26 September 2016

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

He [our Lord Jesus Christ] freely gives me his life with all his works, so that I can appropriate them to myself as a possession that is my own and is bestowed upon me as a free gift.—Martin Luther, Homily for Trinity XVIII, Church Postils

Patristic Quote of the Day

But let us commit the praises and hymns in honor of the King and Superintendent of all things, the perennial Fount of all blessings, to the hand of Him who, in this matter as in all others, is the Healer of our infirmity, and who alone is able to supply that which is lacking; to the Champion and Saviour of our souls, His first-born Word, the Maker and Ruler of all things, with whom also alone it is possible, both for Himself and for all, whether privately and individually, or publicly and collectively, to send up to the Father uninterrupted and ceaseless thanksgivings.—St. Gregory Thaumaturges, Oration and Panegyric Addressed to Origen

Chalking with Lydia

Autumn roses by the front door

25 September 2016

A Paper I Recently Delivered

I'm not going through this to correct the mistakes. Understand it was delivered orally so at points, the written stuff can be sketchy, just enough to remind me what else I wanted to say on the topic. But, I figured it might be of interest to some readers of this blog:

Cantica Sacra: An Exercise in Lutheran Ceremonial Maximalism 

What a blessing to be with you good folk today and to spend some time looking back into our shared history as Western Catholic Christians serving and living in the Church of the Augsburg Confession. 

When Dr. Joe Herl was working on his doctoral dissertation (which finally issued in the delightful book from Oxford Press: Worship Wars in Early Lutheranism—get if you don't have it! It's a treasure trove of goodies), he frequently shared his research with me. In his notes I came across a particular volume that I very much wanted to get my hands on and finally did, thanks to Dr. Herl again. He referenced a huge book called Cantica Sacra that contained everything you'd need to conduct the Daily Office and the Divine Service in the great Cathedral of the City of Magdeburg. The great Lutheran Cathedral of the City. The book was published in 1613, and quite manifestly was many years in preparation. 

You might remember from your study of Lutheran history that Magdeburg and questions of liturgy are intrinsically bound together. When the Emperor's troops stormed Wittenberg after Luther's death, the theological hardheads fled to the relative safety of Magdeburg about 50 miles down the Elbe and from there waged their liturgical war against the Interims that even great Philip had acquiesced to. Their ringleader was Matthias Flacius Illyricus. And the argument they put forward was simple: if some external force coercively imposes intrinsically indifferent ceremonies on a church territory, say insisting on the elevation or on fasting rules, those ceremonies immediately cease being indifferent and they become a causa confessionis, a matter of confession, to which the faithful Christian cannot yield an inch. St. Paul and the insistence on circumcision by the Judaizers supplied the template for this argument. This in contrast to Melanchthon, Bugenhagen and others who remained in Wittenberg with Imperial troops on their doorstep and who suggested that one could give in on such matters since they really were matters of no final weight or consequence. When the dust settled, the Lutheran Church firmly sided with the Magdeburg folk. See the Formula of Concord, Article X.

That would lead, one might guess, to supposing that the liturgical life of Magdeburg might thus end up being rather impoverished of traditional ceremonies which Rome insisted on and which the Lutherans regarded as free. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the book that Dr. Herl dug up, Cantica Sacra, we are given the most stunning and detailed peek into the liturgical life of that Cathedral and the community that gathered there where the Lutheran approach to liturgics was pursued  with a maximal retention of ceremony and this nearly one whole century after the Reformation. 

Now, of course, Lutherans have always insisted that one needn't get one's knickers in knots over ecclesiastical ceremony. Augsburg Confession VII stands as a bulwark against attributing too much to stuff that we've come up with. Lutheran theologians used the word "ceremony" generally, to denote those traditions which lacked specific dominical mandate. They did not come from the Lord Himself, but arose in the community where the Gospel was at work as it was preached and the sacraments administered according to the Lord's command.  Thus, since they are not commanded in Scripture, there is no promise of grace attached to them. But that doesn't mean that they were regarded as unimportant. Calling a ceremony an adiaphoron, in the use of the Lutheran writers, was NEVER conveyed the sense "unimportant." It merely means that the given ceremony arose in support of and  in service to the divinely instituted actions, but is NOT a divinely mandated action.  These ceremonies were broken down into other divisions: ceremonies that aided piety and befitted the solemnity of the Divine Service (like reading, by which they meant the chanting, of the Scriptures and chanting of the Psalms); ceremonies that were truly neutral (vestments, lighting different candles, bells); ceremonies that might have been well intentioned originally but have become theatrical and frivolous and even in danger of obscuring the Gospel (taking Jesus for a walk on Corpus Christi). Ceremonies contrary to the Gospel, of course, are not adiaphoron at all. Within this framework, Lutherans were rather the exact opposite of the Anglicans.

