Friday, October 21, 2011

Mad Men Picnic

I've been watching Mad Men via NetFlix, and I had to laugh at what happens at the end of this scene.  Notice with what care they handle their trash.  No wonder America in those days had to trot out the Indian with the tear in his eye.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

message from another world

Perhaps this weekend I'll be able to get back to a bit of blog writing.  But for now I thought I'd share something I found at work.  Lakefront Brewery's new warehouse and distribution facility is "new" to us, but had a former life.  It used to be the Wilke Dairy Company.  We are rehabbing it for our purposes.  I still have memories of drinking Wilke milk as a child.  Anyway, among the relics of the past is the Wilke packaging for butter by the pound.  And when you open up one of the ends, on the inside flap you find the following:

This butter is doubly protected, by parchment and by a paraffined carton, to insure its reaching your table with all the original flavor and quality.  BE  SURE  TO  KEEP  IT  IN  BOTH  UNTIL  SERVED

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Lakefront 88: Bridge Burner

The Traditional Lutheran View of Mary's Virginity

For the past few weeks Dr. Kenneth Wieting at Luther Memorial Chapel, in Shorewood, Wisconsin, has been teaching a class on the Epistle of St. James. It has been a wonderfully insightful study, and I have appreciated it very much. He very insistently teaches, however, that the James who penned this epistle is a brother of Jesus in the literal, narrow, modern, Western sense of brother, ie., that he and Jesus both issued from Mary's womb. The notion that Mary had only one Child, and remained a virgin all her life is, to Dr. Wieting, an unbiblical mariology that arises only several centuries later. I respectfully disagree, and would offer an alternative view.

In differing from the commonly accepted notion that Jesus had maternal siblings, I am not merely diverging from this or that eminent theologian, like David Scaer, but also from virtually all of modern Biblical scholarship. And I think that is actually a good note on which to begin this discussion. That is, despite the fact that the advocates of the view that Mary had other children base their argument upon a conviction that the New Testament and the earliest centuries of Christianity are on their side (a notion which is debatable), the first point which needs to be made is that their view is the modern one, and goes against millennia of churchly tradition.

My conviction is that the Blessed Virgin Mary was mother to precisely One, and that He displayed His divine nature even in the fetal stage of His earthly sojourn by preserving His mother's virginity. I did not come to this conviction first by exegetical study, nor by ante-nicene historical findings, nor by the theological value of such ideas (though something could be said in all three of these areas), but by the overwhelming weight of the Church's tradition. In view of the thoughtful and rigorously theological tradition of churchly devotion, confession, preaching, and discourse, and of the respect given to such tradition by the Lutheran Confessions, the modern denial of Mary's perpetual virginity would certainly strike both those who penned and those who signed the Lutheran Confessions as a "new" doctrine, ie, that against which the Lutheran Symbols firmly take their stand. 

To those who insist, out of an admirable desire to rest on scripture alone, that they will believe it only when they see it, ie, that they will accept the perpetual virginity of Mary only when shown explicit references to it in sacred scripture, I would introduce an idea that will seem at first ridiculous.  Namely, the true value of approaching the life of Mary in a way in keeping with the evangelical tradition of the Church is that one finds the opposite to the be the case, ie, the traditionalist Lutheran begins to see it in scripture (the absence of explicit proof texts notwithstanding) when he approaches the scripture with this belief.  You will, in fact, to turn a phrase on its head, see it when you believe it.  And on this count I do not merely have in mind a few isolated verses, which I choose to read in a traditional manner, though of course such texts are worth pondering (such as Ezekiel 44), but an extended pattern, stretching from the Old Testament into the New; a pattern, moreover, with deeply christological and ecclesial dimensions.

