THE NEW COVENANT CHURCH
Part II: THE NEW COVENANT CHURCH IN
 SALVATION HISTORY
Biblical Period 12
Lesson # 28

 

Beloved Heavenly Father,

Your Church is the worldwide center and the continuing catalyst of Salvation History. This was never more evident than during this past Easter Season as the world collectively held its breath and focused its attention on the Vatican in Rome as our beloved Pope, John Paul II, was suffering in the last hours of his life on this earth.  And then, after You called Your faithful servant home to heaven, the whole world trembled in anticipation as the college of Cardinals cast their final ballots electing Pope Benedict XVI.  We pray, Father, for Your continued blessings on our new Holy Father, St. Peter's successor -- the Vicar of Christ, and for Christ's Bride, the Church. You have faithfully preserved and prospered the New Covenant Church down through the Ages as both ever Virgin Bride and Fruitful Mother'increase her children as she continues in her journey through the history of man until the coming of the Bridegroom for His Bride.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Amen! Hallelujah!

 

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"Alleluia!  The reign of the Lord our God Almighty has begun; let us be glad and joyful and give glory to God, because this is the time for the marriage of the Lamb, His bride is ready, and she has been able to dress herself in dazzling white linen, because her linen is made of the good deeds of the saints." Revelation 19:7-8

 

"Let us come to the heroes nearest our own times.  Let us take the noble examples of our own generation.  By reason of rivalry and envy the greatest and most righteous pillars were persecuted, and battled to the death.  Let us set before our eyes the noble Apostles: Peter, who by reason of wicked jealousy, not only once or twice but frequently endured suffering and thus, bearing his witness, went to the glorious place which he merited.  By reason of rivalry and contention Paul showed how to win the prize for patient endurance.  Seven times he was in chains; he was exiled, stoned, became a herald in the East and West, and won the noble renown which his faith merited. To the whole world he taught righteousness, and reaching the limits of the West he bore his witness before rulers.  And so, released from this world, he was taken up into the Holy Place and became the greatest example of patient endurance." Clement's First Letter [from the Church of Rome to the Church of Corinth], 5.1-7, St. Clement was the 4th Pope from St. Peter, writing ca. 95 AD

 

"When finally he concluded his prayer, after remembering all who had at any time come his way - small folk and great fold, distinguished and undistinguished, and the whole Catholic Church throughout the world'the time for departure came.  So they placed him on an ass, and brought him into the city on a great Sabbath. [...]  They did not nail him then, but simply bound him.  And placing his hands behind him, he was bound like a distinguished ram chosen from a great flock for sacrifice, and prepared to be an acceptable burnt-offering unto God." The Martyrdom of St. Polycarp, written ca. 155AD.  St. Polycarp was 86 years old at the time of his death [ca 69-155AD].  He was the Bishop of Smyrna and in his youth, a disciple of St. John the Apostle.

 

"The Roman Tertullian is likewise a witness of this. He writes as follows: 'Examine your records.  There you will find that Nero was the first that persecuted this doctrine, particularly then when after subduing all the east, he exercised his cruelty against all at Rome.  [...].  Thus publicly announcing himself as the first among God's chief enemies, he was led on to the slaughter of the Apostles.  It is, therefore, recorded that Paul was beheaded in Rome itself, and that Peter likewise was crucified under Nero.  This account of Peter and Paul is substantiated by the fact that their names are preserved in the cemeteries of that place even to the present day.'"  Bishop Eusebius [4th century] quoting the writings of Tertullian, Roman lawyer turned Catholic priest, writing at the end of the second century.  See Eusebius Church History, XXV.4-5

 

[Note: for addition information on the fate of the Apostles reference the Handout document: "The Twelve Apostles."

 

Roman persecution of the Church ended with the Edict of Milan in 313 AD when Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor, officially recognized Christianity as a state approved religion and protected Christians from persecution.  At this time the Church founded by Jesus Christ was identified as "Catholic", derived from the Greek word katholikos, meaning "universal".  This term was already in use in the early 2nd century as the title of the Church by Sts. Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna.  In Bishop Ignatius's last letter to the Church at Smyrna written ca. 107AD he uses the combination "Catholic Church":  "Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church." [ St. Ignatius Bishop of Antioch, martyred 107/110AD, Letter to the Church at Smyrna].  An early 2nd century baptismal prayer also identifies the Church as "Catholic":  "The Church is called Catholic because it is throughout the world, from one end of the earth to the other." As the Church grew and yet remained as ONE, just as Christ had intended [John 17:11], "Catholic" assumed a doctrinal connotation in describing the Church's historical universality in the sense of continued faithfulness to the original teachings of Christ and His Apostles.   The early 5th century theologian Vincent of Lerins [d. 434] defined this concept of the Church's catholicity as "That which has been believed everywhere, always and by all," and writing in the 3rd century St. Cyprian [d. 252] wrote On the Unity of the Catholic Church, where he argued that the Catholic faith was from God because those who professed it were united among themselves.  The geographic center of this worldwide Church was in Rome under the guidance of the Bishop of Rome, the successor of St. Peter. In St. Cyprian's time the terms "Roman" and "Catholic" had become interchangeable.

 

In this new era of peace fostered by Christian emperors of the Roman Empire, the Bishop of Rome was able to call the bishops of the universal Church to meet in councils great and small to define the canon of the New Testament and to discuss and define Church doctrine.  The Church has met in 21 Great or Ecumenical Councils composed of Bishops of the world wide, universal Roman Catholic Church:

 

GREAT COUNCILS OF THE CHURCH

 

COUNCIL AND DATE

 SIGNIFICANT TEACHING

COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM – 49/50 AD

Decisions on conversions and circumcision.  It was decided that it was not necessary for converts to submit to the Old Covenant laws like circumcision.

1.  NICAEA I – 325 AD

Nicene Creed; divinity of Christ, condemned Arianism; Easter observance set.

2.  CONSTANTINOPLE I – 381 AD

Expanded the Creed; defeated Arianism; condemned Macedonians who denied divinity of the Holy Spirit

3.  EPHESUS – 431 AD

Defended Mary as the mother of God; condemned Nestorianism which held there were 2 distinct persons in the Incarnate Christ

4. CHALCEDON 451 AD

Condemned Monophysitism by defining 2 distinct natures of Christ: Jesus fully human & divine.

5.  CONSTANTINOPLE II – 553 AD

Confirmed Chalcedon; condemned heresies

like Monothelitism that held Christ had only 1 will

6.  CONSTANTINOPLE III – 680-81 AD

Defeat of Monothelitism by defining two wills of Christ as 2 distinct principles of operation in unity of purpose

7.  NICAEA II – 787 AD

Regulated veneration of holy images; condemned Inconoclasts and defined that sacred images may be honored without idolatry

8.  CONSTANTINOPLE IV – 869-870 AD

Condemned teachings of Phobius Bishop of Constantinople.  Last council attended by Eastern Church; beginning of the Great Eastern Schism

9.  LATERAN I – 1123 AD

First council after the Great Eastern Schism. Condemned practice of lay princes in investiture of bishops.  Called for recovery of the Holy Land.

