Archive for the ‘Martin Luther’ Tag

Feast of John Wycliffe and Jan Hus (July 6)   Leave a 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 Desiderius Erasmus, St. John Fisher, and St. Thomas More (June 22)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of England

Image in the Public Domain

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DESIDERIUS ERASMUS ROTERDAMUS (OCTOBER 1466-JULY 12, 1536)

Dutch Roman Catholic Priest, Biblical and Classical Scholar, and Controversialist

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SAINT JOHN FISHER (1469-JUNE 22, 1535)

English Roman Catholic Classical Scholar, Bishop of Rochester, Cardinal, and Martyr

Alternative feast day = July 6 (The Church of England)

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SAINT THOMAS MORE (FEBRUARY 7, 1487-JULY 6, 1535)

English Roman Catholic Classical Scholar, Jurist, Theologian, Controversialist, and Martyr

Alternative feast day = December 1 (as one of the Martyrs of Oxford University)

Alternative feast day = July 6 (The Church of England)

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A TRIPLE BIOGRAPHY OF THREE GREAT MEN

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On the Roman Catholic calendar the feasts of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More fall on June 22.  They also share a feast day (July 6) in The Church of England.  To their commemoration at this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, I add their friend and colleague, Desiderius Erasmus.

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THE EARLY LIFE OF DESIDERIUS ERASMUS

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Above:  Portrait of Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam with Renaissance Pilaster, by Hans Holbein the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

Desiderius Erasmus, a great scholar and historically influential man, was a native of Rotterdam, The Netherlands.  He, born in 1466, was a son of a priest and the brother of Peter.  After Gerard, the father, died, guardians directed the educations of Desiderius and Peter.  After Peter became a monk at a monastery near Delft our saint joined the Augustinian order.  Erasmus, ordained to the priesthood on April 25, 1492, left the monastery in 1494 and pursued his scholarly work in the world.

Erasmus was a Christian Humanist in the style of the Northern Renaissance.  As such he objected to the dogmatic theology he encountered at the University of Paris.  In Paris our saint became a teacher and began writing.  Apparently Erasmus had a distinctive speaking style, for William Tyndale (1494-1536) described our saint as one

whose tongue maketh of little gnats great elephants, and laudeth up above the skies, whosoever giveth him a little exhibition.

Erasmus, whose English patrons included St. John Fisher and disciples included St. Thomas More (whom he met in 1497), visited England periodically, starting in 1499-1500.  Erasmus thought, despite the cumulative time he spent in England, that the weather and beer there were bad, and that More was the only genius in the realm.

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THE EARLY LIFE OF SAINT THOMAS MORE

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Above:  Sir Thomas More, by Hans Holbein the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

St. Thomas More was a jurist and a classical scholar.  He, born in London on February 7, 1487, was a son of Sir John More, a judge.  Our saint, educated at St. Anthony’s School, Threadneedle Street, London, then in the household of Archbishop of Canterbury John Morton, continued his studies at Oxford University before studying law at New Inn (1494-1496) then Lincoln’s Inn (1496f).  More was a reader at Furnival’s Inn then butler at Lincoln’s Inn (as his father had been) in 1507.  Our saint was also reader at Lincoln’s Inn in 1511 and 1515.

Meanwhile More was studying theology and Latin and Greek literature.  He met Erasmus, his longtime friend, in 1497.  More also translated classical works into English and composed English poetry.

More was a devout man.  For about four years he had lived at the London Charterhouse.  Although he never took monastic vows, he learned certain lifelong austere habits.  More did make wedding vows, however.  In 1505 he married Jane Colt (d. 1511).  The couple had four children.  His second wife was Alice Middleton, a widow.  Her daughter became part of the blended family.  More was a pioneer in the education of women in England, for his daughters were well-educated people.

More was a longtime Member of Parliament and a negotiator.  He, the Undersheriff of London (1510-1518), was also an officer in various companies.  In various capacities he settled disputes in England and France through 1529.

