Posts tagged ‘Bonhoeffer’

December 27, 2011

what it means to have a past

But over the decades you have provided for us such incomparably beautiful Christmases that my thankful remembrance of them is strong enough to light up one dark Christmas. Only such times can really reveal what it means to have a past and an inner heritage that is independent of chance and the changing of the times. The awareness of a spiritual tradition that reaches through the centuries gives one a certain feeling of security in the face of all transitory difficulties.

In a prison letter from Dietrich Bonhoeffer to his parents, December 17, 1943. (From page 15 of God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas from the writings of Bonhoeffer, translated by O.C. Dean Jr. and edited by Jana Riess.)

December 24, 2011

the austere blessedness of waiting

Celebrating Advent means being able to wait. Waiting is an art that our impatient age has forgotten. It wants to break open the ripe fruit when it has hardly finished planting the shoot. But all too often the greedy eyes are only deceived; the fruit that seemed so precious is still green on the inside, and disrespectful hands ungratefully toss aside what has so disappointed them.

Whoever does not know how the austere blessedness of waiting–that is, of hopefully doing without–will never experience the full blessing of fulfillment.

In a prison letter from Dietrich Bonhoeffer to his fiancée, Maria von Wedemeyer, December 13, 1943. (From page 4 of God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas from the writings of Bonhoeffer, translated by O.C. Dean Jr. and edited by Jana Riess.)

December 20, 2011

the serious reality of the Advent message

As long as there are people, Christ will walk the earth as your neighbor, as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you, makes demands on you. That is the great seriousness and great blessedness of the Advent message. Christ is standing at the door; he lives in the form of a human being among us. Do you want to close the door or open it?

It may strike us as strange to see Christ in such a near face, but he said it, and those who withdraw from the serious reality of the Advent message cannot talk of the coming of Christ in their heart, either.

…Christ is knocking. It’s still not Christmas, but it’s also still not the great last Advent, the last coming of Christ. Through all the Advents of our life that we celebrate runs the longing for the last Advent, when the word will be: “See, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5).

The Advent season is a season of waiting, but our whole life is an Advent season, that is, a season of waiting for the last Advent, for the time when there will be heaven and a new earth.

In a letter from Dietrich Bonhoeffer to his parents, November 29, 1943, written from the Tegel prison camp. (From page 2 of God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas from the writings of Bonhoeffer, translated by O.C. Dean Jr. and edited by Jana Riess.)

November 25, 2011

we spin gossamers of air

From Bonhoeffer by Eric Mataxas (page 19):

Sometimes in the evenings they played ball games with the village children in the meadow. Inside they played guessing games and sang folk songs. They “watched the mists from the meadows waft and rise along the fir-trees,” Sabine noted, and they watched dusk fall. When the moon appeared, they sang “Der Mond ist Aufgegangen”:

Der Mond ist aufgegangen,

die goldnen Sternlein prangen

am Himmel hell und klar!

Der Wald steht Schwarz und schweigt

und aus den Wiesen steiget

der weiβe Nebel wunderbar.

The worlds of folklore and religion were so mingled in early twentieth-century German culture that even families who didn’t go to church were often deeply Christian. This folk song is typical, beginning as a paean to the beauty of the natural world, but soon turning into a meditation on mankind’s need for God and finally into a prayer, asking God to help us “poor and prideful sinners” to see his salvation when we die—and in the meantime here on earth to help us to be “like little children, cheerful and faithful.”

Full lyrics (translated by Matthias Claudius, 1773):

The moon has risen.
The golden stars shine
in the sky, brightly and clearly.
The woods stand black and silent.
And magically, from the meadows
the white mist is rising.

How still is the world
and, wrapped in dusk,
as intimate and lovely
as a still chamber
where you can sleep
while forgetting the day’s grief.

Do you see the moon up there?
You can only see half of it,
all the same, it is round and beautiful.
The same goes for many things
that we laugh at without hesitation,
just because our eyes don’t see them.

We proud children of man
are vain poor sinners
who do not know much at all.
We spin gossamers of air
and search for many skills
and further depart from our goal.

God. let us see your salvation,
let us neither trust in any transitory things,
nor enjoy vanity.
Let us become naiv
and here on earth let us be, in your eyes,
devout and happy like children.

Without grief, will you finally please
take us out of this world
by a gentle death;
and when you will have taken us,
let us get to Heaven,
you, our Lord and God.

So then, brothers,
lie down in the name of God –
The evening breeze is cold.
Spare us punishment, God,
and grant us peaceful sleep –
and also to our sick neighbour.

November 24, 2011

deeply rooted obligation to be guardians

The rich world of his ancestors set the standards for Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s own life. It gave him a certainty of judgement and manner that cannot be acquired in a single generation. He grew up in a family that believed the essence of learning lay not in a formal education but in the deeply rooted obligation to be guardians of a great historical heritage and intellectual tradition.

By Eberhard Bethge quoted by at the start of chapter one in Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Mataxas (page 5).

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