Archive for the ‘Galileo Galilei’ Tag

Christ and the Syrophoenician Woman   Leave a comment

Above:  Jesus and the Woman of Canaan, by Michael Angelo Immenraet

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday in Lent, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty God, who seest the helpless misery of our fallen life;

vouchsafe unto us, we humbly beseech thee, both the outward and inward defense of thy guardian care;

that we may be shielded from the evils which assault the body,

and be kept pure from all thoughts that harm and pollute the soul;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 148

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Isaiah 45:20-25

Psalm 32

Romans 2:1-10

Matthew 15:21-28

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Repentance is the theme of Lent, historically a time during which notorious sinners, penitent, prepared to return to the full fellowship of the church.  Changing one’s mind and turning one’s back on sins, barriers we erect between ourselves and God, is essential before one can deepen one’s relationship with God and grow into one’s potential in God.  The readings from Psalm 32 and Romans 2 cover that material more eloquently than I can paraphrase them.

Another theme in this week’s collection of pericopes is Gentiles worshiping the one true God.  We read about this in Isaiah 45 before we move along to the frequently misinterpreted story of Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman in Matthew 15:21-28.

I realize that my orthodoxy resembles heresy to many in the Bible Belt of the United States.  (I live in the Bible Belt.)  I stand within the larger Christian tradition–one that embraces critical (in the highest meaning of that word) analysis of the Bible and that accepts both science and history.  My heroes include Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), who said,

The Bible tells us the way to go to Heaven, not the way the heavens go.

I consider fossils, rock layers, and other scientific evidence, and understand that the universe and this planet are much older than six millennia, and that we human beings, in all our stages of evolution, are recent, in terms of geological time.  I cannot imagine a few million years.  Neither can I imagine many millions and billions of years.  I like to ask questions, especially those that prompt many fundamentalists and evangelicals to give me hard stares and become concerned about my salvation.  Nevertheless, I am fairly orthodox.

I, as an orthodox Christian, acknowledge the sinlessness of Jesus.  I also affirm that Jesus was fully human and fully divine, not God with skin on, without any humanity.  Furthermore, I read Matthew 15:21-28 not only in the context of the consensus of ancient ecumenical councils, but also in the context of the rest of Matthew 15 and of the Gospels as a whole.  He liked to dine with outcasts, notorious sinners, and other “bad company,” did he not?

Consider, O reader, that, in the narrative, Jesus had recently argued with some Pharisees and scribes in Jerusalem about ritual purity functioning as a distraction from moral responsibilities to relatives.  In that context, our Lord and Savior had decreed that what comes out of one’s mouth makes one’s defiled–common, as J. B. Phillips (1906-1982) translated the germane Greek verb.  To be pure was uncommon.  Impurity was ubiquitous; rituals for becoming ritually pure were also ubiquitous.

In narrative, Jesus then voluntarily withdrew to Gentile territory.  He was not trying to avoid Gentiles.  Our Lord and Savior’s seemingly harsh words to the Syrophoenician woman were not insults, and she did not change his mind.  No, Jesus tested her verbally; he wanted her to reply as she did.  Her answer pleased him.  I understand that “little bitch” (a literal translation from the Greek text) does not sound nice.  It is certainly rude when one intends to insult.  I argue, of course, that this was not the case in the story.

In the rest of Matthew 15 Jesus healed people before conducting another feeding of the multitude–4000 men, plus women and children–for the Gentiles.

…and they glorified the God of Israel.

–Matthew 15:31d, The New American Bible (1991)

I, standing in a tradition that dates to the Church Fathers, affirm that the full humanity and full divinity of Jesus meant, among other truths, that the incarnate Second Person of the Trinity did not know all that the pre-incarnate Second Person of the Trinity did.  This is an orthodox Christian position.  So is my interpretation of Matthew 15:21-28.

The Gospel of Matthew makes clear that Jesus was of Israel and that the proclamation of the message was first to Israel.  The Gospel of Matthew also includes the Great Commission (which includes Gentiles) in Chapter 28.

Jesus handled the Syrophoenician’s woman’s case better than his Apostles did; they wanted to send her away.  Christ commended her–a foreigner and a Gentile–for her faith and healed her daughter.

