Archive for the ‘Martin Luther’ Tag

Feast of Patrick Hamilton (February 29)   Leave a comment

Above:  Flag of Scotland

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

PATRICK HAMILTON (1504-FEBRUARY 29, 1528)

First Scottish Protestant Martyr, 1528

As anyone who pays close attention to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, should know, martyrs constitute one of the major categories of saints of whom I write.  At my Ecumenical Calendar, almost all martyrs are Christian; the exception applies to certain Biblical characters.  Therefore, most martyrs may be one of the following:  Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Old Catholic, Protestant, or Anglican.  One subcategory of martyrs is “First ____ Martyr.”  To that subcategory I add Patrick Hamilton, who at the age of 24 years or so, became the first Scottish Protestant Martyr.

Hamilton grew up a Roman Catholic.  He, born in Lankashire, Scotland, in 1504, was a son of Sir Patrick Hamilton and Catherine Stewart (or Stuart), a granddaughter of King James II of Scotland (reigned 1437-1460).  Our saint, the titular Abbot of Fearn Abbey, Ross-shire, used that source of income to finance his studies in Europe.  He studied at the Sorbonne, Paris, where he earned his M.A. in 1520.  While in Paris, Hamilton read some of the writings of Martin Luther.  Our saint also visited Desiderius Erasmus in Leuven.

Above:  Ruins of St. Andrew’s Cathedral, St Andrews, Scotland, 1842

Image in the Public Domain

Hamilton, having returned to Scotland, joined the faculty of the University of St Andrews in 1524.  He stayed out of trouble for a few years.  Our saint even composed a musical setting of the Mass and conducted the premiere performance at St. Andrew’s Cathedral.  Preaching, however, got Hamilton into trouble; he first had to contend with allegations of heresy in 1527.  Hamilton spent part of that year in Marburg, Germany.  There he studied at the university and met William Tyndale, who became a martyr in 1536.

Late in 1527, however, Hamilton returned to Scotland.  He went to the home of his brother in Kincavel, preached often, and married.  The name of his wife has not survived in historical records.  Our saint’s marriage was brief.  He accepted the invitation of David Beaton, the Abbot of Arbroath, to meet at St Andrews.  Hamilton preached and argued for a month prior to his trial before a council of bishops and other clergymen.  He, convicted of heresy on February 29, 1528, burned at the stake that day.

Perhaps those who condemned Hamilton to die thought they were dealing a fatal blow to the perceived existential threat of Protestantism in Scotland.  If so, they were wrong; Hamilton’s martyrdom accelerated the pace of the Scottish Reformation.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR, 1729

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF EDWARD WHITE BENSON, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF LOUIS FITZGERALD BENSON, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMNODIST

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Gracious God, in every age you have sent men and women

who have given their lives in witness to your love and truth.

Inspire us with the memory of Patrick Hamilton,

whose faithfulness led to the way of the cross,

and give us courage to bear full witness with

our lives to your Son’s victory over sin and death,

for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 20:40-42

Psalm 5

Revelation 6:9-11

Mark 8:34-38

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 59

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Advertisements

Feast of William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale (October 6)   1 comment

Above:  William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale

Images in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

WILLIAM TYNDALE (1497-OCTOBER 6, 1536)

English Reformer, Bible Translator, and Martyr

+++++++++++++++++++

MILES COVERDALE (1488-JANUARY 20, 1569)

English Reformer, Bible Translator, and Bishop of Exeter

Also known as Myles Coverdale

October 6 is, on many Anglican calendars, the Feast of William Tyndale.  It is also Tyndale’s feast in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).  October 7 is an alternative feast day for Tyndale, as in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

At the General Convention of 2009, when The Episcopal Church approved Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), supplemental to Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006 (2007), it added Coverdale to Tyndale’s feast.  The combined feast transferred into A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016), successor to Holy Women, Holy Men.  Neither Tyndale nor Coverdale have transferred to Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018, however.

A Great Cloud of Witnesses (2016) remains an approved resource, of course.

