19 November 2014

Commemorating St. Elizabeth of Hungary

From our Synod's website (and the Treasury of Daily Prayer):

Born in Pressburg, Hungary, in 1207, Elizabeth was the daughter of King Andrew II and his wife Gertrude. Given as a bride in an arranged political marriage, Elizabeth became the wife of Louis of Thuringia in Germany at the age of 14. She had a spirit of Christian generosity and charity, and the home she established for her husband and three children in the Wartburg Castle at Eisenach was known for its hospitality and family love. Elizabeth often supervised the care of the sick and needy and even gave up her bed to a leper at one time. Widowed at the age of 20, she made provisions for her children and entered into an austere life as a nun in the Order of Saint Francis. Her self-denial led to failing health and an early death in 1231 at the age of 24. Remembered for her self-sacrificing ways, Elizabeth is commemorated through the many hospitals named for her around the world.

The Treasury offers a beautiful prayer for the day, asking "Mighty King, whose inheritance is not of this world, inspire in us the humility and benevolent charity of Elizabeth of Hungary." (p. 929) She is a shining light for Christ's people, pointing the way to live welcoming every person as Christ, and every need and suffering as His own.

The Writing for today (from Dr. Luther) captures her spirit: "But if anyone earnestly believed that he is receiving the Lord Himself when he receives a poor brother, there would be no need for such anxious, zealous, and soliticous exhortations to do works of love...together with godly Abraham we would run to meet the wretched people, invite them into our homes, seize upon this honor and distinction ahead of others and say: 'O Lord Jesus, come to me; enjoy my bread, wine, silver and gold. How well it is has been invested by me when I invest it in You!'" (p. 928)


Anna Ilona Mussmann said...

I have to admit that I'm struggling to relate to a mother who would leave her young children (right after the death of their father, too!) for a life of austerity. That seems like the sort of corrupted piety that Luther objected to. On the other hand, maybe that just reveals my modern biases. It is hard to look at the life of someone from another time without judging them by one's own cultural priorities.

Unknown said...

Lutheranism has many reservations if not explicit condemnations of monasticism. Yet, the Lutheran church continues to commemorate many saints, men and women both who took up the monastic habit, both in East and West. If monasticism is considered to be such an affront to the Gospel, as Luther understood it at least, why are these people commemorated for their austerity living under a monastic rule? This is an honest question, asked without pride, Pr. Weedon. It's something I've always been curious about because it does seem to be somewhat contradictory with what the confessions say. Or am I misreading it?--Chris

William Weedon said...

Dear Anna, I have often wondered if she had an intimation that her life was drawing to close, since she did die relatively soon after entering the monastery.

Dear Chris, Lutherans do not condemn monasticism per se, but specifically the taking of monastic vows when theses are held to merit grace and propitiate sin and such. But Lutherans continued to actually have monasteries. We do even today, though they are few and far between. There is one in this country in Oxford Michigan. There are a number in Sweden. And in a way the deaconess houses were a "non-vow" type of Lutheran monastic movement.

Chemnitz, a second generation Lutheran, addresses his little Enchiridion of 1574 "To the reverend in Christ, venerable, most illustrious, and very learned lord abbots and heads of monasteries, as also the lord superintendents and pastors of the churches of the glorious duchy of Brunswick, my honorable lords and dearly beloved brothers in Christ." Lutherans never emptied monasteries by compulsion (don't equate us with Henry VIII!); but they did and do clearly teach that any vows that are taken with the purpose of earning the grace of God through self-chosen works are eo ipso null and void. Some left the monasteries when they realized that. Some freely stayed.

The Lutheran calendar, as you point out, freely commemorates many monastics, and today's writing in the Treasury was from one of them: St. Jerome.

Rebekah said...

I've wondered about the old "So long, kids, Mom's a nun now" too. The same thing happens in (spoilers) the Kristin Lavransdatter series set in medieval Norway. Kristin is older, but she also leaves young children to the care of others after she is widowed. Fiction, but the credible kind.