Archive for the ‘Ancient Unity’ Tag

Adjusting to America: Moravians, 1735-1848   12 comments

04087v

Above:  A View of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Publication Date = May 20, 1761, by Thomas Jeffreys

Artist = Thomas Pownall (1722-1805)

Painter and Engraver = Paul Sandby (1731-1809)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-04087

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LITURGY IN THE MORAVIAN CHURCH IN AMERICA, PART II

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Grant us to bless them that curse us, and to do good to them that hate us;

Have mercy upon our slanderers and persecutors; and lay not this sin to their charge;

Hinder all schisms and scandals;

Put far from thy people deceivers and seducers;

Bring back all that have erred, or have been seduced;

Grant love and unity to all our congregations;

Hear us, gracious Lord and God!

–From the Church Litany, in A Collection of Hymns for the Use of the Protestant Church, of the United Brethren; New and Revised Edition (1809)page x

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I.  PREFACE AND INTRODUCTION

This post stands in lineage with the Prelude and Part I.

Immigrant and emigrant traditions intrigue me.  One reason for this fact is the reality of my ancestry, for I descend primarily from English people, some of whom settled in North America during the colonial era.  Some of my ancestors fought under the command of General George Washington during the U.S. War for Independence, in fact.  So I, a Caucasian, English-speaking male with deep roots in the United States of America, feel as non-ethnic as one can.  The closest I come to a sense of ethnicity is, to quote Gilbert and Sullivan’s H. M.S. Pinafore, “I am an Englishman.”  Indeed, “God Save the Queen,” er, “My Country, “Tis of Thee.”  Do you want tea with that?

People whose roots do not run deeply in the country in which they live occupy a different cultural space than do the rest of us.  Xenophobes and nativists consider that different cultural space inherently negative.  I reject the extremes of ethnocentrism, which holds up one’s culture as the ideal, and cultural relativism, which rejects the existence of standards and considers one culture just as good as any other.  No, I stand in the middle, where I welcome the positive influences and reject the negative ones, regardless of cultural origin.  Emigrants and immigrants have enriched this nation in countless ways, from cuisine to physical infrastructure.  Nevertheless, my digestive tract rejects much of their spicy food, so I practice considerable caution in the realm of culinary multiculturalism, much to the approval of my innards.

One of my the themes of this post is the struggle of many American Moravians with many of their fellow Americans who misunderstood them.  “Why do you use different hymn tunes than we do at the Methodist (or Baptist, Presbyterian, et cetera) Church?’ some asked, sometimes with hostility.  “What is the reason you insist on being different from other Protestants?” many wanted to know.  And, given the prominence of the nativistic politics of the American Party/Native American Party/American Republican Party in the middle third of the nineteenth century, these were serious questions which pointed to profound issues with which the Moravian Church in America had to struggle.

One lesson I have learned is that, despite the frequency of repetition of the ethic of “live and let live” or even to embrace and learn from certain differences, many people are unapologetic conformists.  This reality becomes obvious in a plethora of locations, from schools to places of employment.  I argue, however, that if God had intended us to be alike, God would not have created us to be different.

A few words about sources are appropriate before I delve headlong into the material.  I have listed hardcopy sources at the end of the post.  You, O reader, will find links to other posts behind parts of the text.  And I have found much useful information in an academic paper, “A Look at Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century American Moravian Liturgy” (December 2011), which Michael E. Westmoreland, Jr., wrote for his Master of Arts in Liberal Studies degree at Wake Forest University.  I found the paper via an Internet search and downloaded the PDF file.  That document will also prove useful when I start taking notes for Part III of this series.

II.  GERMAN LEGACIES

The origins of the Renewed Unitas Fratrum were, of course, Germanic.  Central to it were Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760) and his estate near Berthelsforf, Saxony.  On that estate, in 1722, Moravian exiles had settled and formed a community, Herrnhut.  Developments there and elsewhere in Europe functioned as background to American settlements and influenced them.

Rituals

Many of the influences (some of which I covered in Part I) pertained to rituals of varying degrees of formality.  There was, for example, the Church Litany, based on a litany which Martin Luther had revised from the Roman Catholic Liturgy of the Saints.  Luther had translated that text into German and removed all references to saints and the Pope.  The revised version was never as popular with Lutherans as with Moravians.  The Moravian revision debuted at Herrnhut in 1731 and became the center of Moravian liturgical practice and reinforced the communal nature of Moravian religious life.

More informal was the Singstrunde, or the “Singing Hour,” which started in 1727.  Across the Moravian world in the 1700s this constituted a standard part of evening devotions.  At Bethlehem, Pennyslvania, for example, the community held such a service each Saturday, in the late 1740s.  The form of Singstrunde was to sing stanzas and half-stanzas of hymns based on  a theme, thereby creating a sermon in song.  This, of course, required great knowledge of hymnody.  By 1770 readings from the Bible had become part of the service.

Related to the Singstrunde was the Love Feast, which had become the high point of Moravian festivals by the 1750s.  Composers wrote anthems for Love Feasts, which included common meals.

The Moravian practice of saying the Litany of the Wounds every Friday in communal settings in the 1700s pertained to the fact of Good Friday.  When people said it less frequently, they did so at least once a month, one week before Communion Sunday.  (The scheduling of Moravian Communion services has varied from once a quarter to once a month.)  Other times for the saying the Litany of the Wounds included days in the season of Lent.  Since 1753 the Litany has existed in two parts:  the Litany of the Life, Suffering, and Death of Christ, and the Hymn of the Wounds.