10. LATERAN II – 1139 AD

Enacted reforms suggested by St. Bernard of Clairvaux; condemned certain heresies; declared null and void decrees by the deceased antipope Anticletus II.

11. LATERAN III – 1179 AD

Established the Sacred Conclave as voting body to elect Pope by 2/3rds majority; condemned Albigensians and Walkenses heresies

12. LATERAN IV – 1215 AD

Defined ex cathedra: from the chair of Peter and "There is but one Universal church, outside of which there is no salvation." Set in stone the term Transubstantiation for the mystery of the Eucharist. Ordered annual confession and Easter Communion.

13. LYONS I – 1245 AD

Called for a new Crusade. Excommunicated and deposed Emperor Frederick II.

14. LYONS II – 1274 AD

Filioque clause officially added to the Creed. Attempted reconciliation with Eastern Catholics.  Decreed that papal elections should begin 10 days after death of the Pope.

15. VIENNE – 1311-1312 AD

Reformation of the clergy and Catholic Universities; called for a new Crusade; dealt with the charges against the Knights Templars; defined the relation of the soul to the human body; condemned false mysticism.

16. CONSTANCE – 1414-1418 AD

Put an end to the Western Schism (Avignon Popes vs Rome); issued reform decrees in "head and members", condemned Wyclif and Hus.

17. BASEL-FLORENCE – 1431(38)-1445 AD

Affirmed papal primacy against Conciliarists who said a general council was superior to the Pope; attempted reunion with Eastern church.

18. LATERAN V – 1512-1517 AD

Disciplinary decrees-defined the relation of Pope to a general council, condemned philosophers who taught human soul was mortal and only one for all mankind; discussed religious upheaval in Germany caused by  Luther.

19. TRENT – 1545-1563 AD

Condemned Lutheranism and other errors in teaching that resulted from Protestant movement; proclaimed Bible and Tradition as rule of faith; defined doctrine on the Mass, the sacraments, justification, purgatory, indulgences, invocation of saints, veneration of sacred images, issued decrees on marriage and clerical reform.

20. VATICAN I – 1869-1870 AD

Defined the nature of revelation and faith, the relation of faith and reason; and infallibility of the Pope when speaking ex cathedra  in matters of faith and morals. Condemned pantheism, materialism, deism, naturalism, and fideism.

21. VATICAN II – 1962-1965 AD

Convoked by Pope John XXIII "mainly to more effectively preserve and present the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine."  16 documents reaffirmed the principles of Catholic faith and morality; authorized numerous changes in the Eucharistic liturgy, the ritual of the sacraments, and in the church's administrative structure.  These documents and liturgical reforms defined the Church in the modern age. 

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2004 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

 

The Church also met in other councils that were not councils composed of the entire Magisterium of the worldwide body of the Church but were local councils which also addressed serious issues that concerned the Church.  Four such regional councils helped to determine the canon of the Old and New Testaments:

 

Council of Laodicea (c. 360)

A local council of the church in union with Rome.  This council produced a list of books of the Bible. This was one of the Church's earliest decisions on a canon.

Council of Rome (382)

This local church council under the authority of Pope Damasus, (366-384) gave a complete list of canonical books of the Old and New Testaments which is identical with the list the Council of Trent reaffirmed in the 16th century.

Council of Hippo (393)

This local North African Church council in union with and under the authority of the Bishop of Rome approved a list of Old Testament and New Testament canon (same as was later approved by the Council of Trent).

Council of Carthage (397)

This local North African Church council in union with and under the authority of the Bishop of Rome approved the list of Old Testament and New Testament canon of the two previous councils (which were the same as later approved by the Council of Trent)

 

 

THE VIRGIN MARY'S ROLE IN SALVATION HISTORY

 

From the Annunciation to the Crucifixion of her Son, Mary can be seen as God's ultimate validation of free will.  The Virgin Mary's obedience to the will of God as conveyed to her in the angel Gabriel's message was no less voluntary in its affirmation than the disobedience of the virgin Eve had been in its negation. In the 2nd century St. Irenaeus the Bishop of Lyon and a second generation disciple from the Apostle John wrote: "...so also Mary, betrothed to a man but nevertheless still a virgin, being obedient, was made the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race. [...].  Thus, the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary.  What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith." Against Heresies, 3.22.4, Irenasus, Bishop of Lyons.

 

Mary, as the first human to kiss the face of God, and the first to believe in Jesus as her Savior, took her place in Salvation History as the first Christian. She is also the one disciple of Jesus who didn't flee or doubt when all the others fled and doubted, but who stayed and accepted to the very end the burden of being under the Cross.  Down through the ages the weeping Mary of the Cross witnessing her son's torture and death stands in solidarity with all believers who also suffer and live under the shadow of the Cross.

 

The gift of Mary to the Church was Jesus' last human act from the Cross.  He placed His mother's care in the hands of the only Apostle present at the cross, the Apostle John, "Seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, 'Woman, this is your son.'  Then to the disciple he said, 'This is your mother.' And from that hour the disciple took her into his home." [John 19:26-27] This is one of only two scenes in which Mary is present in John's Gospel.  The first is the narrative of the Wedding at Cana in John 2:1-10 at the beginning of her Son's earthly ministry and the second is at the end as He makes His witness from the Cross.

 

Question: These two scenes in which Mary is present have several things in common.  Can you name 3 things common in both events of John 2:1-10 and John 19:26-27?

Answer: First, Mary is address as "gunai" [from the Greek gune] or "dear Woman" by Jesus in both scenes.  Second, she is never called by name but only identified as "the mother of Jesus".  And third, in both cases a "new family" is formed: at Cana by the wedding itself and in the second scene in John chapter 19 a new family is formed by a kind of adoption in which "the beloved disciple" takes Mary as his mother and in the greater sense, as the mother of Christ's family, the Church--a role she continues to fill to this day.

 

 It is Mary who bridges the Old and New Testaments'the Old and New Covenants.  The Old Testament records God's plan for man's salvation in His preparations to make the world ready for the Incarnation.  Of all the tribes of the earth He chose a particular people to whom He reveals Himself.  He nurtures and instructs them through His prophets in order for them to be able to recognize the Son of God when it was time for Him to come.  In order to accomplish this He takes these people to Himself in a Covenant bond, establishing worship based on sacrifice to prepare them to understand the ultimate sacrifice that the Son of God would offer for the salvation of man, for these people of Israel would be the conduit through which the message of the Son would be carried to the world!  And when the time came, from among these people, He chooses a woman from a certain preordained family, the house of David.  It was absolutely necessary that she be set apart in her purity and virtue so as not to make the Incarnation of the Son of God a sacrilege and therefore, she is conceived without original sin and set apart in a preserved holy state of purity and perpetual virginity. 

