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Archive for June, 2006

New Posters for You

June 21st, 2006 Comments off

Concordia Publishing House will be offering in a Fall catalog two posters. One of Martin Luther, the other of the great Cranach altar painting. Here are low-resolution jpeg files to give you an idea of what they will be like.

Ml_poster

Weimar_poster

Categories: Lutheranism

Gerhard: Loci: English: ‘Nuff Said

June 21st, 2006 5 comments

Gerhard_1
I’m very happy to announce that the first volume of Johann Gerhard’s LOCI THEOLOGICI is now available in English. Gerhard’s "Loci" is, in my opinion, the most comprehensively well-done presentation of Lutheran doctrine available, from anyone, at anytime. Gerhard does use the Scholastic method to engage his opponents, chiefly the Roman Catholics, but also Calvinists, but…what makes this massive work of systematic doctrine unique is how Gerhard mines the treasures of the church fathers to establish that Lutheranism is not something "new" but the old faith of the catholic and apostolic church restored and renewed. There will, God willing, eventually be over 15 volumes in the series. This first volume deals with Theology and Scripture, offering a brief introduction to theology, and then a massive exploration of the doctrine of Divine Revelation and Scripture.

If you want to learn more about these books, and how to order them, please visit the Concordia Publishing House web site.

Note to fellow Lutheran bloggers: If you would so kind as to spread the news, far and wide, that would be great. Obviously, we don’t expect to be selling these to the tune of the "Da Vinci Code" but….publicity would be welcome and we would like to see these get out there into people’s hands.

Categories: Lutheranism

Martin Chemnitz and His Church

June 19th, 2006 20 comments

On this trip to Germany I made it a point to go visit St. Martini Church in Braunschweig where Chemnitz served as superintendent and pastor, and where he is buried. The church was very well preserved, and the Chemnitz memorial plaque is featured prominently in the front of the sanctuary, just right of the chancel and altar. It holds a portrait of Chemnitz painted in 1580, the year the Book of Concord was published. It is one of the finest portraits of Chemnitz I’ve ever seen, and there are not many, to be sure. I was unable to locate precisely where Chemnitz is buried in the church. I didn’t realize that Johann Arndt was a pastor of the church until I entered it. There, right past the main door, is a large painting of Arndt with a plaque describing his life and career. We managed to slip into the church literally as a wedding was letting out. The bride and groom walked past me as I was taking a photo of Arndt’s picture. They didn’t seem to mind me, but I was a bit suprised to see them. Here are some photos I took, both of the exterior of the church, and interior. Clicking on the photo brings up the full size version. These are large images, so dial-up folks, please be advised. A few more comments: The altar in the church is not original to Chemnitz’ time, but was installed later, during the age of Lutheran Orthodoxy. As you can see, is has a stunning collection of statuary. Once again, in every church we visited, the artwork was beautiful. So, the next time you hear somebody opine that the "empty cross" is Lutheran and a crucifix is "Catholic" please find some kind way to help the person understand how entirely, utterly, completely and totally false this is.

I can’t figure out how to space these photos with captions, so I’m just going to put them below and then explain them here, in order.

Photo One: Interior of St. Martini Church, Braunschweig, Germany.
Photo Two: Exterior, front, of St. Martini Church, Braunschweig, Germany.
Photo Three: Close up of the portrait of Chemnitz inside the church.
Photo Four: The ornate frame and memorial in which the painting is found.
Photo Five: The altar in St. Martini

Martiniinterior

Martiniexterior

Chemnitzclose_1

Chemnitzmemorial

Martinialtar

Categories: Lutheranism

A Helping Hand?

June 18th, 2006 7 comments

The hand of John the Baptist has been restored to its proper owners…apparently the Russians. Now, tell me, you who have swum the Bosporus, will we read Holy Mother Church condemning this kind of nonsense? Or what precisely is the deeper spiritual meaning and reality that I, a poor benighted Westerner, just can not understand here.

Creepy stuff indeed.

Categories: Eastern Orthodoxy

Good, Bad or Indifferent: What Do You Think?

