I'm also taking a Patristics (the early Church fathers' writings)class this summer. We are reading selections from William A. Jurgens book The Faith of the Early Fathers: Volume 1-3.
The first ancient text we discussed was the Didache, known as the "teaching of the twelve." The original was lost until 1883 and most likely written around 80 A.D. when the apostles were still alive and spreading the Gospel. (If you want to argue with this date, my professor recommends John A.T. Robinson's work, Redating the New Testament.)
Unlike today's evangelization techniques, the early Christians searched out the people who were morally serious to introduce and propose the Christian Faith. The first thing the Didache did was to confront morality. Catechesis was first on morals and then led to the sacraments. The sacraments were the end game, not the starting point.
I like how the Didache begins, it's very blunt:
There are two ways, one of life and one of death: and great is the difference between the two ways.
A really interesting point the Didache makes is to be intelligent in your charitable giving decisions:
Let your alms perspire in your hands, until you know to whom you are giving.
Try this on for size:
You shall not procure abortion, nor destroy a new-born child.
This is from the *earliest* non-canonical apostolic writing--in case you needed that. Otherwise, it should be so utterly morally obvious to oppose the intentional murdering of innocents.
The sentence right before:
You shall not use potions.
Potions for what, you ask?
In the very promiscuous Greek culture, there were two types of potions: love potions and (drum roll) contraceptive potions.
Interesting. All along the Catholic Church (and only only only the Catholic Church!) has related the widespread use of contraception to the increase in abortions. (Not to mention affairs, domestic violence, divorce, etc. etc. etc.) And here, this oldest document of the apostles, mentions them one after the other.
First comes contraception, then abortion.
(If you need more education/formation on this topic regarding the Catholic Church's teaching, I highly recommend Janet Smith's audio CD "Contraception: Why Not?" You can order it for FREE!)
The Didache is a treasure and there are many nuggets in the work, I leave you with one of them:
Whoever, therefore, comes and teaches you all these things that have been said before, receive him. But if the teacher himself turns and teaches another doctrine to the destruction of this, hear him not.
I would find this troubling were I a Protestant today.
Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us. +