Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gottesblog

Father Burnell Eckardt has finally fixed his blog so that my blog list shows each update. I couldn't be more delighted. It is one of my favorite blogs. Take note, dear reader, that you will find a snipett of Gottesblog at the top of my blog list to the right of the screen each time the good doctor writes a new blog entry. If you haven't visited his blog, please do so here.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Library Thing

My wife has tried for years to get me to catalogue my library. She actually got me to agree at one point a few years ago to do it. She found some sort of software, which required me to enter all the pertinent data for each book. Over time I had succeeded in getting much of the library catalogued. That, however, was before the fire, which both destroyed the catalogue, and radically altered the size of the library. I still have a long way to go toward rebuilding certain aspects of my collection, but at least it has once again become delightfully sizable enough to really require organization. Nevertheless, I put it off.

Until recently. Ruth talked me into using an online cataloguing service, called Library Thing. I highly recommend this to anyone who would like an easy to use, reasonably priced system, which brings with it all sorts of literary networking possibilities. What do I mean by easy to use? If you simply enter the International Standard Book Number (ISBN), or the title, or the author, or the Library of Congress Number, the full record for your book will usually pop right up. You just click the right book, and it gets placed in your library. You can then add certain elements to your record, like tags, and reviews, etc., which I have only partially got into so far. Over all, it's the best, and easiest system I have even seen. There is a $25 one time fee for lifetime membership.

Library Thing would be an excellent way to go for individuals, or parish libraries, or schools, or whatever. If you look in the search feature, you can find libraries of all sorts and sizes. I found the library for Zion Lutheran Academy of Zion, Fort Wayne. (You can even find my library now.)

I am very pleased with this cataloguing system, and, again, I recommend anyone check it out, which you can do here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Thoughts on Saint Bernard's Day

Today is the Feast of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. A feast such as this reminds me of how far the Missouri Synod has come. Despite its tendency to kill good ideas by means of committees, one of the blessings of the modern Missouri Synod is that saints such as Bernard are now recognized in official liturgical books. At the same time, I would lovingly offer a point or two of criticism on Missouri’s commemoration of Saint Bernard.


Too often the Lutheran Service Book follows the Roman Church’s Novus Ordo dating of feasts, which sometimes means moving feasts several months away from their traditional place. In the case of Saint Bernard LSB did not do that, probably because the Roman Church didn’t move it either. Yet one cannot help notice that LSB does move the feast from its traditional date, by exactly one day. Saint Bernard’s commemoration is to be found in LSB at 19 August. I cannot claim to know with certainty what the rationale was for this decision. Let me suggest, however, that the editors probably had a well thought out and reasonable argument for this. It may have been in part a historical argument. The rationale for many of the revised dating of feasts on the part of the Roman Church’s Novus Ordo, and those churches that followed the pattern of the Novus Ordo, was the desire to correct things, and celebrate these saints’ days on more accurate dates. In some cases, a feast’s dating is changed in order to move it from what it was marking for centuries, like Chrysostom’s bones being triumphantly brought back to Constantinople, to the date of his death. In some cases modern scholarship has determined that traditional dating of a saint’s death was off by a day or two, and fixes it. The latter may be what the makers of LSB were up to with the change of St. Bernard’s day, since they moved it precisely one day. I must say, though, that I have seen several theories as to the exact date of Bernard’s death. Some say that he died on 21 August, many still say he died on the 20th. This raises the question as to the advisability and wisdom of moving such a long standing feast from its traditional date, in the absence of consensus. I give them enough credit to assume that they didn’t merely move it up one day in order to make room for the new commemoration of Samuel on the 20th. Surely some bright Missouri Synod STM or PhD student in the good favor of the right department head hasn’t come up with scholarship that proves that Samuel, the great judge and patriarch of the Old Testament, died on the 20th of August, and therefore must displace Saint Bernard.



