Introducing Patristic Voices: Content, Methods, and Goals

Patristic scholars are kind of a rare breed in theology.  This fact makes a student’s attempt at writing on early church documents seem comical, perhaps even rash.  But if the scholars are rare and the students are many but the scholars aren’t heard and the students don’t talk – well, you see the problem.  Here, in this Patristic Voices series, we hope to present some patristic works to the reader, not as a scholar, but as an admirer of early church writers.  We hope to create not only conversation but reflection, self-examination, and passion in the reader.  Early church writers often suffered and died for the faith that they loved, it seems appropriate that we try to open ourselves to feel the same passion for the same love.

Each week we will highlight a passage from an early church writer.  The “Patristic” age is a bit ambiguous and can cover a wide range of time.  We will use texts from the eastern and western traditions, from times ranging from a few years after the death of Jesus Christ to the turn of the first millennium.  We will share some of our own reflection on the author’s work as well as what other authors might have written about the same passage.  We hope that readers take seriously our hope that these passages will create conversation and we encourage you to leave comments – inspiring, critical, respectful comments!

Finally, we hope that this series will inspire the reader to learn more about the writers they read, to integrate those writers and the insights they share into their own lives, and to ultimately deepen their love and passion of God.  St. Anselm, although he lived from 1033-1109 and would technically fall outside the realm of patristics, begins one of his most famous works, the Proslogion, with a fitting prayer to begin our series with.  It is worth noting that this is how he begins a very systematic work – we, especially students, often forget that academic writings, among other types, can and should be both edifying and inspiring.

 Come now, insignificant human, fly for a moment from your affairs,

escape for a little while from the tumult of your thoughts. 

Put aside now your weighty cares and leave your wearisome toils. 

Abandon yourself for a little to God and rest for a little in Him. 

Enter into the inner chamber of your soul, shut out everything save God

and what can be of help in your quest for Him

and having locked the door seek Him out (Matthew 6:6). 

Speak now, my whole heart, speak now to God:

“I seek Your countenance, O Lord, Your countenance I seek” (Psalm 26:8). 

Come then, Lord my God, teach my heart where and how to seek You,

where and how to find You. 

…Lord, You are my God and my Lord, and never have I seen You. 

You have created me and re-created me

and You have given me all the good things I possess,

and still I do not know You. 

In short, I was made in order to see You,

and I have not yet accomplished what I was made for.

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Thomas Palanza Jr. is a student at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry in the Master of Theological Studies program.  He earned his undergraduate degree in theology from the Catholic University of America.  While he loves all areas of theology, it is St. Paul and St. Augustine who most frequently soften his hardness of heart and his family, friends, and professors who open it up even more.  Tom will be writing his “Patristics Voices” column weekly.

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