Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Eucharist-The First Four Centuries

Another question possibly for tomorrow: What doctrine of the Eucharist emerges from the first four centuries?

1st Century:

The Didache:
"Let no one eat or drink of the Eucharist with you except those who have been baptized in the name of the Lord; for it was in reference to this that the Lord said: 'Do not give that which is holy to dogs.'"

St. Justin Martyr

"We call this food Eucharist, no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true...not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these...both flesh and blood of that incarnated Jesus." (The Real Presence)

2nd Century:

Ignatius of Antioch:

"I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire Bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was the seed of David; and for drink I desire His Blood; which is love incorruptible." (The Real Presence)

"Use one Eucharist, so that what you do, you do according to God; for there is one Flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup in the union of His blood; one alter, as there is one bishop with the presbytery...the deacons."

"Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom He appoints." (Eucharist and Unity of the Church)

3rd Century:

St. Athanasius

"So long as the prayers of supplication and entreaties have not been made, there is only bread and wine. After the great and wonderful prayers have been completed, then bread is become Body, and the wine the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ."

4th Century:

St. John Chrysostom

"We have become one that we may become this not by love only but even in every deed, let us be blended into that flesh..." (Eucharist and the Mystical Body of Christ)

"Reverence, therefore, reverence this table, of which we are all communicants! Christ, slain for us, the Sacrificial Victim, who is placed thereon!" (Sacrificial Nature of the Eucharist)

"Oblation is the same even if some common person offer it...which Christ gave to his disciples and which now the priests do..." (Christ the principal celebrant in Eucharist)


Third possible essay question for tomorrow's final (Please God, don't let me fail!): What was the Arian heresy and what weakness in the second or third century paved a way for it.

Arianism ultimately taught that the three persons of the Trinity were wholly unlike each other both in essence and in glory. (Eunomianism) The is the logical conclusion following from an earlier version of Arianism which taught that the Son was a creature of God, not eternal with the Father, and not divine. He was created ex-nihilo, (out of nothing) and "there was a time when he was not." He was "God," but not a true God.

It has been said that Arianism is the worst heresy to ever plague the Church. It took 600 years for the Church to be finally rid of it!

St. Athanasius was exiled five times for fighting this heresy and it seemed as though Arianism would win the battle. Some Sees had one orthodox bishop among many Arian bishops. This history should compel schismatics to realize that it is the Church (not the Bible--first, it wasn't in existence as such and second, Arians like heretics today can use the Bible to "prove" their belief) which has preserved orthodox belief through the ages, not the least of which the most foundational belief in the Christian Faith-the Holy Trinity.

It can be argued that St. Justin Martyr's understanding of the Son is what "paved the way" to the Arian heresy. He mixed up the concept of the Word versus the spoken Word of God. He taught that the second person of the Trinity is co-eternal with the Father qua Word, but became Son through the spoken word at creation. Thus, the Word is co-eternal, but the Word as Son is not, only pre-creation since it was through the Son that all things came into being.

He was not an Arian, but had bad theology. The second person is eternally both Word and Son.

later said, "the Word becomes Son when spoken at creation." He makes the same mistake that St. Justin makes.

Novatian also contributes to the confusion with his words, "From Him, when he willed it, the Word was born." Arius quotes this directly in defending his heresy. This implies that the Father had the Son by choice and in His utterance of the "Word," He began the creation of the world. Arius believed that Jesus was "God-like," in that He was able to create, but not a true God in that He was created or born of the Father.

St. Hippolytus of Rome uses clearer language than that of St. Justin Martyr, but it still was not good theology as he writes, "For when He was without flesh and as yet by Himself, the Word was not yet perfect Son, although He was already perfect Word, the Only-begotten."

Baptism: The First Two Centuries

Another potential essay question: What Doctrine of Baptism emerges from the Fathers of the first two centuries.

The Fathers of the Church in the first two centuries had expounded the Trinitarian formula found in Matthew's Gospel, Chapter 28: Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

Thus, if you are coming into full communion with the Catholic Church, it is not necessary to be "re-baptized" if you already had a legitimate baptism following the Trinitarian formula. Most Protestant communities baptize legitimately and therefore those coming in would not need to be re-baptized. It's not theologically possible. Baptism can only be done once. Even though Protestants have a different understanding of baptism, the baptism itself is valid. However, if a person is coming from a non-Trinitarian community such as Mormonism, the person has never been legitimately baptized and would require it.