Let us establish first, for the record, that the perpetual virginity of Mary is not merely the view of a few bishops of the fourth century, nor merely the prevailing view of the Medieval Church, nor merely a characteristic aspect of Roman Catholic mariology, but is undeniably the traditional and universal view of the Lutheran fathers, beginning with Luther and the sixteenth century divines and continuing through every succeeding epoch into the twentieth century.  In the Latin edition of the Lutheran Book of Concord, published in 1584, we have the following Catholic confession of the Evangelical Church:
That the Son became man in this manner, that He was conceived, without the cooperation of man, by the Holy Ghost, and was born of the pure, holy and always Virgin Mary.
That term "always" is not in the German text of this confession, as the deniers of Mary's perpetual virginity are quick to point out.  Nevertheless, it is clearly part of the official Latin edition of the Book of Concord, and it received no objection when it was published, no objection in the sixteenth century, no objection until pretty much our own times.  Moreover, it is in no way unfair to Luther's view.  We need not belabor this blog post with many quotations, for Luther's firm stand on Mary's virginity before, during, and after the birth of the Christ is well established.  We may consult his comments in the Personal Prayer Book, for example, or his Christmas preaching, for good material on this topic.

Also in the Book of Concord, I hasten to add, and in the indisputably authoritative German text, is a christological passage in the Formula of Concord which in one fell swoop confesses both Christ's birth in clauso utero and Mary's perpetual virginity.  I refer to the following:
On account of this personal union and communion of the natures, Mary, the most blessed Virgin, bore not a mere man, but, as the angel testifies, such a man as is truly the Son of the most high God, who showed His divine majesty even in His mother's womb, inasmuch as He was born of a virgin, with her virginity inviolate.  Therefore she is truly the mother of God, and nevertheless remained a virgin.
First, this clearly confesses the rather amazing paradox that, though Christ had a true physical birth, He nevertheless does not open His mother's womb.  He passes through the birth canal much the way He would enter the closed room years later after His resurrection.  This, in itself, I would argue, has implications for the lifelong virginity of His mother.  Second, this passage also testifies to the perpetual virginity, by means of the grammar which does not come across well in translation, which however has proven to be obvious to native German speaking theologians, even some who had no bias toward the perpetual virginity, like Herman Sasse. 

My point in making these references to the Lutheran Confessions, let me make clear, is not to impugn the Confessional loyalty of those today who do not hold to the perpetual virginity of Mary, only to establish the point that may be surprising to some, and may need to be reemphasized to others, that Mary's perpetual virginity is not a notion held by a few Lutherans here and there in the sixteenth century, but had and has a firm part in Lutheran tradition.  When did it become such a minority view?  Not until very recent times.  I would suggest that in the Missouri Synod world, it may have been the switch to seminary theological study taking place in English (which may vindicate Loehe's warning against moving away from teaching theology in German).

What the Lutherans of the theologically rigorous age of Lutheran Orthodoxy, and the arguably even purer theology of Luther, held regarding Mary, was a tradition preserved for them by the ages which came before.  While we could show ample evidence of the Church's stand on Mary's perpetual virginity for the thousand years which preceded Luther (and I have done so at this blog in the past), suffice to say that this is not in dispute.  What is claimed by many of the deniers of Mary's lifelong virginity, rather, is that it was introduced only after Mary's life, indeed several centuries later, for that is when we begin to see open and explicit reference to it.

When we examine those early explicit references to Mary's perpetual virginity (third and fourth century), however, a couple of things are worth noting.  One is the deafening lack of objection to them.  They seem to cause no scandal at all.  There are a few scattered voices in the Early Church opposed Mary's perpetual virginity; we see names like Tertullian and Helvidius, but no one of unblemished orthodoxy.  The other noteworthy thing about the first plain references to Mary's perpetual virginity is that they actually seem to imply that they are merely upholding already established Church teaching.  Take, for example, the case of Origen in the third century (and let us emphasize that means the 200s-he died in 253).  Origin writes in his Commnetary on John:
There is no child of Mary except Jesus, according to the opinion of those who think correctly about her.
Origen here is making reference not only to Mary's perpetual virginity, but also to the fact that this was the commonly accepted view of his day.  That in turn strongly implies that it predates his age, that it was handed to his generation by the ones that went before.  In fact, Origen's phrase "think correctly" likely signifies the doctrine of the Church.

