Cette lettre de saint Clément qui permit d’éviter un schisme
Aliénor Goudet - published on 22/11/21
À la fin du premier siècle, l'Église de la ville de Corinthe est divisée entre les chrétiens d’origine juive et les chrétiens d’origine païenne. Craignant un schisme, le pape Clément leur écrit afin de mettre fin à leurs divisions, contraires au message du Christ. Une belle apologie de l'unité.
Rome, an 96. Le temps est agréable en cette matinée de printemps. Pourtant, le troisième successeur de saint Pierre fait grise mine. Clément à reçu des nouvelles de Corinthe, et celles-ci ne sont pas meilleures que les précédentes. Depuis quelque temps, les chrétiens de Corinthe sont en proie à la division. Tous ont reconnu le Christ. Mais les origines juives des uns et païennes des autres sèment la discorde. De nombreux presbytres, chefs des communautés, se sont vu chasser de leurs fonctions à la suite d’une révolte.
Un mauvais pressentiment hante l’esprit du pape. L’Église de Corinthe pourrait subir une rupture irréparable. Hors, il est de son devoir d’unir les chrétiens du monde sous la bannière de Jésus.
L’épître aux Corinthiens
Clément se doit de ramener la sagesse dans le chaos. Sans attendre, il va écrire à la communauté. Il commence sa lettre en saluant dignement ses frères de foi. Puis, il remarque l’importance de l’unité, qui doit être force et pilier de l’Eglise. Mais les reproches ne tardent pas à suivre. Les presbytres chassés par les corinthiens possèdent des vertus indéniables. Honte aux agitateurs qui s’en sont pris à eux ! N’ont-ils pas conscience de ce qu’ils ont fait ?
– Cela a fait naître un schisme qui en a perverti beaucoup et en a jeté beaucoup dans le découragement, beaucoup dans le doute, et la révolte continue.
Sans parler du fait que cette division donne aux païens de quoi blasphémer de plus belle. Ce n’est pas que Corinthe mais toute l’Eglise qui est affectée. Où est l’unité que le Christ est venu établir ? Clément ponctue sa lettre d’exemple de la Bible pour parler aux chrétiens d’origine juive. Pour ceux de culture hellénique, il puise dans la mythologie et la philosophie païenne. Que la culture ne soit point un obstacle mais un support !
Héritier de saint Paul
Humblement, Clément continue sa lettre. Les Corinthiens ne sont pas les seuls fautifs. Tous les chrétiens du monde sont pécheurs et doivent se reprendre lorsqu’ils s’égarent. Mais comme le Christ est miséricordieux, il pardonne tout en toutes circonstances.
– Aussi, soumettons-nous à sa magnifique et glorieuse volonté, faisons-nous suppliants, lui demandant à genoux sa pitié et sa bonté. Recourant à ses miséricordes, abandonnons les vaines préoccupations et la jalousie qui mènent à la mort.
Charité, humilité, unité… Ce sont les qualités que Dieu demande à ses enfants. Lorsque les envoyés de Clément lisent la lettre, l’assemblé n’en perd pas une miette. Saint Paul s’est adressé à eux de la même manière il y a quelques décennies. Les mots de Clément saisissent les cœurs de tous ceux qui les entendent.
– Qu’il demeure donc entier ce corps que nous formons en Jésus-Christ ! Que chacun respecte en son prochain le charisme qu’il a reçu.
Le pape conclut sa lettre par une prière pour l’Église de Dieu. Dès cet instant, les chrétiens se repentent, et l’Église de Corinthe est de nouveau unie.
Lire aussi :Ce pape qui a arrêté Attila aux portes de Rome
SOURCE : https://fr.aleteia.org/2021/11/22/cette-lettre-de-saint-clement-qui-permit-deviter-un-schisme/?utm_campaign=EM-FR-Newsletter-Daily-&utm_content=Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=sendinblue&utm_term=20211123
Vincent Raymond. Initiale "O" avec Saint Clément pape et martyr. Antiphonaire de la Chapelle Sixtine,
1539, Vincent Raymond de Lodève. Chazen Museum of Art, Université du Wisconsin à Madison,
Richard R. and Jean D. McKenzie Endowment Fund purchase, 2001.30
Pope St. Clement
Pope St. Clement I
Pope Clement I (called CLEMENS ROMANUS to distinguish him from the Alexandrian), is the first of the successors of St. Peter of whom anything definite is known, and he is the first of the "Apostolic Fathers". His feast is celebrated 23 November. He has left one genuine writing, a letter to the Church of Corinth, and many others have been attributed to him.
The fourth pope
According to Tertullian, writing c. 199, the Roman Church claimed that Clement was ordained by St. Peter (De Praescript., xxxii), and St. Jerome tells us that in his time "most of the Latins" held that Clement was the immediate successor of the Apostle (Illustrious Men 15). St. Jerome himself in several other places follows this opinion, but here he correctly states that Clement was the fourth pope. The early evidence shows great variety. The most ancient list of popes is one made by Hegesippus in the time of Pope Anicetus, c. 160 (Harnack ascribes it to an unknown author under Soter, c. 170), cited by St. Epiphanius (Haer., xxvii, 6). It seems to have been used by St. Irenæus (Haer., III, iii), by Julius Africanus, who composed a chronography in 222, by the third- or fourth-century author of a Latin poem against Marcion, and by Hippolytus, who see chronology extends to 234 and is probably found in the "Liberian Catalogue" of 354. That catalogue was itself adopted in the "Liber Pontificalis". Eusebius in his chronicle and history used Africanus; in the latter he slightly corrected the dates. St. Jerome's chronicle is a translation of Eusebius's, and is our principal means for restoring the lost Greek of the latter; the Armenian version and Coptic epitomes of it are not to be depended on. The varieties of order are as follows:
- Linus, Cletus, Clemens (Hegesippus, ap. Epiphanium, Canon
Linus, Anencletus, Clemens (Irenaeus, Africanus ap. Eusebium).