 

This is Mary's role in Salvation History: ever virgin and yet fruitful mother.  It is Mary, a daughter of the Old Covenant, who is not only the bearer of Christ in the Annunciation but Mary also "labors" in prayer in the Upper Room with the other disciples for the birth of the Church at Pentecost, for the New Covenant believers will become her spiritual children [Acts 1:13-14]. She stands as the Christian model, which we should all emulate.  From her obedience at the Annunciation to the events of Christ's passion she illustrates for us a model of Christian virtue, faith and obedience as she remained true to Christ and His word.  Her fidelity shows us that true faith can be preserved in one individual and down through history the Church has honored her for this by considering her the mother of the faithful remnant of Israel formed into the New Covenant Universal [Catholic] Church.  It has been as Mary prophesized, when filled with the Holy Spirit she spoke the words, "Yes, from now onwards all generations will call me blessed!"

 

After the descend of God the Holy Spirit at the second great Pentecost [the first was the revelation of God at Mt. Sinai], the Apostle John spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ first with Peter in Judea and later in Asia Minor, serving many years as the Bishop of Ephesus.  According to tradition Mary accompanied John to Ephesus and lived there several years.  Unfortunately the years after Christ's Resurrection were years of intense persecution for the early Church, first from the Jews who rejected the Messiah and later from the Romans. Many documents written before Christianity was protected by the Edict of Milan in 313AD were destroyed.  For example the great Church Father Origen wrote over 6,000 books of which only a few copies now survive.  The great library at Caesarea in Palestine and the Church library at Alexandria, Egypt, which we know contained numerous works from the first centuries of the Church, were destroyed in the 7th century AD Moslem invasions just as the great libraries in Rome were destroyed by successive barbarian invasions in the 5th century AD. The result is that we do not have reliable information on Mary's later years.  However, surviving works like The Protoevangelium of James [James was the first Bishop of Jerusalem and kinsman of Jesus] written sometime toward the end of the 1st century and a several other documents do contain information about Mary's early life.  Although rejected as uncanonical in the 6th century, The Protoevangelium of James is the only document in existence to provide the names of Mary's parents Anna and Joachim, [honored as saints by the Church] as well as material for many of the most important medieval legends, artistic representations and theological beliefs about Mary. 

 

While Scripture reveals nothing about Mary's death, St. John Damascene [died 749] recorded a story reportedly shared at the Council of Chalcedon in 451AD that Mary had died in the presence of the Apostles but when the tomb was opened they found it empty, "wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven."  From this testimony the Church has taught that Mary was assumed bodily and now tastes the Resurrection for which all Christians hope.  This teaching is one of the four dogmas, or truths, of Mary held by the Church. 

 

The Four Dogmas of the Virgin Mary

·        The perpetual virginity of Mary [expressed in 3 parts: in her virginal conception of Christ; in giving birth to Christ, and her continuing virginity after His birth = virginitas ante partum; virginitas in partu; virtinitas post partum.  The usage of this triple formula to express the fullness of this mystery of faith became standard with St. Augustine [354-430], St. Peter Chrysologus [c. 400-450], and Pope St. Leo the Great [440-461].  See CCC # 496-507

·        Mary the Mother of God [defined as dogma at the very city where Mary had lived for several years-- at the Council of Ephesus in 431].  See CCC# 495

·        Immaculate Conception of Mary [defined as dogma by Pope Pius IX in 1854]. See CCC# 491-492

·        Assumption of Mary into heaven [defined as dogma by Pope Pius XII in 1950].  See CCC# 966; 974

 

Each of these Marian dogmas were teachings within the Church from the very beginning of the Church's formation but became defined more fully as God the Holy Spirit expanded the Church's understanding of the revelation of Jesus Christ in Christian doctrine and theology through the centuries.  For example the oldest canonical feast of Mary in the Church is the Feast of the Assumption which was already celebrated on its own feast day by the 5th century.  The doctrine of the Assumption of the Virgin is also part of the Tradition reflected in the writings of the early Church fathers even though Pius XII defined it as dogma in 1950.  The same is true of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which was formally defined by Pope Pius XI in 1854.  Early Church hymns speak of "Mary conceived without sin" and the teaching is explicitly stated in the writings of Sts. Ambrose, Augustine, Andrew of Crete, Germain of Constantinople and other Fathers of the Church.  This teaching was also celebrated in the early Church liturgy. A feast commemorating the Immaculate Conception of Mary was celebrated by the seventh century in the East and was formally approved and given a standardized liturgy in the West by Pope Sixtus IV in 1475.  It was extended as a feast to the world Church by St. Pius V in the 1568.  Each dogma is also consistent with Sacred Scripture.  For example the Immaculate Conception is supported by Genesis 3:15 and Luke 1:26-31 which have always been interpreted by the Church as implying the Virgin Mary's exemption from original sin [i.e. the angel Gabriel's greeting to Mary using a perfect past participle concerning her condition of grace: "Hail has-been graced"].  The Virgin Mary's birthday'the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Mother'is celebrated on September the 8th, which is 9 months after the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

 

If you wish to continue your study on Mary's role in the Church for a pleasant and informative read please see Dr. Scott Hahn's excellent book, Hail Holy Queen, Doubleday publishers and Dr. Mark Miravalle's excellent book Introduction to Mary: The Heart of Marian Doctrine and Devotion, Queenship Publishing Company.  I also recommend for a more scholarly read Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin in Patristic Thought by Ignatius Press, 1991.  Arranged in chronological order this book begins with the Apostolic Age of Ignatius Bishop of Antioch [disciple of St. John, martyred c. 107] and ends with John of Damascus [8th century] providing brief introductions and quotes for each Church father.

 

Mary's continuing role in Salvation History is that of the Mother of the King of Kings in the court of the heavenly Jerusalem, in Hebrew this office is the gebira or Queen Mother, a title given to the mothers of the Kings of Judah.  The mothers of the Kings of Judah were persons of great prestige and power who sat enthroned at the right hand of their sons in the Jerusalem court of the Davidic kingdom and who were regarded with reverence by his subjects [see Kings 2:19; Jeremiah 13:18 and the entire list of the Kings of Judah in the books of Kings and Chronicles in which the mother of every Davidic king is listed].  It is in her role as the gebira that St. John sees Mary in Revelation 12:1, clothed with the sun and standing on the moon with a crown of 12 stars; it is the same vision Juan Diego will have of the Virgin Mary at Tepiac Hill in Mexico in 1531.  But her Son has also made her the Mother of all New Covenant believers [John 19:25-27].  In that role she continues to intercede for her children just as she interceded with her Son at the Wedding at Cana, and she continues to show her love and concern by giving us the same advice she gave the servants of the Bridegroom at Cana: "Do whatever He tells you" [John 2:5].

