I am participating in the group Read the Fathers, so in order to help me maintain this discipline I will be sharing my favorite quotes and reflections every Saturday:
Quotes (from Schaff’s Anti-Nicene Father, V. 1)
The Humility of Advent:
“Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Scepter of the majesty of God, did not come in the pomp of pride or arrogance, although He might have done so, but in a lowly condition…” (1 Clement XVI)
Signs of the Resurrection, Everywhere:
“Let us consider, beloved, how the Lord continually proves to us that there shall be a future resurrection, of which He has rendered the Lord Jesus Christ the first fruits by raising Him from the dead. Let us contemplate, beloved, the resurrection, which is at all times taking place. Day and night declare to us a resurrection. The night sinks to sleep, and the day arises; the day [again] departs, and the night comes on. Let us behold the fruits [of the earth], how the sowing of grain takes place. The sower goes forth, and casts it into the ground; and the seed being thus scattered, though dry and naked when it fell upon the earth, is gradually dissolved. Then out of its dissolution the mighty power of the providence of the Lord raises it up again, and from one seed many arise and bring forth fruit.” (1 Clement XXIV)
Justified by Our Works (like the Epistle of James):
“Let us clothe ourselves with concord and humility, ever exercising self-control, standing far off from all whispering and evil-speaking, being justified by our works, and not our words.” (1 Clement XXX)
Justified by Our Faith (like the writings of Paul):
“And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Clement XXXII)
God’s Contemporary Gifts Foreshadow Future Gifts:
“How blessed and wonderful, beloved, are the gifts of God! Life in immortality, splendor in righteousness, truth in perfect confidence, faith in assurance, self-control in holiness! And all these fall under the cognizance of our understandings [now]; what then shall those things be which are prepared for such as wait for Him? The Creator and Father of all worlds, the Most Holy, alone knows their amount and their beauty. Let us therefore earnestly strive to be found in the number of those that wait for Him, in order that we may share in His promised gifts.” (1 Clement XXXV)
Our Focus is Upon Jesus:
“This is the way, beloved, in which we find our Savior, even Jesus Christ, the High Priest of all our offerings, the defender and helper of our infirmity. By Him we look up to the heights of heaven. By Him we behold, as in a glass, His immaculate and most excellent visage. By Him are the eyes of our hearts opened. By Him our foolish and darkened understanding blossoms up anew towards His marvelous light. By Him the Lord has willed that we should taste of immortal knowledge, ‘who, being the brightness of His majesty, is by so much greater than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.'” (1 Clement XXXVI)
God Sent Jesus, Jesus Sent the Apostles:
“The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Spirit, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand.” (1 Clement XLII)
Unity in the Church:
“Why are there strifes, and tumults, and divisions, and schisms, and wars among you? Have we not [all] one God and one Christ? Is there not one Spirit of grace poured out upon us? And have we not one calling in Christ? Why do we divide and tear to pieces the members of Christ, and raise up strife against our own body, and have reached such a height of madness as to forget that ‘we are members one of another?’ Remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, how he said, “Woe to that man [by whom offences come]! It was better for him that he had never been born, than that he should cast a stumbling block before one of my elect. Yea, it were better for him that a millstone should be hung about [his neck], and he should be sunk in the depths of the sea, than that he should cast a stumbling-block before one of my little ones.’ Your schism has subverted [the faith of] many, has discouraged many, has given rise to doubt in many, and has caused grief to us all. And still your sedition continues.” (1 Clement XLVI)
The Uniqueness of Christians:
“For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonored, and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honor; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.” (Epistle to Diognetus V)
The Righteousness of Christ for Us:
“But when our wickedness had reached its height, and it had been clearly shown that its reward, punishment and death, was impending over us; and when the time had come which God had before appointed for manifesting His own kindness and power, how the one love of God, through exceeding regard for men, did not regard us with hatred, nor thrust us away, nor remember our iniquity against us, but showed great long-suffering, and bore with us, He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors! Having therefore convinced us in the former time that our nature was unable to attain to life, and having now revealed the Savior who is able to save even those things which it was [formerly] impossible to save, by both these facts He desired to lead us to trust in His kindness, to esteem Him our Nourisher, Father, Teacher, Counselor, Healer, our Wisdom, Light, Honor, Glory, Power, and Life, so that we should not be anxious concerning clothing and food.” (Epistle to Diognetus IX)
Christ Died for Us:
“…our Lord Jesus Christ, who for our sins suffered even unto death, [but] ‘whom God raised from the dead, having loosed the bands of the grave.’” (Polycarp to the Philippians I, see also VIII)
Serve the Lord in Fear:
“‘Wherefore, girding up your loins,’ ‘serve the Lord in fear’ and truth, as those who have forsaken the vain, empty talk and error of the multitude, and “believed in Him who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and gave Him glory,” and a throne at His right hand. To Him all things in heaven and on earth are subject. Him every spirit serves. He comes as the Judge of the living and the dead. His blood will God require of those who do not believe in Him. But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, false witness; ‘not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing,’ or blow for blow, or cursing for cursing, but being mindful of what the Lord said in His teaching: ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged; forgive, and it shall be forgiven unto you; be merciful, that ye may obtain mercy; with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again;’ and once more, ‘Blessed are the poor, and those that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of God.’” (Polycarp to the Philippians II)
The Importance of the Humanity, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection of Christ:
“‘For whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is antichrist;’ and whosoever does not confess the testimony of the cross, is of the devil; and whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts, and says that there is neither a resurrection nor a judgment, he is the first-born of Satan.” (Polycarp to the Philippians VII)
The Confession of Polycarp:
“Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?” (Martyrdom of Polycarp IX)
The Trinitarian Prayer of Polycarp:
“I praise you for all things, I bless you, I glorify you, along with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, with whom, to you, and/in the Holy Spirit, be glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen.” (Martyrdom of Polycarp XIV)
“Let no man deceive himself: if any one be not within the altar, he is deprived of the bread of God. For if the prayer of one or two possesses such power, how much more that of the bishop and the whole Church! He, therefore, that does not assemble with the Church, has even by this manifested his pride, and condemned himself. For it is written, “God resists the proud.” Let us be careful, then, not to set ourselves in opposition to the bishop, in order that we may be subject to God.” (Epistle to the Ephesians V)
“There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first passible and then impassible… (Epistle to the Ephesians VII)
“For when ye assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which he aimsis prevented by the unity of your faith. Nothing is more precious than peace, by which all war, both in heaven and earth, is brought to an end.” (Epistle to the Ephesians XIII)
On the Eucharist:
“…breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, but [which causes] that we should live for ever in Jesus Christ.” (Epistle to the Ephesians XX)
– In defense of some elders who were disposed from their office unfairly 1 Clement, written by Clement of Rome, calls for Christians in Corinth to live in unity, avoiding the pitfalls of division, basing this admonition in the virtue of humility, the future resurrection hope, and the inability to escape judgment for those who divide.
– 1 Clement is filled with references to Scripture. There are many “it is written…” or “the Spirit says…” or “…says God…” statements introducing passages that provide language to address the situation in Corinth.
– 1 Clement XXIV-XXV base hope in the resurrection on signs seen in the world, even mythology like the rise of the phoenix. Some modern Christians are embarrassed when our doctrine parallels mythology found in the world, but many thinkers in the history of the church have seen this as evidence that God has been at work in the world preparing a way for the Gospel. C.S. Lewis wrote the following:
“What light is really thrown on the truth of falsehood of Christian Theology by the occurrence of similar ideas in Pagan religion? . . . Supposing, for purposes of argument, that Christianity is true; then it could avoid all coincidence with other religions only on the supposition that all other religions are one hundred percent erroneous . . . The truth is that the resemblances tell nothing either for or against the truth of Christian Theology. If you start from the assumption that the Theology is false, the resemblances are quite consistent with that assumption. One would expect creatures of the same sort, faced with the same universe, to make the same false guess more than once. But if you start with the assumption that the Theology is true, the resemblances fit in equally well. Theology, while saying that a special illumination has been vouchsafed to Christians and (earlier) to Jews, also says that there is some divine illumination vouchsafed to all men . . . We should, therefore, expect to find in the imagination of great Pagan teachers and myth makers some glimpse of that theme which we believe to be the very plot of the whole cosmic story — the theme of the incarnation, death, and re-birth. And the difference between the Pagan Christs (Balder, Osiris, etc.) and the Christ Himself is much what we should expect to find. The Pagan stories are all about someone dying and rising, either every year, or else nobody knows where and nobody knows when. The Christian story is about a historical personage, whose execution can be dated pretty accurately, under a named Roman magistrate, and with whom the society that He founded is in a continuous relation down to the present day. It is not the difference between falsehood and truth. It is the difference between a real event on the one hand and dim dreams or premonitions of that same event on the other.”