I wish that, in passages such as Matthew 15:21-28, the author had mentioned tones of voices, which can change the meaning of words.  Perhaps, if the author (“Matthew,” whoever he was; probably not the apostle) had done so, many generations of Christians would have avoided bad sermons on this pericope, as well as misinterpretations in commentaries and Sunday School lessons.

[Aside:  Today, March 24, 2020, I consulted N. T. Wright’s Lent for Everyone, Year A (2011), focused on the Gospel of Matthew.  Even he thought that Jesus was insulting the woman.  How did I, of all people, become more orthodox than N. T. Wright on a point of interpretation? (Start playing the theme to The Twilight Zone now.)]

All may come to God through Christ.  All need to repent.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in a balance only God understands; so be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR; AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR, 1980-1992

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, APOSTLE OF CHRISTIAN UNITY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHRISTIAN MUSIC”

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LEDDRA, BRITISH QUAKER MARTYR IN BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS BAY COLONY, 1661

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Psalm 104   1 comment

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POST XL OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

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There move the ships,

and there is that Leviathan,

which you have made for the sport of it.

–Psalm 104:27, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Psalm 104, beautiful poetry, contains praises of God in nature.  The cosmology is pre-scientific, but as Galileo Galilei explained centuries ago,

The Bible tells us the way to go to Heaven, not the way the heavens go.

We read that, in the divine order one finds no chaos and evil.  We also read that God delights in creation and in the act of creating.  The author of Psalm 104 is properly unstinting in his praise of God.

Do we delight in nature?  I enjoy walking beside the Middle Oconee River and watching turtles on rocks in the river.  I also recall an especially beautiful butterfly outside my front door a few days ago.  I remember thanking God for the sight of the turtles and the butterfly.

If we really delight in nature, we will do more than thank God for nature.  We will act to preserve and protect it, for we are stewards of the earth.  A steward manages that which belongs to another–in this case, God.  The planet does not belong to us, but we belong to it and to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ERDMANN NEUMEISTER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PORCHER DUBOSE, EPISCOPAL THEOLOGIAN

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Posted August 18, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Psalm 104

Tagged with

The In-Between Time   1 comment

Above:  Jeremiah Lowered into the Dungeon

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 38:1-13

Psalm 142

Revelation 21:15-21

John 7:32-36

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This is Ascension Sunday.  For this date David Ackerman schedules an interesting set of readings.  The lives of Jeremiah and Jesus are in peril.  Certain officials arrest the prophet.  Other officials seek to arrest Jesus.  One might imagine Jeremiah uttering Psalm 142 while in the muddy pit on the prison grounds.  As Ackerman writes, in Jeremiah 38 we have a story about

a righteous Gentile raising a faithful Jewish prophet from the mud of death to new life.

Beyond the Lectionary (2013), page 60

Opposite the ascension of Jeremiah is the descent of what the Gospel of Matthew usually–not always– called the Kingdom of Heaven (not out of piety but for other theological reasons; see the germane works of Jonathan Pennington) to the earth.

The imagery of the ascension of Jesus and the descent of the Kingdom of God/Heaven comes from a three-tiered cosmology in which the realm of dead is the underworld, God lives above the sky, and we mere mortals reside in the middle.  I know that this cosmology is scientifically inaccurate yet recognize that the ancient world view informs the narrative.   To quote Galileo Galilei, my favorite theologian,

The Bible tells us how to go to Heaven, not how the heavens go.

Thus I interpret the ascension of Jesus and the descent of the Kingdom of God/Heaven as metaphors.  I accept that Jesus, for lack of a better explanation, went home, not necessarily upward.  I suppose that one might file the event under the heading of

You had to be there,

so even the best words prove inadequate to describe the event adequately.  As for Revelation 21, the entire book is replete with imagery, given its genre (apocalyptic writing).  To read the Apocalypse of John literally is to miss to point and to read the text in a manner in which the author did not intend.

