain his church positions.  He died three days after a stroke at Lutterworth on December 31, 1384.  Wycliffe was about 64 years old.

Wycliffe’s legacy continued, however.  The translation of the Bible into English was a project in which he was deeply involved, with help from others.  Wycliffe’s theology influenced Jan Hus, Martin Luther, and John Calvin.  The man had died, but his ideas lived.

Nevertheless, the Council of Constance condemned Wycliffe as a heretic posthumously in 1415.  Thirteen years later Richard Fleming, the Bishop of Lincoln, ordered the exhumation and burning of the old priest’s remains.

Some of Wycliffe’s followers were more radical than he was.  The Lollard movement began in 1380 and continued into the 1500s, influencing the English Reformation.  “Lollard” came from the Middle Dutch word for “mumbler” or “mutterer.”  The term, already applied to Flemish heretics prior to Wycliffe’s time, stuck to his followers by 1382.  It was a persecuted minority movement, some of whose members dared to plot to overthrow the government and disendow the English Church in 1431.

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THE CZECH REFORMER

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Above:  Jan Hus

Image in the Public Domain

Lord Jesus Christ, it is for the sake of the gospel and the preaching of the word that I undergo, with patience and humility, this terrifying, ignominious, cruel death.

–Jan Hus, July 6, 1415; quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints (1997), 291

Jan Hus, born in Husinec, Bohemia, in 1371, was 17 years old when Wycliffe died.  Hus, influenced by Wycliffe’s writings, became a reformer in Bohemia and walked the road to martyrdom.

Hus, educated at the University of Prague (starting in 1390) was a Roman Catholic priest, as Wycliffe had been.  Hus, based in Prague, was, from 1392, chaplain of the Bethlehem Chapel, where he preached in the Czech language.  Our saint, the dean of the philosophical faculty of the University of Prague from 1401, served also as the Rector of the university in 1403 and 1409.  The following year, however, Archbishop Zbynek Zajic of Hasenberg excommunicated Hus.

Hus had been reading, marking, learning, and inwardly digesting writings of Wycliffe, as well as translating some of them into Czech.  Wycliffe’s ideas had already begun to influence politics in Bohemia, where the Church owned about half of the land, and many people, including a large number of priests, were poor.  Many peasants resented the Church, for obvious reasons.  Also, simony was rife.

Although Hus was radical in his setting, he was less radical than Wycliffe.  Hus, for example, affirmed transubstantiation consistently.  Yet, like Wycliffe, Hus condemned ecclesiastical abuses and defined the true Church as the assembly of the predestined Elect.

Hus managed to survive as long as he did because of protectors.  In 1410  King Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia attained a bull from (Antipope) Alexander V (in office 1409-1410) ordering the burning of Wycliffe’s works, forbidding the preaching of their contents at Bethlehem Chapel, and allowing no appeal.  Archbishop Zajic burned those writings that year.  The following year (Antipope) John XXIII, one of three competing Popes, placed an interdict on Prague, but Wenceslaus IV ignored it and ordered others to do the same.  Meanwhile, (Antipope) John XXIII was waging a war against King Ladislaus of Naples and selling indulgences to finance that war.  After Hus, technically excommunicated yet living as though there were no excommunication order, condemned the sale of those indulgences and accused (Antipope) John XXIII of being the Antichrist.  Wenceslaus IV had been protecting Hus, but ceased to do that in 1412, after (Antipope) John XXIII threatened the Bohemian monarch with a crusade on the charge of protecting heretics and heresy.  So, from 1412 to 1414, Hus lived, wrote, and preached in southern Bohemia for two years.

Hus died as a heretic at Constance, Baden, on July 6, 1415.  He had traveled there under a promise of safe conduct, for the Council of Constance, in 1414, but found himself a prisoner instead.  Hus, after having refused to recant, burned at the stake as a heretic.  He was 43 or 44 years old.

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CONCLUSION

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Much of the history of ecclesiastical reactions (as opposed to responses) to heresies, alleged and actual, is an account of behavior contrary to the spirit of Christ.  What in the Gospels might give one the idea that Jesus would approve of burning accused heretics?

One might disagree with Wycliffe and Hus on certain political and/or theological points, but one should recognize and respect their courage in risking their lives by resisting authority nonviolently in the knowledge that the authorities they objected to had the power to torture and execute them.

