What are failures and blessings

There are two standards for a person's work: success and blessing. Success can be seen in results, the blessing shows in strength. The success are works, objectifications that have detached themselves from the person, "objective spirit" says Hegel. The blessing is a subjectification, it shows itself in what kind of forces emanated from a person and entered into other people, what he was able to pass on from himself. Real tradition is a blessing. (We can say the same thing about failure and the curse: results that are the opposite of what is wanted, negative forces, hatred and dissolution that come from the evil core of a person.) We can attribute success or failure to human achievements. The historian is responsible here. The blessing and the curse are secrets. Sometimes they show up late in successes and failures. Sometimes a warner senses it and is not taken seriously by those who benefit from the success or those who are disappointed with the failure. The decision often remains incomprehensible for people. But blessings and curses are never accessible to scientific judgment; one can only speak of it in confession.

Wilhelm Stählin, the professor and bishop, the founder of the Berneuchener Kreis and the eldest of the Michaelsbruderschaft, is a figure of intellectual history and church history. She knows how to talk about achievements and failures. What it meant was what his friends tried to say on his 70th birthday five years ago in the commemorative publication “Kosmos and Ekklesia” and Bishop Dibelius in the issue of that magazine at the time. I would like to bear witness to what he has been to friends and brothers in the description of a few encounters.

1921. I see him in the blue linen jacket with an open collar and shorts in the light beech forest above Hofgeismar. The boys and girls of the Young German Confederation camped around him, and he talked about the “Wandervogel and what next?”. The lectures were then printed under the title: “Fever and Salvation in the Youth Movement”. It was a struggle against several fronts, as he himself said, against bourgeois and pietistic stubbornness and against indecency in intercourse between the sexes, against the elderly, who were afraid of the shapeless youth, and against the youth who do not mature and do not form forms wanted. I have special memories of two passages. How he spoke of the “gathered forces”, the “man to his wife, the pure feeling that the woman should bring towards his husband”, how he praised marriage as a “commitment to sensuality” and the “simple health of the faithful word ”Repeated:“ He who lives in right marriage is lost to the devil ”. Without prejudice and patient, he put the problems right and showed the responsible freedom of man for the order of God. He even made the church believable for us who were incredibly astonished, the congregation in which all lines flow upwards and all human ties to one another go through God instead of the intertwining and confusion of relationships in the mere community, which was so much praised at the time.

So in 1923 at Hoheneck Castle he forced us to give up the non-binding singing of “beautiful” and “powerful” chorales and demanded a clear commitment or honest testing restraint. He demanded sobriety from the political enthusiasts who wanted to march to Berlin with Hitler at the time, while we Berlin young Germans went to the shooting ranges in league with the Young Socialists in order to get ready to put down a coup together with the Reichswehr.

I only saw him once on his pulpit in Nuremberg in St. Lorenz, in 1925 at the harvest festival, when his children had the privilege of putting a wreath of autumn asters on Adam Kraft under the sacrament house. I will never forget what he said two years later at a meeting of the Federation of German Youth Associations in Hannoversch Münden: “It was hard enough for me as a parish priest to tell people from the pulpit how to behave in a life that I do did not know. Now, as a professor, I am supposed to tell the boys how to advise people to behave in a life that I do not know and that they do not know. " That was the steel woman whom his opponents later wanted to stamp as an unworldly specialist in liturgy.

In the meantime the conferences had taken place in Berneuchen, the Berneuchen book was published and the “Prayer of the Times of the Day”, the leisure time and - at the suggestion of Carl Happich - the meditations began. The circle around Stählin recognized the intimate connection of the three tasks: renewal of the understanding of the world, renewal of the worship service, renewal of social life. Shortly before the great test for the Evangelical Church in Germany began, the Evangelical Michael Brotherhood was founded. At that time, Stählin's relationship with the ecumenical movement deepened through a visit to England. In 1933 I visited the Bishop of Chichester on a recommendation from Eugen Rosenstock. He received me with the question of news from the German Church: "Which circle of the Protestant Church do you come from?" I tried to make the brotherhood clear to him by referring to Stählin. "Oh, bring the picture of Stahlin," he asked his secretary. I hadn't known anything about this relationship. But on my return to London I found a letter from Stählin that I had to visit the Bishop of Chichester, "he is one of the noblest and most pious people I have ever met".

