Iranaeus of Lyon: Passing on the Good News
By:Deacon Keith A Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
Born in Asia Minor in 130 A.D., Irenaeus was educated in Smyrna where he learned the Christian faith from Polycarp. Polycarp was a friend of John, the beloved disciple, the author of the Gospel that bears his name.
He learned it from the One who proclaimed, lived, and--Himself--was the Good News--Jesus Christ. Polycarp sent his young disciple on a missionary journey to Lyons, France, to spread the same message of Love Incarnate.
He was later ordained to the priesthood under the Bishop of Lyons, St. Pothinus, and became one of the founders of the Church in that country. He succeeded Pothinus as Bishop in 178.
Filled with fervor for the full faith handed down from the Apostles, Irenaeus vigorously defended it against the early aberrations of the Gnostics (who warped the message into a hidden secret for only a few); and the Montanists (who disdained the body and totally misunderstood the implications of the Word becoming flesh).
His most famous work, preserved to this day, is his Treatise Against Heresies. The arguments contained in this masterpiece are still being made by the Church he served as She faces efforts to undermine and obscure the full promise of the Christian faith--the total transformation of humanity in Jesus Christ.
This great defender of the faith insisted on the central claim of Christianity: God can be known and loved--indeed, that is why He came into our midst in the person of His Son; that through that relationship, man participates in the very life of God and is literally transformed.
He would write: "The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life. For this reason, God--who cannot be grasped, comprehended, or seen--allows Himself to be seen, comprehended, and grasped by men, that He may give life to those who see and receive Him. It is impossible to live without life, and the actualization of life comes from participation in God, while participation in God is to see God and enjoy His goodness."
This marvelous truth is the heart of the Incarnation, the central doctrine of the Christian faith. Jesus Christ both fully reveals who God is to man, and who man is to become in God. The words of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, the latest ecumenical council of the Church Irenaeus served, underscore the profundity of this great truth in the most oft-quoted passage of the pontificate of John Paul II:
"In reality, it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear. For Adam, the first man, was a type of Him who was to come, Christ the Lord, Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of His love, reveals man to himself and brings to light His most high calling" (Church in the Modern World, n. 22; emphasis mine).
The men and women of Irenaeus' time had a difficult time grasping this profound truth. Yet--against extraordinary opposition--he defended, embodied, and witnessed this truth; bearing as his final witness the shedding of His blood in the year 200 A.D.
Not only can all men and women know God, but all men and women were created to be transformed in Him through His Son. That message shook the world of the Apostolic age, and literally transformed it from within.
There are many who believe that this very same message will transform the world that Christians face in the Third Christian Millennium. I am one of them.
The heart of the message has not changed, and it alone can melt and refashion the hardened hearts of the post modernist. This transformation will lead to the only true and authentic "humanism," Christianity.
To an age still seeking good news, we are now called, as was Irenaeus, to "pass it on". That way the Incarnation continues through the words we speak and the way we live.
Rev. Mr. Keith A Fournier is the founder and president of "Common Good", a way, work, and movement dedicated to the conversion of culture. (http://www.commongoodonline.com) A constitutional lawyer, he founded "Lentz, Stepanovich and Fournier, P.L.C.", a law firm in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Long active in social, cultural and political participation, Fournier has served as a pro-life and pro-family lobbyist, the first Executive Director of the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice), an advisor to the presidential campaign of Steve Forbes and has recently launched "Common Good Legal Defense Fund", an outreach of "Common Good". Fournier holds a Bachelors degree (B.A.) from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Philosophy and Theology, a Masters Degree (M.T.S.) in Sacred Theology from the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University, a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Pittsburgh and an Honorary Doctor of Laws (L.L.D.) from St. Thomas University. Fournier is the author of seven books on issues concerning life, faith, evangelization, ecumenism, family, political participation, public policy and cultural issues. Along with Michael and Sandy Galloway, he is a founder of "Your Catholic Voice" and serves as a features editor for Catholic Online.
http://www.commongoodonline.com VA, US
Deacon Keith Fournier - President/founder, 757 546-9580
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