Tag Archives: church fathers

Advent Through the Centuries – the second Century

Every day during advent (December 1 to December 24) I’ll be posting a scripture reading, a short passage by a pastor, theologian, or church father, and a prayer. Each day will follow one century of church history, so today will be 100-200. Tomorrow will be 200-300, and so on. Some days will be more closely related to advent than others, depending on the availability of texts. This has been posted before, but I’ve updated the scripture readings and in some cases the historical texts too. Enjoy.

Friday, December 2
The Second Century of the Church


Isaiah 29:17-24

Is it not true that in a very short time the Lebanon will become productive ground, so productive you might take it for a forest?

That day the deaf will hear the words of the book and, delivered from shadow and darkness, the eyes of the blind will see.

The lowly will find ever more joy in Yahwehand the poorest of people will delight in the Holy One of Israel;

for the tyrant will be no more, the scoffer has vanished and all those on the look-out for evil have been destroyed:

those who incriminate others by their words, those who lay traps for the arbitrator at the gate and groundlessly deprive the upright of fair judgement.

That is why Yahweh, God of the House of Jacob, Abraham’s redeemer, says this, ‘No longer shall Jacob be disappointed, no more shall his face grow pale,

for when he sees his children, my creatures, home again with him, he will acknowledge my name as holy, he will acknowledge the Holy One of Jacob to be holy and will hold the God of Israel in awe.

Erring spirits will learn to understand and murmurers accept instruction.’

2 Clement c.130-160 AD. Full text here.

BRETHREN, it is fitting that you should think of Jesus Christ as of God,–as the Judge of the living and the dead. And it does not become us to think lightly of our salvation; for if we think little of Him, we shall also hope but to obtain little [from Him]. And those of us who hear carelessly of these things, as if they were of small importance, commit sin, not knowing whence we have been called, and by whom, and to what place, and how much Jesus Christ submitted to suffer for our sakes.

What return, then, shall we make to Him, or what fruit that shall be worthy of that which He has given to us? For, indeed, how great are the benefits which we owe to Him! He has graciously given us light; as a Father, He has called us sons; He has saved us when we were ready to perish. What praise, then, shall we give to Him, or what return shall we make for the things which we have received? We were deficient in understanding, worshipping stones and wood, and gold, and silver, and brass, the works of men’s hands; and our whole life was nothing else than death. Involved in blindness, and with such darkness before our eyes, we have received sight, and through His will have laid aside that cloud by which we were enveloped.

For He had compassion on us, and mercifully saved us, observing the many errors in which we were entangled, as well as the destruction to which we were exposed, and that we had no hope of salvation except it came to us from Him. For He called us when we were not, and willed that out of nothing we should attain a real existence.

fresco from beneath the Vatican, dating to the 2nd-3rd century.
fresco from beneath the Vatican, dating to the 2nd-3rd century.

Polycarp, c. 110-140

May God the Father, and the Eternal High Priest Jesus Christ, build us up in faith and truth and love, and grant to us our portion among the saints with all those who believe on our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray for all saints, for kings and rulers, for the enemies of the Cross of Christ, and for ourselves we pray that our fruit may abound and we may be made perfect in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.


Advent through the centuries – The First Century

Welcome to Advent Through The Centuries. Every day I’ll be posting a scripture reading, a short passage by a pastor, theologian, or church father, and a prayer. Each day will follow one century of church history, so today will be 0-100. Tomorrow will be 100-200, and so on.

Thursday, December 1
The First Century of the Church


Isaiah 26:1-6

That day, this song will be sung in Judah: ‘We have a fortress city, the walls and ramparts provide safety.

Open the gates! Let the upright nation come in, the nation that keeps faith!

This is the plan decreed: you will guarantee peace, the peace entrusted to you.

Trust in Yahweh for ever, for Yahweh is a rock for ever.

He has brought low the dwellers on the heights, the lofty citadel; he lays it low, brings it to the ground, flings it down in the dust.

It will be trodden under foot, by the feet of the needy, the steps of the weak.’

The Didache, c.75 AD. Full text here.

There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways.
The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love God who made you; second, love your neighbor as yourself, and do not do to another what you would not want done to you. And of these sayings the teaching is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. For what reward is there for loving those who love you? Do not the Gentiles do the same? But love those who hate you, and you shall not have an enemy. Abstain from fleshly and worldly lusts. If someone strikes your right cheek, turn to him the other also, and you shall be perfect. If someone impresses you for one mile, go with him two. If someone takes your cloak, give him also your coat. If someone takes from you what is yours, ask it not back, for indeed you are not able. Give to every one who asks you, and ask it not back; for the Father wills that to all should be given of our own blessings.

The Lord’s Prayer., c. 65-80 AD

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be your Name.
your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.

