It is the 16th of June 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1548. Francis Xavier was moving from Goa in India to Japan. The co-founder of the Society of Jesus took as his mission the evangelization of the Far East. And while few were successful, Xavier has the best track record bringing the faith to the Japanese. He would bring with him the works of Aquinas and hope to find a translator. However, it was in this year that Xavier was aided by the publication of a work by the other co-founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius of Loyola. Loyola’s “Spiritual Exercises” were written in the 1520s but not published until this year. This collection of meditation and prayers would form the backbone of the Society of Jesus, also called Jesuits.
In 1548, there was a six-year-old on the Scottish throne. You can call her Mary Stuart, or Mary I of Scotland, or Mary Queen of Scots. She was the daughter of King James V of Scotland and the mother of King James VI of Scotland, who would become King James I of England. In 1548, there was a marriage treaty signed on her behalf with the French crown and the future King Francis II of France. This treaty would help form what would be known as the Auld Alliance. Born out of their mutual hatred of the English, it would attempt to keep the Reformation out of Scotland and give France a strategic partner in curbing the spread of English influence. However, Francis would die young, and Mary would head back to Scotland. There she was accused of killing her husband with her new paramour. She had to abdicate, her son James became King, and soon he would be the one to unite the kingdoms of Scotland and England.
And it was in England, in 1548, that Catherine Parr, the former wife to Henry VIII, published her work, the “Lamentation of a Sinner.” It was the first book published in England by a woman using her actual name. She referred to herself explicitly as the Queen of England. Parr was Henry’s last wife. He died in 1547, leaving her to publish this pro-Reformation work in 1548. It contained an account of her conversion, as well as a defense of the doctrine of justification by faith.
While the Reformations and Counter Reformations were developing across Europe, they were often at different points depending on one’s location and confession. For Lutherans, the 1540s were the “Empire Strikes Back” part of the story... with a literal empire. The Holy Roman Empire crushed the Lutheran princes during the Schmalkaldic War, and Martin Luther also died. Furthermore, by 1548, internal divisions had arisen in the church over the implementation of the Augsburg Interim. The Augsburg Interim was a temporary theological settlement meant to keep the peace in the German lands until a general council of the church could decide the Reformation settlement.
The settlement included a kind of a mishmash of Lutheran and Catholic doctrine. Catholics regained the authority of the Pope and seven sacraments while the Lutherans were given clerical marriage and taking communion in both kinds, that is, both bread and wine. Lutherans were torn over the extent to which they might temporarily concede, and it was on this, the 16th of June in 1548, that all proverbial hell broke loose when Philip Melanchthon’s “Opinion Concerning the Interim” was published. This work would lead to the outbreak of the so-called “Adiaphoristic Controversy,” among others. The question was asked: to what extent could you allow for “things indifferent,” or adiaphora, to be implemented in your church. For instance, if the interim required churches to use vestments and candles among other so-called “popish elements,” should a Lutheran be able to comply with the implementation of these things not directly related to the Gospel? Ultimately, it took the Book of Concord, about 30 years later, to settle the issue of adiaphora. Their short answer was when our confession of faith is at stake, nothing is adiaphora when it might lead the weak astray or into confusion. It was all a part of the existential crisis of Lutheranism in the second half of the 16th century. And much of it began when Melanchthon’s “Opinion Concerning the Interim” was published on this, the 16th of June, in 1548.
The reading for today comes from the 16th century, from the English poet and priest John Marckant. It is his “The Lamentation” from 1562.
O Lord, turn not away thy face
From him that lies prostrate,
Lamenting sore his sinful life
Before thy mercy-gate;
Which gate thou openest wide to those
That do lament their sin:
Shut not that gate against me, Lord,
But let me enter in.
So come I to thy mercy-gate,
Where mercy doth abound,
Requiring mercy for my sin
To heal my deadly wound.
Mercy, good Lord, mercy I ask,
This is the total sum;
For mercy, Lord, is all my suit:
Lord, let thy mercy come.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 16th of June 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man who believes that the quality of church coffee should not be adiaphora, 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.