The Fathers of the Church spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, defended the Church in apologetic writing and fought the many heresies of the first six centuries of Christianity. These men, also called Apostolic Fathers, gave special witness to the faith, some dying the death of a martyr. Like Jesus who referred to Abraham as a spiritual father(Luke 16: 24) and St. Paul, who referred to himself in the same terms (1 Cor 4: 15), the Fathers were zealous for the word of God. Their writings are a testimony to the faith of the early Church, yet many Christians are unfamiliar with the work of Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, Justin the Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian of Cathage, Athanasius, Ephraim, Cyril of Jerusalem, Hilary of Poitiers or Gregory the Great to name of few of the early Fathers. Each month we will provide biographical information and examples of the writing of these great men of faith. We will focus here on Clement of Alexandria.
Titus Flavius Clemens, St. Clement of
probably born a pagan in Athens about 150 A.D. He was one of the
first great leaders in Christian Africa. After his conversion, he
traveled to Italy, Syria and Palestine seeking Christian
teachers. He met a most impressive one by the name of Pantaenus
in Alexandria, became his pupil, associate and succeeded him as
the head of a school for catechumens (converts) by 200 A.D. He
speaks of the apostolic tradition he received his teachers. He
had no doubt, known some who recalled Ignatius and Polycarp or
perhaps, even some who as children had heard St. John speak of
our Lord's commands. He could claim to be in the next succession
after the apostles. A persecution by Septimius Severus in about
203 forced him to close the school and flee to Egypt. His
writings are the first to discuss the relationship between faith
and reason. His great treatises constitute a moral and dogmatic
theology as well as an apologetic (defense) of the faith.
He died in Cappadocia between 211-216 A.D.
Exhortation to the Greeks (ante 200A.D.):
[11, 111, 1] . . . The first man, when he was in Paradise, played in childlike abandon, because he was a child of God; but when he gave himself over to pleasure . . . he was seduced by lust, and in disobedience the child became a man. Because he did not obey his Father, he was ashamed before God.
. . .  The Lord then wished to release him from his bonds. Having put on flesh--this is a divine mystery--He vanquished the serpent and enslaved the tyrant death; and most wonderful of all, man, who had been deceived by pleasure and bound by corruption, had his hands unbound and was set free.  O mystic wonder! The Lord was laid low, and rose up! He that fell from Paradise receives even better as the reward for obedience: heaven itself.
[1, 6, 26,1] When we are baptized, we are enlightened. Being enlightened, we are adopted as sons. Adopted as sons, we are made perfect. Made perfect, we are become immortal. "I say,"
he declares, "you are gods and sons all of the Most High [Ps 81(82): 6].  This work is variously called grace, illumination, perfection and washing
[e.g., see Rom 5:2, 5:15 or Eph 5:26]. It is a washing by which we are cleansed of sins; a gift of grace by which the punishments due our sins our remitted; an illumination by which we behold that holy light of salvation--that is, by which we see God clearly; and we call that perfection which leaves nothing lacking.  Indeed, if a man know God, what more does he need? Certainly it were out of place to call that which is not complete a true gift of God's grace. Because God is perfect, the gifts He bestows are perfect.
The Instructor of Children [ante 202 A.D.]:
[1, 6. 41, 3] When the loving an benevolent Father had rained down the Word, that Word then became the spiritual nourishment of those who had good sense. [42, 1] O mystic wonder! The Father of all is indeed one and the same everywhere; and one only is the Virgin Mother. I love to call her the Church. This Mother alone was without milk, because she alone did not become a wife. She is at once both Virgin and Mother: as a Virgin, undefiled; as a Mother, full of love.
Calling her children about her, she nourishes them with holy milk, that is with the Infant Word. . . .  The Word is everything to a child: both Father and Mother, both Instructor and Nurse. "Eat My Flesh," He says,"and drink My Blood (3)." The Lord supplies us with these intimate nutriments. He delivers over His Flesh, and pours out His Blood; and nothing is lacking for growth of His children. O incredible mystery!
The Blood of our Lord, indeed is twofold. There is His corporeal Blood, by which we are redeemed from corruption; and His spiritual Blood, that with which we are anointed. That is to say, to drink the Blood of Jesus is to share in His immortality . The strength of the Word is the Spirit, just as the blood is the strength of the body. [20, 1] Similarly, as wine is blended with water, so the Spirit with man. The one, the Watered Wine, nourishes in faith, while the other, the Spirit, leads us on to immortality. The union of both, however,--of the drink and of the Word,--is called the Eucharist, a praiseworthy and excellent gift. Those who partake of it in faith are sanctified in body and in soul. By the will of the Father, the divine mixture, man, is mystically united to the Spirit and the Word.
Who Is The Rich Man That Is Saved? [ante190-210 A.D.]
[23,2] On the other hand, hear the Savior: ". . . . I am He that feeds you. I give Myself as Bread, of which he that has tasted experiences death no more; and I supply daily the Drink of immortality.
[42,2] After the death of the tyrant, the [Apostle John] came back again to Ephesus from the island of Patmos; and, upon being invited, he went even to the neignboring cities of the pagans, here to appoint bishops, there to set in order whole Churches, and there to ordain to the clerical estate such as were designated by the Spirit.
For the whole collection (38 volumes) of their writing, which answers so many questions about how the early Church interpreted Scripture, check out our Logos series by clicking here.
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