Monday, December 12, 2005

Saint Melito of Sardis: Early Church Father, Bishop, and Martyr


Saint Melito of Sardis


"Come, then, all you nations of men, receive forgiveness for the sins that defile you. I am your forgiveness. I am the Passover that brings salvation. I am the lamb who was immolated for you. I am your ransom, your life, your resurrection, your light, I am your salvation and your king. I will bring you to the heights of heaven. With my own right hand I will raise you up, and I will show you the eternal Father."
--From a letter by Saint Melito of Sardis

Saint Melito of Sardis was Bishop of the Church in Sardis, and a prominent ecclesiastical writer in the latter half of the second century. Indications are that he was the second Bishop of Sardis, and was successor to “the angel of the Church of Sardis” (the apostle of that Church) to whom was addressed one of the apocalyptic messages. Very little is known of his life, and the majority of his writings exist only in fragments, and quotations from Eusebius, Polycrates, Tertullian, and others. A letter of Polycrates of Ephesus to Pope Victor about 194 states that "Melito the eunuch (this is interpreted "the virgin" by Rufinus in his translation of Eusebius), whose whole walk was in the Holy Spirit", was interred at Sardis, and had been one of the great authorities in the Church of Asia who held the Quartodeciman theory (this was those Churches, primarily in Asia Minor, who celebrated Easter according to the Jewish calendar for Passover).

Saint Melito gave us the earliest indications of the Canon of the Old Testament in his writings, and Saint Jerome, speaking of this canon, quotes Tertullian that Melito was esteemed as a prophet by many of the faithful. Saint Melito, also wrote an apology to the emperor Marcus Aurelius, in which he defended the Christians against accusations made against them, urged the emperor to end the persecutions of the Christians, and even urged Aurelius to proclaim Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire!

Saint Melito was also one of the earliest writers to have written on the dual natures of Christ: "For there is no need, to persons of intelligence, to attempt to prove, from the deeds of Christ subsequent to His baptism, that His soul and His body, His human nature like ours, were real, and no phantom of the imagination. For the deeds done by Christ after His baptism, and especially His miracles, gave indication and assurance to the world of the Deity hidden in His flesh. For, being at once both God and perfect man likewise, He gave us sure indications of His two natures: of His Deity, by His miracles during the three years that elapsed after His baptism; of His humanity, during the thirty similar periods which preceded His baptism, in which, by reason of His low estate as regards the flesh, He concealed the signs of His Deity, although He was the true God existing before all ages."

In the early 20th century, there was great excitement among Christian scholars when a homily by Saint Melito on Easter, “Peri Pascha”, was discovered. This homily shows how the early Christians saw Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection foreshadowed throughout The Old Testament. Indeed, in the writings attributed to Saint Melito by Eusebius, the prolific writer Melito gave a listing of the books of The Old Testament, which Saint Melito referred to as “The Old Books”, which indicates to many scholars that the Church of Melito's time may well have had a New Testament as well. There is also a strong indication from the fragments of Melito's writing that exist in references by Tertullian, Eusebius, Polycrates, and others, that Saint Melito made extensive use of the Gospel of Saint John, and he may have been acquainted with Saint Polycarp, Saint Ignatius of Antioch, and other Early Church Fathers of his day. His writings influenced the thinking of Irenaeus of Lyons, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian.

One always gets a great insight to the the beliefs and workings of the early Church by reading the writings of those great men, who lived and died for the truth, which is Christ Jesus, was Christ Jesus, and will be Christ Jesus, now and forever. You may read some of those writings (fragments and a homily) online by clicking the titles to go to the sites. You can read Melito the Philosopher, also Easter Praise of Christ by Melito of Sardis, Lamb That Was Slain by Melito, and On The Passover by Melito. Saint Melito is believed to have been martyred around the time he wrote his apology to Marcus Aurelius circa 180 A.D.

The following was written by Saint Jerome, in his book, Lives of Illustrious Men :

Melito the Bishop

Melito of Asia, bishop of Sardis, addressed a book to the emperor Marcus Antoninus Verus, a disciple of Fronto the orator, in behalf of the Christian doctrine. He wrote other things also, among which are the following: On the passover, two books, one book On the lives of the prophets, one book On the church, one book On the Lord's day, one book On faith, one book On the psalms, one On the senses, one On the soul and body, one On baptism, one On truth, one On the generation of Christ, On His prophecy, one On hospitality and another which is called the Key, one On the devil, one On the Apocalypse of John, one On the corporeality of God, and six books of Eclogues. Of his fine oratorical genius, Tertullian, in the seven books which he wrote against the church on behalf of Montanus, satirically says that he was considered a prophet by many of us.

A prayer written by Saint Melito of Sardis

Prayer in Praise of Christ

Born as a son,
led forth as a lamb,
sacrificed as a sheep,
buried as a man,
he rose from the dead as a God,
for he was by nature God and man.

He is all things:
he judges, and so he is Law;
he teaches, and so he is Wisdom;
he saves, and so he is Grace;
he begets, and so he is Father;
he is begotten, and so he is Son;
he suffers, and so he is Sacrifice;
he is buried, and so he is man;
he rises again, and so he is God.
This is Jesus Christ,
to whom belongs glory for all ages.

Quotes from the writings of Saint Melito of Sardis:


"God has suffered from the right hand of Israel. Head of the Lord--His simple Divinity; because He is the Beginning and Creator of all things". --From “The Oration on Our Lord's Passion”.

"God who is from God; the Son who is from the Father; Jesus Christ the King for evermore...He that bore up the earth was borne up on a tree. The Lord was subjected to ignominy with naked body--God put to death, the King of Israel slain!" --From “The Discourse On The Cross”.

