CATHERINE WINKWORTH AND JOHN MASON NEALE, HYMNWRITERS
Neale was an English priest who specialized in the translation of Latin and Greek hymns into English. Winkworth lived in Manchester, England, and devoted herself to translating German hymns. Almost all English speaking hymnals include many of their translations.
Though frequently remembered as “doubting Thomas,” this apostle also demonstrated a willingness to suffer and die with Jesus (John 11:16), and finally claimed the risen Christ as “my Lord and my God!” By tradition, he later worked as a missionary in India.
ISAIAH THE PROPHET
Isaiah son of Amoz is considered to be the greatest of the writing prophets and is quoted in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament Prophet. His name means “Yahweh the Lord saves.” Isaiah prophesied to the people of Jerusalem and Judah from about 740 B.C. to 700 B.C. and was a contemporary of the prophets Amos, Hosea, and Micah. Isaiah was a fierce preacher of God’s Law, condemning the sin of idolatry. He was also a comforting proclaimer of the Gospel, repeatedly emphasizing God’s grace and forgiveness. For this he is sometimes called the “Evangelist of the Old Testament.” No prophet more clearly prophesied about the coming Messiah and his saving kingdom. He foretold the Messiah’s miraculous birth (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6), his endless reign (Isaiah 2:1 – 5; 11:1- 16), and his public ministry (Isaiah 61:1 – 3), but most notably his “Suffering Servant” role and atoning death (Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12). The Apostle John’s description of Isaiah, that Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory and spoke of Him (John 12:41), is an apt summary of Isaiah’s prophetic ministry.
JAN HUS, MARTYR, died 1415
Hus was a Bohemian (present-day Czech Republic) priest who spoke against abuses in the church, and was seen by Martin Luther as his predecessor in the reforming movement. He was found guilty of heresy by a council of the church, and burned at the stake.
BENEDICT OF NURSIA, TEACHER AND MONK, died 580
The father of Western monasticism, Benedict (470 – 580) focused on work and prayer to the glory of God and wrote his Rule of Benedict for the monastic way of life. The Lutheran monastery, St. Augustine’s House in Michigan, follows the rule. (www.StAugustinesHouse.org)
NATHAN SODERBLOM, BISHOP, died 1931
Soderblom (1866 – 1931) was a Lutheran bishop in Sweden who reached out to work with other Christians and was a peacemaker. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1930.
VLADIMIR, KING, died 1015
Vladimir (956 – 1015) was the first Christian ruler of Russia. His life before Christ was brutal and bloodthirsty. After his conversion, his generosity to the poor, kindness towards criminals, and support of missionaries became legendary.
RUTH OF MOAB
Ruth of Moab, the subject of the biblical book that bears her name, is an inspiring example of God’s grace. Although she was a Gentile, God made her the great grandmother of King David (Ruth 4:17), and an ancestress of Jesus himself (Matthew 1:5). A famine in Israel led Elimelech and Naomi of Bethlehem to immigrate to the neighboring nation of Moab with their two sons. The sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth, but after about ten years, Elimelech and his sons died (Ruth 1:1 – 5). Naomi then decided to return to Bethlehem and urged her daughters-in-law to return to their families. Orpah listened to Naomi but Ruth refused, replying with the stirring words: “Where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). After Ruth arrived in Bethlehem, Boaz, a close relative of Elimelech, agreed to be Ruth’s “redeemer” (Ruth 3:7 – 13; 4:9 – 12). He took her as his wife, and Ruth gave birth to Obed, the grandfather of David (Ruth 4:13 – 17), thus preserving the Messianic seed.
BARTOLOME DE LAS CASAS, MISSIONARY, died 1566
Las Casas (1474 – 1566) was a missionary to Native Americans defending them against exploitation by the Spanish Empire. His most famous work Tears of the Indians (1566) depict atrocities of the time.
ELIJAH THE PROPHET
The prophet Elijah, whose name means, “My God is Yahweh, The LORD” prophesied in the northern kingdom of Israel, mostly during the reign of Ahab (874 – 853 B.C.). King Ahab, under the influence of his pagan wife Jezebel, had encouraged the worship of Baal throughout his kingdom, even as Jezebel sought to get rid of the worship of the LORD. Elijah was called by God to denounce this idolatry and to call the people of Israel back to worship the LORD as the only true God (as he did in 1 Kings 18:20 – 40). Elijah was a rugged and imposing figure, living in the wilderness and dressing in a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt (2 Kings 1:8). He was a prophet mighty in word and deed. Many miracles were done through Elijah, including the raising of the dead (1 Kings 17:17 – 24), and the effecting of a long drought in Israel (1 Kings 17:1). At the end of his ministry he was taken up into heaven as Elisha, his successor, looked on (2 Kings 2:11). Later on the prophet Malachi proclaimed that Elijah would return before the coming of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5 – 6), a prophecy fulfilled in the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist (Matthew 11:14).
