There are moments in time when some things about our Faith seem so clear, one wonders how doubt ever crept into any corners of our world. I found that to be particularly clear with regard to some thoughts on our Lord’s coming to the Earth, which we have been celebrating over these past few weeks. This celebration rightly supersedes actions like blogging, or at least it dilutes such blogging down, even for the more tenacious writers among us. At any rate, I have come up for air to offer some thoughts about some recent reading and meditations. Hopefully they are a blessing to some, forgive me if this is not the case.
I have long held that the truth of Christianity can be found in the Church Fathers, which led me on this journey and adventure of faith. But there was and is a part of me who naively and proudly esteemed my own grasping of the truth to be epochs beyond the ages past.
The concept of Cardinal Newman’s Development of Doctrine can be a tool to make sense (superficially, at least) of historical facts about ecumenical councils and the like, but at the same time we could be tempted to use this sketch of history as a guise for “chronological snobbery”, as Lewis put it. We could think that our understanding of the life of God is light years beyond the Fathers of the Church. Sure, we see an anchor of faith in the Fathers. They do not veer from the truth, but they, we boldly (and foolishly) proclaim could not speak the truth as clearly as could we. Or so we think.
This snobbery struck me most soundly while reading for a new online course offered by the newly launched Holy Apostles Institute. While reading through the Epistle to Diognetus, this early writing offered a meditation on the Incarnation. It left me feeling as though someone from the future had come to me with poetic and lucid reflections on God becoming man in Christ. It was yet another reminder that those who lived in the second century were not theological “cave men” as compared to the “wisdom” of “modern Christians”. No, they lived and died for the same truth, whereas most modern humanity cannot wake up on time to give a few minutes to this truth, which deserves our endless awe and gratitude. As you read this quote from the Epistle to Diognetus, I hope that the words of consideration and meditation on how and why God became man bless you as they did me. May His humility pick us up so that we may be granted the same humility to walk in His footsteps, as we become ever more molded in His image.
Through the Prayers of Our Holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ Our God, have mercy on us!
For it is no earthly discovery, as I said, which
was committed to them, neither do they care to guard
so carefully any mortal invention, nor have they
entrusted to them the dispensation of human mysteries.
But truly the Almighty Creator of the Universe,
the Invisible God Himself from heaven planted among
men the truth and the holy teaching which surpasseth
the wit of man, and fixed it firmly in their hearts,
not as any man might imagine, by sending (to mankind)
a subaltern, or angel, or ruler, or one of those that
direct the affairs of earth, or one of those who have
been entrusted with the dispensations in heaven, but
the very Artificer and Creator of the Universe
Himself, by Whom He made the heavens, by Whom He
enclosed the sea in its proper bounds, Whose mysteries
all the elements faithfully observe, from Whom [the
sun] hath received even the measure of the courses of
the day to keep them, Whom the moon obeys as He bids
her shine by night, Whom the stars obey as they follow
the course of the moon, by Whom all things are ordered
and bounded and placed in subjection, the heavens and
the things that are in the heavens, the earth and the
things that are in the earth, the sea and the things
that are in the sea, fire, air, abyss, the things that
are in the heights, the things that are in the depths,
the things that are between the two. Him He sent unto
Was He sent, think you, as any man might
suppose, to establish a sovereignty, to inspire fear
Not so. But in gentleness [and] meekness has He
sent Him, as a king might send his son who is a king.
He sent Him, as sending God; He sent Him, as [a man]
unto men; He sent Him, as Saviour, as using
persuasion, not force: for force is no attribute of
He sent Him, as summoning, not as persecuting;
He sent Him, as loving, not as judging.
For He will send Him in judgment, and who shall
endure His presence? …
[Dost thou not see] them thrown to wild beasts
that so they may deny the Lord, and yet not overcome?
Dost thou not see that the more of them are
punished, just so many others abound?
These look not like the works of a man; they are
the power of God; they are proofs of His presence.