"We have collected together extracts from the Law and the Prophets relating to those things which have Been declared concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, that we may prove to your love that this Being is perfect reason, the Word of God; He who was begotten before the light; He who is Creator together with the Father; He who is the Fashioner of man; He who is all in all; He who among the patriarchs is Patriarch; He who in the law is the Law; among the priests, Chief Priest; among kings, the Ruler; among prophets, the Prophet; among the angels, Archangel; in the voice of the preacher, the Word; among spirits, the Spirit; in the Father, the Son; in God, God; King for ever and ever." --From “The Discourse On Faith”

“The Lord, though he was God, became man. He suffered for the sake of whose who suffer, he was bound for those in bonds, condemned for the guilty, buried for those who lie in the grave; but he rose from the dead, and cried aloud: "Who will contend with me? Let him confront me." I have freed the condemned, brought the dead back to life, raised men from their graves. Who has anything to say against me? I, he said, am the Christ; I have destroyed death, triumphed over the enemy, trampled hell underfoot, bound the strong one, and taken men up to the heights of heaven: I am the Christ.” --From a letter by Saint Melito.

Copyright © 2005 Steve Smith. All Rights Reserved







Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons




Bishop of Lyons and Defender of Catholic Orthodoxy

Saint Irenaeus was born somewhere around 115 to 125 AD in Asia Minor, where the memory of the Apostles was still cherished, and where there were numerous Christians already. As young man, along with Saint Ignatius of Antioch, he was a disciple of Saint Polycarp of Smyrna, who himself had been a disciple of Saint John the Apostle. Saint Irenaeus once remarked to a friend that all through his life, he could recall every detail of Polycarp's appearance, his voice, and the very words he used when telling what he had heard from John the Evangelist and others who had seen Jesus, because Irenaeus said, they were written on his heart.

There was a vibrant trade between Asia Minor and ancient Gaul, particularly so in Marseilles. With this trade, there also began the arrival of Christian missionaries from Asia Minor who worked to convert the Pagans of Gaul. Saint Polycarp sent Saint Pothinus to Gaul, who established his See at Lyons. Still a young man, Irenaeus joined Pothinus as a priest., and in 177 AD, after having shown himself to be an exceptional priest, he was sent on a peace mission to Rome, bearing a letter to Pope Eleutherius in reference to the Montanists (some sources say it was to deal firmly with the Montanists and others say it was to encourage leniency towards them) in Phrygia, as this heresy was rampant in the East.

During his trip to Rome, there was a persecution of the Church in Gaul in 177 under the pagan “philosopher emperor”, Marcus Aurelius, and Saint Pothinus, as well as several priests in Gaul were martyred. Saint Irenaeus was ordained as bishop of Lyons upon his return. That brief period of persecutions was over, and the next twenty or so years of his episcopate were fairly peaceful. In addition to his pastoral duties, Irenaeus is said to have increased the sphere of Christian influence in other towns of Gaul by sending Saint Felix, Saint Fortunatus, and Saint Achilleus to Valence, and sending Saint Ferrutius and Saint Ferreolus to Besancon. Saint Irenaeus is said to have identified with his flock so completely, that he spoke to them in their native tongue instead of in Latin or Greek, and he encouraged all priests to do the same.

In later years, he encouraged Pope Victor I to lift his excommunication of Churches in the East because of disagreement over the correct date of Easter. The Eastern Churches tended to follow the Jewish calendar in their observance of Easter instead of the date followed by Rome. In his letter to Pope Victor I, Irenaeus pointed out that the Eastern Churches were following their Apostolic tradition, and that this point, had not prevented Saint Polycarp and many other Eastern bishops from staying in communion. It must have been a fruitful letter, because in the 4th century, Saint Jerome wrote that many of the Eastern bishops still followed the ancient Jewish calendar.

Yet, the thing that Saint Irenaeus is best remembered for, is his defense of the Catholic Faith against the heresy of Gnosticism, which was spreading rapidly throughout Gaul, and even into Rome. This led Irenaeus to make a careful study of the tenets of Gnosticism, which was quite a task in itself, because each Gnostic teacher was inclined to introduce ideas of their own. He then wrote a five book exposition, “Against the Heresies”, which set forth the doctrines of Gnosticism, and then contrasted them with Scripture, and the teaching of the Apostles preserved not only in the sacred writings, but, also the oral tradition in the churches which the Apostles founded. Saint Irenaeus successfully defended the belief that the Old Testament God and the New Testament God are one and the same.

Interestingly, Irenaeus apologized for his writing style and ability at the beginning of his piece. He wrote in part, “thou wilt not expect from me, who am resident among the Keltæ, and am accustomed for the most part to use a barbarous dialect, any display of rhetoric, which I have never learned, or any excellence of composition, which I have never practised, or any beauty and persuasiveness of style, to which I make no pretensions. But thou wilt accept in a kindly spirit what I in a like spirit write to thee simply, truthfully, and in my own homely way...so that thou wilt expand those ideas of which I send thee...so as to set with power before thy companions those things which I have uttered in weakness”. What Saint Irenaeus didn't realize, is that his writing of “Against the Heresies”, was so thorough and complete, that it would deal such a severe blow to Gnosticism, that it would never again be seen as a serious major threat to the tenets of Christianity.

Saint Irenaeus felt that most of the attraction of Gnosticism came from a veil of mystery which surrounded it, and he was determined to “strip the fox” as he called it. He effectively used Scripture, and particularly the writings and teachings of Paul, Peter, and John to effectively refute the tenets of Gnosticism and destroyed it's influence on Christianity. Saint Irenaeus was the first early writer to effectively utilize the Gospel of Saint John in his writings. He recognized the warnings from Our Lord, Saint Paul, Saint Peter, Saint Jude, and Saint John about false teachers, and wolves in sheep's clothing. He recognized that the false claims of special or secret knowledge claimed by Gnosticism was a serious threat to Christianity, and was an attempt at the revival of Paganism. He was also the first person to cite reasons for admitting or rejecting books into the canon. He emphasized the unity of the Old and New Testaments, and Christ's having both a divine and a human nature.