The Church has silenced and killed prophets, unfortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 26, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM COWPER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HUNT, FIRST ANGLICAN CHAPLAIN AT JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA

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O God, your justice continually challenges your Church to live according to its calling:

Grant us who now remember the work of John Wyclif

contrition for the wounds which our sins inflict on your Church,

and such love for Christ that we may seek to heal the divisions which afflict his Body;

through the same Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 43:26-33

Psalm 33:4-11

Hebrews 4:12-16

Mark 4:13-20

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 659

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Faithful God, you gave John Hus the courage to confess your truth

and recall your Church to the image of Christ.

Enable us, inspired by his example, to bear witness against corruption

and never cease to pray for our enemies,

that we may prove faithful followers of our Savior Jesus Christ;

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

Job 22:21-30

Psalm 119:113-120

Revelation 3:1-6

Matthew 23:34-39

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 455

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Feast of Sebastian Castellio (March 20)   1 comment

sebastiancastellio

Above:  Sebastian Castellio 

Image in the Public Domain

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SEBASTIAN CASTELLIO (1515-DECEMBER 29, 1563)

Prophet of Religious Liberty

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To kill a man is not to defend a doctrine, but to kill a man.

–Sebastian Castellio, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York, NY:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), page 126

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Certain officially recognized saints of the Reformation era trouble me.  For example, I consult Anglican calendars and read about prominent churchmen who denied the existence of the right to dissent theologically.  Some of these churchmen went so far as to order the execution of dissenters or at least to consent to these judicial killings.  (It is not technically murder if it is legal.)  And that is what I find within my faith tradition, now one so tolerant that some accuse it of having become too liberal.  Better too liberal than likely to persecute dissenters, I say!  I also ponder the Roman Catholic calendar of saints and find the names of similarly troubling people there.  Overall, I have generally negative opinions of Thomas Cranmer, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, and the Popes at the time–all of whom cover much theological ground collectively.  I have generally low opinions of them because they proceeded from the ubiquitous assumption that

error has no rights,

so they persecuted those who disagreed with them or consented to the persecution of those who held other beliefs.  This did not glorify God.

I can, however, respect Sebastian Castellio without any reservations.

Castellio, born at Saint-Martin-du-Frene, France, in 1515, was a scholar and a man ahead of his time.  He, educated at the University of Lyons, was a master of six languages:  French, Italian, German, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.  In January 1540 our saint, then in his mid-twenties, witnesses the execution of three Lutherans as heretics at Lyons.  This “act of faith” had such an effect on him that he left France for Switzerland and the Roman Catholic Church for the Reformed Church.  In 1542 John Calvin, the theocrat of Geneva, appointed Castellio the Rector of the College of Geneva.  The following year, during an outbreak of plague, our saint did what many clergymen refused to do–minister to the sick and the dying.  Despite his lived piety, Castellio’s request for ordination met with rejection.  Perhaps jealousy among clergymen he had embarrassed by ministering to victims of plague was among the reasons for this result.  Officially Castellio was heterodox and too liberal.  In layman’s terms, he rejected the doctrine of Double Predestination, which he considered abhorrent.  Our saint had to leave Geneva.  He moved to Basel, Switzerland.  After years of grinding poverty Castellio finally became a professor of Greek in that city, where he spent the rest of his life.

In 1553, at Geneva, John Calvin ordered theologian Michael Servetus, who had denied the Holy Trinity, burned at the stake on the charge of heresy.  The reformer and theocrat reasoned that one function of the magistrate was to defend true doctrine and therefore to glorify God.  This execution troubled many, including Castellio.  He expressed his objections in On Heretics:  Whether They Should Be Punished by the Magistrate, which he published under a pseudonym.  He argued that to kill a person in the name of God is a blasphemous act.  A Christian’s first duty is to love his neighbor as he loves himself, our saint wrote; to execute heretics (alleged or actual) violates this principle.  Furthermore, Castellio wrote, the competing sects of Christianity not only disagreed with each other, but each of them operated from the assumption that it was obeying the Word of God.  Everyone was a heretic, according to others:

I can discover no more than this, that we regard those as heretics with whom we disagree.

–Quoted in Ellsberg, All Saints (1997), page 127

The pseudonym did not hide Castellio’s identity for long.  When he died on December 29, 1563, legal proceedings against him were underway.  The Religious Wars had begun.  Many people would have lived longer had religious toleration been the rule.  Furthermore, slaughtering people in the name of Jesus did not glorify God.