The Anglicans originally, at any rate, sought unity in ceremony and toleration in doctrine. Elizabeth I wasn't too concerned what you actually believed; but she wanted to make damn sure that you used HER prayerbook. In Lutheran lands, there was the inverse: a determined seeking for unity in doctrine and confession, and a wide toleration in ceremony. Thus, in certain locales in Southern Germany you had a curtailment of the riches of the liturgical tradition in a way that would make most of here today squirm in discomfort. But they held to their Lutheran doctrine and no one at the time would question that they were indeed Lutheran Christians (how well they were able to remain such, is of course, the interesting thing; those territories were the first to slip into the Calvinistic way). In locations such as Magdeburg and Brandenburg you had, by way of contrast, a maximal retention of human ceremony. Sachsen und Nieder Sachsen at the time were actually rather middle of the road. The Herzog Heinrich Order of 1539,1540 of Ducal Saxony, which is, by the way, the LCMS pedigree, stands exactly midstream between these two poles, though in it too you kept ceremonies like the ringing of the consecration bell during the chanting of the Words of Institution. And Lutherans at times have squabbled and disagreed over the exact boundaries. How much liturgical ceremony can you jettison and still dare to say that the Augsburg Confession is your confession? "We do not abolish the mass. We religiously keep and defend it. Almost all the usual ceremonies are retained." Oh, really? Amid the rockabilly praise band with its praise babes swaying to the beat, that rings rather hollow, eh? And on the other side, you have things like King John III of Sweden's Red Book, in which he ingeniously found a way to preserve even the opening lines of the various paragraphs of the Roman Canon, transferred to the prayer of the Church, all the while attempting to turn the content evangelical. That order, by the way, is the sole example that I know of in the Reformation that has an epiclesis, and in true Western fashion prior to the consecration proper. King John offered it in Latin and Swedish after a generation of them only using Swedish. So there were those who called foul and the Red Book never really enjoyed great success among the Swedes. It remained popularly for most Lutherans "a step too far" though appreciated by liturgiologists. 

The work I propose to focus on with you today IS on the maximal ceremony end of the spectrum, but unlike the controversial Red Book, no one ever questioned its authentic Lutheran pedigree. It was a feat of printing, I'm sure, to be able to pull it off. The music dominates in the book, as in Lutheran liturgy in general at the time (in contrast to the text-focused approach of the Anglicans). It's all Gregorian, but with that peculiar hobnail printing. Daily readings and Mass readings are not printed out in full, but given by indication, chapter and then the opening and closing words. Likewise the Psalter, that was printed two years later as its own volume, is only indicated. Massive as it is, my copy runs to 1201 pages exclusive of the indices, it constantly refers back to itself and you can only imagine its actual use was every bit as much an art as handing a medieval breviary. What this massive tome does is then give us in our day a priceless glimpse of where the Western rite for Mass and Office actually stood at that time (second decade of the 17th century) in a place that took its Lutheran confession AND its catholic liturgy quite seriously. 

Quick aside: when Johann Gerhard was assembling his magisterial Loci Communes Theologici (written exactly as the time this book was being put together, but further south about 180 miles in the duchy of Coburg), he devotes no less than two volumes to the Ministry, and when he explicates the duties of the ministers of the Church he includes as the sixth of the seven: "The preservation of ecclesiastical rites and ceremonies" and makes it absolutely clear that no individual pastor or congregation has the right to do with the ceremonies as he or it sees fit. They belong to the Church and are part of our patrimony. They were to be cherished, practiced, and carried out in every parish in accordance with the ordo laid down in the given territory and part of the Ecclesiastical Visitation was for the Superintendent or Bishop to make sure that the ordo itself was being followed and the human ceremonies that that church had indicated in her order were being employed. Can you even imagine today?

Back to the book and the description of worship given there that the local Bishop would insure was being followed. What do we have? A century out from the Reformation, what does the worship of the Lutheran Church look like in this place that manifestly values its catholic heritage and its Lutheran confession? Is Graf right that the history of Lutheran Liturgy is the history of its dissolution? You be the judge.


Right from the title you get a big hint! Cantica Sacra quod Ordine et Melodies, Per Totius Anni Curriculum, in Matuninis et Vespertinis, item; Intermediis Precibus, Cantari Solent Una Cum Lectionibus et Precationibus in Unum Volem Congesta Pro S. Metropolitana Magdeburgensi Ecclesai. 

The first shocker is how much the Latin language still reigns supreme. Cantica Sacra gives the lie to the notion that Luther put the Mass and all the services into the Vernacular and rid the Church once and for all of that pesky language of Rome! Not so. Heavens, even in the intro to the Deutsche Messe of Luther he makes abundantly clear that it is not meant to supplant the Latin but to supplement it. So here. The Psalter is still sung in the Vulgate; numerous of the hymns remain in Latin – in fact, the majority of the German hymns are simply those composed at or since the Reformation.  If a hymn were composed prior, the Lutherans tended to simply continued singing it in Latin. [Matthew Carver, who is the #1 US expert on this Magdeburg book, has assembled an English version of the Latin hymns used in early Lutheranism so that those of us whose Latin is a bit challenged, can still learn HOW the early Lutherans were shaped in their singing. Coming out next week or the week following by Emmanuel Press. Google Emmanuel Press, Carver, you won't be sorry!] Sadly, though, rather than translating many of the Latin hymns as Luther began to do, most just fell away from use when Latin stopped, but as even Günther Stiller's work on Liturgical Life in Leipzig at the Time of J. S. Bach, Latin will continue its use in Lutheran liturgy for another century and a half at least unabated. And certainly Latin is no where near stopping in Magdeburg in 1613! In the daily prayer services, the first reading in morning and evening is read in Latin; the second reading is the same reading read again in German.  Same in the Mass for the Epistle and the Gospel. In the Mass, the Gloria remains in Latin, frequently the collects, the Latin Creed is used each week, the Latin Preface and Sanctus as well. The sheer volume of the Latin in the services is staggering and shows that the Reformation by no means abandoned the Latin language in favor of the Vernacular, rather as our Confessions insist, Lutherans blended the two languages together, thereby preserving the musical heritage of the Latin and providing some solid food in German for those who could not understand the Latin. And I suppose we should be glad that Luther's suggestion in Deutsche Messe never took hold, because remember he thought it a spiffy idea to hold service in German, then Latin, then Greek, then Hebrew! "Love the languages as you love the Gospel!" he insisted.

