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Chapter 2 THE EARLY CHRISTIANS The early Christians, by their tremendous faith in Jesus and imitation of his life, transformed the Roman world and its.

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Presentation on theme: "Chapter 2 THE EARLY CHRISTIANS The early Christians, by their tremendous faith in Jesus and imitation of his life, transformed the Roman world and its."— Presentation transcript:

1 Chapter 2 THE EARLY CHRISTIANS The early Christians, by their tremendous faith in Jesus and imitation of his life, transformed the Roman world and its values.

The early Christians endured some of the harshest conditions and persecutions ever suffered in Christianity. While some abandoned the Faith when the challenges were overwhelming, many Christians, fortified and guided by the Holy Spirit, endured until the end. They often worshipped in secret, yet shared their material goods with friends and strangers alike, striving to live an upright life in the midst of an often depraved society.

They set about the great task of building a new civilization. In the face of a hostile world, the Christians offered a radical new vision of human society. Many reforms in the Church, including those of Vatican II, have looked back at the early Christians as models of holiness, simplicity, and fraternity.

4 PART 1 Beliefs and Practices: The Spiritual Life of the Early Christians
Christ did not leave his Church with a fully developed theology and disciplinary practice. These beliefs and practices emerged through centuries of theological, philosophical, cultural, and historical development under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

5 PART 1 Beliefs and Practices: The Spiritual Life of the Early Christians
These eternal truths were passed on and developed within the living and changing body of believers. While the earliest Christians remained closely associated with the Jewish Tradition, later events, such as the Council of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple, and the influx of Gentiles into the Church, altered the ethnic makeup of the Christian community.

6 BAPTISM Jesus was baptized by St. John the Baptist with a baptism of repentance, but it was Jesus who instituted the Sacrament of Baptism in the Holy Spirit. In Baptism a believer (is): Forgiven original and actual sins; Begins a new life in Christ; Incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ; Has a baptismal character imprinted on the soul.

7 BAPTISM In the earliest Church, adult converts were baptized immediately. However, in time, a period of instruction called the Catechumenate was developed. The Catechumens would be baptized at the Easter vigil or on the Saturday before Pentecost. Vatican II reinstated the Catechumenate to bring back these beautiful customs of preparation for reception into the Church. While the practice of infant baptism goes back to the time of the Apostolic Fathers, the practice became universal and very common by the third century. Baptism has always been administered when a person is in danger of death and in such a case, anyone, including a non-believer, can administer the Sacrament, as long as the Trinitarian formula is used and the intention to baptize is present. The unbaptized (especially catechumens) who die for the Faith receive graces through martyrdom which is called Baptism of Blood.

The Agape (“love” in Greek) Feast refers to an early Christian religious meal that was celebrated in association with the Eucharist. Because of abuses, as detailed by St. Paul, it was discontinued, but the ritual of the Mass or Eucharist continued to develop gradually over time. The Rite of Mass included Scripture readings, singing of Psalms and hymns, common prayers, a collection for the poor, and a homily, and concluded with the Eucharist, which repeated the words of the Institution Narrative and Consecration. The Eucharist (“thanksgiving” in Greek) was the central act of Christian worship and culminated with Holy Communion. “All” early Christian documents that teach about the Eucharist indicate that the early Christians considered the Eucharist to be the true Body and Blood of Christ present under the appearances of bread and wine.

9 CHURCHES The earliest Masses were celebrated in private homes and in the catacombs. Some Roman Emperors allowed Christian churches to be built, but most of these were destroyed in subsequent persecutions. After the Edict of Milan (AD 313) the Emperor Constantine began a building program favorable to Christians, and Roman architectural design, such as the basilica, was transformed into Christian churches.

10 HOLY DAYS For early Christians, Wednesdays and Fridays were days of fasting and penance. Christians at first kept the Jewish custom of the Sabbath (Saturday) as the primary day of worship, but it was soon replaced with Sunday as the holiest day of the week because it represented both the day of the Resurrection and of Pentecost. It was the first day of creation and of the “re-creation” in Christ. Feast days were developed throughout the years, with the Feast of the Epiphany being one of the first to be celebrated.

11 THE PAPACY Christ made St. Peter the head of his Church, conferring upon him the responsibility and supreme authority of guiding the Church after his departure. There are several historical documents that indicate the Bishop of Rome was regarded as the supreme authority on Church matters from the very beginning. Pope St. Leo (d. AD 461) was instrumental in centralizing the Church’s governance based on the preeminence of the Bishop of Rome. While the political significance of Rome had diminished in favor of Constantinople, and the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Alexandria had increased their political importance, the Church councils still deferred to Rome before making a decision. Pope St. Gelasius I (d. AD 496) was the first to use the title “Vicar of Christ.”

