My professor of religion and advisor is a wise man. Today, when he saw me, he smiled and wished me a “Happy Reformation Day!” He is one of the few I know who make it a habit to wish a happy Reformation Day, but I think that's a good habit. To an extent, Reformation Day is like Good Friday — it is a day that isn't exactly happy, but on the other hand, it is a very happy day indeed. Let me explain.
It is a dreary day for the obvious reason. As with the Great Schism of 1054, Reformation Day marked a day in which the unity of the Church was irreconcilably lessened. But, that is only one aspect of Reformation Day. The good Dr. Martin Luther never intended to split the church, only to fix what was wrong with it (click the link to read the 95 Theses and A Mighty Fortress is Our God, as I posted them two years ago). In the long run, that much was a success: even the parts of the church that did not split off were forced to begin to clean out the corruption of the Renaissance age. Would we have the Vatican II era in the Catholic Church without the Reformation? It is something to consider.
That is what we should take away from Reformation Day today. This is a day of renewal, not destruction. While it has taken almost 500 years, these days the parts of the one universal Church are communicating better than they have since October 31, 1517 (well actually better than they have since the beginnings of the Great Schism in the ninth century or so). In what might have seemed very odd not that long ago, and what is still perhaps ironic, I spent part of today working on a web site for a Catholic ministry. What this day should remind us — regardless of whether you adhere to the Protestant, Orthodox or Catholic creeds — is that we should always seek truth, for as the saying I still cannot find the citation for says, between God and truth there can be no conflict. The church here on earth will always be collecting barnacles that prevent smooth sailing, and it is good to look and clean those off every so often.
A day that leads to self-reflection is a good day. So long as we do not look at Reformation Day as something from the past, but as something very real in the present, it is a good day that helps us continually aim for the goal: Soli Deo Gloria.
Happy Reformation Day to all of you.