In this post I describe Castellio as a “Prophet of Religious Liberty.”  In so doing I quote Robert Ellsberg, author of All Saints (1997).  I understand that there is no such thing as absolute religious liberty, even in a pluralistic society with a (properly) secular state; we all must, for the common good, sacrifice some rights without trampling individual rights either.  As long as one does not endanger public health and safety or the most basic civil rights and liberties in the name of religious liberty, I have no objection.  Certainly the statement that one should not execute or incarcerate heretics (alleged or actual) should receive widespread support.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 21, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MIROCLES OF MILAN AND EPIPHANIUS OF PAVIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ALBAN ROE AND THOMAS REYNOLDS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT GASPAR DEL BUFALO, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF THE PRECIOUS BLOOD

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN YI YON-ON, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN KOREA

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Sebastian Castellio,

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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Feast of Petrus Herbert (October 2)   3 comments

Moravian Logo

Above:  Logo of the Moravian Church

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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PETRUS HERBERT (1530-OCTOBER 1, 1571)

German Moravian Bishop and Hymnodist

Petrus Herbert was a major figure in the early history of the Moravian Church.  Our saint, born at Fulneck, Moravia, in 1530, graduated from Wittenberg University in 1557.  He joined the Bohemian Brethren at Jungbunzlau (now Mlada Boleslav, Czech Republic).  Herbert, ordained in 1562, translated the Unity’s revised confession of faith into German and presented a copy of it to Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II (reigned 1564-1576) in 1564.  Maximilian, although a lifelong Roman Catholic, harbored strong Lutheran sympathies.  Two years later Herbert presented a copy of the Kirchengesang (1566), the new German-language hymnal of the Moravian Church, to Maximilian, to whom he and the other two editors of that volume had dedicated said hymn book.

One purpose of the Kirchengesang (1566) was to prove that the Moravian Church was an orthodox Christian organization.  Herbert, Michael Tham the Elder, and Jan Jelecky edited the hymnal.  The volume contained 348 hymns (90 of which our saint had translated) in the main section and 108 Lutheran hymns in the appendix.  Joseph Theodor Muller (1854-1946), German Moravian minister and archivist, wrote that

simplicity and beauty of style

distinguished Herbert’s hymn texts.  The Kirchengesang remained in print for a long time, going into print again in 1580.  Revised editions debuted in 1606, 1639, 1661, and 1694.

Herbert served in the Unity of the Brethren in other ways also.  He represented the Moravian Church in theological discussions with John Calvin (1509-1564) in Switzerland.  Our saint also joined the denomination’s Select Council in 1567.  Later he represented the Brethren in discussions with Duke Christoph of Wurttemberg (reigned 1550-1568) regarding young men from the Unity of the Brethren being able to attend the University of Tubingen.  Herbert also became a Consenior of the Unity, which meant that he became legally responsible for the denomination’s estates and property.

Herbert died at Eisenschutz (now Ivancice, Czech Republic) on October 1, 1571.

I have added four of our saint’s hymns to my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.  Most of his hymns, I have concluded, have not entered into English-language hymnody.  That, I argue, is unfortunate.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT OF NURSIA, FATHER OF WESTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF NATHAN SODERBLOM, SWEDISH ECUMENIST AND ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSALA

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

thank you for those (especially Petrus Herbert)

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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This is post #1450 of SUNDRY THOUGHTS.

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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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Feast of Philip Schaff and John Williamson Nevin (October 20)   4 comments

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Above:  Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1921

J247993–U.S. Copyright Office

Image Source = Library of Congress

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PHILIP SCHAFF (JANUARY 1, 1819-OCTOBER 20, 1893)

and

JOHN WILLIAMSON NEVIN (FEBRUARY 20, 1803-JUNE 6, 1886)

U.S. German Reformed Historians, Theologians, and Liturgists

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Cardinal John Henry Newman, a famous convert from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism, said that to understand church history is to cease to be a Protestant.  I understand why Cardinal Newman thought that, given his spiritual biography and the widespread neglect of Christian history among many Protestants during his lifetime, but that statement did not reflect the reality of Philip Schaff and John Williamson Nevin, who called the German Reformed Church in the U.S.A. (the Reformed Church in the United States from 1863 to 1934) away from its historical amnesia and indifference, Puritanism, Pietism, Revivalism, and Zwinglianism.  These men worked to take their denomination back to its roots in the Protestant Reformation, recovering its Reformed Eucharistic and liturgical heritage while renouncing anti-Roman Catholicism.