He wrote his treatise in Greek, and it was quickly translated into Latin, and rapidly spread throughout the Church. Irenaeus' main point was the unity of God, in opposition to Gnosticism's view of a division of God into 30 divine “Aeons” and their heretical perception of a “high God” and a wicked “Demiurge” that they said created the world. Irenaeus spoke of the Son and the Holy Spirit as the hands of God, and showed that Jesus Christ is the invisible Father made visible. He showed that God was not indifferent to His creation, but, that He has taken an active role in the salvation of man. Everything that has happened to man since the fall of Adam and Eve, has been planned by God to help man overcome their fall. Irenaeus shows in his writings, that Christ is the new Adam, who corrected everything wrong that Adam did. Irenaeus is the first to contrast the differences between Eve and Mary, showing how Mary's faithfulness was in opposition to Eve's faithlessness.

In essence, what Irenaeus did through “Against Heresies”, was layout the truth of Catholic Christian theology, and then in his later writing, "Proof of the Apostolic Preaching", he confirms the faithful by explaining Christian doctrine to them, and also by demonstrating the truth of the Gospel through explaining and clarifying the Old Testament prophecies. Saint Irenaeus was one of the first Christian writers to use the principle of apostolic succession to refute his opponents.
Saint Irenaeus is believed to have been martyred by some sources, others saying there is little evidence to support his martyrdom. The exact date of his death is unknown, but, it's believed to have been around 202 AD. His remains were buried in a crypt under the altar of what was then called the church of Saint John, but, was later known as the church of Saint Irenaeus, himself. This tomb or shrine was destroyed by the Calvinists in 1562, and all trace of his relics seems to have perished, but, the head is said by some sources to be in Saint John's church, Lyons, France.

You can read “Against Heresies” online, and there is a book, “Scandal of the Incarnation: Irenaeus against the Heresies” by Saint Irenaeus, John Saward (translator), Hans U. Von Balthasar (introduction).

Below are some quotes from Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, and at the bottom, a writing about him from Saint Jerome's “Lives of Illustrious Men”:

1. For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.

2. God is the source of all activity throughout creation. He cannot be seen or described in his own nature and in all his greatness by any of his creatures. Yet he is certainly not unknown. Through his Word the whole creation learns that there is one God the Father, who holds all things together and gives them their being. As it is written in the Gospel, "No man has ever seen God, except the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father; he has revealed him."

3. This is the course followed by the barbarian peoples[the Gallic provincials where Irenaeus lived] who believe in Christ and have salvation written in their hearts by the Spirit without paper or ink, but who guard carefully the ancient tradition. For they believe in one God, the Creator of heaven and earth and of all things therein through Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who for his surpassing love towards his creation underwent birth from a virgin, uniting man through himself to God, and who suffered under Pontius Pilate and rose again and was received up in splendor, and who shall come in glory, the Saviour of those who are saved and the Judge of those who are judged, to send into eternal fire those who pervert the truth and despise his Father and his coming.

4. Error, indeed is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced more true than truth itself.

Irenaeus, a presbyter trader Pothinus the bishop who ruled the church of Lyons in Gaul, being sent to Rome as legate by the martyrs of Ibis place, on account of certain ecclesiastical questions, presented to Bishop Eleutherius certain letters under his own name which are worthy of honour. Afterwards when Pothinus, nearly ninety years of age, received the crown of martyrdom for Christ, he was put in his place. It is certain too that he was a disciple of Polycarp, the priest and martyr, whom we mentioned above. He wrote five books Against heresies and a short volume, Against the nations and another On discipline, a letter to Marcianus his brother On apostolical preaching, a book of Various treatises; also to Blastus, On schism, to Florinus On monarchy or That God is not the author of evil, also an excellent Commentary on the Ogdoad at the end of which indicating that he was near the apostolic period he wrote:

"I adjure thee whosoever shall transcribe this book, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by his glorious advent at which He shall judge the quick and the dead, that you diligently compare, after you have transcribed, and amend it according to the copy from which you have transcribed it and also that you shall similarly transcribe this adjuration as you find it in your pattern."

Other works of his are in circulation to wit: to Victor the Roman bishop On the Paschal controversy in which he warns him not lightly to break the unity of the fraternity, if indeed Victor believed that the many bishops of Asia and the East, who with the Jews celebrated the passover, on the fourteenth day of the new moon, were to be condemned. But even those who differed from them did not support Victor in his opinion. He flourished chiefly in the reign of the Emperor Commodus, who succeeded Marcus Antoninus Verus in power.

Copyright © 2005 Steve Smith. All Rights Reserved





Friday, August 26, 2005

Saint Justin Martyr- Apologist and Martyr



Justin Martyr was born circa 100 AD at at Nablus, Palestine (Samaria) of pagan parents. He was an early Christian Apologist (defender of the faith), and although he was most certainly not the first apologist, his writings which are still existent, are the earliest surviving apologies. Most of what we know of his life come from his writings, three of which the majority of scholars agree are attributable to him, and some later writings mentioning him and his writings from Eusebius, Saint Irenaeus, and Saint Jerome. There are some other works in which Saint Justin is identified as the author, but, most scholars attribute these to having been written by unknown sources one to three centuries or more after his death. The works most definitely agreed upon as being his are (the titles are clickable links to read the works) :

Justin calls himself a Samaritan, but, his father and grandfather were most likely Greek or Roman, and he was raised a pagan. He began searching for God, and he began studying philosophy as a means to help him understand God, and to bring him closer to God, as he felt that only philosophy could bring him true knowledge and understanding of God.

