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February Commemorations in the Lutheran Church Calendar

2/3: Ansgar, Archbishop and missionary, 865

Ansgar, a man of great personal piety, was born in 801 near Amiens, France. He was the first missionary to NW Europe, first going to Denmark in 826; in 829 he went to Sweden and in Birka built the first church in Scandinavia. In 831 he was consecrated Archbishop of Hamburg, with a view to making this a base for his missionary operations. When the Danes destroyed Hamburg in 845, Ansgar was made Archbishop of Bremen and Hamburg. He returned to Sweden and Denmark and labored hard, but shortly after his death in 865, the work he had begun came to a halt; it was not resumed for two centuries. Ansgar is held in great respect by Scandinavian Lutherans today, especially by the Danes. Numerous churches, societies, and educational institutions are named for him.

Ansgar; from the Church Trinitatis, Hamburg, Germany

2/5: The Martyrs of Japan, 1597

In 1597 twenty-six Christians (6 European Franciscan missionaries, a Japanese Jesuit priest, a Korean layman, 15 Japanese laymen, and 3 young boys) were killed by crucifixion at Nagasaki. The Nippon Sei Ko Kai (the Holy Catholic Church of Japan) adopted this commemora-tion in 1959 as a festival of all those who have given their lives for the Christian faith in Japan. The Episcopalian church, as well as the Lutherans, have included this day in the calendar.

2/14: Cyril, monk, 869; Methodius, bishop, 885

These two brothers are known as the apostles to the Slavs. Cyril, the younger (born 827), taught at the University in Constantinople; and Methodius (born 815) was governor of a province. They became priests and were sent to preach the gospel in Moravia. They took an immediate interest in the language, and Cyril invented an alphabet, called Glagolithic or Cyrillic. In 869, on a visit to Rome, Cyril died. Methodius returned to his mission field and, despite opposition from the German bishops, labored there until his death in 885. The Czechs, Croats, Serbs, and Bulgars revere the memory of Cyril and Methodius as founders of their alphabet, translators of the liturgy into Slavonic, and builders of the foundation of Slavonic literature.

2/18: Martin Luther, renewer of the church, 1546

Born in Eisleben in 1483, Luther was ordained a priest in 1507. He taught Biblical exegesis at Wittenberg from 1511 until his death. Luther posted his theses concerning indulgences in 1517. In 1525 he married Katherine von Bora, a former nun. He wrote voluminously, and of his written work his two Cate-chisms, his Bible translation and his hymns (and thus the founding of German literature) are remembered most widely.

Dr. Martin Luther, Lucas Cranach

2/18: Michelangelo Buonarroti, artist, 1564

Born in 1475, Michelangelo became the most influential late Renaissance artist, earning fame as a painter, sculptor, architect, and poet. His writings disclose a profound piety; his art embodies a new concept of human dignity, projecting the human body on a new scale of grandeur. His contempor-aries believed him to be divinely in-spired. He saw in sculpture an allegory of divine creativity and human salva-tion. Some of his noblest works are the Sistine Chapel, the David, the Moses, the Pieta, the Medici Chapel, and the library of San Lorenzo. He was one of the architects of St. Peter's Basilica. He died in 1564 at the age of 89.

2/20: Rasmus Jensen, pastor 1619

Jensen, the first Lutheran pastor in North America, came in 1619 with an expedition sent by King Christian IV of Denmark. The expedition took possess-ion of the Hudson Bay area, naming it Nova Dania. Within a few months of their arrival, most of the members of the expedition died, including Jensen.

2/23: Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, martyr, 156

Polycarp, born 69 C.E., is an important link between the apostolic age and the great Christian writers at the end of the 2nd century. Irenaeus reports that Polycarp had conversation with John "and with the rest of those who had seen the Lord." His epistle to the Philippians quotes 1 John, and thus is important for its testimony to the New Testament. A stalwart defender of orthodoxy, Polycarp was arrested during a public pagan festival, refused to recant his faith, and was burned to death. There is an eyewitness account of his death, and it gives this as the day of his martyrdom. His followers ex-pressed their intention to celebrate "the birthday of his martyrdom."

2/23: Bartholomaeus Zieganbalg, missionary, 1719

Zieganbalg, believed to be the first Protestant missionary, was born in 1682 in Saxony. Orphaned at an early age, he came under the influence of the Pietists and studied at Halle. In 1705 King Frederic IV of Denmark sent him and others as missionaries to the Danish colony of Tranquebar on the southeast coast of India. Overcoming numerous obstacles, including poor health, lack of support from the church, and opposition of civil authorities, Zieganbalg established a mission school, a sem-inary for Indian preachers, and built a church called New Jerusalem, which is still in use. He learned the Tamil language and translated the Small Catechism, the New Testament, parts of the Old, and compiled a grammar. He studied religious conditions in the mission area and wrote studies of South Indian Hinduism. He died at Madras.

Monument in Tranquebar, Tamil Nadu, India

2/24:St. Matthias, Apostle

Matthias was chosen by lot to fill the vacancy in the twelve apostles left by the death of Judas. Although he is mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament, the account of his election (Acts 1:15-26) implies he was a follower of Jesus from the beginning of his ministry. Tradition locates his missionary labor in Ethiopia. His feast day in the Greek church is August 9; the Roman calendar has moved his day to May 14 to avoid conflict with Lent; the Lutheran and Episcopal calendars have retained this traditional date. Prayer: Almighty God, you added your servant Matthias to the company of the apostles. Grant that your church may always be taught and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Christ our Lord. Amen. Read: Acts 1:15-26.

2/25: Elisabeth Fedde, Deaconess, 1921

Sister Elisabeth was a Norwegian Lutheran deaconess who established the Norwegian Relief Society to better served the Norwegian-American immigrant community. When she was about 23 years old, she trained as a deaconess at the Lovisenberg Deacon-ess House in Kristiania under the super-vision of Mother Katinka Guldberg, who had herself been trained at the Fliedner Motherhouse in Kaiserwerth, Germany. In April 1883 she arrived in New York City and helped found the Norwegian Relief Society. In her diary, which was later published, she talks of her work, and especially her ministry to the sick and desperate poor. During her thirteen years in America she accepted the invitation of Midwestern Lutherans to labor in that part of the country, estab-lishing the Lutheran Deaconess home in Minneapolis in 1888. The next year she helped found the Hospital of the Luther- an Free Church. Sister Elisabeth also helped plan a third hospital in Chicago (which opened in 1897), and another in North Dakota. She returned to Norway in 1895 and married a long-time friend, Ole Slettebo.

Elisabeth Fedde, c 1880