Friday, 29 April 2011

Christendom is dead, let it rest in peace...for the good of the church

Christendom, defined as the religious, cultural and political hegemony of Christianity in 'the West' ('the West' being more a notion than a hemisphere for our present purposes), is surely dead. All we have left are its symbols, which, like hieroglyphs, speak a language that can only be deciphered by antiquarians who spend their lives rummaging through the artifacts of this ancient but noble civilisation. Historians might opt for different dates of death for Christendom depending upon their biases: the Great Schism of the East in 1054, the papal crisis in the 14th C., which saw three popes simultaneously claiming Peter's throne, the posting of the Ninety-Five Theses in 1517, the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, and the French Revolution of 1789 are the usual suspects. Personally, I think Christendom bravely fought its enemies - and sometimes its 'friends' - for centuries after these events before being mortally wounded and buried on the fields of France in WWI. But Christians of all shades of belief have found it as difficult to let the corpse of Christendom rest in peace as the Vatican apparently does to leave unmolested the dead bodies of those it considers saints (gratuitous RC reference - see note below). Witness the attempts of influential European Catholics to shape the European union along Catholic lines and the so called "culture wars" in the US, in which conservative American Protestants take to the barricades for such merely symbolic gestures as generic prayers in state schools. All these efforts seem to me to bespeak a failure to come to grips with reality that the church now exists in world more like the pre-Constantinian one the early church inhabited than the post-Constantinian world of most of Christian history, and betray an attitude that seeks security and certainty for faith where it is least likely to be found. After all, doesn't holy writ warn us to "put not your trust in princes..."?

Lutheranism is realistic when it comes to church/state relations, which can probably be traced back to Luther's sage observation that godly princes were rare birds. Lutheranism, when it is true to itself, lets God be God, lets the state be the state, and lets the church be the church. So, I was encouraged to discern something like a Lutheran 2K view in this cracking paragraph in a blog post by Presbyterian theologian and author Michael Horton, over at the White Horse Inn, bemoaning the misplaced energies of so many Christians expended in reaction to secularism:
"In the 1950s, C. S. Lewis was asked by Decision magazine whether he was concerned about the “de-Christianizing” of the West, especially Europe. Lewis replied, “I’m not really qualified to speak to the question of the culture, but there is definitely a de-Christianizing of the church.” It’s one thing for Christian churches to lose their cultural influence. Fusing Christ with a particular civilization is already a gross distortion of the faith. Nevertheless, “Christendom” is over, regardless of whether you think it was a good or bad idea in the first place. Benign prayers to an unknown god in public schools, apart from the Mediator, is already a capitulation to secularism. Who cares whether crosses no longer dominate national memorials where Jews, Moslems, Buddhists, and atheists are buried? The question is whether the cross is proclaimed in our churches."
Michael Horton, at the White Horse Inn blog (click on post title to read the full post).

[Explanatory note - Six years after his death, the Vatican is exhuming the body of JPII from its current resting place and moving it to the Chapel of St Sebastian, but to create room for it there they will have to exhume the remains of Blessed Pope Innocent XI. Whatever happened to 'requiscat in pace'?

Catholic observers might remember the furore last year over the exhumation, in connection with his beatification, of Cardinal John Henry Newman's remains from a Birmingham cemetery...Newman had the last laugh, having left orders for compost to be regularly placed on his grave, thus accelerating the decomposition process, there were no remains to be found or venerated!]

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

What Would Luther Say?

The following report came across the wires to the old manse this morning:
"VATICAN CITY Blood taken from Pope John Paul II during his final hospitalization will be used as the official relic for veneration after he is beatified.

The Vatican made the announcement Tuesday, putting to rest questions about what relic would be presented during Sunday’s beatification.

In a statement, the Vatican said four small vials of blood had been taken from John Paul during his final days for a possible transfusion, but were never used. Two of the vials were given to John Paul’s private secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, and another two remained at the Vatican’s Bambin Gesu hospital in the care of nuns.

One of the hospital vials will be placed in a reliquary and presented Sunday; the other will remain with the nuns.

John Paul died April 2, 2005.