Miles Coverdale, born in Yorkshire circa 1488, collaborated with William Tyndale, born in Gloucestershire in 1497.  Tyndale, influenced indirectly by the late John Wycliffe (circa 1320-1384), while growing up, studied at Oxford (B.A., 1512; M.A., 1515) then at Cambridge.  Other influential figures in his life included Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536), who had published the first published Greek New Testament in 1516, as well as Martin Luther (1483-1546), who had published his German translation of the Bible in 1522.  Tyndale, in 1522-1523 the tutor in the household of Sir John Walsh in Gloucestershire, became an alleged heretic by debating visiting clergymen.  He became convinced of the necessity of an English translation of the Bible.

Coverdale had been an Augustinian friar.  His mentor and prior had been Robert Barnes (circa 1495-1540).  At Cambridge Coverdale had begun to adopt Lutheran opinions.  He almost certainly met Tyndale at the White Horse tavern, where many Protestants gathered for discussion.

Tyndale, having left the Walsh household, to protect them, arrived in Wittenberg on May 27, 1524.  He spent the rest of his life in Europe.  By 1525 he was in Cologne.  There he planned to publish the new translation of the New Testament.  However, he and his secretary had to flee when Johannes Cochlaeus, archfoe of Luther, acted to prevent the publication of the English-language New Testament in that city.  Tyndale published his New Testament in Worms in 1526, though.  English ecclesiastical authorities, including St. Thomas More (1487-1535), ordered the burning of copies.

Meanwhile, Coverdale continued his Biblical studies at Cambridge.  He also became a radical.  His mentor, Robert Barnes, tried for heresy in 1526, recanted under pressure.  Coverdale left the abbey in 1528.  He, dressed as a secular priest, preached against images, confession, and the Mass.  He was in Hamburg the following year.  There, at Tyndale’s invitation, Coverdale was helping to translate the Torah.  Both men subsequently moved to Antwerp.  Tyndale published the new translation of the Torah in 1530 (Julian Calendar)/1531 (Gregorian Calendar).  Before he died Tyndale had translated the Old Testament through Nehemiah, as well as Jonah.  Some of his translation choices were controversial and purposefully contrary to current orthodoxy.  He preferred “congregation” to “church” and “love” to “charity,” for example.

Tyndale wrote original texts, too.  Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue (1530) was a polemic.  The Parable of the Wicked Mammon (1528) argued for justification by faith.  The Obedience of a Christian Man (1528) influenced the English Reformation.  More, a staunch Roman Catholic who, like Tyndale, opposed the annulment of the marriage of King Henry VIII to Queen Catherine of Aragon, identified Tyndale as one of the leaders of the Reformation.

Meanwhile Coverdale was translating and writing, also.  He translated the Book of Psalms from Latin to English in 1534 then translated more of the Old Testament.  The following year Coverdale published the complete English Bible, dedicated to Henry VIII.  Coverdale worked from five translations, including Tyndale’s.  He was a fine stylist of the English language; his Psalter graced editions of The Book of Common Prayer from the first one (1549) into the twentieth century.  The Coverdale and Tyndale translations constituted at least half of the Thomas Matthew Bible (1537) and therefore influenced the Great Bible (1539), the Bishop’s Bible (1568), the Authorized Version (1611), and its successors, including the American Standard Version (1901) and the branching lines of translations derived from it, starting with the Revised Standard Version (New Testament, 1946; Old Testament, 1952; Apocrypha, 1957; RSV II, 1971).

Tyndale, betrayed in Antwerp by Henry Phillips in May 1535, spent the final phase of his life as a prisoner at the castle of Vilvoorde, near Brussels.  There he died by strangling on October 6, 1536.  Authorities burned his corpse.

Coverdale was in peril, also.  He, moving back and forth between England and the continent, compiled the concordance (1535) to Tyndale’s New Testament and edited the Great Bible (1539), placed in every church in the realm.  In 1539 he fled Paris, to escape the French Inquisition.  Then, in 1540, Henry VIII began to preside over a crackdown.  Barnes died via burning at the stake that year.  Coverdale and his wife, Elizabeth Macheson (Sutherland) spent 1540-1543 in Strasbourg.  There he translated tracts and earned his D.D. degree from Tübingen University.  The Coverdales spent 1543-1548 in Bergzabern, 40 miles away from Strasbourg.  There Coverdale served as the headmaster of the town school and the assistant minister of the town church.  Meanwhile, in 1546, English authorities were burning his writings.