Frequency of Eucharist

The Augsburg Confession and its Apology are clear that at least, a Lord's Day celebration is held each week there are communicants, but they add that the Eucharist is given on other days too. And indeed here in Magdeburg, Eucharist still reigns supreme.  On an ordinary week in Magdeburg, the Mass, the Divine Service was celebrated every Sunday, every Tuesday, and every Thursday.  Thus, it was offered at LEAST three times a week.  However, since every festival had its own Mass, in actual point of fact it was offered even more and there were optional votive masses too! So three times a week is the minimum in the city that the Eucharist was celebrated at that altar.

Full Church Calendar

The Cantica Sacra also bears witness to a rather full Church Year.  Here I am not merely speaking of the regular and chief seasons, feasts and Sundays.  Those were all there: Advent and of course the Great O Antiphons quite intact and with more than are commonly used today, a total of 12, and they ran back from the 23, but skipping St. Thomas Day, and any Sundays, thus filling much of Advent! The extras were 

O Virgin of Virgins:

O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be?
For neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after.
Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me?
The thing which ye behold is a divine mystery.

O Gabriel, heavenly messenger; 

O King of Peace; 

O Mother of the Lord; 

and O Jerusalem. 

Of course, they observed Christmas, Lent and its Sundays [no Ash Wednesday noted, though Joel 2 is an epistle in the Eucharist that week]. Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity. All of that, but additionally the so-called minor festivals.  

In Magdeburg they were called:  "Feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary [in HUGE large type] and other saints [in tiny type]." 

Here's the list – all of which have double Vespers (Vespers on the Eve of the feast, Matins, Mass AND Vespers again on the day):  

St. Andrew
St. Thomas
St. Stephen [In main book, Christmas]
St. John [In main book, Christmas, with reading from Ecclesiasticus!]
Innocents [In main book, Christmas]
Circumcision [In main book, Christmas]
Conversion of St. Paul
Purification of the Virgin Mary
St. Matthias
Annunciation to the Virgin Mary
St. Mark
Sts. Philip and James
Nativity of St. John the Baptist
Sts. Peter and Paul
Visitation of the Virgin Mary
The Division of the Apostles (15 July)
St. Mary Magdalene
St. James the Great, Apostle
Assumption of the Virgin Mary (15 August), though the propers are not the traditional
St. Bartholomew
Beheading of St. John the Baptist (29 August)
St. Matthew
St. Maurice (22 September)
St. Michael the Archangel 
St. Luke
Sts. Simon and Jude
All Saints

Should also note that although Corpus Christi is not so named, yet the Thursday after Trinity Sunday is devoted to the Holy Eucharist and St. Thomas Aquinas' famous sequence:  Lauda Sion Salvatorum is sung, though with slight modification, correcta as they liked to say.  

So the assumption that Lutherans simply abolished this feast from their liturgies in the 16th and 17th centuries is not entirely accurate. Most orders did so, but there are notable exceptions. Brandenburg in the 16th century, and the Magdeburg Book in the 17th century. 

In the later, a full century after the Reformation, we find the Lutheran cathedral at Magdeburg observing the following on the Thursday Mass following the Feast of the Holy Trinity:

The Introit appointed is the same as that the Romans give for Corpus Christi: Psalm 81:17 antiphon for the Psalm; Psalm verse is 81:1.

The Kyrie is the Paschal tone.

The Collect is the collect appointed for Trinity Sunday

The Epistle is 1 Cor. 11:23-29 (same as for Corpus Christi)

The Sequence is "Lauda Sion Salvatorum" - the same as for Corpus Christi, though a slightly "corrected" text - following Lossius' Psalmodia: 

Dogma datur christianis,
quod in carnem transit panis,
et vinum in sanguinem.

[A teaching given to Christians,
That the bread is changed into flesh,
And the wine into blood.]

Which is rendered,

Dogma sacrum Christiano,
Quod cum pane datur caro,
Et cum vino sanquis Christi.

[A teaching sacred to Christians,
That with the bread is given flesh,
And with the wine the blood of Christ]

You can see what they're shying away from there - and especially on THIS day. But the sequence itself is really beautiful, and a very fruitful meditation upon this day. 

ANOTHER change in stanza 7. Here's the original:

Sub diversis speciebus,
Signis tantum, et non rebus,
Latent res eximiae:
[Beneath different species
Only signs and not the thing itself,
Hidden the thing extraordinary]

This becomes:

Sub diversis elementis,
Pane et vino, retentis,
Latent res eximiae:
[Beneath different elements,
Bread and wine, remaining,
Hidden the thing extraordinary]

And what's VERY interesting? Not that they changed the first bit, but that they had zero compunction about going on to sing that the entire Christ is present under either species in the rest of that verse:

Caro cibus, sanguis potus,
Manet tamen Christus totus
Sub untraque specie.
[flesh as food, blood as drink,
Remains still the entire Christ 
Under either species]

Note that this is a direct assault upon celebrating the day as a "Transubstantiation" day.

The Gospel is John 6:55-58 (substantially the same as for Corpus Christi)

So, here you have a 17th Century Church Order from Magdeburg in effect keeping the propers for Corpus Christi without giving the mass a special name. What I suspect happened on this day, however, would be a preaching upon the texts that would seek to refute the Roman use and practice of the Feast and stress instead the importance of receiving the Sacrament for the forgiveness of sins and not parading it around town. 