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THE EARLY LIFE OF SAINT JOHN FISHER

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Above:  John Fisher, by Hans Holbein the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

St. John Fisher was a scholar and a priest.  He, born in Beverley, Yorkshire, England, in 1469, graduated from Cambridge University in 1487 and 1491.  He, ordained a priest in 1491, served as a parish priest in Northallerton from 1491 to 1494.  Fisher, a tutor to the young Henry VIII (born in 1491; reigned from 1509 to 1547), was, from 1497, the confessor to Lady Margaret Beaufort (1443-1509), mother of King Henry VII (reigned 1485-1509).  At Fisher’s urging she founded readerships in divinity at Oxford and Cambridge (1503) then at Christ’s College, Cambridge (1505).  Fisher, the Vice-Chancellor (1501-1504) then Chancellor (1504-1534) of Cambridge University and Bishop of Rochester (1504-1534), for all intents and purposes founded St. John’s College, Cambridge, for which he hired Erasmus as Lecturer in Greek in 1511.  As a bishop Fisher was also devoted to his diocese–unusually so, by the standards of the period.

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ERASMUS THE BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

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Erasmus was a classical scholar and a man of letters. His volumes (1516-1536) on various Church Fathers were masterpieces of scholarship.  Or saint spent much time on St. Jerome (347-419) and his works in particular.  In 1504 Erasmus commenced his work on the Greek New Testament.  The influential volume, published in 1516, was epoch-making.  Our saint, who prioritized Patristic sources and the best Greek texts available to him, was more reliable than St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate.  Erasmus dedicated the work to Pope Leo X.  The Holy Father accepted the dedication, but some powerful factions in the Church opposed the scholarly work.  Martin Luther, however, admired it.

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SAINT THOMAS MORE, 1514-1532

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St. Thomas More, a devout man and a gentle father, was also an influential writer, a statesman, and a controversialist.  The author of Utopia (1515-1516) produced many other works, including The History of Richard III (1514), which influenced William Shakespeare’s treatment of the monarch.  More held a series of positions in the 1520s.  He was, for example, the Speaker of the House of Commons and a Justice of the Peace from 1523.  The following year he became a High Steward of Oxford University.  In 1525 he became a High Steward of Cambridge University and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.  Then, from 1529 to 1532, he served as the Lord Chancellor.

The position of Lord Chancellor, although of high rank, was still one of a royal servant.  The position increased More’s wealth.  He gave more to charity.  The duties of the job also required More to present the royal position to the House of Lords, even when this left him with an uneasy conscience, as in the “King’s great matter” involving Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn.  Our saint, citing health concerns, resigned in 1532.

More was a devout Roman Catholic who considered Protestantism heretical.  In 1525 and 1526 he wrote German Lutheran theologian Johannes Bugenhagen (1485-1558) in defense of papal authority.  More abhorred both Protestantism and violence.  As much as More argued with and prayed for the conversion of his Lutheran son-in-law, William Roper, Roper recalled never seeing his father-in-law “in a fume.”

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SAINT JOHN FISHER, 1511-1533

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St. John Fisher, a devout Roman Catholic, honored God in various ways.  A devout and simple life was a moral imperative, he preached, to the consternation of some powerful men.  Fisher also honored God with his intellect.  The great man, who undertook the study of Greek at the age of 50 years, encouraged the study of Hebrew at Cambridge University.  Like More, Fisher considered Protestantism heretical, and argued vigorously against it and for Roman Catholicism.

Fisher also opposed the interference of the state in ecclesiastical affairs.  He, a consistent defender of Queen Catherine of Aragon, starting in 1527, opposed the annulment of that marriage as well as the granting to Henry VIII the title of Supreme Head of the Church and Clergy of England.

Fisher’s conscience was about to lead him to his martyrdom.

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THE MARTYRDOM OF SAINTS JOHN FISHER AND THOMAS MORE

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More and Fisher opposed the Act of Supremacy (1534).  Thus, on April 13, 1534, when summoned, both men refused to swear an oath accepting the marriage of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn, recognizing the succession of their issue, and repudiating papal authority.  Their refusal was officially treasonous.  From April 17, 1534, to the end of their lives they were prisoners in the Tower of London.  The circumstances of their incarceration were inhumane.

Pope Paul III created Fisher a Cardinal on May 20, 1535.  The infuriated Henry VIII, referring to a Cardinal’s red hat, said,

Mother of God!  He shall wear it on his shoulders, for I will leave him never ahead to set it on.

Fisher, tried and sentenced to death on June 17, 1535, died via beheading at Tower Hill, London, five days later.