Forms were ordered and usually simple, although occasionally elaborate.  The purpose of worship was to promote love for Jesus and each other, and the forms were flexible with constant cores, so as to meet needs in various circumstances.  Related to that norm of ordered simplicity was the basic ministerial garment for Baptism, Communion, Marriage, and Confirmation.  The white surplice (often with a white belt) debuted in Moravian worship at a Communion service in Europe on May 2, 1748.  It, like other vestments, functioned as a uniform, thereby preventing the minister’s wardrobe from becoming a distraction.  My survey of websites of North American Moravian congregations has yielded images of clergymen and clergywomen leading worship while wearing a white surplice, a black Geneva robe (without a stole), and secular clothes.  This is consistent with the optional nature of Moravian vestments outside of those four rites.

The focus on divine (rather than on human) authority became more apparent than it was already in the Moravian Church in 1741.  There has been a series of Chief Elders, spiritual leaders of the Unitas Fratrum.  That year, however, Johann Leonhard Dober (1706-1766) resigned the position.  The job had become impossible due to the recent global expansion of the Church.  Also, Dober had no desire to function as a kind of Moravian Pope, which was what his office might have come to entail had he not resigned his post.  On November 13, 1741, the Church announced formally that Jesus Christ was the Chief Elder.  Since then November 13 has been the Festival of Christ the Chief Elder.  The designated parament color is White and the readings are Ezekiel 34:11-16, 23-24; Psalm 8; Hebrews 4:14-16; and John 10:1-10.

Settlements

Moravians arrived on the North American mainland in 1735.  The first group settled in Savannah, Georgia.  The initial Georgia mission (1735-1779) failed primarily due to internal divisions.  Outside pressures made matters worse, for the pacifistic Moravians refused to take up arms against the Spanish in the late 1730s.  This fact did nothing to endear them to the British military authorities.  Most of the Georgia contingent departed for Pennsylvania in 1740 and founded the settlement of Nazareth the following year.  The founding of other Moravian settlements ensued, such as at Bethabara (1753) and Salem (1766), in North Carolina.

Early Moravian settlements were communes which emphasized the self-sufficiency of the community and members’ responsibilities to and for each other.  Musical skills carried a high priority, but church music did not require professionalism.  Practice time was important and distracted people from dubious pursuits, but too much practice time detracted from communal duties.   Survival mattered, as did the rigorous daily worship schedule, which included morning, midday, and evening prayers.

Hymnals

The hymnals were mostly in German during the 1700s.  In fact, the first English-language Moravian hymnal rolled off the printing presses in England in 1742.  The Tunes for the Hymns in the Collection with Several Translations from the Moravian Hymnbook, with supplements in 1746 and 1749, was a personal collection which James Hutton had prepared.  The original edition had only 187 hymns, thus it was small by Moravian standards.  A Collection of Hymns of the Children of God in All Ages, From the Beginning Till Now; Designed Chiefly with the Brethren’s Church (1754), with Bishop John Gambold, Sr. (1711-1771), as the Editor, contained 1,055 hymn texts, however.  These spanned the time from the Early Church to the-then contemporary age and included works by Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley.  Only fifty-one hymns came from the Ancient Unity.  Next in line was  A Collection of Hymns, for the Use of the Protestant Church of the United Brethren (1789), with a mere 887 hymns plus liturgical texts dispersed among the hymns.  Given the fact that American Moravians used imported British and German worship materials prior to their 1851 hymnal, many of the Brethren in North America knew these English-language materials well.  For a long time, however, German was the main language of worship on this side of “the pond.”

Count Zinzendorf published the Herrnhuter Gesangbuch (1735), thereby starting the Moravian tradition of words-only hymnals for congregations and tune books for church musicians.  The 1735 hymnal offered 999 texts, 208 of which Zinzendorf had written.  Only two hymns came from the Ancient Unity.  Subsequent editions published through 1755 added a total of twelve appendices and four supplements.  Modern Moravian sources consider much of the textual content of hymnals from the “Sifting Time” (ending about 1750) as lacking good taste and exhibiting an excessive–even childish–emphasis on the wounds of Christ.

The next major development in German Moravian hymnody was the “London Book” of 1753-1755.  Alt und neuer Bunder Gesang, a.k.a. Das Londoner Gesangbuch, debuted in two parts.  It contained 3,264 hymns arranged chronologically, from the Early Church to then-contemporary times.  Of these texts, 1,096 came from Moravian sources.  The texts, in German and English in parallel columns, emphasized the fact that the Moravians thought of themselves as standing in continuity with the Early Church and as part of the Universal Church.  This great accomplishment in hymnody also corrected much of the childish language of earlier Moravian hymnals.

Christian Gregor (1723-1801), a bishop from 1789, was responsible for the next great leap in (German) Moravian hymnody.  He, the “Father of Moravian Music,” composed hundreds of hymn texts, introduced arias and anthems into Moravian worship, and stabilized the denomination’s hymnody.  He edited the Gesangbuch (1778), with its 1,750 hymns, more than 300 of which he wrote or revised.  Six years later the Choralbuch, intended for organists, appeared.  The Gesangbuch contained only words and the Choralbuch offered only music.