Also noteworthy is the second century claims of the Protoevangelium of James.  This work, of course, was not brought into the canon of scripture.  That is not surprising, since it does not major in what is vital to salvation, and since, frankly, it is pseudepigraphal.  Nevertheless, it is an important witness for two reasons, 1. its antiquity, and 2. the fact that what it tells us on this topic was not controverted or condemned.  In other words, it is representative of the belief of the early second century (it was written as early as A.D. 120), and therefore also implies a connection with the immediately preceding age, which takes us to the first century, and the lifetime of the Beloved Disciple, who was entrusted by Christ with the care of His mother, and who tradition tells us took her to live out the remainder of her life in Ephesus.  While the Protoevangelium of James does not explicitly speak of Mary remaining a virgin till the end of her life, it does imply it by its interpretation of the "brothers of the Lord" as sons of Joseph before his marriage to Mary.  In fact, Johannes Quasten in his Patrology claims of this document:
The principal aim of the whole writing is to prove the perpetual and inviolate virginity of Mary before, in, and after the birth of Christ.
So what is a "brother" in the ancient Greek world?  The word for "brother" in Greek, adelphos, is a term which often means much more than just a literal son of the same mother.  Knowledge of classical Greek literature, or even just reference to Liddell & Scott, shows us that adelphos can easily be a reference to a "near kinsman."  Unfortunately, seminarians and theologians too often rely on the biased definitions and word studies of theological lexicons. 

Of course there is more to say on this topic, but I must get up for work in the morning, so I will have to continue this in the next day or two.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

It's going in my chart.

I have the habit of making little notes to myself when I hear or see something about which I might want to read or write or think more later.   This morning after Mass Ruth admitted to me that she gets curious about what I write in my little notes.  And so of course that reminded me of the episode of Seinfeld in which Kramer plays a doctor, and gets the idea to take a sample of a man's skin with his new meat slicer.  So of course I must share a clip of it here.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Bridge Burner

It is wonderful to be working for a local Milwaukee company whose products I have long enjoyed and loved.  And one of the perks, my discount on beer, has enabled me to try some of the beers I have not had before now.  My favorite beer for many years has been Lakefront's East Side Dark, and it is still my regular choice.  The beer I would like to highlight for you here today, however, is so good there might now be a tie for my favorite beer.  I'm referring to Bridge Burner.  Billed as a "special reserve ale," it is essentially a barley wine. 

I recommend using a large brandy snifter for this brew.  It comes in a 22 oz. bottle, and merits being appreciated slowly, perhaps with a good theological or literary text in hand.  And when you pour it into that glass, you will see a dark red opaque beer, with a strong head.  It's earthy nose is complex, and will offer something different each time you inhale.  It has both a prominent hop flavor, and a good maltiness.  It is a strong beer, at 8% alcohol, and it is worth all 8%.

Why is it called Bridge Burner?  The name is a reference to the Milwaukee Bridge War of 1845, an important, if no longer very well known, moment in Milwaukee history.  For those of you unfamiliar, before Milwaukee officially became a city, it was three distinct settlements, and two of them, Kilbourntown and Juneautown, named after their founders Solomon Juneau and Byron Kilbourn, were rivals.  They were divided from each other by the Milwaukee River, and the rivalry culminated in the disputes over whether and how to build the bridges over the river, thus connecting the towns.  This dispute came to a heated head with the bridge burning.  The aftermath, however, was real man to man talk, and the creation of the great city of Milwaukee.  The name is an homage to the heritage of the city of which Lakefront is proud to be a part, and also a reminder that this beer makes a strong statement, just like the bridge burners were willing to make in the civic travail which culminated in the birth of the city.

There is a good variety of Bridge Burner reviewers on Youtube.  I will share some of them here, beginning with this one:

Traditional Lutheran Prayer

There is a general failure in modern American Confessional Lutheranism to use Martin Luther's Small Catechism nearly as fully or thoroughly or consistently, in teaching and in life, as it should be used. The good news about the state of Lutheran catechesis and spirituality today, conventional wisdom against rote forms notwithstanding, is that Luther's Small Catechism remains the staple, the core and foundation, for the catechization of youth. This good news means that there is hope for the richness of the catechism to be rediscovered and exploited in each generation. So it is well worth examining the ways in which we might be missing out on appreciating the Catechism more fully.

