Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dominus Meus, et Deus Meus

The first Sunday in Advent, according to Lutheran use, is noteworthy for its seemingly out of place Gospel, when it seems almost as if the deacon or priest has lost his place in the lectionary, and mistakenly turned to the reading for Palm Sunday, with St. Matthew's account of Christ's entrance into Jerusalem. The Feast of St. Thomas gives us a similar jolt from what we would normally expect in Advent, with a Gospel that seems to belong most properly in the Mass Quasi modo geniti, on Low Sunday, ie., the account in John 20 of Christ's post resurrection appearance to St. Thomas.

One of the things I love about this pericope is the pure faith that St. Thomas exhibits, when he beholds his resurrected Lord, and exclaims, "My Lord and my God." Dominus meus, et Deus meus. In the Holy Eucharist we, too, are blessed with a post resurrection appearance of our Lord Jesus. It is He, and not a phantasm, not a mere symbol. He showed Thomas His wounds, and just so, He comes to us in the Eucharist with His body that was torn and rent on the altar of Calvary, and with His blood that gushes out of his torn flesh, and washes over us. He bid Thomas to thrust his hand into His side, and just so, He bids us to find our sustenance and our life in the blood that comes forth from that side, precious blood that flows right from His sacred heart. Our Lord draws us to those wounds; in them we hide, that is, in them we find our identity. There we find our life. Like the pelican that sacrifices its flesh in order to feed her children, Christ nourishes and sustains us by pouring into us His own life, of which we are privileged to partake because we are baptized into His death.

After Christmas we are reminded right away, within its octave, that the Incarnation is a deadly serious matter, and not merely the celebration of a noble baby's birth, with feasts like those of Stephen, and the Holy Innocents. Likewise, we ought to let a feast like that of St. Thomas, just four days before Christmas, teach us that the advent of Christ among us will involve Him giving His all for us, and indeed, it involves us receiving all from Him, today and always, as often as we do this, in remembrance of Him.

Monday, December 17, 2007

two views on worship

My Roman Catholic boss found these videos on youtube, which I found both funny and revealing, so I thought I'd share them here with you. They contrast traditional worship styles with more modern and progressive forms in the RC Church, and their overall purpose is to express gratitude to Pope Benedict XVI for his defence of the dignity of the liturgy, especially in terms of stands he has taken in recent documents, such as his Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, and his Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum.

In terms of the modern extremes displayed in the videos, I find them not so much fodder for anti-Romanism as much as examples of the sort of silliness to which all too many churches in the West, including Lutheran, have fallen. Enjoy:

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Saint Lucy

13th December is the birthday of my brother, Daut Resul Gaba. 13 December also happens to be one of the Church's most beloved feasts, namely, the feast of one of her most beloved saints, that of Saint Lucy, a holy virgin of the third and fourth century, who also became a martyr for her Lord Jesus Christ in 304. I didn't get around to posting anything here on that day, but I didn't want the weekend to go by without doing so.

One reason for that is that I have become aware of an artist whom I'd like to promote here. Her name is Lis Wright Ivec, and she has a web site, which I encourage you to visit. There you will find several pieces, all worthy of your time, and contemplation: . She has given me permission to post her pictures of Saint Lucy here, and so that is what you see in the two images in this entry.

I find them to be quite arresting. One of the things I get out of these pictures is a woman of great beauty. Indeed, though she had chosen to remain a virgin, she was greatly desired by men who had no respect for her vocation.

I think these pictures take us deeper, though. If I may say so, Lis Wright Ivec has managed to portray in Lucy a sort of beauty that goes beyond the sort that the men of the world noticed. Lutheran children, as they learn the catechsim, are taught by Saint Peter's words in the third chapter of his first letter that wives are to be submissive, after the manner of Sara, and that they should not be "afraid, with any amazement." I would like to suggest, however, that Peter's words here apply to the Christian woman, regardless of whether she is married, or virgin, or widow. The Christian woman in her very nature is a sort of image of the Church, which is the Bride of Christ, and of the Christian soul, both of which are typified most perfectly in the Mother of God. Married women live out this image in a particularly concrete form. That in no way means, however, that what we may say about the iconic quality of a woman is any less true in the case of those who are unmarried. Therefore I bring up this passage from Luther's Table of Duties, despite how he, and Peter, directly apply it to wives, because it exemplifies the sort of gentleness and contentment that I see in these portraits of Lucy.

Saint Lucy was surely a woman of utter peace and joy. For she gave herself over completely to Christ. She desired only to hide in His wounds, and to find her identity in Him. He blessed her, in fact, by conforming her life into His own. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the meek and gentle King, gave Himself up as a lamb to the slaughter, in perfect awareness, pefect contentment, and perfect love. With the eyes of faith we can see the same Christ in the peaceful self giving sacrifice of Lucy.

Let me finally take note of the fact that in her suffering, Saint Lucy found great comfort and encouragement in the martyrs that had gone before her, especially Saint Agatha. I pray we, too, will find in the saints and martyrs an example for our present struggles in the Church today.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Gaba in Print

Kenneth Barnes, a "born again" Evangelical in the Ft. Wayne area, wrote a column in the Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette a couple weeks back (1 December), in which he condemns traditions as being apossed to the Bible, and in this category he includes the sacraments. You can find it here:

I wrote a column in response, and it was published in this morning's edition of the same paper, on page 2C. You can find it here:

It's not a great piece of writing, but I thought the occasion (an attack on the sacramental nature of Christ's Church) called for me to pick up my pen, and start getting serious about using it.

You will note that there were actually two articles published in response to the Evangelical position, the other one was by Bishop John D'Arcy. I am not sure how I feel seeing his and my articles printed on the same page, mine above his no less. You can read the bishop's article here:

A couple of notes on my article: 1. My original was longer. It covered more ground, and it covered that ground more fully. However, I had to edit much of it out, because this particular column calls for no more than 750 words.

2. The title you see there, "Traditions are rooted in Scripture," was not my idea. My proposed title was something like, "The Christian Life is Inherently Sacramental."

3. I don't have a lot of pictures of myself. My friend and photog, Brother Harry Reineke, suggested taking a picture of me, but we never really got around to doing that. So I sent the paper a photo from a few years ago. It was a picture taken of Ruth and me together, at the wedding of my friend Father Benjamin Pollock and his lovely wife, Rachel. The people down at the Journal Gazette then edited it down to just me.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Saint Martin's Day

11 November this year landed on the Lord’s Day, so the Church celebrated the twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost (the twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity, for those who prefer to count them in that way). Lost, therefore, to most people was the fact that it also happens to be Saint Martin’s Day. When something like this happens, St. Martin’s feast should get a commemoration by means of the second collect. Even where this may have happened, though, I suspect that for most people the day went by without thinking much of St. Martin. Therefore I thought I’d share a word on that great saint.

It is unfortunate when people say that Martin Luther was the “first Martin,” or the “original Martin.” Put simply, the truth is hardly served by such talk, in fact, it is cheated. Neither Chemnitz nor Luther would have wanted the Church to lose sight of the saints of old, men like the great fourth century Bishop of Tours, for such saints of long ago are not so far removed from us as we might be tempted to think. The distance that time appears to have put between them and us is only apparent. They are our brothers, and side by side with them we gather in worship, as sheep, around the Lamb who is our Shepherd. This is the very definition of the Church which Luther says in the Smalcald Articles is apprehended by all who receive the Holy Eucharist, that is, even by the seven year old child. In other words, while we could discuss at length the importance of what the Apology (XXI) says about the threefold honor of the saints, which we ought to do a little further down the road, I suggest that we first of all remind ourselves of the place of the departed saints relative to our struggle in this world. Namely, they are very much with us, for we are united in Christ, in whom we all have sonship, and therefore brotherhood. This is a great comfort when we think of our Christian loved ones who have gone before us, those who were killed, or died of cancer, or whatever. When it comes to those we don’t know very well, such as the saints of old, we might let it serve as motivation to get to know them better.

Martin was born after the edict of Milan and a few years before the first great ecumenical Council, specifically, about 317. His father had certainly hoped that his son would have a great military career, and thus follow in his own footsteps. So he named him Martin, after the god of war, Mars. As a child Martin became curious about the Christian faith, probably because there were Christians among his boyhood playmates. To make a wonderful story regretfully brief, Martin at length did follow in his father’s footsteps, and served with distinction.