Linus, Anacletus, Clemens (Jerome).
- Linus, Cletus, Anacletus, Clemens (Poem against Marcion),
- Linus, Clemens, Cletus, Anacletus [Hippolytus (?), "Liberian Catal."- "Liber. Pont."].
- Linus, Clemens, Anacletus (Optatus, Augustine).
ChronologyThe date intended by Hegesippus is not hard to restore. Epiphanius implies that he placed the martyrdom of the Apostles in the twelfth year of Nero. Africanus calculated the fourteenth year (for he had attributed one year too little to the reigns of Caligula and Claudius), and added the imperial date for the accession of each pope; but having two years too few up to Anicetus he could not get the intervals to tally with the years of episcopate given by Hegesippus. He had a parallel difficulty in his list of the Alexandrian bishops.
|Hegesippus||Africanus (from Eusebius)||Interval||Real Dates A.D.|
If we start, as Hegesippus intended, with Nero 12 (see last column), the sum of his years brings us right for the last three popes. But Africanus has started two years wrong, and in order to get right at Hyginus he has to allow one year too little to each of the preceding popes, Sixtus and Telesphorus. But there is one inharmonious date, Trajan 2, which gives seven and ten years to Clement and Euaristus instead of nine and eight. Evidently he felt bound to insert a traditional date — and in fact we see that Trajan 2 was the date intended by Hegesippus. Now we know that Hegesippus spoke about Clement's acquaintance with the Apostles, and said nothing about any other pope until Telesphorus, "who was a glorious martyr." It is not surprising, then, to find that Africanus had, besides the lengths of episcopate, two fixed dates from Hegesippus, those of the death of Clement in the second year of Trajan, and of the martyrdom of Telesphorus in the first year of Antoninus Pius. We may take it, therefore, that about 160 the death of St. Clement was believed to have been in 99.
IdentityOrigen identifies Pope Clement with St. Paul's fellow-labourer (Philippians 4:3), and so do Eusebius, Epiphanius, and Jerome — but this Clement was probably a Philippian. In the middle of the nineteenth century it was the custom to identity the pope with the consul of 95, T. Flavius Clemens, who was martyred by his first cousin, the Emperor Domitian, at the end of his consulship. But the ancients never suggest this, and the pope is said to have lived on till the reign of Trajan. It is unlikely that he was a member of the imperial family. The continual use of the Old Testament in his Epistle has suggested to Lightfoot, Funk, Nestle, and others that he was of Jewish origin. Probably he was a freedman or son of a freedman of the emperor's household, which included thousands or tens of thousands. We know that there were Christians in the household of Nero (Philippians 4:22). It is highly probable that the bearers of Clement's letter, Claudius Ephebus and Valerius Vito, were of this number, for the names Claudius and Valerius occur with great frequency in inscriptions among the freedmen of the Emperor Claudius (and his two predecessors of the same gens) and his wife Valeria Messalina. The two messengers are described as "faithful and prudent men, who have walked among us from youth unto old age unblameably", thus they were probably already Christians and living in Rome before the death of the Apostles about thirty years earlier. The Prefect of Rome during Nero's persecution was Titus Flavius Sabinus, elder brother of the Emperor Vespasian, and father of the martyred Clemens. Flavia Domitilla, wife of the Martyr, was a granddaughter of Vespasian, and niece of Titus and Domitian; she may have died a martyr to the rigours of her banishment The catacomb of Domitilla is shown by existing inscriptions to have been founded by her. Whether she is distinct from another Flavia Domitilla, who is styled "Virgin and Martyr", is uncertain. (See FLAVIA DOMITILLA and NEREUS AND ACHILLEUS) The consul and his wife had two sons Vespasian and Domitian, who had Quintilian for their tutor. Of their life nothing is known. The elder brother of the martyr Clemens was T. Flavius Sabinus, consul in 82, put to death by Domitian, whose sister he had married. Pope Clement is rep resented as his son in the Acts of Sts. Nereus and Achilleus, but this would make him too young to have known the Apostles.
MartyrdomOf the life and death of St, Clement nothing is known. The apocryphal Greek Acts of his martyrdom were printed by Cotelier in his "Patres Apost." (1724, I, 808; reprinted in Migne, P.G., II, 617, best edition by Funk, "Patr. Apost.", II, 28). They relate how he converted Theodora, wife of Sisinnius, a courtier of Nerva, and (after miracles) Sisinnius himself and four hundred and twenty-three other persons of rank. Trajan banishes the pope to the Crimea, where he slakes the thirst of two thousand Christian confessors by a miracle. The people of the country are converted, seventy-five churches are built. Trajan, in consequence, orders Clement to be thrown into the sea with an iron anchor. But the tide every year recedes two miles, revealing a Divinely built shrine which contains the martyr's bones. This story is not older than the fourth century. It is known to Gregory of Tours in the sixth. About 868 St. Cyril, when in the Crimea on the way to evangelize the Chazars, dug up some bones in a mound (not in a tomb under the sea), and also an anchor. These were believed to be the relics of St. Clement. They were carried by St. Cyril to Rome, and deposited by Adrian II with those of St. Ignatius of Antioch in the high altar of the basilica of St. Clement in Rome. The history of this translation is evidently quite truthful, but there seems to have been no tradition with regard to the mound, which simply looked a likely place to be a tomb. The anchor appears to be the only evidence of identity but we cannot gather from the account that it belonged to the scattered bones. (See Acta SS., 9 March, II, 20.) St. Clement is first mentioned as a martyr by Rufinus (c. 400). Pope Zozimus in a letter to Africa in 417 relates the trial and partial acquittal of the heretic Caelestius in the basilica of St. Clement; the pope had chosen this church because Clement had learned the Faith from St. Peter, and had given his life for it (Ep. ii). He is also called a martyr by the writer known as Praedestinatus (c. 430) and by the Synod of Vaison in 442. Modern critics think it possible that his martyrdom was suggested by a confusion with his namesake, the martyred consul. But the lack of tradition that he was buried in Rome is in favour of his having died in exile.
