Archive for December 20th, 2013

O God, our refuge and strength, You raised up Your servant Katharina to support her husband in the task to reform and renew Your Church in the light of Your  Word. Defend and purify the Church today and grant that, through faith, we may boldly support and encourage our pastors and teachers of the faith as they proclaim and administer the riches of Your grace made known in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Katharina von Bora (1499–1552) was placed in a convent when still a child and became a nun in 1515. In April 1523 she and eight other nuns were rescued from the convent and brought to Wittenberg. There Martin Luther helped return some to their former homes and placed the rest in good families. Katharina and Martin were married on June 13, 1525. Their marriage was a happy one and blessed with six children. Katharina skillfully managed the Luther household, which always seemed to grow because of his generous hospitality. After Luther’s death in 1546, Katharina remained in Wittenberg but lived much of the time in poverty. She died in an accident while traveling with her children to Torgau in order to escape the plague. Today is the anniversary of her death. (Collect and Intro from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Just think:

  • The Luther household began with the marriage of  a PRIEST and a former NUN and had  children openly because there is nothing in the Bible to preclude it!  This was one of the first pastor’s families in probably a thousand years in the western Church!  (The eastern Church, the Orthodox, have always allowed for a married priesthood and this is pointed out in the Lutheran Confessions)  There was a superstition at the time that the child of priest would be Satan’s spawn and would be  born deformed.  If their first child  had any physical abnormalities the Reformation might have stopped then and there!
  • Parents would put their young daughters in a convent.  It was a crime against the state to leave a convent.  Katharina and several fellow nuns were hidden in pickle barrels and snuck out of the convent because of the freedom of the Gospel. Luther was charged with finding them husbands and played matchmaker!  One woman was left: Katharina!  But she had her eye on one of Luther’s colleagues.  Luther did not want to marry for at least one simple reason:  being declared a heretic, he could have been executed if not protected by his ruler, Frederic the Wise.  He thought this would not be fair to a wife.  But he consented to marry Katharina. It was not a marriage based at all on romantic love but it is clear from his writings he learned to love her dearly.
  • Read below that they lived in Luther’s former monastery!  (picture  below)  And they needed the rooms for all the guests.  At any given time they had at table 30-40 people!  Some were permanent guests, others were refugees of persecution of the Lutherans, visiting pastors and theologians and of course:  college students!  Many of them recorded Luther’s conversation at table which became his famous “table talks”.
  • Now they had servants and Frau Luther  ran the entire household.  There were no grocery stores.  She planted an extensive garden and grew her food.  She brewed their beer which her husband loved.  They  had to make clothes, mend them, start fires to cook every day, etc.

There were so many people at one given time, Luther would preach in their home! Read the quotes below.  In a 3 volume edition of Luther’s Hauspostils is a little bit more about Katharina von Bora:

The HAUSPOSTILLE, or house postils or sermons, need to be distinguished from Luther’s KIRCHENPOSTILLE, or church postils. The term “postil” itself derives out of the Latin phrase post ilia verba textus, “after those words of the text,” and refers to the commentary or homily which followed upon the reading of the standard pericope, the Gospel or Epistle, by the preacher at the service of worship…The house postils or sermons, on the other hand, which constitute the volumes of our translation, were delivered by Luther in the intimate circle of his family members and a few others. The Luther household was often quite extensive—a real test for Katie’s ingenuity at balancing the family budget!—because of relatives, students, and associates who were domiciled there or regularly present at Luther’s elbow for one reason or another.

We have narrowed our focus on the so-called HAUSPOSTILLE of Luther, the sermons which he delivered in the famous Lutherhalle, or Luther house, in Wittenberg, the old monastery of the Augustinians. Luther had been a member of this monastic order since 1506 when he completed a one-year probationary novitiate, and in a sense he really felt he had not left it until June 13, 1525 when he married Katharine von Bora, who had been a nun. Luther had lived in the old monastery ever since joining the faculty atWittenbergin 1511. Here he had his living quarters, often preached for the Augustinian chapter, and eventually also delivered his lectures as professor of Biblical theology at the university. Elector Frederick the Wise had designated the old monastery to be the family home for Luther and Katie, as Martin affectionately called his bride. She was up to the challenge, and with him established a model parsonage family and home. Together they rejoiced over a circle of six children that gladdened their hearts, but then also saddened them when Elizabeth died as an infant and Magdalene as a vivacious teenager.

Reflection: Katharina von Bora was by no means a modern or a post-modern woman.  She is the antithesis of the so-called ‘liberated’ feminist.  She did not seek to “find herself”.  She did not “shop till she dropped”.  She probably could not even fathom an abortion.  She was not  “self-fulfilled” and yet she could run a household the size of a small business.  But she was not looking to smash “glass ceilings”. And what the woman today looks for in this zeitgeist is also what men look for in our so-called ‘enlightened’ age  and it is certainly not what our Lord says:  deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Me.  And she was no nun and neither was the Virgin Mary.  You can not find a word about nuns in the Bible but much about wives and mothers who were heroes of the faith in Old and New Testaments:  Sarah, Mary, Eunice etc.   Frau Luther was not ‘holy’ by her self-chosen ‘spirituality’ and holy deeds  but made holy by her faith in Jesus Christ lived out  in her domestic vocation.  She is the model of woman that pertains to most of humankind and those of the household of faith:  fathers and mothers and their children  within  the 4th and 6th Commandments.  We need to look more at a saint like Katharina.   I think Frau Luther  epitomized the last chapter of the book of Proverbs which ends with the icon of the faithful woman:

10 An excellent wife who can find?
   She is far more precious than jewels.
11The heart of her husband trusts in her,
   and he will have no lack of gain.
12She does him good, and not harm,
   all the days of her life.
13She seeks wool and flax,
   and works with willing hands.
14She is like the ships of the merchant;
   she brings her food from afar.
15She rises while it is yet night
   and provides food for her household
   and portions for her maidens.
16She considers a field and buys it;
   with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17She dresses herself with strength
   and makes her arms strong.
18She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
   Her lamp does not go out at night.
19She puts her hands to the distaff,
   and her hands hold the spindle.
20She opens her hand to the poor
   and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21She is not afraid of snow for her household,
   for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
22She makes bed coverings for herself;
   her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23Her husband is known in the gates
   when he sits among the elders of the land.
24She makes linen garments and sells them;
   she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
   and she laughs at the time to come.
26She opens her mouth with wisdom,
   and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27She looks well to the ways of her household
   and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28Her children rise up and call her blessed;
   her husband also, and he praises her:
29“Many women have done excellently,
   but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
   but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31Give her of the fruit of her hands,
   and let her works praise her in the gates.

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