The Associated Press"
What would Luther say? No doubt something like this:
"the Word of God is the holy of holies; in fact, it is the only holy thing we Christians know and have. Even if we had the bones of all the saints and all holy, blessed objects heaped together, we would be none the better for the collection. All these relics are lifeless objects that can sanctify no-one. God's Word, however, is the treasure that sanctifies everything. By it all the saints themselves were sanctified."
Martin Luther, The 3rd Commandment, The Large Catechism


Thank God for Martin Luther!

Monday, 25 April 2011

ANZAC Day, 2011


They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

For the Fallen, Laurence Binyon

Note for overseas readers: the 25th April marks the annual commemoration of the landing of troops from the 'Australia and New Zealand Army Corps' (ANZACs) at Gallipoli, Turkey in 1915, as part of a British attempt, planned by Winston Churchill, to capture Istanbul and take the Ottoman Empire, a German ally, out of World War I. The attempt failed, but since 1916 the day has been set aside by Australia, New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Niue and Tonga as a day of remembrance for those who served in WWI, and more broadly in all conflicts since (for cultural, geographic and historic reasons, the soldiers of these countries have often served side by side in theatres of war). Culturally, Anzac Day holds the same position in Australia as Veterans' Day in the US or Remembrance Day in the UK. Attendance at Anzac Day parades and memorial services has increased, rather than diminished, in contemporary times. Most Australian families of long-standing have ancestors who have served in war; I have two great uncles who served in France in WWI and a grandfather who served in the Pacific theatre in WWII.

Why Are Catholics Becoming Protestant?

Recently, erstwhile Lutheran pastor come Roman Catholic layman David Schuetz, over at his blog Sentire Cum Ecclesia, posted on the string of prominent Lutheran theologians who have become Roman Catholic in recent years. I couldn't help but offer a rejoinder to the effect that I have more ex-Catholics in my two congregation parish than the half dozen or so former Lutherans David could cite...but apparently since my parishioners aren't theologians they don't matter! Several RC commenters at David's blog then suggested that Catholics who leave Rome for various forms of Protestantism really aren't from among the "best and brightest" Catholics in the first place. That smacks of denial to me, so I left off the discussion, knowing there was little point continuing.

But at least one Catholic intellectual is interested in who the 1/3 of members the Catholic Church in the US has lost in recent years are, and why they have left (and the US situation is small beer compared to South America, where the formerly monolithically Roman Catholic nation of Brazil will become a majority Protestant nation in the next generation). He is Jesuit Fr Thomas Reese, and an article expressing his concern and findings has recently appeared in the US National Catholic Reporter. It makes for interesting reading. Here are some excerpts...

The principal reasons given by people who leave the church to become Protestant are that their “spiritual needs were not being met” in the Catholic church (71 percent) and they “found a religion they like more” (70 percent). Eighty-one percent of respondents say they joined their new church because they enjoy the religious service and style of worship of their new faith.

In other words, the Catholic church has failed to deliver what people consider fundamental products of religion: spiritual sustenance and a good worship service...

People are not becoming Protestants because they disagree with specific Catholic teachings; people are leaving because the church does not meet their spiritual needs and they find Protestant worship service better.

Nor are the people becoming Protestants lazy or lax Christians. In fact, they attend worship services at a higher rate than those who remain Catholic. While 42 percent of Catholics who stay attend services weekly, 63 percent of Catholics who become Protestants go to church every week. That is a 21 percentage-point difference.

Catholics who became Protestant also claim to have a stronger faith now than when they were children or teenagers. Seventy-one percent say their faith is “very strong,” while only 35 percent and 22 percent reported that their faith was very strong when they were children and teenagers, respectively. On the other hand, only 46 percent of those who are still Catholic report their faith as “very strong” today as an adult.

Thus, both as believers and as worshipers, Catholics who become Protestants are statistically better Christians than those who stay Catholic. We are losing the best, not the worst.

Make of Fr Reese's conclusions what you will (and I caution that nothing that emanates from the Roman Catholic sphere is as simple as it appears on the surface), but at least he acknowledges there's a problem. I for one find it curious that doctrine matters so little to those who leave, and apparently equally little to those who stay. For a church which is so rigorously doctrinal, that is surely a problem - there is evidently a failure to connect doctrine with life (surely a challenge to all confessional churches in late modernity, but particularly so when you have a doctrinal system as complex and irreformable as Romanism).

