Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Man of Conscience by Malcolm Muggeridge

This piece from Plough is  excerpted from the book A Third Testament, and is based on a 1974 CBC television series by the same name.

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer photograph National German Archive

 

An excerpt:

It is an awesome thought that the eighteen months or so that Bonhoeffer spent as a prisoner in Tegel Prison was spiritually the richest, and intellectually and artistically the most fertile, period of his life. All his circumstances prior to his imprisonment were conducive to him becoming a useful and enlightened citizen. Indeed, he had already become a pillar of the Confessional Church – a teacher, preacher and scholar of growing renown, inside Germany and abroad. All this (and I do not mean it disparagingly at all) was to be expected from so honorable and honest a product of a God-fearing, cultivated, upper-middle-class home.

In his cell, however, the theologian became a mystic, the pastor became a martyr, and the teacher produced, in his Letters and Papers from Prison, one of the great contemporary classics of Christian literature. It is very difficult indeed for a twentieth-century mind to accept, or even grasp, the notion of the blessedness of affliction. Bonhoeffer provides us with a perfect object lesson. His greatness grew directly out of his affliction, and through the very hopelessness of his earthly state, he was able to generate hope at a dark moment in history, when it was most sorely needed, comforting and heartening many.

When Bonhoeffer heard in prison that the plot of July 1944 had failed, he realized that Hitler, having miraculously survived the assassination attempt, would be merciless in liquidating the conspirators. Now he knew that, in human terms, their cause was lost. God had overruled their earthly purpose, and nothing remained for him but to come to terms, once and for all, with the Cross. In the plot’s failure lay his triumph, as in losing his life he would gain it. This is beautifully conveyed in his last writings in prison.

I have never regretted my decision in the summer of 1939 to return to Germany, for I’m firmly convinced – however strange it may seem – that my life has followed a straight and unbroken course, at any rate in its outward conduct. It has been an uninterrupted enrichment of experience, for which I can only be thankful. If I were to end my life here in these conditions, that would have a meaning that I think I could understand.

Do click here to read this classic piece on Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

O Worship the King All-glorious Above

O tell of God's grace

 

O worship the King all-glorious above,
O gratefully sing his power and his love:
our shield and defender, the Ancient of Days,
pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.

O tell of his might and sing of his grace,
whose robe is the light, whose canopy space.
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
and dark is his path on the wings of the storm.

Your bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
it streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
and sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.

Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
in you do we trust, nor find you to fail.
Your mercies, how tender, how firm to the end,
our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend!

O measureless Might, unchangeable Love,
whom angels delight to worship above!
Your ransomed creation, with glory ablaze,
in true adoration shall sing to your praise!

The Spread of the Gospel!

How far did the Church spread in the first century? Who took the Gospel to Ukraine in the AD 60s? Ethiopia in the 4th century? China in the 7th century? Greenland in the 11th century? What was happening with Christianity in the 300s? 600s? 900s? The Spread of the Gospel Map is a powerful visual depiction of the most important movement in history: the spread of Christianity. Charting the geographic progress of the Gospel over the last 2,000 years, this map shows the missionary journeys of the apostles, the outposts of the early church, the hotbeds of persecution, the staging grounds of the Church’s major theological battles, and more. Be reminded of the power of the Gospel to transform “every nation and tribe and language and people,” and be inspired by the legacies of the brave brothers and sisters who faithfully carried the Gospel of Christ to the farthest ends of the earth. Go here to learn more about it.

The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats

william-butler-yeats

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Wexford Carol

Good people all, this Christmas time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved son
With Mary holy we should pray,
To God with love this Christmas Day
In Bethlehem upon that morn,
There was a blessed Messiah born.

The night before that happy tide,
The noble Virgin and her guide
Were long time seeking up and down
To find a lodging in the town.
But mark right well what came to pass
From every door repelled, alas,
As was foretold, their refuge all
Was but a humble ox’s stall.

Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep
To whom God’s angel did appear
Which put the shepherds in great fear
Arise and go, the angels said
To Bethlehem, be not afraid
For there you’ll find, this happy morn
A princely babe, sweet Jesus, born.

With thankful heart and joyful mind
The shepherds went the babe to find
And as God’s angel had foretold
They did our Saviour Christ behold
Within a manger he was laid
And by his side a virgin maid
Attending on the Lord of Life
Who came on earth to end all strife.

There were three wise men from afar
Directed by a glorious star
And on they wandered night and day
Until they came where Jesus lay
And when they came unto that place
Where our beloved Messiah lay
They humbly cast them at his feet
With gifts of gold and incense sweet.

We Three Kings

Christmas March half the size George

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Prayer and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God most high

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Earth to heav’n replies

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

 

Photo of details of pavilion erected in honor of King George V in March, England by Eric Jonas Swensson, copyright 2015.