 

 

THE SEVEN SACRAMENTS OF THE CHURCH:

THE MASTERWORKS OF GOD

 

The entire life of the Church revolves around the Most Holy Eucharist and the other Sacraments all of which were instituted by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry.  They are the powers'the visible signs that come forth by the action of God the Holy Spirit at work in Christ's Body, the Church.  The graces that flow from the Holy Sacraments are ever living and life giving'they are the masterworks of God at work in the new and everlasting Covenant of Jesus Christ and are necessary to protect us from sin and necessary for our salvation [see CCC# 1127-29].

 

These 7 Sacraments, instituted by Christ confer the grace they signify

SACRAMENT

ACTION of the Holy Spirit

BAPTISM*

Rebirth by adoption into the family of God; liberation from original sin

CONFIRMATION*

Completing our baptism this anointing of the Holy Spirit confirms the seal of the Holy Spirit so we may share more fully in Christ's mission to the world

EUCHARIST

As the source and summit of the Christian life the Eucharist is the memorial of Christ's Passion in which we become infused with the life of Christ receiving  Him, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity

PENANCE

This is the sacrament of healing, forgiveness of sins after baptism, and restoration

ANOINTING OF THE SICK

Christ uniting Himself with our suffering

HOLY ORDERS*

The presence of Christ made visible in the community through the ministerial priesthood

MATRIMONY

Through this sacrament a man and a woman establish a covenant with each other, with God, and with the whole of life becoming co-creators with God.

* in addition to the grace these 3 sacraments indicated by the asterisk confer, they also confer a sacramental character or seal by which the believer shares in Christ's priesthood.  See CCC#s 1113-1666; 2177; 2180; 2185; 2187-88; 2192-3.

 

In order to nourish the moral and liturgical life of the Body of Christ Mother Church has established 5 positive laws, decreed by the pastoral authorities, which are meant to identify the minimum spiritual commitment required of the faithful.  These 5 laws are known as The Precepts of the Church and are found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church #s 1388-9; 1457; 2041-43; 2177, 80-81.  In addition to the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church through time, talent and treasure [CCC# 1351] the minimum Covenant obligations of the People of God include:

1.      The faithful are required to attend the celebration of the Eucharist every Lord's Day =Sunday or Saturday vigil, unless excused for a serious reason [i.e. illness or the care of infants].  CCC# 1388-9; 2042; 2180

2.      The faithful are required to confess sins at least once a year.  CCC# 1457; 2042

3.      The faithful are required to receive Holy Communion at least once a year during the Easter season [but are encouraged to receive Christ in the Eucharist daily if possible].  CCC# 1389; 2042

4.      In addition to the Lord's Day the faithful are required to keep all Holy Days of Obligation.  CCC# 2043; 2177; 2180; 2185; 2187-8; 2192-3

5.      The faithful are required to observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence.  CCC# 1387; 1438; 2043

 

In addition to the Sunday obligation to worship on the Lord's Day, it is a mortal sin to purposely choose to miss worshipping on the Lord's Day [CCC#2181], there are 6 Annual Holy Days of Obligation celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church in the United States.  IT IS A SERIOUS SIN TO PURPOSELY MISS THE CELEBRATION OF ANY ONE OF THESE FEASTS (see precept #4 listed above)

THE ANNUAL HOLY DAYS OF OBLIGATION OF THE NEW COVENANT CHURCH

[in the United States]

1. FEAST OF THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD

40 days from Easter Sunday (in the US celebrated on the next closest Sunday)

2. FEAST OF PENTECOST

Celebration of the birth of the Church; 10 days from the Feast of the Lord's Ascension

3. FEAST OF ALL SAINTS

Remembrance of those brothers and sisters in the faith who now live in the presence of the Most Holy Trinity

4. FEAST OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

The conception without original sin of Mary the Mother of God, December 8th.

5. FEAST OF THE CHRIST MASS

Celebration of the birth of the Savior, December 25th

 

6. FEAST OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

January 1st, celebrating the naming of the Lord and His circumcision on the 8th day of His birth.

 

 

 

THE FATHERS OF THE CHURCH and Biblical interpretation

 

The Fathers of the Church are the successors of the Apostles.  These men taught and led the Church through approximately the first three [some scholars say five] centuries of the Church. Men like St. Athanasius, St. Augustine, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, and St. Basil the Great became the teachers of the Church's founding doctrines--the Trinity, the two natures of Christ, and many other articles of faith.  For the early Church Fathers Scripture was the foundation--the source of Holy Spirit inspired doctrine and their writings resounded with the joy of those who, in St. Ephraim's words, discovered Scripture as "the fountain of life" and tasted its sweet waters.  These teachers developed the art and science of Biblical interpretation in different directions from two great Christian schools -- the Alexandrian and Antiochian schools. 

 

The Alexandrian school centered in Alexandria, Egypt emphasized the role of allegory in the uniting the Old Testament to the New.   For these scholars Christ was present in every narrative of the Old Testament pointing the way to His Incarnation and Passion.

The Antiochian school, centered in Antioch, Syria emphasized the historical referent of the literal reading of Biblical text. Antioch scholars practiced both the literal and contemplative ways of reading Scripture, but the higher theoria [spiritual meaning] of the Scripture passage remained subject to the text's history and they occasionally criticized the Alexandrian school for being not literal enough in their interpretations.  However, both schools agreed that Sacred Scripture must be studied in light of the "Rule of Faith", and in the "Living Tradition" of the Church.  This "Rule of Faith" was a literal document outlining the statements of Christian belief that circulated in the second century and is thought to have originated in the time of the Apostles to guide exegesis and to protect the study of Scripture from heretical readings.  You are familiar with this ancient "Rule of Faith"; today we are more likely to refer to it as the "Apostles Creed".  The methods of interpretation of these two schools of Biblical interpretation are expressed today in the instructions of Catechism of the Catholic Church on Scripture study: CCC# 115 " According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral, and anagogical senses.  The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church." [also see #s 116-119]. 