German-language hymnals remained in use in the United States throughout the 1800s.  A domestically published volume from 1848 contained 836 hymns and went into new printings in 1854 and 1861.  The revision debuted in 1885.  By then English had become the main language of worship, however.

III.  THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND CULTURAL ASSIMILATION

The transition to English was part of a process of cultural assimilation and adaption to the dominant culture.  I would be remiss if I were, O reader, to leave you with the mistaken idea that all linguistic developments among American Moravians at the time moved toward the English tongue.  There were, for example, missions among Native people.  Hence there was, for example, A Collection of Hymns for the Use of the Christian Indians, of the Missions of the United Brethren in America (1803), which missionary David Zeisberger prepared.  The second edition debuted in 1847.

The first printing of a Moravian hymnal in the United States occurred in 1813.  The volume in question was A Collection of Hymns, for the Use of the Protestant Church of the United Brethren–New and Revised Edition (1801) with its 1808 supplement.  The 1809 composite hymnal served well in Britain until the publication of its successor in 1826; another revision followed in 1849.  The U.S. Moravian hymnal of 1851 was a revision of that volume, hence the division between Parts II and III of this series.  The 1801-1808-1809 book was itself a revision of the 1789 Collection of Hymns, which John Swertner had also edited.

The two volumes were similar yet different.  Both, consistent with Moravian practice of the age, had words only.  The 1789 hymnal offered 887 hymns, but the 1801 book contained 1,000.  The 1808 supplement thereto added 200 hymns.  The 1789 hymnal dispersed the liturgies among the hymns, but the 1801-1808-1809 volume grouped the liturgies at the front of the book.  Those forms were:

  1. The Church Litany;
  2. Doxologies at Ordinations;
  3. Easter Morning Litany;
  4. Baptismal Litanies;
  5. Holy Communion; and
  6. Liturgy for Burials.

Another important volume was Hymn Tunes Used in the Church of the United Brethren (1836), which Peter Wolle (1792-1871) edited.  The core target audience was Moravian, but Wolle intended it for other Christians also.  He edited the traditional Moravian tunes to make them less foreign.  That fact indicated that Moravians were feeling pressures to conform to the practices of others.

I have read enough in the realm of liturgy during the last few years to develop a firm grasp of the difficulties inherent in linguistic and cultural changes in the public worship of God.  Among many culturally Germanic Lutherans (especially in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod) in the United States, the transition to worshiping in English entailed the loss of traditional texts.  Much of this transition was abrupt, for domestic hysteria and vandalism during World War I (a time when many people relabeled Sauerkraut as “Liberty Cabbage”) compelled its acceleration.  The Dutch-language worshipers from the Christian Reformed Church in North America felt much of the same pressure during the Great War.  Their transition was mostly complete by 1940, at the cost of much grief and many tunes and texts.

Language carries culture, which influences one’s identity.  Thus those who dismiss the “other” as automatically and inherently defective because it is different not only engage in ethnocentrism but inflict harm on others.  Those nativists and xenophobes also harm themselves, for their insistence on homogeneity deprives them of positive influences from other cultures.

American Moravians, who were making the transition from German to English as the primary language during the first half of the nineteenth century, experienced an awkward time.  There were still many older church members who knew the German hymns and litanies by heart, but many of the younger Moravians knew English, not German.  And copies of the English-language worship resources were frequently scarce.  One result of this situation was having many people reading the services badly from books (of which the supply was often insufficient) and generally being lost in the ritual, thereby diminishing the traditional services.  Those services were also becoming less frequent, for changing lifestyles rendered the former rigorous worship schedules obsolete.  Also, many Evangelical congregations (such as those of Baptists and Methodists) attracted many young Moravians.

Were traditional Moravian melodies bad because they were different?  Of course not!  Yet many non-Moravians thought so.  I have listened to some traditional Moravian music and concluded that is superior to much traditional American Protestant (especially Baptist and Methodist) music, actually.  Then again, I am an unapologetic European Classicist.  Nativism and xenophobia, however, led to opposition to such foreign influences.

IV.  CONCLUSION

The story of adaptation to America will continue in Part III, which will start with the British hymnal of 1849, the basis of the U.S. hymnbook of 1851.  This series will continue with summaries of revisions in the hymnody and liturgies of the Moravian Church in America as it adapted to changing circumstances.

The allegation that Moravians were somehow foreign or insufficiently American was false.  In fact, an examination of the germane facts belies it, not that bigots care about objective reality.  The first documented celebration of July 4 occurred at Salem, North Carolina, in 1783.  The Moravians there observed the occasion with a Love Feast.  As a common expression states, “enough said.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NEOCAESAREA; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF COMANA “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF AUGUSTUS MONTAGUE TOPLADY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE POOR CLARES

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY NEWMAN, CARDINAL

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BIBLIOGRAPHY OF HARDCOPY SOURCES

Frank, Albert H.  Companion to the Moravian Book of Worship.  Winston-Salem, NC:  Moravian Music Foundation, 2004.

Hutton, James E.  A History of the Moravian Church.  London, England, UK:  Moravian Publication Office, 1909.  Reprint.

Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church.  Bethlehem, PA:  Moravian Church in America, 1969.

Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum).  Bethlehem, PA:  Moravian Church in America, 1923.

