Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Lutheran Theotokos: The Way We Were

Perhaps a few comments are in order,  concerning the profound archeological discovery put on display above.

1.  Both the Holy Child and His blessed Virgin Mother grace the cover of this hardcover book (218 pages, including four 4-colored maps, pronunciation guide and a glossary).  It contains 50 Old Testament and 50 New Testament accounts.  One reasonable guess for the selection of the cover's illustration is that the book is purported to be "practical for extra-school purposes, such as Sunday school and home instructions, summer schools, Saturday schools, and the like," i.e., edifying for the education of youth.  "Extra-school?" you say; "Why, that sounds just like the mouthings of a primly parochial intra-school[marm] sister, one wearing a wimple and flailing her wrist with an ominously attached ruler!"  Indeed,  the text is truly meaty, like the cover portrait, and not infantilized or driven to entertaining.  The Virgin is not portrayed as some veiled cucumber, clutching  a diapered Oscar the Grouch to her breast; while the Bible Stories narratives are secured entirely from an authorized translation of Holy Writ.  And a pertinent and reinforcing Scriptural passage from elsewhere in the Bible, and a short phrase or two from a catechism, accompany the holy text so as to "convey points of the story."  

2.  Our Lady, cloaked in white and blue, views her audience fixedly but with great calm and solemn serenity.  Most noticeably, her forefinger is extended and gesticulates towards her Child, Lord and Savior ... and insistently directs our attention to Him, and not to herself.  The emphasis of the cover is pointedly Christological, not zoological.

3.  The cover motif means that, for the children to whom this book is purposed, the thoughts of Child and Mary, and the wonder of God-in-the-flesh, are not simply relegated to a crèche at Christmass (the spelling is fully intentional).

4.  If you guessed that the authorized version referred to above is the Vulgate or the Douay, you would be wrong.  If you guessed that the catechism referred to above flaunts a Vatican imprimatur, you would be wrong.  But this being 2014 A+D, and given the power of protestant inroads over the years, we understand your confusion.  You probably also guess that Professor Pieper was subject to too many Lewy body inclusions of frontal lobe neurons, when he declared in his Christian Dogmatics that Semper virgo is the default orthodox position, of the Church of the Augsburg Confession.  You would be dead wrong.

Surprise.  The publisher of the book is not Ignatius Press.  Here we have  the frontispiece of that book with the cover just discussed previously.  Unfortunately, no human editor or even a copyright is identified therein; although given the textual content of the book, the Author responsible for its bulk can be confidently identified as God.  I cannot hazard the date of publication, although this book has undergone four printings.  The text is the unvarnished Authorized Version.  The short catechetical reminders are lifted directly from the pages of Luther's Small Catechism.

In the copy in my possession, there is a penciled inscription on the inside front cover reading "Miss Tekla Loeber," which is the maiden name of my mother-in-law.  Mrs. Otte is a direct descendant of Rev. Fr. G. H. Loeber, one of the young pastors who came to Missouri with the Saxon immigration.  She is well over 95 years of age.   This suggests that the book is quite old, arising from a different time, and perhaps from a different spirit.

This startling archeological find will likely carbon-date to 2003 (p <0.001).  It has a hardcover format (which makes it very old, indeed) and consists of all of 64 pages.   It contains, we are assured by its St. Louis book-purveyor, thirty-five "well-known" Bible stories (18 Old Testament and 17 New Testament) by (sic)  Leena Lane.  The animals on the cover look warm, extroverted, docile and fuzzy, but appear unpaired to my trained physiologist's eye, at least to a first approximation, so the absence of an Ark is understandable.  Mary -- a spunky woman prefigured by yet another Ark (i.e., one containing life-giving manna; a budding-growth surging from a barren rod; and the Word breaking forth from rock, unhewn by man's hands) -- is not seen though; true too, of any manger.   But that comet in the sky sure looks like it could pass for David's Star, and maybe this is an artistic interpretation of Bethlehem by night, when Quirinius was governor of Syria.  With a few delightful additions, of course.  These are to meet the 21st century's insistence that the instillation of fear and love of God,  in the hearts of His Kingdom's children, requires froth and whimsy.  So that the kids might predictably chant (responsively), to their Bible and their Babar alike:  "Good night moon!  Pack it in pachyderm!"

This is Russian artist Vassily Polenov's remarkable rendition of home-town school life in Nazareth, entitled "Was Filled with Wisdom."  Here the little Lord Jesus, by Whom all things were made,  is studiously attending to His Father's business (and growing in knowledge about Himself, the Word) ... even if there are no warm, extroverted, docile and fuzzy animals on the cover.

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