1548-1559 were years of changing political fortunes for Coverdale.  The Coverdales spent 1548-1553 in England.  Henry VIII had died and Edward VI had succeeded his father.  Coverdale, a royal chaplain, helped to suppress a rebellion before becoming the Bishop of Exeter (1551-1553).  Then Edward VI died and his sister, Mary I, succeeded him.  The Coverdales spent 1553-1559 in exile in Europe.  They eventually settled in Switzerland, where Coverdale helped to translate the Geneva Bible (1560).

Coverdale spent his final years back in England.  In 1558 Mary I had died and her sister, Elizabeth I, had succeeded her.  The course of the English Reformation changed; Elizabeth I presided over the birth of Anglicanism per se.  Coverdale, who had become a leading Puritan, declined to become the Bishop of Exeter again.  He had evolved theologically to the point that he could no longer approve of the ritual.  Coverdale, a much sought-after preacher, stayed busy, if not prosperous.  Elizabeth, his first wife, died in 1565.  He married Katharine the following year.

Coverdale, aged 80 or 81 years, died on January 20, 1569.

Tyndale and Coverdale were pioneers in the development of the English Bible.  Many generations of English-speaking Christians have been in their debt.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND SAINT JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC SCHOLAR, PHILOSOPHER, AND BISHOP OF LINCOLN

THE FEAST OF WILFRED THOMASON GRENFELL, MEDICAL MISSIONARY TO NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Almighty God, you planted in the heart of your servants William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale

a consuming passion to bring the Scriptures to people in their native tongue,

and endowed them with the gift of powerful and graceful expression

and with strength to persevere against all obstacles:

Reveal to us your saving Word, as we read and study the Scriptures,

and hear them calling us to repentance and life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Proverbs 8:10-17

Psalm 119:89-96

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

John 12:44-50

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 625

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Devotion for the Feast of the Reformation (October 31)   4 comments

Above:  Wittenberg in 1540

Image in the Public Domain

Schism and Reconciliation

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Feast of the Reformation, celebrated first in the Brunswick church order (1528), composed by Johannes Bugenhagen (1485-1558), died out in the 1500s.  Initially the dates of the commemoration varied according to various church orders, and not all Lutherans observed the festival.  Original dates included November 10 (the eve of Martin Luther‘s birthday), February 18 (the anniversary of Luther’s death), and the Sunday after June 25, the date of the delivery of the Augsburg Confession.  In 1667, after the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), Elector of Saxony John George II ordered the revival of the commemoration, with the date of October 31.  Over time the commemoration spread, and commemorations frequently occurred on the Sunday closest to that date.

The feast used to function primarily as an occasion to express gratitude that one was not Roman Catholic.  However, since 1980, the 450th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession, the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute (of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement) and the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau have favored observing the feast as a time of reconciliation and of acknowledging the necessity of the Reformation while not celebrating the schism.

This perspective is consistent with the position of Professor Phillip Cary in his Great Courses series of The History of Christian Theology (2008), in which he argues that Protestantism and Roman Catholicism need each other.

I, as an Episcopalian, stand within the Middle Way–Anglicanism.  I am convinced, in fact, that I am on this planet for, among other reasons, to be an Episcopalian; the affiliation fits me naturally.  I even hang an Episcopal Church flag in my home.  I, as an Episcopalian, am neither quite Protestant nor Roman Catholic; I borrow with reckless abandon from both sides–especially from Lutheranism in recent years.  I affirm Single Predestination (Anglican and Lutheran theology), Transubstantiation, a 73-book canon of scripture, and the Assumption of Mary (Roman Catholic theology), and reject both the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the Virgin Birth of Jesus.  My ever-shifting variety of Anglicanism is sui generis.

The scandal of schism, extant prior to 1517, but exasperated by the Protestant and English Reformations, grieves me.  Most of the differences among denominations similar to each other are minor, so overcoming denominational inertia with mutual forbearance would increase the rate of ecclesiastical unity.  Meanwhile, I, from my perch in The Episcopal Church, ponder whether organic union with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is feasible and wise.  It is a question worth exploring.  At least we are natural ecumenical partners.  We already have joint congregations, after all.  If there will be organic union, it will require mutual giving and taking on many issues, but we agree on most matters already.

