Fr. Bloomfield's Blog

I am a Roman Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, currently assigned to Divine Child Parish in Dearborn, Michigan. When I manage to keep the page updated, hopefully something interesting can be found here!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for September 3, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for September 3, 2006

St. Justin Martyr begins the next period of patristic study known as the “Apologists.” Unlike the modern use of the word “apology,” the ancient use of this word did not express regret or sorrow, but rather means a reasoned defense of belief. Justin engaged the early second-century Roman Empire with powerful logic, brilliant rhetoric, and unmatched passion for the Catholic Faith. Such a reasoned defense for the moral and intellectual superiority of the Faith grew out of his own life: Justin was a convert from paganism.

He was born in Palestine around the year 100 A.D. The study of philosophy captivated Justin’s early life, but after examining the major philosophical systems of the time, he embraced the Catholic Faith in 130. From this moment on, Justin would describe Jesus Christ as the true teacher and the Faith as the “True Philosophy.” After teaching and defending the Faith, particularly in three works (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, and the two Apologies), Justin was martyred in Rome in 165. The Church celebrates the feast of St. Justin on June 1.

Justin addressed his two Apologies to the Emperor as a defense of the Faith in a hostile imperial climate. He presents his case: “if any of the accused deny the name, and say that he is not a Christian, you acquit him, as having no evidence against him as a wrong-doer; but if any one acknowledge that he is a Christian, you punish him on account of this acknowledgment. Justice requires that you inquire into the life both of him who confesses and of him who denies, that by his deeds it may be apparent what kind of man each is” (First Apology, ch. 4). Justin is eager to defend not only the name of Christians, but more importantly, their life.

He continues, “Our teacher of these things is Jesus Christ, we also was born for this purpose, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate…; and that we reasonably worship Him, having learned that He is the Son of the true God Himself” (ch. 14). Following Christ, then, Justin defends the lives of Christians who practice virtue in all things: chastity, generosity, mercy, patience, civil obedience and more (cf. ch 15-17).

The Resurrection, though, is the key to Christianity: “You are now incredulous because you have never seen a dead man rise again. ...It is better to believe even what is impossible to our own nature and to men, than to be unbelieving like the rest of the world, we have learned; for we know that our Master Jesus Christ said, that ‘what is impossible with men is possible with God’” (ch. 19).

After analyzing the prophesies that prove Christianity’s truthfulness, Justin then describes how one becomes Christian: baptism. “As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated … For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water” (ch. 51).

Once baptized, Christians are then admitted to the liturgy: “There is then brought to the [presider] bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost…. And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion” (ch. 65).

The Greek word Justin uses in this passage is “eucharistein” – to give thanks. He continues: “This food is called among us the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these…the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word…is the flesh and blood of that Jesus” (ch. 66). The earliest Christians believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

When do Christians gather? “Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the word; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead” (ch. 67).

Next week, we will hear from Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho. Have a blessed week!