On a more positive note, those who leave for Protestantism report their "faith is stronger" as a result - I think that probably translates as they find greater assurance of salvation under Protestant preaching, surely a good thing!

Click on the post title to read the full article.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Raised for our Justification

"You have heard in the story of the Passion how Christ is portrayed as our exemplar and helper, and that he who follows him and clings to him receives the Spirit, who will enable him also to suffer. But the words of Paul are more Christian and should come closer home to our hearts and comfort us more, when he says: "Christ was raised for our justification." Here the Lamb is truly revealed, of whom John the Baptist testifies, when he says in Jn 1, 29: "Behold, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world." Here is fulfilled that which was spoken to the serpent: "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head," which means that for all those who believe in him, hell, death, and the devil and sin have been destroyed. In the same manner the promise is fulfilled to-day which God gave to Abraham, when he said in Gen 22, 18: "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." Here Christ is meant, who takes away our curse and the power of sin, death and the devil.

All this is done, I say, by faith. For if you believe that by this seed the serpent has been slain, then it is slain for you; and if you believe that in this seed all nations are to be blessed, then you are also blessed. For each one individually should have crushed the serpent under foot and redeemed himself from the curse, which would have been too difficult, nay impossible for us. But now it has been done easily, namely, by Christ, who has crushed the serpent once, who alone is given as a blessing and benediction, and who has caused this Gospel to be published throughout the world, so that he who believes, accepts it and clings to it, is also in possession of it, and is assured that it is as he believes. For in the heart of such a man the Word becomes so powerful that he will conquer death, the devil, sin and all adversity, like Christ himself did. So mighty is the Word that God himself would sooner be vanquished than that his Word should be conquered."


From an Easter sermon by Martin Luther on Mark 16:1-8, from his Church Postils, mid-1520's [taken from volume II:238-247 of 'The Sermons of Martin Luther', published by Baker Book House (Grand Rapids, Mi.)] This set of Luther's sermons is still available at a reasonable price from Christian bookshops.

Holy Saturday: The Descent Into Hell

"Before Christ arose and ascended into heaven, and while yet lying in the grave, He also descended into hell in order to deliver also us from it, who were to be held in it as prisoners ... However I shall not discuss this article in a profound and subtle manner, as to how it was done or what it means to 'descend into hell', but adhere to the simplest meaning conveyed by these words, as we must represent it to children and uneducated people...since we cannot but conceive thoughts and images of what is presented to us in words, and unable to think of or understand anything without such images, it is appropriate and right that we view it literally, just as it is painted, that He descends with the banner, shattering and destroying the gates of hell...we ought ... simply to fix and fasten our hearts and thoughts on the words of the Creed,which says: I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God,dead, buried, and descended into hell,' that is, in the entire person,God and man, with body and soul, undivided,'born of the Virgin, suffered died, and buried'; in like manner I must not divide it here either, but believe and say that the same Christ, God and man in one person, descended into hell..."

Excerpted from Luther's Torgau sermon on Christ's Descent Into Hell.

Prayer to be said before a Crucifix on Holy Saturday evening (candles remain unlit on this day)

Lord Jesus Christ,
by Your powerful Word You govern all things,
You have buried the shame of the Cross and the iron nails,
You have broken the bars of the bronze doors and descended into hell,
You have shone with the brightness of Your light on all those who were sitting in the shadow of death; Son of righteousness, risen from the tomb, shine upon our darkness with the radiant light of Your risen Body. Amen.

Friday, 22 April 2011

How To Contemplate Christ's Holy Sufferings


"...they meditate on the Passion of Christ aright, who so view Christ that they become terror-stricken in heart at the sight, and their conscience at once sinks in despair. This terror-stricken feeling should spring forth, so that you see the severe wrath and the unchangeable earnestness of God in regard to sin and sinners, in that he was unwilling that his only and dearly beloved Son should set sinners free unless he paid the costly ransom for them as is mentioned in Is 53, 8: "For the transgression of my people was he stricken." What happens to the sinner, when the dear child is thus stricken? An earnestness must be present that is inexpressible and unbearable, which a person so immeasurably great goes to meet, and suffers and dies for it; and if you reflect upon it real deeply, that God's Son, the eternal wisdom of the Father, himself suffers, you will indeed be terror-stricken; and the more you reflect the deeper will be the impression."