Knouse, Nola Reed, ed.  The Music of the Moravian Church in America.  Rochester, NY:  University of Rochester Press, 2008.

Moravian Church Desk Calendar & Plan Book 2014.  Bethlehem, PA:  Interprovincial Board of Communication, 2013.

Moravian Daily Texts 2014.  Bethlehem, PA:  Interprovincial Board of Communication, 2013.

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Liturgies, Litanies, and Hymns: A Worship-Focused History of the Moravian Church Through 1734   12 comments

Herrnhut 1765

Above:  Herrnhut, Saxony, Germany, in 1765, by Gunter Rapp

Image in the Public Domain

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LITURGY IN THE MORAVIAN CHURCH IN AMERICA, PART I

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Faithful God, I pray again,

Give me patience in my pain,

For Christ’s sake grant soft release,

Let Thy servant pass in peace;

Then with all Thy saints above

Let me praise Thy boundless love.

–from Hymn #854, Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum) (1923); text (1661) by John Amos Comenius; translated (1903) by J. N. Libby

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I.  PREFACE AND INTRODUCTION

The Moravian missions to the mainland of North America started in 1735.  For that reason Part II of this series will commence with that year.  Before I arrive at that point in the narrative and analysis I must, if I am to cover the material properly, lay the foundation.  That is my task in this post.

You, O reader, might find my background germane.  My initial theological formation occurred in a series of United Methodist parsonages in the South Georgia Conference in the 1980s.  In 1991 I converted to The Episcopal Church, the natural denominational choice for me.  Since then my theology has gone through stages, becoming more Roman Catholic then less so then more so again then substantially Lutheran, but with Transubstantiation remaining in the mix.  To that theological stew I have added Single Predestination (a Lutheran influence), so could not, if I wanted to do so, return to The United Methodist Church and remain intellectually honest.  I left that denomination on amicable terms, not in protest against anything.  My departure was a matter of going toward my spiritual home.  At that home I intend to remain, for I was born to be an Episcopalian.

Moravianism is, as constitutional documents of that Church state, a religion of the heart.  Thus it has common ground with Evangelicalism (in the traditional American use of that word), especially the Pietistic side thereof.   Pietism originated as an alternative to overly theoretical and academic Lutheran theology.  Among the founders of Pietism was Phillip Jakob Spener (1635-1705), author of Pia Desideria (Pious Desires, 1675).  Pietism is neither all good nor bad, but I, not a Pietist, note that it, in its extreme manifestations, devolves into legalism quickly and easily.  Our Lord and Savior violated and rejected legalistic rules and got into much trouble for that fact, but many of his followers have, in his name, written new legalistic rules.  The irony of that reality astounds and dismays me.

August Hermann Franke (1663-1727), who studied under Spener, advocated turning to one’s heart for piety.  Martin Luther had contended simply:

I am baptized.  I am a Christian,

consistent with this theology of the spoken word and the faithfulness of God.  Franke, however, considered Luther’s theology on this subject inadequate and inaccurate.  He insisted on the crucial role of an experience of conversion.  Such an experience  lack, but my Christian faith is genuine.  So I, although regenerate in the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican theologies of baptismal regeneration, am “born from above” if not “”born again” (in the familiar Evangelical use of that term).

The emphasis on religion of the heart–that is, an emotional religion, leaves me quite cold, for I am more intellectual than emotional.  Thus the high level or rationalism in Anglicanism appeals to me.  And the overly individualistic nature of much of Evangelicalism (in the traditional American use of that term) –especially the Pietistic element thereof–contradicts the properly communitarian nature (inherited from Judaism) of Christianity.  Yet the Moravians, I am glad to report, have a history of a strong communal focus.  Their religion of the heart focuses not on their hearts but on the body of Jesus of Nazareth, as in the Liturgy of the Wounds.

Before I proceed I ought to define some terms, so I do so now.

  1. Unitas Fratrum, Latin for the “Unity of the Brethren,” is the official name of the worldwide Moravian Church.
  2. The Ancient Unity, or Bohemian Brethren, was the Moravian Church from its founding (officially March 1, 1457) to its disruption after the Battle of White Mountain (1620), during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).
  3. The Hidden Seed was the Moravian Church during its time in the political and cultural underground of Europe after the Battle of White Mountain.
  4. The Renewed Unitas Fratrum is the modern Moravian Church, from August 13, 1727, the Moravian Pentecost.
  5. A litany is a responsive, standardized church prayer.  Moravians have built church services around litanies, for one litany, with germane elements added, has provided the structure for many a service.
  6. Liturgy” is a trickier word to define.  This series of posts is Liturgy in the Moravian Church in America, with “liturgy” indicating a predictable pattern of worship, which is my standard definition of it, per Father Peter Ingeman, who retired recently from his position of Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia.  He insisted that even “non-liturgical churches,” which do not use a service book, are actually liturgical so long as they have a regular pattern of worship.  In narrow definitions, however, “liturgy,” in Moravian contexts, refers either to the entire worship service or to a long hymn which provides the structure for an entire service.

Now, without further ado….

II.  FROM JOHN WYCLIFFE TO THE AFTERMATH OF THE HUSSITE WARS

The Moravian Church is the oldest Protestant denomination, predating Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses (1517) by sixty years.  The Protestant movements did not spring from nothing.  No, they had deep roots.

