Wednesday, August 31, 2011

DVD Movie Review: Waiting for Superman

Waiting for Superman. Hollywood: Paramount Pictures, 2010. DVD Video. 111 Minutes. $29.99.  (N)

I've seen Waiting for "Superman" at least four times now. The first time was by myself. I sat there stunned. It was hard to fall asleep that night. 

The second time was with a group of educators, both home school families and classical school teachers and administrators. They told me they felt encouraged in their vocations. 

My third watching was with my wife, when she saw it for the first time. I think she is even more understanding of why I uprooted our family two and a half years ago and moved five more hours away distant from our families to accept a call to be the pastor of another congregation with a Classical Lutheran school. She said, "We have to show this to our families." She meant both the parents of the school where I am Headmaster and also our immediate family members back home. My mother is a retired Home Economics teacher. My sister is a high school English, Speech, and Drama teacher and is the Speech Team and Drama coach and the FCCLA adviser. My wife's sister is a stay-at-home mom, regular substitute teacher, and trained special ed teacher. 

Not everyone got to see the documentary when we visited family on a recent family vacation. Reactions were very similar to mine and that of the other educators, and if possible, even more supportive. They understood because they were the good teachers that education reformers want to support and honor for the sake of the children. My sister experienced a national teacher union convention first-hand. She said she was the token white, conservative, straight, Christian, member of her political party in attendance. Now, she teaches at our old high school. Her predecessor in teaching her classes in her classroom was our favorite teacher. And she trusted my sister enough to leave all of her files and references in place.

Parents don't always have options. Many Wyoming parents homeschool. Our small city has a public school system with brand-new buildings, a Roman Catholic school, our Classical Lutheran school, and at least two failed Christian schools. WFS follows parents who have other public options.

From the Academy Award-winning Director of An Inconvenient Truth comes the groundbreaking feature film that provides an engaging and inspiring look at public education in the United States. Waiting For “Superman” has helped launch a movement to achieve a real and lasting change through the compelling stories of five unforgettable students such as Emily, a Silicon Valley eighth-grader who is afraid of being labeled as unfit for college and Francisco, a Bronx first-grader whose mom will do anything to give him a shot at a better life. Waiting For “Superman” will leave a lasting and powerful impression that you will want to share with your friends and family. (Product Description)
Five students. Five students give us a series of snapshots into something much larger: failing public schools. Let me restate that: schools that have failed kids. 

One of the more interesting conversations I had one vacation was with a relative by marriage. She, too, is a regular substitute teacher. I began to describe this film to her, especially the jaw-dropping analysis from a person in the movie that our test scores would be up with Finland's if only we were able to get rid of the very worst teachers and replace them with an average teacher. WFS asserts that an average teacher covers about a year's worth of material over a school year. That's something I always took for granted. Bad teachers cover only half that. Good teachers can cover up to a year and a half's worth of material in one school year. You can see the gap that is produced, one that will only grow over time if a student has bad teachers year after year. Her response was very defensive with regard to so-called bad teachers. Her concern was more with the unmotivated students she saw day to day. I fear we were merely talking past one another. I can appreciate the frustration and passion of the filmmaker.

Video Introduction and invitation to host a screening party:

I was wary of WFS because it came from the director of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, Davis Guggenheim. I should have realized that the message of this documentary would be seen and heard in more places because of that documentary of a rather popular (yet suspect) theory on the nature, cause, and extent of global warming.

Will educators be willing to listen to Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children's Zone, who was disheartened as a child when his mother told him that Superman isn't real. His tears reflected not the end of a childhood belief in a blue-suited and caped flying Santa Claus, but the rather mature realization that no one was coming to rescue him and those in his neighborhood. He grew up to be a superman of sorts, providing a quality education as a way out of poverty and multi-generational challenges in Harlem.

If Canada is a superman, former  Washington, DC, school chancellor Michelle Rhee is a superwoman for her daring streamlining of the DC public schools, advocacy for reform, courageous action in the school administration headquarters, and innovative merit pay proposals. I hope that her ideas may find rich soil and deep roots elsewhere that will eventually lead to reform in DC and around the country.

Where will Anthony, Francisco, Bianca, Daisy, and Emily go to school? Who gets in? How can we have more public charter schools like KIPP, SEED, and high standards and commensurate rewards for good teachers?

On Great Teachers

I loved the animated sequences. Guggenheim uses them to tell complex and serious stories in an engaging and often humorous way.

At times I felt as if I were watching two movies, one about the adults and another following the students and their families. As it turns out, the companion book I purchased confirms that Guggenheim was actually working on two separate documentaries before cutting them both together. The combination works. I felt with the students and their families as they hoped beyond hope and shared their frustrations with paying tuition, finding work, begging for a return phone call from a teacher, and were wanting something more substantive than merely nice looking buildings and good athletic facilities. And then we heard the adults and administrators tell us how hard it is to fire a bad teacher, how good teachers are "the salt of the earth," and how union contracts and government resist reform. No wonder everyone is so frustrated.

Personally, I remain frustrated that good Classical and Lutheran schools like ours often struggle to grow. Perhaps we should advertise a lottery entrance process...

I need to show this film to members of our congregation and the parents (and prospective parents) of children in our school. I am pro-classical education, pro-Christian education, pro-Lutheran education, and pro-private education. But I am not anti-public education. Nor are those behind Waiting for "Superman". They realize that the system is broken and it isn't good for our children or our nation's future. How can we involve more parents and "disinvolve" bureaucracy? How can we cut the strings attached to federal and state monies that should have remained in the states and local communities in the first place? 

Let's bring the success of public charter schools up to scale. Let's give parents freedom to choose the type of education they want for their children.

I would love to see another documentary on education from Davis Guggenheim. Perhaps he could highlight the classical models documented in the book by Veith and Kern ( The public sector has an important role in American life. Perhaps the private sector's input should not merely be limited to the economy. I pray for so many good schools that lotteries become a thing of the past. Just like failing schools.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.

FW: What can the Church be... What must she be?

What does the Church do that no one else can do? Consider…


Feed: Pastoral Meanderings
Posted on: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 5:02 AM
Author: (Pastor Peters)
Subject: What can the Church be... What must she be?


I happened upon a series of lectures by the eminent Orthodox Bishop (now retired) Kallistos Ware.  A former Anglican, Ware is a very interesting fellow who speaks with a marvelously deliberate manner in an eloquent accented voice.  In the first section of his first lecture the Bishop raises this question as central: What does the Church do that no one else can do?

There are many memorable phrases in his lecture but this one has stuck with me.  What does the Church do that no one else can do?  It is stark in its simplicity yet the question is not simplistic.  It at one in the same time begs us to search Scripture to know what it is that only the Church can do and to challenge the popular idea that the Church does what other institutions do but with a difference.

In effect it seems that today we try very hard to make sure that the Church is relevant by doing what our society and culture do – only better.  We have attempted to replicate the theater in worship, the lecture hall of the university in the classroom, the music of the radio as our soundtrack, and the architecture of the mall for our temple.  Instead of providing something distinctive, we provide something similar but with a difference.  We introduce God into the ordinary concerns of mortal life – employment, marriage, family, success, happiness, health, etc.  In the end, God is less central to than an additive in the recipe for receiving what it is we desire.  Those churches that do this successfully grow.

The mega-churchs with sufficient resources to pay professionals and provide the highest quality of spectator music, religious drama, personal motivation, mall-style facilities and abundant parking.  It shows and they do it well.  In contrast, the small parish struggles with volunteer praise bands, unrehearsed skits, less professional teachers, less all encompassing facilities, and such.  They work to find their niche in order to make up for the fact that they cannot be all things to all people.  In some cases this works and in most it comes up a less than pleasing imitation, a juvenile manifestation which hopes to grow up and be just like the big guys some day.

