Thursday, October 14, 2010
Reading the Fathers
Finished Ian Ker's massive biography of John Henry Newman. First of all, I haven't read prose like Newman's apart from Churchill. Chesterton was clever, and to be admired. Newman is majestic and to be carefully pondered. One aspect of Newman's important story is his devotion to the Church fathers, especially Augustine and Athanasius. Now unlike the great Newman I don't read the fathers in their original languages, but like him I do seek to read them regularly. Every couple of years I read through the three volume set "The Faith of the Early Fathers", translated and compiled by William A. Jurgens, and published by The Liturgical Press. For those looking for an introduction to the thought of the fathers this is an excellent first set to own. The better known 'big volumes' with the complete works are essential too, but that can be a tad intimidating, despite being even more inspiring than these selections.
This week I'm making my way through volume one, and read last night and tonight from The Letters of Ignatius, The Martyrdom of Polycarp, Dionysius' Letter to Soter of Rome, Justin Martyr's First and Second Apologies, Canons of the Council of Nicea, and selections from Irenaeus' Against Heresies. Some might find these works to be a profitable cure for insomnia. I can't put them down: Ignatius' words on the way to his martyrdom (note the icon above) are riveting stuff.
I was asked last week about where to start reading in the fathers. My suggestions:
1. On the Incarnation, by Athanasius
2. Confessions, by Augustine
3. The Didache
4. First Apology, by Justin Martyr
5. Epistles of Ignatius