Time will tell.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PETER OF CHELCIC, BOHEMIAN HUSSITE REFORMER; AND GREGORY THE PATRIARCH, FOUNDER OF THE MORAVIAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF GODFREY THRING, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JANE CREWDSON, ENGLISH QUAKER POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NARAYAN SESHADRI OF JALNI, INDIAN PRESBYTERIAN EVANGELIST AND “APOSTLE TO THE MANGS”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Almighty God, gracious Lord, we thank you that your Holy Spirit renews the church in every age.

Pour out your Holy Spirit on your faithful people.

Keep them steadfast in your word, protect and comfort them in times of trial,

defend them against all enemies of the gospel,

and bestow on the church your saving peace,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Psalm 46

Romans 3:19-28

John 8:31-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 58

++++++++++++++++++

Revelation 14:6-7

Romans 3:19-28

John 8:31-36 or Matthew 11:12-19

Lutheran Service Book (2006), xxiii

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/09/13/schism-and-reconciliation/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Feast of Nikolai Grundtvig (September 8)   3 comments

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

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Feast of Albrecht Durer, Matthias Grunewald, and Lucas Cranach the Elder (August 5)   Leave a comment

Above:  Part of the Isenheim Altarpiece, by Matthias Grünewald

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

ALBRECHT DÜRER (MAY 21, 1471-APRIL 6, 1528)

German Painter, Engraver, and Woodcut Illustrator

++++++++++

MATTHIAS GRÜNEWALD (CIRCA 1460-1528)

German Painter

Born Mathis Gothardt Nithardt

++++++++++

LUCAS CRANACH THE ELDER (OCTOBER 4, 1472-OCTOBER 16, 1553)

German Painter and Woodcut Illustrator

++++++++++

RENAISSANCE ARTISTS

++++++++++

Feast day in The Episcopal Church (since 2009) = August 5

Feast day in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (since 2006) = April 6

++++++++++

INTRODUCTION

++++++++++

A tendency evident in the calendars of saints, expanding in Anglican and Lutheran denominations during the last few decades, has been composite feasts commemorating several people who did similar work–composing music, resisting chattel slavery, advocating for the rights of women, et cetera.  Frequently these are composite feasts of people who were contemporaries of each other.  To some extent I follow the same practice here, at my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, but sometimes I break up composite feasts when adding those individuals to this calendar.  If I were to break up this composite feast, I would keep Dürer and Grünewald on the same feast (because the former taught the latter) and assign Cranach a feast day in October, as well as consider adding at least one son to Cranach’s feast.  As it is, the Episcopal-Lutheran composite feast works fine.

++++++++++

ALBRECHT DÜRER

++++++++++

Above:  Self-Portrait of Albrecht Dürer, 1500

Image in the Public Domain

Albrecht Dürer (the Younger) was the greatest German artist in his fields during his time.  He, born in Nuremberg, was a son of Albrecht Dürer the Elder (1427-1502), who was a goldsmith, and Barbara Holper.  Our saint studied first under his father.  Then, from 1486 to 1490, he studied (at Nuremberg) under Michael Wolgemut, a painter and woodcut illustrator.

Dürer spent much of his life traveling in Europe.  In the 1490s he went to Alsace, where he arrived shortly after the death of Martin Schongauer, the most prominent German graphic artist at the time.  So our saint studied Schogauer’s works.  Dürer also traveled to Basel that year; there he taught Matthias Grünewald.

Dürer, who married Agnes Frey (d. December 28, 1539) on July 7, 1494, was a Roman Catholic who harbored Lutheran sympathies toward the end of his life.  He created many sacred works, including altarpiece, for both Catholic and Lutheran churches.  His famous Praying Hands was part of a plan for a portion of an altarpiece (subsequently destroyed in wartime), completed in 1509.  Dürer also created scientific drawings and engravings, and wrote theoretical treatises on topics such as fortification and proportions.