In contrast to this, Bishop Ware asks "what does the Church do that no one else can do?"  This is not a back to the basics call but a piercing reminder that the Church is established by Christ to deliver to the world what only Christ can offer.  In this respect, the Church has an exclusive franchise, without competition from any other source.

I fear that we have forgotten this, or at least we have lost confidence in this exclusive franchise.  We tend to feel better by providing the resources others can provide and we draw our confidence -- even our self-esteem – more by being relevant to the people than faithful to the Lord.  We entertain the people to whom we are called forth to deliver the Kingdom of God (in the means of grace).  We babysit their children with youth programs more about pizza and paintball than about Christ.  We assist the marrieds in feeling better about their choice of spouses and we educate them in how to achieve their goals in marriage without ever speaking of what God created marriage to be or what marriage reveals about Christ and His Church.  We spread balm upon their guilt by mission trips that show them what their dollars are paying for or by assuring them that you can buy fully into the consumerism of the marketplace without losing your soul.

For Lutherans this question points us back to the marks of the Church (the means of grace).  These are not bare minimums to point out the Church from the rest of the landscape of society but the peculiar gifts that belong only to the Church and through which God does for us what only Christ can do.  Word and Sacrament is not a slogan but a definition, a boundary line, and that which makes the Church of Christ His, authentically His.  Missing those marks, the Church is not the Church at all.  She is merely human creation and her good, no matter how good, cannot answer the snicker of death or wash clean the guilt stained soul or restore the hopelessly lost or make righteous the evil born into and added to daily... No, we Lutherans resonate to this question:  What does the Church do that only the Church can do?

The good Bishop has made me think.  What does the Church do that no one else can do?  He points me to the Word and the Sacraments, to the grace of God that bestows forgiveness, life, and salvation, to the mercy of God revealed on a cross, to the nobility of a life of mercy and service, and to knowledge of God (and not simply about God).  His words remind me of the predominance of programs in fellowship halls and classrooms and gymnasiums that replicate what can be found elsewhere in our society and of the lack of energy and resources we have left specifically for the work of the Kingdom.  I cannot but look at my own parish and wonder if we do not justify what we think we should be doing instead of looking to Christ for what we must do.  I hope that his words have challenged you as well.

Our congregations and our church body would be mightily different if we focused less on what we could do or should do and more on what we must do because of the Gospel.  May our Lord prick and prod us when we become too comfortable being merely a religious version of a secular form and may His Spirit guide us to become what He has called us to be and what only His Church can be in the world and for the world.  Anything less and we are merely spinning our wheels.

    O Spirit, who didst once restore
    Thy Church that [she] might be again
    The bringer of good news to men,
    Breathe on Thy cloven Church once more,
    That in these gray and latter days
    There may be those whose life is praise,
    Each life a high doxology
    To Father, Son, and unto Thee.

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FW: ** Memorizing Hymns **

Something new from Matt Carver…


Posted on: Tuesday, August 30, 2011 8:16 PM
Author: Matt Carver (Matthaeus Glyptes)
Subject: ** Memorizing Hymns **


Helping my wife take care of our son while she works part-time has taken up a lot of hours that would otherwise (probably) be spent on translating hymns or other frivolous pursuits, but it has also had a side-benefit. I have been availing myself of our afternoon walks for the memorization of core Lutheran hymns, a thing that I had long wanted to do but for which I only found sporadic inspiration. Before these strolls, I had only these hymns fully memorized (except as noted) since my earliest familiarity with them (ca. 2001-2005):

  1. The Gloria (DSI–II, DSIII)
  2. God the Father, Be Our Stay (easy after you get the first verse)
  3. O Lord, We Praise Thee (stanza 1)
  4. Of the Father's Love Begotten (now partly forgotten)
  5. The Te Deum (only to the Gregorian tune as found in BPB)
  6. Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Thy/Your Word (could switch between versions)
  7. A Mighty Fortress (sort of confused between the old and new versions)
  8. Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart


Now, after doing walks at least 3 days a week for a month, I have added these to my repertoire:

  1. Salvation unto Us Has Come (14 stanzas - TLH supplemented from ELHB)
  2. Dear Christians, One and All Rejoice (10 stanzas)
  3. We All Believe in One True God (old melody)
  4. In the Very Midst of Life
  5. In Peace and Joy I Now Depart
  6. That Man a Godly Life Might Live
  7. Wilt Thou, O Man, Live Happily
  8. O Lord, Look Down from Heav'n, Behold




This looks like more than it actually is. Most of these hymns are only 3-5 stanzas. "In the Very Midst…," like "God the Father, Be Our Stay," has mostly the same words in each stanza with only a few lines differing. The long ones I did first and took a few days for each one to sink in, with lots of repetition and mnemonic reasoning and attention to alliterations and assonance to help remember. Since then I have alternated singing at least one of these on each walk so that I never forget.


The easiest hymns to memorize for me seem to be those like these first two, with interlocking rhymes (ABAB) and/or irregular line lengths (like "In Peace and Joy…"), while the hardest are those with couplets (AABB etc.) and lines all the same or about the same length; examples of the latter are "That Man a Godly Life…" and "Wilt Thou, O Man…" Perhaps it is the repetitive "Law"-element in these which adds to the difficulty to let them sink in, or perhaps it is the stilted quality in the translation.


This has been an easy and enjoyable way to learn Scripture, doctrine, and readily accessible prayers, as well as to learn "from the masters" so to speak, of English hymn translation. Seeing the possibilities of how things can be expressed clearly in English I expect will really me in future translation projects. Another benefit is that the joyful expectation of learning more hymnody by heart encourages me to stretch my legs when I don't otherwise feel like it.


Here are some I'm planning on learning in the near future, by God's help:

  1. In Thee Alone, O Christ, My Lord
  2. From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee
  3. The Mouth of Fools Doth God Confess
  4. If God Had Not Been on Our Side
  5. Jesu, dulcis memoria (or some version thereof)
  6. To Jordan Came Our Lord the Christ
  7. Christ Jesus Lay in Death's Strong Bands (or the other version?)
  8. Grant Peace, We Pray, in Mercy, Lord
  9. Our Father, Thou in Heav'n Above
  10. Kyrie, God Father in Heav'n Above
  11. A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth (maybe - Gerhardt is so hyperpolystanzaic)
  12. How Blest Are They Who Hear God's Word
  13. Built on the Rock the Church Doth Stand
  14. Lord, Hear the Voice of My Complaint
  15. In Jesus' Name Our Work Must All Be Done (ELH)
  16. By Adam's Fall Is All Forlorn (ELH)
  17. Lord, to Thee I Make Confession
  18. etc.!

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

FW: Ten Reasons Why We Need the Liturgy



Feed: Cyberbrethren Lutheran Blog Feed
Posted on: Tuesday, August 30, 2011 4:38 AM
Author: Paul T. McCain
Subject: Ten Reasons Why We Need the Liturgy


My friend, Pastor William Cwirla, posted this somewhere…..just passing it along.

Why the Liturgy? First a definition and a disclaimer. By "liturgy" I mean the western catholic mass form as it has been handed down by way of the Lutheran Reformation consisting of the five fixed canticles – Kyrie, Gloria in Excelsis, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei. Pardon the Greek and Latin, but it sounds cool and we still use 'em. "Liturgy" also includes the assigned Scripture texts for the Sundays, feast days, and seasons. Most of what I will say about the liturgy of the Divine Service will pertain to "liturgical worship" in general.

Now, why do we worship according to the western, catholic liturgy?

