Tag Archives: St Clement of Rome

Beginning of the Season of Lent

The Latin Church begins the holy season of Lent with joy and sobriety today. Eastern Christians who follow the Gregorian calendar began their lenten observance on Monday past. The priest prays at the prayer after communion: “Pour out a spirit of compunction, O God, on those who bow before your majesty, and by your mercy may they merit the rewards you promise to those who do penance.” Thus, the season of repentance is for our purification of sin by God’s grace and specific acts of piety: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. This letter of Pope St Clement I to the Corinthians may be helpful to you.

“Let us fix our attention on the blood of Christ and recognize how precious it is to God his Father, since it was shed for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to all the world.

If we review the various ages of history, we will see that in every generation the Lord has offered the opportunity of repentance to any who were willing to turn to him. When Noah preached God’s message of repentance, all who listened to him were saved. Jonah told the Ninevites they were going to be destroyed, but when they repented, their prayers gained God’s forgiveness for their sins, and they were saved, even though they were not of God’s people.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the ministers of God’s grace have spoken of repentance; indeed, the Master of the whole universe himself spoke of repentance with an oath: “As I live”, says the Lord, “I do not wish the death of the sinner but his repentance.” He added this evidence of his goodness: “House of Israel, repent of your wickedness. Tell the sons of my people: If their sins should reach from earth to heaven, if they are brighter than scarlet and blacker than sackcloth, you need only turn to me with your whole heart and say, “Father, and I will listen to you as a holy people.”

In other words, God wanted all his beloved ones to have the opportunity to repent and he confirmed this desire by his own almighty will. That is why we should obey his sovereign and glorious will and prayerfully entreat his mercy and kindness. We should be suppliant before him and tum to his compassion, rejecting empty works and quarreling and jealousy which only lead to death.

Brothers, we should be humble in mind, putting aside all arrogance, pride and foolish anger. Rather, we should act in accordance with the Scriptures, as the Holy Spirit says: “The wise man must not glory in his wisdom nor the strong man in his strength nor the rich man in his riches. Rather, let him who glories glory in the Lord by seeking him and doing what is tight and just.” Recall especially what the Lord Jesus said when he taught gentleness and forbearance. “Be merciful,” he said, “so that you may have mercy shown to you. Forgive, so that you may be forgiven. As you treat others, so you will be treated. As you give, so you will receive. As you judge, so you will be judged. As you are kind to others, so you will be treated kindly. The measure of your giving will be the measure of your receiving.”

Let these commandments and precepts strengthen us to live in humble obedience to his sacred words. As Scripture asks: “Whom shall I look upon with favor except the humble, peaceful man who trembles at my words?”

Sharing then in the heritage of so many vast and glorious achievements, let us hasten toward the goal of peace, set before us from the beginning. Let us keep our eyes firmly fixed on the Father and Creator of the whole universe, and hold fast to his splendid and transcendent gifts of peace and all his blessings.”

Image: St Bernard of Clairvaux by Jerónimo Jacinto Espinosa

St Clement of Rome

Clement was a disciple of Ss. Peter and Paul from whom he learned about Jesus and the new Way. Much of what we know about Clement comes from his epistle to the Church at Corinth (an example of pastoral concern and paternal prudence). Yet, our knowledge of Clement comes through the witness of St. Irenaeus spent significant time with the Church at Rome, before serving as bishop of Lyon from approximately AD 177. Irenaeus was a pupil of Polycarp. The Roman Christians chose him as their bishop to succeed Linus and Cletus who briefly held that office before being martyred.

Its antiquity ranks Clement as the first of the great Apostolic Fathers. Tradition holds that after being tried for his faith Clement was exiled to hard labor in the Crimea, where he was believed to have been martyred. His relics were returned to Rome by St. Cyril, who reportedly discovered them on one of his early missionary journeys to the region. The relics were placed in what is now called St. Clement’s church in Rome (now under the direction of the Order of Preachers), where Cyril himself was buried when he died while he and Methodius were in Rome preparing for their mission among the Slavs.

The importance of St. Clement is his understanding of ecclesial authority and the life of the Christian in the face of said authority. As St. Irenaeus says, Clement had “the preaching of the apostles … echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes.” Is this true for us today? Do we have the preaching of the apostles echoing in my ears, and the traditions of the apostles before my eyes?

Saint Clement of Rome

Clement IClement was brought to belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior either by Saint Peter or by Saint Paul. It is tradition that he was consecrated a bishop by Saint Peter the Apostle, known to be the fourth Bishop of Rome and as an Apostolic Father. The Roman Canon recalls his apostolic witness. The Basilica of Saint Clement in Rome, Italy, one of the earliest parish churches in the city. Saint Paul mentions Clement in his letter to the Philippians (4:3).