The story begins in the late 1340s and early 1350s, when the Black Death (most likely a combination of agents, including the Bubonic Plague), devastated Europe.  Some estimates of the death toll exceed half of the population, but conservative educated guesses are closer to one-third or two-fifths.  Even the cautious estimate range (about 33-40%), within less than five years, speaks of economic and societal trauma.  Urban workers became more assertive, peasants rebelled, and traditional power structures felt threatened.  The Marxian Conflict Theory I learned in college tells me that those structures, given their exploitative and corrupt nature, deserved all the rebellion with which they had to contend.  Among the most powerful and scrutinized institutions was the Roman Catholic Church, which has had its ups and downs over nearly two thousand years.

John Wycliffe

John Wycliffe (circa 1330-1384) was an English Roman Catholic priest and professor of philosophy and theology at Oxford.  He espoused some then-radical positions, which included the following:

  1. Each Christian should have a direct and unmediated relationship with God.  Priests and the Church were not necessary as mediators; Christ is the only mediator.
  2. No national Church should have to endure or tolerate Papal interference.
  3. The Holy Scriptures should be available to the people in their vernacular language.  Thus Wycliffe began the project (1380-1397) of translating the Latin Vulgate of St. Jerome into English.  From Wycliffe came to the tradition of English-language Bibles.
  4. The doctrine of Transubstantiation of the bread and wine at the Mass lacks Scriptural support and is false.

Wycliffe, who condemned the corrupt Papacy (headquartered at Avignon, France,  not at Rome), under the influence of the French monarchy, had to retire from Oxford in 1381.  There was no Inquisition for him, but authorities had scapegoated him for the Peasants’ Revolt that year and forced him out of office.  In the next century, however, on Papal orders, officials exhumed his bones and burned them.  Wycliffe was officially a heretic.

Yet ecclesiastical authorities failed at killing Wycliffe’s ideas, which Jan Hus and Martin Luther credited as influences.  Then there were the Lollards, an English group which expanded upon Wycliffe’s theology.  They sounded very much like Protestants (a word which did not exist until 1539) for they rejected the entire Roman Catholic sacramental system and refuted the doctrine of Purgatory.  The Lollards, composed mostly of artisans and merchants, were a theological minority group.  They, like many other minorities over time, were quite unpopular.

Heretic Shirt July 29, 2014

Above:  My “Heretic” Shirt, Draped Over a Desk Chair

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Jan Hus

Jan (Anglicized as John) Hus (1372-1415), a Bohemian (Czech) priest and scholar of peasant origin, read and translated works of John Wycliffe and Lollards.  Hus, from 1401 the Dean of the philosophy faculty at the University of Prague, lived during the Great Schism of the Papacy (1378-1417), when more than one man claimed the Papal office simultaneously.  The Roman line was:

  1. Urban VI (r. 1378-1389),
  2. Boniface IX (r. 1389-1404),
  3. Innocent VII (r. 1404-1406), and
  4. Gregory XII (r. 1406-1417).

The Avignon line, officially Antipapal after the fact, consisted of:

  1. Clement VII (r. 1378-1394) and
  2. Benedict XIII (r. 1394-1417).

There was a third line, also officially Antipapal after the fact.  The Council of Pisa (1409) deposed (or claimed to depose) Gregory XII and Benedict XIII (both of whom remained in office anyway) and created the line of Council Popes:

  1. Alexander V (r. 1409-1410) and
  2. John XXIII (r. 1410-1415), whom I hope nobody will confuse with “Good Pope John” XXIII (r. 1958-1963), a great and holy man.

The Council of Constance deposed Gregory XII and Benedict XIII (for real this time) as well as the first John XXIII, replacing them with Martin V (r. 1423-1431).  There remained unfinished business from the Great Schism, however, for there was one Clement VIII (r. 1423-1429), who reconciled with Rome and spent his last years as the Bishop of Majorca.  And there was one Benedict XIV (r. 1425-?), who disappeared from history.  The Papacy was, however, back in Rome without serious question of that fact.

During the Great Schism of the Papacy the kingdoms, empires, and principalities of Europe lined up in support of one Papal claimant or another, creating a mess which did not cover the Roman Catholic Church in glory.  This was a theological question of the utmost importance for many people, for many people thought that following the wrong Pontiff might lead them to damnation.  Meanwhile, the list of Roman Catholic martyrs become longer and questions regarding ecclesiastical authority became more widespread.

Hus, who made the University of Prague a hotbed of Wycliffian and Lollard thought, ran afoul of the Council Popes.  Alexander V forbade Hus from preaching and ordered the Archbishop of Prague to burn copies of Wycliffe’s books.  Hus remained defiant.  The first John XXIII excommunicated Hus fully and an interdict on his followers.  Hus remained defiant.  The Church, on the authority of the Council of Constance, burned copies of his writings and the man himself on July 6, 1415.  Among the forty-seven charges of heresy were denying Papal infallibility, supporting the right of priests to marry, and condemning indulgences.

Jan Hus was dead, but his ideas and those he found and spread abroad remained alive.  They continue to live, of course.  And the Moravian and Episcopal Churches observe the feast of Jan Hus on July 6.