One such area of neglect is the prayer life the Catechism would have us know and live. The Catechism amounts to a couple dozen pages, and yet latter day Lutheranism has torn faith from life, doctrine from practice, to such a degree that many catechumens are made to spend more time with the modern explanations of the catechism than with the prayers that are contained in the catechism text itself. We shall set aside for now the fact that the "explanations" of the Catechism bring with them additional problems, such as the fact that they teach Lutherans the unfortunate practice of turning the sacred scriptures into atomized, versified, prooftexts. More relevant to the present discussion is that one can find many a parish where children are required to regurgitate answers from the explanation, and then everyone goes downstairs where they gather around the pot luck dinner, and instead of the prayers of the Catechism, all join in with a table prayer that comes from Moravian Pietism, a prayer which in no way merits the place it has been given in Lutheran homes. I can only conclude that if this prayer were introduced today, the average Confessional Lutheran with his head screwed on properly would immediately reject its rhymey cuteness as unfit for regular use in the Lutheran home.

Here is what Luther instructs in the Catechism:
How the Head of the Family Should Teach His Household To Ask a Blessing and Return Thanks

Asking a Blessing

The children and members of the household shall go to the table reverently, fold their hands, and say:

The eyes of all wait upon Thee, O Lord, and Thou givest them their meat in due season; Thou openest Thine hand and fillest all things living with plenteousness.

Note: To fill all things living with plenteousness means that all living things receive so much to eat that they are on this account joyful and of good cheer, for care and avarice hinder such satisfaction.

Then shall be said the Lord’s Prayer and the following:

Lord God, Heavenly Father, bless us and these Thy gifts which we receive from Thy bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Returning Thanks

Also, after eating, they shall, in like manner, reverently and with folded hands say:

Oh, give thanks unto the LORD, For he is gracious, and his mercy endureth forever, who giveth food to all flesh; who giveth fodder unto the cattle, and feedeth the young ravens that call upon him. He hath no pleasure in the strength of an horse. Neither delighteth he in any man’s legs. But the LORD’s delight is in them that fear him, and put their trust in his mercy.

Then shall be said the Lord’s Prayer, and the following:

We thank Thee, Lord God, Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, for all Thy benefits, Who livest and reignest forever and ever. Amen.
Let us note, first, that much of the Catechism is spent explaining the Our Father in its nine parts (the introductory address, the seven petitions, and the concluding Amen). This Luther does so that we may fruitfully use this prayer in our daily lives. Then, in the section on daily prayers, he actually gives us examples of the Our Father being used in various contexts. So we must note well, first of all, that the Catechism would have us pray the Lord's Prayer, both before and after the meal. For this, the model Christian prayer, is so rich that it can be employed in virtually every circumstance in life.

Second, though many Lutherans are unfortunately taught to look down upon the very concept and appropriateness of monastic life, we should recognize that one of its geniuses is that it has given us this very pattern of prayer. In monastic communities of many different orders, even today, the practice is to pray the Our Father along with a prayer very much like the "Lord God, Heavenly Father" above, and the "We thank Thee," etc. after the meal. These prayers would be preceded by what is most properly called an antiphon. We may call it an antiphon even though we do not necessarily repeat it after the prayer. The antiphon is usually a portion from the Psalms, and monastic practice has many of these antiphons, each appropriate for a different time of year. In traditional monastic practice these antiphons are followed by the Gloria Patri.

There would be nothing wrong , in principle, with a Lutheran family from time to time making use of a variety of seasonal antiphons. While at first such an idea may seem like it would cause confusion or a jarring unpredictability at the table, this need not be if the antiphon is given by the head of the house.

The antiphon "The eyes of all,"etc., is from Psalm 145. And the antiphon "Oh, give thanks unto the Lord,"etc., is from Psalm 136 and Psalm 147.  Both are wonderfully fitting, of course, for year round use.

It is also worth noting that it is often the case that this whole pattern, in practice, is traditionally prayed only after the Sign of the Holy Cross is made with the Trinitarian Invocation. Even though this is not explicitly called for in the Catechism, it might very well be presumed as a near universal Catholic practice in traditional Christian homes.

My own recommendation is to pray the Invocation, with the Sign of the Cross, and then the whole pattern of prayer as above, and then, again, the Invocation. And when time is pressing, or for some other reason a shorter form is desired, I suggest saying the Invocation, followed by the prayer, "Lord God, Heavenly Father."

The other circumstance for which the Catechism gives us certain prayers, or rather a certain pattern of prayer, is at the very beginning of the day, and then the very ending of the day. As Luther, the Blessed Reformer of the Church, instructs us:
How the Head of the Family Should Teach His Household To Bless Themselves in the Morning and in the Evening

Morning Prayer

In the morning, when you rise, you shall bless yourself with the holy cross and say:

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.