When you hear of a man whose conversion to Christ was sudden and complete in one moment, do not believe it. I would contend that in virtually all cases, conversion simply doesn’t happen as if in a vacuum, without any preparation. St. Paul, for example, had studied the scriptures for years before he was knocked on his rear end on the way to Damascus. Though St. Ambrose went from Baptism to ordination to consecration in about a week’s time, it’s not like he knew nothing of Christ before that point. Francis had waffled back and forth for years before (and after) the day he gazed upon the crucifix of San Damiano. Likewise, Martin’s conversion is in a slight need of rescue from those who tend to focus his conversion on the occasion when, as a soldier, he saw a poor man on the road, and cut his own cape with his sword, and clothed the man, receiving confirmation from Christ later in a dream that when he clothed that poor man, he clothed Christ Himself. I do find this to be a highly significant event. Yet let us be clear that Martin was not an utter pagan before this, nor did he abandon his military service the next day.

Like so many great students of scripture, Martin had a fatherly mentor. Augustine had Ambrose, Luther had Johann von Staupitz, and Martin had Hilary. Over the course of time, Hilary helped Martin learn to pray, through the asceticism of the regular praying of the Psalms, and with his help he learned to find Christ in the scriptures. Martin became a fearless opponent of heresy, which got him in no little trouble. And soon he became the bishop of Tours.

As bishop, Martin was greatly beloved by the people. Indeed, through his ministry, the people knew Christ Himself. When the time had finally come for Martin to fall asleep in Christ, and find his rest, he was about eighty years old. He died in 397, on the 8th of November. Three days later there was a great funeral, which drew about two thousand people from the entire region. The day was so memorable, that it, rather than the day of his death, as is usually the custom, became his feast.

Let me finally touch briefly on that famous day before he became bishop, when as a soldier he gave his garment to cover a poor man on the way. We ought to let that event serve for us as an image of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who fights for us, and who covers us with the perfect garment of His righteousness. Just as Martin forcefully tore his cape from his body with his weapon, so our Lord’s righteousness comes to us directly from His own violently torn apart body. We are Baptized into precisely His very Passion and death, and raised up with Him into His own life. So we wear that blood soaked garment with great joy and pride, for it protects us and saves us from the cold, misery, and loneliness of life without Him, which is really no life at all. Baptism, and the other aspects of the sacramental ministry of the Word of God, this is the means by which the Church bears and sustains her children to this day. So we thank God for His dear Church, the Bride of Christ, which, like a protective mother, covers her children with the comforting message of the Gospel. That little incident with an obscure soldier, and an even more obscure poor man, so many centuries ago, brings us to mind of all these truths, because the very word for the cape Martin wore, in French, is chapelle, which Christians throughout the world use to describe their churches, or chapels.

What is true of the Christian is macrocosmically true of the Church, of which he is a member. And just as a man is covered with the righteousness of Christ, as with a garment, so we can say the same of the Church as a whole, a bride who is chaste and pure precisely because she is bought and redeemed by Christ. Let us then, never tire of seeking the covering, the mantilla, if you will, of the Church.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Clarifying Luther's Bowling Skills

Martin Luther was born into the world on this day in 1483. The day is not exactly marked by great celebrations around the world. That is unfortunate, though not unexpected. The greatness of the Blessed Reformer is invisible to much of the Church in this world, where her vision, even of herself, is so blurred.

What ought to be less unexpected, however, yet is true nonetheless, is that one won't hear much about such celebrations on Luther's birthday even from the great centers of Confessional Lutheranism. There is something about the present state of the modern Confessional Lutheran movement that strikes me as bored (or at least boring), lazy, and uninspired. I lament this, and I pray for genuine Catholic and Evangelical renewal among the children of Luther's Reformation, renewal that will build on the past without a fear of boldly stepping ahead.

The Confessional revival of the nineteenth century, inspired as it was by the great Lutheran anniversary years of that time, struck a cord particularly with the university students of the day. Just so, I believe that renewal in our time can and will happen at the grass roots level, if you will, among students (not all the students, but among them), at the universities, especially those independant of ecclesial bureaucratic control, where scholarship will once again shake itself free of the clutter, and open its eyes afresh. It will also take place in the parish, not all parishes, but among the ostensibly Lutheran ones there are even now precious embers that are glowing in the pile, trying to feed themselves upon the clean air of the Gospel. They are scattered and insignificant at first glance, stretched out in places like Gretna and Suring and Khartoum and Riga. They will strengthen also by building upon each other. The bureaucrats may have forever ruined the fire analogy, and I hasten to clarify that I do not envision the Catholic renewal of the Church ever becoming a great overwhelming, all consuming movement. The slow burning, fragile embers in and under a much greater pile of ash is an apt picture of the way the Church will always be in this world. Nevertheless, once in a while the Lord breathes His Spirit over the face of the mess, which sustains and renews it. Indeed, this can and will happen again in our own time. This is my constant prayer.

Meanwhile, I didn't want this day to pass without offering some sort of comment on the holy, blessed, and pious doctor of the Church, Martin Luther. One way of doing so would be to compose a thought or two on a slight annoyance I have been harboring lately. I hate that which is utterly cliche, though I am surely as guilty of it as anyone. Cliche is that to which the writer and speaker at times almost can't help but resort. Lutherans are often more guilty of it than anyone. When we recognize it, though, we ought to take aim at it, and thereby refresh and renew our discourse. One cliche I hear a LOT lately, especially in the Catholic world, is to blame Luther for all things Protestant by saying that, whatever his own intentions may have been, he is the one who "got the ball rolling." I'm serious. Not only is the notion cliche, but more and more I am literally hearing that very metaphor being employed. "Luther got the ball rolling."

Let me state this as clearly as I can. Martin Luther was not a Protestant. We also ought to get away from the notion that there was one great Reformation in the sixteenth century, and that Luther, therefore, was its pioneer, and leader (the one who, yes, you guessed it, got the ball rolling). Rather, there were several so called reformation movements in that era. They had differing aims, goals, concerns, and visions of the Church.

To take a case in point, one cannot appreciate Luther's reformation without understanding that one of it's great pillars was his defense of the true presence of our Lord Jesus in the Blessed Eucharist. From the 1520s through 1546 this is abundantly clear. Luther demonstrates in his eucharistic writings, and at Marburg, that his position is the truly Catholic one, and that it has nothing in common with the leaders of the other confessions of his day, the other "spirits," as Luther was wont to call them. There is no brotherhood between Zwingli and Luther, as became manifest in 1529. The Lutherans need to be reminded of this at times. There are Catholics who need to learn it. The Protestants have always known it, especially when they have seen Lutherans being Lutherans.

Luther didn't get any ball rolling, except maybe in his back yard. There are good scholarly Luther scholars, even in the Roman Catholic Church, who see this. To name just one off the top of my head, there is a man like Franz Possett, who penned an outstanding doctoral dissertation at Marquette University, Luther's Catholic Christology, centering on the Johannine lectures of 1527. I would love to see more of Possett's style of level headed discussion, and less of the silly perpetuation of nonsensical cliches. Let us all, all of us, that is, who care deeply about the Gospel and the unity of the Church Catholic, commit ourselves to thoughtful, reasoned, and Christian discourse, which at times includes repentance and conversion. In other words, sometimes we need to stop, assess what we've been doing, and then get the ball rolling again. Oops. Did I do that?

Thursday, November 1, 2007


Bill Buford was at one time the fiction editor for The New Yorker, but I think the first time I really took notice of him was when I came across a review essay on his book, Heat, in the London Review of Books a number of months ago. Buford was irresistibly drawn to the purism and passion of his friend, culinary superstar Mario Batali, who inspired him to switch the gears on his career, and immerse himself in the world of food preparation. Heat tells the story of that journey, and I heartily recommend the book to anyone who wants to be taken to an exciting world concerned about what is real, and genuine. Beyond what it tells the reader about pasta and short ribs and fast paced kitchens (the “roomful of adrenaline addicts,” the likes of which I came to know and love as a server at Biaggi’s), it may just inspire your own search for that which is uncompromisingly real in your life. I suppose that is the main reason I find myself drawn to Buford.

Now of course good Missouri Synod Lutherans are not supposed to read The New Yorker. They are supposed to content themselves with reading more Republican material, like The Limbaugh Letter and For the Life of the World. So as I was reading this week’s issue of The New Yorker (the October 29 issue), I noticed that Buford is at it again with his Notes of a Gastronome. His article, “Extreme Chocolate: The Quest for the Perfect Bean” (68-79) takes the reader to the source of some of the world’s greatest chocolate, the rainforest of Bahia, off the coast of Brazil. Along the way, he gives glimpses of the life of a relatively small time organic chocolate maker, Frederick Schilling, who founded the Dagoba chocolate company. Schilling is a raving fanatic. He even claims to have had on at least one occasion a visitation by night from an Aztec goddess, who made him vow never to be untrue to his purist chocolate ideals.

