Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Saint Justin, Philosopher and Martyr - The Mission Presupposed in the Ascension - Family Visit on the Ottawa Race Weekend

The Greek inscription reads: "Saint Justin the Philosopher"

From Constantine Cavarnos’s overview of philosophy in the Church Fathers, Orthodoxy and Philosophy (Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine & Modern Greek Studies, 2003), pp. 20-2:

The greatest of the Apologists was Justin Martyr the Philosopher. He was born in Palestine about 114 and was martyred around 165. As a young man he acquainted himself with the teachings of the Stoics, the Aristotelians, the Pythagoreans, and the Platonists.

He found best the teachings of Plato. But even these did not completely satisfy his deep yearning for the truth. Having learned about the teachings of Christianity, he studied them, was won by them, and became a Christian. His conversion probably took place at Ephesus, in Asia Minor.

After his conversion, Justin continued to cherish all that he had found good in the philosophy of Plato, such as the belief in the immortality of the soul, retribution after death, and moral responsibility (see e.g. B.L. Gildersleeve, The Apologies of Justin Martyr, NY, 1877, p. xi).

He pointed out, however, that ‘although the doctrines of Plato are not unlike those of Christ, they are not in all respects the same’ (Apology II, 13).

Besides Plato, he particularly admired Socrates, who was Plato’s great teacher, and the Pre-Socratic philosopher Heracleitos. Thus, Justin says: ‘Those who lived according to reason (λόγος) are Christians, even though they were accounted atheists. Such among the Greeks were Socrates and Heracleitos, and those who resembled them’ (Apology I, 46).

The term ‘reason’ as used here by Justin denotes the mental faculty or power in man that apprehends values, that distinguishes between truth and error, good and evil, that orders one’s inner and outer life with a view to acquiring and doing what is good, and avoiding or overcoming what is evil, orienting an individual towards God.

With regard to Socrates, Justin adds that he exhorted men to seek God, endeavoured to draw them away from demons, and taught them the immortality of the soul, as is done by Christianity, too.

Justin undertook to defend the Christian Faith, which was beign maligned by its enemies, and thereby to defend the Christians, who, as a result of hostility to Christianity were being persecuted by command of the Roman Emperors. He wrote two Apologies addressed to the Emperors.

In these he made use of the teachings of the ancient Greek philosophers—especially thosse of Pythagoras, Hercleitos, Socrates, and Plato. He found these teachings very helpful in his endeavor to overcome the hostility of the Emperors by calling attention to certain important similarities between the beliefs of Christians and those of these philosophers, whom they respected.

Justin’s Apologies strengthened the morale of Christians. He himself endured martyrdom for his Christian faith. His martyrdom took place in Rome between 163 and 167, when Junius Rusticus was Prefect of that city (F.L. Cross, The Early Christian Fathers, London 1960, p. 49).

* * *

O God, who through the folly of the Cross wondrously taught Saint Justin the Martyr the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, grant us, through his intercession, that, having rejected deception and error, we may become steadfast in the faith. Through our Lord.   

* * * * * * 


Ascension Sunday (Year "A") – June 5, 2011: “GOD MOUNTS THE THRONE TO SHOUTS OF JOY” [Acts 1.1-11; Psalm 47; Ephesians 1.17-23; Matthew 28.16-20]

In the 1960's, the Scandinavian scholar Sigmund Mowinckel theorized that the people of Israel celebrated God's enthronement in some liturgical fashion. In his view, this took place yearly at the Feast of Booths as part of the New Year Festival.

Though aspects of Mowinckel's theory have been disputed, it seems evident that a key theme of the Psalter—God's rule—was observed liturgically. This may have featured a procession in which the ark's place was prominent (cf. Psalms 24.7-10, 132.8; 2 Samuel 6.1-19).

Today's responsorial psalm joyfully recalls Israel's election and exalts God's actual, but not yet fully-realized, power over the nations of the earth. Whatever the original context in which this truth was proclaimed in worship, the affirmation of the psalm is that God truly does rule the world.

In ancient Near Eastern mythology, a god was believed to have acquired sovereignty by defeating the forces of primeval chaos, assuming the kingship and acquiring a royal house, a palace with a throne. The king came to be celebrated when acclamations were offered to the deity because he stood in the god's place, governed in the god's stead. Some of these thought patterns may have shaped Israel's celebration of God's rule.

The conquest of the inhabitants of Palestine by the people of Israel became the basis for declaring the Lord's kingship. In turn, the Lord's sovereignty over Israel became the basis for asserting God's claim over all the peoples and nations of the world.

In using Psalm 47 at Mass on the Solemnity of the Ascension, the Church affirms that the life, death, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus have given a new focus to the psalmist's claim that “the Lord the Most High is awesome, a great king over all the earth”.

Originally the note that “God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of the trumpet” applied to the ceremonies in the Temple. The ark was lifted up in the Temple precincts and enthroned amid music and acclamations. Now, the “going up” is seen to apply to Jesus' ascension into heaven and his enthronement there at God's right hand (“God sits on his holy throne”).

The letter to the Ephesians asserts that Jesus' way of fulfilling the meaning of the psalm has not only universal, but even cosmic implications. “God seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places and ... has put all things under his feet and has made him head over all things for the Church....”

If this is the confession the Church can now make, it was not always so. Matthew tells us that when the Eleven met Jesus on the mountain in Galilee after his resurrection, “they worshipped him; but some doubted”. Indeed, the nature of the resurrection did not generate perfect faith. Rather, Jesus entrusted the “Great Commission” to disciples who wavered even as they worshipped him.

Despite—perhaps because of their limitations--Jesus promised he would be there to assist them in the world-wide mission (“Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age”). Assisted by his ongoing presence--we might see this as another way of speaking of the gift of the Holy Spirit—the apostles and their successors are called to “make disciples of all nations”.

The basis for Jesus' sending his disciples on a mission was that “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given me”. After Easter, Christ is depicted as ruler of heaven and earth, the cosmic ruler in God's stead. Jesus now embodies God's cosmic rule, which he proclaimed throughout his ministry (cf. Matthew 4.17).

The command Jesus issued to the Eleven was to “disciple” others as Jesus had made disciples of them. In the first instance this meant “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. For the one divine name has been shared by the Father with Jesus and the Spirit.

Secondly, making disciples means teaching others “to obey everything that I have commanded you”. Doubtless, there must be adaptations of Jesus' teaching so that it may speak to all cultures and ages. Above all, the gospel way of life has to be appropriated and lived by whoever wishes to follow the way of the glorified Lord Jesus Christ.

* * * * * *


Uncle Terry's house has a great dining room

There was lots of activity last weekend:

* a family visit from my youngest brother John, Sonia Struthers and their children Clara and Paul;
* the annual dinner for the diaconal community (deacons and their wives);
* a reception for the diocean financial administrators from across Canada (mainly the English dioceses, but some francophones too);
* and the 26th Annual Festival of Madonna della Risurrezione (Our Lady of the Resurrection) Parish, which includes Mass under a large tent and a procession through the neighbouring streets (cancelled this year because of the rain), Italian cuisine, crafts fairs, etc. that raises money for special parish needs. 

More on some of these in coming days; today photos of the family visit:

"What great ice cream you have in the neighbourhood!"

Clara and Paul think Daddy looks cute wearing Uncle Terry's biretta 

* * * * * *

No comments:

Post a Comment