In the beginning of “The Dialogue with Trypho”, Justin relates his story of his vain search for the knowledge of God among the Stoics ( an originally Greek school of philosophy, founded by Zeno about 308 B.C., believing that God determined everything for the best and that virtue is sufficient for happiness. Its later Roman form advocated the calm acceptance of all occurrences as the unavoidable result of divine will or of the natural order), Peripatetics (followers of the philosophy of Aristotle), and Pythagoreans (philosophy expounded by Pythagoras, distinguished chiefly by its description of reality in terms of arithmetical relationships).

Among the Stoics, he found he had learned nothing about God,and that his teacher had nothing to teach him on God. The Peripatetic teacher welcomed him at first, yet later demanded a fee, proving to Justin that this “teacher” was not a philosopher. The Pythagorean teacher refused to accept him until he had learned music, astronomy, and geometry. He found what he thought was the most helpful philosophy for him in the ideas of Plato, yet even still he was not quite satisfied, not quite happy with what he was finding.

He was still infatuated with Platonist philosophy, when he went for a walk alone along the seashore one day, as he had done many times before, in an area where he never saw anyone else, and where he could think and consider what he had learned from the Platonist school of thought. This day however, he unexpectedly met an old man who was searching “for members of his household”. They began a discussion, and the old man convinced him, that there could be no understanding of God through human knowledge, and that only through the Prophets and the guidance of the Holy Spirit could man know God. He showed to Justin, how the Prophets told of the coming of Jesus Christ, and that Christ was the fulfillment of all that the Prophets had said, taught, and written. He convinced Justin, that Christianity was a far nobler philosophy than anything he had yet studied. Justin was never to see this man again, and he felt the urge to learn more about these Prophets and these Christians. He became convinced, that Christianity, was the true philosophy, and he converted and was baptized at the age of 30. Later in his “Second Apology”, he would write, "When I was a disciple of Plato, hearing the accusations made against the Christians and seeing them intrepid in the face of death and of all that men fear, I said to myself that it was impossible that they should be living in evil and in the love of pleasure" (Second Apology, Chapter 18).

Saint Justin continued to wear his philosophers gown, to indicate that he had attained to the truth. For Saint Justin knew he had now attained the true philosophy, and traveled widely where he would contend with pagans, and use his philosophical skills to explain and defend the Faith. He eventually made his way to Rome where he opened a school of public debate. In the year 165 AD, along with six others, Saint Justin Martyr (during the persecutions of the emperor Marcus Aurelius) was tried before the Roman Prefect Rusticus, and they were all condemned and were beheaded.

The account of the trial still exists (read it in entirety here: Martyrdom of Saint Justin), and some excerpts are included below. Along with six others (Chariton, Charito, Euelpistus, Hierax, Paeon, and Liberianus) he was brought before the Roman prefect, Rusticus:

And when they had been brought before his judgment-seat, said to Justin, “Obey the gods at once, and submit to the kings.” Justin said, “To obey the commandments of our Saviour Jesus Christ is worthy neither of blame nor of condemnation.” Rusticus the prefect said, “What kind of doctrines do you profess?” Justin said, “I have endeavoured to learn all doctrines; but I have acquiesced at last in the true doctrines, those namely of the Christians, even though they do not please those who hold false opinions.” Rusticus the prefect said, “Are those the doctrines that please you, you utterly wretched man?” Justin said, “Yes, since I adhere to them with right dogma.” Rusticus the prefect said, “What is the dogma?” Justin said, “That according to which we worship the God of the Christians, whom we reckon to be one from the beginning, the maker and fashioner of the whole creation, visible and invisible; and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who had also been preached beforehand by the prophets as about to be present with the race of men, the herald of salvation and teacher of good disciples. And I, being a man, think that what I can say is insignificant in comparison with His boundless divinity, acknowledging a certain prophetic power, since it was prophesied concerning Him of whom now I say that He is the Son of God. For I know that of old the prophets foretold His appearance among men.”

...Rusticus the prefect said, “Tell me where you assemble, or into what place do you collect your followers?” Justin said, “I live above one Martinus, at the Timiotinian Bath; and during the whole time (and I am now living in Rome for the second time) I am unaware of any other meeting than his. And if any one wished to come to me, I communicated to him the doctrines of truth.” Rusticus said, “Are you not, then, a Christian?” Justin said, “Yes, I am a Christian.”

The prefect says to Justin, “Hearken, you who are called learned, and think that you know true doctrines; if you are scourged and beheaded, do you believe you will ascend into heaven?” Justin said, “I hope that, if I endure these things, I shall have His gifts. For I know that, to all who have thus lived, there abides the divine favour until the completion of the whole world.” Rusticus the prefect said, “Do you suppose, then, that you will ascend into heaven to receive some recompense?” Justin said, “I do not suppose it, but I know and am fully persuaded of it.” Rusticus the prefect said, “Let us, then, now come to the matter in hand, and which presses. Having come together, offer sacrifice with one accord to the gods.” Justin said, “No right-thinking person falls away from piety to impiety.” Rusticus the prefect said, “Unless ye obey, ye shall be mercilessly punished.” Justin said, “Through prayer we can be saved on account of our Lord Jesus Christ, even when we have been punished, because this shall become to us salvation and confidence at the more fearful and universal judgment-seat of our Lord and Saviour.” Thus also said the other martyrs: “Do what you will, for we are Christians, and do not sacrifice to idols.”

