December 5: Clement of Alexandria, Priest, c. 210

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

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About this commemoration:

Clement was born in the middle of the second century. He was a cultured Greek philosopher who sought truth in many schools until he met Pantheons, founder of the Christian Catechetical School at Alexandria in Egypt. Clement succeeded Pantheons as head of that school in about 190, and was for many years an apologist for the Christian faith to both pagans and Christians. His learning and allegorical exegesis of the Bible helped to commend Christianity to the intellectual circles of Alexandria. His work prepared the way for his pupil Origen, the most eminent theologian of early Greek Christianity,and his liberal approach to secular knowledge laid the foundations of Christian humanism.

During the persecution under the Emperor Severus in 202, he fled Alexandria. The exact time and place of his death are unknown. Clement lived in the age of “Gnosticism,” a comprehensive term for many theories or ways of salvation current in the second and third centuries, all emphasizing “Gnosis” or “knowledge.” Salvation, for Gnostics, was to be had through a secret and rather esoteric knowledge accessible only to a few. It was salvation from the world, rather than salvation of the world. Clement asserted that there was a true Christian Gnosis, to be found in the Scriptures, available to all. Although his understanding of this Christian knowledge—ultimately knowledge of Christ—incorporated several notions of Greek philosophy which the Gnostics also held, Clement dissented from the negative Gnostic view of the world and its denial of the role of free will.

What Rich Man Will Be Saved? was the title of a treatise by Clementon Mark 10:17–31, and the Lord’s words, “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” His interpretation sanctioned the “right use” of material goods and wealth. It has been contrasted to the interpretation of Athanasius in his Life of Antony, which emphasized strict renunciation. Both interpretations can be found in early Christian spirituality: Clement’s, called “liberal,” and that of Athanasius, “literal.” Among Clement’s writings are the hymns, “Sunset to sunrise changes now” and “Master of eager youth.”

Collects
I O God of unsearchable wisdom, who didst give thy servant Clement grace to understand and teach the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, the source of all truth: Grant to thy Church the same grace to discern thy Word wherever truth is found; through Jesus Christ our unfailing light, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

II O God of unsearchable wisdom, you gave your servant Clement grace to understand and teach the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, the source of all truth: Grant to your Church the same grace to discern your Word wherever truth is found; through Jesus Christ our unfailing light, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lessons

1 Samuel 12:20–24

Colossians 1:11–20

John 6:57–63

Psalm

34:9–14

Preface of Baptism

Text from Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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9 Responses to December 5: Clement of Alexandria, Priest, c. 210

  1. Michael Hartney says:

    Bio. 4th paragraph: Might we include the Hymnal 1982 # for these hymns? 163 & 478.
    Interestingly the editors of H82 revised the opening line of ‘Master of eager youth’ to be ‘Jesus, our mighty Lord.’ As this bio predates the H82, it is time to correct this reference and be in agreement with the H82.

    • Gregory Howe says:

      Since General Convention has set in motion a study toward revision of the Hymnal, it would seem counter-productive to nail numbers from H82. We can use indexs of first lines, and that implies that first lines be up to date. Greg Howe

      • Michael Hartney says:

        ‘a study toward revision of the Hymnal’ could mean two, three, four General Conventions from GC 2012.

        I vote to make HWHM reflect the H82 and whenever the hymnal is revised – then update HWHM. I am sure that we can do better than the example of ‘Jesus, our mighty Lord” which survived uncorrected in LFF/HWHM for almost thirty years.

  2. John LaVoe says:

    I’m no historian, much less any authority on Patristics, but I have doubts about the name here cited for the mentor of Clement. When I went searching for confirmation of it I found “Pantaenus,” not “Pantheons.” Please verify for yourself. Pantheon is a whole other tourist attraction.

    The final paragraph seems to materialize out of nowhere (despite its unexplained connection to Gnostic dualism’s demonization of matter, not really explained in the previous paragraph’s brief treatment of that philosophy). It’s comparison to Augustine’s teaching (hundreds of years later) sits uneasily in the setting of Clement’s life. Something needs re-writing here, but whether it is the last paragraph alone, or needs to entail the preceding paragraph as well, I’ll leave to the editors to discern.

    The readings and collect seem appropriate. An important commemoration. I hope that final paragraph can be better knit into the whole than it now is. Thank you!

    • John LaVoe says:

      Mea culpa! In my dotage I swapped Augustine for Athanasius. Sorry! (My general comment stands, nevertheless.)

  3. The collect in LFF is better than its replacement. The phrase ‘the same grace to discern your Word wherever truth is found’ is not justified by the bio, according to which Clement discerned the truth where God’s Word was found rather than in the many schools in which he had previously sought it. The LFF version has it right: ‘You called Your servant Clement from the errors of ancient philosophy that he might learn and teach the saving Gospel of Christ’—Amen!

  4. Nigel Renton says:

    The subtitle is inadequate. I suggest “Monk, Priest, and Theologian”.

    His place and estimated date of birth (Damascus, in about 676 AD) should be shown.

    Line 1, sixth paragraph: substitute “also” for “best”, to avoid the propinquity to “best known” in the previous paragraph.

  5. Nigel Renton says:

    Here is the Clement of Alexandria commen:

    The subtitle is inadequate: I suggest “Christian Apologist, Hymnist, and Priest”.

    Line 1, first paragraph: substitute “about the year 150, but his birthplace (possibly Athens) is uncertain” for “the middle of the second century”

    Last line, first paragraph: begin the final sentence “He is believed to have died in about 210, but the…” Delete “The” accordingly.

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