Hang in there, the Book of Revelation tells persecuted Christians.  God will win eventually, the last book of the New Testament says, even if the victory follows one’s martyrdom.  The Bible opens with God creating order from chaos then with people ruining paradise.  The sacred anthology concludes with God’s creative destruction of human-made chaos and the restoration of paradise.  We live in the in-between time, with those, who like Jeremiah, long ago, suffer for the sake of righteousness and do not necessarily meet happy ends in this life.  But we must hang in there.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2017/06/14/devotion-for-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter-ackerman/

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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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Job and John, Part XIX: Alleged Heresy, Actual Orthodoxy   2 comments

Above:  Galileo Galilei

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 30:16-31 (February 27)

Job 31:1-12, 33-40 (February 28)

Psalm 96 (Morning–February 27)

Psalm 116 (Morning–February 28)

Psalms 132 and 134 (Evening–February 27)

Psalms 26 and 130 (Evening–February 28)

John 9:1-23 (February 27)

John 9:24-41 (February 28)

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Some Related Posts:

Environment and Science:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/environment-and-science/

John 9:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

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John 9 consists of one story–that of a blind man whom Jesus heals.  The healing occurs at the beginning of the chapter.  Then religious politics take over.  How dare Jesus heal on the Sabbath?  Was the man ever really blind?  How could an alleged sinner–a Sabbath breaker–Jesus, perform such a miracle?  The works of God clashed with human orthodoxy, and defenders of that orthodoxy preferred not to admit that they were or might be wrong.

Some words of explanation are vital.  One way a visible minority maintains its identity is to behave differently than the majority.  As Professor Luke Timothy Johnson has pointed out, arbitrary rules might seem especially worthy of adherence from this perspective.  Sabbath laws forbade certain medical treatments on that day.  One could perform basic first aid legally.  One could save a life and prevent a situation from becoming worse legally.  But one was not supposed to heal or cure on the Sabbath.  This was ridiculous, of course, and Jesus tried to do the maximum amount of good seven days a week.  Each of us should strive to meet the same standard.

At the beginning of John 9 our Lord’s Apostles ask whether the man or his parents sinned.  Surely, they thought, somebody’s sin must have caused this blindness.  Apparently these men had not absorbed the Book of Job.  As Job protests in Chapter 30, he is innocent.  And the Book of Job agrees with him.  Job’s alleged friends gave voice to a human orthodoxy, one which stated that suffering flowed necessarily from sin.  The wicked suffer and the righteous, prosper, they said.  (Apparently, adherents of Prosperity Theology have not absorbed the Book of Job either.)  Job was, by their standards, a heretic.

Some of my favorite people have been heretics.  Galileo Galilei was a heretic for reporting astronomical observations and deriving from them accurate conclusions which challenged centuries of bad doctrine.  Both Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders condemned his writings as heretical in the 1600s.  Roger Williams argued for the separation of church and state in Puritan New England.  He also opposed mandatory prayer;  the only valid prayer, he said, is a voluntary one.  For his trouble Williams had to leave the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Also forced to leave was Anne Hutchinson, who dared to question her pastor’s theology.  I have made Galileo a saint on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days (at http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/).  And The Episcopal Church has recognized Williams and Hutchinson as saints.  I wonder what two rebellious Puritans would have thought about that.

Orthodoxies build up over time and become accepted, conventional, and received wisdom.  The fact that a doctrine is orthodox according to this standard discourages many people from questioning it even when observed evidence contradicts it.  Jupiter does have moons.  This fact contradicts the former theology of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.  Should one accept good science or bad theology?  The question answers itself.  The man in John 9 was born blind.  Attempts in the chapter to question that reality are almost comical.  We human beings must be willing to abandon assumptions which prove erroneous if we are to be not only intellectually honest but also to avoid harming others while defending our own egos.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THE EARLY ABBOTS OF CLUNY

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH WARRILOW, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/devotion-for-february-27-and-28-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Awe   1 comment

Above: Lauterbrunnen Valley, in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 1:1-10 (Revised English Bible):

All wisdom is from the Lord;

she dwells with him for ever.

Who can count the sands of the sea, the raindrops, or the days of unending time?

Who can measure the height of the sky,

the breadth of the earth, or the depth of the abyss?

Wisdom was first of all created things;

intelligent purpose has existed from the beginning.

To whom has the root of wisdom been revealed?

Who has understanding of her subtlety?

One alone is wise, the Lord most terrible,

seated upon his throne.

It is he who created her, beheld and measured her,

and infused her into all his works.

To everyone he has given her in some degree,

but without stint to those who love him.

