Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Passing Beyond the Angels

John, therefore, did distinctly foresee the first "resurrection of the just," and the inheritance in the kingdom of the earth; and what the prophets have prophesied concerning it harmonize. For the Lord also taught these things, when He promised that He would have the mixed cup new with His disciples in the kingdom. The apostle, too, has confessed that the creation shall be freed from the bondage of corruption, into the liberty of the sons of God. And in all these things, and by them all, the same God the Father is manifested, who fashioned man, and gave promise of the inheritance of the earth to the fathers, who brought it forth at the resurrection of the just, and fulfils the promises for the kingdom of His Son; subsequently bestowing in a paternal manner those things which neither the eye has seen, nor the ear has heard, nor has it arisen within the heart of man. For there is the one Son, who accomplished His Father's will; and one human race also in which the mysteries of God are wrought, "which the angels desire to look into;" and they are not able to search out the wisdom of God, by means of which His handiwork, confirmed and incorporated with His Son, is brought to perfection; that His offspring, the First-begotten Word, should descend to the made, that is, to what had been moulded, and that it should be contained by Him; and, on the other hand, the creature should contain the Word, and ascend to Him, passing beyond the angels, and be made after the image and likeness of God.

Irenaeus of Lyons, Adversus Haereses, Book V, Chapter 36, section 3. He is thought to have been born in Smyrna. The young Irenaeus was a priest during the persecution under Marcus Aurelius; his predecessor in the episcopacy of Lyons (Lugdunum, as it was called at the time) was martyred toward the end of that persecution. As a new bishop he had to perform the hard work of consolidation, which he did admirably. He wrote a number of works, all in Greek, but of the original Greek only fragments remain. His major works, Against Heresies and Proof of the Apostolic Preaching are, however, known in very early Latin translation. His tomb was completely destroyed in the sixteenth century by the Huguenots. It was at one charged against him that he exaggerated in his descriptions of the Gnostics, which Against Heresies criticizes, erecting straw men to knock down, but repeatedly he has been vindicated by later discoveries; he seems to have been very scrupulous about getting them right. Today is his feast day in the West.

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