November 22, 2016

Optional Memorial of Saint Clement I, Pope and Martyr

Pope Saint Clement I
Pope St. Clement Adoring the Trinity
November 23rd, is the optional memorial of Pope Saint Clement I, also known as Clement of Rome, the 1st century pontiff and martyr who was converted by Saint Peter [possibly along with Saint Paul] and ordained by the same. A seminal figure in early Christianity, he served as the forth Bishop of Rome and is considered the first Apostolic Father of the Church. Saint Clement of Alexandria called him an apostle; and Rufinus, (the monastic theologian and translator) almost an apostle. He accompanied St. Paul to Philippi and was a companion of the latter, with Sts. Luke and Timothy, in many of his missionary journeys. St. Paul ranks him among those whose names are inscribed in the book of life. St. Clement's letter to the Corinthians is a precious treasure from the apostolic period.

In his letter (1 Clement) dated around 95 AD to the Christian community in the Greek city of Corinth, St. Clement responds to a dispute in which presbyters of the Corinthian church were deposed. He asserts the legitimacy of the presbyters as appointed by the Apostles. His letter was read in church, along with other epistles, and was among the first to affirm the apostolic authority of the clergy. The letter itself reveals much about St. Clement. The text was originally in Greek. It contains numerous scriptural citations. The prominence of the Old Testament passages suggests St. Clement was a convert to Christianity from Judaism. Most notable is the letter's use of texts that would in time become the New Testament. Lastly, Clement pleads for unity in charity and a respect for those in leadership positions. Using language similar to that in 1 Corinthians 13, he explains in part:
The height, where unto love exalteth, is unspeakable. Love joineth us unto God; love covereth a multitude of sins; love endureth all things, is long-suffering in all things. There is nothing coarse, nothing arrogant in love. Love hath no divisions, love maketh no seditions, love doeth all things in concord. In love were all the elect of God made perfect; without love nothing is well pleasing to God: in love the Master took us unto Himself; for the love which He had toward us, Jesus Christ our Lord hath given His blood for us by the will of God, and His flesh for our flesh and His life for our lives. (49: 4-6)
According to tradition, Clement was imprisoned under the Emperor Trajan; during this time, he is said to have led a ministry among his fellow prisoners. By order of the Emperor Trajan, he was executed by being tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea. The Breviary recounts his martyrdom: "While he was making his way to the sea, the people cried with a loud voice: Lord Jesus Christ, save him! But Clement prayed in tears: Father, receive my spirit." At the shore the Christians asked God to give them the body. The sea receded for three miles and there they found the body of the saint in a stone coffin within a small marble chapel; beside which lay the anchor. "You have given a dwelling to Your martyr Clement in the sea, O Lord, a temple of marble built by the hands of angels." His remains were taken to Rome under Pope Nicholas 1 by Saints Cyril and Methodius and placed in the church dedicated in his honor (the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome).

Pope Saint Clement was a man of faith, an apostolic father, a unifying leader and a humble servant who underlined that the Church's structure and mission was sacramental and not political. The hope of Christians is beautifully expressed in St. Clement's prayer to God: "Yes, O Lord, make your face to shine upon us for good in peace, that we may be shielded by your mighty hand... through the High Priest and Guardian of our souls, Jesus Christ, through whom be glory and majesty to you both now and from generation to generation, for evermore." Almighty ever-living God, who are wonderful in the virtue of all your Saints, grant us joy in the yearly commemoration of St. Clement, who, as a Martyr and High Priest of your most holy Son our Savior and King, bore out by his witness what he celebrated in mystery and confirmed by example what he preached in words.

No comments :