Votive Masses:
Mass for Peace
Mass for Good Weather
Mass for Rain
Mass for Remission of Sins
Mass at Time of Pestilence

Structure of the Divine Service

The order of Divine Service, always called the Mass in this book, in the Cantica Sacra for Advent I, which is rather typical, ran:

Introit (Latin)
Kyrie (Greek)
Gloria in Excelsis (Latin)  - used throughout Advent and Lent and on weekdays too; apparently never omitted, intoned by the celebrant in a chasuble before the altar
Salutation and Collect (sometimes Latin, sometimes German, no rime or reason)
Epistle, read by an assisting minister in surplice, first from the altar chanted in Latin and then sung to the people in German. Romans 13:11 to end of the chapter

Alleluia (sung by two boys from the chancel, they're even called "the alleluia boys!"
Sequence Hymn (usually using Bonar's corrected versions of these - Matthew Carver is also collecting and bringing these puppies into English for us and with modern notation. - here's what he offers for Advent I):

1. To the Virgin He sends
No inferior Angel;
But Gabriel He summons,
His Might, His Archangel;
He, Lover of men.

2. And mighty must needs be 
The Messenger sent,
By whom shall the order
Of Nature be bent,
When a Virgin shall bear.

3. The King's Natal glory
Shall Nature o'er sway;
Let Him reign, let Him conquer,
By purging away
The dross of corruption.

4. Let Him cast ev'ry haughty one
Down from his seat,
In His Might, on the mighty ones,
Setting His feet,
The Victor in battle.

5. Let Him cast out the Monarch
Whom this world obeys;
To the Throne of the Father
His Bride let Him raise,
To be sharer with Him.

6. Go forth on my message,
These gifts to unfold;
From the letter of Scripture
The veil shall be rolled,
By the might of thy word.

7. Draw night, — speak the tidings, — 
Say Hail! to her now;
And say, Highly favoured,
And say, Fear not thou,
And the Lord is with thee.

8. Receive, then, O Virgin,
The Gift God ordains,
While yet the firm purpose
Unalter'd remains
Of thy chaste resolve.

9. The word she receiveth,
That lowliest one,
Believeth, conceiveth,
And beareth the Son
And His Name shall be called.

10. Wonderful, Counselor,
Lord God of Hosts;
The Father Eternal,
The Monarch Who boasts
A Kingdom of Peace!

Holy Gospel, read by an assisting minister in surplice, first from the altar chanted in Latin and then another minister sings it to the people auf Deutsch. Matthew 21, the Triumphal Entry. Remember that for when we come to the Preface!

Creed (often the Nicene in Latin. The two alleluia boys though sing alone and loudly and with bared heads on "et incarnatus est de Spiritu sancto ex Maria virgine; et homo factus est." Then the choir picks up again and finishes the Creed in Latin, followed by the singing of "We All Believe" in German), during which the preacher mounts the pulpit.

Sermon introduced by a seasonal song and followed by its prayers, concluding with the Te Deum in German

Setting of the Altar: the celebrant accompanied by two lectors and two vicars having "processories" goes to the altar bringing the Chalice, Hosts, and all that pertains to the Most Worthy Supper. A silver censer with glowing coals and incense, having been hung on the marble column in the chancel by the sacristan, is taken and the censing for communion is performed after the altar is made ready with two wax candles, two books of red silk, wrought with silver, in which the traditional Gospel and Epistles are written with notes, and in festival times, a silver or gold crucifix set upon the altar. 

The "Da Pacem, Domine" is sung by the Alleluia boys after which the celebrant intones:
Proper Preface
Have to comment on the proper preface for Advent! Of course, historically the Western Church did not have an Advent preface, but one was supplied for this Order. Listen:

It is very meet and right, becoming and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thank to You, Lord, holy Father, almighty, everlasting God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who on this day came to us as our gracious Savior, for by the pure preaching of the Gospel and the right administration of the Sacraments He cleansed this temple. Therefore...

So the parallel in Matthew's Gospel where Jesus rides into Jerusalem 1–10 and then immediately cleanses the temple reminds them of their own Reformation!

Sanctus (all in Latin) with Benedictus treated as part of the same chant

Lord's Prayer in German (facing the people!), without doxology but with sung Amen

Words of Institution chanted (facing the altar)

Distribution commences and the elements are not referred to as Bread or Wine, but as the Body and Blood. The distribution formula is: "Take and eat, this is the true Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, given into death for you; the which strengthen and sustain you in true faith unto life everlasting; Take and drink, this is the true Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, shed for our sins; the which strengthen and sustain you unto life everlasting."

Either Jesus Christ, Our Blessed Savior or Agnus Dei Latin or German

German collect of thanksgiving

German Aaronic Benediction

One or two stanzas of Gott Sei Gelobet, O Lord, we Praise Thee

Yes, you can see Mass took a while.

Additionally, it was not at all unusual for items such as the Litany to be inserted on given days.  

