Soon after Luther arrived back at Erfurth following the terrible storm, he invited friends to a dinner party. There was simple food, music and laughter. Then Luther announced his decision to enter a monastery. His friends could not believe it. How could he, the celebrated doctor of philosophy who had such a bright academic future ahead of him – how could Luther give it all up and hide himself away as a monk?
Needless to say, the party did not end as joyfully as it had begun. And soon after Luther’s friends had left, Luther selected two books from his collection, a book of poetry and a book of comedy, and walked through the dark streets to the monastery.
Luther Becomes “Brother Augustine”
Upon entering the convent, Luther took a new name – Augustine. The monks were happy to win Luther from the university, but they did him no favours. Maybe they wanted to humble the renowned academic. In any case, the hours Luther would have devoted to studying, he spent in ways that made him useful to the cloister instead. Luther was assigned such menial duties as opening and closing the gates, winding the clock, sweeping the church and cleaning the sleeping rooms. Then, they sent him begging
door to door through the very university town where he had recently received his high academic honours.
The Chained Bible
There was a Bible in the convent that was fastened to its place by a chain. Luther spent as much time as he could reading the Bible. It was during his stay at the Augustinian monastery in Erfurth that Luther began studying Greek and Hebrew, the original languages of the Bible.
Mortifications – Trying to Kill the Evil Within
Luther applied himself with such devotion to studying Greek, Hebrew and the Bible that he sometimes didn’t take the time to complete his daily ritual of prayers. This made him feel guilty and he would devote himself completely to making up for all the praying he’d missed to the neglect of everything else, even eating. If a monk could have won heaven by starving himself almost to death, Luther could have done it. He later said, “If it had continued much longer, I should have carried my mortifications even to death.”
Yet, in the quietness of his little cell, Luther found no peace, but only troubling thoughts. He knew that, even though he had tortured his body and bound his will to the rituals of the monastery, the old man of sin still lived in his heart. He was not a bit holier for all the punishment he’d inflicted upon himself.