By: Fr. Jerome Nyathi

The Apostolic Fathers

The writings of the apostles were an authentic record of the teaching of Christ and also the works of the earliest Christian writers called the Apostolic Fathers (the earliest Christian writers) were a transmission of the teaching of the apostles.

The Apostolic Fathers had (for the most part), either known the apostles themselves or had known persons closely associated with them. In 1692 the Pathologist Catelier classified some early writers as Apostolic Fathers.  He listed them as follows:

BARNABAS:

Considered to be the apostle and companion of St Paul

ST CLEMENT OF ROME:

The 3rdsuccessor of St Peter as Bishop of Rome (from 88-97A.D.)

Wrote a letter to the Church in Corinth.  There was a problem of division in the Corinthian church because of some ambitious and envious members.  Clement pleaded for peace and unity in the Church.  He praised charity as the bond of perfection.

HERMAS: (author of the SHEPHERD).  A prestigious work considered to be part of sacred scripture by St. Irenaeus, Tertullian and Origen, mentioned in Rom. 16:14, believed to be brother of Pope Pius I 140-155A.D.

ST IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH

He added the name Theophilusto his given name.  He was St. Peter’s disciple who appointed him as his successor to the See of Antioch.  During his voyage to Rome St. Ignatius wrote 7 Letters that witnessed his faith and desire for martyrdom. He developed the three themes that eventually characterised the early Christian; spy Christ, the church and martyrdom.

St Ignatius urged the imitation of Xt as a duty of all Christians.  For him the greatest act of charity, the perfect imitation of Christ was found in martyrdom.  Because of that in his letter to the Romans he wrote: “Permit me to be a imitator of the Passion of my God” (P26)

St POLYCARP

He was named to be the Bishop of Smyrna (by St. John). He had heard the preaching of St John).  A great friend of St. Ignatius of Antioch.  He received the martyrs crown in 156AD.

The DIDACHE: discovered in 1873, by Greek archbishop Bryennios in the hospital library in Constantinople.

The didache is the teaching of the Apostles.  The author of the Didache is unknown, just as the date of its composition.  The presumption is that a church person of authority from either Syria or Palestine composed the Didache in years between 50 and 70 or between 70 and 100A.D. The codex contained the 2 letters of St Clement of Rome and the other of Barnabas.  There is a lot of information about the Christian life in the early church.  The doctrine in the Didache is liturgical and sacramental and served well as catechesis for baptismal reception.

Apostolic Fathers

Gnostics – Christian gnosis – knowledge that God will overpower evil – all knowledge comes from him.

70AD onwards – new Christians were disappointed in their aspirations with the failure of the apocalyptic hopes they had.

Clement of Alexandria (150-215)

Gnosis – gift from God (knowledge)

Apathia – un-passion – not to suppress feelings, but to calm them.  We control feelings, they do not control us

Spirituality of Alexandrian school

Four stages of Ascent;

Purgation

Rising above sense attraction to thought

Reaching beyond thought to desire for union

The actual union which is ecstasy

3 Elements of Catholic Spirituality

Catholic Spirituality is a relationship of love with the Father through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Scripture is the main asset in this relationship.

• It is personal.  Each individual is invited.  No one can respond for the other.  Everything and Nothing – Todo y Nada– Spanish for everything and nothing by John of the Cross meaning God is everything we are nothing See Psalm 130 – out of the depth…look at God, also idea of a desert without water in Psalm 3.

• Spirituality is experiential – one needs to experience this love.  Notice experiential does not mean experimental.

Expriential – event interpreted as a value is experience – No feeling, no touching, no seeing, but it exists, note love and pain.

Early Spirituality/Characteristics of Christian Spirituality

Early Church – around the first and third centuries was;

Christo-centric – centered on Christ, words and actions of Jesus were alive in their daily lives and chores. Christians lived in anticipation of the return of the risen Christ.  St. Paul for instance thought that Christ would come while still alive, see 1 Thes. 4:13-18.

Many a time we are person centred – What do I gain from this? 1 Thes. 3:1-7 first letter of Paul, do not please people, but God.

Apostolate centred – usually centre on evaluation. What are people saying about my work? What if people are not happy?

Own comfort centred – me, my mine, my comfort, feeding of security.

Enemy centred – enemy in hard time – failure, you are happy, prospering.

Centred on Jesus – good.

Eschatological – Christians’ vigilance and preparation of the parousia(second coming) was alive.  Also to consider was the literal translation of Rev. 20:1-10.  The kingdom of God is among you/ is near you .  The end of the world was seen as imminent –see the parable of the virgins

Eschatos – end is there.  I do not know when I will die.  Work as if you will die today.  Do not postpone things.

Ascetical – practice and growth in virtue, that is the original meaning (practice makes perfect)

• Ascetical – Not so much of abstaining from different forms of pleasures (fasting, manual labour, ascetical prayer life, self denial) but work hard on faith hope and charity.  We distinguish between natual faithand supernatual faith. Natural faith – I have faith that this bread is tasty. Supernatual faith – to do with God.

Liturgical – Here the eucharist was central – Three important rites; Baptism; the imposition of hands and the breaking of bread.  The reception of the new life in water and the spirit.  Laying on of hands was the invocation of the Holy Spirit.  According to the Acts of the Apostles the focal point of the liturgical life was the Eucharist. Eucharist is the memorial supper. Note that the apostles met three times a day for prayer; 9 in the morning, mid-day and in the afternoon.  Wednesdays and Fridays and later Saturdays were observed as days of penance.

Liturgical – Is liturgy so important to us today? Talk of Catacomb experience- St Callistus.  Talk of van Thuan – how he  celebrated the Eucharist in prison

Communal or Social – Theologically, a journey to the father is not a one man affair, it is not my Father in heaven, the Descent of the Holy Spirit takes place in a community, we. Acts 2:42-47, Acts 4:32-35. Christians are thus called to practice fraternal charity, humility patience and prayer.  Liturgically, it was the nature of the eucharist; common prayer just as the Didache reads, St Clement and St Ignatius taught the early Christians that the greatest of all virtues is charity.  A life of sharing thus became the norm for Christians.

• Communal/Social – Individualism creeping in – One man for himself, God for us all.