 

The Catholic Church teaches that the Apostles entrusted the "Sacred deposit" of the faith contained in the Sacred Scriptures and the Tradition [which was passed orally from Jesus to His Apostles] to the whole of the Church.  Together the dual nature of Scripture and Tradition constitute the word of God just as Christ in His fullness is expressed in His humanity and divinity.  It is the Magisterium, the Bishops of the Universal Church in communion with the successor of St. Peter, Vicar of Christ, who have been given the task of providing an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether it is in its written form or in the form of sacred Tradition.  "Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant.  It teaches only what has been handed on to it.  At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication, and expounds it faithfully.  All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith." CCC# 86 

 

 

 

SCHISM OF THE COPTIC, SYRIAN, ARMENIAN, AND ABYSSIAN RITE CHURCHES

 

When the Roman Empire officially recognized Christianity as a state approved religion and protected Christians from persecution the Bishop of Rome was able to call the bishops of the Church to meet in councils great and small to discuss and define important issues of controversy within the Church.  One issue of great importance concerned the very the nature of Jesus the Christ.  Was He both human and divine or did the divinity of Christ overshadow His humanity?  Did Christ posses two natures or only one?  In 451 the Council of Chalcedon, with nearly 600 Bishops assembled, settled the issue by declaring the Catholic doctrine of two natures of Jesus Christ in one Divine Person.  All bishops present arose and exclaimed "That is the faith of the Fathers; that is the faith of the Apostles!  So we all believe!  Peter has spoken through Leo [Pope Leo]!"  The definition of the nature of Christ defined by the Council of Chalcedon was not accepted by the whole Church.  The Monophysite controversy, or one nature controversy, went on for nearly a hundred years.  Finally all those parts of the Eastern Roman Empire in which Greek was not the language of the people severed themselves from the Church and have remained in schism with the exception of the Antiochene Rites of the Maronite, Syrian, and Syro-Malankaran Rites.  Those Catholics who remain in separation from Rome since that time are the Alexandrian Rites which include the Copts in Egypt and the Ethiopians, the Armenian Rite Catholics, and the Abyssinians. 

 

 

THE GREAT EASTERN SCHISM

 

From the 4th to the 11th centuries the gains of the Church were tremendous.  Catholic missionaries had carried the Gospel far into northern and eastern Europe.  Scandinavians, Slovenians, Czechs, Poles, Russians, the wild Magyars, and Tartars had all become established Christian nations.  Unfortunately, these gains of the Church were offset almost immediately by the most painful losses in the East.  In the middle of the eleventh century the disastrous schism known as the Greek or Eastern Schism broke the unity of Christendom and cut off an appallingly large fragment from the Catholic Church.

 

All the attempts made by Popes, Emperors and Councils to reunite the Eastern and Western Rite Catholics have been refused by the Catholic Churches of the East with the exception of the Byzantine and Antiochene Rite Catholics.  A few years ago Holy Father John Paul II visited St. Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai in another attempt to restore unity.  The Eastern Orthodox Patriarch received Pope John Paul but refused to allow him to celebrate Eucharist with the community of the monastery.  In another attempt to reach an accord with the Eastern Orthodox Church shortly before his death in 2005, Pope John Paul II ordered the return the bones of St. John Chrysostom, taken from Constantinople by European Christian knights during the last Crusade.  We must continue to pray that someday the Universal Church'East and West' will be reunited in common worship.

[For a more complete explanation of the events that led to the Great Eastern Schism please see the document "The Great Schism" in the Resources section].

 

Summary of the Events leading up to the Great Eastern Schism:

The great estrangement between Eastern and Western Rite Catholics finally came about on July 16, 1054.

¨      Removal of the Roman capital from Rome to Constantinople.

¨      Opposition to the council of Nicaea; autonomy of Byzantine bishops organized.

¨      Roman Emperor's interference in doctrinal matters

¨      The Council of Trullo: Greek council held in 692 attempted to dictate to the Bishop of Rome by declaring any ritual and disciplinary practice not in harmony with those in the East contrary to apostolic tradition.

¨      Iconoclast heresy 8th and early 9th centuries.

¨      Coronation of Charlemagne by Pope Leo III as Holy Roman Emperor, 800AD.

¨      Photian Schism mid 9th century: Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople made first deliberate attempt to serve the Greek Church from the West.  Disagreements ranged from a celibate priesthood to the filioque clause in the Creed, to the use of unleavened bread in the Eucharist, omitting the alleluia during Lent, etc.

¨      Patriarch Michal Cerularius declared the use of unleavened bread in the Holy Eucharist invalid and closed all Latin Rite Churches in Constantinople.  Pope Leo IX excommunicated Cerularius and the Great Schism began.

 

Despite the Church's trials and tribulations the Bride of Christ thrives in the 21st century fulfilling Jesus' commission that the Gospel of Jesus Christ be spread to the ends of the earth.  The universal Catholic Church of Jesus Christ includes these rites:

 

RITES OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

 

Rites indicated by the * are rites which recognize the authority of the Pope

as the Vicar of Christ and as the supreme head of the Holy Catholic Church

 

*WESTERN RITES

            LATIN RITES:

                        -Roman

                        -Ambrosian

-Gallican                      

            NON-LATIN RITES.

                        -Mozarabic

                        -Italo-Greek

 

EASTERN RITES

            ALEXANDRIAN RITES

                        -Coptic

                        -Ethiopian

 

            ARMENIAN RITE

 

            *BYZANTINE RITES

                        -Albanian

                        -Belarussian

                        -Bulgarian

 

            GEORGIAN RITES

                        -Greek

                        -Hungarian

                        -Italo-Greek/Italo-

 

            ALBANIAN RITES

                        -Melkite

                        -Romanian

                        -Russian

                        -Ruthenian

                        -Slovak

                        -Ukrainian

                        -Yugoslavian

 

            *ANTIOCHENE RITES

                        -Maronite

                        -Syrian

                        -Syro-Malankara

 

            *CHALDEAN RITES

                        -Chaldean

                        -Syro-Malabar

 

 

Roman Catholics call their liturgy the Mass, a title taken from the last words of the liturgy in the Latin, etta missa est, "go forth'it is our mission to carry Christ forth from our celebration to the ends of the earth as He commanded the Church in Matthew 28:19-20.  Eastern rite Catholics call their liturgical celebration the Divine Liturgy.  Those churches indicated by the * in the above list are those of the Eastern rites that are in union with the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church and are referred to as Eastern Catholics.  Those in the Eastern rites who are not in union with the Pope and the Magisterium are called Eastern Orthodox.  In both the Eastern Catholic churches and the Orthodox churches the Consecration of the Eucharist during the Divine Liturgy is valid.  A Roman Catholic, however, while permitted to visit an Orthodox liturgy is not permitted to receive Communion under an Orthodox rite and such an attendance would not qualify to fulfill the Sunday obligation.  There are circumstances in which receiving the Eucharist in the Orthodox rite is permitted but one must obtain permission from one's Bishop.  Attending an Eastern Catholic Divine Liturgy, for example a Byzantine Divine Liturgy, would fulfill the Sunday obligation and receiving Communion under the Eastern Catholic rites is fully acceptable.

