I mentioned in my last post of February 3, 2019 that I am presenting some material on the early Church Teachers and “Fathers.”
Why is this necessary?
People studying and painting sacred images and icons should be aware of the theological underpinnings of a specific image. This especially applies to the major personalities of the Church’s early history (AD 65 – AD 800). Sacred artists do not need to become theologians or historians of this period in the Church’s history! Yet, they do need to acquaint themselves with some basic facts. As artists we must be faithful to Church Tradition and cultural traditions.
My posts will present some of these key figures in chronological order. A very brief, one paragraph or less description of their major contributions will be provided, and if possible, a sacred icon of them.
I will also provide you with the names of Councils of Bishops (such as Nicaea, Ephesus, Chalcedon, etc) and their key teaching (in brief sentences!). These Councils codified specific truths that became dogmas of the Catholic Church (Eastern and Western Rites). It follows that the Church’s sacred art developed in tandem with the understanding of its approved theological dogmas – all heavily influenced and directed by the Holy Spirit, Apostolic Tradition, and Sacred Scripture.
It is also important to remember that the four criteria for being considered a “Father” (exceptional teacher of the Church) are: Antiquity, existing between the years AD 65 – AD 800; Evidence that his teachings and writings were accepted by the bishops of the Church; Orthodoxy, true and faithful teachings; and Piety, the holiness of the teacher.
So, you can ask the question: “What are your sources for this information?”
The information I am presenting is based on twelve sources.
These sources will discuss teachers who were called Apostolic Fathers (men who knew, or were taught by those who did know the Apostles; I covered three of the Apostolic Fathers in the post of February 3rd). I will also discuss other periods which saw the rise of the Latin Fathers (wrote in Latin), Greek Fathers (wrote in Greek), Syriac Fathers (wrote in a dialect of Aramaic), and the Desert Fathers (monks living in caves or early monasteries in the Egyptian deserts). I will list my sources (found below) in a simple bibliography.
Please remember this is certainly not an exhaustive list! It will provide you with a starting point, and if you are writing a paper for your studies it will point you in the right direction.
Here are my sources:
- Aquilina, Mike. The Fathers of the Church (expanded edition). Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division: Huntington, Indiana, 2006. Note well: this is an excellent introduction and critical if you were to purchase only two of these sources – this book and the CD set from Dr. D’Ambrosio.
- Benedict XVI (Pope Emeritus). Church Fathers – From St. Clement of Rome to St. Augustine. Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2008.
- Benedict XVI (Pope Emeritus). Church Fathers and Teachers – From St. Leo the Great to Peter Lombard. Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2010.
- Cannuyer, Christian. Coptic Egypt – The Christians of the Nile. Harry N. Abrams, Inc.: New York, 2001.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church – Second Edition. Libreria Editrice Vaticana: Vatican City, 1997. (The source citations at the back of the Catechism, pages 741 – 752, are very helpful because it links specific Fathers of the early Church to passages within the Catechism).
- D”Ambrosio, Marcellino. When the Church was Young – Voices of the Early Fathers. Servant Books: Cincinnati, 2014.
- D”Ambrosio, Marcellino. Early Church Fathers – From St. Clement of Rome to St. Peter Chrysologus (2 Volume CD set). Produced by Champions of the Truth, 2004. (This CD set is an excellent overview presented in quick ten minute snippets on the early Fathers. It can be purchased for $18.00 (a bargain price!) at https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com
- Hahn, Scott and Aquilina, Mike. Living the Mysteries – A Guide for Unfinished Christians. Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division: Huntington, Indiana, 2003.
- Nichols, Aidan, O.P. Rome and the Eastern Churches. Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2010.
- Hitchcock, James. The History of the Catholic Church – From the Apostolic Age to the Third Millennium. Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2012.
- Staniforth, Maxwell. Early Christian Writings. Penguin: Baltimore, 1975.
- Willis, John R., S.J. The Teachings of the Church Fathers. Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2010. Note well: This book is a wonderful source for the Early Church Fathers and teachers speaking in their own words about specific issues that concern the Church: the idea of One God, the Trinity, the Person of Jesus, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the Sacraments, Grace, the hierarchy of Orders, Sin, the Apocalypse (the Last Things), etc.
I pray that this helps you in your understanding of Patristics (the study of the writings of the Early Fathers of the Church) and how they influenced early sacred artists in correctly portraying their subjects.
Thanks for visiting with me. I hope you have a relaxing weekend.
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Categories: Roman Catholic