Tag Archives: St Irenaeus

St Irenaeus

St Irenaeus was born c.130 in Smyrna, Asia Minor (today modern Izmir, Turkey) and was martyred in 202 in Lyons, France; his tomb and relics were destroyed by Calvinists in 1562 but his head rests in Saint John’s Church, Lyons, France. Today the western Church liturgically recalls Irenaeus while the Orthodox Church liturgically recalls his memory on August 23.

History tells us that St Irenaeus was a disciple of St Polycarp of Smyrna. In 177, was ordained and later was the Bishop of Lugdunum, Gaul (modern Lyons, France).

His learning and prudence (discretion) identified him as a true “lover of peace” which is what his name implies. You might say that Irenaeus’ enduring legacy speaks to the fact that he worked and wrote against Gnosticism (see his work Against Heresies), basing his arguments on the works of St John the Apostle, whose Gospel is often cited by Gnostics. He is considered the first great Western ecclesiastical writer and theologian, who emphasized the unity of the Old and New Testaments, and of Jesus Christ’s simultaneous human and divine nature, and the value of tradition. The calls Irenaeus a “Father of the Church”. He is clearly among the “greats”.

As one said, “Emerging from the turmoil of the second century, the Church is indebted to Irenaeus for its catholic self-consciousness and its awareness of unity as reflected in the emergence of the canon of Scripture, the interpretation of prophecy, and apostolic succession.”

Annunciation to Mary

Today is the beginning of our salvation. Indeed, we rejoice in Mary’s “yes” to being the Mother of the Redeemer, and respond with our own “yes” today to God’s will in our lives.

In the Servant of God Father Luigi Giussani’s Meditations on the Holy Rosary, he writes about the Annunciation:

The Angel’s words could have astounded with wonder and humility the young woman to whom they were addressed. But they were not so astounding as to be totally unintelligible; they contained something that made them intelligible to the heart of that young girl who was living her religious duties. The Virgin embraced them to herself: “I am the handmaiden of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to Your word.” Not because she understood but, in the confusion that had become boundless because of the Mystery that announced itself by vibrating in her flesh, the Virgin opened her arms wide, the arms of her freedom, and said, “Yes.” And she stayed alert every day, every hour, every minute of her life. The Virgin Mary’s state of mind, that state of mind which determines an attitude and decides for it in the face of the occasion and the moment, how can we better describe the Virgin’s state of mind than with the word “silence”? Silence as memory filled to overflowing. Two things contributed to this memory, two things determined this silence. The first was remembering what had happened. What had happened preserved its marvelousness, its true mystery, its mystery of truth intact because — and this is the second thing — it had something that was present: that Child, that present young Man, that Son who was present.

Going to the Church Fathers is always a good thing: Saint Ireneus of Lyons teaches us that “For as Eve was seduced by an angel’s voice to turn from God betraying His word, so Mary was given the good news by an angel’s voice that she would bear God, and the latter was persuaded to obey God, so that Mary should become the advocate of Eve. And as the human race was bound to death by a virgin, by a virgin it was delivered.”

Humanity’s true glory is perseverance

To serve God does not mean giving him any gift, nor has God any need of our service. On the contrary, it is he who gives to those who serve him life, immortality and eternal glory.

He rewards those who serve him without deriving any benefit himself from their service: he is rich, he is perfect, he has no needs.

God requests human obedience so that his love and his pity may have an opportunity of doing good to those who serve him diligently. The less God has need of anything, the more human beings need to be united with him.

Consequently, a human being’s true glory is to persevere in the service of God

Saint Irenaeus
Against Heresies

Saint Polycarp

St Polycarp2.jpg

Saint Polycarp‘s rich writings point to one thing: a sharp focus on Jesus Christ as the only thing we ought to be concerned with today. Nothing else really matters….

Polycarp (AD 69-155) was a bishop of Smyrna and martyr of the Church. He was a disciple of the Beloved Disciple John who ordained him a bishop. Polycarp’s life and work are attested to by Irenaeus, Tertullian and Jerome. He is called an Apostolic Father along with Saint Clement of Rome and Saint Ignatius of Antioch.

Saint Polycarp’s witness is key in knowing the early Church’s life and how we work in building up the Kingdom today. The saint was instrumental in bring others to Christ.

This excerpt tells us of his call to greater conversion in the Lord.

“… if we do His will and walk in His commandments and love the things which He loved, abstaining from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, false witness; not rendering evil for evil or railing for railing or blow for blow or cursing for cursing; but remembering the words which the Lord spake as He taught; Judge not that ye be not judged. Forgive, and it shall be forgiven to you. Have mercy that ye may receive mercy. With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again; and again Blessed are the poor and they that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”

The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians

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Saint Irenaeus of Lyons

Thumbnail image for St Irenaeus.jpgIn your manner a participant,
And in your throne a successor of
the Apostles,
You discovered action an entrance into visions,
O inspired one of God.
Therefore directing the Word of Truth,
You suffered for the faith even unto blood.
O Bishop and Martyr Irenaues,

Pray to Christ God that our souls may be saved!

(Troparion, Tone 4)

Give perfection to beginners, O Father; give intelligence to
the little ones; give aid to those who are running their course. Give sorrow to
the negligent; give fervor of spirit to the lukewarm. Give to the perfect a
good consummation; for the sake of Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

(Prayer of Saint Irenaeus)

Pope Benedict XVI March 28, 2007 catechesis on Saint Irenaeus is helpful to read.

We cling to our faith because of the witnesses that go before us, those who point the way to the Lord. Our Catholic faith is born of the faith of another. Therefore, we hold fast to apostolic faith given to us by the Apostles and we in turn pass the orthodox faith onto others. As Irenaeus said, “Hold in suspicion those who depart from the primitive succession” and “those who put forward their own compositions, boasting that they possess more Gospels than there really are.” One interesting note about Saint Irenaeus is that he is the first theologian to insist that we follow the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John because they were trustworthy, and no others.

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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