Psalm 93 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The LORD is King;

he has put on splendid apparel;

the LORD has put on his apparel

and girded himself with strength.

He has made the whole world so sure

that it cannot be moved;

Ever since the world began, your throne has been estabished;

you are from everlasting.

4 The waters have lifted up, O LORD,

the waters have lifted up their voice;

the waters have lifted up their pounding waves.

Mightier than the sound of many waters,

mightier than the breakers of the sea,

mightier is the LORD who dwells on high.

Your testimonies are very sure,

and holiness adorns your house, O LORD,

for ever and for evermore.

Mark 9:14-29 (Revised English Bible):

When they came back to the disciples they saw a large crowd surrounding them and scribes arguing with them.  As soon as they saw Jesus the whole crowd were overcome with awe and ran forward to welcome him.  He asked them,

What is this argument about?

A man in the crowd spoke up:

Teacher, I brought my son for you to cure.  He is possessed by a spirit that makes him dumb.  Whenever it attacks him, it flings him to the ground, and he foams at the mouth, grinds this teeth, and goes rigid.  I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.

Jesus answered:

What an unbelieving generation!  How long shall I be with you?  How long must I endure you?  Bring him to me.

And they brought the boy to him; and as soon as the spirit saw him it threw the boy into convulsions, and he fell on the ground and rolled about foaming at the mouth.  Jesus asked his father,

How long has he been like this?

He replied,

From childhood; it has often tried to destroy him by throwing him into the fire or into water.  But if it is at all possible for you, take pity on us and help us.

Jesus said,

It is possible!  Everything is possible to one who believes.

At once the boy’s father cried:

I believe; help my unbelief.

When Jesus saw that the crowd was closing in on him, he spoke sternly to the unclean spirit.

Deaf and dumb spirit,

he said,

I command you, come out of him and never go back!

It shrieked aloud and threw the boy into repeated convulsions, and then came out, leaving him like a corpse; in fact, many said,

He is dead.

But Jesus took hold of his hand and raised him to his feet, and he stood up.

Then Jesus went indoors, and his disciples asked him privately,

Why could we not drive it out?

He said,

This kind cannot be driven out except by prayer.

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The Collect:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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One alone is wise, the Lord most terrible,

seated upon his throne.

–Sirach 1:8 (Revised English Bible)

ter-ri-ble6.  FORMIDABLE causing awe or dread

Encarta World English Dictionary (1999)

“Fear of God” is an expression I hear often.  I wonder how many people who use it know what it means.  “Fear,” in this case, is not terror; it is awe, as in the use of the word “terrible,” which is present (meaning definition #6, quoted above) in many older hymns.  Look at Sirach 1:8 again and compare translations.  The New American Bible reads “awe-inspiring” were the REB says “terrible,” and the New Revised Standard Version has “greatly to be feared.”  The Roman Catholic version of the Good News Translation, Second Edition (1992), reads:

There is only one who is wise,

and we must stand in awe before his throne.

What, then, is awe?  The best definition I can find comes from the Encarta World English Dictionary (1999):

a feeling of amazement and respect mixed with fear that is often coupled with a feeling of personal insignificance or powelessness

We are all insignificant and powerless relative to God.  This lesson ties into the reading from Mark.  Before I get to that, I need to establish our place in the Markan narrative so far.  The Transfiguration has just happened.  Selected Apostles have seen a manifestation of how significant and powerful Jesus is.  Meanwhile, at the base of the mountain, disciples have tried and failed to heal a boy afflicted by what his culture understood as a demon.  (We would have a clinical diagnosis today in North America, but that is beside the point of the story.)  The disciples tried and failed because they were unprepared and out of their league.  Jesus had not given them this assignment.  These disciples were eager and ineffective beavers, almost certainly motivated, though, by altruism.  (Let us assume the best, given the absence of evidence to think otherwise.)

These disciples felt powerless and insignificant, as did many other members of the crowd.  The Markan Gospel tells us that, as Jesus and his hand-picked Apostles descended the mountain, people looked at him with awe.  Previous chapters in Mark contain stories of our Lord and Savior’s renown, so this account fits neatly with those.  And Jesus does what people believe he can do.  The father believes somewhat that Jesus can cure his son.  The “somewhat” part of this is understandable, given the stress the man must have experienced for years.  But it was enough; it was little yet sufficient.