More wrote in prison.  He began and completed A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulacyon (1534), in which he also argued against the idea that any head of state can dictate religious belief.  More also began a treatise on the Passion of Jesus, but his jailers did not permit him to famish it.  Our saint, tried on July 1, 1535, died via beheading at Tower Hill five days later.

The Roman Catholic Church has recognized these saints.  Pope Leo XIII beatified them in 1886.  Pope Pius XI canonized them in 1935.

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ERASMUS AND THE CHURCH

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Erasmus was a devout Roman Catholic from his cradle to his grave.  Nevertheless, he had both admirers and detractors in Protestant and Roman Catholic circles.  Furthermore, Erasmus was openly critical of some aspects of an powerful people in Holy Mother Church.  For example, he wrote anonymously then denied having written Julius Exclusus (1514), a satire about the late Pope Julius II (in office 1503-1513) attempting to gain entry into Heaven.  Julius II deserved strong criticism, for he was, in the words of scholar J. N. D. Kelly,

a forceful ruler, ruthless and violent.

The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (1986), page 255

Erasmus criticized certain Popes, but not the Papacy.  He condemned abuses in the Church, but not the Church itself.  He avoided committing schism, although some especially defensive Catholics accused him of being worse than Martin Luther, who did commit schism, albeit only after the Church forced the matter.  In fact, Luther and Erasmus, who never met, carried on a literary debate.  Furthermore, Erasmus was critical of more than one Protestant Reformer.

Erasmus, more at home at Basel, Switzerland, than anywhere else, lived there in 1514-1517, 1521-1529, and 1536.  At the end of his life Erasmus really became a Cardinal, but he died at Basel on July 12, 1536, instead.  His heir, Boniface Amerbach, wrote of the great man’s passing:

As was his life, so was the death of this most upright of men.  Most holy was his living, most holy was his dying.

The last words of Erasmus, in Dutch, were:

Dear God.

After his death the Church added his writings to the Index of Forbidden Books.

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CONCLUSION

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These three saints of God were scholars, friends, and colleagues.  They left the world better than they found it and entrusted it with their intellects and piety.  Two of these men died rather than betray their consciences and, they believed, God.  Erasmus also remained faithful to God, as he understood God.  All of these men did this nonviolently.

As I have prepared this post, I have arrived at another conclusion:  I like Erasmus most of all.  The punchiness of his personality has appealed to part of my personality.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 28, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT AND HIS PUPIL, SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIANS

THE FEAST OF CHARLES KINGSLEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST, NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BARNBY, ANGLICAN CHURCH MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF RICHARD FREDERICK LITTLEDALE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

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

We thank you for the faithful legacy of Desiderius Erasmus, Saint John Fisher, and Saint Thomas More,

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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My Eighth Anniversary As a Blogger   Leave a comment

Above:  Theta, the Eighth Letter of the Greek Alphabet

Image in the Public Domain

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Today is the eighth anniversary of SUNDRY THOUGHTS, my original weblog, from which I have spun off seven others.

I had little idea what I was doing on July 27, 2009.  My original post was the text (as an editor at the Athens Banner-Herald modified it) of a letter to the editor decrying the homophobia of U.S. Representative Paul Broun, Jr., and people like him.  That was a fine post, but I have deleted most of my earliest posts.  I hit upon the idea of blogging about saints, although I have deleted many of those early posts also.  Many were mostly cut-and-paste jobs; they were substandard.  Early original posts about saints also tended to be bad.  The slow and methodical renovation and expansion of my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days has progressed from posts for feast days beginning with January 1 to the end of April–about one-third of the way toward one goal–to get through December 31.

The project of renovating and expanding the Ecumenical Calendar will require much time.  That will not be a problem for me.  After I get to December 31 in that project, I will start again, reviewing what I have done and adding more saints as I deem proper.

Blogging has proven to be a useful hobby for me.  It has stabilized my Bible Study projects (keyed to lectionaries) and provided an outlet for self-expression.  I have frequently been at a loss for someone to whom to express certain thoughts I have considered worthy of sharing.  Either stating certain opinions to a particular person would be foolish or at least not helpful or that person would not be able, for a variety of reasons, to comprehend or relate to the content.  Yet, via blogging, I have been able to find an audience, albeit a relatively small one, as WordPress records statistics.  I have pursued what I like, not what is popular.  As Martin Luther probably did not say at the Diet of Worms,

Here I stand; I can do no other.