Rusticus the prefect pronounced sentence, saying, “Let those who have refused to sacrifice to the gods and to yield to the command of the emperor be scourged, and led away to suffer the punishment of decapitation, according to the laws.” The holy martyrs having glorified God, and having gone forth to the accustomed place, were beheaded, and perfected their testimony in the confession of the Saviour. And some of the faithful having secretly removed their bodies, laid them in a suitable place, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ having wrought along with them, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

ADDENDUM

This is from Saint Jerome's work, "Lives of Illustrious Men":
Justin the philosopher

Justin, a philosopher, and wearing the garb of philosopher, a citizen of Neapolis, a city of Palestine, and the son of Priscus Bacchius, laboured strenuously in behalf of the religion of Christ, insomuch that he delivered to Antoninus Pius and his sons and the senate, a work written Against the nations, and did not shun the ignominy of the cross. He addressed another book also to the successors of this Antoninus, Marcus Antoninus Verus and Lucius Aurelius Com-modus. Another volume of his Against the nations, is also extant, where he discusses the nature of demons, and a fourth against the nations which he entitled, Refutation and yet another On the sovereignty of God, and another book which be entitled, Psaltes, and another On the Soul, the Dialogue against the Jews, which he held against Trypho, the leader of the Jews, and also notable volumes Against Marcion, which Irenaeus also mentions in the fourth book Against heresies, also another book Against all heresies which he mentions in the Apology which is addressed to Antoninus Pius. He, when he had held diatribae in the city of Rome, and had convicted Crescens the cynic, who said many blasphemous things against the Christians, of gluttony and fear of death, and bad proved him devoted to luxury and lusts, at last, accused of being a Christian, through the efforts and wiles of Crescens, he shed his blood for Christ.

Copyright © 2005 - 2014 Steve Smith. All rights reserved.




Monday, August 15, 2005

Saint Ignatius of Antioch


Saint, Apostolic Father, Martyr, And Bishop



Saint Ignatius of Antioch was born in Syria circa 35 AD and died circa 107 AD in Rome, martyred by being thrown to “the wild beasts” (lions). Saint Ignatius is probably best known by most Catholics for his being the first of the writings of the Early Church where the word Catholic is used in describing the Church.


Saint Ignatius, like Saint Polycarp of Smyrna, had been a disciple of Saint John the Apostle. Saint Ignatius was also known as Theophorous , meaning God-Bearer. One reason given for this name is that many of the early writers declared that Saint Ignatius was the infant that Jesus took in his arms and sat in the midst of His Disciples in Mark 9. With Saint Peter being the first Bishop of Antioch, Saint Ignatius was the third, having been appointed bishop by Saint Peter himself.

Saint Ignatius was a learned and courageous leader of his flock. During the persecutions under the emperor Domitian, Ignatius worked diligently to encourage the weaker members of his flock, and did all he could to protect and defend his flock of believers. With the death of Domitian, the persecutions ended for a brief while, and in truth, Saint Ignatius was disappointed that he had not been martyred for Christ. He did not have to wait long, as the persecutions soon began again under the emperor Trajan. According to “The Martyrdom of Ignatius”, Trajan “being lifted up [with pride], after the victory he had gained over the Scythians and Dacians, and many other nations”, saw the Christians as the only obstacle “to complete the subjugation of all things to himself". He then threatened to renew the persecutions against the Christians unless they began to worship and offer sacrifice to the gods of Rome. Trajan made his way to Antioch, and Saint Ignatius once again worked tirelessly to protect his flock, and in so doing brought attention to himself and his successful efforts from the emperor Trajan.

He was taken before Trajan, who called him wicked for refusing to obey the commands of the emperor and for encouraging others to disobey. According to “The Martyrdom of Ignatius”, Ignatius replied "No one ought to call Theophorus wicked; for all evil spirits have departed from the servants of God. But if, because I am an enemy to these [spirits], you call me wicked in respect to them, I quite agree with you; for inasmuch as I have Christ the King of heaven [within me], I destroy all the devices of these [evil spirits]." Trajan asked him many others things, and made other accusations against Saint Ignatius, and when Saint Ignatius proclaimed Christ in his heart, Trajan commanded that Ignatius be carried from Antioch to Rome to be fed to “the beasts” for the “gratification of the people”. The trip from Antioch in Syria to Rome, was a trip that would take months to complete.

How did Saint Ignatius react to this command from the emperor? Again, according to “The Martyrdom of Ignatius”, Ignatius cried out with much joy, "I thank thee, O Lord, that Thou hast vouchsafed to honor me with a perfect love towards Thee, and hast made me to be bound with iron chains, like Thy Apostle Paul."

Soon, the other Church's in Asia Minor heard of Ignatius, bound in chains being taken captive to Rome, and many of the Church's either went out en masse, or sent representatives, to encourage and talk to Saint Ignatius as he passed. Among those who came to encourage and strengthen him, was Saint Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna.

In response, Saint Ignatius wrote seven Epistles. To the Church's that came or sent delegates, he wrote five: Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, Philadelphians, and Smyrnaeans. He wrote one to Saint Polycarp, and one to the congregation that would meet him at the end of the journey, Romans. In his letter to the Romans he mentions the hardships of his journey and compares the ten soldiers accompanying him to leopards, "From Syria even to Rome I fight with wild beasts, by land and sea, by night and by day, being bound amidst ten leopards, even a company of soldiers, who only grow worse when they are kindly treated."

His letter to the Romans is probably the best known, and in it, he exhorts the Roman congregation not to make any efforts to secure his release, to not deny him this act of dying for God. He wrote:"I am writing to all the churches to let it be known that I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my way. I plead with you: show me no untimely kindness. Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God's wheat and bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God...The prince of this world is determined to lay hold of me and to undermine my will which is intent on God. Let none of you here help him; instead show yourselves on my side, which is also God's side...Rather within me is the living water which says deep inside me: "Come to the Father."


