Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Celebrating Justin Martyr

As a nation, we celebrate the lives of many of the heroes of our country.  We celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan 19, Lincoln's Birthday on Feb 12, and Washington's Birthday on Feb 22.  This past Monday, was the celebration or Feast Day of St. Justin Martyr, my confirmation saint.

There is no better way that I can think of to celebrate the life and death of this great man than to attend Mass.  On my drive to Mass over lunch, I thought and reflected on the impact that this one man had on my life.  Little did he know, that 1900 years after his death, an African American man in Michigan would be inspired to join the Catholic Church based on many of his writings.

I was first introduced to Justin Martyr through the book, The Four Witnesses.  Being one of the Four Witnesses, the others were Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, and Ireneaus of Lyons, I had a chance to catch a glimpse of what his life may have been like in the Early Church.  After spending some time reading his letters to the Emperor of Rome regarding the unjust treatment of putting Christians to death, I found that I enjoyed his literary style and his courage.  Not only that, but he took the time to explain to the Emperor exactly what it was that Christians believed and practiced behind closed doors.  To my surprise, it was pretty Catholic. 

In one of his letters, he remarks:

Reason directs those who are truly pious and philosophical to honour and love only what is true, declining to follow traditional opinions, if these be worthless. For not only does sound reason direct us to refuse the guidance of those who did or taught anything wrong, but it is incumbent on the lover of truth, by all means, and if death be threatened, even before his own life, to choose to do and say what is right.

And regarding the Eucharist (Holy Communion), he says:

And this food is called among us Eukaristia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.   

And then his comments regarding the Mass....

And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons.  

Thank you Justin Martyr for your sacrifice and the courage to write these things down in the midst of persecution.  You faith has become my faith.

God bless...


Willison said...

Happy feast day my friend. Thank you for reminding us of one of the early Hall-of-Famers - and your efforts to be as passionate about our Lord as he was.

Next year, remind me early so I can join you at Mass.

Belteshazzar Mouse said...

I always love these glimpses into the early Christian communities and their beliefs. Be proud of your name and feast day and celebrate it with some good reading!

Feel free to call me too, any day, for Mass. There are a couple others I sometimes go with as well.

(Today is the feast of Barnabas, Apostle and Corpus Christi, though we celebrate Corpus Christi on Sunday)