Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Calvin in Lausanne, October, 1536

Another marvelous breakfast in Geneva with too many courses even to begin to list, though I’ll attempt it: exotic Swiss cheese dishes, specialty egg dishes, delicious coffee, fruits of many kinds (especially good raspberries and yogurt), muesli (3 varieties; you’ll never enjoy store-bought cereals again), croissants, and other pastries, bacon, sausages, and I’ve left many things out.

Brilliant sunshine and more moderate temperatures, and a gorgeous drive to Lausanne where we met Lionel and Monica, and their darling one-year-old Dania. Climbed the millennium tower on the pilgrimage route overlooking the ancient city, the lake, and the mountains. This is Switzerland at its loveliest!

I love Lausanne, in part because I spent a good deal of time here when in 1982 I lived and worked on a Swiss dairy farm nearby, and studied French in the city. Readers of Mr. Pipes and Psalms and Hymns of the Reformation will remember episodes that I created from these experiences (including the one-legged milking stool).

We had arranged a tour of the city and the cathedral led by one of the pastors of the Reformed church Monsieur Lederry (descended from Huguenots--descended, as in “go down,” sadly absorbing postmodernity like it was the finest Swiss chocolate and there were no scales, mirrors, or tape measures, no hell to pay for the party). To my chagrin he managed to give us an hour and a half tour without mentioning Calvin or the Reformation (at least in a favorable light); I somehow did manage not to be so rude as to interrupt him, ubiquitous synchretism, with a French accent. Then had a nice lunch with the Jauverts. Enroute to Strasbourg on the coach I told about the October 2, 1536 Lausanne debate wherein young Calvin began to show his incomparable skills in theological debate, his photographic memory of vast swathes of the Early Church Fathers, and his uncanny search-engine ability to bring to mind precisely the paragraphs needed to support every nuance of his argument. You might enjoy reading more about it in chapter 32 of The Betrayal. These scenes from the interior of Notre Dame, Lausanne, Calvin would have seen surrounding him as he proclaimed sola Scriptura and solus Christus in this place.

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