The Hussite Wars and Their Aftermath

Among the strengths of Roman Catholicism is centralized authority (except during the Great Schism of the Papacy, of course).  This facilitates abuses (such as the Inquisitions) sometimes, but does provide for order.  Such order was sorely lacking in the nascent Hussite movement immediately after the martyrdom of Jan Hus, hence the Hussite Wars (1420-1431) and subsequent violence.  Related to theological disputes was the politics of monarchy in Bohemia, a thicket in which I refuse to become lost in this post.  Another thicket I choose to avoid is the complexity of Hussite factionalism during those early decades.  The two major factions, however, were the Calixtines/Utraquists and the Taborites.

Terms such as “radical,” “revolutionary,” “liberal,” “conservative,” and “reactionary” are inherently relative to the center, wherever that is in any given context.  So I hope that you, O reader, will understand what I mean when I write that the Calixtines/Utraquists were revolutionaries and radicals, for they were Hussites in mostly Roman Catholic Europe, but they were, by the standards of other Hussites, conservatives.  They, based out of the University of Prague, considered partaking of the Holy Eucharist crucial to salvation.  The sacrament, they insisted, must be in both kinds–bread and wine–as opposed to the traditional practice of giving the laity bread alone.  The Calixtines/Utraquists also favored civil courts alone, meaning the abolition of special eccleasiastical courts for the clergy.  And they opposed political activity by members of the clergy.  The Calixtines/Utraquists, with aristocratic support, were the established Hussite faction.  Many of them, being relatively conservative in their political-religious milieu, returned to Holy Mother Church.

In contrast were the Taborites.  They borrowed a page from Acts of the Apostles 4:32-37 and lived communally, without private property.  They were closer to the Lollards than to the Calixtines/Utraquists, rejecting the Roman Catholic sacramental system, accepting only two sacraments, and embracing iconoclasm (in its original meaning).  The Taborites also rejected “worldly amusements” and called for violence against aristocrats, such as those who supported the Calixtines/Utraquists.  Many of the Taborites expected Jesus to return in 1420.  That prediction proved as inaccurate as did all other prognostications of dates for the Second Coming.

The Adamites split off from the Taborites.  The Adamites not only committed violence against people (such as Roman Catholics) who disagreed with them, but considered themselves the elect of God.  And they practiced nudism and considered marriage sinful.  One goal of the Adamites was to return to the pre-Fall Edenic state of human innocence.  They failed, and Taborites all but exterminated the sect in 1421.

Violence between the Calixtines/Utraquists and the Taborites continued for years, even after the official end of the Hussite Wars.  It was literally a bloody mess.

III.  THE ANCIENT UNITY/BOHEMIAN BRETHREN AND THE HIDDEN SEED (1457-1722)

Gregory the Patriarch

The official date of the founding of the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum) from the ashes of the Hussite Wars is, according to official hymnals and calendars, March 1, 1457.  J. E. Hutton, in a footnote in his History of the Moravian Church (1909), argued that this date is arbitrary and “only a pious imagination.”  He continued:

We are not quite sure of he year, not to speak of the month.  If the Moravian Church must have a birthday, March 1st, 1457, will do as well as any other; but the truth is that on this point precise evidence has not yet been discovered.

Regardless of the state of discoveries in Moravian history since 1909, one does find a consensus regarding the identity of the founder of the Unitas Fratrum.  He was Gregory the Patriarch (circa 1420-1473), nephew of John Rockycana, the Calixtine/Ultaquist Archbishop-Elect of Prague since 1448.  Gregory, a former monk and the son of a knight, found Peter of Chelcic (circa 1390-circa 1460), a Taborite preacher, influential.  Thus the Unitas Fratrum emerged from the mixing of Calixtine/Ultaquist and Taborite influences.  Strong Wycliffian and communal strands came via the Taborite influences, but the initial settlement in the Kunwald Valley had support from King George Podiebrad and Rockycana, who interceded on behalf of the Moravians with the monarch.

Thus, O reader, we find an early example of the willingness to disagree on much while maintaining unity.  This is one of the best aspects of the Moravian Church.  As a traditional motto of the Unitas Fratrum older than that denomination says:

In essentials unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, love.

Moravians have disagreed about what is essential, but their denomination has traditionally been one of the more tolerant Christian bodies.  Thus they have been fine witnesses for Christ amid the notoriously fractious and schismatic branch of Christianity called Protestantism.  Many of these schisms have occurred for legalistic reasons.  Just over a century old, for example, is the Church of God (Guthrie, Oklahoma), which formed in protest against perceived liberalism in the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana).  That alleged liberalism consisted of deciding that men wearing neckties to church were not violating Biblical standards.  Neckties remained ungodly in the Guthrie denomination.

The Ancient Unity created its ministerial orders–the priesthood and the episcopate–in 1467.  The present Moravian bishops stand in succession with the earliest bishops of the Unitas Fratrum.

Luke of Prague

Among the most influential bishops of the Ancient Unity was Luke of Prague (circa 1458-1528), who joined the Bohemian Brethren in 1481.  He was the young Church’s most influential theologian and writer, especially of hymns.  And what else are hymns but sung theology, especially for a denomination for which congregational singing is a hallmark?  Luke might have been one of the editors of the Czech hymnal of 1501, the first Protestant hymnbook.  Information about this volume of eighty-nine hymns is sketchy, for no known copy of the book exists.  We do know, however, that Luke edited the Czech hymnal of 1505, the first proper Moravian hymnbook.  Again, no known copy survives, but sources indicate that it contained about 400 hymns.  And Luke edited the Czech hymnal of 1519, of which no known copies survive.  (I detect an unfortunate pattern regarding the lack of availability of primary sources.)  This volume contained Roman Catholic texts translated into Czech, indicating the editor’s receptiveness to the best of that tradition at the dawn of the Protestant Reformation.

