Friday, March 23, 2007

St. Justin Martyr

One of my early interests after my (re)conversion to the Catholic Church was liturgical history, as Chicago has an indult parish, and the Tridentine Rite was available to me. This is why St. Justin Martyr was one of my favorite Fathers of the Church. In his first Apology, he essentially quotes the Rite of Mass, at least in overview form, dating the Catholic Mass to the early 100s (nevermind of course, the Biblical accounts).

This is why I was excited to see an address by Pope Benedict about our great Father of antiquity. In his Wednesday audience, he discussed the philosophy of Justin, and the union he saw between Greek and Jewish history, pointing toward the truth of Christianity.
His two "Apologies" and the "Dialogue with Trypho" are the only works of his still in existence. In them, Justin aims above all to show the divine projects of creation and of salvation brought about by Christ, the "Logos," that is, the eternal Word, eternal Reason, creative Reason.

Every person, as a rational creature, participates in the "Logos," carrying within himself a "seed," and can perceive glimmers of truth. In this way, the same "Logos," who had revealed himself as a prophetic image to the Jews in the Old Covenant, had also partially revealed himself, as with "seeds of truth," in Greek philosophy.

Thus, Justin concludes, given that Christianity is a historical and personal manifestation of the "Logos" in its entirety, "all that is beautiful which has been expressed by anyone, belongs to us Christians" (II Apologia 13,4). In this way, Justin, even while contesting Greek philosophy for its contradictions, decidedly directs any philosophical truth toward the "Logos," justifying from a rational viewpoint the unusual "pretension" of truth and the universality of the Christian religion.

If the Old Testament tends toward Christ in the same way that a figure tends toward the reality which it represents, Greek philosophy also tends toward Christ and the Gospel, just as a part tends toward union with the whole.
If I had ever finished Fides et Ratio, I would have probably read about this. This connects back to my previous post, where I mentioned that there is but one Truth. I only new Justin as the Father who talked about Mass, I never realized what a philosopher he was.
In an era such as ours, marked by relativism in the debate on values and on religion -- as well as in interreligious dialogue -- this is a lesson that should not be forgotten. With this objective, and here I'll conclude, I again present to you the words of the mysterious old man that Justin found by the sea: "You, above all, pray that the doors of light will be opened for you. For, no one can see nor understand if God and his Christ do not give him understanding"


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