Jesus was close to God, the source of his power.  (He was also part of God.  Let us not attempt to explain any further, for the Trinity is a beautiful mystery beyond human comprehension.)  And, as Ben Sira tells us in Sirach, one of my favorite books of the Bible, we must stand in awe before God’s throne.  Ben Sira writes that this is God who has created nature and wisdom, personified as a woman.  (This gender personification is appropriate, I think.  Generally speaking, I am more likely to have an intelligent conversation with a woman than with a man.)  Wisdom, Ben Sira, writes, is the original creation, and God has distributed it to everyone, but “without stint” to those who love him.

So all that is good, noble, constructive, and really wise is of God.  This realization need not drive anyone to theocratic leanings and opposition to science and intellectualism, for that negative approach is neither good nor noble nor constructive nor really wise.  As an Episcopalian, I affirm that human reason is a valid prism (along with scripture and tradition) through which to consider matters of faith and theology.  Science is a valid path to much knowledge, and the misuse of scripture to contradict proven reality is an old sin of much of the Church.  For example, when Copernicus (in the 1500s) and Galileo (in the 1600s) argued from observations that the Earth revolves around the Sun, the Catholic Church labeled such ideas heretical.  They cited texts including Psalm 93:2:

He has made the whole world so sure
that it cannot be moved;

Poetry is a poor substitute for astronomy.

To be clear, I state simply that we mere mortals need to know that we are mere mortals who must stand in awe of God, if we are to proceed on solid ground during our spiritual journeys.  This is humility, certainly a virtue.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 31, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WOLFGANG OF REGENSBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THE REFORMATION

ALL HALLOWS’ EVE

VIGIL FOR THE EVE OF THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/31/week-of-7-epiphany-monday-year-1/

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May We Seek and Find a Positive Relationship With God, Who Can Transform Our Human Chaos Into Divine Order   1 comment

Above:  Ancient Hebrew View of the World; An Illustration from the St. Joseph Study Edition of the New American Bible

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Genesis 1:1-19 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

In the beginning of God’s creating the skies and the earth–when the earth had been shapeless and formless, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and God’s spirit was hovering on the face of the water–

God said,

Let there be light.

And there was light.  And God saw the light, that it was good, and God separated between the light and the darkness.  And God called the light “day” and called the darkness “night.”  And there was evening, and there was morning:  one day.

And God said,

Let there be a space within the water, and let it separate between water and water.

And God made the space, and it separated between the water that was under the space and the water that was above the space.  And it was so.  And God called the space “skies.”  And there was evening, and there was morning:  a second day.

And God said,

Let the waters be concentrated under the skies into one place, and let the land appear.

And it was so.  And God called the land “earth” and called the concentration of the waters “seas.”  And God saw that it was good.  And God said, “Let the earth generate plants, vegetation that produces seed, fruit trees, each making fruit of its own kind, which has its seed in it, on the earth.  And it was so:  The earth brought out plants, vegetation that produces seeds of its own kind, and trees that make fruit that each has seeds of its own kind in it.  And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening, and there was morning:  a third day.

And God said,

Let there be lights in the space of the skies to distinguish between the day and the night, and they will be for signs and for appointed times and for days and years.  And they will be for lights in the space of the skies to shed light on the earth.

And it was so.  And God made two big lights–the bigger light for the regulation of the day and the smaller light for the regulation of the night–and the stars.  And God set them in the space of the skies to shed light on the earth and to regulate the day and the night and to distinguish between the light and the darkness.  And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening, and there was morning:  a fourth day.

Psalm 104:1-12, 25 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul;

O LORD my God, how excellent is your greatness!

you are clothed with majesty and splendor.

You wrap yourself with light as with a cloak

and spread out the heavens like a curtain.

3 You lay out the beams of your chambers in the waters above;

you make the clouds your chariot;

you ride on the wings of the wind.

You make the winds your messengers

and flames of fire your servants.

You have set the earth upon its foundations,

so that it never shall move at any time.

6 You covered it with the Deep as with a mantle;

the waters stood higher than the mountains.

At your rebuke they fled;

at the voice of your thunder they hastened away.

8 They went up into the hills and down to the valleys beneath,

to the places you had appointed for them.