Various Hymnals

The lineage of Moravian hymnals continued after Luke’s death:

  1. The first German-language hymnbook of the Brethren debuted in 1531.  Michael Weisse, the editor, provided a book of 157 hymns with tunes.  (In fact, all of the early Moravian hymnals, starting with that of 1505, contained words and music.)  Weisse, however, included hymns with a Eucharistic theology which rejected the real presence of Christ and favored the Zwinglian position of a purely symbolic act.  Thus, in 1544, Jan Roh (Anglicized as John Horn) (circa 1485/90-1547) revised this hymnal, replacing certain texts and changing the Eucharistic theology to indicate the real presence.  Three known copies of the 1544 hymnal remain.  Roh/Horn was qualified to evaluate theology, for he had worked on the official Moravian confession of faith in 1532 and 1535 and, like Luke of Prague before him, engaged in theological dialogue with Martin Luther.
  2. Roh/Horn had also edited the 1541 Czech hymnal, a revision of the 1501 hymnbook, of which no known copies exist.
  3. There were also Polish-language hymnals before the Polish Brethren merged with the Polish Lutherans in 1570.  The first hymnbook was that of 1554.  The second, revised and enlarged from the first, debuted in 1569.
  4. Jan Blahoslav (1523-1571), a bishop from 1557, wrote Musica (1558), a book about how to sing hymns properly.  Three years later he finished editing the Czech hymnal of 1561, which contained 761 texts and more than 450 melodies.
  5. Kirchengesang, the German-language Moravian hymnal of 1561, contained 348 hymns plus an appendix of 108 Lutheran hymns.  This volume was as much about politics as it was about theology in a setting in which the separation of church and state was a novel idea.  This book, reprinted in 1580, remained in print in the subsequent editions of 1606, 1639, 1661, and 1694.

Religious persecution had been a reality for the Moravian Church since 1461.  By the early 1600s, however, the situation had become dire.  Evidence of this comes via the Czech hymnal of 1618, some copies of which survive.  The annotator, whose job was to identify the authors of texts, stopped by the middle of the volume.  His fate remains a mystery, but one might surmise reasonably that it had something to do with the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).  After the Protestant defeat in the Battle of White Mountain (1620), Roman Catholic forces drove the Moravian Church underground, seized Moravian church buildings, and nearly extinguished the Brethren.  Yet a “hidden seed” survived for about a century.

John Amos Comenius

The Moravian Church weathered a severe storm for about a century.  One reason for its survival was Jan Amos Komensky (Anglicized as John Amos Comenius) (1592-1670), a bishop who wrote a history of the Unitas Fratrum, reprinted the catechism and the confession of faith, maintained the continuity of the episcopate, and spent two periods in exile.  His written legacy proved crucial to maintaining the Church.  Indeed, in the 1720s, when Moravian fortunes were brighter, the faithful depended greatly on the works of this great man.  And, at that time, there was still an episcopal line because had passed the torch before he died.

Comenius, whom contemporaries recognized as an expert and pioneer in the field of education, edited the last Czech hymnal (that of 1659) of the Brethren.  He did this in exile in Amsterdam and designed the volume accordingly, for it was sufficiently small to fit inside a pocket.

Comenius had done much to preserve the hidden seed of the Moravian Church.  The work of facilitating its renewal fell to another man.

IV.  HERRNHUT AND THE RENEWED UNITAS FRATRUM (1722-1734)

Count Zinzendorf and the Renewal

That man was Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760), who owned a large estate at Berthelsforf, inside the current borders of the Federal Republic of Germany.  Zinzendorf, a Lutheran, proved to be the most influential figure in the Unitas Fratrum in the 1700s.  Not only did he provide a safe haven for Moravians at his estate (starting in 1722), but he, a Lutheran minister from 1735 and a Moravian bishop from 1737, wrote sermons, Bible commentaries, and more than 2000 hymns.

Moravian exiles formed a village, Herrnhut (“the watch of the Lord”) on Zinzendorf’s estate in 1722.  For five years substantial differences among the Brethren remained, but the Count formulated the “Brotherly Agreement,” which the Moravians adopted on May 12, 1727, to settle these disagreements.  Three months later, at a Wednesday service in preparation for the Holy Communion at Herrnhut, the congregation found a sense of unity.  The date was August 13, 1727, the official date of the founding of the Renewed Unitas Fratrum.  The event, according to Zinzendorf, was the Moravian Pentecost.

Developments in Worship

Moravians developed liturgical practices in the safe environment of Herrnhut:

  1. Among the oldest Moravian forms is the Church Litany, based on a text which Martin Luther wrote, in turn based on a Roman Catholic litany.  The rather lengthy Church Litany constitutes the basis of a separate, non-preaching service.  Baptisms and ordinations are among the optional elements one might plug into it.
  2. Moravians have used the Daily Texts since 1728.  These function well as either congregational or individual devotions.  They draw from the Bible and hymns, for hymns function prominently in Moravian theology.  Lutherans emphasize their core doctrines in written confessions of faith, such as those in the Book of Concord.  But the Moravians, who have original and secondhand confessions of faith (even from the Lutherans), use hymns to emphasize core doctrines more than Lutherans do.  One may purchase each year’s copy of the Daily Texts from Moravian provincial publishing houses and read each day’s Daily Texts at official websites, such as this one.  Related to the Daily Texts are the watchwords, which also started in 1728.
  3. The now-traditional baptismal service dates to 1730.
  4. The now-traditional Communion service dates to 1731.
  5. The now-traditional Easter dawn service dates to 1732.
  6. The now-traditional Watchnight service for New Year’s Eve dates to 1733.

