15 February 2011

Philipp Melanchthon (February 16)

"Faith is nothing else than trust in the divine mercy promised in Christ."

Melanchthon. Dürer, Albrecht
Melanchthon. Holbein
Melanchthon. Cranach the Elder.

File:Luther im Kreise seiner Familie musizierend.jpg
Luther Making Music in the Circle of his Family. 1875. Spangenberg, Gustav Aldolph

nice summary of Melanchthon's life includes his domestic tragedies, and subsequent willingness to fulfill his vocation as an uncle and grandfather, supporting his orphaned relatives.  (The Spangenberg painting above suggests he was the Luthers' adopted bachelor uncle  :)

Melanchthon is a tough saint to celebrate with the kiddos.  No coloring pages (unless you blow up Dürer's drawing and print that).  Few interesting legends or stories, no food associated with him.  Here's a short list of what I came up with (some are just fun):

* Talk about how important Christian education is (Sunday School, family devotions, private reading), and how "growing in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" is vital to the Christian life.

*  Everyone change their name for the day (Melanchthon's real last name was Schwartzerdt, "black earth".  He changed it to the Greek form.  It seemed to be popular among the intelligentsia, back in the day, to take on a hellenized or romanized name.  So my last name in Greek would be Glyka, in Latin Dulcis. Erasmus's real name was supposedly Gerard Gerardson--I guess I would have changed it, too.)

* Melanchthon drafted Instructions for the Visitors of Parish Pastors in Electoral Saxony (1528).  In it he suggests grammar-school students memorize the following Psalms.  Try learning a few you don't know this week.

"Furthermore the teachers should ask the pupils to memorize a number of easy Psalms that contain in themselves a summary of the Christian life and speak about the fear of God, faith and good works, e.g.:

 Psalm 112 :11; Blessed is the man who fears the Lord.”
Psalm 34 :1: “I will bless the Lord at all times.”
Psalm 128 [:1]: “Blessed is every one who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways!”
Psalm 125 [:1]: “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides for ever.”
Psalm 127 [:1]: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”
Psalm 133 [:1]: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” 

*If you own the game Agricola, play it with your older kids after the little ones are down.  Or have some couples over for an impromptu game and beer night.  Melanchthon and Luther had a lengthy debate with John Agricola (born Roelof Huysmann or Johannes Eisleben?) over the proper uses of the Law.  Read all about it here, or if you have more time for scholarly depth, here (I have not read the book, but it's on my to-read waiting list.  I hear there's a lot of untranslated Latin and German).  

The game has absolutely nothing to do with the man, but once the beer starts flowing, maybe the adults can have a rousing discussion on the uses of the Law.  To make it more interesting, invite a Calvinist or Roman Catholic :)


  1. I've always liked that picture of Luther and his children. My brother-in-law has a large printout of it framed and hanging above his fireplace mantle.
    (I never knew that was Melanchthon in the picture also.)

  2. I like it, too. Where did he find a print? Or did he just blow it up? I'd like to get one for our kids' godparents.

  3. I believe he had a big printout made, but I'm not sure.

  4. Schwartzerdt - how awesome is THAT?

    That print is beautiful. I had never seen it before. I just did a search for it and came up empty. For $100US you could own a similar Spangenberg a la Amazon.de. Sigh.