  1. it shows our historic roots. Some parts of the liturgy go back to the apostolic period. Even the apostolic church did not start with a blank liturgical slate but adapted and reformed the liturgies of the synagogue and the Sabbath. The western mass shows our western catholic roots, of which we as Lutherans are not ashamed. (I'd rather be confused with a Roman Catholic than anything else.) We're not the first Christians to walk the face of the planet, nor, should Jesus tarry, will we be the last. The race of faith is a relay race, one generation handing on ("traditioning") to the next the faith once delivered to the saints. The historic liturgy underscores and highlights this fact. It is also "traditionable," that is, it can be handed on.
  2. It serves as a distinguishing mark. The liturgy distinguishes us from those who do not believe, teach, and confess the same as we do. What we believe determines how we worship, and how we worship confesses what we believe.
  3. It is both Theocentric and Christocentric. From the invocation of the Triune Name in remembrance of Baptism to the three-fold benediction at the end, the liturgy is focused on the activity of the Triune God centered in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. Worship is not primarily about "me" or "we" but about God in Christ reconciling the world to HImself and my baptismal inclusion in His saving work.
  4. It teaches. The liturgy teaches the whole counsel of God – creation, redemption, sanctification, Christ's incarnation, passion, resurrection, and reign, the Spirit's outpouring and the new life of faith. Every liturgical year cycles through these themes so that the hearer receives the "whole counsel of God" on a regular basis.
  5. It is transcultural. One of the greatest experiences of my worship life was to be in the Divine Service in Siberia with the Siberian Lutheran Church. Though I spoke only a smattering of Russian, I knew enough to recognize the liturgy, know what was being said (except for the sermon, which was translated for us), and be able to participate knowledgeably across language and cultural barriers. I have the same experience with our Chinese mission congregation.
  6. It is repetitive in a good way. Repetition is, after all, the mother of learning. Fixed texts and annual cycles of readings lend to deep learning. Obviously, mindless repetition does not accomplish anything; nor does endless variety.
  7. It is corporate. Worship is a corporate activity. "Let us go to the house of the Lord." The liturgy draws us out of ourselves into Christ by faith and the neighbor by love. We are all in this together. Worship is not simply about what "I get out of it," but I am there also for my fellow worshippers to receive the gifts of Christ that bind us together and to encourage each other to love and good works (Heb 10:25). We are drawn into the dialogue of confession and absolution, hearing and confessing, corporate song and prayer. To borrow a phrase from a favored teacher of mine, in church we are "worded, bodied, and bloodied" all together as one.
  8. It rescues us from the tyranny of the "here and now." When the Roman world was going to hell in a hand basket, the church was debating the two natures of Christ. In the liturgy, the Word sets the agenda, defining our needs and shaping our questions. The temptation is for us to turn stones into bread to satisfy an immediate hunger and scratch a nagging spiritual itch, but the liturgy teaches us to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
  9. It is external and objective. The liturgical goal is not that everyone feel as certain way or have an identical "spiritual" experience. Feelings vary even as they come and go. The liturgy supplies a concrete, external, objective anchor in the death and resurrection of Jesus through Word, bread, and wine. Faith comes by hearing the objective, external Word of Christ.
  10. It is the Word of God. This is often overlooked by critics of liturgical worship. Most of the sentences and songs of the liturgy are direct quotations or allusions from Scripture or summaries, such as the Creed. In other words, the liturgy is itself the Word of God, not simply a packaging for the Word. Many times the liturgy will rescue a bad sermon and deliver what the preacher has failed to deliver. I know; I've been there.

Ten is one of those good numbers in the Bible signifying completeness, so I'll stop at ten. I'm sure there are more.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

FW: Psallite Regi nostro (Latin only, for now)



Posted on: Monday, August 29, 2011 8:52 AM
Author: Matt Carver (Matthaeus Glyptes)
Subject: Psallite Regi nostro (Latin only, for now)


Here is Gottschalk's Sequence for the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, as found in Lossius' Psalmodia, hoc est…. I am too busy right now to translate it, but hope to before this time next year! Note the only difference between the melody lines 2a and 2b is that the first two notes of the latter form a neume on one syllable (Na-to); between 6a and 6b, that one note has a virga-double in the former. Brackets enclose original readings from Patrologia Latina.


In die decollationis Johannis Baptistae Sequentia

1. Psallite Regi
nostro, psallite,
psallite prudenter. [= …sapienter]

2a. Nam psalterium
est jucundum cum cithara,
2b. Na-to virginis,
quo psallans [= psallens] natus sterilis.

3a. Citharam carnis
in domo Domini.
3b. Dum, quod sonabat
docuit vivendo,

4a. Mortificando,
quae super terram
sunt, membra
et hoc alios docendo,
4b. Praeparans Christo
plebem perfectam
vox clamantis in deserto.

5a. Sed vox haec impium
Herodem, quem corripit,
minimo [-e] corrigit.
5b. Haud tamen tacuit,
sed ad usque sanguinem
sceleri restitit.

6a. Non licet, inquit, te
fratris tui
habere conjugem,
raptam ei: [=sibi]
sic praecepit Dominus.
6b. Vocem incantantis
Herodes, ut aspis
surda, spernit:
ut justum,
ut [=et] sanctum
Johannem timet,
quem vinxit in carcere.

7a. Sedet in tenebris
lucerna, lucis
amicus omnipotentis.
7b. Studet deliciis
mundi principis
filius perditionis.

8a. Meretrix suadet,
puella saltat,
Rex jubet, sanctus
8b. Dat Rex saltanti
caput Johannis,
qui sanctus ante
fit, quam natus.

9a. En quomodo
perit justus,
quasi non sit Deo
9b. Cum sit ejus
mors haec in conspectu

10a. Nos corde percipimus,
qualis et quantus est,
quia vicinus dignitate [= convicinus…]
Christo fit et morte.
10b. Nam morte turpissima
damnatur sponsus,
et sponsi amicum damnant
recte morte turpissima.

11a. Carcere carnis
ductum, quem ferunt
coelis Angeli Angelum.
11b. Et nos in terris
tibi psallere
fac, Christe,
in memoriam Baptistae.

12. Herodis spreta
quo mensa,
altaris tui mensa * [not in orig.]
ipsum te, dum sumimus,
semper tibi psallamus.

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FW: Lutherans, Liturgy, and Life… Seriously?!



Feed: thisweconfess
Posted on: Monday, August 29, 2011 6:00 AM
Author: Rev. Woodford
Subject: Lutherans, Liturgy, and Life… Seriously?!


Through the ages, Word and Sacrament Lutheran worship has most often been given expression by "the historic liturgy that has been used by countless Christians for almost fourteen hundred years, perhaps even longer." (Arthur Just, Heaven on Earth,13). However, as noted in the previous post, the worship wars of the last half century have been disturbing and dividing Lutherans—often times vehemently so.

Yet, if Lutherans are being honest, until recently, the liturgical nature of Lutheran worship had always been a part of the Lutheran identity and life. And, to be sure, as noted in the previous post, there can be some flexibility in the practice and forms of the liturgy. (Perhaps a further honest and frank discussion exploring the freedoms and limits of that flexibility would be good.) However the point has been, that until recently, Lutherans being Lutherans, have always expressed and framed Word and sacrament worship by means of the liturgy. And this has been for good reason that goes beyond mere tradition.

The nature of the liturgy becomes significant, not because it is what we have always done, though I suppose that could be a part of it, but because it is the story that forms us. Much more than a mere mundane order of a formal worship service, it is the narrative that tells our story, or rather, the story of Christ, which, by faith, is also our story.

What has become so provocative in our postmodern times is the recognition that the narrative nature of the liturgy is indispensible to the postmodern church. That is, with postmodernism so incredulous toward metanarratives people now emerge in a world where they do not know the story of the world. It is not a narratable world for them, and so they are left with many questions.  "Who am I? Where am I going?  How do I make sense of this chaotic world?"

Here the church need not answer with arrogant certainties, but with a simple confession of faith, telling her story, through her vocational witness, but also and especially through her liturgy. As Robert Jenson notes, "The church has in fact had great experience in this role. One of the many analogies between postmodernity and dying antiquity—in which the church lived for her most creative period—is that the late antique world also insisted on being a meaningless chaos, and that the church had to save her converts by offering herself as the narratable world within which life could be lived with dramatic coherence…The church so constituted herself in her liturgy." (From his article, "How the Church lost its story.")