Schilling, and the other chocolate makers to whom he introduced Buford at the Fancy Food Show, have a seriousness about their craft that goes well beyond the money making goals of the big chocolate companies. As Buford observes:

“They were uniformly earnest. They told no jokes. They seemed to have no interest in selling, wanting to talk only about what they made, bars invariably (anything else-a filled confection like a truffle, for instance-was frivolous), in the compulsive, insistent way that upmarket vintners go on about their wines.”

Schilling himself at one point says, “I like getting in the truck and driving sixteen hours to a village that hasn’t replaced its original stock with the latest hybrid. Every bean is a story.”

Now comes the logical question, what do either Bill Buford or pure dark chocolate have to do with theology, and a theologically oriented blog? Frankly, if you don’t see what should be plainly obvious to you by now, then I can’t help you. (I’m just joking there. I’m not Scaer, and you’re not in my classroom.)

As I stated above, Buford is passionate about searching for what is most real and genuine in his field of study, and I like that in a writer, and in a man. Why, I ask, should we waste our time and energy doing things in a mediocre manner? So I am drawn to the purist in any realm. And as a bonus, when I come across such people, it serves to remind me that there are plenty of people in the world and of the world who, even if they will not do some of the things that a Bill Buford will do, yearn for what is most genuine in life. If they are going to agree to give religion a try, and spend their time in church, an increasing number of people, especially the young, want to find something worth their while, something they can respect. Their parents, the children of the sixties and seventies, are largely still busy pleasing themselves with pursuits that are ultimately empty and self serving; they have, for example, founded mega churches, made in the likeness of their own mega image of themselves. The young, I think, want something older, and more genuine, than their parents.

Also, note how he goes about his research. To him, research is a true search. Buford is the kind of man who believes that the only way to ultimately learn about a thing is to see it less as a theory upon which to speculate, and more as an experience, a journey, that must be taken. To know something, as King James uses the word, is to truly relate to it, interact with it, ponder its every facet, and then dive into it, and take it into oneself. Hence his affinity for doing things like submitting himself to the rigors of the kitchen of an Italian restaurant, or of learning the qualities of a strange Brazilian fruit by taking hold of it, and sinking his teeth into it, and feeling its effects in his mouth. His approach to learning is, dare I say, in some sense sacramental, as he fittingly shows in this latest piece, wherein he explores chocolate, which some call the “food of the gods” (theobromine, which I prefer to translate as “God’s food”).

Perhaps Buford’s article will convince you, if you have yet to be convinced, of the virtue of seventy plus percent chocolate. More importantly, though, let the Christian reader take it as an illustration of the fact that the only way to truly know God is to know Him sacramentally. Indeed, it is better to say that God thus comes to know us. From heaven above to earth he comes, not as a scandalous thing He had to do in order to save and redeem us (though he does thereby save and redeem us), but as the ongoing reality of the life He loves to share with us, His beloved spouse. And as He thus comes to us, He in fact not so much leaves heaven behind as much as brings it with Him.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

the Baltimore Catechism, & related thoughts

The bookshop where I work sells the Baltimore Catechism, and since I consider it my duty, as well as pleasure, to familiarize myself with the books we sell, I was reading it the other day. As I did, my eyes caught and wouldn't let go of the following passage:

Q. Who made the world?
A. God made the world.

Q. Who is God?
A. God is the Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things.

This is the sort of logic at which the man brought up on the inside of an institution usually nods his head in blind acceptance. The institutional bureaucracy counts on this. The buraeucrats themselves nod their heads in self congratulation at the soundness of such pronouncements. This is not an antipapist comment. The above passage, in fact, strikes me as the sort of logic that would go a long way in a Missouri Synod committee, or bureaucrat's office, and in some seminary classrooms, and therefore in some Missouri Synod pulpits.

One thing it is not is theology, though it passes itself off as such. Yet while institutions, and their official organs, focus on their own self preservation with logic that keeps them busy spinning in circles, Lady Theology will go on, often despite the institutions that claim to be her home. The Word they still shall let remain, and so on. Thank God that true servants of Theology can be found in all quarters of the Church, in many classrooms, pulpits, at confessional kneelers, altars, in homes and even in some high offices. Christ's Church is best served by men who will struggle with the Word Himself, engagae Him personally, and let Him have His way with them. That is theology. I think that theology calls the theologian first of all to repentance, and to joyful union with his Lord, that he in turn may be a blessing to others. As I say, I know of many such theologians, and I pray the Church will ever produce more of them, despite the banal and wearisome teaching they are at times forced to consume.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Latin in the home

I’m ready to resurface a bit, especially after I was so cheered by a video a friend sent me, which combined the music of one of my favorite bands with so many other oddly characteristic aspects of my existence.

Anyway, Ruth, and others, it seems, want me to blog again. So let me start by reporting one of the funniest, yet coolest things I’ve ever heard come out of my wife’s mouth. Usually in the evenings I read from the sacred Scriptures to Ruth, following my daily lectionary plan. We begin be praying the Apostles’ Creed in English, and then Latin. And we end the Scripture reading by praying the Our Father in English, and then Latin. Today Ruth had to get back to the library in a hurry, so just as I was about to begin, she made the following request regarding the Creed and Our Father: “Can we save time, and just do the Latin?”

Now that’s my kind of Lutheran.

Monday, September 3, 2007

new picture

As you see, I've put up a new blog picture. The guy in the Packers shirt is my brother, Daut. This is a picture of us at a party a few years ago in Milwaukee.

If I recall, what is in my hand is Sprecher's Special Amber, a deliciously rich lager. Over all, a great beer, though I must say my favorite Sprecher brew is the Black Bavarian lager.

So anyway, this is one of my favorite photos of my brother and me.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Phyllis Gaba, R.I.P.

Today, 1 September, is my mother's birthday. She was born on this day in 1935. She fell asleep in the opening minutes of the 29th of July, in 1993. I was with her that night in her hospital room in Milwaukee. We checked her in that last time several days earlier. I can remember that day (I guess it would be the day of the 28th) because I had a good long day of work with my friend Jim. In those days I was working for and with my arborist friend, Jim Uhrinak. I hope I spelled that right. One of my memories of Jim, in fact, is all the times I heard him spell his name for clients who would write a check for our services, after we were finished with a landscaping or tree trimming job, or a fire wood delivery. So the spelling of his name should be etched in my brain forever. If I got it wrong, it just goes to show how far out of touch I've fallen from some of the truly important things in life.

Anyway, one of the things I recall about that day is that I was working a wood chipper, and I banged one of my fingers on a branch. That pain abided with me through the night, and accompanied me in my night watch with my mother. For some reason I was the only one there that night at the hospital. I don't say that out of any sort of criticism, mind you. I just recall that circumstances had it that I was the one that was with my mother that night. She had a peaceful look as she slept. I'm not so sure how true a picture it was, though, considering her condition. The cancer that was removed a year earlier, from her stomach and esophagus, had returned, with a vengance. It reminds me of our Lord's words in Luke 11:

"When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first."

The doctors knew she did not have very long. They kept her on morphine night and day throughout that last stay in the hospital. My late pastor, Father Stephen Wiest, would suffer and die in a remarkably similar way several years later, in October of 2003.

My mother always wanted the best for us. I know that's something that is virtually impossible to see from certain perspectives. Indeed, in the final analysis, perhaps the most pertinent facet of her life is that she did give us everything, since in and through her poor life she gave us Christ. The devil, the world, and my mother's own flesh attacked her in manifold ways. Through the rear view of several years, after so many miles down the road, I can begin to appreciate the fact that her physical suffering, and death, was ultimately a small and hollow victory for the devil. Painful though it was for all of us, with the eyes of faith we can look through that suffering, and see that though she was indeed very poor in spirit, in and through that poverty, she was truly blessed, for she possessed the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5), which is to say that she belongs to Christ. Christ, the Man of Sorrows, the poor man par excellence, the one who is acquainted with grief, He was with her the whole time. He, and His victory over sin and the devil, was in her, and she in Him. Christ, her Shepherd, is nigh at hand, and has given her everlasting rest (II Esdras 2).

Thursday, August 23, 2007


It is well known and established that Concordia Theological Seminary of Fort Wayne would never do anything against the Gospel and the Confessional heritage from which the school derives its name. It should be no surprise, then, that this Missouri Synod seminary is hosting this week the general retreat of the Society of the Holy Trinity, a society of mostly ELCA priests and priestesses. I see no problem there. In fact, my favorite part of the whole thing is the fact that for the past three days all sorts of men, and women, can be seen walking around campus dressed in clerical collars and cassocks. I take this as evidence that the seminary does not see this as in any way offensive to elderly lay Lutherans (and potential donors) that might visit the campus, or to the Synod bureaucrats who might get wind of such cassock wearers. I know I'm not offended. It is open minded, welcoming, and ecumenical of the seminary to host such an event.