Maintaining a network of eight weblogs necessarily entails leaving some of them fallow at any given time.  I am preparing to leave SUNDRY THOUGHTS fallow for a little while, except for an occasional post, and return to BLOGA THEOLOGICA, the intended host of a series of 60 posts of the Book of Psalms.  The Psalter in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) divides the 150 Psalms according to a reading plan for 30 days, with distinct readings for the morning and the evening of each day.  That sounds like an invitation to write 60 weblog posts to me.  The next major project here at SUNDRY THOUGHTS is due to be the renovation and expansion of the May portion of the Ecumenical Calendar.

For now, however, the project of updating the April section of the Ecumenical Calendar is temporarily on hold while I add texts by the prolific hymn writer James Montgomery (1771-1854) to GATHERED PRAYERS ahead of creating the new Montgomery post, the last one of April this round.  I have a draft (dated July 23) of that profile sitting in a composition book.  Frequently, when I write about a hymn writer here at SUNDRY THOUGHTS, the updating of GATHERED PRAYERS becomes a related project, so that I link the two weblogs to each other.

Pax vobiscum!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2017 COMMON ERA

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Feast of Johann Walter (April 23)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Luther Rose

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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JOHANN WALTER (1496-MARCH 25, 1570)

“First Cantor of the Lutheran Church”

Also known as Johann Walther and Johannes Walter

The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod celebrates the life and legacy of Johann Walter on April 24.  On my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, however, his feast day is April 23.

Walter was a native of Kahla, Thuringia.  He, born in 1496, studied in Kahla and Rochlitz before matriculating at the University of Leipzig in 1521.  He, who had experience as a chorister, sang bass in the court of Frederick III “the Wise,” Elector of Saxony (reigned 1486-1525).  In 1524 and 1525 Walter collaborated with Martin Luther.  He edited the Geystliche gesangk Buchleyn (1524), a collection of polyphonic motets.  Our saint also adapted music for use in the reformer’s German Mass.  In 1526 Walter started a new job–cantor at Torgau, with duties to teach music to boys and to direct music in the parish church.  He did that until 1548, when he became the kappelmeister to Maurice, Elector of Saxony (reigned 1547-1553).  Walter’s last job ended in 1554, when he, aged 60 years, became a pensioner.  Then he returned to Torgau, where he died on March 25, 1570.

Walter’s main contribution to Lutheran hymnody was musical.  He did, however, compose some texts, such as the one translated into English as “The Bridegroom Soon Will Call Us,” originally 33 stanzas in German.  English translations, however, have been much briefer.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2017 COMMON ERA

PROPER 10:  THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALEN POSTEL, FOUNDER OF THE POOR DAUGHTERS OF MERCY

THE FEAST OF GEORGE ALFRED TAYLOR RYGH, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN MOORE WALKER, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

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

thank you for those (especially Johann Walter)

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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The Unfortunate Triumph of Ignorance and Emotionalism   Leave a comment

Above:  The Beginning of the Declaration of Independence 

Image in the Public Domain

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Or, Why We Should Not Fail to Recognize the Text of the Declaration of Independence, Especially on July 4

In 1988 National Public Radio (NPR) began its annual tradition of reading the Declaration of Independence on the air on the morning of each July 4.  For years I, as a student of American history, have anticipated the orchestra of voices, each speaker reading a segment of the complete text of that great document.  This year NPR tweeted the full text of the Declaration of Independence in 113 tweets, giving rise to an unfortunate Twitter storm.  There were bitter complaints that NPR was, among other offenses, calling for the violent overthrow of the federal government and daring to (gasp!) criticize Donald Trump, as if criticizing those in authority is unpatriotic and un-American.  (Tsk:  Dissenters founded this country.)  Many angry Twitter uses had to eat crow the following day.