Advent through the centuries: the fourteenth century

Saturday, December 14, 2013
The fourteenth century of the Church

1 Peter 2:5-9

you yourselves, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood and to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it says in scripture, “Look, I lay in Zion a stone, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and whoever believes in him will never be put to shame.” So you who believe see his value, but for those who do not believe, the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, and a stumbling-stone and a rock to trip over. They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.


St Gregory Palamas, on the Incarnation – from the Philokalia.

Christ became a human being like us in all things except sin so that by His likeness to us He might teach us anew and rescue us; and He gave us the saving counsel and commandment of repentance, saying: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has drawn near’ (Matt. 3:2). Prior to the Incarnation of the Logos of God the kingdom of heaven was as far from us as the sky is from the earth; but when the King of heaven came to dwell amongst us and chose to unite Himself with us, the kingdom of heaven drew near to us all.

Since the Logos of God through His descent to us has brought the kingdom of heaven close to us, let us not distance ourselves from it by leading an unrepentant life. Let us rather flee the wretchedness of those who sit ‘in darkness and the shadow of death’ (Isa. 9:2). Let us acquire the fruits of repentance: a humble disposition, compunction and spiritual grief, a gentle and merciful heart that loves righteousness and pursues purity, peaceful, peace-making, patient in toil, glad to endure persecution, loss, outrage, slander and suffering for the sake of truth and righteousness. For the kingdom of heaven or, rather, the King of heaven – ineffable in His generosity – is within us (cf. Luke 17:21); and to Him we should cleave through acts of repentance and patient endurance, loving as much as we can Him who so dearly has loved us.

detail from fourteenth cenutry manuscript.
detail from fourteenth cenutry manuscript.


The Anima Christi, popularized by St. Ignatius of Loyola, but dating to the fourteenth century.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from thee.
From the malignant enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me.
And bid me come unto Thee,
That with all Thy saints,
I may praise thee
Forever and ever.

Advent through the centuries: the twelfth century

Thursday, December 12, 2013
The twelfth century of the Church

John 12:35-36

Jesus replied, “The light is with you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become sons of light.” When Jesus had said these things, he went away and hid himself from them.


Old English Homilies of the Twelfth Century, Author unknown. Read more here.

To-day is come the holy time that is called Advent, thanked be our Lord Jesus Christ who hath sent it. And it lasts full three weeks and somewhat more, and betokens three times (periods); one which was before the Old Law, the second was under the Old Law, and the third was under the New Law. Men who were dwelling under each of these three periods longed eagerly after our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming as we [now] do, who are under these three weeks which are called Advent, that is to say, in English, our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming.

Our Lord Jesus Christ’s comings are two openly;–the first is gone, which the patriarchs and the prophets and other men who were [living] in those days longed for; and the second coming shall be on doomsday, and that we look for; and all those who have been since our Lord Jesus Christ ascended to heaven; and all those who are to come hereafter await his coming. And of the first coming speaks the holy book, thus saying, Here comes our King, let us go towards him and receive him graciously and highly honour him.

Mosaic of Madonna and Child, from the Chilander monastery in Greece, c. 12th century.
Mosaic of Madonna and Child, from the Chilander monastery in Greece, c. 12th century.


A prayer for Christmas, by Bernard of Clairvaux.

Let Your goodness Lord appear to us, that we
made in your image, conform ourselves to it.
In our own strength
we cannot imitate Your majesty, power, and wonder
nor is it fitting for us to try.
But Your mercy reaches from the heavens
through the clouds to the earth below.
You have come to us as a small child,
but you have brought us the greatest of all gifts,
the gift of eternal love
Caress us with Your tiny hands,
embrace us with Your tiny arms
and pierce our hearts with Your soft, sweet cries.

Advent through the centuries: the eleventh century

Wednesday, December 11, 2013
The eleventh century of the Church

Psalms 119:105-106

Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
to keep your righteous rules.


Anselm of CanterburyPrologion, XIV. 1077/78.

How vast that Truth is in which resides everything that is true and outside of which there is only nothing and what is false! How immense [that Truth] is which beholds in one spectrum all created things and beholds by whom, through whom, and in what manner [all things] were created from nothing! What purity, what simplicity, what assurance and splendor are present there! Surely, [these] surpass what can be understood by any creature.

11th century mosaic of Jesus, from the Hagia Sophia.
11th century mosaic of Jesus, from the Hagia Sophia.


Scottish Prayer for Peace

Deep peace of the running wave to you,
Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,
Deep peace of the shining stars to you,
Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you, for ever.

Advent through the centuries: the tenth century

Tuesday, December 10, 2013
The tenth century of the Church

Psalms 43:3-5

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.

Symeon the Metaphrast, The Life of Nicholas, c. 10th century

At about the hour of Matins our estimable Nicholas, impelled by the Holy Spirit, came to the church. In its vestibule the man deemed worthy of the vision received him. “What do people call you, my son?” he earnestly inquired. “Nicholas the sinner,” he simply and unaffectedly answered, “and I am the servant of Your Sanctity.”