Arthur Just explains it this way: This is how the Church has survived persecution, heresy, wars, famine, and plague. It had a place to retreat and to engage in a confident expression of the story of the world. When it seemed as if the World might be coming to an end, or even worse, as if the world was losing its story, the Church regrouped to the measured cadences of the biblical story told through the historic liturgy. When things looked as if they could not get much worse, the Church entered into the safe haven of the historic liturgy, where through Kyrie and Gloria, through Sanctus and Agnus Dei, it proclaimed to a world in chaos the story of God's redeeming love."(13).

In this way, liturgy was more than a stuffy, old fashioned way of doing church. It told the church's story and confessed the faith all at once. In fact, there has been a tremendous call for the postmodern church to make an intense and intentional return to the ancient liturgy precisely because of the narrative that it is. Reformed author James K. Smith is adamant: "I will argue that the postmodern church could do nothing better than be ancient, that the most powerful way to reach a postmodern world is by recovering tradition, and that the most effective means of discipleship is found in liturgy" (Who's Afraid of Postmodernism, 25). In other words, the liturgy tells the story of Jesus Christ and places us in that story.

Even more, the ancient rituals associated with the liturgy enliven the heart, the mind, the body, and the soul of worshipers by imbuing them with the body and blood of Christ and his comforting words of life and salvation.

It is intriguing that a call for a return to the liturgical ethos of the church is not simply by liturgical traditionalists or preservationists, but also by the postmodern Emergent Church as well. Invoking a return to the various practices of the "ancient" liturgy has enlivened the Emergent Church in new ways, while simultaneously testifying to the timeless appeal of this ritual-filled narrative. (See especially the Emergent Church book series, The Ancient Practices Series, particularly Brian McLaren's book Finding Our Way Again, and Joan Chittister's, The Liturgical Year).

Australian Lutheran, John Klenig, is resolute in affirming the powerful role of such narrative-driven, liturgical rituals. "[R]ituals do not just embody the basic values of a community; they constitute and maintain its common life. The Lutheran Confessions acknowledge this function when they insist that rites and ceremonies are necessary for 'the good order' and 'well being' of the Church.  Rituals are not just dramatic performances which celebrate what people have in common; they are performative actions which do what they mean." (From his article, "Witting or Unwitting Ritualist," Lutheran Theological Journal.)

In fact, the ritual of worship has been thoroughly demonstrated to assimilate converts into the faith.  "E. Bryon Anderson summarizes a growing body of material from theology, religious education and anthropology, concluding that ritual is the primary way one learns faith, for in ritual one is most fully engaged in the religious message. Anderson asserts that 'liturgical practice is intrinsically formational and transformational. It is a means by which we come to know ourselves as people of faith and to know the God whom we worship.' Supporting John Westerhoff's argument, Anderson asserts that rituals are the most important influence in shaping faith, character, and consciousness.  Succinctly put, it is through ritual that we learn how to be a Christian." (Todd E. Johnson. "Truth Decay: Rethinking Evangelism in the New Century." in The Strange New Word of the Gospel: Re-Evangelizing in the Postmodern World, 129).

Thus, with the above said, is it fair to say that there is a demonstrable value to the liturgy beyond mere appeals to tradition? Perhaps the following can summarize: Through the liturgy of the church, Lutheran believers are a story formed, ritualized people of the Gospel, who, as a community of saints, assemble around the narrative of Word and Sacrament in order to be forgiven and freed, renewed and refreshed, discipled and dispersed into the vocations of their daily lives to serve their neighbor and give witness to their Savior.

As always, this blog aims to move past partisanship and demonizing of those who disagree, and endeavors to thoughtfully, honestly, and collegially, foster the goal of talking about the mission of the Holy Christian Church and what it means to be authentically Lutheran, while "discipling all nations" in the 21st century. For those willing to enter the fray, I welcome your constructive thoughts and reactions.


Rev. Woodford

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FW: + The Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist +



Feed: Aardvark Alley
Posted on: Sunday, August 28, 2011 11:01 PM
Author: (Orycteropus Afer)
Subject: + The Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist +


29 August, New Testament

Beheading of JohnAccording to the structure of the Christian calendar, the feast commemorating the death of St. John the Baptist comes only two months after the celebration of his nativity. His birth is observed by the liturgical color of white, standard for the principal Christological feasts since, as the Forerunner, John prepared the way for the coming Messiah. This day, however, is colored red, emblematic of the blood of the martyrs.

While all four Gospels mention John, only the three Synoptics tell of his beheading at the command of Herod Antipas. These accounts tell us that Herod imprisoned John because he strongly rebuked the king for divorcing his wife Phasaelis and then entering into an unlawful marriage with Herodias, who had been married to Herod Antipas's brother Philip I.

Mark makes it clear that Herodias held a stronger grudge than her new husband: "Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly. (6:20)" However, when Herodias's daughter (traditionally named Salome*) danced for the king on his birthday, Herod was so pleased that he foolishly promised to give her anything she wanted, up to half of his kingdom. Her mother told her to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Although Herod was "exceedingly sorry" at her request, he reluctantly agreed "because of his oaths and his guests. (6:27)"

Herod had John beheaded in the prison. The executioner then placed the head on a platter and delivered it to the girl, who passed it on to her mother. John's followers then came and asked for his body, which they buried before going to tell Jesus. It was at least in part Jesus' sorrow over the death of John that led him to leave the crowds in Galilee: "He withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. (Matthew 14:13)" However, the crowds followed Him, leading him to show compassion by healing the sick and then feeding the crowd of "five thousand men, besides women and children. (14:21)"

While Scripture is silent, some ancient traditions say that Herodius had John's head buried in a dung heap. These accounts claim that Joanna, wife of Herod's steward and a follower of Jesus, later retrieved the head and reburied it on the Mount of Olives. Later stories tell of three separate findings of his severed head. The first two later led to it being lost again for extended periods of time after being hidden. The third purported finding came in AD 850 and led to the head being transferred to a court church in Constantinople.

Jewish historian Flavius Josephus also tells of Herod's beheading of John the Baptist in his Jewish Antiquities. However, the reason he gives is different. Josephus wrote that the king killed John "lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into [John's] power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise), [so Herod] thought it best [to put] him to death." Josephus also said that many Jews believed that Aretas (Herod's father-in-law) dealt Herod a severe military defeat as divine punishment for his wickedness.

While not the first regularly observed Christian feast honoring a saint, the commemoration of the Martyrdom of John the Baptist is one of the earliest. It has been observed in both the Eastern and Western Church nearly as long as the celebration of his Nativity. Because of the differences in calendars, much of the East celebrates on the same date, but a different day. Also, many devout Eastern Christians remember keep John's feast by refusing to use a knife, eat from a flat plate, or eat any food that is round.

*Josephus wrote extensively on the entire Herodian family. It is from the Antiquities that we are fairly sure that Salome was, indeed, the girl who danced and who asked for the Baptist's head. Ironically, the root of her name in Hebrew is "shalom" (
שלם), that is, "peace."


Revelation 6:9-11
Psalm 71:1-8
Romans 6:1-5
Mark 6:14-29


Almighty God, You gave Your servant John the Baptist to be the forerunner of Your Son, Jesus Christ, in both his preaching of repentance and his innocent death. Grant that we, who have died and risen with Christ in Holy Baptism, may daily repent of our sins, patiently suffer for the sake of the truth, and fearlessly bear witness to His victory over death; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Technorati Tags: John the Baptist | John the Baptizer | Herod Antipas | Herod | Herodias | Salome | Josephus | martyr | martyrdom | beheading | Jesus | Jesus Christ | Christ | Church Year | liturgical calendar | Christianity | Christian feasts | biography | hagiography | commemoration | historical theology | exegetical theology | Church history | Bible history | Bible | Scripture | New Testament | Aardvark Alley

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FW: “Come Lord Jesus” – A Table Prayer (in Greek)



Feed: The ABC3s of Miscellany
Posted on: Sunday, August 28, 2011 7:00 AM
Author: ABC3+
Subject: "Come Lord Jesus" – A Table Prayer (in Greek)


I was cleaning my home study and came across a scrap of paper with the following words in Greek:

̓Έρχου κύριε  Ἰησοῦ 

μεῖνον μεθ ͗ ἡμῶν. 