As stated earlier, Saint Ignatius was the first to use the word “catholic” in describing the Church. In his seven Epistles, he speaks of Church Doctrine and teachings. He was the first writer to emphasize the virgin birth, and viewed the mystery of the Trinity as a doctrine of faith, he said the only way to fight heresy, is the Church united under a bishop. All the core beliefs of Christ's Church, the Roman Catholic Church, can be found in Saint Ignatius' seven epistles.

You may click on the title to read “The Epistles of Ignatius”online. Click on this title to read “The Martyrdom of Ignatius”.

Now below are some excerpts from various Saints and other sources on Saint Ignatius of Antioch.

From The Golden Legend: "It is read that Saint Ignatius in all his torments and all the pains of martyrdom that he suffered, that his tongue never ceased to name the name of Jesus, and when they that tormented him demanded him wherefore he named this name so oft, he answered: Know ye for certain that I have in my heart this name written, and therefore I may not leave to name this name oft. And because hereof, when he was dead, they that heard these words opened his body and drew out his heart and cut it open, and they found within the name of Jesus written with fair letters of gold, for which miracle many received the faith of Jesu Christ."


Homily of Saint John Chrysostom on Saint Ignatius of Antioch: “For that which Christ declared to be the highest standard and rule of the Episcopal office, did this man display by his deeds. For having heard Christ saying, the good shepherd layeth down his life for the sheep, with all courage he did lay it down for the sheep.”

Cardinal Newman said ("The Theology of the Seven Epistles of St. Ignatius", in "Historical Sketches", I, London, 1890): "the whole system of Catholic doctrine may be discovered, at least in outline, not to say in parts filled up, in the course of his seven epistles".

Addendum

This is from Saint Jerome's work, "Lives of Illustrious Men":

Ignatius the bishop

Ignatius, third bishop of the church of Antioch after Peter the apostle, condemned to the wild beasts during the persecution of Trajan, was sent bound to Rome, and when he had come on his voyage as far as Smyrna, where Polycarp the pupil of John was bishop, he wrote one epistle To the Ephesians, another To the Magnesians, a third To the Trallians, a fourth To the Romans, and going thence, he wrote To the Philadelphians and To the Smyrneans, and especially To Polycarp, commending to him the church at Antioch. In this last he bore witness to the Gospel which I have recently translated, in respect of the person of Christ saying, "I indeed saw him in the flesh after the resurrection and I believe that he is," and when he came to Peter and those who were with Peter, he said to them, "Behold! touch me and see me bow that I am not an incorporeal spirit" and straightway they touched him and believed. Moreover it seems worth while inasmuch as we have made mention of such a man and of the Epistle which he wrote to the Romans, to give a few "quotations" : "From Syria even unto Rome I fight with wild beasts, by land and by sea, by night and by day, being bound amidst ten leopards, that is to say soldiers who guard me and who only become worse when they are well treated. Their wrong doing, however is my schoolmaster, but I am not thereby justified. May I have joy of the beasts that are prepared for me; and I pray that I may find them ready; I will even coax them to devour me quickly that they may not treat me as they have some whom they have refused to touch through fear. And if they are unwilling, I will compel them to devour me. Forgive me my children, I know what is expedient for me. Now do I begin to be a disciple, and desire none of the things visible that I may attain unto Jesus Christ. Let fire and cross and attacks of wild beasts, let wrenching of bones, cutting apart of limbs, crushing of the whole body, tortures of the devil, let all these come upon me if only I may attain unto the joy which is in Christ." When he had been condemned to the wild beasts and with zeal for martyrdom heard the lions roaring, he said "I am the grain of Christ. I am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts that I may be found the bread of the world." He was put to death the eleventh year of Trajan and the remains of his body lie in Antioch outside the Daphnitic gate in the cemetery.

Copyright © 2005 Steve Smith. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 08, 2005

SAINT POLYCARP OF SMYRNA



Saint Polycarp

We have read so much from the writings of the Apostles in the Bible, the Early Church Fathers, and their writings, and oftentimes, their martyrdom for their Faith, and their refusal to deny that Faith. The martyred great Saint Polycarp of Smyrna, who, when taken into the stadium, found himself being urged by the proconsul to deny Christ. The proconsul said to Saint Polycarp such things as “Have respect to thy old age” and “swear by the fortune of Caesar; repent, and say, Away with the Atheists.”

Now Saint Polycarp, this holy, venerable Bishop of Smyrna (modern day Izmir, Turkey), was 86 years old, and had himself been a disciple of Saint John the Apostle. He had written an Epistle to the Philippians encouraging the Church there. For his entire life, he had followed Christ, and now here he was, taken before a hostile crowd who's thirst for the blood of the Faithful was virtually unquenchable. The crowd was eager to see him “torn by the wild beasts” as they had seen many of the Christians killed for their faith, but, they thirsted more for this great Saints blood, because they thought with his death, that this Christianity would be purged from among them.
 
Upon entering the stadium, Saint Polycarp and those “brethren with him”, heard “a voice from heaven, saying, 'Be strong, and show thyself a man, O Polycarp'!” None of those in the stands of the stadium, nor the proconsul or guards heard it. So, when the proconsul had uttered the words, “...say, Away with the Atheists”, Saint Polycarp “gazing with a stern countenance on all the multitude of the wicked heathen then in the stadium, and waving his hand towards them, while with groans he looked up to heaven, said, 'Away with the Atheists'.” Saint Polycarp had a vision three days before his capture, and in that vision “the pillow beneath his head seemed to him on fire”, and he knew he would be burnt alive. The fire was described as though the flames were a great sail that encircled him, but, never touched him. When the fire failed to kill him, he was stabbed by a guard with a dagger and he died. This great Saint, like all of the martyrs of the Church, died because he would not deny God! He truly believed, he truly trusted, he truly loved, and he truly had faith IN and FOR God!

