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!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Faith Seeking Understanding for February 11, 2007

Continuing our exploration of the Apostolic Constitutions, as we have for the last few weeks, we move on to book six. This book begins by admonishing bishops to always teach the truth, and to avoid heresies: “Above all things, O bishop, avoid the sad and dangerous and most atheistical heresies, eschewing them as fire that burns those that come near to it. Avoid also schisms: for it is neither lawful to turn one’s mind towards wicked heresies, nor to separate from those of the same sentiment out of ambition” (bk. 6, n. 1).

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same” and “schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him” (CCC 2089). It seems strange to admonish a bishop to avoid such obvious dangers to the unity of the Faith, but even in the early Church, these problems were not unknown.

Interestingly enough, we continue to read that the apostles’ names were often applied to certain books, in hopes of gaining credibility and authority from their position. Nevertheless, the Constitutions urge not “to receive those books which obtain in our name, but are written by the ungodly. For you are not to attend to the names of the apostles, but to the nature of the things, and their settled opinions” (bk. 6, n. 16).

Next, the author addresses the issue of clerical celibacy; even as early as this writing (fourth century), we see an understanding of the clerical state as preventing future marriage: “it is not lawful for them, if they are unmarried when they are ordained, to be married afterwards; or if they be then married, to marry a second time, but to be content with that wife which they had when they came to ordination” (bk. 6, 17). Although no reason is given for such a teaching, it is clearly not something new or unexpected, but rather simply enforcing the common practice already understood by the Church.

The remainder of the sixth book describes the fulfillment of the Law (of the Old Testament) in Jesus Christ; as we move to the seventh book, however, we return to the themes that we saw in the Didache. That is, the notion of the “Two Ways” is in some sense the charter of the Christian life: “there are two ways – the one of life, the other of death; which have no comparison with one another, for they are very different, or rather entirely separate; and the way of life is that of nature, but that of death was afterwards introduced, – it not being according to the mind of God, but from the snares of the adversary” (bk. 7, n. 1).

Just as in the Didache, we then read all the various actions unbecoming of a Christian, and how to avoid them. Then begins a short section on Christian initiation, describing the various Sacraments. Interestingly, our celebration today retains many of the elements described in the Constitutions: “Beforehand anoint the person with the holy oil, and afterward baptize him with the water, and in the conclusion shall seal him with the ointment” (bk. 7, n. 22).

Likewise, the practice of always gathering on Sunday is essential to the Christian life: “On the day of the resurrection of the Lord, that is, the Lord’s day, assemble yourselves together, without fail, giving thanks to God, and praising Him for those mercies God has bestowed upon you through Christ, and has delivered you from ignorance, error, and bondage” (bk. 7, n. 30).

As we prepare for the beginning of Lent during the next week, we will then turn and examine the early Christian preparation for the welcoming of catechumens, and the nature of their training and education in the Faith. Even today, we can consider Lent a sort of “Spring Training” to practice our Faith more fully, and to enter in each year more deeply to the mysteries of our Lord’s saving life, death, and resurrection.

Have a blessed week!