Sunday, May 21, 2017

New Series: After the Reformation

Centennial anniversaries are all the rage in Western Catholic blogs this year, all of them foreboding anniversaries, too. Five centuries ago an Augustian monk with scruples and hemorrhoids entered into a dispute with Leo X. Three centuries ago some Franco-British cleric founded a lodge for like-minded, enlightened people. And one hundred years ago the Virgin Mary appeared to three children in a field in Portugal. It is the first of these anniversaries that elicited the other two, and it is this event which deserves some greater study.

The outward effects of the Reformation are well known. Swiss and German Catholicism devolved into fissiparous sects led by men who assumed the teaching authority of bishops, but who rejected the Sacramental authority there of. Henry VIII split from the Church for his divorce and Catholics became "the other" in England. Swedish and Norwegian Christianity took its own odd turn. The Reformation broke the Church's final authority in temporal matters and ushered in a new era of nationalism, colonialism, individualism, and, the first stage of political cancer, democracy.

But what of the lesser known influences of the Reformation? We have noted Geoffrey Hull's observation that the Reformation replaced Christian Europe with a series of European nations, the majority of which had Christian populations. Robert Nisbet drew attention to the replacement of "intermediary" institutions like the Church and guild with the absolute state and the lonely Christian believer. Much of this blog's early work compared protestant pietism with the Counter-Reformation liturgy and devotional life. Yet, there are other influences from the Reformation, and we hope to explore them throughout the rest of this year, namely: book printing, the objectification of Scripture, art and music, philosophy, and nationalistic politics. Stay tuned. It should be quite a year....

He couldn't have been talking about German music....


  1. Increasingly, Roman Catholic prelates have been praising Luther and his putative virtues and so ABS is really looking forward to your series with positive anticipation which is in welcome contrast to the fear and loathing ABS experiences as he anticipates additional public praise for this gnostic nut by progressive prelates.

    When it comes to this gnostic nut, Luther ought be remembered for his summation of Justification:

    I am ripe shit, and the world a gigantic asshole; then soon shall we part

    Luther's Works, 34,184 quote discovered by lay apologist, David Armstrong, and cited in the second book of Dr. Taylor Marshall's Trilogy, The Catholic Perspective on Paul.

    The other two books are The Crucified Rabbi and The Eternal City

  2. Excellent idea! I will anticipate it eagerly.
    I have read sections of Msgr. Grisar's Life of Luther and the relevant sections in Abbe' Daniel-Rops' Church history, the latter of which seemed more insightful and sympathetic, in the sense that Daniel-Rops presented Luther more as a human being and less as the "monster of the Counter-Reformation." Grisar, though, is of course far more detailed and provides very interesting insights of his own (e.g., the truth behind the "tower event").

  3. Also anticipating this series. Recently, I've been reading Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450-1650 (Yale University Press 2016, 920pgs.) by Carlos M.N. Eire. It's been so far a pretty good read, though he shows his ignorance at times, saying, among other things, basically that by condemning Jensen (the originator of Jansenism) the Roman authorities were actually condemning St. Augustine, though they didn't do it officially. I haven't finished, but it doesn't whitewash any side, Protestant or Catholic.

  4. Lutheranism destroyed church architecture in Germany, which had not yet absorbed the classical styles reintroduced in Italy and where Gothic architecuture was creative and in high demand.

  5. As to German music I would have thought the compositions of Praetorius, Sheidt, Schulz, Telemann, Handel and JSB, to name but a few, would suggest there is some very uplifting pieces to be heard.

  6. Praetorius, Scheidt and all others mentioned by Rubricarius lived and worked after Luther's death, so he can't have meant them. However, it is well-known that Luther was very fond of Josquin Desprez whom he called “der noten meister”, the master of notes.

    Also Luther was a musician himself: he had been singing as a choir boy since an early age in the latin school, had studied music besides theology and was well-known as a lutenist. Based on this and his compositorial output (e.g. translations of Office hymns such as “Nun komm der Heiden Heiland”, Veni redemptor gentium) he must have thought about Gregorian Chant, Polyphony and the vernacular hymns in use in Germany at that time (e.g. my favorite Easter hymn “Christ ist erstanden”, which dates from the 12th century).