Be that as it may, let us use this question of the date of Bernard’s death, whenever it was, as a diving board from which to lead into a brief word on the year, and manner, of his death. The reader, especially the LSB loyalist, will forgive me for assuming in the comments that follow, that Bernard died on 20 August. Early in 1153, despite the fact that he knew himself to be getting weaker, and could sense death approaching, he agreed to a request by the bishop of Trier go and mediate between quarreling groups in Lorraine. He was sixty three at this time. At this point he surely starts to remind the Lutheran reader of Martin Luther, who about four hundred years later would also mediate between quarreling factions in the sixty third, and last, year of his life, a year when weakness and illness would finally catch up with him. Bernard returned to his monastery in Clairvaux having convinced the parties to agree to peace. Then, in July, he learned that his dear friend and former student, Pope Eugenius III, had died. With this, especially after the death of his friend and fellow abbot, Suger, a year or so earlier, he knew that an era had come to an end. By mid August the Abbot knew his days to be few. He occupied his time much as he had occupied most of his time for decades, in prayer with his brothers. With his brothers gathered around him, he received the Sacrament, and gave words of counsel, and on the 20th of the month, he fell asleep in Christ, with Whom he had so long dwelt by Word and Sacrament, and with Whom he yearned to be, and Whom he long desired to contemplate face to face. He received Christ his reward. Unfortunately, his bodily remains were not allowed to rest at home at the abbey in Clairvaux permanently, for in 1792 the French government dissolved the monasteries, and Bernard’s remains were transferred to the cathedral at Troyes.



Returning to the LSB’s treatment of St. Bernard, note that he is commemorated as “Hymnwriter and Theologian.” I respectfully wonder out loud why the departure from the traditional liturgical designation of Bernard as “Abbot, Confessor, and Doctor.” Aside from the fact that this is one of several instances where LSB employs new and sometimes very particular designations (such as hymnwriter, or kantor, or myrrhbearers) perhaps the chief thing I notice that is unusual here is the avoidance of naming him a Doctor (Why is Luther called a Doctor, which he surely is, but not Bernard?), and the unmistakable avoidance of naming Bernard an Abbot. In fact, it brings up the interesting fact that, unless I missed something, the LSB avoids calling anyone on its commemoration calendar a Virgin or Abbot. The modern Missouri Synod might have its “concerns” about monasticism, but why finesse away what was a major aspect of the lives of so many of these saints?



In fact, it was precisely from within the context of the ongoing life of the monastic discipline of the Divine Office, praying the psalms, day in and day out, and relentlessly pursuing the ongoing discipline of reading the Scriptures, lectio continua, as well as the meditation on the Word via lectio divina, that Bernard, and other great theologians, like Luther, came to such rich insights on the Word, and produced such profound writings for the Church.



As a minor note, I must correct the Synod's biographical note, in which Bernard is claimed to be a “leader in Christian Europe in the first half of the 11th century A.D.,” (http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=3779 ) when of course he was a leader of the 12th century.



I cannot now go into all of Bernard’s writings and life, though they are so important that I cannot not discuss them to some degree at some point. Remarkably soon after his earthly life ended, namely, 21 years later, in 1174, he was declared a saint by Pope Alexander III. In 1830 Pope Pius VIII finally declared him to be what the Church knew he was even during his lifetime, a Doctor of the Church. And though Saint John of Damascus is usually considered the last of the Fathers of the Church, Bernard has been given the honorary title of “Last of the Fathers.” He is called Doctor Mellifluus because of the sweet eloquence of his teaching and preaching, especially on the Incarnation and Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Today's Gospel & a Word from Saint Bede

The traditional Gospel for today is from the middle of the 10th chapter of Saint Luke's Gospel. (One of these days I will write a blog explaining why I consciously avoid versification of the scriptures.) Saint Luke writes:
And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
Based upon the first few words of this Gospel, Saint Bede, the Venerable, the great eighth century Benedictine and doctor of the Church, writes the following:
It is not the eyes of the scribes and Pharisees that are called blessed. They saw only the Lord's body. Really blessed are those who can recognize His mysteries. Of these latter it is said, Thou has revealed them to little ones. The eyes of the childlike are called blessed, for to them the Son saw fit to reveal both Himself and His Father. Abraham rejoiced that he would see the day of Christ. He did see it, and was made glad. Isaias too, Micheas and many other prophets beheld the glory of the Lord. For this reason they were called seers. Yet all of them glimpsed the Lord and greeted Him only from a distance. They saw Him 'through a mirror' and 'in an obscure manner.'

