Saturday, January 2, 2016

A Time before Division

We can become so accustomed to our current situation that we can forget that it was not always thus, nor is it what should be. John's Gospel tells us that at the center of Jesus's prayer before his crucifixion was he petition that the Church would continue to be one. The fracture that we see today into an almost countless array of "denominations" and even some who claim to be "non-denominational" is not what Jesus intended.

The saints we remember today Basil and Gregory take us back to a time when we were actually "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic." The Cappadocian Fathers as they are collectively known: Basil of Caesarea, his younger brother Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nanzianzus (Bishop of Constantinople), remind us of the years when Christian Theology grew from a mere off-shoot of Judaism into the Christianity that would spread around the world.

The Trinity, the Creed, monastic life, and so much more was shaped by these men from the area of modern day Turkey where St. Paul carried out much of his missionary activity.  These three could take on the intellectuals of their time and argue the truth of the Christian Faith.

They also remind us that for us to properly understand our faith, it is not enough of us to simply read the Bible. We need also to read the writings of the Fathers of the Church, so that we might understand, and properly interpret what we read. We must ask not only what does the Bible say (chapter and verse) but how did the early Christians understand it. What did those closest to the writers believe it meant.Otherwise, we run the risk of finding in the Bible only what we want it to say, and not what it says that challenges our way of thinking.

As we start this new year, as we remember Sts. Basil and Gregory, let us pray that in this Year of Mercy, the Church will move closer to the unity that Christ intended and that each of us will commit ourselves to a deeper understanding of our faith.