To be serious, though, I do believe it is worth finding out if one of the scheduled preachers for this year's STS Retreat, Pastor Erma Wolf, is a man or a woman. And I do believe it is worth asking the seminary administrators if it is truly comfortable hosting such an organization.

The chance to get pictures of some of the sights of this event was almost too good to pass up, yet I was without a camera. Nor am I sure of the copyright legality of pasting here pictures of a past retreat, so that you might get a feel for what went on in Ft. Wayne this week. But I will offer the following link: from which you can click the 2007 retreat, and then click to the photos of the 2005 retreat, and see some really nice shots of the type of gathering I'm talking about.

Long live the Fort Wayne seminary, which is proving itself more and more to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Dormition of the Mother of God

The first thing that comes to mind, which prehaps merits some discussion, is the question of what we call today's feast. Does the designation one gives to this holy day tell us about his thelogy, or of what he thinks of Mary? Not necessarily all that much, though I would say that some designations are less advisable than others. The modern day Missouri Synod Lutheran has a few choices to make.

He could stick with his church's official literature, which prefers to say that this is the feast of Saint Mary, Mother of our Lord, a term which is not heretical, so it passes the all important Doctrinal Review process of the Synod, but which does have a couple of problems. One is that it seems to be a generic Marian feast, not specific to any event or mystery in her life, as if this were the only day for Mary, which is simply not the case, not even in modern Lutheran service books, in which the Annunciation, Visitation, and Purification are all kept. In fact, this feast specifically is meant to celebrate the outcome of Mary's earthly life, the fact that she fell asleep in Christ, and is now with her Lord. The second problem with the Missouri Synod's preferred designation, Mary, Mother of our Lord, is that, while true in itself, it is most noteworthy that Nestorius also would have been quite pleased with it, for it gets around having to face the question of Mary being the Mother of God. Since Mary's Son is God Himself made flesh, the creator of all things, the Church in her wisdom decided that, indeed, it is right and proper to say that Mary is the Mother of God. Why is the Missouri Synod unwilling to call Mary the Mother of God? Surely the Synod is not dogmatically opposed to it, her defenders will tell me. I fail to see the defense, however, for erecting a wall between dogma and practice.

The LCMS Lutheran could call it the feast of Mary's Assumption. Most Lutherans, even of those dissatisfied with the Missouri Synod's practice, shy away from this, for a variety of reasons. Not all have all the same reasons. You would really need to ask each Lutheran who dislikes using "Assumption" just why it is that he feels that way. Some say, for example, that it is Roman Catholic. Lutherans are not Catholic. Therefore it is unLutheran terminology. This logic has many problems, but for now let us just point out that Mary's Assumption is not something that has ever been condemned by the Lutheran Church. In fact, there is a history of this feast being kept as the Assumption in the Reformation churches. As Professor Joseph Herl shows in his book, Worship Wars in Early Lutheranism, the Assumption is listed in the church orders in Weissenburg 1528, Dessau 1532, Nordlingen 1538, Brandenburg 1540, Palatinate-Neuburg 1543, Schwabisch Hall 1543, Brandenburg-Ansbach-Kulmbach 1548, Hohenlohe 1553, & Nuremberg 1543. To dogmatize the Assumption, as Rome did in 1950, is not the sort of thing the Church of the Augsburg Confession would do, yet it is quite another thing to claim that the Assumption itself (the event, not the dogma) is impossible and unLutheran.

There is another option, namely, to see this as the feast of Mary's Dormition. Some see this as too Byzantine, too Orthodox. Here we must clarify a few things. One is that there is no conflict or contradiction between the Assumption and the Dormition, as if one necessarily cancels the other out. Many of those who, even in the ancient church, believed and celebrated and preached the Dormition also believed that Mary was taken bodily to heaven. Likewise many who believe in Mary's assumption also believe that she did in fact die. Even the Roman Church's official definition of the dogma of the Assumption allows for Mary's death at the end of her earthly life, contrary to what I've heard some claim about that dogma. Many do prefer to simply celebrate this, though, as Mary's Dormition, and to be content that she is now in heaven.

In Mary's death we see the perfect image of the Christian who falls asleep in Christ, who finds perfect rest in him. Mary's death is the Happy Death (bona mors), for which we pray.

Here is what Saint John of Damascus preached on this feast over a millenium ago:

"Today the sacred and living ark of the living God, she who conceived the Creator in her womb, comes to rest in the temple of the Lord which was not made by men's hands...Today the Eden of the New Adam receives the living paradise in which our condemnation was dissolved, in which the tree of life was planted, in which our nakedness was clothed."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Josh McDowell teaching your children

I assure you that I do not report on such stories out of pleasure, but out of disappointment. Josh McDowell, as many readers know, is a well known Evangelical apologist. As such, there is no place in his theology for little things like Baptismal regeneration, or the true, substantial presence of Christ's Body & Blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. Whatever he may have to say that is true in its own right, what the above tells me is that he does not know Christ aright. He does not know Him when He sees Him, where He told us He would be. To put it another way, Josh McDowell, though he says many things that are true, has distorted beliefs about God, Christ, and His Word.

Why do I point this out? Because McDowell is on a speaking tour right now, holding seminars for high school children. Here is a quote from McDowell used in the publicity material for this seminar:

"Our churched young people are adopting distorted beliefs about God, Christ and his Word. And these distorted beliefs are directly attributing to our kids making wrong moral choices."

Hold on, here's the good part, he will be delivering this talk at Concordia Lutheran High School, Fort Wayne, IN, on 11 September of this year. I can see having McDowell speak at a theological symposium, or at a writers conference, but I cannot conceive of how it is good, right, and responsible to have him come in and teach our Lutheran children, at a Lutheran high school.

I also find it interesting that the advertisements for this event list as sponsors, not only a couple of Protestant radio stations, which is to be expected, but also such trustworthy institutions as Thrivent and Concordia Theological Seminary. What can I say, but, way to go, Lutherans.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

what women wear

Lately I cannot help noticing certain trends in the area of female attire, trends upon which I'd like to comment.

It seems that just about everywhere I go, whether it be a shopping mall, a grocery store, a bookshop, a library, a church, whatever, I see females of almost every age level in flip flops in stead of shoes. By every age level I mean little girls, older girls, and their mothers in their thirties or forties. This trend seems to exclude only the infant and the truly old.

I have never seen more skin, and among a broader range of females, than I do these days. This trend is not quite as age inclusive as that of the flip flops, but still alarmingly broad, and seems to be getting younger and older each season. By more skin, I mean whatever area you have in mind, legs, chest, belly, all of it.

Skirts are getting shorter and shorter, while flirtatious pants are more in than ever. That is, pants (of either denim or softer fabrics) which are tight at the top to draw attention to the rear area, sometimes full length, many times shorter, showing off some leg.

Breasts and cleavage are on display everywhere.

Yes, yes, I know, I open myself up to great dangers by discussing such things so openly. Despite the risk of jokes about why one notices such things, or the risk of criticism of being too old fashioned, too unrealistic, too out of touch with the modern world, or legalistic, the man of the Church is called upon to speak up on precisely such issues as this. Our girls and women are worth the effort.

There are other trends in female fashion worthy of comment, but I think I hit some of the basics, or highlights. Now one thing you will notice about what I observe above is that some of it actually contradicts each other. For example, there are short skirts, and there are long pants. These seem to be opposite trends. Let me explain what I think is going on. We have very different trends in the feminist world competing. One tends toward the notion of obscuring one's femininity, the other tends toward the notion of flaunting and exploiting one's femininity.

Pants are an interesting case because the danger, it seems to me, goes in both directions with the choice to wear pants. It is very difficult for pants not to show off your rear end, unless a girl is determined to utterly hide the fact that she is a girl, and in that case will end up wearing loose blue jeans that make her fit in with the guys. So girls who like to utterly hide their girlhood can find the pants to serve that purpose, while the girl who wants to be flirty knows precisely what she is doing with pants. In the area of blue jeans she will find the tight, low rise fit. And outside the realm of jeans there is a whole world of flirty pant styles. Indeed, in between these two types of girls, there is the girl who does not want to be a man, and is not aiming necessarily to be "sexy." She, nonetheless, I contend, will find it difficult to find pants that do not either show off her rear, or on the other hand make her look like a man.

