Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Greeting from LTSP

The Annunciation

Berthold's German devotional Hourly Thoughts on the Life and Suffering of Christ was a fourteenth century bestseller in the Holy Roman Empire. It was so successful that Berthold translated it into Latin so that it could be copied and read by educated readers all across Europe. With the invention of the printing press, this devotional classic naturally became a favorite among printers who then augmented the text with woodcuts.

The Annunciation - actual size
The Annunciation
The woodcut of the Annunciation is the inspiration for the seminary's holiday greeting this year. It appeared in Ulrich Zell's Latin edition that was printed in Cologne in 1488. The woodcut, however, is more than decoration. It is a visual representation of Berthold's understanding of the Annunciation. According to tradition, Mary was reading her prayer book when the Angel Gabriel arrived and announced that she had been chosen to be the mother of the Messiah. The unknown artist of this tiny woodcut (3"x2" - shown enlarged above and close to actual size to the right) has beautifully captured all those traditional elements. But it's Mary's smile and arms resting easily on the lectern that link this image to the text. For Berthold, the Annunciation was a moment of unparalleled joy. Paraphrasing Berthold - all the music made by earthly cymbals, lutes, harps, organs, and choirs could not compare with the angelic chorus that echoed across the heavens the moment Mary smiled and said yes.

Mary, the Mother of our Lord, Berthold, and the owners of this extraordinary book were people of faith and prayer. The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, the steward of this rare treasure, is a living witness to that faith in the twenty-first century and prepares people of prayer and faith for ministries around the world. This Christmas, as we celebrate the birth of our Lord, we rejoice and give thanks for your commitment to our ministry and hope that the good news of God's everlasting love through Christ may be a blessing to you in this season of unparalleled joy.

Text: The Rev. Dr. Karl Krueger, Director of the Krauth Memorial Library and Professor of the History of Christianity, LTSP

Illustration: "The Annunciation" in the Horologium devotionis circa vitam Christi [Cologne: Ulrich Zell, 1488], from the Krauth Memorial Library at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia

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