Sunday, July 19, 2020

The year was 1688, and we remember Guisseppe Castiglione. The reading is the "Prayer of St Francis Xavier" by Alexander Pope.

It is the 19th of July 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at, I'm Dan van Voorhis.

The year was 1688.

We've covered part this year in the past. Of course, 1688 is burned into the brain of every English school child as the year of the Glorious Revolution. We will be staying to the east of the British Isles today. But one quick 1688 non-Revolution event in England was the opening of Lloyd Coffee shop in London.

Coffee was only brought into Europe in the early 17th c. and while some referred to it as the "bitter invention of Satan," drinking it in cafes with friends became a favorite pastime. Lloyd’s became a favorite spot for merchants and bankers to grab a cup and discuss finances. Lloyd eventually ditched the coffee, and his new financial institution would go by the name "Lloyd's of London." It would become one of the most prestigious insurance firms in the world.

In 1688, the Russians, who had been fighting in the Turkish Wars, were going through religious strife at home. The patriarch Nikon had recently introduced many reforms in the church that led to the "raskol" or division in the Russian Orthodox Church. The so-called "Old Believers" were those who rejected Nikon's reforms. The reforms included the spelling of the name Jesus, the position of one's fingers while making the sign of the cross, and the changing of the procession from clockwise to counter-clockwise. While these things may seem insignificant, they represented what the Old Believers believed to be concessions made for political and social expediency.

In 1688 many Old Believers took refuge in a monastery on Lake Onega in northern Russia. When the Tsar's troops were commanded to take back the monastery, the Old Believers set it on fire, self-immolating rather than give up the monastery.

In 1688, two important men for their respective church bodies died. The first was famed Puritan author John Bunyan and the second was Lutheran theologian Johann Quendstedt. Born in 1688, we have Alexander Pope. We will hear more from the father of the heroic couplet later on. Emmanuel Swedenborg, the founder of the infamous Swedenborgian church, was born in 1688. And it was on this day, the 19th of July, in 1688, that the Jesuit, missionary, and artist to Chinese emperors, Guisseppe Castiglione, was born.

Born in Milan, Guiseppe trained at an art studio and was soon under the influence of Andrea Pozzo, a painter who was also a member of the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits. He encouraged Castiglione to travel to Genoa for theological training. There, Guiseppe used his painting skills to paint walls at various Jesuit churches in the region. At the age of 27, Guiseppe had become a lay priest with the Jesuits and was sent to China to serve as an ambassador, court painter, and undercover missionary. In 1715, in the Forbidden City, he took the name Lang Shining and was recognized for his ability to blend western and eastern techniques and subject matter. A previous Jesuit, Matteo Ricci from Italy, had only wanted to paint using Western techniques. He was not well received amongst the Chinese. Another Jesuit Brother, Wu Li, who was a Chinese convert, became a court painter but disliked using Western techniques. Guiseppe, or Lang Shining, was able to strike the perfect balance. One art historian wrote that he achieved "a brilliant synthesis, cleverly calculated to give the Emperor enough of Western realism to delight him, but not enough to disconcert him." Having the Emperor's favor helped Guiseppe, as the Emperor could turn a blind eye when the Italian artist discussed matters of faith within the walls of the Forbidden City. While we can't point to any specific baptisms by Castiglione, his influence helped establish a relationship between the Western church and the Chinese empire. Castiglione would spend the rest of his life cultivating his art and relationships with the Chinese. H e died in 1766 in Beijing. Born on this day in 1688, Guiseppe "Lang Shining" Castiglione was 77 years old.

The reading for today comes from the aforementioned Alexander Pope, born in 1688. These are the last two stanzas from his poetic take on the prayer of Jesuit Francis Xavier.

For me in tortures thou resignd' st thy breath,
Embrac'd me on the cross, and sav'd me by thy death.
And can these sufferings fail my heart to move?
What but thyself can now deserve my love?
Such as then was, and is, thy love to me,
Such is, and shall be still, my love to thee —
To thee, Redeemer! mercy's sacred spring!
My God, my Father, Maker, and my King!

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 19th of July 2020 brought to you by 1517 at The show is produced by a man who has reinvented that bitter invention of Satan, Christopher Gillespie @ The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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