Prayer Offices

The ordinary day at the cathedral invariably had Matins/Lauds and Vespers/Compline.  The services were mashed together.  Thus, looking again at the Matins for Advent I we find:

Opening Versicles and Gloria
Invitatory:  Behold your King comes, bringing salvation to you.  Entire Psalm 95
Antiphon from Romans 13:11, then Psalms 1-3 
Isaiah 1:1-15 in Latin
Isaiah 1:16 to end in Latin
Matthew 21:1-10
Te Deum, called of course, the Symbol of Bishops Blessed Ambrose and Augustine
Psalm 92 (Antiphon: the mountains will drip sweet wine)
Psalm 89 (Antiphon: rejoice, daughter of Zion)
Psalm 62 (Antiphon: Behold, the Lord is coming)
Canticle:  Benedicite
Laudate Psalms (145-150) (Antiphon: Behold, a great prophet comes)
Hymn:  Hark!  A Thrilling Voice (Latin)
Antiphon (The Spirit of God descends on Mary and she consumes in her womb the Son of God) and then Benedictus

Second Vespers: 

Before the Psalms the above Antiphon (The Spirit of God descends on Mary)
Responsory (Gabriel is sent)
Hymn: Creator of the Stars of Night
German Lesson to the people: Chapter 1 of Isaiah
Antiphon (Do not be afraid, Mary, you will conceive and bear a Son)
Collect of the Day
Hymn in German: Savior of the Nations 
[Although not indicated, usually we have Compline added by way of a Compline Hymn and then the Vesper lesson is in Latin and the Compline lesson is the same in German and then Antiphon, Nunc Dimittis, and collect of the day and one assumes Benedamus].

Matthew Carver has also published the readings for the Daily Office in a delightful volume called Sts. Maurice and Catherine Daily Lectionary. I've a copy here we can pass around. Fascinating that in the Daily Office they do not read from certain canonical books, such as Deuteronomy, yet they read the full bits of Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees. The lectionary follows widely common conventions for the Church year (Isaiah in Advent; Revelation in Eastertide; Acts beginning in Ascensiontide and so on). 

Other interesting features:

As noted, the Apocrypha was read regularly in the Daily Office and even occasionally as "epistle" readings in the Divine Service.  For example, this is the Epistle for the Beheading of St. John the Baptist:

Sirach 49

 1 The memory of Josiah is as sweet as the fragrance of expertly blended incense, sweet as honey to the taste, like music with wine at a banquet.2 He followed the correct policy of reforming the nation and removed the horrors of idolatry.3 He was completely loyal to the Lord and strengthened true religion in those wicked times.  4 All the kings, except David, Hezekiah, and Josiah, were terrible sinners, because they abandoned the Law of the Most High to the very end of the kingdom.[b]5 They surrendered their power and honor to foreigners,6 who set fire to the holy city and left its streets deserted, just as Jeremiah had predicted.7 Jeremiah had been badly treated, even though he was chosen as a prophet before he was born, 
         to uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, but also 
         to build and to plant.
 8 It was Ezekiel who was shown the vision of the divine glory over the chariot and the living creatures.9 He also referred to the prophet Job, who always did the right thing. 10 May the bones of the twelve prophets rise to new life, because these men encouraged the people of Israel and saved them with confident hope. 11 How can we praise Zerubbabel? He was like a signet ring on the Lord's right hand,12 as was Joshua son of Jehozadak. They rebuilt the Lord's holy Temple, destined for eternal fame. 13The memory of Nehemiah is also great. He rebuilt the ruined walls of Jerusalem, installing the gates and bars. He rebuilt our homes. 14 No one else like Enoch has ever walked the face of the earth, for he was taken up from the earth.15 No one else like Joseph has ever been born; even his bones were honored.16 Shem, Seth, and Enosh were highly honored, but Adam's glory was above that of any other living being.

One last feature that bears mentioning:  Mary's perpetual virginity is constantly alluded to and confessed.  An example would be the Antiphon at Vespers for the Purification of the Blessed Virgin:

The old man carried the Infant, but the Infant governed the old man:  He whom a virgin bore and after bearing, remained virgin, the same was worshipped by her who bare Him.

This shows the catholic principle of the Lutheran Reformation (particularly of the middle and maximal-ceremony leaning liturgies), that they rejected in the tradition that which CONFLICTED with the Gospel, but accepted that which could be harmonized with it. 


A century out from the Reformation we can see that they took seriously the epistle for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany (historic):  "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly."  There was not a single day when there were not services in the Cathedral in morning and evening, and often more times besides.  The Eucharist was very much the center of their living:  as we saw, at minimum celebrated three times a week.  Studying the work truly brings home Melanchthon's famous words from the Apology:  "We do not abolish the Mass, but religiously keep and defend it.  Masses are celebrated among us every Lord's Day and on the other festivals.  The Sacrament is offered to those who wish to use it, after they have been examined and absolved.  And the usual public ceremonies are observed, the series of lessons, of prayers, vestments and other such things."  Apology XXIV:1

And how they needed it! All that work, all that effort to produce this liturgical masterpiece was for a people doomed. It was only some 18 years after his work was published, that the City fell after a long siege in the 30 Year's War in 1631. From Wikipedia:

When the city was almost lost, the garrison mined various places and set others on fire. After the city fell, the Imperial soldiers went out of control and started to massacre the inhabitants and set fire to the city. The invading soldiers had not received payment for their service and took the chance to loot everything in sight; they demanded valuables from every household that they encountered. Otto von Guericke, an inhabitant of Magdeburg, claimed that when civilians ran out of things to give the soldiers, "the misery really began. For then the soldiers began to beat, frighten, and threaten to shoot, skewer, hang, etc., the people."[7] It took only one day for all of this destruction and death to transpire. Of the 30,000 citizens, only 5,000 survived. For fourteen days, charred bodies were carried to the Elbe River to be dumped to prevent disease.

As the city fell, amid the slaughter, the choir of school boys were reportedly singing "Lord, Keep Us Steadfast" the square, with its original wording about "restrain the murderous pope and Turk."

