Thursday, July 8, 2010

Priscilla and Aquila, holy companions of St. Paul - Renewed Catholic Herald website

Aquila was a Jewish tentmaker. He and his wife Prisca or Priscilla were forced to leave Rome when Emperor Claudius forbade Jews to live there.

They went to Corinth, where St. Paul lived with them during his stay there and may have converted them to Christianity. They accompanied Paul to Ephesus and remained there; Paul stayed with them on his third missionary journey.

They then returned to Rome, where their house was also used as a church and then went back to Ephesus. They suffered martyrdom in Asia Minor, according to the Roman Martyrology but a tradition has them martyred in Rome. Their feast day is July 8th.

St. Priscilla has become something of a feminist theological icon, on the rather slender grounds afforded in Acts 18 and St Paul’s Epistles.

On arriving in Corinth around 50 AD, Paul stayed and worked with a fellow tent-maker named Aquila, who, along with his wife Priscilla, had been forced to leave Rome by the Emperor Claudius’s persecution of the Jews.

In the Corinth synagogue most Jews strongly rejected Paul’s message, that Jesus was the Christ. Famously, Paul “shook the dust out of his garments, and said to them: ‘Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clear of it; henceforward I will go to the Gentiles.’ ”

So Paul went to live with one Titius Justus. Priscilla and Aquila, however, remained faithful to him over the next 18 months in Corinth, in testing circumstances.

For eventually the infuriated Jews dragged Paul before the proconsul Gallio to complain of his teaching. This official, though, loftily refused to concern himself with such a tedious internecine squabble.

When Paul departed from Corinth, he took Priscilla and Aquila with him to Ephesus, where he left them. Subsequently a Jew from Alexandria, named Apollos, arrived in Ephesus, and preached about Jesus.

Priscilla and Aquila discovered – an interesting sidelight, this, upon the uncertain bases of early Christianity – that Apollos “knew of no baptism except that of John”. They therefore befriended him, and “explained the way of God to him more accurately”. Subsequently, in Corinth, Apollos would rival Paul himself as a teacher of Christianity (1 Corinthians 1:12).
Around 52 AD Paul returned to Ephesus, where he stayed with Aquila and Priscilla, and wrote of “the church in their household”. (1 Corinthians 16:19).

Later, in Romans 16:3-4, Paul eulogises this couple, “who have worked at my side in the service of Christ Jesus, and put their heads on the block to save my life; not only I, but all the churches of the Gentiles have reason to be grateful to them.”

Some modern scholars have excitedly observed that, in most of these texts, Priscilla’s name is placed before Aquila’s. There can be nothing new, however, in the proposition that women played a vital role in early Christianity.

The longest conversation in the Gospels is that between Jesus and the woman of Samaria (John 4). Jesus is surrounded by women both while He is travelling (Luke 8:1-3), and on his way to the Cross (Luke 23:27). After the Resurrection Mary Magdalen was the first person to see Him (John 20:14).

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Catholic Herald Website Update

Occasionally I check in on the website of an outstanding English Catholic newspaper, where I can follow developments on the Holy Father's forthcoming visit to the United Kingdom, with stops in Scotland and England.

Their site CatholicHerald.co.uk contained information on an optional memorial on July 8 for Sts. Priscilla and Aquila, husband and wife in the tent-making business whose source of gainful employment they shared with St. Paul. This continues the focus on the early martyrs of the Church in Rome (June 30) and on St. Paul, who was remembered on June 30 in the 1962 Calendar.

2 comments:

  1. Of course, you don't draw the obvious conclusion from women's vital role in the early church that they should be ordained. If you want "slender grounds", read the Vatican's reasons for being incapable of ordaining women.

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