In the area of skirts, as I say, they are truly getting shorter and flirtier. We see it in high school girls and junior high girls, on the street, in the stores, and even at church. We also see it, I hasten to add, with adult women on television, whether news ladies, or actresses, or whatever.

Okay, so what is behind all of this? First, this is not to condemn every girl who dresses in these ways. I have gained good friends in the world, some of whom seem to know no other way than to dress provocatively. Some women do so perhaps in a completely conscious effort to flirt, show off, and give boys ocassion for sin, some perhaps out of a truly neutral notion that this is how girls dress, and I really believe that many girls fall in between these two attitudes. That is, they don't get up each morning consciously aiming to show off their bodies, yet they cannot be completely ignorant of the fact that this is what happens when they wear much of what is in their closets. Most of these girls need love, guidance, and good examples.

Second, this is not to condemn each particular of what I observed above in some absolute way. We need to recognize, I think, that over all, there are trends in motion which are harmful to our women.

I propose that there are three basic principles which ought to govern how girls and women dress. 1. A lady should dress femininely. 2. A lady should dress modestly. 3. A lady should dress in a way that is appropriate for the ocassion.

1. Dressing femininely is to avoid dressing like a guy. Is it absolutely immoral for a girl to wear pants? Without going to that point, we ought to admit that, despite the very feminine styles out there, pants are historically men's clothing. As I argue above, there seems to be an almost inherent danger for women wearing pants, that is, she will either look mannish, or flirty; but neither is very ladylike, is it? Dressing femininley also means, I think, avoiding other articles of clothing that are overly "frumpy." Some girls, it seems, (and women) need to be reminded that they are made by God to be women, and that they ought to take pride in that gift and high calling.

2. Dressing modestly is something about which today's fashion culture, media, and entertainment industry know virtually nothing. The world will not help us on this. Our girls and young women have a truly uphill battle. Anyone who wants to learn what that culture is really like should read the recent book by Laura Sessions Stepp, Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose at Both (Riverhead Books, 2007). Though I know bits and pieces of this culture from some of my acquaintances, this book was a great eye opener for me. Again, these young women need our unconditional love, friendship, prayer, and guidance. They need us to speak up.

3. Dressing appropriate for the ocassion also seems largely lost in today's world. This, for example, explains the flip flop craze. Flip flops are designed for the beach, or perhaps the house and yard. In the army we were required to wear them in the shower, we even called them "shower shoes." They are basically, however, beach wear, not shopping attire, not attire for visiting the President of the United States, as the womens' championship LaCrosse team did a couple years ago. The flip flop, on the face of it, seems neither slutty nor masculine (they do show off a girl's pedicure, after all), but they do betray a laziness, and a lack of effort at dressing for the ocassion. Another area where we would do well to stress the value of dressing for the ocassion is church. We Lutherans believe there is something truly sacred at church, ecpecially at the Holy Mass, where we hasten as a chaste bride to meet our Lord (borrowing a phrase from a great eucharistic hymn). We ought, therefore, to wear our doctrine on our sleeve, to manifest our faith, and our reverence, by dressing like ladies and gentlemen. Men dressing the best they can, in coat & tie (or collar & cassock for the clerics), women in skirts that at least cover their knees, feminine shoes that do not show off the pedicure, and avoiding deep plunging cleevage, and yes, even being taught the value of the traditional practice of veiling the head.

I would also like to offer links to a few web resources that might prove helpful on this whole issue. One is Pure Fashion, which can be found at There are two good pages at the traditional Catholic "Fisheaters" web site I'd recommend, one is, and the other is Also, you might check out the resources at

Monday, July 16, 2007

an observation on the Missouri Synod convention

The tentative schedule for the 2007 convention of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod can be found here:

Looking at this plan for the convention, I can't help noticing a couple of things, which will perhaps strike some as being judgmental, or bitter, or whatever. In fact, I don't think I'm bitter. It's not like I woke up one morning and realized the Synod has changed. It has been on a certain trajectory for years & years now. Nor would I shy from this observation even if, say, William Weinrich were President of Synod, instead of the current leadership.

Now my observation: despite the fact that the synod web site boasts that worship is a key part of the convention, just take a good look at the daily agenda for the triennial convention of the great Confessional church known as the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and what do we see? There is one liturgy on Saturday, called "Opening Convention Worship Celebration with Holy Communion," a noneucharistic liturgy on Sunday morning called "Morning Prayer Service," a liturgy on Wednesday morning designed, I think, as a memorial service for church workers who have died in the past three years, and a "Closing Worship" on Thursday.

William Weedon has reported that the Saturday service was surprisingly good. For that I am grateful. I do not have any criticism of the substance of these services, except to say that it should be stunning and scandalous for the Missouri Synod to gather in convention and not celebrate the Lord's Day with the holy Mass. Instead, there was a "Morning Prayer Service." Beyond that, I wonder why the paucity of liturgical opporunities at the Convention? There is no time for a daily Mass? No time even for a brief order of the Daily Office, say Matins, Lauds, or Vespers?

Worship and nurture are two of the chief purposes of the Convention. Wouldn't it have been appropriate, then, to have several stations set up at the Convention hall for Private Confession? I do trust that those who planned the Convention had the best of intentions, and had no ill motives. Just step back and look at this convention, though, not with the eyes of one who has grown accustomed to the way things are in this synod, but as an outsider looking at a church that claims to stand in the great tradition of Lutheran Catholicity, and one will conclude that things just don't add up. I know, if a synodist reads this, he will conclude I am being judgmental, I'm being "Ft. Wayne" or some such sinful vice, and if a "confessional" man reads this he will likely wonder why I am going on about the obvious, why I am expecting the impossible, why I am being so idealistic, etc, etc. I was not expecting that the convention would be like stepping into a former time. Yes, this is our Church body, etc. But I do not want to "get used to it." "Ecclesia semper reformanda est" ought to be our attitude and our constant goal. Yet I am struck by the quietness from so many quarters regarding this convention.

I make no critique on the votes and acts of this convention. I merely think it is worth observing that my general impression of this convention is that of a corporate business meeting, with a few "Bible Studies" and "devotions" sprinkled into it. Why is this worthy of observation? Because I think it is a sign of the condition of the church represented at the Convention. It is a venerable saying that "Since our Church's problems are not political, but rather spiritual, we pray God to grant us repentance, and seek no political aim." In that light, I pray future conventions, whether at district or synod level, will be more concerned about the renewal of Confessional Lutheranism among us. The Augsburg Confession, for example, could be publicly read at each convention, perhaps divided up so that a portion is read each morning and afternoon. No time for that? Really? At a convention that has time for numerous Bible Studies, devotions, evening parties and receptions? I'm no expert, just a layman, wondering aloud, and praying for our Synod.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

a few historical & liturgical notes for this weekend

Lutherans who use Lutheran Service Book, unfortunately, are deprived this weekend of a couple of historical feasts. That covers a growing number of Missouri Synod parishes and chapels. Therefore, for their sake, I thought I would mention a brief word or two on the holy days historically kept on these last few days.

13 July is the feast of St. Anacletus. Anacletus, if we follow Irenaeus's list of Roman Pontiffs, was probably the same man as Cletus, who came after Linus, and preceded Clement. We recall how precarious the situation was for the Church at this early date. It is likely that Anacletus was driven into exile, and later returned to his chair. Like so many of our dear brothers & fathers in Christ, he was faithful to Christ even unto death, and won the martyr's crown. He was killed for the faith under Trajan.

14 July is the feast of Saint Bonaventure. I checked to see if LSB merely moved Bonaventure's feast (as an aside, I differentiate between feast and commemoration in a slightly different way than modern Lutherans & Roman Catholics do, I'll explain in a future post) as it does with so many other saints in the Novus Ordo manner, and unless my eyes missed it, I don't see it listed anywhere on pages xi-xiii, which surprises me, since other notable doctors of the Church are included, such as Augustine, Ambrose, Jerome, Gregory, Bernard, & Anselm. Bonaventure was one of the truly great men of the thirteenth century church, alongside Thomas Aquinas. (Both taught in Paris simultaneously.) The discipline of Bonaventure's life was Fransiscan in form. He guided the Order well, and eventually became bishop of Albano. He died while attending the Council of Lyons in 1274.

15 July is the feast of St. Henry, the Emperor. That feast falls this year on the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, which means that he would be commemorated with a collect in the Mass. Henry, a man of the late tenth and early eleventh centuries, was well known in his day, and for a long time after, for his piety, holy life, and defence of the Church. At one point, a man as great as Emeror Henry was taught a lesson in vocation. He desired to retire and live the life of a Benedictine monk, so he asked for admission to the monastery of St. Vanne at Verdun. But the abbot would not admit him; he urged him instead to return to the rule of his kingdom. Henry fell asleep in 1024.