Philip Schaff, born on January 1, 1819, at Chur, Switzerland, attended the Universities of Tubingen, Halle, and Berlin.  He immigrated to the United States in 1843 to teach at the German Reformed Seminary at Mercersburg, Pennsylvania.  He, a church historian, championed the subject at a time when many U.S. Evangelicals had little use for it.  Nevertheless, Schaff argued that Protestantism stood in continuity with Medieval Roman Catholicism, not Pauline Christianity.  He advocated taking the German Reformed Church in the U.S.A. back to the liturgical and Eucharistic theology of John Calvin.  In contrast, the dominant influences in the denomination at the time were Puritanism, Pietism, Revivalism, and Zwinglianism, the latter with its memorial meal theology of the Lord’s Supper.  For his trouble Schaff faced a heresy trial in 1845.  The tribunal dismissed all charges unanimously.

Schaff’s theological partner in the Mercersburg Theology was John Williamson Nevin, born on February 20, 1803, in Franklin County, Pennsylvania.  Nevin, of Scotch-Irish ancestry, was originally a Presbyterian.  He, graduated from Union College in 1821 and Princeton Theological Seminary in 1828, received his license to preach in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. that year.  From 1830 to 1840 he taught Biblical literature at the former Western Theological Seminary, Allegheny, Pennsylvania.  Then Nevin, dissatisfied with the Puritanical influences in the Presbyterian Church, left for the German Reformed Church and became a Professor of Theology at the Mercersburg seminary (1840-1851) and President of the former Marshall College (1841-1853).

A mighty dragon Schaff and Nevin had to combat as part of their effort to recover historical awareness and renew liturgical life in the German Reformed Church in the U.S.A. was anti-Roman Catholicism.  As Frank C. Senn wrote:

In America, Protestant liturgical recovery in the nineteenth century not only went up against Puritanism, Pietism, and Revivalism, but also against that cultural-political expression of anti-Catholic bigotry known as “Know-Nothingism.”

Christian Liturgy:  Catholic and Evangelical (Minneapolis, MN:  Fortress Press, 1997), page 581

There was, in the middle of the 1800s, a political party known variously as the Native American Party, American Republican Party, or simply the American Party, but informally as the “Know-Nothing Party,” devoted to xenophobia and opposition to Roman Catholicism, notably Roman Catholic immigrants.  The list of people they liked consisted of other bigoted Anglo-Saxon Protestants.

Our saints sought to revive not only the Continental European Reformed liturgical tradition (that of service books) in the German Reformed Church in the U.S.A., but the Calvinistic Eucharistic theology of the non-localized mystical presence of Christ in the sacrament.  Toward that end Nevin wrote The Mystical Presence:  A Vindication of the Calvinistic Doctrine of the Eucharist (1846).  Nevin, who considered the Lord’s Supper to be “the very heart of the whole Christian worship,” was, like Schaff, more traditional than those who considered them heretics and innovators.  Nevin and Schaff were closer to the Reformed traditions than were Pietists, Revivalists, and Puritans.

Ironically, as late as 1861, Schaff, who was busy resisting anti-Roman Catholic bigotry, had yet to slay racism inside himself.  That year he wrote Slavery and the Bible, the contents of which were–and remain–indefensible.  He was ahead of his time in some ways yet sadly of it in others.  I include this detail for the sake of thoroughness and honesty.

Schaff and Nevin belonged to the committee which produced A Liturgy:  or, Order of Christian Worship (1857), for provisional use in the German Reformed Church in the U.S.A.  In 1866 it became official as An Order of Worship for the Reformed Church.  Nevin wrote the Vindication of of the Revised Liturgy, Historical and Theological (1867) to defend against charges of “Romanizing tendencies”  Such allegations prompted the (Dutch) Reformed Church in America to terminate (for a time) relations with the German Reformed Church/Reformed Church in the United States in the late 180os.

Schaff’s career from 1863 to 1893 was as follows:

  1. Chairman of the Sabbath Committee, New York City, 1863-1870;
  2. Chair of Christian Encyclopedia and Symbolism, Union Theological Seminary, New York City, 1870-1873;
  3. Professor of Sacred Literature, Union Theological Seminary, 1874-1887; and
  4. Professor of Church History, Union Theological Seminary, 1887-1893.

