Waterford Cathedral’s library ‘treasures’ recovered and catalogued online
Caption: Kieran Cronin (left), Dean Maria Jansson and Dr Ted Lynch are pictured following the launch of the online catalogue of the Christ Church Cathedral library collection.
The Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Waterford, the Very Revd Maria Jansson, and the Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) Libraries recently joined together to launch the online catalogue of the prestigious Christ Church Cathedral Collection.
The collection, of which WIT Libraries had been custodians since 2006, comprises over 3,300 ecclesiastical, legal and historical artefacts which bestow immense cultural and heritage value to the South East of Ireland.
FIGURES IN CHURCH HISTORY – 35
PHILIP MELANCHTHON (1497-1560)
An enigma from his own day to ours, Philip Melanchthon was nonetheless one of the most significant figures of the Reformation era. A layman, he was responsible for composing the chief confession of Lutheranism and its principal theological textbook.
He, not the outlawed Luther, was its chief negotiator in innumerable conferences between statesmen and theologians. He was the main architect of Germany’s school system. He was the only Renaissance ‘humanist’ with whom Luther in the long run sustained a personal friendship.
Melanchthon declined flattering offers from universities, kings (including Henry VIII) and Roman Catholic dignitaries to leave Wittenberg, where he was rector of the University, yet he lived, somewhat uncomfortably, under the shadow of Luther, whose mentor in some respects nevertheless he was. Especially after Luther’s death, he drew almost constant fire from theologians who, most unfairly, accused him of selling out the Lutheran Reformation.
A firm Protestant, Melanchthon can nonetheless be regarded as a protoecumenist for his efforts to promote the unity of the Church in conferences with leading representatives of the Roman Catholic tradition. A conciliator who entered into discussion with other leading Reformers, including Martin Bucer and John Calvin, he was utterly opposed to the Swiss Reformation in its Zwinglian manifestation. He was a passionate advocate of the authority of Holy Scripture, yet drew much inspiration from the early Fathers of the Church.
Melanchthon never received a doctor’s degree, yet, even in his own lifetime, he was acclaimed as “the preceptor of Germany”. His principal monument is undoubtedly, as indicated above, the Confession of Augsburg, a statement of Lutheran belief drawn up for submission to the Emperor in 1530, which is still the chief standard of faith in the Lutheran Churches, although, paradoxically, a version revised by Melanchthon himself in 1540 is accepted by the Reformed (Calvinist) Churches in certain parts of Germany.
Shortly before he died, Melanchthon wrote a short statement on why he did not fear death. He said: “You will be redeemed from sin and set free from cares and from the fury of theologians” and “You come to the light, you will look upon God and his Son.” The burden of his last prayers in his last illness was for the unity of the Church. The words of John 17: 11, “that they may be one”, were never out of his mind. When asked whether he desired anything else, after some readings of Scripture, he replied: “Nothing but heaven.”
This editorial is one in a series of occasional reflections on figures in Church history, following a chronological sequence as they appear.
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