 

THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION

 

It is a paradox that the Church is the sinless Bride of Christ and yet she is full of sinners.  Christ had promised that the gates of Hades would not prevail against His Church but sinful men wound the Body of Christ with their pride and abuses of authority. Long before the Protestant revolt faithful Catholics were convinced that the Church needed to be reformed.  It was not the religion of the Church that needed reforming but instead those in authority who professed the Catholic faith but did not live it.  Father John Laux writes "There is no better proof for the divine origin and guidance of the Church than the fact that she not only survived the great apostasy of the 16th century, but emerged from the conflict rejuvenated and prepared to meet new ones." Church History, page 458.

 

The Renaissance was a time of "rebirth" in learning and culture throughout Europe but the spirit of the Renaissance was also the greatest obstacle to reform in the expression of its pagan spirit which unfortunately reigned supreme in the city of Rome, home of the Catholic Church.  Sadly men of good will who desired reform were stymied at every level until the crisis boiled over in the early 16th century in the challenge presented by a German priest named Martin Luther and the German princes who supported him in the schism that came to be known as the Protestant Reformation. 

 

Luther led a movement to separate from the Church established by Jesus Christ and to follow doctrines that denied free will, asserted the complete corruption of human nature by Original Sin, the doctrine of justification by "faith alone", and the Scripture as the sole authority denying the authority of the Traditions passed down from Jesus to the Apostles to generations of Bishops.  This movement began what became a shattering of the Body of Christ that has led to the formation of thousands of different "Protestant Christian" denominations.  The first results of this disillusionment began with war.  Aroused by Luther's teachings and his disregard for authority the peasants rose against the state authorities in a war that devastated Germany.  Monasteries, convents and churches were attacked; priests were murdered and nuns raped.  Luther renounced the violence too late, and when the revolt was finally crushed the peasants were reduced to greater hardships than before the war began.  Before long every principality in central and northern Germany had broken with Rome and had its own "State Church" with each elector or prince as its chief bishop and these states made war against states that had kept faith with the Catholic Church.  Peace finally came with the Peace of Augsburg in 1555, which sealed the Protestant heresy in Europe.  The princes of Germany could choose their own religion and this religion was what their people were obliged to accept.  From the Lutheran break the cancer spread as Lutheranism was followed by numerous movements like Calvinism and later Anglicanism in the defection King Henry the VIII of England who established himself as head of the Church in England in order to obtain a divorce, which the Pope had refused to grant, from his good Catholic queen so he could marry his pregnant mistress.

 

Luther's defection did some good, however.  God can turn the worst of our mistakes to the better when we submit to His will.  Catholic reformers were spurred into action.  Pope Paul III reformed the Papal Court, and men like St. Ignatius of Loyola brought about many needed reforms.  St. Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus'the Jesuits.  This valiant Order of priests carried the Gospel message to the New World of the West while great missionaries like St. Francis Xavier spread the Gospel of Christ in the Far East. 

 

The Great Council of Trent was called by Pope Paul III in December of 1545 in order to address the reforms in the Church necessary to combat Protestantism.  Against the Protestants the Great Council declared that both Scripture and Tradition are the two sources of Divine Revelation and that all the books of both the Old and New Testament are equally inspired because they have God as their author.  They also declared that the Bible scriptures, in matters pertaining to faith and morals, cannot be interpreted without being interpreted in the living tradition of the Church in accord with the authoritative interpretations of the Church and the unanimous consent of the Fathers.  Other doctrines clearly articulated were dogmatic definitions concerning Original Sin, Justification, the Sacraments, the Sacrifice of the Mass, Purgatory, the Invocation and Veneration of the Saints, Sacred Relics and Images, and Indulgences. [For a more complete understanding of the controversy concerning Martin Luther and the Protestant movement please see the document The Protestant Reformation in the Resources section].

 

The Universal Church of Jesus Christ has faced numerous challenges down through the centuries and yet she remains the promised "fifth Kingdom" [Daniel 2:44], "the glorious City of God" [Revelation 21:2], and the "true Bride of Christ" [Revelation 19:6-9].  Cardinal Newman wrote of the Church's progress in history:

"The Church is ever militant; sometimes she gains, sometimes she loses; and more often she is at once gaining and losing in different parts of her territory.  What is ecclesiastical history but a record of the ever-doubtful fortune of the battle, though its issue is not doubtful.  Scarcely are we singing 'Te Deum,' when we have to turn to our 'Miserers'; scarcely are we in peace, when we are in persecution: scarcely have we a triumph, when we are visited by a scandal. Nay, we make progress by means of reverses; our griefs are our consolations; we lose Stephen to gain Paul, and Matthias replaces the traitor Judas..." [Church History, Laux, page 619].  

 

But no matter what our struggles we can never lose heart because we have been promised victory by Christ Himself!  Remember that you are a witness to the unfolding of Salvation history as well as a soldier in this great battle to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth, and Jesus has promised that your perseverance in faith will be rewarded with eternal life that will begin with a private audience with the Master of History!

 

GOD IS THE MASTER OF HISTORY

"We firmly believe that God is master of the world and of its history.  But the ways of His providence are often unknown to us.  Only at the end, when our partial knowledge ceases, when we see God 'face to face,' will we fully know the ways by which -- even though the dramas of evil and sin -- God has guided His creation to that definitive Sabbath rest of which He created heaven and earth."

~ Catechism of the Catholic Church #314

 

Questions for group discussion and group activity:

Group Activity Sheet: Understanding the masculine and feminine role in Salvation History: Using the references fill in the name and information missing in the far right bottom [4th] block.

OLD TESTAMENT                    NEW TESTAMENT

ADAM

1.  Created without sin 

 

2.  Ends physical life in sin   

 

3.  Falls to serpent          

 

4.  Loss of virginity

 

5.  The head/1st of human race

 

6.  Introduces sin into the world

 

7.  Serves himself at expense of humanity   

 

8.  Life given by breath/Spirit of God          

     (Genesis 2:7)

JESUS

1.  Born without sin

 

2.  Ends physical life without sin

 

3.  Conquers serpent

 

4.  Keeps virginity

 

5.  Head of the Church

 

6.  Takes away the sin of the world

 

7.  Sacrifices Himself for humanity

 

8.  Life given by Spirit of God and seed of the Woman

     (Genesis 3:15; Luke 1:35)

EVE

1.  Created without sin

 

 

2.  Ends physical life in sin

 

 

3.  Disobeys God

 

 

4.  Loss of virginity

 

 

5.  Mother of humanity

 

 

6.  1st sinner

 

 

7.  Self-interested/self-indulgent

 

 

8.  Made from man by God

     (Genesis 2:21-23)

NAME?___________

1. ____________________________________?

  

  (Luke 1:28-30; Gen. 3:16+Is.66:7; CCC 490-493)

2. ____________________________________?

 

    (Revelation 12:1; CCC 966)

3. ____________________________________?