9 You set the limits that they should not pass;

they shall not again cover the earth.

10 You send the springs into the valleys;

they flow between the mountains.

11 All the beasts of the field drink their fill from them,

and the wild asses quench their thirst.

12 Beside them the birds of the air make their nests

and sing among the branches.

25 O LORD, how manifold are your works!

in wisdom you have made them all;

the earth is full of your creatures.

Mark 6:53-56 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

And when they had crossed over to the other side of the lake they landed at Gennesaret and tied up there.  As soon as they came ashore, the people recognised Jesus and rushed all over the countryside and began to carry the sick around on their beds to wherever he was.  Wherever he went, in villages or towns or hamlets, they laid down their sick right in the marketplaces and begged him that they might “just touch the edge of this cloak”.  And all those who touched him were healed.

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The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The earliest chapters of Genesis are beautiful poetry (of a sort) but not science.  Neither is Psalm 104, but that fact did not stop the Medieval and Renaissance Roman Catholic Church from citing Psalm 104:5 and other texts to declare that anyone who said that the Earth revolves around the Sun was a heretic.  (As Galileo Galilei wrote, it is wrong to declare what is demonstrated to be true a heresy.)  We are reading mythology in Genesis and poetry in the Psalms, so we ought not mistake them for a technical manual.  Yet they do constitute profound theology, and therein lies their truth.

The adapted Canadian Anglican lectionary divides the first Creation Story (actually the second one written) into two segments, so some of what I am about to write entails getting ahead of the reading.  With that disclaimer, here I go.

The first Creation Story tells of God creating order from chaos, not something from nothing (ex nihilo in Latin).  The account divides the act of creating into two parts:  Days 1-3 and Days 4-6.  During days 1-3, God establishes the outlines of creation:  night, day, skies, land, and seas.  Then God spends the next three days filling out the details.  And God rests on the seventh day, of course.  Episcopal priest and author Robert Farrar Capon states in The Third Peacock:  The Problem of God and Evil (Second Edition; New York:  Winston Press, 1986), that creation results from a “Trinitarian bash.”  And creation is good.  So God delights in creation, of which we are part and the pinnacle.  It follows logically, then, that we should delight in God.

But how often do we do that?

Now I turn to the reading from Mark.

You might have noticed, O reader, that the lectionary skipped a few verses from the Saturday devotional.  To be precise, the lectionary has jumped past the feeding of five thousand men (plus an uncertain number of women and children).  The lectionary has also skipped Jesus walking on water.  This text has puzzled interpreters since before the days of St. Augustine of Hippo, who offered this understanding:  Jesus is the master of the storm, so Christians have no reason to fear.  Then we arrive at the portion of Mark prescribed for this day in the Epiphany season.

The crowds, unlike those at the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Plus), did not come to hear Jesus teach.  No, they came to Jesus seeking his healing–and his healing alone.  (The crush of people must have stressed Jesus.) There is nothing wrong with seeking healing, but we ought not stop there.  There is nothing wrong with asking God to help ourselves and those we love and for whom we care about otherwise, but prayer should not consist solely of presenting God with a “honey do” list.

We are created to be in a healthy relationship with God.  The Larger Westminster Catechism says it best in Question #1:

What is the chief and highest end of man?

Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

There are varieties of prayer.  Among these are thanksgiving and intercession.  How often have you tried contemplative prayer?  How often have you undertaken merely to be conscious of the presence of God without asking anything of God?  How often have you just listened for God in silence?  These activities help deepen a healthy relationship with God.

As for me, I have done some of this, with mixed results.  I need to do better, and I keep trying.  The truth is that quieting my mind is a great challenge.  Over time, however, this will become easier, by grace.  The world is filled with noise, but God, as the prophet Elijah discovered, speaks in the silence.  The gods of ancient Near Eastern pantheons manifested themselves in natural phenomena, such as storms and volcanic eruptions, but the one God expresses self in the opposite ways.

May we enter into the silence and listen to whatever God might say to us.  If God says nothing on one day, at least we were silent for a while.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  Yet, if God does speak on a certain day, we will be there, alert and ready to hear.  That is good, indeed.  And divine order will supplant human chaos.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2010 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF CHARLES HARTSHORNE, UNITARIAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/week-of-5-epiphany-monday-year-1/

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