By the end of the 30 Year's War, the once great city was a village of 400 and the majestic Cathedral was transformed into a fortress, and became property of Brandenburg and was not restored to its proper use as a Church until after the Napoleonic wars by Frederick Wilhelm III of Prussia. 

Was it a waste then? All that effort to preserve the liturgical treasures of earlier generations and to live richly in the catholic tradition as Evangelical Lutherans? The world would always assume so, but the world thinks our faith itself is a waste. We know better. We know that living in that rich tradition prepared the inhabitants of that city for their place in the Eternal City, the Heavenly Jerusalem that John describes at the end of the Apocalypse. And it is precisely that hope which the rich catholic tradition that these Lutherans lived in imparted to the populace that was "regarded as sheep for the slaughter" and strengthened by the riches of the Word of God, unapologetically and lavishly delivered, they could go forth to meet the end of their earthly journey in the sure confidence that it was truly but the end of the beginning.


So on the trip out to NYC, I was in a bit of dread. The D parkinglot had exactly six places open when I pulled in at 6:15 a.m. I thought: those lines inside are going to be unbelievable. Now, I do have TSA Pre, but I did not expect what I found. I literally walked straight through. Zero line. Zero waiting. And I was mega early.

Well, that was St. Louis. Playing things a bit safer at JFK, right? So Krauser drops me off at 1 on Sunday afternoon. Surely I'll have line today, I think. Wrong. Again, I literally walk straight through and didn't even bother unpacking my deodorant (which, of course, they don't notice), figuring, if they catch it, it'll not slow up a soul. So I strolled through, picked up my backpack, got myself a coffee and a banana and I thought: "Self, this is almost like flying used to be." Very nice indeed. Except now for the long wait for my flight!

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Christ has through his death secured for us the Holy Spirit; and he fulfils the law in us, and not we. For that Spirit, whom God sends into your heart for the sake of his Son, makes an entirely new man out of you, who does with joy and love from the heart everything the law requires, which before would have been impossible for you to do.—Luther, Homily for Trinity XVIII, Church Postils

Patristic Quote of the Day

The Son sojourned in the world, having of the Virgin received flesh, which He filled with the Holy Spirit for the sanctification of us all; and having given up the flesh to death, He destroyed death through the resurrection that had in view the resurrection of us all; and He ascended to heaven, exalting and glorifying men in Himself; and He comes the second time to bring us again eternal life.—St. Gregory Thaumaturges, A Sectional Confession of the Faith, 18

22 September 2016

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Therefore, first of all, when the law is known and sin revealed through the law, it is then necessary that we know who Christ is; otherwise the knowledge of sin profits us nothing.—Martin Luther, Homily for Trinity XVIII, Church Postils

Patristic Quote of the Day

And in this way proper credit will be given to the sending and the being sent (in the Godhead), according to which the Father has sent forth the Son, and the Son in like manner sends forth the Spirit.—St. Gregory Thaumaturges, A Sectional Confession of the Faith

Today's Catechesis: Baptism IV

Baptism, Part IV

Liturgy, p. 260

A reading from Colossians 2:

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. 

Catechism, p. 325

What does such baptizing with water indicate?

It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written?

St. Paul writes in Romans chapter six: "We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (Rom. 6:4)


In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

People loved by God, we noted in the first catechesis on Baptism that there is a present tense to Baptism. Pastors usually express this by teaching their people to say: "I am baptized" and not "I was baptized."

Today's reading and the section from the catechism we reviewed deals with an important aspect of this "am-ness," namely, that Baptism gives you the gift both of a daily death and a daily resurrection. Baptism allows you to be dead to the old Adam, the old sinful self with its insistence on "I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it and you'd best not get in my way." Baptism frees you to rise anew from that dead with Christ, joyfully praying with Him to the Father: "Thy will, O Father, be done!" and to do so with joy from the heart.

This cutting off, this putting aside of the Old Self and this new man rising, these are by no means something YOU are able to pull off on you own, by an exertion of your own willpower. No, this is the work of the Spirit of God in Baptism going on inside you! HE gives you the daily gift of letting that old way drain away like dirty water, and the new life come pouring in fresh from the deep springs of the Spirit. 

But it is how He does this that is so amazing. "God made us alive together with Him having forgiven us all our trespasses." THIS is the secret of Baptism's dynamo in your life. Take that word "all" and underscore it three times, write it in gold letters, engrave it on your heart. When God forgives you in Baptism, He's not forgiving you a few of your sins, or merely the sins of the past. No, in a real sense Baptism actually doesn't forgive sins at all. It forgives sinners. It leaves absolutely nothing of yours unforgiven. Nothing. An entire life embraced and held tight in the loving Father's embrace. For all your sins were nailed to His Son's cross! All of them! 

"You are mine. My own. I love you. I forgive you, I forgive you absolutely all." Therein lies Baptism's huge power! This loving embrace of the Father that gives the saving flood its ongoing daily power to enable you to turn from all that would lead you away from Him or teach you to doubt Him or resent Him and turn to the waiting arms of your heavenly Father. 

Because Baptism's power of forgiveness reaches out over the whole of your life from conception through death to resurrection, it gives you the assignment and the strength to cut off (circumcise, if you will) everything that wars against that loving embrace, that would lure you from it, to do those things to death, all the while basking in the assurance of a heavenly Father's love and the certainty that Baptism gives you of being His much loved child, His heir, a joint-heir with Christ, raised with Him already in spirit and waiting to be raised by Him in your body on that last and joyous day. Baptism does indeed have "the strength divine to make life immortal mine," and for that all glory to God!