12 THE EPISCOPACY From the beginning of Christianity, the Bishops, as successors of the Apostles, were responsible for shepherding and guiding the flock. Bishops baptized, celebrated the Mass, celebrated weddings, ordained priests, and engaged in all of the sacramental work of the Church. St. Ignatius of Antioch (AD 107) wrote, “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”

13 PRIESTHOOD The word “priest” is an English contraction of the Greek word presbyteros often translated as presbyter. In the early Church these were the elders. The full understanding of the sacramental role of priests, subordinate to the bishop, developed over the centuries. However, there is evidence that by the second century, priests were being ordained to celebrate the Mass.

14 MONOTHEISM Christians believe in only one God (monotheism).
Because their pagan neighbors were polytheistic (worshiped many gods), the Christians had to reject the Roman cult of worship and its acts of sacrifice and public worship. Christian artists could not work in pagan temples. Christian teachers could not teach mythology, nor could they serve as Roman judges or magistrates. Many Christians were martyred because they refused to adore the images of emperors, who proclaimed themselves gods.

15 THE SCRIPTURES The canon of the Bible was developed in the earliest centuries of Christianity. The Old Testament canon was based on a Greek translation of Scripture called the Septuagint. After much discussion, a definitive New Testament canon was declared at a large synod in Rome AD 382, and by the fifth century the entire Western Church possessed the complete canon. Finally, in the Council of Trent (AD 1546) the Church made its definitive statement concerning the canon of Scripture. The Catholic Church never considered the Scripture as authoritative apart from its legitimate interpretation by the magisterium of the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit.

16 THE SCRIPTURES The Scriptures, while extremely important in the life of the Church, were never seen as a complete record of everything that Jesus and the Apostles did nor the sole source of Revelation. It is the Tradition of the Church expressed in Christian literature, liturgical practices, and statements that clarify and interpret Scripture. Scripture is a vital and central part of a broader tradition.

Slavery was an ancient and widespread institution during the time of Christ. It is estimated that two of the seven million inhabitants of the Italian peninsula were slaves at the time of the Emperor Augustus, and the hardships and cruelties of Roman slavery are well known. Jesus never spoke directly about slavery, but it is clear that the Gospel implicitly condemns slavery as a grave offence against humanity, as it undermines the dignity of the human person, and is inconsistent with Christ’s two great commandments.

Slaves in the early Christian community were welcomed, not as slaves, but as brothers, equal in dignity, and as full and equal members of the community. It was not Christianity’s purpose to abolish slavery, and the Christian community did not have the moral authority or power to make such as change. Rather, Christianity slowly undermined the institution of slavery. St. Paul taught slaves to obey their masters and masters to treat their slaves with charity. Slaves rose to the highest position in the Church. Three of the first four immediate successors of St. Peter, Sts. Linus, Anacletus, and Clement I, were former slaves.

19 NON-VIOLENCE Jesus taught non-violence and prayer in the face of persecution. While some early Christian writers forbade Christians to be members of the Roman army and participation in war, some Christians did serve in the Roman army. One soldier, St. Maurice, was a leader of a legion. He and his entire legion (almost 6000 men) were executed for refusing to sacrifice to a pagan god. In time, the just war theory was developed. St. Augustine was one of the first theologians to argue that war is permitted in the case of self-defense.

20 NON-VIOLENCE This doctrine was further developed by St. Thomas Aquinas. He stated that war is acceptable if: It is initiated on the authority of a sovereign (a legitimate government or ruler) The cause is just; Those waging the war have good and right intentions; The war will not bring about more harm than that perpetrated by the enemy. It was later added by the Spaniard Francisco de Vitoria, that the war must be waged by the proper means.

21 THE STATE In the early Church, Christians would not fulfill the laws that violated the teachings of the Church (e.g., participation in pagan cults, emperor worship, and service in the Roman army), although they obeyed all of the just laws issued by the Romans.

22 MONEY MATTERS From the beginning, early Christians looked after the needs of the Christian community. They engaged in education, medical care, and the distribution of alms. Christians were expected to be honest in commerce and to avoid usury.

The early Christian Fathers universally rejected abortion and infanticide, both of which were prevalent in Roman society. These practices violently rejected the dignity of the human person and violated the Fifth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” The use of contraception was also rejected. The Church Fathers taught that procreation within marriage was good and blessed, and one of the intrinsic purposes of the marital act. Many of the methods of artificial contraception available today were practiced in the Roman times. The Church opposes them today on the same grounds that it opposed them then. Even ancient Greek philosophy saw artificial contraception as an unnatural violation of the natural end of sexual relations.

24 WOMEN While Roman and Greek cultures regarded women as inferior, Christianity improved the condition of women in society both individually and as a group. It changed the perception of women by recognizing them as spiritual equals. The Blessed Virgin Mary was honored from the beginning as singularly blessed by God and conceived without Original Sin, and instrumental in the salvation of all people. Several women were instrumental in the conversion of Europe. Several Christian wives and mothers were vital in the conversion of their husbands and children. Christian women also suffered equally for their faith and purity during the early persecutions of Christianity.