Above:  Praying Hands

Image in the Public Domain

Dürer, from 1512 to 1519 an employee of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, reunited briefly with Grünewald at Aachen, for the coronation of Charles V, in 1521.  The two masters, who had different styles, exchanged art.

Dürer died at Nuremberg on April 6, 1528.  He was 46 years old.

++++++++++

MATTHIAS GRÜNEWALD

++++++++++

The real name of this artist was Mathis Gothardt NithardtMatthias Grünewald was the name by which Joachim von Sandrart referred to him in Teutschen Academie (1675).

Few details of the life of Nithardt/Grünewald have survived.  He, born in Warzburg circa 1460, was in Strasburg in 1479.  He studied under Dürer in Basel in 1490, was back in Wurzberg in 1501, and worked as court painter to the Archbishop of Mainz from 1509 to 1526, until the Archbishop fired him.  Nithardt/Grünewald died in Halle in 1528.  The reasons for Nithardt/Grünewald’s termination have remained vague to historians, but many have proposed the artist’s Lutheran sympathies.  Nithardt/Grünewald had to be diplomatic regarding organized religion as the Protestant Reformation got underway.

Nithardt/Grünewald created much sacred art, most of which, unfortunately, has not survived to the present day.  He painted the crucifixion of Jesus frequently and created many altarpieces.  His masterpiece was the altarpiece for the church at the Monastery of St. Anthony, Isenheim.

++++++++++

LUCAS CRANACH THE ELDER

++++++++++

Above:  Lucas Cranach the Elder (1550), by Lucas Cranach the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

Lucas Cranach the Elder, unlike Dürer and Nithardt/Grünewald, converted to Lutheranism.  Our saint, born in Kronach, Franconia, on October 4, 1472, was a son of Hans Cranach, a painter.  Hans taught his son painting.  Lucas, in Vienna in 1503, arrived in Wittenberg (as the court painter to the Electors of Saxony) two years later.  Cranach, husband of Barbara Brengbier (d. 1540), created both Catholic and Protestant art, as well as depictions from pagan mythology.  He, a friend and confidante of Martin Luther, enjoyed the protection of Frederick the Wise, as did the Luther family.  Cranach also created woodcut illustrations for an edition of Luther’s German Bible.  He died at Wittenberg on October 16, 1553.  He was 81 years old.

Cranach’s most famous child was Lucas Cranach the Younger (1515-1586), also a painter.

++++++++++

CONCLUSION

++++++++++

These three great artists channeled their faith into their art.  They used their God-given talents to glorify God.  Fortunately, one can still enjoy pieces they created.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MILTON SMITH LITTLEFIELD, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN AND CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF SIGISMUND VON BIRKEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND HYMN WRITER

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

We give thanks to you, O Lord, for the vision and skill of

Albrecht Dürer, Matthias Grünewald, and Lucas Cranach the Elder,

whose artistic depictions helped the peoples of their age understand

the full suffering and glory of your incarnate Son;

and we pray that their work may strengthen our faith in

Jesus Christ and the mystery of the Holy Trinity;

for you live and reign, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Exodus 35:21-29

Psalm 96:7-13

Romans 8:1-11

John 19:31-37

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 507

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Feast of John Wycliffe and Jan Hus (July 6)   1 comment

Above:  Dawn with Mountain Landscape

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

INTRODUCTION

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

THE “MORNING STAR OF THE REFORMATION”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

THE CZECH REFORMER

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

CONCLUSION

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Feast of Desiderius Erasmus, St. John Fisher, and St. Thomas More (June 22)   3 comments

Above:  The Flag of England

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

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

+++++++++++++++++++

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)

+++++++++++++++++++

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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A TRIPLE BIOGRAPHY OF THREE GREAT MEN

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

THE EARLY LIFE OF DESIDERIUS ERASMUS

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

THE EARLY LIFE OF SAINT THOMAS MORE

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

THE EARLY LIFE OF SAINT JOHN FISHER

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

ERASMUS THE BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

SAINT THOMAS MORE, 1514-1532

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.”

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

SAINT JOHN FISHER, 1511-1533

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

THE MARTYRDOM OF SAINTS JOHN FISHER AND THOMAS MORE

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

ERASMUS AND THE CHURCH

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

CONCLUSION

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++