EZEKIEL THE PROPHET
Ezekiel, son of Buzi, was a priest, called by God to be a prophet to the exiles during the Babylonian captivity (Ezekiel 1:3). In 597 B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army brought the king of Judah and thousands of the best citizens of Jerusalem – including Ezekiel – to Babylon (2 Kings 24:8 – 16). Ezekiel’s priestly background profoundly stamped his prophecy, as the holiness of God and the Temple figure prominently in his messages (for example, Ezekiel 9 – 10, and 40 – 48). From 593 B.C. to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 586 B.C., Ezekiel prophesied the inevitability of divine judgment on Jerusalem, on the exiles in Babylon, and on seven nations that surrounded Israel (Ezekiel 1 – 32). Jerusalem would fall, and the exiles would not quickly return, as a just consequence of their sin. Once word reached Ezekiel that Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed, his message became one of comfort and hope. Through him God promised that His people would experience future restoration, renewal and revival in the coming Messianic kingdom (Ezekiel 33 – 48). Much of the strange symbolism of Ezekiel’s prophecies was later employed in the Revelation to St. John.
MARY MAGDALENE, APOSTLE
Mary Magdalene was a disciple of Jesus who exorcised from her seven demons (Luke 8:2). Some believe she was the repentant sinner who anointed Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:36 – 50). She became the “apostle to the Apostles” when the risen Jesus commanded her to tell of His resurrection (John 20:11 – 18).
BIRGITTA OF SWEDEN, RENEWER OF THE CHURCH, died 1373
Lady Birgitta (1303 – 1373) served the Queen of Sweden, founded the Order of the Holy Savior, denounced political corruption of the day, and led many pilgrimages. Revelations, a mystical collection of her visions, continues to be a Christian classic.
JAMES THE ELDER, APOSTLE
James, a fisherman, son of Zebedee and brother of John, is the only apostle whose martyrdom is recorded in Scripture (Acts 12:2).
J.S. BACH, HEINRICH SCHUTZ, G. F. HANDEL, MUSICIANS
This day commemorates some of the great makers of music in the church. Bach’s (1685 – 1750) Mass in B Minor and Brandenburg Concertos and Handel’s (1685 – 1759) Messiah are masterpieces of Western civilization.
MARY, MARTHA, AND LAZARUS OF BETHANY
Friends of Jesus, Mary and Martha are remembered for the hospitality of their home that they offered Him – Martha focused on serving their guest and Mary on listening to Him. Their brother Lazarus was raised from the dead as a sign of the greater resurrection to come.
ROBERT BARNES, MARTYR, died 1540
Remembered as a devoted disciple of Martin Luther, Robert Barnes is considered to be among the first Lutheran martyrs. Born in 1495, Barnes became the prior of the Augustinian monastery at Cambridge, England. Converted to Lutheran teaching, he shared his insights with many English scholars through writings and personal contacts. During a time of exile to Germany he became a friend of Luther and later wrote a Latin summary of the main doctrines of the Augsburg Confession titled “Sententiae.” Upon his return to England, Barnes shared his Lutheran doctrines and views in person with King Henry VIII and initially had a positive reception. In 1529 Barnes was named royal chaplain. The changing political and ecclesiastical climate in his native country, however, claimed him as a victim; he was burned at the stake in Smithfield in 1540. His final confession of faith was published by Luther, who called his friend Barnes our good, pious table companion and guest of our home, this holy martyr, “Saint Robertus.”
JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA
This Joseph, mentioned in all four Gospels, came from a small village called Arimathea in the hill country of Judea. He was a respected member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious council in Jerusalem. He was presumably wealthy, since he owned his own unused tomb in a garden not far from the site of Jesus’ crucifixion (Matthew 27:60). Joseph, a man waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went to Pontius Pilate after the death of Jesus and asked for Jesus’ body (Mark 15:43). Along with Nicodemus, Joseph removed the body and placed it in the tomb (John 19:39). Their public devotion contrasted greatly to the fearfulness of the disciples who had abandoned Jesus.