June 18th, 2006 22 comments

Theotokos I was recently viewing church web sites and bumped into this photograph, as I have in the past. It is a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, holding the infant Christ, a very beautiful one at that. Quite beautiful. I like it a lot. However, it is to be found in a Lutheran church’s nave, where the people gather for Divine Service. One notices lit candles before it. Here is an interesting case study in adiaphora. I’m not mentioning the church’s name, for that is irrelevant. What are the issues here?

Given the long association of lit candles before a statue of the Blessed Mother of Our Lord with the Marian cult in the Roman Catholic Church and the evils associated with it, what do you think? Is it good, bad or indifferent that one should have a statue of Mary with burning candles in front of it?

The burning candles are what are known as "votive" candles and, in the Roman Church, represent the prayers that have been said to the particular saint before whom they are lit. In this case, Mary. Lutherans use candles. We have statues. Are statues of Mary out? Candles out? Put them together and is there any issue? How best to think through these issues?

The church web site on which this photo appears states that the statue is Christ, being held by Mary, which of course is true, the photo from the site however is titled "Theotokos" — God Bearer — the ancient [entirely correct] description of Mary. The other picture here is of a statue of Christ being held by St. Mary is one I took in the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Worms, Germany.

Marycandlesworms_1The issue here goes back to what I have written about before. Congregations that love the historic liturgy and worship life of the church are no more free to "do their own thing" than congregations that want to imitate the local E-Free congregation, with hand waving and other such American pop-Christianity practices. The principles of liturgical life together espoused and set forth in our Lutheran Confessions are very clear that we do in fact have obligations to one another in matters liturgical. At the time the Lutheran Confessions were written, as the church orders authored by the same men who authored the Formula of Concord make clear, it was commonly understood that decisions regarding practices and liturgy were made together, and there were mutual obligations. Simply because a pastor, or a smaller group of pastors, determine that in their Lutheran Church they are going to follow what they perceive to be "better" or "more Lutheran" customs is no reason for them to do it.

Is it good, right and salutary for a congregation that is pledged to the Lutheran Confessions in the Book of Concord to feature a statue of Mary, with burning candles, in its sanctuary? Are we to regard this as yet another way we Lutherans can "rehabilitate" a practice from the Roman Church, much as some claim we should and can do with Corpus Christi festival? Is this an appropriate way to make sure Lutherans do not throw the Blessed Lady out with the bath water of anti-Roman polemic? What do you think?

“I Lost Hold of Christ”

June 17th, 2006 Comments off

During my recent trip to Germany I was able to spend considerable time looking around the monastery where Luther was in Erfurt for many years. Later, looking back on this time in the monastery, Luther said, "I lost hold of Christ the Savior and comforter and made of him a stock-master and hangman over my poor soul . . . We have obtained the light. But when I became a doctor I did not know." (WA 45:86).

  Luther’s life in the monastery was austere and rigorous. He purposefully chose the "Black Cloister" in Erfurt which practiced the most strict form of Augustinian monasticism possible. He could just as well have chosen to be a Benedictine, a Dominican or a Franciscan, all orders with monasteries within easy walking distance of the University of Erfurt. Other options were avaialble as well. But instead he chose the Observant Augustinians, whose monastery, the Black Cloistery lies on the left bank of the Gera River, which still flows pleasantly by it to this day in Erfurt. The Black Cloister was struck by a bomb during WW II, which killed over 250 women and children seeking shelter in a basement bomb shelter there, also destroying a number of buildings, but the most important buildings were preserved. It is still tucked away on a side street in Erfurt. The church, which seats nearly 300, has a long nave and still most of the original stained glass windows, one dedicated to St. Augustine, telling the story of his life in pictures. It was here at this same altar that Lutheran celebrated his first mass, and here as well, on the grave of Huss’ prosecutor, that Luther took his monastic vows, face down, before the superior of the order.

Cloister_window_view_2Just off the church is the "Way of the Cross" … the cloister itself. The photo here is looking out one of the monastic cells, a room Luther used, down to the courtyard of the monastery. The interior courtyard is still as it was in Luther’s day, a peaceful place intended to foster meditation and reflection. At the end of the Kreuzweg are several rooms which were used by the monks as for meeting and eating
. On the second floor where today there is a modest museum, one can still see the monastic cells which Luther inhabited. No monk was assigned a permanent room, in keeping with the humility enjoined on them, so that no room could said to have been their own. But the rooms that are there were, no doubt, used by Luther at various points during his time there. Luther later insisted, "If anyone could have gained heaven as a monk, then I would have indeed have been among them." (AE 27:13).

