Augustine on the Ministry

Unless the Lord helps us carry our burdens, we shall sink beneath them, and unless he carries us, we shall fall to our death. My position at your head frightens me, but the condition I share with you consoles me. I am a bishop set over you, but a Christian in company with you. The first is the name of the office I have undertaken, the second of grace; the first of danger, the second of salvation. So it is as if we are tossed about by a storm in the raging sea of that office, but as we remember who has redeemed us by his blood, it is as if we enter the safety of a harbor in the stillness of that thought. Though this office is hard work for us personally, the common benefit provides us with rest.

So if the fact that I have been redeemed with you delights me more than the fact that I have been set over you, then, as our Lord commands, I shall be more tirelessly your servant, for fear of being ungrateful for the redemption which made me worthy to be your fellow-servant.

–Ed. John E. Rotelle, “We Are Your Servants” Augustine’s Homilies on Ministry, (Villanova: Augustine Press, 1986), 155 pp. (HT: Harold Senkbeil, Doxology)

How to Understand Scripture: Learn the Trivium

220px-matthias_flacius“Yet we dare not in this regard follow the fanatics, as if the human sciences were utterly useless or even detrimental to the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and heavenly teaching. It is certainly necessary to study languages and well-informed grammars. Dialectic, rhetoric, and familiarity with the rest of philosophy is beneficial as well, and even quite necessary” (100).

“It will also be very beneficial to apply to an obscure place or to an entire writing the Lydian stone of the rules of logic, whether grammar, rhetoric, or finally, dialectic. Since these arts are indeed made known to use through the the beneficence of God and lit from the natural light that is all the time over us, and since they conform with the nature of things and the order that God has assigned to them, and finally, since they accommodate themselves to the human ability for comprehension (as the Sacred Scriptures), they will necessarily be of great benefit to us in the illumination of the Sacred Scriptures, if we apply them piously and cautiously” (111).

From How to Understand the Sacred Scriptures from Clavis Scripturae Sacrae by Matthias Flacius Illyricus (1520-1575). Translated by Wade R. Johnston. 2001.

It’s not Christmas yet! Why can’t they wait?

On my way home from church today I saw a Christmas tree in the window of one of the homes on our street. People who listen to the radio have told me that local stations have started playing Christmas music. Certainly, the marketing machine for the holiday shopping season is revved up and ready to move. The more patient among us wait until the Thanksgiving Turkey is carved to begin with all things Christmas—though December is not really Christmas. Neither, by the way, is Advent. Why is it that no one can wait for Christmas? Hermann Sasse once wrote:

The world cannot wait. It is in a hurry because its time is nearing its end. It must always immediately have it all, otherwise it is too late. The church can wait. She has learned to do so in the course of nineteen centuries (The Lonely Way I, p. 432).

Yes, perhaps that’s it.

Latin and Ditches

I came across this little clip in an 1891 Yearbook for the Christian Home.

AdamsLatin and Ditches

John Adams, the second President of our land, used to relate the following anecdote:

“When I was still a boy, I had to learn the Latin Grammar, but I was lazy and hated the thing. My father wished to send me to college, and therefore I studied the Grammar, until I could no longer bear it. Then I went to my father and said to him that I had no desire to study, and asked him to direct me to another occupation. It was against his wishes but he was ready with an answer. “Well John,” he said, “if Latin Grammar does not suit you, you can try digging ditches, perhaps that will be better; my pasture over there needs a ditch, and you can set aside the Latin and try that.”

This seemed a delightful change, and off to the meadow I went. But I soon learned that ditch-digging is harder than Latin, and the first morning was the longest I ever experienced. That day I ate the bread of hard work, and I was glad when evening came. That night I made some comparison between Latin Grammar and ditch-digging, but didn’t say a word about it. I dug the next morning, and wanted to return to Latin by noon, but it was humiliating, and I couldn’t bear that. By the second night, weariness conquered my pride; and though it was the hardest test I had ever undergone, I finally brought myself to say to my father, that if he chose, I would go back to Latin Grammar. He was glad of it, and if I have since gained any distinction in the world, I owe it all to the two days of labor in that abominable ditch.”

The Way of the Baptized

A Christian is a person who begins to tread the way from this life to heaven the moment he is baptized, in the faith that Christ is henceforth the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And he holds to this way until his end. He is always found on this way and is led into the truth to obtain life, as one who already sees the shore where he is to land. He is prepared at all times, whether death comes today, tomorrow, or in one, two, or ten years; for in Christ he has already been transported to the other side. We cannot be safe from death for a minute; in Baptism all Christians begin to die, and they continue to die until they reach the grave.

–Martin Luther, on John 14:6 (LW 24, p. 51)