Rhythm

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This installment of my church fathers paraphrases comes from Clement of Rome, who is considered the first of the ‘Apostolic Fathers.’

Clement I was the fourth bishop of Rome (after Linus and Cletus) and lived within the lifetime of the apostles. St. Irenaeus reports that he “saw the blessed Apostles and conversed with them, and had yet ringing in his ears the preaching of the Apostles and had their tradition before his eyes, and not he only for many were then surviving who had been taught by the Apostles.” Other later writers state that he was a contemporary of Peter and Paul. He ascended to the bishopric of Rome, it is reported, during the reign of Domitian and may have even lived into the reign of Trajan. Of his death there is no factual record, although later tradition ascribed a martyrdom to him, in which he was tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea by Trajan’s order.

This selection comes from his only authentic letter, the Letter to the Corinthians. In the past it was generally believed that Clement wrote this letter shortly after Domitian’s death in AD 96; however, more recent scholarly opinion generally places its date even earlier, at around AD 80. (Such a dating would place its composition earlier than the usual dating for John’s Gospel and Letters.) The church in Corinth has suffered a similar schism that it struggled with during the time of St. Paul’s writing. In this portion of his work, Clement urges the church in Corinth to consider the harmony in which the universe operates, and how in its ordered movements and operations creation obeys God- cannot those who love God do as much?

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The heavens above twirl about under the mindful eye of the King, their movements and revolutions the dictate of his pleasure. Morning and evening dance in the steps they’ve been taught, and their children follow in perfect symmetry. The great lights of the day and the night along with their compatriots in celestial brilliance march in time according to their Captain’s command, without turning to the left or to the right, straight as a signal arrow.

The earth below, overflowing in fecundity by design of its Artificer, offers up its bounty in the vernal rains and the autumnal harvests to man and beast alike, begrudging to no one its abundance without fail or deviation. In the vast depths beyond searching out and in the very indescribable structure of its being it ebbs and flows within the same symphonic movement.

Deeper in and further down the seas join in union to form their boundaries at the call of their Master, unhesitatingly offering both land and life the room they need to breathe. For he has said, “Thus far shalt thou come, and thy waves shall be broken within thee.” The expanse of the oceans that men cannot fathom and the worlds that repose far beyond respond with absolute deference to the same voice.

Winter calls forth unto spring, who in turn beckons summer to arise. The westward winds carry the effortless breath of this song on into the fall only to return again upon itself, a quartet that ends in complete unity. The fountains flow on into eternity, their emission the source of life in all its panoply. Size and station are dissolved in the breath-taking exultation of being, and all life rejoices and is at peace.

The Creator delights in harmony, and in his goodness designs this composition to exclude all dissonance. So his love strikes the tone that resounds to the brute and even to the brutal, but finds resolution in those who abandon all to rest in his compassion though Jesus our Lord, to whom is glory and majesty forever and ever.

Amen.

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Jason Watson

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