Luther_cell_low
Having passed his noviate period, Luther spent many long hours in rooms such as this one, devoting himself to intensive prayer and self-inspection and reflection, often going without food or drink for long periods, without sleep, lying on the floor with neither coat or blanket in bone-chilling cold, at times flagellating himself with cords of rope. Even ten years after his time at the Erfurt monastery was ended, those who saw Luther and wrote of their observations noted his gaunt, ascetic appearance (recall Luther did not marry until the 1520s, and only then do we have the more familiar portraits of the portly Luther).

Categories: Lutheranism

If you Love the Festival of Corpus Christi, This Site Might Be For You

June 16th, 2006 3 comments

Love the Festival of Corpus Christi? Want to see it in the Lutheran Church? I have the perfect web site for you!

And get a load of these testimonies:

I know that this will sound crazy, but I guess I should start from the beginning. Tonight was the first time I prayed my rosary in front of Jesus online. Right after I finished saying the rosary. I saw a distinct face. I can still see his eyes, crown of thorns, nose and beard. I cannot explain it, but I guess he must be very
                pleased with your work. I am not crazy. I do go adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in person where I live, but just wanted to pray in front of him at home tonight on your site rather than not adoring him at all. When I came to write to you I still saw his face. I will be telling many other people about what a blessing
                your site is to all around the world.
                Love in Christ,
                Cindy from Alabama

I am a soldier at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and I have been praying for an answer to my need to have access to the Blessed 
Sacrament in my home. It has always been my dream to live with the Lord in my home, and now it is possible to experience his presence each day because of this unique ministry. I don’t know how I can help your organization flourish other than to offer my prayers. I’m not a wealthy man, but I love God and thank you for putting this ministry together for Him. Amen.
                Mark from North Carolina


Categories: Roman Catholicism

A Minor Rant in E Major about Corpus Christi, Luther and Monasticism, etc.

June 16th, 2006 1 comment

Corpuschristi
Seems I have touched a bit of a nerve with my remarks about the "Corpus Christi" festival, which I regard as Romanist bunk and tomfoolery, while others insist is an entirely legitimate festival which, oh so sadly, Martin Luther abolished. Well…here is a short summary of the festival, its origin and its use. If you read this and still believe the Corpus Christi festival is just peachy for Lutherans to use today, well, I feel sorry for you. It’s a shame some Lutherans just can’t be comfortable with being Lutherans, but have this inferiority complex that leads them apparently even to trying to argue that Corpus Christi is something we would do well to do. I’m wondering why we bothered with the Reformation if Rome was so right on so many things. It must have been one big misunderstanding. That naughty Luther. One chap has recently informed me that Luther really didn’t give monasticism a fair shake. Of course, this is said by a 21st century American who has about as little real experience with monasticism as Luther did with the iPod. I’ll take Brother Martin’s word on the, let us say, less than good aspects of monasticism and I beg the good brother’s pardon for not leaping to the conclusion that Luther just really kind of went overboard on criticizing monasticism. I’m not really willing to dismiss the personal experiences of a man who actually lived through the hell of monasticism and also married a woman who had undergone the same abuse as a young girl and young woman. And, by the way, Luther did not learn his theology via monasticism, but via his university study, where, for the first time at 21 years of age, he was able finally to read and view his first complete Bible. Babbling through the Psalms every week was not the reason Luther came to recover the Gospel. Plenty of others were doing that for centuries without the same blessed result.

