Saturday, October 3, 2020

The good are afflicted with the wicked because they have failed to reprove them.

"We tend culpably to evade our responsibility when we ought to instruct and admonish them, sometimes even with sharp reproof and censure, either because the task is irksome, or because we are afraid of giving offence; or it may be that we shrink from incurring their enmity, for fear that they may hinder and harm us in worldly matters, in respect either of what we eagerly seek to attain, or of what we weakly dread to lose. . . ."
     "If anyone refrains from reproof and correction of ill-doers because he looks for a more suitable occasion, or because he fears that this will make them worse, or fears that they will hinder the instruction of others, who are weak, in a good and godly way of life, and that they will oppress them, and turn them away from the faith, in such a case the action seems to be prompted not by self-interest but by counsels of charity. What is culpable is when those whose life is different and who abhor the deed of the wicked are nevertheless indulgent to the sins of others, which they ought to reprehend and reprove, because they are concerned to avoid giving offence to them, in case they should harm themselves in respect of things which may be rightly and innocently enjoyed by good men, but which they desire more than is right for those who are strangers in this world and who fix their hope on a heavenly country."
     ". . . In fact, they are constrained by self-interest, not by the obligations of charity [(hoc est propter quaedam cupiditatis uincula, non propter officia caritatis)]."

     St. Augustine, City of God I.9, trans. Henry Bettenson.  Dodds:  "their non-intervention is the result of selfishness, and not of love."  CSEL 40.1, 15-17.

"The myth of medieval paganism"

 "The idea that something called 'paganism' existed in medieval society as a mode of conscious resistance to Christianity has proved seductive, despite having no factual basis whatsoever."

     Francis Young, "The myth of medieval paganism," First things no. 300 (February 2020):  12 (12-14).  "most culturally alien practices in popular Christianity were products of imperfectly catechized Christian cultures rather than pockets of pagan resistance" (14).

"God's life is given just where the forms of a human life are simply what they are". And as a consequence, "what they are is always more than a human person can ever tell."

     Ephraim Radner, A profound ignorance:  modern pneumatology and its anti-modern redemption (Waco, TX:  Baylor University Press, 2019), 207.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Luther on Christmas Day as the first day of the properly Christian New Year

"Today is called New Year's Day according to the computation of the Romans, but for us Christians, [the first day of the new year] is [the day of] Christ's Nativity."

"Es heist hodie des new jarstag secundum computationem Rhomanorum, sed apud nos Christianos est Christi nativitas dies."

     Martin Luther, Sermon on New Year's Day (1 January 1528), WA 27, p. 1, ll. 2-3.  Cf. Morning ("früh") Sermon on the Day of Circumcision (1 January 1531), WA 34.1, p. 1, ll. 3-11 (there follows the sermon preached in the afternoon ("nachmittags").

     The conclusion must therefore be the following:  "Luther could indeed render his tribute to the beginning of the year secundum computationem Rhomanorum, but he treated Christmas Day as [the] real beginning of the New Year on theological grounds, and adhered to this, in the dating of his letters, his whole life long.  For the conversion of the date and its testimony [(Angabe)] into [our] modern [style of reckoning], what is required is not a special rationale [(Begrundung) for] the acceptance of the 'old' beginning of the year on Christmas Day, but an inadvertent [(etwaige; but Schneider has just, on p. 115, appealed to slips of the pen or "Feder")] deviation from the [Lutheran default, i.e. the] Christmas Day style" of reckoning in a mere 8 out of the 34 relevant cases (Hans Schneider, "Weihnachten als Jahresbeginn und der Weihnachtsstil bei Luther," Lutherjahrbuch 84 (2017):  115-116 (82-117), italics mine).  Cf., as Schneider points out on p. 86, the last stanza of his Vom Himmel hoch (1534-1535), as translated by Catherine Winkworth in Lyra Germanica (1855):

Lob, Ehr sey Gott jm höchsten thron, | Der uns schenckt seinen einigen son. | Des freuen sich der Engel schar | und singen uns solch neues jar.

Glory to God in highest heaven, | Who unto man His Son hath given! | While angels sing with pious mirth | A glad New Year to all the earth.

     As for "the 'old' [(or pre-Luther-an)] beginning of the year on Christmas Day," see Schneider, p. 81, as well as pp. 116-117 (Johannes Agricola, Melanchthon, and Spalatin; Duke Georg of Saxony, Count Philipp, Elector Johann Friedrich, the City of Constance, and other princely and municipal chanceries).  Cf. also A. N. S. Lane, "When did Albert Pighius die?," Nederlands Archief voor Kerkgeschiedenis 80, no. 3 (2000): 330, 338 (327–42):  "in Utrecht the New Year was then normally reckoned to begin on 25 December.  It was not until 1575 that this was changed to 1 January".

     Of course, even "the beginning of the year secundum computationem Rhomanorum" Luther refused to treat as anything other than the Christian Feast of the Circumcision.

Luther gets right to the point

"On this day it is customary to distribute new year’s gifts from the pulpit, as if one did not have enough useful and beneficial matters to preach about, and it were necessary to hand out such useless tales instead of the word of God and to turn this serious office into a game and a joke. The Gospel demands that our sermon be about the circumcision and the name Jesus, and we are going to observe this."

"Auff dießen tag pflegt man das new iar außzuteylen auff der Cantzel, als hett man sonst nit gnug nutzlichs, heylsams dings zu predigen, das man solch unnutz fabeln an statt gottlichs worts furgeben muste und auß solchem ernsten ampt eyn spiel und schimpff machen.  Von der beschneydung foddert das Euangelium tzu predigen und von dem namen Jhesus, da wollen wyr auff sehen."

     Martin Luther, "The Gospel for New Year's Day, Luke 2[:21]," LW 52, p. 149 =WA 10.1, 504.  I see that this has been translated on LW 76 (Church postil II, 2013), p. 39 (pp. 39-47), as follows:

On this day it is customary to dispense from the pulpit [good wishes for] the new year, as if there were not enough other useful and salutary matters to preachy, and it were necessary to present such useless fables in place of the divine Word and to make a game and a joke of so serious an office.  The Gospel reading requires us to preach on the circumcision and the name of Jesus, and this we will do!

P. 39n2 (references omitted):  "A custom is referred to here which arose in the latter part of the Middle Ages.  On New Year's Day, the eighth day after Christmas, the preacher declared from the pulpit special new year's wishes to his hearers with reference to the eight different classes among them. . . .  The custom introduced many absurdities and improprieties into the worship service. . . ."