The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians” is available online, as well as “The Epistle Concerning the Martyrdom of Polycarp”. Both are an interesting insight to the Early Church and one of its great Saints.

Addendum

This is from the work of Saint Jerome, "Lives of Illustrious Men":
 
Polycarp the bishop

Polycarp disciple of the apostle John and by him ordained bishop of Smyrna was chief of all Asia, where he saw and had as teachers some of the apostles and of those who had seen the Lord. He, on account of certain questions concerning the day of the Passover, went to Rome in the time of the emperor Antoninus Pins while Anicetus ruled the church in that city. There he led back to the faith many of the believers who had been deceived through the persuasion of Marcion and Valentinus, and when. Marcion met him by chance and said, "Do you know us?" He replied, "I know the firstborn of the devil." Afterwards during the reign of Marcus Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus in the fourth persecution after Nero, in the presence of the proconsul holding court at Smyrna and all the people crying out against him in the Amphitheater, he was burned. He wrote a very valuable Epistle to the Philippians which is read to the present day in the meetings in Asia. 

Copyright © 2005 Steve Smith. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Saint Pope Clement I- Early Church Father



Saint Pope Clement I is also known as Clement of Rome. There are differing views as to exactly when and where he was born. The general agreement is that he may have been a freed man from a Roman household. He is generally considered by the Roman Catholic Church to be one of the Greek Fathers and an Apostolic Father. He was the third successor to Peter as Pope, after Linus and Anacletus (Cletus), and writings from other Early Fathers including those of St. Irenaeus, Origen, and St. Jerome, to name a few, say that Clement was baptised by Peter. He was also a contemporary of Paul, and one of the early writers in speaking of Clement, said that "the preaching of the Apostles still rang in his ears".

The one thing that gives us more knowledge about Clement than the first two sucessors of Peter, is Clements "Epistle to the Corinthians", a letter he wrote to the "sojourning Church in Corinth from the sojourning Church in Rome", in regard to a schism happening there. The date of the letter is believed to have been around 96 A.D. His name does not appear in the letter nor did he direct the letter to a bishop at Corinth, but, the letter seems to have been generally intended for all in the Church at Corinth. Clements Epistle, is also the first evidence of papal correction to a Church outside of Rome. The letter he wrote was so highly regarded by the Church at Corinth, that a decade or so later, the bishop in Corinth in a letter to Rome, mentions that the letter from Clement was read at their assemblies. Indeed, this letter was also included in the early Bibles of many of the eastern Churches, before the canon was established in the Latin Vulgate.

He apologizes for sending the letter much later than he wanted, due to: "the suddenly bursting and rapidly succeeding calamities and untoward experiences that have befallen us, we have been somewhat tardy, we think, in giving our attention to the subjects of dispute in your community, beloved". The "calamities and untoward experiences" were due to the persecutions of the Christian community from the emperor Domitian.

He recalls the former reputation of the Church in Corinth, it's piety, obedience, and charity. He warns them that jealousy, in causing their divisions, was also the cause for the fall of Cain and Esau, Saul and others in the Old Testament, and was what led them into sin. He goes on to point out to them, that it was jealousy and envy that was the cause of martyrdom for the Apostles: "Let us take the noble examples of our own generation. It was due to jealousy and envy that the greatest and most holy pillars were persecuted and fought to the death... Peter, who through unmerited jealousy underwent not one or two, but many hardships and, after thus giving testimony, departed for the place of glory that was his due... Paul demonstrated how to win the prize of patient endurance: seven times he was imprisoned; he was forced to leave and stoned ... he won the splendid renown which his faith had earned".

Nevertheless, Clement himself soon began to attract attention, and he was exiled to Crimea. There he was put to work in the mines with other Christians and slaves, and he continued to teach and preach, and gained so many converts it is said, that 75 Churches had to be built. There is also told, how they had to go six miles to get water, and that Clement miraculously brought forth a spring near the mines. Once again (during the reign of the emperor Trajan), Clement began getting notice due to his success, and because of his "disruptions", an anchor was tied around his neck, and he was cast into the Black Sea. The tide went out two miles, and there was a marble tomb exposed, where Clement was "buried by angels". Some years later, Saint Cyril of Alexandria went to the Crimea, and there miraculously found a mound, and upon digging into the mound, found bones and an anchor, which were taken back to Rome as relics of Saint Pope Clement I, and placed in the Basilica of Saint Clement of Rome.

Clements letter is a true treasure in that it gives us insight to the early Church in Rome that we might not otherwise have. It is also obvious from reading his letter to Corinth, that Clements references to scripture, or events in scripture were almost entirely from the Old Testament. He does make mention of Saint Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians, and the Epistle to the Romans. This has led some to believe that Clement may have indeed been a Jewish convert to Christianity, due to his frequent use of the Old Testament in his epistle, although some also think he may have been Greek. Whether he was Jewish or Gentile matters not at all, because he was Roman. Regardless, what we have from Saint Pope Clement is valuable insight to the early Church, and his epistle is well worth the read, and can be read by clicking on the title, "The Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians".