In the first century document, the Didache (A.D. 80)re-affirms the Trinitarian formula. It also suggests that the baptism be in living water (Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River--I renewed my baptismal vows there this past May!), if there is no living water, then in other water, if neither are available it instructs to "pour water three times on the head" using the Trinitarian formula. It also exhorts the baptized to fast for one or two days. Thus, the sacrament is instituted by Christ and is a real expression of entering into the life of the Triune God in which water is essential. The exhortation to fast is more a discipinary, rather than doctrinal matter. I do not believe it is too much emphasized these days perhaps because most baptisms in the Church are infant baptisms.

In the second century, St. Ignatius of Antioch writes to the Smyrnaeans that baptism can not take place without the permission of the Bishop. Today, I am not sure how that works. But again, I do not think that is a doctrinal issue.

Also in the second century, the Letter of Barnabas beautifully expresses, "In this way He says that we descent into the water full of sins and foulness, and we come up bearing fruit in our heart, having fear and hope in Jesus in the Spirit."

Doctrinally speaking, this seems to imply that there is a real change that accompanies baptism. It is not just an external expression of inward faith (it is that too), but a cleansing and remission of sin and a receiving of grace.

This real change is also expressed by St. Justin Martyr of the second century, "Their washing is called illumination, because it enlightens the intelligence of those who learn these things."

Lastly, this beautiful treatise on baptism of Tertullian's of the second/third century must be not be kept hidden: "The sins of our earlier blindness are washed away and we are released for eternal life will not be superfluous...Vipers and asps, as it is true of serpents in general, are found in dry and waterless places. But we little fishes, are born in water after the manner of our (insert the Greek word for FISH, which was the early Church's symbol for the Faith), Jesus Christ; nor can we be otherwise saved, except by abiding permanently in the water."

Tertullian's beautiful words imply that something supernatural does in fact happen during baptism and that it is necessary for salvation. (Of course, there is baptism of blood, desire, etc. but that is another subject entirely and they don't count if baptism by water/spirit is lingering allowed; but I digress.)

A couple of issues regarding baptism in the first two centuries (and following) that have since been clarified by the Church regard the delaying of baptism (Tertullian discusses this)and the one time remission of sins in baptism (Hermas discusses this). Both are related. Since the early Church believed that remission of sins could only come once (or twice, sometimes personal confession was allowed one time after baptism)with baptism, it became a practice to delay baptism until adulthood or until "you got sin out of your system," in a sense. This is why Constatine delayed baptism and even St. Augustine in the fifth century.

Natural Theology in the Fathers of the First Three Centuries

Here's a possible essay question for my Patristics final tomorrow: Discuss Natural Theology, its possibilities and limiatations, in the Fathers of the first three centuries.

This is actually a topic I am highly interested in--mainly out of my encounter with Protestant Christians who tell me that the study of philosophy or philosophy in general is contrary to the Bible, or even contrary to Jesus.

Where they got this idea from is beyond me. And it couldn't be further from the truth.

Philosophy, or natural theology, is the study of God (who is Truth and Wisdom), through the use of man's reason. It is study of what can be known naturally, while theology is the study of what is known supernaturally through revelation.

In his enyclical Fides et Ration, John Paul II writes, "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves."

It has also been said that philosophy is the handmaid of theology. This is true because philosophy serves theology. While philosophy is very important, it is limited. Where philosophy ends, theology begins. In fact, faith is the apex of reason. (Father Giussani) But the Faith and faith in general, must be reasonable or it is not true. It is, after all, our reason which makes us like God--we are made in His image and likeness. (Genesis 1:26)

Further, philsophy or natural theology is an excellent and persuasive way to evangelize to non-believers, especially to athiests. I do not mean to reduce its importance to merely evangelistic purposes, but it is worth mentioning.

The greatest pre-Christian minds, Aristotle and Plato, both believed in God. Through reason alone man can know that God exists and that if God exists what His attributes would be: omnipotent, infinite, spiritual, etc. We do not know these attributes through revelation or through the Bible, but through logical reasoning. In fact, one ignorant of philsophy or sound reasoning could very well read the Bible and deem God as fickle, jealous, and many other erred attributes.

St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans 1:19-20, writes, "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature, namely, His eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made."

St. Paul is appealing here to natural theology. Of course, he is appealing to the pagans to go a step further and recognize the truth of the Gospel. In the first century, St. Justin Martyr argues that by means of the rational faculty (which is God's gift to us, no other material creature has an intellect of this kind), God leads us to faith. (Simply, life does not make any sense without God!) However, St. Justin rightly argues that reason is insufficient. Reason can lead you to belief in God, but it does not tell you WHO this God is.

