The Heritage of the Reformation
19 October 2017
The Reformation did not come at the Catholic Church from outside. On the contrary, all the early Reformers except Calvin were Catholic priests and humanists, devoted to the church to which they had dedicated their lives. Since ordination they had said Mass regularly in Latin and fulfilled all the obligations of their high calling. I would like to say something today about the one who in his own day had the widest European influence, from Strasbourg to Stockholm and even as far as Cambridge, Martin Bucer, Fellow of St John’s College and Regius Professor of Divinity. When he died in 1551, he was buried with honour in Great St Mary’s Church; but in 1556 his body was exhumed and burnt, together with his writings, in the marketplace. Devoted students gathered up handfuls of dust and ashes; and then, in 1560, his remains were reinterred just inside the chancel on the right hand side, with the noble and unique inscription ‘secundo funere honorante‘ (honouring with a second funeral). It is worth a visit, even a pilgrimage; and I would like to give him a five-fold salute.
First, Bucer was the best educated of the Reformers. As a boy at a Latin grammar school in Alsace, he imbibed the Christian humanism of Erasmus; he became a teenage Dominican, not from vocation to the religious life but for a good grounding in the broad and deep natural theology of Aquinas; and he retained the best of what he had gained from both these places of learning and took it with him to university in Heidelberg and into the rest of his ministry and his ceaseless pursuit of agreement and reconciliation.Continue reading “The Heritage of the Reformation – Martin Bucer”