Today we honor St. Justin, and although he lived a thousand years before Thomas Aquinas, we can pair Justin with Aquinas, because they both used the findings of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle to demonstrate the logical appeal of Christianity.
Four centuries before Christ, those three Greek philosophers laid down ironclad principles for logical thinking, and following those principles to their conclusion, they asserted that there is but one God, and he is all good and wise.
Justin was a wealthy young man who put in years of study that earned him the right to wear the robes of a philosopher. He was about thirty in 130 A.D. when, walking on the beach, he fell in with an old Christian who spoke to him about the Hebrew prophets. By contrasting their writings with those of the Greek philosophers, the old man brought Justin to see that although philosophy could teach him about God, it could not bring him into personal contact with God. For that he would need to open himself to God through his Christian baptism.
Baptized a Christian, Justin established a school of Christian philosophy in Rome. There, he weighed every mention of Christianity in the speeches of the Roman Senate, and for some of them he wrote replies that he pasted on a wall outside the forum. In 165 he wrote a notable reply to a senator’s speech that had asserted that Christians in their gatherings worshipped a goat.
Justin gave a detailed description of what we do at our Sunday gatherings. It had a remarkably modern sound to it in the way it described our familiar readings and prayers. It even mentioned taking up a collection.
His account of the Eucharistic Prayers, following on the rule laid down for the host leading the diners in the Berakah at a Jewish meal, stipulated that the one presiding should use his own wording “as much as in him lies.”
And on that day which is called after the sun, all who are in the towns and in the country gather together for a communal celebration. And then the memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the Prophets are read as much as time permits. After the reader has finished his task, the one presiding gives an address, earnestly admonishing his hearers to practice these beautiful teachings in their lives.
Then together all stand and recite prayers, and bread and wine mixed with water are brought, and the president offers up prayers and thanksgivings (sic) as much as in him lies. The people chime in with Amen. Then takes place the distribution to all attending of the things over which the thanksgiving had been spoken, and the deacons bring a portion to the absent.
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