In the second century, St. Irenaeus (the most important Father of the second century) writes "all do know this...there is one God and Lord of all, because the reason implanted in their minds moves them and reveals it to them." Reason then is a foundational preparation for revelation. The Bible alludes to this in the coming of Christ being "in the fullness of time." (Hence, when we had enough prep work!)

In the third century, Lactantius implores the believer to take seriously the inquiry into religious truth! (A.K.A. Just because your pastor says something doesn't mean you are exempt from using your brain!) If you are not serious about truth, you can easily be led into error, he writes, "It is necessary, therefore, especially in that matter on which hinges the whole plan of life, for each one to have confidence in himself, and to rely on his own judgment and individual capacity for investigating and weighing the truth, rather than to be deceived by believing the errors of others, as if he were utterly lacking in reason. God gives to every man a proportionate share of wisdom..."

There is so much to be said here. The point is, reason is a gift from God, the Faith is reasonable and while it has its limitations, it is precisely our reason which can and must lead us to faith, to the truth of the divine and wonderful things which have been revealed!


Friday, July 24, 2009

Letter to Diognetus (Anonymous Author)

Time Period: 2nd Century (A.D. 125/200)

Here's a great passage from the text, a beautiful explanation of the paradox of the Christian life:

They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life.

I also like this...

He sent Him for saving and persuading, but not for compelling. Compulsion, you see, is not an attribute of God.

In the Faith, faith and reason go hand in hand. It is not about "conversion or death," but about (as the Pope would say of late) love in truth.

As this unknown author writes, "Oh the magnitude of the kindness and love which God has for man!"


St. Papias

Time Period: 2nd Century (A.D. 130)
Position: Bishop of Hierapolis
Location: Asia Minor
Important works: Explanation of the Sayings of the Lord
Language: Greek

St. Papias received the doctrines of the faith through acquaintances of the Apostles.

Here's a brief selection...

When Mark became the interpreter of Peter, he wrote down accurately whatever he remembered, though not in order, of the words and deeds of the Lord. He was neither hearer nor follower of the Lord; but such he was afterwards, as I say, of Peter, who had no intention of giving a connected account of the sayings of the Lord, but adapted his instruction as was necessary.

Note: Mark is our earliest recorded gospel in Greek. (The Bible is out of order chronologically, it's true!) The earliest gospel then, being Peter's words. Peter, our first Pope! Cool, huh?



Time Period: 2nd Century (A.D. 140/155)
Position: Layman, brother of Pope St. Pius I
Location: Rome?
Important works: The Shepherd
Language: Originally Greek (fragments), Complete extant texts in Latin and Ethiopic

The text deals with some great topics such as the nature of the Church, creation ex-nihilo (that God created the world out of nothing), repentance (at that time this could only happen one time, you could not go to confession over and over again they way that you can now), etc.

Here's a short passage...

As many as repent with their whole heart and purify themselves of all wickedness mentioned before, and no longer add anything to their former sins,-they shall receive from the Lord a healing for their former sins, provided they are not double-minded in regard to these commandments; and they shall live to God. But as many as add to their sins and live in the lusts of this world--they shall condemn themselves to death.

What I really appreciate about this writing is the seriousness by which repentance is taken. This whole "Sin-Confession-Sin-Confession" lifestyle some Christians live is just a tad overdone. Don't get me wrong. I go to confession at least twice a month and believe me, I have something to confess. But what makes absolution legitimate is that you are truly contrite and serious in your resolve to "go and sin no more." The early Church took baptism and repentance so seriously that many delayed baptism until the end of their life. Constantine is an example of this.

My professor makes a good point about the double-mindedness of some Christians. This see-saw of the Christian v. worldly life seems to imply that as he said in class, "you only half want the Kingdom."

Friends, you can't half want it. You either want it or you don't. But you are the one who chooses.

St. Polycarp of Smyrna

Time Period: 2nd Century (A.D. 70-156)
Position: Bishop of Smyrna
Location: Smyrna
Important works: Letter to the Philippians
Language: Greek

St. Polycarp is considered one of the Apostolic Fathers having been a hearer of St. John the Apostle. He is a contemporary of St. Ignatius of Antioch. He died a martyr in 156 A.D.

If I ever have a son, his middle name is Polycarp. He is one of my favorite saints because he's got attitude. According to St. Irenaeus, Polycarp called the heretic Marcion to his FACE that he is the "first-born of Satan." Nice.

