A Widower’s Lament: The “Pious Meditations” of Johann Christoph Oelhafen
Lament is essential to human thriving; it allows people to cope with significant loss, an inescapable feature of mortal existence. Lament is the passionate outpouring of deep sorrow and grief over such loss, which helps avoid being completely overcome by the strong emotions that come with it. Lament is cathartic and constructive, a necessary step in coming to terms with great loss and moving forward in life.
This book by Ronald K. Rittgers, Duke Divinity School chair in Lutheran studies and professor of the history of Christianity, deals with one instance of Christian lament in the late Reformation by exploring the efforts of a talented yet little-known layman, Oelhafen, to cope with the death of his beloved wife. It provides access for the first time to the remarkable work of private devotion to express his lament. A work of haunting candor, impressive artistry, and searching faith, Pious Meditations is a rare and valuable source that has received little scholarly attention. It furnishes both fresh insight into life in the past and important resources for life in the present. Written in a period that knew no radical separation between the academy and the church, it was informed by the author's experience in both, and can continue to speak to both today.