Now I do not want this weekend to pass without mention of another, more historical than directly liturgical, note. Namely, on 14 July, in the year 1833, the Oxford Movement was launched, when John Keble preached his "Sermon on the National Apostasy," at Saint Mary's, Oxford. The Oxford Movement is defined differently by different writers, more broadly and more narrowly, eg., but its beginning can certainly be marked at the ocassion of this sermon by the pious and unassuming professor of Poetry. Together with Newman and Pusey and others, the movement restored the Church of England to its former ritual and doctrinal heritage. I do hope, and pray, for a similar movement to take place in modern American Lutheranism. Certainly there is much we can learn from the Tractarians.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

text of summorum pontificum

One may find an English translation of the motu proprio on the use of the pre-Vat II liturgy, along with an accompanying letter, at the following link:

and the Latin text here:

summorum pontificum

The Pope's long awaited Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, cutting much of the "red tape" for wider use of the old Mass which reached its final form in 1962, is released today. Here is a link to a story on its release:
I will comment on it later today, after work, and after I have time to read and ponder the document. lhg

Friday, June 29, 2007

Reading Scripture with Irenaeus

On the feast of Saint Irenaeus, the great second century student of holy Polycarp, I think I will share here a small passage from Father Stephen Wiest, of blessed memory. In the fourth chapter of his dissertation (a typological study of Acts 6-7), he holds forth on the interpretation of the Stephen section of Acts on the part of the early Fathers. Here is what he writes regarding Irenaeus:

"Irenaeus is the first among the Greek fathers to exploit typological correspondences between Stephen and Christ. He employs what I shall call the 'typology of humanity'-figural likeness of the narrative circumstances of Christ and Stephen-for his polemics against the Gnostics of the second century. In Adversus haereses (ca. AD 180-190), Irenaeus attacks the Gnostic disjunction between the God of the OT and the God of the NT.

"For his fight Irenaeus drafts Stephen, 'who of all men, was the first to follow the footsteps of the Lord, being the first that was slain for confessing Christ, speaking boldly among the people and teaching them' concerning 'the God of glory' who appeared to Abraham. All of Stephen's words 'announce the same God, who was with Joseph and with the patriarchs, and who spake with Moses.' For Irenaeus, 'the whole range of the doctrine of the apostles proclaimed one and the same God, who removed Abraham, who made to him the promise of inheritance...that He was the Maker of all things, that He was the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He was the God of glory.' That Stephen was so much like Christ makes it likely that Stephen taught what Christ and all the prophets taught-a 'like unto' argument that remains on the level of the mimetic and deputational views of Stephen.

"Irenaeus transcends, however, the typology of humanity to achieve what I shall call the 'typology of divinity.' Stephen turns out to be far more than 'like' Christ in his circumstances. Stephen's perfection of doctrine-held fast until the perfection of Stephen himself by death-attests the integral union of Stephen with 'perfection incarnate' in Christ. This becomes clear in another passage of Adversus haereses. In this section, Irenaeus ties the God of the OT to the God of the NT and binds the church doctrine of his own day to the doctrine of the apostles with an intricate rhetorical knot tucked around Stephen:

'Both the apostles and their disciples thus taught as the Church preaches, and thus teaching were perfected, wherefore also they were called away to that which is perfect-Stephen, teaching these truths, when he was yet on earth, saw the glory of God, and Jesus on his right hand, and exclaimed, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." These words he said, and was stoned; and thus did he fulfil the perfect doctrine, copying in every respect the Leader of martyrdom, and praying for those who were slaying him, in these words: "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." Thus were they perfected who knew one and the same God, who from beginning to end was present with mankind in the various dispensations...Those, therefore, who delivered up their souls to death for Christ's Gospel-how could they have spoken to men in accordance with old-established opinion? If this had been the course adopted by them, they should not have suffered; but inasmuch as they did preach things contrary to those persons who did not assent to the truth, for that reason they suffered.'

"Irenaeus advances his logic by means of word-play. Stephen, preeminent among Christ's disciples, confessed the 'perfect' doctrine and was 'perfected' by his suffering and death for it. Through his martyrdom Stephen both saw and was called away to that which is 'perfect', Christ. The conformity of martyred Stephen to Christ, 'the Leader of martyrdom', the vision of Christ granted Stephen, Stephen's Christ-like final petition for the forgiveness of his enemies and the welcome provided dying Stephen by Christ prove the perfection of perfected Stephen's doctrine about the Perfect One. Stephen's doctrine is identical to that confessed and suffered for by many subsequent Christians made perfect by martyrdom. For Irenaeus, Stephen transcends simple imitation of Christ to partake of Christ's own divine perfection."

Thus far Stephen Wiest, whose whole dissertation is simply outstanding. One day I hope it wil be published. Christians of the 21st century honor Irenaeus by actually reading and meditating upon what he would teach us in his writings, such as his Adversus haereses. In his battle against the enemies of Christ in his own time, he showed us how to read scripture, as a whole, a christological whole. And just as he 'drafted' St. Stephen in this battle, Stephen Wiest drafted Irenaeus, and can help us do the same.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

quote on the Blessed Eucharist

I refuse, out of principle, to comment today on Saint Cyril of Alexandria. Instead, I offer a passage from Saint John, the Golden Mouth. At the moment I cannot tell you where in Chrysostom this can be found, for I found it undocumented (sort of like so many of the dishwashers and prep cooks I have worked with in the restaurant business). The source does seem trustworthy to me, but even if you don't wish to trust it, then just ponder the words, no matter who said them:

"You envy the opportunity of the woman who touched the vestments of Jesus, of the sinful woman who washed his feet with her tears, of the women of Galilee who had the happiness of following him in his pilgrimages, of the Apostles and disciples who conversed with him familiarly, of the people of the time who listened to the words of grace and salvation which came froth from his lips. You call happy those who saw him...But, come to the altar and you will see him, you will touch him, you will give to him holy kisses, you will wash him with your tears, you will carry him within you like Mary Most Holy."

Monday, June 25, 2007

Presentation of the Augustana

It is a pity, in my view, that the Presentation of the Augustana (25 June) does not seem to get a whole lot of attention in the Church of the Augsburg Confession. Yes, I know it gets a bit more attention in years when it falls on a Sunday. And when it falls even just a day or two away from a Sunday, it is not a feast that will be transferred very often, since John's Nativity cannot be tampered. So the Lutheran Church's yearly celebration of her chief Confession seems to have the best chance of exposure only in urban churches that have daily Mass, or at least daily worship in the Divine Office, and at school campuses that have a presence in the summer, and that have a pastor, or dean of chapel, or rector, who cares enough to make it happen. So the odds are not in this feast's favor. In many cases, as I have outlined above, this is for very understandable reasons. I am not nesessarily ranting, in other words.

I strongly believe, however, that men and women who call themselves Confessional Lutheran, and whose circumstances are such that they are vocationally devoted to a life of prayer and service to the Church, that is, for example, seminarians, presbyters of all sorts (whether parish pastors, missionaries, hospital chaplains, military chaplains, campus pastors, seminary instructors, church bureaucrats, etc), deacons, school teachers, deaconesses, etc, would do well to be praying some form of the Daily Office, at least once or twice a day, and at least in that way, keep feasts such as this one.

One of the things that the feast of the Presentation of the Augustana will hopefully inspire in such people, is the renewed desire to immerse oneself in the Augsburg Confession. I myself have no great expertise on the Augustana, no great wisdom to impart regarding the Confession. I cannot help but share a thought or two, though, which if nothing else, will at least broadcast a little something of my own concept of what this great Confession means, and can mean to the Church.

I have never heard of anyone who actually, honestly, read through the Augustana and then concluded that it is a Protestant Confession. The Catholic nature of the Augustana permeates it, and is unmistakable. It comes through in many ways. I will not take the space here to go into them; I just want to share some general observations at this point. Those who have read it with their eyes open, though, know exactly what I am saying. Even a man as firmly Papist and anti-Lutheran as Karl Adam admits this. He writes, for example, in his Roots of the Reformation, "We should be even more struck by the fact that the Confession of Augsburg, drawn up by Melanchthon and approved by Luther, which in evangelical Christianity ranks even today as an authoritative confession of faith, makes no mention in its first part of any fundamental dogmatic difference...and in fact expressly declares that the whole dispute is concerned only with certain abuses..." The Confession of the Christian faith as formulated in the Lutheran Symbols, centering as they do around the Augustana itself, is a deeply and inherently Catholic Confession. The more we read, ponder, and pray the words of the Augustana, the more we will become conviced of the Catholicity of our Confession, and the more willingly we will desire to actually teach it and practice it. The Augustana will prove itself, in other words, to be the perfect tool if we really want to show ourselves distinct (if we really do want to proclaim our "Lutheran distinctives") over against the dominant religious opponents of our time, that is, the Protestant Gnostic milieu which overwhelms us on all sides.