Marcion was a gnostic heretic who rejected the Old Testament and all the gospels except Luke. Plus, he pretty much edited the rest of the Scriptures to his liking.

This reminds me of what Martin Luther tried to do more than a thousand years later.

There is a work called The Martyrdom of St. Polycarp (A.D. 155/157); the author is unknown. Here's some selections from this treasure...

When the Proconsul urged him and said, "Take the oath and I will release you; revile Christ," Polycarp answered; "Eighty-six years I have served Him, and He has never done me wrong. How, then, should I be able to blaspheme my King who has saved me?"

So much, then, for the Blessed Polycarp. Although he was, together with those from Philadelphia, the twelfth martyr in Symrna, he alone is especially remembered by all, and is spoken of in every place, even by the heathen...Now with the Apostles and all the just he is glorifying God and the Father Almighty, and he is blessing our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of our souls, the Helmsman of our bodies, and the Shepherd of the Catholic Church throughout the world.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

St. Ignatius of Antioch

Time Period: 2nd Century (A.D. 107)
Position: Third Patriarch/Bishop of Antioch
Location: Antioch
Important works: Letter to the Ephesians, Letter to the Magnesians, Letter to the Trallians, Letter to the Romans, Letter to the Philadelphians, Letter to the Smyrnaeans, Letter to Polycarp
Language: Greek

St. Ignatius lived during the reign of Trajan. He is considered an Apostolic Father because he was a hearer of St. John the Apostle. On his way from Antioch to martyrdom in Rome (the beasts in the, he wrote seven letters which are his only extant writings.

My professor pointed out to us that Ignatius was a grown man before Peter left Antioch--he was middle-aged when Peter was still alive! Striking!

It is in Antioch where the followers of Christ were first called Christians.

An Episcopal note: (Episcopal meaning "Bishop"--not having anything to do with the Episcopalian Church as such)Rome was not involved in the selection of bishops outside of the Roman diocese until after the Protestant movement. They were usually elected by priests at the Cathedral.

Here are some selections from each of the 7 Letters:

1. To the Ephesians...

For Jesus Christ, our inseparable life, is the will of the Father, just as the bishops, who have been appointed throughout the world, are at the will of Jesus Christ. It is fitting, therefore, that you should live in harmony with the will of the bishop--as, indeed, you do. Let us be careful, then, if we would be submissive to God, not to oppose the bishop.

It is clear, then, that we must look upon the bishop as the Lord Himself.

Here's another one, this I particularly enjoy...

There is one Physician, who is both flesh and spirit, born and not born, who is God in man, true life in death, both from Mary and from God, first able to suffer and then unable to suffer, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Give ear to the bishop and to the presbytery with an undivided mind, break one Bread, which is the medicine of immortality, the antidote against death, enabling us to live forever in Jesus Christ.

Note: This recalls John 6. The Eucharist and the Resurrection are bound together. Eating His flesh results in being raised up.

2. To the Magnesians...

Take care, therefore, to be confirmed in the decrees of the Lord and the Apostles, that in all things whatsoever you may prosper, in body and in soul, in faith and in love, in the Son and the Father and the Spirit, in the beginning and the end, together with your most reverend bishop and with your presbytery--that fittingly woven spiritual crown! --and with your deacons, men of God. Submit to the bishop and to each other's rights, just as did Jesus Christ in the flesh to the Father, and as the Apostles did to Christ and the Father and the Spirit, so that there may be unity both of flesh and of spirit.

3. To the Trallians...

It is necessary, therefore,--and such is your practice,-that you do nothing without the bishop, and that you be subject also to the presbytery, as to the Apostles of Jesus Christ our hope, in whom we shall be found, if we live with Him.

In like manner let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and the college of the Apostles. Without these, it cannot be called a Church.

Nota bene: I believe my friend James' conversion to the Church from Anglicanism was sped up after reading Ignatius if I remember correctly. I can see why. It's pretty clear. Also, this is why Catholics do not consider schismatics Churches but rather, ecclesial communities.

4. To the Romans... (considered his most important Letter)

I love this...

Only pray for me that I may have strength both inward and outward, that I may not merely speak, but have also the will; that I may not only be called a Christian but may also be found to be one. For if I be found to be one, I may also be called one, and be then deemed faithful, even when I am no longer visible. Nothing visible is eternal.

The Letter to the Romans is a treasure. If you had to pick one, this is it.

