26 October 2009

A Toast to the Apostolic Fathers

These most inspiring, meditative and qualitative words are found in the Introduction to The Fathers of the Church. We are most assuredly built on a Rock, not sand.

The Apostolic Fathers wrote long before the great constitutional revolts of Constantinople and Canterbury from Rome had wrought their seemingly irreparable damage. In these primitive writings, as in a mirror, all Christians whose minds and will and souls are wholly set on the truth and way of life of Jesus Christ will find a dogmatic creed, a moral code, and ecclesiastical constitution and above all an inward character of devotional, supernatural, sacramental life, that is self-authenticating. In the presence of martyrs, saints, scholars simple souls like Pope Clement of Rome, or Bishop Ignatius of Antioch, or Polycarp of Smyrna, or the author of the “Didache,” or the “Shepherd” or the “Letter of Diognetus,” no one will feel inclined to apply such labels as Romanism, or Byzantinism or Protestantism. Men of towering genius, of heroic mould, all in many lands and in different ages. Men of diverse character, education, racial origin and political background, men inclined to defend their own brilliance and original opinions, and men who cherished customs of their own locality, sought and found a common life, a common bond of love, a common source of spiritual strength that would open frontiers and make them members of a single family.

Even those who take pride in the modern mind and contemporary mood will feel little sense of intellectual superiority when they meet the minds of men like Athanasius, Basil or Augustine. It will be still harder to entertain any feeling of moral superiority in the presence of men like Ignatius of Antioch, Cyprian of Carthage, or Chrysostom of Constantinople. The Apostolic Fathers included men who were both vigorous in debate and aggressive in tenacity to their convictions.