 A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

–From the Declaration of Independence

This incident leads me to some troubling thoughts.  It confirms me in my low opinion of human nature (trust in the faithfulness of God, as Martin Luther said) and illustrates the fact that one negative use of social media is to expose the degree to which one is an overly emotional and poorly informed person.  People out themselves voluntarily and unwittingly as individuals who should study more deeply, or at all.  I recall hearing that my grandfather Taylor, who died in 1976,  said that it was better to have a reputation as a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.  If social media had existed in his time, I am certain, he would have added clauses about posting and sharing.  All of us who are or have been on social media are guilty of some unfortunate acts of posting, sharing, and/or liking, especially with regard to factually inaccurate posts.  I am.  I am also a former used of social media.  It is something best avoided, except for official purposes, at least in my case; I might permit it to take up too much of my time otherwise.

…whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

–From the Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence is a document of which many Americans have superficial knowledge at best.  Many (including some of my students) conflate it with the Constitution, which, of course, a few years younger.  So if one is already worked up emotionally and coming from a certain defensive political perspective while reading a disembodied criticism of George III (Parliament, actually, British Parliamentary supremacy dates to the Glorious Revolution of 1688), one might interpret it as a criticism of Donald Trump or a call for the overthrow of the government.  (George III, by the way, was a loving husband and a kind father-in-law.)  My knowledge of the document is greater than that of such poorly informed Twitter users, for I teach the document not quite line-by-line in U.S. History I survey courses.  The Declaration of Independence is a foundational document, one that schools should teach well and that inquisitiveness should compel one to explore on one’s own.  I do not blame schools and teachers completely though, for, although I teach the document thoroughly, some of my students still manage to confuse it for the Constitution and Thomas Jefferson for James Madison, the Father of the Constitution.  At some point students are responsible for their own ignorance.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

–From the Declaration of Independence

By the way, is not July 4 a wonderful day to read the full text of the Declaration of Independence?  When one thinks about how much many of the signers of the document sacrificed for idealism and country, one should stand in awe of them.

If NPR retweets the Declaration of Independence again next July 4, it will probably meet with a similar reception, unfortunately.  Ignorance and emotionalism seem never to die.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2017 COMMON ERA

Feast of Johannes Bugenhagen (April 20)   2 comments

Above:  Johannes Bugenhagen

Image in the Public Domain

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JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN (JUNE 24, 1485-APRIL 20, 1558)

German Lutheran Theologian, Minister, Liturgist, and “Pastor of the Reformation”

Also known as Johannes Pomeranus

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If you know Christ well, it is enough, though you know nothing else; if you know not Christ, what else you learn does not matter.

–Motto of Johannes Bugenhagen

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Johannes Bugenhagen, whose Latinized surname was Pomeranus, was a foundational figure for the Lutheran Church.

His feast comes to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days from the calendar of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.

Bugenhagen, born at Wollin, Pomerania (now Wolin, Poland) on June 24, 1485, converted from Roman Catholicism.  He, educated at the University of Greifswald from 1502 to 1504, joined the Premonstratensian Canons, also known as the Norbertines and the White Canons.  Our saint, rector of the school at Treptow, Pomerania (now Trzebiatow, Poland), from 1504, became a priest in 1509 then began to serve as vicar of the church.  In 1520 Bugenhagen converted under the direct influence of Martin Luther.  Our saint arrived in Wittenberg the following year and lectured on the Psalms.  The following year he married Walpurga (original surname unknown).  The couple had three children–Johannes the Younger, Martha, and Sara.  That year Bugenhagen, through Luther’s influence, became the pastor of St. Mary’s Church, Wittenberg, a post he held for the rest of his life.  In 1523 our saint became Luther’s confessor.  Two years later Bugenhagen acquired another portfolio–professor of theology.  Our saint and Luther also collaborated on the Low German translation of the Bible.

Bugenhagen was a liturgist and organizer of the Lutheran Church.  He and Luther prepared the simplified German Mass (1526), intended for the benefit of uneducated lay people, not to replace the Latin order permanently.  Our saint was crucial in the organization of Lutheranism in Denmark, Brunswick, Hamburg, Lubeck, and Pomerania.  Early Lutheranism had a variety of liturgical forms; Bugenhagen’s influential Brunswick Order (1528), more informal than the Brandenburg-Nuremburg type of service, provided for Matins, Vespers, and a Sunday Mass.  The Brunswick Order was still relatively conservative; it approved of traditional vestments (not deeming them mandatory, though), required the retention of traditional elements of the old Latin Mass, and forbade unnecessary novelties.  Bugenhagen, a superintendent (functionally a bishop) since 1533, accepted the invitation of King Christian III (reigned 1534-1559) in 1537 to reorganize the Danish church along Lutheran lines.  Our saint did so, consecrating seven superintendents, establishing the liturgy, and crowning the King and the Queen.

