Sunday, January 15, 2006

St. Justin Martyr (A.D. 100? - A.D. 165): A Worthy Patron for "The Thread"

In the book I am currently making my way through (The Church Unfinished: Ecclesiology Through the Centuries by Dr. Bernard Prusak), I found a fascinating passage on the great pillar of the Early Church and martry for the faith, St. Justin. Now St. Justin is a figure that I have been interested in ever since I returned to my Catholic roots -- about 5 years ago, to be exact, when I read an astounding passage from his First Apology in Defense of the Christians that practically knocked me off of my feet (that in itself is another long and interesting story... the passage I'm referring to there describes the celebration of the Eucharist that Christians in the 2nd century would engage in on "the Lord's Day," that is, every Sunday -- what blew me away about it is that it is almost an exact description of the Catholic Mass still celebrated in the same way all over the world in this, the 21st century... it was a moment of breakthrough for me about the value and continuity of the Catholic tradition across two millennia... to think that we are engaging in the same liturgies as those early heroes and martyrs!... all of a sudden the strange concept of the "communion of saints" that transcended the boundaries of space and time became a lot more clearer to me... but I digress!). I've always wanted to read his Apology along with his justly famous Dialogue with Trypho, although I have yet to do so.

Anyway, the passage in Prusak's book is worth quoting in full, because it describe's St. Justin's passion for truth and commitment to seeking it out wherever it can be found, which is a passion that this blog also tries to cultivate and encourage. To be a serious reader of great literature is, in our book anyway (no pun intended!), to be a serious seeker of the True, the Good and the Beautiful. Needless to say, this is an old concept, as this commentary about St. Justin makes clear:

"As a philosopher who had become a believer, Justin remained in dialog with the world beyond the Church and critically accepted the positive insights he found. In his view, all truth reflected a participation in the divine Word or Logos, which had seminally permeated the created universe as the source of all life and rationality and then became incarnate in Jesus (John 1: 1, 14). Justin's openness and his efforts to explain Christian faith in ways that were intelligible and attractive to the nonbelieving intellectuals of his time initiated a further Hellenization of the Jesus movement, beyond its original opening to the Gentile world. His irenic worldview was also open to an ongoing exchange with Judaism, reflected in his Dialogue with Trypho. Justin was open to every expression of truth in his search for it."

Prusak's description of the great saint's mindset really resonated with me, especially in terms of this ongoing project... to be "in dialog with the world" in the form of its great books, and to "critically accept the positive insights" we find there, sound like worthy goals for The Secret Thread to me. May we, then, following in the footsteps of the great St. Justin and invoking his patronage for our feeble enterprise, commit ourselves to being "open to every expression of truth" in our search for it. For we know that literary truth serves as one of a great many "secret threads" in our world, that invariably lead us back to He who is "the Truth" that we may "know" and that will "set us free."

1 comment:

Mutt Ploughman said...

Man, is DUKE ALTUM out of control or what??? The famous "Dialogue with Trypho"??? I've never heard of that, I ain't afraid to admit it......I defy anyone out there to try to out-read Duke some time, whose interests stretch out to all corners of the literary map.....if Secret Thread readers haven't noticed by now, I tread down a much narrower path, mainly fiction, sometimes biography or essays, criticism.....Duke takes on a super-broad swath of subjects. I can't think of anyone else, except maybe my Dad, who would even be capable of posting on the subject of St. Justin Martyr........and believe me, at 75 and a computer novice, he ain't posting on here any time soon.

Nonetheless, Duke's 100% RIGHT on his assertion that the passage he quotes, and Justin Martyr in general, are appropriate examples of the type of attitude we aspire to here at The Secret Thread. It's important to be open to varied and frequent expressions of other points of view, and it's not going to hurt one's own confidence about where they stand on important issues, as long as they know where that is to begin with. This is why we don't want to just read writings by authors who share our views. Citing the great example of Albert Camus, who can teach readers a great deal about human nature, Duke hammers this point home. This is one thing that is great about literature in the first place: it is universal, it comes from all cultures, it assumes many forms, it speaks in many voices, and all you have to do is be willing to listen to as many as you can. This does not mean you don't exercise discernment in terms of what you take in, or how you develop your opinions of what you read, but you have to be open to other perspectives. This is a truly catholic position when it comes to reading books and sharing them with others.