25 May 2011

Commemoration of the Venerable Bede

Today our Synod commemorates the Venerable Bede. Be sure to check out the Treasury on page 1299. Here's some info from Synod's website (also listed in Treasury):

Bede (673-735) was the last of the early church fathers and the first to compile the history of the English church. Born in Northumbria, Bede was given by his parents to a monastery in Northern England at the age of seven. The most learned man of his time, he was a prolific writer of history, whose careful use of sources provided a model for historians in the Middle Ages. Known best for his book, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, he was also a profound interpreter of Scripture; his commentaries are still fresh today. His most famous disciple, Cuthbert, reported that Bede was working on a translation of John's Gospel into English when death came, and that he died with the words of the Gloria Patri on his lips. He received the title "Venerable" within two generations of his death and is buried in Durham Cathedral as one of England's greatest saints.

Almighty God, grant us to enjoy, even as St. Bede whom we rejoice to commemorate this day, a steadfast faith in Jesus Christ, a cheerful hope in Your mercy, and a sincere love for You and for one another; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.


Terry Maher said...

What the Treasury won't tell you is that he wasn't buried in Durham Cathedral as one of England's greatest saints. He was buried at Jarrow, the site of his monastery, after he died, and grave robbers seeking to bolster a mediaeval cult of the saints at Durham dug him up and tossed him in with Cuthbert nearly 300 years later, about 1020. Or that he wasn't even dead yet on 25 May, he died the next day. Or that the English commemorated him the day after that, the 27th, since Augustine of Canterbury had already died on a 26 May and was commemorated then. Or that commemorating him on either his dies natalis or in deference to Gus the day after was the universal practice of the church East or West until, well, guess what? Quite independent of what I think about anything, them's the facts and ignoring them pays no homage to this remarkable man.

William Weedon said...

The transfer of the relics of the saints was common and commonly contentious as site vied against site. How might we be edified by knowing the details of that in St. Bede's case? Reciting the facts you shared pays no particular homage to this great saint of God either. But certainly remembering him, thanking God for his work and witness, and singing his hymn upon the feast of Ascension does. So what's the beef?

Terry Maher said...

The beef? Well for starters commemorate him on one of the two dates the church commemorates him rather than follow a 40 year old innovation of the Church of Rome.

For another, instead of a rosy reductive hagiography, say something about his dedication to some semblance of scientific rigour which was the basis of his great works in any field, and a model against those who shrink from science as a threat to faith.

Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum would not be what it is or have been possible without his breakthrough in time calculation, moving beyond the accepted but confusing methods of indiction and regnal years by adopting and promoting Dennis the Humble's anno Domini method, which moved Man beyond registers to an actual concept of history.

Or something about his scientific work in De temporum ratione bringing him charges of heresy because it contradicted the assumptions of the time based on Isidore of Seville, standing up to the local bishop, an example indeed against deferential bowing to "Fathers", especially from one who worked to sythesise and transmit them, or making him one either.

Or something about his observation that the earth must be a sphere and not flat and that the moon is not a lesser light in a firmament but in fact influences the tides by its motion, centuries ahead of his time and a dramatic demonstration that theology is not dependent on cosmology nor is the bad theology of some scientists countered by the bad science of theologians.

Or that on his final day on this earth he both continued work, dictating to a scribe, and directed that his modest belongings be distributed to his monastic brothers. Whereupon he died and was buried simply.

One hell of a man of God in my book, who'd be the first to tell you that the whole Durham Cathedral thing is no sign of his greatness but a damn disgrace owing to profiteering in relics -- ironic too in that he stood up to the same local bishop (dude named Wilfrid) over the exhumation of the body of the East Anglian (hey, that's my people!) princess Awdrey (from whence we get the word tawdry but that's another story) whose protector Wifrid had been as she vacillated between being a queen and a nun, insisting on accurate details about her life and the condition of the body.

My kind of man of God -- who'd also beat me to the punch to say he didn't die on the 25th, it ain't his feast day, he died on the 26th, the Vigil of the Ascension in 735, he didn't write his supposed Death Song either, and the attribution "Venerable" comes from a ridiculous legend about angels completing his epitaph.

So, to conclude as he concluded his life -- Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto, Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

William Weedon said...

All wonderfully interesting, and above all the fact that we was working on Scripture right up to his final prayer. But at base what irritates you is the fact that here, as in other spots, the Lutherans have chosen to follow the current Roman lead on the when of a commemoration. I get that it irritates the daylights out of you, but honestly, my friend, it becomes tiresome. You could just write: "Speech #1" and it would suffice.

Terry Maher said...

Here is what is tiresome: why do some of us follow current Roman leads, especially when, and ignoring that, those leads, from a small matter like a commemoration to the weightiest of matters, proceed from a basis that is NOT OUR BASIS. If I wanted to follow that basis, I'd have stayed in Rome; and this tiresome confusion of bases is the root of why some of us famously head to Rome or second Rome (East) and so many more remake our basis into a form of American "evangelicalism".

Ps-Iosifson said...