Εὐλόγησον ἡμᾶς

καὶ ταῦτα δόματα τῶν οὐρανῶν. 



For those of you who don't read Greek, here is a literal translation:


Come Lord Jesus,

Stay with Us.

Bless us and these gifts of heaven.



Some further thought on the Greek:


̓Έρχου κύριε  Ἰησοῦ (Rev. 22:20)

μεῖνον μεθ ͗ ἡμῶν. (Luke 24:29)

Εὐλόγησον ἡμᾶς

καὶ ταῦτα δόματα τῶν οὐρανῶν. (Matthew 7:11; Ephesians 4:8)



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FW: Commemoration of St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church



Feed: Cyberbrethren Lutheran Blog Feed
Posted on: Sunday, August 28, 2011 4:45 AM
Author: Paul T. McCain
Subject: Commemoration of St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church


1083242123021We pray:

O Lord God, the light of the minds that know You, the life of the souls that love You, and the strength of the hearts that serve You, give us strength to follow the example of Your servant Augustine of Hippo, so that knowing You we may truly love You and loving You we may fully serve You—for to serve You is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Today we remember, honor and commemorate St. Augustine, a giant among all our church fathers, noted preacher, catechist, theologian and leader of the Church. When one reads Augustine's many writings, one knows that here is a deep and vastly reflective intellect at work. His work was formative particularly for the Western Church, and very influential on Lutheranism, via Martin Luther who was in the order of Augustinian monks. I particularly love reading Augustine's sermons in a fresh new translation that came out in the 1990 in the series Augustine for the 21st Century. His writings and thought is so complex and rich, he simply defies classification. Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists all try to claim him as one of their own. The painting of Augustine is the earliest known portrait of him, dating from the sixth century. It is a fresco in Rome.

I encourage you to listen to the sample posted on this web site, of an audio book on Augustine. It is a great introduction to Augustine and his conversion, in his own words.

Augustine was one of the greatest of the Latin church fathers and a significant influence in the formation of Western Christianity, including Lutheranism. Born in A.D. 354 in North Africa, Augustine's early life was distinguished by exceptional advancement as a teacher of rhetoric. In his book Confessions he describes his life before his conversion to Christianity, when he was drawn into the moral laxity of the day and fathered an illegitimate son. Through the devotion of his sainted mother Monica and the preaching of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (339–97), Augustine was converted to the Christian faith. During the great Pelagian controversies of the 5th century, Augustine emphasized the unilateral grace of God in the salvation of mankind. Bishop and theologian at Hippo in North Africa from A.D. 395 until his death in 430, Augustine was a man of great intelligence, a fierce defender of the orthodox faith, and a prolific writer. In addition to the book Confessions, Augustine's book City of God had a great impact upon the church throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

What follows is a lengthy biographical summary of his life and work from the Catholic Cyclopedia.

Augustine was born at Tagaste on 13 November, 354. Tagaste, now Souk-Ahras, about 60 miles from Bona (ancient Hippo-Regius), was at that time a small free city of proconsular Numidia which had recently been converted from Donatism. Although eminently respectable, his family was not rich, and his father, Patricius, one of the curiales of the city, was still a pagan. However, the admirable virtues that made Monica the ideal of Christian mothers at length brought her husband the grace of baptism and of a holy death, about the year 371.

Augustine received a Christian education. His mother had him signed with the cross and enrolled among the catechumens. Once, when very ill, he asked for baptism, but, all danger being soon passed, he deferred receiving the sacrament, thus yielding to a deplorable custom of the times. His association with "men of prayer" left three great ideas deeply engraven upon his soul: a Divine Providence, the future life with terrible sanctions, and, above all, Christ the Saviour. "From my tenderest infancy, I had in a manner sucked with my mother's milk that name of my Saviour, Thy Son; I kept it in the recesses of my heart; and all that presented itself to me without that Divine Name, though it might be elegant, well written, and even replete with truth, did not altogether carry me away" (Confessions I.4).

But a great intellectual and moral crisis stifled for a time all these Christian sentiments. The heart was the first point of attack. Patricius, proud of his son's success in the schools of Tagaste and Madaura determined to send him to Carthage to prepare for a forensic career. But, unfortunately, it required several months to collect the necessary means, and Augustine had to spend his sixteenth year at Tagaste in an idleness which was fatal to his virtue; he gave himself up to pleasure with all the vehemence of an ardent nature. At first he prayed, but without the sincere desire of being heard, and when he reached Carthage, towards the end of the year 370, every circumstance tended to draw him from his true course: the many seductions of the great city that was still half pagan, the licentiousness of other students, the theatres, the intoxication of his literary success, and a proud desire always to be first, even in evil. Before long he was obliged to confess to Monica that he had formed a sinful liaison with the person who bore him a son (372), "the son of his sin" — an entanglement from which he only delivered himself at Milan after fifteen years of its thralldom.

Two extremes are to be avoided in the appreciation of this crisis. Some, like Mommsen, misled perhaps by the tone of grief in the "Confessions", have exaggerated it: in the "Realencyklopädie" (3d ed., II, 268) Loofs reproves Mommsen on this score, and yet he himself is too lenient towards Augustine, when he claims that in those days, the Church permitted concubinage. The "Confessions" alone prove that Loofs did not understand the 17th canon of Toledo. However, it may be said that, even in his fall, Augustine maintained a certain dignity and felt a compunction which does him honour, and that, from the age of nineteen, he had a genuine desire to break the chain. In fact, in 373, an entirely new inclination manifested itself in his life, brought about by the reading Cicero's "Hortensius" whence he imbibed a love of the wisdom which Cicero so eloquently praises. Thenceforward Augustine looked upon rhetoric merely as a profession; his heart was in philosophy.

Unfortunately, his faith, as well as his morals, was to pass though a terrible crisis. In this same year, 373, Augustine and his friend Honoratus fell into the snares of the Manichæans. It seems strange that so great a mind should have been victimized by Oriental vapourings, synthesized by the Persian Mani (215-276) into coarse, material dualism, and introduced into Africa scarcely fifty years previously. Augustine himself tells us that he was enticed by the promises of a free philosophy unbridled by faith; by the boasts of the Manichæans, who claimed to have discovered contradictions in Holy Writ; and, above all, by the hope of finding in their doctrine a scientific explanation of nature and its most mysterious phenomena. Augustine's inquiring mind was enthusiastic for the natural sciences, and the Manichæans declared that nature withheld no secrets from Faustus, their doctor. Moreover, being tortured by the problem of the origin of evil, Augustine, in default of solving it, acknowledged a conflict of two principles. And then, again, there was a very powerful charm in the moral irresponsibility resulting from a doctrine which denied liberty and attributed the commission of crime to a foreign principle.

Once won over to this sect, Augustine devoted himself to it with all the ardour of his character; he read all its books, adopted and defended all its opinions. His furious proselytism drew into error his friend Alypius and Romanianus, his Mæcenas of Tagaste, the friend of his father who was defraying the expenses of Augustine's studies. It was during this Manichæan period that Augustine's literary faculties reached their full development, and he was still a student at Carthage when he embraced error.

