Martin Luther (3)

The cell was small and gloomy. A faint light came through the window. When Martin looked outside he just could see the tip of a white puffy cloud, sailing away over the high walls of the monastery along the blue sky to... Where was it going? He heard some birds. That was beautiful! Where were they? In the bushes in the small garden’? Or outside in the trees?

He would like to see more, but the stone wall was there, high, strong and impregnable. If only he could see the flowers on the slopes of the hills and the woods with the...

No...Suddenly he sat straight. A stern look came on his face. Again his thoughts were wandering away and he had not finished his prayers for the saints of this day. For a moment he sat with his hands before his face. He not only had this longing for the outside world, he also still had those awful thoughts in his heart. How was that possible?

Now he was in the monastery, he was supposed to have a holy life, to spend all the minutes between these walls in holy meditations and prayer, but....

He did not care if he had to clean the cells of the other monks; he did not care if he had to beg along the houses for a little food, if only he could have peace in his heart.

The other monks knew of his questions and they had told him, "Do good works, then you will be happy."

Martin Luther shook his head. "Ah," he thought, "what good works can come from a heart as I have?"

Maybe he should fast more, maybe he should not eat at all for a while, then those thoughts would leave him and he would get peace in his heart.

The Lord was so holy, the Lord was so righteous. How ever could it be right again between him and the Lord?

"Where is Luther?" one of the young monks asked, a little bit uneasy. "I did not see him for several days."

He wanted to fast and pray," somebody said.

"Let us go and look," the young monk said. "I don’ t like it. He did it before and -" He did not finish his sentence, but quickly turned around to see what had happened. They walked to the other end of the monastery and tried to open the door of Martin’s cell. It was locked. The friend shook his head and he knocked, but did not get an answer. He called and listened, but they did not hear a sound. Then be bumped against the door with his shoulder to open it.

Oh! There his friend was lying on thc cold floor. His eyes were closed. He looked so pale, and he was so skinny! How many days did he stay here without food? Why did he fast that much? And where did those bloody stripes come from? Did he scourge himself? "He is doing too much," his friend grumbled. "He took 21 saints to pray to, every night three. And then all that fasting and punishing himself. He is overdoing it. I have to tell him."

The two friends looked at each other, shook their heads and laid Martin on his bed.

A visitor came to the monastery. Martin had heard it, but he was not excited about it. He was too much occupied with the question how he could ever get the peace in his heart that he longed for.

Still, it was an important man, his name was Von Staupitz, and he was the vicar general of the order of the monks in this monastery.

He walked around and talked to the monks, he felt as a father who had to take care of his family. The monks liked him.

Von Staupitz also saw Martin walking around, but he did not have a chance to talk to him. Still, he could not forget that young monk. He looked so pale and sad!

"Who is that monk with that sad face?" he asked.

They told him about Martin. "I want to speak to.him," he said.

They spoke together and Martin told him about his many questions.

"I always feel that I still have so many sins," he complained.

Von Staupitz looked at him.

"Why do you distress yourself with these thoughts’? Look to the wounds of Christ, "he said. "He came for all our sins."

So he tried to comfort the young monk, but Martin did not see it and sadly he shook his head.

When Von Staupitz came the next time, he gave Luther a Bible.

"It is good to study the Bible," he said.

And this Martin Luther did. Besides the Bible he also read the works of St. Augustine. He found much wisdom and teaching in those books. He loved to read and to study.

Sometimes he read a nice text in the Bible, which gave him some comfort. At another time he read a text,"The just shall live by faith." That was a mystery to him. He was not just. How ever could he be a just man? No, the unrest in his heart did not go away. He still could not understand how he ever could feel real peace in his heart.

High on a hill, surrounded by dark woods, was the castle of Frederic the Wise, the Elector of Saxony, a little county in Germany. The Elector was sitting with a visitor before the fireplace.

"I think it is nice that you visit the monasteries, Von Staupitz," Frederic the Wise said.

"In that way you learn to know who they are and what they do. And now I need your help."

Von Staupitz looked at him, questioningly. He waited till the Elector would continue.

"I am looking for a new professor at our university in Wittenberg. That is the reason that I called you. Do you know somebody?"

Von Staupitz was surprised. "I know somebody," he immediately answered. "I just visited the Augustinian Monastery. There is a priest there, he is very learned and very serious. I think that will be a good man in Wittenberg. He likes to study and I think I can get him to go for his doctorate in theology. You will be pleased with him."

"What is his name?"

"Martin Luther. He was ordained as a priest in 1507."

Two students were walking home. "Did you hear that new professor, Martin Luther?"

"O yes, I really liked what he said." "He is different than the other professors."

"Did you hear his lecture last week about his trip to Rome?"

"No, I could not come. But I heard about it. Did you hear it?"

"Yes, I did. Martin Luther had been in Rome and he said he never saw so much corruption, pride, and drunkenness as in that holy city between all those priests."

"He said that?"

"O, he said many more things, also about the Pope. I think he will get in trouble soon."

"I like it so much when he explains the Bible."

"Me, too. "He finished the Psalms; now he is going to explain the epistle to the Romans."

"That will be real nice."

"You can feel that he preaches from his heart." "Yes, but still, he does not look happy himself."

"You are right. Sometimes he looks so sad." "Now he is going to preach on Sundays in the church, too. The Elector asked him."

"Really, Then I will go to listen again."

"He never preaches about purgatory or the saints. Strange...."

"No, you are right. He always says that we need to know that God is righteous and just."

"Are you coming, too, this Sunday?"

"Sure, I hope to be there."

"See you, then."

"See you!"

-to be continued-