A Good Friday Sermon on How to Contemplate Christ's Holy Sufferings
by Martin Luther. The full sermon is available at http://www.orlutheran.com/html/mlcross.html
It was printed many times even in Luther's lifetime and is one of his most treasured sermons. Take the time to read it this Good Friday.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Events of Holy Week via Google Earth

Here's a nice little resource to aid in your reflections on Holy Week courtesy Google Earth and Crossways, who publish the ESV Bible translation. You know what to do...click on the balloons in alpha order to get an overview of where/when/how each of the week's events unfolded. I suggest you click "view larger map" first.

View Larger Map

HT Paul McCain @ Cyberbrthren

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Should Christians Celebrate the Haggadah/Seder?

Speaking of things Jewish (see last post), should Christians celebrate the Haggadah or Seder, the Jewish ritual meal which remembers the Passover? Over the last thirty or so years Christian enactments of the Seder have become increasingly common in connection with Maundy Thursday celebrations of the Lord's Supper. The following statement from the Lutheran Church of Australia's 'Commission on Worship' (the C. o. W.; affectionately known as "the sacred cow") enumerates some good reasons to reject this dubious trend...

"1. A study of the Passover Haggadah by Christians can be useful for teaching, as background for understanding and appreciating aspects of the Old Testament and the context for Christ's death and his institution of the Lord’s supper.

2 However, the Passover belongs to the Jews and not to us, and we need to take care to use it in a way that does give unnecessary offence to Jews.

3 If the Passover Haggadah is studied or enacted, it needs to be considered in its complete and authentic form.

4 If the Passover is enacted, it does not belong to our worship in connection with the holy communion service, because Christians have never celebrated the Lord’s supper in connection with the Passover, and the communion service does not derive its meaning from the Passover, but from Christ’s death and resurrection.

5 Since Christ is our Passover Lamb, he has both fulfilled and abolished the Old Testament Passover together with all the worship of the Old Testament.

6 The Lord's supper is not primarily a remembrance of the exodus of Israel from Egypt, as the Passover is, but instead it is the remembrance and gift of Christ as our Passover."

Masada

According to my historical almanac, today marks the anniversary of the fall of the Jewish fortress at Masada to the Roman legions in AD73, which marked the conclusion of the first Jewish-Roman War, otherwise known as the Jewish Revolt. When the Jewish Revolt began in AD66, a group of rebels with surprise on their side took the Masada fortress from a Roman garrison; later, after the fall of Jerusalem in AD70, their number was further supplemented. This remnant group then occupied the fortress for a further three years, until finally succumbing to the Romans. When the Romans finally entered the fortress compound by means of a gigantic earthen ramp built up to the height of the fortress's walls, they found only masses of dead bodies, the Jews preferring death at the hands of their own to slavery under the Romans.

Older readers may remember an American TV miniseries dramatising this revolt which aired back in the 1980s, if memory serves correct. I remember that the Roman leaders were portrayed by Englishmen with impeccable upper class accents, while the Jews were all-American actors. No doubt the Jewish interpretation of the story as a tale of an oppressed people battling a heartless occupier resonated with American sensibilities. Curiously, visitors to the historical site today can view the remains of the imitation Roman ramp constructed by the film crew of the miniseries, which was filmed on location.

Click on the post title to visit the 'Jewish Virtual Library' article on Masada.

An alternative view of the heroic "Masada myth" can be found here: http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/masadamyth1.htm.

Ironically, Masada was first fortified by Herod the Great in the 30sBC as a possible refuge in case of a revolt by his subjects. Just as ironically, but perhaps understandably, this site of a mass suicide has become in modern times a symbol of Jewish survival in the face of persecution. For example, there are a number of Jewish institutions in Australia, from schools to a hospital, which bear the name 'Masada'.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Cajetan on the OT Apocryphal Books

Most lay people will be aware that Protestant and Roman Catholic bibles (not to mention Eastern Orthodox bibles!) have different contents in terms of the books/writings included in them. Theologians call this list of definitive biblical writings the canon, meaning the rule of faith. I'll leave the historical reasons for these differences for another time; for now, I simply want to point out that although Luther is often criticised by Roman Catholics for his views on the Old and New Testament canons, his views were not outside of the bounds of accepted late medieval discussion on the subject. In fact, Luther's views were mainstream.