 

   (Luke 1:38)

4. ____________________________________?

 

   (CCC 499-501)

5. ____________________________________?

 

   (Revelation 12:17; CCC 963)

6.  ____________________________________?

 

    (Luke 1:31-35,46-55)

7. ____________________________________?

     (Luke 2:35)

 

8. ____________________________________?

     (Jeremiah 31:22, literal = "the woman encompasses the man") 

(Jason G. Hull, 2005)

*See classroom handout for answers

In the Old Testament the love between God and His Covenant people was expressed by the Hebrew word hesed, meaning faithful, loyal, covenant-love.  In the New Covenant in Christ the New Testament calls us to love using the Greek word, agape.  In the common Greek of the 1st century this word meant "spiritual love" as opposed to erotic love [eros], or love of mankind and family [phileo]. But, the Christian community gave a uniquely Christian definition to the Greek word agapeAgape-love was defined as the way Jesus loves us and the way He commanded us to love each other: "I give you a new commandment: love one another; you must love one another just as I have loved you.  It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognize you as my disciples." John 13:34-35

 

Question: What unique kind of "love" is agape love, and how does it differ from love expressed in the Old Testament in the Hebrew word hesed ?  This Hebrew word expresses what the Israelites of the Old Covenant and Jews today understand concerning the love of God?  Hint: To understand the meaning of the words hesed and agape helps to define and express the most basic difference between the Old and New Covenants.  What was unique about the kind of love Jesus taught by the example of His death?

Answer: Hesed is the love of God in the context of the family bond of covenant, but agape-love intensifies that commitment of love and calls us to love with the same self-sacrificial love that Jesus demonstrated on the Cross.  It was the love that Adam was lacking in his defense of his bride Eve, but it was the love that Christ freely gave for His bride the Church.   The central unifying theme of Salvation History is God calling us back into His Covenant family'but a family "fathered" by Him in the same way He "fathered" Adam and Eve before the Fall'"fathered" in His image and likeness.  In the Old Covenant after the Fall from grace of our original parents, God governed the natural human family fathered by Adam, but the New Covenant is God's Master Plan for fathering His children through the New Covenant in the life of Christ'the life He freely offered on the Cross.  It is through Jesus' self-sacrificial love that God is able to fulfill His desire to "father" us by infusing us through the power of our Baptism and the Eucharist with the very life of the Most Holy Trinity! 

 

 "By his divine power, he has lavished on us all the things we needed for life and for true devotion, through the knowledge of him who has called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these, the greatest and priceless promises have been lavished on us, that through them you should share the divine nature and escape the corruption rife in the world through disordered passion.  With this in view, do your utmost to support your faith with goodness, goodness with understanding, understanding with self-control, self-control with perseverance, perseverance with devotion, devotion with kindness to the brothers, and kindness to the brothers with [agape] love." 1 Peter 3-7

 

As you continue to study the Bible please receive some advice on the study of Sacred Scripture from the much beloved St. Ephraim [ca.306-373AD].  St. Ephraim left home as a teenage, banished by his pagan father for his Christian sympathies.  He was given a home by St. James, Bishop of Nisibis and was baptized when he was 18 years old.  He studied doctrine and Scripture and became a teacher in the school founded by his bishop.  Later he entered the monastery at Edessa (modern Urfa, Turkey) and was ordained a deacon.  St. Ephraim was given an extraordinary gift in the interpretation of Holy Scripture.  He wrote many works in defense of the Catholic Church, on the mysteries of Jesus Christ, and the most beautiful poetry in honor of the Virgin Mary.  He was known as "The Prophet of the Syrians" and "The Lyre of the Holy Spirit."  He died in 373AD and was elevated to the position of Doctor of the Church in 1920 by Pope Gregory XV.

 

St. Ephraim's Advice on Scripture Study

            "Lord who can grasp all the wealth of just one of your words.  What we understand is much less than we leave behind; like thirsty people who drink from a fountain.  For your word, Lord, has many shades of meaning just as those who study it have many different points of view.  The Lord has colored his word with many hues so that each person who studies it can see in it what he loves.  He has hidden many treasures in his word so that each of us is enriched as we meditate on it. 

            The word of God is a tree of life that from all its parts offers you fruit that is blessed.  It is like that rock opened in the desert that from all its parts gave forth a spiritual drink.  He who comes into contact with some share of its treasure should not think that the only thing contained in the word is what he himself has found.  He should realize that he has only been able to find that one thing from among many others.  Nor, because only that one part has become his, should he say that the word is void and empty and look down on it.  But because he could not exhaust it, he should give thanks for its riches.  Be glad that you are overcome and do not be sad that it overcame you.  The thirsty man rejoices when he drinks and he is not downcast because he cannot empty the fountain.  Rather let the fountain quench your thirst than have your thirst quench the fountain.  Because if your thirst is quenched and the fountain is not exhausted, you can drink from it again whenever you are thirsty.  But if when your thirst is quenched and the fountain is also dried up, your victory will bode evil for you.  So be grateful for what you have received and don't grumble about the abundance left behind.  What you have received and what you have reached is your share.  What remains is your heritage.  What at one time you were unable to receive because of your weakness, you will be able to receive at other times if you persevere.  Do not have the presumption to try to take in one draft what cannot be taken in one draft and do not abandon out of laziness what can only be taken little by little." [St Ephraim of Syria, ca 306 – 373 AD].

           

"We are waiting for Yahweh;

He is our help and our shield,

For in Him our heart rejoices,

In His holy name we trust.

Yahweh, let your faithful love rest on us.

As our hope has rested in you." –Psalms 33:20-22

 

Praise be to Jesus Christ, now and forever!

 

 

APPENDIX:

THE POPES OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND

THE ROMAN EMPERORS from 14AD – 337AD

m = murdered; † = martyred

ROMAN EMPEROR

Date of

reign AD

BISHOP OF ROME

Date of reign AD

 

Tiberius - m.

14 – 37

(Jesus' earthly ministry is from 28AD-30AD)

St. Peter the Apostle,  Vicar of Christ 30 – 67 AD

 

Caligula - m.

37 – 41 

 

 

Claudius - m.