The basilicaThe church of St. Clement at Rome lies in the valley between the Esquiline and Coelian hills, on the direct road from the Coliseum to the Lateran. It is now in the hands of the Irish Province of Dominicans. With its atrium, its choir enclosed by a wall, its ambos, it is the most perfect model of an early basilica in Rome, though it was built as late as the first years of the twelfth century by Paschal II, after the destruction of this portion of the city by the Normans under Robert Guiscard. Paschal II followed the lines of an earlier church, on a rather smaller scale, and employed some of its materials and fittings The marble wall of the present choir is of the date of John II (533-5). In 1858 the older church was unearthed, below the present building, by the Prior Father Mulooly, O.P. Still lower were found chambers of imperial date and walls of the Republican period. The lower church was built under Constantine (d. 337) or not much later. St. Jerome implies that it was not new in his time: "nominis eius [Clementis] memoriam usque hodie Romae exstructa ecclesia custodit" (Illustrious Men 15). It is mentioned in inscriptions of Damasus (d. 383) and Siricius (d. 398). De Rossi thought the lowest chambers belonged to the house of Clement, and that the room immediately under the altar was probably the original memoria of the saint. These chambers communicate with a shrine of Mithras, which lies beyond the apse of the church, on the lowest level. De Rossi supposed this to be a Christian chapel purposely polluted by the authorities during the last persecution. Lightfoot has suggested that the rooms may have belonged to the house of T. Flavius Clemens the consul, being later mistaken for the dwelling of the pope; but this seems quite gratuitous. In the sanctuary of Mithras a statue of the Good Shepherd was found.
Many writings have been falsely attributed to Pope St. Clement I:
- The "Second Clementine Epistle to the Corinthians", discussed under III.
- Two "Epistles to Virgins", extant in Syriac in an Amsterdam manuscript of 1470. The Greek originals are lost. Many critics have believed them genuine, for they were known in the fourth century to St. Epiphanius (who speaks of their being read in the Churches) and to St. Jerome. But it is now admitted on all hands that they cannot be by the same author as the genuine Epistle to the Corinthians. Some writers, as Hefele and Westcott, have attributed them to the second half of the second century, but the third is more probable (Harnack, Lightfoot). Harnack thinks the two letters were originally one. They were first edited by Wetstein, 1470, with Latin translation, reprinted by Gallandi, "Bibl. vett. Patr.", I, and Migne, P.G., I. They are found in Latin only in Mansi, "Concilia", I, and Funk "Patres Apost.", II. See Lightfoot, "Clement of Rome" (London, 1890), I Bardenhewer, "Gesch. der altkirchl. Litt." (Freiburg im Br., 1902), I; Harnack in "Sitzungsber. der k. preuss. Akad. der Wiss." (Berlin, 1891), 361 and "Chronol." (1904), II, 133.
- At the head of the Pseudo-Isidorian decretals stand five letters attributed to St. Clement. The first is the letter of Clement to James translated by Rufinus (see III); the second is another letter to James, found in many manuscripts of the "Recognitions". The other three are the work of Pseudo-Isidore (See FALSE DECRETALS.)
- Ascribed to Clement are the "Apostolical Constitutions", "Apostolic Canons", and the "Testament of Our Lord", also a Jacobite Anaphora (Renaudot, Liturg. Oriental. Coll., Paris, 1716, II; Migne, P.G., II). For other attributions see Harnack, "Gesch. der altchr. Lit." I, 777-80. The "Clementines" or Pseudo-Clementines. (q.v.)
- The Epistle to the Corinthians
The style of the Epistle is earnest and simple, restrained and dignified, and sometimes eloquent. The Greek is correct, though not classical. The quotations from the Old Testament are long and numerous. The version of the Septuagint used by Clement inclines in places towards that which appears in the New Testament, yet presents sufficient evidence of independence; his readings are often with A, but are less often opposed to B than are those in the New Testament; occasionally he is found against the Septuagint with Theodotion or even Aquila (see H. B. Swete, Introd. to the 0. T. in Greek, Cambridge 1900). The New Testament he never quotes verbally. Sayings of Christ are now and then given, but not in the words of the Gospels. It cannot be proved, therefore, that he used any one of the Synoptic Gospels. He mentions St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians, and appears to imply a second. He knows Romans and Titus, and apparently cites several other of St. Paul's Epistles. But Hebrews is most often employed of all New Testament books. James, probably, and I Peter, perhaps, are referred to. (See the lists of citations in Funk and Lightfoot, Westcott, Introductions to Holy Scripture, such as those of Cornely, Zahn, etc., and "The New Test. in the Apost. Fathers", by a Committee of the Oxford Society of Hist. Theology, Oxford, 1906.) The tone of authority with which the letter speaks is noteworthy, especially in the later part (56, 58, etc.): "But if certain persons should be disobedient unto the words spoken by Him through us let them understand that they will entangle themselves in no slight transgression and danger; but we shall be guiltless of this sin" (59). "It may, perhaps, seem strange", writes Bishop Lightfoot, "to describe this noble remonstrance as the first step towards papal domination. And yet undoubtedly this is the case." (I, 70.)
