Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Epistle of Pope St. Clement to the Corinthians

Pope St. Clement

Rome, A.D. 97. The spiritual presence of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, who were martyred a mere 30 years prior, is still very much palpable in the Eternal City. Numerous from among the faithful possess a living memory of the words and deeds of those great and holy men. Further afield, the Holy Apostle John, though exiled and very near the end of his life, is still actively spreading the Faith through his writings. Emperor Domitian, who had initiated a brutal persecution of the Church, claiming the lives of many faithful, including that of Pope St. Anacletus, was assassinated in his palace some months ago. His successor, Nerva, shows decidedly more restraint towards the Christians, and a brief period of calm has ensued. Pope St. Clement, the third successor to the Chair of St. Peter, uses this respite as an opportunity to turn his attention from the waning fires of Rome to more distant communities under his pastoral care, such as that at Corinth, where schism appears imminent.

It is this very city of Corinth which the Holy Apostle Paul had admonished in several letters regarding apparent divisions among the faithful, who were fond of saying, "I am of Paul; and I am of Apollo; and I am of Cephas [i.e. Peter]" (1 Corinthians 1:12). Despite the wise council of the Holy Apostle, it seemed that the situation had continued to deteriorate, and that it now required the judgment of the Supreme Pontiff. Pope St. Clement's Epistle to the Corinthians was the result.

The Epistle was so well received by the Corinthians, and was so successful in resolving the difficulties, that it was held by the community to be second in importance only to Sacred Scripture, and was taken up into the regular Sunday readings - a practice which is attested as having continued for at least the next 70 years.

Even a casual reading of the Epistle demonstrates that it has lost nothing of its clarity, its zeal for souls, its authentic pastoral care. A more careful reading in light of current events in the Church, however, reveals that it has also retained all of its appositeness. The words of St. Clement could just as easily have been written for our own generation:
Every kind of honour and happiness was bestowed upon you, and then was fulfilled that which is written, "My beloved did eat and drink, and was enlarged and became fat, and kicked." Hence flowed emulation and envy, strife and sedition, persecution and disorder, war and captivity. So the worthless rose up against the honoured, those of no reputation against such as were renowned, the foolish against the wise, the young against those advanced in years. For this reason righteousness and peace are now far departed from you, inasmuch as every one abandons the fear of God, and is become blind in His faith, neither walks in the ordinances of His appointment, nor acts a part becoming of a Christian, but walks after his own wicked lusts, resuming the practice of an unrighteous and ungodly envy, by which death itself entered into the world.
I warmly recommend, gentle reader, that you make a note of this Epistle, and pray that you may soon find the time to read and meditate upon the wise council it contains.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated according to both content and form. If you would like to keep your comments private, please indicate this, and include your email if you would like a personal response. Thank you for commenting.