Exhibit number 1 is an excerpt from Cardinal Thomas Cajetan's writings (Cajetan is a particularly relevant figure to cite on this question, since he was Luther's interrogator at Augsburg in 1518):
“Here we close our commentaries on the historical books of the Old Testament. For the rest (that is, Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees) are counted by St Jerome out of the canonical books, and are placed amongst the Apocrypha, along with Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, as is plain from the Prologus Galeatus. Nor be thou disturbed, like a raw scholar, if thou shouldest find anywhere, either in the sacred councils or the sacred doctors, these books reckoned as canonical. For the words as well of councils as of doctors are to be reduced to the correction of Jerome. Now, according to his judgment, in the epistle to the bishops Chromatius and Heliodorus, these books (and any other like books in the canon of the Bible) are not canonical, that is, not in the nature of a rule for confirming matters of faith. Yet, they may be called canonical, that is, in the nature of a rule for the edification of the faithful, as being received and authorised in the canon of the Bible for that purpose. By the help of this distinction thou mayest see thy way clearly through that which Augustine says, and what is written in the provincial council of Carthage.”
From Cardinal Cajetan's commentary upon the historical books of the Old Testament.

Cajetan (Thomas de Vio, 1469-1534) was the papal representative who interrogated Luther at Augsburg in 1518. That famous meeting crystallised the differences between Thomistic Catholicism and the incipient Lutheran Reformation. Cajetan was a moderate Thomist himself, and in this quote we can see that his views on the Old Testament canon were not dissimilar to Luther's. Following Jerome, Cajetan regards Judith, Tobit, 1 & 2 Maccabees, Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus/Sirach, as well as portions of other books, as not forming part of the scriptural canon or rule of faith (note the assumption that scripture is the rule of faith here), but as suitable for reading for purposes of edification.* In short, Cajetan believed books listed by Jerome as apocryphal should not be used as a source of doctrine. The Roman Catholic Council of Trent (1545-1563), the official Roman response to the Reformation, included the writings mentioned here by Cajetan in their canon, although by giving them the name deuterocanonical (of the second canon) it acknowledged that they were not included in the protocanon of the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible that Jesus knew. Does it matter? Well, consider that the chief scriptural proof text (Latin: dicta probantia) for the Roman doctrine of purgatory is found in 2 Maccabees.

* At one time Protestant bibles used to invariably include the Old Testament apocrypha, usually in a separate section between the OT and the NT. This reflected Luther's view that the apocryphal writings were beneficial to read, but did not belong to the official canon.

An extract from Cajetan on the New Testament canon will follow shortly.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Atheists in the Pulpit, Divine Service Optional

Atheists in the pulpit, divine service optional - that seems to be the future direction of the famed Oxford University, hitherto a bastion of the Anglican Establishment in England.

In February, it is reported, well-known author Philip Pullman, a self-described "Church of England Atheist", in other words a "cultural Anglican" but not an actual believer (reminds me of the old joke: "Are you Christian? No, C of E."), preached - "gave the address" is often the euphemism used on such occasions - in the University Church of St Mary's, Oxford.

In order to fully understand the symbolic import of this unhappy event, it might help to rehearse some of the history of St Mary's, Oxford. This is the hallowed site of the trial of bishops Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley, at which they each received the sentence of death by burning for adhering to the principles of the English Reformation. It is also the church where John Wesley preached his famous sermon on 'Justification By Faith', leading to the Evangelical revival in the Church of England. From the same pulpit, some one hundred years later, in 1833, John Keble preached the famous Assize sermon on national apostasy, which marked the beginning of the controversial and divisive, but influential 'Oxford Movement'. John Henry Newman, the leading light of that movement, also preached regularly at St Mary's when he was still an Anglican and resident at Oxford.

