Holy Sepulchre needs more repair or it might collapse

Domes_of_the_Church_of_the_Holy_SepulchreRestoration work on the shrine built around the likely spot of Christ’s tomb has been completed.  (See this and this and this.)  But researchers have found that the shrine and the surrounding complex have been built on unstable ground.  Without more work, there could someday be a “catastrophic” collapse.

The “edicule,” the small building around the tomb that has been restored, preserves the remnants of a cave.  It was once part of a quarry that had been turned into grave sites for wealthy Jews.  (Note the confirmation of what the Bible says about Joseph of Arimathea, who offered the grave that he owned for the body of Jesus.)  A number of those other grave sites have also been discovered on the property.  The quarry is also thought to have been the site of “the Place of the Skull,” the Golgotha where criminals were executed.  This is why the Church of the Holy Sepulchre complex also includes the reported site of the crucifixion.

The site over the ancient quarry is honeycombed with other caves and tunnels from the mining.  The current structure is also built on top of tons of rubble, not only from the quarry but from layers of  building and rebuilding over the centuries.  Plus, the graves were dug into a slope.  Drainage problems and damage from so many visitors are compounding the problem.

Researchers are proposing a six million euro project to shore up the buildings and to stabilize the foundations.  The construction work would be accompanied with more archaeological excavation.
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Luther as populist and freedom fighter

Luther_(Wislicenus)Much of Europe, including Catholics, will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting the 95 theses.  But Great Britain, not so much.

The founder of the Church of England, King Henry VIII, hated Luther (who opposed his multiple marriages) and martyred his followers.  Later, when Anglicans became distinctly Protestant, they threw in with John Calvin and the Reformed tradition.

Even though the church followed Luther in adopting the Liturgy and emphasizing the Sacraments–thanks to Wittenberg student Thomas Cranmer–the Anglicans don’t do much with Luther.  So they are mostly skipping the October 31 celebration.

British journalist Peter Stanford, writing in the left-of-center Guardian, thinks that’s a shame.  He says Luther deserves to be celebrated as a populist, a champion of the poor, and the seminal defender of the freedom of speech and the freedom of conscience.  He also says Luther is a key founder of the modern era.  He was also unimaginably brave.

Now I’m not sure Mr. Stanford fully understands the religious significance of Luther, particularly, his recovery of the Gospel, and there are other things he gets wrong.  But you should read his article for an interesting secular perspective on Luther’s cultural influence. [Read more…]

Work on Jesus’ burial site completed

Aedicule_which_supposedly_encloses_the_tomb_of_Jesus-LR1We blogged about the excavation and renovation of Jesus’ tomb at our post “See the Place Where They Laid Him.”  Now, just in time for Easter, the renovation work and the preservation of the site at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem have been completed.

The shrine had been in danger of collapse, but it has now been reinforced and protected.

When researchers opened the actual tomb, they removed a marble slab that had been put over the rock shelf on which the body of Jesus would have rested.  The slab dated from the Middle Ages. Underneath, they found yet another marble slab. This one dated from the 4th century, which would have been when Constantine’s mother Helena identified the site and built the first shrine over it.

Experts who put the site back together cut a window into the marble slabs so that the bare rock where Jesus’ body lay before His resurrection can be seen.

Photos of the restoration work are copyrighted, so go here for a bird’s eye view of where our Lord’s body was laid.

Photo of Aedicule, which encloses what is thought to be Christ’s tomb by Jlascar (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jlascar/10350934835/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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St. Patrick’s confession

5692057805_2a4b7d530b_zInstead of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day by just wearing green, making a big deal about being Irish, drinking green beer, or marching in parades, try reading the works of St. Patrick and reflecting on his Christian faith and convictions.

Observe St. Patrick’s Day this year by reading the great missionary’s own story, as he tells about his life and confesses his faith in Christ.

Read “The Confession of St. Patrick” after the jump.

Also read his beautiful poem/meditation/hymn “St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” also known as “Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me.”

And read our earlier post The True Meaning of St. Patrick’s Day.  Note the link to How the Irish Saved Civilization and reflect, who is going to save it today?
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Why conservatives need Edmund Burke 

Edmund_Burke_by_James_NorthcoteIn another in our series of my-former-students-who-are-making-me-proud-by-their-writing, Gracy Olmstead explains why today’s conservatives need to pay attention to Sir Edmund Burke, the father of conservatism.

Burke, in criticizing the French Revolution, showed why social reform must “conserve” what is good in the society.  Rather than raze the society to the ground and start over from ground zero.   Interestingly, Burke supported the American Revolution, which–compared to what the Jacobins did–was actually conservative in its respect for God, insistence on English common law, and retention of traditional morality.

Some of today’s conservative activists are more like right wing Jacobins, opposing everything that represents the “establishment,” than Burkean conservatives, who, by definition, want to “conserve” something.

But my application isn’t to today’s political controversies.  I have been studying the Reformation lately.  The Lutherans really were advocating, in C. P. Krauth’s terms, a “conservative Reformation.”  The medieval church was in bad need of reform, but the Lutherans “conserved” what was good in it:  sacramental spirituality; the liturgy; the creeds; church art; the Christian intellectual tradition.  Later Protestants rejected everything that could remotely be considered “Catholic,” trying instead, in a succession of ways, to start the church all over from scratch.

Thus, in Burkean terms,  we had both a conservative Reformation and a Jacobin Reformation. [Read more…]

What the Reformation did for preaching

Evangelical theologian Timothy George has written a fascinating and illuminating post entitled “How the Reformation Recovered Preaching.”

Prof. George shows not only historical facts about how the Reformation put the sermon back into the worship service.  (Before, sermons were only given on special occasions, and often outdoors instead of in the sanctuary.)  Drawing deeply on Luther, He also explores the theology of the sermon, which is a “sacramental event.”

Read highlights after the jump.

(Painting by Lucas Cranach, Altarpiece at St. Mary’s Church, Wittenberg.  Reproduction by Torsten Schleese (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.)

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