Showing posts with label Fathers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fathers. Show all posts

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Michael Ramsey on the Age of the Fathers

“ . . . the importance of the age of the Fathers must not he misunderstood. It is important, not as a golden age nor as a model for imitation by Christians, but as an age when the whole gospel found expression in the life and liturgy of the one Body, with a balanced use of all the Church’s structure, and with a depth, breadth and unity which contrast strikingly with every subsequent epoch. In these early centuries, the Syrian, Greek and Roman Christians were in one fellowship, with a Eucharistic worship exhibiting a balance of all the elements of thanksgiving, commemoration, fellowship, sacrifice and mystery. The Church was world renouncing, first with its martyrs and later with its hermits; it was also world redeeming, with its baptism of Greek culture and humanism into the Faith. Amid all these varieties of type and temper, the Body was still one; and the doctrine of the mystical Body retained its inner depth and breadth, since the doctrine of redemption still controlled it. The close relation between the doctrines of the Body and of redemption is apparent in all the important teaching about the Church from St Paul to St Augustine, even though from an early date there appear differences of emphasis between East and West.” 

(The Gospel and the Catholic Church, pages 140-141)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Justin Martyr, Apologist & witness to the Eucharistic belief of the early Church

Today's saint, Justin Martyr (100-165) was born at Flavia Neapolis, ancient Shechem in Judaea (now known as Nablus). He referred to himself as a Samaritan, though his father and grandfather were most likely Greek or Roman. 

Justin obviously had property and private means. He studied philosophy, was converted to Christ around the age of 30, and spent the rest of his life teaching what he called the "true philosophy", still wearing his philosopher’s gown. 

He seems to have travelled a great deal. We know that he stayed in Ephesus, and then settled in Rome. Justin was one of the early Christian "apologists", who communicated the Gospel in ways that related to the thought forms and concerns of his contemporaries, and defended the Faith against heresies and false belief. 

Among his writings are the apology [defence] Against Marcion and a Refutation of all Heresies. Both of these writings are now lost. Other writings are the Dialogue with Trypho, the First Apology and the Second Apology

In the opening of the Dialogue Justin describes his search for a knowledge of God among the scholars of the Stoic, Peripatetic, and Pythagorean traditions. Eventually he discovered in the teaching of Plato ways to think about the Godhead. But most important was his meeting on a beach with an old man who told him that only by God's revelation of himself can we know the truth, and that through the prophets this revelation has come, with their words being fulfilled in Christ. 

Justin became convinced that this was true. Furthermore, his observation of the day to day life of Christians, together with the courage of the martyrs, persuaded him that the accusations routinely made against them were unfounded. 

Following his conversion, he became a sought after Christian teacher. 

Justin's writings are valuable historically, as they give us descriptions of how Baptism and the Eucharist were celebrated by the Church of his day (i.e. during the half-century following the death of the Apostle John). 

Justin suffered martyrdom with six others – five men and a woman – at Rome under the Emperor Marcus Aurelius when Rusticus was prefect of the city (between 162 and 168). The church of St John the Baptist in Sacrofano, a few kilometers north of Rome, claims to house his relics. 

Here is Justin's famous passage on the Eucharist, chapters 66 and 67 of his First Apology

No one may share the Eucharist with us unless he believes that what we teach is true, unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ. 

We do not consume the eucharistic bread and wine as if it were ordinary food and drink, for we have been taught that as Jesus Christ our Savior became a man of flesh and blood by the power of the Word of God, so also the food that our flesh and blood assimilates for its nourishment becomes the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus by the power of his own words contained in the prayer of thanksgiving.

The apostles, in their recollections, which are called gospels, handed down to us what Jesus commanded them to do. They tell us that he took bread, gave thanks and said: Do this in memory of me. This is my body. In the same way he took the cup, he gave thanks and said: This is my blood. The Lord gave this command to them alone. Ever since then we have constantly reminded one another of these things. The rich among us help the poor and we are always united. For all that we receive we praise the Creator of the universe through his Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit. 

On Sunday we have a common assembly of all our members, whether they live in the city or the outlying districts. The recollections of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as there is time. When the reader has finished, the president of the assembly speaks to us; he urges everyone to imitate the examples of virtue we have heard in the readings. Then we all stand up together and pray. 

On the conclusion of our prayer, bread and wine and water are brought forward. The president offers prayers and gives thanks to the best of his ability, and the people give assent by saying, “Amen”. The eucharist is distributed, everyone present communicates, and the deacons take it to those who are absent. 

The wealthy, if they wish, may make a contribution, and they themselves decide the amount. The collection is placed in the custody of the president, who uses it to help the orphans and widows and all who for any reason are in distress, whether because they are sick, in prison, or away from home. In a word, he takes care of all who are in need. 

We hold our common assembly on Sunday because it is the first day of the week, the day on which God put darkness and chaos to flight and created the world, and because on that same day our savior Jesus Christ rose from the dead. For he was crucified on Friday and on Sunday he appeared to his apostles and disciples and taught them the things that we have passed on for your consideration.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Athanasius & the Divinity of Christ … Fr Cantalamessa's 1st Lenten homily

Long-time readers of this blog will know that I am a fan of the Papal Household Preacher and Capuchin Priest, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, who models a truly authentic blending of Catholic Faith, Biblical teaching, Patristic scholarship, evangelical preaching and pentecostal experience. He was appointed "Preacher to the Papal Household" in 1980 by Pope John Paul II. His remit was renewed in 2005 by Pope Benedict XVI. Fr Cantalamessa is frequently invited to speak at international and ecumenical conferences and rallies. He is a member of the Catholic Delegation for the Dialogue with the Pentecostal Churches, and currently hosts a weekly program on Radiotelevisione Italiana. 

Here is the first of his homilies for Lent 2012, preached last Friday. 

In preparation for the Year of Faith proclaimed by the Holy Father Benedict XVI (Oct. 12, 2012-Nov. 24, 2013), the four homilies of Lent are intended to give impetus and give back freshness to our belief through a renewed contact with the "giants of the faith" of the past. Hence the title, taken from the Letter to the Hebrews, given to the whole series: "Remember your leaders. Imitate their faith" (Hebrews13:7).

We will put ourselves each time in the school of one of the four great Doctors of the Eastern Church - Athanasius, Basil, Gregory of Nazianzen and Gregory of Nyssa - to see what each one of them says to us today, in regard to the dogma of which he was champion, that is, respectively, the divinity of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, knowledge of God. At another time, God willing, we will do the same for the great Doctors of the Western Church: Augustine, Ambrose and Leo the Great. 

What we wish to learn from the Fathers is not so much how to proclaim the faith to the world, namely, evangelization, or how to defend the faith against errors, namely, orthodoxy; but, rather, how to deepen our faith, to rediscover, behind them, the richness, beauty and happiness of believing, to pass, as Paul says, "through faith for faith" (Romans 1:17), from a believed faith to a lived faith. It will spell, in fact, growth in the "volume" of faith within the Church, which will then constitute the major strength of its proclamation to the world and the best defense of its orthodoxy. 

Father de Lubac affirmed that there was never a renewal of the Church in history which was not also a return to the Fathers. Vatican II, whose 50th anniversary we are about to celebrate, is no exception. It is interwoven with quotations from the Fathers; many of its protagonists were Patristic scholars. After Scripture, the Fathers constitute the second layer of soil on which theology, liturgy, biblical exegesis and the whole spirituality of the Church rest and draw their lymph.