His studies ended, he should in due course have entered the forum litigiosum, but he preferred the career of letters, and Possidius tells us that he returned to Tagaste to "teach grammar." The young professor captivated his pupils, one of whom, Alypius, hardly younger than his master, loath to leave him after following him into error, was afterwards baptized with him at Milan, eventually becoming Bishop of Tagaste, his native city. But Monica deeply deplored Augustine's heresy and would not have received him into her home or at her table but for the advice of a saintly bishop, who declared that "the son of so many tears could not perish." Soon afterwards Augustine went to Carthage, where he continued to teach rhetoric. His talents shone to even better advantage on this wider stage, and by an indefatigable pursuit of the liberal arts his intellect attained its full maturity. Having taken part in a poetic tournament, he carried off the prize, and the Proconsul Vindicianus publicly conferred upon him the corona agonistica.

It was at this moment of literary intoxication, when he had just completed his first work on æsthetics (now lost) that he began to repudiate Manichæism. Even when Augustine was in his first fervour, the teachings of Mani had been far from quieting his restlessness, and although he has been accused of becoming a priest of the sect, he was never initiated or numbered among the "elect," but remained an "auditor" the lowest degree in the hierarchy. He himself gives the reason for his disenchantment. First of all there was the fearful depravity of Manichæan philosophy — "They destroy everything and build up nothing"; then, the dreadful immorality in contrast with their affectation of virtue; the feebleness of their arguments in controversy with the Catholics, to whose Scriptural arguments their only reply was: "The Scriptures have been falsified." But, worse than all, he did not find science among them — science in the modern sense of the word — that knowledge of nature and its laws which they had promised him. When he questioned them concerning the movements of the stars, none of them could answer him. "Wait for Faustus," they said, "he will explain everything to you." Faustus of Mileve, the celebrated Manichæan bishop, at last came to Carthage; Augustine visited and questioned him, and discovered in his responses the vulgar rhetorician, the utter stranger to all scientific culture. The spell was broken, and, although Augustine did not immediately abandon the sect, his mind rejected Manichæan doctrines. The illusion had lasted nine years.

But the religious crisis of this great soul was only to be resolved in Italy, under the influence of Ambrose. In 383 Augustine, at the age of twenty-nine, yielded to the irresistible attraction which Italy had for him, but his mother suspected his departure and was so reluctant to be separated from him that he resorted to a subterfuge and embarked under cover of the night. He had only just arrived in Rome when he was taken seriously ill; upon recovering he opened a school of rhetoric, but, disgusted by the tricks of his pupils, who shamelessly defrauded him of their tuition fees, he applied for a vacant professorship at Milan, obtained it, and was accepted by the prefect, Symmachus. Having visited Bishop Ambrose, the fascination of that saint's kindness induced him to become a regular attendant at his preachings.

However, before embracing the Faith, Augustine underwent a three years' struggle during which his mind passed through several distinct phases. At first he turned towards the philosophy of the Academics, with its pessimistic scepticism; then neo-Platonic philosophy inspired him with genuine enthusiasm. At Milan he had scarcely read certain works of Plato and, more especially, of Plotinus, before the hope of finding the truth dawned upon him. Once more he began to dream that he and his friends might lead a life dedicated to the search for it, a life purged of all vulgar aspirations after honours, wealth, or pleasure, and with celibacy for its rule (Confessions VI). But it was only a dream; his passions still enslaved him.

Monica, who had joined her son at Milan, prevailed upon him to become betrothed, but his affianced bride was too young, and although Augustine dismissed the mother of Adeodatus, her place was soon filled by another. Thus did he pass through one last period of struggle and anguish. Finally, through the reading of the Holy Scripture light penetrated his mind. Soon he possessed the certainty that Jesus Christ is the only way to truth and salvation. After that resistance came only from the heart. An interview with Simplicianus, the future successor of St. Ambrose, who told Augustine the story of the conversion of the celebrated neo-Platonic rhetorician, Victorinus (Confessions VIII.1, VIII.2), prepared the way for the grand stroke of grace which, at the age of thirty-three, smote him to the ground in the garden at Milan (September, 386). A few days later Augustine, being ill, took advantage of the autumn holidays and, resigning his professorship, went with Monica, Adeodatus, and his friends to Cassisiacum, the country estate of Verecundus, there to devote himself to the pursuit of true philosophy which, for him, was now inseparable from Christianity.

From his conversion to his episcopate (386-395)

Augustine gradually became acquainted with Christian doctrine, and in his mind the fusion of Platonic philosophy with revealed dogmas was taking place. The law that governed this change of thought has of late years been frequently misconstrued; it is sufficiently important to be precisely defined. The solitude of Cassisiacum realized a long-cherished dream. In his books "Against the Academics," Augustine has described the ideal serenity of this existence, enlivened only by the passion for truth. He completed the education of his young friends, now by literary readings in common, now by philosophical conferences to which he sometimes invited Monica, and the accounts of which, compiled by a secretary, have supplied the foundation of the "Dialogues." Licentius, in his "Letters," would later on recall these delightful philosophical mornings and evenings, at which Augustine was wont to evolve the most elevating discussions from the most commonplace incidents. The favourite topics at their conferences were truth, certainty (Against the Academics), true happiness in philosophy (On a Happy Life), the Providential order of the world and the problem of evil (On Order) and finally God and the soul (Soliloquies, On the Immortality of the Soul).

Here arises the curious question propounded modern critics: Was Augustine a Christian when wrote these "Dialogues" at Cassisiacum? Until now no one had doubted it; historians, relying upon the "Confessions", had all believed that Augustine's retirement to the villa had for its twofold object the improvement of his health and his preparation for baptism. But certain critics nowadays claim to have discovered a radical opposition between the philosophical "Dialogues" composed in this retirement and the state of soul described in the "Confessions". According to Harnack, in writing the "Confessions" Augustine must have projected upon the recluse of 386 the sentiments of the bishop of 400. Others go farther and maintain that the recluse of the Milanese villa could not have been at heart a Christian, but a Platonist; and that the scene in the garden was a conversion not to Christianity, but to philosophy, the genuinely Christian phase beginning only in 390.

But this interpretation of the "Dialogues" cannot withstand the test of facts and texts. It is admitted that Augustine received baptism at Easter, 387; and who could suppose that it was for him a meaningless ceremony? So too, how can it be admitted that the scene in the garden, the example of the recluses, the reading of St. Paul, the conversion of Victorinus, Augustine's ecstasies in reading the Psalms with Monica were all invented after the fact? Again, as it was in 388 that Augustine wrote his beautiful apology "On the Holiness of the Catholic Church," how is it conceivable that he was not yet a Christian at that date? To settle the argument, however, it is only necessary to read the "Dialogues" themselves. They are certainly a purely philosophical work — a work of youth, too, not without some pretension, as Augustine ingenuously acknowledges (Confessions IX.4); nevertheless, they contain the entire history of his Christian formation. As early as 386, the first work written at Cassisiacum reveals to us the great underlying motive of his researches. The object of his philosophy is to give authority the support of reason, and "for him the great authority, that which dominates all others and from which he never wished to deviate, is the authority of Christ"; and if he loves the Platonists it is because he counts on finding among them interpretations always in harmony with his faith (Against the Academics, III, c. x). To be sure such confidence was excessive, but it remains evident that in these "Dialogues" it is a Christian, and not a Platonist, that speaks. He reveals to us the intimate details of his conversion, the argument that convinced him (the life and conquests of the Apostles), his progress in the Faith at the school of St. Paul (ibid., II, ii), his delightful conferences with his friends on the Divinity of Jesus Christ, the wonderful transformations worked in his soul by faith, even to that victory of his over the intellectual pride which his Platonic studies had aroused in him (On The Happy Life, I, ii), and at last the gradual calming of his passions and the great resolution to choose wisdom for his only spouse (Soliloquies, I, x).

