Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Irenaeus

Today is the memorial for St. Irenaeus, who was born at some point in the first half, and probably the first quarter, of the second century. He had been a student of St. Polycarp, and from there went to Lugdunum (present day Lyon), to assist the new bishop. In 177 or so, while still a priest, he was sent to Rome on a mission and met Pope Eleutherius. This was during the time of Marcus Aurelius, in which the laws were pressed against the Christians a bit more strictly, although not with complete consistency anywhere. While Irenaeus was in Rome, a crackdown on Christians occurred in Lyon. The bishop of Lyon, St. Pothinus was imprisoned; when Irenaeus returned, and St. Pothinus had died in prison, Irenaeus became bishop. After that, almost no information about him has survived, except his works, the most important of which is Adversus Haereses, a polemic against Gnosticism. From Adversus Haeresus, Book V, Chapter 2

By His own blood he redeemed us, as also His apostle declares, "In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the remission of sins." And as we are His members, we are also nourished by means of the creation (and He Himself grants the creation to us, for He causes His sun to rise, and sends rain when He wills). He has acknowledged the cup (which is a part of the creation) as His own blood, from which He bedews our blood; and the bread (also a part of the creation) He has established as His own body, from which He gives increase to our bodies.

When, therefore, the mingled cup and the manufactured bread receives the Word of God, and the Eucharist of the blood and the body of Christ is made, from which things the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they affirm that the flesh is incapable of receiving the gift of God, which is life eternal, which [flesh] is nourished from the body and blood of the Lord, and is a member of Him?— even as the blessed Paul declares in his Epistle to the Ephesians, that "we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones."

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