Other traditional Moravian services came later.

Early Missions

Moravian missions began in 1732.  (The Moravian Church Desk Calendar and Plan Book 2014 lists August 21 as the anniversary of that event.)  The mission to St. Thomas started in 1732.  The Greenland mission followed on January 19, 1733.  And the missions to the mainlands of South America (at Suriname) and North America (at Georgia) began in 1735.  Thus Part II of this series will begin with 1735.

V.  CONCLUSION

Ecumenism has long been one of my priorities.  Yes, I have staked out my ground (generally socially and theologically liberal yet somewhat liturgically conservative, consistent with much of early Anglican Catholicism), but I do not pretend or presume that everyone ought to be like me.  I have opinions, by which I stand, but Christian traditions other than my own enrich my spiritual life.  The best of Moravianism overlaps significantly with the best of my adopted Anglicanism; collegiality is a shared value.

I have, from time to time in this post, made some critical comments also.  I hope that my readers will have sufficiently thick skins to accept without offense the objective reality of shameful periods in church history (many of which the Roman Catholic Church and  other denominations have acknowledged frankly, to their credit) as well as the existence of differing opinions.  The truth is that I like both the Roman Catholic Church and the Moravian Church:

  1. Rome is Holy Mother Church; I respect her while admitting my disagreements with her.  And the Vatican has admitted and apologized for shameful periods of church history, such as the Crusades and the Inquisitions.  It has even rehabilitated Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), whose alleged heresy was stating that the Earth revolves around the Sun, thereby calling into question centuries of bad theology predicated upon an erroneous understanding of the solar system.  He also placed the words of the Pope in the mouth of a blathering idiot in the Dialogues, an impolitic action.  And, at the time, many Protestant leaders were as dubious of the Copernicus-Galileo hypothesis as Rome was.  Pope Francis has done much to bring glory to the name of Christ; may the Holy Father continue to succeed in that effort.  His Papacy is possibly the best thing to happen to the Roman Catholic Church and the rest of Christianity in a long time, despite much persistent anti-Roman Catholic bias in the right and left wings of Protestantism.
  2. The Moravians do not constitute an ecclesiastical presence in my vicinity, so geography is one factor which keeps me separate from them.  Certain theological differences would have the same effect if geography were not an issue, however.  Nevertheless, the Moravians, I am convinced, have contributed much that is positive to the Universal Church and continue to do so.  The world is a better place due to their presence.

During much of the researching and drafting of this post I played (again and again) a compact disc of early American Moravian music to get into the proper intellectual and cultural context.  It is lovely music with a distinctly European classical sound–just the kind of genre I like.  So, if you are interested, O reader, I encourage you to seek out by means both legal and ethical Lost Music of Early America:  Music of the Moravians (1998), by the Boston Baroque, Martin Pearlman, Director.  The number is Telarc CD-80482.

Until Part II, O reader….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 29, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARY AND MARTHA OF BETHANY, FRIENDS OF JESUS

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BIBLIOGRAPHY OF HARDCOPY SOURCES

Ackroyd, Peter.  Foundation:  A History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors.  New York, NY:  St. Martin’s Press, 2011.

Cantor, Norman F.  In the Wake of the Plague:  The Black Death and the World It Made.  New York:  The Free Press, 2001.  Reprint, paperback, 2002.

Cary, Phillip.  The History of Christian Theology Course Guidebook.  Chantilly, VA:  The Teaching Company, 2008.

Frank, Albert H.  Companion to the Moravian Book of Worship.  Winston-Salem, NC:  Moravian Music Foundation, 2004.

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints.  New York, NY:  Church Publishing, 2010.

Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church.  Bethlehem, PA:  Moravian Church in America, 1969.

Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum).  Bethlehem, PA:  Moravian Church in America, 1923.

Hutton, J. E.  A History of the Moravian Church.  London, England:  Moravian Publication Office, 1909.  Reprint.

Kelly, J. N. D.  The Oxford Dictionary of Popes.  New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1986.

Knouse, Nola Reed, ed.  The Music of the Moravian Church in America.  Rochester, NY:  University of Rochester Press, 2008.

Metzger, Bruce M., and Roland E. Murphy, eds.  The New Oxford English Bible with the Apocrypahal/Deuterocanonical Books–New Revised Standard Version.  College Edition.  New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1994.

Moravian Book of Worship.  Bethlehem, PA:  Moravian Church in America, 1995.

Moravian Church Desk Calendar and Plan Book 2014.  Bethlehem, PA:  Interprovincial Board of Communications, 2013.

Moynihan, Brian.  The Faith:  A History of Christianity.  New York, NY:  Doubleday, 2002.

Stearns, Peter N., ed.  The Encyclopedia of World History:  Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Chronologically Arranged.  New York, NY:  Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001.

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