41 – 54

St. Peter the Apostle†

42 –  June 29th 67 (in Rome)

 

Nero - m

54 – 68

 

 

 

Galba - m

68 – 69

St. Linus†

67 – 78

 

Otho - m

69

 

 

 

Vitellius - m

69

 

 

 

Vespasian

69 – 79

St. Cletus†

78 – 90

 

Titus

79 – 81

 

 

 

Domitian - m

81 – 96

St. Clement I†

90 – 100

 

Nerva

96 – 98

St. Anacletus†

100 – 112

 

Trajan

98 – 117

St. Evaristus†

112 – 121

 

Hadrian

117 – 138

St. Alexander I†

121 – 132

 

Antoninus Pius

138 – 160

St. Sixtus I (Xystus) †

132 – 142

 

 

 

St. Telesphorus†

142 – 154

 

 

 

St. Hyginus†

154 – 158

 

Marcus Aurelius

160 – 180

St. Pius I†

 158 – 167   

 

 

 

St. Anicetus† (this is a

period of intense persecution)

   ?  – 175

 

Commodus - m

180 – 192

 

Pertinax - m

193

St. Soter†

   ?  – 182

 

Julianus - m

193

St. Victor†

193 – 203

 

Septimius Severus

193 – 211

St. Zephyrinus†

203 – 221

 

Caracalla - m

211 – 217

 

 

 

Macrinus - m

217 – 218 

 

 

 

Elagabalus - m

218 – 222 

St. Callixtus†

221 – 227

 

Alexander Severus

222 – 230

 

 

 

 

 

St. Urban I†

227 – 233

 

Maximinus Thrax – m

235 – 238

St. Pontianus†

233-238

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gordiani – m

238

 

 

 

Pulienus – m

238

St. Anterus†

238 - 239

 

Gordian III – m

238 – 244

St. Fabian†

239 - 253

 

Philip the Arabian - m

244 – 251

 

 

 

Decius – m

249 – 251

 

 

 

& sons – m

251 - 253

St. Cornelius†

253 – 255

 

Valerian – m

253 - 260

St. Lucius†

255 – 257

 

 

 

St. Stephen†

257 – 260

 

 

 

St. Sixtus II (Xystus) †

260 – 261

 

Gallienus – m

260 - 268

St. Dionysius

261 – 272

 

Claudius Gothicus

268 – 270

 

 

 

Aurelian – m

270 – 275

St. Felix I†

272 – 275

 

Tacitus – m?

275 – 276

St. Eutychianus†

275 – 283

 

Florianus – m

276

 

 

 

Probus – m

276 – 282

 

 

 

Carus – m

282 – 283

 

 

 

WESTERN EMPEROR

DATE of reign AD

EASTERN EMPEROR

DATE of reign AD

BISHOP OF ROME

DATE of

reign AD

 

Carinus – m

283 – 285

Numerian – m

283 – 284

St. Caius (Gaius)†

283 – 296

 

Diocletian

 

284 – 286

Diocletian

(rules in east )

284 - 305

 

 

 

Maximian

286 – 305

 

 

St.Marcellinus†

296 – 304

 

Constantius

305 – 306

Galerius

305 – 311

St. Marcellus†

304 – 309

 

Constantine

307 – 337

Lincinius – m

308 – 324

St. Eusebius

309 – 310

 

Constantine eliminates his rival in the east and rules solo as first Christian Roman Emperor

324 - 337

St. Melchiades (Miltiades)

311 – 314

 

St. Sylvester I

314 – 337

 

 

 

 

313AD – Edict of Milan recognizes Christianity as a legitimate religion protected by the Roman Empire and ends organized persecution of Christians by the Roman State.

Roman Emperor Constantine is baptized on his death bed in 337AD.

 

The list of Popes and dates is taken from the Annuario Pontificio, the official publication of the Holy See.  The earliest part of this official list is taken from the 5th century catalogue of Popes on a wall at the ancient Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls in Rome, placed there on the order of Pope St. Leo the Great (440 – 461AD).  Pope Leo's list continues through his pontificate but I have limited the list to the reign of Constantine and Pope St. Sylvester I.  Another earlier list is found in Bishop Eusebius' History of the Church written in the early 4th century in which Eusebius records a list of the first 12 Popes / Bishops of Rome from a list composed by St. Irenaeus in the 2nd century AD.  St. Irenaeus' list agrees with Pope Leo's list with the exception of Pope Anacletus [100-112AD] whose name is missing from Irenaeus' 2nd century list.  For St. Irenaeus' 2nd century list see Church History, Bishop Eusebius, Book V, chapter VI, 1-5 [Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, volume 1, page 221, Hendricks Publishing Company].  The chronological list of the Popes is from the Annuario Pontificio;  see Church History, Father John Laux, Tan Book Publishers, Inc., Appendix I**.  The chronological list of Roman Emperors is for the most part adapted from Augustus to Constantine, Robert M. Grant, Westminster Press, 1970. 
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2006 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

 

References and recommended reading:

1.      Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture vols I-III, Joseph T. Lienhard editor [InterVarsity Press, 2001].

2.      Feast of Faith, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger –Pope Benedict XVI, [Ignatius Press, 1986].

3.      Introduction to Christianity, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger-Pope Benedict XVI, [Ignatius Press].

4.      Mystery of the Kingdom, Edward P. Sri, [Emmaus Road Purblishing, 1999].

5.      One Holy and Apostolic, Kenneth Whitehead, [Ignatius Press, 2000].

6.      The First Christian Centuries, Paul McKechnie, [InterVarsity Press, 2001].

7.      The Works of Josephus, [Hendrickson Publishers, 1987].

8.      Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, Joachim Jeremias, [Fortress Press, 1969].

9.      The Feasts of the Lord, Kevin Howard, Marvin Rosenthal, [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997].

10.  Offerings, Sacrifices and Worship in the Old Testament, J.H. Kurtz, [Hendrickson Publishers, 1998].

11.  The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, Alfred Edersheim, [Hendrickson Publishers, 1994].

12.  Church History, Fr. John Laux, M.A. [Tan Books, 1989].

13.  Ancient Israel, edited by Hershel Shanks, [Biblical Archaeology Society, 1999].

14.  Dictionary of the Bible, John L. McKenzie, S.J. [Bruce Publishing Company, 1965].

15.  St. Jerome Commentary, Catholic Logos Software System

16.  Many Religions - One Covenant, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, [Ignatius Press, 1999]

17.  Sinai and Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible, Jon Levenson, [HarperSanFrancisco, 1987].

18.  The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol I-III, [Liturgical Press, 1970].

19.  Jewish Literacy, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, [William Morrow, 2001].

19. Homilies on Acts, St. John Chrysostom

20.  The Navarre Bible Commentary - Acts of Apostles, Gospel of Matthew

21. Catechism of the Catholic Church

22. Making Sense Out of Scripture, Mark Shea

23. Hail, Holy Queen, Dr. Scott Hahn

24. Introduction to Mary: The Heart of Marian Doctrine and Devotion, Dr. Mark Miravalle

25. Church History, Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea

26. Against Heresies, Bishop Irenaeus of Lyon

27. Christianity in the Roman Empire, Ralph Martin Novak, Trinity Press International

28. Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin in Patristic Thought;  Ignatius Press, 1991.

29. The Church of the Word Incarnate, vol. I & II , Charles Journet.

30. The Churches and the Church, Bernard Lemming

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.