St. Anthony preaches to the fishes

“St. Antonius preaching to the fishes” by Oskar Laske (Czernowitz 1874 – 1951 Wien)

My father told me the story. It happend in Pella near Wartburg. Long time before I went to school there. Pastor Karl Meister was a grumpy old man, just as short as his temper. Never really got to grips with the vernacular, nevermind the local people. Still, the old Superintendent trusted him, teaching Old Testament at the seminary in Salem. Probably was part of the family. They stick together.

Well, this missionary was based at Pella after our very own Zulu “walkout”. It occurred, when evangelist Thembu “pointed out” (Komba) the superintendent with his stabbing spear (Iklwa), while dancing (ghitta) around the fire at some theological conference. Obviously, this was not part of procedure. It happened after hours – and long after the missionaries had gone to bed. Sure enough, the senior cleric and chief pastor, who was thus bewitched with the “evil eye” fell seriously ill.

The native rebel was disciplined and left the young mission church with most of his member – three thousand members and some. That left the congregation deserterd and the church building pretty much empty. The “master” preacher was left to preach to empty benches. I wonder, whether he preached in German or in his broken Zulu. From this time, he bore the honorary title: maBenchees! (The man preaching to the benches). This incident stopped the mission´s plan to move ahead with independence of the local church. That was shelved indefinitely together with the idea to go on to Rhodesia, but that´s another story.

The holy Anthony suffered much the same fate. When finding his church in Padua empty, he went to preach to the fishes. His contemporary St. Francis had preached to the birds for much the same reason. So You might as well preach to those dwelling in rivers, lakes and seas or to benches too. Gustav Mahler used this story for the third part of his second symphony on “Des Knaben Wunderhorn“.

Antonius zur Predigt
Die Kirche find’t ledig!
Er geht zu den Flüssen
und predigt den Fischen!
Sie schlag’n mit den Schwänzen!
Im Sonnenschein glänzen!
Im Sonnenschein, Sonnenschein glänzen,
sie glänzen, sie glänzen, glänzen!

Die Karpfen mit Rogen
seynd all’ hierher zogen,
hab’n d’Mäuler aufrissen,
sich Zuhörn’s beflissen!
Kein Predigt niemalen
den Fischen so g’fallen!

Spitzgoschete Hechte,
die immerzu fechten,
sind eilend herschwommen,
zu hören den Frommen!

Auch jene Phantasten,
die immerzu fasten:
die Stockfisch ich meine,
zur Predigt erscheinen.
Kein Predigt niemalen
den Stockfisch so g’fallen.

Gut Aale und Hausen,
die vornehme schmausen,
die selbst sich bequemen,
die Predigt vernehmen!

Auch Krebse, Schildkroten,
sonst langsame Boten,
steigen eilig vom Grund,
zu hören diesen Mund!
Kein Predigt niemalen
den Krebsen so g’fallen!

Fisch große, Fisch’ kleine,
vornehm’ und gemeine,
erheben die Köpfe
wie verständ’ge Geschöpfe!
Auf Gottes Begehren
die Predigt anhören!

Die Predigt geendet,
ein Jeder sich wendet.
Die Hechte bleiben Diebe,
die Aale viel lieben;
die Predigt hat g’fallen.
sie bleiben wie allen!

Die Krebs’ geh’n zurücke,
die Stockfisch’ bleib’n dicke,
die Karpfen viel fressen,
die Predigt vergessen, vergessen!
Die Predigt hat g’fallen
sie bleiben wie Allen, die Predigt hat g’fallen, hat g’fallen!

About Wilhelm Weber

Pastor at the Old Latin School in the Lutherstadt Wittenberg
This entry was posted in From Africa, Gedankensplitter, Histories, biographies and other stories, Lutheran Church in Southern Africa, Lutherische Mission, Saints of the church and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.