However mistaken, from the Lutheran position, these men may have been on some doctrines of the faith, they were at least professed believers, not atheists. And even with Lutheran reservations about aspects of the public doctrine of the Church of England, one can still apppreciate the great historical significance of this particular church not only for English Christianity but for world Christianity. Sermons preached from the pulpit of this church have echoed down the centuries and around the world and led to orthodox missionary endeavours that have brought literally millions into the kingdom of God. But aside from that history, this is a church dedicated to the glory of God and built to serve the edification of his Anglican people at Oxford University, an historically Anglican institution. What business does the rector of the church have to invite an atheist, even one who claims to respect the church as an historical institution, to preach - or even "give an address" - in this church? Does the Church of England have a death wish?

This event follows quickly upon the approval, given in January by the university's governing council, to one Oxford college's (Hertford) proposal to remove the constitutional requirement to appoint religious chaplains (i.e. C of E clergy), along with the requirement upon them, when they are appointed, to conduct regular divine services. So, we have atheists in the pulpit, and clergy who, when they are employed, will not be expected to lead public worship. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction in late-modern Oxford.

Now, an enlightened pluralist observer of these developments might well respond: "Well, Oxford University is simply beginning to reflect the multi-cultural, multi-religious face of present-day England. Why should Christianity, especially the flabby, undisciplined, middle-of-the-road version of it that prevails in the Church of England, receive special treatment when most of the students are probably agnostics?" Agreed, the situation of established European churches, pallid heirs of the riches of the long-dead ideal of Christendom, is becoming increasingly untenable as their societies hurtle towards non-belief and moral confusion, and disestablishment is indeed a discussion that Oxford University and eventually England will one day soon have to have. But, in the meantime, bear in mind that this University still admits graduates to degrees with a solemn 'in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti' as a New Testament is momentarily placed upon their head. God cannot be mocked with impunity.

HT Cranmer [click on post title to view]

Meantime:
Australian academics (including an Anglican priest) call for end to Special Religious Instruction in Australian schools in favour of multi-faith education
[http://www.theage.com.au/national/education/academics-call-for-review-of-school-religious-teaching-20110406-1d4h5.html]

and,

Atheist scientist awarded top religious prize
[http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/breaking-news/fury-as-top-scientist-awarded-religion-prize/story-fn3dxity-1226035049604]

and,
Christian Foster Carers Seek Reversal of Council Decision Against Them
[http://christianconcern.com/our-concerns/sexual-orientation/christian-foster-carers-campaign-for-re-instatement-by-derby-council]

Sunday, 3 April 2011

More poetry...


When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by,
“Let us,” said he, “pour on him all we can.
Let the world’s riches, which dispersèd lie,
Contract into a span.”

So strength first made a way;
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure.
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure,
Rest in the bottom lay.

“For if I should,” said he,
“Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore my gifts instead of me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature;
So both should losers be.

“Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness;
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
May toss him to my breast.”

'The Pulley' by George Herbert, from The Temple (1633)

I love that line 'a glass of blessings standing by'. I once had a seminary lecturer, Dr Maurice Schild (successor to Sasse's chair), who told us that there was something wrong with Lutheran pastors who did not read poetry (Dr Schild was known for his rhetoric!). Granted, poetry is not everyone's 'cup of tea', particularly in these prosaic times, but I think that what Maurice was getting at was that, apart from the pure enjoyment and stimulation that poetry provides, good poetry stretches our imagination and improves our use of language. Preachers can always benefit from that. But if that doesn't convince you to take up reading poetry, consider this: even the Holy Spirit chose to inspire men to write poetry!

From the Wiki entry on Herbert: George Herbert (3 April 1593 – 1 March 1633) was a Welsh born English poet, orator and Anglican priest. He took up his duties in Bemerton, a rural parish in Wiltshire, about 75 miles southwest of London in 1630. Here he preached and wrote poetry; also helping to rebuild the church out of his own funds.

In 1633 Herbert finished a collection of poems entitled The Temple, which imitates the architectural style of churches through both the meaning of the words and their visual layout. The themes of God and love are treated by Herbert as much as psychological forces as metaphysical phenomena.

Suffering from poor health, Herbert died of tuberculosis only three years after taking holy orders. On his deathbed, he reportedly gave the manuscript of The Temple to Nicholas Ferrar...telling him to publish the poems if he thought they might "turn to the advantage of any dejected poor soul", and otherwise, to burn them.
[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Herbert]

Pic: George Herbert at Bemerton (Dyce, 1851).