Monday, February 3, 2014

The Lifelong Spring-Time of Spiritual Childhood

The ideal of "spiritual childhood" is one that I do not know much about, but I am slowly encountering it more, especially through my wife's devotion to St. Thérèse of Lisieux.  Thus I found it interesting when I ran across this ideal in an early Church Father, St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 - c. 215).  The below passage is from his work Ὁ Παιδαγωγός (The Paedagogue, or The Instructor), a work revolving around the idea of Christ as our Paedagogue: we are the children that Christ is instructing.  This is just one section of the fascinating extended metaphor running through the work of how all Christians are as children to God.  To read the rest of the work, visit New Advent, where this translation can be found.

"In contradistinction, therefore, to the older people, the new people are called young, having learned the new blessings; and we have the exuberance of life's morning prime in this youth which knows no old age, in which we are always growing to maturity in intelligence, are always young, always mild, always new: for those must necessarily be new, who have become partakers of the new Word. And that which participates in eternity is wont to be assimilated to the incorruptible: so that to us appertains the designation of the age of childhood, a lifelong spring-time, because the truth that is in us, and our habits saturated with the truth, cannot be touched by old age; but Wisdom is ever blooming, ever remains consistent and the same, and never changes. 'Their children,' it is said, 'shall be borne upon their shoulders, and fondled on their knees; as one whom his mother comforts, so also shall I comfort you' (Is 66:12-13).  The mother draws the children to herself; and we seek our mother the Church. Whatever is feeble and tender, as needing help on account of its feebleness, is kindly looked on, and is sweet and pleasant, anger changing into help in the case of such: for thus horses' colts, and the little calves of cows, and the lion's cub, and the stag's fawn, and the child of man, are looked upon with pleasure by their fathers and mothers. Thus also the Father of the universe cherishes affection towards those who have fled to Him; and having begotten them again by His Spirit to the adoption of children, knows them as gentle, and loves those alone, and aids and fights for them; and therefore He bestows on them the name of child....

Jesus therefore, rejoicing in the spirit, said: 'I thank You, O Father, God of heaven and earth, that You have hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to babes' (Lk 10:21), the Master and Teacher applying the name babes to us, who are readier to embrace salvation than the wise in the world, who, thinking themselves wise, are inflated with pride. And He exclaims in exultation and exceeding joy, as if lisping with the children, 'Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in Your sight' (Lk 10:21). Wherefore those things which have been concealed from the wise and prudent of this present world have been revealed to babes. Truly, then, are we the children of God, who have put aside the old man, and stripped off the garment of wickedness, and put on the immortality of Christ; that we may become a new, holy people by regeneration, and may keep the man undefiled."
--Ὁ Παιδαγωγός I.5-6

 St. Clement of Alexandria, pray for us!

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