It is the 18th of August 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 849.
We are back in the 9th century today. A quick refresher for context: this is the era of Vikings, Muslim, and Arab traders, and the growth of monasteries and abbey schools. The 6th to 8th centuries saw the consolidation of power and the growth of the arts and sciences in Byzantine, Arab, and East Asian territories. The Roman empire, however, was long gone. Western Europe had fragmented and looked something like a caricature of the so-called "dark" ages.
And then a renaissance happened, not that renaissance, but a 9th-century medieval renaissance. We call it the Carolingian Renaissance as it corresponded to the Carolingian dynasty that was responsible for the creation of what we call the Holy Roman Empire. Carolingian is a term referring to the descendants of Charles, the de facto ruler of the Frankish territories since the 8th century. His son, Pepin III (also known as Pepin the Short), was officially recognized as the first king of the Franks. When he died, he left his kingdom to his two sons Carloman and Carolus. The brothers feuded over their inheritance, but Carloman soon died, leaving Carolus the sole ruler. Carolus, the Latinized form of Charles, would be given the moniker "the great." Charles the Great is Latinized as Charlemagne.
Charlemagne was a friend of the Papacy and advocated for the construction of churches. Furthermore, he established a coterie of scholars and theologians around him. The rise of scholarship, church reform, as well as political and economic stability gave rise to the term "Carolingian Renaissance" or the rebirth of western Europe under the dynasty of Charles. Charlemagne's son Louis became emperor, but questions of dynastic succession began to fracture the new empire. Ultimately the treaty of Verdun between the sons of Louis divided western Europe into three distinct kingdoms.
Today we remember one of the principal characters of the Carolingian dynasty in its later stages, a theologian, poet, and sometimes diplomat. Born in 808, Walafrid Strabo died on this, the 18th of August, in 849.
Walafrid studied at the Abbey of Reichenau on Lake Constance near the modern-day German-Swiss border. With an education such as his, he was made tutor to the son of Louis the Pious, Charles the Bald. He became embroiled with Imperial politics when he backed Lothair, one of Louis' three sons, as the rightful heir to the kingdom. When another son, Louis the German, foiled Lothair's plans, he made Walafrid his emissary to his other brother, Walafrid's old student, Charles the Bald.
Walafrid's significant theological contribution was his "De Exordiis," a treatise on church practice and ordinances. It helped to unify church practice across the empire. He wrote on the Lord's Supper and broke from his teachers on the doctrine of transubstantiation. His position was that the elements were the body and blood of Christ but refused the philosophical language. He also wrote the "Visio Wettini," which predated Dante and was a poetic description of hell, purgatory, and heaven. He also wrote on the lives of various saints and published a popular work on horticulture, which identified multiple types of flora and explained their medicinal and theological applications.
Walafrid Strabo, or "the squint-eyed," theologian, historian, and poet of the Carolingian renaissance died on this, the 18th of August, in 849.
The reading for today comes from the 9th century Murbach hymns, a collection of hymns and prayers. This is from the "Aurora Lucis Rutilat" or "Dawn Reddens with Light," as translated by J.M. Neale.
Light's glittering morn bedecks the sky,
heaven thunders forth its victor cry,
the glad earth shouts its triumph high,
and groaning hell makes wild reply:
While he, the King of glorious might,
treads down death's strength in death's despite,
and trampling hell by victor's right,
brings forth his sleeping Saints to light.
Fast barred beneath the stone of late
in watch and ward where soldiers wait,
now shining in triumphant state,
He rises Victor from death's gate.
Hell's pains are loosed, and tears are fled;
captivity is captive led;
the Angel, crowned with light, hath said,
'The Lord is risen from the dead.'
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 18th of August 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by Christopher the Bearded (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.