Bugenhagen, who preached Luther’s funeral (1546) then took care of the reformer’s wife and children, wrote Biblical commentaries, became a figure of controversy within Lutheranism during his final years.  In 1548 Holy Roman Emperor Charles V issued the Augsburg Interim, which would have reimposed Roman Catholicism on the Lutherans of Saxony.  Bugenhagen and Philipp Melancthon made a counter-offer.  They proposed the Leipzig Interim, according to which, the affected Lutherans would maintain their core beliefs while following many Medieval Roman Catholic practices.  Charles V approved.  Gnesio-Lutherans (literally, Genuine Lutherans), for whom any compromise was excessive, objected strenuously.

Bugenhagen died at Wittenberg on April 20, 1558.  He was 72 years old.

His liturgies have been influential for centuries.  They have, however, proven to be less influential in North America since the introduction of the Common Service in 1888.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 12, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN GUALBERT, FOUNDER OF THE VALLOMBROSAN BENEDICTINES

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES RENATUS VERBEEK, MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PETER RICKSECKER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; STUDENT OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN BECHLER, MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; FATHER OF JULIUS THEODORE BECHLER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Johannes Bugenhagen,

through whom you have called the church to its task 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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THE ADMINISTRATION IS NOT THE NATION-STATE.   4 comments

john-adams

Above:  John Adams, President of the United States from 1797 to 1801

Image in the Public Domain

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The administration is not the nation-state.  This is a simple fact that political dissidents keep having to repeat, even in my native land, the United States of America.  To oppose the presidential administration is not to be disloyal.  The Constitution of the United States even builds debate and dissent into the political system, complete with contested elections.

The failure to acknowledge the fact that the administration is not the nation-state during the Quasi-War with France during the administration of President John Adams (1797-1801) contributed to the abomination that was the Sedition Act of 1798.

SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That if any persons shall unlawfully combine or conspire together, with intent to oppose any measure or measures of the government of the United States, which are or shall be directed by proper authority, or to impede the operation of any law of the United States, or to intimidate or prevent any person holding a place or office in or under the government of the United States, from undertaking, performing or executing his trust or duty, and if any person or persons, with intent as aforesaid, shall counsel, advise or attempt to procure any insurrection, riot, unlawful assembly, or combination, whether such conspiracy, threatening, counsel, advice, or attempt shall have the proposed effect or not, he or they shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor, and on conviction, before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, and by imprisonment during a term not less than six months nor exceeding five years; and further, at the discretion of the court may be ho]den to find sureties for his good behaviour in such sum, and for such time, as the said court may direct.

SEC. 2. And be it farther enacted, That if any person shall write, print, utter or publish, or shall cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered or published, or shall knowingly and willingly assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame the said government, or either house of the said Congress, or the said President, or to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them, or either or any of them, the hatred of the good people of the United States, or to stir up sedition within the United States, or to excite any unlawful combinations therein, for opposing or resisting any law of the United States, or any act of the President of the United States, done in pursuance of any such law, or of the powers in him vested by the constitution of the United States, or to resist, oppose, or defeat any such law or act, or to aid, encourage or abet any hostile designs of any foreign nation against United States, their people or government, then such person, being thereof convicted before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment not exceeding two years.

SEC. 3. And be it further enacted and declared, That if any person shall be prosecuted under this act, for the writing or publishing any libel aforesaid, it shall be lawful for the defendant, upon the trial of the cause, to give in evidence in his defence, the truth of the matter contained in Republication charged as a libel. And the jury who shall try the cause, shall have a right to determine the law and the fact, under the direction of the court, as in other cases.

SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That this act shall continue and be in force until the third day of March, one thousand eight hundred and one, and no longer: Provided, that the expiration of the act shall not prevent or defeat a prosecution and punishment of any offence against the law, during the time it shall be in force.

APPROVED, July 14, 1798.

