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!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Faith Seeking Understanding for January 14, 2007

Now that we have returned to the season of Ordinary Time, I would like to return to our study of the Fathers of the Church. We could move directly to a very lengthy study of one of the greatest theologians in the history of the Church, St. Augustine. Before we embark on this challenging course, however, I would like to examine a very beautiful and profound document known as the “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,” or the Didache.

The Didache is an ancient document, dating from between 50 – 160 A.D., containing a description of the life of the early Church and an exhortation to holiness. It had been lost for centuries, until it was rediscovered in 1883. The Didache is divided into three parts: the first sets forth the teaching on the “two ways”, the second explains the Sacraments of the early Church, and the third addresses the Church’s ministers.

“There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways. The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love God who made you; second, love your neighbor as yourself, and do not do to another what you would not want done to you” (Didache, 1). The way of life is therefore the way of the Gospel, following Christ. It continues: “And the second commandment of the Teaching; You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is born” (ibid., 2).

All of these practices had become commonplace in the Roman Empire, and yet the Christians clearly understood the difference not only in their beliefs, but also in the way of life to which Christ had called them. A great many parallels exist in our culture today, and just as the early Christians, we are called to witness to the “way of life” set forth in the Gospel.

The way of death stands opposed to all of the teachings of Christ; it is a way that leads to destruction. How do we respond? “See that no one causes you to err from this way of the Teaching, since apart from God it teaches you. For if you are able to bear the entire yoke of the Lord, you will be perfect; but if you are not able to do this, do what you are able” (ibid., 6).

The next section describes the practice of the Sacraments in the early Church. “And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water” (ibid., 7). It speaks of the Eucharist: “But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized into the name of the Lord” (ibid.). It also contains a beautiful prayer of thanksgiving to be said after receiving the Eucharist. Here is a sample:

“We thank You, holy Father, for Your holy name which You caused to dwell within our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory for ever. You, Master almighty, created all things for Your name’s sake; You gave food and drink to men for enjoyment, that they might give thanks to You; but to us You freely gave spiritual food and drink and life eternal through Your Servant” (ibid., 10).

The Didache concludes with a section on discerning between true and false teachers (or prophets), and how they ought to be treated: “Whosoever, therefore, comes and teaches you all these things that have been said before, receive him. But if the teacher himself turns and teaches another doctrine to the destruction of this, hear him not” (ibid., 11).

The conclusion stands almost as a warning: “Watch for your life’s sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord will come. But come together often, seeking the things which are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you are not made perfect in the last time” (ibid., 16).

Have a blessed week!