Saturday, July 21, 2012

Herberger on Arbogast, Praxedes, and Mary Magdalene

Feasts on July 21.

ARBOGAST, Bishop of Strasbourg, in his childish humility, requested in his will that, since Christ had lain not far from Golgotha, his body should be buried under the gallows. This is like the actions of Celestine V., the Roman pope, who insisted on riding on a donkey in keeping with Christ's example; or else like Wulfstan, who only wore a robe of lambskin, declaring, "In the Church we always sing Agnus Dei, 'Lamb of God'." Richard, duke of Normandy, wished simply to be buried before the Church door, that he might be trampled upon by all men and drenched by the dripping from the roof.

PRAXEDES, a God-fearing Roman virgin, daughter of St. Pudens, joined her sister Pudentiana in distributing all their wealth to the poor. When the persecution of Christians increased, she besought God to deliver her from misery by a blessed death, and was taken to everlasting blessedness.

The Feast of St. Mary Magdalene (July 22).
Poenitentium lacrymae; Dei et angelorum deliciae resipiscentium lacrymae reputantur pro baptismate.
The tears of penitent hearts are surely able to still the wrath of God.

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Consolation and Joy of all repentant hearts, who not only received mournful Mary Magdalene to grace, but will also have mercy on us, should we but seek it in due humility; who for which humility is most blessed and adored together with the heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit, one God in eternity. Amen.

Devout hearts: we turn our attention to the comforting Gospel of penitent Mary Magdalene. Now therefore, in order that we may with all our heart oppose the sin which afflicted Mary Magdalene, and, where we have erred, yet not despair, but repent with her and, having received the forgiveness of sins, endeavor the more fervently and deeply to love the Lord Jesus, let us pray sincerely: Save me, O God, in Thy name; O God, give ear unto my prayer, hearken to the utterance of my mouth (Ps. 54:3-4).

Attend to the comforting Gospel, which Luke describes in the 7th chapter, verses 36–50. "One of the Pharisees invited the Lord Jesus… Go in peace."

Devout hearts: the ancient doctors of the Church are mostly of the opinion that Mary Magdalene was the same sinful woman of whom Luke writes in this passage. Scholars may read what Dr. Major relates in Farragine annexa vitis Patrum. Gerard of Nazareth, Bishop of Laodicea, wrote a whole book, Contra Salam Presbyterum, in which he attempts to show that this Mary Magdalene was Mary, the sister of Lazarus. We will not turn our hair gray over this dispute, but rather go straight to what was just read, which is a choice, delectable, and comforting text for all poor, afflicted sinners. For in it is displayed for God's children the highest art whereby they may be united with God and be absolved of their sins. Qui peccare desinit, iram Dei facit mortalem, says Lactantius. He that ceases to sin makes the wrath of God to have an end. Per miserere mei tollitur ira Dei, said our forefathers: Through my repentance, God's wrath is allayed. Isaiah gives this clearly in chapter 1, verses 16–18: "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean, put away your wickedness from My sight, cease from evil; learn to do good. Though your sin be as red as blood, yet it shall become as white as snow; and though it be as the color of a rose, yet it shall become as wool."

In this text we have clear proof that God was true when He said (Ezek. 33:11–12), "As truly as I live, I have no pleasure in the death of the sinner, but that he turn and live" Here we have a manifest example of the words of St. Paul in 1 Timothy 1:15): "This is most certainly true, and a precious, worthy saying, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."

This account is also necessary for us pastors to know, that we may not deny any truly repentant heart Absolution, nor succeed in making the grace of God too cheap, as the devil reproached St. Martin. (Read Gloria Lutheri, or Luther's Crown of Glory, which may be found under the title Martin in the appendix to my Epistolary Heart-Postils, p. 233.) Why would we ministers delay and indulge ourselves when our Lord Himself, who obtained the Absolution with His blood, was so kind and gracious?

Yet no one is to abuse this blessed consolation. Non est exemplum imitationis, sed consolationis; It is not an example that we should follow but one from which we should derive comfort. One should learn from Mary Magdalene not to sin but to part from sin by true repentance. Whoever impudently sins against God's grace should look to it, that he is not repaid with eternal disgrace. Today, if ye hear God's voice, harden not your hearts (Ps. 95:8). Multum diligere Jesum, to love the Lord Jesus much, will be our last lesson today.

Let us train our thoughts upon the kernel of the account and examine three points:
  1. What kind of sin Mary was in.
  2. How she rightly repented the sins that she had done.
  3. How her repentance was heartily pleasing to the Lord Jesus.
The Lord Jesus herewith fruitfully stir our hearts by His Spirit. Amen…

[For further excerpts from this sermon, see Treasury of Daily Prayer (St. Louis, 2008), pp. 548–549]

Translation © 2012 Matthew Carver, from Valerius Herberger, Herzpostille II, pp. 242–244.