5. To the Philadelphians...

Those, indeed, who belong to God and to Jesus Christ--they are with the bishop.

And as many as shall, in the exercise of repentance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren. If any man follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If any one walks according to a strange opinion, he agrees not with the passion.

Take heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to show forth the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatsoever you do, you may do it according to the will of God.

6. To the Smyrneans...

Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.

Nota bene: This is the first time the word Catholic is used in print!

7. Letter to Polycarp

This is helpful for me:

Become more diligent than you are. Observe well the times. Look for Him that is above seasons, timeless; invisible, yet, for our sakes, becoming visible; who cannot be touched; who cannot suffer, yet, for our sakes, accepted suffering, and who on our account endured everything.

(Beautiful, no?)

I end with this from his last letter...

Be long-suffering with one another and gentle, just as God is with you.

May I rejoice in you always.

+ + +


Time Period: 1st Century
Position: Paul's companion on his 1st Missionary Journey
Location: Speculated to have an Alexandrian origin
Important works: Letter of Barnabas (either A.D. 70/79 or 117/132)
Language: Greek

The Letter is actually a theological tract and it does not give us information as to whether Barnabas is the authentic author.

Here are a couple of selections I would like to share with you:

And when He chose His own Apostles, who were about to preach His gospel, He chose men who were the worst kind of sinners in order to show that He came not to call the righteous but sinners (Mark 2:17)--and then He showed Himself to be the Son of God.

Check this out...I love this...

If He had not come in the flesh, there would be no way in which men could be saved by beholding Him: for even when they look at the sun, a work of His hands and a thing destined to perish, are they able to gaze straight into its rays?

For this reason, then, the Son of Man came in the flesh: to fill to the brim the measure of the sins of those who persecuted His prophets to death.

The author of this tract, like Clement, also gives the exhortation:

You shall not make a schism; but you shall pacify and bring together those who are quarreling. You shall confess your sins. You shall not go up to pray in the consciousness of having done evil. This is the way of light.

My notes:

It occurred to me in reading this that the method of by which our Lord educates us is through relationship. Relationship with Him and now relationship with Him through the Church: you and me. If the pillar of Protestantism, Sola Scriptura, were true, then I would think Jesus Christ would have spent His time writing, instead of hanging out with His disciples so much. Just a thought. Makes sense to me.


St. Clement of Rome

Whatever possessed me to take two summer school classes, I do not know. I already have finals next week (God help me). I'll be blogging on the Fathers as my method of studying. Happy reading!

Time Period:1st Century; cannot be later than the 90s
Position: Bishop of Rome (a.k.a. The Pope, third successor of St. Peter)
Important works: Letter to the Corinthians (A.D. 80)
Language: Greek

This is the only surviving writing of Clement. He wrote the Letter as a response to the Bishop of Corinth being overthrown and the ensuing schism. It is interesting (as well as important) to note that when he wrote this, St. John the Apostle was still alive. But since Clement, not John, was the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, the appeal went to Rome.

He writes...

And our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would
be strife over the name of the bishop's office. For this cause therefore, having received complete foreknowledge, they appointed the aforesaid persons, and afterwards they provided a continuance, that if these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed to their ministration. Those therefore who were appointed by them, or afterward by other men of repute with the consent of the whole Church, and have ministered without blame to the flock of Christ in lowliness of mind, peacefully and with all modesty, and for long time have borne a good report with all these men we consider to be unjustly thrust out from their ministration.

(Translation: Apostolic Succession !)

He continues...

It is shameful, dearly beloved, yes, utterly shameful and unworthy of
your training in Christ, that it should be reported that the very
steadfast and ancient Church of the Corinthians, for the sake of one
or two persons, is in revolt against its presbyters.

(Translation: Schism: Bad ; Unity: Good !)


You, therefore, who laid the foundations of the rebellion, submit to the presbyters and be chastened to repentance, bending your knees in a spirit of humility.

Is there really anything more I can add to Clement? He makes it very clear that going against your bishop is a no-no, what gives legitimacy to the bishop is the unbroken apostolic succession (keep in mind, this is 80 A.D.--the Bible hadn't dropped from the sky yet!), and that you put yourself in danger when you create a schism. (He writes, "By your folly you heap blasphemies on the name of the Lord, and create a danger for yourselves.") Most significantly, this is coming from the authority of the Pope, who St. John himself submits to...because he submits to Christ who gave this instruction and power in the first place as recorded in the gospel of Matthew.



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