Addendum

This is from Saint Jerome's work, "Lives of Illustrious Men":

Clemens the bishop

Clement, of whom the apostle Paul writing to the Philippians says "With Clement and others of my fellow-workers whose names are written in the book of life," the fourth bishop of Rome after Peter, if indeed the second was Linus and the third Anacletus, although most of the Latins think that Clement was second after the apostle. He wrote, on the part of the church of Rome, an especially valuable Letter to the church of the Corinthians, which in some places is publicly read, and which seems to me to agree in style with the epistle to the Hebrews which passes under the name of Paul but it differs from this same epistle, not only in many of its ideas, but also in respect of the order of words, and its likeness in either respect is not very great. There is also a second Epistle under his name which is rejected by earlier writers, and a Disputation between Peter and Appion written out at length, which Eusebius in the third book of his Church history rejects. He died in the third year of Trajan and a church built at Rome preserves the memory of his name unto this day.

Copyright © 2005 Steve Smith. All rights reserved.









Sunday, July 31, 2005

THE EARLY CHURCH FATHERS


The Early Church Fathers
The Early Church Fathers are the saintly writers and saints of the early centuries that are recognized by the Catholic Church as the witnesses of the faith. The four main exclusive rights of the Early Church Fathers are: antiquity, orthodoxy, sanctity, and approval by the Church. The Early Church Fathers are commonly divided into the Latin Fathers (Western Fathers) and the Greek Fathers (Eastern Fathers). General consensus is the last of the Latin Fathers was Saint Isidore of Seville (560-636) and the last of the Greek Fathers was Saint John Damascene (675-749).

Below is an alphabetical listing of the Latin Fathers, followed by an alphabetical listing of the Greek Fathers.

LATIN FATHERS OF THE CHURCH

St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (340-97)
Arnobius, apologist (d. 327)
St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (354-430)
St. Benedict, father of Western monasticism (480-546)
St. Caesarius, Archbishop of Arles (470-542)
St. John Cassian, abbot, ascetical writer (360-435)
St. Celestine I, Pope (d. 432)
St. Cornelius, Pope (d. 253)
St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage (d. 258)
St. Damasus I, Pope (d. 384)
St Dionysius, Pope (d. 268)
St. Ennodius, Bishop of Pavia (473-521)
St. Eucherius, Bishop of Lyons (d. 449)
St. Fulgentius, Bishop of Ruspe (468-533)
St. Gregory of Elvira (died after 392)
St. Gregory (I) the Great, Pope (540-604)
St. Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers (315-68)
St. Innocent I, Pope (d. 417)
St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (130-200)
St. Isidore, Archbishop of Seville (560-636)
St. Jerome, priest, exegete, translator of the Vulgate (343-420)
Lactantius Firminanus, apologist (240-320)
St. Leo the Great, Pope (390-461)
Marius Mercator, Latin polemicist (early fifth century)
Marius Victorinus, Roman rhetorician (fourth century)
Minucius Felix, apologist (second or third century)
Novatian, the Schismatic (200-62)
St. Optatus, Bishop of Mileve (late fourth century)
St. Pacian, Bishop of Barcelona (fourth century)
St. Pamphilus, priest (240-309)
St. Paulinus, Bishop of Nola (353-431)
St. Peter Chrysologus, Archbishop of Ravenna (400-50)
St. Phoebadius, Bishop of Agen (d. 395)
St. Prosper of Aquitaine, theologian (390-463)
Rufinus, Latin translator of Greek theology (345-410)
Salvian, priest (400-80)
St. Siricius, Pope (334-99)
Tertullian, apologist, founder of Latin theology (160-223)
St. Vincent of Lérins, priest and monk (d.450)

GREEK FATHERS OF THE CHURCH

St. Anastasius Sinaita, apologist, monk (d. 700)
St. Andrew of Crete, Archbishop of Gortyna (660-740)
Aphraates, Syriac monk (early fourth century)
St. Archelaus, Bishop of Cascar (d. 282)
St. Athanasius, Archbishop of Alexandria (c. 297-373)
Athenagoras, apologist (second century)
St. Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea (329-79)
St. Caesarius of Nazianzus (330-69)
St. Clement of Alexandria, theologian (150-215)
St. Clement I of Rome, Pope (30-101)
St. Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem (315-86)
St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria (376-444)
Didymus the Blind, theologian (313-98)
Diodore, Bishop of Tarsus (d. 392)
Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite, mystical theologian (late fifth century)
St. Dionysius the Great, Archbishop of Alexandria (190-264)
St. Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis (315-403)
Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea (260-340)
St. Eustathius, Bishop of Antioch (fourth century)
St. Firmillian, Bishop of Caesarea (d. 268)
Gennadius I, Patriarch of Constantinople (d. 471)
St. Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople (634-733)
St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Bishop of Sasima (329-90)
St. Gregory of Nyssa (330-95)
St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, Bishop of Neocaesarea (213-70)
Hermas, author of The Shepherd (second century)
St. Hippolytus, martyr (170-236)
St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch (35-107)
St. Isidore of Pelusium, abbot (360-c. 450)
St. John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople (347-407)
St. John Climacus, monk (579-649)
St. John Damascene, defender of sacred images (675-749)
St. Julius I, Pope (d. 352)
St. Justin Martyr, apologist (100-65)
St. Leontius of Byzantium, theologian (sixth century)
St. Macarius the Great, monk (300-90)
St. Maximus, abbot and confessor (580-662)
St. Melito, Bishop of Sardis (d. 190)
St. Methodius, Bishop of Olympus (d. 311)
St. Nilus the Elder, priest and monk (d. 430)
Origen, head of the Catechetical School of Alexandria (184-254)
St. Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna (69-155)
St. Proclus, Patriarch of Constantinople (d. 446)
St. Serapion, Bishop of Thmuis (died after 362)
St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem (560-638)
Tatian the Assyrian, apologist and theologian (120-80)
Theodore, Bishop of Mopsuestia (350-428)
Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrrhus (393-458)
St. Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch (late second century)

Copyright © 2005 Steve Smith. All rights reserved.



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