Pope: Church History a Lesson in Awe
Reflections on Eusebius of Caesarea
VATICAN CITY, JUNE 13, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says contemplating the history of the Church should lead the faithful to be awed by God’s great work of salvation.
The Pope said this today when dedicating his reflection at the general audience to Eusebius of Caesarea, the first to write a history of the Church.
Eusebius was born around the year 260 and lived during the first years of peace for the Church under Constantine. He was one of the main protagonists at the ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325.
The Holy Father explained: “Eusebius […] sought to reflect upon and take stock of the three centuries of Christianity, three centuries lived under persecution. He consulted, for the most part, the original Christian and pagan sources that had been preserved in the great library of Caesarea.
“He was the first to write a history of the Church, and to this day his work is still foundational, mainly due to the sources Eusebius puts forever at our disposal. His ‘History’ preserved from sure oblivion numerous events, people and literary works of the ancient Church. His work is therefore a primary source for knowing the first centuries of Christianity.”
The Pontiff showed that Eusebius covered various topics in his 10-volume “Ecclesiastical History”: “apostolic succession, as the structure of the Church, the spreading of the Message, errors, persecutions by pagans, and the great testimonies which constitute the shining light of this ‘History.’ Amid it all, shine the mercy and goodness of the Savior.”
He added that Eusebius’ writings have a “‘moral intent’ that gives direction to the narrative. Historical analysis is never an end in itself; it seeks not only to get to know the past, but it firmly points toward conversion and to an authentic witness of Christian life on the part of the faithful.”
Benedict XVI contended that Eusebius’ work and the style of his “Ecclesiastical History” invites Christians of today to self-examination.
He said: “[Eusebius] questions us too: What is our attitude toward the vicissitudes faced by the Church? Is it the attitude of someone who is interested out of mere curiosity, looking for sensationalism and scandal at all costs? Or is it rather the loving attitude, open to mystery, of one who because of faith knows that he can discern in the history of the Church the signs of God’s love and the great work of salvation he has accomplished?”
The Holy Father added that Christians “should feel invited to offer a more coherent and generous response, a more Christian testimony of life that will leave an imprint of God’s love for future generations as well.”
“Many centuries later,” the Pope continued, “Eusebius of Caesarea still today issues an invitation to believers. He invites us to be awed by and to contemplate the great work of salvation that God has accomplished in history. And with the same vigor, he invites us to a conversion of life. In fact, before a God who has loved us so much, we cannot remain unaffected. The very demand of love is that all of life be oriented toward the imitation of the Beloved.”