DoctrineThere is little intentional dogmatic teaching in the Epistle, for it is almost wholly hortatory. A passage on the Holy Trinity is important. Clement uses the Old Testament affirmation "The Lord liveth", substituting the Trinity thus: "As God liveth, and the Lord Jesus Christ liveth and the Holy Spirit — the faith and hope of the elect, so surely he that performeth", etc. (58). Christ is frequently represented as the High-Priest, and redemption is often referred to. Clement speaks strongly of justification by works. His words on the Christian ministry have given rise to much discussion (42 and 44): "The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ was sent from God. So then Christ is from God, and the Apostles from Christ. Both [missions] therefore came in due order by the will of God..... So preaching everywhere in country and town, they appointed their first-fruits, having proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons for those who should believe. And this in no new fashion, for it had indeed been written from very ancient times about bishops and deacons; for thus saith the Scripture: 'I will appoint their bishops in justice and their deacons in faith"' (a strange citation of Isaiah 60:17). . . . "And our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife over the name of the office of bishop. For this cause therefore, having received complete foreknowledge, they appointed the aforesaid persons, and afterwards they have given a law, so that, if these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed to their ministration." Rothe, Michiels (Origines de l'episcopat, Louvain, 1900, 197), and others awkwardly understand "if they, the Apostles, should fall asleep". For epinomen dedokasin, which the Latin renders legem dederunt, Lightfoot reads epimonen dedokasin, "they have provided a continuance". In any case the general meaning is clear, that the Apostles provided for a lawful succession of ministers. Presbyters are mentioned several times, but are not distinguished from bishops. There is absolutely no mention of a bishop at Corinth, and the ecclesiastical authorities there are always spoken of in the. plural. R. Sohm thinks there was as yet no bishop at Corinth when Clement wrote (so Michiels and many other Catholic writers; Lightfoot leaves the question open), but that a bishop must have been appointed in consequence of the letter; he thinks that Rome was the origin of all ecclesiastical institutions and laws (Kirchenrecht 189). Harnack in 1897 (Chronol., I) upheld the paradox that the Church of Rome was so conservative as to be governed by presbyters until Anicetus; and that when the list of popes was composed, c. 170, there had been a bishop for less than twenty years; Clement and others in the list were only presbyters of special influence.
The liturgical character of parts of the Epistle is elaborately discussed by Lightfoot. The prayer (59-61) already mentioned, which reminds us of the Anaphora of early liturgies, cannot be regarded, says Duchesne, "as a reproduction of a sacred formulary but it is an excellent example of the style of solemn prayer in which the ecclesiastical leaders of that time were accustomed to express themselves at meetings for worship" (Origines du culte chret., 3rd ed., 50; tr., 50). The fine passage about Creation, 32-3, is almost in the style of a Preface, and concludes by introducing the Sanctus by the usual mention of the angelic powers: "Let us mark the whole host of the angels, how they stand by and minister unto His Will. For the Scripture saith: Ten thousand times ten thousand stood by Him, and thousands of thousands ministered unto Him, and they cried aloud: Holy holy, holy is the Lord of Sabaoth; all creation is full of His glory. Yea, and let us ourselves then being gathered together in concord with intentness of heart, cry unto Him." The combination of Daniel 7:10 with Isaiah 6:3 may be from a liturgical formula. It is interesting to note that the contemporary Apocalypse of St. John 4:8 shows the four living creatures, representing all creation, singing the Sanctus at the heavenly Mass.
The historical references in the letter are deeply interesting: "To pass from the examples of ancient days, let us come to those champions who lived very near to our time. Let us set before us the noble examples which belong to our generation. By reason of jealousy and envy the greatest and most righteous pillars of the Church were persecuted, and contended even until death. Let us set before our eyes the good Apostles. There was Peter, who by reason of unrighteous jealousy endured not one or two, but many labours, and thus having borne his testimony went to his appointed Place of glory. By reason of jealousy and strife Paul by his example pointed out the prize of patient endurance. After that he had been seven times in bonds, had been driven into exile, had been stoned, had preached in the East and in the West, he won the noble renown which was the reward of his faith having taught righteousness unto the whole world and having reached the farthest bounds of the West; and when he had borne his testimony before the rulers, so he departed from the world and went unto the holy place having been found a notable pattern of patient endurance (5). It is obvious that these two Apostles are mentioned because they suffered at Rome. It seems that St. Paul went to Spain as he intended (Romans 15:28) and as is declared by the spurious Acts of Peter and by the Muratorian fragment. "Unto these men of holy lives was gathered a vast multitude of the elect who through many indignities and tortures, being the victims of jealousy, set a brave example among ourselves. By reason of jealousy women being persecuted, after that they had suffered cruel and unholy insults as Danaids and Dircae, safely reached the goal in the race of faith, and received a noble reward, feeble though they were in body" (6). The "vast multitude" both of men and women "among ourselves" at Rome refers to the horrible persecution of Nero, described by Tacitus, "Ann.", XV, xliv. It is in the recent past, and the writer continues: "We are in the same lists, and the same contest awaits us" (7)- he is under another persecution, that of Domitian, covertly referred to as a series of "sudden and repeated calamities and reverses", which have prevented the letter from being written sooner. The martyrdom of the Consul Clement (probably patron of the pope's own family) and the exile of his wife will be among these disasters.
