Origen: An Exhortation to Martyrdom, Prayer and Selected Works

Origen: An Exhortation to Martyrdom, Prayer and Selected Works

Origen: An Exhortation to Martyrdom, Prayer and Selected Works

Origen: An Exhortation to Martyrdom, Prayer and Selected Works

Synopsis

Here are the important and influential writings of a Christian mystic and early father of the Church. Origen (c. 185-254) was born in Alexandria and lived through the turbulent years during the collapse of the Roman Empire.

Excerpt

Origen was as towering a figure as Augustine and Aquinas. Even after the builder of the Hagia Sophia destroyed most of his works, his overt and hidden influence has proved no less farreaching than theirs. In the Eastern Church his mysticism of ascent to God remained immensely powerful through medieval and modern times, more powerful than the mysticism of "dazzling darkness" of the Pseudo-Areopagite (whose dominant influence was in the West); in the Western Church both Jerome and Ambrose unhesitatingly copied his work and thus bequeathed it to posterity. Bernard, Eckhart, and Cusanus read him in the original, and Erasmus admitted that one page of Origen meant more to him than ten pages of Augustine. His work is aglow with the fire of a Christian creativity that in the greatest of his successors burned merely with a borrowed flame.

The excellent introduction to this volume demonstrates that as a pure philosopher he was not original but rather he made use of the Hellenistic thought of his day (a mélange of Platonism, Stoicism, and popular philosophy) as a medium for conveying to his contemporaries the depth and breadth of biblical Revelation. But such a statement needs nuance: If his earlier work De Principiis (c. 230) still expressed a belief in the possibility of incorporating the Greek world view into Revelation, a late apologetic work, Contra Celsum (c. 249)) shows how sharp his eye had become to basic distinctions (cf. below C. Andresen). Origen did not wish to be a philosopher but a theologian, though not in the modern, specialized sense of the term. He wanted to be a Christian nourished solely by the Word of God and living wholly within the Catholic Church. Let us allow him to speak for himself: "I wish to be a man of the Church, not the founder of heresy; I want to be named with Christ's name and bear the name which is blessed on earth. It is also my desire to do this in . . .

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