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Now let's sing this great comfort and assurance in the words of Hymn: 594 God's Own Child


For the servants of God, Allan and Jan, Tom, in critical conditional and all who cry out to God for His healing mercy; for missionaries Joe and Jenny Asher and for all who work to spread the good news that they be strengthened in God's mercy and filled with His endless joy, let us pray to the Lord: R. 

21 September 2016

Joyous Day

Even though I woke this morning to a nearly flat right rear tire, the day was pure joy. First, the tire shop is literally about a block and half away. They were able to patch it and it cost all of $15. While I waited for the shop to open to drop off my car, I managed to write the sermon for tomorrow's chapels at LCEF and the International Center and prepped the notes for the radio shows. When the shop opened, I dropped off car and then headed into town and just about polished off the paper for the NY Conference this weekend, did Thy Strong Word (Exodus 9 with Pr. Eckstein) for KFUO, did day's workout (pushups, sprints and walking), headed back to Illinois to record a show for the Day of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, on Issues, Etc. (Issues is kindly featuring my book, Celebrating the Saints, as their book of the month currently). Then headed home, went down to pick up my car and pay, and then? And then had the most wonderful evening with the kids and grandkids. 

Dean was in town, attending the Symposium at Concordia Seminary, so Cindi got to babysit Flynn today, and also Lydia and Henry. Meanwhile she also threw together a veritable feast: garlic beef brisket in sauce, her delicious sweet potato casserole, some taters and (to me, the best of all), blazing hot jalapeño poppers topped with crunchy bacon, and the usual scads of fruits and berries "to fill in the corners" (as Bilbo might say it). All the family but Lauren, Sawyer and Annabelle (sadness!) were here for dinner: Andy and Bekah, David, Meaghan, Lydia, and Henry, Dean and Flynn, Opa, Cindi and I. Such a treat to see Dean and Flynn, and yes, my wife is wonder woman to pull off a feast like that WHILE babysitting three little ones. 

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

There we stand in the midst of fear and distress, unable to help ourselves, and the first knowledge of the law is, that we see our human nature is unable to keep the law; for it wants the heart, and if it is not done with the heart, it avails nothing before God.—Martin Luther, Homily for Trinity XVIII, Church Postils

Patristic Quote of the Day

Aforetime did the devil deride the nature of man with great laughter, and he has had his joy over the times of our calamity as his festal-days. But the laughter is only a three days' pleasure, while the wailing is eternal; and his great laughter has prepared for him a greater wailing and ceaseless tears, and inconsolable weeping, and a sword in his heart. This sword did our Leader forge against the enemy with fire in the virgin furnace, in such wise and after such fashion as He willed, and gave it its point by the energy of His invincible divinity, and dipped it in the water of an undefiled baptism, and sharpened it by sufferings without passion in them, and made it bright by the mystical resurrection; and herewith by Himself He put to death the vengeful adversary, together with his whole host. What manner of word, therefore, will express our joy or his misery?—St. Gregory Thaumaturges, On All the Saints

20 September 2016

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Do you want to do something pleasing to God, then do it out of genuine love.—Martin Luther, Homily on Trinity XVIII, Gospel, Church Postils

Patristic Quote of the Day

O the marvel! Since the hour when Christ despoiled Hades, men have danced in triumph over death—St. Gregory Thaumaturges, On All the Saints

19 September 2016

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Therefore the Gospel aims at making all of us humble, whatever and whoever we may be, that none may exalt himself, unless urged and elevated by regular authority. That is what the Lord wants to inculcate by this parable, directing it to all, be they high or low.—Martin Luther, Homily for Trinity XVII, Church Postils

Patristic Quote of the Day

He was baptized in Jordan, not as receiving any sanctification for Himself, but as gifting a participation in sanctification to others.—St. Gregory Thaumaturges, Twelve Topics on the Faith

Unwrapping the Gifts

Pastors (and church secretaries!), you might find these resources from Unwrapping the Gifts to be of use. Particularly hope the last gets some decent use: Luther Bytes, little snippets from Luther's sermons, for the year running up to the Reformation Anniversary, so starting this coming Reformation. Please, share them with others!

New Artwork at the International Center Chapel

This lovely altar piece replica of the Wittenberg Altar by Lucas Cranach the Elder and the Younger, was blessed today. It is the craftsmanship of Pr. William Mazat. As usual with Lutheran art from the early years, it focuses on the Means of Grace: Baptism, Eucharist, and Keys, across the top, the preaching of Christ in the bottom. The lovely crucifix will be repositioned to a different spot in the Chapel.

18 September 2016

A Visit to Christ Lutheran in Jacob, IL

Christ Lutheran was celebrating their 140th anniversary and my friend, Pr. Mike Kettner, invited me to preach. A beautiful parish and a full church and an interesting drive. On the way TO church, we saw a young doe amble across the road, a flock of wild turkeys, and a black squirrel. On the way FROM church, we saw a blue heron in flight. 

Homily for the 140th Anniversary of Christ Lutheran Church, Jacob Illinois

[1 Kings 19:1–21; Hebrews 11:32–12:3; Matthew 16:13–20]

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Dear saints and friends of Christ Lutheran Church, this year you have been celebrating 140 years of blessing, and with the audacious assertion that the best is yet to come! And, of course, you're right! 