Date and authenticityThe date of the letter is determined by these notices of persecution. It is strange that even a few good scholars (such as Grotius Grabe, Orsi, Uhlhorn, Hefele, Wieseler) should have dated it soon after Nero. It is now universally acknowledged, after Lightfoot, that it was written about the last year of Domitian (Harnack) or immediately after his death in 96 (Funk). In 1996, as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI supported a date of A.D. 70, and by 2002 most scholars a date earlier than 96, some agreeing with the A.D. 70 date. The Roman Church had existed several decades, for the two envoys to Corinth had lived in it from youth to age. The Church of Corinth is called archai (47). Bishops and deacons have succeeded to bishops and deacons appointed by the Apostles (44). Yet the time of the Apostles is "quite lately" and "our own veneration" (5). The external evidence is in accord. The dates given for Clement's episcopate by Hegesippus are apparently 90-99, and that early writer states that the schism at Corinth took place under Domitian (Eusebius, Church History III.16, for kata ton deloumenon is meaningless if it is taken to refer to Clement and not to Domitian; besides, the whole of Eusebius's account of that emperor's persecution, III, xvii-xx, is founded on Hegesippus). St. Irenæus says that Clement still remembered the Apostles, and so did many others, implying an interval of many years after their death. Volkmar placed the date in the reign of Hadrian, because the Book of Judith is quoted, which he declared to have been written in that reign. He was followed by Baur, but not by Hilgenfeld. Such a date is manifestly impossible, if only because the Epistle of Polycarp is entirely modelled on that of Clement and borrows from it freely. It is possibly employed by St. Ignatius, c. 107, and certainly in the letter of the Smyrnaeans on the martyrdom of St. Polycarp, c. 156.
The Epistle is in the name of the Church of Rome but the early authorities always ascribe it to Clement. Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, wrote c. 170 to the Romans in Pope Soter's time: "Today we kept the holy day, the Lord's day, and on it we read your letter- and we shall ever have it to give us instruction, even as the former one written through Clement" (Eusebius, Church History IV.30). Hegesippus attributed the letter to Clement. Irenaeus, c. 180-5 perhaps using Hegesippus, says: "Under this Clement no small sedition took place among the brethren at Corinth and the Church of Rome sent a most sufficient letter to the Corinthians, establishing them in peace, and renewing their faith, and announcing the tradition it had recently received from the Apostles" (III, iii). Clement of Alexandria, c. 200, frequently quotes the Epistle as Clement's, and so do Origen and Eusebius. Lightfoot and Harnack are fond of pointing out that we hear earlier of the importance of the Roman Church than of the authority of the Roman bishop. If Clement had spoken in his own name, they would surely have noted expressly that he wrote not as Bishop of Rome, but as an aged "presbyter" who had known the Apostles. St. John indeed was still alive, and Corinth was rather nearer to Ephesus than to Rome. Clement evidently writes officially, with all that authority of the Roman Church of which Ignatius and Irenaeus have so much to say.
The Second Letter to the Corinthians
An ancient homily by an anonymous author has come down to us in the same two Greek manuscripts as the Epistle of Clement, and is called the Second Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians. It is first mentioned by Eusebius (Church History III.37), who considered it spurious, as being unknown to the ancients; he is followed (perhaps not independently) by Rufinus and Jerome. Its inclusion as a letter of Clement in the Codex Alexandrinus of the whole Bible in the fifth century is the earliest testimony to a belief in its authenticity; in the sixth century it is quoted by the Monophysite leaders Timothy of Alexandria and Severus of Antioch, and it was later known to many Greek writers. This witness is a great contrast to the very early veneration paid to the genuine letter. Hilgenfeld's theory that it is the letter of Pope Soter to the Corinthians, mentioned by Dionysius in the fragment quoted above, was accepted by many critics, until the discovery of the end of the work by Bryennios showed that it was not a letter at all, but a homily. Still Harnack has again and again defended this view. An apparent reference to the Isthmian Games in 7 suggests that the homily was delivered at Corinth; but this would be in character if it was a letter addressed to Corinth. Lightfoot and others think it earlier than Marcion, c. 140, but its reference to Gnostic views does not allow us to place it much earlier. The matter of the sermon is a very general exhortation, and there is no definite plan or sequence. Some citations from unknown Scriptures are interesting.
ST. CLEMENT, the son of Faustinus, a Roman by birth, was of Jewish extraction; for he tells us himself, that he was of the race of Jacob. 1 He was converted to the faith by St. Peter or St. Paul, and was so constant in his attendance on these apostles, and so active in assisting them in their ministry, that St. Jerom and other fathers call him an apostolic man; St. Clement of Alexandria 2 styles him an apostle; and Rufinus, 3 almost an apostle. Some authors attribute his conversion to St. Peter, whom he met at Cæsarea with St. Barnabas; but he attended St. Paul at Philippi in 62, and shared in his sufferings there. We are assured by St. Chrysostom, 4 that he was a companion of this latter, with SS. Luke and Timothy, in many of his apostolic journeys, labours, and dangers. St. Paul (Phil. iv. 3,) calls him his fellow-labourer, and ranks him among those whose names are written in the book of life: a privilege and matter of joy far beyond the power of commanding devils. (Luke x. 17.) St. Clement followed St. Paul to Rome, where he also heard St. Peter preach, and was instructed in his school, as St. Irenæus, 5 and Pope Zozimus testify. Tertullian tells us, 6 that St. Peter ordained him bishop, by which some understand that he made him a bishop of nations, to preach the gospel in many countries; others, with Epiphanius, 7 that he made him his vicar at Rome, with an episcopal character to govern that church during his absence in his frequent missions. Others suppose he might at first be made bishop of the Jewish church in that city. After the martyrdom of SS. Peter and Paul, St. Linus was appointed bishop of Rome, and after eleven years was succeeded by St. Cletus. Upon his demise, in 89, or rather in 91, St. Clement was placed in the apostolic chair. According to the Liberian Calendar he sat nine years, eleven months, and twenty days.
