Friday, April 4, 2014

Friday of Fourth Week: Sant' Eusebio

Wow, we've been at this for a while.  Four whole weeks of churches!  Plus the Ash Wednesday half week at the beginning... time has been fuh-lying by, it seems.  But it always feels good to make it to the weekend.  Yahoo!  Today's experience of the station church did not disappoint.  Well what I really mean is, it did not "disappoint".  On our 23rd attempt, mother nature finally decided she would really open up the sky on us, and boy did she let 'er rip.  The celestial announcement went something like this: "Oh you have umbrellas?  lololololololol...".

We made it about 35 minutes scot-free, but in the last ten minutes it rained hard enough to soak me from the bottom up.  By the time we made it to our church, I had two pools in my shoes and waterlogged pants up to my waist.  All the papers in my backpack were in a competition to see which one could absorb the most moisture.  Thank the Lord I left my breviary and laptop at home!  They wouldn't have made it.

Sant' Eusebius

This church is dedicated to a priest and martyr of the Roman church who lived during the fourth century.  Eusebius was associated with all the fun we were talking about yesterday and the Church's first council at Nicea.  Holding fast to the doctrine regarding the divinity of Christ in the tumultuous period following Nicea I, he was condemned to death by starvation in 357 after defending St. Athanasius before the Emperor Constans.  The sentence is believed to have been inflicted by his being locked in his own house, which stood in the spot underneath the current church.

When you walk into this church, on the vaulted ceiling you'll see a large image of St. Eusebius in glory, holding a tablet on which is inscribed the Greek phrase 'homoousion to Patri' ( ὁμοούσιον τῷ Πατρί ).  In English it would be, 'consubstantial with the Father'.  Wait a minute!  You're saying that this phrase we say every Sunday as part of the creed was the product of a Church council way back in 325?  Yup.  Notice that what we pray in church is called the 'Nicene' creed.  Comes from the first Council of Nicea.  Actually, technically the creed of Nicea was in a simpler form.  The creed we pray today comes from the Church's second council at Constantinople in 381 (so its full name is the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. whew!).

But wait another minute, what's going on with these creeds, why is the Church coming up with these things?  Because these were the days of the wild west, my friend!  Lots of people like Arius were running around and teaching things about God which were not true.  And this doesn't just begin in the 300s, it goes back all the way to the beginning, you see even in the writings of St. Paul less than 40 years after the death of Jesus that some people are preaching falsely or acting without the Church's apostolic mandate and confusing or scandalizing people.

So the historical development and clarification of our articles of faith were a product of the Church's need to combat heresy, of needing to say, "No we don't believe that, we believe this.  And in order to stay on the God Squad you gotta hold this (and not that) set of beliefs to be true."  And people went to bat over this, to the point of sacrificing their lives over words?  Oh yeah.  Eusebius went to bat to protect a single letter.  His was the difference between homo(o)usion (one in substance) and homo(i)usion (similar in substance).  Was it really that important?  Well it's the difference between calling Jesus a Great Man and the God-Man, and that is a world of difference.

Sorry I got on a bit of a tangent, I'll stop here, but hopefully you learned a little bit today about the history of all this stuff and the faith which the saints have protected for us by giving up their lives.  That's something to be thankful for!

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