Source = The Avalon Project, Yale University

Adjusting dollar amounts for inflation is crucial.  Know then, O reader, that $2000 (1798) is $39,800 (2015) and that $5000 (1798) is $99,400, according to MeasuringWorth.com.

It was a partisan law applied to opposition newspaper editors and Representative Matthew Lyon of Vermont.  One might also notice that the law permitted (by omission) all manner of negative press and speech regarding the Vice President, who was Thomas Jefferson, a leader of the opposition party.  Newspaper editors went to prison, newspapers closed, and Lyon became a federal inmate.  Lyon was hardly the most polite of Congressmen, but all that he had uttered and published negatively regarding the Adams Administration fell within the bounds of the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Federalists who supported the Sedition Act of 1798 mistook partisanship for treason and trampled upon the First Amendment.  Lyon had argued in a letter to Spooner’s Vermont Journal that the allegedly power-hungry president had “swallowed up” “every consideration of public welfare.”  He had written this letter prior to July 14, 1798, so the legal principle of ex post facto protected him prior to the date that Adams signed the Sedition Act into law.  After the law had gone into effect, however, Lyon repeated those charges repeatedly and added more criticisms of Adams and the Federalist majorities in Congress (such as that Adams fostered “ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, and selfish avarice” and Congress should send the President to a mad house).  The federal indictment (October 5, 1798) accused Lyon of having “malicious intent to bring the President and the government of the United States into contempt.”  The verdict was guilty.  Lyon went on to win reelection from his prison cell.

Alas, Jefferson was not a paragon of virtue with regard to freedom of the press.  Although he, as Vice President, opposed the Sedition Act of 1798, which expired in 1801, he encouraged partisans to use similar state laws against Federalist critics of himself and of his administration.  There was, for example, People v. Croswell (1804), which targeted Harry Croswell (1778-1858), editor of The Wasp, a Federalist newspaper in Hudson, New York.  Croswell was openly critical of President Jefferson.  Croswell lost that case, in which the prosecution convicted him of having committed both libel and sedition.  The editor kept losing libel lawsuits.  In 1814 he left journalism for the Episcopal priesthood.

The unfortunate tendency to confuse the presidential administration for the nation-state has recurred frequently, drawing support from the “rally around the flag” mentality.  Resurgence of this confusion in the form of jingoism has been especially egregious during times of war, whether declared or otherwise.  During World War I, for example, the federal government sent some antiwar activists to prison not for inciting violence, but for inciting nonviolence.  Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., disappointingly, compared the rhetoric of nonviolence during time of war to yelling “fire” in a crowded theater.  “My country, right or wrong” has never impressed me, for as the great Voltaire wrote,

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.

And, as the moralist Samuel Johnson observed,

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Dissent is as American as the First Amendment.  That is a patriotic statement.  Those who enter public life should either have thick political skins already or grow them quickly.  President Harry Truman‘s maxim that those who want a friend in Washington, D.C., should bring a dog remains true much of the time.

I am convinced that another contributing factor to the identification of the administration with the nation-state is fear.  Out of fear individuals and institutions tend to trample people and ideals–even foundational principles.  A time of crisis, however, is properly a time to double down on acting in accordance with those foundational principles, such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the fact that dissent is patriotic.  As Tom Dobbs, the character the late, great Robin Williams portrayed in Man of the Year (2006), said,

If dissent were unpatriotic, we would still be British.

I bristle whenever I read or hear someone accuse dissidents of being stupid at best or treasonous at worst.  One reason for my bristling is principled; I affirm that, in the words of The Use of Force in International Affairs (1961),

If what your country is doing seems to you practically and morally wrong, dissent is the highest form of patriotism.

What I think of the content of that dissent is irrelevant with regard to my estimate of the patriotism of the dissident.  Another reason is personal; I know the feeling of hearing and reading people question either my intelligence or my patriotism or both because of a political difference.  Dissent, however, is as American as the First Amendment.

Administrations come and go, but the United States of America persists.  The administration is not the nation-state.

As Martin Luther probably did not say,

Here I stand; I can do no other.

I will do no other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 10, 2017 COMMON ERA

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I derived much material for this post from Geoffrey R. Stone, Perilous Times:  Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism (New York, NY:  W. W. Norton and Company, 2004).

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