CORPUS CHRISTI, FEAST OF (Lat. festum corporis Christi,
i.e. festival of the Body of Christ, Fr. fite-Dieu orf fte du
sacrement, Ger. Frohnleichnamsfest), a festiv~al of the Roman Catholic
Church in honor of the Real Presence of Christ in the sacrament of the
altar, observed on. the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday. The
doctrine of transubstantiation was defined by the Lateran Council in
1215, and shortly afterwards the elevation and adoration of the Host
were formally enjoined. This naturally stimulated the popular devotion
to the Blessed Sacrament, which had been already widespread before the
definition of the dogma. The movement was especially strong in the
diocese of Liege, and when Julienne, prioress of Mont-Comn.illon near
Liege (1222 1258), had a vision in which the need for the establishment
of a festival in honor of the Sacrament was revealed to her, the matter
was taken up with enthusiasm by the clergy, and in 1246 Robert de
Torote, bishop of Liege, instituted such a festival for his diocese.
The idea, however, did not spread until, in 1261, Jacob Pantaleon,
archdeacon of Liege, ascended the papal throne as Urban IV. By a bull
of 1264 Urban made the festival, hitherto practically confined to the
diocese of Liege, obligatory on the whole Church,i and a new office for
the festival was written by Thomas Aquinas himself. As yet the stress
was laid on reverence for the Holy Sacrament as a whole; there is no
mention in Urbans bull of the solemn procession and exposition. of the
Host for the adoration of the faithful, which are the main features of
the festival as at present celebrated. Urbans bull was once more
promulgated, at the council of Vienne in 1311, by Pope Clement V.; and
the procession of the Host in connection with the festival was
instituted, if the accounts we possess are trustworthy, by Pope John
XXII.

From this time onwards the festival increased in popularity
and in splendour. It became in. effect the principal feast of the
Church, the procession of the Sacrament a gorgeous pageant, in which
not only the members of the trade and craft gilds, with the magistrates
of the cities, took part, but princes and sovereigns. It thus became in
a high degree symbolical of the exaltation of the sacerdotal power.2 In
the 15th century the custom became almost universal of following the
procession with the performance of miracle-plays and mysteries,
generally arranged and acted by members of the gilds who had formed
part of the pageant.

The rejection of the doctrine of
transubstantiation at the Reformation naturally involved the
suppression of the festival of Corpus Christi in the reformed Churches.
Luther, in spite of his belief in the Real Presence, regarded it as the
most harmful of all the medieval festivals and, though he fully
realized its popularity, it was the first that he abolished. This
attitude of the reformers towards the festival, however, intensified by
their abhorrence of the traffic in indulgences with which it had become
closely associated, only tended to establish it more firmly among the
adherents of the old religion. The procession. of the Host on Corpus
Christi day became, as it were, a public demonstration of Catholic
orthodoxy against Protestantism and later against religious Liberalism.
In most countries where religious opinion is sharply divided the
procession of Corpus Christi is therefore now forbidden, even when
Catholicism is the dominant religion. In England occasional breaches of
the law in this respect have been for some time tolerated, as in the
case of the Corpus Christi procession. annually held by the Italian
community in London. An attempt to hold a public procession of the Host
in conn.exion with the Eucharistic Congress at Westminster in. 1908,
however, was the signal for the outburst of a considerable amount of
opposition, and was eventually abandoned owing to the personal
intervention of the prime minister.

Categories: Lutheranism

Corpus Christi

June 16th, 2006 3 comments

I’ve noticed recently a couple well-intentioned, though mislead, Lutheran bloggers putting forward the view that the Lutheran Church should really take a look at embracing again the Feast of Corpus Christi, which they then go on about as some wonderful feast to focus our hearts and minds on the institution of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Escapism into a romanticized notion of the church’s past is unwise, to say the least, and dangerously harmful.

Why in the world would a Lutheran want to embrace a Medieval Roman festival, invented out of nothing but Romanist eucharistic error and heresy?

We have more than enough to concern ourselves with in the weekly reception of Holy Communion without pining out about Corpus Christi, which was one of the practices of the Roman Church specifically rejected and condemned by our Lutheran Confessions.

We don’t have to run around acting like Papists to assure ourselves we are being catholic. That, apparently, is a point lost on some, both those who should know better, and those being mislead and mistaught by those who should.

It never ceases to amuse me that those who would wish us to fall into a swoon over Medieval chancel prancing practices are eager to urge "church history" on us, but then it is as if suddently, anything that happened in the Reformation is automatically determined to be of no, or little, value.

Away with "Corpus Christi" — a Medieval Roman "feast" that did not encourage greater devotion to the true purpose and institution of the Eucharist but only led to even more abuse and error.

