Thursday, June 23, 2005

Worms und Heidelberg

Mannheim is located in a place that made it possible for me to do a trip to Worms and Heidelburg in the same day, and all after German class.

"The difference between Martin Luther and Jan Huss was that Luther had powerful friends."
That is what an English tourguide I overheard said at the very spot where Luther stood before the Charles V and refused to recant... and he was right - the tourguide that is. Whether or not Luther was is the 64,000 Euro question. After Luther defeneded himself at Worms, he was removed from the protection of law and might have suffered a similar fate as Huss, but on the way back he was kidnapped by Frederick the Wise and whisked to the palace where he completed his German Bible translation. The words attributed to him at Worms are...

"Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anderes. Gott helfe mich! Amen!"
He may have not actually said this, but it's the thought that counts. This short article on the matter is helpful. Also at the Protestant Worms is the excellent 1868 Luther monument to all those Reformers who clarified the message of the Gospel in an age, not unlike our own, where it had been skewed.

But there is also a Catholic Worms. The same Cathedral that Martin Luther would have seen still stands, with a fancy Baroque altar added later to underscore its non-Protestant status. The Cathedral was gearing up for World Youth Day in Cologne, so it seems business as usual for Catholics in the town where possibly the greatest standoff against Catholicism ever took place. This is of course a testimony to the institutional strength of the Catholic Church. But I walked away from Worms feeling that the city was as much a testimony to the message of the Gospel which is able to survive, if needs be, outside any institution. This, I like to think, is what the Reformation was about.

If one compares Catholicism as institution versus Protestantism as institution, then Catholicism will always win. But Protestanism, though it unfortunately and very pathetically can be, is not about the Protestant institution but about the priority of the Gospel message over any institution. That's why if Catholics forget the Gospel they can at least get by. If Protestants do we just look stupid.

Heidelburg: Rick Steves said Heidelburg was not worth one's time because it's been touristified, and he's right. Everyone I talked to spoke better English than German, and the kiss of death... there's a Starbucks. But still Heidelburg is famous for good reason: It's gorgeous, and is now tied with Cambridge for the most beautiful college town millinerd has seen. The Philospher's Way is a short hike that overlooks the town, and I sat there looking at the ruins of the castle and listening to a college band's outdoor concert echoing through the river canyon. Quite nice. College students really seem to know how to relax in Germany. From the student campout/protests that I hung out at in Mannheim to the acres of Bratwurst-barbequeing youth in a park overlooking the Heidelburg castle, living well in Germany, as in Paris, seems the status quo.

But alas, if only Heidelberg was not only physically beautiful, but also had produced some kind of testimony to the God of all beauty in the form of a document that summed up the message of salvation in Christ. Oh wait, it did.

The ol' Heidy-Cat has a warmth that so many other Reformation documents lacked, as especially exhibited in the first answer. But that being said, I'm no fan of the answer to question 98.