From a letter to the Corinthians by Saint Clement I, pope and martyr

Beloved, how blessed and wonderful are God’s gifts! There is life everlasting, joy in righteousness, truth in freedom, faith, confidence, and self-control in holiness. And these are the gifts that we can comprehend; what of all the others that are being prepared for those who look to him. Only the Creator, the Father of the ages, the all-holy, knows their grandeur and their loveliness. And so we should strive to be found among those who wait for him so that we may share in these promised gifts. And how is this to be, beloved brothers? It will come about if by our faith our minds remain fixed on God; if we aim at what is pleasing and acceptable to him, if we accomplish what is in harmony with his faultless will and follow the path of truth, rejecting all injustice, viciousness, covetousness, quarrels, malice and deceit.

This is the path, beloved, by which we find our salvation, Jesus Christ, the high priest of our sacrifices, the defender and ally in our helplessness. It is through him that we gaze on the highest heaven, through him we can see the reflection of God’s pure and sublime countenance, through him the eyes of our hearts have been opened, through him our foolish and darkened understanding opens toward the light, and through him the Lord has willed that we should taste everlasting knowledge. He reflects God’s majesty and is as much superior to angels as the name he has obtained is more excellent than theirs.

Let us then serve in his army, brothers, following his blameless commands with all our might. The great cannot exist without the small nor the small without the great; they blend together to their mutual advantage. Take the body, for example. The head is nothing without the feet, just as the feet are nothing without the head. The smallest parts of our body are necessary and valuable to the whole. All work together and are mutually subject for the preservation of the whole body.

Our entire body, then will be preserved in Christ Jesus, and each of us should be subject to his neighbor in accordance with the grace given to each. The stronger should care for the weak, and the weak should respect the stronger. The wealthy should give to the poor, and the poor man should thank God that he has sent him someone to supply his needs. The wise should manifest their wisdom not in words but in good deeds, and the humble should not talk about their own humility, but allow others to bear witness to it. Since, therefore, we have all this from him, we ought to thank him for it all. Glory to him for ever. Amen.

Bishop of Rome –appreciating its significance for the churches

Pope's chair, Basilica di San Giovanni in Late...

The chair of the Bishop of Rome, Basilica Saint John Lateran, Rome.

In the first moments of his introduction to the world, Pope Francis has spoken of his ministry as the bishop of Rome, and his exercise of said ministry. Nine times, in fact. I think many were surprised at the theological precision that Pope Francis expressed so quickly. How is this possible? Because Francis is clearly Christocentric, and the Petrine ministry located in service of the other and at the foot of the Cross.

We ought to recall that ministries in the Church have gradually taken on new significance over time as the issues of teaching, preaching and sanctifying and governing (leading) surfaced and challenged the unity of the faithful. We know historically that by the third century the parameters of the bishop of Rome began to develop because of the work of Saints Peter and Paul, and because of the importance of the imperial city of Rome, and by the fourth century the influence of the Roman bishop was well-situated; and by the fifth century “canonical” letters, i.e., decrees, were sent to the world’s bishops carrying with them certain authority. One can posit that from almost the beginning bishops from across the Christian world had appealed to the bishop of Rome for assistance in resolving with pastoral problems. 

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Saint Clement of Rome

St Clement.jpg

Almighty ever-living God, who are wonderful in the virtue of all your Saints, grant us joy in the yearly commemoration of Saint Clement, who, as a Martyr and High Priest of your Son, bore out by his witness what he celebrated in mystery and confirmed by example what he preached with his lips.

After Peter as the chosen head of the Church, the next crucial leader of the Church is the 1st century Saint Clement of Rome. In the development of what a “pope” is for the Church, Clement is often claimed to be such. His immediate predecessors Linus and Cletus were certainly bishops of Rome, but it seems as though Clement is concerned for Christians beyond the City walls.

He was a Jewish-Roman by birth and is reported to accepted Christian faith at the hands of either Saints Peter or Paul. Called to be a missionary, Clement assisted these great apostles as well as Jerome and a companion of Barnabas, Luke and Timothy. It is the testimony of Tertullian that we learn that Clement was ordained a bishop by Saint Peter. Clement, is known in papal history for being the 4th bishop of Rome; his papal service followed Peter, Linus and Cletus. Pope Clement served the Church for 9 years, 11 months and 20 days.

Circa 96 Clement wrote to the people of the Church in Corinth defending the faith against their peoples’ abandonment of Christian faith seen in their acceptance of prostitution at the Temple of Aphrodite. But the Corinthians also were accused of being impious, envious, and angry among other issues. Clement laid for us a spiritual path that says that we are to abandon all things of this world to more perfectly follow Jesus. Clement was an ardent worker for unity among Christians. We can’t be friends with Caesar and at the same time with the Lord. Purity of heart and body were essential.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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