Thursday, August 3, 2017

Sanguis Christi

     "The emphasis on the Incarnation and on the materiality of religion, which was so central to this developing vision, meant that [Luther] found it in some ways easier to make common cause with Catholic traditions than to ally with those who were part of the evangelical movement.  He retained the elevation of the sacrament, abolishing it only when Karlstadt died in 1541, and in Wittenberg in 1543, when some Communion wine was spilled on a woman’s jacket and the back of her pew, he and Bugenhagen not only licked it off her coat but went so far as to cut out the bits of the jacket they had been unable to clean, plane away the sections of her pew where the wine had splashed, and burn the lot.  The body and blood of Christ had to be treated with utmost respect.  Indeed, it was this insistence on the literal enactment of the sacrament that made Luther so adamant that it be given in two kinds in the first place."

     Lyndal Roper, Martin Luther:  renegade and prophet (New York:  Random House, 2017), 345.  Roper cites WA Bw 10, no. 3888, 4 July 1543, p. 337 (336-342), which cites Johan Hachenburg, Wider den jrrthumb der newen Zwinglianer (1557), Fb (the page to the left)-Fii.  I give here Hachenberg's account as reproduced in WA Bw 10.  Note that tears are said to have stood in Luther's eyes:

Endlich berichtet er [(Hachenburg)] eine interessante Historia, die 1542 in Wittenberg passiert sei (ein Leser [of this copy?] berichtigt:  1544, id mihi narravit is, qui spectator fuit), [page] Fb:  Ein Weibsbild habe zum Abendmahl des Herrn gehen wollen, und wie sie in dem Stuhl vorm Altar habe niederknien und trinken wollen, sei sie unsanft getreten und habe mit ihrem Munde hart an den Kelch des Herrn gestoßen, infolgedessen etwas daraus vom Blute Christi auf ihre gefütterte Leibjacke, ihren Mantel und auf die Lehne des Stuhls vergossen worden sei.  Wie Luther, der gegenüber in einem Stuhle gestanden, das gesehen habe, sei er gleich, wie auch Bugenhagen, zum Altar gelaufen, 'und haben sampt dem Diakon solchs verschütt Blut Christi mit aller Reverenz von des Weibes Mantel so rein als sie gekonnt helfen ab- und auflecken.'  Es sei solchs Luther sehr zu Herzen gegangen, daß er geseufzt und gesprochen habe:  Ach hilf Gott!  Es seien ihm auch seine Augen voll Wassers gestanden.  'Nach gehaltener Kommunion aber ist er zugefahren und hat das Rauchfutter der Leibjacken, darauf das Blut des Herrn ist verschütt worden, weil man’s nicht hat können rein ablecken, lassen ausschneiden und mit Feuer verbrennen.'  Die Lehne des Stuhls habe er abhobeln und die Späne verbrennen lassen.
     Cf. the trenchant words of the former Lutheran theologian Mickey L. Mattox here.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

"much that is presented as puzzling in Disknowledge is simply biblical."

     Diane Purkiss, of Disknowledge:  literature, alchemy, and the end of humanism in Renaissance England, by Katherine Eggert, in "Good as gold:  how alchemy was poised between science and imagination, a thing more of words than deeds," Times literary supplement no. ____ (March 17, 2017):  27 (26-27).

Real men at work

Mt. Angel Abbey
"I inherited a few of my father's talents.  I could plant a drill of spuds, paint a gate, and set the contacts in my car, but I was not what he would have called 'a tasty man.'  I often look at rows of buildings on a streetscape or motorway and think that all this, one way or another, is the outcome of interventions by other men  Each piece—building, bridge, or flyover—is perhaps the conception of one or two men, but has been executed by dozens or hundreds of other men working together toward a common goal.  Sometimes, walking down a street, I am overcome by shame that there is no place on the face of the earth, aside from the occasional library shelf, which contains any analogous contributions of mine", no place that leaves "a mark on the world that others can stare at, or walk upon, or drive across, or shelter under long after I have departed."

     John Waters, "Back to work," First things no. 275 (August/September 2017):  34-35 (33-37).