(The Weight of Glory, New York: Macmillan / Collier Books, revised and expanded edition, 1980, edited by Walter Hooper, New York: 83-84, from “Is Theology Poetry?”: originally read to the Oxford University Socratic Club on 6 November 1944 and published in The Socratic Digest, vol. 3, 1945) (HT: Biblical Evidence for Catholicism with Dave Armstong, since I don’t have access to the book at this moment)
– The Epistle to Diognetus is from an anonymous author known as “disciple” (mathetes). It is an apologetic for Christianity. The author defends Christians against pagan idolatry arguing that idols are nothing but lifeless statues. Likewise, he critiques the sacrificial system of the temple of the Jews, arguing that such forms of worship are meaningless when one considers the nature of God. It is the lifestyle of Christians that functions as his great argument for the truthfulness of the religion, as well as the message of grace.
– In Epistle to Diognetus VII the author makes some unique claims about God, how people are converted, and the mission of Christians. In essence, he argues that there is “no violence” in the character of God, therefore he does not force himself on humans, but sends Christians humbly to proclaim the truth to them.
– The author of this book does say some things that make you wonder if he has leaning similar to Marcion. He mocks the sacrificial system as if it was merely a superstition of the Jews. Unlike Paul, he doesn’t frame the differences in the apocalyptic appearance of Christ as fulfiller of the Law, but rather in the idea that Jews are archaic somehow and that Christians are the superior iconoclast. Likewise, his statement that there is “no violence” in God seems quite difficult to reconcile when reading the OT.
– The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians is written by Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, pupil of John the apostle and teacher of Ireaneus of Lyon. It is written to edify the church in Philippi. He admonishes the church to live Christ-like lives as they have been taught.
– It is interesting to read Polycarp’s claim that the church of Philippi is known to “carefully study” the letter than Paul sent to them. If Paul’s letter was written in the late 40s or early 50s, and Polycarp’s letter is written sometime between 110-140, then we have Paul’s letter being “studied” (seemingly with reverence) somewhere between 60-100 years after its composition. In XII Polycarp quotes “Scripture” and one quotation is from Psalm 4:5 and another from Ephesians 4:26, placing Ephesians as Scripture alongside Psalms.
– Polycarp quotes Paul frequently. He seems to admire Paul quite a lot, even calling him “the blessed and glorified Paul”.
– The Martyrdom of Polycarp is the earliest correspondance between a whole church to a whole church of which I am familiar (though written by one named Evarestus). (I wonder if there is others?) This is epistle is about the virtue of martyrdom for Christ and specifically that of Bishop Polycarp. My attention was fixated on the demands upon Polycarp to call Caesar “Lord” (κυριος Καισαρ) and his refusal to do this because onlt Christ is “Lord”. Also, the description of Christians as “atheist” is intriguing because of their denial of other gods. There is some humor in IX where the proconsul demands that Polycarp deny the Christians by confessing “away with the atheist”. Instead, Polycarp looks at the crowd of pagans, waving his hand at them and says, “Away with the atheist!”
– Ignatius’ Epistle to the Ephesians is written by the Bishop of Antioch to the church in Ephesus. He mentions their bishop by name–Onesimus, which reminds me of the slave in the Book of Philemon and it makes you wonder if this is the same person, especially when one considers (1) the epistle survived (i.e., Philemon was not angry at Paul and he did not destroy the letter) and (2) Ephesus is near Collosae where Philemon likely lived. Ignatius is on his way to Rome to die a martyr. He speaks highly of the office of the Bishop, which I can see is where episcopalian (i.e., bishop-lead) congregations find their authority and I notice this. In Chapter V the eucharist “bread of God” is connected with an “alter” and the presence of the whole church around the Bishop.
– Paul is exalted in the Epistle to the Ephesians XII much like Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians: “You are initiated into the mysteries of the Gospel with Paul, the holy, the martyred, the deservedly most happy, at whose feet may I be found, when I shall attain to God; who in all his Epistles makes mention of you in Christ Jesus.”
FYI, the blog “Theonerd” has frequent excerpts from our readings if you are interested in following what is written there.