I don’t normally write about the saints whose feast day we celebrate because there are many other better sources for that information such as The Prologue of Ohrid, the OCA’s website for Saint of the Day, and the humorous Onion Dome.
However, I have a particular admiration for St Clement of Rome (martyred in the year 99 or 101) because his writings helped guide me into Orthodoxy. I had heard several discussions over the past few years about the Great Apostasy, which in a nutshell says that after the time of the apostles the Christian Church quickly – or gradually, depending on the particular theory one buys into – fell into paganism and the Christian faith was not properly practiced or believed again until the Protestant Reformation.
Christianity: An insignificant sect or something more?
That idea bothered me because it meant that Christianity was nothing but a sect of Judaism that quickly died off and stayed lifeless for some 1400 years. The Reformers were doing nothing except trying to revive some long-dead cult of Judaism (doesn’t say much good about Jesus or his disciples).
Secondly, the Great Apostasy Myth is held by sola scriptura Christians (that is, those who believe the only Christian authority is the Bible). So, another problem with that myth is the New Testament was not canonized in its current form until the end of the fourth century. By then, Emperor Constantine had done his thing, and the Christian Church had, according to the myth, long fallen into paganism. So, the myth becomes self-refuting because the scriptures they hold fast to were canonized and preserved for centuries by the very Church that they accuse of being pagan.
If the myth is true, the only logical conclusion is that Christianity becomes whatever you want it to be. And, if you look around, you’ll quickly find that American Christianity is moving in that direction: a religion that offers entertainment, community, a relativistic belief system, and the ability to feel good about yourself.
Enter St Clement of Rome
So, what does St Clement have to do with any of that? I heard for years that the Christian faith started as something very simple and evolved into a complex religion heavily mixed with paganism by the time of Constantine. Like Saints Justin Martyr, Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus, Polycarp, and several other early Christians, St Clement left written teachings on the Christian faith. Through the writings of these saints, I could verify that the faith had not been corrupted or changed: rather it had been actively lived and accurately taught throughout the generations.
St Clement is one of the three Apostolic Fathers who left us writings and who also personally knew and was appointed to the bishopric by the Apostles of our Lord Jesus. The other two are Ss Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp.
These writings of the ever-elusive-but-frequently-discussed-in-Protestant-circles “Early Church” played an important role in bringing me to the Orthodox faith. I was able to ascertain for myself the teachings of the Orthodox Church and rest assured that they were not just making up things as they went along (like Christians do today).
That is certainly not the most impressive introduction for St Clement, but if you would like more information on him, go to the Prologue of Ohrid and be sure to select the date November 25.
If you would like to read his first epistle to the Corinthians, you may do so by clicking here.