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!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for October 8, 2006

St. Irenaeus has given us a wealth of information as we have studied his writings during the past several weeks. In Against the Heresies, he stresses the importance of remaining within the Church to receive the teaching of Christ, passed on through the Apostles and their successors. The Gnostic heresies are clearly false, because they depart from the Tradition of the Church, in their search for “knowledge.”

In summary, Irenaeus defines true knowledge as “the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved, without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither receiving addition nor subtraction [of the truth]; and … above all the pre-eminent gift of love, which is more precious than knowledge, more glorious than prophecy, and which excels all the other gifts” (bk. 4, ch. 33, n. 8).

The Gnostics also, by denying the goodness of the material world, deny the Incarnation. He says, “if the flesh were not in a position to be saved, the Word of God would in no wise have become flesh” (bk. 5, ch. 14, n. 1). The heart of the Gospel message is this truth, that God became man to save all men: “He had been made flesh and blood after the way of the original formation of man, saving in his own person at the end that which had in the beginning perished in Adam” (ibid.).

Irenaeus ends Against the Heresies with a beautiful conclusion, summarizing the recapitulation of these things in Christ – that He has come to us, that we might return to Him: “the First-begotten Word, should descend to the creature, that is to what had been molded, and that it should be contained by Him; and on the other hand, the creature should contain the Word, and ascend to Him, passing beyond the angels, and be made after the image and likeness of God” (bk. 5, ch. 46, n. 3).

As we conclude our study of Irenaeus this week, we will read a few quotes from the Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, which was discovered in 1904. He begins by establishing the rule of Faith in the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (cf. n.5, ¶ 2). After summarizing the Fall of Man (Original Sin) and the clear division that existed between God and man, Irenaeus presents the beautiful argument of “recapitulation” (as we saw above), that is, that Christ restores all things in Himself:

“For it was necessary that Adam should be summed up in Christ, that mortality might be swallowed up and overwhelmed by immortality; and Eve summed up in Mary, that a virgin should be a virgin’s intercessor, and by a virgin’s obedience undo and put away the disobedience of a virgin. And the trespass which came by the tree was undone by the tree of obedience, when, hearkening unto God, the Son of man was nailed to the tree; thereby putting away the knowledge of evil and bringing in and establishing the knowledge of good: now evil it is to disobey God, even as hearkening unto God is good.” (n. 33 - 34).

By demonstrating the prophecy and typology that points to Christ throughout the Old Testament, Irenaeus illustrates the continuity of the Old and New, as well as God’s continued providence to draw His people to Himself. If we reject the Trinity, which is the foundation of our Faith, however, we fall into error: “So then in respect of the three points of our seal [the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit], error has strayed widely from the truth. For either they reject the Father, or they. accept not the Son and speak against the dispensation of His incarnation; or else they receive not the Spirit, that is, they reject prophecy. And of all such must we beware, and shun their ways, if in very truth we desire to be well-pleasing to God and to attain the redemption that is from Him” (n. 100).

St. Irenaeus not only has given us a glimpse into the errors of Gnosticism, but also has allowed us to see the beginnings of theology as reason and faith work together to address contemporary issues. Next week, however, we change direction slightly and encounter the Shepherd of Hermas, which addresses the moral challenges of Christians in the second century. May God bless you all!