On my return from England I visited him in Munster. That evening he gave the first - and probably last - election speech of his life against the German Christians. Like few others, he recognized from the beginning the anti-Christian powers that confronted us under National Socialism. He knew the terrible difficulty of the fight. That is why he could not join the fight of the Confessing Church unconditionally. It pained him very much that tensions arose between those who waged this struggle in direct resistance and those who knew their calling to prepare people in the Church and on the fringes of the Church for later renewal. I remember how happy he was when he gave a lecture in Berlin during the war and finally found understanding among the brothers on the other side. It was this understanding that prompted him to take up the office in Oldenburg in 1944, which in 1945 automatically expanded to become the official bishopric.

Until then, his work was mainly in the camps and lectures, in writings and essays and in the leadership of the brotherhood. He was given the ability to address people of very different origins and backgrounds at the same time. At the end of several days of free time, he gave a sermon in the village church at the Klitzingschen Gut Charlottenhof in Neumark. The landowners had come from far away with their wagons, the peasants and workers were waiting for their normal Sunday service and the participants in their leisure time were waiting for a word to top off their conference. He did justice to everyone at the same time, because he spoke to the point.

In one of his yearbooks "The Year of God" he wanted to treat "the unity of the Bible". I sent him a very temperamental rejection, I don't see why we should deal at this point and at this moment with the book instead of the matter it speaks of. The answer came promptly that he wanted to introduce my letter with a few changes and had already written an answer to it. I wrote back saying I was sorry that the beautiful formulations with which he had tightened up my letter hadn't grown on my dung, but I found his answer far too weak. That's why I would have rewritten it. So there are now “Rejection and Answer” without the two names in the relevant year, without any indication that they are written with reversed fronts. (Incidentally, this correspondence had the educational effect that I could not ignore the arguments, which I had only used playfully and advocated at first, and learned Hebrew in order to be certain of the unity of the two testaments).

Those who were taken into strict liturgical upbringing by Stählin will be able to report similar changes. The strict practice in speaking did not lead to the “Berneuchen celebration” he so frowned upon, but in the course of time to a thoroughly worthy, but again unprejudiced language in the service and finally to a new freedom in public appearance in general. But for that artificial dignity he had the beautiful saying: "Some people talk so anointed that one gets greasy spots from listening!"

One does not do Stählin justice if one does not emphasize that when he says "Church" it was always about the totality of the Church of Jesus Christ. Hence his efforts for ecumenical work. But he went on. For years after the war, against the resistance of many friends, he tried to establish a connection with the Christian community, because the "questions of anthroposophy to the church" seemed to him just as justified as their answers "questionable". Even when the talks failed, he gave a strictly factual presentation in his book “Gospel and Christian Community” that was also seriously appreciated by the Christian community.

From the sermon in Hofgeismar in 1921 I remember a sentence that we could not recognize any claim to absoluteness of any human authority, not even a particular church. This insight also determined his relations with the Roman Church. His first sentence was always: "It has not yet been decided whether Luther's sentence that the Antichrist sits in the church in Rome is not right."

He always conducted his conversations with the restriction that they should serve mutual understanding, clear up misunderstandings and remove prejudices, but that they could not be negotiations on rapprochement. They were conducted in conjunction with the EKiD Council. They have brought much help in theological insights for both sides, and have led to warm personal friendships. They have repeatedly shown us the division of the Church as guilt and calamity, but also made it clear how each of the denominations has preserved certain fragments of the common tradition in spite of all later special developments in such a way that it is also a service for the other and a help for them common service of all Christianity to the world.

For it is about the world, about the rule of Christ over nature, which is his creation, over history, the core of which is salvation history, never about the relationship of an isolated soul to a worldless God. That Wilhelm Stählin understood how, in the struggle for this insight, for this service, to always remain worldly, but never to become worldly - to use his own expressions - we can already see a blessing in this, for which we thank God .

Quatember 1958, pp. 224-226