As I noted in a comment to my last post, I have begun a new journey into learning more about the early Church and the Fathers who through their lives and writings brought it into focus.
I’m only on page 29 of When the Church Was Young: Voices of the Early Fathers, by Marcellino D’Ambrosio and already I am awestruck, discovering in the author’s enthralling narrative how much I don’t know.
Again, I ask myself, “How can this be?” How can it be that, after 16 years of Catholic education and nearly 60 years of active participation in the Church, I have failed to learn and understand so much?
I do not say this with any anger toward my educators nor am I being hard on myself. It is more like having, yet again, opened my eyes and discovered that there is a whole landscape before me that I am only seeing for the first time, despite it always having been there. So amazing…
I particularly thank my Orthodox friends in the Faith for helping to pry my eyes open regarding the importance of the Church Fathers. While I encountered their writings in the Liturgy of the Hours, I confess I did not know much about who they were and therefore did not pay enough attention.
Now, I am reading of Clement, who knew Peter and Paul before they died. I learn of the Didache, (the popular name given to “The Teaching of the Lord According to the Twelve Apostles”) a ancient document that was discovered in 1873 after being missing for a thousand years. I, of course, had never heard of it. And then there is beloved Ignatius, second successor to St. Peter as bishop of Antioch, who left us letters as he traveled to Rome to be martyred for the Faith.
I am discovering that, as I enter the world of the early Church, the words of Scripture take on new life as well. How could the words of Paul ever sound the same to me again, now that I have become acquainted with some of his spiritual children and grandchildren?
Let me share with you a recorded reading from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, today’s Scripture from the Roman calendar of readings. What could be more perfect for my newly opened eyes to see and my awakened heart to ponder?
Yes, I want to be His servant. I want to join the community of those who serve Him. All I can say is “Yes, yes, yes – please teach me, tell me all you know of who He was and who He is – that I too might follow…”
(The reading is 2 Corinthians 6: 1-10. I realize that this is perhaps not the most common translation for most readers but is appears in the Collins Liturgical Weekday Missal, given to me by a friend years ago. I generally use it in my evening meditation and often find the slight wording differences captivating.)
I like that translation, and hearing it read slowly. Good work here, Mary. Helpful, as always.
Two interesting asides: (1)The Orthodox Study Bible has a note that says, “This passage is read on days commemorating female martyrs.” I haven’t come across any passage that is thus identified for male martyrs It seems to apply equally. I shall ask our priest about this. (2) That translation uses a word that is important to you, as I recall–“chastened” (second-to-last participle/verb in verse #9). I think the Collins Weekday version has it right. We just don’t use that word literally today.
I have experienced what you are describing above, starting about four years ago. It was a long road, but I may be getting closer. I am certainly happier, and in complete agreement with your “yes, yes, yes” and its concluding plea.
Thanks, Al. I always appreciate your comments.
It is interesting what you said about “a long road”. My old habit would have been to react negatively to that concept but now… now I stop and rejoice in the long road, or at least I’m learning to.
For so very long, my Western mind has been accustomed to thinking of the spiritual journey as though it were like a physical journey, with a starting point and an ending point. My competitive self wants to reach the finish line before everyone else. My plaintive child self keeps whining, “Are we there yet?”
I am reminded of Met. Anthony Bloom’s statement in “Beginning to Pray”, that “we are all beginners”. If he counted himself as a beginner with prayer, certainly I must too. And it is so good for me to consider myself a beginner, because beginner’s mind keeps me open to fresh awakenings of the heart.
I also rejoice that there is no “end point”. If I begin to think I know God even a little, He reveals to me that He is so much more than that. I can never reach the fullness of His infinity and say, “There. Now I’ve made it. I’m at the end and I know Him.”
And that is wonderful, glorious, because it is the process that makes living alive. For what would I do when I reached the end? I suppose I would have to die, for there would be no more life to live. In eternal life, the living and the discovery inherent in loving never ends.
And so, no matter how many times I may have said “yes” in the past, I remain a beginner who needs to say it again. I want to follow. Yes, yes, yes! Teach me what I need to learn…
Yes (P.S. It is s good to talk together.)