Friday, August 15, 2008

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

On this the feast of the Assumption of Mary, Virgin Mother of God, into heaven, the Church is given an outstanding opportunity to meditate upon the evangelical mystery of the Incarnation. For as Saint Luke teaches us, Mary is the holy tabernacle of the New Testament, which bears the awesome, real, and salutary Presence of Christ, our Immanuel. Therein is her holiness, and what is most true of her is true, in an even larger way, of the Church.
The Church is the pure, holy, and ever-virgin bearer of God, the Living Word, in the midst of a world hostile to her. Even now this Church (as each member thereof) is pierced with many sorrows and with scandal, for as one who is marked by the cross of Christ her Redemption, she is marked, as it were, to be a target and enemy of the devil. She is a woman of sorrows. Nevertheless, this great lady, who looks so poor and weak from the world's point of view, is filled with a sevenfold joy. For her life is identified with that of her Lord, the one she confesses to be God her Savior. And if this means she suffers a little with Him now, it also means that she knows who she truly is in Christ. She, like Mary her type, by virtue of the eternal King she bears, is vested with royal dignity. Indeed she reigns with Christ. Luke shows us this as well, for when Mary the tabernacle of the New Testament completed her journey through the hill country, her cousin, though she be Mary's elder, saluted her with the greeting of one blessed to be in the presence of royalty. "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" This as the Forerunner leaps in worship within the temple of his mother, like David who danced before the Lord.
What is true of the Church is true of the Christian. Though we must suffer a cruciform life in this world, even now we know that we are invested, by the mysteries of God, with the dignity of Christ our Redeemer. It would do us well to ponder this in our heart the next time we receive our Lord in the Blessed Eucharist. And indeed one day, we will be taken to Him, where our communion with Him will be pure, eternal, and unsullied, like an unexpurgated work of perfect poetry. With these thoughts in mind, I share the following words of Saint John of Damascus.

"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. David her father leaps with joy, and with him the Angels lead the dance, the Archangels celebrate, the Virtues give glory to God, the Principalities exalt, the Powers are glad, the Dominations rejoice, the Thrones keep a feast day, the Cherubim give praise and the Seraphim proclaim her glory. 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.

"Today the immaculate Virgin, who was soiled with no earthly desires, but reared in heavenly thinking, did not return to dust, but since she was a living heaven was placed in the heavenly tabernacles. She from whom true Life has flowed to all men, how could she taste death? But she yielded to the law laid down by Him whom she conceived and, as daughter of the old Adam, underwent the old sentence (for her Son, who is Life itself, did not refuse it), but as the Mother of the living God, she was rightly taken up to His side." (Discourse 2 On the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Happy Anniversary

The pain in my shoulder and arm has kept me from writing for, I suppose, at least a fortnight. I shouldn't be doing this right now. I am now seeing a chiropractor twice per week, and she thinks this problem should be substantially behind me in about a month. My sin merits this pain, and then some, so I cannot complain; what frustrates me the most is the profound unproductivity this situation has imposed upon me. The list of topics on which I need to catch up here at the blog and elsewhere grows. It has also kept me from subdiaconal duties at church. Please pray, brethren, that this may indeed pass from me soon, and that I may grow in patience and in contentment with God's will.

But why do I write today? Because this, the vigil of the feast of the Dormition of the most holy Mother of God, is also the fourteenth anniversary of my marriage. Ruth and I were wed on this day in 1994. So much has happened in that time. A full five sevenths of it has been spent in Fort Wayne. Sad but true.

One of the thoughts that I come to when I think of my life ten or twelve or fourteen years ago, is that while in many ways we were so much happier in Milwaukee than here, in other ways I was so much less able to appreciate my marriage in those early days than I am now. There is so much you don't see clearly in the first several years of marriage. In each stage of life in this world God uniquely blesses us. The modern world which values only short term relationships misses out on the hidden ways love can open up and bloom over time. And by the way, I don't mean to sound like an old pro, because if God were to prolong our time in this world, we have a long way to catch up with couples that have been together for decades upon decades, like my parents in law, who on the 18th will celebrate their 45th anniversary. I know some who have seen their 60th, etc.

Mrs. Gaba, happy anniversary. We shall see what the fifteenth year, and the next fourteen bring us. Whatever it is, I couldn't have a better companion with whom to see it. I'm sure it will involve a lot of success and prosperity from both a worldly and ecclesiastical point of view. For those who don't get sarcasm, to be clear, I'm not really one for success, which points to one of the miracles of this marriage, that Ruth puts up with me. Like the Ever-Virgin Mary, Ruth takes what is given to her, what happens to her, as gifts, whether or not they always seem like gifts at the time, and ponders them in her heart. She can also be counted on for an opinion of what she sees, but all analogies must end somewhere.