25 PART II Important Writings of the Early Christian Period “THE APOSTOLIC FATHERS”
The title “Apostolic Father” is given to a number of the earliest Christian writers. These men came immediately after the Apostles, and some had direct links to the Apostles or to the communities established by them. Writing about religious or moral themes, their writings record early Christian doctrine and spirituality.

26 APOLOGISTS Apologetics (from the Greek meaning “defense”) defends and explains the Christian Faith. The first period of apologetics dates from the beginning of Christianity until the Fall of the Roman Empire AD 476. During this period the apologists faced attacks from Judaism, Gnostic heresies, and various pagan religions. The title apologist refers to anyone who writes an apologetic work. Due to the work of apologists, Christianity began to gain converts from the educated and elite classes in Roman society. For many Jews, Christianity, which rejected the need of circumcision and other Jewish practices, denigrated and desecrated the Law and the God of Abraham.

27 APOLOGISTS One apologist, St. Justin Martyr defended Christ’s teachings as a fulfillment of the Jewish Law and prophets. A great deal of apologetics was addressed to the pagan culture of the Roman empire, carefully explaining Christian beliefs and practices, as well as the benign and benevolent existence of Christianity in the empire.

28 THE DIDACHE The Didache was a short exposition of Christian morals, doctrine, and customs that was composed in the first century. It’s sixteen chapters cover Christian moral life, Baptism, fasting, prayer, the Eucharist, and Church hierarchy.

29 TERTULLIAN Tertullian (AD 160–AD 225) received an education in Roman law. Converting to Christianity, he wrote numerous works demonstrating that Christianity formed no threat to the Roman Empire, but rather was an asset. His works won him the title, “Father of Latin Theology.” Tertullian later joined a heretical Montanist sect and broke from the Church.

St. Hippolytus (AD 170- AD 236) was possibly the most important theologian of his time. He wrote and spoke against many heresies, but he himself broke from the Church. Later, before dying a martyr’s death, he was reconciled with Pope St. Pontian and the Church. His two most important works The Refutation of Heresies and The Apostolic Tradition have survived. The latter work describes the passing down of the faith from one generation to the next and provides insight into the rites of ordination, Baptism, and the Eucharist of the third century. This work is also the source of the second Eucharist Prayer used in the Mass.

31 PART III Martyrdom as the Greatest Testimony to Christianity
Early Christians found that they had to be prepared to die for Christ. Those who did lose their lives quickly became the most venerated of all Saints. The word martyr comes from the Greek meaning witness. Their lives, actions, and words strengthened and edified other Christians, and even their deaths deeply affected those who witnessed them. Christians understood martyrdom as an honor and a privilege as it was a direct participation in the sufferings of Christ.

32 CONCLUSION The early Christians, by their tremendous faith, transformed the Roman culture and its values. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church grew as an institution and as a community of believers.

33 THE CATACOMBS A Catacomb is an underground series of tunnels, chambers, and tomb which served as burial places, shrines, and places of worship in the earliest church. They have been discovered in Rome and throughout Italy, France, and Northern Africa. In Rome alone there are over sixty catacombs and they account for hundreds of miles of tunnels. The catacombs of St. Callixtus are four stories deep, include four miles of galleries, and contain the remains of sixteen Popes and dozens of Christian martyrs. The tombs are often adorned with religious inscriptions and Christian art. Large rooms called crypts, where prominent figures such as Popes or martyrs were buried, were converted into small churches.

34 THE CATACOMBS Catacombs were used for the celebration of Baptism and the Eucharist. Shunning the Roman practice of cremation and showing their belief in the resurrection of the body, early Christians showed their strong sense of community by preferring to be buried together. The tombs of martyrs became popular places of prayers and inscriptions show that these “Saints” were asked to intercede for the believers. Eventually these catacombs were abandoned and forgotten only to be rediscovered in the sixteenth century. The information gained from the catacombs serves to give us a clear idea of everyday Christian beliefs and practices in the early Church.

Because of its large Jewish populations, Asia Minor became the first great area of growth in Christianity. Many Jews converted to Christianity due to the missionary efforts of St. Paul and the Apostles. By the end of the first century, the first Christian churches were confined to the Easter Roman Empire, with the exception of Christian communities found in Rome and in other parts of Italy. By the end of the third century, Christianity and Judaism had officially separated and Christianity became largely a religion of the Gentiles. Its informal center had shifted from Jerusalem to Rome, and the scene was set for the Constantine (AD 312) and the embrace of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire.

36 CHRISTIAN SYMBOLS The cross was one of the earliest and most widespread Christian symbols. By the third century, the Sign of the Cross was deeply rooted in the Christian people. Another ancient symbol is that of the fish. It recalls the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, as well as Christ’s appearance to seven of his disciples after the Resurrection. The Greek word for fish is ichthys and is an acrostic for the Greek phrase Iesous CHristos THeou Yios Soter which means “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.”

37 The End

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