Wednesday, March 27, 2013

QOTD: Bonhoeffer

I have a mild interest in Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), a very fascinating person within modern Christian history. I can't say I know a whole lot right now as I've just begun to scratch the surface in terms of his life, thought, and writings (plus this is just a side hobby, I'm not sure if this contributes anything to my studies as a NT PhD student... still interesting though.) I have read a couple biographies about him (here and here) and that was very helpful in introducing me to Bonhoeffer beyond my initial exposure in college to his famous book, Nachfolge (Eng.: The Cost of Discipleship). I find him so interesting given his impeccable educational background (Bonhoeffer earned his doctorate at the University of Berlin, studying under the likes of people such as Adolf von Harnack) along with his familiarity with Karl Barth, that provided for him a kind of balance between liberal theology and the more "conservative" thought that lie within dogmatics. All this of course is all mixed up with his involvement in the plot to assassinate Hitler, which is yet another fascinating part of Bonhoeffer's legacy.

I recently picked up his Letters and Papers from Prison (DBWE, vol. 8) and today I came across his letter sent to his parents on Easter Sunday, about 70 years ago (marked Apr. 25, 1943). As Easter 2013 is approaching this Sunday, I thought it appropriate to quote just a few lines from this letter:

My dear Parents,
Today ten days have finally passed, and I am allowed to write to you once again. I would really like to let you know that I am celebrating a happy Easter here. What is so liberating about Good Friday and Easter is the fact that our thoughts are pulled far beyond our personal circumstances to the ultimate meaning of all life, suffering, and indeed everything that happens, and this gives us great hope. Since yesterday it has become wonderfully quiet throughout the building. One could hear many people call out "Happy Easter" to each other, and, without envy, one wishes that everyone who carries out their difficult duty in here be granted the fulfillment of that wish. In the silence I now also hear your Easter greetings as you are gathered together today with my brothers and sisters and are thinking of me...

I continue to be well, I am healthy, permitted to be outside for a half hour every day; and now that I am again allowed to smoke, I sometimes even forget briefly where I actually am! I am treated well and read a lot, besides the newspaper and novels especially the Bible. I don't yet have the concentration to work properly. However, during this Holy Week I was finally able to intensively study a section of the Passion Narrative, Jesus's high priestly prayer, in which I have had a long-standing strong interest as you know. I even managed to do an exegesis of several chapters of Paul's ethics for myself. This was very important for me. Thus I must still be very grateful...

Surprisingly, the days are passing by quickly in here. It seems incredible to me that I have already been here for three weeks. I enjoy going to bed at 8:00 p.m. -- supper is at 4:00 p.m.! -- and I look forward to my dreams. In the past I never knew what a delightful gift they are. I dream every night, and they are always pleasant. Until I fall asleep, I recite the verse I memorized during the day. Then at six in the morning, I enjoy reading psalms and hymns, thinking of you, and knowing that you are thinking of me too...

And now farewell. Please forgive all the worries I am causing you! Greet all my brothers and sisters and their children. Yours with all my heart, full of gratitude and love,

--Dietrich


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