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

"What counts in the Church is not progress but reformation"

     "Conversely, it is not the newness, the modernity, the up-to-dateness of a Church which as such proves and commends it as the true and catholic Church. . . .  modernity, up-to-dateness, has nothing whatever to do with the question of the truth of the Church. For that reason the idea of progress is a highly doubtful one as applied to the Church. What counts in the Church is not progress but reformationits existence as ecclesia semper reformanda. Semper reformari, however, does not mean always to go with the time, to let the current spirit of the age be the judge of what is true and false, but in every age, and in controversy with the spirit of the age, to ask concerning the form and doctrine and order and ministry which is in accordance with the unalterable essence of the Church. It means to carry out to-day better than yesterday the Christian community's one task which needs no revision, and in this way to 'sing unto the Lord a new song.' It means never to grow tired of returning not to the origin in time but to the origin in substance of the community. The Church is catholic when it is engaged in this semper reformari, so that catholicism has nothing to do with conservatism either, but very much to do with the sound common sense of the prayer of the robust Nicholas Selnecker (which is still to be found even in the new Swiss hymnbook): 'Against proud spirits stand and, fight, / Who lift themselves in lofty might, / And always bring in something new, / To falsify thy teaching true.' Therefore neither flirtation with the old nor flirtation with the new makes the Church the true Church, but a calm consideration of that which as its abiding possession is superior to every yesterday and to-day and is therefore the criterion of its catholicity."

     Karl Barth, CD IV/1, 704-705 =KD IV, 787.  Those Selnecker lines in German:  "Den stolzen Geistern wehre doch, | die sich mit G'walt erheben hoch | und bringen stets was Neues her, | zu fälschen deine rechte Lehr'!"

"Everybody speaks of Reformation but the Reformers!"

     "It is therefore no accident that the concept of 'Reformation' appears so frequently in the texts of this 'Counter-Reformation' Council, while it is used so seldom in the confessional writings of the 16th century on the Protestant side.  One might almost say, Everybody speaks of Reformation but the Reformers!  That the concept is now [widely] assumed [to have been] established by them [(Dass sich ausgerechnet bei ihnen der Begriff festsetzt)] is not lacking in a certain irony.  History takes at times strange paths, and historiography follows it [in this].  Yet it has, as it happens, [an] absolute right to call those men 'Reformers' who never designated themselves as such, [and] to understand [(Doch hat sie in der Sache absolut Recht, indem sie . . . nennt; indem sie . . . versteht)] by 'Reformation' what was for the Radical Reformers too little, and the Catholic Reformers too much:  the question of the decisive foundation [(Fundament)] of all renewal in Christendom, without regard for the present form of the church."

     Emidio Campi, "»Ecclesia semper reformanda«:  Metamorphosen einer altehrwürdigen Formel," Zwingliana 37 (2010):  9 (1-19).  To inquire into "the use of the formula ecclesia semper reformanda in modernity" is to be confronted with a paradox:  "it looks—for starters at any rate [(jedenfalls zunächst)]—as though the Roman Catholic Church has something like a concept of reform over against which would stand on the Protestant side only incomprehension, indeed bewilderment [(Konzeptionlosigkeit, ja Verwirring)]." For the Protestant emphasis on the centrality of the Word of God raised the question of "the essence of legitima reformatio" "to a completely new [and unanticipated] level" (6).  Hmmm.

Monday, July 31, 2017


"I am not aware of any evidence that a reformanda saying served as a motto or slogan for a person, movement, or institution before 1983, when one appeared on the interim seal of the newly created Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)."
Michael Busch, "Calvin and the Reformanda sayings," in Calvinus sacrarum literarum interpres: papers of the International Calvin Congress on Calvin Research, ed. Herman J. Selderhuis (Göttingen, 2008), 289 (285-299). That by itself simplifies the argument of the article considerably, but it's sure striking!
HOWEVER: Theodor Mahlmann, writing in 2010, destroys Busch overall, tracing the roots of the saying back not to van Lodensteyn (1678) and late 17th-century Dutch proto-Pietism, but to a Lutheran 1610 and even possibly the sphere of the so-called "Second [Calvinistic] Reformation" of Bremen (1595), Anhalt (1596), Marburg (1605), Brandenburg (1613), and Bohemia (1618-1620). Holy cow!
  • Mahlmann, Theodor. “‘Ecclesia semper reformanda’: eine historische Aufklärung: neue Bearbeitung.” In Hermeneutica sacra: Studien zur Auslegung der Heiligen Schrift im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert, ed. Torbjörn Johansson, Robert Kolb, Johann Anselm Steiger, pp. 381-442. Berlin & New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2010.