Anchors are essential when howling storms threaten to tear us away from sanity and hope. The trying circumstances brought about by the unseen nemesis known as COVID-19 demand that we plunge beneath the thin veneer of pop spiritual culture and drink deeply from stalwarts of the Ancient Church. Between now and Easter, I hope to shed light from forgotten beacons from our collective Church past. If they are familiar to you, rejoice and drink again from our common fountain. If they are new, welcome to a world of eternal benefit buried beneath layers of dust and disuse.
Read and relish the timeliness of The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians written by Clement of Rome late in the first century:
“But not to dwell upon ancient examples, let us come to the most recent spiritual heroes. Let us take the noble examples furnished in our own generation. Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the Church] have been persecuted and put to death. Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, compelled to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects. Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience. To these men who spent their lives in the practice of holiness, there is to be added a great multitude of the elect, who, having through envy endured many indignities and tortures, furnished us with a most excellent example. . . . These things, beloved, we write unto you, not merely to admonish you of your duty, but also to remind ourselves. For we are struggling on the same arena, and the same conflict is assigned to both of us. Wherefore let us give up vain and fruitless cares, and approach to the glorious and venerable rule of our holy calling. Let us attend to what is good, pleasing, and acceptable in the sight of Him who formed us. Let us look stedfastly to the blood of Christ, and see how precious that blood is to God, which, having been shed for our salvation, has set the grace of repentance before the whole world. Let us turn to every age that has passed, and learn that, from generation to generation, the Lord has granted a place of repentance to all such as would be converted unto Him.”
Scratched onto parchment two thousand years ago, Clement’s admonition is as relevant as this morning’s headlines. “Let us turn to every age that has passed, and learn that, from generation to generation, the Lord has granted a place of repentance to all such as would be converted unto Him.” Turn aside from today’s stress and frustration, forge a quiet place, and turn your heart toward Christ in contrition and expectation. He will meet you, take you by the heart, and walk with you into his holy sanctuary of rest.