JOANNA, MARY AND SALOME
Known in some traditions as “the faithful women,” the visit of these three persons and other women to the tomb of Jesus on the first Easter morning is noted in the Gospel records of (Matthew 28:1), (Mark 16:1), and (Luke 24:10). Joanna was the wife of Cuza, a steward in Herod’s household (Luke 8:3). Mary, the mother of James (the son of Alpheus), was another of the women who faithfully provided care for Jesus and His disciples from the time of His Galilean ministry through His burial after the crucifixion. Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee (Matthew 27:56), joined with the women both at the cross and in the bringing of the spices to the garden tomb. These “faithful women” have been honored in the church through the centuries as examples of humble and devoted service to the Lord.
DOMINIC, TEACHER AND MONK, died 1221
Dominic was a Spanish priest who saw the wealth of the clergy as a stumbling block for the church, so he formed a movement, the Order of Preachers (commonly called Dominicans) devoted to itinerant preaching and living in poverty.
LAWRENCE, DEACON AND MARTYR, died 258
Early in the third century A.D., Lawrence, most likely born in Spain, made his way to Rome. There he was appointed chief of the seven deacons and was given the responsibility to manage church property and finances. The emperor at the time, who thought that the church had valuable things worth confiscating, ordered Lawrence to produce the “treasures of the church.” Lawrence brought before the emperor the poor whose lives had been touched by Christian charity. He was then jailed and eventually executed in the year 258 by being roasted on a gridiron. His martyrdom left a deep impression on the young church. Almost immediately, the date of his death, August 10, became a permanent fixture on the early commemorative calendar of the Church.
CLARE, TEACHER AND NUN, died 1253
Clare (1110? – 1253) was a noble lady of Assisi and accepted the reforms of Francis. She founded a similar society for women called the Order of Poor Ladies (also known as the Poor Clare’s) focusing on the Gospel of our Lord Jesus, obedience, chastity, and poverty. Love for creation, care of animals, and service to the poor are other spiritual hallmarks of the Franciscan piety that Clare promoted.
FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE, died 1910; CLARA MAASS, died 1901; RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH
Nightingale was born in England, and horrified her wealthy family by deciding to become a nurse. She led a group of nurses in ministering in the midst of the Crimean Way, and worked for hospital reform. Maass, a native of New Jersey, who was also a war nurse, and volunteered as a subject for research on yellow fever. She died of the disease.
MAXIMILLIAN KOLBE, MARTYR, died 1941
Maximillian Maria Kolbe was a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar canonized in 1982 by Pope John Paul II, and declared a martyr of charity. During World War II, he provided shelter to refugees from greater Poland, including 2,000 Jews whom he hid from Nazi persecution in his friary in Niepokalanow. On February 17, 1941, he was arrested by the German Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison. On May 28, he was transferred to Auschwitz and volunteered to die in place of a stranger.
KAJ MUNK, MARTYR, died 1944
A Danish Lutheran pastor and playwright, Munk strongly denounced the Nazis who occupied Denmark in the Second World War. His sermons and articles helped to show the anti-Christian nature of the movement.
MARY, MOTHER OF OUR LORD
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is present throughout the life of our Lord. From the annunciation of the angel, to her visitation to Elizabeth, her giving birth in the humble manger (Luke1 – 2), from her standing beside His cross and horrific death (John 19) to praying with the disciples before Pentecost (Acts 1), Mary is present humbly treasuring all in her heart. Mary’s song, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46 – 55), is part of the Evening Prayer liturgy. Tradition differs on whether Mary died in Ephesus with the Apostle John (the Dormition of Mary) or whether she was taken into heaven just like Enoch and Elijah of old (the Assumption of Mary). An early Ecumenical Council declared Mary is Theotokos, bearer of God. Luther describes her as the best evangelical faithfully trusting and pointing to her Son to the very end.
Isaac, the long promised and awaited son of Abraham and Sarah, was born when his father was 100 and his mother 91. The announcement of his birth brought both joy and laughter to his aged parents (so the name “Isaac,” which means “laughter”). As a young man, Isaac accompanied his father to Mount Moriah, where Abraham, in obedience to God’s command, prepared to sacrifice him as a burnt offering. But God intervened, sparing Isaac’s life and providing a ram as a substitute offering (Genesis 22:1 – 14), and thus pointing to the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ for the sins of the world. Isaac was given in marriage to Rebekah (24:15), and they had twin sons, Esau and Jacob (25:19 – 26). In his old age Isaac, blind and feeble, wanted to give his blessing and chief inheritance to his favorite – and eldest – son, Esau. But through deception Rebekah had Jacob receive them instead, resulting in years of family enmity. Isaac died at the age of 180 and was buried by his sons, who by then had become reconciled, in the family burial cave of Machpelah (35:28 – 29).
