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Monday, January 19, 2015

Martyrs 9: Maria, Ursula von Becken: young girls—Unconquerable courage of faith!

Maria, Ursula von Becken

      This continues from Part 8 (Table of Contents in Part 1a and Part 1b) publishing the book of Hermann Fick on the martyrs of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Part 9 is the account of 2 sisters, Maria and Ursula von Becken.  —  I would wonder that the dear Hermann Fick shed a tear (as I did) over the heart gripping account below, especially as the 2 were separated.  Dear God!... what a story to be read to the youth of today (here and now).  If I were a father of a young girl, this account of Maria and Ursula would be one of my readings for her...  —  Christians do not need the "grief counselors" of this world, they have the true Comforter, in Jesus... by His Word.  The world's comfort is an empty husk.
      Would you prefer a death by burning or by the sword?  We see the striking answer of one of these sisters below...
Some highlighting added hyperlinks added for reference.
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by C.J. Hermann Fick
(tr. by BackToLuther)
IX.
"We believe Christ and his Word,
That is our highest treasure."
(The maidens in court.)
Not only men but also young women have sealed the Lutheran doctrine with their blood, thus giving their young fellow Christians a shining example for all time of true love to Jesus.  Among them, church history especially praises Maria and Ursula von Becken, two noble [adliche] sisters. [page 44] Their self-denial and joyfulness in faith made a deep impression on the Christians of their time, wherefore their martyrdom has been widely praised and celebrated in songs.
The two young women lived at Delden, three miles from Deventer, Netherlands.  As it says in the songs, they are "finished well, adorned with abundant grace and as devout blameless Christians."   They had a warm love for the Word of God, so that
"East to the preaching they went,
Their souls consolation received."
However Satan became angry over this and pursued them with various cunning; but God sheltered them with His almighty hand. Finally came the time when God wanted to take them to Himself in His blessed heaven.  The two sisters were taken captive in 1545 by the Papists, led to Deventer and put on trial.  On the question of the Governor what their faith was, they replied:
"We believe in Christ's teaching
And in his holy Word so clear,
We confess this quite openly. "
Then they were led "towards Zwickel on the house", and then to frighten them, they were sent "a great tyrant of the House of Burgundy". The tyrant asked them if they believed the doctrine of the Anabaptists. The pious Christians decidedly rejected however the false doctrine of the Anabaptists by keeping themselves in God's Word.  They gave the answer:
Once am I truly baptized,
According to Christ’s teaching appears clear
As Mark informs the sixteenth,
Saint Paul also holds for clear. "
Then the tyrant asked them what they thought of the Roman Catholic Mass?  As it says in the song, so confessed the blessed maidens:
"We believe no human teaching;
We believe Christ and His Word,
This is our highest treasure,
Thereby he has set
His will before his death:
His tender body in the bread so small,
His holy blood in the clear wine
For our sin and iniquity, [page 45]
Which he commanded us
To eat and to drink fine
To His memory so pure
In the true faith all hour
Forgiveness of all our sins.
And should train ourselves at all times,
With benefit from true love
Toward the neighbor so beautiful,
As Christ has done to us."
The precious martyrs of the Lord Jesus therefore were not ashamed of the pure doctrine of the Holy Supper, but both testified with the Evangelical Lutheran Church, namely that we receive in the Holy Supper the true body and blood of Christ, with the true bread and wine, orally to eat and drink, and that we enjoy spiritual faith in Christ's body and blood.
Having now given this beautiful confession by the pious maidens, the tyrant devised a diabolical ploy to deter at least one of the two sisters from the truth.  Namely, first the youngest, the delicate Maria was taken and burned in front of her sister Ursula. The godly end of the dear Maria sings the poet with the words:
"They asked for, her enemy, to God,
Would that she now separate;
She bade in the last need
Her soul on Christ’s suffering
The Father in His hands.
Oh, what pain may Ursula have felt when she saw her dear sister Mary suffering in the flames!  How the sinful flesh would have loudly shouted: Deny, in order to escape such agony!  Whereupon the wicked tyrant reckoned and exhorted her now urgently that if she would desist from her doctrine, she would keep her life.  But he had miscalculated. The Lord Jesus therefore strengthened his faithful disciple in this moment of temptation, and braced her with unconquerable courage of faith so that she said with full of joy at death:
"Shall I upon pain of death
Deviate from God's Word?
Say I: No, it is my greatest treasure.
I would much rather die
And inherit the kingdom of heaven." [page 46]
But the tyrant did not give up the hope of winning one triumph, if ever so little, over the feminine weakness.  He therefore advised the maiden to ask for the faster and less painful death by the sword.  But this hope failed against Ursula's steadfastness. As she had with her sister shared everything in life, so she wanted to share the same suffering with her in death, and by the same torture praise the Lord. Therefore she said,
"What has suffered my sister,
That I also suffer at this place"
Thus she also suffered death by fire and gave up blessedly her spirit.  But as these two holy martyrs faithfully confessed the Lord Jesus in life and in death, so does the Lord Jesus confess them through a wonderful miraculous sign and thereby declared the maidens damned by the Papists for His dear women disciples.  On this miracle the poet sings of:
"As the executioner strived most himself with,
He yet could not burn,
The dead bodies were merely
For signs standing so great."
As the executioner fanned the hottest coals of the fire, yet, the two maidens bodies were not burned; "they remained unscathed," as it is called in the other songs. How may the Papists be frightened over this miracle!  But for the Christians it was a strengthening of their faith, wherefore they also provided that the bodies were covered at night.  Because, however, the Christian poet knew how such divine miraculous signs are doubted by many and are despised, so he admonishes even forcefully:
  "Such signs do not despise,
You Christian flock, and give thanks to all
And praise God with a rich sound
Always in his miracle,
He has everywhere proven."
What a wonderful role model is given by these two noble, pious sisters to all the girls and young women!  They did not seek the world, but to please Christ.  They decorated themselves not with vain finery and tinsel, but with heavenly virtues. They denied themselves, they left everything earthly: [page 47] honor, nobility, rank and fortune, youth, beauty, wealth, even gave their lives joyfully for Christ's sake, then they suffered shame, pain and death from fervent love to Jesus.  So they have obtained the crown of life: now they are emblazoned in eternal beauty of youth, blessedness and glory in the Lord.  Let us follow Him so self-denying, like them!  To do this, the poet who had sung the praises of their martyrdom, calls us with the words:
"Let us remain steadfast fine
Faithfully in His Word alone."
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Annotations.
9. Maria and Ursula von Becken.  Source: Rabus Thl. 3, page 181, The martyrdom of these two sisters is described in two songs.
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      Indeed, the tyrant papist miscalculated ... twice, once for each sister!  —  Modern theologians would call this story "quaint"...  as modern theology also sluffs off God's Word.  Modern theologians would either reject or soft-pedal the miracle described in this account (Robert Kolb?), but not Hermann Fick.  But the faith of these 2 "young girls" lives on in the Christian Church, for it is a story of true faith, not just because they died, but because they believed God... and it was credited to them for righteousness. Romans 4:3.
      Let the Pentecostals prance around in their supposed "joy in the Spirit", apart from the Word, but let them look on this Lutheran martyr in her joyfulness at death, let them look on the whirlwind of angels sent by the Lord Jesus to his dear martyr Maria as He "braced her with unconquerable courage of faith"... by His Word!
      Dear God!... I can't stop bringing these stories of the Lutheran martyrs!  –  In the next Part 10...

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