Friday, April 29, 2011

Quarry the granite rock with razors,
or moor the vessel with a thread of silk;
then may you hope
with such keen and delicate instruments
as human knowledge and human reason
to contend against those giants,
the passion and the pride of man.

— John Henry Newman —

Friday, April 22, 2011

Scenes from the Passion of Christ

From the website on Scenes from the Passion of Christ "Hans Memling combined all passages from the Passion into one painting, adding the Resurrection and three appearances, creating a total of 23 scenes on one small panel. The praying figures in the lower corners are probably Tommaso Portinari, who commissioned the painting, and his wife.

"The story of Jesus' last hours begins far left in the corner with his entry into Jerusalem, then winds its way through town into the Garden of Gethsemane, bottom left, to continue in the middle, where we see Jesus brought before Pilate and the scourging, only to leave town and to end with the Crucifixion on the Mount behind the city. After Christ's death and resurrection he appears a number of times."

If you search on the top right of the second column of text, you'll find that you can start a lo-tech animation which shows all the episodes in sequence. Each vignette is also number-keyed in the explanation.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Elevating the Host

Once upon a time, a brother pastor took me to task for lifting up the offering plates after the offering higher than I lifted up the elements of Holy Communion during the consecration -- or for not elevating the host and chalice at all. His position was that by failing to elevate the elements sufficiently I was not holding them in proper reverence and esteem.

This seemed like nonsense to me because the altitude of the host is not what determines a proper attitude of the celebrant or the communicant in the Lord's Supper. Additionally, I didn't want to give the impression to unwitting observers by elevating the host that I was in any way offering it to God as a sacrifice. (There is no sacrifice to God for the forgiveness of sins other than Christ's death on the cross.)

Then, this past week in reviewing the doctrine of the Lord's Supper (since Christ first instituted it on that night when He was betrayed which we now celebrate in the liturgical year as Maundy Thursday), I came across this treatment in Luther. (AE 38:316)

Luther writes:

"Before I would admit to or take upon myself such a guilty conscience, on account of which I would have to drop the elevation because it would make me feel like a murderer, crucifier, and hangman of Christ, I would still today not only retain the elevation but, where one would not be enough, assist in introducing three, seven, or ten elevations.

"Therefore, I wanted to have it regarded as a free choice (even as it is a free matter and must be that), in which no sin could take place, whether one upheld it or dropped it. For this reason the elevation was retained among us. For whatever is free, that is, neither commanded nor prohibited, by which one can neither sin nor obtain merit, this should be in our control as something subject to our reason so that we might employ it or not employ it, uphold it or drop it, according to our pleasure and need, without sinning and endangering our conscience.

"In short, we want to be free lords and not slaves, who can proceed in this matter how, what, where, and when they wish. We do not want to be compelled to abolish the elevation because it is such a grave, great, and horrible sin, as Karlstadt’s spirit wanted it to be; we also do not wish to be forced to retain it because abolishing it would mean the loss of the soul’s salvation, as the pope’s devil wants to have it; but it should mean:

"If you do not want to elevate, then let it lie; if you do not want to let it lie, then elevate it. What does God care about that? What does my conscience care about that? It is as little concerned about that as the altar is concerned about whether you want to elevate something above it or place something on it; both procedures are a matter of indifference to it."

Saturday, April 9, 2011

If You Want To Go To Confession

In his exposition of 1 Peter 2:12, Martin Luther takes issue with Christians who thought that after absolution or baptism they could take it easy and relax . . .

"If you want to go to confession and be absolved, you must act like a soldier who takes the lead in battle when this is really important and the war begins. Now one must fight in earnest, just as though previously this had been sport. Now one must draw the sword and lay about with a vengeance. But there must be vigilance as long as the battle lasts.

"Thus even if you are baptized, you must realize that you are never safe from the devil and from sin. Indeed, you must remember that now you will have no peace. Thus the Christian life is nothing but a battle and a camp, as Scripture says.

"Therefore our Lord God is also Dominus Sabaoth (Ps. 24:10), that is, a Lord of hosts. Likewise, Dominus potens in proelio, “the Lord mighty in battle” (Ps. 24:8). He shows His might by letting His people wage war constantly and by letting them take the lead where the trumpets always sound. They must constantly remember to exclaim: “To the defense here! To the defense there! Thrust here! Strike there!” Thus this is an everlasting struggle, and you must do all you can to strike the devil down with the Word of God. Here one must always resist, call upon God, and despair of all human powers." (AE 30:71-72)