It is now easy to appreciate at its true value the influence of neo-Platonism upon the mind of the great African Doctor. It would be impossible for anyone who has read the works of St. Augustine to deny the existence of this influence. However, it would be a great exaggeration of this influence to pretend that it at any time sacrificed the Gospel to Plato. The same learned critic thus wisely concludes his study: "So long, therefore, as his philosophy agrees with his religious doctrines, St. Augustine is frankly neo-Platonist; as soon as a contradiction arises, he never hesitates to subordinate his philosophy to religion, reason to faith. He was, first of all, a Christian; the philosophical questions that occupied his mind constantly found themselves more and more relegated to the background" (op. cit., 155). But the method was a dangerous one; in thus seeking harmony between the two doctrines he thought too easily to find Christianity in Plato, or Platonism in the Gospel. More than once, in his "Retractations" and elsewhere, he acknowledges that he has not always shunned this danger. Thus he had imagined that in Platonism he discovered the entire doctrine of the Word and the whole prologue of St. John. He likewise disavowed a good number of neo-Platonic theories which had at first misled him — the cosmological thesis of the universal soul, which makes the world one immense animal — the Platonic doubts upon that grave question: Is there a single soul for all or a distinct soul for each? But on the other hand, he had always reproached the Platonists, as Schaff very properly remarks (Saint Augustine, New York, 1886, p. 51), with being ignorant of, or rejecting, the fundamental points of Christianity: "first, the great mystery, the Word made flesh; and then love, resting on the basis of humility." They also ignore grace, he says, giving sublime precepts of morality without any help towards realizing them.

It was this Divine grace that Augustine sought in Christian baptism. Towards the beginning of Lent, 387, he went to Milan and, with Adeodatus and Alypius, took his place among the competentes, being baptized by Ambrose on Easter Day, or at least during Eastertide. The tradition maintaining that the Te Deum was sung on that occasion by the bishop and the neophyte alternately is groundless. Nevertheless this legend is certainly expressive of the joy of the Church upon receiving as her son him who was to be her most illustrious doctor. It was at this time that Augustine, Alypius, and Evodius resolved to retire into solitude in Africa. Augustine undoubtedly remained at Milan until towards autumn, continuing his works: "On the Immortality of the Soul" and "On Music." In the autumn of 387, he was about to embark at Ostia, when Monica was summoned from this life. In all literature there are no pages of more exquisite sentiment than the story of her saintly death and Augustine's grief (Confessions IX). Augustine remained several months in Rome, chiefly engaged in refuting Manichæism. He sailed for Africa after the death of the tyrant Maximus (August 388) and after a short sojourn in Carthage, returned to his native Tagaste. Immediately upon arriving there, he wished to carry out his idea of a perfect life, and began by selling all his goods and giving the proceeds to the poor. Then he and his friends withdrew to his estate, which had already been alienated, there to lead a common life in poverty, prayer, and the study of sacred letters. Book of the "LXXXIII Questions" is the fruit of conferences held in this retirement, in which he also wrote "De Genesi contra Manichæos," "De Magistro," and, "De Vera Religione."

Augustine did not think of entering the priesthood, and, through fear of the episcopacy, he even fled from cities in which an election was necessary. One day, having been summoned to Hippo by a friend whose soul's salvation was at stake, he was praying in a church when the people suddenly gathered about him, cheered him, and begged Valerius, the bishop, to raise him to the priesthood. In spite of his tears Augustine was obliged to yield to their entreaties, and was ordained in 391. The new priest looked upon his ordination as an additional reason for resuming religious life at Tagaste, and so fully did Valerius approve that he put some church property at Augustine's disposal, thus enabling him to establish a monastery the second that he had founded. His priestly ministry of five years was admirably fruitful; Valerius had bidden him preach, in spite of the deplorable custom which in Africa reserved that ministry to bishops. Augustine combated heresy, especially Manichæism, and his success was prodigious. Fortunatus, one of their great doctors, whom Augustine had challenged in public conference, was so humiliated by his defeat that he fled from Hippo. Augustine also abolished the abuse of holding banquets in the chapels of the martyrs. He took part, 8 October, 393, in the Plenary Council of Africa, presided over by Aurelius, Bishop of Carthage, and, at the request of the bishops, was obliged to deliver a discourse which, in its completed form, afterwards became the treatise "De Fide et symbolo".

As bishop of Hippo (396-430)

Enfeebled by old age, Valerius, Bishop of Hippo, obtained the authorization of Aurelius, Primate of Africa, to associate Augustine with himself as coadjutor. Augustine had to resign himself to consecration at the hands of Megalius, Primate of Numidia. He was then forty two, and was to occupy the See of Hippo for thirty-four years. The new bishop understood well how to combine the exercise of his pastoral duties with the austerities of the religious life, and although he left his convent, his episcopal residence became a monastery where he lived a community life with his clergy, who bound themselves to observe religious poverty. Was it an order of regular clerics or of monks that he thus founded? This is a question often asked, but we feel that Augustine gave but little thought to such distinctions. Be that as it may, the episcopal house of Hippo became a veritable nursery which supplied the founders of the monasteries that were soon spread all over Africa and the bishops who occupied the neighbouring sees. Possidius (Vita S. August., xxii) enumerates ten of the saint's friends and disciples who were promoted to the episcopacy. Thus it was that Augustine earned the title of patriarch of the religious, and renovator of the clerical, life in Africa.

But he was above all the defender of truth and the shepherd of souls. His doctrinal activities, the influence of which was destined to last as long as the Church itself, were manifold: he preached frequently, sometimes for five days consecutively, his sermons breathing a spirit of charity that won all hearts; he wrote letters which scattered broadcast through the then known world his solutions of the problems of that day; he impressed his spirit upon divers African councils at which he assisted, for instance, those of Carthage in 398, 401, 407, 419 and of Mileve in 416 and 418; and lastly struggled indefatigably against all errors. To relate these struggles were endless; we shall, therefore, select only the chief controversies and indicate in each the doctrinal attitude of the great Bishop of Hippo.

The Manichæan controversy and the problem of evil

After Augustine became bishop the zeal which, from the time of his baptism, he had manifested in bringing his former co-religionists into the true Church, took on a more paternal form without losing its pristine ardour — "let those rage against us who know not at what a bitter cost truth is attained. . . . As for me, I should show you the same forbearance that my brethren had for me when I blind, was wandering in your doctrines" (Contra Epistolam Fundamenti 3). Among the most memorable events that occurred during this controversy was the great victory won in 404 over Felix, one of the "elect" of the Manichæans and the great doctor of the sect. He was propagating his errors in Hippo, and Augustine invited him to a public conference the issue of which would necessarily cause a great stir; Felix declared himself vanquished, embraced the Faith, and, together with Augustine, subscribed the acts of the conference. In his writings Augustine successively refuted Mani (397), the famous Faustus (400), Secundinus (405), and (about 415) the fatalistic Priscillianists whom Paulus Orosius had denounced to him. These writings contain the saint's clear, unquestionable views on the eternal problem of evil, views based on an optimism proclaiming, like the Platonists, that every work of God is good and that the only source of moral evil is the liberty of creatures (City of God XIX.13.2). Augustine takes up the defence of free will, even in man as he is, with such ardour that his works against the Manichæan are an inexhaustible storehouse of arguments in this still living controversy.

In vain have the Jansenists maintained that Augustine was unconsciously a Pelagian and that he afterwards acknowledged the loss of liberty through the sin of Adam. Modern critics, doubtless unfamiliar with Augustine's complicated system and his peculiar terminology, have gone much farther. In the "Revue d'histoire et de littérature religieuses" (1899, p. 447), M. Margival exhibits St. Augustine as the victim of metaphysical pessimism unconsciously imbibed from Manichæan doctrines. "Never," says he, "will the Oriental idea of the necessity and the eternity of evil have a more zealous defender than this bishop." Nothing is more opposed to the facts. Augustine acknowledges that he had not yet understood how the first good inclination of the will is a gift of God (Retractions, I, xxiii, n, 3); but it should be remembered that he never retracted his leading theories on liberty, never modified his opinion upon what constitutes its essential condition, that is to say, the full power of choosing or of deciding. Who will dare to say that in revising his own writings on so important a point he lacked either clearness of perception or sincerity?