During his career Schaff added many other impressive accomplishments to this already mostly auspicious list.  A partial enumeration follows:

  1. He edited the twenty-five volumes of the English-language translation of Johann Peter Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures (1865-1880), available at archive.org.
  2. Schaff published a hymnal, Christ in Song:  Songs of Immanuel (1869) and co-edited a second hymnal, Hymns and Songs of Praise for Public and Social Worship (1874).
  3. He edited German and Latin hymns into English.  Among these was “O Bread of Life from Heaven.”
  4. Schaff edited Volumes I, II, and III of The Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (1882-1884).
  5. He wrote the eight-volume History of the Christian Church (1882-1892).  His son, Presbyterian minister and scholar David Schley Schaff (1852-1941), revised those volumes and added two more.
  6. Schaff published Volumes I, II, and III of The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes (1877).
  7. He published the fourteen volumes of A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church (1886-1890), available at archive.org.
  8. Schaff founded the American Society of Church History in 1884.
  9. He served as President of the American Revision Committee, thereby contributing to the American Standard Version of the Bible (1901), from which other translations have sprung directly and indirectly.  These include the Revised Standard Version (1946/1952), its 1971 revision, its two Catholic editions (1965 and 2002), the New Revised Standard Version (1989), its Roman Catholic edition (1993), the New American Standard Bible (1971/1977) and its updated edition (1995), the Living Bible (1969/1971), its Roman Catholic edition (1972), the New Living Translation (1996/2004), and the English Standard Version (2001).

Schaff, who died at New York City on October 20, 1893, worked for church unity.  His Reformed theology of ecumenism led him to oppose both Papal Infallibility and the Anglican/Episcopalian Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral.  The inclusion of Apostolic Succession in the latter troubled him.  He was correct, however, that Papal Infallibility functions as an obstacle to Christian unity.

Schaff left an impressive literary and scholarly legacy.  Among its other components were:

  1. The Principle of Protestantism as Related to the Present State of the Church (1845);
  2. The Life and Labors of St. Augustine:  A Historical Sketch (1854);
  3. The Oldest Manual Called the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles:  The Didache and Kindred Documents in the Original (1855);
  4. The Moral Character of Christ; or the Perfection of Christ’s Humanity, a Proof of His Divinity (1861);
  5. A Catechism for Sunday Schools and Families in Fifty-Two Lessons, with Proof-Texts and Notes (1862; revised in 1880);
  6. The Harmony of the Reformed Confessions as Related to the Present State of Evangelical Theology (1877);
  7. Through Bible Lands:  Notes on Travel in Egypt, the Desert, and Palestine (1878);
  8. A Dictionary of the Bible (First Edition, 1880; Second Edition, 1881; Third Edition, 1885, Fourth Edition, 1887);
  9. A Library of Religious Poetry (1881);
  10. A Companion to the Greek New Testament and the English Version (1883);
  11. Church and State in the United States, or the American Idea of Religious Liberty and Its Practical Effects, with Official Documents (1888);
  12. The Progress of Religion as Shown in the History of Toleration Acts (1889); and
  13. The Renaissance:  The Revival of Learning and Art in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries (1891).

Nevin taught history at the merged Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, from 1861 to 1866 then served as the President for a decade.  He died at Lancaster on June 6, 1886.  He also left a written legacy, which included, apart from The Mystical Presence (1846), the 1857/1866 German Reformed Liturgy, and the Vindication (1867) thereof, the following:

  1. A Summary of Biblical Antiquities:  Compiled for the Use of Sunday-School Teachers, and for the Benefit of Families, Volumes I and II (1829);
  2. The Scourge of God (1832);
  3. The Anxious Bench (First Edition, 1843; Second Edition, 1844); in German here;
  4. History and Genius of the Heidelberg Catechism (1847);
  5. A Summary of Biblical Antiquities; for the Use of Schools, Bible-Classes, and Families (1849);
  6. Man’s True Destiny (1853); and
  7. Christian Hymnology (1856);
  8. Life and Character of Frederick Augustus Rauch, First President of Marshall College (1859).

Philip Schaff and John Williamson Nevin were giants in the Church.  Those of us who pursue interests in ecclesiastical history and/or liturgy stand on their shoulders.  Certainly those from the Reformed tradition who encourage proper Eucharistic practice and better liturgy stand on their broad shoulders.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 23, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEASTS OF PHILIP EVANS AND JOHN LLOYD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE TEAGUE CASE, PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLAF II OF SWEDEN, KING AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SUSANNA WESLEY, MOTHER OF METHODISM

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O God, you have endowed us with memory, reason, and skill.

We thank you for the faithful legacy of [Philip SchaffJohn Williamson Nevin, and all others]

who have dedicated their lives to you and to the intellectual pursuits.

May we, like them, respect your gift of intelligence fully and to your glory.

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

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Psalm 103

Philippians 4:8-9

Mark 12:28-34

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 6, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHRODEGANG OF METZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDMUND KING, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

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