Torgau Hartenfels Castle

June 13th, 2006 Comments off

This was the showpiece Castle in Germany during the reign of John Friedrich the Magnanimous. There were 400 members of the Castle staff, and hundreds more supplying the castle. Lucas Cranach paints decorated the interior walls. John hadTorgau_castle_interior
the staircase you see in the middle constructed, along with the chapel that is famous for being the first "from the ground up" Lutheran church built, dedicated in 1544. John gave this all up when he refused to compromise his faith after his capture by Charles V in 1547 during the Smalkald War. A remarkable place, made even more so when one realizes that all this wealth was relinquished by a man who chose to remain true to his Lord rather than compromise.

Categories: Lutheranism

A Mighty Fortress — Coburg

June 13th, 2006 1 comment

The main gate of the Coburg Fortress, where Luther lived during the Diet of Augsburg in 1530.

Coburg

Categories: Lutheranism

Bach in Leipzig

June 13th, 2006 Comments off

The famous Bach statue outside of the Thomaskirche.

Bach

Categories: Uncategorized

View from Luther’s Monastic Cell in Erfurt

June 13th, 2006 1 comment

I was recently in Germany and had the chance to visit many of the Luther sites. Here is the view from one of the monastic cells that Luther was given while a monk in the monastery in Erfurt.

Cloister_window_view_1

Categories: Lutheranism

Lutheran Sermons

June 12th, 2006 Comments off

A friend has created a web site for Lutheran sermons….take a look:

Categories: Lutheran sermons

Pope Calls for Recognition of Papal Primacy

June 12th, 2006 2 comments

Benedict’s call on papacy will increase divisions, says Italian Protestant 

ENI-06-0459
Ecumenical News International 
Daily News Service 
08 June 2006 

McCain Preface: Assuming this story is correct, the Pope is simply being the Pope and is being entirely consistent with Roman Catholic dogma. Once again we are reminded that: a) there was a need for the Reformation; b) and there remains that need.

By Luigi Sandri 

Rome, 8 June (ENI)–An appeal by Pope Benedict XVI for
non-Catholic Christians to recognise papal primacy risks
reinforcing divisions between churches, says an Italian
Protestant theologian.   

Speaking at his weekly audience in St Peter’s Square on 7 June,
Pope Benedict asserted that Jesus himself had entrusted the
leadership of the Church to his apostle Peter.   

"Peter’s responsibility thus consists of guaranteeing the
communion with Christ," said Pope Benedict. "Let us pray so that
the primacy of Peter, entrusted to poor human beings, may always
be exercised in this original sense desired by the Lord, so that
it will be increasingly recognised in its true meaning by
brothers who are still not in communion with us."   

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Pope has a leading
role among Christians because as bishop of Rome he is successor
to the apostle Peter who held this office. 

However, Professor Fulvio Ferrario of the Protestant Waldensian
theological faculty in Rome insisted the idea of such a "Petrine
succession" was "completely alien" to the New Testament. 

"Recent biblical research acknowledges that Peter had a special
role among the group of disciples," Ferrario told the Italian
Protestant news agency NEV. "But this concerns Peter, not
Benedict XVI." He added, "The papacy risks becoming a factor of
division more than of unity, something that ecumenical dialogue
has to take into account." 

Pope Benedict said after his election in 2005 that promoting
Christian unity would be his "primary task". 

The First Vatican Council in 1870 proclaimed the dogmas of the
papal primacy and of the infallibility of the Pope when he speaks
"ex cathedra", or solemnly declares a definitive and binding
decision on faith or morals. 

The role of the Roman Catholic papacy remains a source of
controversy, not only for Protestant denominations but also for
Eastern Orthodox churches which do not accept the dogmas of the
First Vatican Council.   

The issue of papal primacy is to be discussed at a meeting of an
international Orthodox-Catholic dialogue commission to take place
in Serbia in September. 

Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical "Ut unum sint" (That they
may be one) reaffirmed the 1870 dogmas but said he was ready to
change the way in which primacy was exercised to better promote
unity between churches. [392 words] 

All articles (c) Ecumenical News International 
Reproduction permitted only by media subscribers and 
provided ENI is acknowledged as the source. 

Ecumenical News International 
PO Box 2100 
CH – 1211 Geneva 2 
Switzerland 

Tel: (41-22) 791 6088/6111 
Fax: (41-22) 788 7244 
Email: eni@eni.ch 

Categories: Roman Catholicism