I would make just one more observation at this point. The best way to read the Augustana is not merely as a series of articles, but as an organic body. It is one Confession, which finds its center in the Person of Christ, or our Redemption, that is to say, the third and fourth articles together form the center, the heart, which gives meaning, and relevancy, to the rest. The other articles are not less important, or unimportant, but concentrate around, and have their real meaning in Christ. As Dr. David Scaer said at the Concordia Catechetical Academy Symposium about fourteen years ago (I will paraphrase from memory, since my copy is now lost), the message of the Augustana is that Jesus Christ is the full and complete manifestation of God to men. This is great comfort, for it means that we need not look for God out in the cosmos, nor in the inner abyss of the self, but only in Christ, our Immanuel.

Those are my meager thoughts on a Monday night in Fort Wayne.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Weigel on new Missal

George Weigel offers a refreshing perspective on the upcoming revisions to the English translation of the Roman Rite. I highly recommend it to you. You can find it at the following site:
He is surely going against the current, at least in the American Church, which is one reason I like him.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Boniface and Trinity Sunday

I let yesterday go by without commenting on St. Boniface, whose feast it was. So I thought I'd share one little tidbit about him, something which is not usually found in summaries of his life. I have been studying the history of the feast of the holy Trinity, and just today I came across an interesting connection between Boniface and the subject of my study. The development of a special liturgy in praise of the Holy Trinity is quite involved, and a coherent summary of it will have to wait. One chapter, you might say, in that development, however, is that Alcuin, the great liturgical scholar of the Carolingian era, composed a Mass in honor of the Blessed Trinity. And it was likely St. Boniface himself who asked him to do so. That is the opinion of at least one writer I have consulted so far. Out of deep concern for the present age, and well as love of Christ's Church, which is timeless, my pilgrimage into the past continues.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The Athanasian Creed

Yes, today is Trinity Sunday, the day on which many Lutheran parishes recite the Athanasian Creed in the Mass. There is much to say about the liturgical use of this creed, and about the peculiar character of Trinity Sunday. For now, though, let me just say that the Athanasian Creed need not go away so quickly for another year of hibernation. It is worthy of prayer, study, and memorization. What you see below is the Creed attributed to Saint Athanasius, in its venerable Latin form, and then in English. If you are a student, whether grade school or university or seminary, study this creed hard. By the end of summer you could have it memorized. If you are the parent of such a student, this could be a good resource for you.

Quicumque vult salvus esse, * ante omnia opus est, ut teneat catholicam fidem.

Quam nisi quisque integram inviolatamque servaverit, * absque dubio in aeternum peribit.

Fides autem catholica haec est, * ut unum Deum in Trinitatem in unitate veneremur.

Neque confundentes personas, * neque substantiam seperantes.

Alia est enim persona Patris, alia Filii, * alia Spiritus Sancti:

Sed Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti una est divinitas, * aequalis Gloria, coaeterna maiestas.

Qualis Pater, talis Filius, * talis Spiritus Sanctus.

Increatus Pater, increatus Filius, * increatus Spiritus Sanctus.

Immensus Pater, immensus Filius, * immensus Spiritus Sanctus.

Aeternus Pater, aeternus Filius, * aeternus Spiritus Sanctus.

Et tamen non tres aeterni, * sed aeternus.

Sicut non tres increati, nec tres immensi, * Sed unus increatus, et unus immensus.

Similiter omnipotens Pater, omnipotens Filius, * omnipotens Spiritus Sanctus.

Et tamen non tres omnipotens, * sed unus omnipotens.

Ita Deus Pater, Deus Filius, Deus Spiritus Sanctus. * et tamen non tres Dii, sed unus est Deus.

Ita Dominus Pater, Dominus Filius, Dominus Spiritus Sanctus. * et tamen non tres Domini, sed unus est Dominus.

Quia, sicut singillatim unamquamque personam Deum ac Dominum confiteri christiana veritate compellimur, * ita tres Deos aut Dominos dicere catholica religione prohibemur.

Pater a nullo est factus, * nec creatus, nec genitus.

Filius a Patre solo est, * non factus, nec creatus, sed genitus.

Spiritus Sanctus a Patre et Filio, * non factus, nec creatus, nec genitus, sed procedens.

Unus ergo Pater, non tres Patres, unus Filius, non tres Filii, * unus Spiritus Sanctus, non tres Spiritus Sancti.

Et in hac Trinitate nihil prius aut posterius, * nihil maius aut minus.

Sed totae tres personae coaeternae sibi sunt et coaequales. * Ita ut per omnia, sicut iam supra dictum est, et unitas in Trinitate, et Trinitas in unitate Veneranda sit.

Qui vult ergo salvus esse, * ita de Trinitate sentiat.

Sed necessarium est ad aeternam salutem, * ut incarnationem quoque Domini Nostri Iesu Christi fideliter credat.

Est ergo fides recta ut credamus et confiteamur, * quia Dominus noster Iesus Christus, Dei Filius, Deus et homo est.

Deus est ex substantia Patris * ante saecula genitus,

et homo est es substantia matris * in saeculo natus.

Perfectus Deus, perfectus homo, * ex anima rationali et humana carne subsistens.

Aequalis Patri secundum divinitatem * minor Patre secundum humanitatem.

Qui, licet Deus sit et homo, * non duo tamen, sed unus est Christus.

Unus autem non conversione divinitatis in carnem, * sed assumptione humanitatis in Deum.

Unus omnino, non confusione substantiae, * sed unitate personae.

Nam sicut anima rationalis et caro unus est homo, * ita Deus et homo unus est Christua.

Qui passus est pro salute nostra: descendit ad inferos, * tertia die resurrexit a mortuis.

Ascendit ad caelos, sedet ad dexteram Dei Patris omnipotentis, * inde venturus est iudicare vivos et mortuos.

Ad cuius adventum omnes hominess resurgere habent cum corporibus suis, * et reddituri sunt de factis propriis rationem.

Et qui bona egerunt, ibunt in vitam aeternam, * qui vero mala, in ignem aeternum.

Haec est fides catholica, quam nisi quisque fideliter firmiterque crediterit, * salvus esse non poterit.

Gloria Patri, &c.

Whosoever will be saved, * Before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith.

Which faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, * without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

And the catholic faith is this, * That we worship one God in Trinity And Trinity in Unity,

Neither confounding the Persons * nor dividing the Substance.

For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, * and another of the Holy Ghost.

But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one: * The glory equal, the majesty coeternal.

Such as the Father is, such is the Son, * And such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, * And the Holy Ghost uncreate.

The Father incomprehensible, the Son Incomprehensible, * And the Holy Ghost incomprehensible.

The Father eternal, the Son eternal, * And the Holy Ghost eternal.

And yet they are not three Eternals, * but one Eternal.

As there are not three Uncreated nor three Incomprehensibles, * But one Uncreated and one Incomprehensible.

So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty,* and the Holy Ghost almighty.

And yet they are not three Almighties, * but one Almighty.

So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. * And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.

So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. * And yet not three Lords, but one Lord.

For like as we are compelled by the Christian Verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, * So we are forbidden by the catholic religion to say, there be three Gods or three Lords.

The Father is made of none, * Neither created nor begotten,

The Son is of the Father alone, * not made nor created, but begotten,

The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son, * neither made nor created nor begotten, but proceeding.

So there is one Father, not three Fathers, one Son, not three Sons, * One Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts.

And in this Trinity none is before or after other, * none is greater or less than another.

But the whole three Persons are coeternal Together and coequal, * so that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.

He, therefore, that will be saved * must thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation * that he also believe faithfully the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For the right faith is that we believe and confess * that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man;

God of the substance of the Father, * begotten before the worlds;

and Man of the substance of His mother, * born in the world;

Perfect God and perfect Man, * of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.

Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead * and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood;

Who, although He be God and Man, * yet He is not two, but one Christ.

One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh,* but by taking the manhood into God.

One altogether; not by confusion of Substance, * but by unity of Person.

For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, * so God and man is one Christ;

Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell; * rose again the third day from the dead;

He ascended into heaven; He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God almighty; * from whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies * and shall give an account of their own works.