At Corinth an impious and detestable division, as our saint called it, happened amongst the faithful, like that which St. Paul had appeased in the same church; and a party rebelled against holy and irreproachable priests, and presumed to depose them. It seems to have been soon after the death of Domitian in 96, 8 that St. Clement, in the name of the Church of Rome, wrote to them his excellent epistle, a piece highly extolled and esteemed in the primitive church as an admirable work, as Eusebius calls it. 9 It was placed in rank next to the canonical books of the holy scriptures, and with them read in the churches. Whence it was found in the very ancient Alexandrian manuscript copy of the Bible, which Cyril Lucaris sent to our King James I. from which Patrick Young, the learned keeper of that king’s library, published it at Oxford in 1633. St. Clement begins his letter by conciliating the benevolence of those who were at variance, tenderly putting them in mind, how edifying their behaviour was when they were all humble-minded, not boasting of any thing, desiring rather to be subject than to govern, to give than to receive, content with the portion God had dispensed to them, listening diligently to his word, having an insatiable desire of doing good, and a plentiful effusion of the Holy Ghost upon all of them. At that time they were sincere, without offence, not mindful of injuries, and all sedition and schism was an abomination to them. The saint laments that they had then forsaken the fear of the Lord, and were fallen into pride, envy, strife, and sedition, and pathetically exhorts them to lay aside all pride and anger, for Christ is theirs who are humble, and not theirs who exalt themselves. The sceptre of the majesty of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, came not in the show of pride, though he could have done so; but with humility. He bids them look up to the Creator of the world, and think how gentle and patient he is towards his whole creation; also with what peace it all obeys his will, and the heavens, earth, impassable ocean, and worlds beyond it, 10 are governed by the commands of this great master. Considering how near God is to us and that none of our thoughts are hid from him, how ought we never to do any thing contrary to his will, and honour them who are set over us, showing with a sincere affection of meekness, and manifesting the government of our tongues by a love of silence. “Let your children,” says the saint, “be bred up in the instruction of the Lord, and learn how great a power humility has with God, how much a pure and holy charity avails with him, and how excellent and great his fear is.”
It appears by what follows, that some at Corinth boggled at the belief of a resurrection of the flesh, which the saint beautifully shows to be easy to the almighty power, and illustrates by the vine which sheds its leaves, then buds, spreads its leaves, flowers and afterwards produces first sour grapes, then ripe fruit; by the morning rising from night, and corn brought forth from seed. The resurrection of the fabulous Phœnix in Arabia, which he adds, was at that time very strongly affirmed and believed by judicious Roman critics, 11 and might be made use of for illustration; and whether the author of this epistle believed it or no, is a point of small importance, whatever some may have said upon that subject. 12 The saint adds a strong exhortation to shake off all sluggishness and laziness, for it is only the good workman who receives the bread of his labour. “We must hasten,” says he, “with all earnestness and readiness of mind, to perfect every good work, labouring with cheerfulness; for even the Creator and Lord of all things rejoices in his own works.” The latter part of this epistle is a pathetic recommendation of humility, peace, and charity. “Let every one,” says the saint, “be subject to another, according to the order in which he is placed by the gift of God. Let not the strong man neglect the care of the weak; let the weak see that he reverence the strong. Let the rich man distribute to the necessity of the poor, and let the poor bless God who giveth him one to supply his want. Let the wise man show forth his wisdom, not in words, but in good works. Let him that is humble, never speak of himself, or make show of his actions.—Let him that is pure in the flesh, not grow proud of it, knowing that it was another who gave him the gift of continence. 13 They who are great cannot yet subsist without those that are little; nor the little without the great.—In our body, the head without the feet is nothing; neither the feet without the head. And the smallest members of our body are yet both necessary and useful to the whole.” 14 Thus the saint teaches that the lowest in the church may be the greatest before God, if they are most faithful in the discharge of their respective duties; which maxim Epictetus, the heathen philosopher, illustrates by a simile taken from a play, in which we inquire not so much who acts the part of the king, and who that of the beggar, as who acts best the character which he sustains, and to him we give our applause. St. Clement puts pastors and superiors in mind, that, with trembling and humility, they should have nothing but the fear of God in view, and take no pleasure in their own power and authority. “Let us,” says he, “pray for all such as fall into any trouble or distress; that being endued with humility and moderation, they may submit, not to us but to the will of God.” 15 Fortunatus, who is mentioned by St. Paul, 16 was come from the church of Corinth to Rome, to inform that holy see of their unhappy schism. St. Clement says, he had despatched four messengers to Corinth with him, and adds: “Send them back to us again with all speed in peace and joy, that they may the sooner acquaint us with your peace and concord, so much prayed for and desired by us: and that we may rejoice in your good order.”
