(Part 1)


 The Martyrdom of St. Peter

WE now turn our attention to models of spiritual guidance afforded by the teaching and example of five early church leaders.

FIRST, we remind ourselves of biblical and apocryphal traditions concerning the Apostle Peter.  They offer us an example of church guidance and leadership formed in the painful crucible of divine love that was offered, accepted, misunderstood, rejected, betrayed, and repeatedly restored. Peter, model disciple and church leader, is a vivid reminder that violated covenants can be restored, and that betrayers can become humble leaders.

NEXT, Clement of Rome uses the example of the martyrs to quell dissension and rebellion in the early church, and he invokes the martyrs and apostles as the basis for a doctrine of apostolic succession. Thus both leadership and spiritual guidance are charismata [spiritual gifts] bestowed by God through the successors of the apostles.

THEN, Ignatius of Antioch also invokes the popular imagery of martyrdom: he has been condemned to public execution in Rome for his faith.  But Ignatius emphasizes his status as “matryr-elect” to emphasize the transforming power of the Eucharist, the community created by sacramental worship, and the Bishop’s role in the community.

THEN, Irenæus of Lyons introduces and develops themes that will be crucial in the developing understanding of Christian spiritual guidance: theosis (divinization); recapitulation and healing of all the stages of human growth and development; and contemplation (the “vision” of God) as the key to our spiritual journey.

FINALLY, St, Athanasius places the doctrine of theosis at the center of his theology of salvation.  He presents Antony as a model of spiritual development: Antony is an example of one guided by the Scriptures, by spiritual elders, and by the example of the local Christian community; and his theosis enables him to teach others.

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