Gloria in excelsis deo


I was somewhat of an Ebenezer Scrooge this Advent.  I guess it was because there really is no such thing as Advent anymore.  No asceticism, just a lot of expansion of tummies.  No repentance, just a lot of over indulgence.  Such is the ‘holiday season’ in America.  I felt that it was 30+ days of missing the point.

Then, I got laryngitis the 23rd and am still getting over whatever it is I have had for almost 2 weeks.  I had to preach and celebrate sounding like a tiny froglet.  Bah humbug baby.

While the Christmas Eve liturgy was beautiful as always (though I tried to sing ‘Silent Night’ and nothing came out), it was not until Christmas Day that my Ebenezer attitude waned.

There are a group of refugees from Sudan and Burundi who attend our church.  Since it was snowing and hardly anyone showed up for the Christmas Day low mass, I went to pick up the refugees.  I thought that only one or two would even be out to greet me, but the whole 20+ of them were ready for the ‘big’ celebration.  They didn’t realize that the big service was the night before.  I had to make two trips and was 15 minutes late to my own service.  But it was worth it.

The service was fine and I growled my way through the liturgy, but the ‘Christmas moment’ did not come until I was taking them home.  They live a short distance away, but the snow made for a longer trip and one woman began to spontaneously sing ‘Angels We Have Heard On High’–in Kurundi.

The tempo was a bit off for my Anglicized ear, and understood not a word, until I heard ‘Glooooriaoooriaoooooria, in excelsis deo…’

Here was a group of people stranded in a refugee camp in Tanzania since 1972; children who were born in miserable conditions, only knowing life as a refugee–and yet they were singing a French Christmas carol with a Latin chorus.

No matter how the Church has failed Africa and other places throughout history, Jesus showed up in Africa and everywhere our fragile feet have tried to take the gospel.  I heard it on the lips of precious people whom God has rescued and brought to our doorsteps.  The songs of angels, ‘Glory to God in the highest…’ has reached all times and all places.  I heard it sung by His missionaries, only now they sing to my land and my people.

Merry Christmas!

Oh, so that’s where it came from!

book_of_hours-lo.jpgAt least according to LiveScience:

The translation of the Bible into English marked the birth of religious fundamentalism in medieval times, as well as the persecution that often comes with radical adherence in any era, according to a new book.

The 16th-century English Reformation, the historic period during which the Scriptures first became widely available in a common tongue, is often hailed by scholars as a moment of liberation for the general public, as it no longer needed to rely solely on the clergy to interpret the verses.

But being able to read the sometimes frightening set of moral codes spelled out in the Bible scared many literate Englishmen into following it to the letter, said James Simpson, a professor of English at Harvard University.

“Reading became a tightrope of terror across an abyss of predestination,” said Simpson, author of “Burning to Read: English Fundamentalism and its Reformation Opponents” (Harvard University Press, 2007).

“It was destructive for [Protestants], because it did not invite freedom but rather fear of misinterpretation and damnation,” Simpson said.

It was Protestant reformer William Tyndale who first translated the Bible into colloquial English in 1525, when the movement away from Catholicism began to sweep through England during the reign of Henry VIII. The first printings of Tyndale’s Bible were considered heretical before England’s official break from the Roman Church, yet still became very popular among commoners interested in the new Protestant faith, Simpson said.

“Very few people could actually read,” said Simpson, who has seen estimates as low as 2 percent, “but the Bible of William Tyndale sold very well—as many as 30,000 copies before 1539 in the plausible estimate of a modern scholar; that’s remarkable, since all were bought illegally.”

When Catholicism slowly became the minority in the 1540s and 50s, many who hadn’t yet accepted Protestantism were berated for not reading the Bible in the same way, Simpson said.

“Scholarly consensus over the last decade or so is that most people did not convert to [Protestantism]. They had it forced upon them,” Simpson told LiveScience.

Persecution and paranoia became the norm, Simpson said, as the new Protestants feared damnation if they didn’t interpret the book properly. Prologues in Tyndale’s Bible warned readers what lay ahead if they did not follow the verses strictly.

“If you fail to read it properly, then you begin your just damnation. If you are unresponsive … God will scourge you, and everything will fail you until you are at utter defiance with your flesh,” the passage reads.

Without the clergy guiding them, and with religion still a very important factor in the average person’s life, their fate rested in their own hands, Simpson said.

The rise of fundamentalist interpretations during the English Reformation can be used to understand the global political situation today and the growth of Islamic extremism, Simpson said as an example.

“Very definitely, we see the same phenomenon: newly literate people claiming that the sacred text speaks for itself, and legitimates violence and repression,” Simpson said, “and the same is also true of Christian fundamentalists.”

I guess the Bible didn’t exist in the vernacular, ever, anywhere, until Reformation England?