Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Great teachers of the 4th century 四世紀的偉大聖師

In the last two weeks we have looked at some great champions of orthodoxy of the 4th century: St. Athanasius and the Cappadocian Fathers. This week let us look at some great teachers of the faith of the same century.

St. John Chrysostom (354-407)

John of Antioch was surnamed Chrysostom (the Golden Mouth) because of his eloquence. He was a monk who later became a deacon in 381, then a priest in 386. For a long time, because of his humility, John hesitated about becoming a priest.
While he was considering the question he wrote the beautiful treatise On the Priesthood. About the absolving power of priests he wrote: "What priests do here below, God ratifies above; the Master confirms the sentences of His servants."
After his ordination to the priesthood John preached wonderful sermons on the Scriptures. Following the principles of the school of Antioch, his exegesis was both historical and doctrinal, and rich in moral applications. As Patriarch of Constantinople John preached so fearlessly against vices and sins that he was disliked and hated by the court bishops and the Empress Eudoxia.
In 403 his enemies managed to have John sentenced to exile, but the people rose in revolt and forced the court to recall him. Within two months, however, he was exiled again. In his exile, John wrote most of the 240 letters that have come down to us.
John was still too influential for his enemies; hence the Emperor Theodosius commanded that John be driven farther away, to Pityus on the northeast coast of the Black Sea. John died of fatigue and hardship on his way there in 407.
Thirty years later, Emperor Theodosius II ordered the relics of John to be brought back to Constantinople. There was great rejoicing among the people. The emperor laid his face upon the coffin, begging God to forgive his parents for having persecuted John.

St. Ambrose (339-397)

In the west, the Latin Fathers adapted the teachings of the Greek Fathers to their listeners. The Latin Fathers emphasized more the spiritual and allegorical interpretation of Sacred Scripture. The Greek Fathers were original and speculative in theological thought, while the Latin Fathers, as pastors and moralists, were more interested in practical questions and on the theology of a Christian society.
St. Ambrose was a governor. After the death of the bishop of Milan, Ambrose maintained order at the election of the new bishop. Suddenly someone cried: "Ambrose bishop!"
At once the people took up the cry. Ambrose was only a catechumen, and he tried in different ways to escape the episcopacy, but the people insisted and Ambrose finally gave in. Within eight days he received all the necessary sacraments, from baptism to episcopal consecration!
Ambrose was one of the best bishops in history. He devoted himself to the study of the Bible and Christian writings. He devoted his property to the care of the poor and the support of the Church. He introduced strong discipline into the Church at Milan. He even disciplined the emperor and was the first theologian to discuss church-state relations.
The writings of St. Ambrose are hymns, letters, and a work on morality.

St. Jerome (ca. 330-420)

St. Jerome was baptized in 360. He became a monk and studied Hebrew. After assisting at the Council of Constantinople he went to Rome and became the secretary and close friend of Pope Damasus.
At that time most of the religious books were written in Greek, the language of the upper class. Pope Damasus asked Jerome to translate the Bible into Latin, the language of the common people. The translation of Jerome is known as "the Vulgate."
St. Jerome was the spiritual adviser of a number of noble ladies who had formed a religious community. In 386 St. Jerome settled down at Bethlehem. He spent most his time in a little cell just big enough to shelter himself and his books.
St. Jerome died on September 30, 420.
Next week, we are going to look at the greatest Church Father, St. Augustine.

相繼兩週,我們談過四世紀東方教會一些極優秀的大聖師——聖亞大納削(達修)St. Athanasius和卡巴多喜亞的教父們the Cappadocian Fathers。本週,我們探討同期偉大的信仰導師。

聖若望金口St. John Chrysostom (354-407)





聖盎博羅削St. Ambrose (339-397)

東方希臘的教父們,多從聖經的原文,推斷出神學思想,而西方拉丁的教父們, 則借用東方教會的箸作來訓導聽眾。拉丁教父比較着重從神修和寓意去詮釋聖經。作為牧者和倫理家,拉丁教父着重信仰的實踐和建立基督徒的社會。

聖盎博羅削原是皇帝委任的總督,但米蘭主教死後,在遴選新主教的集會中維持秩序。會塲中突然有人高呼:「選盎博羅削為主教! 」頓時一呼百應,群眾一致推舉祂接任主教一職。聖人當時只是慕道者,尚未領洗, 故設法推搪,未果,遂在八天內,火速接受所有必需的聖事,終晉牧為米蘭主教。



聖熱羅尼莫St. Jerome (ca. 330-420)

聖熱羅尼莫在三六零年受洗,後來隱修,除精通拉丁文,也學習希伯來文。出席君士坦丁堡大公會議後,轉到羅馬,任教宗達瑪蘇Pope Damasus的秘書,更成為摯友。

當時,很多書籍是用希臘文寫成,屬於社會上流階層的讀物。教宗達瑪蘇請熱羅尼莫把聖經翻譯成拉丁文,讓熟悉拉丁文的普羅大眾閱讀。這巨箸就是後世認定的拉丁聖經通俗本the Vulgate。


下星期,我們將談談教會最重要的教父——聖奧斯定St. Augustine。

Published at Pax Sinica column (September 20) of The B.C . Catholic newspaper