The Donatist controversy and the theory of the Church

The Donatist schism was the last episode in the Montanist and Novatian controversies which had agitated the Church from the second century. While the East was discussing under varying aspects the Divine and Christological problem of the Word, the West, doubtless because of its more practical genius, took up the moral question of sin in all its forms. The general problem was the holiness of the Church; could the sinner be pardoned, and remain in her bosom? In Africa the question especially concerned the holiness of the hierarchy. The bishops of Numidia, who, in 312, had refused to accept as valid the consecration of Cæcilian, Bishop of Carthage, by a traditor, had inaugurated the schism and at the same time proposed these grave questions: Do the hierarchical powers depend upon the moral worthiness of the priest? How can the holiness of the Church be compatible with the unworthiness of its ministers?

At the time of Augustine's arrival in Hippo, the schism had attained immense proportions, having become identified with political tendencies — perhaps with a national movement against Roman domination. In any event, it is easy to discover in it an undercurrent of anti-social revenge which the emperors had to combat by strict laws. The strange sect known as "Soldiers of Christ," and called by Catholics Circumcelliones (brigands, vagrants), resembled the revolutionary sects of the Middle Ages in point of fanatic destructiveness — a fact that must not be lost sight of, if the severe legislation of the emperors is to be properly appreciated.

The history of Augustine's struggles with the Donatists is also that of his change of opinion on the employment of rigorous measures against the heretics; and the Church in Africa, of whose councils he had been the very soul, followed him in the change. This change of views is solemnly attested by the Bishop of Hippo himself, especially in his Letters, 93 (in the year 408). In the beginning, it was by conferences and a friendly controversy that he sought to re-establish unity. He inspired various conciliatory measures of the African councils, and sent ambassadors to the Donatists to invite them to re-enter the Church, or at least to urge them to send deputies to a conference (403). The Donatists met these advances at first with silence, then with insults, and lastly with such violence that Possidius Bishop of Calamet, Augustine's friend, escaped death only by flight, the Bishop of Bagaïa was left covered with horrible wounds, and the life of the Bishop of Hippo himself was several times attempted (Letter 88, to Januarius, the Donatist bishop). This madness of the Circumcelliones required harsh repression, and Augustine, witnessing the many conversions that resulted therefrom, thenceforth approved rigid laws. However, this important restriction must be pointed out: that St. Augustine never wished heresy to be punishable by death — Vos rogamus ne occidatis (Letter 100, to the Proconsul Donatus). But the bishops still favoured a conference with the schismatics, and in 410 an edict issued by Honorius put an end to the refusal of the Donatists. A solemn conference took place at Carthage, in June, 411, in presence of 286 Catholic, and 279 Donatist bishops. The Donatist spokesmen were Petilian of Constantine, Primian of Carthage, and Emeritus of Cæsarea; the Catholic orators, Aurelius and Augustine. On the historic question then at issue, the Bishop of Hippo proved the innocence of Cæcilian and his consecrator Felix, and in the dogmatic debate he established the Catholic thesis that the Church, as long as it is upon earth, can, without losing its holiness, tolerate sinners within its pale for the sake of converting them. In the name of the emperor the Proconsul Marcellinus sanctioned the victory of the Catholics on all points. Little by little Donatism died out, to disappear with the coming of the Vandals.

So amply and magnificently did Augustine develop his theory on the Church that, according to Specht "he deserves to be named the Doctor of the Church as well as the Doctor of Grace"; and Möhler (Dogmatik, 351) is not afraid to write: "For depth of feeling and power of conception nothing written on the Church since St. Paul's time, is comparable to the works of St. Augustine." He has corrected, perfected, and even excelled the beautiful pages of St. Cyprian on the Divine institution of the Church, its authority, its essential marks, and its mission in the economy of grace and the administration of the sacraments. The Protestant critics, Dorner, Bindemann, Böhringer and especially Reuter, loudly proclaim, and sometimes even exaggerate, this rôle of the Doctor of Hippo; and while Harnack does not quite agree with them in every respect he does not hesitate to say (History of Dogma, II, c. iii): "It is one of the points upon which Augustine specially affirms and strengthens the Catholic idea…. He was the first [!] to transform the authority of the Church into a religious power, and to confer upon practical religion the gift of a doctrine of the Church." He was not the first, for Dorner acknowledges (Augustinus, 88) that Optatus of Mileve had expressed the basis of the same doctrines. Augustine, however, deepened, systematized, and completed the views of St. Cyprian and Optatus. But it is impossible here to go into detail. (See Specht, Die Lehre von der Kirche nach dem hl. Augustinus, Paderborn, 1892.)

The Pelagian controversy and the Doctor of Grace

The close of the struggle against the Donatists almost coincided with the beginnings of a very grave theological dispute which not only was to demand Augustine's unremitting attention up to the time of his death, but was to become an eternal problem for individuals and for the Church. Farther on we shall enlarge upon Augustine's system; here we need only indicate the phases of the controversy. Africa, where Pelagius and his disciple Celestius had sought refuge after the taking of Rome by Alaric, was the principal centre of the first Pelagian disturbances; as early as 412 a council held at Carthage condemned Pelagians for their attacks upon the doctrine of original sin. Among other books directed against them by Augustine was his famous "De naturâ et gratiâ". Thanks to his activity the condemnation of these innovators, who had succeeded in deceiving a synod convened at Diospolis in Palestine, was reiterated by councils held later at Carthage and Mileve and confirmed by Pope Innocent I (417). A second period of Pelagian intrigues developed at Rome, but Pope Zosimus, whom the stratagems of Celestius had for a moment deluded, being enlightened by Augustine, pronounced the solemn condemnation of these heretics in 418. Thenceforth the combat was conducted in writing against Julian of Eclanum, who assumed the leadership of the party and violently attacked Augustine.

Towards 426 there entered the lists a school which afterwards acquired the name of Semipelagian, the first members being monks of Hadrumetum in Africa, who were followed by others from Marseilles, led by Cassian, the celebrated abbot of Saint-Victor. Unable to admit the absolute gratuitousness of predestination, they sought a middle course between Augustine and Pelagius, and maintained that grace must be given to those who merit it and denied to others; hence goodwill has the precedence, it desires, it asks, and God rewards. Informed of their views by Prosper of Aquitaine, the holy Doctor once more expounded, in "De Prædestinatione Sanctorum", how even these first desires for salvation are due to the grace of God, which therefore absolutely controls our predestination.

Struggles against Arianism and closing years

In 426 the holy Bishop of Hippo, at the age of seventy-two, wishing to spare his episcopal city the turmoil of an election after his death, caused both clergy and people to acclaim the choice of the deacon Heraclius as his auxiliary and successor, and transferred to him the administration of externals. Augustine might then have enjoyed some rest had Africa not been agitated by the undeserved disgrace and the revolt of Count Boniface (427). The Goths, sent by the Empress Placidia to oppose Boniface, and the Vandals, whom the latter summoned to his assistance, were all Arians. Maximinus, an Arian bishop, entered Hippo with the imperial troops. The holy Doctor defended the Faith at a public conference (428) and in various writings. Being deeply grieved at the devastation of Africa, he laboured to effect a reconciliation between Count Boniface and the empress. Peace was indeed reestablished, but not with Genseric, the Vandal king. Boniface, vanquished, sought refuge in Hippo, whither many bishops had already fled for protection and this well fortified city was to suffer the horrors of an eighteen months' siege. Endeavouring to control his anguish, Augustine continued to refute Julian of Eclanum; but early in the siege he was stricken with what he realized to be a fatal illness, and, after three months of admirable patience and fervent prayer, departed from this land of exile on 28 August, 430, in the seventy-sixth year of his age.

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