If you choose, you may also say this little prayer:

I thank Thee, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray Thee that Thou wouldst keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please Thee. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.

Then go joyfully to your work, singing a hymn, like that of the Ten Commandments, or whatever your devotion may suggest.

Evening Prayer

In the evening, when you go to bed, you shall bless yourself with the holy cross and say:

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.

If you choose, you may, in addition, say this little prayer:

I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast graciously kept me this day; and I pray Thee that Thou wouldst forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.

Then go to sleep promptly and cheerfully.
The pattern we are given for beginning and ending the day is, like the table prayers, inspired by Luther's own monastic training. What he did in this case was not so much take exactly what was done in the monastery, but, rather, the spirit or essence of the canonical hours, and made of it what might be loosely called a "short breviary" for the common Christian.

As we look more closely, we see, first, the Sign of the Holy Cross. This brings the Christian back to the promises of Holy Baptism. It reminds him, in good days and bad, that he belongs to Jesus, by Whose death we have life. It reminds him that the whole of his life is patterned after the cross of Christ, in which the love of the Triune God is revealed.

Second, we see that we are instructed to say the Creed, that is, the Apostles' Creed, and the Our Father. Luther has no need to spell out these prayers here because they are so fundamental, they enjoy such an assumed part of the Christian life, that the Christian family, including the small children, will have no trouble learning them by heart if only they pray them regularly.

After this, Luther suggests a prayer which is very similar to one which comes right out of monastic usage. Luther only slightly modified it. And the corresponding prayer at the end of the day Luther composed, as a beautiful parallel to the one in the morning. As Dorothea Wendebourg writes in the Summer 2005 issue of Lutheran Quarterly ("Luther on Monasticism" 149),
The original prayer came from a Latin collection of late medieval texts and spiritual instructions by the Dutchman Johannes Mauburnus (d. 1501/02). Here, too, it was to be combined with other liturgical elements, of which Luther kept only the first, an invocation of the Trinity together with the sign of the cross (in Mauburnus the invocation was christological, followed by the above mentioned prayer, a petition to the Blessed Virgin Mary asking her blessing, a psalm of praise and a hymn to the Virgin which referred to her as the source of our salvation and our praise). In Luther's version the prayer is in German, therefore shorter and stylistically more simple than the original, but in other respects more specific. E.g., Luther gives thanks for "protection during the night from all perils and dangers" (where Mauburnus has only a general thanksgiving for protection at night), he asks for protection from "all sin and evil, that my entire life and work may please thee" (where Mauburnus asks that "my service [servitus] may be pleasing to thee"). Luther also added a formula of commitment which entrusts one's whole life to God, and a plea for protection by God's guardian angel.
Finally, Luther recommends a hymn in the morning. And at night (a time which calls for the most simple and regular prayer) he simply calls upon the baptized Christian to take his rest with a cheered heart, a theme reminiscent of the office of Compline. Thus we see, to reiterate, a pattern which suggests itself as being a sort of "short breviary" for the Christian.

Based upon all of the above, I would conclude with two thoughts.

1. On the one hand, with such a rich tradition of prayer, given to us in the Catechism itself, we cheat ourselves and our children if we leave it behind us and embrace instead prayers which come to us from lesser traditions, or the mere improvised prayers from the heart.

2. On the other hand, with the genius of such a beautiful and profound richness in simplicity, which we have in these prayer forms, which, again, we might call a brilliantly distilled "short breviary," it is unnecessary and unwise, I suggest, to give people the impression (as I have seen happen, e.g., through the well intentioned enthusiasm for modern compilations like Treasury of Daily Prayer) that what they need for a healthy prayer life is to buy new books, even books with all sorts of wonderful traditional material. I say this as someone who has books of his own, and who is happy to sell them. But we ought never teach prayer in such a way as to give people the impression, either directly or indirectly, that to have a rich prayer life they need to buy more books. We truly have everything needful in those simple yet endlessly rich forms that we were taught as children, or should have been taught. The rest, for the common Christian layman, is icing on the cake.

I hasten to add that school children ought to be taught the Latin forms of all of these prayers as well. They are not germane to the present discussion, but you will find them here when you least expect it.