JOHANN GERHARD, TEACHER AND HYMNWRITER, died 1637
Johann Gerhard (1582 – 1637) was a great Lutheran theologian in the tradition of Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) and Martin Chemnitz (1522 – 1586) and the most influential of the 17th century dogmaticians. His monumental Loci Theologici (12 large volumes) is still considered by many to be a definitive statement of Lutheran orthodoxy. Gerhard was born in Quedlinburg, Germany. At the age of 15 he was stricken with a life-threatening illness. This experience, along with guidance from his pastor, Johann Arndt, marked a turning point in his life. He devoted the rest of his life to theology. He became a professor at the University of Jena and served many years as the Superintendent of Heidelberg. Gerhard was a man of deep evangelical piety and love for Jesus. He wrote numerous books on exegesis, theology, devotional literature, history, and polemics. His sermons continue to be widely published and read.
BROTHER ROGER OF TAIZE, MONK AND MARTYR
Roger Louis Schutz-Marsauche, son of a Swiss Lutheran minister and a French mother, was born in 1915. He entered France on foot after the country’s defeat by Nazis Germany in 1940 intent on founding a religious community dedicated to peacemaking and healing the divisions in the Church. The Taize community grew with dozens of monks from 30 different countries and Christian denominations, developed Taize chant with Jacques Berthier, and became a place of pilgrimage for young Christians. At the entrance of the Church of the Reconciliation in Taize is the sign: “Let all who enter here be reconciled, brother with brother, sister with sister, nation with nation.” He was stabbed to death by a mentally ill pilgrim during Evening Prayers.
BERNARD, ABBOT OF CLAIRVAUX, TEACHED, died 1153
A leader in Christian Europe in the first half of the 11th century A.D., Bernard is honored in his native France and around the world. Born to a noble family in Burgundy in 1090, Bernard left the affluence of his heritage and entered the monastery of Citeaux at the age of 22. After two years he was sent to start a new monastic house at Clairvaux. His work there was blessed in many ways. The monastery at Clairvaux grew in mission and service, eventually establishing some 68 daughter houses. Bernard is remembered for his charity and political abilities, but especially for his preaching and hymn composition. The hymn texts “O Jesus, King Most Wonderful” and “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” are part of the heritage of the faith left by Saint Bernard.
Samuel, last of the Old Testament judges and first of the prophets (after Moses), lived during the 11th century B.C. The child of Elkanah, an Ephraimite, and his wife Hannah, Samuel was from early on consecrated by his parents for sacred service and trained in the house of the Lord at Shiloh by Eli the priest. Samuel’s authority as a prophet was established by God (1 Samuel 3:20). He anointed Saul to be Israel’s first king (10:1). Later, as a result of Saul’s disobedience to God, Samuel repudiated Saul’s leadership and then anointed David to be king in place of Saul (16:13). Samuel’s loyalty to God, his spiritual insight, and his ability to inspire others made him one of Israel’s great leaders.
Bartholomew is included in the lists of Jesus’ twelve apostles in all but John’s Gospel where the name Nathaniel (thought to be the same person) is present. Little is known about him. There is a tradition that Bartholomew was martyred for sharing the good news of Jesus in Armenia by being flayed alive and then beheaded.
A native of North Africa, Monica (A.D. 333 – 387) was the devoted mother of Saint Augustine. Throughout her life she sought the spiritual welfare of her children, especially that of her brilliant son, Augustine. Widowed at a young age, she devoted herself to her family, praying many years for Augustine’s conversion. When Augustine left North Africa to go to Italy, she followed him to Rome and then to Milan. There she had the joy of witnessing her son’s conversion to the Christian faith. Weakened by her travels, Monica died at Ostia, Italy on the journey she had hoped would take her back to her native Africa. On some church year calendars, Monica is remembered on May 4.
AUGUSTINE, BISHOP AND TEACHER, died 430
One of the great teachers of the Church, Augustine (364 – 430) was born in North Africa. His mother Monica tried without success to raise her son as a Christian. He studied at Carthage where he lived with a woman who bore him a son. In 384, influenced by the gospel teaching of Ambrose of Milan, Augustine became a follower of Christ and was baptized on Easter in 387. In 391 he was chosen by Christians in Hippo to be their pastor. His Confessions, On the Trinity and the City of God are foundations of Western thought.
MOSES THE BLACK, MONK, MARTYR, died around 405
Converted from life as a thief and a robber to Christianity, Moses was an Ethiopian who became a desert monk at Skete. His conversion had a great impact in his native country. Wearing a white habit, he said, “God knows I am black within.” He was murdered during an attack by Berbers.
JOHN BUNYAN, TEACHER
Bunyan (1628 – 1688) was a Baptist preacher who suffered in jail for his gospel preaching. Pilgrim’s Progress is his fictional allegory of the Christian life.