At these humble and courteous words of our exemplary man, to be sure partly because of the name of Nicholas which had been foretold when it appeared, but partly also because of the extraordinary, unmistakable modesty [for the holy man knew the saying, “Whom does God look to here below, except the meek and the peaceable?”], he knew that this was the man whom God was signifying.

At that, joy suffused him, just as if he had stumbled on some precious treasure. He thought of this disclosure as pure wealth. “Follow me, son,” he directed. Taking him by the hand, he led him to the bishops, who recognized at once what had already been foretold to them by their colleague. They, too, filled with holy joy, recognized that the virtue of the man was in accord with the will of God.

Then they immediately conducted the saint to the sanctuary of the temple. When news of this affair had spread about [for it is natural for news to circulate in such important matters and to employ swift wings], uncounted masses poured in the church. In a loud voice the bishops proclaimed: “Accept, our sons, this man as your shepherd, whom the Holy Spirit has anointed for you and to whom he has submitted your souls for guidance and instruction. He has been made our leader not by human but by divine determination. He whom we have been longing for we have: whom we were seeking for, now we receive. As long as we may truly be shepherded and protected by him, we need not lack hope that in the day of the Coming and the Revelation we may stand firm as a people beloved of God.”

To these words the people added their own expression of gratitude, and addressed God those jubilees which cannot be expressed in words. Then the holy synod of bishops together with the clergy, at once invested him with what belonged to the office by law and what by custom. They appointed him Pontiff, though he was slow and hesitant to accept that pontifical honor. Because of a truly praiseworthy sense of constraint, he could hardly ascend the bishop’s throne to assume the prefecture and presidency of Myra, the proper dissemination of the Word of Truth and Piety adherence to orthodoxy, and the right teaching of it.

Symeon was a Hagiographer – he recorded the lives of saints. Here he writes about St. Nicholas, who would, over time, eventually be connected with Christmas in the form of Santa Claus. This is an excerpt; you can read more here.

Tenth Century manuscript showing the consecration of the Cluniac monastery.
Tenth Century manuscript showing the consecration of the Cluniac monastery.


Hymn 25, from Symeon the New Theologian

But, Oh, what intoxication of light, Oh, what movements of fire!
Oh, what swirlings of the flame in me, miserable one that I am,
coming from You and Your glory!
The glory I know it and I say it is your Holy Spirit,
who has the same nature with You, and the same honor, O word;
He is of the same race, the same glory,
of the same essence, He alone with your Father,
and with you, O Christ, O God of the universe!
I fall down in adoration before You.
I thank You that You have made me worthy to know, however little it may be,
the power of Your divinity.

Advent through the centuries: the ninth century

Monday, December 9, 2013
The ninth century of the Church

Psalms 43:3-5

Reveal your light and your faithfulness!
They will lead me,
they will escort me back to your holy hill,
and to the place where you live.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to the God who gives me ecstatic joy,
so that I express my thanks to you, O God, my God, with a harp.
Why are you depressed, O my soul?
Why are you upset?
Wait for God!
For I will again give thanks
to my God for his saving intervention.


Claudius of Turin, 780-827.

We’re into the heart of the Dark Ages now. Vikings raided many of the monasteries in Europe, and a lot of work was lost. There was a minor renaissance under the Frankish Holy Roman Empire, but it seems to have been more civic than religious. Very little theological work was recorded during the 9th century, and the only theologians I’ve been able to track down from that century were John Scotus, and Claudius of Turin. Neither were all that original – John Scotus is best known for being a near-heretic (or total heretic, depending on who you ask), and possibly a pantheist. Claudius of Turin is best remembered from being an iconoclast, who attempted to destroy all artwork in the church in Turin when he became bishop there. I did manage to find this snippet from Claudius, and it will have to do for our look at the 9th century.


I published three books [on Genesis] from the sayings of the holy Fathers concerning the letter and the spirit… For the word came into the world by Mary, clad in flesh; and seeing was not understanding; all saw flesh; knowledge of the divinity was given to a chosen few. So when the Word was shown to men through the lawgiver and the prophets, it was not shown them without suitable vesture. There it is covered by the veil of flesh, here of the letter. The letter appears as flesh; but the spiritual sense within is known as divinity. This what we find in studying Leviticus… Blessed are the eyes which see divine spirit through the letter’s veil.

From the Basilica di Santa Maria in Rome - Mary and Jesus dating to the ninth century. Claudius would have hated this.
From the Basilica di Santa Maria in Rome – Mary and Jesus dating to the ninth century. Claudius would have hated this.

Prayer from John Scotus eriugena, 8th century

O everlasting essence of things beyond space and time, and yet within them; you transcend yet pervade all things: manifest yourself to us, who feel after you, seeking you in the shadows of our ignorance. Stretch forth your hand to help us, for we cannot come to you without your aid. Reveal yourself to us for we seek nothing but you. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.