And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; * and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire.

This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, * he cannot be saved.

Glory be &c.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Saint Augustine of Canterbury

This year Memorial Day happens to fall on the Feast of Saint Augustine of Canterbury, Bishop and Confessor. This St. Augustine was a monk whom St. Gregory sent to spread the gospel to England. St. Augustine, with about forty brothers, set out in 597, and began the work of preaching Christ to the people of England. His missionary work was filled with difficulties, yet he persisted, and eventually converted the people, including the king, Ethelbert. Eventually, Gregory made Augustine the first bishop of Canterbury.

Too often I hear the complaint of monasticism that it is a way of life that serves no good, and is of no value to the world, or the Church. There are at least two problems with this Protestant way of thinking. One is that it completely fails to appreciate just what a service to the Church a man can be who devotes his life to prayer and meditation. Just knowing that there is a monastery where monks or nuns pray for the Church is good for us. The other problem is that it fails to appreciate all the active service that is done by monks, including outright missionary work. I dare say that more missionary work has been accomplished by monks than by all of the evangelism programs the Church has even conceived. The first thing that would be Lutheran evangelizers should do is to learn to pray the Divine Office.

St. Augustine is just one example. Indeed, he is a great, shining example. And so today I thank God for fathers in the faith like Augustine of Canterbury, and I pray for the rebirth of monastic vocations among men and women, yes even in the Church of the Augsburg Confession.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Saint Bede the Venerable

The Feast of Pentecost rightly gets the attention this day in the Church. For it is one of the three greatest feasts of the year. At the moment, though, I’d like to say a word about the saint that is commemorated today because it is his day on the sanctoral cycle, namely, Saint Bede the Venerable, Confessor and Doctor of the Church.

When I say that Saint Bede is commemorated today, what I mean is that, since his feast (27 May on the calendar) is this year obscured by the more important Feast of the Pentecost, the collect for his feast is said after the Collect for Pentecost in the Mass. Commemoration involves a couple of other things as well in the Divine Office, but more on that some other time.

Another question that might come up at this point involves the dating of this feast. Lutheran Service Book has followed the modern Roman Catholic Church in moving the Feast of Saint Bede from 27 May to 25 May. Why? That would have to be answered by those responsible for LSB. I would simply offer a few thoughts on the question.

1. If the rationale was to move the feast to a more historically sensible place, my response would be that, in fact, neither 27 nor 25 May is Bede’s birthday. He was actually born to eternal life on 26 May.

2. Such historical arguments, even when they are accurate (as I say, this time it is not accurate) are not weighty enough, in my view, to make for a compelling case to move the date of a feast that has been in place for so long.

3. A final thought on the question of the date of the feast: I cannot help noticing that LSB gives two options for the feast of the Visitation of the BVM. Those who keep to the old calendar are given the date of 2 July, and those who keep the modern, post-Vatican II calendar, are given the date of 31 May. Whether or not it makes any sense to give two options for such a thing (I don’t think it makes any sense, but this is not the occasion to develop that topic), the question this brings up is why give the option for that feast, but not for other feasts they have changed on us?

As I say, this day, 27 May, is traditionally the day of Saint Bede, Confessor and Doctor of the Church. I do find it interesting that his feast does fall this year on Pentecost, the feast of the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the disciples. Invoking the Holy Ghost turned out to be the last prayer of Bede’s life in this world, as you will see in the following account from Dom Gueranger:

“On the Tuesday before the Ascension he grew worse, and it was evident that the end was near. He was full of joy and spent the day in dictating and the night in prayers of thanksgiving. The dawn of Wednesday morning found him urging his disciples to hurry on their work. At the hour of Terce they left him to take part in the procession made on that day with the relics of the saints. One of them, a child, who stayed with him, said: ‘Dear master, there is but one chapter left; hast thou strength for it?’ ‘It is easy,’ he answered with a smile; ‘Take thy pen, cut it and write-but make haste.’ At the hour of None, he sent for the priests of the monastery and gave them little presents, begging them to remember him at the altar. All wept. But he was full of joy, saying: ‘It is time for me, if it so please my Creator, to return to him who made me out of nothing, when as yet I was not. My sweet Judge has well ordered my life, and now the time of dissolution is at hand. I desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ. Yea, my soul longs to see Christ my king in his beauty.’

“So did he pass this last day. Then came the touching dialogue with Wibert, the child mentioned above. ‘Dear master, there is yet one sentence more.’ ‘Write quickly.’ After a moment: ‘It is finished,’ said the child. ‘Thou sayest well,’ replied the blessed man. ‘It is finished. Take my head in thy hands and support me over against the Oratory, for it is a great joy to me to see myself over against that holy place where I have so often prayed.’ They had laid him on the flood or the cell. He said: ‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,’ and when he had named the Holy Ghost, he yielded up his soul.” (vol. 8: 614-615)

Some know Bede from his history of the English Church up to his time (he fell asleep in 735). Some know him from his sermons and commentaries. Some know him by way of his legacy as a Benedictine contemplative, who had many brothers under his tutelage. I’d like to end this tribute by quoting Father Lasance, “Historians relate of him that he passed no time in idleness and never ceased to study; he always read, always wrote, always thought, and always prayed.”

Deacon David Muehlenbruch

I am gradually getting to know the features and capabilities of this blog, and one such feature is the links space you see off to the side. I thought I'd devote a word to those links. Please note that they are listed alphabetically. Other than alphabetical, do not infer any other sort of favoritism within the list.

David Muehlenbruch's blog is devoted pretty much exclusively to the rubrics of the liturgy. He does have plans to start blogging there again, and when he does, hopefully he will be encouraged to keep it up. Likewise I highly recommend his web site,, as an excellent liturgical resource.

David Muehlenbruch is an ordained deacon of the Church. Admittedly, that means nothing to most in our church today. I pray that the subject of the ordained diaconate (both permanant and transitional) will be seriously considered among us in the coming years as a potentially valuable part of the renewal of traditional Lutheranism. Deacon Muehlenbruch studied under the great Arthur Carl Piepkorn in St. Louis, and earned a Master of Divinity. He has studied the Latin Rite extensively, and I highly recommend his web resources, for they are a true service to the Church.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

my old yahoo blog

My older blog, , contains some material that might be of interest to some. Therefore I wanted to make sure you were aware of it. I rather like this new blog, so I think I will be focussing my blogging here. Just wanted to take the opportunity, though, to post something about the old blog.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Is it more correct to say that the Church is built up by the Word of God and the Sacraments, or that the Church is built by the blood of the martyrs?

It becomes clear to the student of Holy Writ that both statements are true, ie., that on the one hand Christ’s Church is built and sustained by the Spirit’s work of bringing the life of Christ to man, by means of the Word and the holy Sacraments (therefore we call the Spirit the Giver of Life – vivificantem), and that on the other hand, the Church is built upon, and nourished by, the blood of the martyrs. Both truths are scriptural. What does this mean? To the literalist, the answer is to focus on one and deny the other. The true answer is to ponder how the two truths relate to each other. For they do relate to each other intimately, rather than contradict.

The Scriptures teach us a great deal about the value of Christian suffering, and what God can accomplish through it, though sometimes they do so by other means than the blood metaphor. Take, for instance, our Lord’s words in John 12, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” Now consider, in light of such words, what St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote on the road to his martyrdom, “I am the wheat of Christ: I am going to be ground with the teeth of wild beasts, that I may be found pure bread.”

Far from being in competition with each other, the two truths of what builds the Church are related in deep and mysterious ways. I call the reader’s attention to the fact that the same Ignatius I just quoted also wrote, "I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ; and for drink I desire his blood.” To interpret our present sufferings in light of the Passion of our Lord Jesus, upon whom we feed in the Blessed Sacrament, is natural. For we are members of His holy Body. Hence the life of Christ is to be found today in His body the Church. Even at the microcosmic level, each member of that Body can say, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal 2). And this is one reason, by the way, that I am not opposed necessarily to those who say that Mary crushes the serpent under foot. For Mary is the type par excellence of the Church. It is our Lord who does this crushing, which itself implies that the Church also crushes the serpent under foot, for in marriage what is one party’s is now the other’s as well, so Christ’s victory is made ours. Paul teaches as much in Romans 16, where he writes, “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet.” And for this we pray in the classic litany, for the Lord “to beat down Satan under our feet.” The Lord does the fighting. Indeed, the fighting is already accomplished in His work on the cross. Yet the cosmic battle rages here in time, where His fighting is done in and through the Christian’s life of faith.

Latif Haki Gaba, SSP