140 years puts us back to 1876. That was three years before my own grandfather, Chancellor Barbour Weedon, was even born! Can you for one minute even imagine trying to explain to the saints of old who founded this parish the world you now inhabit? Picture the look on your faces, if you pulled out your iPhone and began showing them what it can do! Why, it was the year that your congregation was FOUNDED that Alexander Graham Bell first patented his phone! They were still marveling at the telegraph's ability to spread messages along wires back then. Oh, and that that little device in your hand can snap their picture (cameras had made their appearance not too many years before), or record them singing a rousing Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr (Edison was just beginning to think about how to do such a thing!) and with a click or two share it with the whole world or sent it to any one of the billions plus people who now inhabit our planet? What would they think if you started playing for them your music collection? Showed them your family movies or how to google anything they might want to know? Track along in their buggies with a map app using GPS? Can you see their shock at your world?

But that would be nothing compared to the look on their face if you clicked onto some porn site and showed them living enactments of every single perversity the human mind has ever dared to dream up! They'd likely grab the thing from your hand and toss into the fire they used to cook their food! 

Even more shocking, how would you even begin to try to explain to them that in this grand state of Illinois as in every state of this entire country, homosexuality is no longer a sin to repent of, to be ashamed of, but a virtue celebrated with pride and that members of the same sex are actually free to enjoy all the legal benefits of marriage anywhere in our country? That children can be created in hundreds of ways and not just in the one way God established in creation? And that children created in the old way or in any of the new ways, can simply be thrown in the trash at anytime prior to birth if the mom decides so? Oh, and as for creation, well that book by Darwin he published 16 years before that folks thought so ridiculous is now the standard view that is taught as absolute truth in the public schools of America. Only it's not that they say we evolved from apes, it's that we are just one particularly vicious species of ape. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. How utterly changed this world is today from 140 years ago in ways that, if you tried to describe them to the venerable founders of this parish, they'd find irrationally fantastical, absurd, and often enough downright evil!
Yet here you sit like your ancestors did alongside old man river, and just like the mighty Mississippi you keep rolling along. Indeed, despite the whirling vortex of change all around, you are here because you know that this a haven of the peace that this weary world so desperately needs. You go on celebrating and rejoicing in what has not and will never change, your Jesus and His Word, His Baptism, His Absolution, His Supper, His promises. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and He builds His Church, and not even the gates of hell can prevail against it, as we heard in today's Gospel. 

Truly, it is no little miracle that here in a world that grows ever more hostile to the Christian faith, that openly mocks your hope and dismisses you as fools, you still gather, Sunday by Sunday, week by week, as your ancestors in the faith did 140 years ago or 70 years ago and, by God's grace, as your children and their grandchildren will be doing in the next 140 years, if the Lord Jesus does not return first. It is the fulfillment of Jesus' promise: "I will build my church."

Yes, you too know Elijah-like world-weariness, when it seems like it's all been in vain. Hopeless, what's the point of going on? Fears about the future of the church, your congregation, and the future of our children and grandchildren. And then the Messenger is sent from the Lord and He comes to you with miracle food that gives you the strength to go on, to encounter God's tender care, and to be dispatched back with His assurance: I have my 7,000, I have my people, I will build my church. Don't you fear. You just go do what I have bidden you to do. Listen to my Word, live in your Baptism, feast at my Table, confess your sins and receive My forgiveness, and share this joy with all around you, and your joy and peace will stand out in the gathering darkness as a beacon for me to gather others to you.

Truly you ARE surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Witnesses to what? To God's amazing grace and faithfulness. The writer to the Hebrews listed some of the faithful of the Old Testament, and you could add to the list of those saints from Christ Jacob who have run the race faithfully and now stand in that great crowd around the throne of the Lamb. They too looked to Christ, the founder and perfecter of their faith, and now they cheer you on from His nearer presence. When you come to this altar, they join you. "Angels and archangels and all the company of heaven." You on this side, they on that. They encourage you that the struggle is worth while, that the end is blessed, so that you will not grow weary or fainthearted in the race set before you and above all they invite you to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, pouring out His blood to cover all your sins, and who is now seated at the right hand of God. And who will come again, and when He does?

THAT future, people loved by God, is infinitely more mind-blowing than the reactions of your forebears would be to the world you happen to inhabit. When He comes back, the dead will be raised, and those who have been baptized into Him, who trusted in His promises, their bodies will shine with His glory and death with be toast and there will be glad homecomings and embraces in a world where there are no more goodbyes and where the joy only grows and increases, as we sing together before the Lamb once slain. You'll MEET those ancestors of yours in the faith. Alive again and never to die again. And you'll hear and rejoice in their stories of the grace of God, as they will in yours. Oh, yeah, THAT future is a lot more impressive than your iPhone. But it's a future your ancestors looked forward to also, ached for, and waited for. Just like you.

Meanwhile, you, saints of Christ Jacob, are truly like that tree planted by the streams of water, bearing your fruit in due season. You go on sinking your roots deep into the living water of His words and promises, you go on partaking the nourishment of sermon and sacrament, you go on confessing your sins and receiving His blood bought forgiveness and you go on share it lavishly with each other and the world, and your leaf it will not whither and you will indeed prosper. He promises. You can count on it. 

One hundred forty years is a long time, to be sure. And though so very, very much has changed since Christus Kirche was founded, yet here a pile of forgiven sinners still faithfully gather to Him who has not and will not change and you find in Him and in His promises  an anchor for your souls. May the Lord richly bless this gathering of His people, keep it faithful to His Word, and go on building here alongside this rolling river a Church that confesses that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God! May the gates of hell ever tremble before Christ Jacob's mighty confession of the Savior!

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen