Saturday, March 29, 2014

Passiontide: Passion Sunday, Palm Sunday, Holy Week

Passiontide (Passionalia) is the historic name for the last two weeks of Lent. From ancient times these two weeks were called "The Great Week" (Μεγάλη Εβδομάδα) and "Passion Week". It was not only the last week as Holy Week, but the fourteen days from Passion Sunday until Holy Saturday.

But is Passion Sunday (Dominica Passionis) the Fifth or the Sixth Sunday of Lent?

 This is a difference between the One Year Series and the Three Year Series.

In the Historic Lectionary the Fifth Sunday in Lent is called Passion Sunday and the Sixth Sunday is called Palm Sunday. The Three Year Series arranged by the ILCW has assigned the title Passion Sunday to the Sixth Sunday along side the title Palm Sunday. This they did following the lead of Vatican II in its Revised Common Lectionary.

This move to incorporate Passion Sunday together with Palm Sunday is new. However, in past three centuries historians from the Western Church have been occasionally confused. Apparently this is due in part to a misunderstanding of the habit of some of the Eastern Church to name some of their liturgical weeks by the title of the Sunday following the week rather than by the title of the Sunday beginning the week.
[see, for instance, Hampson, under Passion Week p. 311]

The Greek term Εβδομάδα Μεγάλη, Hebdomada Megale, Medieval Latin: Hebdomada Magna: the "Great Week." According to Hildebrand and Hampson the use of these names as an equivalent to "Holy Week" (the seven days from Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday) started after the Reformation. Luther Reed's evidence may have been incomplete when he wrote that the term "Passion Week is no older than the nineteenth century and originated in Anglican circles." [The Lutheran Liturgy, p. 496] Reed's assertion that the term "Great Week" was used by Chrysostom with reference only to the week beginning Palm Sunday (ibid. 497) seems to be based a secondary citation of an observation made by Paolo Diacono in his Historia Romana which was written in 774.

Hildebrand's De diebus festis libellus (published 1718)  attributes the celebration of Passion Sunday to Pope Alexander I (died 115) and states that Ignatius had mentioned the Great Week in his Letter to the Philadelphians. [p. 62] [alternatively at google books] Unfortunately, the texts or versions of these writings available now do not seem to support this.

Egeria (St. Silvia of Aquitania) wrote her travelogue Itinerarium Egeriae about her tour of the holy land in 381-383. In this she gave a fairly detailed description fast of the Forty Days of Lent (Lat: Quadragessima; Gk: Μεγάλη Τεσσαρακοστή), including the Great Week (two weeks before Easter), and Palm Sunday. (p. 57ff).

By the 10th century in England the terminology and observance of Passiontide/Passion Week was already considered an old established church Practice. English Abbot Ælfric of Eynsham (c. 955 – c. 1010) of the Cerne Abby called the two weeks by the term Christes ðrowung-tíd, Christ's Passion-Tide. The opening paragraph of his Sermon for Passion Sunday "The Fifth Sunday in Lent" says:
THIS tide from this present day until the holy Easter-tide is called Christ's Passion Tide, and all God's ministers in the holy church with their church-services honour, and in remembrance hold his passion, through which we were all redeemed. Our books also say, that we should hold these fourteen days with great earnestness, on account of the ap- proach of the holy passion and honourable resurrection of our Saviour. On these days we omit in our responses 'Gloria Patri,' on account of our lament for the holy passion, unless some high festival-day occur during them.
[Aelfric, Abbot of Eynsham translated by Thorpe, Benjamin, 1844, Sermones catholici, or, Homilies of Aelfric, Vol 2, p. 224f]
Both the Western Rite [Gregorian] and the 11th century Use of Sarum [England] were the main liturgical traditions out of which both the Anglican and Lutheran liturgical year grew.

The Gospel Lessons in the Historic Lectionary from Lent 1 to Lent 3 have focused on the Authority of the Son of God over Satan and demonic powers. On Lent 4 (Lataere) the focus is on Christ as the Angel of the Lord who delivered His people from Egypt and provided bread for them in the wilderness.

From Lent 5 (Judica/Passion Sunday) the persecution and punishment of Christ takes center stage. The focus of the Gospel lesson (John 8:46-59) turns to face what is coming on Good Friday. On Lent 5 is Christ's public confession that He is יהוה the LORD, the "I AM". And here is where "they took up stones to throw at Him."

Though the particular lessons varied from region to region, the general arrangement came together by the middle-ages. And even the variation that existed by the time of the Reformation tended to emphasize the same themes for each week.
[see Nicholas Nilles Kalendarum v.1 sec. 2 for comparison and development of Eastern and Western traditions]

The season of Lent itself had been formally tied to catechesis in canon law also by the time of the Council of Laodicia (363-364) [Canons 45-52].

The LSB follows the ICLW arrangement for moving the name Passion Sunday to the date of Palm Sunday--even in the One Year Series (Historic Lectionary). However, even with the name move, LSB keeps the historic Passion Sunday (Judica) texts with Lent 5 in the One Year series. The editors of the LSB have gone to the work to put together a seasonally well coordinated set of readings for the major festivals of the Church year. The Lenten readings are found starting page 299. These readings are coordinated with the Treasury of Daily Prayer.

The Treasury of Daily Prayer does not include a discussion on Passion Sunday in its words on the Church Year (p. 10f), nor at the place of the devotions on Lent 5 (p. 132) or Palm Sunday (p. 156).

ELH retains the historic Passion Sunday texts with Lent 5 in its listing of the Historic Lectionary (pp. 202f). But the name of Passion Sunday is missing from this list. Neither is it included in the ILCW listings in the pages before this. ELH has a selection of hymns specifically for Lent 5 focusing on Jesus, Our High Priest (270-276). And a separate section on the Passion of Christ (281-308) which follows the hymns on Palm Sunday (277-280).


A listing of lessons for Passiontide based on the Historic Lectionary in the ELH and LSB, the Use of Sarum, the Book of Common Prayer, and the pre-Tridentine Breviary.

Passion Sunday I Gen 12:1-3 Heb 9:11-15 John 8:46-59 Psalm 43
Monday

Jonah 3:1-10 John 7:32-39

Tuesday

Dan 14:27, 28-42 John 7:1-13

Wednesday

Lev 19:1-2, 11-19, 25 John 10:22-38

Thursday

Dan 3:25, 34-45 Luke 7:36-50

Friday

Jer 17:13-18 John 11:47-54

Saturday

Jer 18:18-23 John 12:10-36

Palm Sunday (or Passion Sunday II) Zech. 9:9-10 Phil 2:5-11 Matt 21:1-9

Psalm 22
Monday

Isa 50:5-10 John 12:1-23 Psalm 6
Tuesday

Jer 11:18-20 John 12:24-43 Psalm 12
Wednesday

Isa 62:11-63:7 Luke 22:1-23:42 Psalm 51
Holy Thursday - The Lord's Supper Exod. 12: 1-14 1 Cor 11:20-32 Luke 22:14-20 Psalm 67
Good Friday - The Crucifixion Isaiah 52:13-53:12 Hosea 6:1-6 John 18:1-19:42 Psalm 22
Holy Saturday - Job 14:1-14 1 Pet. 4:1-8 Matt. 27:57-66

Psalm 130

Easter Vigil Exod. 14:10-15:1 Rom. 6:3-11 Matt 28:1-10 Psalm 46


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Redeeming Holy Days from Pagan Lies: The Annunciation

Annunciation (March 25th) is the day that the Church celebrates when the angel Gabriel came to announce to Mary that God conceived His eternally begotten Son in her virgin womb (Luke 1:26-38).

The day marks the celebration of the Incarnation of the Son of God: the day the Church commemorates when the Eternal God came into His own creation as a human to redeem humanity from Satan, sin, and death.

This day of Christ's conception is directly tied to the dating of all the Church celebrations surrounding Christ's birth (Visitation, Advent, Christmas, Circumcision and Naming, Epiphany, Presentation, Purification) as well as the dates the Church commemorates the events of the life of John the Baptizer.

When the Date for Annunciation Is Known to Have Been Established


This is one of the earliest commemorations for which we have documentary evidence. The celebration of Annunciation on March 25 is common to the Eastern and Western Church. And the choice of the date is directly related to Easter and the calendar date of the year when the Church believed the world was created.

Up to now the earliest documentary evidence that March 25th was celebrated as the date on which Christ was conceived comes from Clement of Alexandria:

Clement of Alexandria wrote his “Stromata” during the period 193-215 AD: Clement wrote. [Stromata 1.21.145-146 ]



γίνονται οὖν ἀφ' οὗ ὁ κύριος ἐγεννήθη
ἕως Κομόδου τελευτῆς τὰ πάντα
ἔτη ρ δʹ μὴν εἷς ἡμέ ραι ιγʹ.
εἰσὶ δὲ οἱ περιεργότερον
τῇ γενέσει τοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν
οὐ μόνον τὸ ἔτος,
ἀλλὰ καὶ τὴν ἡμέραν προστιθέντες,
ἥν φασιν
  ἔτους κηʹ Αὐγούστου
ἐν πέμπτῃ Παχὼν καὶ εἰκάδι. ...
τό τε πάθος αὐτοῦ ἀκριβολογούμενοι φέρουσιν
οἳ μέν τινες
τῷ ἑκκαιδεκάτω ἔτει Τιβερίου Καίσαρος
Φαμενὼθ κεʹ,
οἳ δὲ Φαρμουθὶ κεʹ·
ἄλλοι δὲ
Φαρμουθὶ ιθʹ πεπονθέναι τὸν σωτῆρα λέγουσιν.
ναὶ μήν τινες αὐτῶν φασι
Φαρμουθὶ γεγενῆσθαι κδʹ ἢ κεʹ.
From the birth of Christ, therefore,
to the death of Commodus are, altogether,
194 years, 1 month, 13 days.
And there are those who have determined
our Savior’s genesis
not only the year,
but even the day, which they say took place
in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus
on the 25th of Pachon…
And treating of his passion, with very great accuracy,
some say that it took place
in the sixteenth year of Tiberius,
on the 25th of Phamenoth,
but others the 25th of Pharmuthi
and others say
on the 19th of Pharmuthi the Savior suffered.
Indeed, others say
that he came to be on the 24th or 25th of Pharmuthi.”

As noted in a previous article in this series on Christmas: The important line is τῇ γενέσει τοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν “our Savior's genesis.” The month of Pachon in the Egyptian calendar at that time corresponded to March in the Julian Calendar.

Christ’s genesis, or conception on the 25th of Pachon was in what our calendar would equate with March 25th. ANF 2:333 translates “birth” rather than “conception”. The translation of “genesis” as conception is consistent with Clement's usage of this word in other contexts, for example:

“It is not therefore frequent intercourse by the parents, but the reception of it [the seed] in the womb which corresponds with genesis.” (Clement of Alexandria Stromata 3.12.83.2)
Consider also Hippolytus's use in Against All Heresies:
“They draw [a horoscope] from the genesis of the people who are being examined from unquestionably the depositing of the seed and conception or from birth.” (Against All Heresies 4.3.5)
For more information on the interpretation of γενέσει as “conception” see http://chronicon.net/blog/chronology/hippolytus-and-the-original-date-of-christmas/

This also is a bit of repetition from the articles on Christmas, but another example from the same period is Hippolytus of Rome (170 – 235).

Between the years 202 and 211 A.D. the Church Father Hippolytus wrote in his Commentary on Daniel (section 4.23.3) about the date of the birth of Christ: which would place the conception or Annunciation 9 months prior.

Ἡ γὰρ πρώτη παρουσία τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν ἡ ἔνσαρκος,
ἐν ᾗ γεγέννηται ἐν Βηθλεέμ,
ἐγένετο πρὸ ὀκτὼ καλανδῶν
ἰανουαρίω
ν,
ἡμέρᾳ τετράδι,
βασιλεύοντος Αὐγούστου
τεσσαρακοστὸν καὶ δεύτερον ἔτος,
ἀπὸ δὲ Ἀδὰμ πεντακισχιλιοστῷ
καὶ πεντακοσιοστῷ ἔτει·
ἔπαθεν δὲ τριακοστῷ τρίτῳ ἔτει
πρὸ ὀκτὼ καλανδῶν ἀπριλίων,
ἡμέρᾳ παρασκευῇ,
ὀκτωκαιδεκάτῳ ἔτει Τιβερίου Καίσαρος
For the first advent of our Lord in the flesh,
when he was born in Bethlehem,
which happened eight days before the kalends
of January [December 25th
],
on the 4th day of the week [Wednesday],
while Augustus was reigning
in his forty-second year,
but from Adam five thousand
and five hundred years.
He suffered in the thirty third year,
8 days before the kalends of April [March 25th],
the Day of Preparation
the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesaer

(The Greek text can be found Here and in volume 9 of Migne'sPatrologia Gracae)

This evidence from Hippolytus of Rome shows that by the end of the 2nd century, the same era as Clement of Alexandria, Christians in Europe as well as Africa recognized March 25th as the date of Christ's Conception or Incarnation.

The significance of March 25th was threefold: The Church Fathers thought the world was created on that day. They believed Christ was conceived on that day, and they commemorated Christ's passion as being originally on that day. The theological significance for the commemoration of this date was great.

The Attacks


The dates the Church chose to commemorate the Annunciation and Christmas have been under attack from the time of the Puritans in the 17th century A.D. Increase Mather's attack on the dates of the Annunciation and of Christmas included the accusation that the date of Christmas was of pagan origin. However, as we have seen in previous articles, the attacks of the Puritans are shown to be false. The dates the Church chose to commemorate the Annunciation and Christmas were chosen earlier in history than most of the pagan practices listed by Mather can be shown to have existed. Some of the pagan practices listed by Mather were not related to the dates in any way and actually had no bearing on the choice of days for commemorating Annunciation or Christmas.

In the mid-19th century the attack against these Christian liturgical festivals was renewed by Bishop Alexaner Hislop and other authors who tried through fake historical research to demonstrate that all liturgical practice and liturgical days of commemoration in the historic liturgical practices of the church were stolen from or derived from mystery religions in ancient Babylonia. Hislop and his followers were just as rabidly anti-Roman Catholic as their Puritan predecessors.

In the late 19th century and through the 20th century another movement based on Modernism tried to demonstrate that the historical liturgical practices of the Church were stolen or adapted or evolved from pagan sources through cultural and sociological factors of religious conquest, assimilation and syncretism. These authors generally follow after Joseph McCabe's St. Augustine and His Age, p. 128 and Sir James George Frazer's The Golden Bough. These attacks are basically repetitions of Mather and Hislop. The only difference is the addition of secularism.

More recently, the iconography of the Annunciation has been used by Erich von Däniken and his followers in an effort to prove that the earth was visited or even seeded by space aliens.

Increase Mather

Mather (Testimony, ch. 3, §4) seems to conflate "incarnation" (i.e., "conception") with "birth" in his reading of his selected sources. One of his main arguments against the traditional dates of Annunciation and Christmas is based on his ignorance of the climate in the region of Bethlehem. This applies to Mather's claims both the shepherds and the timing of the census.

Mather's main argument that Jewish Rabbis claim that the Messiah should be born sometime near the Feast of Tabernacles (Tishri 15=Gregorian: late September to late October), and that the rabbis make fun of Christians for thinking that the Messiah could have been born in December. This is conclusive evidence for Mather: i.e., since those Rabbis say so, it must be true. Therefore the Christ could not have been conceived in March or born in December.

But what is at issue here is not when the events actually happened. What is at issue is when did the Church first begin commemoration of these dates.

Mather's objections include claims that December 25th was a pagan celebration usurped by the Church, but we have demonstrated elsewhere that each of Mather's specific claims lack any historical merit.

March 25th has been established as the date of the Annunciation since the end of the 2nd century A.D.

Alexander Hislop (1853ff) 

This man was so full of hatred for the Roman Catholic Church that he actually became heretical in how he wrote about Christ. His claims about Babylonian background for the liturgical practice of the church are purely fiction. The deciphering of Babylonian writing was only in its infancy when Hislop made these claims. Based on his fictitious Babylonian history he claimed to have demonstrated that Christ born of the Virgin Mary is a pagan invention from Babylon. He continued on the theme of the Annunciation in the following words:

The Two Babylons Chapter 3 section 1
There can be no doubt, then, that the Pagan festival at the winter solstice--in other words, Christmas--was held in honour of the birth of the Babylonian Messiah.
The consideration of the next great festival in the Popish calendar gives the very strongest confirmation to what has now been said. That festival, called Lady-day, is celebrated at Rome on the 25th of March, in alleged commemoration of the miraculous conception of our Lord in the womb of the Virgin, on the day when the angel was sent to announce to her the distinguished honour that was to be bestowed upon her as the mother of the Messiah. But who could tell when this annunciation was made? The Scripture gives no clue at all in regard to the time. But it mattered not. But our Lord was either conceived or born, that very day now set down in the Popish calendar for the "Annunciation of the Virgin" was observed in Pagan Rome in honour of Cybele, the Mother of the Babylonian Messiah. *
A couple of comments:
  1. Hislop states: "The Scripture gives no clue at all in regard to the time." This is patently false. Luke 1:5-12 record that John the Baptizer's father was of the family of Abijah, it was his turn to be in the temple to offer the incense.
  2. Hislop stated: "that very day now set down in the Popish calendar for the 'Annunciation of the Virgin' was observed in Pagan Rome in honour of Cybele, the Mother of the Babylonian Messiah." 

In response to this second claim, no dates for this festival are recorded in Ovid's Fasti or any early Roman calendars that I could find. Even by the late 280s AD when the holiday is mentioned in the life of Severus Alexander in the Historia Augustana there is no mention of date. The Chronography of 354 AD. Part 6: the calendar of Philocalus is the earliest dating of the associated festival of Hilaria to March 25 I could find. However, the earliest sources which tie together Christ, Holy Week, Mary and Annunciation with Cybele and Attis appear to date from Damascius (458 AD died after 538 AD).

So, far from pre-dating the Church's commemoration on March 25, the sources with specific dates actually come after the date had been selected. 

This information makes the nature of Hislops deceptive "notes" more clear. His note on the above passage follows:
* AMMIANUS MARCELLINUS, and MACROB., Sat. The fact stated in the paragraph above casts light on a festival held in Egypt, of which no satisfactory account has yet been given. That festival was held in commemoration of "the entrance of Osiris into the moon." Now, Osiris, like Surya in India, was just the Sun. (PLUTARCH, De Iside et Osiride) The moon, on the other hand, though most frequently the symbol of the god Hermes or Thoth, was also the symbol of the goddess Isis, the queen of heaven. The learned Bunsen seems to dispute this; but his own admissions show that he does so without reason. And Jeremiah 44:17 seems decisive on the subject. The entrance of Osiris into the moon, then, was just the sun's being conceived by Isis, the queen of heaven, that, like the Indian Surya, he might in due time be born as the grand deliverer. Hence the very name Osiris; for, as Isis is the Greek form of H'isha, "the woman," so Osiris, as read at this day on the Egyptian monuments, is He-siri, "the seed." It is no objection to this to say that Osiris is commonly represented as the husband of Isis; for, as we have seen already, Osiris is at once the son and husband of his mother. Now, this festival took place in Egypt generally in March, just as Lady-day, or the first great festival of Cybele, was held in the same month in Pagan Rome. We have seen that the common title of Cybele at Rome was Domina, or "the lady" (OVID, Fasti), as in Babylon it was Beltis (EUSEB. Praep. Evang.), and from this, no doubt, comes the name "Lady-day" as it has descended to us.
One will look in vain for the specific passages to which Hislop pretends to refer. Notice that except for Jer 44:17, all of the references are made to large works without specifying book, chapter, paragraph, page, or edition. Hislop wanted to lend the appearance of studious scholarship but did not want to get caught. He gave no specific references. The names Hislop mentions are mentioned in Macrobius, Plutarch, Ovid, and Eusebeus. But there are no dates.

Hislop's etymologizing "Isis is the Greek form of H'isha, 'the woman,'" and "Osiris, as read at this day on the Egyptian monuments, is He-siri, 'the seed.'" are complete fictions. It is also noteworthy that Hislop is not concerned about consistency in his own argument or with historical accuracy when he comes to etymologizing this name again to try to make Isis equal to Ishtar equal to Ashtora and equal to Easter. 

Hislop also claims that "Osiris is at once the son and husband of his mother." Actually he was husband and brother of Isis; he was the son of Geb and Nut. And his wife/sister, Isis, bore his son not by means of virgin birth byt by taking his dismembered body and reconstructing his membrum phallum to impregnate herself and bear Horus.

It should be fairly clear at this point that neither Mather nor Hislop had truth as their goal. Their goal was to discredit historical liturgical practices used by the Roman Church.

The Space Seed UFOlogists and the Annunciation

History Channel's Ancient Aliens and other shows have given Erich von Däniken popularity again, when it finally seemed like the notion of prehistoric space aliens had finally worn out its welcome.

One of the lines of evidence used by the UFO hunters is the artwork of the Christian Church--particularly when there are things that look like lasers coming from the sky.

Any painting, image, or artwork that has a ray coming from heaven or a depiction of Jerusalem sitting on the clouds is automatically re-interpreted as evidence of UFOs and aliens.

Take particularly this example made at a UFO website: The Annunciation by Carlo Crivelli, 1486.

All of the symbols, the cloud, the ray of light, the dove with rays of light, and the bowed Virgin all are intended to represent the text of Luke 1. But the images are now re-interpreted as if the cloud is a spaceship, and the light is some kind of high tech ray beam.

Summary


What we have seen is that the date for the Annunciation was established very early, before the end of the 2nd century. That all the claims made by the Puritans and the later anti-Roman Catholic radicals are either inaccurate or deliberately false. And following the inventive fiction of Hislop today the UFO advocates are re-inventing their own fictive history about why Christian art about the Annunciation is painted with the symbolism it has.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Gutting the Lord's Prayer

Sometimes the familiar Scripture we grew up with is given such a bizarre twist that we are caught off guard. People tend to be trusting of something that looks like it is researched and has a seemingly sound explanation.

Ironically, the more bizarre the twisting, it seems the more people cling to it.

The following is an example of how the Lord's Prayer was gutted and twisted by something pretending to be a scholarly source.

I picked up the San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensamble (SAVAE) compact disc titled Ancient Echoes several years ago.

SAVAE intended to study A.Z. Idelsohn's musicology and create an album that made what could possibly have been the way music, particularly religious music, might possibly could have sounded like in the time of Jesus' sacrificial ministry.

The instrumentation is "mostly" reconstructed period pieces. The melodies and the modes along with harmonies are "mostly" imagined.

But it's a pretty good set of musical pieces even as a collection of creative anachronisms.

It was the explanation of one particular piece in the CD booklet that caught my attention. The third cut is titled Abwoon (O Father-Mother of the Cosmos) The Aramaic Lord's Prayer.

OK, let's be clear. The Lord's Prayer in Aramaic does not say "Mother of the Cosmos" anywhere. So I open the booklet to read what they say about this piece.

3. ABWOON (FATHER-MOTHER OF THE COSMOS) The Aramaic Lord's Prayer

Text from the Aramaic Peshitta, Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4
Chant composed in the Ancient Dorian Mode by Christopher Moroney-Improvised solo by Covita Moroney.

Aramaic is a Middle Eastern language that was the native tongue of Jesus of Nazareth, and common to the Israel/Palestine region during the first century C.E. This musical setting of the prayer of Jesus--sometimes called the Lord's Prayer--includes traditional Middle Eastern percussion, rhythms, and improvisational modal chanting. All the Semitic Languages--including Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic--use a root system that allows one word to hold multiple meanings. Thus, a tradition of translation arose in the Middle East that led to each word of a prophet being considered on many different levels of meaning.


O Birther! Father-Mother of the Cosmos,
focus your light within us. Create your reign of unity now.
Your one desire then acts with ours,
as in all light, so in all forms.
Grant what we need each day in bread and insight.
Loose the cords of mistakes binding us,
as we release the strands we hold of others' guilt.
Don't let surface things delude us,
but free us from what holds us back.
From You is born all ruling will, the power and the life to do,
the song that beautifies all, from age to age it renews.
Truly--power to these statements--may they be the ground
from which all our actions grow. Amen.

(Translation of the Aramaic Lord's Prayer from Desert Wisdom by Neil Douglas-Kloz 1995)
Here is a rendition of the Lord's Prayer that could make it as a part of the musical Hair--even Shaggy and Scooby could get behind this!
Aquarius


Apart from the dismissive "sometimes called the Lord's Prayer" the booklet's description of the way Semitic Languages work is a trivializing inaccuracy that highlights the abuse of etymology in interpretation. The problem here being that this false view of language is used as an excuse to claim that the text offered here in place of the Lord's Prayer ought to be considered on the level of a translation. It is not. This so-called "translation" is a deliberate misrepresentation of the Lord's Prayer which was done to serve another purpose.

This strange interpretation is not due to any unique feature of Semitic languages (Aramaic, here). This strange translation does not have any basis in the Aramaic text of the Peshitta (the Aramaic Bible used by the Syrian Christian Church). The Aramaic text says the same thing the Greek text says, and the same thing the King James Version says. Nor is this strange interpretation due to any historically demonstrated tradition in the Syrian Christian Church (which uses Aramaic).

This strange interpretation is the work of Neil Douglas-Kloz. Kloz is the director of the Edinburgh Institute for Advanced Learning in Edinburgh, Scotland (EIAL). That's a really impressive sounding name. Actually they are a religious institution designed to promote a multi-religious approach to personal political action. An approach which, of course, excludes Creedal Christianity. From their web page:
EIAL offers education and sponsorship for learning opportunities in applied spirituality, that is, the application of spiritual practice and experience to everyday life: peace studies, ecology and psychology. We distinguish “spirituality,” which has to do with human experiences, from “religion,” which has to do with organizational belief and structure. We believe that spritualilty and holistic education are best conducted in a context that includes:
  • Soma and Psyche: the human relationship to being embodied: breath, flesh, perception of movement, sensation, emotion, intuition, vision and dream.
  • Ecos: the human relationship to its home communities, which include both nature and culture, as well as the influence that each can have on the other.
  • Art and Creativity: the human relationship to creativity,which emulates that of the cosmos itself, and leads to a natural sense of ecological, social and moral responsibility, revealing the purpose in life of each human being.
  • Devotion: the human relationship to relationship itself: the recognition that “I” am not alone, “you” are not alone; that “I” and “you” are, as the Sufi poet Shabistari wrote, only “delicate holes cut in a lampshade” revealing the light of intelligence itself. A religionist might call this “God” (or “Goddess”); an atheist might call it “the eternally evolving nature of matter.” These names are themselves only more holes in the lampshade.
  • Action: Real reseach [sic] is action research: learning as one goes along and taking responsibility for the social and political impact of one's study and experience.
In his own biography Klotz emphasizes the influence of Edgar Cayce upon him as he grew up in a "freethinking" and "devout" family.  Critical in his development was his initiation into Sufism:
Beginning in 1976, Klotz was very privileged to study with the early students of the American Hebrew/Sufi mystic Samuel L. Lewis, who introduced him to the body prayer meditations called the Dances of Universal Peace. [Bio]
 His own projects include the incorporation of spiritual dance with his re-interpretation of prayers from almost any source. The projects include the above mentioned EIAL, International Network for the Dances of Universal Peace, Edinbrugh International Festival of Middle Eastern Spirituality and Peace, and the Abwoon Resource Center.

My reason for bringing out the background of the man who created this rendition of the Lord's Prayer is to highlight that integrity to the original text and original meaning had no bearing on Klotz' translation. Quite simply, the original intent was irrelevant. What he produced was a lyric of anti-Christian Newage ecumenism and Socialist politics.

This is just one example of how the world twists God's Word for its own purposes. The old question is still the question at the heart of the matter: "Did God really say...?" When it sounds different, go back to the Scripture.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Just Relax, A Little Liquid Drano Won’t Hurt Anyone

An excellent article on the problem of allowing "just a little" bad doctrine into the Christian message and Church, by Rev. Dr. Matthew Richard, pastor at Zion Lutheran Church of Gwinner, ND: LC-MS.

"gas-mask-pictogram-5-1102838-mI can recall hearing, as a first year seminarian, one of my professors criticize Pastor Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life. Upon hearing this critical assessment, I was deeply angered. I thought that his actions were severely inappropriate and that it was not proper to disparage another fellow Christian who was simply attempting to promote the Christian faith. From my reasoning, the presence of a Christian voice was better than the absence of a Christian voice and it was certainly better than a voice speaking contrary to Christian truths. Even though my professor took the time to show me the countless errors in Warren’s book, I still concluded that a faulty Christian voice was better than no Christian voice at all. Besides, I felt that is was rude, insincere, and un-ecumenical to criticize those within the Christian sphere; we are all on the same team after all trying to do our best for God.

The problem with my rationalization was that I believed that a Christian voice with small and subtle doctrinal errors was more advantageous and less of a concern than a voice that was obviously unchristian or a message that lacked a Christian message altogether. To me, subtle and small errors were less of a concern than obvious and blatant errors. I said to myself, “Why sweat the small stuff; why fuss over small errors that might upset the unity of a Christian community? Why quibble over every pixel of God’s excellent picture?”

It was not until several years later that my faulty view was finally exposed and reversed. I can remember it so vividly. I had graduated from seminary and had taken several church youth to a conference. At the conference, the speaker gave a lesson while he baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies. In his presentation he had several youth add flour, vanilla, chocolate, and eggs into a mixing bowl. Right before they were going to mix the ingredients together, the speaker subtly announced that he was going to add a teaspoon of drain cleaning Liquid Drano to the ingredients in the bowl. He said it quietly, did it quickly, and kept talking. Surprisingly, several of the youth sitting in the pews really did not even catch it. At the end of his session, ...Read the Rest at Steadfast Lutherans

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Luther's Small Catechism and Lent

Dr. Martin Luther's Small Catechism has been associated with the season of Lent since the time Luther first published in chart in time for Lent in 1529.
In his sermon of March 25, 1529, he says: "This exhortation ought not only to move us older ones, but also the young and the children. Therefore you parents ought to instruct and educate them in the doctrine of the Lord: the Decalog, the Creed, the Prayer, and the Sacraments. Such children ought also to be admitted to the Table that they may be partakers" [of the Lord's Supper]. (W. 30, 1, 233.)
(Bente, Historical Introductions, IX sec. 104 )
Our parish is one of many that has a long standing practice of reviewing one chief part each week during the Lenten season. In our practice the Catechism is read responsively in the mid-week services: with the Pastor reading the headings and questions, the congregation responding with the text of the Catechism. This is coordinated with hymns thematic to that part of the Small Catechism as well as a homily on the Scripture from which that part of the Small Catechism is drawn. In his Short Preface to the Large Catechism, Luther wrote:
For you must not rely upon it that the young people will learn and retain these things from the sermon alone. 25] When these parts have been well learned, you may, as a supplement and to fortify them, lay before them also some psalms or hymns, which have been composed on these parts, and thus lead the young into the Scriptures, and make daily progress therein. (Short Preface, 24-25)
 Our general outline for this yearly practice is as follows:
  • Ash Wednesday: The Ten Commandments-The Law Of God
  • Lent 1 Wednesday: The Creed-The Gospel of God
  • Lent 2 Wednesday: The Lord's Prayer-The Response of Faith
  • Lent 3 Wednesday: The Sacrament of Baptism
  • Lent 4 Wednesday: The Office of the Keys and Confession
  • Lent 5 Wednesday: The Sacrament of the Altar
  • Maundy Thursday: Christian Questions and Answers

This schedule misses two parts: Daily Prayers, and The Table of Duties. These are covered elsewhere in the Church Year (Daily Prayers on Easter 6: Rogate, Table of Duties on Trinity 23).

The Structure of the Catechism and Teaching


While teaching the parts of the Catechism it is important to keep the whole in mind to understand how the parts relate to each other and why they are there.

How the Parts Work Together


The division of the Small Catechism into six chief parts plus the three extra parts gives us a convenient mnemonic device.

That mnemonic device is, The Trinity and the Number 3.

One can remember that there are three sections of the Small Catechism with Three Parts each.
  • The first section focusing on the What of the Christian Faith.
  • The second section focusing on the How and Where of the Christian Faith. 
  • The third section focusing on the Application of the Christian Faith.

 The First Section: The "What" of the Christian Faith

The first section holds the first three chief parts, which consist of
  • The Ten Commandments
  • The Creed (Three Article)
  • The Lord's Prayer (Seven Petitions)

These parts all are quotations from Scripture.

The Commandments are from Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5; the Creed is a narrative chaining of quotations from many different passages through Scripture; and the Lord's Prayer is found in Matthew 6 and Luke 11.

In this first section we do not ask the question "Where is this written?" So when the Three Chief Parts of this section are taught, we should point to the chapters and verses where these teachings are written down. Pastors should be able to do this from memory. There are many different places where lists of passages for each of the phrases of the Creed are given. (See, for example Norm Fisher's The Nicene Creed According To Scripture which applies to the Apostles' Creed as well)

This first section gathers the teaching of Scripture on the substance of the Christian Faith: The What. So we ask "What does this mean?"

In three consecutive sections we are confronted with the Law, The Gospel, and the Response of Faith.

The Ten commandments teach us about the problem we have with God and our neighbor. This is the Law.

The Creed teaches us about the solution God provides through the Father's creation, providence, preservation and the specific saving work of the Son of God Incarnate for us; and the work of the Holy Spirit in calling us into this faith and preserving us in this faith until the resurrection.

The Lord's Prayer is where Christ teaches us how faith in Him responds to God's Grace. Because we have been made alive and declared innocent through faith in Christ, we are now His brothers and sisters by this divine adoption. We may now call Christ's Father "Our" Father. An unbeliever may use the words of the Lord's Prayer, but an unbeliever never can pray to the Heavenly Father. For prayer is a response of faith in Christ alone.

Error creeps in when one or more of these three parts is replaced with something else--as when God's work of eternal redemption is reduced to a formula for some benefit in this world, or when the Law is taught as a means of salvation, or when some Commandment is ignored or a statement of the Creed is denied.

Error also creeps in when the proper relationship and balance between these three parts is changed--as when the Law and Gospel are confused or not properly distinguished, or when prayer is made into something other than simply the Christian's response of faith.

Luther wrote of the three parts of this first section in the Preface to the Large Catechism:
15] These are the most necessary parts which one should first learn to repeat word for word, 16] and which our children should be accustomed to recite daily when they arise in the morning, when they sit down to their meals, and when they retire at night; and until they repeat them, they should be given neither food nor drink. 17] Likewise every head of a household is obliged to do the same with respect to his domestics, man-servants and maid-servants, and not to keep them in his house if they do not know these things and are unwilling to learn them. 18] For a person who is so rude and unruly as to be unwilling to learn these things is not to be tolerated; for in these three parts everything that we have in the Scriptures is comprehended in short, plain, and simple terms. 19] For the holy Fathers or apostles (whoever they were) have thus embraced in a summary the doctrine, life, wisdom, and art of Christians, of which they speak and treat, and with which they are occupied.

The Second Section: The "How" and "Where" of the Christian Faith

The second section consists of the next trio: the teachings on
  • Baptism, 
  • The Office of the Keys and Confession, and 
  • The Lord's Super. 
These are the Gifts given by Christ that we call the Means of Grace. That is, these are the ways Christ said is "How" He gives us faith, the forgiveness of sins, and everlasting life. These gifts of Christ show us "Where" we may find God's grace. So we ask "Where is this written?"

In this second section we are directed to the very words Christ spoke when He gave His promise of grace and forgiveness through these Means of Grace. Attached to these words in Scripture is His promise that these gifts are what He says they are, and that He actually gives and does what He promises through these gifts.

Each of these three parts brings us to focus on the Scripture that shows that these Means of Grace are not works that we do to participate in or earn our salvation. The Scripture cited shows that these Means: Baptism, the Keys, and the Supper are God's works for us and among us.

Christian faith is built only by God. God promises He will create and sustain faith through these visible Means. He gives us these gifts in His written Word. And these gifts are His visible/audible application of that same Gospel.

Error creeps in when an individual does not believe the promise Christ gave and recorded for us in Scripture about these Gifts. When we doubt God's Word about how He gives grace, forgiveness, and eternal life through these gifts of Word and Sacrament, then we are despising God's grace. This happens when people view the Means of Grace as merely symbols of God's love rather than as the actual Means where God says He gives His grace.

Error creeps in when Baptism, Absolution, and the Supper are twisted into works of human righteousness rather than God's works for sinful humans. That is, what the Bible says about the work and grace of God in these gifts is denied when we think of the Sacraments as things we do to show God that we are sincere, dedicated, or obedient people.

These gifts, the Means of Grace, are the heart and center of the assembling of believers for the Divine Service. Baptism, the Office of the Keys and Confession, and the Lord's Supper are, in fact, the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. These gifts are the only God' given Means through which God says He gives us His grace. And His Word and Sacrament are the only place we can go to grow in faith in God, and in knowledge of His will and promise.

Do you wish to know how to find God? Where can we seek His grace and kindness?

Here is where God says His grace may be sought. Here is where He promised to be found. This is how He builds you up, creates faith, forgives, and causes you to inherit eternal life.

The Third Section: The Application to Our Lives

The third section contains the final set of three:
  • Daily Prayer
  • The Table of Duties
  • Christian Questions and Answers
This section focuses on the application of Law and Gospel and of the Means of Grace upon our every day life as Christians living in the fallen world and waiting for the Resurrection.

As an application, these three parts are essentially describing how a the faith of a Christian responds to God's grace under the Cross of Christ. The threefold presentation of this response of faith is arranged in a way that shows how the application of our faith in life directs us to focus back again to the Means of Grace as the place where God comes to us to give us life, forgiveness, and redemption.

First, we are directed to develop the Christian habit of prayer every day combined with learning from God's Word and reflecting on the Law and the Gospel.

Second, in the Table of Duties we are directed to Scripture so we can understand our every day calling and duties as citizens in of the three main kinds of authority God has established: Church, State, and Household. Here we learn from Scripture the nature and limits of these kinds of authority, and our obligations as we live in each of these separate estates.

And third, The Christian Questions and Answers bring us to recognize our need for God's grace to us, to encourage us and prepare us for a Scriptural trust and regular reliance upon that Grace given to us in the Lord's Supper.

This section highlights life under the Cross of Christ and the source for our life. It directs us to live lives of thanksgiving for God's grace to us both in His providence and in His saving Grace through Christ.

In this part we are directed not to hope that this life is all there is, but that through Christ and His Means of Grace God does secure us for the resurrection to eternal life.

Lent and the Small Catechism

In our parish, as Lent begins on Ash Wednesday with a call to repentance, the First Chief Part-The Ten Commandments, are read responsively. The call to repentance is based in the actual declaration of the Law of God and not upon any contrived law or regulation of sinful man.

As the season progresses so also the whole counsel of God is presented leading to the focus in the last week upon the Lord's Supper. On Maundy Thursday the Christian Questions and Answers are read responsively as part of the Exhortation for the Lord's Supper.

All of this is preparation for four things: first is to help us properly focus on the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ, the benefits of which we receive through the Means of Grace. Second is to help us to appreciate the great salvation the Eternal God won for us by His incarnation, humiliation, and conquest of Satan, sin and death. Third, is the help prepare us for this life or repentance and dependence upon God alone under the cross-in the case that Christ does not call us home. And last, to help prepare us for our death and resurrection, that we may be dressed in the bridal gown of our Baptisms in Christ's righteousness and not our own as we are called before the throne to be with Him in eternity.

The teaching of Scripture summarized in the Small Catechism is vital, essential. Luther wrote of the importance of continued study and learning of the Catechism in this way:
But those who are unwilling to learn it should be told that they deny Christ and are no Christians, neither should they be admitted to the Sacrament, accepted as sponsors at baptism, nor exercise any part of Christian liberty, but should simply be turned back to the Pope and his officials, yea, to the devil himself. Moreover, their parents and employers should refuse them food and drink, and [they would also do well if they were to] notify them that the prince will drive such rude people from the country, etc.
For although we cannot and should not force any one to believe, yet we should insist and urge the people that they know what is right and wrong with those among whom they dwell and wish to make their living. For whoever desires to reside in a town must know and observe the town laws, the protection of which he wishes to enjoy, no matter whether he is a believer or at heart and in private a rogue or knave.
(Preface to the Small Catechism)

Monday, March 03, 2014

Redeeming Holy Days: Ash Wednesday-Lent

Redeeming Holy Days from Pagan Lies: Ash Wednesday-Lent

Image via Wikipedia
Fałat Julian
Ash Wednesday, watercolor, 78 x 113 cm (detail)
So, what are the supposed pagan origins of Ash Wednesday and Lent?

There are two aspects of Ash Wednesday and Lent that need to be emphasized. First is the historical nature of the forty days of Lent; the second is the use of ash on Ash Wednesday.

To put it plainly: the claim that Ash Wednesday and Lent are based on pagan origins is a relatively new fiction that comes out of several different sources.

First is the irresponsible work of Alexander Hislop and those who followed him; both those who claim to be Christian and those who oppose Christianity.

Second is the neo-pagan movement today that falsely imagines that paganism is the most ancient of religions and rejects the Bible totally. But, in fact, Lent and Ash Wednesday have no origins in paganism.

You will find all kinds of websites on the Internet that claim that Ash Wednesday and Lent are not Biblical because Christ never commanded them.

In part this is true. And Satan likes to use truth to give credibility to his lies.

Christ didn't command any such celebration. Christ did not command His followers to celebrate Ash Wednesday. Nor did he command that we worship on Sunday. Nor did He command that we sing “Rock of Ages.” Nor did he command that we use chairs or pews when we gather.

The false logic is this: If Christ didn't specifically command us to do something, then it is a sin to do it. So, think about how little sense that logic makes. Take this example: Christ did not command that I have my children wash dishes. Is it therefore a sin to have them do so? No.

What Christ did command and give to His Church was that the Word of God be preached for the remission of sins; that is, that the Law and the Gospel be taught, so people would be brought to repentance; and that faith in Christ would be given to them. He commanded that sins be forgiven in His name through the absolution to penitent sinners and withheld from the impenitent as long as they do not repent. He commanded that all nations, young and old, regardless of race be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. He commanded that we celebrate the feast of His Holy Supper where He gives us His Body and Blood together with the bread and wine in the Sacrament for the forgiveness of our sins. He gave us the promise that the Father hears our prayers in Christ's name because He has made us His brothers and sisters through the forgiveness of sins—won for us on the cross and distributed to us through Word and Sacrament. The prayer and celebration of these gifts can be held any day.

The ancient Church recognized that it was free from legalistic obligations, both from the Old Testament Law, and from new invented laws of men. As St. Paul wrote in Colossians 2. They also knew from Scripture that they were not to use this liberty as an excuse for sin. (Romans 6) They knew that they were not to let their consciences be bound by new human regulations as if their salvation depended upon them. (Galatians 1-2) Whatever was beneficial for the teaching of God's word and for the practice of the Christian life-consisting of repentance and forgiveness in the Means of Grace-was encouraged.

And the ancient Church chose to keep a fast during the forty days before Passover/Easter to focus on repentance and the gift of the Resurrection at Easter. St. Athanasius, who led at the Council of Nicea to defeat Arianism—a denial of Christ being truly God and man in one person—was a bishop in Alexandria, Egypt. He wrote annual Festival letters to the Church as they prepared to celebrate Easter. In the year 331 he wrote in order to encourage his congregations in Egypt to keep the Lenten fast for 40 days. Athanasius directs the readers to many Scriptural examples and exhortations to moderation, self-control, and fasting for repentance, Athanasius gives several Bible examples of the 40 day fast, especially of Christ's 40 day fast, after which Athanasius wrote:
“The beginning of the fast of forty days is on the fifth of the month Phamenoth (we call Ash Wednesday); and when, as I have said, we have first been purified and prepared by those days, we begin the holy week of the great Easter on the tenth of the month Pharmuthi (Palm Sunday), in which, my beloved brethren, we should use more prolonged prayers, and fastings, and watchings, that we may be enabled to anoint our lintels with precious blood, and to escape the destroyer (Exod. xii. 7, 23.). Let us rest then, on the fifteenth of the month Pharmuthi (Easter Sunday Eve), for on the evening of that Saturday we hear the angels’ message, ‘Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is risen (Luke xxiv. 5).’ Immediately afterwards that great Sunday receives us, I mean on the sixteenth of the same month Pharmuthi (Easter Sunday morning), on which our Lord having risen, gave us peace towards our neighbours.
We learn from this that even at the time the Nicene Creed was written, at the time Constantine the Great ruled, the Western and Eastern Churches practiced a voluntary fast for 40 days before Easter.

That this was practiced in Rome and elsewhere is seen in St. Athanasius' letter from the year 340 A.D. when he returns from a meeting of pastors/bishops from all around the world, and he encourages his own congregations to continue in the same practice of the 40 day Lenten fast as does “the rest of the whole world.”

In order to count the 40 days of Lent the Sundays of that season are not counted as part of the fast. Rather the Sundays are each a minor feast day. If you add the six feast Sundays to the 40 fast days you get 46 days. That means that the first day of the Fast of Lent is a Wednesday, just as Athanasius explained.

The 40 day fast does not come from the so-called “weeping of Tammuz” as claimed by the radical anti-Roman Catholic writer Alexander Hislop in his book The Two Babylons. Hislop made up myths and connections out of thin air because of his hatred for Roman Catholicism. Hislop's views were adopted whole cloth by the Jehovah's Witnesses, who continued to republish Hislop's book until 1987. Hislop's book was cited in 22 different issues of the Jehova's Witnesses periodical The Watchtower from 1950 to 1978, and several times in the 1980s. From 1989 the Jehova's Witnesses stopped referring to Hilsop's book, but they have kept Hislop's teaching and use other sources.

The month of Tammuz in Old Testament times is roughly equivalent to our July. To the best evidence, that was when the Babylonian pagans, and the fallen Israelites mentioned in Ezekiel 8:14 would “weep for Tammuz”. Also, this weeping took place on the second day of that month, right after the new moon. Not for forty days.

Two basic facts: 1) The weeping for Tammuz was not a 40 day thing. That is Hislop's fiction. 2) The month of Tammuz is 4 months after Easter. They aren't even in the same time of year. ( From the The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature: Inana and Bilulu: an ulila to Inana: c.1.4.4 English Translation)

Many websites claim that the use of ashes on Ash Wednesday comes from pagan sources.

The ironic thing is that these websites cannot get their own stories straight. Some people assert that the ashes and Lent come from Nordic Odin worship, others that they come from pagan Roman cults, others that they come from ancient Hindu religions—and some try to maintain irrational combinations of the above very different imagined sources.

But ashes for Ash Wednesday do not come from any of these sources. The practice of believers using ashes to represent sorrow and repentance is well testified in the Bible. In the ancient world it was the natural formal response of those who are sorry for their sins:

For example:
  • Mordecay's repentance and the repentance of the Jews in exile; Esther 4:1,3 When Mordecai learned all that had happened, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city. He cried out with a loud and bitter cry. And in every province where the king’s command and decree arrived, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.
  • Job's repentance: Job 2:8 And he took for himself a potsherd with which to scrape himself while he sat in the midst of the ashes.
  • See also Isaiah 58:5; Jeremiah 6:26; Daniel 9:3; Jonah 3:6; and Christ's harsh words to the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida in Luke 10:13.

But didn't Jesus tell us not to put on a show while fasting? Yes, that's in Matthew chapter 6:
“Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
He said the same of prayer and of giving charitable gifts. His point is that these things should not be done as a show of righteousness. He did not prohibit praying in public or as a group in worship. He did not prohibit giving something publicly or to a group. And he did not prohibit using outward symbols of repentance like ashes.

What Christ condemned in these passages is thinking that we can show others how good, how sincere, how devout, and what kind of a Christian we are with these outward symbols. The ash on the forehead is a confession that the person is worth only ashes, has no righteousness, is not better than another, and needs God's grace if there is to be any hope for him or her.

Can the symbol be abused? Yes, of course it can. But that does not make it a bad symbol. Every gift of God can be abused by sinful people. We should expect that because of sin. So we should recognize that the ways that Christians choose in their freedom to celebrate God's gifts can also be misused.

So we see, first of all, that neither forty day fast of Lent nor the ashes of Ash Wednesday have anything to do with pagan origins. The use of ashes in the Christian faith as a sign of repentance is as old as Job, and probably older. It certainly is the outward act chosen by believers through out thousands of years, from the earliest times as outward sign to confess unworthiness and sin.

No human can require a Christian to use the fast of Lent as a saving work. A congregation can recommend the practice as a serious self-examination of one's own sin and sinful appetites; of one's own weaknesses. No human can require Christians to use ash on Ash Wednesday or any other day as a way of proving their faith.

And neither can any human forbid the use of the Lenten fast or the use of ashes either. Both are legalism, a replacing of the Gospel for a new law. The whole point of Ash Wednesday and the Lenten Fast is to look on ourselves as worthless and utterly needy: to look only upon Christ, to celebrate His feast in the Lord's Supper, preach His passion and death upon the cross, and proclaim the Resurrection of Christ as the final seal upon our salvation.

We should reject any fictionalizing about pagan origins of Lent or Ash Wednesday with both the truth of Scripture and real history.

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