We have a large fragment of a second epistle of St. Clement to the Corinthians, found in the same Alexandrian manuscript of the bible: from which circumstance it appears to have been also read like the former in many churches, which St. Dionysius of Corinth expressly testifies of that church, 17 though it was not so celebrated among the ancients as the other. In it our saint exhorts the faithful to despise this world and its false enjoyments, and to have those which are promised us always before our eyes; to pursue virtue with all our strength, and its peace will follow us with the inexpressible delights of the promise of what is to come. The necessity of perfectly subduing both the irascible and concupiscible passions of our soul, he lays down as the foundation of a Christian life, in words which St. Clement of Alexandria enforces and illustrates. Besides these letters of St. Clement to the Corinthians, two others have been lately discovered, which are addressed to spiritual eunuchs, or virgins. Of these St. Jerom speaks, when he says of certain epistles of St. Clement: 18 “In the epistles which Clement, the successor of the apostle Peter, wrote to them, that is, to such eunuchs, almost his whole discourse turns upon the excellence of virginity.” Doctor Cave, 19 having in his eye the letters of this saint to the Corinthians, is angry with St. Jerom for these words, and accuses him of calling a period or two in this saint’s first epistle to the Corinthians, in which virginity is commended, the whole epistle. But this learned writer, and his friend Dr. Grabe, 20 founded this false charge upon a gross mistake, being strangers to these two letters, which were found in a manuscript copy of a Syriac New Testament, by John James Westein, in 1752, and printed by him with a Latin translation at Amsterdam, in 1752, and again in 1757. 21 A French translation of them has been published with short critical notes. These letters are not unworthy this great disciple of St. Peter; and in them the counsels of St. Paul concerning celibacy and virginity are explained; that state is pathetically recommended, without prejudice to the honour due to the holy state of marriage; and the necessity of shunning all familiarity with persons of a different sex, and the like occasions of incontinence are set in a true light. 22
St. Clement with patience and prudence got through the persecution of Domitian. Nerva’s peaceable reign being very short, the tempest increased under Trajan, who, even from the beginning of his reign, never allowed the Christian assemblies. It was in the year 100, that the third general persecution was raised by him, which was the more afflicting, as this reign was in other respects generally famed for justice and moderation. Rufin, 23 Pope Zosimus, 24 and the council of Bazas in 452, 25 expressly style St. Clement a martyr. In the ancient canon of the Roman mass, he is ranked among the martyrs. There stood in Rome, in the eighth century, a famous church of St. Clement, in which the cause of Celestius the Pelagian was discussed. This was one of the titles, or parishes of the city: for Renatus, legate from St. Leo to the false council of Ephesus, was priest of the title of St. Clement’s. At that time only martyrs gave titles to churches. 26 Eusebius tells us, that St. Clement departed this life in the 3d year of Trajan, of Christ 100. From this expression some will have it that he died a natural death. But St. Clement says of St. Paul, who certainly died a martyr, that “he departed out of the world.” 27 It is also objected, that St. Irenæus gives the title of martyr only to St. Telesphorus among the popes before St. Eleutherius. 28 But it is certain that some others were martyrs, whatever was the cause of his omission. St. Irenæus mentions the epistle of St. Clement, yet omits those of St. Ignatius, though in some places he quotes him. Shall we hence argue, that St. Ignatius wrote none? When the Emperor Lewis Debonnair founded the great abbey of Cava in Abruzzo, four miles from Salerno, in 872, he enriched it with the relics of St. Clement, pope and martyr, which Pope Adrian sent him, as is related at length in the chronicle of that abbey, with a history of many miracles. These relics remain there to this day. 29 The ancient church of St. Clement in Rome, in which St. Gregory the Great preached several of his homilies, still retains part of his relics. It was repaired by Clement XI. but still shows entire the old structure of Christian churches, divided into three parts, the narthex, the ambo, and the sanctuary. 30
St. Clement inculcates, 31 that the spirit of Christianity is a spirit of perfect disengagement from the things of this world. “We must,” says he, “look upon all the things of this world, as none of ours, and not desire them. This world and that to come are two enemies. We cannot therefore be friends to both; but we must resolve which we would forsake, and which we would enjoy. And we think, that it is better to hate the present things, as little, short-lived, and corruptible; and to love those which are to come, which are truly good and incorruptible. Let us contend with all earnestness, knowing that we are now called to the combat. Let us run in the straight road, the race that is incorruptible.—This is what Christ saith: keep your bodies pure, and your souls without spot, that ye may receive eternal life.”
Note 1. Ep. 1, ad Cor. [back]
Note 2. Strom. l. 4. [back]
Note 3. De Adulter. lib. Orig. [back]
Note 4. S. Chrys. Prol. in 1 Tim. et Hom. 13, in Phil. [back]
Note 5. L. 3, c. 3. [back]
Note 6. Prescr. c. 32. [back]
Note 7. Hær. 27, c. 6. [back]
