December 5: Clement of Alexandria, Priest, c. 210
December 5, 2010 9 Comments
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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.”
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.
1 Samuel 12:20–24
Preface of Baptism
Text from Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
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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