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Patristics:

 

Pre-requisites:

Greek Literature & Culture, Ancient Philosophy, Old Testament, Western Heritage.

 

Co-requisite:

Literature I, New Testament.

 

Content:

The course studies the period in the history of the Church roughly between the death of the last apostle (about 100 AD) and the death of St. Augustine (430 AD).

While due attention is paid to the historical context of this period, the emphasis goes to the most important writings that document the interior life, doctrine, worship and witness of the Catholic Church during this time. The period is foundational for the rest of the Church's history and self-understanding, for this is the time when the earthly life of Christ and its meaning, as recorded in the New Testament, began to bear fruit in the emergence of the Catholic Tradition.

Two great moments of transition are highlighted: first, that between the community of the apostles who had seen the Lord in the flesh and the first generation which had not; and second, that between the persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire and then the acceptance of the Christian faith by Constantine.

It is important to acquaint the students in some detail with what was at stake in the controversies, heresies and doctrinal decisions of the first four ecumenical councils in this period: Nicĉa (325), Constantinople I (381), Ephesus (431), and Chalcedon (451). It is likewise important not to concentrate too exclusively on "doctrine", but to get a sense of the interior life of the Church by familiarity with her life of witness, charity, and her liturgical and private piety.

 

Texts:

Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthians
Ignatius of Antioch, Letters to the Churches
Martyrdom of Polycarp of Smyrna
The Didache
Justin Martyr, First Apology
Letter to Diognetus
Irenĉus of Lyons, Against Heresies [also: some Gnostic document as background to Irenĉus; for instance, The Hymn of the Pearl or The Gospel of Thomas]
Origen, On Prayer
Tertullian, On the Flesh of Christ
Athanasius of Alexandria, On the Incarnation, Life of St. Anthony
Thomas Merton (ed.), Wisdom of the Desert [or some other collection of the sayings of the desert fathers]
Augustine of Hippo, The City of God (selections)
Cyril of Jerusalem, Mystagogical Catecheses [One of the following for the liturgy:]
Lucien Deiss (ed.), Springtime of the Liturgy
Adalbert Hamman (ed.), The Mass: Ancient Liturgies and Patristic Texts, The Paschal Mystery: Ancient Liturgies and Patristic Texts
N. Lewis and M. Reinhold, Roman Civilization Sourcebook II: The Empire

Note: The texts from Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Didache, Justin and Irenĉus, as well as the "Letter to Diognetus" may all be found conveniently in a good translation in: Cyril C. Richardson, ed., Early Christian Fathers, NY: Collier Books, 1970.