Note 8. See Patr. Junius, or Young. (Annot. in ep. Clem. Cotelier, p. 82. Ceillier, &c.) Yet Dodwell, (Appen. ad c. 6, Diss. ad Pearson, p. 219; Cave, Hist. Lit. p. 28, t. 1; Archbp. Wake, pp. 12, 13, &c.; Grabe in Spicilegio, t. 10, p. 245, &c.) think this epistle was written by St. Clement, whilst the see of Rome was vacant, after the martyrdom of SS. Peter and Paul; on which account they say he writes in the name of the Roman Church. For in the beginning he speaks of troubles, (c. 1,) which seem to represent Nero’s persecution; he speaks (c. 5,) of the martyrdom of SS. Peter and Paul as recent; he mentions the services of the Jewish temple as subsisting, (c. 41,) which were abolished in the year 70; and Fortunatus, who came from Corinth to Rome with information of this schism, (c. 59,) was an old disciple in St. Paul’s time.—1 Cor. xv. 16. [back]
Note 9. Eus. Hist. l. 3, c. 16. See S. Iræn. ap. Eus. l. 5, c. 6; S. Jerom in Catal. c. 15; Photius, Cod. 126. [back]
Note 10. The British Isles, and other places separated from the continent of the ancients by vast distances and a wide ocean, are called by them new worlds. [back]
Note 11. Tacitus, Annul. l. 6, n. 28, &c. [back]
Note 12. See Tentzelius, Dissert. Select. de Phœnic. p. 33, et n. 16, p. 45. [back]
Note 13. S. Clem. ep. 1. ad Cor. n. 38. [back]
Note 14. N. 37. [back]
Note 15. N. 56. [back]
Note 16. 1 Cor. xvi. 17. [back]
Note 17. Ap. Eus. l. 4, c. 23. [back]
Note 18. L. 1, adv. Jovinian. c. 7, p. 327. [back]
Note 19. Hist. Liter, t. 1, p. 29, ed. Noviss. [back]
Note 20. Spicil. Patrum, Sæc. 1, p. 262. [back]
Note 21. Mr. Westein answers the objections made by Henry Venema, a German Lutheran, to the authenticity of these two letters, on which see the acts of Leipsic, for January, 1756. Mr. Westein acknowledges that St. Clement differed much in his opinion of celibacy from Martin Luther; “but it has not been proved,” says this Protestant author, “that his opinion was wrong.” For, “if any one denies himself what it is allowed him to enjoy, that he may better and more freely apply himself to the care of the church, why ought he not to hope to receive a great recompence in the life to come.” [back]
Note 22. Several forged works have appeared under the name of St. Clement. First, the Recognitions of St. Clement came abroad in the middle of the second century, and are mentioned by Origen. In them are contained a pretended itinerary with disputations of St. Peter. The Ebionites inserted their errors in this work: also in the nineteen Clementine sermons, &c., published by Cotelier, under the title of Pseudo-Clementina. The impostor was a man of learning and eloquence. Some have attributed to St. Clement the apostolic canons, which were collected in the third century from various preceding councils; some from those of the Re-baptizers in Africa. (See Beveridge in Canon, eccl. t. 1; Grabe in Spicileg. t. 1, p. 290; Nourry, in Appar. t. 1; Cotelier, Patres Apostol. and principally Fontanini, Hist. Litter. Aquil. l. 5, c. 10, p. 324.) The apostolic constitutions are almost as old as the collection of the canons aforesaid. They are quoted by St. Epiphanius, (hær. 45, 85,) but have been altered since that time. They are a compilation of the regulations of many ancient pastors, in some of which the author personates the apostles. The liturgy is one of the most ancient extant. (See Ceillier, t. 13, p. 643.) The dream of Whiston in ranking these counterfeit writings among the canonical scriptures, deserves no notice. [back]
Note 23. De adulterat. Lib. Orig. [back]
Note 24. Ep. 2, (an. 417,) p. 945, ed. Coutant. [back]
Note 25. Conc. Vasens. can. 6, t. 1; Cone, ad Hardwin. p. 1788. [back]
Note 26. The Greek acts of the martyrdom of St. Clement in Taurica Chersonesus, though as old as St. Gregory of Tours, are justly exploded by Tillemont, Orsi, &c. [back]
Note 27. Ep. ad Cor. c. 5. [back]
Note 28. L. 3, c. 3. [back]
Note 29. Chron. Casauriense ap. Muratori inter Ital. Rer. Scriptor. t. 2. part. 2, p. 776. [back]
Note 30. See Ficoroni Vestigia di Roma Antica, (an. 1744,) c. 14, 25. [back]
Note 31. Ep. 2, ad Cor. n. 5, 6. [back]
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume XI: November. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
SOURCE : http://www.bartleby.com/210/11/231.html
Clemente non interviene finché dura la persecuzione ordinata da Domiziano nell’Impero. Tornata la pace, al tempo di Nerva, eccolo inviare a Corinto una lettera scritta da lui ma presentata come voce della Chiesa di Roma, cosciente della sua autorità e responsabilità. Essa ricorda l’origine divina dell’autorità ecclesiastica e le norme per la successione apostolica; condanna l’espulsione dei presbiteri di Corinto e disegna un’immagine dell’intera comunità cristiana come modello di fraternità. Infine, sebbene Clemente scriva dopo la persecuzione, rammenta con serenità il dovere dell’obbedienza ai prìncipi nelle cose terrene.
La lettera, detta poi Prima Clementis, afferma dopo i testi degli Apostoli l’autorità dei vescovi sui fedeli e il primato della Chiesa di Roma sulle altre. Sarà infatti definita “Epifania (cioè manifestazione) del primato romano”. Un documento che si diffonde in tutta la cristianità antica, e che resta valido in ogni tempo. La voce di Clemente parla "con una gravità saggia, paterna, cosciente delle proprie responsabilità, ferma nelle esigenze e al tempo stesso indulgente nei suoi rimproveri" (G. Lebreton). Ancora 70 anni dopo, a Corinto, il documento viene letto pubblicamente nelle riunioni eucaristiche domenicali, insieme alle Scritture.
Poco si sa degli ultimi anni di Clemente. Secondo una tradizione del IV secolo, sarebbe stato affogato con un’ancora al collo in Crimea, suo luogo d’esilio, per ordine di Nerva. Ma gli Atti relativi sono giudicati leggendari. D’altra parte lo storico Eusebio di Cesarea e san Girolamo concordemente dicono che Clemente muore nel 101, e non parlano affatto di esilio e di martirio.
Nel IV secolo gli viene dedicata sul colle Celio a Roma una basilica, che sarà poi devastata da un incendio nel 1084. E sui suoi resti, dopo il 1100, sorgerà la basilica nuova a tre navate, ampiamente restaurata poi nel secolo XVIII. Sotto la sua abside gli scavi ottocenteschi hanno fatto scoprire parti della basilica originale, con dipinti murali anteriori al 1084. In ogni tempo la Chiesa continua a venerarlo, col nome di Clemente Romano.
Autore: Domenico Agasso