St. Justin Martyr: Apologist and Father of the Church

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June 1st marks the feast day of St. Justin Martyr, an early Father of the Church. He was one of the first apologists for the Christian faith and has been regarded as the leading interpreter of the theory of the Logos (the Word of God) in the second century.

Justin was born into a pagan family in Neapolis around the year 100 A.D.  After spending years studying pagan philosophies, his quest for religious truth led him to investigate the Christian religion, which he found answered the great questions of life and existence better than pagan philosophy.  Already impressed by the zeal of Christian Martyrs, he became a convert to the Christian faith at the age of thirty.

Following his conversion, Justin moved to Rome where he opened a school in which he taught the best elements of Greek philosophy in the context of Christian belief. Known as “the Philosopher,” he…

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The Icon of the Trinity

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reinkat

This icon, written by Andrei Rublev in the xxx century, is considered to be the most theologically perfect icon ever made.  It is the highest achievement of Russian art–and a masterpiece by any standards. It is based on the Old Testament story of Abraham unwittingly entertaining angels with perfect hospitality.  Christians believe that this event is the first revelation of God in Three Divine Persons.

Rublev’s Trinity most fully expresses the dogma of the Trinity in artwork.

The three angels are used in the icon as a symbol of the Holy Trinity. Indeed, in iconography it is heresy to depict God the Father, whose face no one has ever seen.  This symbolic rendition of the Trinity, as told in the Bible, is the only permissible way to show the figure of God the Father.

Andrei Rublev Trinity

The figure on the left represents God the Father.  Both of the others bow their heads towards…

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Pentecost.

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Locked in an upper room. Winds howling, angry mobs clamoring below. Fearful agony, and that room becomes a tomb. The winds shift and then enters a Holy Spirit, the Spirit of promise. Their fear is set on fire and turns to passion. They burst forth from that room to preach to the ends of the earth. The image of that room as a tomb cannot escape me, and neither can the thought of the disciples leaving that room. Crossing the threshold from death to life. A Church is born. The tomb of Christ, the orthodox priest exits with candles ablaze. Christ, the light of the world. That same image is of the disciples leaving the upper room. Tongues of Fire, Christ enters their souls and they become beacons. The Nativity, they are born a Church. The Crucifixion, the angry mobs and they defeat death. They defeat it through the Holy Spirit, a baptism of sorts, and water is often a sign of that Spirit. Remember the baptism of our LORD? The water, and the dove that emerged from the heavens. There is that bird Noah sent out too. The wind, the water, the bird and the fire. The Holy Spirit. The breath of life. The priest breaths across the baptismal waters. The Almighty breathes into a lump of clay. The priest speaks into a chalice. The breath of the Lord enters the disciples. Life.

The fear in the upper room, can anyone hear their pleading? Oh God save us! They called out in anguish, and He listened. Their call was answered, just as the LORD promised. But they needed to ask, to be receptive. They needed that passion so that out of fear could emerge love. The love of God. He time, fifty days, a time of devotion and reflection. A seed planted and that seed must die if it is to bear any fruit. The ground is broken, and a bud emerges. The Church. It grows and the birds nest in its branches, the faith the size of a mustard seed. A tree watered by the stream grows mighty indeed. The Holy Spirit.

The tree that emerges, the one that breaks through the ground. The seed that died. What is the purpose of that tree? It is to bear fruit, and if it does not it is fed to the fire. The disciples mission as they cross the threshold of the upper room? It is to bear fruit, to preach the good news and to deliver a bountiful harvest to the LORD. It is about the mission they were given, and they are guided by that spirit of Christ. They will be known as Christians. At first they spoke many languages, a confusion and lost, but now united by one spirit. United, universalis, Catholic. Neither Jew nor gentile, Roman or Greek, or Syrian; but Christian, Catholic united under one God. One God in three persons. The Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Pentecost.

a little prayer

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Its no secret, to those who have their eyes and ears open, that the spirit of this season is awaiting “the Spirit.” From Ascension to Pentecost is a prayer for that Advocate Jesus Christ promised He would send. The readings from the Acts of the Apostles are full of examples that those disciples truly received that Holy Spirit. It is evident in their actions, their speech, and what they ae able to accomplish. Tests they had failed prior to the Passion, they now pass with ease. They find themselves in situations similar those Jesus Himself was in, but now there is no denial of their Savior, they behave as He did. They become images of Christ. Paul, today, finds himself facing those that accused Jesus. Those accusers challenge his preaching Christ, just as they filed charges against the LORD Himself.

King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea
on a visit to Festus.
Since they spent several days there,
Festus referred Paul’s case to the king, saying,
“There is a man here left in custody by Felix.
When I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and the elders of the Jews
brought charges against him and demanded his condemnation.
I answered them that it was not Roman practice
to hand over an accused person before he has faced his accusers
and had the opportunity to defend himself against their charge.

The words recorded of these accusations are nearly identical to those cast against Jesus. Paul certainly knows the potential outcome of such charges as he was once one who levied those accusations against others. He was the one who orchestrated the stoning of Saint Stephen. He knew with certainty the treatment Christians received. Discrimination, persecution, and death. To be accused as Christ was to be executed as Christ was. They knew that. There was no doubt. But they preached the good news of Jesus Christ. They preached with the full knowledge that they would be put to death. They preached with the full knowledge that they would be executed as He was. They knew that their preaching placed them on the path towards crucifixion, and many of them faced that fate. But they continued. They continued because they knew that the way of Christ was a way towards life. A contradiction, but not to them. They knew the difference. They received the Holy Spirit promised, and their Acts are certain proof. That is the Spirit we pray for now. Come Holy Spirit.

To receive that Spirit requires that one be open to, to be aware of it. It requires a desire, passion. Passion is a word used in scripture, and the Passion of our LORD begins with a prayer in the garden. That prayer is the one between Father and Son where He pleads that the cup of suffering be taken from him, and where He pleads that “thine will be done.” A cry for strength, a prayer. The passion continues on the cross with the words “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.” The same Spirit Christians call upon today. To receive it though we must be passionate about it. We must desire it, and call out to it. That is prayer. Come Holy Spirit.

Acts 25:13b-21

Jn 21:15-19