Wasn't St. John of Damascus (the last of the early church fathers) "the last of the early church fathers"?

Transferring feasts from the day proper to another appropriate day - sometimes near, sometimes far - is a common practice in the liturgical churches. For instance, the Feast of the Transfiguration was moved from 40 days before the Passion (thus, in Lent) to 40 days before the Feast of the Cross (which is on September 14). For Orthodox this year, the great feast of St. George was moved from Holy Saturday to Bright Monday. Moving the commemoration by a day is also not unheard of.

There is really no common understanding of what 'base' Lutherans should use. Initially, it was pre-Tridentine Rome, but precedent to the contrary has held for many, many years with local Lutheran practices created, local non-Lutheran practices adopted, and post-Vatican II practices adopted, as well as the view that all of it is adiaphora so do whatever your congregation wants/needs.

Terry Maher said...

"There is really no common understanding of what 'base' Lutherans should use."

Ain't that the truth. And not a new one. Seems to me that's why there's a Book of Concord, so we beat con cordia, with one heart. And not a transplant.

As to the Transfiguration, it was and is commemorated on various days but "pope" Callixtus III fixed it on 6 August because on 6 August 1456 news that the Hungarians had broken the Siege of Belgrade by the Ottomans, a real big deal at the time, reached Rome.

As to "church fathers" depends on who you ask. The Roman church does indeed consider St John of Damascus the last of of the "church father". In this context it is intersesting that Bede was the first to group Jerome, Augustine, Gregory and Ambrose as the four Latin speaking fathers of the church and to transmit their work, not be the last of it.

And you've got the open-ended "Doctors of the Church" which list Bede did not make until 1899 and didn't make "saint" until 1935. Which I could give a rat's patoot what a guy in an office bearing the marks of Antichrist thinks is a doctor of the church or anything else, but as my ancestral fellow countryman Bede is the only Englishman on the list (Gus of C was from Italy) I gotta digress here a minute.

As to "adiaphora", that is not Greek for "it's all good", "who cares" or "doesn't matter". It is a distinction in Stoic philosophy about why things matter that was borrowed by some Christian theologians to explain a similar situation re Christianity.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Speaking of the Venerable Bede puts me in mind of John Stephenson's saying: "The north of England has produced two great theologians. One is the Venerable Bede...and the other--well, modesty prevents me from mentioning his name..."

LPC said...


I find it most fascinating to see Terry differing from Pr. Will. I never expected this crossing of swords ;-) The friendship must be maturing.

Fr. Hogg,

Remember you encouraged me in my thesis? Well I submitted last year and graduated, also not without controversy. I cursed with controversy both in my theological and scientific writings, so it seems.

Thanks for your best wishes of the past.


Fr. Gregory Hogg said...


Congratulations on your accomplishment!

Continued good wishes,

Fr. Gregory

William Weedon said...

Oh, Lito, Terry and I differ all the time! I still hold him in great respect. Congrats on finishing! How is Phoenix? Still in my prayers.

Terry Maher said...

¡Felicidades Dr Cruz! Welcome to the club!

As to controversy, welcome to that club too! I myself now shrink at the first sign of it to preserve the irenic placidity that is my hallmark, and cast my writings in the most serene and cadenced of academic prose.

As to the north of Mother England, it would be hard to expect much out of Northumbria with those total pain in the butt Mercians just to the south.

As to crossing swords with PW, this ain't nuttin Lito -- wait till I show up in Hamel and lay down a "Looking for a City" or "Jesus Dropped The Charges" that will have more hands in the air than a Voter's Meeting.

LPC said...

Pr. Will,

I differ from both of you all the time but likewise, I respect your positions.

Thank you for your prayers, there is progress no matter how slow, but a sign of hope - trusting God will cause all things to work together for the good.


LPC said...

Dr Maher.

You still have not lost the sense if humor dear bro. LOL.

Still doing any maths these dayz?

It has become philosophical lately and very intriguing developments on foundations of maths.

Godel has been gone but little do we know the impact his results have done in messing maths around.


Terry Maher said...

Dr Cruz! Or perhaps, when you make Doctor of the Church, San Lito de la Cruz. No doubt we will have our own version of the new list the minute Rome does theirs.

I'm sure you know -- but I'll rehearse it anyway for the theological set here -- Einstein famously remarked that what made working at Princeton worthwhile was being able to walk home talking with Gödel.

Am I working on maths? But of course! While everyone aspires to be Alfred South Blackhead writing Principia Theologica, I am beating them to the punch with my upcoming "Über formal unentscheidbare Sätze der Principia Theologica und verwandter Systeme".

In this we will theologically answer Frege's Frage (question), and nevermore be bothered with the Quest for a Theological System, not to mention the Quest for the Historical Jesus, or bothered that consistency precludes completeness or that consistency is not provable within a system.

Publication date by CPH is uncertain at this time. Which is entirely unrelated to unconfirmed rumours of PTM shouting "Not in my lifetime".

And I'll also rehearse that Gödel was Lutheran, though not a church member, and convinced apart from any theology that the afterlife both contradicts nothing scientifically known.